Troubling ethics charges in county race

This letter was sent to me by incoming Central Committee member Dr. Greg Belcher. His concern was an e-mail sent out by Tamara Lee-Brooks, the county’s Public Information Officer, to her county e-mail address list.

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Wicomico County residents should be informed about recent events involving the County Executive and his staff.

It has come to my attention that on October 17 the Wicomico County Public Information Officer sent an e-mail message to various persons announcing a joint press conference to be held by Anthony Brown, Rick Pollitt (Brown’s local campaign manager), and the mayor of Salisbury to criticize Brown’s opponent, Larry Hogan. In her e-mail Ms. Lee-Brooks stated that she “was asked to forward” the announcement but did not identify by whom. However, Mr. Pollitt is her superior, in essence if not directly.

It is my understanding that such a communication is a clear violation of the County’s ethics law by Ms. Lee-Brooks, and more significantly the supervisor who ordered it, reasonably assumed to be Mr. Pollitt or another member of his staff. Using public resources (and personnel) for partisan political purposes is strictly prohibited by the law.

Other conduct by Mr. Pollitt and/or members of his staff deserves the voters’ consideration, as well. It has been reported that County vehicles are being used for personal matters, including visiting a local bar and grill. And – in response to Freedom of Information requests – it has been disclosed that Mr. Pollitt has used his County credit card to buy personal groceries on more than one occasion and pay for meals at restaurants. Such conduct is unacceptable, even if Mr. Pollitt promptly reimbursed the County. This, too, is a likely violation of the County’s ethics law.

A complaint is being filed with the County’s Ethics Commission asking for appropriate sanction for matters discussed above. That body should investigate the charges and act appropriately in advance of November 4.

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This is the text of the e-mail sent by Lee-Brooks, who added she was “asked to forward for your attention.”

FOR ADVISORY PURPOSES
Friday, October 17, 2014
Contact:
Jerid Kurtz: 443-297-7702
JeridKurtz@AnthonyBrown.com

Press Office: 240-478-6488
Press@AnthonyBrown.com

FRIDAY: Anthony Brown, Rick Pollitt, Jim Ireton to Hold Press Conference on Harm Larry Hogan’s $450 Million Cut to School Construction Would Cause to the Eastern Shore

Hogan’s “Savings Plan” includes a $450 Million Cut to School Construction Funding that Would Threaten Projects – like Bennett Middle School- Throughout the Eastern Shore

Upper Marlboro, MD – On Friday at 11:00 a.m., Lt. Governor Anthony Brown, Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt, and Salisbury Mayor Jim Ireton will hold a press conference to discuss the harm that Republican Larry Hogan’s $450 million cut to school construction would have on the Eastern Shore.

These cuts are contained in Hogan’s so-called savings plan — a plan whose numbers the Baltimore Sun noted “don’t add up.”

Hogan’s proposed $450 million cut to school construction could put projects like the construction of Bennett Middle School out of reach for many communities along the Eastern Shore. For the next four years, counties across the Eastern Shore have requested millions in state funding for repairs and renovations in order to modernize their classrooms and deal with overcrowding. But school construction cuts could put all of these local projects at risk.

What:
Press Conference to discuss the harm Larry Hogan’s $450 million cut to school construction would cause to the Eastern Shore’s public schools.

When:
Friday, October 17th at 11:00 a.m.

Where:
Outside of Bennett Middle School
523 South Division Street, Fruitland, MD
Click here for a map.

It’s worth pointing out that the State Ethics Commission has already deemed this letter improper, but for some strange reason none of the local media is very interested in that fact.

In response, county Republican Party Chairman Dave Parker has today asked the county attorney to investigate:

I am deeply concerned that recent actions by elected and appointed Wicomico County officials were in direct violation of §37, the Wicomico County Ethics Law – and likely also the Maryland Ethics law.

The Brown/Ulman gubernatorial campaign recently scheduled a “press conference” in Salisbury claiming “to discuss” Hogan’s alleged plan to make a $450 million cut to school construction on the Eastern Shore. That alleged cut is clearly part of the political dialog which typically occurs during campaigns for office, and as such is clearly more a scare tactic than a reliable statement of fact. At best it is a partisan political disagreement.

However, as the attached email indicates, Tamara Lee-Brooks, the Wicomico Public Information Officer, honored a request (from an unnamed source) to forward the announcement of Brown’s press conference, and Matt Creamer, the Wicomico County Council Administrator, further forwarded this request (as a media advisory). Members of the media consequently reported this so-called press conference, apparently actually attended by Brown. Regardless of the number of individuals to whom this request was forwarded, the County time and other County resources consumed are what are what I believe were unethical.

As I understand the law, because these were obviously partisan political actions in support of the Brown/Ulman campaign, using County Offices, County email, and County employee time to forward Brown’s announcement were are all violations of ethics laws. Because County Executive Rick Pollitt is not only ultimately responsible for supervising Tamara Lee-Brooks but because he also serves as Brown’s local campaign manager, an investigation will likely identify others who used County resources to promote the Brown/Ulman campaign.

Accordingly, with this letter I am, in accordance with instructions I received from your office by telephone, herewith submitting to you a formal ethics complaint for you to deliver to the Wicomico County Ethics Commission for their action. Moreover, I’m requesting that the Commission first thoroughly investigate, then determine and publicly identify and announce both what ethical violations have taken place (and by whom) and what corrective measures will be taken to prevent similar violations in the future.

On the other hand, if overt partisan political activity using County time and resources is not a violation of law, then please so inform me, in writing, that this is the case, citing the appropriate legal authorities.

It’s highly unlikely at this late date that any resolution will occur before Tuesday, but this is just another example of shoddy ethics in Wicomico County government.

Yet these scare tactics from local and state Democrats – in lieu of a record of success from nominee and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown – are par for the course. Sensible voters know Bennett Middle School will be finished and other projects will probably get their funding. It’s worth pointing out as well that there may be some cost savings on individual projects which could make a big difference that Larry Hogan could – and should – get behind, such as eliminating the need to comply with LEED Silver standards and prevailing wage for school construction (as Ohio did some years ago.)

