It was a last-ditch effort to garner votes, and we’ll see how much it helps next Tuesday night. But U.S. Senate candidate Richard Douglas was introduced to the Wicomico County Republican Club and was rather well-received.
Of course we did our usual bit of club business, reciting the Lord’s Prayer and Pledge of Allegiance before I read a rather lengthy accounting of the February meeting. We even had a hiccup in the treasurer’s report that I pointed out. But none of it dissuaded the Republican who boldly proclaimed for his opening, “I’m here because I want to beat Ben Cardin.”
To illustrate his point, Douglas took us back about three decades. When he left the Navy in 1979, he took his GI Bill benefits and enrolled at the University of South Florida where a professor told him the Soviet Union would be eternal and America would have to learn to live with it. Well, we saw how that turned out, and while there are those in Annapolis who would have us believe that one-party rule in Maryland is eternal as well, that’s not necessarily so.
Rich compared Ben Cardin to a brick in a wall – as the mortar is wearing away, soon the brick would drop from the wall and the remainder of the house would follow. And Douglas wasn’t going to be timid in his role, either, warning “Martin O’Malley is going to be one unhappy fella” when Rich wins. “(He’ll) wish he’d never heard my name,” continued Douglas, because he has a “duty to speak” as a Senator. Douglas promised to be our voice and vote in the Senate.
Drawing upon his experience as a staffer for the late Sen. Jesse Helms, Rich noted that the Senate behind closed doors “is not pretty.” But he pointed out one of the endorsements he had was a sitting Senator, Mark Kirk of Illinois. However, he concluded his initial remarks by saying “the endorsement I want is yours.” He also vowed to ask Ben Cardin the questions no one else does after he wins the primary.
One other key point Douglas made was saying that he would serve no more than two terms, contrasting himself to the lifetime politician Ben Cardin has become.
Opening the floor to questions, Rich was asked if any of the Democrats running against Cardin could beat him. Sure, there was a “remote” chance, said Douglas, but the early Cardin endorsements by the Washington Post and President Obama were a sign of “weakness” in the general election, Rich assessed.
He remained in an anti-incumbent mode when asked the next question about our $15 trillion deficit. The problem in Washington was that self-interest came first, followed closely by party interest and then maybe the country’s interests. “One person can make a difference in the Senate,” said Douglas, but there was a “lack of will” to face the deficit.
In fact, Rich revealed that it was the debt ceiling debacle last August which drove him into the race. “Actions speak louder than words,” said Douglas. The duty of a Senator is to try to find ways to generate jobs and create options, removing obstacles to success, opined Rich. We had a great economy for a number of decades, and that prosperity masked the problems we’re now having to face today.
When asked if he drew any lessons from Senator Helms, Rich answered that “the guy had principle (and) resolve.” He was the leader who took the arrows, Rich continued, and there was nothing wrong with being divisive. We have to draw a line someplace. Current Senators he admired were Mark Kirk, Jim DeMint, and Marco Rubio, although he also had kind words for John McCain, a “terrific member” of the Senate. “If you can work across party lines, do it.”
It was no surprise that he was asked about his position on Obamacare, which Rich believed could rightfully be named after Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid – all Obama did was sign it, intoned Douglas. To him, the individual mandate was unconstitutional but the question before the Supreme Court would be whether Congress overstepped its interstate commerce power. Douglas believed it did, but was convinced that a truly conservative SCOTUS would pass the buck back to Congress to resolve. As it was, Douglas thought the Senate was the “last line of defense” against the executive branch and we had to be mindful of the two branches working too closely together.
Before I finish with Richard Douglas, I want to thank him for running a campaign where he focused on the opponent he will have instead of trying to destroy the opponents he does have. If he doesn’t win this time around, he’s positioned himself well for a future run should he choose to do so and he hasn’t poisoned the well for the others.
After the officers present were sworn in by county Chair Dave Parker, he gave the Central Committee report. It focused on the upcoming primary, where he encouraged us to vote for the people running and not necessarily the candidate next to their name, and our upcoming state convention which will feature elections for National Committeeman and National Committeewoman.
Dave also decried the maintenance of effort bill which has passed the General Assembly. (I guess instead of Norm Conway’s monoblogue nickname being “Five Dollar” I should begin calling him Norm “14 Million Dollar” Conway. That’s what he just cost the county.) Parker also slammed the two-year-old Obamacare bill, saying the “everything (we were told about it) was a lie.”
One other housekeeping note for the fall: we will need to find a new location for our headquarters, since the old one is being torn down to make way for a pharmacy.
Shawn Jester gave an Andy Harris report, commenting on a bill recently passed by the House allowing further development at Wallops Island, Virginia. And once we got the announcements that a WCRC scholarship was edging towards reality, we had picked up well over 100 voters on the Democrats in the last month, and early voting had been “very light,” I made the meeting interesting.
One thing touched on during the January meeting was a comment that, despite a 6-1 majority on County Council, the Republicans weren’t performing like a body that dominated by a conservative party should. What I was interested in was how far the WCRC wanted to go in terms of being more issue-oriented and it seemed like the mood of the club was that they had been there and done that, to the detriment of membership.
Well, if I can put on my editorial hat for a few moments, it didn’t look like we had all that much to lose. I was somewhat embarrassed by the smaller-than-normal turnout for a leading U.S. Senate candidate. And the fact there was a competing event is sort of telling because they are being activists and the WCRC maybe not so much. Now I could be way off base, but I would seem to think that a Republican club in a county similar to ours should draw at least twice as many for a monthly meeting regardless of the speaker. Perhaps what we need to do is find out what other, seemingly more successful clubs are doing to bring people to the meetings.
It’s just like economics – if we don’t grow, we die. I’d prefer not to be among those standing around lamenting what happened to the Wicomico County Republican Club.
I don’t have to be the most popular person at the next club function, but I think things may need a little bit of shaking up. In the meantime, I’d like to thank Richard Douglas for adding his perspective to our meeting.