Weighing in on the Salisbury races

Yes, I know it’s Easter Sunday, so I wish my believing readers a happy Easter – He is risen!

But on Tuesday, Salisbury voters will head to the polls to elect their mayor and two of five City Council members in the last partial election before changes in 2015 would require all Council members and the mayor be elected simultaneously. So in essence we are picking some of these Council members and mayor for a half-term to be completed in the fall of 2015.

Honestly, it probably doesn’t matter who gets elected in District 1 because they will be advocates for the city’s minority population getting theirs rather than necessarily the benefits of the city as a whole. I heard a lot of complaining from the three women who are running about what the city didn’t do for their district, and while we all want the benefit of good jobs their district in particular is the product of people who made a lot of bad life choices. We also all want a thriving minority community, but it should be in the context of a thriving community as a whole. Moreover, in 2015 that district will double in size and become home to two Council members if the plans remain the same.

But while I can dismiss the District 1 race quickly, I have a lot to say about the mayor’s race.

In 2009, Jim Ireton told us that help was on the way. Well, the city isn’t exactly thriving, and it’s spent a lot of money just to maintain its place on the treadmill. Furthermore, it appears that even more money will have to be spent thanks to government mandates to clean up Chesapeake Bay – despite the fact millions have already been spent on what was supposed to be a state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant. Meanwhile, Jim touts a lot of “accomplishments” which any halfway decent mayor should have been able to do in his sleep. This is what Jim lists on his website as “Improving Salisbury”:

Third Friday, The city’s first Latino Festival, lowering business capacity fees, people returning to downtown, the city dog park, improvements at Bateman/Onley Road. These are just a few of the important improvements to Salisbury that have happened while Jim has been Mayor. Coalitions across Salisbury have worked with Jim and city staff to move projects forward. Jim led the way on the city’s comprehensive plan, fought for and won a 60% reduction in business capacity fees, and hasn’t raised property taxes his entire time in office.

Jim has aggressively used the city’s revolving loan fund program to help businesses like Mojo’s, and he’s ordered the demolition of five slum properties and worked to close and demolish the Thrift Travel Inn.

Well, no wonder MoJo’s donated to his campaign! I’m just surprised they didn’t max out. But when you think about it – is that a worthy resume of four years in office? Oh, and he claims violent crime dropped 41 percent and he hired the first female chief of police.

But the city still struggles with the same problems it did four years ago. Some things are different and some things are changed, but we still seem to be only treading water. The situation was ripe for a good opponent; instead, we got Joe Albero.

Joe Albero claims to be a successful (now-retired) businessman who would bring that experience to Salisbury. Yet I have to question that because I’ve never seen any of the businesses he created – it’s not like I drive by any of them in my daily rounds as I would a restaurant, a haberdashery, or a manufacturing plant. From what I have gathered, the business he owns works in the lighting field but there are no local jobs being created that I’m aware of. One would think he would point with pride to these businesses and say, see what success I have achieved? But he doesn’t even have a functional “Albero for Mayor” website.

Now I will say Joe has a website which apparently attracts a fair number of readers and is chock full of ads from local businesses who supposedly pay $100 a month for the privilege. If you want to count that as a successful business I suppose you could but consider how he got it to be a successful business – it wasn’t through good customer service or promoting a quality product. I’ve spoken to observers who liken visiting the site to seeing highlights of the 14-car NASCAR pileup – you know it’s wrong, but you can’t help but watch.

So those are Salisbury’s choices for mayor for the next 31 months. I really can’t recommend either of them; although Albero talks a good game I simply have a trust issue with him from past experience.

Yet on the City Council District 2 side, I can provide you with a clear choice.

I can’t fault Jake Day either for trying or for having some sound ideas; moreover, he’s the only candidate who knocked on my door. But I’m troubled by a number of items in his elaborate plan for Salisbury.

I don’t believe one can force the market to adapt to retail, nor can we goose a demand for downtown/urban housing without some kind of subsidy. Day seemingly envisions a Salisbury where all the new housing in certain areas is attached to retail below – of course, the question is whether there is a market for either option considering we have a number of these housing units already available. (One example is the building Albero lives in, which insofar as I recall hadn’t had its apartments leased in several years until Albero himself moved in.)

And while it would be nice to create a Salisbury Boulevard which is more attractive, I have to wonder where the money for these improvements will come from and also how it will affect traffic flow. Day advocates for an expansion of mass transit between Salisbury University and downtown, and seems to focus most of his energy on building up the central city.

He’s also an advocate of LEED design, which is great for energy efficiency but not so good for property rights or inexpensive building. As I’ve often stated, I like a payback period for investment in energy savings of five years or less and, although I haven’t kept up with the LEED field over the last few years, it was heading in a direction even more disdainful of property rights and toward central planning. The words “transit-oriented development” may not mean much to you, but to me it means attempting to do away with the automobile and the freedom it provides.

Over the last few weeks, it’s become apparent that Day was Jim Ireton’s handpicked minion for City Council, and I didn’t support Jim Ireton the first time he ran.

Me, I would rather have a fiscal watchdog on City Council:

Yes, it’s a video which isn’t all that slickly produced and, to be quite honest, I’m not sure how River’s Edge isn’t going to be the same black hole that’s already sitting on the site, just a little farther along. Color me skeptical.

But when the word “no” is justified, I want someone who knows how to say it. Consider Debbie Campbell as a check and balance to the far-left intentions of Jim Ireton. I’ll be quite honest: I didn’t vote for her the last time she ran because I thought Muir Boda would do an even better job, and it’s too bad he didn’t run this time. I was hoping Jack Heath would finish in the top two (and I voted for him, despite his somewhat lackluster campaign) so I’d have a better, more conservative choice than I have with Day in the field; alas, it was not to be.

Will the infighting on City Council continue with Campbell remaining in place? Sadly, the answer is probably “yes.” But I’d rather have a little friction and the assurance someone is watching out for my interests than smooth sailing toward oblivion. I honestly suspect all of the realtors and contractors who have donated to Day will be lined up looking for their palms to be greased later this month if Day is sworn in.

Unfortunately, that joining at the hip of Day and Ireton has also led to the thought that Campbell and Albero are, too. But I haven’t seen Campbell and Albero out campaigning together, and while they may share some of the same goals I’m not taking the package deal. I’m hoping those of us on the local Republican Central Committee can work on getting a better, full slate of candidates before voters in 2015, since it would be a four-year term (and perhaps five separate districts, a Day idea I could endorse.)

But overall the choice for District 2 is clear: let’s get some honest-to-goodness business going in Salisbury, not pay-for-play. Vote for Debbie Campbell on Tuesday.

The cause and effect syndrome

Today I have two items which may not seem to be necessarily related, but in my mind make perfect sense as a cause and (future) effect. Let me start with that proverbial itch in Martin O’Malley’s back that he just can’t reach to scratch, Larry Hogan and Change Maryland:

Two outcomes of the Governor’s legislative agenda is (sic) to make gasoline and electricity more expensive. We have now seen 36 consecutive tax, fee and toll increases that will remove $3.1 billion out of the pockets of struggling Marylander’s per year, with these motor fuel taxes and the additional fees required of utility customers to support offshore wind.

Instead of developing a coherent transportation policy, our top elected officials took the easy way out by adding yet more of a tax burden to a state that has faced so many in recent years. They choreographed the proposal’s original announcement, committee hearings and final votes to take place on late Fridays and in the evenings to avoid news coverage in the waning days of this legislative session. This speaks volumes about just how unpopular more taxes are, and this may push Maryland to the tipping point. Taxpayers have finally had enough.

The second piece of the puzzle comes from interim state GOP head Diana Waterman:

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Maryland’s unemployment rate has almost doubled since Martin O’Malley became Governor. The Democrats in Annapolis have slowed economic growth by raising taxes over $1,500 per family with more on the way.

Maryland’s budgets have increased nearly 25% from $28.8 billion in 2007 to $36.8 billion in 2014. The Democrats say they are focused on “jobs” but they have not done a single thing to make Maryland more friendly to job creators. That’s why 6,500 small businesses have left our state and there are 8 fewer Fortune 500 Companies located within our borders. It is time for a change in Annapolis so we can get Maryland’s economy moving again!

I’ll set aside my thought that it was Change Maryland which trumpeted the 6,500 figure for lost businesses and concentrate more squarely on a more important theory: more than most other states, Maryland is held captive by a tyranny of the majority.

There are two classes of people who, in varying degrees, are either not affected by or prosper from a larger, more all-consuming government.

One is Maryland’s poor, which tend to congregate in the Democratic stronghold of Baltimore City but can be found in small enclaves all around the state. Billions of dollars’ worth of wealth has been transferred via the state coffers from the producers to the dependent, and although this gasoline tax will affect them adversely to some degree (as may the farebox increases for mass transit), on balance the tax hikes will be to their benefit once the money is transferred over to the General Fund. If you truly believe the majority party isn’t going to participate in this plunder – even with the laughably weak “lockbox” provision included in the gas tax legislation – you probably also believe that offshore wind is cheap and abundant energy.

The second group is all those people who actually work for the government, whether federal or state. Because of them, Maryland is one of the more prosperous states in the nation and by outward appearance she has weathered the recessionary storm better than practically anyone else. But that Potemkin village of prosperity only seems to extend to the outside of the Beltway and along portions of the I-95 corridor where enough voters live that they can combine with the group of poor voters I outlined above and run the remainder of the state into the dust. If you’re living fat and happy off the federal government, it’s really not going to matter all that much if you pay a buck or two more to fill up your Volvo; moreover, chances are that in your cocoon you won’t stop and think about how this will affect all the others who have to also pay this new freight.

But there’s the rest of us out here. And even if you’re one of those thinkers who is aware enough of what’s really going on but happen to live among the groups who prosper from the misery of the rest of us, you’re forced to take it in the shorts once again.

There is a day of reckoning that is coming. No, it’s not Election Day 2014, for even if we motivated all the Republicans and thoughtful independents in Maryland to come out to the polls, and even if we can get to what my latest interviewee Bill Campbell alluded – to “control the trajectory that Maryland is going to have economically” by electing a conservative governor and comptroller – we still would have to fight this battle on the federal level with a President who seems determined to ruin this country’s economy and perhaps with a Supreme Court willing to throw aside the words of the Founding Fathers as expressed in the plain language of the Constitution for their vision of a nation which is more “fair.”