Of course, the real change which should be made in Maryland education creates a prospect that scares the living bejeezus out of Maryland Democrats and their wholly owned subsidiary, the Maryland State Education Association. That would be a program of money following the child regardless of schooling situation, forcing public schools to compete on a level playing field with charter, for-profit, and faith-based educational institutions as well as making homeschooling more affordable.

So it’s not a surprise that Democrats circle the wagons around school construction because it’s not the buildings that are being threatened, it’s the power structure.

Too good to be true? Internal poll: Hogan up by 5

While it can be dismissed as an internal push poll, given its conclusion that Larry Hogan “is well positioned heading into the final week,” or the final add of, “Having the resources to go toe-to-toe with Brown on TV will be crucial in turning his current lead into a victory on Election Day,” a survey by pollster Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research has buoyed the Hogan camp and led to another upcoming visit from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie this coming Sunday evening at Patapsco Arena in Baltimore.

Yet other polls suggest a significant Brown lead, most particularly a YouGov poll which has stubbornly put Brown up by double-digits every month (and is computed in the RCP average.) Not added to the RCP total, though, is a survey by Gonzales Research which showed the race was far closer and as an added benefit gives the breakdown of expected turnout.

One could even argue that the “calibration error” problems with voting machines – which only seem to be turning Republican votes to Democratic ones, and not vice versa – is the sign of a party desperate to hold on to the governor’s chair. (A source tells me here in Wicomico County, at least one early voting machine was put out of service after the error was replicated on it. The personnel at the early voting center were reluctant to get involved, according to my insider.) Add to that the allegation of non-citizen voting and it’s no wonder Republicans are sweating out the prospect of the same fishiness which plagued the 1994 gubernatorial election some swear was stolen from Ellen Sauerbrey.

Yet as the old adage says, you just have to beat them by more than they can cheat.

There’s no question that Democrats are less enthused about this election than they have been in the past. But let’s go back and look at some key numbers from 2010, the second Ehrlich-O’Malley rumble.

As I said, I really like Gonzales polling because they give an honest breakdown and analysis. In October 2010 their poll had Martin O’Malley with a 47-42 advantage over Bob Ehrlich – a race that O’Malley eventually ran away with. In fact, out of the last several polls this was the one which gave the last fading hope of an Ehrlich upset.

But there were some warning signs – for example, Ehrlich’s 17% support among Democrats “won’t do it,” said Gonzales, nor would the 8-point advantage in the Baltimore suburbs. In the recent Gonzales survey, Hogan doesn’t do a whole lot better among Democrats than Ehrlich (19-73 for Hogan vs. 17-72 for Ehrlich) but is significantly stronger in the Baltimore suburbs (55-37 Hogan vs. 49-41 Ehrlich.) On the other hand, Brown does a little better in the Washington suburbs at 70-25 (vs. O’Malley’s 65-25) but Hogan counteracts this with a strong showing among the growing unaffiliated ranks (46-32 Hogan vs. 42-36 Ehrlich.)

To me, the truth is somewhere in between the five-point Hogan lead in the WPA poll and the 2 points Gonzales has him down, probably closer to the latter. All I know is I think it will be close and every vote will have to be carefully scrutinized by the person casting it. (My source also told me there may be a robocall put out to remind Republicans to check their ballot before leaving.)

Yet the idea isn’t just to be satisfied with a Republican governor – we need to give him plenty of help and local voters can oust a number of thorns in the conservative side next week. Let’s paint the Eastern Shore red from Cecil to Somerset, from the Bay Bridge to Ocean City.

Catching my breath

After a tremendously busy last few days, I’m finally able to catch my breath a little bit and take stock of where we are.

At the top of my site since last Thursday is the reporting on early voting trends. To me, this is key because it’s not something Republicans have adapted to despite the pleas from the state party – until this year. As a whole in the state, Republicans and Democrats are utilizing early voting at the same rate which indicates turnout may be a tick or two better than expected for the GOP. And remember, polling is released based on a turnout model that they attempt to predict will hold true for the election, but there are so many variables. At this stage weather doesn’t appear as it will be a factor, though.

I just finished downloading the last of the pre-election financial reports for most of those on the ballot locally in contested races. There may be a minor scandal here because I noticed District 37B candidate Rod Benjamin didn’t have a report on file yet – he’s submitted affidavits of limited contributions and expenditures through his campaign, but still has to file timely or face a $20 daily fine that comes out of his own pocket. In the last few days before the election I’ll distill the numbers and see if any new trends develop.

By now I’m sure you’ve heard about the irregularities in voting machines in some areas; a phenomenon addressed by the state Board of Elections. But how about irregularities in support? Some local Republicans are outraged about two photos which have appeared on Facebook.

The photos were reportedly taken at a recent fundraiser for current Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt, who is a Democrat. In the top photo second from left is outgoing County Council member Stevie Prettyman. In the bottom photo is, left to right, County Council members Matt Holloway and John Hall along with Pollitt and Salisbury City Council president Jake Day. All three Council members pictured are Republicans, a trio which generally votes opposite Republican County Executive candidate Bob Culver (who is one of two to consistently oppose Pollitt.) While Prettyman is leaving, Holloway is in a good position to be re-elected since only one Democrat filed for two at-large posts, and Hall is unopposed for a District 4 Council seat.

My take on this: of course I’m disappointed with these Republicans attending a fundraiser for a Democrat, but the time to address this will be 2018 primary. Just file it in the memory bank.

And then we have this which just came to my attention from the Maryland Pro-Life Alliance.

Contrast that, if you will, to opponent Mike McDermott’s support for pro-life causes such as the recent Eastern Shore Pregnancy Center dinner.

Jim Mathias has spent thousands of dollars – much of it money from PACs and out-of-district – trying to convince District 38 voters he’s “always working for you.” But the question is whether simply voting for or against a particular issue is “working.” As a member of the majority party, he’s in the position where his negative vote can be made with little consequence except to placate the people back home. He doesn’t stick his neck out and publicly testify at a pro-Second Amendment rally or participate in a pro-life march, despite the fact his district would welcome that with open arms. We’re just supposed to count the effort and not the results.

