This didn’t scare me any!

I think I’ve told my readers that I get e-mail from almost all of the Presidential campaigns, including the Democrats. This one appeared in my e-mail box today, courtesy of John Edwards.

John Edwards' worst nightmare. I think it's pretty cool myself.

Obviously the feeling among Democrats is that Rudy is the front-runner, much as the GOP is now essentially running against Hillary. And I’d love to see Rudy or any other GOP nominee for that matter win in a “historic landslide” and boot Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid out of the Congressional leadership chairs while we’re at it. Jeb Bush as veep? Hey, he’s got nothing better to do.

But the part that cracks me up the most was the little blurb at the bottom, “Ann Coulter tapped as spokesperson.” Now wouldn’t that liven up the White House press conferences?

You’ll also notice (and yes, this .gif file is about 80% of actual size so you have to take my word for it) that the text of the articles doesn’t exist. It almost looked like Spanish lingo, but not quite. I suppose that’s suited for most Democrats though.

Anyway, since it’s Halloween and the scariness surrounding the special session isn’t all that newsworthy (the Sun talks about a small student gathering in favor of revenue enhancements and, not suprisingly, Ocean City is up in arms against slots according to the Daily Times) I got that e-mail and thought I’d share a laugh with the rest of you.

Hope you all had a happy Halloween! Now everyone can put away all of the paraphernalia from the second-biggest decorating holiday and get ready to put up the stuff for the first. Okay, almost everyone since I own no Halloween decorations. Tomorrow I get back to the more serious stuff!

A collision course

Last night Governor O’Malley intoned that a “storm is upon us” as he addressed the General Assembly and kicked off a special session intended to address a looming $1.7 billion budget deficit. O’Malley’s fix includes a number of tax increases, with some increases in rates and other hikes coming in the way of additional methods of taxation. The governor also wants to hike spending on health care while he’s at it.

For the average citizen of Maryland, the increases will manifest themselves in a number of ways. They’ll pay more at the gas pump, more at the shopping mall, more for electricity as companies pass on their tax increase, more at the dry cleaners, more if they have an average sized house, and a whole lot more if they happen to smoke cigarettes. All this because no one wants to make tough decisions about where cuts need to be made.

Of course, there are some who feel government needs our money. Count Progressive Maryland head Sean Dobson among that group, as he noted in the Sun:

“So far, I have seen too many lawmakers missing the forest for the trees, squabbling over this and that element of the governor’s plan, and missing the forest of gigantic cuts in a government that is too lean to begin with.”

This is the body of people who seem to inhabit Montgomery, Prince George’s, and Baltimore City – reliably liberal voters who have seized Maryland’s reins and are determined to run a good state into the ground by taxing those who can afford to leave out of the state. They also were represented in a counter-rally that took place immediately after yesterday’s anti-tax rally, claiming that the increased taxes were needed to increase state services and give health insurance to thousands of Free Staters. (It’s interesting to note that the unions and Progressive Maryland could only muster 100 or so supporters while the taxation foes had some 300.)

But most of us will stay and take it in the shorts for awhile because we have settled into the state and would rather fight the rear-guard action necessary than turn tail and run. And I’m confident that every Delegate on the Eastern Shore will, at the very least, realize that an increase in the sales tax will hurt us more than any others in the state and vote no on it. If they choose to say yes, well, it’ll definitely not be forgotten in 3 years.

Did I drop enough of a hint there, Norman, Rudy, and Jim?

Sometimes tax increases are a necessary evil. Now I was not here in 2003 so perhaps my loyal readers can fill me in on the details; however, my understanding is that Governor Ehrlich cut a lot out of the budget first before raising a multitude of various fees, instituting the “flush tax”, and increasing the property tax by a couple pennies to eliminate the true shortfall (not a so-called “structural deficit”) he inherited from Parris Glendening. There weren’t anywhere near the practically across-the-board tax hikes Martin O’Malley is proposing along with the increased spending. And who knows if we’d even be in this pickle if slots had been placed in 2004 or 2005 instead of (maybe) 2010?

But all this is water under the bridge as some parts of Maryland voted for Martin O’Malley to become governor. The rest of us watched helplessly as wave after wave of Prince George’s, Montgomery, and Baltimore City results rolled in on election night. And after blowing the surplus Bob Ehrlich gave him, O’Malley now leads us into this situation we face.

So what can be done? Personally I thought the GOP had a start by simply asking that government growth be cut to manageable levels. But eliminating this deficit will take more than just slowing growth. Just for my two cents, I’d like to see the state do two actions: repeal the Thornton mandates and defund the Open Space program.

Certainly I feel the state should help schools in the short-term by allowing money to follow the child, but by having a mandated educational budget increase each year when the state’s feeling the pinch of lower tax revenue it defeats the idea that every part of state government should tighten their belts. And I’ve never liked the idea of the state purchasing land solely for open space because that land comes off the local tax rolls. If they really want some piece of property (such as the Blackwater land in Dorchester County), I think they should sell other parcels they own with a value that is equal to or greater than the land they wish to purchase.

