Extra hours

January 31, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off on Extra hours 

Now I know why I couldn’t be a politician.

Tonight I went to a fire company banquet. No, I’m not a volunteer fireman: I attended because my future mother-in-law was honored for 50 years of service to the local ladies auxiliary. But not only was I there, along with a significant portion of this town’s fire company, but so were two local Delegates, the State Senator, and most of the County Council and town commission – oh, and a candidate for Delegate that I recognized as well.

You may read about it in the local news, but the point is multiply that by a half-dozen local fire companies in the county and then add the fundraisers, parades, and other local events where it’s good to have a face in the place and you wonder how the elected officials ever get any sleep. At least the State Senator had a plate of food – which was very good, by the way.

It also impressed on me the sense of community many still feel. Unlike certain political clubs, I noticed a nice mix of ages at this banquet as there were many members of the Millennial Generation in attendance, with most being involved in the fire company. While I was brought up for part of my adolescence in a rural area, it truly was a rural area and not a small town. The closest incorporated community was five miles away from me, although we lived about a mile from a small hamlet of a couple hundred, mostly residents of a trailer park. So I never dealt with the local fire department.

One part of the ceremony was the receipt of several checks from the county, the town, and the ladies auxiliary (which was the largest.) This body of women put together over two dozen charitable events each year for the fire company, a sum which supplemented the overall funding from the town and county. That dedication was echoed in the awards given out to various firefighters who went beyond the call of duty, one taking many extra hours to test equipment vital for the safety of all.

Living in an area which has primarily volunteer fire companies, I’m well aware of the many methods the various small-town outfits use to try and raise funds – anything from renting out the fire hall (pretty much a staple) to selling food by a busy intersection to holding Monte Carlo nights. It’s those events which really take most of a volunteer firefighter or EMT’s time – this small town only had 84 ambulance runs, so it probably didn’t have a vast volume of fire calls. None of the firefighters made it to more than 2/3 of the calls, but I’m certain they did their share for the fundraising.

But I hear a lot from those running for office about making the time to stop by the firehouses as part of their campaigning. I guess I sort of understood the intent, but since I’m not a volunteer firefighter I didn’t quite get the point. Tonight’s event helped in that respect, particularly when you consider they were in session today. Makes for a long day.

While the scope of the work has changed over the years for the colunteers, it’s hard to imagine a small town without a volunteer fire department, and even harder to imagine politicans not gladhanding at their banquets. It was something from which I learned quite a bit.

Hornberger makes his debut

As Republicans in Maryland, we are always pining for a time when we develop a deep bench of candidates, something to act like the farm system Democrats seem to have where they can send out waves of liberal idealistic candidates across the state to attempt to shuck and jive their way into office through slick messaging without a great deal of substance or, for that matter, originality.

So this morning I received a press release from one of those new young candidates, Kevin Hornberger from Cecil County. He’s the first from either party to file in the rebadged District 35A, which more or less takes in the area of the current District 34B. That district is now represented by Democrat David Rudolph.

I’ll share a little bit about Hornberger, as he writes:

An engineer and small business owner since 2006, Hornberger said he intends to bring increased fiscal responsibility and spending oversight to Annapolis. A lifelong conservative, he will challenge the tax and spend practices of the state’s liberal super majority. “Annapolis has to stop treating its citizens like ATMs. Instead, less spending through better oversight of expenditures is the only way to ensure families in this our great state can prosper—and one way is by keeping more of their own money.”

As a Library of Congress employee for over eight years, Hornberger has effectively managed multi-year, multi-million-dollar contracts and capital improvement projects. In one instance, his innovative approach saved taxpayers more than half a million dollars. “My yardstick for civil service is how much money can you save the taxpayer and still provide an acceptable level of service.”

As a gun-rights advocate and NRA life member, he has already begun to work with his future colleagues in the General Assembly to reverse the unconstitutional gun laws passed by the current Democratic majority. “One of my top priorities,” Hornberger said, “is to restore Marylanders’ Second Amendment rights, and to prevent continued attacks from close-minded extremists—whose positions show they are ill-informed about the vital present day role and historical importance of firearms in our country.”

