You know, it’s really hard to be stuck indoors at a convention in a place with a view like this.
Yep, it was a little windy Friday afternoon when I shot that brief video. This was prior to the first of four seminars I attended as the event was billed as a training convention. Now, because of a scheduling conflict I had to miss the Executive Committee meeting but Kim and I did arrive in time to enjoy the hospitality of various candidate suites – in truth, the partying spilled onto the Princess Royale’s pool deck.
One Senate candidate made the most of his presence there, festooning the venue with signage. It began with this creative use of bumper stickers.
Several balconies had Wargotz’s signage, so it was a good thing Eric had a special one by his suite.
Governor Gary Johnson led the state of New Mexico from 1995-2003, winning an election as an outsider who was told he had little chance of winning (it was his first electoral contest.) Here’s Eric and Gary together – it’s one of two pictures I took (the other will likely be on his campaign site sometime soon.)
I’ll come back to Johnson later. In the meantime, it’s worth noting that fellow U.S. Senate hopeful Jim Rutledge also had a presence there, with a table near the registration desk.
Rutledge did come down on Saturday to meet and greet conventiongoers.
But if the MDGOP was anticipating a lot of revenue from table rental, they had to be sorely disappointed. Aside from Rutledge and the debut of Americans for Limited Government as a presence, not much was to be found on the tables.
This table on Friday night showed the undercurrent of competition.
As I mentioned earlier, part of the idea behind this convention was to conduct training for Central Committee members. I sat in on four seminars: voter vault training, new media, treasurer’s training, and a panel discussion led by Audrey Scott and featuring General Assembly members Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio and Senators David Brinkley, Nancy Jacobs, and Allan Kittleman. Of the four that was the most interesting, but I learned something new at each and I suppose that was the intent.
I think I’m going to treat the panel discussion as a separate post because a lot of interesting statements were uttered. So let’s skip to lunch and its two guest speakers.
Being introduced by GOP Chair Audrey Scott, who said “we need Bob back to make this a business-friendly state,” Ehrlich pretty much stuck to his stock speech. Most of us knew that “Maryland has been good to us” and “the last grudge match I had was in middle school.”
To Bob, “progress” in Martin O’Malley’s terms was a higher unemployment rate, 3,000 fewer businesses, increases in sales and business taxes, a so-called “living wage,” and gifts to Big Labor – all in all, a poor business climate is O’Malley’s legacy. “You don’t raise taxes on the producers,” said the former governor.
Annapolis is “never out of excuses,” continued Ehrlich, who also said that for us, jobs are “real” and not a “talking point” as they are for O’Malley. The “worst-kept secret” of a second O’Malley term would be the “monumental tax increase awaiting us.” It’s the “politics of getting over” – getting over the next year or the next election. His biggest disappointment was dealing with the schools in Baltimore (and then-Mayor O’Malley) – he accused the Democrats of not stepping up “because it was inconvenient” for them to. Never mind the kids sentenced to a below-grade education.
Addressing the TEA Party movement – a movement which “is serious” – there’s “no doubt” this “pro-opportunity” group wil help us.
While there’s little doubt that everyone in the room supports Ehrlich against O’Malley, I would’ve liked to hear from another man present – Brian Murphy.
We’re not supposed to endorse candidates pre-primary, but by all appearances the Maryland GOP has placed its lot for better or worse behind Bob Ehrlich. Yes, it can be argued that Murphy has little chance but at least he put his name on the line while someone was dithering about which race to run in – if he would run at all. I think we owed him the opportunity to speak, or else be neutral in the race and find a different keynote speaker.
The other speaker isn’t officially running for anything – at least not yet. While the list of current and former governors perhaps seeking the 2012 GOP presidential nomination is long, should Gary Johnson decide to do so we’ll have a pretty good idea of where he stands thanks to his Our America website alluded to above on Eric Wargotz’s sign.
Johnson related his experience as an entrepreneur and being told he “can’t come from outside politics to be elected” to statewide office. But he succeeded by putting “issues first and politics last.”
Perhaps his most noteworthy achievement in two terms as governor was vetoing 750 bills. He used the example of a bill to mandate pets in a store be exercised 2 hours a day, 3 days a week – who would police such a law?
That streak of libertarian thought extended to issues which were received well, like our lack of fiscal conservatism naturally leading to inflation, the “next shoe to drop” being state pension funds, and noting “I was hoping for free-market reform” on health care.
Other issues, though, may have fallen somewhat flat with those gathered, such as taking a “hard look” at the War on Drugs and “squandering our military might” on Iraq and Afghanistan. Regarding drug laws, Johnson noted that 1.8 million are arrested for drug crimes each year and 90% of that is prohibition-related rather than use-related. Instead, we should look at nations like Holland and Portugal and adopt “harm-reduction strategies.”
