Caldwell officially in

It may not be his WORST nightmare, but Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt will be matching wits with a solid vetoproof bloc of six Republicans on Wicomico County Council.

Bob Caldwell just let me know: “It is official!  The count was done today, and the original numbers stood.”

His 2 vote margin was perhaps the smallest in the state for a race of such a size, but Bob will join fellow new members Bob Culver and Matt Holloway in beginning his Council tenure next Tuesday. Four incumbents remain: Stevie Prettyman, Gail Bartkovich, Joe Holloway, and Sheree Sample-Hughes (who is now the lone Democrat.)

Let’s hope the closeness of the margin doesn’t affect Bob’s friendship with outgoing Councilman David MacLeod, whom I suspect isn’t leaving the stage of county affairs.

But things are going to be different around here beginning next week, and they better hit the ground running!

Boda announces another Salisbury run

Two years ago, Muir Boda faced off against Debbie Campbell in a two-way District 2 race and lost by a 65-35 margin. But I was impressed by the Libertarian afterward and hoped he’d consider a 2011 run – well, it looks like he’s in.

Via the Maryland Libertarians site (and his new campaign site):

The City of Salisbury stands at a crossroads in her rich and storied history. There are tough choices that lie ahead and they need to be made now. Continually putting off issues has brought us to this point, where gangs are controlling our streets, businesses refuse to come to Salisbury and personality issues hang over us like a dark cloud.

On one hand we can continue down the path we have been steadily going for years. Economic stagnation, rising crime rates, gang problems and an assault on property rights which is fueled by name calling, personal vendettas and an outright refusal of elected officials willing to address the issues that this city faces. We have alienated the business community, neighborhoods and our law enforcement community. Leadership and responsibility have been sucked up into the black hole of gridlock, making our government ineffective on major issues.

On the other hand we have a choice of electing leaders who are willing to put aside personal differences and egos to help move our city forward. We need leaders to reach out to our disenfranchised neighborhoods, embrace our business community and encourage everyone to join together and resist the gang violence and crime that is destroying our city.

I believe a three pronged approach to reducing crime is needed from a City standpoint. Strengthening economic opportunity, providing law enforcement with the tools they need to succeed and challenging our faith based community to step up and support our civic organizations in reaching out to those who need and are crying for help. All of these are intertwined and cannot fully succeed without the other.

The economic situation we face is dire and we need to make changes now. We need to create an environment that is conducive to business and it begins with a welcoming attitude. We need to approach our business community with an attitude of – what can we do for you? One way I believe we can help businesses, is by creating a streamlined process into one office for purposes of doing business in the city. This will reduce confusion and set clear expectations and fix a process that currently drives business away.

There are many more issues that we face and I believe they should be approached with common sense, integrity and a servant’s heart. Public servants are just that, servants. Not Lords or masters, they are here to serve the citizens, taxpayers and all who enter into our boundaries for peaceful purposes.

We have much work to do and I believe it is our duty to pass on this great city better than we received her. We are obligated to make her stronger, safer and more beautiful for the generations to come after us. Leaving her deep in debt, rundown from violence and with less opportunity is not only wrong but I believe immoral.

Join me as we work to restore dignity and pride in Salisbury. We must return civility to our debates and respect to the council chamber. That is where we must begin, that is where I intend to begin.

This should be an interesting race for Boda because the dynamics are completely different. In 2009 he was running against a popular incumbent in a vast district. (District 2 actually comprises roughly 80% of Salisbury since District 1 is drawn as a single-Councilperson, majority-minority district. The other four Council members all represent District 2. Yes, I shook my head too.)

But this time we’ll have a 8- or 10-candidate scrum, with the top 6 from the March 1 primary advancing to a general election on April 5. The top three vote-getters will be sworn in later in April.

While none of the three incumbents have announced their intentions yet, it’s presumed that Terry Cohen will seek re-election. At one point, I believed Louise Smith was planning on just one term but she may have changed her mind since; meanwhile, Gary Comegys has missed some time over the last year with a serious illness so he may opt not to run again.

