The O’Malley/Brown legacy: debt

September 30, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The O’Malley/Brown legacy: debt 

At the most recent Wicomico County Republican Club meeting last Monday, gubernatorial candidate Ron George briefly mentioned that our state’s debt was cycling from a five-year payback to a fifteen-year payback, thanks to the desire of Martin O’Malley to keep annual debt service down and appear to balance the budget without further vast tax increases. George further expanded on this point in a release Thursday morning:

Delegate Ron George opposes Gov. Martin O’Malley’s increase in the state’s bond limit.

“I agree with Comptroller Franchot that we cannot afford more bond lending,” George remarked. “O’Malley is shifting today’s debt onto our children. He cannot fund the budget with existing revenue so he has backfilled the budget with bond bills.”

Delegate George also noted that it was the O’Malley/Brown administration who extended our debt service from 5 years to 15 years thus creating ever increasing future structural deficits.

The “out of left field request” for $750 million additional bond debt was made last Monday at a hastily-called Capital Debt Affordability Committee meeting, which also ran afoul of public meeting notice requirements – not that anyone else called O’Malley out for this violation, excused with the weak pabulum of “we overlooked that.” (Some seem more interested in $1,600 a particular Republican candidate is fighting over with the state.) Granted, $750 million over 15 years will not break the state’s $37 billion-plus annual budget, but we don’t yet know what they will spend it on.

At least Ron has room to talk: with the exception of Martin O’Malley’s very first budget – which was opposed by just five House GOP members – George has been a steadfast opponent of state spending over the years.

But the more important pieces of the puzzle come in the fact that it’s the piece of our property tax we turn over to the state which pays these bills, and unlike our local government’s revenue cap the state has no barrier to raising property taxes at any rate they wish. Currently, the state rate is 11.2 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, a rate which has remained constant since fiscal year 2006. Since the state’s property tax was reformed in the 2000 legislative session, the rate has varied: 8.4 cents from FY2002-2003, 13.4 cents from FY2004-2005, and 11.2 cents since. For the owner of a home valued at $200,000, the state’s take is $224 a year – overall, the state derives around $750 million in revenue from property taxes.

By comparison, residents here in Wicomico County endured a county rate increase this year alone of 6.82 cents per $100 valuation, or $136.40 more from their pockets for a $200,000 home. In 2010, the rate was 75.9 cents per $100, now it’s 90.86 cents – in three years, the county’s increase has been higher than the state’s overall rate and is the largest increase from 2009-2013 in Maryland at almost 20 percent, despite the revenue cap. So it’s a sure bet the state can justify a nickel jump by stating it’s less than some counties fluctuate in a year’s time; this despite the fact four counties (Allegany, Baltimore City, Carroll, and GOP opponent David Craig’s Harford) have decreased their rate over the last half-decade while an additional seven have held the line.

So while Martin O’Malley can’t run a deficit in this state, he has the power to bond our children into submission and he appears to be using it to keep today’s bills paid.

Since it was Ron who brought up the subject of property taxes, perhaps a good question to ask is how he will reconcile this promise

Grow the tax base in Baltimore, allowing other jurisdictions to keep their money home for infrastructure and education needs.

…with the fact that Baltimore City has a property tax rate over double that of any other jurisdiction in the state, even as it’s decreased slightly over the last few years. Indeed, bringing it back to parity with other jurisdictions would be a major achievement but you can bet your bottom dollar Stephanie Rawlings-Blake would scream bloody murder and demand a state handout to make up the difference. But if I’m looking at property in Baltimore proper vs. suburban tracts, the taxes alone would be discouraging for urban development.

Then again, we know what “solution” the Democrats have in mind, and it involves more from our wallets.

A new job for Newt?

September 29, 2013 · Posted in Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Politics, Senator Watch, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on A new job for Newt? 

It was a little scary when I glanced at the subject line of the e-mail: wasn’t Newt Gingrich a flop as a Presidential candidate? And isn’t a little soon to be discussing 2016, really?

Upon further inspection, though, I found that Republicans can be carpetbaggers, too:

As a former senior staffer on Newt’s 2012 presidential campaign, I am leading the effort to convince Newt Gingrich to run for U.S. Senate and building a winning grassroots campaign for when he does.

So far, the initial push has been a resounding success. We’ve had tens of thousands of grassroots activists across the country sign the petition to Draft NEWT.

In fact, the campaign has been so successful that we’ve generated significant positive press attention from the Washington Times and many national political papers. Now, we are looking for our second wave as we continue to drum up support for the Draft NEWT movement and build a winning ground game.

