Primaries 2022 : Talbot County Council Race, Republicans

One of the tricky things about endorsing local candidates is that if you have been involved in the community and in politics for any amount of time, you know the candidates personally. It’s hard to separate the personal from the political.

As always, you have to do YOUR research and decide for yourself. This is just my analysis.

Remember, the Early Voting starts July 7th.

To reiterate, here is our criteria for endorsements:

Our endorsements are based on the following criteria:

  1. Stated Conservative values of the Candidate. We endorse candidates who believe in and support the Constitution of the United States and pledge to follow it. This also applies to the Maryland Constitution. Support of all the freedoms guaranteed under both. (This includes the 1st and 2nd amendments)
  2. Strong platform supporting parental rights over the education, health and general well-being of their children. Promotion of strong academics in school and no indoctrination of our children.
  3. Support of police and other first responders as well as our military and veterans.
  4. Platform of responsible government spending which emphasizes lower taxes on all Americans.
  5. Love of our country and understanding that the government serves under the will of the people.

We also look for candidates who are not on the “take,” do not pander to political action groups or corporations, are honest, are strong and courageous in representing their constituents, and who truly want to represent their districts. Dirty politics will not get an endorsement.

It’s not always cut and dried, but it is a decision we try to make logically and with reason. Agree or disagree, we hope these endorsements will spark discussion.

I’ll admit that I never thought much about County Council members or their election in the past. I just figured they were busy voting on things that had nothing to do with me. How stupid. Some of the most important decisions are made at the local level. The last two years have shown us that!

So here goes. These are the candidates running for Talbot County Council on the Republican side:

Chuck Callahan

Bruce Corley

Jimmy Jaramillo

Lynn Mielke

David Montgomery

Kyle O’Donnell

David Stepp

Wade Strickland

Voters can choose five to go forward out of the primary. In my opinion, there might not be five worthy of that.

Information and analysis:

Chuck Callahan: Chuck is the current President of the County Council and has been in office for 8 years. He is a lifetime Talbot County resident, former gymnast, and graduate of Easton High School. After graduation, he went to work with West and Callahan, a custom home and remodeling company. He has also started two other companies in the last two years, Eastern Millwork and Energy Savers. He has two sons. He is active in community service in the Easton Volunteer Fire Department and the Elks Lodge. On the council, he serves on the Economic Development Commission, Golf Board, Emergency Planning Commisssion and the Mid-Shore Regional Council.

His stated priorities: Funding and retention of Sheriff’s Department and Emergency Services personnel, Upgrading the sewer system to address environmental concerns, support Talbot County Public Schools Career Tech Program.

Analysis: Kudos to Mr. Callahan for presiding over the council during a very contentious time for the past four years. With passions high over the Talbot Boys Monument and lockdowns, he has been a steadying force. Some say this is a flaw as they think he was “asleep at the wheel” when Frank Divilio and Cory Pack used an administrative sneak attack to get the monument moved.

Chuck’s heart is in the right place, and he has the best interest of Talbot County at heart. However, his recent endorsement of RINO and Hogan designated gubernatorial candidate Kelly Schulz and his lack of strong response during the lockdown over the Covid pandemic, does give us pause. He has also been muted on the implementation of CRT in our schools as well as increased violence. At one point he told a small group that he “had no dog in that fight.” Hopefully he has grown past that. He meant that wasn’t the County Council’s job. He needs to know it is.

Bruce Corley: Bruce spent 24 years in the Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement. Since retirement, he lives with his wife Kim and two sons in Talbot County. He has a BS in Wildlife Management and minor in Sociology. He also has a Master of Science Degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Ecology. He held three different positions with the USFWS Office of Law Enforcement: Wildlife inspector, Special Agent, and Supervisory Special Agent.

His stated priorities: protecting our Constitutional Rights, maintain and enhance our Criminal Justice and Emergency Services Program, develop future leaders, and provide environmentally and fiscally responsible growth management.

Analysis: It’s hard to judge the potential political performance of a person who has never held elected office. Having worked with Bruce in an educational advocacy group for approximately six months, I was somewhat surprised at his sudden decision to distance himself from that group once he filed. This is something I have seen with candidates before. If he has backed off because he feels he needs to in order to get elected that’s troubling. Our group is merely a group supporting parental rights. Will he have the same stance on tough issues? I hope not.

There are positives about Corley. He is well acquainted with the Federal Government and how they operate. He’s a self-proclaimed Conservative. And he was definitely against mask and vaccine mandates. UPDATE: Corley has received an endorsement from Gubernatorial Candidate Dan Cox.

Jimmy Jaramillo: Jimmy has been a resident of Talbot County since 1996. I have known him since he was one of my students at Easton High School. He graduated from Easton in 2009. He currently works for a global cloud communications company and has an MS in Integrated Marketing Communications. He is currently one of the Town of Oxford Commissioners and has been for two years. He represents Oxford on the Talbot Economic Development Commission and the Talbot County Chamber of Commerce- Government Affairs Committee. He has worked closely with members of the Eastern Shore Delegation in Annapolis to address public safety issues and the ongoing opioid epidemic in Maryland.

