The anti-Pelura push

By now most who follow Maryland politics know that there’s a push to have state Republican Party chairman Dr. James Pelura resign his office due to questionable personnel moves. If they haven’t found that out then they must not read the state’s major newspapers, which have gleefully reported the news in their print editions or blogs.

While it may not have been on the scale of the “Saturday Night Massacre”, the firing of Executive Director Justin Ready and resignation of events coordinator April Rose shortly afterward do raise questions as to reasoning, particularly as the MDGOP is in a stretch of events designed to build awareness and let Maryland voters know that we are the best alternative to the tax-and-spend policies of the Democrats. (Included in that is a scheduled upcoming event locally at the Delmarva Shorebirds game July 31st.)

Certainly I feel that a more detailed explanation of the Ready firing is warranted and Pelura has called a meeting of the Republican Party’s Executive Committee, ostensibly to give this accounting. However, there is an undercurrent to this whole affair that’s not been spoken about much, and it has to do with another power struggle within the Maryland Republican Party. This power struggle has less to do with the titular head of the state GOP and more to do with who really controls it.

Much as having President Bush serve (for better or worse) as the face of the Republican Party nationally during his term in office, the Maryland Republican Party during the 2002-2006 term was essentially under the control of Governor Robert Ehrlich. It was rarified air for the state party, who hadn’t been in control of the governor’s chair since the days of Spiro Agnew, and those heady times allowed the Republican Party here in Maryland to exert a little bit of sway over the political process, despite the fact that Democrats still held a massive advantage in the state’s General Assembly.

After Ehrlich’s disappointing defeat in 2006, the party split into three warring factions. These factions had been held together by having Ehrlich in Government House, but once Martin O’Malley won power the gloves were off.

On one side you had the Ehrlich holdovers who wished to control the MDGOP apparatus and prepare for his certain return in 2010. (We’re still waiting to find out whether the former Governor craves an O’Malley rematch or would rather move back to Washington as a United States Senator.) It’s no stretch to wonder if the Ehrlich camp is more interested in helping the GOP or in his political career enhancement – while the former Governor remains popular among Republicans he hasn’t taken much of a lead in building the party as a whole and has remained silent thus far through this most recent episode.

Secondly, you have the Republicans in the General Assembly. After Ehrlich’s defeat they became the de facto leaders of the party at the state level and many have been at odds with Chairman Pelura since day one. Obviously they’re frustrated by their lack of power in Annapolis and perceive Dr. Pelura as not being helpful to their prospects in 2010 – particularly the legislators take offense to Jim’s criticism of some of their votes, most notably on the budget. Having seen the voting record of many in the GOP caucus on key issues I would also caution them to look in the mirror before shifting blame to a party chairman and ask themselves if they are contributing the the party’s success or kidding themselves into thinking they’re enhancing their own re-election prospects by kowtowing to the majority.

The third side of this triangle is representative of the party’s rank-and-file grassroots. This group is comprised out of the hundreds of Central Committee members who function as the local eyes and ears of the Maryland GOP, and it was their vote which elected Jim Pelura in the first place. For the record, I voted for Pelura’s opponent in 2006 but to me Jim has proven to be a relatively effective Chairman given the financial situation and anti-Republican climate he inherited. Perhaps the alternative may have been better but we’re not going to find out at this late date.

But while I portray the Central Committees as one side of a three-sided skirmish over the direction and prospects of the Maryland GOP going forward, in reality they are the most fractured of the sides because the other two factions have their representatives on both the Central Committees and the party’s Executive Committee, which is drawn mainly (but not exclusively) from the Chairmen of each of Maryland’s 24 local Central Committees, representing Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City. Also included on the Executive Committee are three Vice-Chairs as well as a secretary, treasurer, the National Commiteeman and National Committeewoman from Maryland, and representatives from selected Republican ancilliary groups such as the Maryland Young Republicans and Maryland Federation of Republican Women, among others. (Editor’s note: not all of these people and groups receive a vote according to state by-laws. Voting positions go to the Party Chair, three Vice-Chairs, National Committeeman, National Committeewoman, the 24 County Chairmen, and the MFRW.)

