CECIL CHATTER: Schneckenburger Toots Immigrant Whistle Again; Dead Trees V. Shoe Leather in Dist. 36

June 24, 2018



Another local campaign by Dan Schneckenburger, another pitch against “illegal immigrants”—despite Census data showing minimal foreign-born population, including legal residents and citizens, in Cecil County—in his campaign flyers orchestrated by a Harford County political consultant.

In his latest campaign for re-election to his District 3 County Council seat in the Republican primary, Schneckenburger lists as top priority on one of his direct mail flyers to “work with law enforcement to fight the spread of illegal immigrants in Cecil County.”

This time, it’s a more generic pitch, in contrast with the detailed platform he injected into his failed race for County Executive in 2016. At that time, he outlined a plan to “investigate” businesses holding contracts with the county and terminate them if contractors “knowingly”employed any illegal immigrants. He also proposed investigating charitable groups receiving county grants to see if they provided any “aid to assist illegal immigrants.”

However, a review of federal Census data and state Planning Department statistics by Cecil Times showed a minimal “foreign born” population in the county—including legal residents and US citizens who happened to have been born overseas. The rise in all “foreign born” people coming to Cecil County has averaged about 90 people, of all ethnicities, a year for many years. The county’s total population is about 103,000 people.

And county law enforcement officials found no surge in “illegal immigrants” being arrested for crimes or being incarcerated in the county detention center.

[SEE previous CECIL TIMES report on Schneckenburger’s immigration campaign issue here: http://ceciltimes.com/2016/04/schneckenburger-vows-to-kill-county-contracts-grants-to-hire-aid-illegal-immigrants-hits-political-stick-at-problem-stats-show-is-minimal-here-advisor-has-political-baggage/

The latest flyer hit local mailboxes just as news and TV reports documented the implementation of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy and separation of families of illegal immigrants and asylum seekers along the US border in Texas, complete with audio and photos of crying babies and toddlers taken from mothers and fathers. Trump tweets have characterized many of the border crossers as terrorists and gang members.

(The Baltimore Sun recently reported that “dozens” of children separated from their families at the border have been sent to Maryland, placed in foster homes or in dormitories operated by a non-profit group in Anne Arundel county. One child sent to the state was an 18-month old toddler.)

We know of no plans to put any Toddler Terrorists in the Cecil County jail, so we can breathe a sigh of relief on that one.

But the resurrection of the immigrant issue in Schneckenburger’s latest campaign bears all the hallmarks of a Harford County political consultant, Erik Robey, who pushed the issue when working on Schneckenburger’s campaign two years ago. Current campaign finance reports show over $4,935 in payments so far this year to Robey’s Insider Management Group consultancy from Schneckenburger’s campaign account.

Schneckenburger received quite a few donations from Harford County, which may reflect Robey’s contacts or some joint fundraising efforts with the campaign of Sen. Wayne Norman (R-35) before Norman’s sudden death recently.

Schneckenburger also received a $600 donation on 3/5/2018 from Robert Suppe of Elkton, an employee of the Weirich, Cronin and Sorra consulting firm that was hired on 3/1/2018 by the County Council to review the proposed Fiscal 2019 budget proposal drafted by the County Executive. The consultants ultimately endorsed the budget proposed by County Executive Alan McCarthy and urged the Council to support it, which they did—including Schneckenburger. Suppe also contributed $300 to Schneckenburger’s 2016 campaign for county executive against McCarthy.

In the June 26 Republican primary, the incumbent Schneckenburger is being opposed by Thomas Wilson, who is aligned with the ultra-conservative Campaign for Liberty group; and Al Miller, the longtime president of the county fair board, past president of the Chamber of Commerce and member of the Economic Development Commission.

Miller has peppered the county landscape with campaign signs and there is nary a farm in the southern or northern rural areas of the county without a Miller for Council sign displayed prominently. And Miller gets the lone distinction of the entire campaign season for “nicest” robocall: a cheerful, informative public service message informing voters of the dates, location and hours for early voting in the county. No partisan attacks on his campaign rivals, no pitches for his own platform, etc., just a nice-guy, helpful message.



Residents of southern Cecil County included in the sprawling District 36 state legislative district have needed to bring shopping bags to their mailboxes for the past few weeks to bundle all the glossy flyers from the three House of Delegates GOP incumbents and State Sen. Steve Hershey (R). After all, the individual candidates and their “Team 36 Slate” committee are swimming in campaign cash and they have been spending it lavishly on multiple printed pitches.

But one challenger, Wick Dudley from Queen Anne’s County, is taking to the streets with a door-to-door personal campaign—even in the most remote and rural parts of Cecil County.

District 36 covers four counties—all of Kent and Queen Anne’s and part of Caroline and Cecil counties—but there are only three Delegate seats available. It is the ONLY state legislative district in the state that by its very design is intended to leave one county without local representation. On the ballot in Tuesday’s Republican primary, voters are told they can vote for up to three candidates, but ONLY one from each county. So that means one county in the four-county district will be shut out. Voters from ALL counties in the district get to vote for three delegates– even those who reside in a different county.

In this year’s GOP primary, the incumbents are Jay Jacobs from Kent County, the popular former mayor of Rock Hall; Steve Arentz, of Queen Anne’s County, the former president of that county’s Board of Commissioners; and one-term delegate Jeff Ghrist, a former member of the Caroline County commissioners’ board. Currently, Cecil County is the odd-man-out, with no resident delegate.

Arentz is the delegate facing two challengers from his home county: Dudley, of Queenstown, a recent University of Maryland Law School graduate who grew up on a farm in the county; and Rick Bowers, of Centerville, an insurance agent and “pastor” who has compared himself in videos to the “Joe the Plumber” character of past national GOP campaigns.

In his most recent campaign finance report to the state Board of Elections, Arentz was still sitting on an unspent $41,529 campaign warchest, which will no doubt be tapped heavily for his new campaign flyers.

In contrast, Dudley has raised a total of $3,265 in contributions, plus $950 in personal loans to his campaign, and had just $305 in the bank for the final days of his campaign. Bowers raised a total of $6,553 in contributions.

So it was quite a surprise recently when we opened our door in Earleville–a southern Cecil County community that was dubbed “the middle of nowhere” by a former Cecil County Council President– to find Wick Dudley on our doorstep to ask for a vote and discuss local and state issues.. In 25 years in Earleville, it was the first time that ANY District 36 candidate, even back in the day when Cecil County had a resident delegate, showed up on our doorstep to discuss the issues and ask for a vote. He was well-informed about Cecil County issues and broader questions facing the Upper Shore, from economic development to the opioid crisis.

Dudley participated in a candidates’ forum at Cecil College with others running in District 36 and staked out some different positions from his rivals. He took a libertarian view on whether to legalize marijuana, saying it should not be the government’s role to dictate personal decisions by adults on whether to use pot. He also has some interesting and unusual proposals for “clean” energy that would also create jobs for local residents. He suggests that large commercial or shopping center parking lots could be retro-fitted with overhead solar panels to generate energy while also providing rain-proof protection for shoppers or pedestrians.

One other candidate on the GOP primary ballot is Michael D. Smigiel, Jr., the son of the former delegate from Cecil County in Dist. 36, Michael D. Smigiel, Sr.. Junior has been nowhere to be seen on the campaign trail and was a no-show at the Cecil College candidates’ forum. Daddy Smigiel, who is a candidate yet again for a seat on the Cecil County Circuit Court, has of course endorsed his son and also recently endorsed Bowers against the incumbent Arentz.

There are three Democrats who will be on the November general election ballot, from Caroline, Cecil and Queen Anne’s counties.

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