Wicomico ballot now set for November elections

By Greg Bassett
Posted 8/3/22

Julie Giordano will face Ernest Davis Jr. and Muir Boda in November in the contest to be the next Wicomico County Executive.

With all ballots finally counted, political newcomer Giordano defeated …

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Wicomico ballot now set for November elections

Posted

Julie Giordano will face Ernest Davis Jr. and Muir Boda in November in the contest to be the next Wicomico County Executive.

With all ballots finally counted, political newcomer Giordano defeated Acting County Executive John Psota 52 percent to 48 percent in the Republican primary election.

A Hebron resident and Wicomico County public school teacher, Giordano won 3,774 votes. Psota, who has worked in the executive’s office for two years and has been the acting leader since fall 2020, received 3,495 votes.

The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 8, with early voting scheduled a week prior.

Davis, the current Wicomico County Council Vice President, is the Democratic nominee. Boda, the current Salisbury City Council Vice President, will carry the political banner of the Libertarian Party.

Giordano officially declared victory on Monday.

“I just received a phone call from the Acting County Executive,” she said of Psota in a statement. “He has officially conceded the race. I really appreciate his phone call and a hard-fought campaign.

“I hope we can work together to reach the common goal of bringing Active Local Leadership to our county. The best is yet to come,” she said.

In a post on social media, Psota offered congratulations.

“I congratulate (Giordano) for her hard work during the campaign,” he said. “I am humbled and blessed to have had the opportunity to be your County Executive and Director of Administration these past two years and I look forward to what the future brings.

“I look forward to ensuring the continuity of government and will work with whomever is elected County Executive in November. I must say that your heartfelt expressions of encouragement and support have been amazing and I thank you,” Psota said.

Giordano is a former Human Services manager and 16-year veteran of Wicomico County schools.

A Salisbury native, Psota has served as Acting County Executive since 2020. He was appointed by the County Council to fill the post, following the death two years ago this week of Bob Culver.

Psota was the new Director of Administration when he was elevated to the top job. Prior to that, Psota had a 25-year career with the Maryland State Police and then served as Fruitland’s City Manager.

Turnout was seen as a key to Giordano’s success in the balloting. A supporter of gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox, Giordano likely benefited from the Trump-aligned Republican. Cox easily defeated more-moderate Republican Kelly Shulz in the GOP voting.

Giordano shared some campaign advertising with Cox, who appeared in Salisbury with Giordano during early voting. 

“I think we kind of sparked something. It was a heated primary, it really was on both sides,” she said. “I think people felt strongly about one candidate or the other and I think that played a part in it too. Just seeing so many people involved (in this election) was good.”

The fall election could be close. Democrats hold a slight registration advantage in Wicomico, with about 27,000 registered voters. There are about 13,000 unaffiliated voters.

Davis recorded 5,132 votes, more than either Republican.

Having served nearly eight years on the County Council, Davis is a small business owner who lives in Salisbury. Like Psota, he is a former Maryland State Trooper, and founder and owner of Mid Atlantic Power Wash.

Of the two elected executives in the county’s history, one was a Democrat and one was Republican.

Since 2006, the Wicomico County Executive has served as the chief executive officer of the county. Serving full time, the executive crafts and submits the annual county budget to the County Council, recommends measures for legislative action and oversees all county employees. The executive holds veto power over certain legislation and is a public face of Wicomico County government.

The weeks leading up to the primary featured some rough-and-tumble political action. Though he was serving in an acting role at the pleasure of the County Council, Giordano assailed Psota as lacking sufficient leadership qualities.

The leadership of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 111 issued a last-minute attack on Psota, offering a competing version of events that occurred within a benefits negotiation.

Psota’s campaign distributed a mailer that questioned Giordano’s fiscal integrity, revealing past personal financial conduct on her part.

In a surprising and unprecedented last-minute move, Giordano announced she would appoint Bunky Luffman of Delmar as the county’s Director of Administration.

A former Delmar Deputy Mayor, Luffman has in recent years worked in state government and is currently Director of Legislative and Constituent Services for the Department of Natural Resources.

