Impressions on the Mid-Shore AFP Senate forum

I’ve already done a down-and-dirty factual story (with pictures) on my Examiner page, so if you want to read there for some of the particulars feel free to do so…I’ll wait.

Here I wanted to review the statements and performance of each of the participants and make a few other general observations. I don’t have to be fair and unbiased at this site. In alphabetical order, Stephens Dempsey comes first.

Stephens Dempsey came across as a man who truly wants to restore the government to its Constitutional case, and for that some may call him harsh. In a question about illegal immigration, Dempsey noted, “First, they’re not ‘illegal immigrants,’ they’re illegal aliens…that is the definition we should use.” Indeed, that’s how the federal government actually defines them.

Regarding the jobs issue, Stephens points out that, “it’s not my job (as a Senator)…that’s the job of the state and local level (governments.) Obviously he has a clear definition of what the federal role must be.

But the problem I see with his approach is, while the message is clear, his explanations may be too clever by half. For example, his campaign literature features a three-triangle logo that baffles the average person as to its meaning. Being an “American Constitutionalist” is one thing, but making that have meaning to the average voter who will ask what that does for him is quite another.

It was nice to see his family and friends support him, but I fear that’s all the support he’ll get if he doesn’t simplify his message a little bit.

Democrat Chris Garner was perhaps the most pessimistic of the batch, gloomily noting, “what’s happening right now, we’re in a deep depression. It’s gonna get deeper.” Garner also bemoaned the lack of industrial might – “No industry, no economy.” He added, “we’re turning our country into a Third World country.”

His solutions may not be the best for free marketeers, though – among others he proposed a maximum 15% trade imbalance to keep the value of imports and exports in balance. “Right now we’re sending a half-trillion dollars overseas.” But would that work in a real world where we import a vast amount of oil, for example? Certainly we could use some fairer trade, but that cap doesn’t seem anything but arbitrary.

I also couldn’t believe he didn’t know what EFCA was. The way I look at it, passage of EFCA would do more harm to our trade imbalance because unionization would drive up the cost of business.

Samuel Graham was a curious sort of Republican. One of his platform planks was a “radical idea…let’s just give (the unemployed) a job.” And that extended to illegal immigrants as well – Graham supports a policy to stop immigrants at the border and ask them why they are seeking entry. “Give them an opportunity to register themselves,” he said. Needless to say, he was the lone Republican not to favor the Arizona SB1070 law.

But then he joined the chorus of those candidates who said, “let’s cut the taxes.” Samuel ticked off a list of possible tax cuts for groceries, department stores, and gasoline. Yes, those are good ideas but I think a better solution would be to eliminate taxes on the income side and maintain a low, one-time rate on the consumption side.

On the whole, something didn’t jibe with Graham’s presentation. I’m not sure he’s thought through the impact of simply creating make-work jobs – wasn’t that the point of the stimulus? And how would that work with the straight 25% cut in government he advocated?

Being in the middle of three consecutive Republicans, Daniel McAndrew was at something of a disdvantage. He just doesn’t seem to stick out well in a crowd as it is and always being the fourth to respond made the problem worse. In answering one question, he sighed, “well, it’s repeating time.”

And asked why he wanted to be Senator, he expressed that, “I’ve had enough, and I think you have too…quite frankly, they’re not listening to us.”

But he did make some good points in an otherwise mainstream conservative presentation, talking about the aspect of “birth tourism” when the question of anchor babies was brought up. His ideas for creating incentives for manufacturing and privatizing portions of government have plenty of merit.

Also placing him at a disadvantage was being the only hopeful to not have any literature there (at least that I noticed.) He does have a website, though.

Of all the candidates present, Jim Rutledge is probably the best known and leader of this pack. In terms of presentation, he had the smoothest and most eloquent answers which likely stems from his avocation as a “conservative” attorney. That would also come in handy if he were elected, as he could “translate those bills for you and give you the straight story on them.”

He was also unafraid to bring up the incumbent, labeling Barb Mikulski as the “chief culprit” of the largest expansion of government and attack on individual liberties this Republic had ever seen.

