MDGOP 2012 Spring Convention in pictures and text (part 2)

If you want to read part 1 first, here you go.

It was a cloudier morning once we got underway Saturday. Just as an observation, though, I’ve always wondered why we put all these signs out front of our convention site when it should be presumed we would be voting for the candidates.

I suppose this is helpful to those who come in the morning to find the location for the convention.

For those of us who stayed overnight and chose the option, however, we were treated to a hearty breakfast and, after Harford County Executive (and “unofficially official” candidate for Governor in 2014) David Craig exhorted us to “be unified” we heard former state MDGOP official John Gibson, who now works as the regional political director of the Northeast Region of the RNC, discuss the “Path to 270.”

Gibson contended that President Obama has fewer paths to 270 than he did in 2008, when the “issues matrix was in their favor.” As examples, John believed President Obama couldn’t count on states where the Democrats were boldly saying they had a shot, like Georgia or Arizona.

Instead, with job approval numbers plummeting among a number of key demographics, President Obama is stuck having to secure his base instead of trying to get new voters. Just watch where he travels, said Gibson.

Among states Obama won last time, Indiana is already conceded to be “out of reach.” Other states which could come into play after Obama wins in 2008: North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

After attending an interesting seminar on petitioning techniques and social media, I walked over to the convention hall to get this shot. Little did we know that some hours later passions would be high in that room.

But first we began the convention session with a welcome from Calvert County Chair Frank McCabe and a series of reports, beginning with Senator J.B. Jennings.

You’ll notice my county was in the back of the hall, so the convention hall pictures will be few and far between.

But Senator Jennings walked us through his description of the session, noting that the budget wasn’t completed on time and recounting the final hours before sine die. While Speaker Mike Busch couldn’t get the House to extend its session and Senate President Mike Miller was trying to reach agreements on a budget, the Senate GOP took the opportunity to filibuster the tax bills. Still, the budget is $700 million more than it was last year, said Jennings, and “it’s not a doomsday.”

We were also alerted to the possibility of a Special Session the week of May 14, so we should “keep the heat up” on Democrats, said Senator Jennings.

Delegate Tony O’Donnell contended Democrats “dropped the ball big time.” It was a wonderful thing to behold, he continued, especially because Democrats couldn’t count on gaming bill votes from Republicans in the House.

O’Donnell urged us to “make (the Democrats) pay a very high political price” and called 2012 a “great opportunity to change the dynamic in this state.”

After Chair Alex Mooney essentially repeated his statements from the night before, we received the National Committeewoman’s report from an emotional Joyce Lyons Terhes, who reflected on her enjoyment of almost 30 years of working with the Maryland Republican Party – not that she was really going anywhere. She had simply followed through on her vow to serve just two terms as National Committeewoman and would take on new challenges.

And she’d lost none of her passion at the stump, telling us “we are going to get rid of Barack Obama.” If Maryland can do it, she said, so can the rest of the nation.

Louis Pope called Joyce a “friend, mentor, (and) shining example” in opening his National Committeeman report. The RNC is in “good shape,” said Pope, and he asserted his belief “we are technologically ahead of the Democrats.”

In somewhat of a pitch for re-election, he also informed us that his job is to “bring resources to Maryland.” Regarding this fall’s campaign, he hoped the media underestimates Mitt Romney.

Our final morning speaker was a bit of a surprise, but Congressman Andy Harris told us that “any time out of Washington is good” to him. Warning us that “the end is not on sight on this recession,” Harris opined that “all the issues are on our side” this election.

Delving into the energy issue, Harris blasted the idea of subsidizing wind energy, saying it’s not viable without subsidies. On the other hand, “we can be energy independent in 12 years if this President would have a real energy policy.”

“We have got to take America back,” said Andy.

Nor was he sparing criticism of state government. Harris predicted that once Martin O’Malley is through with his last term, people will be “ready for a new day…Marylanders will be sick and tired of what’s happening in Annapolis by 2014,” Harris concluded.

We began working on bylaw changes at this point, and completed two of the four proposed by voice vote – with a few scattered opposition shouts – before breaking for lunch. The MDGOP now officially has a Bylaws Committee to take care of a year-old oversight and allowed proxies to come from anywhere in a county rather than having to be in the same legislative district as the absent member.

The master of ceremonies for our luncheon was Frederick County commissioner and talk radio host Blaine Young. In his opening remarks, he contended “I don’t think the economy is getting any better” and gave us a quick rundown of how he got to where he is as a former Democrat.

He then presided over our annual awards, with the following winners:

  • Charles Carroll Award (Republican Man of the Year): Neil Parrott
  • Belva Lockwood Award (Republican Woman of the Year): Ella Ennis
  • William Paca Award (Republican Youth of the Year): Matt Proud
  • Aris Allen Award (Voter Registration): St. Mary’s County
  • Samuel Chase Award (Outstanding County): Howard County

Our keynote speaker was Dan Bongino, who Young glowingly referred to as a man whose word has value.

Bongino began by noting that the concepts of “establishment” and “anti-establishment” are “all buzzwords.”

“If you want labels, join the Democrats,” said Dan, “We believe in ideas (and) labels only serve to divide us.” And division was part of the Obama strategy because “they’re devoid of ideas,” Bongino said. For our part, “we won the battle of ideas long ago,” Bongino stated.

A lot of Dan’s remarks spoke about the perception of fairness. We needed to embrace that debate, he believed, and while we should “respect the political genius” of Martin O’Malley and Barack Obama, Bongino was passionate about the educational system. He thought his daughter’s (public) school was great, but those kids in inner-city Baltimore and Prince George’s County deserve a shot as well. They are our kids, too, said Bongino.

Dan also criticized educational priorities. “Forget about environmental literacy – let’s be literate first,” he stated. Teachers are working in a “flawed system,” said Dan. Democrats “sold kids out to special interests long ago.”

In the end, though, Bongino believed “our state is worth saving.”

“It’s our fight…against an ideology which will destroy the very fabric of the country,” concluded Dan.

We also heard from several of the eight Congressional candidates.

Andy Harris believed the state wanted him to be the “last Republican standing.”

Eric Knowles, who’s running against John Sarbanes, made a good accounting of himself. The bartender believed he may be the least wealthy person running but made the case “I want to get this by the sweat of my labor.” We are part of the three percent who fight the battles, said Eric.

