Cecil County Politics: McCarthy Leads in Campaign $ for County Exec; MacDonald Chokes in Candidate Forum
A CECIL TIMES SPECIAL REPORT
With less than a month before the primary elections for Cecil County Executive and County Council, some candidates have surged to the forefront in campaign fundraising and activity while a recent candidates’ forum displayed some not-ready-for-prime-time verbal paralysis. Top fundraiser for County Executive is current County Council Vice President Alan McCarthy (R-1), with mostly local donations, while his three GOP primary rivals lag in donations and rely heavily on out of area supporters.
In addition, during a candidates’ forum sponsored by the Cecil County Chamber of Commerce at Cecil College in North East on 3/29/16, contenders answered questions and outlined their campaign agendas. Most of the candidates handled the generally softball questions with ease—with the exception of one political newcomer who choked up under the pressure of even describing his own positions and reasons for running for office.
Alan McCarthy’s latest campaign finance report, the pre-primary filing required on 3/22/16, showed a bank balance of $9,343, after new contributions of $8,150 and expenditures of $1,789 for the period from 1/14/16 through 3/15/16. His account had a carry-over balance of $2,982 from previous fundraising efforts. McCarthy’s contributions came from a range of well-known local Republicans and business people, with most contributions less than $100 to $250. Several of his larger donations came for longtime friends or associates from his volunteer service on the board of the Cecil College Foundation, where he has served as treasurer to raise money for student scholarships.
One interesting non-local contribution of $100 came from Barry Glassman, the Republican Harford County Executive and former state Senator, who has worked with McCarthy on various state issues impacting local governments with the Maryland Association of Counties (MACO).
The largest individual donor in McCarthy’s latest report, and one of the few non-Cecil County donors, was Sean Reilly of Philadelphia, with a $1,000 contribution. McCarthy said he did not know the man and had not met him. A web search identified a Sean Reilly of Philadelphia who has donated to many state, local and national political campaigns and was a major donor to the failed presidential campaign of GOP candidate Mitt Romney four years ago.
McCarthy has been endorsed by the Cecil Business Leaders for Better Government (CBL), which operates a political action committee (PAC) that produces its own ads and flyers touting the candidates it supports. CBL has distributed two direct mail flyers backing McCarthy—including one that contained misspellings and grammatical faux pas. McCarthy has said he had no knowledge of the flyers in advance and, by law, his campaign is totally separate from any independent actions or communications by the CBL PAC.
Cecil County Councilor Dan Schneckenburger (R-3), who is also running for County Executive in the Republican primary election, has amassed a remaining campaign warchest of $2,934, with new contributions of $1,750, according to the most recent pre-primary campaign finance report to the state Board of Elections due 3/22/16. Nearly a majority—6 out of 13— in new donations came from out of the county. His largest contribution of $500 came from Louis Faverio (PTM Manufacturing) of Newark, DE.
Early on in the campaign season, Schneckenburger received small donations from an array of local GOP officials, including several of his County Council colleagues, for a small fundraiser he had at his home before he, or anyone else, had formally announced for county executive. At the time, he was undecided about a county executive run and suggested he was simply looking to replenish his campaign fund for a possible future Council re-election bid.
Meanwhile, Joe Carabetta, a former county Republican Central Committee member and frequent critic at local government meetings, has amassed a modest campaign fund—largely supported by out of county and out of state donations, according to state elections board filings. In his only state campaign finance filing so far, Carabetta reported contributions of $548 and event or raffle ticket donations of $700, plus a personal loan of $500 to his campaign. Donations came from Washington, DC; San Antonio, TX; Cortez, Colorado, and several members or allies of the old “Three Amigos/Smipkins” political machine in Cecil County.
Among the Smipkins’ donors to Carabetta were former Del. Michael Smigiel, with a modest $5 donation for a raffle ticket; and Chris Zeauskas—a frequent losing local candidate and current aspirant to the Elkton town board—with a $50 donation. Carabetta has challenged his opponents to refuse any donations above $100. But a Washington, DC donor has provided him with a total of $150 in donations and raffle ticket buys.
During the candidates’ forum, Carabetta said he was best qualified for the post of County Executive because he understood local people and issues: “I know the mayors, I know where the towns are.” He is a retired testing supervisor at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County.
Another candidate in the Republican primary for County Executive, Greg MacDonald, a political newcomer, choked several times during the candidates’ forum, saying in his opening statement after a long pause, “I’m a little nervous.” Then he said, after another long pause, “My words are just not coming out and I practiced this thing, too.” He also acknowledged, “I’m the least experienced person” in the race, but added, “I’m a hard worker.” MacDonald was recently “separated” from his employment by W.L. Gore, after questions were raised about the propriety of his acceptance of campaign contributions from a recycling business whose work he oversaw in his job at Gore.
According to the most recent state campaign finance records, MacDonald received multiple donations from residents of Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Delaware. His latest report listed a remaining campaign warchest of $556, after new contributions of $780 and ticket purchases of $1,870 to support campaign expenditures for printing and advertising. He has rented two billboards, along Route 40, at a cost of over $1,300.
Previously, MacDonald had raised $2,590 in contributions, with his largest donation, $2,000, from Elkton Recycling, a business he had supervised while at Gore on that company’s recycling ‘team.’