The annual Farm Fair typically marks the high point of summer in Harford County. It’s a time to relax and slow down the pace of life, while enjoying the bounties offered by an agricultural and rural lifestyle – unless you’re an elected official or have intentions of ever becoming one. In which case, the Farm Fair gives you four days to shake as many hands and pass out as many pencils as possible, while reminding fair patrons for whom to vote in September.
This year’s fair was no exception. A team from The Dagger canvassed out across the fairgrounds with an ear to the ground for political ruminations, but the election chatter was so loud and thick we ended up fleeing with hands over our ears for fear of being deafened.
What follows is a handful of those stories; all speculative and open to criticism and clarification, but offered up from sources who would know:
ALL SIGNS POINT TO A DEMOCRATIC FEUD: Harford County Councilman Dion Guthrie and former state Sen. Art Helton’s feud dates back to the 2006 General Election, when Ann Helton was making strong gains against David Craig in the county executive race. Guthrie, a fellow Democrat, had arranged with Art Helton to have Dion’s political street team put dozens upon dozens of Ann Helton signs out at the District A (Edgewood/Joppa) polling places on Election Day. For reasons that remain unknown, or at least unspoken, those Ann Helton signs were never put out. Helton went on to lose to Craig by about 3,600 votes. And thus, the grudge was born. This is particularly troubling to local Democrats, who had been working hard for the decade or so prior to stomp out all the previous grudges between Democratic Party leaders in Harford County.
PLAYING THE WAITING GAME: You might have noticed that two of Harford County’s most prominent female elected officials, Del. Mary-Dulany James and County Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti, waited until nearly the last possible moment to file for re-election to their respective offices (Lisanti on July 1 and James on July 2). This was not a case of being busy with other things or just not getting around to it. Both women were waiting to see if there would be any late maneuvering by another prominent local female official – Sen. Nancy Jacobs. Speculation had been that Jacobs was once again on the short list of potential lieutenant governor choices being pondered by former Gov. Robert Ehrlich as he began his comeback campaign. Should Ehrlich have picked Jacobs for the spot (rather than Montgomery County’s Mary Kane), James and Lisanti were each prepared to launch a campaign for the next spot up on the political ladder – James for District 34 state senate seat that Jacobs would be vacating and Lisanti for James’ District 34A seat in the House of Delegates. As it turns out, all three women are running to retain their respective elected offices – although Jacobs was apparently closer than most know to getting the call from Ehrlich to join his ticket.
ALL THE KING’S MEN: After an internal coup of Harford legislators overthrew Dels. Susan McComas and Rick Impallaria as the president and vice president, respectively, of the Harford County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly, Impallaria took it personally. He has been working double-time this election season, not just on his own campaign, but playing the role of political kingmaker. Impallaria has hand-picked a Campaign for Liberty candidate to run against each of those who had a hand in overthrowing him in Annapolis. And when a worthy opponent arose to challenge McComas in Bel Air (former County Councilman Mike Geppi), Impallaria is taking credit for strong-arming him out of the race and protecting his House of Delegates compatriot.
A FAIR ENDORSEMENT?: The Route 40 Republican Club and the North Harford Republican Club combined forces recently to issue a list of endorsements that have caused a stir inside the Republican camp. The endorsed candidates were a.) identified before the Primary Election and b.) chosen by the clubs’ leaders and not the general members. That left at least one member, who also happens to be a candidate, out of the loop and paying dues to a club that decided to back his competition in the Republican primary.
REBEL RADIO: With all the brouhaha over how former Gov. Robert Ehrlich remained host of his talk show on WBAL 1090 AM radio show until June 26, when he formally filed the paperwork making him a candidate for governor, how is it that Del. Pat McDonough, who is running for re-election, has remained host of the “Pat McDonough Radio Show” on WCBM 680 AM, airing Saturday evenings from 8 to 10? Some Democrats are beginning to wonder the same thing and may ask for the State Board of Elections to help clear things up.
LASERS, ANTENNAE, AND CAT TREATS: County Councilman Joe Woods had the most impressive Farm Fair booth display of the year; hell, possibly of all time. Forget the fact that he had blisters on his hands after tying several thousand balloons (or that he built the balloon-inflation machine himself). Look beyond the small bags of dog treats, cat treats, rabbit treats, and bird seed he was handing out to passersby or the impressive mini-museum of medals, patches, and fire service commendations he had displayed under glass. Ignore the multi-colored laser light show on display within his tent. The most impressive part of Woods’ tent was what you couldn’t see. Woods eagerly took us around behind his booth and pointed to the 2-ft antennae attached to its top. Woods, who when asked about its legality quickly claimed he has his FCC license, had set up and was broadcasting his on wireless Internet hub. What this means is that anyone with a BlackBerry, iPhone, iPod, laptop, or other wireless device who came within a certain distance of Woods’ tents would be offered the ability to tap into the Internet for free. What’s in it for Woods? Those who took the opportunity to leech the Internet signal from his mobile set-up were first taken to the Joe Woods website before they could begin surfing the web.
TURNING BLUE WITH LAUGHTER: Part-time comedian-turned-Board-of-Education-candidate Tom Myers had some funny riffs as we chatted at the Democrat booth, but it was Sen. Barry Glassman who turned in the knee-slapping performance of the night. Within the confines of a small audience consisting of council president Billy Boniface, Del. Rick Impallaria, Sen. Nancy Jacobs and myself, Glassman proceeded to detail an uncharacteristically blue joke – with a particularly profane punch line. The indelicate joke (which you’ll have to ask him to repeat, because I won’t) had our group cracking up, mostly because of who delivered it.
– A prominent Harford County elected official very nearly entered the already-crowded Register of Wills race…and would have easily won.
– A flier was circulating featuring the now infamous photos of Gov. Martin O’Malley celebrating the Fourth of July with Del. Wayne Norman at his annual backyard barbecue.
– Any politician who was asked said the polls were looking good and the campaign was building momentum.
– There was the usual grumbling about how some candidates (mostly incumbents) got the best booth locations, but Sheriff candidate Jeff Gahler was disappointed the four GOP Sheriff candidates were split up into different tents. Gahler would have liked patrons to have been able to see and judge all of the would-be Sheriffs at the same time.
– The 2010 elections have definitely been “The Year of the Leadership Teams.” There is the Harford Leadership Team, the Conservative Leadership Team, the North Harford Leadership Team, and I’m pretty sure a couple others that I missed.
– The Campaign for Liberty set up shop, spreading the Tea Party message and handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution.
– In a Farm Fair first, several school board candidates were among the candidates displaying signs and introducing themselves to passersby.
– The Route 40 and North Harford Republican Clubs jointly endorsed a slate of nine candidates for the twelve open seats on the Republican Central Committee, leaving three spots open for voter-choice. With a total of 37 candidates in the running, there will be plenty to choose from.
Did you hear any interesting stories or witness anything worth reporting at the Farm Fair?
Would you like to clarify, correct, or expand on any of these political stories?
If so, by all means, let everyone know.