Obviously some will think I’m way off base here, but I think the state is way off base when it takes money out of my ever-tightening budget without making some cuts of their own. There are a number of things our state government needs to do, some of which are unfortunately at the behest of our neighbors in Washington, DC. There comes a time though when the government needs to do without, and this is one of those times. Prioritize your spending first!

Crossposted on Red Maryland.

Congressional candidates on the issues, part 2

In part 2 of this series (part 1 is here) I take a look at candidate stances on education and veterans’ affairs. This will also not be a tremendously long post, but I have some feedback at the end to share as well – feedback that affects the point scale as someone brought up legitimate supplemental information that’s actually going to assist me on subsequent parts.

I’ll begin this post with education and where candidates stand on it, beginning with Andy Harris who briefly discusses his views here. Also representing the GOP challengers is John Leo Walter, who talks about education on this part of his site.

Meanwhile, Wayne Gilchrest has generally been in favor of measures taken in the 110th Congress to expand the federal reach into eduction – in particular, voting to increase the amount of Pell Grants and lower the interest rate on student loans. Interestingly enough, back in 2001 Wayne voted against No Child Left Behind, joining a number of the solidly conservative House members in doing so.

On the Democrat side, Christopher Robinson has this to say:

Christopher Robinson believes that a well educated, skilled workforce is essential to the economic strength of our communities. As a nation, we must be able to compete in a growing, competitive global market. A first rate education, whether academic or vocational, is absolutely essential to meeting the complex challenges we face today. Early involvement of parents, better pay for teachers, increased federal funding for early education like Headstart, a renewed emphasis on vocational education are all key components in the campaign for excellence in education.

I’ll probably hear more from Andy’s handlers on this, but the short statement he has leaves me wanting more specifics. I give him props on the charter school work and accountability aspects, but would prefer that, as part of allowing kids to succeed in the workplace, he encourages them to learn critical thinking too! But for lack of specifics, I can only give him three of 13 points.

Similarly, John Leo Walter talks nicely about school choice and that’s an important aspect. But what about taking things farther like doing away with NCLB as a federal program as well as dismantling the Department of Education? Now THAT’s real reform. I’ll give Walter the same three points I gave Harris.

By the same token, Wayne Gilchrest has a mixed record. I have to give him credit for having the foresight to vote against NCLB (albeit maybe for the wrong reasons) but don’t like the vote to place more federal money into the college system because I see it as encouraging colleges to continue marking up their costs as the federal pot of money becomes larger. He’ll get two points.

In both of the challengers’ cases, they have room for growth if they follow up with more specifics. As for the incumbent I’m not convinced that Wayne’s record will be much more than spotty.

On the other hand, Christopher Robinson’s statement shows that he’s foursquare behind federalizing education at an earlier age. How else for a Democrat would parents be encouraged and teacher pay be increased? I do like the encouragement of vocational education though, with the caveat I’d like to see being that of maintaining a rigorous emphasis on the basics of reading, math, and particularly history along with training in a trade. Just because one is a bricklayer doesn’t mean they shouldn’t know about events the world has seen. As a whole I do have to deduct from Robinson for his advocacy of more federal involvement, but I’ll lightly penalize him by just two points.

Now I turn to what I call veterans affairs – basically how vets are treated after theit duties are complete. Most of that issue in recent years has swirled around the health care aspect of the VA.

Andy Harris speaks out (briefly) on veterans’ affairs, looking at their health care. Again, it’s a lack of specifics I’m certain will be addressed since Andy is a veteran himself. It’s worth 1/2 point at the moment, very little when 15 points are at stake.

The only votes Wayne Gilchrest had put on record in the recent past that touch on the veterans’ affairs subject have to do with the amount of time our troops have to spend outside theatre. But I’m going to look at that as part of the Long War and not in this section, so no points given or deducted.

However, before I refigure my totals, I have to mention that I received a communication from Andy Harris’s campaign manager, Chris Meekins, regarding some of what I brought up in Part 1. Far from being upset about things I said being questioned, I encourage it because while the point system reflects how I feel about the issue, anything constructive the hopefuls have to say adds to the knowledge base of all my readers. So here’s part of what Meekins wrote:

I just wanted to point out some things you may want to include on your scoring.

1. 2nd Amendment: Andy has been endorsed by the Gun Owners of America. You won’t find a a stronger 2nd Amendment group in the country.

2. Trade and Job Creation: Andy’s endorsement by the Club for Growth should be evidence enough of Andy’s position. The Club opposes excessive government regulation (which they would argue and Andy would agree, we have now) and they support free-trade policies. They also advocate lower taxes and eliminating wasteful government spending. I think it is very consistent with your position. On the job creation front on the Lower Shore, the fact that three of the largest employers on the shore have co-hosted and or donated to Andy’s campaign – Jim Perdue, Charles Allen of Allen Family Foods, and Fred Lankford (Sysco) – should give Andy the networks necessary to keep the jobs already on the Shore and expand the job base.

3. Eminent Domain – Andy has opposed government eminent domain powers at the state level. He has sponsored SB 74 which would limit the ability of Baltimore County to use eminent domain. He adamantly opposes the Kelo Decision. (Gilchrest voted to prohibit those challenging government attempts to take their property rights access to federal courts 9/26/2006 Roll Call Vote 477)

4. Election Reform – Andy was a strong advocate for a paper trail for electronic voting machines and was given an award for his support for this cause. Andy also opposes McCain-Feingold (Gilchrest voted for it) because he believes it infringes on the first amendment.

