Last night I made it to two events which prove the passion is already there for a heated electoral campaign.
A number of candidates made it out to the local AFP meeting last night, which benefitted from not having Salisbury’s answer to “Sideshow Bob” drawing attention to himself and his well-publicized feud with one of the local AFP co-chairs.
We had sort of an unusual start, as Joe Collins talked about and played the Martin O’Malley radio advertisement which accused Bob Ehrlich of being a friend of Big Oil. He then played Ehrlich’s video response and also introduced the audience to fellow GOP hopeful Brian Murphy through another video.
Joe also addressed one critic as he said, “I’m not going to tell you who to vote for.” Instead we should do our own research and come up with our own comclusions.
A number of candidates then were asked to come up and introduce themselves briefly.
While Mike Brewington told us briefly his campaign was about taxes, Rob Fisher took a couple minutes to introduce himself and tell us he was “outraged” by the scope of government. He definitely took advantage of the “few seconds” asked of hopefuls.
Dustin Mills noted the “state of the state is deplorable” and that Rudy Cane has “nothing to show” for 12 years of service. Fellow Delegate candidate Mike McDermott told us “you deserve better” in Annapolis, while Mike Calpino explained we “need a philosopical change in the government.”
I also found out Orphans Court Judge Bill Smith was seeking another term, which surprised me since I was under the impression he was retiring.
Giving brief reports on Wicomico County and Salisbury City Councils were Matt Trenka and S.J. Disharoon, respectively.
While Trenka spoke about the “success” of getting one night meeting per month for County Council, there was also the disappointment that Council’s budget amendments failed to pass so the County Executive’s budget proposal stood as the FY2011 spending plan for Wicomico County. Trenka also called a letter from Delegate Rudy Cane regarding the Council’s cuts as “inappropriate” because it cast the cuts in a race-based light. “(We’re) not racist, not hateful, just no longer silent,” concluded Trenka.
Disharoon spent much of his time lamenting the spending at the city’s wastewater treatment plant, which may end up costing taxpayers as much as $130 million to repair as promised – the newly-hired engineers were “pretty sure” this would work, explained a dismayed Disharoon. He also stated that annexation “has got to stop,” at least for residential areas.
The featured speakers were Bill Satterfield of Delmarva Poultry Industry and Joe Ollinger, who’s running for County Executive.
Satterfield made two key points during his remarks.
First he explained the economic impact of the poultry industry on Delmarva – the 14,700 jobs which are directly created by poultry producers lead to 100,000 jobs indirectly. Just the feed bill for these birds is $850 million, noted Bill.
Yet legislation which singles out the poultry industry seems to be all the rage in Annapolis and Washington. Laboring under “nutrient management plans” and a “pollution diet” already, the growers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed may find life even harder due to special regulations affecting only them (as compared to other regions like the Carolinas.) But agriculture was the only sector making progress toward the goal of cleaning up Chesapeake Bay – urban and suburban areas were lagging behind.
Ollinger went through a brief biography, some history of his community involvement, and the five planks in his platform (being a taxpayer advocate, pay for performance, safer and more disciplined schools, appointing the Board of Education, and combining the county’s law enforcement agencies.) One thing I didn’t know is that he’d worked in the mid-1990’s on a study to consolidate various county functions, including law enforcement. Joe has also spent nearly a quarter-century on the Mayor’s Roundtable discussion group.
He answered a number of audience questions, with the most contentious being the prospect of a school board being appointed by the County Executive vs. elected by the voters. Ollinger saw it as an extension of his function of creating the overall budget, but when John Palmer asked for a show of hands on the issue supporters of an elected school board far outnumbered those in favor of Joe’s approach.
With regard to a “hands-on role”, Ollinger said the incumbent, “missed the boat on what the County Executive’s job is,” using the job to be an administrator rather than as a leadership role.
As far as combined law enforcement, Joe believed that the debate would have to occur as a community; for example, Salisbury Mayor Jim Ireton is against the idea because Salisbury prefers its own police force. “I think one law enforcement agency would better serve and better protect the citizens of this county,” said Ollinger.
The key to getting jobs in this county, answered Ollinger to another question, is improving certain areas of our infrastructure (electricity, natural gas, fiber optics, and wireless accessibility) and our school system. While he doesn’t have control over jobs, he does have control over those aspects which attract businesses.
Ollinger also promised to attend more County Council meetings than the incumbent, particularly when the budget was being discussed.
Afterward, those candidates who had attended held an impromptu meet-and-greet. Included in that group were Ollinger along with Congressional candidates Rob Fisher and Andy Harris, Delegate hopefuls Mike McDermott and Dustin Mills, Maryland Senate hopeful Michael James, and County Council aspirants Mike Brewington, Joe Holloway, Mike Calpino, and John Cannon. Karla Graham, who represented Brian Murphy, was also there.
Harris and James were a little late because previous to the AFP meeting was a fundraiser for Maryland Senate candidate Michael James, which featured Senate Minority Leader Allan Kittleman.
Allan stressed the importance of getting 19 Senators – “we fight hard, but it’s just not doable sometimes (with 14 Senators)…(Bob Ehrlich) doesn’t want to be Governor with less than 19 Senators.” It was a case of either being at the table or on the menu.
Current Senator Lowell Stoltzfus, who is retiring, broke his silence on endorsing his successor until after the July 6th filing deadline – “I’m here.” He also related a story Jim Mathias told about himself and his first vote, leading to a question of whether Mathias would follow his principles based on his thought process prior to that initial vote. (It’s nothing new, I’ve heard the story from Mathias too.)
James himself felt the seat needed to be filled by someone “who had created jobs,” noting that under his management the Carousel Hotel had gone from 10 employees to 300. He also harped on a regular theme of being proactive rather than reactive. As for measures to help local business, “one thing we ought to focus on is knocking that sales tax to where it belongs – or lower.”