I saw the next part as the money quote, though.

“I think any political incumbent should be very concerned about maintaining his elected position,” he said, “particularly after what has transpired in our state over the last four years. It is time for fresh leadership. The greatest threat to our God given constitutional rights is the super majority ruling our current one party state.”

It’s a great message, from a candidate who was an Eagle Scout. But the way it was disseminated was interesting as well.

My site was one of several not local to Cecil County which received this release; so far the Dagger Press is the only one to run the story (too bad they messed up the name.) Others like Red Maryland, The Quinton Report, and Maryland Reporter have taken a pass, which is their right. (I think I have a little fan base in Cecil County, which may be why I was included.) Moreover, you’re probably not going to get such a fair shake from the mainstream media – witness this Daily Times story I found linked on Maryland Reporter.  (This mayor sure is trying to sound like a conservative, isn’t he? Stick with the real thing in Charles Otto.) Outlets like the Baltimore Sun or other large-circulation newspapers weren’t even included in the list.

Obviously Kevin is just getting his feet wet politically and needs to get out his word on a budget – the release doesn’t even have a letterhead and the Facebook page has only 18 likes. It’s the grassroots that count in this case.

If the Republican Party here in Maryland is ever going to become relevant, we need to find people of all stripes willing to put themselves out to endure the slings and arrows certain to come their way from an entrenched majority ruling against the peoples’ best interests. Will they make some mistakes? Certainly – it’s not like we have a template for success we can follow nor the built-in advantage of registered voters.

But we have the ideas to succeed, if only the word gets out. We probably have 100 Kevin Hornbergers running across the state who just need a little encouragement as they begin a political journey. The least we can do to change this state is take a look at their campaign and help them as needed.

The newest ticket

January 29, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The newest ticket 

There is an older lady I’m familiar with from various political functions who is a David Craig supporter. During this campaign, since Craig was the first to announce, she would ask “has anyone else announced yet?” And once Craig selected Jeannie Haddaway as his running mate, she would then ask “Well, does so-and-so have a running mate? You need one to file.”

Well, lady, the answer to the latter question is now “yes” in Larry Hogan’s case. As part of his delayed gala announcement he’s selected former Ehrlich Administration official Boyd Rutherford as his ticketmate.

There’s no question that this will lead to the portrayal of Larry Hogan as the lost second term of Bob Ehrlich, since both members of the Hogan/Rutherford team have served in his administration as secretaries. After leaving the Ehrlich administration at the behest of President George W. Bush in 2006, Rutherford has tried his hand at some other enterprises.

This certainly presents a study in contrasts with some of the other tickets: Anthony Brown, whose background is mostly legislative aside from serving as Martin O’Malley’s caddy for the last eight years, selected a county executive with a large campaign warchest. Doug Gansler, who came up through the legal ranks, picked a legislator, and Heather Mizeur, a Delegate, selected someone outside of politics entirely, an activist minister. Fellow Republican David Craig, a career politician, looked to a youthful but experienced Delegate.

Rutherford described his role simply:

Accordingly, my pledge to you is simple:  When Governor Hogan assigns this Lieutenant Governor a policy initiative to implement, I will question and I will monitor, and I will safeguard the spending of your tax dollars every waking hour.

That statement had to be a dig at Anthony Brown, who trumpeted his heavy involvement in the Maryland Health Connection until it flopped like a dying flounder. Suddenly he wasn’t as responsible.

Also interesting to me is the fact that Hogan is now beginning to flesh out his campaign and his positions. Obviously he has his priorities in order, although I don’t understand the emphasis on “middle class.” I like to think of people as apriring to get beyond middle class.

This also puts the pressure on the other two in the race to find their lieutenant governor candidates. With less than a month before the filing deadline, and with a significantly weaker financial standing than the others in the race, Ron George and Charles Lollar will need to convince someone to join their campaign.