We do not include everything on our website because we have not had time to write extensive issue statements on all of those issues, but when people inquire about a specific issue, we are quick to respond with Andy’s position.

(Editor’s note: links added to original.)

Point by point, it’s nice to know that Andy received the GOA endorsement and their positions generally fall in line with mine so I’ll add four points, giving him a total of six of seven. Meanwhile, in using the VoteSmart site Meekins cited I found Gilchrest had a 50% GOA rating in 2006 and a grade of C from the NRA. It’s a record I can neither fault or praise without specifics, nor will it change Wayne’s score.

Yes, the Club For Growth weighed in and endorsed Andy, but they may just see him as an improvement from the 40% rating they gave Wayne in 2006. However, I will give them the benefit of a doubt and add six points of the eleven I gave for that particular aspect because Andy’s stance rates at least as well as Joe Arminio’s and he got six points.

On eniment domain (point number three) I think Harris sponsored a good bill in the proper venue and has the correct stance on eniment domain. My only misgiving is that a bill such as SB 74 wouldn’t be appropriate if introduced on a federal level; however, I’ll still give Andy two of the five points and deduct one point from Wayne Gilchrest for that vote I wasn’t aware of.

If you recall how I hammered John McCain on election reform because of McCain-Feingold, you know by Wayne voting for it I have to dock him the same (all nine points). Simultaneously I’ll grant Harris two points of nine for bringing it up – while other candidates may also be against McCain-Feingold, hey, they didn’t step up and tell me so yet.

With all the adjustments now calculated in, the standings are like this on the GOP side:

  1. Andy Harris, 19.5 points
  2. John Leo Walter, 7 points
  3. Joe Arminio, 6 points
  4. Wayne Gilchrest, -8 points

For the Democrats, Frank Kratovil leads by being silent on issues so far (zero points) while Christopher Robinson is at -1.5 points.

The next time around I look at energy independence and entitlements. That oughta be interesting as far as shaking up the standings.

Election Calendar: October 29 – November 11

October 28, 2007 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2008 - Congress, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on Election Calendar: October 29 – November 11 

This is going to look short and familiar, but I can only do so much with what I have to work with. I think a lot of political attention will be drawn to Annapolis and Washington at the moment with Maryland’s special session and appropriations talk in DC. So the race is taking a little bit of a back seat. Further, this is a slack week for group meetings like GOP and Democrat clubs because few meetings occur during the fifth week of any month.

But if I come across any updates, I’ll make sure they’re posted.

Saturday, November 3: Congressional candidate Andy Harris will be the featured guest of a local fundraiser that will also have State Senators Lowell Stoltzfus and Richard Colburn in attendance. The cost is $100 and event begins at 6:30 p.m. – however a pre-event photo-op is also on the docket for a $250 donation. In either case, information can be had by calling Tina at (410) 860-5581 or Mark at (410) 546-5543.

Thursday, November 8 (tentative): Once again it’s Wayne Gilchrest’s biweekly turn on WICO-AM 1320 at 7:40 a.m., as always it’ll be him on the phone with host Bill Reddish.

Bill’s been through most of the candidates on the GOP side, so perhaps this is the week he talks to the Democrats in the race. I just haven’t found out yet.

Well, that’s it. At the moment it’s short, sweet, and to the point.

Going through changes…

First of all, I need a guinea pig. After coming home from work on several occasions and finding 700, 900, even 1100 spam comments on my site I finally decided enough was enough from the spambots and installed word verification. But since I am perpetually signed in and I don’t go back to work until Monday to check on a remote computer, I’d appreciate someone leaving me a comment just to verify that it works. I know I had only 4 spam comments overnight so maybe someone’s figured out a way to beat the program or it went on the blink – regardless going through four is a heckuva lot easier than seeing that I have 1100, just saying “screw that” and deleting the lot. It’s quite possible I may have deleted a few legit comments doing it and for that I apologize.

Next are the links. I added the link to the Robert Joseph Banks Congressional campaign. Lending credence to the accusations in yesterday’s Washington Times about Banks being a Gilchrest-backed ringer is the fact that his website is simply a screen and a contact address. Maybe the website will evolve as time goes on but for the moment the charges leveled by State Senator Nancy Jacobs and others seem to be legitimate, not a “vast right-wing conspiracy” as Banks himself answered.

Sadly, I also had to take off one of my favorite links because it appears that Crabbin’ is no more. So we all lose what was generally a good summary of news related to immigration and border security. Hopefully this is a temporary thing but I fear that “ddcrabb” has left the blogging scene for good, at least as an active participant. He’s always free to add his two cents on monoblogue, though. Maybe he’ll be my guinea pig for the word verification.

Finally I have to respond to a post in Salisbury News yesterday. While I’m glad Joe appreciates my political coverage and the attention to detail I exhibit as I craft my posts, I have to take issue with him ragging on my support of the local music scene. Besides the fact that thinking about politics 24/7 gets really boring after awhile, there’s a purpose behind expressing my interest in bands, as there’s a reason I have a Myspace page and generally separate blog there.