The gentleman who’s on the sending end of this is named Andrew Hemingway. It sounds like he’s pining for a job in the nascent Newt campaign:

If we generate enough signatures and enough financial support, we will be able to get Newt into the race with an overwhelming grassroots base of support.

If we are successful, Newt will go to the Senate and work with Ted Cruz and Rand Paul to restore and uphold our Second and Tenth Amendment rights, balance the budget, abolish Obamacare, and put a stop to Barack Obama’s liberal second term agenda.

With Republicans on the edge of retaking power in the US Senate, a Newt victory could be the win that puts Republicans over the edge. How great would it be to know that your efforts helped Draft Newt, elect Newt, and retake the U.S. Senate?

I suppose the reason I thought this was a 2016 effort was because awhile back I told you about a bid to get Judge Andrew Napolitano off the sidelines and into the 2016 presidential race. Obviously Maryland had its recent movement to draft Charles Lollar into the gubernatorial race bear fruit as well. But would the commonwealth of Virginia take kindly to an outsider running for Senate?

Because Newt didn’t qualify for the Virginia presidential primary last year, it’s hard to gauge what sort of support he would have had in the state. But judging by the fact the Draft Newt Facebook page has 17 likes and the Twitter page has but 7 followers, I don’t imagine the petition is too far along – meanwhile, time is wasting. Granted, things are a little different in Virginia because they conduct state elections in odd-numbered years so they’re in the midst of a heated gubernatorial campaign as we speak, but once the holidays are over you would hope Newt would be ready to go. So far, though, Gingrich seems more interested in life off the campaign trail.

But if Crossfire gets cancelled, I suppose Newt will have some free time on his hands. I think Virginia Republicans are on their own with this one.

Sound advice

September 28, 2013 · Posted in Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Sound advice 

Amongst the voluminous fundraising chaff that comes at the end of each quarter from politicians and candidates alike, there sometimes comes valuable information. It’s worth reminding people again that Congressional candidate Dan Bongino knows something about security as a former Secret Service agent, so an item he wrote yesterday which ended up on my Facebook page is, to me, worth repeating:

I do not want to unnecessarily alarm you, nor do I intend this post to be a call for more “police-state” actions but I feel it important to sound the alarm.

The terrorist attack in the mall in Kenya is indicative of two troubling trends. The first is a tendency for previously parochial terror groups to look for international targets to leverage the media coverage of their carnage and the second is a renewed interest by terror groups in “soft-targets”.

If you are the owner or manager of any facility which attracts crowds (i.e. malls, arenas) be aware that your facility may become a target. From my experiences in the Secret Service, there are a number of relatively painless steps you can take to help mitigate the threat.

First, use your relationships with local law enforcement entities to determine what the law enforcement response would be to an “active-shooter” in your facility. Your employees should be intimately familiar with this plan.

Second, make sure law enforcement cooperation includes a blueprint of your facility. It is no coincidence that this is one of the first things an attacker or group of attackers looks for.

Third, rehearse your escape plan. In moments of profound fear and stress, your body will revert to your LOWEST level of training as blood is diverted to major muscle groups and clear thinking becomes nearly impossible. Your escape must be second-nature and require little to no conscious focus.

Sadly, we are in a new era of “sole-proprietor” terror where anyone with an Internet connection and a troubled mind can cause untold carnage. Ignoring this will not make it go away and there is no need to live your lives in fear but there is no good excuse for a failure to plan.

God bless America and all those who defend her.

To me, the key point is the third one because it makes the most sense – it all goes back to the animal instinct of “fight or flight.”  Yet there’s a lot I see between the lines as well.

Now I certainly don’t want to encourage any more of a police state than we already have. Unfortunately, though. these are the cards we are dealt when we live in a jurisdiction which is making the personal protection of a firearm harder to come by and the idea of (legally) concealing it nearly impossible. (Many of those commenting on the Facebook page make that same point.) Look at the Navy Yard shooter for example: it’s the latest case where the people who had weapons to stop him weren’t on site and a further example where a “gun-free zone” makes the occupants less safe than they otherwise should be. “Sole-proprietor” terrorists know this.

Unfortunately, since the “fight” option is off the table because one is unarmed, the “flight” option is the more viable. Having worked in the architectural field, I understand the life safety aspect of multiple exits from a space – although their idea of a life-threatening event is a fire – but places like shopping malls don’t always make them obvious because they don’t want their merchandise walking away through the necessary but rarely-used exits; it’s the reason they are normally tied to the fire alarm system (if opened, the alarms go off.) It goes back to the second point Dan makes, because if someone can understand the blueprints and has a team of terrorists they can block off possible egress points and trap occupants inside.

