If you’re coming back after a weekend away from the blogosphere, part 1 is here. That covers Friday’s goings-on.
We all got up at sometime Saturday morning after the socializing. A couple of our speakers joked that they slept quite well in the good Republican air of Carroll County. I only slept so-so myself, but that was just from anticipating Saturday’s events.
Our breakfast speaker was Harford County Executive David Craig. He made several good points in his speech, but the one I took most to heart was when he made a saying attributed to Abraham Lincoln where he claimed to have spent 1/3 of his debate preparation on what he would say and 2/3 of it on determining what his opponent would say. I look at things the same way, which is why I try to make it to Democrat events when I can. He also told us that while Democrats may think some of their people are idiots, they’ll still vote for their idiots before our Einsteins. One additional thing he was proud about was being one of the two county executives who did not submit a “doomsday” budget – neither he nor John Leopold of Anne Arundel County participated in that charade.
Breakfast complete, it was time to start convention business.
We got through the Call to Order, Opening Prayer, and Pledge of Allegiance when the first deviation to the day’s plans was made.
State Senator Larry Haines was allowed to utter a brief, impassioned message to the convention, calling the O’Malley tax increases “immoral” and the special session a “sham.” He urged us not to let citizens forget about this.
Then we had deviation number two as, just on the verge of accepting the agenda as written, discussion centered on shifting the Resolutions Committee report that would deal with the number of by-laws changes being considered from a separate afternoon session to later in the morning session. After that discussion, the motion to accept the agenda was defeated and the motion then made to change the agenda accordingly was passed.
We then made a minor change to the convention rules about proxies, deleting the 30 minute time limit after the convention opened for proxies. I don’t think it made a difference, quite honestly, but the concern was about the afternoon session.
After accepting the minutes of the Spring Convention and the Treasurer’s Report, Jim Pelura once again spoke on the state of the Maryland Republican Party. Much of it was the same as his remarks the night before, being “extremely proud” of the party winning the messaging vote regarding the tax hikes. “The Democrats own the tax increase lock, stock, and barrel,” he noted, and they “were heading down a slippery slope.” There was no need to change our message since we were on the right side of the issue.
Of course, traditionally after the Chair reports, we hear from our national RNC representatives. Joyce Lyons Terhes stated the the special session was a “blueprint in fiscal insanity” and also told the convention that “internal party changes can wait” – by-law changes wouldn’t elect Republicans. Turning to the national side, Louis Pope told us what we already knew – 2007 was a “challenging year” for the Republicans, but there was some good news. President Bush’s approval ratings were continuing to rebound, the Republicans had good issues for 2008 (immigration reform, the economy, and the War on Terror outside Iraq), and the RNC and the House Republicans were outraising their Democrat counterparts. Only on the Senate side were we being outraised, but that was an issue since we have many more seats to defend this cycle than the Democrats do.
Pope also gave us some information on objectives for 2008. One was increasing our GOP Congressional delegation from 2 to 3 or even 4, that as part of a trend toward making Maryland a more red state. He told us that “if you see Hillary in Maryland after Labor Day, we’re winning the war on the ground.” It meant that the Democrats would be spending time and money in a state considered one of their bellweather states. We also found out about the paths to become a delegate to the Republican Convention in Minneapolis – between both parties, over 400 had filed to be a Delegate to their party’s convention for the February 12 primary, plus there would be additional opportunities to go to our convention for volunteers and others.
According to the Credentials Committee, 195 of 257 eligible members or their proxies were in attendance so we had our quorum and could begin to discuss changing the by-laws. But first we had to accept the rewritten ones (with a few friendly amendments generally to correct misstatements, such as placing “Central Committee” where “Executive Committee” was supposed to be.) Despite a small amount of opposition, that was done by voice vote.
Then we got down to several resoultions for changes to the by-laws submitted by various members of the Party. Two of them in our original packet dealing with the concept of regional chairs were withdrawn, leaving a total of seven to deal with. Of those, the Resolutions Committee had approved six to go to the floor. Approved by the Committee were the amendments for Renumeration, Political Activity, Staff Hiring, Elected Office Prohibition, Party Oath, and Procedure. The one rejected by the Resolutions Committee was the Candidate Support Amendment (incumbent protection.)
Because it was rejected by the Resolutions Committee, the first vote we had to deal with was a vote to bring it out to the floor despite the thumbs-down by the committee. I was one of those who went to the microphone to speak against that effort, citing the example of the Ohio Republican Party denying voters an opportunity to select their candidates. After passionate debate, the vote was taken.
In our conventions, we have a unique system called LCD voting. Because not all counties have the same number of Central Committee members, each person on a Central Committee has a vote proportional to their county’s share of the total number of registered Republicans in the state, then multiplied by the total number in the House of Delegates. So instead of each person having one vote, the vote by share varies. My vote counted for 0.42 votes in the effort.