Instead, that day comes when, proverbially, Atlas makes the decision to shrug. There’s a new study from the Mercatus Center detailing freedom in the 50 states, and one conclusion they drew was:

The more a state denies people their freedoms, increases their taxes or passes laws that make it hard for businesses to hire and fire, the more likely they are to leave.

Indeed, this is true. But what happens when there’s nowhere else to go?

As a state, Maryland may be the canary in the coal mine. But in the longer-term, we as a nation have a lot of work to do just to simply get pointed in the right direction – let alone reverse course. I know it’s a generational struggle and the other side isn’t going down without a fight.

There has to be an uprising of some sort. Note well that guns do not necessarily have to be involved, for the uprising could also be spiritual in nature, or it could even take form as a restoration of the honesty and work ethic for which Americans used to be known. At one time most of us were too proud to take “relief” but now the (so-called) “independence card” is viewed as an entitlement, if not a badge of honor which has been “earned.”

Whatever the case may be, the time between now and that day is getting shorter, and things are changing at an accelerated pace. Let us use the principles many of us share and the technology we have in this era to better things just as our forefathers did almost a quarter of a millennium ago. Remember, if a rising tide lifts all boats, a falling tide means some will run into the rocks they never saw.

Waterman: Pope will be on RNC Rules Committee

In a move that’s truly not surprising, an e-mail was sent by interim Maryland Republican Chair Diana Waterman to Central Committee members regarding her appointment to the RNC Rules Committee. With the understanding that this can be changed at any time, the RNC validated the Pope appointment yesterday:

I have now heard from all three of you indicating that there are two votes for Louis Pope and one vote for Nicolee Ambrose.  Therefore, Louis Pope is the representative of Maryland on the Rules Committee.

In answer to Ms. Ambrose’ questions below:

1.       Yes, we are ruling that a state may re-caucus.

2.       Yes, that means Maryland could re-caucus at a later time.

This is the text of what Diana sent to Central Committee members:

I wanted to share an update on the situation I wrote to you about concerning the RNC Standing Rules Committee. While those who are issuing their criticisms may continue, the fact is, as confirmed by the RNC, that the committee membership was not considered set or seated until after the March 1st deadline and even beyond that deadline a state’s RNC representatives may caucus and nominate a new member. I am attaching an email issued today by the RNC that clearly states there was no procedural issue with Louis Pope’s re-appointment. We caucused Thursday by email to clarify the nomination of Louis Pope to remain on the Rules Committee.

You have an important decision to make on April 20th. Electing a chairman should be about choosing the person that you feel is best qualified in all aspects of leading the Party. If you believe that the decision on who goes to the rules committee is your number one priority, then you should vote accordingly. If you believe that we need to build our party from the ground up, recruit and train candidates for all offices in all districts, grow the farm team, and expand our donor base to raise much needed funds to provide the resources and tools for our candidates, I ask that you vote for me. I may not always agree with you, but I will always listen and let you know where I stand. Working together is the only way we will make our party a force to be reckoned with.

Of course, these goals aren’t as mutually exclusive as Waterman would make them out to be, and her decision means the same Republican party which has done its best to maintain its part in the Beltway political establishment will continue to get support from Maryland.

Yet those same Ambrose supporters who Waterman dismisses also will most likely be the ones who “build the party from the ground up, recruit and train candidates for all offices in all districts, grow the farm team, and expand our donor base.”  Unfortunately, they are the ones turned off by the continual capitulation of national Republicans to the liberal agenda and who feel last summer’s rule changes were symptomatic of a party which no longer seems to care about its grassroots.

Nor would this have come up if the Rules Committee change hadn’t been the first major decision Waterman made as Chair – the ink hadn’t even dried on Alex Mooney’s letter of resignation and here she was changing the appointment. Yes, it was within her right to do so as the head of the party – even if that role is only for 60 days – but the speed in which this was done seems to indicate somebody who is a influential member of the state party got into Diana’s ear really quickly. My money is on Audrey Scott.

Needless to say, opponent Greg Kline wasted little time putting out his response:

As you have seen with the release today from Interim State Party Chairman Diana Waterman, Louis Pope has formally replaced Nicolee Ambrose as Maryland’s representative on the RNC Rules Committee. In Mrs. Waterman’s own words, she notes that she chose to replace Ms. Ambrose with Mr. Pope on February 28th after Ms. Ambrose’s letter of appointment had been received by the RNC on February 19th.

This decision and the subsequent explanation from Mrs. Waterman once again goes to show that the Interim Chair lacks the temperament to lead the party through the difficult challenges we face. It once again goes to show the extraordinary need for transformational leadership that works not to divide the party, but to bring the party together. And as my first act as Chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, I will reappoint Nicolee Ambrose as Maryland’s Representative on the RNC Rules Committee.

As chairman, I would bring a style of leadership that is more inclusive and more transparent to our state party and advocate for such leadership on the national level. As chairman, I would also view criticism as an opportunity to improve and to dialogue and not react to it as a personal attack.

I ask for your support to lead all of our party.

Yet one can ask whether the shoe would simply be on the other foot if Kline wins. I seem to recall the establishment party got a little upset when Jim Pelura wouldn’t act as they wanted him to, and wallets were snapped shut all over the state. Of course, when fundraising dried up the Executive Committee had yet another excuse to hound a good man out of office, and I fear the same may happen with Kline unless a lot of new donors step up to the plate. The party has its share of rainmakers who have helped to carry it in the past, but new sources of income may need to be found.

If it were up to Baltimore County Central Committee member Eugene Craig III, though, Diana would be ousted from the Executive Committee entirely. In reaction to the Ambrose incident, he has circulated an e-mail threatening a removal vote at the party convention; one which accuses Waterman of “one of the most disgraceful actions you can take to limit the influence of true grass roots activist” by replacing Ambrose. Craig goes on to say that “your loyalty does not lie with the Heart and Soul (the grass roots activist) of the Maryland Republican Party, thus you are unfit to serve as chair. In this short time span as interim Chair you have done more damage to our party then the Democrats could do in an entire election cycle.”

I have also asked fellow Waterman opponent Collins Bailey for a reaction, but have not received his take on this yet. However, he is also on record as saying that, should he win, he would restore Ambrose to the Rules Committee.

Wicomico Pathfinders meeting reset – again

As I predicted last week given the high probability that Delegate Justin Ready would be unavailable on date number 2, the Wicomico County Pathfinders gathering was rescheduled once again, for Saturday, April 13. It will be held at the original intended location, the Salisbury Chamber of Commerce building (where Wicomico County Republican Club and Republican Central Committee meetings are generally located) from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Most importantly, lunch will be provided.

Registration is $35 and a direct link to the registration site is here. The MDGOP also has some background information on the concept.

Something we have harped on is finding good candidates who will fill up the ballot in 2014 – no exceptions. Okay, perhaps one exception as Republicans can’t run for the Democratic Central Committee. (But conservatives certainly can, and I encourage those who just can’t shake the concept of abandoning their daddy’s party but nevertheless agree with our pro-liberty principles to give that a shot.)

In Wicomico County there are a total of 22 elected positions available – 15 for the county and 7 for the state, although 6 of those are shared to various extents with other counties. Obviously some of these offices are already held by Republicans so we don’t necessarily need a challenger for those positions, but there are a number of Democrats who have been in their respective offices far too long and need to be replaced with people bringing fresh blood and new, conservative ideas. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Norm “Five Dollar” Conway.)

But with as much bashing of the state GOP as I’ve done over the last months and years, I have to credit them for doing something right. Two copies of this appeared in my mailbox today.

I am sure some are going to make an issue of the second bullet point about redefining marriage, saying it’s an issue we shouldn’t discuss in a city election. Indeed, though, Ireton has publicly expressed his support for same-sex nuptials. Nor would it surprise me to find out that a large proportion of Ireton’s out-of-town contributors – a subset which accounts for more than half of his individual donations – are active in the gay community. A cursory look at two of his more prominent contributors, Victor Shargai and Duane Rollins, led me to believe that a significant backing comes from that political arena. (Rollins is alleged to have a shady political past, too.) Four of Maryland’s complement of openly gay legislators (Delegates Luke Clippinger, Anne Kaiser, and Maggie McIntosh, along with Senator Richard Madaleno) have also chipped in to Ireton’s cause.

One has to ask, then: is their support more about the job Jim’s doing or promoting the rainbow banner he’s holding up? Is Jim Ireton one of the quota of gay mayors we must have to be an “inclusive” society? Personally, I’d rather have someone who does a good job in getting the local economy going again – too bad I don’t have full faith in either candidate to do so.

The party had talked about getting more active in local elections this year, and with the investment of a few hundred dollars have done just that. Kudos to them – and guess what? It spawned some new media involvement, too.

Final Salisbury city election forum only mildly contentious

March 27, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2013 - Salisbury, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on Final Salisbury city election forum only mildly contentious 

Normally I try to do a blow-by-blow of these events by question but instead this time I want to do it by candidate. Many of the questions concerned an issue I also think is paramount, and that’s economic development. Small wonder when the local Chamber of Commerce is the co-sponsor.

And as an executive editorial decision, summarizing by candidate also gives me the opportunity to comment on their final release of financial statements prior to the election.

I want to begin with District 1, a fight in which I have no dog in because I live in the city’s other district. Through a quirk in the City Charter, we found out the primary election did nothing but act as a poll as to relative position in the race. We found both April Jackson or Cynthia Polk would need to find perhaps 80 to 85 votes to get to victory while Shanie Shields only needs around 60 (based on 2009 results, where just over 250 total votes were cast.) But District 1’s pathetic turnout means it’s quite possible the first to 100 votes wins.

I’ll begin with April Jackson, who attended this forum after missing the PACE event in February and almost missing the cutoff in the primary. Her 53rd and tying vote was practically the last one counted in the final canvass.

Her business vision was one of creating a five-year plan to bring in business and tourism, stating “I have no doubt in my mind” the city could succeed. Among the successes she would like to work on if elected is the North Prong/Lake Street neighborhood, something which is currently “a complete eyesore” but could be revitalized.