Having just concluded one election cycle four weeks ago, there could be a little bit of burnout from the turnaround. But for Salisbury voters this will be the last time for the foreseeable future we’ll have to deal with local elections right after state elections – terms for the 2011 winners don’t expire until November 2015. 2013 will be the last spring election.

So Muir Boda will be out in familiar territory once again. It’s beginning to look a lot like a campaign.

The MDGOP horserace

(This post has been entirely updated here.)

I’ve had enough people ask me who I think is going to be chair that I’ve decided to lay odds on what I think would happen. (Odds are for amusement only, no wagering please.)

Here is the race as I see it and why. I’ll update this in a week or so before the race; by then we should have a pretty good idea of the field. (Now updated to reflect two withdrawals – Andrew Langer and Eric Wargotz.)

  • Mary Kane (4-1): The early favorite based on name recognition and the number of Ehrlich loyalists still in the state party. But this probably won’t be a two- or three-horse race in the beginning, and the question is just how much support she can muster beyond this core constituency. Will she have enough in the tank if the race turns out to be a marathon? And are party regulars ready to give the Republicans back to the Kane family? However, her odds improved once Eric Wargotz withdrew since they seemed to me to be drawing from the same voter bloc.
  • Alex Mooney (10-1): The longer he waits to decide whether to get into the race (as of 12-2 he’s still oscillating between Chair and 1st Vice-Chair), the less chance he has of winning it. He has two strikes against him: a perception that he’s simply doing this to keep his 2012-2014 options open and the similar geographical disparity which also would have hurt Eric Wargotz. However, his odds can vastly improve if he decides to get in and pledges to use the position as a conservative bully pulpit – I think the withdrawal of Wargotz will push him into the Chair race, thus his odds got much better. And with the withdrawals of the other ‘outstate’ candidates he can now play the ‘us vs. them’ angle.
  • William Campbell (12-1): Probably the most low-key among those in the field, Campbell could be the compromise candidate the party turns to in an otherwise deadlocked race. While he has run for statewide office, he’s a political outsider who may get the nod based on the perception he’s not taking the position to climb a career political ladder. In terms of fiscal expertise, though, Campbell is hard to top.
  • Sam Hale (12-1): Hale represents the Brian Murphy wing of the party, and will likely have a lot of support among the most conservative in the party. Yet the questions which will nag him will be those of his young age and his fundraising ability, particularly since he’s likely the most unknown quantity among the contenders. They may not wish to take a flyer on this unproven rookie unless he can press the flesh and impress. He’s unafraid of questions, though, and that could help.
  • Carmen Amedori (15-1): Another candidate who wouldn’t win on the first ballot, but could emerge as a compromise choice. However, she has to overcome the perception of flakiness based on her behavior during the 2010 campaign – her explanation made sense to some but left other supporters of both Brian Murphy and Bob Ehrlich fuming. She will need to mend fences quickly to have a chance.
  • Mike Esteve (20-1): He’s already in charge of a state operation, but the Maryland College Republicans are a far cry from their parent organization. Like Sam Hale, there’s going to be the question of youth used against him, except that Mike is even younger. While the group as a whole needs to get younger, I can’t see how he succeeds – on the other hand, he only needs to convince about 150 people.
  • The field (75-1): Since nominations can be made from the floor (if a 2/3 majority chooses to do so) any number of names could surface at the convention, including past chairmen or other GOP luminaries. Highly unlikely but possible nonetheless.

On Sunday I submitted a list of questions to the contenders whom I know of; as of the time I wrote this last night no one had replied. (As of 12-3 Sam Hale is the lone reply.) Obviously I’m taking a dim view of those who won’t answer simple but direct questions about how they’ll change the party.

Original odds 11/30/10: Kane 5-1, Wargotz 8-1, Campbell 10-1, Andrew Langer 12-1 (withdrew), Hale 15-1, Amedori 18-1, Mooney 20-1, Esteve 25-1, field 50-1.

First revision 12/2/10: Kane 5-1, Eric Wargotz 7-1 (withdrew), Campbell 10-1, Hale 12-1, Amedori 15-1, Mooney 15-1, Esteve 20-1, field 75-1.

‘Safe streets’ or unsafe for landlords?

I guess they are going to keep trying until they get it right.