In actual delegate count, 103 delegates voted for the amendment and 91 against. However, based on the LCD count we go with, the motion failed 59.58 votes to 62.34 votes. It came down to Worcester County having all five of their members who were there voting no – thank you Worcester County! Eleven counties voted for it, eleven against, and two were even.
To make a long story short, we killed this effort at incumbent protection!
The Party Oath, Elected Office Prohibition, Staff Hiring, and Procedure amendments all were adopted by voice vote. After some debate, we had a roll call on the Political Activity amendment, but it passed with a solid majority of both raw numbers (119-73) and LCD votes (77.06-44.86).
On the other hand, many speakers had big problems with the Renumeration Amendments, and even with an attempt to water it down somewhat, that failed in a resounding voice vote.
We recessed after the passionate debating and broke to take the first of two training seminars being offered. This way the hotel staff could reconfigure the room for lunch. These seminars dealt with three issues: the Voter Vault program, outreach to business groups, and general fundraising. I actually took these photos during their afternoon sessions since I only signed up for one.
I found out some useful stuff that we may be able to adopt in our county. But I won’t give away any trade secrets here.
We had two speakers at our luncheon. One, whose pictures did not come out, was State Senator Janet Greenip. The other, pictured below, was Delegate William Frank.
Senator Greenip mostly hammered on the special session, but Delegate Frank was more descriptive with his remarks. He noted that our side may lose the votes, but we certainly win the debate. In his words, the special session was “brutal”, a “trainwreck”, a “disaster.” There was no revenue problem, but a spending problem. Compounding matters was the lack of fiscal notes for most bills and the few hearings that were enacted. Moreover, the tax increases would have a “negative effect” on charitable giving. On the other hand, Frank felt we had a “good shot” on at least getting the computer services folks off the hook. He also wondered aloud if Martin O’Malley would spend a lot of time during the session out campaigning for Hillary.
After lunch was over, the second training sessions were scheduled. I opted not to sign up for those, instead milling about and checking out the campaign tables. Actually, first I had to check out the campaign truck:
One table wasn’t a campaign table, but it had a great bumper sticker on it:
As I noted yesterday, most of the Presidential hopefuls were represented. Mike Huckabee had his room Friday night and followed up Saturday with a small table of items as well.
John McCain’s people didn’t have a room this time, but still were bribing folks with food. There was also a flyer on my chair for the afternoon session claiming he was “the only Conservative who can beat Senator Clinton.”
In what may be one of the few things they share during this primary season, Mitt Romney’s and Fred Thompson’s items shared a table in the lobby.
Unfortunately, my personal favorite candidate Duncan Hunter was absent, as was Tom Tancredo and (surprisingly) Rudy Giuliani. There were Rudy buttons here but this guy had no Duncan Hunters for me.
Finally, we come to Ron Paul. Of course, he had a table. But the guy doing the laptop couldn’t get his stuff to work properly. In fact, I spent probably a half-hour or so debating Paul’s merits with Deborah, whose hands you see in the picture working on the duct tape.
I have to say it was one of the more interesting conversations I’ve had in awhile. Since I’m sure she’ll be reading this, I wanted to let her know something:
As you may know, my philosophy is one of achieving victory, which I define as when the threat from al-Qaeda and other radical Islamic fundamentalist entities is subdued militarily to a point where they are no longer a significant threat to our security and safety here in America. At that point, I expect the restrictions placed temporarily on our civil liberties (such as the PATRIOT Act) to be lifted. And if we withdraw from Iraq now, we cannot achieve that objective unless the fight is brought over here because at this point the military fronts are Iraq and Afghanistan.
I posted that on August 13. I write better than I talk.
Anyway, back to the convention, which still had what I thought would be a brief afternoon session to go. In fact, we were down to only 124 delegates when the count was made for a quorum. So we talked about our voter registration goals that only 7 counties met (mine not one of them) and things that could be done to achieve them. Just before we were to wrap up and finish new business, a motion was made to reconsider the passage of the Staff Hiring resolution from that morning because there wasn’t a set salary on the resolution. However, the budget with a salary for the Executive Director and staff had been decided the night before.
Before the vote, State Senator Larry Helminiak appeared upset and got his piece in during the debate, noting there were important issues to work on like immigration and taxation, yet we were arguing over by-laws. “Stop bickering” was his advice to us. With that the motion for reconsideration failed on a 56-68 raw vote (31.47 to 51.15 in LCD numbers.) Six counties’ full delegations and many others had already departed, which explains the lower vote totals.
Finally and mercifully, the conventioned was adjourned and we could all make the long trip home. Unlike the rumors that swirled around the convention, both Pelura and Executive Director John Flynn lived to fight another day and personally I’m not unhappy. Our party is what we make of it and rather than complain about leadership, why not suggest ways to do things better and build up the grassroots of the party. For example, my blog doesn’t cost the party a thing but it mostly reflects on the principles they want to impart. At this time, a more united front is what we need and in 2010 the critics are free to take their shot at being the Maryland party chair. Let’s hope that this occurs after we get back the governorship and give whoever he or she is a good number to work with in the General Assembly.