But there are more important items to deal with – I’m watching Game 7 of the World Series.

Urged to get out the vote

October 28, 2014 · Posted in Delmarva items · Comment 

Without a lot of fanfare (or great production value) a number of conservative leaders are pleading with the TEA Party to get out and vote this time around. People like former Congressman Lt. Col. Allen West…

…or current Congressman Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas…

…or retired Lt. Gen Jerry Boykin…

…or Senator Mike Lee.

The effort is spearheaded by my old friends at Americans for Limited Government, particularly Rick Manning, who was interviewed for a recent Washington Examiner story on the videos. It’s a grassroots social media answer to the old adage that our vote is meaningless, as an extra million or two TEA Party votes could turn a few House and Senate races into nasty surprises for the Democrats. (On a more local note, it could spell the difference between victory and defeat for Larry Hogan and perhaps a dozen or so General Assembly candidates, like local favorites Carl Anderton and Mike McDermott.)

It’s interesting to note as well that West and Boykin have spoken locally in recent years – West for our Patriot’s Dinner last month and Boykin for a controversial prayer breakfast in Ocean City in 2012. Voting is a much less controversial topic, but it’s important that those on our side be motivated to appear at the polls.

Building ‘A Great Maryland’

On Saturday I was alerted to a story by John Fritze in the Baltimore Sun regarding Andy Harris and his attempt to level the playing field a little bit in Maryland politics by creating a superPAC called A Great Maryland PAC. According to the Sun, Harris donated $150,000 to the PAC, which turned right around and put out a commercial depicting Jim Mathias, Norm Conway, Martin O’Malley and Barack Obama as “liberal peas in a pod.”

I don’t have a copy of the spot to show you at the moment, but the theme seems similar to one Harris used in the 2008 primary against former State Senator E. J. Pipkin and onetime Congressman Wayne Gilchrest.

What’s funny to me, though, is the Democrats’ reaction, like from Jim Mathias:

“I don’t think it’s right,” said Mathias, who said he had no idea who was behind the television spot. “People’s freedom of speech — I support that with my every breath — but if you’re going to make these kinds of accusations, I think there should be accountability.”

Funny you should talk about that, Jim – I’ve been holding you accountable for your votes for years, and I’m glad to finally have a little help. So come clean about where you received your campaign funding (hint: it’s a lot of special interests.)

Harris has been a savior to Republicans around the state, with significant donations to several candidates as well as the state party – in total, including the seed money for the A Great Maryland PAC, Harris is over $300,000 in campaign contributions – and that’s good news for conservatives around the state.

Hopefully he’ll need to collect more to give to more incumbent recipients next time around.

More Maryland Right to Life endorsements

Back in June, I noted that two local officeseekers who did not have a primary challenge garnered the backing of Maryland Right to Life. Last week I found out two more local candidates who survived a primary also got MDRTL’s blessing: Addie Eckardt in Senate District 37 and Christopher Adams in District 37B. They join Mike McDermott and Mary Beth Carozza as endorsed candidates.

Whatever progress the pro-life movement makes in Maryland, though, will be determined more by who holds the governor’s chair. It’s worth pointing out that Anthony Brown has thrown the kitchen sink at Larry Hogan trying to make voters believe that Hogan wants women barefoot and pregnant. It’s a charge which Hogan’s used a surrogate to deny:

The transcript of the key passage in the video follows:

My name is Amie Shank and I am supporting Larry Hogan for Governor. One big selling point for me with Larry Hogan is the fact that he will not change any current Maryland law when it comes to important social issues.

Well, he doesn’t have to change Maryland law, just add a few other ones to make sure mothers-to-be are informed of the ramifications of their “choice” and make it more likely any procedures are done in a facility befitting the process of invasive medical procedures (as Texas has tried to do.)

And let’s put it this way: in this part of the state where sanity seems to rule for the most part, candidates can use their MDRTL endorsement as a badge of honor. Even the handful of Republicans who didn’t receive this endorsement, though, are quite likely to be pro-life even if they don’t have the blessing of Maryland Right to Life.

As for the Democrats, certainly the local ones may also be pro-life. But they’re not doing much to change the Annapolis mindset and they’re not voting in a manner which would lead one to believe they are pro-life. So while it may be a disappointing four years with Larry Hogan, a groundswell of public support may get him to move in the proper direction. Conversely, we will lose more ground with Anthony Brown.

monoblogue music: The Great Escape (self-titled)

October 25, 2014 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comment 

For the most part, popular music in this day and age has devolved to a beat-heavy marriage between rap and hip-hop. In this genre-bending era where rock has become rap and country edges closer to rock, it’s refreshing to hear a group which takes a more analog approach to instrumentation and songwriting while firmly placing themselves in that pop category.

The Great Escape is a three-piece band of transplants to the Los Angeles area, either by way of Germany or the East Coast. Their bio states they met while songwriting for other artists, and that wide circle of influence shows on the album as their standard three pieces of guitar (Malte Hagemeister), drums (Kristian Nord), and vocals (Amie Miriello) have been augmented by a number of studio musicians providing instrumentation like the blues harp, keyboards, and a horn section along with backing vocals. All these elements and even some good old-fashioned hand clapping are sprinkled among the nine tracks on this debut release.

So which ones are the most catchy? The early votes would favor the rhythmic opening tracks All I Think About and Rebel, or the harmonic The Secret Song. This trio opens the compilation by setting it in a retro pop direction, borrowing from the classics but with a fresher approach.

Yet you can tell the band has fun – as they recount it, many songs were one take and done. While the unusual progression and almost annoying ending chorus of It’s Getting Better can be a little much, they can’t even keep a straight face in the fade. Similarly, the upbeat Let’s Go emotes a good time.

