A look ahead: 2014 on the national front

December 31, 2013 · Posted in Campaign 2014, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on A look ahead: 2014 on the national front 

This will be, by far, the trickiest of these columns I’ve taken the last three days to write. There are so many unknowns that even the “known unknowns” pale in comparison. But as the conservative, pro-liberty movement stands currently there are a number of items for which we can reasonably be certain 2014 will bring some kind of resolution.

First and foremost among them is that the goalposts will continue to be moved for Obamacare. As originally envisioned, we would all begin feeling its full effects tomorrow, but self-imposed – and I mean self-imposed, because few of these changes went through the legislative branch – changes have pushed back the deadline for many later into 2014 or even 2015. At this point, the strategy seems to be that everything bad about Obamacare gets blamed on Republicans who were really pretty powerless to stop its enactment in the first place – remember, Democrats had a clear majority in the House and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate from January 2009 to February 2010 when Scott Brown was sworn in – and those few popular items are all due to the Affordable Care Act. That seems to be the preferred, focus group-tested name now because Obamacare has a bad connotation.

Meanwhile, we are supposed to be beyond the prospect of a government shutdown (really a slowdown) which Republicans were deathly afraid of for some reason. I don’t recall any hardships in October, do you? My life seemed to be unaffected. Nevertheless, the GOP seems to be afraid of its own shadow so when Democrats threaten to shut down the government the GOP snaps to. It’s sickening.

By that same token, the ball is supposedly being teed up for immigration reform (read: amnesty) over the summer, once GOP Senate incumbents know their filing deadline has passed. There’s no question a schism over immigration is developing in the Republican Party just as Obamacare is splintering off those Senate Democrats who face re-election in states Mitt Romney carried in 2012. I say primary ’em all with conservatives so that maybe the incumbents will be scared straight.

Those are some of the key domestic issues we’ll be facing. I can guess two or three which won’t come up as well.

We will see absolutely zero effort to reform entitlements, whether Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security. This will be another year they hurtle toward insolvency, probably going splat just in time for Generation X to reach retirement age in about 15 years. (That would be me – I’m on the cusp between Gen X and Boomer.)

Nor do I care how many articles of impeachment are drawn up: the House leadership doesn’t have the courage to pursue it, nor would they ever get the votes in the Senate to convict. They could find Barack Obama in bed with a dead girl, live boy, a bloody knife in his right hand and a signed confession in his left and the Democrats would swear the boy set him up and the girl stabbed herself thirteen times – in the back – and not convict him.

It doesn’t matter how poor the economy is, either. The government won’t dare stop priming the pump to the tune of a trillion dollars a year in debt, parceling out $80 billion or so of “quantitative easing” monthly. When the Dow and its record highs are the one factor of success apologists for Obama can point to, anything which maintains that facade will be continued despite the possibility of long-term inflationary catastrophe – again, probably in time for Generation X to retire.

Just as ineffective is our foreign policy, which has been a muddled mess as old friends are ignored and longtime enemies coddled. We may have an idea of what the hotspots may be, but events have a way of occurring at the most inopportune times and places for American interests.

All this points toward the midterm elections this coming November. While Democrats are talking up their chances of regaining the House, the odds are better that Republicans will instead take the Senate. The sixth year election in a President’s term is traditionally a bloodbath for his party, although the one exception over the last century was during the term of the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton in 1998. At that time, though, the economy was in pretty good shape and the modest gains by the Democrats in the House weren’t enough to swing control back to them. (The Senate stayed in GOP hands, with no change in the 55-45 GOP majority.)

Looking briefly at the Maryland delegation, all indications are that all of our eight-person Congressional delegation will seek another term, although only Fifth District representative Steny Hoyer and Seventh District Congressman Elijah Cummings have filed so far. The most spirited race may be the Sixth District, where 2012 U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino is expected to take on freshman Democrat John Delaney.

But there’s still time left for the 113th Congress, which will have to deal with the mercurial Barack Obama for another year before we enter the home stretch of what seems like a couple decades of the Obama regime. There’s little doubt that conventional wisdom will be set on its head again and again over the next year, a real-life version of trying to predict the upsets we all know will occur during March Madness. It’s all about who comes out on top, but my bet is that it won’t be the American people.

A look ahead: 2014 in Maryland

Yesterday I looked at how 2014 looks in Wicomico County, but much – too much, as I see it – of their decision-making is truly made in Annapolis. And with current governor Martin O’Malley attempting to burnish his credentials for a position inside Hillary Clinton’s administration – oh wait, he’s supposedly running himself, isn’t he? – it’s important to him that he establish himself with the progressive crowd.

What this means for us is that no tax increase is off the table, but it’s more likely we will see renewed efforts at green energy, gun control, and salvaging the failed Obamacare rollout in Maryland – but if worse comes to worse, it’s Anthony Brown who will be thrown under the bus. In the decision between a Maryland legacy and a White House bid, well, no lieutenant governor has succeeded his boss anyway.

Brown is probably the conventional wisdom favorite to succeed O’Malley and become Maryland’s first black governor; of course there are other main contenders on both sides. Attorney General Doug Gansler seems to be the Democrats’ backup plan but has endured a rocky start to his campaign; meanwhile Delegate Heather Mizeur seems to be the one establishing a number of truly far-left issues in the campaign – witness her idea for marijuana legalization.

On the Republican side, three top contenders seem to be out to appeal most to the conservative crowd, with a fourth joining the field in January. Harford County Executive David Craig obviously has the most well-rounded political resume, but Delegate Ron George represents a more populous area around Annapolis. Charles Lollar is running the most populist campaign, but he may receive a run for his money once the social media-savvy Larry Hogan formally enters the race next month. His Change Maryland Facebook page claims over 70,000 supporters of all political stripes – in a four-way Republican race, 70,000 votes might be enough.

There are only two other statewide races this year, since there’s no Senate race this cycle. With Attorney General Gansler abandoning his post to try for governor, there are four Democratic members of the General Assembly out to succeed him – Aisha Braveboy, Jon Cardin, Bill Frick, and Brian Frosh all seek the seat, and all but Cardin have officially filed. No one has yet filed on the GOP side, but 2012 U.S. Senate candidate Richard Douglas seems to be leaning toward a run, allowing the Republicans to avoid the ignominy of whiffing on a statewide race for the second cycle in a row.

Things are shaping up as a rematch of 2010 in the Comptroller’s race, as Republican William Campbell is again challenging incumbent Peter Franchot.

With so many members of the General Assembly attempting to move up to higher offices, it creates a cascading effect in the various General Assembly races. While the GOP is probably not going to see a General Assembly majority in the 2015-18 cycle – and has the headwind of being redistricted in such a manner to try and cut their minority – being on the wrong side of a lot of issues may make it tricky for Democrats to not lose seats. Republicans have a goal of picking up seven Senate seats, giving them 19 and allowing them to filibuster, and wouldn’t be unhappy with picking up the four House seats required to possibly bypass committee votes on key issues.