Salisbury City Council members Debbie Campbell and Terry Cohen are hosting their third public meeting to solicit public comment on the ‘Safe Streets’ initiative at the Government Office Building in downtown Salisbury tomorrow evening at 6:30 p.m. Despite two packed previous hearings, the legislation is stalled in Salisbury City Council.

In a press release, Campbell and Cohen bill this Neighborhood Legislative Package as a public safety initiative:

“Just today, I discussed the “Three Strikes, You’re Out” proposal with a city resident and what reducing the high-repeat call load from certain properties can mean for making better use of our police resources,” said Cohen.  “It’s astounding when you see statistics like 59 properties in just one neighborhood generating 1,800 calls for service to police in three years.”

Campbell said that the previous two meetings, both with overflow attendance, yielded useful feedback on possible changes to the legislation.  “This legislation could provide substantial benefit to the public and contribute to the overall Safe Streets initiative already under way, thanks to our law enforcement agencies in partnership with the community,” Campbell explained.

In reading the seven portions of the proposed legislation, I fail to see how many of the new laws will reduce crime. It seems like much of the legislation instead is a broadbased effort to both wipe out many of what the city considers ‘nonconforming uses’ which have been around for years or even decades and in the process make a little bit more money in licensing fees and fines from landlords.

There’s no question there are landlords who don’t do their due diligence, instead succumbing to the allure of the almighty buck. Yet they are in the minority, and the proposed laws are akin to taking a sledgehammer to an ant hill. Those who live in houses adapted decades ago or who bought a property intending to become an entrepreneur and landlord may find themselves facing the prospect of extensive and expensive repairs if they can’t convince a judge that the use predates an arbitrary deadline. Obviously they will be stuck with a property which has lost its appeal and value to prospective buyers and face financial ruin.

Like it or not, Salisbury will be a rental haven for years to come due to a combination of a growing university where demand for housing outstrips on-campus availability and a crashing housing market which forces former homeowners to become renters. Soon the largest group of new homeowners may be financial institutions, and certainly they’re not going to be interested in following these regulations – instead, houses may sit empty and become tempting targets for crime. That defeats the purpose of the bill!

This bill, which is strongly backed by Mayor Jim Ireton, can’t move forward because Council President Louise Smith won’t put it on the Council’s legislative agenda for a vote. Likely this is because the bill as written has little chance of passage – Smith and fellow City Council members Gary Comegys and Shanie Shields seem to be immovably against the bill. With just one City Council meeting remaining on the docket this year, all are marking time until bill co-sponsor Terry Cohen (along with Smith and Comegys) have their seats come up for election next spring. After the holidays, the city’s campaign season will begin in earnest as the filing deadline is January 18.

While Cohen and Campbell may be trying a TEA Party-style tactic by holding frequent public meetings to denounce the lack of progress, the political reality is that this change isn’t desired by a large percentage of Salisbury residents. They want real, tangible answers for crime, and picking on landlords won’t make a difference in the perception that Salisbury is a drug and gang haven. It’s no wonder people flee to the county the first chance they get.

The oddities of politics (well, at least a couple)

I’m still coming back off the Thanksgiving holiday which featured a goodly amount of food (including some good bread pudding thanks to Kim’s family and great pumpkin pie at Jim and Michele’s) and the news is still on the slow side – when the President getting busted on the lip by a wayward elbow in a pickup basketball game is breaking news you know things are slow.

Anyway, there are a few oddities I wanted to point out. One is a bit stale and the others arcane, but all seem crazy on the surface.

Up Baltimore County way, their Republican Central Committee chair is in a bit of hot water because he wanted the two Republicans on Baltimore County Council (along with his committee) to support a Democrat as the Council leader.

Unlike the other 23 jurisdictions in Maryland, Baltimore County elects its Republican Central Committee chair directly at the primary – it’s state law. Not only that, it’s unique to the GOP in Baltimore County as the rank-and-file Democrats don’t elect their chair – so what gives?

Even Tony Campbell himself doesn’t agree with the concept. So why is it in place? I have no idea when or why this was put into effect, but given his recent struggles I hope Campbell follows through with his promise and the General Assembly takes care of this oddity.