All is not straightforward retro-style pop with The Great Escape, though. Closing the album is a heartfelt acoustic-based song called I Just Can’t Help Myself. It’s quite intriguing because the track before it, Put It On Ice, shows off their attempt at a more urban, funky vibe – even with the deep harmony vocals. They make a good run at it, but just can’t pull that sound off.

Instead, I thought the album’s best song was the middle one called Don’t Wake Me Up. It’s a bluesy track, but well-sung and with just the right touches throughout leading up to a dreamlike ending. As The Great Escape’s longest song, it’s worth a listen if you like a nod to something more traditional.

As a self-produced first effort, The Great Escape has more hits than misses. There were a few opportunities for improvement on various songs left on the table – for example, why not more horns on Put It on Ice – but if you’re looking for something different in the modern pop world The Great Escape comes up with a solid debut. But don’t just take my word for it – listen for yourself and see if this is an L.A. sound worthy of succession to the various musical waves which have come from there in the past.

An early voting update

If you subscribe to the theory that the most motivated voters will be there with bells on when early voting starts, it appears that statewide Republicans are slightly more enthused than Democrats.

Final update, Friday 10/31: While Democrats pulled away ever-so-slightly to finish with a higher percentage of early voters statewide than Republicans (9.29% – 9.17%) there are two conclusions which can be drawn.

One is that early voting seems to have gained acceptance among Republicans, as the total nearly matched the 2012 Presidential election number of 9.31% of the electorate.

The second is that Eastern Shore voters are by far the most receptive to the concept. While the major parties picked up just under 10% of voters statewide, about 1 in 5 Talbot County Republicans and Democrats used the process. As for the four lower Shore counties:

  • Dorchester: Republicans 9.64%, Democrats 7.68%
  • Somerset: Republicans 11.69%, Democrats 9.27%
  • Wicomico: Republicans 10.50%, Democrats 8.92%
  • Worcester: Republicans 11.49%, Democrats 9.57%

If four more Kent County Republicans had voted early, the entire Eastern Shore would have had a Republican advantage in early voting. As it stood for yesterday’s final day of early voting, the Democrats held sway by a 827-795 tally. Republicans, despite a significant registration disadvantage, had more voters for five of the eight days locally and ended up with 5,056 voters to 5,024 for the Democrats.

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Update, Thursday 10/30: The race is almost tied between Democrats and Republicans (by percentage) statewide, as the two sides are 0.02% apart (7.35 to 7.33). Democrats maintain that slight edge statewide, but the GOP is still ahead locally by wide margins:

  • Dorchester: Republicans 7.52%, Democrats 6.12%
  • Somerset: Republicans 9.58%, Democrats 7.86%
  • Wicomico: Republicans 8.90%, Democrats 7.43%
  • Worcester: Republicans 10.01%, Democrats 8.18%

Republicans on the Lower Shore maintained a raw advantage for the day at the polls by a 678-671 count.

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Update, Wednesday 10/29: Democrats extended their lead on a statewide basis 6.04% – 5.97%. But the GOP maintains its edge in local counties:

  • Dorchester: Republicans 6.12%, Democrats 5.11%
  • Somerset: Republicans 8.26%, Democrats 6.63%
  • Wicomico: Republicans 7.55%, Democrats 6.15%
  • Worcester: Republicans 8.35%, Democrats 7.04%

Republicans on the Lower Shore maintained a raw advantage for the day at the polls by a 671-621 count. And there are some incredible totals among some counties: both parties in Kent and Queen Anne’s counties are already over 10% turnout, but Talbot County Republicans have already eclipsed the 15 percent mark with the Democrats not far behind at 12.46 percent. Obviously that part of the Eastern Shore has embraced early voting, while the western end of the state seems to lag with Allegany and Washington counties well below average.

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Update, Tuesday 10/28: Democrats still lead by a slim margin on a statewide basis 4.80% – 4.76%. But the GOP maintains its edge in local counties:

  • Dorchester: Republicans 4.91%, Democrats 4.24%
  • Somerset: Republicans 6.45%, Democrats 5.57%
  • Wicomico: Republicans 6.10%, Democrats 5.00%
  • Worcester: Republicans 6.96%, Democrats 5.86%

All but one of the Eastern Shore counties have Republicans leading Democrats (Kent is the exception), and Wicomico joined Worcester as the second-highest GOP margin in the state behind Talbot County at this juncture. Republicans added a county as well and now lead by percentage in 15 of the state’s 23 counties. Republicans on the Lower Shore regained a raw advantage for the day at the polls by a 624-606 count.

I was doing some research on 2010 election turnout and it looks like turnout is tracking about the same as it did back then, at least locally.

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Update, Monday 10/27: At the halfway point of the eight days (through Sunday), Democrats finally edged ahead on a statewide basis 3.58% – 3.56%. But the GOP maintains its edge in local counties:

  • Dorchester: Republicans 3.72%, Democrats 3.31%
  • Somerset: Republicans 4.92%, Democrats 4.59%
  • Wicomico: Republicans 4.73%, Democrats 3.91%
  • Worcester: Republicans 5.68%, Democrats 4.68%

All but one of the Eastern Shore counties have Republicans leading Democrats (Kent is the exception), and Worcester remains the second-highest GOP margin in the state behind Talbot County at this juncture. Republicans lead by percentage in 14 of the state’s 23 counties and the Eastern Shore sha 8 of these 14. But local Democrats won this day at the polls by a 332-304 count.

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Update, Sunday 10/26: On a slow Saturday for voting overall, Democrats came back to close the statewide gap; it’s now 3.11% – 3.08%. New totals for local counties:

  • Dorchester: Republicans 3.43%, Democrats 2.96%
  • Somerset: Republicans 4.21%, Democrats 3.90%
  • Wicomico: Republicans 4.03%, Democrats 3.35%
  • Worcester: Republicans 4.94%, Democrats 3.91%

All but one of the Eastern Shore counties have Republicans leading Democrats (Kent is the exception), and Worcester has the second-highest GOP margin in the state behind Talbot County at this juncture. But for the second straight day, local Republicans outpaced Democrats at the polls by a 342-331 count.

