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‘Reprehensible’ or relevant? Republican committees involved in nonpartisan Westminster mayoral race.

A Westminster mayoral candidate is receiving campaign help from the local and state Republican party committees. His opponent and some members of the public believe partisan groups should not be involved in nonpartisan races.

Dennis Dillon, one of the two candidates for the Westminster mayor seat, said his party affiliation should not be kept a secret. But his opponent, Mona Becker, called the partisan involvement “reprehensible.”

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A post on the Maryland Republican Party Facebook page is asking for people to sign up and join the MDGOP Super Saturday to “knock doors and reach voters” in support of Dillon on Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m.

Dillon and his team have been knocking on doors campaigning for the past three Saturdays. He said it’s hard to get extra help and he was excited when the Maryland Republican Party offered assistance.

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“It is my understanding that the Maryland Republican Party supports candidates in races at all levels in the state whether for Congress, governor, county executive, and even for mayor,” he said in an email.

He said residents in and outside of the city, who are both Republican and Democrat, have volunteered to help his campaign and are attracted to the issues he is running on: pro-business, fiscally conservative and supporting law and order.

The Carroll County Republican Central Committee of Maryland officially voted to endorse Dillon last week, according to Christopher Tomlinson, who is part of the committee.

Officials from the Maryland Republican Party did not return requests for comment by 7 p.m. Wednesday.

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“I think it’s really reprehensible that they are getting involved in the race,” Becker said about the Maryland Republican Party. “Westminster is an amazing city and we don’t need individuals that don’t understand how Westminster functions, and it has functioned very successfully, to be coming in and trying this.”

Becker said she trusts Westminster residents to make the best decision for the community, and that decision is best made by talking to people who live in and have been involved with the community for decades.

VOCAL Carroll County, a grassroots group advocating for ethical principles in local government, said municipal governments best serve the community when it’s nonpartisan.

“Party affiliation, in our view, must be irrelevant for deciding who to vote for in nonpartisan elections,” Muri Dueppen, speaking on behalf of VOCAL, said in an email. She added VOCAL does not begrudge those who reside outside city limits for getting involved, “but we believe the aggressive involvement of the Republican Central Committee with a clear partisan agenda is counter-productive.”

Dillon said he doesn’t believe his party affiliation is irrelevant. It’s part of who he is along with being a father, husband, businessman, youth sports coach and dog owner.

“When you run for public office, who you are is out there for all to see, warts and all,” he added. “Telling people that I am a Republican merely informs them about who I am and what I believe, and if that is not relevant, then what is?”

Hampstead Mayor Chris Nevin agreed. He said while it’s rare that a municipal candidate chooses to involve party politics, it’s certainly not prohibited and it should not be an issue. It gives voters a better understanding of the candidate.

“And since when is a better informed electorate not a good idea?” Nevin asked.

Westminster Mayor Joe Dominick, who is not running for reelection, said everyone has a constitutional right to express their opinion.

“But if I’m a Westminster resident trying to decide who to vote for … I would certainly take with a grain of salt what any party is saying, especially if they don’t live in the city,” he said.

Dominick said he would question their motives and wonder if the goal is to simply have a certain party in the position.

Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, who wrote a letter to the Times on the subject published Tuesday, said in his opinion municipal elections should be nonpartisan, and the country already has enough division as it is. He criticized the Carroll County Republican Central Committee for their heavy involvement and noted that they’ve been involved in nonpartisan elections before, like the board of education race.

“Why don’t we just look at the best candidate? Why do we have to divide it?” Frazier asked.

Tomlinson, the third vice chairman of the Maryland Republican Party who writes an opinion column for the Times every other Monday, said in an interview that he was speaking for himself and not on behalf of the committee.

“I think a lot of people believe a nonpartisan race is a race where you as a voter go into the voting booth and no candidate is identified by their party,” he said. “However, I don’t think that means it needs to be some big, deep secret.”

He said its laughable that Democrats criticize Republicans for getting involved in the election when the current Westminster council has Democrats who make “far left-leaning policies” like banning plastic bags.

He also said it was ironic that Democrats talk about voter suppression in Georgia but are critical of him for writing a column for the Times that supported Dillon. Although he cannot vote, he said he still frequents and spends money in Westminster every week.

“Who are you to comment on our little town of Westminster?” Tomlinson said he was told. “Last time I checked Westminster doesn’t have a fence up or wall up around it.”

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