So six months or so after I thought he should have entered, the evolution of Change Maryland to Larry Hogan campaign team is complete. And while Hogan enters as the candidate with the most hype, the question is whether there’s more substance than sizzle.

Who will vote for Vogt now?

January 28, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Who will vote for Vogt now? 

The uphill battle is over.

This morning I received the following release in my e-mail:

David Vogt, a Marine combat veteran and former Military Times’ Marine of the Year, announced on Tuesday morning that he will not continue to seek the Republican nomination for United States Congress in Maryland’s 6th Congressional District. The seat is currently held by Democrat John Delaney. Vogt has been very critical of Congressman Delaney’s continued support for the Affordable Care Act and his partisan voting record. “His voting record and lack of presence within our district are exactly why he needs to be replaced during the 2014 election cycle,” Vogt said.

Vogt launched his campaign for Congress in June of last year and was the first Republican to officially file with the Maryland State Board of Elections.

“After spending much time discussing with friends, family, and supporters, I have decided to withdraw from the Republican primary in the Sixth District,” Vogt announced. “I have traveled all over this district in the past several months, and I have spoken with countless Marylanders who have been adversely affected by a failed Big Government agenda. I will continue to offer my fervent support of returning statesmanship to our district, state and country regardless of candidacy. In direct regard to our 6th Congressional District, I wish Dan Bongino the best of luck in his fight to restore conservative principles to Western Maryland.”

“Although I am withdrawing from this race, I remain committed to our community, our state, and our nation. I will continue my work in assisting our military veterans and their families as I have with the Major General Boyd Cook Memorial Foundation, Toys-for-Tots and Operation Second Chance and I look forward to continue being involved in our futures together as neighbors and friends. The fight for liberty and the advancement of the American Dream is never finished, and it must be fought for on every level: municipal, county, state and national. If we forfeit the fight on any battlefield, then we have forfeited the rights given by God alone,” Vogt exclaimed.

Vogt is considering entering a more local race during the 2014 cycle.

So Vogt just ceded ground to Dan Bongino in the Sixth District Congressional race, although there was little doubt Bongino had the campaign funding and name recognition to prevail in the primary anyway. What interested me, though, was the last line.

In looking up the district where Vogt’s hometown of Brunswick lies, it appears Vogt now resides in District 4. In the former configuration, however, Brunswick was in District 3B, represented by Delegate Michael Hough. If Vogt were to run for a state seat, he’s now in the same district as Senate Minority Leader David Brinkley, along with Hough and fellow Delegates Kathy Afzali and Kelly Schulz, who represent the current District 4A. All of them are Republicans, but at this point, Schulz is the only one who has filed for a House seat. Interestingly enough, though, today the lone person who had filed for State Senate, Jason Miller, withdrew from the race – seems to be coincidental timing there, doesn’t it?

On the other hand, if Vogt were to aspire to a County Council position, he would be in the newly-created Frederick County Council District 1, where no Republican has filed.

Of course, I don’t believe in “turns” nor do I think anyone is entitled to a legislative seat. But the chances are pretty good that Vogt may step out of the frying pan into the fire. We’ll see how his political moxie is built in a local race, should he choose to go that route.

WCRC meeting – January 2014

It’s a new year, and apparently people are pent up with political desire. Benefitting from this enthusiasm in particular were Comptroller candidate William Campbell and District 37B hopeful Dr. Rene Desmarais, both of whom were our featured speakers tonight.

So once we handled the usual opening of reciting the Lord’s Prayer and Pledge of Allegiance and introducing the growing number of distinguished guests, we heard mainly from Campbell and Desmarais about their proposals if elected. We began with the second-time Comptroller candidate, who ran for the same post in 2010.

The reason he ran, said Campbell, was that he met the incumbent. But Comptroller was the “second most important vote you’ll make” behind the governor’s race. The Comptroller, Campbell continued, acts as the watchdog over the “rapacious” actions of our governor and legislature.

He also has a vote on the Maryland Board of Public Works, and if Republicans are elected to both the governor and comptroller posts they could “end the lunacy” in Maryland’s spending.

