CECIL CHATTER: Prince v. Pauper for Congress; Animals, Rabies and Moore

July 20, 2015


Incumbent US Rep. Andy Harris (R-1) has raised some princely sums for his re-election campaign while his challenger in the Republican primary, former state delegate Michael Smigiel, is a relative pauper, according to new filings with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

As in past elections, Harris’ reports look like the office directory at a major medical center, with donations from political action committees (PACs) associated with medical specialty groups, from radiologists to orthopedists to surgeons. Harris is a physician who practiced anesthesiology at Johns Hopkins Hospital. So a surgeon’s PAC donated $3,500 in two contributions, while orthopedists chipped in another $3,500 and the uniquely named “Brain PAC” thought Harris deserved its $1,000 donation.

Overall, for the first six months of this year, Harris reported total contributions from individuals of $271,000, and $144,290 from PACs, for a total raised of $415,370 in new money. He already had a cash on hand balance from previous fundraising of $297,598.

So even after campaign expenditures, such as printing expenses, fundraiser events, etc, amounting to $133,563, Harris ended up with a total of $579,620 cash on hand in his campaign warchest.

The First District, which covers all of the Eastern Shore and parts of several Western Shore counties, was made reliably Republican after the last re-districting that crammed as many GOP voters as possible into the First in order to create political wiggle room in the Western Maryland 6th District—where Democrat John Dulaney ousted veteran Republican Roscoe Bartlett. Consequently, Harris is the only Republican in Maryland’s delegation in Congress.

Harris had a token opponent in his party primary last time around but Smigiel has more name recognition. But in Cecil County that could be a negative, since Cecil voters have rejected him in the past two elections: for a judgeship in 2012 and for re-election as delegate from District 36 in 2014.

So far, his campaign has raised a paltry $9,827, which includes some ‘in-kind’ donations, apparently for supplies for his candidacy announcement event at a Kent Island restaurant several months ago. Smigiel’s FEC report lists just ten donors, with the largest amount– $2,700—from Edward Mitchell. Smigiel does not list any address or occupation for the donor, which is required by FEC reports.

After expenses of $2,184, Smigiel reported cash on hand of just $7,662 for his campaign. That’s like an ant on the Washington monument.

Smigiel was spotted, and posed for whatever media camera passed nearby, at the recent J. Millard Tawes annual crab and politics schmooze event in Crisfield. Harris and other members of Congress were on the job in Washington so did not attend.

For statewide pols, the big questions has been “why”—as in, why would Smigiel challenge Harris who seems to have a lock on the district after re-districting. So Cecil county folks have had to patiently explain that Smigiel is all about blaming others for his own failures and he has crafted a conspiracy theory that Harris has been out to get him.

Smigiel thinks he should have been anointed to fill the Dist. 36 Senate seat when his political godfather E. J. Pipkin quit and moved to Texas, and claims that Harris put the jinx on him. In fact, Smigiel alienated many members of county GOP committees with his heavy-handed tactics, and when the committees ended up in a tie, the Democratic Governor, Martin O’Malley, broke the tie and named delegate Steve Hershey to the seat. Harris has denied the claim, and anyone who followed the tortured process of the GOP committees knows Smigiel was his own worst enemy.

So now Smigiel, who was not very adept at political fundraising and perpetually tardy in filing his state campaign finance reports, is trying to up his game. Perhaps he should turn to some of his friends for whom he introduced special interest legislation early in his delegate career: fortune-tellers, psychics and soothsayers. Smigiel backed a bill to prevent the Cecil County government from requiring a local license for such endeavors, even though at the time the county said it hadn’t been asked to issue any licenses.

But any fortune-teller worth his/her cards would have to tell Smigiel his fortunes against Harris are slim to none.



The Cecil County SPCA is launching renovations at its Chesapeake City animal shelter on Route 213 and searching for a new veterinarian, after the departure of its previous vet. As a result, the Cecil County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Inc./Eastern Shore Animal League is closed to new admissions of animals while repair work proceeds this summer.

Several dogs have been placed in foster homes so they won’t have to be moved around the facility as the renovations proceed this summer, said Jeanne Deeming, the group’s executive director, while some “watch cats” remain in the animal rescue operation’s shelter.

Unlike most animal shelters in the state, CCSPCA employed a full-time veterinarian on site and offered low-cost spay/neuter services, vaccinations and medical treatment through its state-licensed veterinary hospital. The ASPCA in New York pioneered the concept of low-cost medical services in conjunction with animal shelter and rescue several decades ago, but that national role model has not been followed by most local animal shelters.