In this case, there was no fundraising appeal in the piece, but it also brings up a question: what can (and will) Dan do if he’s elected? The Second Amendment isn’t among the key issues he highlights on his campaign page (although the palette of issues he speaks about touches on most basic concerns) so I guess the question is just how far would Dan like to go in terms of eliminating the federal restrictions on self-protection through firearms? In Maryland, the only people who can outgun the police are the criminals, and the tendency of state law is to place the common citizen at the mercy of both. There’s also a relevant discussion of the Supremacy Clause and whether Maryland’s new laws – or similar laws enacted by any other state – violate the Second Amendment, but that’s for another venue.

One has to ask in this day and age, though: why shouldn’t people be allowed to defend themselves with a weapon? If only the criminals and the government have them, the word describing the rest of us would be: victims.

Catching up

September 27, 2013 · Posted in Personal stuff · Comments Off on Catching up 

Boy was I out of the loop. I was working hard this week at my outside job so I missed local events like the Charles Lollar appearances here in town – in that case, his Eastern Shore coordinator and fellow blogger Julie Brewington was Johnny-on-the-spot for coverage. The same held true for national events like the Ted Cruz filibuster and subsequent Senate vote. I didn’t listen to talk radio this week, either – pretty much for me it was work, look at the pile of e-mail I have, try to get some kind of post up here and do the work required from another writing client (besides you, my readers), shrug my shoulders, and take my aching body to bed for another day’s toil the next day.

In the last few weeks, my outside job took me to the back of a number of local grocery stores, most of the local outposts of a nationwide pharmacy chain and discount store, and a few various sundry other places. In particular, the jobs where I would spend several hours at one location assembling a large display gave me an opportunity to listen in on how people think and what they talk about. And let me tell you this – those with whom I most closely involve myself in the political world live in one hell of an echo chamber. Perhaps it’s the unwritten rule about not discussing politics or religion at work – although it was written in a store I visited today – but I really never hear talk about current events in my travels, aside from how the football games are going on Sunday. (Yes, I have worked a few Sundays of late, which tells you the hours I’m keeping.) It’s mostly internal gossip if anything.

All that traveling around I do also takes me to several small communities on a weekly or biweekly basis, so I notice changes there as well. Many of the smaller towns to which I travel have their share of vacant buildings, but once in awhile I see signs of progress like the newly-opened restaurant in one small town I frequent or the small spec commercial/industrial building on a main highway that’s been sitting vacant for a couple years finally getting finished out for a tenant. It makes the failures I see a little, like the little store which gamely tried to survive but only lasted the summer easier to take.

I think we tend to forget, when we get caught up in political arguments on Facebook or scramble to update our blogs with the latest moves in the gubernatorial chase, that our little world is pretty small compared to life in general. We can get totally immersed in it, but seeing as I make most of my living outside that realm I suppose I may be more grounded than most. Yes, it’s making it that much more difficult to get to writing book number two, but I guess I’d like to sell more of book number one anyway.

All this time working, driving between stops, and otherwise trying to keep everything together has got me to pondering the future of this site. No, it’s not going away; instead I think I have a couple ideas for improvement but I’ll keep them under my hat for now. In the meantime, I have a crapload of e-mail to get to and it’s been a long week. There’s a couple posts I’ve been meaning to get to for awhile and I think you’ll enjoy them once I get back to squared away. I’ll just be happy to get my evenings back again.

Picking on homeschoolers

September 26, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Education, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Picking on homeschoolers 

It appears that Wicomico County is trying to bully those who choose to homeschool their children into conforming with how they think it should be done.

Homeschooling parents received a letter from the county school board asking for information they weren’t legally entitled to, according to Scott Woodruff, Senior Counsel of the Home School Legal Defense Association. “(Y)our letter is out of line with state policy in a number of respects,” wrote Woodruff.

In particular, objections were raised about requests for contact information, including mailing address, cell and home phone numbers, and e-mail address. There’s noting in state law which requires this.

The letter also attracted the attention of the Maryland Liberty PAC, which restated that:

The Wicomico County Board of Education recently sent a letter to area homeschool families that misquoted and misapplied the Maryland homeschool regulations and made improper demands.