April also felt that the way to a better business environment was to find out what the city wants or needs. But something the city didn’t need was the enhanced disclosure form argued about by City Council, a document Jackson called “totally unnecessary” and “not feasible.” Moreover, she believed we do need a full-time city attorney.

She also contended, on the question of consolidating city and county services, that we should all work together – I gathered she was more open to the idea than most. In the end, Jackson advocated for a clear vision, smart planning, and open dialogue and vowed to serve with “dignity, direction, and determination.”

Through two reports Jackson has raised just $945, with most of it apparently coming from supportive family and friends. Her chief expenditures have been signage and a radio ad running on local gospel station WDIH-FM.

Fellow challenger Cynthia Polk pledged to bring “the power to listen” to City Council, advocating herself for “active listening.” Yet while she spoke about “the power of no,” Cynthia noted that “every no don’t mean no,” quoting her grandmother. And even on the question of a full-time city attorney, she was noncommittal: “I would have to go and listen.”

She was more decisive about and critical of the much-discussed disclosure form, though, calling it a “borderline invasion of privacy.” Polk was “leery” of exceeding the state requirements for disclosure on a city form. She was also concerned about the consolidation of services with the county, citing the level of service and the budget as factors.

However, Cynthia was willing to create jobs – her “top priority” – through collaboration with local universities and expanding the enterprise zones to include more of District 1. She also pondered how we could attract more Ocean City-bound traffic and tourism – but she seemed a little bit hesitant to embrace mayoral candidate Joe Albero’s claim he would double as the city’s economic development director, jumping in on a mayoral question to note economic development “is a specialty.”

Polk did believe the River’s Edge project, which is near her home, would “give the whole area a lift.” The city needs innovation, and an opportunity to restore that area to the prominence it once had instead of the question “why do you live over there?” Cynthia noted in her closing her shortcomings as a public speaker, but that answer proved she could speak clearly and passionately when needed. “I’m the candidate for the rest of us,” she concluded.

After not filing a full financial report in the primary because she didn’t meet the $600 threshold, Polk revealed she had raised $550 – exactly half of that self-funded – and spent most of her funds on signage. She’d also leaned heavily on three volunteers for distributing the flyers, claiming 34 hours of in-kind services from them at $8 per hour. (One of those volunteers and contributors was former City Council member and 2010 Delegate candidate Von Siggers.)

Incumbent Shanie Shields could obviously lean on her eight years on City Council, but opened up by saying she was “ready to move Salisbury forward.” But two things she wanted in her next term were “a better political climate” and “civility” – for her, the last two years have been “stressful.”

Indeed, she was very critical of the current rendition of City Council. Citing the disclosure form as an example, she revealed it was just 23 taxpayers who wanted the ordinance, with two bothering to testify. It’s “another example of not including stakeholders,” according to Shields. “We need to bring stakeholders to the table,” she would later stress in response to another query.

A second bone of contention with the city’s legislative body was the city attorney. Shields jumped on a statement by District 2 challenger Jake Day about the city attorney, charging that the city hadn’t seen a legal bill since October. “If the previous city attorney had done that we would have his head,” Shanie charged.

On the mayoral question of a full-time economic development director, Shields added her remark that she couldn’t support the hiring of one before other current city workers received raises. Her budgetary concerns extended to the idea of consolidating services with the county, a concept she believed could be handled through mutual aid pacts. Like Jackson, Shields advocated for the idea of developing the North Prong, adding in the concept of extending the existing Riverwalk to that area. She also believed the area of Germania Circle should be converted over to a park, citing how flood-prone it has been.

Not surprisingly, the incumbent has raised the most money in the race, a total which has now reached $3,170. Much of that has come from the building and rental industry – local architect Keith Fisher, realtor Michael Weisner, GNI Properties, and Investment Properties are among contributors which donated at or near the maximum $250 limit. And while she’s spent her money on the regular campaign fare of signs, radio spots, and a handful of shirts, Shanie should also be commended for spending a little bit on feeding her volunteers.

Yet while the District 1 contenders chose to try and sell themselves, the two District 2 candidates who survived the primary were running against something: Jake Day against a Council which he claims needs more collaboration and openness and Debbie Campbell against an opponent versus whom she’s several hundred votes in arrears.

Jake Day, as the leading primary vote-getter, could afford to lay back and call out the need for a business environment that’s “all about collaboration, all about openness.” That included reducing barriers to investment, creating an EDU-free zone, and “making an investment in” an economic development office and business incubator. On the other hand, when the subject of Urban Salisbury came up before the mayoral debate, Day added his belief that Urban Salisbury wasn’t structured right nor was it focused on the right things.

His vision for downtown was one with mixed-use development, something which could be worthy of being called “the capital of the Eastern Shore.” It takes a changed culture, though.

Jake was critical of the disclosure form, decrying the $1200 of city staff time in arguing over the points of an “absurd ordinance,” but one which is a “good idea, executed poorly.” Day also pointed out these and other ideas, like a proposed “lockout law”, came before Council thanks to its president, which served as a subtle dig at Council as composed. That extended to the expenditure of $110,000 Jake claimed had been spent on a city attorney. The 2,500 voters who signed a petition to revisit the city attorney question were right, added Jake. And when questioned about the 2,500 signatures by opponent Debbie Campbell, who pointed out they weren’t certified, Day said “I knocked on doors using that list.” He added that “the county is in a great place” with its internal counsel.

But on other questions, Jake was more receptive. “We have to keep our mind open” to the possibility of combining city and county services if it’s efficient.

In his closing statement, Day pointed out this would be the last gathering of the candidates. “This has been an incredible experience,” he said, adding his admiration for former Council aspirant Jack Heath. When we set our sights on goals, we have the people to accomplish them, Day concluded.

Financially, Day eclipsed the five-figure mark in his latest statement, raising $10,535 thus far and leading all candidates. Included in that was $250 in PAC money from the Realtors PAC in Annapolis. Day has also spent the most on radio ads and fundraisers of any Council candidate, by far.

On the other hand, and by virtue of her distant second-place primary finish, Debbie Campbell had to be more aggressive in her approach to the forum.

She repeated her belief that businesses trying to engage the city should be treated like they’re checking into a five-star hotel, and reminded voters that there had been no tax increase “yet.”

On the subject of the disclosure form, though, Debbie saw it as a way of addressing the “veil” of LLCs over public money. It “creates transparency,” she argued. This contentiousness extended to the mayoral discussion of a proposal to adopt a more stringent “lockout law.” Campbell contended it could be enforced for an unregistered firearm, and the idea was from the mayor’s office.

Debbie also chimed in on a question which turned to the subject of Urban Salisbury, making the contention that they funded the organization “for years” but never saw the desired results. “Sometimes ‘no’ isn’t the popular answer, but it is the right answer,” said Campbell.

She also spoke at some length about the consolidation of services, reminding the audience of about 75 that “the political will did not exist” to keep the human resources and IT departments together between city and county. She also noted that consolidating public safety was “deemed not sensible” but “perhaps” the public works departments could be combined.

Debbie’s vision for the city was one of increasing our tax base, stating that “we don’t need more subsidized housing.” While we have “righted the ship,” said Campbell, we still need good jobs. She was also proud of the River’s Edge project.

Toward the end of the forum, though, Campbell became more critical of her opponent. Holding up a highlighted copy of Jake Day’s 44-page plan for the city, Debbie charged “everything in green (highlighter) costs money…you have to have somebody to say you can’t afford it.” Interestingly enough, that plan is no longer available online. (Apparently there was an issue with access from certain browsers. Jake let me know it was working, and I verified this afternoon.) But I have the (non-highlighted) draft copy.

[gview file=”http://monoblogue.us/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Our-Vision-for-Salisbury-Jake-Day.pdf”]

She also believed the question of a fulltime city attorney needed to be studied on a cost/benefit basis, where she alleged the 2,500 signatures were not certified. (They weren’t because the threshold for petitioning to an election in the city requires more than 2,500 signatures.)

Debbie’s key point was her status as a fiscal watchdog – “I’ve watched your money,” said Campbell – but she was also critical of the PAC money Day has received. Holding up copies of a mailing paid for by the National Association of Realtors Fund, she cried “is our city for sale?”

Whether it’s for sale or not, Campbell still faces an uphill financial slog in her race. She’s raised $3,466 so far and her fundraiser with Jimmy Merchant was a mild success, although he and the venue cost the campaign $600, while another fundraiser cost $500. She’s also spent money on signs, but no media.

And then we come to the mayor’s race.

Did Joe Albero change his mind? Some believed so regarding the Salisbury Zoo, but a careful reading of this post some observers pointed out showed he only wanted it out of city control. One could consider it privatization. “I don’t recall making that statement” about shutting down the zoo – “no way” would he do so.

But Albero would be happy to comply with the disclosure law. “I have no problem exposing information that’s being required,” said Joe, instead chiding the “overbearing” lockout law.

Joe’s prime platform plank, though, is economic development. “I will become the next economic development director of Salisbury,” said Joe, who added that a $51 million business wouldn’t be run part-time, so neither should the city. We have to market Salisbury on the western Shore, Joe contended, pointing out the difference in costs between the two areas.

Yet, under Ireton, nothing has been done in four years, Albero charged, later extending the idle time to 16 years. “How’s that working out for you?” he asked. If elected, said Joe, there will be no more fingerpointing. He also pledged two key things: “I will not raise taxes” and “we will revitalize downtown Salisbury.” But downtown as a district now was “long on arts and short on entertainment.” We need to think big and make it a destination location, added Joe.

The loss of business “needs to change,” said Albero.

What may also need to change before the election is Albero’s financial status. Two of the five entities which donated to Albero in the second phase of reporting were local businesses, while two others were based out of Delaware. Joe has raised just $600 in the most recent period, bringing his overall total to $7,150 – with $5,000 being his own seed money. Two other oddities about his latest statement: no recorded expenditures and the series of sheets notes him as a “Candidate for City Council.” (The first report was properly shown as “Candidate for Mayor.”)

Jim Ireton has the advantage of incumbency, but it also yielded him tough questions. For example, the idea of false alarm fines, which was so unpopular that Ireton promised to send it back to Council for a work session. He added “I don’t have a vote” on it. The same was true about the “overwhelming” disclosure law being discussed.

