By Ken Rossignol
THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY
News analysis and commentary
LEONARDTOWN, MD. — A few good knock-down, drag-out political fights are on the marquee for 2014 in St. Mary’s County in a mostly boring line-up; while an old-fashioned slugfest is set for the commissioner’s …races in Calvert and Charles Counties.
Starting at the top – there is little to note in the county commissioners race in St. Mary’s as the candidates will have to work pretty hard to find voters that are even aware that this is an election year. Not a single one of the commissioner’s races feature contested primaries.
Not a one.
One commissioner, Todd Morgan, a liberal Republican who had his campaign signs erected next to Steny Hoyer’s as he ran a Hoyer-lite type of campaign in 2010, is unopposed.
No primary opponent and no general election opponent. His only obstacle to election may be his ability to dodge oak trees and telephone poles as he maneuvers around the county in what most folks refer to as an inebriated state. In past election years, there were Earlys, Curleys and Eagan’s, Chasens and Lancaster’s rivaling Quade’s, Halls and Thompsons for seats on the county commissioner board. Elections were hard-fought and often decided by absentee votes.
In 2002, a change of 65 votes would have dumped Democrat Tommy Mattingly and installed Republican Joe Gass on the commissioner board. Only backstabbing by Republicans Tommy “Hambone” McKay and Kenny Dement who secretly threw support to Democrats Mattingly and Dan Raley prevented Gass and GOP candidate Vernon Gray from joining Dement, McKay and Jarboe on the board that year.
In the 1982 Democratic primary, where elections were usually decided, ‘Landslide’ Ford Dean won re-nomination over Roger Bussler by a mere five votes. In 1994, incumbent – but sleepy – commissioner John Lancaster was whipped in the Democratic primary by Mary Ann Chasen, who in turn was badly beaten by Republican Frances Eagan in the general election as the county elected its first all-GOP Board of Commissioners.
The last member of that Board to still be in office is Commissioner Larry Jarboe (R. Golden Beach) who will complete his fourth term in December. Jarboe is vying for the GOP nomination for the Maryland State Senate in a three-way battle with Commissioner Cindy Jones and a defense contractor from Calvert County – Steve Waugh.
GOP nominees are Randy Guy, commissioner president, Mike Hewitt, commissioner district of Leonardtown/Hollywood, John O’Conner, Seventh District/Mechanicsville; Tom Jarboe, Ridge/Valley Lee and Morgan who is the Republican candidate for Lexington Park/California – the district mostly composed of the 8th Election District.
The Democratic Central Committee can appoint a candidate to run opposite Morgan since no one filed for office but the Democrats ought to more appreciative of his liberal and big-spending voting record.
Morgan apparently was the beneficiary of a great deal of sympathy over the tragic injury and death of his wife when a motorist ran a red light at Rt. 235 and Millstone Landing Road and crashed into her vehicle. In addition, Morgan is well-heeled as he became one of nineteen new millionaires in St. Mary’s County when Eagan-McAlister was purchased by a large defense contractor.
Morgan’s ability to mount an expensive race was cited by several interested possible candidates as dampening their interest. The Lexington Park commissioner seat has never before gone without multiple suitors. In 1974, Lexington Park businessman and developer Larry Millison faced Preston Rose in the Democratic Primary while Florence Drury opposed Millison in 1978.
In 1982, his fellow Democrats delicately supported Millison for a third term as John Lancaster attempted to become the first black county commissioner. Lancaster accomplished that task in 1986 when Millison was term-limited from running again. The 1978 commissioner president race was a doozy when Jim Dobry mounted a write-in campaign, supported by The Enterprise, but still lost to Democrat George Aud.
Aud had lost in 1974 as James Manning McKay had won the Democratic primary for Commissioner President. Elected that year were Millison, McKay, Ford Dean, Dr. J. Patrick Jarboe and Dick Arnold. Only Millison and Dean were elected twice again. The GOP rarely fielded a full slate. In 1974 “Turkey” Bob Thompson ran for commissioner president and Republican Al Longobardi ran a strong race for House of Delegates.
Republican Senator Paul J. Bailey completed his fourth term in office that year and retired. He was replaced by Jim Simpson of Charles County who represented both St. Mary’s and Calvert in a joint district. 1974 was also the first year that Roy Dyson was elected to office, when at the age of 24; Dyson won a seat in the House of Delegates.
Forty years later, Dyson is still running for office, attempting to win a sixth term in the State Senate. In 1978, James Manning McKay decided not to run again and Aud was able to return to the commissioner board. Aud, a close ally of Maryland Gov. Marvin Mandel had dodged a major bullet over arson charges in the torching of a building he owned located on Rt. 235.
After the charges were dropped, Aud was able to win elections in 1978, 1982 in 1986 he won the Democratic primary while in jail after being convicted of income tax evasion.