I’m trying to take a long-term view of changing society in general and one place my interests are congruent with those of the next generation is musically. To me, there’s nothing wrong with using those posts as a hook to snare the attention of those who are of my daughter’s generation. This technique is sort of like various churches using the appeal of a more laid-back and casual service to attract a younger generation to their services.

And I think I’ve walked that tightrope pretty well, as my political influence rating is generally among the top among Maryland blogs yet I can get away with non-political posts like my music coverage and Shorebird of the Week.

So that’s the deal, and even though the bulk of my article was about changes, one thing I refuse to compromise on is writing about what interests me. Ask the people I spoke to Thursday if I haven’t done it with at least some success.

Late edit: I just added another recent link, that of the Camden Neighborhood Association.

Unsolicited advice

October 26, 2007 · Posted in National politics, Politics · Comments Off on Unsolicited advice 

Ran across a couple articles in the last week or so that made me wonder if the so-called progressives are worried about the inconvenient truth that many of the doomsday predictions of the global warming (oops, make that global climate change, they have to cover all the bases) crowd are not sinking into the American public consciousness like they anticipated the forecasts would. In the “wishful thinking” department we have a story from Marc Santora of the New York Times and weighing in with “helpful advice” is Dan Rodricks of the Baltimore Sun.

Santora takes a look at just how far the conservatives in the GOP field attempt to bend in order to catch a look from the green crowd. His column looks at how the first-tier hopefuls (Giuliani, Romney, and McCain in particular) would address the issue and approves most the McCain focus on “cap and trade” provisions, increased CAFE standards, and possibly joining in with the Kyoto Protocol. Meanwhile, Rodricks’ column in essence carries the viewpoint that the green train is leaving the station and the GOP had better catch it. In both cases we need to wonder just how helpful the advice would be since I doubt either writer looks at anything other than the “D” side of the election ballot, unless of course the Greens have a candidate.

Historically the Republicans have done their share for environmentalism, in particular noted conservationist Teddy Roosevelt and Richard Nixon, who signed the Environmental Protection Agency into existence. But given the Grand Old Party’s traditional support for big business and fewer federal regulations, they naturally become the target of those who want to redistribute capital from producing items to make life better to enhancing the government coffers in the name of cleaning and cooling our planet.

For the sake of argument, I’ll accept the Rodricks premise that global warming is real (possible) and man-made (doubtful.) Penalizing America and our way of life by getting rid of SUV’s and increasing restrictions on land use and consumerism does exactly nothing to stop the Chinese from building a filth-belching coal-burning power plant every week. But someday all the restrictions will stop us from polluting as the last of the smokestack industries moves overseas to escape the onerous regulations endorsed by Rodricks and his radically environmentalist ilk.

Nor does he account for some of the possible good effects of global warming, particularly on food production. A millennium ago, the Vikings settled Greenland because there was a growing season there, brought about by a warm stretch of global weather. A warming trend like that may again allow crop production on that large land mass, along with more of the northern extremes of Canada and Siberia.

Before I get much farther, let me note that I have no problem with encouraging more energy-efficient buildings and transportation – to a point. Generally a payback of 5 to 10 years is considered acceptable in the building world, while automobiles have to balance the requirements of additional fuel economy with the safety and comfort of occupants. My issue tends to be with those who favor increasing government revenue and influence to combat a problem that has not been conclusively proven to be our doing. 

So I think we should thank Marc Santora and Dan Rodricks for their input, but cheerfully ignore it and continue a quest to find green solutions that involve the private sector, the overall market, and all the common sense we have to muster.

Crossposted on Red Maryland.

Congressional candidates on the issues, part 1

Tonight I begin a series of posts on how the First Congressional District candidates look at the issues I (and I’m sure many others) care about, comparing and contrasting all of them similarly to how I did the nominees for President and on the same issues. I’ll even use the same point scale.

This will be a little different though because a) there’s fewer candidates and b) they don’t cover all of my pet issues. In this post, I’ll cover four of my pet issues but only score the hopefuls on two because they simply don’t discuss the other two.

For example, while eminent domain is a key issue in my book, it doesn’t rise to the level of something they discuss in their online policy summaries. The same goes for election reform, an issue that ranks tenth among my top twelve. So none of the candidates receive points for those two key things I care about.

This means I start with the issue I rank eleventh, Second Amendment rights. In this case, only Andy Harris discusses the topic, with a very brief mention of his support. In my original point scale, Second Amendment rights were worth seven points, for support without specifics I’ll give Andy two points.

We finally get the ball rolling on the issue I had pegged as ninth, that being trade and job creation. Here’s how some of those seeking the seat weigh in, first on the GOP side.

Joe Arminio in essence wants to turn back the clock, returning some policies of the past which he sees as creating a successful economy:

Resume those earlier, triumphant government practices that enabled American industry to be preeminent on earth. This would of course include the end of the so-called free trade era. Let us return to fair trade, which includes high tariffs applied against low-wage countries, such as Communist China. Let us withdraw from NAFTA and CAFTA. And we should have nothing to do with the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas). Trade reforms and other reforms intended to revive industry should be phased in…

Meanwhile John Leo Walter has this to say as part of his platform:

As a conservative, I believe that economic freedom is the key to returning America to prosperity. Supporting an “ownership society” enables us to trumpet our God given freedom and gives all Americans the opportunity to obtain the “American Dream.”