Chief among those flaws was pension funding. Campbell explained that a program which was fully funded just 12 years ago was only 65% funded when he ran in 2010 and is down to 60% now – although William argued that new accounting standards could prove that number to be closer to 50% funding. It’s a $40 billion unfunded liability.

Finally among the Comptroller’s chief duties is regulation of alcohol, fuel, and tobacco in the state of Maryland.

He went on to outline his qualifications, which were more than sufficient for the job: 9 years as chief financial officer of the United States Coast Guard, a stint as CFO of the Department of Veterans Affairs – where he oversaw a $65 billion budget and 225,000 employees; figures which dwarf the state of Maryland – and two years at Amtrak, which is still a money pit but “lost less money with me.” His planning to address the shortfall enabled Amtrak to buy locomotives for the first time in decades.

After leaving Amtrak, he did pro bono work for NASA, making their books auditable for the first time in years. Campbell did it for free because “I believe in good government.”

Speaking to his 2010 run, he conceded that he started late and ran a campaign with no more than 4 figures in the bank and 30,000 miles on his truck. Yet he outpolled U.S. Senate candidate Eric Wargotz, who spent far more money, garnering 691,461 votes and only trailing Bob Ehrlich by about 85,000 votes (Ehrlich had 776,319, which translated to 3% more.) He learned that you have to get voters to know you, like you, and trust you, so he started running last year for 2014. “I know the things to fix,” concluded Campbell.

When asked about how he would deal with Annapolis Democrats, Campbell’s initial inclination would be that of “quiet persuasion,” but it would escalate to that of a bully pulpit if needed. “I see a lot of ignorance in Annapolis,” said Campbell.

He was also asked if marijuana would fall under his supervision if legalized. It would, but the $150 million projected annual revenue was “a rounding error” in a budget of $40 billion. More important was the lack of attention to the pension fund, which should ideally be replenished to the tune of $500 million a year but was getting $350 million or less under Martin O’Malley. He charged current Comptroller Peter Franchot with “not living up to his fiduciary responsibility” by his handling of the pension funds, including coming in way short of the 7.5% annual return projections are based on.

Turning things over to Dr. Rene Desmarais, he began by stating the obvious: “Health care is a mess.” If elected, Desmarais added, he would be the only Republican doctor in the House of Delegates.

Desmarais was more brief, given a tighter time constraint, but spoke about three distinct themes: vision, connection, and opportunity.

The lack of vision in Annapolis was apparent in that there was no help in getting from point A to point B – government was just asked to solve the problem. This was true, not just in health care, but in a broad array of subjects like education, phosphorous regulations, and even the Second Amendment, Desmarais argued.

Connections abound from health care to a number of political topics, added Rene, but he spent part of the time discussing the connections to Obamacare, which has “22 missing things” and “done harm to people.”

Yet we also have opportunity because of a unique hospital payment system which can be the foundation to making needed changes. It would take a “message of clarity”for Republicans to succeed overall, but it can be done. Moreover, Maryland “can push the reset button” on the health insurance market, providing a better alternative than the current system where Eastern Shore residents get to choose from a whopping two insurance providers through the state exchange.

That concluded the portion of the program devoted to our guest speakers, but the treasurer’s report was brief and club president Jackie Wellfonder recounted a breakfast held with Delegate Addie Eckardt a week ago Saturday before yielding her time to County Council member Joe Holloway.

Holloway wanted to remind us that the County Council would meet next Tuesday evening (February 4) and discuss the recently-discovered $3;7 million revenue shortfall in the county’s budget, along with raises for various county officials and the allocation of $25,000 to the Clean Chesapeake Coalition.

In a Central Committee report which was more brief than usual, Dave Parker pointed out a candidate conference call slated for Tuesday and that the deadline for candidates was approaching quickly. “This could be a very good year for Republicans,” said Parker. We also heard plans for the Lincoln Day Dinner, which promises to be a memorable event if we can pull off getting our preferred guest speaker.

Turning to club business, we nominated new officers for 2014 – a simple process as all but one current officer volunteered to stay on. So we nominated one person to fill the vacancy and nominations were closed.