But wait, there’s more!

When we met on Election Day night, we selected our new county chair among the nine of us. Strangely enough, though, we didn’t officially take office until November 16, two weeks after the election. Yet the MDGOP had to do some business prior to this date and our chair (elected among us on November 2nd) represented the county at this meeting.  What’s really funny is that last term (which was my first) we weren’t sworn into office until the convention, two months after we were elected in the primary! Insofar as I know, this only applies to Republicans too.

In our case, there wasn’t much of a change since our chair is the former vice-chair and had attended state meetings before in place of the former chair when he was away. But what of a county with a lot of turnover? This could be really confusing and the potential is there for inadvertently tripping over the letter of the law.

I believe the time has come to clean up and synchronize election laws that need some pruning. Certainly let’s change the Baltimore County law, but why not set the Central Committee terms to begin on a date certain for both parties? If two weeks after the election is the day, then we should set our organizational meetings accordingly. (It may be a MDGOP slipup in this case.)

The other change from 2006 to 2010 that I would dearly love to see reversed is the elimination of the non-continuing account.

When I ran in 2006, I was able to close my financial books on the campaign once the results became official. Obviously at 5 bucks a month I didn’t want to keep the bank account going – especially for an unpaid volunteer position as mine is – and there were only a few transactions to account for on the financial report. All told there was less than $200 involved, mostly from my own contributions. (I also had to count monoblogue as an in-kind contribution.)

This time, my only two expenditures were the $10 filing fee and this website. I promised my new treasurer I’d make it as easy as possible for her! Problem is, I now don’t have the option of a non-continuing account since I’m done for four years and don’t see a need for a campaign warchest!

Compare this to my days in Ohio politics where being elected to the Central Committee positions required no filing fee, there was no need for a treasurer or associated bank account, and the only requirement to get on the ballot was a petition signed by 5-15 registered party members in the precinct. Yes, there was a difference in scale between a precinct of a few square blocks and running countywide, but the idea should be to encourage involvement, not make it more difficult. I beat enough of a field of 13 to make it this time so bring them on!

I can understand the need for these laws for state and local elected officials who are paid for services, but for an unpaid party position? I say bring back the non-continuing account for those positions only.

Obviously others may have their ideas for election and campaign finance reform, but there are a start. It’s worthy to think about this now when there’s just 44 days before the ’90 Days of Terror’ begins.

In print: Will Atlas shrug in Maryland?

I wrote this on Tuesday and sent it to several state newspapers. As of yesterday I know it was in the Daily Times Thursday and on the Carroll Standard Wednesday. This is my draft version, other outlets may have edited it to some extent.

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For Republicans in Maryland the 2010 election was a complete shock, especially compared to national results. Despite victories here and there for the GOP we now know our state government will lurch on to follow economic basket cases like California or New York, where free-spending Democrats believe that taxpayers comprise a never-ending gravy train.

The title of this piece refers to Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel, Atlas Shrugged. A book which doubles as a parable, its theme is how society reacts when the producers withdraw from an intrusive, overbearing government. In Maryland this scenario played out on a small scale via the so-called ‘millionaire’s tax’ in 2008 – instead of creating the extra revenue predicted, overall tax receipts fell well short of projections. Those who could afford to do so voted with their feet and left Maryland for other states which encouraged their presence by featuring low tax rates and a regulatory environment more conducive to business.

For those departing it was their manner of ‘going Galt,’ a phrase inspired by the character in Atlas Shrugged who led the exodus of those tired of the overtaxation, overregulation, and general disgust from those in government toward citizens successful in the private sector.

With this backdrop, Free State Republicans are in the process of choosing a leader for the next four years. Given the hand with which they have to play, the next state government term will need to be spent both fighting a rear-guard action to slow down Annapolis’s march toward oblivion and educating the public as to why it’s necessary – needless to say, voters missed the GOP message prior to the election.

Or did they? Maryland Republicans put up the candidates who, for the most part, were tacitly endorsed by party brass. Many among them were willing accomplices to the Democrats on their destructive course over the last four years – although some would argue that ship began sailing decades ago. In either case, no course correction was made with this election and Republicans need to work on making sure voters are aware of the fix surely required four years hence.