Yet, while at least one parent objected to the requests made by the Wicomico County Board of Education, how many unthinkingly returned the form? And now that Lori Batts, the Supervisor for Counseling for Wicomico County Public Schools, has this information, what are the chances the families may come under additional scrutiny? Even the slightest hint of abuse – or behavior which could be interpreted as such – may be used as an excuse for authorities to intervene, especially as they already know the child is receiving an unapproved course of education. I’m sure that’s the concern of the Maryland Liberty PAC and those who brought this up – as one observer noted:

It is…an example of the kind of thing we might expect from a school board that is Governor-appointed and therefore not responsive to the people of Wicomico County whom they are charged to represent.  With little to fear from voters, this kind of overreach should not come as a surprise.  The big question, of course, is what we can do to stop it.

So let me remind you that the only people standing between you and an elected school board in Wicomico County are County Executive Rick Pollitt and Delegates Rudy Cane and Norm Conway. The County Council has twice requested the state take the steps necessary to bring the issue before voters and they have been rebuffed twice because Pollitt wasn’t on board. So don’t blame the County Council.

This can be rectified in 2014.

Joining the fray the Eastern Shore way

September 25, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Joining the fray the Eastern Shore way 

It’s a scenario of “better late than never”, but Democratic gubernatorial candidate Doug Gansler will spend time on the Eastern Shore as part of his announcement tour next week.

While he officially started up yesterday across Chesapeake Bay, the Gansler tour will spend the early part of next week working its way down the Eastern Shore, beginning in Centreville at 9 a.m. Monday and proceeding through a noon stop in Easton, a 3 p.m. appearance in Cambridge, and wrapping up at 6 p.m. at Salisbury University. It will be interesting to see who greets him there, given that five local elected officials (County Executive Rick Pollitt, County Council member Sheree Sample-Hughes, and Salisbury City Council members Jake Day, Shanie Shields, and Laura Mitchell) have publicly backed Anthony Brown for governor.

The Eastern Shore tour concludes on Tuesday, October 1 with a noon stop in Ocean Pines.

Gansler is working from a large polling hole, at least according to a internal Anthony Brown poll released this week (h/t Maryland Juice.) The GarinHartYang poll found Brown had support from 43% of the 608 likely Democratic primary voters, with Gansler at 21% and Heather Mizeur lagging far behind at 5%.

But I noticed a couple vulnerable spots. Among those who feel the state is on the wrong track, the O’Malley record seems to be sticking to Anthony Brown because he and Gansler are tied among that group. Moreover, the fact that not even 3 of 5 DEMOCRATS think the state is on the right track should be of concern to Brown and his backers. It will be interesting to see if Democrats still give Martin O’Malley a 73% approval rating as they did in the Maryland Poll back in January; if not, that’s a crack in the Brown armor.

So it may be worth listening to what Gansler has to say on this leg of the tour, particularly since Anthony Brown didn’t make a point of including our part of the state on his initial announcement tour (although his surrogate would gladly take money.)

Two candidates speak out on Common Core

September 24, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Education, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Two candidates speak out on Common Core 

After the arrest of and subsequent publicity over Robert Small’s unauthorized questioning of Common Core at a Baltimore forum, the incident has attracted statements from two GOP gubernatorial contenders.

David Craig mentioned the arrest in a preamble to his statement, but refrained from directly referencing the incident in his official remarks:

The value in public meetings – whether it is about Common Core or any other policy issue affecting a community – is giving people the opportunity to speak. It is a long tradition that goes back to the founding principles of our country and occurs in county and municipal forums to this day. When speech is limited or meetings are overly scripted, it tends to cause angst among all who are involved.

The Common Core national education standard is controversial and for good reason. It slipped under the radar in Maryland three years ago and there are serious concerns about it, many of which are being raised for the first time. School administrators should be holding public forums like the one in Baltimore County, but these officials will actually learn more by encouraging a robust debate and the exchange of ideas. Their ultimate constituents are students and their parents and those voices must be heard.

Angst? I would have to say Mr. Small was a) pretty upset and b) had a good point, not to mention pretty solid grounds for legal action of his own. It was noted at our meeting last night (which, by the way, no one was ejected from) that it was fortunate someone was taping the meeting or we may have never known fully about the incident because it would have been excused by the mainstream media as never happening.

On the other hand, Delegate Ron George is going to try more definitive action as only he (among the contenders) can do:

I have opposed Common Core from its onset. Parents have the right to have their voices heard in all matters concerning the education of their children. This is a vast overreach by the federal government that should not even be considered until it has been thoroughly vetted by parents.

It is very clear to me that Common Core is nothing but an attempt by the federal government to take control over our children’s education and to force parents to sit on the sideline. It is outrageous and I intend to fight it with all of my energy.

