For most, the contest to represent the Maryland Republican Party nationally as National Committeewoman has no meaning and is just another example of the “inside baseball” of party politics. But those who are astute should see the parallels between this race and the power struggle within the Republican Party on a national level.
To review, last month current state National Committeewoman (and onetime MDGOP Chair) Joyce Lyons Terhes announced she would not seek another four-year term in the post. To date two contenders have announced their intention to seek election – former YRNF Chairwoman Nicolee Ambrose and former state party Chair Audrey Scott. Anyone who’s paid attention to this space has seen me rake Audrey Scott over the coals for her participation in a rally supporting an increase in the state’s gasoline tax and, secondarily, for locking up the Transportation Trust Fund to prevent it from being raided every time Martin O’Malley needs to balance his budget. (The latter I’m fine with, but not the gas tax increase. Correctly prioritize what we have first.)
Audrey Scott, though, has a lot of backers who don’t mind that misstep with six members of the MDGOP’s executive board, six of the 24 local county Chairs, 24 of 43 Delegates, and 5 of 12 Senators on a list of endorsers Audrey has on her Facebook site devoted to the race. On the other hand, Ambrose has fewer elected officials supporting her (only Delegates Donna Stifler and LeRoy Myers, Senator J.B. Jennings, and U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino have expressed their support for Ambrose) but far more “likes” on her campaign’s Facebook page (143 vs. 17 for Scott.) Perhaps that’s a generational thing, but in any case the votes which will count are coming at the party’s Spring Convention April 27-28 – over three months from now.
(This upcoming state convention will also feature the election of ten Delegates and ten Alternate Delegates to the Republican National Convention. I unsuccessfully ran for this in 2008 but will take a pass in 2012 since I have something far more important to attend to that month and money enough for just one trip. We also elect a National Committeeman but thus far I’m unaware of anyone who will challenge current officeholder Louis Pope.)
So again we have a situation where a group of party regulars and insiders favor one candidate, while those on the periphery of power tend to favor someone else. Since the advent of the TEA Party in 2009, those on the inside have won each time so far (Bob Ehrlich over Brian Murphy is one example) but the margin seems to be getting closer as time goes on. At the last convention, Heather Olsen and I had the majority in challenging the insiders’ usage of Rule 11 in the 2010 campaign but it wasn’t quite enough of a majority to change the bylaws. We haven’t decided yet whether to try again this time.
That’s not to necessarily say that Nicolee Ambrose is the choice of the TEA Party faction of the MDGOP but she has been cast to represent those who aren’t happy with the party’s direction, particularly at a national level. For example, she feels an open primary would be a good idea but has the sense to know it should be an internal decision made by the Central Committee. I happen to think the primary should remain closed, a position which Scott agrees with.
So the narrow target audience now has those pieces of information to work with. But those who think the Maryland Republican Party needs to step up its game should be active, too. The members who sit on the county Central Committees are those you elected to represent your interests at the state level and if you think either Ambrose or Scott would be better suited for the job, by all means have your say in the matter. Personally I can see assets and liabilities with both contenders, but there are a number of factors I’m considering and how they handle key issues matters to me. And I wouldn’t be opposed to additional people jumping into the race, just like I think Louis Pope should have a challenger or two to keep him honest as well.
If activists want to push the party in a more conservative, pro-liberty direction, this convention and the upcoming April 3 primary election will be the times to have your say. After that, you’ll have to wait until this fall when we elect a new slate of party officers – that comes courtesy of a 2011 rule change which shortened the terms of the officers from four to two years, reflecting what the national party does.
So let’s get to work.