ELECTION: Miller Ousts Schneckenburger on County Council; Patchell Re-Elected; Coutz Wins GOP Nod

June 27, 2018

Al Miller ousted incumbent Cecil County Councilor Dan Schneckenburger on Tuesday, as George Patchell retained his Council seat and Bill Coutz won the Republican nomination for an open seat in District 2. In all three contests, the winners also scored major victories over candidates aligned with the ultra-conservative Campaign for Liberty group.

In Districts 4 and 3, no Democrats have filed candidacy so the winners of the Republican primary in those districts—Patchell and Miller– will appear on the November ballot unopposed.

But in the general election for District 2, GOP primary winner Bill Coutz will face a Democrat, political newcomer Cody Kirk, a former dollar store employee who overwhelmingly lost another political campaign for a seat on the Elkton town council several weeks ago. Kirk was running for the town post at the same time that his name was already on the countywide ballot for County Council. The District 2 seat is currently held by Council President Joyce Bowlsbey, but she decided not to seek re-election.

Coutz carried his two -way GOP race by a compelling 65.4 percent tally, while his primary opponent, Richard Lewandowski, a small business owner and ally of the C4L group, won 34.6 percent.

In a three-way contest, Miller garnered 51.8 percent while Schneckenburger received 32.9 percent. A C4L ally, Thomas Wilson, got 15.3 percent.

And Patchell tallied 59.2 percent, while Ed Larsen, another C4L’er who played some political tricks on his rival during the campaign, got 40.8 percent.

Voter turnout was considered “light” throughout the day, according to county Board of Election (BOE) officials. There were no reports of any major incidents at local polling places but throughout the state, a computer glitch affected an estimated 80,000 voters who would be forced to cast provisional ballots that would not be counted until July 5. The problem affected voters who had used the Motor Vehicles Administration kiosks or website to change their home address or switch political party affiliations. State BOE officials told Cecil Times they did not have a county by county breakdown of how many voters were affected by the glitch.


The victory of Miller, a political newcomer but a well-known leader in the county’s agricultural community, was a measure of his nice-guy image and strong support from local farmers as well as shifting alliances in the business community. His chief rival, Schneckenburger, had compiled a strong record of pro-business positions but had come to take a more negative tone in the past two years, especially in criticism of current County Executive Alan McCarthy, a fellow Republican.

Schneckenburger lost a bid against McCarthy for County Executive in 2016 and had hinted that he would challenge McCarthy again when the County Executive position is on the ballot in 2020.

Schneckenburger, a construction piping sales executive and former mechanical engineer with the Basell company, was elected to his council seat four years ago, ending the tenure of Michael Dunn, a member of the old “Three Amigos” faction that had controlled the Board of Commissioners and the new County Council in a climate of turbulence and partisan rancor.

From the outset of his local political career, Schneckenburger emphasized job creation and economic development and took a co-operative approach with fellow Councilors and then-County Executive Tari Moore. But less than two years into his four-year term, he challenged a more senior Council member, Alan McCarthy, in a bid for County Executive. McCarthy won overwhelmingly in the 2016 election campaign, during which Schneckenburger took a negative tone and sought to bring national issues in that year’s presidential campaign, such as immigration, into local politics.

During his re-election race for the Council this year, when asked at a GOP candidates’ forum if he would serve a full four-year term if re-elected, Schneckenburger refused to make such a commitment, leaving open the door for a re-match with McCarthy.

Miller is a farm equipment sales executive and longtime president of the county fair whose family has deep roots in the agriculture community. He was the top campaign fundraiser in this year’s council races and he had a very visible presence in political signs all over the county, direct mail literature and polite robocalls.

The third candidate in the race was Thomas J. Wilson, a small business owner, who also ran unsuccessfully against the late Wayne Norman for the state Senate four years ago. Wilson, who is aligned with the C4L group, posted lengthy philosophical treatises on social media that often had little if anything to do with local issues.


For incumbent Council member Patchell, who heads the local YMCA and is active in youth sports programs, his victory was especially sweet. He defeated Ed Larsen, a cleaning business owner and a C4L group ally, who went to extraordinary lengths to wage a negative campaign.

Larsen registered at least four website domain names that were variations on Patchell’s name and he created a working website using Patchell’s full name and that was used in Patchell’s own campaign four years ago. The registration lapsed and Larsen grabbed it, creating a site that immediately transferred visitors looking for Patchell’s site over to Larsen’s campaign site, where he prominently pleaded for donations.

After CECIL TIMES exposed Larsen’s gambit, and noted that he had not reported expenditures to purchase the web domains as required on state campaign finance reports, Larsen disabled the hotlink to his own site and eventually filed amended campaign finance reports to account for the expenditures.

Patchell was endorsed by the local Republican Club of Cecil County in this year’s election. During his campaign, Patchell told a candidates’ forum said the county needed to develop a “diversified economy,” including attracting high tech companies and moving beyond the “distribution center” concentration of most of the recent new businesses coming to the county.

Part of those efforts, Patchell said, is to emphasize technical skills to develop the local workforce, especially through the county’s tech school, which he called “amazing.”

Patchell was first elected to the Council in 2014, after defeating incumbent Diana Broomell—a leader of the old “Three Amigos” faction– and another challenger in the Republican primary. Patchell went on to defeat Wayne Tome, former county commissioner and mayor of Port Deposit, who ran as a Democrat in the general election.

Patchell’s victory four years ago ended years of turmoil on the old Board of Commissioners and on the new County Council, where Broomell tied the panel in knots, with verbal attacks on fellow lawmakers, county officials, and state agencies that often led to her being gaveled out of order and the summoning of Sheriff’s deputies on two occasions to ensure order at meetings.


Coutz is president of the Fair Hill Races and a business development executive, and he was endorsed by the Republican Club of Cecil County.

At a candidates’ forum, he made an impassioned appeal for action to stem the tide of opioid addiction that is plaguing the county, saying the problem is “far worse and more widespread than you think it is.” He said he has talked with experts in the law enforcement, education, and medical communities and action and co-operative efforts in those areas are needed on a long-term basis. He also said he would strongly support law enforcement and emergency medical service providers, which he said were “stretched to their limits” now.

His opponent, Richard Lewandowski, like the other two C4L’ers running in the GOP primary, criticized all aspects of county leadership and demanded tax cuts, reduced school spending and shrinking county government’s role in the community.

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