Low Turnout, Cox Crew, Secret $ and Slams Shaped Cecil County Primary; Miller Confirms Win to Return to Council

August 3, 2022


Low voter turnout, a confusing state election schedule that pushed the primary election to the dog days of summer, and secret campaign money that financed a slew of negative and juvenile, cartoonish glossy flyers combined to make the recently concluded local election the nastiest since the infamous nose-biting incident at the polls not that many years ago.

But the chief target of this year’s attacks, County Councilor Al Miller (R-3) survived, with 51.5 percent of the vote, and did so while walking the high road– without resorting to the sort of cheap shots orchestrated and financed by Del. Kevin Hornberger (R-35B). Kevin Hornberger assembled a “slate” of candidates trying to take over the Council to create a compliant majority to support his wife, Danielle Hornberger, the county executive whose $98,000 a year salary will be on the line in the 2024 election.

Danielle Hornberger will still get a majority on the Council that will be sworn into office in December, but there will still be two independent voices—Miller and, depending on the issue, current Council President Bob Meffley (R-1). But it remains to be seen if Hornberger’s chief ally and advocate–Jackie Gregory (R-5), the current vice president of the Council– will try to unseat Meffley as President. The Council president sets the agenda for Council actions.

Incumbent Councilor Bill Coutz (R-2) lost his seat, getting just 47.9 percent of the vote while Rebecca Hamilton, who told Cecil.TV she was “called” by God to run for the seat, received 52 percent. Coutz ran a low-key campaign with minimal fundraising efforts. After his loss, he made cryptic comments on social media, suggesting he was thinking of another political race. Coutz ran a lackluster campaign for county executive two years ago, coming in dead-last in a four-way race.

Donna Culberson, who was appointed to the District 4 seat to replace George Patchell who resigned last year, won election to the seat with 54.1 percent of the vote. She defeated Donald Gividen, with 45.8 percent, who is a Major with the Harford County Sheriff’s Office. He failed to get the endorsement and get-out-the-vote support of the local FOP Lodge 2 union. Sources said the local cops were cool to his candidacy, as a “management” level executive of another county’s law enforcement establishment. Gividen also made the politically harmful mistake of hiring a Harford County political consultant, Erik Robey, to handle his lone glossy flyer that was out of touch with Cecil issues. Robey orchestrated two losing campaigns for former Cecil County Councilor Dan Schneckenburger and consulted for the losing re-election campaign of former Anne Arundel County executive Steve Schuh (R).

The pro-Hornberger candidates in the County Council races were fueled by a “slate” campaign entity, the “Cecil Conservative Slate,” with local political gadfly and multiple online personality noisemaker Vincent Sammons as its chairman. But it has, so far, been financed largely by Kevin Hornberger and out-of-county real estate interests and developers. –[See previous CECIL TIMES report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2022/07/slates-slams-and-gregory-promotes-pals-for-cecil-county-council-slate-flyers-push-false-claims-paid-for-by-developers-hornberger/ ]

But the “slate” members who claim to be fiscal conservatives spent money they did not yet have, even with the donations from Kevin Hornberger and the real estate interests and developers reported to the state Board of Elections (BOE), for their at least four glossy campaign flyers. Such flyers cost about $6,000 each to print and mail to Republicans in Cecil County, according to political sources. Printers and mailing operations do not take IOU’s for their work; it remains to be seen when, and from whom, the “slate” received the money to cover their campaign expenditures.

Meanwhile, low voter turnout—fueled by the dog days of summer primary election date that was delayed by about a month due to court fights over redistricting– was a factor in the local primary. Cecil County had the fourth lowest voter turnout rate in the state, with 14.9 percent of registered voters in the county casting ballots. Statewide, voter turnout was 17.1percent, according to the BOE.

But local die-hard supporters of Dan Cox– the Trump-endorsed gubernatorial candidate repudiated by current Republican Governor Larry Hogan as a “Q-Anon whack job”—turned out in force both for Cox and the local “slate” candidates, most of whom embraced Cox’s candidacy.

Statewide, Cox received 52.0 percent of the GOP primary vote, while Hogan-endorsed Kelly Schultz received 43.4 percent. In Cecil County, Cox carried 56.6 percent of the local GOP vote, while Schultz received just 39.5 percent.

(On the Democratic side of the governor’s race, Wes Moore of Baltimore won his party’s nomination with 32.6 percent of the vote but came in third place in Cecil County, with 22.3 percent of the local vote. In Cecil County, state Comptroller Peter Franchot carried the local Democrats’ vote with 33.9 percent, thanks to a strong local campaign organization. Statewide, Franchot came in third in his party’s gubernatorial contest, with 21.2 percent of the vote. Democrats did not run ANY candidates in the local Cecil County elections, so the local Republican candidates are unopposed in November, unless write-in candidates file and seek a counted vote.)

In other Cecil County races, Robert Amato, known locally as “Mr. Republican” for his many years of service to local GOP politics and organizations, was another target of the Hornberger machine. Kevin distributed a flyer promoting a young man, Travis Ward, with no discernible employment or volunteer service to any local community or political organization, for a seat on the county Orphans’ Court. Ward won by four votes over Amato.

[NOTE to the CECIL WHIG’s new kid on the block “reporter” who declared that current Chief Judge Carolyn Crouch had been ousted as chief judge by another candidate who received a few more votes: NO, the top vote getter does not automatically become Chief Judge. State law provides that the sitting members of the court make a recommendation to the Governor, who decides whom to appoint as Chief Judge.]

In other races in the primary election, for Delegates in Dist. 35A—(covering parts of Cecil and Harford counties)—Incumbents Teresa Reilly and Mike Griffith were unopposed in the Republican primary for the two seats assigned to this district.

[NOTE to the new kid on the block writing at the CECIL WHIG: NO, this was not a “nailbiting finish” between Reilly and Griffith, who were not running against each other. No, Griffith was NOT “defeated.” And since there were no Democrats filed in that party’s primary, both Griffith and Reilly have smooth sailing in November for a return trip to their seats in Annapolis.]

(For this, the Whig charges TWICE what we pay for a digital subscription to the New York Times. And CECIL TIMES is free to readers,)

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