On Friday evening I, along with a number of other Maryland political bloggers, was invited to a confab with current Harford County Executive and likely 2014 statewide candidate David Craig.
Now unlike a lot of events, I chose beforehand not to provide a blow-by-blow account of the proceedings. I intentionally didn’t bring a notepad because I figured there weren’t going to be a lot of detailed questions or answers. I was sort of wrong, but that’s okay – why should I write the same thing four or five others may write? So what you’ll read are my observations of the evening, with a few pertinent items tossed in from memory.
Let me begin with a roster of the other bloggers who attended – there were six of us. I was told that there were about a dozen or so invited, but the list of non-attendees seems to be guarded like a state secret. And that’s fine, because I was just curious when I asked.
Besides yours truly, those who came in to Annapolis for dinner and conversation were Greg Kline and Brian Griffiths from Red Maryland, Bryan Sears and Brad Gerick from Patch.com, and Richard Cross, who does Cross Purposes. (He beat me to the punch with his thoughts on the evening.) It was a cordial conference with Craig and four of his staffers, and the conversations were broad in scope and depth around various parts of the table.
Besides dinner, we all received a party favor: the picture you see at the opening of the article comes from a flash drive Craig provided with his 2014 logo on the outside and various photos, background information, and news articles on the inside. Obviously it will be more useful once the 2012 election is over and Craig decides on whether he’ll seek the post of Governor, Comptroller, or Congressman – if I were a betting man I’d say that in rank order it’s about a 70-25-5 probability for which office he’ll run (the 70% being Governor.)
It was interesting how my fellow bloggers handled the evening. Sears (and to a lesser extent Gerick) treated this like an interview, asking pointed questions of the candidate about a number of statewide issues. Obviously Cross was taking some notes as well, while Kline and I did more listening. (Brian Griffiths came late since the Maryland GOP Executive Committee meeting was held down the street simultaneously to our gathering and he was representing the Maryland Young Republicans there.)
It’s funny that much of my direct conversation with Craig came when we talked about – baseball. He’s obviously familiar with the struggles of the O’s minor league system since the Aberdeen IronBirds play in his county and he could relate to my feelings about the Shorebirds. On the other hand, I wasn’t enthused about his ideas for league realignment but liked his stance on the designated hitter – indeed, it needs to go.
But on a political front, we all agreed that 2014 will be an interesting election because so many Democrats will believe it’s their turn for the brass ring. On the other side, there’s surely a number of Republicans who would like to get beyond the era of Ehrlich and position themselves for statewide office. As we build a farm team of local candidates to move up to state offices such as Delegate and Senator, those who know the ropes of Annapolis could believe it’s safe for them to attempt to move up. Obviously 2014 isn’t a year one can run from the cover of elective office, but with forty new local GOP elected officials coming on board in 2010 perhaps those in state elected office could feel safer knowing their seat could stay in Republican hands. And there’s always the specter of redistricting to consider, as some Republicans placed into districts with other GOP stalwarts decide it’s time to try for something larger than a House of Delegates or State Senate seat.
One advantage Craig might have over many of the other prospective candidates is executive experience, as he is one of the two Republican county executives in Maryland. (The other is John Leopold of Anne Arundel County, who has also been mentioned from time to time as a prospective statewide candidate.) As we saw in 2010, there remains a dearth of GOP candidates who can run successfully at a statewide level and the jury remains out as to whether Brian Murphy will take another shot at being governor or Bill Campbell (2010 GOP Comptroller candidate) would be willing to try it again.
Yet the questions must be asked: why bloggers and why now? In all the conversation, I don’t recall anyone directly asking why we were invited to a “Burgers and Bloggers” event. But one has to assume the Craig campaign has learned from countless Republican statewide efforts that the dominant media probably isn’t going to give a Maryland Republican much of a fair shake. Those in the mainstream media don’t seem to be curious, for example, about Doug Gansler’s refusal to enforce part of Maryland law (which led to an ill-fated impeachment attempt) or why Peter Franchot seems to be portraying himself as a fiscal watchdog after years of free spending in the Maryland General Assembly. But people like us are.
And since David Craig is term-limited out of his job, this is a good time to build name recognition among people who might not know him very well. I’ve heard him talk on a number of occasions but this was the first time I got to sit down and have a beer with him, so to speak.
I’ll do a hypothetical situation here that may not be so far-fetched. We know that many statewide media outlets use the internet as their “ear to the ground,” allowing bloggers to lead them to stories they may later choose to follow up on. Assuming Craig has learned the value of bloggers and social media, he can use us to either plant the seed for later digestion in the mainstream media or bypass the typical media channels altogether, speaking directly to supporters and motivating them to action through blogs and social media. Barack Obama won a presidency this way, although the partisan media helped him immensely by not probing deeply into his past dealings.
So the seed is planted, and it will lay mostly dormant until after the 2012 election. Given the fact one of David’s sidelines is running a campaign school it appears he’s learned a number of lessons well himself.