Now to the Democrats. I’ll probably use this again for a later post, but Christopher Robinson thinks this is part of a “sound economic policy”:

As a small business owner and lawyer on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Christopher Robinson understands the importance of sound national policies that foster economic development and create jobs. The budget deficit and national debt are a national disgrace and prevent us from pursuing sound, responsible national objectives. We owe it to our children to leave them a legacy of hope, not a mountain of debt.

Obviously, there’s parts of these candidates’ platforms which will lend themselves to contributing on several of my key issues because they are relatively general.

So how do each get scored? You may recall that trade and job creation was an eleven point scale and none of them reach that level.

Arminio does score a few points with his advocacy of fair trade policies, which reminded me most of Ron Paul’s Presidential candidacy. So I’ll give him an equal number of points, six of the 11. I disagree to some extent on completely withdrawing from the agreements but would like to see them revamped to cover just trade, not all the excessive regulations slathered onto NAFTA and similar trade pacts.

I can’t give Walter too many points because he’s not really too specific on his website; however, in his remarks before our Republican club he did make mention of being an “ambassador” for the First District insofar as job creation is concerned. While I have misgivings about the degree of activism that will entail, it’s a different approach so I’ll give him four points for that.

It gives me pause to reread Christopher Robinson’s statement because one can take “sound national policies that foster economic development and create jobs” in many different ways. It could be relieving the burdens from the private sector or it could be a rebirth of the WPA – obviously I’d love the first solution and be aghast at the other. The vagueness is too much to realistically rate the answer, but I’ll give him 1/2 point for addressing it.

So these are the standings through the first four parts, starting with the GOP:

  1. Joe Arminio, 6 points
  2. John Leo Walter, 4 points
  3. Andy Harris, 2 points
  4. Wayne Gilchrest, no points

For the Democrats, Christopher Robinson has 1/2 point to Frank Kratovil’s zero.

The next time out (likely Monday) I’ll look at two different subjects: education and veterans affairs. It should be an article of similar length since once again not all of the candidates weigh in on the two subjects, but enough to move the standings.

GOP news and notes

October 24, 2007 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2008 - Congress, Delmarva items, Inside the Beltway, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on GOP news and notes 

You probably knew this was coming, but in order to be true to its principle of allowing people to keep more of their hard-earned money in their own pockets, the Maryland Republican Party is holding a “No Tax Hike” Rally in Annapolis next Monday evening.

Of course, the unfortunate fact is that it’s pretty much all for show – when your party is in the minority by something like 101-40, even if the Democrats from the wealthier parts of the state object to things like the increased income tax for the high-dollar income earners and the few Eastern Shore Democrats don’t vote for the sales tax hike, all these increases will still pass with between 80 and 90 votes apiece. So Rick Pollitt isn’t going to be losing any sleep fretting over Wicomico County finances because the so-called “doomsday budget” won’t happen. I think he’s more worried about it due to our county’s revenue cap, which he’s never favored anyway.

However, in order to bring about the necessary change in 2010 toward fiscal sanity, the GOP is going to fight back. Here’s a portion of their October 19 press release:

Republicans Take The Offensive Against O’Malley’s Massive Tax Hike At Upcoming Voter Registration Drives

Republicans are bringing the battle to protect working families from Martin O’Malley’s massive tax hike directly to Marylanders through the “Red, White and Blue Voter Registration Campaign.” The voter registration initiative, organized jointly by the Maryland Federation of Republican Women and the Maryland Republican Party, will be held at fairs, community events, and other community events across the state over the next several months.

“The people of Maryland need to know that the Democrat domination we are experiencing is not good for their pocketbooks,” said Marianne Pelura, co-chair of the Red, White and Blue Voter Registration Campaign.  “Working in conjunction with the Maryland Republican Party, the MFRW is leading voter registration initiatives in the state this year.”

“The people of this state need to beware of the bill of goods being sold by Martin O’Malley and the Democrats,” said Dr. James Pelura, Maryland Republican Party Chairman. “His plan to ram this through a special session is designed to avoid the transparency and accountability that Marylanders expect from their government.

Marylanders overwhelmingly oppose a special session to hike up their taxes.  Republicans in the House and Senate have offered alternatives that would slow the growth of government spending without raising taxes.  Democrats have offered new and innovative ways to take money out of the pockets of hard-working Marylanders.”

I can tell you that I had a number of people who either wanted to register to vote or change their party affiliation at the Wine Festival. People are truly fed up with a party who wants to raise taxes both at the state and federal levels – don’t forget, the Democrats also are on record as wanting the 2001/03 Bush tax cuts to expire, bringing in the most massive tax hike in history without a recorded vote in favor of passing the bite out of our wallets.

In the meantime, it’s really not all that far from 2010. I think after the 2008 elections we’ll see the jockeying begin inside the Republican Party as they line up to get a crack at the O’Malley Administration. That should be fun to watch.

Finally, in this week’s edition of the Evans-Novak Political Report, they turn their attention to the First District race:

Maryland-1: Once again, Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R) will face a primary challenge, and this one might be his toughest.