It’s very clear to me, though, that whatever bill George introduces, it will be locked in the committee chairman’s drawer. He’ll be lucky to get a hearing after all the controversy, which Democrats aren’t going to want going into 2014. (Of course, once the bill is introduced we can freely call the committee chair and demand action. Most likely a bill such as this would land in George’s Ways and Means Committee and its Chair Delegate Sheila Hixson, but they may switch it over because George is a sponsor and it would be a hot potato.)

But then the question comes from the vetting process. Unfortunately, out of a public school classroom of 15 to 20 kids, you might – maybe – have one set of parents who follows Common Core and cares enough to ask questions, Hopefully this arrest will startle a few more, but it’s worth mentioning that only one other observer complained at that poorly-run meeting. Many of those who protest Common Core don’t have kids in the public schools, so they don’t have a say at the PTA meetings and other events where those parents might attend.

So the question to ask is really: what was wrong with the curriculum we had? One thing which bothers people about Common Core is that it prepares children for community college as opposed to a college-prep lesson plan. Parents – at least the ones who care and don’t use their kids as a means to milk more freebies out of the government while they watch Dr. Phil – would just like to have their kids taught the basics, like reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Pink Floyd once sang “we don’t need no education.” But what they truly meant was “we don’t need no thought control.” Double negatives aside, let’s teach kids critical thinking and not how to pass a standardized test.

WCRC meeting – September 2013

For the third month in a row (and fourth overall this year), a gubernatorial candidate came to speak to the Wicomico County Republican Club. This time it was Delegate Ron George who graced us with his presence.

So once we opened the meeting in our usual manner, with the Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and introduction of a growing number of distinguished guests, we turned the meeting over to Ron. He began by making the case that he was making the “sacrifice” of running because “I don’t want to leave the state (as it’s becoming) to my sons.”

And after giving a brief biography covering everything from being far enough down the sibling food chain to have to learn a trade instead of going to college, learning the business of being a goldsmith well enough to make his way to college at Syracuse University, making his way to New York City and briefly acting in a soap opera (“I died…but then I came back later,” he joked) it eventually ended with him meeting his wife and returning to Annapolis to start a family and business.

But it was his time in New York where “I saw a lot of people suffering on the street” that moved him the most. “I’m a man of faith,” continued Ron, and the experience gave him insight into the situation in Baltimore and other impoverished areas. One problem in Maryland was that “we don’t have an economic base in this state.” He pointed out that employment in the public sector in Maryland was up 7% while private-sector employment was stagnant. The budget had increased from $27 billion to $37 billion, and “they’ve squeezed you to death,” said Ron.

It was interesting to me that Ron provided some insight on how he got into politics – in essence, his frequent testimony in Annapolis got him noticed, and he was asked to run in the same district as Speaker of the House Michael Busch. Ron stated that Busch spent $350,000 and turned to negative ads in the campaign’s waning days. At first the mudslinging appeared to work as George was behind on election night by about 50 votes, but absentees sent in before the negative campaigning began pulled Ron over the top by 53 votes when all was counted.

On the other hand, George did such an effective job in the General Assembly that he was the top vote-getter in 2010, finishing 1,636 votes ahead of Speaker Busch. “I never ran to the middle,” Ron reminded us, “I spoke to the middle.”

But the idea behind the 2006 run was also one of keeping Michael Busch from spending his money to help other Democrats. (Hence why I harp on having a full slate of candidates.)

Ron then turned to this campaign, stating the case that his 10-point plan was based on three things: “economics, economics, economics.” It was a message which played well in Democratic areas, alluding to polling he was doing on the subject.

He also revealed why he had the success he’d had in Annapolis. Liberals “like to feel good about themselves,” said Ron, but never thought of how their policies affect the average Marylander. By organizing opposition testimony on various issues, particularly the abortive “tech tax” – where he found dozens willing to testify and put a face to the opposition – Ron got bad laws reversed or changed. “I’m very solution-oriented,” he added.

As Common Core has been in the news, Ron weighed in on how Maryland adopted it. The package of bills was fourfold, he explained, with the first two not being too obnoxious – but once they passed the fix was in for the bad portions. Ron stated he was “very much against” the mandates in Common Core. It’s being forced on the counties, he later said, but was “totally dumbing down” students.

To conclude the initial portion of his remarks, Ron noted he was the Maryland Business for Responsive Government’s legislator of the year, in part for his work in capping the state’s boat excise tax, and promised that, if elected, “I will make sure (rural areas of Maryland) get their fair share.”