Faith Loudon noted her 4:1 registration disadvantage but was “figuring on an army of 76,000 Republicans” come November. “We are in a war.”

Similarly, Tony O’Donnell noted “we have a big challenge ahead of us…but it can be done.” Steny Hoyer is not invincible, in part because he’s no different than Nancy Pelosi.

Once lunch was done, we came back for the afternoon session and the two key votes. First, though, we had to wrap up business on the proposed bylaw changes. One dealing with proxies was remanded to the newly-formed Bylaws Committee after a contentious amendment to the proposal was introduced, and the other, which added conviction of a felony to the list of reasons for dismissal from a Central Committee, passed without objection.

I am quite aware, though, that this is the part you were waiting for.

The procedure for nomination and election of both the National Committeewoman and National Committeeman is as follows: a brief nominating speech, followed by two seconding speeches (about a minute per), and then remarks from the nominee.

Personally, I thought the nominating and first seconding speech by Ambrose’s supporters were a little bit weak and not really as well-received as they should have been. Dave Parker’s wrapup seconding remarks were nicely pointed, giving respect to Audrey’s role in the party but stressing it was time for a change.

I didn’t take a lot of notes for the remarks because I was sitting on pins and needles, but Nicolee hit on the themes of her campaign in terms of building the party.

The same order of presentation was set for Audrey Scott, and she had some heavy hitters on her side. Outgoing NCW Joyce Lyons Terhes introduced her, and state Party Treasurer Chris Rosenthal provided the initial seconding speech.

But it was the final one that riled the crowd up, when the very young man giving it made the remark that we should not “send a girl to do a woman’s job.” I didn’t hear the next 10 to 15 seconds of his speech over the boos and catcalls that remark provided. In truth, that probably lost Audrey a few votes.

And one thing I noticed about Audrey’s speech was that she finally claimed to have only raised a million dollars, which is relatively close to the truth. Audrey backed off her $2.5 million claim – wonder why?

(Honestly, if she didn’t feel the heat that the questioning of her financial claim provided, don’t you think she’d have continued to state the $1.5 million and $1 million Victory 2010 figures?)

Finally, it was time to vote. When Heather Olsen asked me my gut feeling I thought it would be inside 60-40 but wasn’t sure the vote would go the right way. Perhaps it was based on the loud, boisterous group of Audrey supporters right behind me. But once the voting began I started feeling better.

I’ll list the counties each contestant won:

  • Ambrose: Anne Arundel, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Carroll, Dorchester, Frederick (unanimous), Montgomery, Washington (unanimous), Wicomico, Worcester. We in Wicomico voted 6-3 for Nicolee.
  • Scott: Calvert, Caroline (unanimous), Cecil, Charles, Garrett, Howard, Kent, Queen Anne’s (unanimous), Somerset, St. Mary’s (unanimous), Talbot (unanimous).

The vote was evenly split in Allegany, Harford, and Prince George’s. So Ambrose generally won the center of the state, the western section, and the lower Eastern Shore while Scott heavily carried the upper Eastern Shore and southern Maryland. This can be somewhat explained by Scott residing on the upper Shore and the influence of Terhes on southern Maryland. On the other hand, many of Nicolee’s candidate endorsements came from those who live in the areas she won.

In fact, Scott led in terms of actual votes cast (as opposed to the weighted system we use) until the last two counties reported – they were Baltimore County (won by Ambrose 21-7) and Montgomery (Ambrose 32-15.) In terms of votes cast, Ambrose won 143-123 with a couple abstentions and that translates to a 286-247 total under our system.

I’m going to come back to the Ambrose-Scott race, but I also wanted to report that Louis Pope won re-election handily in a far less controversial nomination and election process. By my tally Pope won the body count 225 to 45, so the weighted vote was probably just as overwhelming. Scott Shaffer only carried his home county of Anne Arundel and Worcester County, while tying in Harford County.

I think Shaffer’s biggest mistake was not getting out and campaigning around the state. We never saw him in our county, and although I disagreed with him on a couple key issues I think what did him in was not knowing the time and money investment which seems to be required to win this contest.

Similarly, those who put a lot more time and effort into winning Delegate and Alternate Delegate seats (or had plenty of name recognition) tended to prevail. In the Delegate race, nine of the ten on the so-called “Maryland for Romney Unity Slate” prevailed, as did six of the ten Alternates. But the one Unity Slate Delegate shut out: Lawrence Scott, son of Audrey Scott. It’s been a tough month for that family. State Delegate Michael Smigiel from the Eastern Shore got in instead. Non-slate Alternates who made it: O.P. Ditch, Jerry Walker, Deborah Rey, and James Calderwood placed fifth, eighth, ninth, and tenth, respectively. Aside from Calderwood, the other three all approached me to seek my vote so they aggressively pressed the flesh and won. (I voted for two of the three who took a few moments to ask.)

I know I’ve gone a long way already on the Ambrose-Scott race over the last couple months, but I want to share something I said to Nicolee – it’s not exact, but paraphrased. I told her that now I expect her not to fudge financial figures or disparage candidates over the next four years or she can expect me to come after her. In fact, Nicolee has an ambitious agenda that I would accept no less than for her to carry out.

Believe it or not, I don’t embrace change just for change’s sake. When you have nothing, though, you have nothing to lose. Despite Audrey Scott’s best efforts in 2010, we got no statewide offices, simply returned to where we were four years earlier insofar as the House of Delegates goes, and lost seats in the State Senate. Yes, the party did better financially but it didn’t do the job where it counts and that’s putting Republicans in the seats of power on a state-level basis.

Instead, we on the local level stepped up our game – without a lot of state help – and elected Republicans to perhaps be the farm team for future runs. But while Audrey counted on the past to give her the NCW position, there are some of us who wished to “progress forward,” as the snazzy Ambrose signs read.

It’s my fervent hope, though, that we channel the passion we placed into the NCW race in a different direction: to take the fight to the Democrats. Now I think we’ve sent the message that youth (like the young political consultant Kristin Shields of Purple Elephant Politics pictured below) will finally be served.

But the Ambrose win, guided by my friend and occasional partner in crime Heather Olsen, was not the only reason I left Solomons Island with a smile on my face and perhaps a joyful tear in my eye from the emotion of the day.