Now that I’ve gone through the players, this tale leads to a back story which I also feel is key to this push to oust Chairman Pelura.

Over the last several state conventions (which are held twice a year), there has been a bid from several of the smaller counties to change the three Vice-Chair positions to those of regional Vice-Chairs which would be selected by a vote of each region. The proposals have varied but generally would have broken the state into anywhere from four to six regions based on geography and some attempt for equal voting strength. (The Eastern Region, of which Wicomico County would be part, would still be, by far, the weakest under the voting practice that has been in place for the last several years.)

With this effort to create a more decentralized approach, a schism has developed between those smaller counties which vote Republican but have little impact on statewide results and larger counties where more Republicans live but where GOP loyalists get swamped on Election Day by a tide of Democrat voters who have a stake in maintaining a bloated state and federal bureaucracy. It’s those larger counties which generally carry the state as a whole for the Democrats (with the exception of Anne Arundel County, which tinges a reddish-purple and is home to Annapolis, the state capital) but also control the direction of the Republican Party in Maryland and serve as home base for much of the party’s leadership.

Furthermore, the delegations from the smaller, more rural counties tend to be the most conservative amongst the Republicans in the Free State – conversely, those from more urban areas often fall into the category of moderates. To some extent it’s a reflection of their electorate but one could also contend that the GOP doesn’t present a clear alternative to Democrats in many districts because of this perception. Regardless, there are a number of Republicans hailing from the larger counties who have a barely controlled contempt for their country cousins.

This came to a head at last May’s convention when a representative from Somerset County, the state’s smallest GOP delegation in terms of voter registration numbers and convention voting strength, openly questioned why his delegation should continue to attend the convention when his county’s votes were rendered essentially meaningless. Moreover, three of the eight other Eastern Shore counties sent no representatives to the event. 

In attempting to allay the concerns of the more rural counties such as Somerset (which lies adjacent to my home county of Wicomico), I believe some of the representatives of the larger counties also see Pelura as a threat to their power base; a Judas to their cause as Pelura hails from Anne Arundel County. The Ready firing just provided a convenient excuse to execute their plan – after all, no one made a similar play after Ready’s predecessor left. If Pelura is ousted as Chairman, there is no guarantee that these small-county concerns will get a fair hearing at the next state convention.

Bottom line – there exists a very real possibility that the ouster of Pelura (who would be replaced by Chris Cavey, a leading voice of the criticism) may spur smaller counties to take matters into their own hands and boycott the next convention. If enough do so party business could not occur.

No one is classifying this as a threat just yet, but given the chilly reception that the smaller county delegations receive at the state events as their pet proposals are belittled and concerns are mocked, the powers-that-be at the state level would be wise to think carefully about what happens beyond the term of one man before arranging a palace coup.

It’s unfortunate that our Republican Party is in this catfight a year out from a major election where prospects for sizeable gains are outstanding. While Dr. Pelura has made mistakes along the way, much of the problem seems to be that those who grew fat and happy at the table don’t want to lose their place there.

The TEA Party movement, of which I consider myself a small part, exists to a great extent because average voters became fed up with Republicans who go along to get along. I feel Jim Pelura is trying to be part of the solution rather than continuing to be part of the problem with the Maryland Republican Party. Maybe he won’t be at the next TEA Party, but I damn well hope to see him serving as Chair at the next state party convention.

Author: Michael

It's me from my laptop computer.

19 thoughts on “The anti-Pelura push”

  1. There’s been a number of half-hearted attempts to get rid of Pelura since day one. The other take I have on this is that all this focus on our leadership makes us look like “the gang that couldn’t shoot straight” and, as an added bonus, takes the spotlight off the multitude of failures our state’s Democrats have led us into.

  2. Mike,

    According to the MDGOP bylaws, if Pelura is ousted Cavey does not necessarily take over. There has to be a convention, Pelura must be voted out and at the same convention SOMEONE must be voted in. That could be anyone who wants to run at convention. But it must be a vote and it must happen immediately (meaning at that convention). So, I doubt seriously that Cavey is doing this because he sees himself as the “heir apparent”. A vote of that nature will be huge and there is ZERO in the bylaws that would lead Cavey to think he would be a shoe in.

