By Daniel Menefee
Gov. Martin O’Malley has appointed first-term Del. Stephen Hershey to fill the seat vacated by Sen. E.J. Pipkin in District 36 – breaking a tie among the GOP central committees of Caroline, Cecil, Kent and Queen Anne’s counties. They were split between Hershey and his colleague in the House of Delegates, Del. Mike Smigiel.
O’Malley said his decision was based on recognition of broader support for Hershey in District 36. He also said the choice should not have been his to make.
“I respect both Delegate Smigiel and Delegate Hershey,” O’Malley said in a press release Wednesday morning. “Filling a Republican vacancy is a matter that should have been resolved by the Republican Central Committees of the District. Rather than resolving their differences, the Republican Central Committee has forwarded two names to my desk.
"In discharging my Constitutional duty of selecting just one of these candidates, I am guided not by which candidate I would prefer, but rather by which candidate has demonstrated the broadest electoral support in the district. In both the Central Committee balloting and the last general election, Del. Hershey has demonstrated a broader base of support, and therefore, I have decided to appoint Delegate Hershey to fill this Senate vacancy.”
Weeks of internal struggle
The appointment of Hershey, R- Queen Anne’s, ends a six-week battle among the GOP central committees where U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, 1st District Republican, was accused of trying to kill support for Smigiel, R-Cecil, by pushing the nomination of former Republican Party State Chair Audrey Scott.
The news comes as a disappointment to Smigiel supporters who believe his three terms in the legislature made him the heir apparent to succeed Pipkin, his political ally also from Cecil County.
But the decision came as no surprise to either side of the aisle in Annapolis. Smigiel’s fiery brand of opposition to the administration’s tax and gun legislation has not won him the favor of O’Malley or leading Democrats in either chamber.
The decision was also no surprise to Smigiel.
“The decision is no surprise to me as I have sued the governor three times and called him a 'tyrant' on the floor of the House of Delegates,” Smigiel said in an interview Wednesday. “The governor either had to have a bad memory or a good sense of humor to have appointed me, and apparently he has neither. I sincerely doubt the citizens of District 36 will support O’Malley choosing their senator.”
Promise to work as team, but Smigiel will run for Senate
With appointment behind him, Hershey gave praise Del. Jay Jacobs, R- Kent, and Smigiel “for their promise that we will continue to support each other and work as a team for the best interests of the 36th District.”
“Although the Governor had to choose between the two names, the central committees performed admirably and ensured the 36th District, as well as the rest of the Eastern Shore, would be represented by a strong conservative who will continue to fight against the Democrat monopoly,” Hershey, R-Queen Anne’s, said in a phone call Wednesday. “Though we may differ in style and delivery, our principles and conservative beliefs are quite similar.”
Smigiel confirmed on Wednesday that he would run for the seat regardless of who won the appointment.
Here is an earlier story that gives more background.