After that, we heard quickly from a number of other candidates who updated their campaign status. John Cannon, who served from 2006-10 on County Council, has decided to return to the at-large position he vacated to run for Delegate. He praised the current Council for making sure tha county didn’t tax its way out of the recession, and said his campaign would be based on business and job growth. Businesses “can’t find educated and drug-free workers in Wicomico,” said Cannon.

District 37B hopeful Johnny Mautz, Jr. invited people to a campaign kickoff in St. Michaels on February 9 from 4-6 p.m.

Matt Maciarello, our State’s Attorney, pointed with some pride to the fact that Salisbury has improved from the 4th most dangerous city per capita in the country to 52nd most over his tenure, although he was disappointed to find we were still on the top 100 list. Matt was more pleased, though, with the renovation of an old downtown building into new offices for his department along with space for the Maryland State Police, Sheriff’s Department, Salisbury city police, Children’s Services, and room for therapy for abuse victims.

Larry Dodd was another interested in a return to County Council, where he served from 2002-2006. He praised outgoing Council members Stevie Prettyman and Gail Bartkovich as being a “hard act to follow” – he’s running for the District 3 seat Bartkovich is vacating – and stressed his tenure on the Board of Education (where he’s a current member) as an advantage.

District 38B hopeful Carl Anderton, Jr. spoke about how he’s already “made a mark” in Annapolis, where the traditional introduction of the Maryland Municipal League president at the opening ceremony of the Maryland General Assembly was somehow skipped this year – coincidentally, he’s running against longtime member Norm Conway. Anderton also quipped that the state “wasted $100 million on a website that doesn’t work” but he spent $20 on his and it runs just fine. Carl’s having a meet-and-greet at Main Roots Coffee on Saturday from 11-1, added campaign manager Bunky Luffman.

Marc Kilmer, running for District 2 County Council, stated that the coverage of the $3.7 million county shortfall ignored a key fact – the budget went up by $10.9 million from the year before. We need fiscal discipline and not the “sky is falling rhetoric” the county seems to employ.

Touching on that, Joe Holloway praised local activists Johnnie Miller and John Palmer for trying to bring that shortfall to the county’s attention. “We were warned” that the county was being overly optimistic on revenue projections, Joe said.

On behalf of Christopher Adams, Jackie Wellfonder let us know he was still out knocking on doors and talking to people.

Finally, we were asked if any Democrats were in any of the races. At this point, the only Democrats who have filed are the incumbent Clerk of the Courts and Register of Wills, along with two seeking the District 1 County Council seat.

It really wasn’t a lengthy meeting, but it turned out to be chock full of information. The next meeting is February 24, with a speaker to be determined.

The perfect as the enemy of the good

January 26, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Inside the Beltway, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The perfect as the enemy of the good 

I didn’t realize it at the time – although I had an inkling it may happen – but stepping into the question of how people should have reacted at the Friday townhall meeting up in Bel Air sponsored by Andy Harris provoked yet another war of words between factions in what is arguably Maryland’s hotbed county of political intrigue despite its relatively small size. Yes, it’s a battle between the Cecil Campaign for Liberty and the Cecil County Patriots.

But there’s a political reality I want to share with a wider audience which may not follow every comment made on Facebook. I wrote this under the post I made promoting my piece from yesterday, after one respondent advised me to rethink my guiding philosophical principles:

And if (Andy Harris) repeats the behavior – even if he doesn’t – you find a primary opponent. See McConnell, Mitch. I don’t need to rethink guiding principles, you need the dose of reality. If you can find the primary opponent for Andy Harris in a month and he/she can get enough support to win, more power to you. If this person is in line with my values, I’ll vote that way. I’ve always said incumbents don’t deserve a free ride, which runs counter to most political thinking in the party because they tend to want to dictate how the offices are parceled out and whose “turn” it is.

