December 8, 2023
Annapolis, US 50 F

OPINION: For Local Leadership, Integrity Matters

In ordinary times, personal integrity and honesty are rarely issues in local elections. But these are not ordinary times, and in the race for Anne Arundel County Executive, Republican Nominee Jessica Haire’s honesty and integrity are an issue. Not only for Democrat and Independent voters but also for the majority of Republicans who voted for other primary candidates, perhaps because they already had doubts about her integrity.

Here’s why. In a July 14th letter to Haire, communities near the Halle Development Company’s proposed Chesapeake Terrace Rubble Landfill noted Haire had received  $251,000 in contributions from the Halle Development Company, entities associated with Halle, and Halle’s family members and employees. The communities opposing Halle’s Landfill pointed out that the 40 contributors named in their letter were all near the maximum contribution amount ($6000). None lived or worked in Anne Arundel County. Outraged by Haire’s possible conflict of interest in a pending county land use decision, the communities called for Haire to return Halle’s contributions and release copies of all communications between her campaign and the Halle Company.

Haire has done neither. Instead, she has lied, denied, played the victim, and ironically accused her opponent of “pay to play” politics.  Initially, Haire claimed she only recently learned about Halle’s landfill plans.  That wasn’t true. According to Crofton Civic Association Vice-President Marsha Perry, she and others personally discussed Halle’s landfill with Haire “in laborious detail as early as 2019.” Additionally, Haire admitted to a meeting, “with a few folks from Halle at different times.” (5) It’s difficult to imagine, “the folks from Halle,” wouldn’t mention a 30 year, billion dollar project in Anne Arundel County before contributing $251,000 to Haire’s campaign. Haire denied she would do any special favors to help Halle in return for his $251,000. Haire said she, not Halle, was the biggest contributor to her campaign, with personal loans to her campaign totaling $500,000. Of course, that begs the question- whose campaign contributions will pay back Haire’s $500,000 loan to her campaign? Haire didn’t actually contribute $500,000 directly to her campaign fund. Campaign finance laws would bar her from paying herself back if she did. Since Haire loaned her campaign $500,000, developers can make campaign contributions Haire can legally use to pay herself back for her $500,000 campaign loan. That makes Haire’s reliance on developer contributions like Halle’s more troubling, not less.

Haire claimed she was the victim of “nothing more than a coordinated political attack by groups that support Pittman.”  She accused Pittman of “pay to play politics” and “being a hypocrite” for accepting a $2,500 contribution from a company that builds low-income housing. That’s one-hundredth of the money Haire received from Halle.

Haire’s accusations are designed to deflect attention from the “pay to play” questions surrounding her. Incumbents and candidates receive contributions from people and groups that share their values. Like it or not, Pittman has advocated for low-income housing for years. Naturally, those in favor of low-income housing would support his campaign. Jessica Haire accepted $251,000 from a developer who wants to build a rubble landfill, and then falsely claimed she didn’t know anything about it. What looks more like a “pay to play “ scenario to you?

During his failed 2004 county executive race, Jessica Haire’s husband, State GOP Chairman Dirk Haire, said raising money was “the price you pay in order to play.” Apparently, when it comes to political fundraising, you can’t split the Haires.

Integrity matters. A county executive who is untrustworthy and dishonest cannot lead. This leaves many Republicans and Independents with a difficult choice.  Alexander Hamilton faced a similar dilemma when he backed Jefferson over Burr in 1801. Just as Hamilton disagreed with Jefferson, I disagree with every policy Stuart Pittman supports, but like Jefferson, Pittman has principles; and like Burr, Haire has none other than self-interest. Republicans must choose between draining the swamp or simply feeding their party’s alligators.

Herb McMillan, a Naval Academy Graduate, represented Annapolis for three terms in the House of Delegates and was a Republican candidate for County Executive.

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