And while it may not be popular with the Democrats or the press, Republicans in Maryland indeed can’t just be the party of ‘no’ – we must be the party of ‘HELL NO!’ Sometimes there can’t be a compromise made; as Rand herself pondered, what is the compromise between food and poison? We must refuse the siren song of budget ‘fixes’ involving new and expanded taxes, and fight tooth and nail against additional regulations and misguided ideas like the ‘green jobs’ boondoggle.

Our best new Chair will be the one who realizes there can be no compromise in our principles; instead he or she will intuitively know Maryland Republicans need to present a bold palette of ideas and candidates in 2014. Our new leadership must convince our state’s producers help will eventually arrive.

Give us anything less and Atlas will fail.

Michael Swartz is a member of Wicomico County’s Republican Central Committee and a freelance writer who covered Maryland’s 2010 election for Pajamas Media. His home website is monoblogue.

Taking the fight to the enemy

November 27, 2010 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Inside the Beltway, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Taking the fight to the enemy 

You know, I’ve come to the conclusion that the majority of WaPo readers are way, way out there. (We won’t go into how flaky most of the columnists are, although the paper does feature two solid, if sometimes elitist, conservative voices in Charles Krauthammer and George Will.)

They have an article today about the state of the Maryland GOP, one which richly deserved comment from yours truly.

**********

Well, whadda you know, the WaPo and a host of Republicans quoted have finally come to the point I’ve been making for four years.

It’s sad that we had an eminently qualified Comptroller on the ballot (which would you rather have looking over the state’s finances – someone with decades in the business or someone who was initially elected based on the name recognition of 20 years as a legislator) yet people ignored the obvious difference or took out the failings of the top of the ticket on him.

To address the previous commenters who said the GOP didn’t run enough ‘moderate’ candidates, guess what? We ran two (for governor and U.S. Senator) and both lost by double-digits. Apparently you saw Democrat and Democrat-lite and voted for the real thing.

The weakness at the top of the ticket statewide (along with the shrewd packaging and marketing of the respective records of two different, yet somewhat similar governors) allowed the Democrats to buck the national trend and carry the day.

Do Republicans have work to do in teaching the benefits of a common sense limited-government platform in some communities? Of course they do. It’s tough to compete with the candidate who promises a boatload of freebies to be paid for by someone else.

But compete we shall, even when you have to take the message to the heart of the opposition as I do here.

Just ask yourself: who do I feel more comfortable with in handling my affairs and providing those things my family needs? Is it some bureaucrat in Washington or Annapolis, or is my own hands, head, and heart?

In short, that’s the GOP message. You have four years to learn it before Maryland has its next election.

**********

As I tell my friends (and my enemies) I don’t mince words and I don’t bullshit around. I can already see the attacks on this, but you know this is our message and a lot of the reason why the GOP lost – a weak top of the ticket and a campaign which was won by a Democrat who seized control of the narrative early.

(Perhaps if someone had gotten in the race earlier as I advised him to that message could have been under his control. But he waited around, and on this occasion good things didn’t come to those who wait.)

I’ll let the WaPo comment spammers enjoy throwing knives at that, and check back when I get a chance. It’s just a sample of what we need to do and how we need to take the fight to enemy territory (which isn’t really all that much of Maryland geographically but a whole ‘nother state philosophically. So much for ‘One Maryland’.)

Four years isn’t all that long; in fact it’s pretty short for the work which needs to be done.

A return

November 26, 2010 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging · Comments Off on A return 

It’s a slow news day (unless and until a catfight breaks out among the crazier sleep-deprived Black Friday shoppers) so instead I’m going to post a heads-up for an upcoming event.

You may recall about this time last year I began a poll for the best local blog. Well, this year it returns with an expanded field of 24 contestants including defending 2009 champion afterthegoldrush, which edged out Salisbury News in the final poll.

Beginning Monday I’ll start the first of eight first-round polling battles, with the 8 winners and top runner-up in votes advancing to three semi-finals which will begin after Christmas (hey, it takes awhile to run eight polls.) And since it’s all in fun and I’m being as fair as I can, I excluded myself from the competition again.