While Ron delivered his remarks well enough, though, I sensed he was almost ill at ease making the stump speech portion of the remarks, expressing several times the preference for a question-and-answer session. It wasn’t as somnambulant as David Craig can occasionally be, but wasn’t delivered with the passion of Charles Lollar, either.

As was the case Saturday at the First District Bull Roast, Ron seemed better with the give-and-take of answering questions. When asked about the impact of the banes of rural Maryland – the Maryland Department of Planning, Department of the Environment, and Chesapeake Bay Foundation – Ron launched into an explanation of how he got the state to revisit laws passed in 2008 and misused for two years afterward, noting that several of those overcharged for permits were quietly reimbursed after it was revealed they were interpreting the law too broadly in order to collect additional permitting fees. On that front, Ron also vowed to work toward repealing the “rain tax” and following Virginia’s lead in challenging the EPA.

He was equally as excited about the prospect of auditing state agencies. “I guarantee we’ll find about $5 billion in waste,” promised Ron. The Delegate blasted the current administration for its handling of highway user revenues, pointing out previous shortfalls were paid back, but not with real revenues. Instead, more bonds were issued, and rather than the standard five-year payback these were 15-year bonds.

Finally, Ron made sure to remark the Second Amendment “has my full support,” noting he was the only Delegate to actually testify at the afternoon regulatory hearing in Annapolis. He noted eight different problems with the regulations, where legislation was being written in. (It was also why Ron missed a planned appearance at the club’s happy hour.)

As Lollar did the month before, Ron was courteous enough to stay for the meeting, which meant he sat through my lengthy reading of the August minutes and our treasurer’s report. Deb Okerblom was pleased to report the Crab Feast did better than expected financially.

Jackie Wellfonder, in her President’s report, also thanked those who put together the club’s main fundraising event. She also noted an event to be held in Wicomico County October 20 but benefiting the Dorchester County GOP, which was represented by Billy Lee. She also announced “we have a new website” and asserted our happy hours are “going well.”

Speaking in the Central Committee report, county Chair Dave Parker reminded us of upcoming events like the Wicomico Society of Patriots meeting featuring Charles Lollar this Wednesday (as well as his appearance at a business roundtable the previous evening), the Good Beer and Autumn Wine festivals in October, and the state party’s Octoberfest on the 12th. Parker was pleased at the amount of attention we were getting from the gubernatorial hopefuls.

Parker also filled us in on some news, particularly the Common Core meeting fiasco in Towson. (Ron George noted the charges against the speaker have been dropped.) Dave also related a Forbes article claiming families will pay an extra $7,450 annually over a period of nine years for Obamacare. Apparently Maryland has the highest increase in the nation.

But this gave Ron George the opportunity to add that he created the Doctors’ Caucus in the General Assembly and reveal that 60% of doctors were near retirement age. Some are more than willing to hang up the stethoscope thanks to Obamacare.

Blan Harcum chimed in to alert us to a Maryland Farm Bureau campaign seminar in Annapolis October 14 and 15. Then it was my turn as I updated those in attendance on the status of our candidate search.

In club business, we found a chair for our upcoming Christmas Party, I reminded the folks they could sign up to help at the upcoming festivals, and we secured space for equipment one of our members urged us to purchase. These are the mundane things which seem tedious, but can turn out to be important.

The same may be true about our last three meetings with gubernatorial hopefuls. Next month we go back to local races and speakers, although the exact keynoter is to be announced. We will see you October 28.

Future plans?

I found this quite interesting.

In doing a little research for another project I found that Jim Ireton had established a state campaign account called “Ireton for Maryland.” Bear in mind this was done way back on May 17, shortly after he won another term as mayor of Salisbury. The account appears to be a continuation of “Friends of Jim Ireton” established in 2006 and closed earlier this year; an account which was probably established for Ireton’s 2006 campaign for the Democratic Central Committee, where he finished seventh and last. (Fortunately for him, that was good enough as seven spots were available.)

So it could very well be that Ireton is just getting his ducks in a row to return to the Central Committee, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. It’s interesting to notice, for example, that he is literally one house into Norm Conway’s District 38B (and by extension, Jim Mathias’s Senate district.) While indications are that both Conway and Mathias are seeking re-election, the fact that Jim is sitting on a small pile of money from his leftover city election could mean a challenge – but I doubt it.