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Update, Saturday 10/25: The GOP extended its lead in the state to 2.56% – 2.47% partly on the strength of solid gains on the lower Shore. All four of these counties added to Republican gains, with the raw number of Republicans actually exceeding Democrats on Friday by a 750-697 count. New totals:

  • Dorchester: Republicans 3.11%, Democrats 2.57%
  • Somerset: Republicans 3.66%, Democrats 3.32%
  • Wicomico: Republicans 3.15%, Democrats 2.69%
  • Worcester: Republicans 4.17%, Democrats 3.30%

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1.34% of GOP voters statewide made it to early voting compared to 1.31% of Democrats, but this marks the first time Republican turnout as a percentage outstripped Democrat turnout on the first day of balloting in a general election. In the Presidential election of 2012, 2.56% of Democrats came out compared to 1.68% of Republicans, and that advantage grew greater with each passing day. Meanwhile, 2010 saw Democrats edge Republicans on the first day by 1.04% to 1% on their way to an overall advantage of just under 1 percent. So a Republican advantage at this juncture could spell good news for their candidates.

However, on the Lower Shore Republicans have a distinct advantage in turnout percentage and nearly eclipsed the Democrats – who hold a registration advantage in all four counties – in terms of raw numbers. Democrats held a slight 939-892 advantage in first-day turnout. (For the four counties overall, Democrats lead in registration 56,462 to 46,862.)

  • Dorchester: Republicans 1.66%, Democrats 1.49%
  • Somerset: Republicans 2.37%, Democrats 2.17%
  • Wicomico: Republicans 1.54%, Democrats 1.49%
  • Worcester: Republicans 2.39%, Democrats 1.86%

The turnout is brisk in legislative District 38C, where 2.02% of voters turned out on the first day and made it the fourth-best rate in the state. In Wicomico County, District 38B leads the way with 1.62% while, ironically, District 38C performs the worst at 0.82% – perhaps due to distance from the county’s lone early voting polling place in Salisbury. Reportedly, candidates from both parties are hitting this Wicomico County location hard and the Republicans are set up there with a table.

But on a state and local basis, this has to be encouraging to Republicans who didn’t adopt early voting originally but have been encouraged by party brass to take advantage of it to make sure their votes were cast in this important election. If Republicans can hang with Democrats in terms of percentage of early voters, it may be their Election Day turnout will push them to a better overall showing than expected, making the turnout models pollsters use overly optimistic toward Democrats.

A debate worth having

Unfortunately, I can’t make the event with my work schedule but I was asked to at least spread the word.

Christopher Summers of the Maryland Public Policy Institute invited me to a Maryland Policy Forum on A Better Way to Restore the Chesapeake Bay, to be held Tuesday night (the 28th of October) at Washington College in Chestertown. (It would be a close trip for my friends and fans up Cecil County way.) The event is billed this way:

Maryland officials expect that it will cost over $14 billion in the next decade to meet EPA pollution mitigation targets for the Chesapeake Bay by 2025. Yet Maryland has pointedly ignored a single, enormous source of the pollutants—the massive amount of water-scoured sediment and trapped nitrogen and phosphorus behind the Susquehanna River’s Conowingo Dam. Periodic discharges from the dam, such as the one following Tropical Storm Lee in 2011, spill enormous amounts of sediment and nutrients into the Bay, dwarfing the most optimistic cleanup targets that have been set for the watershed.

What should Maryland do to reduce Chesapeake Bay pollution, and is current policy too much or too little?

In looking at the bios of the three panelists and moderator, it looks like a good mix of opinions will be had. Of course, there are those who believe the MPPI will put its thumb on the scale for the conservative side but it’s a side which isn’t often listened to in this state.

Personally I believe the cleanup behind Conowingo should take precedence over the regulations which have been adopted. Ditch enforcement of these tier maps, the seven-lot subdivision limit, and septic regulations which only serve to curtail growth in rural areas of the state like the Eastern Shore until the sediment behind that dam is cleaned up and we have a year or two of testing to see the difference. Instead of picking on agriculture, figure out ways to upgrade the real problem: failing urban sanitary sewage treatment plants.

I doubt either of the two candidates for governor will be there, but I think Larry Hogan should send a surrogate to hear what the MPPI and their panelists have to say. Obviously job creation is the key issue in this election, but a different, localized approach to cleaning up Chesapeake Bay would be a good secondary issue to discuss in the waning days of the campaign.

The ‘midst of a battle for innocent lives’

October 23, 2014 · Posted in Delmarva items, State of Conservatism · 2 Comments 

Good news delayed is not good news denied. So it is with the annual Labor of Love dinner for the Eastern Shore Pregnancy Center.

And even though I found out Maryland was second in the nation in abortions per capita, ESPC Director Jacquelyn Seldon noted that we have seen our share of success stories as well. Her sentiment, though, was that “we no longer want to be the best-kept secret in town.” It was part of a two-hour presentation which featured prayer, praise, and pledges.

Delegate Mike McDermott, who made brief and unscheduled remarks at the gathering, noted for his part that if legislators in Annapolis respected life, “they would respect it all the way through.”

20141016_213309“We need more men and women that would choose life,” McDermott added. He was one of a handful of local politicians who attended; a number that was cut down somewhat by a competing event at the same facility. On another day I would have liked to attend that event, but this was a day to celebrate life.

I think the state of Maryland could do a lot more without impeding the so-called “right to privacy” for those who wish to dispose of their unborn fetuses, known in this gathering as God’s children. Something the ESPC can now provide is a sonogram so parents can see their developing offspring – those in favor of abortion don’t want mothers to see these because they know the choice will often be life rather than death.

The keynote speaker was Susan Baldwin, who serves as Executive Director of the Women’s Resource Center of Mobile, Alabama. Baldwin was pleased to be “in a room full of mountain movers…God is enlarging his territory.” But she spoke of the battle for life being one that wasn’t about politics, but in the hearts of men and women.

