District 36 divided over Pipkin’s Senate seat -- Gazette.Net


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Unless Republican leaders in District 36 can agree on one person as their choice to succeed Sen. E.J. Pipkin, choosing the next GOP senator from the district could be up to a Democratic governor.

After a second vote by the Queen Anne’s County Republican Central Committee on Tuesday, the four counties in District 36 — Kent, Caroline, Queen Anne’s and Cecil — remained tied between Dels. Stephen S. Hershey Jr. (R-Dist. 36) of Queenstown and Michael D. Smigiel Sr. (R-Dist. 36) of Chesapeake City.

Kent and Caroline counties supported Hershey. Cecil and Queen Anne’s counties gave the nod to Smigiel.

Republican lawmakers have expressed concern about giving O’Malley his choice of candidates, even if he has the last say under the law.

“There is nothing to be served by allowing the Governor of the State to choose the next Republican Senator from the 36th District,” Smigiel wrote in a statement Tuesday.

Smigiel suggested the four central committees come together again to choose just one nominee.

“I suggest that, for the good of the Party, we agree to bring the two nominees before the members of the four central committees to profess our qualifications and debate any issues the members of said honorable Central Committees should desire,” he wrote.

Hershey said the central committees did their jobs and their decisions should be respected.

“I think it’s gone through its process already,” he said. “Each central committee has determined its best means to vet the candidates. They’ve done that; they’ve voted. I think a lot of the central committees want this to be over with.”

Pipkin ended his 11-year career in the Maryland Senate on Aug. 5 when he announced he was moving to Texas to study sports management.

The four central committees have 30 days from Pipkin’s resignation to make their nomination, or nominations. As the final days tick away, the race to pick his successor has gotten rough and tumble.

Smigiel claims rumors have been circulated that his health could prevent him from finishing a campaign. Hershey said he was unaware of any rumors about his fellow delegate.

Queen Anne’s County Republican Central Committee Vice Chairwoman Mary Caroline Dietz said in a phone conversation — which also included Smigiel — that she was bullied into voting for a candidate who was not her first choice.

“I actually got in my car and cried,” Dietz said of her reaction after her committee’s first vote. “I gave into peer pressure. I’m a 63-year-old woman who gave into peer pressure and, I would call it, bullying.”

Dietz was among those on her committee who initially selected former Maryland Republican Party Chairwoman Audrey Scott for the seat.

But Dietz said she felt lied to and tricked into casting that vote when she really supported Smigiel.

Scott eventually removed her name from contention, leaving the split between Smigiel and Hershey.

“If we tie, the Constitution is clear. We send both names to the governor,” said Rob Willoughby, Caroline County Republican Central Committee chairman.

In its first vote, the Queen Anne’s County Republican Committee supported Scott, a former mayor of Bowie and Prince George’s County councilwoman who also served as former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s planning secretary.

In a Facebook post dated Aug. 24, Queen Anne’s County Republican Central Committee chairwoman Andi Morony said that with Scott’s withdrawal from consideration, and since the only other votes cast were for Smigiel, the county gave its support to Smigiel.

Morony also is Smigiel’s chief of staff. Morony did not return multiple requests for comment.

Caroline stood unanimously behind Hershey. It hoped that Queen Anne’s would change and also back Hershey, Willoughby said in an email Saturday.

But in its second vote, Queen Anne’s County backed Smigiel.

On Wednesday, Morony posted to Facebook that according to the attorney general, any county can reconsider its vote for the appointment within the 30 days given the four central committees to make their nominations.

“Anyone saying otherwise is incorrect,” she posted, adding, “#truth.”

With the central committees tied in their choices, Matt Gerstung, Kent County’s Republican Central Committee vice chairman, said his committee will not hold another vote. Kent County’s committee supported Hershey with a majority, four of seven votes.

“It’s submitted,” Gerstung said Monday . “We’re done.”

Chris Zeauskas, chairman of the Cecil County Republican Central Committee, said his committee also will not vote again on the issue.

Cecil’s committee held a quick, but transparent, process for selecting their nominee on Aug. 21, he said. According to the Cecil County GOP Committee’s Facebook page, it supported Smigiel in an 8-to-1 vote.

However, Zeauskas said if the committees end up in a tie, he expects the four committee chairpersons to meet and discuss sending a single name to O’Malley.



kalexander@gazette.net