The Nitty-Gritty: Southern Maryland Voters Restless as Officials Dumped from Office

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Sheriff Rex Coffey at traffic stop in Waldorf.
Sheriff Rex Coffey at traffic stop in Waldorf.



By Ken Rossignol

 Political Commentary and Analysis

LEONARDTOWN, MD. — The landscape shifted in Southern Maryland as veteran Calvert County Commissioner Gerry Clark failed to retain a spot on the November ballot in the GOP primary, as did former Calvert Commissioner Linda Kelley while former Delegate and Maryland Veterans Affairs Secretary George Owings III won a top spot in a big vote in his bid to become Calvert Commissioner President.

In Charles County two-term Sheriff Rex Coffey was soundly defeated in the Democratic Primary by Troy Berry after a hot primary race.  Voters chose Berry who will become the third black Sheriff in Southern Maryland with Sheriff Joe Lee Somerville in St. Mary’s elected in 1978 and Sheriff Vonzell Ward elected in 1994 in Calvert County, ringing the bell before him.

Developer John Parlett and former Commissioner Tommy McKay were the biggest losers after spending nearly $20,000, accounted for thus far, in boosting the candidacy of Commissioner Cindy Jones for State Senate and McKay for House of Delegates. Both lost, with McKay’s loss the latest in the trail of notches of losing races in spite of his family funding a newspaper nine years ago in an attempt to foist him upon the public in an elective office and out of the family business.

It looks like they are stuck with him.

The Same Old TuneMcKay lost to Democrat Roy Dyson in 2006, to Democrat Jack Russell in 2010 and came in a weak third in the June 24th GOP primary behind Bryan “Puff” Barthelme and the winner, carpetbagger Matt Morgan, who had moved to Mechanicsville from Benedict in order to run for office.

Parlett, with his Blue Crab Conservatives PAC, along with the assistance of The Baynet owner Phil Dorsey who endorsed Jones, had plowed big bucks into glossy last minute mailings for Jones’s campaign.

The chickens came home to roost for Jones who had joined the campaign of liberal Democrat David Densford in the Judge election of 2012 and did robocalls and mailers for Densford against Joe Stanalonis.

Jones came in third in the Maryland State Senate District 29 GOP primary behind Calvert resident Steve Waugh and Commissioner Larry Jarboe.  Jarboe is ending his fourth term as commissioner and now plans on spending lots of time fishing in Florida or telling sea stories on ships.

While one local politico suggested there should be a suicide watch for both Jones and McKay, there might have to be a warning given to the catfish in the Potomac that Cap’n Larry will soon have a lot of time on his hands.

Berry put on a solid campaign in Charles County’s Sheriff’s race while Coffey was in a battle for high ground in a swamp of quicksand created by his closest pals – Major Buddy Gibson and Capt. Michael Rackey.

Charles County Sheriff Rex Coffey. The CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo
Charles County Sheriff Rex Coffey. The CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

Coffey’s leading leap from electoral success to drowning in the cesspool of controversy came from his first actions upon winning office in 2006 by defeating Sheriff Fred Davis.  Sheriff Coffey immediately made it clear to a dozen veteran career officers that they ought to retire and he brought in Gibson and Rackey to run the agency.  Dozens of deals and tricks kept popping up but Coffey defeated David Williams in 2010 in spite of the problems. This time things would be different.

A traffic stop went really bad on Rt. 301 last fall and on the scene was Sheriff Coffey who reportedly used his car as part of the method in forcing a DUI suspect to stop, dragged the motorist from his vehicle and then, with Capt. Rackey jumping in front of the police dash cam, dealt with the suspect.

The images and video were public documents and made the end of Sheriff Coffey’s career a near certainty which was sealed by the voters on June 24th.

Berry racked up 8748 votes while Coffey garnered the votes of 4996 Democrats.

GOP House District 29 AFormer Charles County Commissioner Sam Graves ran a hard race and was 122 votes behind Commissioner Ken Robinson in the Democratic Primary while Del. Peter Murphy won 56 percent of the vote for Commissioner President against Rueben Collins. Graves could still eke out a victory over Robinson when absentee ballots are counted.  Murphy opted not to run for reelection to the General Assembly and set out to take over county government. A DUI arrest for Commissioner Collins put him in an awkward position at the start of the campaign.

Commissioner Bobby Rucci won a convincing victory with forty-one percent of the vote with three opponents in the Democratic Primary.  While Republicans exist in Charles County it is unlikely that any of them will manage a victory in November making it likely that the Democratic nominees will go on to victory. But, heck this is Maryland there are many surprises in politics.

Calvert Commissioners Pat Nutter, Evan K. Slaughenhoupt Jr and Steve Weems all won a place on the ballot in November. Calvert’s election district system for commissioners is best likened to a Chinese fire drill and often results in a candidate actually winning more votes than others and still failing to win office. That happened twice to former Commissioner Barbara Stinnett.

With both Matt Morgan and Steve Waugh coming out on top in the only heated primary races in St. Mary’s County there is no guarantee that either will prevail in November as they have been “been there – done that” before having lost the general election in 2010.

McKay’s genius move of producing whatever enticement worked to motivate Del Johnny Wood to support him in the GOP primary hopefully was transacted in full as McKay simply came in third behind both Morgan and Barthelme, who was making his first run for office.  Perhaps Wood will soon be seen behind the meat counter at Charlotte Hall in a gravy job.  But the big surprise of Wood endorsing McKay at a fundraiser likely gave Republicans a good view of Good Old Boy Democrats simply switching to the GOP to continue to run their game.

With Morgan a clear-cut carpetbagger in the legislative race running against D. A. M. Slade, a Leonardtown lawyer with his own baggage as being a party-boy with cash from a controversial case, this race for District 29A House of Delegates could go either way.

Waugh will face Democrat Roy Dyson who has been winning elections since the days of Andrew Jackson.  Dyson lost once, a bid for reelection to Congress in 1990, to a teacher who was also a Marine, after it was revealed that Dyson had been a conscientious objector during the Viet Nam War. Waugh is also a Marine veteran, giving this race an interesting twist. In 2010, Waugh, even more unknown then, was able to score forty-eight percent of the vote against Dyson.

With about eighty percent of the electorate in St. Mary’s the ability of the Calvert resident to increase his vote total from 2010 is the key to victory.





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