The Administration Director serves as the County Executive’s top deputy and performs the detailed management work overseeing county government. It had previously been held by people with deep government and business management experience.

Luffman has close ties to state Delegate Carl Anderton, who had sought the executive’s job two years ago and was rejected by the council. After positioning himself over the winter as a candidate for County Executive, he ultimately decided to seek re-election to his District 38B seat. 

Ending a financial roadblock that had made high-speed Internet an issue in countywide political campaigns, Psota announced just before the primary that his preferred vendor of installing Internet to rural and unserved portions of the county had received a multi-million-dollar state grant to ensure the work proceeds.

County Council

The final election numbers reflected the trends from the initial rounds of vote-counting.

Wicomico’s seven-member legislative branch will have at least four new council members beginning in December, based on the results.

Only one incumbent was defeated for re-election – District 3 incumbent Larry Dodd was defeated by political newcomer Shane Baker, 1,012 votes to 734.

Incumbents Bill McCain, Ernie Davis and Nicole Acle were already set to depart the council, with McCain retiring, and Acle and Davis leaving to pursue other elected offices. Acle lost a bid for state delegate; Davis is the Democratic nominee for the November County Executive contest.

Dodd’s ouster will mean entirely new voting matrixes when the new council is seated in December.  

Two of Wicomico’s council members are elected at-large, while five are elected within districts. Four Republicans squared off in last week’s party primary, with two advancing to November.

John Cannon of Salisbury led the ticket with 4,424 votes, followed by political newcomer James Winn of Mardela Springs, who had 3,285 votes.

Katherine Jones of Quantico finished third with 2,494 votes, with Dutch Schwemlein trailing in fourth with 1,456 votes.

A council veteran who has served on the body for 12 of the last 16 years, Cannon is owner of Cannon Management & Rentals. Winn has lived in Wicomico for 18 years and is an owner of Acme Ceramic Tile Co.

Democrats Bradley Gillis and Megan Outten, both of Salisbury, automatically advance to the November ballot. Gillis received 4,576 votes; Outten received 4,537.

In the Nov. 8 election, the top two vote-getters from among Cannon, Gillis, Outten and Winn will win council seats.

District 1

The race among District 1 Democratic contenders was close, with political veteran Shanie P. Shields pulling out a 33-vote win over Monica Brooks of Salisbury. Shields has 535 votes to Brooks’ 502 votes.

Amber Green of Salisbury had 279 votes.

Shields was a longtime city elected official before being defeated in 2015 by the current seat holder, April Jackson.

Shields will now face Kyle E. Cole of Hebron, who was the sole Republican candidate in the district. He received 394 votes.

District 1 is Wicomico’s minority-majority district and includes portions of north and west Salisbury.

District 2

On the Democratic ballot, Talana D. Watson of Salisbury easily defeated Darrin L. Johnson Sr. of Quantico, 853 votes to 454.

Johnson is a recently retired Wicomico Sheriff’s Deputy; Watson and her husband operate Lewis N. Watson Funeral Home.

Among the Republicans, Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce Chairman Jeff Merritt scored a big victory with 1,327 votes. Jasmine Knorr of Salisbury had 485 votes, while David Snyder of Salisbury was in third place with 280 votes.

Watson and Merritt will square off in November.

Wicomico’s District 2 encompasses a huge swath of the county’s west side and crosses the Wicomico river to take in neighborhoods down Riverside Drive into Fruitland. Sharptown, Mardela Springs, Nanticoke and Whitehaven are all part of the district.

District 4

District 4 is made up of the neighborhoods of central and south Salisbury, off Riverside Drive and around Salisbury University, and south of Snow Hill Road.

A candidate from each party has filed for the seat, Republican Kyle Lemonte Brown and Democratic incumbent Josh Hastings.

Brown received 539 votes from fellow Republicans; Hastings received 848 votes.

The two candidates will face-off in the November general election.

District 5

Incumbent Holloway of Parsonsburg easily turned back a challenge from AJ Angello, an Exercise Science and Business major at Salisbury University.

Holloway captured 1,336 votes, while Angello had 483 votes.