Aud’s jailhouse nomination by the party failed to convince the full electorate of his worthiness and Republican Joe O’Dell was elected and after serving about nine months, he quit, reportedly running from organized crime operatives over a gambling debt.
Republican Buddy Loffler was appointed by Gov. William Donald Schaefer at the request of the GOP State Central Committee. Loffler was elected to a full term in 1990. Loffler had his sights set on possibly running for Congress but his shenanigans with a loan from the developer who sold the St. Mary’s Academy property to the county finished him politically.
The State Prosecutor had run probes on both Aud and Loffler and some speculated that the prosecutor could open a branch office in St. Mary’s County. 1986 was the first year that a Republican popped up on the Board of Commissioners as the popular lumber salesman at Dean Lumber, Rodney Thompson, took over the seat which had been represented by Ford Dean, as Dean ended his last term. Rodney Thompson’s auction business had grown substantially and he called it quits for politics and Barbara Thompson was able to win the first of two terms, and lost to Democratic Julie Randall in 1998 as she attempted to go for a third term.
In 1998, Eagan and Brugman decided not to run again and Jarboe was picked off in the GOP primary by Shelby Guazzo who had been dumped from the Planning Commission by the Republican Board. Jarboe had suffered a fire in his sawmill that spring and his father a stroke, thus Jarboe put no attention to his reelection campaign and lost.
In 2002, he returned and whipped Guazzo in the GOP primary and has won election twice since. He also learned his lesson and made sure Guazzo was reappointed to the Planning Commission. Elected in 1998 along with Guazzo were four muddle-headed Democrats. Anyone would have been better than liberal Republicans Barbara Thompson and Crazy Paul Chesser, who frequently voted against his own motions.
Anyone was what the county got. Julie Randall and Joe Anderson were elected to replace Thompson and Chesser and both proved to everyone that their far-left ideology would be better suited to Montgomery County. Both were soundly defeated in 2002.
Randall was bumped off by Tommy McKay and Anderson was whipped by Kenny Dement, who campaigned on a theme of ‘I might be dumb but I’m no commie’.
The voters agreed and never expected great speeches out of Dement but did expect him to vote against tax hikes. For four years Dement stuck with McKay and Jarboe and was reelected in 2006. But without anyone to hold his hand, he soon fell into bad company, giving the Taxocrats an unnecessary fourth vote and voted for endless rounds of tax hikes.
The voters gave Dement the heave-ho in 2010 and elected Cindy Jones who claimed she was a “fiscal conservative” Oddly enough, she and Todd Morgan have proven to be liberal Republicans and have given a three-vote majority to Democrat Jack Russell in the county’s biggest spending project ever undertaken, the road to nowhere, FDR Blvd.
Over sixty million, at least, will be spent on building a road that developers should fill the bill for their own projects. At the same time that county moves forward on FDR Blvd., a road the State of Maryland refuses to fund, Todd Morgan declares that the base may see 1,000 jobs cut. In addition the base is pursuing a plan to move contractor’s on-base in new office and retail complexes. Significant empty office space and retail space in shopping centers exist, leaving only Commissioner Jarboe opposing the FDR Blvd. construction. Taxocrats Jack Russell, Dan Raley, Tommy Mattingly and Dement approved the purchase of the Hayden Farm in a really stinky deal that gave the property owners twice the appraised value of the land. The commissioners convened a public hearing on Christmas Eve in one of the most tragically stupid moves ever undertaken by St. Mary’s County politicians. The public knew a stinky deal when they saw one, and one by one, those involved, with the exception of Russell, have met the wrath of the voters.
Dement was defeated in 2010; Raley, seeking to oust popular treasurer Jan Norris had his hind parts handed to him and Tommy Mattingly’s effort in 2013 to win the Mayor’s race in Leonardtown saw him go down to defeat, losing his hometown. For Raley and Mattingly, who had both staved off defeat in 2002 by creating an alliance with the underhanded McKay who stabbed his Republican ticket mates in the back, their defeats in their respective races showed the voters found a way to get even for the Stinky and Fishy Hayden Farm Deal.
Raley and Mattingly in particular, all during the national fiscal crisis that began in 2007, declared that St. Mary’s County was insulated from the national economy by the base and there was not only no need to cut spending but that people here could afford to pay higher taxes.
That is a tune also sung by Delegate John Bohanan (D. Wildewood) who has a voting record that any liberal Democrat legislator from Montgomery County would be proud to have. But Bohanan has a pretty hapless Republican opponent this year in Deb Rey.
Thus far, Rey doesn’t seem to appreciate Bohanan’s liberal voting record and may simply be unable to exploit that record. In 2010, Bohanan said he supported Maryland law which provided for marriage between a man and a woman while his GOP opponent had a similar stand. Bohanan managed to win in 2010 by about seven hundred votes and in 2012 he provided the single vote margin needed to change Maryland law to allowing same-sex marriage.