As I noted above, though, the key issues will be revealed once O’Malley introduces his legislative package to the General Assembly in mid-January, shortly before his annual State of the State address. Last year he got his gas tax increase to build the Red Line and Purple Line, authorization for offshore wind, and his onerous gun restrictions in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, so this year’s agenda will probably pivot back to measures he believes will help the state’s economy but in reality will probably redistribute even more wealth from the productive to the slothful, growing government at an even faster pace. Many of those dollars will address perceived shortcomings in education and health care.

That seems to be how O’Malley’s last package of revenue enhancements has worked, because the state once again is facing a structural deficit despite rosy predictions to the contrary. Old chestnuts like increasing the cigarette tax or combined reporting of business income will probably jostle for primary position with new initiatives like a mileage tax, additional penalties for cell phone usage, or a higher toll for being caught by speed cameras.

It’s somewhat difficult to predict the direction of the General Assembly before it begins, as items not on the radar in early January become bills introduced late in the session, some of which pass muster. The gasoline tax in its adopted form was one of those last year, since conventional wisdom predicted a straight per-gallon increase rather than the adoption of a partial sales tax which will increase regularly. Another dynamic which will affect timing is having the filing deadline for the 2014 ballot come during session – surely some will wait and see what their path to re-election looks like before introducing certain controversial bills. In previous elections the filing deadline occurred well after the session was over.

Once we get beyond the session in April, the primary campaign will ramp up immediately because of the new experience of a June primary. The Democrats tried to change this eight years ago, fearing a bruising primary fight between Doug Duncan and Martin O’Malley, but succeeded this time because of changes in federal law requiring longer lead times for overseas military voters. Instead of pushing the primary back a couple weeks to comply, though, they decided on a full 2 1/2 months.

At this point there are three main contenders on the Democratic side, and I think that number will stay the same – my thought is either Dutch Ruppersberger will pass up the race (more likely) or, if Dutch gets in, the damaged goods of Doug Gansler will drop out. Obviously there will be more than three on the ballot but some fall under the auspices of perennial candidates who I think are just working on that line in their obituary where it says so-and-so ran for governor five times.

For the GOP, the same is true. In their case, I don’t think there’s enough money out there for four main contenders and whoever raised the least in 2013 is probably the one who exits the race after Larry Hogan makes it formal. In Hogan’s 2010 gubernatorial bid he lent his campaign $325,000 so presumably Hogan has the personal wherewithal to use as seed money; perhaps the dropout will agree to be the running mate of another contender.

It’s interesting, though, that the problems Maryland faces – at least the ones not of their own making, a category in which I’d include the overregulation of local county and municipal governments – are very similar to those faced right here in Wicomico County. Maryland has the “benefit” of being the host state for thousands of federal government worker bees, but little industry to speak of. It’s notable the campaigns are now paying lip service to the concept of re-establishing a manufacturing base, but the process will take at least a couple terms of office and will certainly be at odds with the stated goals of some among the Radical Green who desire a pristine Chesapeake Bay. Development and a reasonably clean Bay can co-exist, but if you want circa-1600 conditions that won’t happen.

And because there are so many who depend on government for their livelihood as workers – or survival as dependents – the concept of “One Maryland” is laughable on its face. The needs of Baltimore City or Somerset County residents don’t often coincide with the desires of your average denizen of Takoma Park or Chevy Chase, but supposedly they are all “One Maryland.” I think there are at least four Marylands – the energy-rich areas of the state’s panhandle, the I-95/I-270 corridors stretching from Harford County on the north to the Beltway suburbs hard by the District of Columbia and back towards Frederick, the bedroom suburbs of southern Maryland which are rapidly changing in political posture, and the Eastern Shore, where agriculture and tourism coexist, but in an occasional state of hostility. One can’t even say that their needs are similar because jobs are plentiful around D.C. but tougher to come by on the Eastern Shore and in Baltimore proper.

It’s not likely one man (or woman) can unite these areas, but the question is which coalitions will hold sway. Finding the right combination will be the key to success for the state in 2014.

A look ahead: 2014 in Wicomico County

I covered some of the events from this year last night, but as we enter 2014 some interesting political campaigns and battles are taking shape.

The largest question for 2014 will obviously be who gets the keys for the next four years as County Executive, with the sidebar being whether he, along with County Council and some other leadership, will be paid more. I suspect the latter measure will be voted in with a close vote, as the County Council seems to have its Republicans divided into two groups of three, one being much less fiscally conservative than the other and carrying a 4-3 vote when they side with the lone Democrat.

As for that County Executive race, Republican County Council at-large member Bob Culver announced earlier this month that he would seek the office for a second time, with current County Executive Rick Pollitt planning to file for a third term next month. Pollitt is the only chief executive the county has known, winning the position in 2006 over Republican Ron Alessi and narrowly escaping a challenge from first-time officeseeker Joe Ollinger in 2010. Culver has a history in running for County Executive, though; finishing a distant third in the three-way GOP primary race in 2006 with 23% of the vote. And while he managed to win an at-large County Council seat in 2010, he was second overall to political neophyte Matt Holloway.

Whoever wins the County Executive race, he will be dealing with a radically revised County Council. Much like the 2006 election, which marked the end of a commission style of government with the Council serving as leadership, the 2014 balloting will result in large turnover. That 2006 campaign featured none of the four incumbent Democrats, all of whom decided not to seek another term as legislators rather than commissioners, while one of the three Republicans lost in the primary. Eight years later, while Matt Holloway has filed for another term at large, Culver will seek the County Executive position and leave the other at-large seat to another. Republican Muir Boda is thus far the only other one to file.

The districts will be where the real change occurs, though. Not only were some of the battle lines radically redrawn by redistricting, but only District 5 Council member Joe Holloway is truly seeking re-election, since District 4’s John Hall will be running for the first time for the seat he holds. Hall was appointed in 2011 to finish the term of the late Bob Caldwell, who died in office after winning the closest county election in recent memory. Caldwell unseated incumbent Democrat David MacLeod by two votes out of 4,072 cast.

Yet three district Council members will not be seeking another term – the body’s lone Democrat, Sheree Sample-Hughes of District 1 is seeking a seat in the House of Delegates, while Stevie Prettyman in District 2 and Gail Bartkovich of District 3 opted not to stand for re-election after lengthy tenures. They were the lone holdovers in the aforementioned 2006 election, and it’s possible 2014 will be similar. Two Democrats, Ernest Davis and McKinley Hayward, have already filed in District 1; meanwhile, the District 2 seat has attracted Republican Marc Kilmer.

For the most part, other county offices will hold their status quo as most incumbents have already filed for re-election. The only turnover will be in the Orphan’s Court, where two of the three current members had previously indicated their current term would be their last. Republican Grover Cantwell has already filed, but will likely be joined by a host of others from both parties – raising the prospect of contested primaries on both sides.

And while many of these officers will receive a modest bump in their paychecks in 2015, they will be hoping that 2014 brings a resolution to a number of nagging issues. Our small county can’t do a whole lot to improve the national economy, but financial pressures brought on by a shrinking income tax base and flagging property values will press County Executive Pollitt to submit a far leaner budget than he might like in an election year. While the state gave Pollitt an “out” by allowing him a workaround to the county’s revenue cap to fund local schools, the money may not be there for everything government wants – particlarly since the other end of that state deal was a larger maintenance of effort requirement. It’s noteworthy that Pollitt was vague about 2014 plans in his recent State of the County address.