Holloway is a lifelong resident of Wicomico County and small-business owner in Parsonsburg.

He is currently the council’s longest-serving member, first winning election in 2006.

District 5 includes east-northeast Wicomico County above Route 50, and includes Delmar, Powellville, Willards. The district dips south of Route 50 to take in Wor-Wic Community College.

State’s Attorney

Wicomico County State’s Attorney Jamie Dykes routed challenger James “Lee Britt” in GOP primary balloting and is assured re-election.

Dykes, the county’s top prosecutor since 2017, secured 74 percent of the ballots cast, or 5,345 votes. Despite running an aggressive campaign, Britt received just 1,912 votes.

It is the State’s Attorney’s Office that prosecutes crimes committed within the county and the State’s Attorney is an elected official who appoints prosecutors and support staff.

Dykes of Parsonsburg will now receive a second term as State’s Attorney. Appointed to succeed Matt Maciarello in 2017, she was elected to the post in 2018.

State Senate District 37

Incumbent Addie Eckardt was pummeled at the hands of challenger Johnny Mautz, who took 74 percent of the vote in the Republican primary election.

Mautz received 10,128 votes to Eckardt’s 3,535.

District 37 includes portions of Wicomico County, and all of Dorchester, Caroline and Talbot counties.

Only two Republicans were in the state Senate race, which means Mautz will face Democratic nominee Naomi Hyman of Easton in November. Hyman, who was unopposed, received 8,558 votes.

Eckardt defeated longtime incumbent state Sen. Rich Colburn in 2014, after having served in the House of Delegates since 1994, representing District 37B.

Mautz grew up in St. Michaels, where he and his family own and operate the Carpenter Street Saloon. He previously worked as a legislative lawyer for the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. He was first elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 2018.

Immediately after the loss, Eckardt announced she was running for the open Cambridge mayor’s seat.

State Senate District 38

District 38 includes portions of Wicomico County, and all of Worcester and Somerset counties.

Republican incumbent Mary Beth Carozza of Ocean City and Democratic challenger Michele Gregory of Salisbury were the sole candidates and automatically advanced to the November election.

Carozza had 10,945 votes in her primary; Gregory had 6,549 votes in the Democratic contest.

House of Delegates District 37B

Incumbent Chris Adams of Salisbury and political newcomer Tom Hutchison of Woolford advanced to the November general election, seeking seats representing District 37B in the Maryland General Assembly.

Two delegates represent the sprawling election district that includes the western portion of Wicomico County, portions of Dorchester and Caroline counties, and all of Talbot County.

Adams’ vote total was 6,474 and Hutchison’s count was 6,032.

Nicole Acle of Salisbury finished third with 4,292 votes; Ron James of Rhodesdale was last with 1,509 votes.

Incumbent Adams, a Salisbury business owner, is seeking a third term, having first been elected in 2014. Born in Salisbury, he is a member of the House Economic Matters Committee.

Hutchison is a small-business owner known for his redevelopment work with Cambridge Main Street.

He and Adams had announced they were running as a political team, as two delegates represent the sprawling district.

Acle gave up her seat on the Wicomico County Council to challenge for the state legislative post. Democrat Susan Delean-Botkin of Oxford was the lone candidate for her party and automatically advances to the November election. She received 6,222 votes.

District 37A

District 37A is the minority-majority district and includes portions of Wicomico, Caroline and Dorchester counties.

Incumbent Sheree Sample Hughes of Salisbury was the lone Democratic candidate and automatically advanced to the November election. She received 2,479 votes. Donna Bradshaw of Rhodesdale was the lone Republican – she received 1,301 votes and will face Sample Hughes in the fall.

District 38A

District 38 includes a small portion of southern Wicomico County, a large section of Worcester County and all of Somerset County.

Incumbent Republican Charles Otto of Princess Anne and Democratic challenger Todd J. Nock of Pocomoke City are the sole candidates and automatically advance to the November election. Otto received 3,774 votes; Nock received 2,006 votes.

Wicomico School Board

A record-setting 22 total candidates have been narrowed to 14 contenders who will battle for seven Wicomico County Board of Education seats.