But here is the situation on the ground: Harris has no primary opppnent. There will probably be a Libertarian in the race but he/she will be lucky to sniff 5% of the vote. We live in an R+13 district so Harris will probably win easily just based on rank-and-file Rs. Look how he did in 2012 with an Obama-infused turnout (admittedly, also with a scandal-crippled D opponent.)

I said in the piece I didn’t agree with the vote, and obviously there are a number who do not. But he picked a pretty good time to make a mistake – too late to get a very viable primary opponent and early enough that this one vote will likely be forgotten.

The original intent of the two pieces I cited was to promote attendance at a particular town hall meeting.

Now I don’t know if anyone asked about the vote at the townhall, nor did he allude to it on his Facebook page. Apparently he put out a statement, quoted by Gannett’s Nicole Gaudiano, that the deal “preserved many of the conservative fiscal policy goals of the last three years, while restoring full pension benefits to our disabled veterans and military family survivors.”  But there are already a number of groups who put the black mark next to his name because he voted for it (such as Heritage Action or the Club for Growth) and it’s likely they will have it in their back pocket if needed. I’m sure it’s a little bit galling to the Club For Growth since they backed his initial 2008 campaign so heavily.

If people are going to get mad at Harris, they should also be mad at the bulk of the Republican caucus in the House because the bill passed with just 64 Republicans (and three Democrats) objecting. 166 Republicans, including Harris, said yes. Obviously that doesn’t excuse his vote, but in the true art of compromise there were things both sides absolutely hated about the bill.

Yet in a political sense, the Republicans probably feel like they scored a victory because the government is funded through the remainder of the fiscal year, which should all but eliminate the politically unpopular possibility of a government shutdown. Now the key will be working on the budget in regular order as opposed to dropping another omnibus bomb on an unsuspecting American public. Once the House does its job, the onus will be on the Senate to pass a budget rather than perpetuate this never-ending cycle of continuing resolutions. Believe it or not, that’s how our nation did things until 2009.

Campaign for…Republicans?

Sometimes politics makes strange bedfellows. Take, for instance, the Cecil County Campaign for Liberty and the Cecil County Republican Party.

On Friday I received separate e-mail messages from Bob Willick of the C4L and the county’s Republican Chair Chris Zeauskas imploring me to attend a town hall meeting in Bel Air featuring our Congressman, Andy Harris. In no uncertain terms, though, the two political leaders were upset that Harris voted for the omnibus budget bill. (I’m not thrilled about it, either.)

But what I noticed about the dueling e-mails was their reliance on a single set of themes. Notice that both used the examples of Rep. Barbara Lee and Paul Riechoff of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America to make their case, and they share a lot of similar bullet points.

Of course, I didn’t get to the townhall meeting last night to find out what was said – perhaps some of my readers from in and around Bel Air can clue me in because this coverage was rather tepid – but one point Harrishad previously made in his defense was a provision for the Eastern Shore’s seafood industry.

Even one of Andy’s Democratic opponents was skeptical. Bill Tilghman posted on his Facebook page:

Tonight the House of Representatives passed a bipartisan Omnibus appropriations bill that funds the government through September. This is a good thing, but it will be only temporary if partisanship reigns supreme in the future. A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.

Yet, while these e-mails use a lot of the same rhetoric, there is a point made in both which bears repeating. Willick lamented the changes Washington seems to make:

Andy Harris pledged to us that he would change Washington. Instead – it changed him.

Zeauskas, though, was far more lengthy in his criticism:

The last thing this Country and the State of Maryland needs is another politician that will place their political aspirations over principle.

And it doesn’t matter whether it’s a Republican or Democrat.

If our Republican Party stands for nothing, that’s bad.

But what’s worse?

A Republican Party that stands for exactly the same thing as the Democrats.

The greatest lie ever told in politics is that good people are obligated to support the lesser of two evils.

I joined our Republican Party because I was inspired by our principles and ideas.

Freedom is an inspirational idea.

When we don’t fight for our principles we drive people away from our Party.

Think about it.

After this vote for Obamacare, how many people are motivated to put everything on the line to help Andy Harris next election?

How many Tea Party activists will be motivated to donate and volunteer for Rep. Harris?