The state mandates will also affect our planning. Our development is currently stymied by state law, which severely curtails the subdivision of land in areas not served by a municipal sewage system because we haven’t submitted an approved tier map. Wicomico County is closing in on a year overdue with the map, which has met resistance because farmers are understandably worried about their property values should they be placed in the most restrictive development tier. Most likely this will lead to a solution few on the local level will embrace. We also may find our county has to enact the dreaded “rain tax” since we’re one of the more populous counties not to have one yet – so we are in line.

Accountability for county schools may become an issue as well. Stymied by a legislative delegation which won’t allow the citizens a say in whether they desire an elected school board because County Executive Pollitt demands public proof of favorability – despite the 6-1 vote County Council made in favor of the resolution – the alternative may indeed become one of petitioning the issue to the ballot. The end result could be a compromise to place the issue on the 2016 ballot, one which will have a larger turnout and not feature the two Delegates who have stood in the way of Wicomico County joining the vast majority of others in Maryland and across the country which have elected bodies to monitor local education.

Obviously there will be a number of other issues which crop up in the upcoming year, but as we stand here looking forward it appears the local government is far more at the mercy of their state and national counterparts than many here feel comfortable being. These entities will be looked at tomorrow and Tuesday, the final two days of a politically bruising year.

A monoblogue year in review

Having a holiday schedule based on Wednesday holidays seems to play havoc with the news cycle, as there’s not much going on with Maryland politics right now. By the time the holiday hangover is done, it’s the weekend.

So over the next four days I’m going to provide for you a look back and look forward. As part of that, tonight’s post will be the look back, with some of the highlights of my political coverage – and a couple other items tossed in for fun as well. This is the first time I’ve tried this, so I’ll see how it goes.

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The year began, as it always does, in January. As will be the case even moreso this year, political fundraising was in the news as there was a surprise leader in the gubernatorial money race on the GOP side. Another highlight of the month was a spirited and enlightening discussion of state issues at the Wicomico Society of Patriots meeting – something all too infrequent this year, unfortunately.

But the highlight of the month was my two-part coverage of the Turning the Tides conference in Annapolis. which had a plethora of good speakers and discussion. It was so good I had to post separately on the morning and afternoon events.

In February my attention was turned to several topics, particularly providing coverage of the financing and the events surrounding the Salisbury municipal elections, for which the primary was February 26th. A key issue brought up was a state mandate for the city to help pay for cleanup of Chesapeake Bay, to the tune of $19 million a year.

Another state mandate took center stage in February, as the Wicomico County Council held a Tier Map forum to find out citizens weren’t exactly enamored with the idea. As part of that I read from my written testimony on a Tier Map repeal bill, which wasn’t the only testimony I wrote – I also put in my two cents on the gun grab bill.

We also found out that month that the Maryland GOP would get new leadership following the resignation of Chair Alex Mooney.

March found me continuing my coverage of the Salisbury city elections, but only backing one candidate. More important were local developments on the state level, where the Second Amendment was a hot topic for a local townhall meeting and our county’s Lincoln Day Dinner.

But the highlight for me, by far, was my day at CPAC. That turned out to be a two-part set of posts.

As the area began to wake up from a winter slumber in April, so did the political world as it turned from the General Assembly session to the 2014 campaign. The Salisbury city elections went as expected, so I turned my attention to the race for state party chair. Interim Chair Diana Waterman ran a campaign which was at times embroiled in some controversy, but prevailed on enough supporters to make it through the lengthy grind of campaign forums (including one in Cambridge on the eve of the state convention) and win the remainder of Alex Mooney’s unexpired term. But even the convention itself had its share of ups and downs, particularly a chaotic ending and a rebuff to new media.

While that was happening, the 2014 election was beginning to take shape, with familiar names both trying their luck again and trying for a promotion. Others had interesting endorsements as feathers in the cap.

But it wasn’t all political in April. The outdoor season began with two local mainstays: Pork in the Park and the Salisbury Festival. I also found out I was immortalized on video thanks to Peter Ingemi, better known as DaTechGuy.

Those things political slowed down in May, with just a little reactionary cleanup to the state convention to begin the month, along with other reaction to the recently-completed General Assembly session. In its wake we also had turnover in Maryland House of Delegates GOP leadership.

But one prospective candidate for governor announced other intentions, leaving another to confirm what we knew all along.

On the fun side, I enjoyed Salisbury’s Third Friday celebration with some friends and stopped by to see them at another barbecue festival, too.

June began with a visit from gubernatorial candidate David Craig, who stopped by Salisbury and in the process gave me an interview. And while he didn’t make a formal tour, fellow Republican Ron George made sure to fill me in on his announcement and establish tax cutting bonafides. We also picked up a Republican candidate for an important local seat and found out political correctness pays in the Maryland business world.

A local doctor gave us his perspective on Obamacare and our area celebrated the chicken in June, too. I also learned of a special honor only a handful of political websites received.

As is often the case, our wallets became a little lighter in July. In the aftermath, we found out who David Craig picked as a running mate and welcomed both of them to our Wicomico County Republican Club meeting. I also talked about another who was amassing a support base but hadn’t made definite 2014 plans at the time.

On the other side of the coin, we found the Democratic field was pressing farther away from the center, a place the GOP was trying to court with the carrot of primary voting. Meanwhile, the political event of the summer occurred in Crisfield, and I was there.

There were some interesting developments in the new media world as well – a plea for help, a shakeup in local internet radio, and my annual monoblogue Accountability Project all came down in July.

The big news in August was the resignation of State Senator E.J. Pipkin, and the battle to succeed him. And while one gubernatorial candidate dropped out, another made his intentions formal and stopped by our Wicomico County Republican Club meeting as well. Even Ron George stopped by our fair county, although I missed him.

It seemed like the gubernatorial campaign got into full swing in September – Charles Lollar announced in an unusual location, the Brown/Ulman Democratic team came here looking for money, Ron George tangled with Texas governor Rick Perry and showed up to make it three Wicomico County Republican Club meetings in a row with a gubernatorial candidate, and Doug Gansler decided to drop by, too. On the other side, Michael Steele took a pass. I also talked about what Larry Hogan might do to fill out the puzzle.

Those up the Shore made news, too. Steve Hershey was the survivor who was appointed State Senator, and I attended the First District Bull Roast for the first time. I’ve been to many Wicomico County Republican Club Crab Feasts, but this year’s was very successful indeed.

September also brought the close of our local baseball season. As is tradition I reviewed the season, both to select a Shorebird of the Year and hopefully improve the fan experience.

October was a month I began considering my choice in the gubernatorial race. That became more difficult as Larry Hogan took an unusual trip for a businessman and Charles Lollar’s campaign worked on self-immolation, while Doug Gansler needed his own damage control.

I also had the thought of going back to the future in Maryland, but a heavy dose of my political involvement came with the tradtional closing events to our tourist season, the Good Beer Festival and Autumn Wine Festival.

