The Republican nominee for Cecil County executive can stay on the November ballot despite “a number of irregularities” in her candidacy, a judge ruled late Tuesday.
County Executive Alan McCarthy (R) alleged in a recent lawsuit that Danielle Hornberger, the Republican nominee who ousted him by a wide margin in the county’s recent GOP primary, filed a forged financial disclosure statement months after it was due. McCarthy asked that Hornberger be removed from the ballot, and that he take her place.
Senior Judge Thomas G. Ross denied McCarthy’s request that Hornberger be removed from the November ballot in a Tuesday order, saying that the county executive should have filed his lawsuit sooner.
“At best, Hornberger ‘put her head in the sand’ and failed to exercise the due diligence that is expected of a candidate for public office,” Ross wrote. “On the other hand, her candidacy was, in fact, certified and accepted by the [Cecil County Board of Elections] and [the State Board of Elections]; consequently, she was on the primary ballot and prevailed.”
While Ross described irregularities in Hornberger’s reporting as “troubling,” he said McCarthy filed the complaint “well past” the seven days prescribed by Maryland’s election laws.
McCarthy declined comment when reached by Maryland Matters, and said he may have comment at a later date. Hornberger posted Ross’ order on Facebook and celebrated her legal victory. She was represented during the trial by Dirk Haire, the Maryland Republican chairman.
“The Justice System worked,” Hornberger wrote. “The court saw through lies and slander and a weak and feeble attempt by McCarthy to continue his reign of terror. The people voted overwhelmingly to get rid of that type of tyrannical behavior and elect someone who truly believes in duty to others.”
Hornberger, the wife of Del. Kevin C. Hornberger (R) and a former aide to U.S. Rep. Andrew P. Harris (R-Md.), garnered an overwhelming 61% of the vote to McCarthy’s 23% in the June 2 primary. She is heavily favored in the general election over Democrat Jeff Kase.
Although Hornberger’s financial disclosure statement was due on Nov. 5 of last year, McCarthy said Cecil County Deputy Elections Director Lora Walters delivered Hornberger’s financial disclosure statement to the county’s human resources department on July 7 — more than a month after the primary, with a timestamp from the Cecil County Board of Elections dated Nov. 5, 2019.
“The time and date stamp machine at the Cecil County Board of Elections is a manual date and time stamp machine which can be manually manipulated,” McCarthy’s lawsuit reads, implying the Nov. 5 date could have been forged.
Walters has since left her post and, when she was called as a witness in the trial last week, was told the allegations raised against her are potentially criminal in nature. Although Walters was told by McCarthy’s counsel that she was being investigated by the Maryland State Prosecutor’s Office, she still chose to testify as a witness.
McCarthy’s lead attorney is Timothy F. Maloney, a former Democratic state delegate from Prince George’s County and a close personal friend of Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R).
Walters testified that she could have been framed by Cecil County Elections Director Ruie Lavoie, according to the order. Lavoie said she was out of the office during the week of July 6, when McCarthy alleges the fraudulent filing occurred.
“When asked by plaintiff’s counsel who would ‘frame’ her, Walters indicated that Lavoie would likely do so as retaliation for a bullying complaint Walters filed against her in August/September 2019,” Ross’ order reads, “as well as a claim Walters made that Lavoie’s boyfriend had filed false County vouchers.”
Walters contacted Hornberger on July 6 about the missing documents, according to the judge’s order. Hornberger reportedly told Walters she was sure she had already filed her financial disclosure forms, but sent a completed form on July 7 via email as a “replacement.” Walters said Hornberger filed her financial disclosure form on Nov 5., and that she wouldn’t have certified Hornberger’s candidacy without all of the proper forms.
Although McCarthy’s lawyer told Walters she’s being investigated by the Maryland State Prosecutor, it’s unclear whether that’s actually the case: The prosecutor’s office does not comment on the status or even the existence of a pending investigation.