Four candidates will face off for two at-large seats, while 10 candidates compete within the election districts for five separate seats.

Unlike last month’s other primary contests, school board balloting was nonpartisan and designed to narrow the field for November’s election.

This is just the second time that county voters have selected school board members. The posts were previously appointed by the sitting governor.

 At-Large candidates

 The most-intense battles are likely to come in the at-large contests, where four people will vie for two seats. Two contenders are leaders in the somewhat controversial Delmarva Parent Teacher Coalition, while the other two are teaching and academic figures.

The top four vote-getters were Bonnie H. Ennis with 5,332 votes, Kristin N. Hazel with 4,026 votes, George M. Demko with 3,487 votes and Darren J. Lombardo with 3,098 votes.

Ennis retired this year after 44 years as a classroom teacher and administrator with Wicomico County Public Schools. Demko is the former Director of Microbiology at TidalHealth, who now teaches English as a Second Language at Wor-Wic Community College.

Hazel is a small-business owner who lives in Salisbury. She is the mother of a child on the Autism Spectrum, and seeks to serve as an advocate for students with special needs. Lombardo of Salisbury has more than 30 years of Information Technology and business administration experience.

Ennis, Hazel, Demko and Lombardo will now square off in November for two seats.

 District 1

 District 1 is Wicomico’s minority-majority district. Two candidates are competing in the district that includes north and west Salisbury. The district’s incumbent school board member is Allen C. Brown; the challenger is Luc Angelo. Each man automatically advances to the November general election. 

 District 2

 Gene Malone of Salisbury, who currently serves as Board Chairman, led the four District 2 contenders with 1,390 votes. He will now compete in November with the second-leading vote-getter, Karin Miller of Salisbury, who netted 980 votes.

Malone was appointed to the Wicomico County Board of Education in 2016 and elected to serve a four-year term in December 2018. He is a Vice President with First Shore Federal Savings and Loan Association.

Miller, who has volunteered in the schools and served as a PTA officer, has 9 years experience teaching in Wicomico County at the elementary and middle school level.

The school board’s District 2 encompasses a huge swath of the county’s west side and crosses the Wicomico river to take in neighborhoods down Riverside Drive into Fruitland. Sharptown, Mardela Springs, Nanticoke and Whitehaven are all part of the district.

District 3

 Susan W. Beauchamp was the top vote-getter with 1,749 votes, followed by Leonard Arvi with 923 votes. They will face each other in November.

Beauchamp has been a business owner and practicing accountant for 35 years. Arvi is the chair of the Department of Economics & Finance and Professor of Finance at Salisbury University.

Lewis of Willards is a current school board member, appointed in 2019.

District 3 encompasses east-southeast Wicomico County below Route 50, and includes Powellville, Wango, portions of Fruitland and Salisbury, and neighborhoods including Deer Harbor. Three candidates have filed for the seat; the top-two vote-getters will advance to the November election.

District 4

 District 4 will feature a rematch of the 2018 election, when Ann Brittingham Suthkowski scored a 196-vote win over David Plotts.

In this year’s balloting, however, it was Plotts who received the most votes, with Suthkowski in second, which means the pair will face-off again in November.

Plotts received 957 votes; Suthkowski received 530.

Plotts works for the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore, currently as Controller. In 2019, he was appointed as the parent liaison to the school board's Parent Advisory Committee, from Pinehurst Elementary School.

Suthowski was elected to the school board in 2018. For 31 years, she worked for the Laurel School District, including 10 years as a reading, English and journalism teacher and 21 years as a secondary reading specialist.

District 4 is made up of the neighborhoods of central and south Salisbury, off Riverside Drive and around Salisbury University, and south of Snow Hill Road.

 District 5

 District 5 includes east-northeast Wicomico County above Route 50, and includes Delmar, Powellville, Willards. The district dips south of Route 50 to take in Wor-Wic Community College.

Just two candidates are competing in the district. The district’s incumbent school board member is John Palmer of Delmar; the challenger is Jake Blank of Salisbury. Each man automatically advanced to the November general election.