Cecil County Council: Bowlsbey, Schneckenburger, Patchell Win Council Seats in GOP Sweep
Cecil County voters elected three Republicans to the County Council in Tuesdayâ€™s election, retaining an all-GOP Council and turning back challenges by two well-known Democrats.
The only incumbentâ€”Joyce Bowlsbey in District 2â€”defeated her Democratic challenger, John Ulrich, by a wide margin. She tallied 69.28 percent of the vote, while Ulrich received 30.45 percent, according to unofficial results of early voting and election day votes.
The top vote-getter in the Council races was Dan Schneckenburger, a Republican who garnered 71.5 percent of the vote to the 28.4 percent tally of his rival, Bob Porter, a low-profile Democratic candidate.
If Democrats had any chance to pick up a seat on the Council it was in District 4, where veteran County Commissioner and Port Deposit mayor Wayne Tome, a Democrat, was looking to return to the county legislative seat he lost four years ago. But political newcomer George Patchell, a Republican and the executive director of the countyâ€™s YMCA, overpowered Tome. Patchell scored 66.3 percent of the vote to Tomeâ€™s 33.5 percent.
Bowlsbey is a retired Gore executive and longtime volunteer on multiple county advisory panels, including leadership of the panel that drafted the county Charter that was overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2010 to change the countyâ€™s governance from the old County Commissioners system.
Her Democratic rival Ulrich is a professional real estate appraiser with strong ties to the local business community and chairs the local Democratic Central Committee.
This was Bowlsbeyâ€™s first general election, although she has been a member of the Council since early 2013, when County Executive Tari Moore appointed her to fill Mooreâ€™s old legislative seat. Bowlsbey has been generally supportive of Mooreâ€™s policies and proposals and usually sided with Council President Robert Hodge (R-5). Along with Councilor Alan McCarthy (R-1), the three often vote together, although McCarthy has taken an increasingly independent course.
(Only three of the five Council seats were at stake in Tuesdayâ€™s election. Hodgeâ€™s seat and McCarthyâ€™s seat will be up for election in 2016.)
The campaign between Bowlsbey and Ulrich was generally polite and issue-oriented, with Ulrich saying that drug abuse was the top problem facing the county while Bowlsbey said lack of â€śprogressâ€ť on a wide array of issues was most significant.
Bowlsbey defended the Charter form of government, which she thought was working well. Ulrich said there needed to be more avenues for the Council to assert its prerogatives to guard against â€śunilateral decisionsâ€ť by the County Executive.
Bowlsbey ran a high-profile, well-financed campaign and was endorsed by the Cecil Business Leaders for Better Government, a local group with a political action committee that published ads promoting the three candidates, all Republicans, it backed in the Council races.
In District 4, Democrat Tome, who is the current mayor of Port Deposit and Battalion Chief with the Baltimore County Fire Department, ran a grassroots campaign and said he would meet regularly with community groups to listen to their concerns. Tome cited drugs as the prime problem affecting nearly every aspect of the countyâ€™s future and a change in the â€ścultureâ€ť of the county was needed to solve the problem.
Patchell, the longtime executive director of the local YMCA and a mentor with youth groups, said he aimed at â€śimproving the quality of life in Cecil Countyâ€ť and would work in an â€śamicable and professionalâ€ť manner on the County Council. He viewed lack of economic development as the top problem facing the county. Patchell was also endorsed by the Cecil Business Leaders group.
Patchell will replace Diana Broomell, who lost in the June Republican primary. Throughout her four year term on the former Board of Commissioners and the Council, Broomell was often a divisive force and usually in attack mode against people who disagreed with her. Even when she raised valid points on important issues, such as the countyâ€™s drug abuse crisis, her message was often overshadowed by the disruptive way she voiced her objections.
In District 3, Schneckenburger, who defeated incumbent Councilor Michael Dunn in the Republican primary, is an engineer who has served on numerous county advisory panels dealing with jobs and economic development and is a former president of the county Chamber of Commerce.
Schneckenburger ran a high-profile campaign, both in the primary and the general election, and raised a total of $11,520, according to a survey of state Board of Elections campaign finance filings through 10/24/14, including a $500 personal loan to his campaign. He received a $1,000 donation from the Cecil County Homebuilders PAC and was endorsed by the Cecil Business Leaders for Better Government group, which ran ads supporting his candidacy.
Porter is a retired small business owner and land preservation advocate. Both candidates agreed that the lack of jobs in the county was the top problem facing the area. Porter ran an almost invisible campaign until the final few weeks before the election, when small signs popped up on roadsides. He filed affidavits with the elections board, stating his campaign had neither spent nor raised over $1,000.
With Schneckenburger taking over the seat held for four years by Dunn, the Council will get a more vocal and engaged member. Dunn rarely spoke at commissioners or Council meetings and local community groups, to which he was an assigned representative of the legislative body, complained that Dunn didnâ€™t bother to attend their meetings.