Most of November was spent anticipating the Maryland GOP Fall Convention; in fact, many were sure of an impending announcement. Honestly, both may have fallen into the category of “dud.” But all was not lost, as the month gave me the chance to expound on manufacturing and share some interesting polling data.

Finally we come to December. While the month is a long runup to the Christmas holiday, I got the chance to again expound on manufacturing and come up with another radical idea for change. We also got more proof that our state government is up for sale and those who are running for governor place too much stock in internet polling. My choice is still up in the air, even after compiling an 11-part dossier on the Republicans currently in the race.

Locally, we found a good candidate to unseat a long-time incumbent who has long ago outlived his political usefulness. And the incumbent will need to watch his back because Maryland Legislative Watch will be back again to keep an eye on him and his cohorts. I’ll be volunteering for a second year,

And while I weighed in on the latest national diversion from the dreary record of our President and his party, I maintained two December traditions, remarking on eight years of monoblogue and days later inducting two new players into the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame.

You know, it was fun going down memory lane for 2013. But tomorrow it will be time to look forward, beginning with the local level.

More restaurant business

Seeing how successful the original was – at least in making for a good story – a political activist is trying to recreate the grassroots magic which punctuated the Chick-fil-A business surge in 2012.

The brainchild of Eric Odom, who is the Managing Director of a media site called the Liberty News Network and also acts as the Director of Interactive Media for Grassfire Lab, the intent of Chick-Phil-A Day seems to be recreating the same atmosphere as the 2012 protests in the same locale, desptite the fact Chick-fil-A has nothing to do with the Robertson family and isn’t an active participant in the protest. Odom notes this on the Facebook page announcing the effort, which is scheduled for Tuesday, January 21.

Obviously this comes in the wake of the entire ‘Duck Dynasty’ controversy, and participants are urged to “Stand For Free Speech. Sit For Good Food.” They’re also asked to arrive in Duck Commander or camoflauge clothing. As of this writing, over 55,000 have signed up with earlier press reports claiming a number in the 45,000 range. So it’s growing rapidly.

But there are a number of differences between the Odom effort and the 2012 protest, which was led by onetime Presidential candidate and media personality Mike Huckabee. For one, Huckabee’s call had a very short lead time of about a week, so the idea was fresh on people’s minds; moreover, it was in the middle of the summer of a presidential election year, when activists are most rabid.  This effort is being put together far more slowly at a time when news is slow and people are still in holiday mode.

So I’m not sure just what to expect considering how quickly the Phil Robertson story blew up, and maybe the question is why not support Cracker Barrel since they readjusted their stance on the Duck Dynasty items after consumer blowback. Obviously the effect is more noticeable at a Chick-Fil-A, though, and the restaurants are far more common. (In this area, the closest Cracker Barrel is about 75 miles away. One was rumored to be planned for Salisbury but it apparently fell through.)

I sort of suspect that people may have moved on to other diversions once the holidays are over because reruns of ‘Duck Dynasty’ are still being aired and the newest Season 5 episodes – all but one of which were already taped with Phil Robertson – premiere January 15. There may be a small bump in the traffic for Chick-fil-A but I don’t think it will be anywhere near as large as the August 2012 protests were.

And that’s a good thing, because the innocent lady who happens to have a very similar Twitter handle to the event name (as I found out when I did the Google search for the term) will probably like not to have tons of traffic.

The buzz on our block?

Time to get back on the horse after a Christmas break.

I first heard from Sara Marie Brenner about a year ago when my friend Jackie Wellfonder became a contributor at her website, The Brenner Brief. Later our paths crossed when she was the Strategic Outreach Manager for the Franklin Center, the group who sponsored the “blogger’s row” at Turning the Tides 2013. That led to a subsequent edition of Ten Question Tuesday, and since I’ve tracked her accomplishments from time to time. (It helps when you’re on her very active e-mail list.)

I would describe Sara Marie as a serial entrepreneur; as she said in her TQT interview, “I’m always creating new things.” Sometimes her enterprises succeed, such as her writing career, which now extends to a gig for the Washington Times community page of bloggers, or her radio show, which left BlogTalkRadio and became a new network called Heartland Talk Radio. So far, however, it appears hers is the only show. That’s not so bad, though – there’s this guy named Rush Limbaugh who built a radio network on just one show.

Yet there have been some misses, too. The Brenner Brief now struggles to get more than one or two posts a day out of its stable of writers, and the PolitiGal Network alluded to in the interview no longer has a website, just a Facebook page with fewer than 200 likes. Her tenure on the city council in Powell, Ohio ended this year as she was defeated for re-election after just a single term.

Needless to say, Sara’s irons have been in a number of fires, so when an item announcing the formation of an entity called Buzz On My Block Media crossed my path I was interested to see which category it would fall under. Upon reading its description, I immediately thought of the failing network of hyper-local websites called Patch, which turned out to be a money pit for AOL. But I wanted her side of the story, so I reached out and asked her the question.

In the series of e-mails which followed, I found out she’d been working on the site for months – which helped to explain the paucity of Brenner Brief items – and that many of my questions were indeed covered on the site’s FAQ page. She also explained that selling local ads is a “completely different sales tactic” than selling national ads. “Local businesses want to see community, foot traffic, and be next to stories people are reading about,” Brenner explained.

One difference between her concept and Patch is that there will be fewer restrictions on geographic location. The Patch websites tended to cluster in the suburban areas their big-city papers stopped covering when times became tight, but Brenner’s concept is intended for most areas, except places “in the middle of the frozen tundra.” Starting next Friday, hers will be the first example, covering the city of Powell and surrounding townships. Each subsequent edition will require an editor and/or director to hire writers, solicit advertisers, and set up connections to cover its territory.

When reading her words and relating it to the possibility of making this succeed in our area, my mind thought back to the much-ballyhooed Delmarva Crossroads newspaper and website. The excitement of its opening petered out quickly and the enterprise barely lasted a couple months from start to finish. (The last update on the site, which is still in existence, was September 24, 2012.)

The site and paper had everything Sara Marie could ask for – a backer who is a local businessman, an editor who had previously worked as a reporter for the local Gannett-owned daily, and a small staff of professionals augmented by various local writers – and it went belly-up in a matter of weeks. Perhaps that was a function of insisting on a print edition of the newspaper, which was a local weekly.

On the other hand, Salisbury has a couple websites which purport to supplement the local newspaper, but have devolved to the point where much of the content is regurgitated press releases and the occasional on-the-spot or correspondent report. Editing at times seems to be a secondary concern; however, both these sites have shown far more staying power than Delmarva Crossroads did, let alone a fair number of their onetime peers.

Meanwhile, in Sara Marie’s description of articles about local businesses, the market here has that cornered, too. Metropolitan Magazine is very successful in its niche and has been for a quarter-century.