After watching a short video presentation pointing out our nation had suffered 40 times the number of casualties of all our wars thanks to legalized abortion (in just 1/6 of the time), we learned that a Vietnam Memorial-style wall would have to span 87 miles to cover all the unborn who were aborted. 33,000 of those abortions were performed each year in Maryland, a fact which made Baldwin ask, “what must our Father think?”

As for what churches think, Baldwin complained that 95% of them won’t preach on the sanctity of life. But while the ESPC is not a church, “this is a front line ministry,” said Baldwin. She termed this “holocaust of the unborn” as a dark period of our history. We need to turn this culture of death into a culture of life, she concluded.

One of her tasks was to help the ESPC raise money, which was the idea behind enlisting The Great Turnaround to help. Baldwin had some assistants distribute pledge envelopes, which those in attendance were asked to fill out with an annual pledge amount. With this system, Baldwin promised we would know how much was raised for the evening and, as promised, in the end we learned that the dinner raised $50,730 for the ESPC. Of course, we don’t know how much this dinner cannibalized their other annual giving but the amount raised for the evening was outstanding.

These were some of the people who joined me at my table: Tyler Harwood (left), me, Cathy Keim (who was gracious enough to invite me), Greg Belcher, and M.J. Caldwell. Besides the five of us, there were over 200 people who attended the dinner, so I appreciate the invitation. It was a worthwhile event and reminded me that I’m on the right side of the pro-life argument.

Update: My total was $19 high, so I revised it. And in a subsequent release, Seldon added:

Jacquelyn Seldon, director of the Eastern Shore Pregnancy Center, said the financial contributions were crucial for the not-for-profit organization. “All our services are given free of charge,” she noted. “We now provide ultrasound services and these funds will allow us to serve more individuals at no cost.”

Of course, if someone wants to add that $19 to the kitty, they can call them at (410) 546-5433 or write then at 1300 S. Division Street, Suite C, Salisbury, MD 21801.

Time to do the deed

Today is the day that tiny percentage of Maryland registered voters who actually do this begin going to the polls for early voting. I know some of my party cohorts will be out at the Civic Center campaigning for the Republican ticket, and needless to say it’s a straight R year for me.

But there are races I’m much more passionate about than others, so let’s go through the list and I’ll tell you what I think. That IS why you come here, isn’t it? If my number 16 race doesn’t come out I won’t be all that upset, but if the top half-dozen or so go the wrong way I’ll be pissed. These are the 16 items on my specimen ballot – I live in House District 38B and Wicomico County Council District 3, which is one of only two of the five districts to have a contested race.

