Incumbent Judge Will Davis Wins Cecil County Circuit Court Seat

June 26, 2018

Judge William W. Davis, Jr., known locally as “Will” in his work with youth groups and charities to aid troubled children, won election to a 15-year term on the Cecil County Circuit Court bench on Tuesday, as voters confirmed Gov. Larry Hogan’s choice of Davis for an appointment to the bench in 2016.

To win election to the seat, Davis defeated two challengers—Edwin B. Fockler IV, an assistant public defender, and former state Delegate Michael D. Smigiel, Sr.

All of the candidates were Republicans. But since judicial positions are considered non-partisan, candidates appeared on both the Democratic and Republican primary ballots. Under state law, if one candidate won the Democratic primary while another person won the Republican primary, then those two names would proceed to the general election ballot for voters to make a final choice. But with Davis winning both party primaries, he will appear unopposed on the general election ballot and thus has already won de-facto election to the post. Circuit Court judges serve a 15-year term after being elected by local voters.

With all but two precinct tallies completed, in the Republican primary, Davis won 53 percent of the vote. Fockler received 29.1 percent, while Smigiel garnered 17.9 percent. In the Democratic primary, Davis won 60.3 percent, while Fockler received 28.7 percent and Smigiel got just 11 percent.

Davis’ margin was sufficient that it is unlikely to be affected by absentee vote counts in the next few weeks. There were 198 Republican and 175 Democratic absentee ballot requests and those that are returned to the Board of Elections will be counted in two tallies, on June 28 and July 6. Provisional ballots are counted on July 5.

Davis was appointed to the local bench in July, 2016 by Gov. Hogan to replace Judge V. Michael Whelan, who had reached the mandatory state retirement age of 70. Under state law, Davis had to stand before the voters in the next election to retain his seat.

Davis had previously prevailed over Fockler who had also applied for the seat in the 2016 appointment process. And Fockler had previously applied for a 2013 Circuit Court judicial seat when the court was expanded from three seats to four, but Fockler lost out on a gubernatorial appointment that went to Brenda Sexton, who previously served as the court’s domestic relations master.

Davis was also victorious in the nomination process over then-Cecil County State’s Attorney Edward D.E. “Ellis” Rollins, who withdrew his name from consideration for the Circuit Court seat after he was arrested and charged with indecent exposure and disorderly conduct, stemming from incidents of nudity and visible-to-the public sex acts at a hotel in Ocean City, where Rollins was attending a Maryland States Attorney’s Association conference, at taxpayer expense. Rollins was eventually convicted on two counts and resigned from office.

Smigiel is now a four-time loser in local politics. He lost his state delegate seat four years ago and lost overwhelmingly two years ago when he challenged incumbent US Rep. Andy Harris (R-1) in the Republican primary. And Smigiel overwhelmingly lost another campaign for a Cecil County Circuit Court seat against sitting judge Keith Baynes, after Smigiel and a political committee aligned with him engaged in a blatantly false, mudslinging campaign in direct mail and on social media.

In the past, Smigiel was not deemed sufficiently qualified by the judicial nominating panel for an appointment by the governor to a court seat or he has bypassed the vetting process in other court bids by just filing as a candidate in an election, as he did this year.

Before Davis’ selection by Gov. Hogan for the bench, he was a lawyer in criminal law practice in Elkton and was also an adjunct professor at the Legal Education Institute for the Delaware Law School (Widener University). He taught courses on trial process, introduction to criminal law, criminal procedure, common law, and legal analysis. He is a graduate of the Georgia State University College of Law and received his bachelor’s degree from Morehouse College.

During his campaign this year to retain his seat on the Circuit Court, Davis was a tireless campaigner while continuing his charitable efforts on behalf of children and youth programs, including gamely participating in a doughnut-eating contest where he was captured on camera stifling a smile while chowing down on the doughy treats, to benefit a charity.

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