Stated Priorities: Supporting economic growth in Talbot by reducing taxes and regulation, supporting public safety by making genuine, systemic efforts to reduce crime, fighting to protect our Shore way of life and providing a voice to farmers and watermen.

Since I have known Jim since he was teenager, it is sometimes difficult to make an unbiased recommendation on him. However, I believe that there are positives and negatives to consider.

The positives are his energy and desire to do a great job. He is in politics for the right reasons, although sometimes I feel he may play the political game a bit too much. I think this may be because he wants to gain support so badly that he may back down on key issues to stay out of confrontations. He wants to be friends with everyone, and that just can’t happen in the real world. This might be a symptom of his young age.

One of his saving graces is that he will listen to people for advice and will take criticism to heart and with a good nature. I honestly believe he wants to do what is right and will grow in the job. It just might take a bit for him to develop the self-confidence and awareness to do so. He might be a few years away from being ready for higher office.

He can’t be all things to all people and needs to learn that. UPDATE: Jim has received an endorsement from former Delegate Jeanne Haddaway.

Lynn Mielke: Lynn has been a Talbot County resident since 1979 living in Newcomb and Tunis Mills. She had a general law practice on the Mid-Shore from 1979-2016. She is retired. She was a public defender from 1985-1986. She volunteers for the Waterfowl Festival, Plein Air, and the Tred Avon Players. She is a former member of the Miles River Yacht Club. She is a current member of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish. She graduated Washington College with a BA in American Studies and from University of Baltimore School of Law in 1979. She is past President of the Talbot County Bar Association, Board of Mid Shore Council on Family Violence Pro Bono Committee and was a CASA volunteer.

Priorities: Flexible Tax Cap and fiscally Conservative policies, Sensible development, opposes development plans for Lakeside at Trappe and the Oxford corridor. Supports an Adequate Civil Facility Ordinance, supports law enforcement, protecting our way of life, and improving medical and emergency services.

Analysis: I have met Lynn a few times and had an extended phone call with her back in March prior to the first Republican Candidates Forum. She was asking me about Education in the state, education funding, CRT, etc. At that time, she proposed to me that she would create a committee to oversee education in our county. More on that later.

Her legal experience and ability to argue a point is a strength but also a weakness. As with most lawyers, this can sometimes lead to non-committal, circular positions on issues that are important but that she sees as controversial. For example, when the funding of education and other state issues came up in the candidates’ forum, her response was, “It’s out of our hands.” That, coupled with a seeming compulsion to create more study groups (such as a committee to oversee education) don’t bode well for her ability to take real, substantive action on many issues. Do we really need another layer of bureaucracy? I don’t think so.

She would be able to examine legal issues with proficiency, but I’m not sure that this will lead to much positive change in this county. I think she is more Democrat than Republican.

David Montgomery: David came to Talbot County in the early 90’s and he and his wife became full time residents ten years ago. He was President of the Republican Council that convinced the Star Democrat to endorse Larry Hogan. His wife was a Navy nurse, and they are on the board of the Navy League. He has a PhD in economics from Harvard and taught at the California Institute of Technology. He once held senior positions in the U.S. Department of Energy, Department of Defense and the Congressional Budget office. He left government in 1990 and worked as a consultant until his retirement in 2014. He currently publishes an online journal of public policy called the Chesapeake Observer.

Priorities: Manage growth, keep the rural nature of our county, support police, use oversight and budget review to make schools efficient and responsive to parents, control spending to keep taxes down.

Analysis: Mr. Montgomery certainly has the advanced degrees and job experience that many would love to have in an elected official. I first met David at a meeting of parents regarding CRT in schools. His focus was taken by the Talbot Boys Monument and the move to get it off the Courthouse lawn. He fought valiantly for the statue to no avail. I admire his tenacity in this regard since the erasure of history, good or bad, is never a good thing. I don’t doubt that he would know the economic repercussions of government expansion and overspending. But his obsession with the statue continues to this day. He needs to move on.

Outside of that battle, I have not heard much passion or conviction from Mr. Montgomery regarding the battle to protect our children and our Constitutional Rights. As someone told me, “Well, he’s an economist and they see things in a very specific way.” He says he is against mandates but considers those of us who are against the vaccines as “anti-vaxxers.”