Gary was definitely thought-provoking, though, and may fit in as a second-tier participant should he begin the process of seeking the GOP’s highest nomination.
After lunch we got down to brass tacks and began the convention proper with Chair Audrey Scott presiding.
I must say, though, this may have been the absolute worst hall I’ve ever sat in for this sort of gathering.
I truly felt sorry for the guests who had to sit in the back, far away from the stage. You can’t tell by the picture but our group was fairly far back; we sat at the outside corner where the room narrowed.
With those surroundings, even Andy Harris didn’t fire up the troops as he could have in nicer circumstances.
Harris did wax eloquent about “taking America back” and stopping the “systematic dismantling of the American Dream” by the “gang in Washington.” To them, electing Scott Brown was “not (a) loud enough message” because they passed Obamacare anyway.
One big flaw with Obamacare Harris elaborated on was that hospitals were unwilling to make new investments because of the uncertainty. “It’s about time Congress admits its mistake (and) repeals health care,” Andy said. Another red meat comment: “when it comes to taxes, we should be the party of ‘hell no’!”
Checking in with the usual reports were our National Committeewoman, Joyce Lyons Terhes, who opined, “Michael Steele is doing an excellent job,” and that, “America is being dismantled before our very eyes.” National Committeeman Louis Pope added that our national fundraising was “right on target” and “the TEA Party is us.” The Republican National Committee is predicting a 30-60 seat House gain and 29 or 30 governorships after this election.
In her Chairman’s Report, Audrey Scott claimed that the “party was in disarray” when she took over but she’d improved both communication and finances during her brief tenure. The recent town hall meetings had gone well “beyond her wildest expectations” and she revealed that a paid Maryland Democratic Party staffer was following her during the latter stages of the tour, recording her every remark. (There was no Democratic staffer at her Wicomico stop. I’m bummed.)
An exciting upcoming event was the annual Red, White, and Blue Dinner, which will feature Mitt Romney as guest speaker.
Yet I have an editorial comment. What was the problem these big donors had with Jim Pelura? They could have opened up their wallets just as easily then and saved the party a lot of headache. Jim must not have been the fair-haired boy they wanted I guess.
Other than that, the business at hand went more or less routinely. Three of us from Wicomico County and another from Montgomery County objected to the adoption of the rules – in my case I suggested to Audrey beforehand that the “compromise” voting system be voted on separately (as they were last fall) and when they did not I objected. So there’s four people who “get it.”
But since the only resolution was to allow the Teenage Republicans a seat at the Executive Committee table the rules were no big deal. Most disappointing was the Voting Committee – who was charged with studying the issue and suggesting a solution – punting the voting system issue down the road. Their excuse this time was that an outgoing convention shouldn’t dictate rules for the next year. Well then, I guess we should rewrite the bylaws every four years then, shouldn’t we? (Actually we did a major revision this term – we just didn’t resolve the voting issue or properly adopt the worthwhile idea of regional chairs. That’s another issue the powers-that-be will find excuses to ignore for another term.)
Okay, my rant is over. For the first time that I recall, the Young Republicans didn’t have a hospitality suite on Friday night. Instead, they capitalized on current events for this idea to bridge the gap between the convention and dinner.
Speaking of dinner, I wasn’t sure about the speaker but political consultant David Winston turned out to be interesting to a numbers freak like myself.
Some of his findings:
- President Bush couldn’t capitalize on the structural advantage the GOP has – we are a center-right country.
- Obama’s big misstep was tackling health care and not jobs. Almost 3 times as many respondents to polling cited jobs as the key issue over health care.
- Having a high disapproval rating hurts the introduction of issues – if “there’s that guy I don’t like” talking about an issue it turns voters off.
- 9.7% (the unemployment rate) is “the only number that matters” this cycle.
- “The political center does not mean moderates.” On a sliding scale of liberal to conservative, independent voters are far closer to the GOP than they are President Obama.
Finally, our annual awards for 2009 were given out and we were pleasantly surprised!
- Charles Carroll Award (Outstanding Republican Man) – Bob Ostrom
- Belva Lockwood Award (Outstanding Republican Woman) – Patt Parker
- Samuel Chase Award (Outstanding County) – Talbot County
- William Paca Award (Outstanding Republican Youth) – Matt Teffeau
- Grassroots Activist of the Year – Katie James
- Aris Allen Award (Outstanding Voter Registration Effort) – Wicomico County
Obviously we won one award and as I recall we nominated Matt for his award for his work as head of the Salisbury University College Republicans. Here are the award winners with Chair Audrey Scott.
So I don’t have a completely bitter taste in my mouth for the event. It just looks like the work won’t stop on November 2nd – when I’m reelected to the Central Committee and after we beat the Democrats like a rented mule it will be time to push for much-needed reform for the MDGOP.