In the midst of all the hubbub of electing national convention Delegates, a process which took an absurdly long time because of a county which shall remain nameless, I approached my County Chair with a request, one that he granted. And since he was not elected as a Delegate to the National Convention, I put into place the next best thing.

When the counties of our Congressional district got together to nominate an elector from the First District, four names were placed into nomination and three gave speeches. Unbeknownst to me – although I realized later he had a previous engagement – the fourth person had left the premises.

Yet the man I nominated won. I’m pleased to tell you that it was the least honor I could give him, but our County Chair Dave Parker will be the Republican elector from the First District. I was told he won in a landslide, and he was as shocked as anyone when I called him with the news. It’s just more incentive to carry Maryland for Mitt Romney, just so he can enjoy the honor of being an elector.

Now THAT is how a convention should go!

MDGOP 2012 Spring Convention in pictures and text (part 1)

A fountain at the Solomons Island Holiday Inn, where the convention was held.

We descended on the lovely village of Solomons Island this weekend to hold our Spring Convention. Because it was such an action-packed two days I’m breaking this post into two parts: one dealing with the events of Friday night and the other (for tomorrow) describing Saturday’s action. (Always leave them wanting more.)

The Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary's County welcoming reception.

First on the agenda was a Welcome Reception sponsored by the three Southern Maryland county Republican parties. In the photo on the right (in the light blue) is retiring National Committeewoman Joyce Lyons Terhes, whose retirement was the impetus in placing the convention there. Although it’s a long haul around the Chesapeake Bay for us on the Lower Shore, I suppose that’s payback for making them come to Ocean City two years in a row.

Larry Hogan with his Change Maryland cake.

Also getting an early start on the proceedings was Larry Hogan, who was celebrating the first year of his group Change Maryland. Funny story: if you look at the cake Larry is pointing at, you’ll notice that there’s a mistake as the cake came with an extra zero. I call it optimism on the part of the baker, and while Change Maryland now has 12,000 members 120,000 is an admirable goal for next year.

David Craig's table.

Hogan has often been mentioned as a 2014 gubernatorial candidate because he made an abortive run in 2010 until Bob Ehrlich made up his mind. But the “unofficially officially in” David Craig had his own table as well, and was also a sponsor of the entire convention. No doubt he’s been laying the groundwork of a run for quite a long time.

Another key element of the convention was the two petition drives, both same-sex marriage and redistricting. I didn’t manage to get a photo of him, but rest assured Robert Broadus of Protect Marriage Maryland was among those collecting signatures in favor of that referendum. Yet it seemed there was more of an “official” push to have the redistricting referendum signed. (I will have an interesting backstory on this involving one candidate later on this week.) So I added my name to the redistricting petition.

A map of Maryland gerrymandering.

Of course, there were other vendors as well. The rear guard effort continues.

But it wasn’t apparent in that evening’s Executive Committee meeting. And while party treasurer Chris Rosenthal opened up the meat of the business portion of the meeting by conceding 2011 “wasn’t that great of a year” for fundraising, he brightened up the room by announcing we were “back on the right track” for 2012.

Included in that optimism was a newly created endowment in honor of the retiring Joyce Lyons Terhes, a fund that Audrey Scott announced the creation of and initial funding for during the meeting.

In his report, Party Chair Alex Mooney expressed disappointment in the 2011 financial statement as well, stating “I accept responsibility…we didn’t do as well as I’d like.” But he’s “working hard” on getting the party out of debt and brought up the fiscal importance of this year’s Red, White, and Blue Dinner which will feature GOP political guru Karl Rove. “We need this to be a successful event,” said Mooney.

He also said there’s “no room for dissent” now that the primary is over.

A better financial tale was told by National Committeeman Louis Pope, who said the Republican National Committee is in “great shape” financially for the fall campaign, well on their way to their fundraising goals.

Those of us among the spectators – which included nearly all the Wicomico County delegation, unique among counties – also heard a number of other reports. Perhaps the most important among them was the Maryland GOP Hispanic Coalition report, where Linda Hernandez made the case that the Latino vote is “essential” to turn Maryland around.

Our County Chair, Dave Parker, was also head of the Credentials Committee, and he gave a fairly lengthy and detailed explanation of the balloting which would take place the next day for Delegate and Alternate Delegate candidates for the national convention. With nearly 80 hopefuls vying for the 20 spots, it was a complex process to gather all the information.

The final report was given by MDGOP Executive Director David Ferguson, who said we were “moving in the right direction” and need to “run the party like a business.” Fair enough, but he also had five priorities for the state party: an effective message, recruiting candidates, a permanent professional infrastructure, utilizing the referendum process as a check on Democratic power, and providing good customer service for local party units. He also had unkind words for Martin O’Malley and noted “Maryland is a GOP state at the local level.” (Apparently this is true, as we have a majority of local seats.)

We also learned during the meeting that the next convention will be held in Western Maryland – it would have been their turn this time had Joyce Lyons Terhes not announced her retirement.

But the Executive Committee meeting isn’t what those who come to the event a day early generally seek out. They come to be social, and those who have a political agenda know this. For example, three of the four National Committee candidates had hospitality suites – Committeeman hopeful Scott Shaffer was the exception.

Louis Pope's suite sign.

Audrey Scott's suite sign.

Nice use of a lapel sticker by the Pope campaign, by the way. I did go to his suite but didn’t think I’d be too welcome in Audrey’s so I skipped it.

I made it a point to stop by this young lady’s space, though. Nicolee Ambrose had one of the more exuberant parties I attended.

Nicolee Ambrose talks to a possible supporter.

Inside the suite, of course, you had signage for Nicolee’s bid. But there were a lot of other items there as well, as this table demonstrates.

A table full of items in the Ambrose suite.

And there’s a larger point as well. If you go back to Audrey’s sign two photos above, you’ll notice Nancy Jacobs is among those endorsing Scott. But Ambrose had plenty of space to put her items out in the interest of helping the Jacobs campaign.

I also found this guy there.

U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino.

As I’ll detail tomorrow, Dan Bongino gave a great accounting for himself at our luncheon. But he was holding court in Nicolee’s suite when I arrived.

This was just a great picture someone taped up in Nicolee’s suite bathroom.

Ben Cardin - a closet Bongino supporter?

Next up was one of the more interesting conversations I had, with Eighth District Congressional candidate Ken Timmerman.

Ken Timmerman for Congress sign.

