Danielle Hornberger Finally Declares Run for Cecil Co Exec; Invokes Trump, Harris in Pledge to “Rollback” Taxes

October 7, 2019


After many weeks of political teasing, including a fundraiser guessing game about her plans, Danielle Hornberger, wife of a state Delegate, announced her plans to run for Cecil County Executive with a pledge to “rollback” tax increases imposed in 2017 by incumbent Alan McCarthy Both candidates are Republicans and will be seeking the party’s nomination in the April, 2020 primary election.

Hornberger,38, a part-time community liaison aide to US Rep. Andy Harris (R-1) in his Bel Air district office, invoked President Trump and Harris as inspirations for her platform as a “fiscally conservative Republican” and focused her ire on McCarthy, a licensed veterinarian and former County Council member for four years before his election as County Executive in 2016.

She ignored the third declared candidate in the GOP primary contest: Ewing McDowell, a Rising Sun area agriculture businessman currently employed by the state Department of Commerce as an agriculture specialist. McDowell has a long record of leadership posts with state and local farming organizations as well as political experience from his past unsuccessful run for a state Delegate seat. [SEE previous CECIL TIMES report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2019/09/mcdowell-makes-it-official-in-race-for-cecil-county-exec-touts-conservative-agenda-hornbergers-play-guessing-game-for-political/ ]

Before a small crowd of about 60 supporters at the Sinking Springs herb farm’s wedding venue barn south of Elkton, on 10/3/2019, Hornberger was introduced by her husband, Del. Kevin Hornberger (R-35A). Del. Hornberger had issued social media invitations to the event that was billed as a guessing game to which guests were asked to pay a minimum $20 donation to find out what post his wife was running for. As of Monday 10/7/2019, Mrs. Hornberger’s formal filing of candidacy was still not recorded on the state Board of Elections database, but she had previously established a campaign finance committee that would enable her to accept political donations even before specifying what post she was running for.

The gathering included some local county residents known for strong support of Harris, a failed candidate for State’s Attorney in the last election, a contingent of Harford County Republicans, and one County Council member: Jackie Gregory (R-5), who is running for re-election. And there was one surprise guest: Wayne Tome, a Democrat who ran against McCarthy four years ago in the general election and is currently the president of the county’s Fireman’s Association.

“I’m shopping for a county executive candidate,” Tome told CECIL TIMES with a grin. He said he had no plans to run again for the top post. Tome has been critical of McCarthy in the past year over delays in obtaining county funds for equipment replacements for the volunteer fire companies, although the volunteers ended up getting all of their aid by the middle of the Fiscal 2019 budget year. “We have to fight for everything,” Tome said.

In her roughly seven-minute speech, Hornberger did not single out the local volunteer emergency responders for attention. (Her boss, Harris, was one of just a handful of Republicans who voted against recent legislation, approved on overwhelming bipartisan votes in the House and Senate, to provide aid for ongoing medical care of the 9/11 first responders to the World Trade Center terrorist attack.)

Hornberger said her “number one priority will be to roll back the taxes that my opponent raised year after year after year.” (In fact, McCarthy raised property and income tax rates only in his first budget, and tax rates were frozen in his two subsequent budgets.)

“I’m tired of paying higher taxes,” Hornberger said to applause from the crowd. She also pledged to support “Second Amendment rights” and “protect our beautiful rural landscape.”

Hornberger did not say how she would achieve a balanced budget, which is required by the county Charter, or what county programs she would cut to reduce spending while reducing revenues from property taxes and income levies. Nor did she address spending priorities for the county public schools, which account for the largest individual spending item in the county budget.

State law requires counties to spend at least as much money, on a per student basis, as they did in the previous budget year under the “maintenance of effort” rules imposed by the state. In addition, local counties are facing an as yet unknown fiscal burden under the state “Kirwan” commission’s recommendations for a massive infusion of new money for K-12 education in the state. The General Assembly is expected to battle over legislation on the issue in its 2020 session.

Hornberger, who attended a community college in southern Maryland, has worked as a substitute teacher there and in Cecil County. She also worked for about a year at the North Bay environmental education program in the county. She has no experience managing a multi-million-dollar budget or supervising operations and employees of a large business or government entity.

McCarthy justified his first-year tax increases as a necessary evil needed after four years of Tari Moore’s administration in which she drained county reserve funds– which had been accumulated over many years to guard against fiscal downturns or weather emergency needs– to pay for her budgets’ new and increased spending programs. McCarthy vowed to avoid “deficit spending” that drew down the reserve accounts and has re-built county reserve funds and also pushed reforms through the County Council to prevent future raids on the reserves accounts.

Those reforms, adopted on a unanimous vote of the Council, could have to be repealed if Hornberger were to seek a “rollback” of tax revenues without massive spending cuts in popular programs and schools’ support. Raiding the reserves would be the only alternative to comply with the Charter’s requirement for balanced budgets.

The Hornberger fundraiser was a casual event with BBQ pig on the menu. Hornberger, wearing jeans and a red sweater, concluded her remarks with a down-home admonition, “Let’s do this, guys…we can do this.”

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