So it’s truly difficult to tell whether this venture will succeed as others have not. Obviously there are several ingredients necessary for success, chief among them sources of revenue. Someone has to pay for space on the site, and as I’ve found over the years it’s not easy to get local businesses to support a venture, particularly in the face of other rising costs and the assurance more established local outlets presents to would-be advertisers. That’s not to say a Buzz On My Block outlet couldn’t succeed here – perhaps as a refurbished web-only Delmarva Crossroads – but there’s a reason Patch failed and there’s generally not enough of a market locally to support both the struggling local paper and their outlet. It would take someone willing to lose money for the first year or two to make a go of this, and I can’t think of anyone willing to take the risk.

Maybe Sara Marie can make her local paper work, but I think the hard part will be finding writers willing to work for very little pay. Blogging is an inexpensive hobby, but few can make a living at it. It may explain why she has so many gigs.

Wishes for a Merry Christmas 2013

December 24, 2013 · Posted in Personal stuff · 1 Comment 

I’m returning to tradition this year and leaving monoblogue dark for Christmas. Hopefully you have much better things to do with your family than to be reading my website – it will be back Thursday.

Last year I informed you that I work on a peripheral basis with the retail industry, since writing and book sales don’t pay all my bills. This is now the third Christmas I’ve been involved in this, and maybe the “new norm” is that store traffic isn’t spectacular, but steady. Granted, this year I happened to not be working during the days immediately before the holiday so perhaps things picked up at the last minute. Honestly, the only stores which seemed to be doing great business out of those I do were GameStop and Toys R Us, probably because of the recently released PS4 and Xbox One. Seemed like a lot of people were investing in video games.

On the other hand, Best Buy, Target, and Walmart and our local mall were steady but not really as large as I’ve seen before. Of course, Target has its own set of problems these days.

Naturally we still have family and the original reason we celebrated the holiday to begin with as items to fall back on. I’ve noticed over the years that the stuff we buy is generally of a fleeting amusement – things which may eventually find their way to the back of the closet, break down, or otherwise fall from usefulness in a short time. But family is hopefully much more long-lasting, even if what seems to be an annual occurrence of global warming (in the form of a snow and ice storm) made travel to see those family members difficult or impossible. As a native Ohioan, I’m a veteran of a few Christmases where my intent to travel and see family were thwarted, such as the year the plans of turkey with the in-laws turned into frozen lasagna with my parents. 8″ of blowing snow will do that.

Of course, there was a time a couple thousand years ago where we all had a reason for hope thanks to the birth of our Savior, and that’s really what the celebration should be about. To that end, once again for your holiday listening pleasure I bring you my friends from Semiblind doing  ‘O Holy Night’. (You may have to goose the file and start Windows Media Player to get it to play, but it’s worth it.)

Merry Christmas to all of my friends and readers.

Our latest generation

December 23, 2013 · Posted in Business and industry, Personal stuff · 2 Comments 

Despite what many consider a less-than-successful holiday shopping season, there apparently is one category doing quite well. The recently-released Microsoft Xbox One and Sony PlayStation 4 game consoles are hard to come by because they’re flying off shelves worldwide, with both selling over 2 million units according to this New York Times story.

Both are driving customers away from the Nintendo Wii U console, which came out in 2012 but has suffered from “meager sales.” My impression on this is that the serious gamers decided to wait until the new generation Microsoft and Sony products came out the next year, and the kids who seem to be Nintendo’s biggest market moved from their DS handhelds to tablets rather than to the Wii U. (At least that’s the path my fiance’s nephew took.) Our household has a Wii unit which is rarely used – I guess it’s just so 2006 – and the leading gameplayer tends to play on her phone while my fiance prefers a tablet.

This is just a small sample size, though. I want to talk about a trend.

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that everyone has a Christmas budget to spend. Given the $499 price point of the Xbox One and $399 retail for the Sony PlayStation 4 – although would-be entrepreneurs who pre-ordered extra units are charging more online, taking advantage of supply shortages – it’s clear that the Christmas lists get a lot shorter for those looking to purchase these units as a key component. Factor in another $100-$150 for games and you may have a sparse-looking set of presents under the tree. Many people went to GameStop or Best Buy to purchase the units and pretty much wrapped up their Christmas shopping in one stop.

To the extent that I don’t participate in online or offline computer gaming, you can call me a Luddite. I understand, though, that electronic gadgets have surpassed actual social interaction as the leisure-time preference of those in the Millennial Generation. Even I’ve fallen into that trap because I spend a good portion of my waking hours sitting in my chair with my laptop, reading or creating more content for you to enjoy.

Yet it’s amazing how far we’ve come in the last century, since leisure time itself is more or less the end result of technological advances in that period. That’s not to say there wasn’t a little bit of time for frivolity in the 1800s, but those brief stretches tended to simply punctuate a life otherwise filled with drudgery and back-breaking toil to keep a family fed, clothed, and housed in a three-room hovel. In this day and age there are still those who don’t have enough food, shelter, and clothing to thrive but the vast majority are pretty much assured of three hots, clothes to wear, and a place to call home. Some of those common household items those in “poverty” own, such as air conditioning, microwaves, and cell phones, might well have been considered living like a king just a half-century ago and still would in many blighted regions of the globe.

Speaking of a half-century, in less than a year I reach the Big 5-0 myself. So I was a youngster when the home version of Pong first came out – the one we received was actually a competitor called Odyssey. We wired this bulky white console to the television in our living room (which was the spare room in our house at the time, since the family watched the other television in the family room) and marveled that we could manipulate that little dot on our screen with the rectangles we could move up and down, even back and forth!

My memory on this is hazy, but my recollection is that the Odyssey was a gift from our parents to the three of us, and probably was the one large item we received that year. Back then we probably opened six to eight presents apiece, a total which included clothes. But we had new clothes to wear, a newly-built house with five acres of yard to play ball on, and plenty of food – definitely your prototypical middle-class family, which for the majority of my childhood had my dad as the sole breadwinner. (My mom began working part-time when I was in middle school.)

The point is that things sometimes evolve in unexpected directions. Aside from the advance in technology, the Christmas we had in 1976 or 1977 when we got the Odyssey isn’t going to be all that different than this year’s edition when the kids find an Xbox One or Sony PS4 under the tree. But the world in which we find ourselves is a whole lot different, because the kids of today may be shuttled to and from the homes of various parental units and generations rather than spending Christmas at one place with the entire family. Mom might have to work late at one of her jobs on Christmas Eve, so no getting up before dawn to open presents on Christmas morning.

I suppose that if there’s anything I wish for this Christmas, I would like to see the next generation of gaming consoles be purchased and given in homes where the family units are strong because people are enabled to enjoy the blessings of liberty in such a way that only one earner is required, and that the decision to have children isn’t one taken lightly as a “choice” rather than a child. I don’t think I was deprived of a thing growing up as I did, even if my mom and dad didn’t always cater to our every whim and money was occasionally tight. We didn’t get all we wanted, but looking back I received most of what I needed. (Some of it you just have to learn on your own.)

The old adage is that the family that plays together, stays together. I suppose it matters not whether the game is Monopoly or on the Xbox, just that the family is together.

2014 Maryland dossier: part 11 (intangibles)

Finally we have arrived at the end – well, sort of, as I’ll explain.