  1. Carl Anderton, Jr. for Delegate, District 38B. I am really tired of my poor representation in Annapolis from Norm Conway. He votes for every bloated budget, (almost) every conformity with Obamacare, every accommodation to Big Labor, and a number of other dreadful things as well: in 2011 he voted for the Congressional redistricting that made our state a laughingstock but in committee he helped kill provisions to allow referendums on tax increases and proof of lawful presence before collecting benefits. In 2012 he voted to saddle new homeowners with the added expense of sprinklers, but he saddled the rest of us with the rain tax, tier maps, and the key to getting around our county’s revenue cap by mandating maintenance of effort spending. Granted, once in awhile he votes the right way but why lose on three or four issues to gain one? Republicans and pro-Wicomico Democrats: don’t fall for the hype of potentially losing a committee chair – even though Norm is a fairly nice guy, if he were all that powerful we would be the richest county in the state and we are far from that. It’s definitely time for some new blood to get us back to work. Chances of success: about 50-50.
  2. Mike McDermott for Senate, District 38. Really, this should be 1-a but my function won’t let me do that. Jim Mathias may vote a little better than Norm Conway, but I would rather have someone who’s a thorn in the side of the current Annapolis majority – who went out of their way to lump him into a district with another sitting Delegate – than a backbencher. What better way to thumb your nose at those who believe the Eastern Shore is the state’s “shithouse” (in more ways than one) than to foil their political intentions? If I can pick up 60 points on the monoblogue Accountability Project by changing my representation, you know the answer is yes. This is another race where conservatives need to come home and not cross the aisle, because Jim’s few blind squirrel votes aren’t worth the overall pain. Chances of success: about 50-50.
  3. Bob Culver for County Executive.  Our county has stumbled and staggered through this so-called recovery with the incumbent Rick Pollitt, a self-described bureaucrat, in charge. Don’t forget that Rick whined about the revenue cap for the first three years in office and promised a zero-based budget I haven’t seen yet. After eight years, it’s time for a change in tactics and Bob can be a fresh set of eyes to address our declining number of employed. I know Bob may rub some the wrong way but I’m willing to overlook that because, to me, re-electing Rick Pollitt is the definition of insanity for Wicomico County. Chances of success: I would say about 40-50 percent.
  4. M.J. Caldwell for Circuit Court Judge. To me, this is a perplexing case. Here you have an experienced attorney who knows his way around a courtroom taking on a person whose claim to fame is his last name – if it were Swartz, he’d still be at his old firm. But because people still know the Sarbanes name in this area, the newly-appointed “incumbent” got the gig. I was extremely disappointed and somewhat disgusted to see that Caldwell only won the Republican primary with 57 percent of the vote – people, do your homework! Caldwell would be a good judge. Chances of success: about 1 in 3 unless Republicans shape up.
  5. William Campbell for Comptroller. You’ll notice Peter Franchot has played up his fiscal watchdog tendencies in this campaign, but I think that if Larry Hogan becomes governor we need Bill to keep him grounded and make the Board of Public Works work in a conservative direction for the first time in…well, ever. Unfortunately, Bill has little money to get his message out and Franchot’s too scared to debate him. One problem with Larry Hogan taking public financing is that the Maryland GOP is spending maximum time and effort fundraising for Larry instead of helping these downballot races. Chances of success: alas, probably less than 1 percent.
  6. Larry Hogan for Governor. All politics is local, so I think the state race can take care of itself. But I hope that Hogan has enough coattails to bring in a dozen Delegates and half-dozen new Senators, including the two mentioned above. While I hated his primary campaign, I have to admit Hogan’s done a good job in the general election round. But will it be enough? Polls suggest it might. Chances of success: about 50-50.
  7. Larry Dodd for District 3 Council. The thing that bothers me about his opponent is that, for all his “aw, shucks” demeanor, he’s been exposed to a large number of anti-property rights zealots. He worked for Joan Carter Conway, the Senate’s EHEA Chair, and not only does she have a lifetime mAP rating of 4 (yes, that’s really bad) but she has passed a lot of bad legislation through her committee over the last several years – something Josh fails to mention. But I will give Josh Hastings his due: he’s campaigning hard, knocked on my door and has worked harder for the seat than Dodd has. It would be a shame to succeed a good, conservative Councilwoman in Gail Bartkovich with a liberal who may have grown up on a farm but has spent his politically formative years more readily influenced by Baltimore City and Annapolis. Chances of success: about 35 to 40 percent.
  8. John Cannon for at-large County Council. While his voting record has often been a disappointment, he was one of the two who got through the primary. I have more hope for him becoming a conservative stalwart, though, than I do for his fellow Republican. Chances of success: around 60 percent.
  9. Voting against Question 1. I’ve stated my reasons for opposition before, but most of the money is backing it and referendum items rarely fail. Chances of success: less than 10 percent.
  10. Jeffrey Pritzker for Attorney General. We are really in trouble, folks. We could have had one of our good county state’s attorneys (or my personal favorite, Jim Rutledge) step up but instead we got Pritzker, who I have never met. When I see prominent conservative-leaning bloggers backing the Libertarian in the race, it can’t be much of a campaign. That’s a shame, because there’s more to the campaign than legalizing pot. And losing this seat means the gun-grabbing Brian Frosh will be our Attorney General. Chances of success: even less than Campbell’s sub-1 percent shot.
  11. Matt Holloway for at-large County Council. There are many holes in his voting record as well, but winning the primary makes him the odds-on favorite to not be third on November 4. So I guess I’ll have to wonder how often he’ll cave for another four years. Chances of success: over 80 percent.
  12. Andy Harris for Congress. No muss, no fuss. Have you heard a word about Bill Tilghman? The one thing you can say about Bill is that at least we haven’t caught him voting twice. This race is perhaps the closest thing to an automatic win for our side – when even the Daily Times has to endorse you, it’s a good sign. Chances of success: over 95 percent.
  13. Voting against Andrea Leahy as a Special Appeals Judge. Similar to the election involving Jimmy Sarbanes, Judge Leahy is up for election because she was appointed by Martin O’Malley in March. I looked at her profile and wasn’t impressed, but it’s rare a judge is tossed out. I would love to see who Larry Hogan would appoint, but if Leahy lost Martin O’Malley would rush another appointee through – and he or she would sit until 2016. Chances of success: in the single-digits.
  14. Voting against Kevin Arthur as a Special Appeals Judge. His profile is better than Leahy’s but, still, he is an O’Malley appointee. Chances of success: in the single-digits.
  15. Grover Cantwell for Orphan’s Court Judge. I have never met the guy, yet he wants my vote. This is a part of the ballot where those who get listed first (the Democrats) have the advantage because they’ve all been on the ballot before. Chances of success: perhaps 1 in 3.
  16. Voting for Question 2. I can get behind this proposal, which allows charter counties like Wicomico the option to have special elections to fill County Council seats. Having gone through the process of filling such a vacancy, I think it should be opened up despite the risk of losing a GOP seat to a Democrat. Chances of success: over 90 percent.

So this is how I think my local election will go. As for some other contested county races I’m supporting, in order of likelihood of success:

  • Addie Eckardt for Senate, District 37. The hard part for her was winning the primary. Sure, there may be some diehard Colburn supporters out there but their other choice is a guy he beat by 20 points last time around. Chances of success: 95 percent.
  • Mary Beth Carozza for Delegate, District 38C. Having an opponent who wears a “Ban Assault Weapons” t-shirt to an Andy Harris townhall event provides an immediate advantage in this area. But Mary Beth has been working since the summer of 2013 on this race, and that hard work is on the verge of paying off. Chances of success: 95 percent.
  • Marc Kilmer for District 2 Council. When your opponent threatens to go to court for winning, you know you’re in good shape. But Marc has taken nothing for granted, works hard, and has a fairly solid Republican district. Chances of success: at least 80 percent.
  • Christopher Adams for Delegate, District 37B. He wasn’t the top vote-getter in any county, but he’s run a solid campaign and the dynamics of the race give him a better path to victory than fellow Republican contender Johnny Mautz. Chances of success: a solid 75 percent.
  • Johnny Mautz for Delegate, District 37B. By far the top primary vote-getter, the one drawback is that he has to finish ahead of Keasha Haythe because both hail from Talbot County and there’s a limit of one per county. If he were second to her in the overall voting, he would lose and the third-place finisher moves up. With that in mind, I give him just ever-so-slightly less favorable odds. Chances of success: a solid 74.9 percent.

My advice to every contender in the last two weeks: run like you are five points behind. See you at the polls!

CAR/Salisbury Independent forum part 3: District 38

Since I’ve now covered the county and District 37 races, it’s time to focus on the last political subdivision involved, District 38. The turnout for this one was disappointing because they failed to get the two Senate candidates, nor did they cover District 38C (although Democrat contender Judy Davis was in the audience.) On the other hand, District 38A received part of the billing despite the fact the district no longer covers Wicomico County.

So there were just four candidates to deal with: Delegate Charles Otto and former Crisfield mayor P.J. Purnell in District 38A and Delegate Norm Conway and Delmar, Maryland mayor Carl Anderton, Jr. in District 38B. I’ll start with the race that pits Otto, who was elected in 2010 after surviving a four-way Republican primary and rolling up 62% of the general election vote, against Purnell, who served as Crisfield’s mayor for the last eight years before not seeking re-election this year.