I confessed to him that his was one of the races I predicted incorrectly, believing that having three Montgomery County residents in the primary would split the vote enough to have him finish second. But he advised me to follow the money – since his MoCo opponents had very little – and noted the political geography of his district was more neutral toward opponent Dave Wallace than I thought.

It was a good give-and-take with the accomplished author, who posed with some of the books he was selling. Bet you could have had one autographed!

U.S. Congress candidate Ken Timmerman.

And sometimes it’s not about having the suite, but being seen. Two of these ladies are attempting to build a political name for themselves in the consulting field, so they were circulating among the rooms.

Two of the three behind Purple Elephant Politics - Kristin Shields (center) and Hillary Pennington (right).

With Norma Secoura on the left, Kristin Shields (center) and Hillary Pennington (right) are two of the three behind Purple Elephant Politics, an “exclusive political networking group” which is attempting to stomp its way into the political fray through a number of outlets. They were among Nicolee Ambrose’s biggest backers.

And while I’m not exactly old, I agree that it’s time for a new generation of leaders to begin to emerge so it was good to see their involvement and interest. (They really were doing more than drinking margaritas.) As you’ll see in tomorrow’s installment, though, youth had a tough time being served.

Weekend of local rock volume 47

April 28, 2012 · Posted in Delmarva items, Local Music · Comments Off on Weekend of local rock volume 47 

It’s not meant to be exhaustive, but I decided the couple bands I shot at Pork in the Park were worth a post. Can’t do politics every day.

First up was a band called Anything Goes, which was playing when we arrived. To be honest, we did quite a bit of our walking around and photography while these guys were playing, so I wasn’t hanging on every song they played.

Having said that there were a couple songs which perked my interest, including some old Pat Benatar and their versions of current hits.

But once I recalled these guys were coming next, I knew it was time to go get my dinner and find a place close by where we could listen.

Smokin’ Gunnz is a veteran of several local festivals, and the reason they keep being invited back is that there’s a wide audience here for what they like to play: Southern rock.

And they put on a good show, with the unusual lead singing drummer Bob Morris.

These guitarists made for a hammering combination, Mike Brady and Terry Sherry, respectively. I always liked how Sherry plays.

Kim was more partial to this guy, guitarist Chris Della Porta.

Here’s a rock n’ roll veteran. According to the band’s bio, Brady has been playing in bands for nearly forty years.

Once the Gunnz wrapped up the show with some Lynard Skynard, those listening went nuts.

Smokin’ Gunnz hails from Pennsylvania, so they’re not necessarily considered local rock. But they play down this way several times a year – not just at Wicomico County shows, but in other venues as well. Most of their upcoming shows are in their home area but they will be following the bikers in for Delmarva Bike Week later this summer as they have done for the last couple years.

It’s worth mentioning as well that we didn’t stick around for the two headlining acts, although I’m not sure if the show went on anyway because the heavy rain which ruined Sunday at the event started later that evening. One was a Blues Brothers tribute called Briefcase Blues, while the other, Tuesday’s Gone, devoted their show to the aforementioned Lynard Skynard.

Unfortunately, those who run Pork in the Park haven’t returned to an event I liked because there’s no rock station sponsoring it anymore. Instead, they did it as a country show for Friday night and sorry, I don’t do weekend of local country.

But maybe if they can find a bigger locale they can go to a two-stage setup like the Good Beer Festival had last year. It’s another idea for that hopper.

Pork in the Park: the other side

April 27, 2012 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Personal stuff · Comments Off on Pork in the Park: the other side 

If you hadn’t noticed, I’m taking a couple days off from politics here. Part of this is the simple fact I’m up at the GOP Spring Convention and the computer will stay home. I had issues the last time I took my laptop away so better to be safe than sorry – I will have my camera and notebook, so don’t assume I won’t be busy.

Yesterday I moderated a comment on my Pork in the Park coverage from last weekend, which started a brief exchange. It wasn’t the glowing commentary I usually hear about the event, but I’m sad to say the guy had a point. I happened to find an extended version of the comments on a foodie blog this gentleman, Ralph Rossi, runs.

His contention was that the festival is beginning to become a victim of its own success because the food vendors are so spread out. Some in the food court placed in its traditional location did relatively well, while the others relegated to the stone parking lot struggled to make their rent. Now I can understand where it would be a problem to have rib vendors stacked up on top of each other considering the traffic they can create with the popularity of their items, but I hate to hear anyone having a bad experience at such an event. Even if there’s rain in the forecast, no one should feel the need to cut their losses and leave the day before the scheduled end.

According to the official Pork in the Park website, this year there were over 35 food vendors with just about half featuring barbecue or pit beef. Add to that space for other non-food vendors, the competitors, the stage and picnic area, and the other features and it’s enough to almost make you wonder if they’re ready to outgrow WinterPlace Park.

On a personal level, when I first heard of Pork in the Park I compared it to an event I was more familiar with in my hometown. Originally held along the riverfront in downtown Toledo, the Northwest Ohio Rib-Off was an event more geared for retail sale than competition – over 20 vendors would be serving and it was a challenge to try them all during the three-day event. So only having a handful of rib sellers threw me for a loop the first time I came to Pork in the Park in 2005.

Now I’m not sure what prompted the Toledo event to relocate to suburban Maumee, but it’s now held at the county fairgrounds and that location has advantages: the former ballpark for the Toledo Mud Hens is still there, providing a grandstand for concerts and events – Ted Nugent was the featured performer there last year. There’s also plenty of parking, an adequate amount of open space, and the location is suited for traffic to come and go since it was once a baseball stadium.

Returning to our festival, it looks like Pork in the Park has moved up in stature to have nearly 20 rib sellers (plus a whole lot of other food offerings) so perhaps it’s time to upgrade the facilities as well. Unfortunately the county doesn’t have a space available to it such as Toledo does, but there are some possibilities which intrigue me.

One possibility would be to do a short-term lease (for a week or so) of the vacant parcels of land adjacent to Perdue Stadium. Obviously there’s plenty of parking there if the Shorebirds are away, not to mention the grandstand for entertainment, and if the Shorebirds happen to be home there’s always the possibility to reverse the idea the county has had the last couple years of using the Perdue Stadium parking lot for a shuttle stop for Pork in the Park by using WinterPlace Park as parking. They would also need to close the portion of the northbound U.S. 13 off-ramp which leads to Hobbs Road, but that would be a manageable closing for a weekend.