A veterinarian that had been employed by CCSPCA left two months ago, and as a result the veterinary hospital aspect of the facility ceased operations, Deeming said. Former patients may obtain their pet’s medical records for forwarding to a new vet of their choosing by contacting the CCSPCA via email, at easternshoreanimalrescueleague@verizon.net

CCSPCA is searching for a new veterinarian so its animal hospital operations can resume, Deeming said. But in the interim, she said the shelter would embark on some much needed repairs and renovations, including re-painting kennels, repairing ceiling tiles and adding insulation to improve energy efficiency. The shelter is asking for donations from the public, including paint rollers and brushes, and “crush and run” stone to repair potholes in the 12-acre facility’s driveway.

CCSPCA provided animal control services to Cecil County for decades under contracts with the county government, with the shelter assuming full responsibility for care and adoption of strays after a five-day holding period.

In late 2012, the old “Three Amigos” majority of the County Commissioners hastily awarded a $2.24 million three-year contract to the Buddies in the final hours of their tenure before Charter government began. Although she voted against the contract—which boosted county costs and created an eight-day holding period– while a commissioner, County Executive Tari Moore has continued it even as multiple controversies, fines from the state for operating without licenses, and other problems have plagued the Buddy group’s operations at a facility it rents from retired county Judge Dexter Thompson and his wife for over $15,000 a month.

The current contract expires 12/31/15, and Moore has said she will soon issue a new “request for proposal” for a new contract to begin 1/1/16, along with several proposed revisions in the county’s animal ordinance.

For the past year, Moore and two senior aides have been making a grand tour of government-run animal control operations in several Maryland counties and also held discussions with a private shelter in Delaware, according to Moore’s official schedule which was obtained by Cecil Times under a Maryland Public Information Act request.

Deeming said the CCSPCA, which has continued private animal rescue and adoptions even without a county contract, would await release of the terms of the RFP before deciding on whether to bid for re-instatement of its animal control services with the county.



Maryland health officials recently issued a detailed warning about a rising threat of rabies, especially among wildlife such as bats and raccoons, and warned people to stay away from animals in the wild, including feral cats. But state data indicate there were no cases of rabid cats found in Cecil County for the past three years, while in previous recent years rabid cats numbered from 1 to 3 cases a year.

“Rabies is a serious disease transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal. It is nearly always fatal without the provision of preventive treatment. The best ways to protect your family are to appreciate wildlife from a distance and to vaccinate your pets,” said Dr. Katherine Feldman, State Public Health Veterinarian. She encouraged residents to report sick wildlife by calling a state toll-free number, 1-877-463-6497, or for domestic animals such as cats and dogs, contact a local health department or animal control agency.

State officials reported 155 “laboratory-confirmed” rabies cases statewide so far this year, while in 2014, there were 344 such rabid animals. (For a lab confirmation, the animal must be euthanized and its brain tissue examined by a state lab. An animal might be “diagnosed” on the basis of its observed behavior but it might not be able to be apprehended for lab testing confirmation.)

An alarming note in the new state report is the finding of a rabid dog in nearby Caroline County this year—the only case of its kind in the state now or in recent years, according to state data. State law requires rabies shots for all “owned” dogs and cats. But domestic pets can be at risk if they are bitten by wild animals and their own shots are not up to date.

So far this year, Cecil County Health Department officials said there was one rabies case confirmed here, involving a raccoon. In 2014, there were 5 lab-confirmed cases: 3 raccoons, 1 skunk and 1 “other”—a possum or deer under state chart listings. Statewide, there were 344 lab-confirmed rabies cases in 2014.

State data also show that in 2013, Cecil County reported 6 confirmed rabies cases (4 raccoons, 1 fox, and 1 groundhog.) But in 2012, Cecil County reported to the state 11 rabies cases, including 3 cats, 7 raccoons, and 1 skunk. A rabid cat was also reported in Cecil in 2011, along with 2 raccoons and 1 skunk.

State health department figures also show decade-long rabies numbers, but do not specify the type of animal diagnosed. So from 2000 through 2010, Cecil County reported a total of 112 rabies cases, or about an average of 11 cases per year.

In 2013, animal control in Cecil County was taken over by A Buddy for Life, Inc., which refers citizens concerned about feral cats in their area to private groups involved in TNR (trap/neuter/release). The previous animal control contractor loaned humane traps to citizens with feral cat problems on their property and took those feral cats into custody for observation and evaluation.

Recently, a feral cat housed in a Harford County “colony” supervised by advocates of TNR was diagnosed with rabies. Health officials warned local residents to steer clear of all wild cats in the area.

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