In terms of economic development, Ireton bemoaned plans that have just sat there for thirty years, and stated you need “some money spent to make money.” Moreover, City Council “cut Urban Salisbury to the bone” despite the contention by Jim that they brought in $6-7 for every dollar spent. “What happened to Urban Salisbury is a tragedy,” said Jim.

“No one has fought harder for the city,” Ireton said when asked about his plan. He also jumped on Albero for his lack of political experience, saying “you have to know what an RFP is (and) you have to move forward in reality.”

When asked about new projects, Jim stated “I already think Salisbury is a wonderful place.” We needed to use its assets to create prosperity. He wrapped up his presentation by stating some of his accomplishments: moving the barges off the North Prong, a 40% drop in crime, and being selected as an All-American City among them. Indeed, Jim claimed “I have tried to say yes” but “my two opponents” have done otherwise – Ireton was lumping Albero with Campbell; however, he did not mention his own endorsement of Campbell opponent Jake Day.

While Albero and Ireton were roughly even after the first report, Ireton has also eclipsed the five-figure line in donations, gathering $10,148.65 in contributions. One noticeable aspect of Ireton’s contributors, though: over half hail from outside the immediate area, including State Senator Richard Madaleno, another openly gay politician.

Also, while Ireton has spent the usual money on radio ads, print media, and coffee – plenty of java from Main Roots Coffee here in town – it’s also notable that he and Jake Day shared the cost of an election night event at River’s Edge. While it’s not the worst-kept secret that Jim Ireton would like Debbie Campbell ejected from City Council, one has to wonder how the city will be run if Campbell is flipped aside for Day and the 3-2 logjam swings away from current beneficiaries Campbell, Council President Terry Cohen, and Tim Spies.

Next month, we may just find out. Moderator Ernie Colburn noted at the end that “there are no losers here.” If the wrong choices are made, I think he will be wrong and Salisbury will drift further along toward obscurity.

Go to West, young man

I’m not sure this is the most overly newsworthy item out there, but those many readers I have in the Dan Bongino fan club may enjoy this Next Generation TV appearance he had with Lt. Col. Allen West. (I don’t subscribe to Next Generation, and I’m not sure they allow embedding anyway. So follow the link.)

I did watch it, though, and what impressed me most is how well Dan seems to be handling the constant media demands on his time. He seems to have become the go-to expert on all things Secret Service, too.

But this continues to provide me with the thought that Dan Bongino may be Maryland’s answer to Sarah Palin. At times, I think he seems to be evolving into a figure which is too big for state politics – think of it this way: could you see Sarah Palin running again for an office in Alaska? Granted, there’s a big difference between serving in a political office as Sarah did for several years before becoming a governor and vice-presidential nominee versus running one time for U.S. Senate and getting only a little over 1/4 of the vote, but you would have to admit that Dan is perhaps the most famous failed one-time Senate candidate in the country right now, at least in casual conservative circles.

That’s not to say that Dan hasn’t worked for this limelight; he is certainly a gifted speaker and very articulate in presenting his political platform. Unlike any other Maryland politician with the possible exception of Martin O’Malley – who is an elected official and head of the Democratic Governors’ Association – Dan is perhaps the most well-known politician from the state of Maryland. Granted, we don’t have a lot of statewide officers to begin with and our two United States Senators don’t seem to be the type that naturally gravitate toward the camera, so Maryland is essentially not regarded for its politicians. Dan fills that vacuum well.

Another parallel to Bongino could be that presented by his interviewer, Lt. Col. Allen West. While West did serve a single term in Congress, his political impact would seem to be greater as a media celebrity; one for whom a fledgling internet television network was created. With as many media appearances as Dan makes, the possibility of that being his outlet exists as well.

So when the discussion for 2014 begins, Dan is obviously portrayed as one of the first dominoes which needs to fall. Given that there are already several good candidates in the quest for the governor’s chair and no Senate seat is up for grabs next year, it seems like the coming three years will present themselves as an opportunity to build the Bongino brand as a spokesperson for conservatism across the country. Unlike the situation in 2010, where most Republicans waited on pins and needles to see whether Bob Ehrlich would make a second run at O’Malley, no one is going to step aside for Dan should he opt to run for governor.

Could Dan win in that situation? It’s hard to tell – certainly he’ll have to do well in the minority community to have any shot, but the remainder of the state may well be fed up with the O”Malley tax-and-spend regime.

But I think this decision has to be made sooner than later. As we learned in 2010, being coy and not allowing the political process to sort itself out leads to disappointing results in November. The 2014 primary will be in late June, which gives both parties ample time to heal their wounds and fight for control of the state, but there’s a lot of work to do between now and then. I have all the respect in the world for Dan, but if he wants to do something in terms of running for office in 2014 it’s getting time to let us know. Otherwise, I’ll be interested to see who his Cede No Ground PAC focuses on.

2A townhall draws over 500 citizens

The signs were pointing to a contentious night, but most of the anger was directed toward Annapolis and Washington.

2A meeting sign

I will grant that I arrived a little late because we had a truncated Wicomico County Republican Club meeting – one which literally lasted five minutes, long enough to swear the new officers in – so I did not hear any introductions or opening remarks from event host and Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis, who had a show of support from several other local sheriffs.

When I picked up on the proceedings, Congressman Andy Harris was speaking about the lack of NICS prosecutions at the federal level, with a particularly appalling lack of enforcement in Maryland. “States like Maryland will not enforce the law,” Harris charged. “Maryland is one of the worst states” in reporting mentally ill people to NICS.

“This is not about stopping Newtown,” Harris added. Instead, we should enforce the laws we have before adopting new ones.

2A meeting crowd

While Harris drew a very good response from the audience, it was no match for the reaction to always-outspoken Delegate Mike McDermott.

Senate Bill 281, he said, is “not redeemable…it needs to die on the vine.” McDermott added that “if it needed pulmonary resuscitation, I’d stomp on its chest.”

“This is about feeling like you’re doing something,” McDermott continued.

And while there have been “behind-the-scenes negotiations” on the “most intrusive” parts of the bill, the Delegate believed “this is the week to watch” regarding its fate. We still need a good display of public outrage every day the bill doesn’t advance, until April 8. He also noted the bill was assigned to two different House committees, a tactic occasionally used “to water down votes” of confirmed opponents who sit on a particular committee. Not only is the bill being heard in the Judiciary Committee McDermott serves on but it’s also been placed under the auspices of the Health and Government Operations Committee.

He also believed the bill sends “a mixed message” by creating criminals out of law-abiding citizens, and exhorted us to stand firm and make our voices heard.

Event host Lewis began by repeating his testimony on behalf of the Maryland Sheriffs’ Association on House Bill 294 (the crossfiled companion bill to Senate Bill 281 now being considered in the House.) He also repeated his oath of office, further pledging “we will fight for you to the end on this issue.”

“This is the right thing to do for the right reason,” Lewis added.

A representative from State Senator Jim Mathias’s office spoke on his behalf, saying he “sends his deep regrets” about not being able to attend due to the Senate session. While the statement contained his point about assisting with the abortive Senate filibuster of the gun bill and his hope that it would be defeated in the House, Mathias also swerved off-point a little by his boast about being “able to work across the aisle” on topics like the gas tax and death penalty repeal.

Wicomico County State’s Attorney Matt Maciarello made the case that “armed thugs in Salisbury don’t care about these laws.” He advocated for an armed deputy in each school to keep them from being “soft targets” and asked us to “hit the pause button on emotion.”

“If you want to protect yourself, the government shouldn’t stand in the way,” concluded Matt, who later called the event “a very cathartic night for me.”

While the opening remarks took around an hour, the bulk of the meeting – which lasted well over three hours – was taken by a number of citizens engaging in a question and answer session with the participants.

Right off the bat, questioners were accusatory in tone toward the state and federal government. “We need to cut (Governor O’Malley) short…he is dangerous,” the initial questioner said. On his mind was the most recent ammunition shortage, to which Congressman Harris responded “we’re not getting a good answer” on Congressional inquiries. He was trying to speak with various ammunition manufacturers to see whether the large government orders were curtailing general consumer availability.

Others were adamant about maintaining their rights in other ways. Here’s a selection of quotes from citizens I jotted down.

“Law-abiding citizens don’t want to be outgunned.”

“Anyone who is naive enough to believe registration doesn’t lead to confiscation is out of their minds.”

“The issue has nothing to do with public safety…(it’s) subverting the Constitution.”

“Once the defensive weapons are gone, you can kiss everything else goodbye…the Second Amendment is our final reset button.”

Another questioned why we don’t adopt the Eddie Eagle program in our schools, with many speakers relating their early introduction to guns.

Yet schools held another manifestation of the problem. A thirty-year veteran teacher recalled the days when kids would come to her class prepared for hunting after school, including being armed with hunting knives inside the school and loaded weapons in their vehicles outside. Now, however, convicted felon juveniles given the choice between “school or prison” are in her classroom without her knowledge. Delegate McDermott chimed in to note he had drafted bills addressing this concern, bills which would have allowed armed school guardians (whether with weapons or tasers) and permitted off-duty officers to carry their guns on school property.

McDermott added his own dig at the gas tax as well, quipping we should use the new funds to “pay for the roadways leaving Maryland, because that’s where the congestion will be.”

There was one well-dressed gentleman who disagreed, believing assault weapons should be banned. However, he was “willing to compromise,” in part because “I don’t understand guns.” Lewis was among many who would be happy to make that introduction.

Matt Maciarello may have believed he would get away without some questioning, but I wondered, knowing that Lewis had pledged not to send his deputies on what he later termed a “suicide mission” at our Lincoln Day Dinner, whether Matt would refuse to prosecute anyone charged with violating the law. Obviously I put him on the spot because he couldn’t make such a blanket promise – I can understand the reasoning since all cases are different, and hopefully the question will be moot.

Another asked him about when civil disobedience was appropriate, which brought up another response Matt had to think about.

One final statement I want to relate was one made by Sheriff Lewis in answer to a question, as it’s also answering something I’ve brought up here. Said Lewis, “I don’t aspire to be a Delegate, I don’t aspire to be a Senator. I aspire to be a sheriff.”

Well, Mike, if you plan on continuing to be my first and last line of defense against tyranny and supporting my right to keep and bear arms against the overreaching arm of the state, brother, you’ve got my vote. One less office for the local Republicans to worry about.