Another thought would be to use a combination of county-owned facilities which are adjacent to each other: the Civic Center, the parking lot across Glen Avenue, and Wicomico County Stadium. Since we already close Glen Avenue for certain Civic Center events the traffic interruption wouldn’t be unusual. Additional space could come from the land formerly occupied by the demolished Salisbury Mall. The beer garden would have to be across the road from the Civic Center but aside from that there’s the advantage of having indoor facilities in case of rain.

If they’re not planning on moving – and obviously there’s the familiarity of the locale since all nine Pork in the Park renditions have been held at WinterPlace – I think they need to devote more thought to perhaps using the side of the facility where the Equestrian Center sits for the competition side and opening up the side of the park where competitors are now placed to become a long, linear food court.

Whatever the best solution is, the time to think about it is now. With the 10th anniversary coming up next year, the crowds may be bigger than ever. I don’t like people to leave our little corner of the world unhappy (well, unless they are playing the Shorebirds) and reading Ralph Rossi’s complaints made me feel like perhaps changes are necessary to assure the event continues to prosper and help our area tourism economy.

Shorebird of the Week – April 26, 2012

April 26, 2012 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on Shorebird of the Week – April 26, 2012 

For all but three games, John Ruettiger‘s brief 40-game professional career has been spent at Delmarva.

One of the few bright spots from a wretched second half of 2011 where the Shorebirds staggered home with a 20-50 record and a 14-game losing streak, the Illinois native and product of Arizona State University has a pretty famous uncle named Rudy but is trying to establish his own name in a different sport.

And the Orioles are noticing, as the younger Ruettiger went 4-for-11 in 12 spring training games with the big club. Perhaps they’ve seen the fact that John is sporting a .316/0/15/.771 OPS in his 37 games with Delmarva dating back to last year. And since Ruettiger won’t turn 22 until after this season, he’s at a professional level which is probably appropriate for his development but one where’s he hitting for a high average. He may be moved rather quickly, though, given that he was an eighth round selection last season by the Orioles (he was also picked in the 35th round by Texas in 2008, but chose to go to college.)

One area where John has improved his game from his initial campaign is utilizing his speed. While he went just 2-for-6 in steals last year, Ruettiger is tied for third in the league (and leads the Shorebirds) with 8 stolen bases, being caught just once.

Rolling on a nine-game hitting streak – a stretch where he’s hitting .400 – John may not make it though the entire Delmarva season without being plucked by the Orioles and promoted to Frederick; fortunately for Delmarva fans the Keys outfield is holding its own so far. But that may not last, and it’s beginning to look like Ruettiger will need a new challenge soon.



The Scott response

April 25, 2012 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The Scott response 

Just as I did with Scott Shaffer a few days ago, I’m going to publish Audrey Scott’s refutation of points made by yours truly and others in its entirety, aside from minor formatting revisions to make this work on my site. It will not be blockquoted.

This comes from a letter to Central Committee members, with two pages being a general letter and a third page entitled “My Response.” I’ll have additional comments at the conclusion, which will come after Audrey’s note commences on the other side of the jump.

Read more

WCRC meeting – April 2012

The complaints were flying fast and furious at tonight’s meeting – not about those running the meeting or featured speaker County Councilman Bob Culver, but about a system of uncaring state government seemingly devoted to the notion of forcing us into oblivion here in the hinterlands.

After handling the normal mundane business at hand, Bob began his remarks by making light of the fact he “made the paper and Grapevine all in one week.” As he’d mentioned before, the last year-plus on County Council had been challenging and interesting at the same time, and he praised fellow Council member Gail Bartkovich for her help on picking through the budget. In fact, this Council edition has a “great dynamic,” assessed Culver.

They had been presented two budgets for FY2013: one billed by County Executive Rick Pollitt as the “doomsday” budget had around $7 million in cuts in case the state’s maintenance of effort rules would apply with no new revenue, while the other “relief” budget restored those cuts and instead grew the Board of Education by 2 percent. Culver correctly pegged these budgets, particularly the “doomsday” edition, as an “end run to remove the revenue cap” with the assistance of Delegate Norm “14 Million Dollar” Conway. (Note I made up the name for him, not Bob.) Bob also saw the income tax increase county payers will endure (from 3.1% to 3.2%) as “political blackmail” made necessary by state mandates.

And while state leaders dithered over the Prince George’s County casinos that Senate President Mike Miller wants vs. the revenue enhancements Martin O’Malley desires, we in Wicomico County are still saddled with a lot of bad legislation. Take the new residential sprinkler law which will add between $7,000 and $20,000 to the cost of a new home for example. Or consider the septic bill, which affects farmers because their property values and available credit decrease.

Moreover, the budget only works by withdrawing from the rainy day fund, of which only about $12.2 million is currently not otherwise spoken for. There is “no chance in hell” we can afford a $14 million hit, said Bob, although “we could have made $7 million.” But when the county has lost $800 million in assessed value since 2010, things get more difficult. And while new county administrator Wayne Strasburg is a “breath of fresh air,” Wayne also believes we need at least a 7 cent per $100 increase in the property tax for each of the next three years, said Culver.

In addition, Bob believed we dodged a bullet for now with the failure of the teacher pension shift that the counties lobbied against. But it was only a matter of time before that shoe dropped and Culver thought we should begin planning for that eventuality now.

When asked about the fate of the elected school board, Bob was blunt: “Mr. (Rudy) Cane killed it.” Bob was told in no uncertain terms it would not advance while Rudy was chair of the county delegation.

At this point Delegate Charles Otto got into the conversation, blasting the maintenance of effort bill as a “ridiculous, unconstitutional thing.” The only thing we’d have a special session for, continued Otto, would be to raise $500 million in taxes.

Hearing the grumbling that there wasn’t much we could do about the situation, Cathy Keim begged to differ. She pointed out that Election Integrity Maryland was training poll watchers, which we would need in various areas of the state. We could also work on the petition and referendum she was collecting signatures for.

That was echoed by Central Committee member John Palmer, who also announced that the signatures being collected were also being made into a handy database of conservative and right-leaning Marylanders which could be useful for future efforts. Regarding our County Council, Palmer assessed it as “six Republicans (with) three acting like Republicans.”