If I were to guess, the reasoning behind the setup of the campaign account was twofold: if, as some pointed out, Ireton was on the short list for a lieutenant governor’s spot under Doug Gansler it would have provided another funding source for the Doug Gansler ticket (Subsequent rumors seem to indicate Gansler is looking elsewhere.) If not, it turns out to be a convenient place to park money for a future mayoral run or give to other candidates. Ireton had $2,188.71 remaining in his city election account to transfer out once he filed his final report a few days late in May. (It’s the first in the series of financial reports here.)

So the question truly becomes that of ambition: how far does Jim Ireton want to go in his political career, and how soon? While it’s certainly possible he could win a race for County Council, it wouldn’t be a step forward. Much on a local level depends on the 2014 plans of Delegate Conway, State Senator Jim Mathias, and Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt; county executive would be the most natural progression from mayor. But Jim also has to balance any ambition with the fact that his own re-election campaign would be right around the corner, as all city positions will be contested in November, 2015. Frankly, Ireton’s reality hasn’t lived up to his rhetoric in Salisbury, but at the age of 43 he still has several years of politics ahead of him.

And given that much of his local money came from sources away from Salisbury, it’s doubtful his goal is to be mayor of a sleepy small city forever. The question is where he will turn next.

2013 First District Bull Roast in pictures and text

September 21, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on 2013 First District Bull Roast in pictures and text 

For many years, local Republicans in Wicomico County had to make a choice: support the local Republican Club by attending their annual Crab Feast or show their backing of our Republican Congressman – at the time, Wayne Gilchrest – by making it up to the Upper Shore for the annual Bull Roast. Now that Wicomico Republicans have settled on a date closer to Labor Day, though, it opens the field up for us and several of us from our local Republican party attended the annual First District Bull Roast. If one more Central Committee member had shown, we would have had a quorum.

The venue was impressive, so I made sure to follow the rules.

This sign was actually in a side building which, I was told by volunteer E. Dee Monnen, serves as a dorm for inner-city kids who spend time on this working Schuster farm – on this day, though, it served as the venue for a VIP gathering. This mini-tour was one advantage of our timing: because Kim and I did an event with her side of the family earlier in the morning, we arrived somewhat early.

Not two minutes later my fellow blogger and radio host Jackie Wellfonder arrived for her stint as Red Maryland Radio co-host for the day, with Andrew Langer as her sidekick.

But the real stars of the show were those elected officials and longtime Republican fixtures who came to speak to us. (Best Supporting Actor, though, has to go to whoever made the beef, which was flavorful and nicely seasoned for my sandwiches. If I were more of a foodie you’d have had the pic, horseradish and all. But I’m not.)

After he renewed acquaintances with friends and volunteers, Andy Harris pointed out he couldn’t initially answer questions for the day because of his boss, who served as the opening speaker.

Ellen Sauerbrey served to introduce the large number of elected officials and candidates who attended the event. The room was set up for about 150 and as you’ll see later it was pretty full. As she spoke, the next two in line waited in the wings.

I have to give an assist to my fiance Kim for the great photo. Most of my readership recognizes Congressman Andy Harris, but the gentleman on the left would be far more familiar if you heard his voice – our featured speaker was WCBM morning radio co-host Sean Casey.

First up to speak was the host himself.

The key point of Andy’s message was that our side was beating back the Obama agenda and had done so for the last three years, since the election of 2010. He predicted the next three weeks would be “a wild ride” for the House majority as pressure will be brought to bear from the White House and Senate Democrats to cave on defunding Obamacare and not risking a government shutdown.

It will be interesting to see what this reporter has to say about what Andy said. I believe she’s from the local Easton Star-Democrat newspaper.

The next speaker was less kind to the media, particularly the “Maryland Democratic Party house organ” known as the Baltimore Sun. Yet we were told that Sean Casey arises each morning by 3:15 to review items for use on the Sean and Frank morning show. He had the attention of those who came to the event.

Casey spoke on a number of current events – the Navy Yard shooting, Benghazi hearings, the incident in Baltimore at a Common Core townhall meeting – but the most intriguing part of the program was his moderation of a mini-debate between two of the contenders for governor, David Craig and Ron George. Casey came up with the questions and the candidates gave their answers.

I actually caught up to both of them before the impromptu debate began, as they were preparing to work the crowd.

David Craig wasn’t by himself, but was assisted by a member of his team clad in the same familiar blue Craig color. Meanwhile, Ron George was chatting up old General Assembly friends – he’s pictured here with former Delegate and 2014 State Senate candidate Richard Sossi, who is on the right.

