Elkton FOP wades into contentious town election
Endorses incumbents without interviewing candidates
— In an election year where two incumbent town commissioners are being challenged by two visible and active outsiders, the Elkton Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 124 has endorsed the status quo.
The FOP, or collective bargaining group that represents the interests of Elkton Police Department officers, announced on May 2 that it is supporting longtime incumbent commissioners Earl Piner and Charles Givens. The FOP is doing so because the incumbents “have a strong relationship with the community and support law enforcement,” said Sgt. Andrew Tuer, the lodge’s state trustee.
“We think that they’re taking the town in a good direction,” he added.
The FOP has invested in its endorsement as well, putting up yard signs around town an- nouncing its stance, manning sign-waving efforts and taking to Facebook to voice support of Givens and Piner.
“Local officials play a crucial role in supporting law enforcement. The Elkton FOP, Lodge 124, is proud to support Commissioners Charles Givens and Earl Piner, in their upcoming bid for re-election,” the lodge wrote in its Facebook announcement of the endorsement. “Both Commissioners have demonstrated strong, enduring support for the men and women in blue who
protect and serve the citizens of Elkton.”
But the FOP’s decision to wade into the election cycle has not sat well with challengers Chris Zeauskas and Bob Gorman, who are seeking to unseat the incumbents and note that the FOP made its endorsements without interviewing the candidates.
Tuer confirmed that interviews were not held, but explained that the FOP lodge’s members picked their endorsements based on the candidates’ previous history and involvement in politics.
Gorman said that residents should take the endorsement at “face value.”
He remarked the endorsement is compared to a “beauty pageant,” because the decision was based on personality and not facts and research.
“I think it’s incredibly unfair,” Zeauskas added in reference to the lodge’s decision to not hold interviews.
He said he would been fine if the lodge had heard him out first and then chose to support the incumbents.
“I don’t understand where they’re coming from,” Zeauskas said, noting that part of his and Gorman’s campaign platform is built on a strong police force, because they are essential to “getting things done.”
Both Gorman and Zeauskas have campaigned on a plan to fill open positions in the town police force and fund a substation in the Hollingsworth Manor neighborhood to in- crease police presence and deter crime in one of the town’s most troublesome areas.
Tuer said the FOP recognized Givens’ and Piner’s visibility and involvement in the community. He said they attend and participate in events such as the National Night Out, an event hosted by the FOP and police department, even during non-campaign years. He said Piner volunteers to be the disc jockey during the event.
Tuer also noted that the lodge feels Gorman’s and Zeauskas’ criticism of the town not doing enough to fill eight open police officer positions is misguided. He noted that within the past two years, 250 applications were processed and only seven people hired due to the background checks and qualifications of applicants. The department must follow strict regulations set by the Maryland Police Correctional Training Commission, he added.
Piner said that he has long appreciated the support of the town’s sworn police force. He rationalized that when people choose who they want to support, it is usually based on previous experience, as well as similar goals and views.
“It’s a positive thing for me because I know their organization is a good organization,” he said.
Givens said he is appreciative of the support from the lodge during his campaign as well.
“It means my work on the board as a commissioner has not gone unnoticed,” he said.
The election is set for Tuesday at town hall on Railroad Avenue.
The Elkton Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 124 has endorsed incumbent town commissioners Earl Piner and Charles Givens, but not without raising the ire of opponents Chris Zeauskas and Bob Gorman who decried the process.
The BoBots’ robot, far right, battles it out with other robots during the FIRST Tech Challenge Super East Regionals.
(L-R, top to bottom) Incumbents Earl Piner Sr. and Charles Givens are already opposed by Chris Zeauskas and Robert Gorman.