County Council member Joe Holloway chimed in that the Bennett Middle vote “decided the fate” of the 7 cent property tax increase. By voting to spend that additional money, the Council was left with no choice but to max out to the revenue cap this time around.

As it turned out, Culver was the catalyst for a wide-ranging discussion of solutions ranging from activism to prayer, as we were reminded by one observer that National Prayer Day comes a week from Thursday. “God is judging our nation,” she warned. We need “more prayer warriors.”

After engaging in a mea culpa for an error he made in his most recent Daily Times column, Dave Parker mentioned the state budget in his Central Committee report; he marveled that “uncontrollable Republicans” were being blamed for the non-passage of the budget Martin O’Malley would have preferred. O’Malley left out the inconvenient truth that Democrats in Annapolis can pass whatever they please without a single GOP vote. Martin O’Malley “wants to be Obama,” Parker believed.

But Dave was disturbed by one earmark which was passed, despite the fact he’ll receive some tangible benefit. The state wrote itself $135 million more debt so Norm Conway could brag about bringing a new library to Salisbury University. (Gee, it should be under construction just in time for Conway’s re-election campaign, you think?)

Longtime political campaign organizer Bonnie Luna announced she was at it again, as she will soon begin the local Mitt Romney campaign with a kickoff organizational meeting sometime next month. Dan Bongino also has a local coordinator in rising young political operative Shawn Jester.

But I wanted to wrap up with one final travesty in an evening that seemed to be permeated with doom and gloom for some reason.

After a number of years of trying, the Wicomico County Republican Club finally set up a scholarship to be given to a high school senior who qualifies in several different areas, including (naturally) being a registered Republican. It’s not a huge scholarship by any means, but $500 can be a help to a young student. (I know it would have helped me thirty years ago when I began college.)

We found out today that the Wicomico County Board of Education would not list it in their list of scholarships, for the stated reason that the recipient has to be a registered Republican. Now there are other stipends which are restricted for other various reasons, such as the applicant has to be a minority, female, pursue a particular career major, or even be a wrestler, but apparently those sorts of restrictions are just fine. This tends to follow the same logic which would allow a non-believer to head up a Christian school group. But the good news is the scholarship will soon be on the Delmarva Education Foundation website, which is a relief for a conservative student (including homeschooled) who would like to avoid the federal student loan scam if at all possible.

So the meeting wasn’t all bad. Hopefully in a couple months we’ll get to meet our recipient; perhaps he or she can attend our next meeting on June 25. Since the fourth Monday in May is Memorial Day we will skip May and have our next confab in June.

The truth about revenue

Last week I questioned the accuracy of Audrey Scott’s numbers when she claimed:

As State Party Chair, I retired a $250,000 debt in the first 5 months of my term and raised over $1.5M, in addition to obtaining another $1M from the RNC for the Victory Campaign.

After getting a chance to speak with party treasurer Chris Rosenthal, I can say that Audrey is somewhat right, but also somewhat wrong.

While I didn’t believe Audrey erased a $250,000 debt because I didn’t think we were that far in the hole, Rosenthal told me he thought the amount paid back was somewhere between $200,000 and $250,000. There was also someone else I trust who said the same thing, so I can give her credit for that one.

As for the $1.5 million claim, I found out I misread the financial report for 2010. After some guidance on how the numbers were compiled I found out the $482,482 number I originally used was a net number. After reviewing how the numbers were presented with Chris I learned how to figure out the gross number, so when I added the 2010 numbers up (excluding Victory 2010 revenue, which I’ll get to in a bit) I came up with a gross number of $764,168. It’s closer to $1.5 million but even if you figured she raised a sizable sum in the final month of 2009 when she became Chair, Audrey’s still somewhat shy of the amount she’s claimed.

But we couldn’t come up with $1 million of RNC money. The Victory 2010 revenue was $347,265 in the 2010 MDGOP report, and unless the RNC was fronting a lot of staff salaries and equipment we agreed that $1 million figure was probably an exaggeration. And remember, the FEC Victory 2010 numbers were like this:

I looked at both the RNC reports and the MDGOP reports to make sure everything checked out…the total cash that went from the RNC to MDGOP was $246,900.

In addition, there was $45,779.82 in salaries paid directly by the RNC between January and June (2010), and $63,525 in in-kind equipment (computers, voip phones, routers, printers, etc). The grand total, including inkinds, was $356,204.82.

I was told that some of the MDGOP staff was being paid by the national party, which may be explained in the paragraph above. But that $1 million in Victory Fund money seems like somewhat of an embellishment on Audrey’s part as well, and remember she’s claiming this comes in addition to the $1.5 million. So she’s holding herself personally responsible for $2.5 million raised when I’m barely finding $1 million for 2010.

I will grant, however, that looking at the partial 2011 numbers and comparing them to the same time period in 2010 makes Audrey look like a better fundraiser. Yet there is the caveat of Audrey running the state party during an election year while Alex Mooney was handling things in an off-cycle year.

On the other hand, I also contacted Nicolee Ambrose for a little bit of information on a fundraiser she had recently made happen, with Congressman Allen West. She didn’t raise a huge, six-figure amount by any means but there have been years our Red, White, and Blue Dinner barely made six figures, too. But $8,000 or $9,000 means roughly 80 to 90 people showed up for the event, and if she can pull off four to six events like this a year that would be a tidy sum for a National Committeewoman to contribute.

Moreover, this was the sort of fundraiser which could be easily replicated around the state given Nicolee’s Rolodex of connections she’s gained during her time as YR Chairman so I’m not worried about fundraising with Nicolee as National Committeewoman. I believe she will pull her weight to help the Maryland GOP.

It’s worth mentioning that we have been comparing apples and oranges here. The Chair gets to take credit for any money raised under his or her purview, whether directly through his or her efforts or not. Using those fundraising numbers from the year Audrey Scott was Chair as evidence of superior ability to be National Committeewoman is a little bit misleading, but misdirection has been a hallmark of this campaign.

Pork in the Park 2012 in pictures and text

April 22, 2012 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items · 5 Comments 

Today is Earth Day, and what better way to celebrate than to fire up the barbecue grill and cook some meat?

Well, the weather may not cooperate today but yesterday was a nice day to be at Pork in the Park.

It was the ninth rendition of the annual event, which is claimed to be the largest barbecue festival east of the Mississippi River, and there were fairly decent crowds brought out by the summerlike weather.