In general, David Craig leaned heavily on his experience as mayor and Harford County Executive in spelling out his vision for Maryland, while Ron George referred a lot to his newly-expanded ten-point plan for the state should he win election to the governor’s seat.

Worth noting as well was that the third gubernatorial candidate, Charles Lollar, also planned on attending but had a scheduling conflict and couldn’t arrive from Harford County in time. He was speaking before a women’s group there, according to Julie Brewington, a Lollar campaign coordinator from Wicomico County.

So my first Bull Roast is in the books. Not bad for leaving the camera and notebook at home, eh?

Two chances to meet

September 20, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Two chances to meet 

Next week local Wicomico County readers (or those within driving distance) will have a chance to help “Build A New Maryland” or “Achieve The Dream.”

First up: the Wicomico County Republican Club meeting Monday evening, where Ron George will be the third gubernatorial candidate in as many months to speak before the club. If time allows beforehand, George may drop by the club’s happy hour which will take place this month at the Cellar Door Tavern on Camden Street, just off the Downtown Plaza, from 5 to 6:30. The regular monthly meeting of the WCRC takes place at the Salisbury Chamber of Commerce on East Main Street, beginning at 7:00. Ron will get the opportunity to speak close to the top of the agenda, so be there early.

Then on Wednesday night, fellow candidate Charles Lollar comes to Salisbury to address the Wicomico Society of Patriots meeting at Brew River on West Main Street, beginning at 6:00.

Julie Brewington passed the note along to me:

It has been some time since we have formally met. It seems the state and the country are sinking further into despair. I know it’s very discouraging for liberty minded people. Once again the election cycle is rolling around and we have a chance to get involved and influence it. The good news is that we have some very promising candidates that could alter the direction of this state. I think it’s timely that we would meet again to interview the candidates for the jobs that they are seeking as public servants.

All she asks is that you e-mail her [julie.brewington (at) comcast (dot) net] to let her know you’re coming so she can give Brew River an estimate of the number coming.

It’s exciting to see this much attention paid to the Eastern Shore between the three main contenders for governor, as I’m sure David Craig is planning more visits as well.

No man of Steele to save Maryland

September 19, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on No man of Steele to save Maryland 

Not that I was all that confident he would be the best Republican candidate to set forth, but in yesterday’s Washington Post Michael Steele said he would “take a pass” at Maryland’s race for governor. That sound you hear is the sigh of relief from those candidates who have already invested their time and effort into building support for their runs – now they won’t have to worry about Michael Steele sucking all of the oxygen out of the Maryland race.

And though I’m sure many will fret that he was the one candidate with the best chance at victory, I only have to look back at 2006 to see what happened when the Maryland Republican Party essentially handed him a statewide race nomination on a silver platter – he lost an open-seat Senate race by 10 points. Of course, I’ve heard all the arguments – bad year for Republicans nationwide, reaction to an unpopular president – but Steele lagged behind Bob Ehrlich by almost 40,000 votes overall; more importantly, he got just 24% in Prince George’s County and 23.2% in Baltimore City. Surely the GOP hopes were that Steele would poll much better in those heavily minority areas, but instead he was just 3.5% better in PG and o.6% improved in Baltimore City over Bob Ehrlich. But Steele lost Baltimore County, where Ehrlich carried the day.

Perhaps the reason Steele took a pass on the race, though, was that he would have to work for it. If done right, a contested primary is good for a candidate because it places them on a campaign footing much more quickly. While there were a number of other candidates in the 2006 Republican Senate primary, they were of the perennial candidate sort and no one else eclipsed 3% of the vote; on the other hand, Ben Cardin won a spirited Democratic primary with only 43.7% of the vote. That sharpening of campaign skills certainly gave Cardin some advantages later on.

But the biggest vibe I seem to be getting is why this was such a big deal in the first place. Sure, old-timers in the Maryland GOP look back at Steele’s tenure as Chair fondly, but he really never ran for anything until that Senate race. (One could equate that with the same sort of criticism certain people who make their first run for office a statewide one have received.) While I’m sure Anthony Brown would like to change this, insofar as running for subsequent electoral office goes the Maryland LG post has been comparable to the national vice-presidency – not worth “a bucket of warm (spit).”

So once we know the intentions of one Lawrence Hogan it appears the Republican field for governor will be pretty much set. Now it’s time to fill out the lower part of the dance card – I have it on the best of authority that one person thought of as a prospective aspirant for Attorney General will not be seeking the job, so it will be up to the MDGOP to dig deeper for a candidate to try for that open seat.

I suppose Michael Steele is available.

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