Gilchrest represents Maryland’s Eastern Shore, lying on the East side of the Chesapeake Bay, consisting mostly of farms and beaches. It is the most conservative region of the state aside from the Western panhandle, which stretches across the top of West Virginia. Gilchrest is far to the left of his constituents, voting with Democrats on abortion, gun control, gay marriage, oil drilling and campaign finance, among other issues. Conservatives have tried challenging the nine-term lawmaker in the past, but state Sen. Andy Harris (R) appears to be a serious threat.

Harris outraised Gilchrest nearly four to one in the third quarter, and he now matches Gilchrest’s cash on hand. Harris has the backing of the Club for Growth PAC, and he now has won the endorsement of former Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R). A party leader opposing an incumbent — and his former House colleague — is extraordinary.

Gilchrest, as an incumbent, has the backing of the National Republican Congressional Committee, but they will be hard pressed to spend money protecting an incumbent in a primary considering their poor cash situation.

So it’s confirmed once again that here we have a race to watch. A couple things Novak didn’t comment on though were the possible dilution of the conservative vote because of the other Gilchrest challengers nor did he go into the crossover Democrat support that can’t help Wayne in the primary. But his is a national summary and the Cliffs’ Notes version will suffice for most. If people want to read more on the race I happen to know of a reasonably influential political blog to check out.

Autumn Wine Fest 2007 in pictures and text

Last weekend was a gorgeous weekend, particularly if you were in the Salisbury area and liked this stuff:

A nice rack of wines from a Maryland winery - in this case the Friday's Creek winery out of Owings. Okay, it's not the Napa Valley but a lot of people tried them and liked them nonetheless.

Yes, it was the fifth annual Autumn Wine Festival held out at Pemberton Park. It’s put on by our county’s tourism folks and for the second time this year they lucked out, getting perfect weather which allowed them to draw a sizeable crowd as you’ll see below.

Looking down the center midway of the Autumn Wine Festival - this was the site where a lot of the action was.

While that didn’t seem like a huge crowd, bear in mind I took these pictures about 1:00 or so and the masses didn’t peak until 2-3:00. Also, this photo was from Sunday and on Saturday this aisle looked like rent-a-mob from where I was stationed – I just didn’t have my camera that day.

There were fifteen Maryland wineries represented, and they each had their tasting and selling tents going, like the St. Michael’s Winery pictured below.

This was just one of the fifteen vineyard tents, the St. Michael's Winery from (wait for it) St. Michael's.

I’m still not quite sure just what a Gollywobbler is, but it made for the cool “Get Wobbly” shirts that I saw. Speaking of shirts, here was a vendor who had a bunch of wine-related apparel.

If you wanted a shirt with a wine-related slogan, well, you were in luck this weekend.

Of course, it wasn’t just wine at the event. There was food, craft vendors, and music. I know the food was in plenty of demand, as I stopped by one of my favorite local vendors at 5 p.m. Saturday and literally got their last sandwich (and it wasn’t even the pulled pork I really dig) – they did the same business they had last year all weekend in just a few hours Saturday. As for the vendors, most of them were the usual arts and crafts vendors that you’d expect to see at a wine festival, like these in my next shot.

Jewelry, knickknacks, and crafts; the usual arts festival sort of fare.

But then you had the, shall we say, more unusual. Check out the right-hand booth below, a place called “For Your Pleasure”.

I decided the picture from that distance was quite enough to make the point.

While I didn’t get a picture of the tent they also had cigars on sale at the Wine Festival so I suppose most of the main vices were covered.

The event also showcased talented musicians all weekend. As far as musical tastes go jazz isn’t really my thing but this trio called Dark Gold Jazz had a pretty good sound to them.

Dark Gold Jazz was the opening band Sunday.

Later in the afternoon was a group that was a little more my style. Paul Cullen (right in the photo) used to play bass for the group Bad Company, now he has his own group that walks the line between rock and jazz. It wasn’t a long trip for him as he now lives along the Delaware shore.

Bassist Paul Cullen and his combo had a great crowd of onlookers and played a mix of their originals, jazz, and classic rock.

I’m guessing that this stop was part of a tour to support his new CD called “Dreamdance” since that was on the merch table. Apparently Paul makes a good living playing at similar events around the country.

I didn't buy the CD - but I thought about it. Never know when you may need romantic music.

I actually had a lot of fun, even though I don’t drink wine. So why was I there? Well, there was this one booth…

Yep, we were among the vendors. I suppose you could say we were buying votes.

If this looks familiar, it should, because it's most of the same stuff I had at the WCRC Straw Poll and at RiverFest.

While this isn’t exactly close to the election, we did have a decent amount of people stop by. I probably handed out a dozen or so registration cards and people occasionally took some of my items. What was most interesting to me is that the Saturday crowd, which I thought were more predominantly Western Shore, took more Ron Paul stuff than the Sunday crowd that was more locals. And I found out a lot of people dislike Hillary!

Sunday even brought us our one Congressional candidate who bothered to come out and solicit votes.

Congressional candidate John Leo Walter had his family in tow while campaigning Sunday. Something tells me kissing babies would be second nature to him.

