With the candidate filing deadline looming Feb. 27, the political winds are blowing and at the center of much talk on the local front is Worcester County Commissioner Bud Church and whether he will vie for the House of Delegates District 38C.
Whether he will decide to run for a fifth term as a commissioner or look to replace Delegate Mary Beth Carozza, who is giving up her seat after one term to challenge Senator Jim Mathias, is unknown at this point, but one thing we know is he will have a lot of company no matter what route he chooses. On the local front, Church’s District 3 commissioner seat already has two candidates – Republican Gary Millhoff and Democratic Berlin Councilman Zack Tyndall.
On the District 38C delegate side of things, a crowded field is already in place for the Republican primary in June. Four GOP candidates have filed including first-term Ocean City Councilman Wayne Hartman, Joe Schanno, James Shaffer and Ed Tinus, who initially filed to challenge Jim Mathias on the Senate side but reconsidered when Carozza challenged the former Ocean City mayor. Word has it at least one more candidate with political experience will file in the near future.
As for Church, who has been a commissioner since 2002 and previously served 10 years on the Worcester County Board of Education, reliable sources indicate he is leaning toward a run at delegate. It would be a logical jump for the experienced politician, but word is he’s conflicted and balancing his importance as a local representative in Snow Hill against ambitions to serve the area in Annapolis.
While Hartman may have the slight edge by virtue of his three years as a councilman in political experience over the other three filed candidates at this point, he would clearly be overmatched against Church. Although short on political experience, especially when compared to Church, there’s no disputing he has some heavy financial hitters behind him. A veritable who’s who of local families with last names like Berger, Burbage, Jenkins, Cropper, Moore, Nichols, Gillis and Esham are named as members of his host committee at a planned reception fundraiser next month in Ocean City.
A decision is expected soon from Church, and the sense here is he will make a leap for Annapolis.
Staying with the election front, each Worcester County Commissioner district now has a candidate. Five of the incumbents have filed with Church and Merrill Lockfaw in District 1 not committed yet.
Starting at the south end of the county in District 1, Worcester County Democratic Central Committee President Josh Nordstrom has filed, and it’s unclear at this point whether incumbent Lockfaw, a retired roads superintendent for the county, will seek a third term.
In District 2, Democrat Diana Purnell has filed for her second term in office. It’s unknown at this point if she will face any challengers.
District 3, which includes all of West Ocean City and part of Berlin, features a race already, no matter what Church decides. Berlin Councilman Zack Tyndall, a Democrat, is looking to move up two years after being elected to his town post, while Republican newcomer Gary Millhoff of West Ocean City has also filed.
In the geographically vast District 4, which runs from Snow Hill north to the Delaware line and east to the Wicomico County boundary, there will be a fourth showdown between incumbent Elder, a Republican, and Democrat Virgil Shockley, a former commissioner who served 16 years before Elder knocked him off in 2014.
In Districts 5, 6 and 7, Commissioners Chip Bertino, Jim Bunting and Joe Mitrecic, respectively, have filed for new terms. Mitrecic, the former Ocean City councilman, will be seeking his second term after running unopposed in 2014. Bunting, who has been in office since 2010, and Bertino, elected in 2014, are looking to continue their tight partnership with new terms. With these seats, the feeling here is Mitrecic and Bunting will be unopposed in the fall, but I would expect Bertino to face a challenge from the politically active Ocean Pines district.