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 Rhetoric, and 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?