As you may have read last night, John Leo Walter also came to speak to our Republican club (not the Central Committee as he said on the radio this morning) so today makes three days in a row he’s reached out to Salisbury voters in some manner. But next year I’m not sure we’ll be as lucky since we’ll only need to have two candidates’ items on the table if we choose to participate again. Personally I think it’s a good idea, since the Democrats will likely make a return to the event next year as well – they blew it off this year but were present in 2006.

Let’s just hope that the event continues to be a success regardless of who participates politically. It certainly brought a lot of people from the Western Shore and those dollars definitely provide a boost to our side of the bay.

WCRC meeting – October 2007

October 22, 2007 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2008 - Congress, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on WCRC meeting – October 2007 

Once again this month we had a Congressional candidate in our midst, this time it was John Leo Walter. He was the featured speaker and after we took care of the Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, August meeting minutes and our treasurer’s report it was time to hear from the Centreville attorney.

John began with a brief comment on Wayne Gilchrest’s remarks at the August meeting where Walter alleged Gilchrest “misspoke” about pulling troops out of Iraq. It was Walter’s reaction to the summary delivered in our minutes. In my summary of the August meeting I reported it this way:

First of all, (Gilchrest) stressed that no bill he’d voted for mandated a pullout date for our troops in Iraq. The bills only were to express the “sense of the Congress” and carried no weight as far as the number of troops was concerned.

After that short detour, Walter settled into a little bit of biography, pointing out the relevance of two events in his life. One was learning about commitment through being a member of a crew team at the University of Baltimore, a craft which he learned from the ground up – eventually moving up to team captain and then coach. And at a point where finances threatened the survival of his team he found another school to partner with and the combined team thrives today due in part to his efforts.

The second was his law school education at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, where he finished atop his class and was an associate editor of their Law Review. He spoke of his case notes being used at the Rutgers Law School as a teaching tool for first-year students. Walter also saw his law background as an advantage because it molded him into becoming a quick thinker, a trait that enabled him, as he claimed, to win his cases “often.” Additionally, having practiced in federal law for four years, it made him a firm believer in state’s rights. This statement would come into importance later in the presentation.

Moving into the issues, John stated his firm opposition to universal health care, terming is a “disaster.” With the Medicare program on one end of life and SCHIP coming closer on the other, the trend seemed to be of government health care that will “grow together”; in other words, farther out of the cradle and more distant from the grave. Walter espoused the idea of health savings accounts combined with catastrophic private insurance coverage, feeling that paying for medical expenses out-of-pocket would drive prices down along with driving HMO’s and PPO’s, with their bloated overhead costs, out of the marketplace entirely. John put it thusly – “competition works every single time” – using GM as an example of a company that improved its product when faced with Japanese competitors. However, he did caution that change would have to be “incremental.”

Competition was also the theme of how Walter felt about education. The hopeful noted that No Child Left Behind had “good intentions” but “federalized the school system.” Instead, John thought local decisions were best made locally and, keeping with the theme, “competition would raise the standards.” That would best be done, he added, with a voucher program.

(Personally, I’d state it as “money follows the child”, but it’s the same effect. One thing he left unanswered was the question of what strings would be attached – possibly he’ll elaborate further in future comments.)

The candidate also felt that the Long War was “absolutely necessary…take the war to the enemy.” Possibly his biggest slam at the incumbent was saying flat out that Wayne Gilchrest was “not committed to winning” the Long War. John brought up a conversation he had with a returning soldier who complained about the rules of engagement, with Walter saying that after his discussion with the veteran he felt we needed to “untie soldiers’ hands.”

Related to that, Walter stated that illegal immigrants are our biggest national security problem and there was “no reason” we couldn’t have a wall on the border, whether physical or virtual. (Memo to John – you’ll like Rep. Duncan Hunter, who vows to have a wall built in six months if elected President.) John also expressed his support of the PATRIOT Act, expressing a need to allow intelligence agencies to continue their good work.

Turning to the Second Amendment, while saying that Wayne Gilchrest was for gun control John called himself a “firm believer” in the Second Amendment and the intent of the Founding Fathers was for an armed public. All this came with the caveat of some limitation on places where guns could be taken, such as a courthouse, but few on ownership. (I’ll say few because he expressed no opinion on felons having weapons.) During a later question John expanded his point somewhat, stating he thought America was “hypersensitive” on guns due to recent events.

While it hasn’t really been much of an issue in this race, John took a few minutes to talk about local economics. Saying that the Eastern Shore “can be the economic engine of Maryland”, he thought that our innate abilities could be better tapped because there were some depressed areas where that wasn’t being done. But rather than “smokestack” industries, Walter saw a potential for what he termed “soft” industrial and commercial enterprises, using a call center as an example. He also saw farming as more viable if only there were fewer regulations on farmers, with some of the regulatory burden either dropped or shifted from them. Finally, John expressed the idea that a Congressman “should be an ambassador for the First District” and saw Gilchrest as lacking in that department.