    Check them yourself. If I missed something I would like to know.

    Further, while Ready’s ouster was the straw that broke the camel’s back, this is hardly the entire problem. Start with the money situation. While Pelura will be quick to tell you that we have paid down our line of credit and only owe $10k on THAT, we have other debts that I BELIEVE total $50k approximately. And now with the Bd of Elections, you can add another $77,500 to that.

    Add to that that it is the job of MDGOP not just to fundraise but to recruit and educate candidates. Call headquarters and ask what happened to the Campaign Management School that was scheduled. The end result was that it was cancelled. The reason(s) why have not been announced.

    Respectfully, Mike, I gotta disagree with you. This is about a great number of issues and I for one, am eager to hear sound explanations for them.

  3. Umm Mike Netherland, Mike Swartz won’t be kicked out of the “Red Maryland Politics Watch Club” whatever that means. Mike is free to post his disagreements on Red Maryland. And to address the substance here, what is the disposition of the party in reards to taking advantage of the backlash represented in the TEA Parties? Not good. I’ve talked to several elected Republicans who have witten off support from MDGOP in the 2010 electiions. The Party apparatus has core functions in its mission. Functions Pelura hasn’t satifactorily performed. Factions, Ehrlich people, county representation etc.. while important issues, are, in this case, irrelevant to the main point. Pelura hasn’t gotten the job done.

  4. If Pelura is forced to resign, indeed Cavey would take over – it’s Article V, section b (2)(c). I’ll grant that it would be no more than sixty days but nothing would preclude him from running for the Chair in his own right.

    The other trick would be calling a state convention on twenty days notice and getting a 2/3 vote of the Central Committee present.

    I’m sorry to disagree with Mark on his points as well, however, removing Pelura wouldn’t solve the problems brought up in the comment. Nor do I understand why the party HAS to provide support to certain elected Republicans – many seem to do pretty well on their own asking me for money! It would be great if the party were swimming in dough but some of the problems were ones he inherited and other headaches are ongoing (like having that $77,000 bomb dropped on it.) But as I noted in my response to Mike Netherland, having our dirty laundry aired in public serves as a distraction.

  5. Mike,

    I hear that Cavey joined with Pelura and 3rd Vice Chair Kelly Schulz at a recent Shore meeting designed to find and approve compromise on the LCD vote issue. I think if Cavey ends up Chair, Eastern Shore counties can still count on him and Schulz (who would still be a vice chair) to follow through on finding an LCD compromise.

    The other issue is Pelura’s management style. It’s one thing for him to be at odds with a couple of legislative leaders (who mostly vote VERY conservatively by the way). It’s another thing for him to be completely at odds with the entire legislative leadership, his entire officer board, and now his ED and Events coordinator are gone, ostensibly because they could not work with him.

    I don’t believe that the story is “Pelura under attack from big money fat cats/moderates” any more. There are just too many reasonable people that disagree…

  6. There are several issues w/ Jim Pelura.

    He’s been less than effective on the core job, fundraising and voter registration. Granted the economy makes fundraising hard but it’s not impossible.

    He’s a sock-puppet for his wife, Marianne, who has the energy but not the strategic or tactical skills. Marianne and Jim were in part responsible for Bob Ehrlich’s loss.

    Jim has not quiesced the extreme right fringe of the party. Guns, abortion, Christianity, the wars. Please, these are not what the voters are concerned about.

    The nut-case fringe needs to be marginalized and put in a box. Instead, they run their keyboards all over the Internet, acting as if they have some significance and that puts off potential Republican voters.

    I won’t mention names but everyone knows how their spam-load has shrunk recently. Jim Pelura should have shut that spammer down years ago.

    It is past time to clean house and move the party forward.

    I’m not saying that Jim is completely responsible or that someone else couldn’t do a worse job. Unfortunately, he’s “enabled” the whack-jobs through inaction.

  7. “Jim has not quiesced the extreme right fringe of the party. Guns, abortion, Christianity, the wars. Please, these are not what the voters are concerned about.

