2007 Maryland GOP Fall Convention (part 1)

This is going to be an absurdly long post unless I split it up between last night’s events and today’s. So the post on today’s activities will come up tomorrow. Don’t you all love cliffhangers anyway?

Contrary to the rumors, there was no coup but the 2007 Maryland GOP Fall Convention was not without controversy. We were nicely welcomed though to arguably the reddest county in our blue state:

It's always nice to see your name up in lights and feel welcomed!

The same goes for the sign that greeted us inside. Okay, no lights.

The scene of our action. Apparently this was the first time in memory the convention had been held in Carroll County.

I have to start without being political and say we had a nice facilty to host our event, with the possible exception of a lobby that was a bit crowded. But the folks at the Best Western did a nice job, particularly in having a PC with internet access in my room! That’s how I commented on Red Maryland at midnight this morning.

Generally the first “offical” event on the docket is the Executive Committee meeting. While I don’t have a vote there I like to attend to really see what’s going on. There was a pretty good gathering of people in the room, and most of the discussion there came about as the 2008 party budget was debated.

Jim Pelura gave the Chair’s report and sounded reasonably positive, or at least spun things nicely depending on your perspective. Over 2007 the party had raised $350,000 without any help from the “old guard.” He also claimed (correctly in my case) that the fundraising shows the GOP in Maryland hasn’t given up, nor is it disillusioned. He also spoke about some of the events held during the year, including book signings, house parties, the anti-tax rally in October, and our Legislative Briefing.

Then Pelura pushed a few upcoming events, first of all this one:

John Bolton is the guest of honor at a GOP-sponsored house party tomorrow night.

After that on the docket is the Legislative Pre-briefing on January 7th. We also found out the guest speaker for next year’s Red, White, and Blue dinner will be former CIA operative and FOX News contributor Wayne Simmons. One thing I thought about afterward as someone on the Executive Committee opined that every county should participate and at least buy a table was why not have regional RWB dinners? It’s not that appealing to us on the Eastern Shore or out in Western Maryland to shlep our way into Baltimore on a summer weeknight for the event. But if you had two others on a smaller scale, say, one in Cumberland and one in Cambridge, it would cost more to put on but they may draw people who don’t want to drive all the way to Baltimore.

My thought on the RWB dinner aside, there was some animosity shown by Pelura about what he termed “leaks galore” to the blogs, who were putting out “garbage.” To him it was “unacceptable,” and he threatened to withhold word about meetings and the budget until he was gently reminded that the by-laws didn’t allow that. Still, he felt his “trust (had been) betrayed.”

Then the talk turned to next year’s budget. There were two sets of revenue numbers released, one with conservative projections and one with optimistic projections. While Pelura had “no doubt” that we could make the optimistic set of numbers, the large majority of the committee eventually settled on the more conservative set, feeling that raising expectations too high and not meeting them would be damaging for PR.

The convention went off board at that point and excitement ensued. No, it wasn’t the coup attempt some anticipated, it was a very special guest in the person of Michael Steele. Of course he got to say a few words.

I’ve heard him say this before, but Steele again reminded us to “get over 2006.” Essentially, we were back to where we were in 1998, and we needed to “do something to fight.” After all, why aren’t we talking about the O’Malley record? (I guess Michael doesn’t spend a lot of time reading Red Maryland, O’Malley Watch, or monoblogue for that matter. Maybe he means official party organs aren’t quite getting the word out as he hoped.) He concluded that “we cannot give up” and cited the example of the recent elections in Louisiana, where the hard work of the GOP there not only elected Bobby Jindal for governor, but ousted a longtime Agricultural Commissioner, “a guy who had his name on every gas pump in the state.”

Then we had another deviation as State Senator David Brinkley also contributed a few words. His message was to “stop squabbling.” It would be echoed by others during the floor activity on Saturday as well.

But eventually the budget was adopted, the due reports from the various auxiliary entities of the Maryland GOP were given, and the Executive Committee meeting adjourned. At that point the focus turned to merriment.

While there was some small bits and pieces of campaign info floating around Friday night, as shown here…

Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney items shared space on this table.

…the main thrust of activity was social gatherings in various hospitality rooms and suites. In the convention hall proper, Mike Huckabee’s Maryland campaign organization had secured a large room.

Supporters of Mike Huckabee had a room and video board going in our conference center. I took this while they were setting up but they really didn't draw a lot of folks even while I was in there.

As it turned out they were pretty far from the other action so I don’t think they had much of a gathering going there, at least not while I was present – to me it seemed pretty lifeless. I was sort of surprised that, unlike the spring when the Romney and McCain campaigns both had hospitality rooms, neither of those campaigns had a large presence this time. (I should note that the Carroll County Republicans had a nice pre-event party in the Conference Center that turned out to be a good noshing supper for me.)

Moving back to the hotel proper, several entities had their own suites. One was the Maryland GOP itself, who had the Presidential suite. That was an okay affair. The real party action as far as people went was in the Young Republican suite. So far in my short Central Committee career they are 3-for-3 on throwing good, well-attended affairs.

It was a boisterous scene in the Young Republican suite. I had to laugh at the bathtub full of beer cans too. But they were cold, I'll give them that!

The last of the three suites that was going was hosted by the one First District Congressional candidate I saw at the convention, State Senator Andy Harris.

The Andy Harris suite was a nice steady draw for most of the evening. They did one smart thing - all their beer cans had Harris stickers on them.

I actually spent the better part of my time in that suite chatting up a number of people including Andy, but mostly talking to Harris campaign manager Chris Meekins, along with my Wicomico cohorts who also spent considerable time in Andy’s suite. I found out some interesting stuff from Chris, mostly items I can use on background for future posts as the campaign progresses. I felt much more up to speed after chatting with him.

Meanwhile, Andy was chatting up other people. If I’m not mistaken, the gentleman on the left in the photo is bestselling author Ken Timmerman.

State Senator Andy Harris (right) discusses something - maybe a book idea? - with author Ken Timmerman.

That’s where I left things on Friday night, besides the late night Red Maryland comment. Tomorrow I’ll go into the nuts-and-bolts of what happened on the convention floor.

Finally, I would be remiss in not taking a moment to blow my own horn. (I know, it’s something I do a lot but bear with me.) Today is the second anniversary of monoblogue. My humble little website began with this quite non-political post on December 1, 2005, and I look forward to a lot of exciting stuff in year number three – beginning with the convention floor fireworks tomorrow!

If you came from Red Maryland, you can pick up Part 2 here.

Author: Michael

It's me from my laptop computer.

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