More than that is the fact that I don’t see him as a strong fighter for the people of this county. A group ironically called the “Talbot Integrity Group” endorsed him and two other candidates. That in itself isn’t abnormal. However, the TIP used lies and innuendo to direct Republican voters to reject all the other Republican candidates. They claimed the other Republicans were supportive of a controversial Lakeside development in Trappe because the candidates didn’t do an interview with the TIP. They made allegations that were simply not true. But, the leader of the TIP is no stranger to dirty politics, and this is an example. He is also involved in litigation to stop the project. Many feel that the actions of the TIP have been constructed to create chaos for Republicans. When Montgomery got some heat from other Republicans over his acceptance of this “endorsement” he wrote a letter to the Talbot Spy about this decision. It can be found at this link:

Letter to Editor: What Does the Talbot Integrity Project “Endorsement” Mean? (talbotspy.org)

Instead of condemning the lies used against fellow Republicans, Montgomery embraced the alliance as a way to achieve his goal of getting elected.

That, my friends, is the view of a RINO politician along the lines of the ones who have gotten us where we are today. Just like Mitch McConnell, Larry Hogan, Paul Ryan, Lisa Murkowski, shall I continue? Montgomery seems willing to throw others under the bus to achieve his goals. I guess a degree from Harvard doesn’t give one the ethics or integrity to realize that accepting support from anyone who would lie to achieve political goals is not only stupid, but inherently wrong. This is an indicator that Montgomery is not going to work well on the council.

Sometimes intellectuals have such tunnel vision about their own goals that they throw common sense and doing what is right out the window. County Council members with tunnel vision are not good for the community.

Interview with Christine Dolan: Notice his stance on vaccine mandates.

American Conversations On Maryland Politics-David Montgomery For Talbot County Council – CD Media (creativedestructionmedia.com)

Kyle O’Donnell: Kyle is a small business owner and a 10th generation Eastern Shore resident. He has a Master’s in Business Administration in Sustainability. He has a BS in Textile Technology with an emphasis on manufacturing.

Priorities: Low taxes, cooperative and productive relationships between towns and the county, preserve peace, low crime, safe streets and walkways, small business friendly.

I have spoken to Kyle once and heard him speak twice. I thought his economic focus was good, but his Libertarian beliefs have become an issue. I have my doubts as to whether Kyle would support parental rights in schools when it comes to indoctrination of children or support law enforcement.

One last thing. It is very concerning to me that Kyle is the Secretary of Delmarva Pride Board, a group that promoted drag queens performing in the streets of Easton during the 1st Delmarva Pride Festival. Based on what I saw, this is not something young children should be exposed to and the fact that this group thought that was okay is disturbing.

David Stepp: David and his family have lived their entire lives in Maryland, moving from Caroline County to Talbot in 2010. He and his wife Lori have two children. In 1999 he began an ongoing career in telecommunications holding various sales and management positions. Dave and Lori have been small business owners since 2003. He has an associate degree from Anne Arundel Community College, a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland, and his MBA from the University of Maryland where he graduated with honors. He has coached various youth sports and headed youth community activities.

Priorities: Protecting Rights and Freedoms, Reunite Talbot County and reestablish trust and transparency in government, keep taxes low, support police and first responders. supporting small businesses and smart growth.

Analysis: I met Dave and his wife in July of last year. I was immediately impressed that Dave had researched the budget of the county school system and found that half a million dollars had been spent by the TCPS on CRT in a seven-year period. As I got to know him better, I was also struck by his honesty and dedication to core values without being rigid. Dave is the kind of man you want in charge because he can listen and consider the views of others while holding to the best positions on different issues. He understands the needs of families, small businesses, and the middle class.

He’s no pushover, and he will do his homework on every decision. He already has done research on every issue in this county and is ready to serve. And he honestly cares about people.

He is what we need in Talbot County.

Wade Strickland Sr.: Wade is a lifelong resident of Talbot County. He graduated from Easton High School. He has three children who all graduated from Talbot County Public Schools. Following his father’s footsteps, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, serving in the U.S., Europe, and Central America. He is currently the Quality Assurance and Warranty Manager for The Whalen Company. He has 22 years’ experience as an electrician.

Priorities: Commitment to Family, Service to Country and Talbot County, Enable the success of our youth, Ensure the Eastern Shore Way of Life, Opportunities for next generation, reasonable taxes and manageable growth, transparency in government

Analysis: Wade Strickland Sr. is the average Talbot County resident. He’s not fancy, he’s not political, he’s just a guy running for office. I like that even though I have not heard many detailed opinions from him on issues. What I did hear for him in a candidate’s forum is that he loves this county and wants to work hard for the citizens. I think he will do what he thinks is best for Talbot County without worrying about political or personal gain.

What you see is what you get with Wade. His military experience is also a valuable asset. As an Air Force brat, I know that people with his background are dedicated problem solvers who will strive to do what is right.

I’m looking forward to his detailed positions on issues surfacing in the general.

Endorsements: (I may not vote for the maximum allowed)

Definitely Endorse:

David Stepp

Endorse with Minor Reservations: (In alphabetical order)

Chuck Callahan

Bruce Corley

Jim Jaramillo

Wade Strickland

Definitely NOT endorsing:

David Montgomery

Lynn Mielke

Kyle O’Donnell