One disappointing aspect of the night, though, was how few local politicians attended. However, Salisbury City Council member Debbie Campbell came after the conclusion of the Council meeting and I was told County Councilman John Hall was also there. But that was it, and that’s really disheartening.

Ten Question Tuesday: March 26, 2013

I really didn’t intend to have a month-long hiatus in this series, but it now returns with my chat with 2014 state Comptroller hopeful Bill Campbell. Campbell also ran for the job in 2010, and it appears that, should he be successful in the GOP primary, he will have a rematch against incumbent Peter Franchot.

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monoblogue: Let me bring my readers up to speed here. You are already in the ring for Comptroller next year, 2014; you ran in 2010, and, assuming you get through the primary – which is not a given, but I would say you’re the odds-on favorite – you’re probably going to have a rematch with Peter Franchot, who thought about running for Governor and decided not to. I guess the first thing I want to know is, since you’ve already ran for the office, do you have any lessons you’re going to move into your 2014 campaign?

Campbell: Absolutely. If there was anybody who was ever a novice, it was Bill Campbell in 2010. I started way too late, I had no organization, I got into the race where the Governor’s race was sucking all of the donations out of the air – it was like there was no oxygen in the room – so when I talked to other candidates who were running for office they said the same thing: they couldn’t raise money because the Ehrlich campaign was basically sucking up all of the money that was available for Republicans, the Republican donors. I started way too late; I started in April or May (of 2010)…

monoblogue: Right.

Campbell: …and I only raised a few thousand dollars, I can’t remember the exact amount.

I spent most of my money in the primary, I think about $11,000 in the primary. Now some of the money I was able to get benefit of in the general election, like my signs, my palm cards, and so forth, but in the general election I only spent $4,000, give or take a few bucks, and I had to make up for that – money’s important, but it’s not the most important thing. The thing I really learned is that people have to know you, they have to like you, and they have to trust you. If you can get those three things, you get their vote.

monoblogue: Well, the question is, you’re running against guy who’s probably got – I don’t know how much Peter Franchot has in the bank, but I’m sure he’s got quite a bit…

Campbell: He’s got a little over $2 million.

monoblogue: …yeah. It’s almost certain, and this is true of almost any Republican in Maryland, practically, that you’re going to be -you’re going to have to work harder and smarter because you’re not going to have the money available to the incumbent.

Campbell: No, and I figured that if Franchot ran for governor I could probably beat somebody who wasn’t an incumbent by only raising about $125,000.  I think I have a good shot at Peter if I could raise $250,000. That’s one of the reasons I started early, I’m asking for money, I’m getting donations, it’s not a huge amount right now – at the end of the year when I filed I think I had just a hair under $2,000 – but I had just started asking people for money. So I’m going to get fundraisers this time.

You bring up a good point. Peter raised $1.9 million the last time – and got a million votes – but he spent $1.5 million. I didn’t see where he spent it wisely. Do you remember seeing anything about Peter Franchot except an occasional 4×8 sign?

monoblogue: No. The thing about this race, since it’s an open seat for governor, you’re going to have an all-out war in the primary on both sides.

Campbell: Right.

monoblogue: You’re going to have, most likely, a very competitive race as far as the general election goes, but it’s going to be a little bit like Question 7 was last year. I think it’s going to take up a lot of the available airtime, so you may be right – you may not have to raise a lot of money. Peter Franchot may have a lot left over at the end of this campaign because he’ll have nowhere to spend the money except maybe consultants and what-have-you, the professional political class that we have in Maryland.

Campbell: I like to say that he’s a twice-elected incumbent Democrat. He presently has $2 million in the bank, he beat me once – I have him right where I want him. He’s overconfident.

monoblogue: Yeah, I noticed when Franchot dropped out of the governor’s race, you said ‘good, I don’t have to face the junior varsity now.’ Obviously you knew what you were going to be up against.

Campbell: I was always – I plan on the worst-case scenario. If I didn’t think I had a fair chance – I’m not in this to make a point. I’m not in this to posture or try to get myself well-known for some higher office later on – I’m a pragmatist. I think that it’s very difficult to win as a Republican any time. But I got a lot of non-Republican votes the last time, and Mr. Franchot didn’t get very many non-Democratic votes – I think he got about 10,000 votes that weren’t Democratic. I can’t swear to it because it’s been two years since I looked at it, but I got well over 100,000 votes that weren’t Republican.

So, for one, his name recognition I don’t think is terribly good. He didn’t do a good job spending his money the last time, he’s fighting with people in his own caucus – you know, there are bills in the General Assembly right now to take some of his functions away. He doesn’t seem to be allied with either Mr. Gansler or Lt. Gov. Brown, so I think that he is more vulnerable than the other candidates that we’re going to have to put nominees up against.

And, to be perfectly honest with you, I think that our chickens are about to come home to roost. The reason I ran the last time I got in was the deficit in our state employee and teacher pension fund, and the retiree health care. It has gotten worse. We’ve gone from being funded about 64% to around 60%, and the deficit on the pension has gone from $18.5 billion to $20.5 billion. The retiree health care fund is still around $16 billion in the hole.

So I think that a lot of things are going to come home to roost, I think that the public may be numb after eight years of constant tax increases, taking the budget from about $29 billion – it will be well over 40 (billion dollars) by the time these clowns are finished. And I think that the realization that the Affordable Care Act is neither affordable nor does it provide good care – I think people, even in Maryland, may be at the point where they’re willing to try something different, and by that elect more Republican elected officials.

monoblogue: Well, in Franchot’s case, he’s always tried to portray himself as a fiscal conservative, but in this case – it’s kind of the opposite of the old saying where Republicans can’t win if they try to be liberal because there’s already a liberal party out there. Democrats who try to be conservative, maybe they can’t win because there’s already a conservative in the race and his name is Bill Campbell.

Campbell: Right, and the thing with Franchot – I like Peter, I’d like to have him as a brother-in-law, or a neighbor, or a lodge brother, or something – but he’s not a good Comptroller. He doesn’t have a grasp of the financial issues. And we’re going to need somebody who has  an excellent grasp of the financial issues to help get us through.

Part of that is, we’re probably, in my lifetime, going to have a Democratic-majority General Assembly. Thankfully, in Maryland, because of the way it’s constituted, to control the state you only need two offices: you need the Governor and you need the Comptroller so that you can control the Board of Public Works.

monoblogue: Right.

Campbell: If you control the  Board of Public Works, then you can control the spending, and you can control the priorities, and you can control the trajectory that Maryland is going to have economically. So whoever our nominee is for Governor, I am going to try to work as closely with them and try to come across as a tag-team that will improve Marylanders’ economic future, the future for their children and their grandchildren.

I think we can have, if we have a good gubernatorial candidate, I think I have more than a fair chance.

monoblogue: Yeah. The other thing that I actually – as I was listening to you, is that, we also need a strong (Republican) party, and it kind of brings me to the next area I wanted to get into. Now I know you ran for state party Chair…in 2010 – you didn’t win, you were third, I think, in the first ballot and then withdrew…

Campbell: Yes.

monoblogue: …Obviously you’re not going to do it this time because you’ve already announced for the Comptroller’s race and you can’t do both at once, but what’s your take on the candidates who are in it so far?

Campbell: You mean for party chair?

monoblogue: Yes.

Campbell: The only one I know who’s really been announced is Diana Waterman. Is there another one?

monoblogue: There are actually two: one is Greg Kline, who’s…

Campbell: Oh, I’m sorry, I did see Greg Kline. I don’t know an awful lot about Greg. I know that he’s been really active in – I read something that was posted, he had a position paper?

monoblogue: Right.

Campbell: When I ran, the reason I ran was, after campaigning statewide, I had been in every jurisdiction at least four times. I talked to people on all ends of the spectrum from the Republican party, and I was very concerned because I thought at the time we needed to replace an establishment figure, Audrey Scott, with somebody who was not in any one camp but could reach across the boundaries between the camps and make a cohesive, unified party. I’m afraid – I liked all of the people who ran before, I liked Alex, I liked Sam Hale, but I’m afraid that if you have somebody who is identified only with one faction, the other factions are going to withdraw and we’re not going to be very successful.

That was why I ran, but if somebody had come to me and said – and I had talked to Alex when he ran, and I am 99% sure he assured me he would stay for four years. That was one of the reasons I thought, well, okay, and then I saw where he was raising money, he was using the party imprimatur of the chairman to raise money for a potential run for Roscoe Bartlett’s seat, which I thought was improper.

monoblogue: Right. (laughs) Go ahead, I keep interrupting you.

Campbell: When I ran, I was going to make it a non-paid full-time job, because I think whoever our chair is, until we start to get on a roll, we need to have somebody who is going to work full time, who is going to reach outside the party to constituencies like the businessmen in Baltimore City who have property that’s being adversely affected by the Maryland State Center project – we need to go in and proselytize people that we don’t normally talk to. Whoever is going to run and be our Chair needs to do that, in my opinion.

monoblogue: Well, actually you’ve answered the next question I was going to ask. The other gentleman, by the way, who’s in the race is Collins Bailey – I think he’s out of Charles County.

Campbell: Oh, I know – I know Collins Bailey. I met Collins when he was running against Charles Lollar to be our nominee for the Fifth Congressional District. I like Collins, he’s a nice guy, he’s conservative, I don’t know what kind of support he has among the Central Committees, because as far as I know he’s just widely known in southern Maryland.

monoblogue: Yeah, that’s my impression of him, too. I mean, I know who he is, I’ve probably talked to him once or twice, but – any of those candidates, and I know Diana, too, has actually done this and Greg Kline is in the process of doing this – they need to get out and get to all 23 counties if they can before the race. That’s the key.

