Last week before I took my little vacation I came across an article by Meg Tully and Bethany Rodgers in the Frederick News-Post regarding Roscoe Bartlett’s Congressional seat. We already know that, thanks to some serious gerrymandering by Annapolis Democrats, that the seat is no longer a fairly safe Republican one as it had been for the last ten years.
But I bring up the news item because of its last lines:
Voters in the proposed 6th District supported President Barack Obama in the 2008 election by 56.6 percent, according to a Maryland Democratic Party analysis. The Maryland Republican Party found that 57.45 percent voted for Obama in the proposed district.
But Alex Mooney, chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, said his group supports Bartlett.
“We’re definitely 100 percent behind his re-election efforts,” Mooney said.
I am too – if Bartlett wins the primary, of course. However, there are at least three Republicans who have announced they are running against Congressman Bartlett in the 2012 primary: Robert Coblentz, Joseph Krysztoforski, and Dave Wallace. It’s possible one of those gentlemen could garner enough support to oust the incumbent as Andy Harris did here in the First District back in 2008.
Perhaps Mooney was being a little inartistic in his remarks, but when conservatives have seen the party establishment throw their support behind the candidate they perceive as being most electable before the primary, well, that rubs us the wrong way.
Last year we went through a divisive campaign because there were a number of newly politically active conservatives who believed the Maryland Republican Party made a mistake in asking the national party to intercede in a pair of contested primary races on behalf of former governor Bob Ehrlich and First District Congressional candidate Andy Harris. While both were overwhelmingly successful in their primary efforts, the campaign of the former fell flat in the final weeks before the election while Harris succeeded in his second try for Congress.
The insult occurred because party regulars weren’t brought into that conversation. While there was plenty of opportunity to solicit input from those who comprise the party’s local backbone – Central Committee members in the various counties – it was instead, apparently, a unilateral decision among party leaders to ask the national Republican Party to waive Rule 11 and back Ehrlich and Harris. I was upset about this snub, particularly in the governor’s race, and said so at the time. (Bear in mind that was written before we knew the Rule 11 deal had been made.)
So last spring, with the like-minded and able assistance of Heather Olsen of Prince George’s County, we attempted to enact a bylaw change to make sure the Central Committees had a chance for input. Unfortunately, our effort was (intentionally?) buried in a tide of other prospective bylaw changes which were all slated for a convention with a strict time limit in place – we had three hours to go through all the usual reports and then debate the new bylaws.
No question we were disappointed in that outcome, as I tried to advance the discussion along unsuccessfully. But input we received convinced us changes were necessary in the presentation, so this time the package was made into a new section of the bylaws to cover our party’s political neutrality in general. We also added the option of having each county address the issue between conventions.
Yet we ran into another speed bump this time around as the proposed bylaw change was not incorporated into the call to the convention, so many people are unaware of our effort. It was later sent out as a separate package, and since it’s the only piece of new business up for consideration this time I’m operating under the assumption the omission was an honest mistake.
However, go back and look at Mooney’s statement above. It makes me question if this agenda item will make it through the committee to be placed on the floor, since our last one didn’t and the threshold is higher this time. (That’s why I tried to advance it for discussion in the spring.)
So the question comes down to this for those Central Committee members who read here: is the party supposed to exist as a top-down organization giving us marching orders to elect the candidate those at the highest levels believe is good for us, or are we supposed to allow the voters to make that decision and allow the candidates the most level playing field possible?
Over the last few months, the Maryland GOP under Mooney has been relatively successful at staying on message, presenting a conservative counterpoint to the one-party liberal dominance shackling our state. In doing so, we have simply presented our agenda to inform voters that the next time we have a chance to elect our representatives there’s an opportunity to enact a platform of fiscal responsibility, lower taxes, and a smaller regulatory burden on both businesses and the public at large. Or we can stay with the status quo of continually higher taxes, more spending, and cronyism our state now exhibits.
Let’s not throw it away by backing a candidate because the smart people in the establishment think he’s the only one who has a chance to win. Instead, we should let the voters decide who’s best then assist in any way we can. It may not always work, but we should have the principle that we aren’t smarter than those who elect our leaders. To believe otherwise makes us no better than the other guys.
We can put the voters back in charge by supporting the amendment at the convention.