Yet he had a couple key issues which may have seemed a bit out there if you don’t understand the logic behind them. For example, one method of helping to sell Eastern Shore products would be to dredge the waterways in order for easier ship passage, since shipping by barge is very cost-effective. His (perhaps draconian) solution for illegal immigration involved jailing employer scofflaws and having visa holders post a bond when they entered the country – if they skipped bond, a bounty hunter could track them down. And why not a tax cut for homeschoolers? Yet these do make sense and at least represent a different manner of looking at problems not found inside the Beltway.

One observer afterward thought Rutledge had sort of an “angry” tone about him, and perhaps his passion can be taken that way. He had the largest group of supporters in the room, though.

And Jim’s ideas had some merit with Sanquetta Taylor as well. “I kinda don’t like sitting next to (Jim),” she said, “because we think alike and he’s a Republican and I’m a Democrat.” But some things are subject to bipartisan agreement and Sanquetta came across as a relatively moderate Democrat who thought “it’s time for the torch to be handed” to a new generation. She even explained that, “we have to go into government with good intentions.”

So what are those intentions? Well, Sanquetta does like lower taxes but she is protectionist, advocating “heavy fines” for companies which outsource jobs. She’s against the Arizona SB1070 law, believing “the President should step in and mandate something that should help them.” Yet she’s against anyone being here illegally. She wouldn’t come out and support Elena Kagan to be on the Supreme Court, but wouldn’t say no either.

Perhaps her and Rutledge do think alike on a number of fiscal issues, but the issues I pointed out suggest they’d have some strong differences as well. Certainly she brought an attractive presence to the forum as the most telegenic and youngest candidate.

For Lih Young, being on (and sometimes off) the ballot is a way of life.

In 2008 she ran as a Democrat in the 8th District Congressional primary and received 2.9% of the vote. Undaunted, she filed after the primary as a write-in and got 28 votes.

In 2006 Young ran for U.S. Senate as a Democrat and picked up 0.3% of the vote in a statewide race. Filing as a write-in for the general election ballot she got 120 votes.

In 2004, 8th District Congress, 2.4% of the vote in the primary, 79 votes as a write-in for the general election.

In 2002, it was Comptroller. She actually got 4% of the Democratic vote in the primary, so she figured a write-in candidacy was a lock – and got 1,375 votes.

This record, her reluctance to give a ‘yes or no’ answer on simple issues, and saying during the forum that, “law enforcement is a robbery machine” basically tells you what you need to know. If not, there is this gem from my archives.

As I mentioned, there were a number of “yes or no” questions during the forum which are helpful in assessing a candidate as well. Here’s how they went.

A ban on offshore oil drilling? Taylor and Young said yes, the others no.

Passing cap and trade? All said no, but Young wanted to study the issue.

Supporting Arizona’s SB1070? Dempsey, Garner, McAndrew and Rutledge all said yes; Graham, Taylor, and Young no.

Eliminating the death tax? All favored it, and all support the Second Amendment.

Would you sign a ‘no climate tax’ pledge? All but Young said yes and all did.

All seven favored term limits to varying degrees – all but Garner endorsed two terms for Senators (Garner just one.)  Garner, Graham, Taylor, and Young said two House terms; Dempsey and Rutledge three, and McAndrew six.

All would favor not repealing the Bush tax cuts, although Garner, “didn’t like the phrasing” of the question.

Repealing or replacing Obamacare was favored by Dempsey, Graham, McAndrew, Rutledge, and Taylor. Young wanted a single-payer system while Garner would not answer.

While most cited a lack of information, only Young was certain she’d vote to appoint Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. Taylor was unsure, the others gave her a thumbs-down.

Only Young was in favor of taxpayer-funded abortions.

Tax cuts for homeschoolers? Graham and Rutledge said no, the others yes.

Employee Free Choice Act (card check)? Taylor and Young favored it, Dempsey, Graham, McAndrew, and Rutledge were opposed, and Garner was unsure.

All thought NAFTA had a negative impact.

Finally, all were asked when they last read the Constitution.

  • For Stephens Dempsey, it was the day before.
  • Chris Garner said 4 or 5 years ago.
  • Samuel Graham said in high school.
  • Daniel McAndrew replied last week.
  • Jim Rutledge said a month ago.
  • Sanquetta Taylor told us two weeks.
  • Finally, Lih Young said two years ago.

It was a pretty long forum, taking nearly two hours to wrap up. But those in attendance are certainly more well-informed about the candidates who could be bothered to show up and face the public they aim to serve.

Author: Michael

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