Basically what this part is about are those other issues which don’t rise to the level of a full portion of this vetting, but I think are worth mentioning. Unique among the sub-portions of my evaluation is that I can add or subtract up to three points in this section, so it makes a pretty good difference. Another difference is in format, as I will respond to each point in turn.

**********

David Craig:  I will fully fund Program Open Space, stop raiding the funds and stop spending the money on pork barrel projects like artificial turf fields for high school sports stadiums. (campaign website)

Sorry, David, I can’t support this. Program Open Space is a great way for the state to take up more land it doesn’t need at a loss to both the local entity the parcel is part of (via lowered taxable area) and remaining taxpayers who take up the slack. If anything, Program Open Space should be defunded and excess state property returned to the private sector. Bob Ehrlich tried this and was pilloried, but the concept was sound.

*

When queried about social issues, particularly being pro-life, Craig related that he didn’t push the issue with his children, but was pleased that they turned out as pro-life as they did. David also pointed out that he voted in a pro-life fashion during his time in the General Assembly. But he would rather have 5 million Marylanders decide than 188 in the General Assembly. Jeannie echoed the overall stance, adding for her part she was “conservative, Christian, pro-life.” (WCRC meeting, July 22, 2013)

Being pro-life isn’t as much of a litmus test for me as it is some others, but I brought it up because I thought it was important.

*

While on Steiner’s show, Craig sidestepped a question about whether he would have vetoed a bill passed last year legalizing same-sex marriage.

He noted that as county executive, he has rarely used his veto powers and said that he thought it was good for Marylanders to have a chance to vote on the measure.

The marriage law was petitioned to the ballot by opponents after O’Malley signed it last year.

“I think it’s important that the people of Maryland spoke on that,” Craig said.

He also took issue with the state’s repeal of the death penalty, which he said prosecutors see as important tool. (Washington Post, May 31, 2013)

Here is a place where I disagree with the philosophy of Craig.

If you’re going to make a stand on an issue, it’s entirely appropriate to use the veto pen. If he wouldn’t have vetoed the bill, I’m led to assume he supports it. By the same token, where was he in supporting the death penalty when something could have been done? This could have gone to referendum but the effort died.

I’m fine with civil unions, but not gay marriage. Yes, it’s more or less a question of semantics but to me marriage between opposite genders is an apple and a union between those of the same gender is an orange. They shouldn’t share the same term. Just because the slim majority of voters supported it on a day when disillusioned conservatives stayed home because they didn’t care for their presidential nominee doesn’t mean it’s really settled. What if there had been a special election on the matter – would conservatives have been the ones to show up and vote it down?

Furthermore. I pointed out when the bill passed committee that legislators may not have wanted it on the ballot with them in 2014.

There’s a reason we have 188 legislators to represent 5 (actually 6) million Marylanders. If they do their job wrong, it’s up to you to correct it, not leaving it to the whims of 5 million Marylanders. That referendum backstop is for the times when the General Assembly gets it egregiously wrong with the governor’s approval, such as gay marriage.

Ron George: Demanding the highest standards of ethics and conduct creating a government that is more responsive to individuals regardless of income or party affiliation.

Require the automatic forfeiture of retirement benefits for any elected official that is convicted of abusing their office for political gain.

Reforming our prisons to make them true rehabilitation facilities with drug and alcohol rehab, education and financial literacy courses.

Create and enforce drug free zones around community recreation centers, schools and public housing with stiffer penalties. (campaign site)

I can live with points one and two, but the third and fourth points seem to work at cross purposes with each other. Not only will it cost a lot more to run our prison system if the additional features are included, the additional drug penalties will create more inmates. The more I see the effect of the so-called War on Drugs, the more I tend to favor decriminalization, if not legalization.

*

“Don’t believe a Republican can’t get anything done,” George said. “People think the enemy is the Democratic Party. It’s not. It’s apathy.”

He added that in a legislature controlled by Democrats, it is important for Republicans to not be ambitious. George said Democratic lawmakers will kill Republican legislation that they like, only to then introduce and pass a near-identical version with their own names on it. He added that it’s happened to him several times, and said he still would testify in favor of the bills if he supported them.

“It doesn’t matter if your name is on the bill or not. I don’t care,” George said. (SoMdNews, June 26, 2013)

To me, that doesn’t exactly scream Reaganesque leadership. If something is a good idea, we should be ambitious about it; after all – to use a recent news headline – if a small fraction of the population can get a television show cancelled, a tireless minority can turn this state around as well with the proper inspired leadership.

*

“I bristle at how much partisanship gets in the way of getting things done,” George said. “I have no problem working with people.” (Washington Post, June 5, 2013)

Then you should be ambitious about attaining your goals. Seize the bully pulpit and make the public demand the opposition fall in behind you.

*

“I never ran to the middle,” Ron reminded us, “I spoke to the middle.” (WCRC meeting, September 23, 2013)

In other words, you brought the other side to you. Now I definitely disagree with some of the ways you accomplished this – particularly the “Green Elephant” phase of your first term – but at least you have some street cred to use for better purposes.

*

And the outcry for Dwyer’s resignation is strong – particularly from fellow Anne Arundel County Delegate and gubernatorial candidate Ron George, who advised, “out of concern for others who could be harmed and for Don Dwyer himself, I call on him to resign and get help. His constituents deserve good representation.”  (monoblogue, August 21, 2013)

Since Dwyer wasn’t convicted of a crime which requires his dismissal from the General Assembly, I have to disagree. The voters of his district will probably speak just as loudly and have a more final decision.

Charles Lollar: Charles Lollar believes in human dignity and recognizes the importance of religious freedom to the people of Maryland.  The State of Maryland was founded to enable its settlers to practice their religion free of government interference.  It is our heritage and Maryland’s gift to the nation. (campaign website)

I have a little trouble reconciling that statement with the one in the second part below about not running to be a priest.

*

“It’s a tragedy what partisan politics is doing to this country.” (appearance at Mike Blizzard fundraiser, September 16, 2013)

This is a favorite straw man to burn. There’s a distinction between partisan politics based on principles and partisanship based on power. The debates of old between Republicans and Democrats centered on the former, but Maryland as a one-party state for so many decades is an example of the latter, where politicians join the Democratic machime to help themselves and not their fellow man.

*

“I’m not running to be your priest. I’m running to be your governor.”

“I think that every Marylander should have the right to be with whomever they want to be with….I don’t think government should be involved in marriage at all – that’s not government’s business.”

“I’m not going to propose any legislation centered around marriage; that’s not my job…nor would I lead a charge to change what the people have already done.”

“The people of the state have already voted to pass the law.”

“I am an advocate of helping organizations that help women sustain their lives…What I would not fund is money to provide an abortion.” (blogger interview, June 24, 2013)

I guess I have a problem with this picking and choosing which laws to advocate, unless the idea is to disengage entirely from all these personal decisions, which is a very libertarian approach. If government shouldn’t be in the arena of marriage, then I suppose we can bring back common law marriage. Moreover, there is also the aspect of taxation based in large part on deductions married couples are allowed to take, child custody, and many other issues where government has involvement in marriage. Do those go away as well?