As an elected Republican official, how am I going to rally the troops to fight for a Big Government Republican?

Voting for Obamacare and spending hikes isn’t the way to grow the Republican Party.

(snip)

I can’t look someone from Cecil County in the eyes and explain away Andy Harris’s vote.

How could any elected official, especially a Republican, vote to fund a bungled roll out of Obamacare, to continue the destruction of the American healthcare system?

I’m embarrassed today for our Party.

As an elected Republican Party official, it’s my job to promote our Republican Party, but I won’t promote Obamacare or give cover to a Republican who votes for this.

Too many families are being hurt by this radical government action.

We deserve better.

And we expect better from our only Republican Congressman here in Maryland.

Now this point I can completely see, since there are times our elected Republican officials in our county seem to lose their way. But unless and until they draw a primary opponent, we are pretty much stuck with them. In the case of Harris, do you honestly think Tilghman or fellow Democrat John LaFerla would vote no to this?

I think a big part of the problem with the Republicans in Washington is that they are scared of the wrong thing. I can almost guarantee you that, in the back of Andy’s mind, there’s that memory of how much Republicans were blamed for the government shutdown last October and all the supposed ill effects of the sequester before that. So when the deal was made, his calculation (with the inclusion of the seafood worker provision) was that it was the best deal we could get and the country would not have to go through this whole nightmare for a second time next month.

Now I’m sure the political junkies are yelling at their computer that I’m wrong, but I also realize that 90-plus percent of voters aren’t that much into politics and they get their news from sources who are quick to blame Republicans for all the nation’s ills. In that respect, I think Andy has gone Washington but he’s still a long way from Wayne Gilchrest territory – as the de facto leader of Maryland Republicans, I believe the thinking was he’s going to have to appeal to the center a little bit to help his fellows out come November.

I don’t think this justifies the poor vote, but since we have no other options our best course is to give him the courage to return to the form he had in the Maryland Senate, where he would occasionally stand alone on the side of right. Perhaps giving him some Republican company from Maryland next year will be of assistance.

And if Andy wants my space to explain himself, I can always use guest opinion.

Reaction to O’Malley’s last State of the State

Three of those gentlemen who would like to deliver the next State of the State address in 2015 put out remarks in reaction to the current occupant of Government House and what he had to say yesterday afternoon. These are in alphabetical order, by the way, not necessarily in order of preference.

David Craig called the O’Malley era a “sad legacy” in his brief statement, one which focused on the failure to implement the state health insurance exchange but the success he had in implementing higher taxes and fees:

The O’Malley-Brown years leave a sad legacy for those interested in basic government competence, fiscal responsibility and individual freedom.

While Governor O’Malley acknowledged the failure of his Administration and Lt. Gov. Brown to implement Obamacare, there are important facts missing among the many statistics he likes to choose. The Administration has a long way to go on providing transparency on health care including the number of how many consumers are obtaining actual coverage, the number of people dropped from private plans and the total cost.

We have heard for several years now the growing amount of money in so-called ‘cuts’ to the budget, when in fact the budget has grown $10 billion during the O’Malley and Brown terms. Over 70 tax, fee and toll increases are hurting the economy, reducing employment compared to other states in the region and is taking more money for more government.

Similarly, Delegate Ron George attacked O’Malley’s economic record, calling it a “burden on job creation”:

Never has a governor so boldly claimed budget cuts, economic growth and a shrinking executive branch in the face of such clear evidence against. Small businesses have seen their taxes rise tremendously under the O’Malley/Brown administration. Now in 2014, he is burdening job creators with the rain tax, implementation of Obamacare and a forced wage increase.

The O’Malley/Brown administration has seen the relocation of thousands of small businesses and tens of thousands of taxpayers due to a hostile state government. Our mom and pop shops, who employ the majority of our workers, are already struggling to stay open. We must focus on expanding opportunities for entrepreneurs and technical training for our unemployed to protect and grow our middle class for generations to come.