We arrived around noontime or so, and the last photo was taken at the time we left, around 5 p.m. I think they’ve had larger crowds, but then again Pork in the Park was more spread out this year.

One of my favorite parts of the festival is walking back among the competitors to see what I can see. Sometimes it’s the whimsical signs, like these examples below.

Nor was it just the signs. You thought the neighbor who left the Christmas lights up all year was bad?

Well, it is Christmas City BBQ so I suppose I should give them a pass. But the salute to Tabasco made me scratch my head.

Yet it always amazes me what a big business this is, with specialized trailers and everything for the more serious teams.

There were a couple new wrinkles in the competition field, though. One was the involvement of Smithfield, a national pork processing company.

The other was the taping of ‘BBQ Pitmasters’, a cooking competition show which will air later this summer. A film crew was taping three teams in their own contest.

Still, there were dozens of teams trying to grab the brass ring, or at least a check and trophy. Here’s one putting the finishing touches on their entries.

It wasn’t all barbecue, though. There were other vendors who sold all kinds of wares.

Not sure what you can buy off these guys. But it broke my heart to leave the political field solely to them.

I noticed they had no Obama items there, nor any Ben Cardin. And they only had a few trifold fliers for Wendy Rosen which were geared for the primary. I asked if she would be here and the nice lady didn’t think so.

Five bucks would get you a ride on this beast. But if you wanted a higher perspective, it was $60 a couple for a helicopter ride.

Don’t tell anyone, but I’m glad to see this fairly new exhibitor. Not sure what they would recommend with pork but I would go with the Primal Pale Ale. It’s the other light beer.

Admission and shameless plug: I actually prefer North Carolina style BBQ over traditional sauce. These guys did it up right, with a nice and tangy sauce and flavorful pork that was tender. Hope they come back next year.

Since you probably can’t read the finer print based on the 480 pixel photo width, it’s The Little Red Pig BBQ out of Marshville, North Carolina. I saw that and immediately knew where dinner would come from. That’s not to disparage any of the other rib vendors, but I think I’ve tried most of the other ones.

I think the owner of this beauty was stopping by before he went to the monthly car show just down the road.

And I just wanted to add this final picture as a further tweak to Gaia lovers.

The inscription on the hood says: ‘Silly Jeepers, Leafs are for Trees.’ I took it as a swipe at Nissan’s electric car, and having a photo of someone who enjoys tearing around the wilderness in a carbon-belching vehicle just fit.

And while Gaia may have had the last laugh with the weather (I seem to recall it also rained the last time Pork in the Park was held on Earth Day) just the fact that thousands showed up to enjoy meat cooked over charcoal – a concoction which, when done correctly, belches out a smoky aroma which tofu just can’t match – made my weekend and put all the enviroweenies in their place. Low-impact tourism it ain’t, and I was glad to participate.

I also managed to get enough photos of people using thousands of watts of amplification – no acoustic crap here – that I can do a decent enough Weekend of Local Rock post. Look for it next weekend.

Who will they be in it for?

April 21, 2012 · Posted in Campaign 2012 - President, National politics, Politics · 2 Comments 

This goes in the category of “I had to laugh.”

Because I have one of the millions of e-mail addresses that makes up Barack Obama’s list of internet friends, I get his campaign missives on practically a daily basis. Yesterday’s was a hoot, and I excerpt here:

Mark your calendar: On May 10th, George Clooney is hosting an event at his home in Los Angeles to support President Obama.

If you donate $3 or whatever you can today, you’ll be automatically entered to be there, too.

We’ll take care of airfare and accommodations — all you need to do is think about who you’d ask to join you for an evening with President Obama and George Clooney.

At least twice in the last few months there was been the enticement of having dinner with the President, but the unwashed masses don’t seem to be coughing up enough $3 donations to make that work anymore. If it were he wouldn’t need a SuperPAC, even though it’s not making a ton of money either.

I suppose that’s the risk you run when pandering to the food stamp generation. So Obama needs a little bit of star power now, and anyone with half a brain for popular culture knows that when one uber-liberal Hollywood star has a political event, a whole flock of them (along with assorted other beggars and hangers-on) show up. So the thought in the Obama campaign must be that a million people will cough up $3 to show up at George Clooney’s house to be laughed at as that giant sucker who won the contest. Maybe they’ll put the winner in a closet so they can have the real party and stick their hands into the Obama stash.

Unfortunately, the same fundraising approach is being used by the Romney camp (as is the dinner one) and it’s beginning  to make me wonder if our culture is just too starstruck and obsessed with celebrity to think rationally anymore. It used to be that people donated money because they believed in the candidate, but what message does it send out when one can donate a trivial amount to be entered into a contest as the longest of shots to have to rub elbows with the President? Okay, the chance to see the Red Sox at Fenway Park on Patriot’s Day wouldn’t have been a bad enticement for me but I resisted. It would have been a good game to watch, too. (I wonder if Romney stayed for the whole thing? Reason number 8,564 I couldn’t be a politician: if I go to a ballgame I am there until the final pitch. I don’t care if they play 20 innings.)

We all know Barack Obama decries the Citizens United decision out of one side of his mouth while eschewing campaign finance limits with the other. But if people want to donate against their self-interest in the slimmest of hopes of hobnobbing with Hollywood elitists, Obama is all for that. And considering no one has to report donations under $200 to the FEC, no one will really see where the money comes from, just that they’ll have the cash to spend on glossing over the Obama record.

Something tells me there’s something for George Clooney in this too. Those elitists really hate spending time with real people from flyover country, so I’m guessing there’s a Department of Energy grant or farm bill earmark somewhere chosen especially for him. Good luck to the person selected from among all the donors, because the rest of us are going to lose if Obama wins.

More observations on the RNC races

As I mentioned the other day we had our quad-county meeting earlier this week, where the members of the four Lower Shore GOP Central Committees (Wicomico, Worcester, Somerset, and Dorchester) get together to discuss issues and find common ground. For the most part, this meeting (ably ran by John McCullough of Dorchester County) focused on the upcoming Spring Convention, including what was supposed to be a frank discussion of the two National Committee races.

