GOP county executive candidate Jessica Haire faces criticism for developer donations, leads Herb McMillan in fundraising

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Republican county executive candidate Jessica Haire is facing criticism for receiving large donations from several groups linked to a developer in Silver Spring.

Haire received about $90,000 from businesses listed at the address of Halle Companies, a developer connected to various projects around the county, including a proposed landfill in Odenton. Seven of the donations, each of $6,000, the maximum allowable by the State Board of Elections, were made in April while she received eight installments of $6,000 from companies at the Silver Spring address in June.


“I had met with a few folks [at Halle] at different timeframes,” Haire said in an interview Monday. “I’ll meet with anybody who asks to meet with me.”

One of Haire’s opponents, Herb McMillan, a former Annapolis alderman and delegate, criticized Haire at a GOP candidate forum last week and called on her to return the money in a statement Monday. McMillan currently trails Haire in cash on hand with a week to go until the July 19 primary. He reported about $75,000, according to campaign finance reports filed last week. Haire, meanwhile, has about $415,000 on hand, the reports show.


“Perhaps Jessica Haire considers dumping refuse from other states in Anne Arundel County ‘economic development,’ but I don’t,” McMillan said in the statement. “My administration will be a fair referee on land use and development decisions. We won’t make backroom deals for campaign contributions at the expense of our citizens’ welfare.”

Some of Halle’s upcoming projects include office buildings in the Odenton Town Center and creating the Chesapeake Terrace Rubble landfill, also in Odenton, a project the company has been working toward for about 30 years that many in the community strongly oppose, including the Crofton Civic Association, Forks of the Patuxent Improvement Association and homeowners in Two Rivers, according to Odenton resident Ed Riehl.

“I kind of view it as a David vs. Goliath story,” Riehl said of residents’ opposition to the project.

Haire said she plans to visit Two Rivers at the end of the month to meet with community members about the landfill issue.

The campaign of County Executive Steuart Pittman, the Democratic incumbent, also voiced concerns over the donations from Halle.

“It is exactly this kind of politics that leads to loss of public trust in our government institutions, and it leads to disastrous public policy,” Pittman said in a statement.

Taking the donations doesn’t mean she will be doing any special favors for the company, Haire said.

“I don’t make campaign promises like that,” Haire said, adding that she is the biggest contributor to her campaign, with loans totaling more than half a million dollars. “My opponents would attack me for putting money into my own campaign, then they’ll attack me for taking contributions from other people. At this point, it’s absurd what they’ll attack me for.”


Despite this influx of cash from Halle-affiliated groups, Haire does not have the most money in the race at the moment. That would be Pittman with about $570,000, about $20,000 more than he reported in early June, campaign finance documents show.

Pittman, who is unopposed in the Democratic primary, has only spent about $22,000 so far, opting to wait until the general election kicks into gear to start spending down his campaign war chest.

Most of Pittman’s expenditures are on salaries for various consulting services, campaign finance reports show.

“We’re being very fiscally conservative with our campaign spending and we’re waiting until we need it,” Pittman said. “We plan to spend it by the end of the general election.”

Haire has spent more than $285,000 so far, most of it on advertising such as TV ads, videos, mailers, phone calls and polling to help get a better sense of how well her approach is working, according to campaign finance reports. Haire’s strategy has been to explain her policies to voters rather than let her opponents define her, she said.

“We’re trying to hit voters in a variety of ways,” Haire said. “We are making sure we’re putting out our positive message of policy and what we’re going to accomplish in all formats.”


Recent mailers from McMillan accuse Haire of supporting a bill related to civil emergencies “that will cost taxpayers millions each year in wasteful spending,” despite the legislation being voted down by the Democratic majority on the Anne Arundel County Council.

. The mailer erroneously cited bill 9-21, the civil emergency bill, instead of 9-22, a bill making Juneteenth a county holiday. McMillan said that’s unnecessary because every day off costs the county about $2 million in salaries and benefits for employees.

A mailer sent by Herb McMillan’s campaign accuses Haire of wasting taxpayers’ money. However the mailer cites the wrong bill (9-21 rather than 9-22).

McMillan has spent a significant portion of the $185,000 he had raised through early June on advertising, including phone calls, online ads, TV spots and mailers, according to campaign finance reports. Of the $150,000 McMillan has spent so far, all but $10,000 was on advertising and mailers.

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“Everyone sees mail,” McMillan said.

In order to get elected, he said he knows he’ll need to win over a large chunk of the older population.

“I think they’re going to be an important demographic in electing anyone because they tend to vote at higher proportions,” McMillan said in June. “It’s been that way for quite some time.”


However, every communication medium is important, and his campaign is investing in a wide range of messaging platforms, he said.

“You have to do everything,” he said. “I think we’re in good shape.”

The remaining three Republicans running for the office have far less money than their opponents. Corporate recruiter Chris Jahn has $1,500 on hand and has spent most of his money on Facebook ads; former council member John Grasso has $12,000 and has spent most of his money on online advertising; and engineer Fernando Berra has less than $1,000. Grasso and Berra have said they are both funding their own campaigns.

Early voting for the primary elections ends July 14 while primary day is July 19. The general election is Nov. 8.