Cecil County Politics: State Elections Board Struggles on New Maps; Gregory Withdraws from Delegate Race; Cops Challenge Hornbergers’ Machine

April 19, 2022


In a season of court challenges to re-districting lines for legislative and congressional districts and extended candidate filing deadlines, the list of contenders for local and state offices was supposed to be set on Friday (4/15/2022), but the state Board of Elections is still having problems assigning some candidates to the proper district under the new maps. And two local contenders withdrew their candidacies on Monday while law enforcement challengers could pose pushback against Hornberger administration policies that limited cops’ pay.

At the same time, the non-partisan races for the local Board of Education show an emergent coalition of challenger candidates opposed to state COVID-related mask rules and state curriculum requirements. And the County Council contests include three candidates running together as pro-County Executive Danielle Hornberger allies on a joint ticket and fund-raising organization for the GOP primary.

All candidates, except in certain non-partisan races, who filed locally are Republicans. No Democrats filed as candidates for local office in their party’s primary, although the party could later put up a candidate for the November general election ballot.

It was a surprise when County Council member Jackie Gregory (R-5) filed as a candidate for state Delegate in Dist. 36 several months ago and it was also a sudden move when she withdrew her candidacy on 4/18/2022. The district includes part of Cecil and Caroline counties and all of Kent and Queen Anne’s County. Her challenge infuriated the three incumbent Republicans who have worked together as a “team” and was seen as a particular throwdown against Jeff Ghrist of Caroline County, whose home base was minimized in the new maps while more Cecil County voters were added. [SEE previous CECIL TIMES report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2022/01/cecil-county-councilor-jackie-gregory-files-for-delegate-in-dist-36-challenge-to-undercut-state-delegation-team-another-gop-committee-pick-to-fill-a-council-seat/ ]

The Board of Elections (BOE) contributed to the heartburn among the incumbent Delegates in the district when it initially listed Del. Kevin Hornberger, husband of the Cecil County Executive and a close political ally with Gregory, as yet another candidate in Dist. 36 instead of the appropriate Dist. 35B under the new maps. (After the initial uproar over Gregory’s candidacy, Kevin Hornberger tried to mend fences by telling the incumbents that she would just be a placeholder to deter anyone else from getting into the race and she would ultimately withdraw, sources said.)
Gregory still has two years left on her Council term and her withdrawal from the state race means that voters won’t get a chance to remove her from local government this year.

But local government concerns could push back on Kevin Hornberger, who is being challenged by a veteran county Sheriff’s Deputy, Adam Streight, a former FOP union president who has made support for law enforcement a cornerstone of his campaign. (Danielle Hornberger’s administration is under fire for its pay policies and deletion of a key FOP contract provision providing pay “parity” with other county employees. [SEE previous CECIL TIMES report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2022/04/hornberger-admin-killed-longstanding-pay-parity-in-cops-contract-deputies-barred-from-sharing-in-6-mid-year-windfall-given-favored-few-cecil-county-council-questions-budget-gimmick/]

Under the new state district maps, Kevin Hornberger’s old Dist. 35A has been re-named as Dist. 35B and is wholly contained within Cecil County. Hornberger, Straight and Rising Sun Mayor Travis Marion, who has also filed for the seat, all reside in Dist. 35B. Eventually, the BOE will figure out that a split Harford/Cecil counties district is now 35A and will move the incumbents, Teresa Reilly and Mike Griffith of Harford county, into their proper district listing.

Apart from the BOE map questions and related political drama, there will be plenty of fireworks elsewhere on the ballot in other local races.


District 2

–William Coutz (R) (incumbent)—businessman and one-term incumbent; Council representative to law enforcement ‘intelligence’ panel reviewing drug overdose cases. Increasingly questioning Danielle Hornberger administration on budget transparency, law enforcement pay policies.

–Rebecca Hamilton (R)—member of state and Cecil County Republican Women’s Clubs, which she describes as her “tribe.” Strong supporter of Danielle Hornberger and Jackie Gregory, who is vice president of the local club.

District 3

–Al Miller (R) (incumbent)– resident of North East; agri-business executive, multi-generational farm owning family; former County Fair board president; author of local solar power legislation to protect prime crop soils from intrusion or contamination from solar equipment. Only Council member to vote against Hornberger appointment of Lawrence Scott, Annapolis political consultant who had never set foot in a state courtroom, as Cecil County Attorney.

–Bob Gatchel, R –resident of Port Deposit; lists occupation as “actor” on social media; past real estate and other local business employment. Member of pro-Hornberger County Council “slate” of candidates. Allied with Vincent Sammons, former GOP Central Committee leader and social media multiple-personality critic.

District 4–

–Donna Culberson (appointed incumbent) R– resident of Conowingo—appointed in late 2021 to replace Councilor George Patchell, who resigned to become the Perryville town administrator. Former bill collector for Calvert Manor nursing home. Culberson is a consistent supporter of County Executive Hornberger and Jackie Gregory. Displays frequent lack of knowledge of basic operations of county government, such as asking at the end of a worksession with county schools officials “what is maintenance of effort” requirements of the state for county schools. Member of pro-Hornberger slate of Council candidates.

