Is it really that hard to file paperwork?

October 1, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off on Is it really that hard to file paperwork? 

As I promised in last night’s post, I looked up some of the many campaign finance accounts that were opened for this year’s election, including older accounts that have been around for years. My focus was on those who are on the November ballot in Wicomico County, although I also looked at candidates who failed to advance beyond the June 26 primary.

This post was inspired by the long-standing deficiency of Kirkland Hall, who went several months overdue without filing the required campaign finance paperwork with the state Board of Elections. However, as I found out in looking at the 64 candidates who are/were on the Wicomico County ballot, it must be a mean feat for some people to do this.

(Hall and opponent Delegate Charles Otto are not actually on the Wicomico County ballot, but they are part of our District 38 nonetheless. Otto was first elected in part with Wicomico County votes in 2010, before District 38A was gerrymandered to place Otto and former Delegate Mike McDermott in the same district by shifting it eastward into the southern end of Worcester County.)

I’m going to reach back into my memory bank for this, because one needed change for 2018 was a revision to campaign finance laws to make them easier on party office candidates (as I was.) Prior to that, I ran for office three times in 2006, 2010, and 2014.

The first time I had a treasurer who took care of the modest amount of paperwork for what they called a Personal Treasurer Account (PTA), with the biggest (only) contribution I had being the $100 I donated to my campaign, the in-kind donation that I was advised to consider my website as, and the two expenditures my filing fee and the $58 or so I used to buy palm cards to distribute among my close neighborhoods. At that time, you could have a non-continuing account so after that campaign it went away, with the proceeds donated to our Central Committee.

But the second time in 2010, they eliminated the PTA option so I had to keep my account open for the four years between the 2010 and 2014 elections, which meant I had to file all the 2010 reports, the annuals for 2011-14, and all the 2014 reports until after my primary when I formally closed the account since I didn’t intend to run again. During that time, my treasurer/(then) fiance and I missed the 2013 Annual Report by five days, so we had to pay a $20 fine. Honestly, I don’t remember seeing the little green reminder card so I think it went to our previous address – the 2012 one came right at the end of our forwarding order. But I should have known it was time.

So I have some empathy for those who miss the deadline by a few days, especially in a small-scale campaign like most of those at the county level. However, it turns out that group was the minority as out of 64 candidates I checked – the majority were in complete compliance:

  • 36 of 64 had no violations.
  • 15 of the remaining 28 had just one violation, with fines ranging from $10 to $250 – these two gentlemen on the extremes both missed the 2012 Annual Report, but Senator Jim Mathias was a day late and County Executive Bob Culver was almost a year late. Neither have missed another deadline in the last six years, though.
  • 4 of the remaining 13 had two violations: County Council at-large candidates Julie Brewington and Jamaad Gould, Senator (but at the time of the violations, Delegate) Addie Eckardt, and perennial primary and write-in candidate Ed Tinus. All have racked up over $200 apiece in fines.

And then you have the serious scofflaws. All of these nine have three or more violations; however, since Christopher Adams has only generated $40 in fines for three offenses, his reports are only a day or two late at most. It’s the rest who seem to have some issues. This is done in order of fine, smallest to largest:

  1. Delegate Christopher Adams, District 37B: 2014 Pre-General 1, 2017 Annual, 2018 Annual – $40 in fines
  2. William Turner, candidate, Wicomico County BOE District 3: 2018 Spring, 2018 Pre-Primary 2, 2018 Pre-General 1 – $90 in fines
  3. Michelle Bradley, candidate, Wicomico County BOE District 1: 2018 Spring, 2018 Pre-Primary 2, 2018 Pre-General 1 – $220 in fines
  4. Larry Dodd, Wicomico County Councilman (District 3): 2016 Annual, 2018 Annual, 2018 Pre-Primary 2, 2018 Pre-General 1 – $490 in fines
  5. Kirkland Hall, candidate, District 38A Delegate: 2018 Annual, 2018 Pre-Primary 2, 2018 Pre-General 1 – $1,340 in fines
  6. Mimi Gedamu, candidate, District 37B Delegate: 2018 Pre-Primary 1, 2018 Pre-Primary 2, 2018 Pre-General 1 – $1,390 in fines
  7. Ernest Davis, Wicomico County Councilman (District 1): 4 in 2010, 2011 Annual, 2015 Annual – $1,530 in fines
  8. Marvin Ames, candidate, Wicomico County Council (District 1): no filings since inception in February 2018 – $1,890 in fines
  9. Jim Shaffer, candidate, District 38C Delegate: no filings since inception in February 2018 – $1,890 in fines

Yes, Ames and Shaffer have never filed a single report. Since both lost in the primary, their campaigns are finished but they cannot close their accounts until the fines are waived or (more likely) paid. Honestly, I think they have more in fines than they raised for the campaigns!

In case you wanted to use this as evidence that one party or the other is worse about the situation, be advised that of the highest nine there are two in a non-partisan race, four Republicans, and three Democrats. Ironically, none of the top 4 face a November race as Ames, Shaffer, and Gedamu lost in the primary and Davis (who, admittedly, seems to have put these issues in the past since he’s been “clean” for almost three years) is unopposed.

I may take a look at the situation again when the last pre-general reports come out later this month but I suspect most of the campaigns will be careful to file coming into the election. No need for an October surprise on that front.

Campaign finance, Salisbury style

October 28, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2015 - Salisbury, Delmarva items, Politics · Comments Off on Campaign finance, Salisbury style 

With just a week to go before the election, we finally learned who was giving and receiving the most money of the dozen-plus candidates running for office in the city of Salisbury. (Thanks to the Salisbury Independent for sharing the city’s information in their summary.)

