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.
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.