Thus far, Bohanan has proven that he is happy to throw his neighbors under the bus in order to chase his dream. The commissioner lineup this year shows a hard-fought race shaping up between Mike Hewitt and Dr. Bob Schaller. This race might provide the most contrast between Schaller, who was removed as the county’s economic development director after some typical backroom maneuvering over his attempts to bring favor for a firm owned by a friend of his over competitive bidding for county contacts.
Not that self-dealing and back scratching is exactly new in St. Mary’s County, but it is rare for a county department head to actually get the heave-ho. Should Schaller win the post he seeks, it would be the ultimate revenge, although the incumbent commissioner who had a hand in his demise decided to rack it up after a single term.
Hewitt, after consultation with Commissioner Dan Morris, filed in the district Morris now represents. Morris had been making a lot of noise about the conduct of the Sheriff’s Department for the last three years and even said he had an exploratory committee looking at his options. Morris might have found that his committee noticed that only skeletons and demons were hiding in the caves and didn’t promise to provide a welcoming environment in which he might take on Sheriff Tim Cameron.
Hewitt ran as a Democrat, after he was a Republican, for commissioner president in 2006 along with Merl Evans, who himself is once again a candidate this year. Evans and Hewitt were in the Democratic primary in 2006 and lost to Jack Russell.
This year, Evans will face the son of the late Dr. Pat Jarboe, a Democrat, as he shows once again the trend in the county to turn away from the liberal Democratic Party as he is a Republican. It remains to be seen if he is a tax-hiking big government Republican like Barbara Thompson was or as Cindy Jones and Todd Morgan are today.
Most candidates post their views on government, on taxes, spending, social welfare programs and how they would represent voters should they be elected. About the only tipoff that Tom Jarboe is a Republican is that he displays a photo of himself from twenty years ago when he was in the Coast Guard and was holding an automatic weapon as he was on drug smuggling duty. There is nothing on his website that gives a clue as to how he feels about government spending, except that he is a defense contractor and has been for the last ten years.
As a defense contractor, it is a given that he likes government spending. During all the various fights over tax hikes, the fishy Hayden Farm purchase, county spending on unneeded parks or providing support for new schools, Tom Jarboe has never risen to the level of exposing any views he might hold. In pursuit of any information about Tom Jarboe which might reveal his views of county government, spending, taxation policies or the needs and direction of local government, the first ten pages of Google were gleaned.
Not once did any letter, news article, pdf file or reference appear in that search. Tom Jarboe is a meet and greet guy for sure, as his name appears in various Chamber of Commerce and defense contractor listings and guides. Tom Jarboe also notes on his website the many community activities which he has supported as he has built his resume for public office. About the only conclusion that a voter can reach about Tom Jarboe, from examining his website and the internet is that he has carefully avoided exposing his political philosophy and has never advocating spending or taxing more or less, thus his views indeed seem to be as closely guarded as if they are hidden deep within the vaults of the Vatican. Remember, the office for which he is running is that of a county commissioner. The five commissioners set policy and determine the level of taxes and spending.
To simply select a commissioner based on what party affiliation they select is really a crapshoot, and looking at the record of Kenny Dement, Cindy Jones, Danny Morris and Todd Morgan shows a clear pattern of Republicans who couldn’t adhere to any defining principles consistent with the GOP. Tom Jarboe, were he a conservative, might reveal that fact, but it is far more likely he is simply another closeted liberal defense contractor and St. Mary’s County is already stuck with one commissioner who represents the defense contractors instead of the people.
Merl Evans has been on the Planning Commission for a long time and often has been a working tool of the developers as sprawl and growth have exceeded the ability of the county to deal with them.
Tom Jarboe’s late father, Dr. J. Patrick Jarboe was a county commissioner from 1974 to 1978 when he lost a bid for reelection. He also served for about three weeks after the removal of Commissioner George Aud who was in jail. Dr. Jarboe died in 2012 a year after he surrendered his physician’s license in order to keep from being prosecuted for failing to meet the standards of quality medical care or keeping adequate medical records in the cases of eight patients. In the race between Tom Jarboe and Merl Evans, voters will have to decide if either candidate can actually articulate a reason to vote for them. At this point, Tom Jarboe is a joiner, a greeter and very good at obtaining secret security contracts from the federal government.
An examination of the business listings of his firm, Technology Security Associates, explains how he co-founded the firm. One can only hope he had nothing to do with Booz Allen or the Edward Snowden leak scandal, as it appears his firm advises the government and industry on how to keep their stuff secret. With nothing to go on about his views, voters can detect that from his resume, Tom Jarboe is industrious, a family man who is married with three children and thus understands the challenges of raising a family in the county he wants to govern.
Future editions will explore more of the background of candidates for office in the 2014 election.