    The nut-case fringe needs to be marginalized and put in a box. Instead, they run their keyboards all over the Internet, acting as if they have some significance and that puts off potential Republican voters.

    I won’t mention names but everyone knows how their spam-load has shrunk recently. Jim Pelura should have shut that spammer down years ago.”

    So being in favor of Second Amendment rights, pro-life, Christianity, and defending our nation is a bad thing? Please suggest an alternative! Wait, that would be the Democrats.

    As a proud member of what you seem to consider the “right-wing fringe” and running my keyboard on pretty much a daily basis, my job is to convince folks like you (who won’t even put your name behind your accusation that Jim Pelura helped to lose the election for Bob Ehrlich) of the benefits of liberty and limited government. Some people are just harder to convince than others I guess.

    There’s nothing wrong with Jim Pelura that electoral victory next year won’t cure.

  8. “So being in favor of Second Amendment rights, pro-life, Christianity, and defending our nation is a bad thing?”

    It’s not a bad thing. It’s that there are more important things. Jobs, health care, providing for those who truly cannot provide for themselves, the environment, etc.

    These issues are not exclusive to the left, nor does the left have the best solution.

    The problem with being hard-over to the right is that you tend to fool yourself into thinking your issues are important and important to everyone.

    2nd Amendment? Who cares? Not an issue to me and that’s speaking as someone who owns a Colt AR-15 and naughty-in-California 30 round mags.

    Right now, I’d say that jobs and the economy are at the top. That includes the bailouts, TARP, CIT, taxes, the lost savings. Healthcase, less so. The environment is a notch or two down.

    What does the Repubican right discuss? Is there a Republican solution? Not for those topics. They have ceded the battlefield to the Dems and wonder why no one cares.

  9. There are conservative solutions to all those problems, and I don’t think we’ve conceded the battlefield to the Democrats. Unfortunately being the party out of power makes it difficult to have policy placed into law.

    At the moment we are seeing what Democrat “solutions” are creating – a worse problem.

  10. “At the moment we are seeing what Democrat “solutions” are creating – a worse problem.”

    Perhaps. Perhaps not. The Left has had few scant months to do their damage. It is empty rhetoric to claim that what they are doing WILL be worse than, what?

    a – doing nothing.
    b – do what?
    c – run your keyboard all over the Internet and call Dems names, which is how a certain prolific email spammer sandbagged Jim.

    I backed Republicans (and Dems) in the last two election cycle to the full extent of legal contributions ($10K), which is one reason I prefer to remain anon.

    It will take technology, money, and a coherent, clear, uplifting, and understandable message to take any seat back.

    My people and I have stepped away from politics. In the last two cycles, we deployed serious resources which were squandered and taken cheap by certain players. Some who won, declined to work with us after they took office, “What have YOU done for ME, RECENTLY?”

    Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

    I am monitoring events. Has the party and individuals learned anything? So far, it seems not. I speak with candidates and elected officials a few times a month. Success in 2010 will come only if everyone gets with the program, a few have but the organization is broken and broke.

    To address your point. There is no evidence that the Dems are making the economy worse. The economy is bad. It is foolish to blame them for what is happening. The public is smarter than that. Most will give the Dems a few years to fix things. Most will allow resources to be diverted to keep the basics flowing to out of work, needy people, calling that socialism demeans the caller.

    There is also the harsh, harsh reality that things may get so bad that they will follow the dems in the hope that HOPE will be AUDACIOUS enough.

    As far as being out of power, that’s a partial truth. There are enough Republicans in office that they can work with moderate Dems and Indies to swing votes and influence legislation.

    Anyone going to the event at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse on July 22, 2009? That is one venue where Republican power is being reconstituted.

    It’s not going to be easy but it can be done. The wrong people have been running things. The good news is that this is changing.

    Jim is not a bad guy, he should be allowed to retire to his Vet practice and given a “thanks for doing the job”. The real problem is that he enabled the extremists and did not take care of supporters.

    The Dems do a far better job of constituent support and recognize major contributors.