–Donald Gividen, Jr.– R –resident of North East–Chief, Police Operations Bureau at Harford County Sheriff’s Office, holds the rank of Major—24 years law enforcement experience. Certificate of Police Executive Development from Penn State, Neumann University degree in Public Safety Administration

Gividen’s recently-filed candidacy has already generated much excitement in the County Council races, providing a serious, informed candidate who would bring decades of law enforcement and management experience to the Council at a time of crisis for local law enforcement. The county Sheriff’s Office is facing a staggering loss of deputies and jail officers, due to low pay and benefits, and Hornberger administration move to kill pay “parity” provisions in cops’ union contract.


Scott Adams R-(incumbent), resident of Rising Sun—two-term Sheriff, modernized local law enforcement, oversaw over 30 percent crime reduction– until recent post-pandemic crime spike and “brain drain” loss of deputies to higher-paying jurisdictions. Created multi-agency local/state/federal high intensity task force to combat drug trafficking; pioneered drug treatment programs for inmates at county Detention Center, including providing Vivitrol to released inmates to deter them from re-using illegal drugs.

Bilton Morgan-R- resident of Earleville—long-retired Sheriff’s deputy, post-retirement local town patrol officer. Advocates opening town or fire company offices for deputies to use for writing reports while on patrol. (Laptops in patrol cars were instituted during Adams administration to facilitate report writing.) Supports drug treatment programs at the Detention Center.

BOARD of EDUCATION (non-partisan election; candidates appear on both Democratic and Republican primary ballots; unaffiliated voters can vote on independent ballot.)

District 3

–Christie Stephens (incumbent)—resident of Conowingo—WITHDREW FROM THE RACE on 4/18/2022. Advocate of turf fields for Rising Sun High School that were promised by past county administration but not included by Hornberger in new budget proposals. Attacked repeatedly by Jackie Gregory on social media over athletic fields issue.

–Joe Ferdinando—resident of Rising Sun- manager for a wholesale building materials company, former president of an Elkton building restoration company.

–Justin Vest—resident of Rising Sun—parent of three home-schooled children, children’s leader at Pleasant View Baptist Church. Anti-vax and anti-mask requirements. Told conservative blogger Brian Griffiths that his political ‘role model’ was Joe McCarthy—the discredited leader of 1950’s era “witch hunts” that falsely claimed the US government was overrun by Communists. Vest says McCarthy “was right about nearly everything” and says he opposes “social engineering” by government. Strongly endorsed by Donna Culberson, Council member and candidate.

District 4

–William Malesh (incumbent)—resident of Perryville. Former president of the Board, supporter of CCPS budget proposals above basic “maintenance of effort” minimums.

–Renee Dixon—resident of Port Deposit—operator of therapeutic horse-riding program; aligned with Hornberger administration, backer of ultra-conservative GOP gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox.

–Anthony J. DiPietro II—resident of North East

District 5

Diana Hawley (incumbent)—resident of North East—supporter of school administration proposals for budgets above basic state minimum “maintenance of effort” levels.

Russ Johnson—resident of Elkton, real estate broker; graduate of McDaniel College; critic of government spending; advocated a budget “freeze” on all county spending last year.


–Lyn (“Allyn”) Nickel—(incumbent)—R- Longtime Register of Wills, former Democrat who ran four years ago as a Republican. Led modernization efforts making Cecil one of first register offices to be fully computerized in the state. Longtime leader at county courthouse, chief adviser to Orphans’ Court.

–Maureen Sentman Danos—R- Lawyer, Brown, Brown, & Young, Harford County; practice in estate law, zoning law, graduate of Washington College; law degree from the Vermont Law School in 2013. Member of well-known local Sentman family, beer wholesalers and political donors.

ORPHANS COURT JUDGES (candidates appear on ballots in Republican and Democratic primaries; independent voters can cast votes on an unaffiliated ballot)

Carolyn Crouch— (incumbent, Chief Judge)—resident of North East, local business owner.

Bob Amato—(incumbent)—resident of Perryville, former member of county GOP Central Committee

Bill Harris—(incumbent) –resident of Cecilton, former top aide to Del. Kevin Hornberger.

Terry VanDenHeuvel—resident of North East

Travis Ward—resident of Elkton


DISTRICT 35 (covers western Cecil County, part of Harford County)

Jason Gallion (incumbent)—resident of Churchville, farmer; active in local land and farm preservation efforts. Regular attendee at wide range of Cecil County civic events. In past campaigns, won more votes in Cecil portion of district than Harford home base.

Michelle Christman—resident of Colora, manages husband’s podiatry office; weekly conservative radio talk show in Baltimore; supporter of Jan. 6 Trump rally.

Frank Esposito—resident of Havre de Grace, former state trooper, former state transportation police officer

SENATE DISTRICT 36 (covers part of Cecil and Caroline counties; all of Kent and Queen Anne’s counties)
Steve Hershey (incumbent)—resident of Queenstown

Rick Bowers, R–resident of Centerville, lost a past race for Delegate in the same district

Heather Lynette Sinclair, R– resident of Galena, multiple losing past campaigns in the district

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