Schneckenburger to Run for Cecil County Exec in Face-Off with McCarthy; Biz Community Divide

December 7, 2015


Cecil County Councilor Dan Schneckenburger (R-3) has announced he will run for County Executive in the 2016 Republican primary, setting up a face-off with Council Vice President Dr. Alan McCarthy (R-1) that could divide the local business community and split the mainstream GOP vote. So far, one politically unknown ultra-conservative “liberty” candidate has also filed and in the past the executive’s contest attracted a multi-candidate field largely populated by inexperienced wannabes.

Before his announcement, Schneckenburger conducted “robocall” polling among county Republicans and solicited support from Second Amendment/ gun rights advocates. He has been a strong supporter of current County Executive Tari Moore, who recently announced she would not be a candidate for re-election in 2016.

In a press release issued Sunday night, Schneckenburger said he decided to run because he believes the county needs “a County Executive with the courage and wisdom to lead on key initiatives: growing our local economy to create more jobs, developing a streamlined and productive government that is focused on customer service, and fighting for Cecil County interests from the state government in Annapolis.

“We must continue to make investments in education, drug control, and infrastructure, and we can do this by increasing revenues from creating more employment opportunities in our Growth Corridor. We must be strong and unified to reduce unnecessary regulations, gain state support for our transportation and economic needs, and continue our excellent relationship with Governor Hogan and our delegation in Annapolis,” Schneckenburger said. He added that his campaign motto would be “Put Cecil First.”

Schneckenburger is a first-term Councilor, elected in 2014 to the seat formerly held by the largely invisible and usually silent Michael Dunn—who served one term as a county Commissioner/Councilor as part of the “Smipkin” political machine’s slate of yes-men/women under the auspices of former state Sen. EJ Pipkin and former Del. Michael Smigiel, both R-36. Schneckenburger’s Council term still has two year to go, so even if he loses his new bid for county executive he would still retain his seat on the legislative body.

He is a graduate of the University of Delaware and previously worked as an engineer at the Basell site in Elkton, which is now home to the new county School of Technology. He currently works as a consultant for “green” energy projects for a Delaware business. He is a former president of the county’s Chamber of Commerce and served as a volunteer member of the Susquehanna Workforce initiative to match job applicants with potential employers.

A week ago, Schneckenburger conducted a robocall telephone poll, asking recipients to register their views on his potential candidacy as well as local budget and policy issues. Cecil Times received and took notes on the robocall. He subsequently told Cecil Times that the call, which he voiced himself, went out to about 7,000 registered Republicans in the county.

The informal poll asked people to register their preference for county executive: Schneckenburger, McCarthy, or “undecided.” The second question asked people which “budget issue is most important to you,” with the options being education, public safety, or roads. The final question asked what “policy issue is most important to you,” with the options being creating more jobs, “protecting Second Amendment rights,” lower taxes, or reducing substance abuse.

Asked why he included “Second Amendment rights” since the right to bear arms is generally an issue involving state, federal and judicial actions rather than a local county executive’s portfolio, Schneckenburger said, “This is a very important question to many voters in Cecil County” and an issue that can motivate voter support for a candidate.

The County Council did recently take action—by a unanimous vote with support from all members—to revise county park regulations to allow certain gun owners to bring their weapons into a park. The move came in response to waterfowl hunters who wanted to be able to legally bring their shotguns to a county boat ramp to launch their boat for a hunting trip on the water. The regulatory change will also allow people with “concealed carry” permits for handguns to have them in their possession on county parkland.

Meanwhile, McCarthy— a licensed veterinarian and multiple business owner who has served four years on the County Council and been the county’s representative to multiple state and regional panels– has drawn support for his 2016 run from some who had been viewed as potential rivals. Elkton Mayor Rob Alt, who had been mentioned as a possible candidate for County Executive, recently publicly endorsed McCarthy for County Executive. Alt, a former Democrat who switched to the Republican party several years ago, said on Facebook:

“I will be supporting my very good friend Dr. Alan McCarthy for county executive for Cecil County in the upcoming primary. Alan has served on the County Council and is well prepared to take on this challenge. Please join me in supporting Dr. Alan McCarthy,” Alt wrote.

The influential Cecil Business Leaders for Better Government (CBL) has not officially endorsed any candidates yet, but support for McCarthy was signaled loud and clear when top leaders of the organization attended McCarthy’s formal announcement event in Elkton and applauded enthusiastically. [SEE Cecil Times report, and exclusive video, on Alan McCarthy’s announcement of his campaign for County Executive here:

CBL has been conducting interviews and recruitment efforts for several months to “vett” potential candidates for county executive and the two County Council seats that are at stake in the 2016 elections in District 1 (southern Cecil) and District 5 (North East area).

District 1 is currently represented by McCarthy, who has to yield his seat to run for the executive’s slot, instead of running for re-election to the Council. District 5 is currently represented by Robert Hodge, who earlier this year told associates he was not running for re-election. However, in more recent months he has said he was re-considering his options but had not yet reached a decision.

The CBL has put out an email message asking its supporters to recommend potential candidates who are supportive with the group’s pro-business and economic development goals to run in Districts 1 and 5.

While CBL supported Moore’s initial election campaign for county executive, this year the group openly criticized her policies, especially on budget and tax issues. Moore proposed a property tax increase and significant boosts in a property transfer tax. The County Council rejected most of Moore’s tax hikes and instead found spending cuts through tough decisions she apparently was unwilling to make for the current budget year.

In her recent announcement of her decision not to seek re-election in 2016, Moore tried to take credit for three years of no property tax increases. But in fact, Moore raided county reserve funds/ “unassigned fund balance” accounts accumulated for many years by the old Board of Commissioners to balance her first two budgets. And her third Fiscal 2016 budget proposed significant tax boosts, until the County Council cut spending to achieve the property tax freeze she was unwilling to make.

Another announced candidate in the GOP primary for county executive is Greg MacDonald, an Elkton resident and political newcomer who says he is a “liberty” candidate. There is a local “Cecil County Campaign for Liberty” ultra conservative group aligned with the former Rand Paul presidential campaign but MacDonald was not visible in the local organization in the past.

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