At that point, he opened up the discussion for a few questions:

  • He has “total, 100% support for Israel” and supported the strike they made against Syria.
  • Going back to illegal immigration, he chided a “do-nothing” Congress and expressed that they should enforce existing laws and cut off federal funding to so-called “sanctuary cities.”
  • On a question regarding the recent decision by Massachusetts to allow birth control distribution to minors, he stated that it truly was a state’s rights issue but personally he wasn’t in favor of it. It didn’t sit well with some but he stayed true to his earlier statement about the rights of states to enact their own regulations.
  • Asked about Gilchrest’s recent trip to Iraq, Walter dismissed it as a “PR campaign”.
  • I asked about term limits, and Walter said he “absolutely would” sign for term limits. He used eight years as his benchmark as far as the House went, but sounded to me like he’d leave open the possibility of time in the Senate as well.
  • While we need “some” earmarks, he noted that “everything should be in the sunlight” as far as spending was concerned.

The one question that probably caused him the most grief and long discussion was on tort reform. Now I can understand his argument about not capping damages because that in his opinion acts as a cap on companies from overtly selling products known to be hazardous; however, in my personal view John didn’t necessarily account for the frivolous nature of many cases. And while Walter termed juries as the “last bastion” of democracy, many in attendance seemed to dislike John’s stand on the tort reform issue. We’re sure to hear the other side of it next month when Andy Harris comes to speak to our group.

With that subject being one of the last addressed it may have left a bit of a bad taste in the mouths of our 30 or so attendees but overall the response to the Congressional hopeful seemed positive. We did have a little more business to take care of though.

I took it upon myself to deliver the Central Committee report in John Bartkovich’s absence since much of it had to do with the reaction to our Autumn Wine Festival booth. It gave me an opportunity to thank those who helped me with that and RiverFest back in September. And we finally hammered out the revisions to the WCRC by-laws, which will soon be placed on our website. The only controversial provision was a prohibition on endorsing candidates in non-partisan elections, which passed on an 11-7 vote. (Some attendees hightailed it out once Walter finished.)

We also heard from Bonnie Luna, who’s the local Fred Thompson campaign coordinator. She had Thompson stickers and buttons for sale at a nominal fee – so if anyone’s interested let me know and I’ll hook you up.

It was a long but interesting meeting and will likely be representative of our next two regular meetings, both with First District aspirants – November 27 with Andy Harris and January 28, 2008 with Joe Arminio.

Carnival of Maryland #18 is up…

October 21, 2007 · Posted in Personal stuff · Comments Off on Carnival of Maryland #18 is up… 

I believe this is the first time it’s been done on a LiveJournal site, so it makes for an interesting format. But Joyce did a nice job with her 14 submissions, including two of my own. Oddly enough, the links don’t show up on my WordPress dashboard, but they work all the same (since I just checked.) Maybe LJ doesn’t automatically trackback?

I’ll also take the liberty of tonight’s post to promise pictures and text of this weekend’s Autumn Wine Festival, probably on Tuesday night since I’ll have a post for the WCRC meeting tomorrow night. Amazing weather for this time of year and I’ll bet the turnout was a record, or at least close. The Wicomico County tourism people are on a winning streak since their other large outdoor event (Pork in the Park, back in April) had superb weather as well.

So a busy weekend for me, and a busy week upcoming.

Election Calendar: October 22 – November 4

October 21, 2007 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2008 - Congress, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on Election Calendar: October 22 – November 4 

This makes me mad – I forgot to plug one prime event last week when I should have. Nevertheless, I press on with another edition of the Election Calendar.

Monday, October 22: Scheduled as a guest on the AM Salisbury radio show (WICO-AM 1320) is Congressional hopeful Joe Arminio. He’ll be in the usual 7:40 a.m. slot.

Later in the evening, Congressional candidate John Leo Walter is our guest speaker at the Wicomico County Republican Club meeting, 144 E. Main Street in Salisbury (the Chamber of Commerce building). That’s the event I forgot to plug last week!

Also, Monday will be the RSVP deadline for an upcoming fundraiser (see November 3rd below.)

Thursday, October 25 (tentative): Once again it’s Wayne Gilchrest’s biweekly turn on WICO-AM 1320 at 7:40 a.m., as always it’ll be him on the phone with host Bill Reddish.

*Just added*

Also on Thursday, the Lower Shore Republican Women’s Club will have Andy Harris as their guest speaker. According to Harris’s update the event is at 11 a.m.

Saturday, October 27: I’m taking this information directly from the calendar of First District candidate Frank Kratovil: Worcester County “Spirit of the Party Breakfast”, 8:00 -10:00 a.m. at Bowen Methodist Church, 8426 Newark Avenue, Newark (between Snow Hill & Berlin). First Congressional District candidates to speak. Call 410.250.4941 for details. I’ll assume that the other two candidates on the Democrat side, Christopher Robinson and Steve Harper, have also been invited.

Saturday, November 3: Congressional candidate Andy Harris will be the featured guest of a local fundraiser that will also have State Senators Lowell Stoltzfus and Richard Colburn in attendance. The cost is $100 and event begins at 6:30 p.m. – however a pre-event photo-op is also on the docket for a $250 donation. In either case, information can be had by calling Tina at (410) 860-5581 or Mark at (410) 546-5543.

So goes another Election Calendar, as Presidential candidates continue to avoid our area like the plague. At least we have a great Congressional race.

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