Their initial question concerned the wind turbine farm slated for Somerset County, but placed in jeopardy for a time due to objections from the Naval Air Station at Patuxent River, who was concerned about effects on their radar equipment from the spinning blades. Otto said he had committed to the developers about being neutral toward the project although he objected to the renewable energy portfolio. He believed, though, the project was sited in an “appropriate place” to alleviate health concerns, and would rather see wind turbines than solar panels that directly affect the environment.

Purnell spoke about his experience with wind turbines in Crisfield, where he secured a $4 million “green grant” to build a 750 kilowatt turbine to service the town’s sewage treatment plant. “If it doesn’t work it will be Purnell’s Folly,” he said. But he felt the electricity savings would benefit the city by allowing other items to be funded.

It led into a question on unemployment, and Purnell stated the obvious: “Unemployment is tough.” But he looked for anything he could to create jobs, including grants. “Economic development is a tough process,” said Purnell, who added that we needed to be prepared.

Otto used the aborted Walmart distribution center to point out how the state’s business climate affects job creation – on the very day Somerset County was to reopen discussions with Walmart about the site, the state passed its minimum wage law. Minimum wage and tax structure were the cause of many of our job creation problems, although the toll increase which makes it $1 per mile from the Bay Bridge to Salisbury for a truck doesn’t help either.

In terms of helping the realty industry, Otto blasted the Septic Bill he opposed as part of the “war on rural Maryland.” He vowed, “I’ll continue to defend property rights” in Annapolis.

On the other hand, Purnell believed “sustainability is the root of all our problems on the Eastern Shore.” He predicted we won’t be able to build in five to ten years.

In his closing statement, Purnell pointed out he’d cut Crisfield’s workforce, and made the case he believed smaller government was the answer. Otto talked about the state’s increasing spending and told the gathering, “I was taught to pay for it when I bought it.”

Again, this was a case where the Democrat in the race tried to convince the audience he was just as conservative as the Republican. It wasn’t so much the case in the District 38B race, which places a Delegate who has represented the area in Annapolis since 1986 (and was a Salisbury City Council member for a dozen years before that) against a mayor elected in 2011, who spent six years before that as a member of their town commission.

I noted the other day in my initial report that Anderton apologized for a mailing which depicted Conway as a masked criminal. But Carl was critical when he was asked the question about what he would do differently than Norm.

“Communication is key,” said Carl, who gave the crowd his cell phone number as a way of promoting access. He also noted that “I haven’t seen my Delegate in my town hall” during his entire tenure in Delmar government, reinforcing his belief that “we’re such an underdog in representation.”

Unlike the other participants, Norm had a different question regarding highway user revenues. Conway said that the Transportation Trust Fund had been repaid, but as for the lost highway user revenues it was his claim that the approach was the preference of MACO (the advocacy group for Maryland’s counties.) But “no one knew” the depth of the recession or the extent of the cuts needed, argued Conway.

Norm was asked then about tuition costs, noting they’d maintained a 3% level of increase while other states had done far worse. But he also bemoaned the fact that many students take much longer than four years to graduate, accumulating more debt along the way.

Anderton was asked about how to bring job opportunities here, but pointed out that Wor-Wic Community College, the site of the debate, won’t have its funding restored to previous levels until 2023. “The things that go on in Annapolis have to change,” said Carl. “We have to be fundamentally different (and) we have to do better.”

Something Carl wanted to address for the realtors was the tax differential, although he also spoke helping to create the success of the Heron Ponds development. Conway agreed the differential needed a review or discussion, but felt that eventually Sussex County, Delaware, with its extremely low assessed rates, “will have to face reality.” Norm also praised those moving into downtown Salisbury, calling it “a real plus.”

In his closing statement, Norm talked about how he had always set goals for himself. But Anderton stressed a different approach: “it’s all about teamwork.”

This was an interesting part of the forum because the two candidates answered mostly different questions, which made it difficult to compare and contrast. Obviously Carl wouldn’t have the same voting record as Norm has, but one thing which stuck out at me was that both of Norm’s questions touched on appropriations – how much money it would take to hold tuition costs at 3% increases or how best to cut to fit a budget. Some of that was out of his hands, but I would have really loved to have Norm answer how he could create jobs when things have gone steadily south during his last couple terms. There are reasons Sussex County is so appealing at the moment and advantageous assessments is just one.

As I think I said in a previous rendition, I think this forum would have been far better spread out over a couple nights. It was also disappointing we didn’t get to hear the exchanges between Jim Mathias and Mike McDermott for the District 38 Senate seat or Judy Davis and Mary Beth Carozza for District 38C – which, ironically, is the district Wor-Wic lies in. It went on for over 2 1/2 hours, but with 15 participants there was only time for three questions apiece, plus the opening and closing statements.

Overall, I don’t think anyone crippled their chances for victory so we’ll have to hang on for another couple weeks to see how it goes.

Next Page »

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  • More Campaign 2014

    Contested races only.

    First District - Congress

    Andy Harris (R)
    Bill Tilghman (D)

    ___

    Maryland General Assembly (local)

    Senate District 37

    Addie Eckardt (R)
    Chris Robinson (D)

    ___

    House District 37B

    Republican

    Christopher Adams (R)
    Johnny Mautz (R)
    Rodney Benjamin (D)
    Keasha Haythe (D)

    ___

    Senate District 38

    Mike McDermott (R)

    Jim Mathias (D)

    ___

    House District 38A

    Charles Otto (R)
    Percy Purnell, Jr. (D)

    ___

    House District 38B

    Carl Anderton, Jr. (R)

    Norm Conway (D)

    ___

    House District 38C

    Mary Beth Carozza. (R)

    Judy Davis (D)

    ___

    Wicomico County

    County Executive

    Bob Culver (R)
    Rick Pollitt (D)

    ___

    County Council at-large

    John Cannon (R)
    Matt Holloway (R)
    Laura Mitchell (D)

    ___

    Council District 2

    Marc Kilmer (R)
    Kirby Travers (D)

    ___

    Council District 3

    Larry Dodd (R)
    Josh Hastings (D)