Campbell: I think – isn’t there going to be in Montgomery County…isn’t there going to be a panel discussion with all of them?

monoblogue: There could be, I’m not sure. I know, for example, Greg Kline is coming to our Lincoln Day Dinner Saturday – I think Collins Bailey is trying to get there too. Diana Waterman will be there too, I’m sure, because she’s from the Eastern Shore. So I think – I don’t think anyone else is going to get in, I would be surprised if they did now. And you kind of answered my next question, I was going to ask what advice you had for the winner, but you’ve already kind of given that, so let me turn to one other thing real quick: I wanted to talk about – and I know you have a little expertise on federal matters because you used to run Amtrak, and you probably have a little bit of insight into the budget process…

Campbell: Yes, I had 30 years in the federal government, 19 as a career senior executive, and two years as a Presidential appointee as an assistant secretary for management at the VA. So I know a lot about the federal government.

monoblogue: So what do you think about all this talk about – obviously we started with sequestration, and now we’re talking about the possibility of some shutdown or other, and getting a budget out because they have to – they have to get a budget out or they don’t get paid. If you wave a magic wand, what does Bill Campbell do about this whole deal?

Campbell: Well, here’s the thing you have to remember. I’ve been looking at it through the lens of ‘how is this going to affect Maryland?’ I want to run for Maryland office, and – if I succeed and I win – I’m responsible for the finances of the state. And I look at it – Maryland, over the past four decades, has become a ward of the federal legislature. We get approximately 40% of our state revenue to run our government directly and indirectly from the feds. We get 27% directly, and then we get about another 13% indirectly through income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes from federal employees, federal retirees, and federal contractors and military retirees, and to some extent property tax from perhaps military – active-duty military.

So regardless of whether you call it sequestration, the fiscal cliff: no matter what you do any – any – reduction in federal spending will adversely affect Maryland. That said, we desperately need to cut back on the spending. That’s going to be painful, but if we don’t do with everybody, even the liberals agree that our spending is on an unsustainable path.

We are borrowing 42 cents on every dollar that we spend at present, and we – the debt service right now is, I believe 200 or 300 billion dollars and we are paying historically low rates on that debt. In a couple of years, when the fed stops doing quantitative easing, even Bernanke has admitted by about 2015 the interest rates that we are going to be paying – which are all pegged to the 10-year Treasury note – are going to jump up to the historic value of about 4 or 5 percent. What that means is that the largest single budget item to the federal government will be debt service. That will crowd out spending we need for infrastructure, defense, clean air, safe food, safe drinking water, public health – everything will become secondary so that we have to cut the spending.

And there are smart ways to do it and dumb ways to do it. Sequestration, when you look at it, isn’t that bad, particularly if you put, as they are right now, flexibility for the federal agencies in there. The Department of Defense’s budget this year is $711 billion – you think, oh my God, under sequestration we’re going to go to 522 (billion dollars.) Well, 522 might be absolutely fine because the difference between 521 and 711 is fighting two wars. As we get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and we avoid going into places like Iran and Syria, and Africa – then we can absorb that reduction well.

So I’m not afraid the sky is going to fall, I think what has happened is that the Obama administration has tried to make sequestration as painful as possible – you know, letting 2,000 illegal aliens loose that were in custody, closing down tours of the White House – they are doing everything humanly possible to make this appear a big problem. Well, I just came back from Florida and, you know, except for an occasional little mention of sequestration it’s not on anybody’s radar outside the Beltway, and it doesn’t seem to be having much of an effect because, rather than a cliff, it’s kind of a slow, gentle slope with the cutbacks and spending and you probably won’t really see it until next year and next year is when the Affordable Care Act costs are going to start to really hammer people, so I think 2014, because of these things, is going to be a decent year for Republicans, even in Maryland.

monoblogue: Well, that’s a good place to wrap it up. So I appreciate the time, Bill.

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We actually talked a little bit more regarding the 2014 race, but for the purpose of this exercise I’ll keep that off the record. One thing I will share is his opinion that “Maryland’s finances are terribly broken.” Seems to me that’s a good reason to get into the race, and I wish Bill the best of luck in his uphill fight.

I should also note that I recorded this interview on Friday, so I had the opportunity to speak with all three Chair candidates at our Lincoln Day Dinner subsequent to recording this post.

Next week’s guest will be another Maryland political figure, with the question being which one of the two records his interview first.

The Waterman side

In an e-mail to Central Committee members, interim MDGOP Chair Diana Waterman explained her recent actions on two controversial topics: the David Ferguson trip to South Carolina and the Nicolee Ambrose incident. I’m posting it just as the e-mail was received, which means it really is in somewhat breathless, long paragraphs.

Dear Central Committee Member:

In the past few days you may have received an email or saw a story about me concerning two decisions I have made since becoming Interim Chair. Some of you have contacted me to ask me about them. But most of you have not. To clear up any confusion, I wanted to share the details with you.

1) On Friday, our Executive Director, David Ferguson, participated in a joint Press Conference with the South Carolina GOP concerning Gov. O’Malley’s appearance at a South Carolina Democrat Issues Conference. This was a joint effort between the Republican Governor’s Association, the RNC, the SCGOP, and the MDGOP. It has received widespread press coverage, and showed Maryland Democrats that the MDGOP is on the offensive now. While in South Carolina, David met with staff members of the State’s leading political leaders to invite them to Maryland for future MDGOP events and for Lincoln Day Dinners. For the past year or so, we have been providing opposition research, media briefing kits, and support to Republican State Parties across the United States wherever MOM has travelled. We will continue to highlight the destruction that has been done to our State by our Governor with the support of the Democrat–controlled Senate and House as we target those very legislators in next year’s election. This trip did not cost the Party anything additional – David worked the whole time he was away plus you may not know this but David works 6 days a week most weeks (sometimes all 7 days), and often until 10 or 11 at night. He is definitely not a 9 to 5 employee. Note – we are not planning to follow O’Malley across the United States in person, however, we will make sure that everywhere he goes, his record of failed leadership will precede him so that GOP Leaders can point it out while he is there! Also, there was some concern that we rescheduled the Pathfinders Training scheduled for March 23rd so that David could go to South Carolina. This is incorrect. The training was rescheduled because Del. Ready could not be there.

2) Over the weekend, there was some internet discussion concerning the Maryland representative on the RNC Standing Rules Committee. The three RNC members are supposed to caucus and choose which one of them will serve on the RNC Rules Committee. Both Louis and Nicolee requested to hold the Maryland seat on the Rules Committee. Before he resigned, Alex chose to sign Nicolee’s application for the Rules Committee (it takes two out of the three RNC members to make a majority on the form). He (Alex) told me he signed her form because Louis had the Northeast Chair position and she had nothing (on the RNC). Alex also told me that as the form was not due until March 1st, according to what he was told by the RNC legal department, that we could submit a second form if I thought that Louis should remain on the committee. (Nicolee was never on the Rules Committee so the discussion that somehow I removed her is incorrect.) Louis has served on this committee for 8 years, he is the Senior member of our delegation, was re-elected with 83% of the vote last year, was re-elected unanimously (and unopposed) as the RNC Vice Chair of the Northeast Region, and is well-respected and well-known on the RNC – I did not see any reason to remove him from this committee as Maryland’s representative. I did reach out to Nicolee to talk with her but she did not get back to me before the March 1st deadline. I thought that Louis’ experience and relationships with other RNC members made him a better choice for this committee. I knew that this decision was not going to be popular with some people – obviously, the politically expedient choice would have been to do nothing. But I made the decision knowing the potential cost because I thought it was the right decision for the Party locally and nationally. I do believe Nicolee has a great future at the RNC and in our State and will enthusiastically support her for any other committee nationally and hope that she will take a lead role in our State and nationally, especially in the areas of grassroots organization, outreach, communications, and technology where she excels.

My goal has always been and continues to be to try to make Maryland a two party state – I don’t have any political aspirations, I just want to serve the Party as best I can. If my years of service and hard work are negated by these decisions, so be it. I had to do what I thought best as you have to do what you think best.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Diana

Now here’s my take on her explanation.

There is something to be said for how hard David Ferguson works, but we all know he can read a paper and on March 7 it was revealed in the Washington Post that O’Malley was heading south. Here in Wicomico County we did not receive word about the postponement of the Pathfinders event until noontime March 13. But even if Ready was unavailable, certainly a suitable replacement could have been found – and who says Justin will be available April 6, in the midst of the General Assembly session’s final weekend? I smell a rat.

The point is that this explanation should have come to us much sooner. Literally, though, it was a one-line announcement of the change tucked into the main trumpeting of the Maryland Matters program, and unless our county Chair Dave Parker has a deeper stated reason he’s withholding (I seriously doubt that) this is another case of poor communication from the state. That, though, may not necessarily be all on Diana.

Here in Salisbury we are acutely aware of how plans have to change, given the trials and tribulations presented to us by this year’s Lincoln Day Dinner and its ever-changing roster of speakers, but we did our best to communicate why things occurred as they did. That communication was lacking here, and it turned out to both create a headache for both our local party and provide fodder for well-deserved criticism of how the state party uses its meager resources. If it was about getting South Carolina people to speak at Lincoln Day dinners, I think we in Wicomico are owed a Jim DeMint, or at least a Nikki Haley or Joe “You lie!” Wilson.

As for the Ambrose incident, there is something which troubles me, a he said-she said of epic proportions.

Diana is saying that she reached out to speak with Nicolee, but Ambrose never got back to her by the March 1st deadline; meanwhile Ambrose contends she didn’t learn about the decision until March 21. Someone is not telling the truth here. I will say that Diana’s statement here is reasonably close to what she explained to me at our Lincoln Day Dinner, as in this case I was going more or less from memory when I wrote down my notes of our conversation.

But Diana also had to know that Nicolee was spearheading the effort to change the rules passed at last year’s national convention – the obvious reason she wanted to serve. Apparently the 83% re-election and the 8 years served on the committee before weren’t good enough reasons for Alex Mooney to keep Louis there, but Diana obviously felt differently. In truth, I would say the only reason Louis received 83% of the vote in the Spring 2012 convention, though, was that Scott Shaffer didn’t work as hard to gain the National Committeeman seat as Nicolee did to secure the National Committeewoman’s post. If that vote had occurred in the fall, after Louis played right along with making the questionable rules changes at the national convention, I daresay we may have elected a new National Committeeman. Yes, there are a LOT of people still angry about the rule changes and the way they were passed.

And whether Diana had until March 1st or not, the question remains whether the original form is superseded by a subsequent one. That may be a legal matter for the RNC to sort out.