Except for two that are not currently linked, the competitors can be found among those linked as Delaware and Eastern Shore blogs on the right sidebar (but not all of them – I tried to include those which regularly update and that I knew were from the lower Shore and slower lower Delaware.) Not all of them are political, but I excluded a couple personality-based blogs from the mix.

So let’s see what my local readers (which run about 1/3 of my audience) like among my local peers. Check back often to see who’s winning and help out your favorites!

Thanksgiving 2010

November 25, 2010 · Posted in Personal stuff · Comments Off on Thanksgiving 2010 

As I have in years past, I take time a day or two before Thanksgiving to write an annual message. It may or may not be autobiographical (generally it is) and it may or may not be philosophical, but nonetheless I take the time to populate my website on Thanksgiving because I feel I owe it to my loyal readers to provide daily content. A few dozen take me up on reading it.

Last year at this time I detailed my economic struggles, and they continue apace – however, I am thankful to have found a part-time job which is helping a little bit, not to mention the few extra dollars I make as a scribe. Depending on how things go forward with Pajamas Media, I’m up to two or three regular (paying) writing clients.

(I’m told this new job outside the house will pick up once the holidays are over – let’s hope that’s more true than when I lost my last full-time job only to be told I’ll be rehired ‘after the holidays’ – too bad I didn’t verify in which year those holidays would be. Can’t blame the old boss, though, since he has a smaller company now than when I left.)

It’s odd that I seem to have swerved into a bit of a tradition here. For the third year in a row, I’m having dinner with my friends Jim and Michele in Delaware and for the second year in a row, supper will be consumed with Kim’s family at her mom’s place in Oxford. It’s different than a Swartz family gathering, but it has advantages nonetheless.

Of course, the disadvantage of leaving family to move three states away is that one can’t always be there to gather with them. But this year that longing will be compounded by the loss of my brother LJ – future family gatherings will never be the same. For example, there are only two cutthroat UNO players to avoid sitting next to instead of three. (Those who know me best and most intimately will understand the humor there.)

Yet as the universe of readers here keeps expanding and time marches on as it forever has, I realize that there are days we need to ponder that which we should be thankful for and to Whom the thanks should go.

While it’s difficult letting go of the political world for a day and nearly impossible to not pay attention to the football game on (after all, I am a Detroit Lions fan and we almost always ate as their annual Thanksgiving game was being played) I try to manage because the best part is having great company for the day.

Years ago, in what seems like a galaxy far, far away, I was married to my first wife who had an elderly father that lived alone. Our first thought about Thanksgiving was making sure he had a place to go and wouldn’t be by himself on the holiday. As for me, I think I have managed to spend the time with family and friends either here or back in Ohio (a couple times) since I moved here. I still appreciate those who hosted me on Thanksgivings spent far away from my own family opening their home to me and being friends.

So I hope your Thanksgiving goes well, and if you have a job you got the day off. (Is our society really better served with all the stores open for shopping Thanksgiving Day?) Give thanks to those you’re with, for you never know if they’ll be there with you when the next Thanksgiving rolls around. Time has a way of being cruel.

The undercard

As regular readers know, I’ve been tracking the Maryland GOP Chair race as closely as anyone else in the state; perhaps Ann Corcoran of Potomac TEA Party Report was right the other day when she wrote there are some of us who don’t want the campaigning to end!

But there are other offices at stake as well. The Maryland GOP will also be electing three vice-chairs along with a secretary and treasurer when we meet December 11th in Annapolis. Obviously this is important because they, along with the 24 county chairs and state chair, make up the bulk of the Executive Committee.

(According to our by-laws, the secretary and treasurer serve on the Executive Committee but get no vote. The others who are voting members of the Executive Committee include the National Committeeman and National Committeewoman, along with the head of the Maryland Federation of Republican Women. Four other party organizations, including the Maryland College Republicans and Young Republicans, are included as non-voting members. Overall there are 29 voting positions.)

There was a bit of flux in the ranks of the vice-chairs over the last four years, so much so that none of those elected in 2006 currently serve in their positions. Conversely, the secretary and treasurer have served all four years. I’m not aware if Secretary Rex Reed is seeking re-election but I believe Treasurer Chris Rosenthal is.