I also have an issue with the lame excuse “the people of the state have already voted to pass the law.” That doesn’t stop activist courts from overturning a vote, which was done in California. Nor did it stop Obamacare, which the people didn’t want but Congress passed anyway. If you want the people to pass laws, then there should be a push to have citizen initiatives like other states do. Unfortunately, the masses aren’t always proven to be correct and we may rue the votes we took in 2012 a decade or two down the line.

*

“It’s very important that I’m non-partisan. We’re not going to win with Republican bully politics in this state. You’ve got some folks that want to win that way. We can’t win that way, we won’t win that way.”  (interview, Raging Against the Rhetoric, July 2013)

*

He said he is frustrated with “the Republican brand,” but chose to run as a Republican because his character and ideals most align with that party, he said. (SoMdNews, November 1, 2013)

These two actually go well together, so I will comment on both at the same time.

The first step in winning any election in Maryland is to win your party’s nomination, and in Lollar’s case that is the GOP. We saw what happened the last time an unaffiliated candidate tried to win statewide – he spent a lot of money to get 15% of the vote, and 15 percent isn’t going to cut it.

So maybe this is reality according to Charles Lollar, but that’s not the way to get party activists on your side. Granted, there are many who are fed up with the GOP brand but that’s because they look for conservative principles while many among the party regulars believe the MDGOP should be a pale pink pastel in a deep blue state, so as not to offend anyone in the middle. All that does is disillusion the base, which is why we don’t always get better turnout than Democrats – something which we must have to succeed.

I don’t think Republican principles equate to “bully politics.”

**********

In looking at these various factors, I end up deducting a little bit of score from two of the three candidates. Ron George is pretty much a wash as far as I’m concerned.

David Craig ends up losing one point because he’s just not willing to lead on social issues, even a little. They’re not the most important issues, but damn it, take a stand.

I deducted the full three points from Charles Lollar; not only for the unwillingness to run as a Republican and falling into the “non-partisan politics” trap, but also for running an abysmal campaign which has squandered the good will of a lot of potential activists, made a lot of unforced errors (the lack of a website for over a week was fairly glaring), and exhibited a terrible lack of discipline among staffers and supporters. Some of these have been straightened out, but tremendous damage is done. It’s a shame because the presentation by the candidate is generally good, which is why I initially supported him.

But when I added up all of the totals, even without the three-point deduction, Lollar was trailing badly. At this point, the totals are as follows:

  • Ron George, 61.5 points
  • David Craig, 58 points
  • Charles Lollar, 49.5 points
  • Larry Hogan, 0 points

Frankly, none of these totals are all that great. I realize I’m a difficult taskmaster, but I would have hoped for at least a couple scores in the 70s. But as more and more is learned about the candidates and their positions – particularly on some of the more esoteric issues I used, like the impact of Obamacare – perhaps one or more will reach the 70 to 80 point range and I can get behind him. At this time, I can’t be like the folks at Red Maryland and do the Larry Hogan pig in a poke. I tried that once already and was disappointed.

What I think I will do instead is make this an ongoing process. I really didn’t mean for this to be a one-shot deal as I have done before because I suspect the race will be in flux for awhile yet. Moreover, I’m not convinced I’ll see four main contenders on the June ballot, just like Blaine Young’s exit from the race after Charles Lollar got in. Sooner or later, once Larry Hogan gets in someone probably has to get out because there’s only so much money out there.

So I want to revisit the process around the first of February, the first of April, and the beginning of June. This way I can review what the candidates have said over the preceding 60 days or so and adjust accordingly. I might like a lot of what Larry Hogan says and it may vault him into the lead, or Lollar could stage a comeback with some subtle policy changes. It seems fair to all, and there’s no real rush for a monoblogue endorsement.

Put me down as still undecided.

Ducking the real question

December 21, 2013 · Posted in Mainstream media · 1 Comment 

For a television show which drew 11.8 million viewers for its season four premiere over the summer, ‘Duck Dynasty’ has become the topic du jour on everyone’s lips. (Just as a comparison, the broadcast network show ‘NCIS’ drew about 19 million viewers the week of December 9.)

Before I continue, let me say I am not a regular viewer of the show; however, I have seen enough bits and pieces from having a 13-year-old devout follower of the series in the household to be familiar with the premise of the show, not to mention the four guys who look like stand-ins for a ZZ Top video. (Which makes sense, since the ZZ Top song ‘Sharp Dressed Man’ is the show’s theme song.) Moreover, doing my outside job has made me aware that anything with the ‘Duck Dynasty” logo and/or the Robertson family – and I mean anything – is available at most local stores, particularly Walmarts. There’s no need to discount it like you might the remnants of a failed blockbuster movie or television series because the stuff has been flying off the shelves. (By the way, it should be pointed out this accrues to the benefit of the A&E Network.)

So what’s amazing to me about this story is the reaction from a small portion of the interview, taken out of the context of the whole. But then again, in reading the piece, you feel like writer Drew Magary is holding himself one step away from openly laughing about how much of a bunch of Bible-thumping hicks this whole Robertson clan is, like Drew’s really the smartest guy in the room and how did he ever get stuck with this assignment? I’ll put up with them for now, the attitude screams, but wait until I get back to New York or Washington (or wherever Drew’s from) and start writing this one, complete with plenty of NSFW language! The target audience of GQ – which is pehaps the older brothers of the now-infamous “pajama boy” – will simply see this as yet another reinforcement of how life in flyover country is something to be ignored, not emulated.

Honestly, I think people were caught off guard by the swift reaction from the LGBT community to the money quote from the story. There’s no doubt in my mind the most radical among them were already bothered by the show’s popularity because of its message of morality and lack of so-called “diversity” – it doesn’t fit in with the usual politically correct pap which most network shows have become as they preach tolerance of all but a Biblical worldview. Come on, these guys say grace before they eat. Fearing this prospect of a boycott by a small but vocal minority, the A&E network suspended Phil from the show.

Yet if you read farther into the interview, you’ll find this fate wasn’t totally unexpected:

“Let’s face it,” (Phil Robertson) says. “Three, four, five years, we’re out of here. You know what I’m saying? It’s a TV show. This thing ain’t gonna last forever. No way.”

At this point, they are three months away from the 2-year mark (the show premiered in March 2012) but the overnight success of the show is probably at the crest of its wave – before too long, some other pop culture phenomenon will take over the public consciousness and ‘Duck Dynasty’ will be a footnote. An extremely well-marketed footnote, but a footnote nonetheless. It will certainly eliminate the talk about Phil’s son Willie Robertson running for Congress.

Still, there is the question of how much backlash the radical LGBT crowd will receive from all this. Regardless of how crassly Phil Robertson put it, the truth is for most men women are far more desirable as partners. That’s the reality. Try as the LGBT radicals might to redefine marriage and family, there’s no substitute for biology and if guys want to carry on the family name, so to speak, they need a woman to help them out somehow. One might consider that God’s plan. Certainly it would be preferred that the guys hang on to their desire until they find the right woman, get married, and settle down, but that’s really going to take a sea change in societal mores on the order of a Great Awakening to occur – so start small like the Robertsons seem to be doing. Every little bit helps.