I also give you this thought. You may recall that Diana was a strong supporter of Audrey Scott last year for National Committeewoman, and it was a bitterly contested race. It’s obvious the two are still close, since they attended our January WCRC meeting together. What better way to stick a knife in the back of your friend’s biggest rival than to deny her something she wants? I’m sure Diana would deny this theory until she’s blue in the face, but I would be surprised if Audrey’s fingerprints aren’t somewhere on this one. I know this incident has made for some strange (proverbial) bedfellows but that thought seems to me not so far-fetched.

I still believe these are unforced errors on the part of Diana Waterman, with the Ambrose situation perhaps having a ripple effect over the months leading up to next year’s election. Yet this brings up another aspect of the Chair race which could affect the party going forward.

Let’s say Greg Kline wins the Chair race – and I use him as the example because he’s been, by far, the more critical of the two Waterman opponents thus far. (Collins Bailey hasn’t even weighed in on this insofar as I know. He has now, see update #2 below.) How far would we go if the Chair and First Vice-Chair emerge from this contested race on the worst of terms? You may recall the last time this situation played out, then-First Vice-Chair Chris Cavey originally emerged as a front-runner for the position but then stepped aside because some believed he orchestrated the no-confidence vote leading to Jim Pelura’s resignation.

If Waterman wins, I also think we have to look outside the two current contenders for the First Vice-Chair opening. I’ve heard one person is interested in it, but I have another person in mind as well. More as needed in due course.

Update: Via Purple Elephant Politics, there is a copy of the letter sent by former Chair Alex Mooney and Nicolee Ambrose to the RNC, dated February 18. I believe Mooney’s resignation became official a day or two later, so it was one of his final acts as Chair.

Remember, Waterman contends she had until March 1 to act so someone got to her pretty quickly and convinced her to make the change.

Update #2: Chair candidate Collins Bailey filed his reaction. An excerpt:

We shouldn’t penalize people in our Party for advocating for conservative principles, we should embrace them and encourage them.

I firmly believe that the rules changes were not in the best interest of the Republican Party and were a major cause of the disastrous 2012 election results.

Nicolee’s hard work at the RNC demonstrates that she is the right person to represent ALL of us on the Rules Committee of the RNC.

Decisions that are this important and this far reaching must be done openly. Our state party representatives owe it to us to keep us in the loop as events occur, not after the fact.

I’m sure there will be more feedback from other pro-Ambrose camps as well.

Another depressing addition

I almost hate to be the bearer of this bad news, but hopefully the word will spread and be a wake-up call for a state where wallets are being plundered and freedoms eroded: Change Maryland is just now out with a new listing of taxes.

I actually had a chance to check out an advance copy of this scary reading, with the Change Maryland release excerpted below:

Change Maryland released today an updated list of tax, fee and toll increases enacted under the O’Malley Administration. This latest report shows 32 increases that remove $2.3 billion out of the economy annually and includes only measures that have been enacted. As final passage of increasing motor fuel taxes and offshore wind resulting in higher utility bills appear imminent, the list is a reminder of the ever-increasing amount struggling Marylanders are being asked to pay for the big-government ambitions of politicians.

Fully sourced using Department of Legislative Services analysis, executive branch budget documents and fiscal notes from bills, the list is the only comprehensive analysis of what Marylanders are paying in levies over and above existing taxes and fees since 2007.

“This will not be a slide in the Governor’s power point presentations,” said Change Maryland Chairman Larry Hogan. We’re finding yet again, it’s time to pull the curtain back on this Administration. Elected officials and bureaucrats don’t want their tax, fee and toll increases to be public and understandable, so we did it for them in the interest of promoting fiscal responsibility and transparency.”

The group went on to detail a year-by-year, blow-by-blow rendering of all the additional taxes and fees we are subjected to, and added:

The General Assembly’s presiding officers and the Governor are making a unified push in 2013 to raise motor fuel taxes and to pay for offshore wind by increasing utility bills to customers. Change Maryland will footnote those proposals as they work through the legislative process and add those in another list to be released separately. The grassroots organization periodically updates this list based on newly-discovered measures often buried in legislation and counts separate revenue-raising components individually when they are rolled into omnibus legislation.

“It’s hard to believe but they’re not even done yet,” said Hogan.”The Governor and his enablers in the legislature are asking for even more tax increases in the next few weeks, This may very well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. One-party monopoly rule is just too expensive. We need balance and a healthy and competitive two party system. The taxpayers of Maryland have had enough.”

Bear in mind that the state’s budget has surged by nearly a third since Martin O’Malley took over in 2007; although he likes to speak about phantom “cuts” made in the state’s spending docket, the fact is that we spend more dollars now in 2013 than we did in 2007 when Governor O’Malley took over. The increases outstrip the state’s population growth and the rate of inflation.

Moreover, several conversations and speakers I’ve heard over the past few days allude to the fact that a significant portion (up to 40 percent) of Maryland’s budget comes from the federal government. The gentleman I spoke to for Ten Question Tuesday, in particular, has some eye-opening assessments of Maryland’s economy on tap – it may be a considerable struggle for the state to maintain its breakneck spending pace; meanwhile, Free State residents are staring down the barrel of tax and fee increases #33, #34, #35, and perhaps #36 as explained below in previous recent Change Maryland releases, beginning with Change Maryland’s Larry Hogan on offshore wind:

With a proposed motor fuel tax increase this year and several years of raising taxes on everything else, now is not the time to experiment on unproven energy sources with other people’s money. Once again, the priorities of our top elected officials are not aligned with regular, working people who overwhelmingly reject any further tax increases.

This offshore wind scheme requires a tax to make it possible. The private sector does not get to tax people to experiment with projects and with very few exceptions neither should government. This will be a huge waste – assuming anything gets built at all. Governor O’Malley has been focused on increasing the cost of electricity and gasoline for struggling Maryland families and small businesses. He has now accomplished half his goal, and is working hard to increase the cost of gas in Maryland to the highest in the region.

That’s increase number 33. But as Larry alluded to, the gasoline tax passed in the House of Delegates last week:

A proposal as unpopular as this one must be hidden from public view and carefully timed to avoid news cycles. In fact, this proposal is so unpopular that the Governor announced it in the evening, the first hearings were held on a Friday afternoon the same day as the death penalty vote, House passage is on a Friday afternoon, and final votes are taking place in the closing weeks of this legislative session.

Just as unpopular is Governor O’Malley’s record of raising taxes and fees. There are currently 32 enacted measures that remove $2.3 billion out of the economy annually. Marylanders are now faced with the prospect of paying another $800 million on top of the $2.3 billion a year we’re already paying in new taxes if this passes the Senate without substantive changes from the Governor’s proposal.

Hogan also bashed the gas tax for its effect on rural areas.

Committee leaders provided yet another platform for the big county executives, who time and again have pleaded for more revenues that help their urban areas. Missing from this were elected officials from rural parts of the state. Instead, we heard the tired argument that we need more transportation money to attract the FBI headquarters to Prince George’s County. Here we go again – relying on the federal government instead of putting in place policies that attract Fortune 500 companies and small businesses back to our state. Moreover, nobody at the FBI is conditioning the move on Maryland increasing gasoline taxes, and this argument is simply pathetic.

I know Larry lives somewhere on the Western Shore, but I’m glad to see he’s alert to the War on Rural Maryland those of us who choose to live out here have to deal with.

And, if you’re keeping score (I’m sure they are) the gasoline tax increase counts as three increases: not only will the gasoline tax increase, but there will be farebox increases for those who use mass transit and a $3.50 increase in vehicle registration fees. So there you have increases 34 through 36.

It would be one thing if Maryland spent its money wisely, but we really don’t. I was going to write that an interesting case study would be one figuring out what state spends the most per capita, but I found out to my pleasure someone beat me to it. It’s data three years old, but as you can see Maryland was higher than the norm then and it’s doubtful we’re closer now. Just bringing spending down to the nationwide per-person average would save Maryland taxpayers about $4 billion annually – wiping out the extent of O’Malley’s tax increases each year and, even better, allowing its citizens to direct economic growth to where the market leads it rather than have it foisted upon us.

Perhaps with a new Republican team at the top in Annapolis come 2015, we can rebuild the state’s economy to one not so dependent on the largess of Uncle Sam. When the federal bubble bursts, we don’t want to be the ones who have to clean up the mess.

 

2013 Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner in pictures and text

Certainly it wasn’t quite a full house, but after a series of false starts with our list of speakers, the 2013 Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner still drew around 80 people last night.

Billed as an event focusing on the Second Amendment, it was that and more. For one, it was an opportunity for all three aspirants for the state party Chair race to meet the most active Republicans in Wicomico County. While I have Greg Kilne (right) in the photo below with fellow Red Maryland writer Brian Griffiths (left) flanking Andy Harris’ local liaison Bill Reddish (in the center), Collins Bailey and current interim Chair Diana Waterman were present as well.

It’s worthy of noting that Kline and Bailey were there well before the event began, while Waterman arrived closer to time. Perhaps she wasn’t thrilled about being questioned right out of the gate, but I don’t believed she stayed long after the event to mingle, while Bailey was among the last to leave.

While one of the two featured speakers, Charles Lollar, is being mentioned as a possible candidate for governor – more on that in due course – another prospective candidate for Maryland’s top job was making his rounds as well.

Craig was being introduced around the room by local supporter Ann Suthowski. He also stopped to greet Lollar and his lovely wife Rosha.

But the bulk of the time was taken up by our featured speakers, including the President in question himself.

Art North has made somewhat of a cottage industry out of his admiration for our 16th President, since he now regularly appears at other local Lincoln Day dinners. For ours, he had two re-enactors posing as Civil War troops and his photographer, Matthew Brady.

Hopefully none of these men consider a run for Congress, because re-enactors tend to attract unwanted attention.

But Lincoln’s message was one more tailored for the modern day. He made the point that to give up on the fact man can make himself in a free society like ours would be to give up on prosperity. “In your era,” he continued, Saul Alinsky camouflaged his intent with deception “foisted upon the general population.”

In his day, though, the tendency for class warfare was kept in check by the knowledge that hard work, diligent study, and striving for success were possible in America. A shoemaker’s son didn’t have to follow in his father’s footsteps, said Lincoln.

Honest Abe also decried the evolution of our educational system from the dictate of the Northwest Ordinance, which led to the introduction of state control of schooling in the affected states (Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota) to the modern “massive federal control of our education system.”