After reading through the various reports, one thing is clear: Jake Day is great at raising money. Despite the fact we learned weeks ago he would be unopposed, contributors have still dropped nearly $25,000 in his campaign coffers. (As I recall, there are options to wind down a campaign account once the cycle is through, so Day may have the opportunity to select from a number of willing groups and share the wealth.)

Last time around in the former District 1, Shanie Shields outraised and outspent her two opponents, one of which was the current office seeker April Jackson. The same is holding true this time, as Shields holds a roughly 3-to-1 fundraising advantage over her two opponents combined. Newcomer Sarah Halcott is the third person in the race.

The advantage is even more pronounced in District 2, with Muir Boda miles ahead of his three opponents. Before I go on, I will disclose that I am a recipient of advertising money from Boda, but two things jumped out at me from his opposition.

First, Keyvan Aarabi only lists $200 in contributions but nearly $900 in spending, so the question is whether they failed to report candidate loans. (Perhaps they made that oversight.) But that’s better than not reporting at all, which Marvin Ames failed to do. The third aspirant, Justin Gregoli, reported his activity did not meet the threshold for itemizing.

In District 3, where two incumbents are battling it out, Jack Heath has raised money while Tim Spies is funding his own efforts, vowing to return contributions. Compared to Heath, newcomer Kevin Lindsay barely registers, having raised just $370 for his bid.

After I disclose that District 4’s Roger Mazzullo is also an advertiser, let me point out that he is by far the most successful political newcomer when it comes to fundraising, raising $3,450 so far compared to outgoing Mayor Jim Ireton’s $870. (In an effort to portray himself as the little guy, Ireton is limiting contributions to $20 – of course, he has the advantage of name recognition that Mazzullo has to spend money to build.)

Finally, since Laura Mitchell is unopposed in District 5 she filed the report stating she had raised and spent less than $600. Given that District 5 voters have no choices on the ballot I would be surprised if more than 100 show up. Turnout in city elections is already abysmal, so 200 to 250 votes in any district may be plenty.

(A total of 2,775 voters participated in the 2013 election, which was citywide and had all contested races. With the lack of a mayor’s race and no contest in one district, I think we’ll be hard-pressed to see 2,000 votes total. Hope they surprise me.)

As we enter the home stretch, we will see what the candidates do to maximize their positions. If money equals votes, City Council could be very receptive to the pro-business side of Jake Day’s agenda.

An anticlimactic November

August 19, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2015 - Salisbury, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on An anticlimactic November 

One reason the Salisbury city elections were changed beginning this year was the abysmal turnout they usually had in the spring. Sadly, turnout will likely be lower still thanks to the lack of a mayor’s race. The deadline came and went today and Jake Day is the only candidate who filed for mayor.

Voters in District 5, on the city’s far east side, will have even less reason to show up because incumbent Council member Laura Mitchell was the only one bothering to run in her district.

On the other hand, there are old-fashioned shootouts in the other four Council districts. Two incumbents lumped together in District 3 will tangle as both Tim Spies, who won in his second try in 2011, and 2014 appointee Jack Heath will both battle for that seat along with Kevin Lindsay, who was one of 11 unsuccessful applicants to succeed Terry Cohen when she resigned last year – it was the seat Heath won appointment to. It’s a district that takes in the Camden neighborhood by Salisbury University and hops across the Wicomico River to take in areas along Pemberton Drive.

There are two others who tried for the Cohen chair that are running for election this year: Sarah Halcott in District 1 and Muir Boda in District 2. Halcott faces two foes who are familiar with each other: incumbent Shanie Shields and 2013 opponent April Jackson in this inner-city and near west side district. Boda, who is in a district with no incumbent, has three fellow challengers in Keyvan Aarabi, Marvin Ames, and Justin Gregoli. Ames ran for the District 1 County Council seat last year but lost in the Democratic primary. District 2 covers the close-in neighborhoods on the north and east sides of Salisbury (and is my home district.)

Instead of running again for mayor, Jim Ireton opted to run for City Council in District 4. He will face two others vying for the seat: Kenneth Vickers III and Roger Mazzullo. That district is perhaps the largest in geography as it takes in most of the commercial center along the northern fringes of town before veering toward downtown Salisbury.

And downtown will have a friend in Day, who has to be pinching himself and wondering how he was fortunate enough not to have an opponent in his run for mayor. It’s very possible, though, that he may just switch roles with Ireton as he would likely seek to be Council president after being put on the Council as Day did after the 2013 election. (Ireton has served on City Council before, though. He was on it for about a year before leaving – as the story goes it was to take a job out of town.)

With no incumbent in District 2, that will be an interesting race as the victor may be the only newcomer to city government. Boda has run for City Council twice before, losing to incumbent Debbie Campbell in 2009 and finishing fourth behind Mitchell, Cohen, and Spies in 2011.

Out of the 16 total candidates, there are six incumbents (one by appointment), four who have sought election at least once before and lost (including the appointee), four who tried for appointment (one apiece being also in the previous two categories), and five who are apparently political neophytes. Some have steeper learning curves than others.

Interestingly to me, the lack of a primary election means financial disclosure statements will not be due until a week before the election – so no one will know just how the money supply is for candidates until the last minute. (Had the primary remained in place, it would have been held in early September for voters in all but District 5 as the three or four candidates otherwise would have been whittled down to two in each race.) One can ask the legitimate question of who, if anyone, Jake Day will ask his donors to give to now that he is in the clear. (They can also ask about Laura Mitchell.) As two incumbents who got a free ride, their backing could make a difference.

So the first hurdle is crossed, eleven weeks before we actually vote. For a candidate, 77 days can seem like an eternity until they get to mid-October and wonder how they will get through the next few weeks with all they need to do. I look forward to hearing some new and good ideas for the city of Salisbury from this group.

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