This is the list of contenders as I have it, with the current incumbent denoted thus (*).

  • 1st Vice-Chair: Moshe Starkman, Diana Waterman
  • 2nd Vice-Chair: Brandon Butler*
  • 3rd Vice-Chair: Brian Griffiths, Meyer Marks, Adol Owen-Williams, Matt Teffeau, Bruce Wesbury*
  • Secretary: John Wafer
  • Treasurer: Chris Rosenthal*, Mark Uncapher

I haven’t quite figured out why 3rd Vice-Chair is so popular, but it is.

Obviously there are some names I know better than others, but most of them have some familiarity to me. What I don’t know is there are any slates involved yet; in the past there have been efforts to elect one slate agreeable to those who really pull the strings (like a former Governor.) While I’m sure the winner of the Chair competition would prefer to work with certain underlings rather than others, we haven’t seen the slate pulled out yet.

It promises to be a busy convention, that’s for sure. Newbies on the Central Committees, consider yourself warned!

Did she keep her promises?

You know, before we pick a new Republican Chair we may want to reflect on what was promised by the old one. This was the video Audrey Scott shot a year ago prior to becoming MDGOP Chair.

So how did she do? Remember, her three main goals were raising money, increasing Republican voter registration, and electing Republicans.

Well, the jury is still out on how much money she really raised because – let’s face it – she got a LOT of help from the national Republican Party. Granted, she may have spearheaded the effort to get that money through charm and hard work, but it’s worth remembering that our state has a friend at the top insofar as the national GOP goes. Since I don’t know just how far the national checkbook opened due to her efforts as opposed to home state pride, I’ll give her a B-plus for fundraising.

Next – increase Republican voter registration. In comparing the actual numbers from October 2009 to October 2010, the GOP indeed saw a registration increase of 2.1 percent. Had it not been for a few dozen voters in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, Audrey would’ve overseen a clean sweep of increases throughout the state. Conversely, Democratic registration was up just 0.89 percent.

But – and this is a big but – unaffiliated voters grew most of all by jumping 10.19 percent. (There is a proviso, though: ‘independent’ voters were no longer counted separately in 2010 and they were shifted to the unaffiliated category. Without them strict unaffiliateds grew 4.9 percent; still that’s faster than the GOP.)

Yet this was a promise kept, so Audrey gets an A there.

The third vow was to elect Republicans, and this was a mixed bag at best.

Obviously we failed to win any statewide office; however we regained the Congressional seat lost two years ago which simply returned us to the status quo of most of the last decade. On a state legislative level it was a wash – we gained six House seats but lost two Senate seats. Since a Senate seat equals three House seats, the percentage changes equal out.

Our biggest gains occurred at the county level, which begs the question of whether credit should go to the state party or to those county organizations which busted their behinds to get local Republicans elected? While it’s anecdotal, the feedback I’ve received about the Victory Centers (including the one in Salisbury) was that they were barely a help to local candidates for state offices and none at all for local county officeseekers (aside from a collection point for signs and literature and a Saturday morning meeting point for lit drops.) The calls placed from the centers mainly benefitted Bob Ehrlich and Andy Harris.

For that promise, I give Audrey a C-minus (and that’s charitable.)

So was her term the success that her supporters (and some of the candidates to succeed her at Chair) think it was?

Remember, near the top of the video Audrey spoke about “collaboration and teamwork” along with “unity.” Perhaps my biggest beef, which was reinforced by watching the video and hearing those words, came from the Maryland GOP’s machinations regarding Rule 11. There was no “collaboration and teamwork” like informing the Central Committees of their intent at a time when they could have had input – most likely they would have had the assent and backing of the group had they simply taken the time to ask.

I do not believe in ‘top-down’ leadership when it comes to party affairs; my philosophy is that I’m no smarter than the voters who elected me. My job is to do my part in promoting the Republican Party, but to be more specific to promote it as a vehicle for limited, Constitutional government. It’s why I happen to agree with much of the TEA Party movement and embrace their involvement in the GOP – to me it’s their natural home.