Those who complain about lack of tolerance might want to consider they’re traveling on a two-way street. Erick Erickson wrote a good piece on RedState yesterday about the tendency of those offended to wish to “punish and destroy” opponents rather than exhibit the tolerance they demand.

For those who were determined to drive ‘Duck Dynasty’ off the air, it’s obvious the idea of ‘live and let live’ is beyond their limited worldview.

Creeping back into the fold

There were a number of critical articles (like this one) and even a resolution before the state party stemming from the decision of Cecil County Executive Tari Moore to bolt from the Republican Party so she could pick her own successor on the County Council. But count me among those who figured she’d return to the GOP. Indeed, she did so back in November.

Needless to say, the local party didn’t exactly welcome her back with open arms, particular county Chair Chris Zeauskas:

Today, the Cecil Whig published a story announcing County Executive Tari Moore’s switch back from Unaffiliated to Republican.

By changing her Party affiliation, she confirms, yet again, that her switch was nothing more than political calculation.

For Tari Moore, it wasn’t about conscience and it wasn’t about doing what was best for Cecil County.

As you might remember, just after being elected County Executive, Tari Moore changed her Party affiliation in a politically motivated move to control who her successor would be in filling her then vacant County Council seat.

She chose to steal the right of the duly elected Cecil County Republican Central Committee to nominate candidates to fill her vacancy on the Cecil County Council.

As per the County Charter, when a vacancy opens on the County Council (assuming that seat is held by a Republican), the Cecil County Republican Central Committee nominates 3 individuals for the County Council to select for appointment.

Rather than stand for the conservative Republican values of Cecil County voters, Tari Moore decided to undermine them.

She undermined the democratic process and the will of the voters for her own political gain.

Not only was it wrong for Moore to betray Republican voters who helped her get elected, she’s betrayed all Cecil County voters in her time in office.

As our representative, Moore has:

  • Increased taxes and fees several times
  • Increased and voted for huge spending increases
  • Piled on massive new debt that our children and grandchildren will have to pay for
  • Voted against our property rights by supporting government purchases of land and centralized planning initiatives

Tari Moore is not a Republican, she does not stand for any Republican values, and she has proven herself to be yet another self-interested, self-serving politician.

Between now and her next election we hope to educate all voters in Cecil County about what Tari Moore truly stands for and we ask you today to do the same.

You know, I could say all that about a lot of Republicans all around the state. Anyway, I’m reading that as Tari Moore having a primary opponent the next time she’s up for election. Cecil County, though, is sort of an odd duck in that they will have perhaps the most significant of the local elections come 2016. Unlike most other counties, they elect certain officers (such as their County Executive) in a Presidential year rather than a Gubernatorial one; thus, the election will be one of the most closely watched in the state.

You may recall Zeauskas is the Central Committee chair who sponsored a resolution in 2012 accusing Moore of accepting party money “under false pretenses.” The resolution was tabled in that meeting and not brought up in the chaotic spring 2013 convention that followed.

In fact, this news wasn’t revealed as the county filed suit against Delegate Michael Smigiel to recoup legal costs incurred in the Zeauskas lawsuit against Cecil County. My post happened to be the day she switched back, but it turns out I was correct in assuming she would wait until the legal coast was clear.

I find it very intriguing, though, that Zeauskas will get very little feedback about being critical of a fellow Republican elected official – but let a conservative blogger do the same thing and the cries of disloyalty spring up from several quarters. I’m sure what passes for a Democratic Party in Cecil County is enjoying the show, not that they have nothing else to run against since most county officials there are Republicans.

So I’ll welcome Tari back, even if her motives for leaving weren’t the purest. Let’s allow the debate to focus on policy, both now and once the candidates are known.

The radical proposal, expanded

The other night on Facebook I wrote a statement, which was somewhat off the cuff and just a little tongue-in-cheek, but to my surprise and delight a number of people took it more seriously than I thought they would. This is what I wrote:

Thinking about Jackie Wellfonder and her poll about salaries…I think certain members should get an increase. But how about this radical proposal?

In year one after election, you receive $80,000 in salary. It may seem like a lot, but surely there are expenses a freshman legislator has to pay.

In year two, though, the salary drops to $70,000…then $60,000 in year 3 and $50,000 in year 4. Still want another term? Well, the salary will go down in $5,000 annual increments from there to a stipend of $10,000 a year for veteran legislators.

My hope is that this would encourage the average person to run for political office, serve their term, and then return to private life – just as our Founders intended.

Bear in mind the Maryland General Assembly members get just over $40,000 in salary, plus a stipend for living expenses during the session. I don’t think the latter part is completely unfair considering a large portion of them don’t live that close to Annapolis and the hours during session are irregular.

But to me there’s something wrong with the system where members (of both parties, although Democrats tend to be the worse offenders) feel they should serve twenty or thirty years – or even longer. The current Maryland poster child for this phenomenon is State Senator Norman Stone. At the age of 78, he has spent almost 2/3 of his life in the General Assembly – elected to the House of Delegates in 1962, he moved up to the Senate in 1966 and has served there since. (Stone decided in July to forgo yet another term.)

There’s something to be said for institutional knowledge, but a half-century is way too long in public office.

So I came up with my idea, for which I really didn’t do any math. But I think the ideal legislator for me would be someone who has spent a little bit of time in local political office (perhaps 4 to 8 years) but much more time building a business, raising a family, and being active in the community outside the political arena. He or she would spend 4 years in Annapolis, or perhaps 8 on the outside, and then return home.

Or I can use a personal example. I have spent almost 12 years overall as a member of a local Republican Central Committee – about four years in Ohio and I’m into my eighth year here. I am planning on running one more time next year – win or lose, it’s my last election because I promised myself I would not run again for office after I turn 50. To me, being on the Central Committee is a good place to get a political start and I’d like to see some younger people occupy that office after I’m through. I’m not going to be a Central Committee member in my nineties, as we have now. (Out of nine in our local group, the three youngest among us are all in our forties, with the average somewhere around retirement age.) Once I win, I will be set up for a total of about 16 years of political service and four wins on the ballot. (I also lost once, but I was shortly thereafter appointed to serve an adjacent precinct.)

Simply put, the idea was not to stay in office forever – it seems like we tried to set ourselves up NOT to have elected royalty. So I figured if the financial incentive gets smaller, perhaps people would think twice about making politics a career. Of course they still could since my state restriction wouldn’t apply to federal office. Then again, we only have ten such posts available.

Obviously there’s another method of achieving this goal, and that’s term limits. Like the federal government, our state’s chief executive is limited to two consecutive terms but legislators have no such restriction. While I understand the libertarian argument that people should get to elect whoever they want – even if it’s for a tenth or twelfth term – the abuse of this system led me to change my mind about this issue, for I was once opposed to term limits on those grounds.

Once we take care of the political side, the next step is to shrink the size and role of government so that career bureaucrats can’t run the show, either. That’s a more difficult path to take, but it’s the item we have to explore in order to rightsize government.

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