  11. “Not Right Says:
    July 20th, 2009 at 5:44 am

    I backed Republicans (and Dems) in the last two election cycle to the full extent of legal contributions ($10K), which is one reason I prefer to remain anon.”

    AH. Here is a perfect example of what is REALLY wrong in the MDGOP (Mark get yer flashcards and hand-puppets ready)…The bonehead here backs candidates for BOTH parties and then whines about being dumped at the dance!

    Bonehead, here’s a tip: Put all your money on one horse or the other. That way we can feel sorry for you when you lose. Hedging your bets on stocks and horses is smart; on politics it’s just sleazey, slimey, you know, like, I dunno, you don’t care who wins as long as you get your, what’s the word, pay-off?

    It takes brass, though, to come on here, after backing a Democrat or three, and tell us who we need and don’t need as Chairman of OUR party!

  12. “There’s nothing wrong with Jim Pelura that electoral victory next year won’t cure.”

    Mike, election victories don’t just happen…they are brought about by having the resources and strategy to make them happen, or at least help them along.

    Jim Pelura is incapable of being a positive addition to the Republican strategy team and his inability to do basic things that a party chairman should do and inability to get along with anyone who even slightly disagrees with him will keep us from victory.

    We won’t have significant victory next year with such a dysfunctional and broke state party.

  13. I still stand by my statement because yours is a self-fulfilling prophecy: if we have low expectations and do little to advance our agenda we lose.

    In the meantime the Pelura debate takes us away from the enemy we SHOULD be fighting. At least the TEA Party crowd is showing some spunk and cajones and I wish the mainstream Republicans would embrace their message more.

  14. Again and again we have heard the same tired re-frame – “Jim Pelura cannot raise money.” Say it enough times, you might just believe it.

    Let’s look at the combined record for 2007 & 2008.

    First, how do the State Republicans compare with the Maryland Democrats?

    State Republican Party

    Number of registered Republicans 909,000

    Total contribution amount is $864,875.72

    Average per registered Republican 95 cents

    Democratic State Central Committee of Maryland

    Number of registered Democrat 1,942,000

    Total contribution amount is $1,907,259.56

    Average per registered Democrat: 98 cents

    Can this be? Are the State Republican Party is raising the same amount, relative to registration, as the Democrats? 98 cents vs. 95 cents? Seems to be the case.

    Next let’s look at how the Republican State Party is doing compared with the counties, starting with principal Pelura critic Chris Cavey’s Baltimore County:

    Baltimore County Republican Central Committee –

    Number of registered Republicans 127,000

    Total contribution amount is $88,512.74

    Average per registered Republican 70 cents

    Let’s see how other Republican Central Committees do compared to Baltimore County:

    Anne Arundel County Republican Central Committee

    Number of registered Republicans 117,000

    Total contribution amount is $72,660.92

    Average per registered Republican 61 cents

    Carroll County Republican Central Committee

    Number of registered Republicans 53,000

    Total contribution amount is $56,582.47

    Average per registered Republican $1.05

    Charles County Central Committee

    Number of registered Republican – 25,000

    Total contribution amount is $21,222.10

    Average per registered Republican 84 cents.

    Frederick County Republican Central Committee

    Number of registered Republicans 56,000

    Total contribution amount is $35,324.00

    Average per registered Republican 61 cents.

    Harford County Republican Central Committee

    Number of registered Republicans 61,000

    Total contribution amount is $75,768.64

    Average per registered Republican $1.22

    Howard County Republican Central Committee

    Number of registered Republican – 54,000

    Total contribution amount is $108,377.17

    Average per registered Republican: $2.00

    Montgomery County Republican Central Committee

    Number of Registered Republicans 123,000

    Total contribution amount is $169,561.16

    Average per registered Republican $1.37

    Prince George’s County Republican Central Committee

    Number of Registered Republicans 47,0000

    Total contribution amount is $43,898.99

    Average per registered Republican 91 cents

    Draw you own conclusions.

    Maryland State Board of Elections Database

    Registration numbers:

    (thanks to Joe Steffen, aka “The Prince of Darkness,” discussion thread is deserved for bringing this to my attention. Thank you Joe. )

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