However, what message did it send for the man at the top of the party’s ticket – who early on received the blessing of becoming the party’s ‘anointed’ candidate months before the primary – to dismiss a fellow Republican governor (although they didn’t serve concurrently she’s still in that fraternity) and TEA Party favorite who happened to believe his opponent was the better choice? I didn’t see Audrey Scott saying that Bob Ehrlich was a good man but wrong to make such a statement about what turned out to be 1/4 of the party (and perhaps a larger proportion of those new GOP voters.) How many of them went back to being unaffiliated after the primary and, more importantly, can we get them back?

While I’m still trying to figure out why I was such a “naughty boy” to her (she didn’t realize I’d been on the Central Committee for four years and thought I’d left), I don’t dislike Audrey Scott. For what she did well as a party chair, I’m grateful.

But I’m not in the cult of personality which paints Audrey as a party savior because I don’t think the success was all hers. A large part of it was from relieving the pent-up pettiness over the actions of her predecessor Jim Pelura (witness the parade of checks upon her election to Chair) while much of the rest was brought about from a movement which stirred when Sarah Palin was named to the McCain ticket, lay dormant for a few months during President Obama’s honeymoon, and blossomed with the advent of the TEA Party.

Indeed, after somehow snatching defeat in this state from the jaws of nationwide victory, we need to be led in a new direction. Let’s not assume that the entirety of the Pelura/Scott administration cleared the path for us to follow in the future.

Done correctly, 2014 could be a banner year for Maryland Republicans – let’s just say it’s a target-rich environment (aside from having no U.S. Senate race that year unless a special election is needed.) And I’m not dismissing our chances of foiling the Democrats’ best-laid plans of Congressional extinction for Free State Republicans in 2012, either.

The right leader can do this by patching together our tattered coalition of conservatives and convincing those moderates to come on over. (You can be the ones taken for granted for awhile – why would you vote against your interests for far-left liberals?) 

Our sole job next month is to pick that leader and a good team to follow him or her. Let’s rebuild this grand coalition forgotten by the leaders of the past and take the fight to our enemies in Government House, both houses of the General Assembly, the sparkling offices of the special interest lobbyists, and the county and local government buildings.

Hunting season on Democrats and their loony liberal ideas has just begun, and there’s no bag limit.

A key endorsement

One of the first big-name endorsements in the MDGOP Chair race came last night.

In a note to his supporters on his Facebook page, Jim Rutledge laid out some of the reasons he supports Maryland Society of Patriots head Sam Hale:

  1. He “is a proven leader at the grassroots, people-to-people level of persuasion.” Jim recounts how Sam founded the Maryland Society of Patriots and that it became a favorite stop for conservative candidates courting votes.
  2. He is “honest and transparent” and gives “straight talk from an intelligent mind.”
  3. He “has a work ethic second to none…his energy is badly needed to move us forward in Maryland.”
  4. He “is an optimist and visionary” who is “not daunted in his passion for turning the tide of freedom” despite living in the liberal enclave of Montgomery County.
  5. He “is a Christian who understands the call to civic activism,” and who “puts his faith into action.”
  6. He “is young and well-educated…youth and energy attract youth and energy.”
  7. Finally, he “is independent from the influences of the Washington, D.C. establishment.”

Truthfully, it’s not surprising Rutledge would place his backing behind a party outsider, as Hale may be the only aspirant to not either have been a 2010 candidate (Amedori, Campbell, Kane, Mooney, Wargotz) or involved with the Maryland GOP in some other fashion (Esteve is head of the Maryland College Republicans and Langer is on the Queen Anne’s County Central Committee.)

I haven’t taken the opportunity to speak to Sam yet, but as I noted yesterday he did an interview for RedState with Matt Newman. Later this week I’m thinking about sending out my own set of questions to see who has the guts to reply – after all, I’m one of the few people who are discussing the issue publicly to actually have some say in the matter.

It’s important to me that I make the best-informed decision I can to advance the conservative principles I believe in. Unlike some party chairmen, I put principle over party as much as I can (granted, it can’t always work that way – I do have some pragmatism.) So, those of you I think are in the running should be on the lookout.

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