Who knew Lincoln was such a political animal?

Bill Reddish was called to the microphone to make an announcement about the townhall meeting called by Sheriff Mike Lewis and attended by Congressman Andy Harris tomorrow night at 7 p.m. at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center.

He commented that a similar event in Worcester County split about 80-20 toward a pro-Second Amendment crowd. Originally they expected 75, but 250 attended that event so one would expect the WYCC to be similarly crowded.

(As an aside, we will hold a very brief, almost pro forma Wicomico County Republican Club meeting tomorrow so those attendees can get to the townhall meeting and speak if they desire.)

Because Charles Lollar needed to return to the Washington area to do his job, we allowed him to speak first.

It was a long day for Lollar, who had spoken to a men’s conference early in the morning in Baltimore, at the New Antioch Baptist Church; an event at which he was “well received.” They “embraced” his strong Second Amendment stand, Charles added.

“I am convinced our greatest days are in front of us,” he noted, but pointed out we are at a “pivotal crossroads” in our history. Referring to the state of Maryland, Charles warned “we can’t afford our lifestyle,” claiming that $9.2 billion of a $35 billion state budget comes from various federal grants and stimulus money. We bring in only $26 billion of a $35 billion expense tab, said Lollar.

And he made the case that “sequestration is taking its toll, one step at a time” because Congress isn’t doing its job.

He laid out a stark choice for our nation: either a “national revival of our Constitution and Declaration of Independence” or the “beginning of the end of a great nation.” He was heartened, though, by the 5,000 Marylanders who showed up at the pro-Second Amendment rallies, and when it was mentioned by one observer that he didn’t know there were 5,000 Republicans in Maryland Lollar pointed out “these aren’t just Republicans.”

“The biggest fight is for our dollars and our amendments,” said Charles, who believed as well that “losing our freedoms” wasn’t just a Maryland problem, but a national malady. Working for a dollar and only getting fifty cents from it thanks to taxes was “a form of slavery,” opined Lollar.

But it wasn’t just financial issues for Lollar. There’s a danger “when you start messing with the base of the stool” that our nation was built on: morality, ethics, and God. Charles pointed out that, over our nation’s history, it’s been responsible for more evangelicals than all other nations combined.

It’s that moral foundation which makes it necessary to defend freedom “by any means possible,” and the Second Amendment “is the lifeline of your freedom.”

Charles also reacted to the concept that he takes things so seriously. He grew up in a home which stressed taking responsibility for his actions, he explained, which led him to plead that we “stop playing (political) games with each other in 2013.” “Take some things seriously,” he continued. “My concern is for my country and my concern is for my state.”

Lollar went on. “There are nations salivating for our demise.” He urged us to be like the signers of the Declaration of Independence and “put your name on the document.”

Charles was even serious enough to remark on the standing ovation he received at the end of his remarks, “I haven’t earned that yet.”

Lollar has always had a gift for public speaking, though, and while he hasn’t yet tasted electoral success he’s been in the trenches with his New Day MD PAC and past leadership of AFP Maryland.

I also spoke with Karen Winterling, who’s been pushing the “Draft Lollar” movement. I learned that, due to the Hatch Act, Charles couldn’t make an official announcement on the 2014 governor’s race until June. But Winterling already had an army of 250 volunteers around the state and was hoping for “another 30 tonight.”

Someone else who could get thirty volunteers in a heartbeat was the evening’s final formal speaker.

Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis has emerged as a leader in opposing Governor Martin O’Malley’s draconian gun law proposals.

“I don’t work for Martin O’Malley,” explained Sheriff Lewis. “I work for the 100,000 people of Wicomico County.” He clearly stated that the county sheriff is the “first and last line of defense against tyranny,” and pointed out a number of his counterparts from around the state will be present for Monday night’s townhall meeting here in Wicomico County.

He also made the case for the right to bear arms. “Who am I to tell a citizen they can’t defend themselves?” Lewis asked. He also expressed his admiration for America’s most famous sheriff, promising that “Sheriff Joe (Arpaio) will be here when I run for re-election in 2014.”

And not only did Lewis take a lead role in the fight to preserve the Second Amendment, he stood in opposition to doing away with the death penalty as well. There’s a framed picture of Sarah Foxwell in his office to remind his deputies of why they do their job.

But Lewis saved most of his remarks for his defense of the Second Amendment. “We’re going to fight hard” against the gun bill, said Lewis, but if it passes “I will not allow any deputies to go into any law-abiding citizens’ houses (to confiscate guns),” Lewis promised.

This legislation will “do nothing” to stem crime in Maryland, Mike continued. It’s our “right, duty, and responsibility” to protect ourselves. Lewis also warned that the Obama administration is “trying to disarm Americans,” and vowed on Monday “we will show everyone the real Obama administration.”

After Delegate Addie Eckardt closed us out with a rendition of “God Bless America,” the formal portion of the event concluded and people had the chance to speak one-on-one with various attendees. I took some additional time to speak with my tablemates from Strategic Victory Consulting, who had come down for the day, and also further renewed acquaintances with my “partner in crime” Heather Olsen of Prince George’s County. (The below photo was taken by Dwight Patel.)

Heather Olsen and Brian Griffiths and I

So the Maryland YRs were well-represented, too. It seemed like we had as many or more people from outside Wicomico County as we did locals.

Still, it was interesting to have the attention of the state party on our little corner of Maryland for a day. We may only make up 1/60 of the state in terms of population, but I daresay we make more than our share of political headlines and intrigue. Must be that thriving blogosphere.

Another Maryland Republican misfire

I don’t know how many times I have heard a phrase along these lines uttered: “The Maryland Republican Party would do a lot better if they stopped shooting themselves in the foot.” The other variation on that theme involves the phrase “circular firing squad.”

I understand dealing with perpetual underfunding, legislators for whom getting all of them to be a competent opposition party makes herding cats look like child’s play, and those party leaders who have outsized egos. Me, I’m just a cog in the big machine who sits on my Central Committee, takes a lot of notes, and occasionally offers the helpful suggestions and opinions. I don’t have any aspirations for leadership because I’ve found out through experience I work best in the role I’ve chosen.

But this past week has been one of unforced errors, and I couldn’t sit idly by without making my feelings known.

First of all, people speak about the Wicomico County Pathfinders program cancellation in the abstract, but those of us who actually live down here and were trying to talk up the event for would-be candidates and campaign workers might just feel a little bit let down that the state party decided the wild goose chase of Martin O’Malley – who at least can’t hurt the state all that badly when he’s off in South Carolina – took precedence over our event. Yes, I realize it’s only a two-week delay but what if something pressing occurs in the last days of our General Assembly session? Will the state party push us off again?

And then we have the Nicolee Ambrose incident, where she was unceremoniously dumped off the RNC Rules Committee just in time for an upcoming meeting – by whose behest is not clear. I have asked Diana Waterman to give her side of the story in the face of considerable criticism, which I will get to in due course. So far she has not responded, but Nicolee Ambrose has been kind enough to share her side of the events:

I can relay the basic facts of the situation:

On February 18th, Chairman Alex Mooney and I submitted our “Standing Committee on Rules Submission” to the RNC, in which I was elected Maryland’s representative. On February 19th RNC Legal confirmed it was received and in order. After that in late February, Maryland Interim Chairman Diana Waterman signed a form appointing Louis Pope instead.

Per RNC Rule 10(a)(1), I understand I hold this Rules Committee position until the 2016 Convention. We shall see how this works out.

Nicolee added that she wasn’t told about this change by Waterman until this past Thursday, March 21. It appears, though, that it’s a move of dubious legality as well as one unpopular with the reformer wing of the party – the side sick of losing here in Maryland.

Once again, they have fired back against a group they consider the establishment: Richard Cross at Cross Purposes, Jackie Wellfonder at Raging Against the Rhetoricand Dan Bongino (via Anthropocon) have all blasted the Ambrose move. Waterman’s opponent Greg Kline made a lengthy statement regarding these recent incidents, from which I excerpt:

Interim Chairwoman Diana Waterman’s decision to remove National Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose from her position on the RNC rules committee was wrong. Nicolee has worked tirelessly for our party. She has built bridges to our activist base, and reached out voters not traditionally aligned with our party.

Furthermore, the decision, and the particular way it was handled, is emblematic of the opaque, insider brand of politics practiced by current party leadership. The decision to remove Nicolee only serves to widen the internal divisions in our party, at the very time we need to be united.

This is the very thing I am running against in my campaign for state party chair.

Once again, we seem to be heading into our state Spring Convention in a contentious mode, divided again at a time when the General Assembly session is reaching its climax. This is shaping up a lot like last spring’s National Committeewoman contest between Ambrose and Audrey Scott, with some of the same battle lines being drawn between various factions and subsets of the party. Waterman was a Scott supporter last spring while many in the reformer wing (including this writer) supported Ambrose for the post. In this spring’s race, though, loyalties on the “outsider” side may be split between two contenders, Greg Kine and Collins Bailey.

Meanwhile, as we chase Martin O’Malley around the country, House Democrats pass yet another of MOM’s pet tax increases – without a single GOP vote, by the way. As we discuss the election of the chair and the future of the party, an interim chair makes a decision of dubious legality at a time when the person in question was making an attempt to reform the national party and restore the power of the grassroots to the national level.

In my original version of this post, I noted I had not yet spoken with Diana Waterman; however, I did speak to her briefly and candidly earlier tonight at the Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner.

In essence, Waterman told me the reasons she selected Louis Pope to be on the Rules Committee were simple: his experience in the national party on that committee and the length of tenure. It was a matter of “continuity,” Diana said. From what I gathered, she wanted Nicolee to focus on other aspects in the state party.

While I can understand the reasoning behind the decision, it doesn’t mean I agree with it and I told her as much. Others who I spoke with about the situation felt that Diana was pushed by people at the national level to make the change, since one of Alex Mooney’s final acts was to place Nicolee on the Rules Committee. This confusion and abrupt change could also lead to a problem with credentials at the upcoming RNC meeting, with other states becoming involved.

My thought is that someone doesn’t like the idea of revisiting the rules adopted at last summer’s convention, an effort spearheaded by Ambrose. There is supposed to be discussion about these rules next month at the RNC spring meeting, and who better to keep the status quo than Louis Pope?

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