In the runup to the meeting, we debated whether we should invite the candidates to speak or not. Three of the four county chairs decided to say no, while the other was neutral on the issue. Because of that consensus, none of the hopefuls was invited to speak; however Audrey Scott got her “wires crossed” in the words of McCullough and showed up anyway. It created an awkward scene where we had to have her leave the room so an open discussion could take place.

But before she left, she made sure to tell everyone not to believe what was read on this site. And while she was careful not to single me or my site out by name, I must say that I will abide a lot of things because I bend over backwards to be fair but I will not be called a liar. In fact, I have taken steps to have the information I was provided by several reliable sources disproved and if I find out it is so I will make the correction. As of this writing I’m awaiting the confirmation, after asking a person I frankly thought she threw under the bus when the subject was brought up.

Unfortunately for Audrey, some of her more fervent supporters adopted the same condescending tone Audrey adopted when she discussed what’s been said about her in the campaign. This was especially apparent when one (female) backer wondered aloud if Nicolee Ambrose could handle the position while having a family, ignoring the fact that many women who serve in politics already do so quite well. These supporters as a group believed Audrey’s experience sets her apart, and I won’t deny she’s experienced. But that’s not what the position needs at this time; instead it needs bold leadership and frankly I feel Audrey Scott will treat the post like a retirement gift from a grateful party.

And then we have several points brought up by quad-county members about Audrey’s actions: the Rule 11 controversy, attendance at the rally supporting the gas tax and her weak retort that she only attended the rally to support a bill to keep the Transportation Trust Fund from being raided, and of course the “unelectable” Roscoe Bartlett comment. I found it fascinating as well that, just hours after Roscoe announced his support of Nicolee Ambrose in the NCW race, Audrey Scott slapped up her own grainy picture with Bartlett, taken at the Montgomery County Lincoln Day Dinner last Friday. She also rehashed the “let’s get behind our nominees” mea culpa but the damage has been done.

I also found out, in speaking to some of those attending, that at least two of them who are listed as supporters of Audrey Scott have no intention of voting for her. Of course, Audrey mentioned she would be happy to remove any names from the list but who wants to ask about something like that? It’s almost embarrassing, but more importantly these admissions chip away at her facade of support she’s attempting to build.

Compared to the NCW discussion, the contest between Scott Shaffer and Louis Pope was rather mild. There were some who wanted the change and some who didn’t, but for the most part neither drew many negative remarks.

But I wanted to bring up something I was told today, as a letter from Louis Pope arrived in my mailbox. It proves one thing that Scott Shaffer brought up earlier this week and that I wasn’t sure of: Pope is indeed sending out re-election items paid for by the RNC (at least the stationery is, and presumably postage too.)

I’m not worried about the couple hundred dollars which the RNC may be giving to Pope for his re-election (although it is an important item to point out) as much as I’m interested in this line that Pope wrote:

Over the last decade I have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for MDGOP and our local and statewide candidates here in Maryland, as well as presidential candidates.

I’ll take that at face value, particularly since Pope has led fundraising seminars in the past and has several entries on his political resume regarding fundraising for Bob Ehrlich, Michael Steele, and George W. Bush. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in a decade seems like a realistic amount.

Yet Audrey Scott claimed to raise $1.5 million for the MDGOP along with $1 million from the RNC for Victory Centers, all in the one year she was Chair. I’d be glad to believe that if the numbers were there, but as I dissected them last Sunday they are not. But even if she did, I quite frankly believe that her presence at the quad county meeting may have lost her more votes than she gained, particularly when the Allen West fundraiser that Nicolee Ambrose helped to organize was described in glowing terms. I don’t think MDGOP fundraising would suffer under Nicolee, particularly if she can bring those kinds of personalities to the state.

Out of a two-hour meeting, we spent well over an hour going back and forth about the National Committeewoman race. To me that points out the distinction between the two candidates, and I’ll be quite interested to see how the votes come out from the four counties involved in the quad-county meeting. Our votes may not mean a lot but they have to be earned, and coming down to attend a meeting where her opponent obeyed a specific request not to show up gives me the impression that Audrey Scott believes she’s entitled to be National Committeewoman because she’s served in the Republican Party at a high level for a long time.

I don’t believe in entitlements. I believe we need a leader, and Audrey Scott isn’t translating the success she had as Chair into a good campaign for National Committeewoman.

Shorebird of the Week – April 19, 2012

April 19, 2012 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on Shorebird of the Week – April 19, 2012 

Washington Nationals farmhand Billy Burns may never get to the big leagues, but there’s a good chance he may become an answer to a trivia question etched as part of Orioles lore: who was the batter that ended the string of 26 consecutive hitters retired by Dylan Bundy to begin his professional career?

Normally when I do the Shorebird of the Week I have to look up a number of statistics, but since the younger Bundy (his brother was Shorebird of the Week on August 5, 2010, making Dylan and Bobby Bundy the first brother combination to be so honored) just began his professional career this season, the numbers are easy – 9 innings pitched, no hits, runs, or earned runs, no record, and 15 strikeouts to go with that lone Burns walk. The WHIP is a sick 0.11.

How else can you describe a phenom whose first professional game experience came in a major league exhibition game? Kid, welcome to pro baseball – now get big leaguer Jacoby Ellsbury out.  He did, but he walked the next batter – some former MVP named Dustin Pedroia. That was the only blemish on his inning pitched, just like Burns was the only blemish on his first nine innings in A ball. I guess Dylan needs to work on that control.

Something the Shorebirds are doing differently with the 19-year-old Oklahoman, as well as their other starters this season, is working in a six-man pitching rotation. The stated reason is so they can have two bullpen sessions between starts, but Bundy is also on a limit of 120 innings pitched this season. This explains why he’s only thrown three innings per start, although plans are to allow him four in his next start scheduled for Tuesday.

There’s little doubt that Bundy has the stuff to compete at the major league level, with the question only being when he gets there. My gut instinct is that we may not see Dylan beyond what would be his fifth scheduled start on April 30, with the question then becoming whether he only moves up to Frederick or has dominated the South Atlantic League to such an extent that a jump to Bowie is warranted. Since he would only have about 17 innings of work in, I tend to believe the former will be the case.

Fortunately for Delmarva fans, if the rotation holds his next two starts would bookend the upcoming homestand so you might just want to get out there. Something tells me the 2,672 fans who saw his home debut will swell to 15,000 or more (to hear them tell it, anyway) once Dylan arrives at The Show.

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