More bluntly, Larry Hogan called O’Malley’s tenure one of “nothing more than lip service” to working Marylanders:

Year after year, this governor has provided nothing more than lip service to hundreds of thousands of hard working Maryland families who look to their governor for leadership. Today was no different. We heard nothing about how the O’Malley-Brown administration plans to turn our economy around, nothing about attracting job creators to Maryland, and no apology to the tens of thousands of Marylanders who have not been able to participate in Maryland’s healthcare exchange.

Instead, what Governor O’Malley delivered today was pure fiction. The Governor continued his perennial claim of spending cuts when the simple fact is the O’Malley-Brown administration has increased spending by 33 percent: from $29.5 billion in their first year to $39.2 billion proposed in their final year.

O’Malley talked a lot about the middle class but, under this administration, the middle class has never felt more pain. The O’Malley-Brown administration paid for their excessive spending on the backs of the middle class. Forty consecutive tax and fee increases – record sales tax increases, the massive gas tax increase, and higher fees on nearly everything – have hit the middle class pocket book the hardest. Their taxes have gone up, their jobs have disappeared, and they now pay more than ever to heat their homes, commute to work, and feed their families.

Marylanders deserve better.

These themes and more were woven into the “official” Republican response, which came this year from Senate Minority Leader David Brinkley.

But all of them – with the exception of Ron George, who briefly touched on a couple ideas he had – did a great job of identifying the problem, yet didn’t pose any possible solutions. Having the longest space in the official response, Brinkley did well speaking to the issue with O’Malley’s signature initiative this year of raising the minimum wage, but what is really needed are some actual business people testifying that if the minimum wage goes up, they’ll have to reduce staff and raise prices to consumers. What’s not generally mentioned is that the process of raising the minimum is envisioned as a multi-step program, as the $10.10 per hour wouldn’t take effect until July 1, 2016. (As the bill is written, the wage would step up in 95-cent annual increments beginning July 1, 2014. However, after that point the intention is to index the minimum to inflation so it would automatically go up each year at a slightly faster pace – the bill rounds it up to the nearest penny.)

The other initiative items O’Malley touched upon in his remarks were “advancing” universal pre-kindergarten across the state and revamping domestic violence laws, both of which also happen to be key platform planks in his lieutenant governor’s campaign. My question on pre-K, though, is twofold: what sort of “investment” are we talking about and is it going to be worth it? Studies of the effects of Head Start on young students show that the advantages gained in such a classroom environment evaporate quickly, at best by the time the child reaches third grade but perhaps even after first grade. But it sure would create a lot of union jobs.

Most disappointing – although I can’t say I’m surprised after seven years of this mismanagement at the state level – are the two most fundamental misunderstandings uttered by our state’s chief executive.

Here’s the first one:

We’ve lost sight of how our economy works when it is working well.

Prosperity doesn’t trickle down from the top.

It never has.

It’s built from the middle out — and from the middle up.

It was O’Malley’s Democratic fellow, President John F. Kennedy, who popularized the phrase “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Using the ocean as an analogy, O’Malley’s argument would seem to be that the ocean rises when the streams which feed it increase their inward flow. Indeed, this is true to some extent, but remember those streams are replenished by the rain which falls from above, as it also does over the ocean.

Obviously there are some people in the world who would be happy with a middle-class existence. But I haven’t seen the lottery yet which succeeded on the promise of $50,000 a year – people aspire to wealth, although obviously with the caveat of not having to do more than purchase a ticket to secure it. The odds are vastly better that someone who works hard to enact his entrepreneurial ideas will become wealthy, dragging many of those who simply aspire to be middle-class upward with him or her through being employed in the enterprise.

Unfortunately, the path to becoming middle-class seems now to be most readily available through government. I have a friend who has been an entrepreneur; unfortunately, his ventures haven’t been as successful as he would like. His new job is with a state agency – yes, the pay is decent but the problem his conscience wrestles with is one of being a taker rather than a creator. There are many fine federal, state, and local government workers out there but all of them share one thing in common: they’re paid by revenues mainly collected from the private sector. The O’Malley legacy is one of absolutely brutalizing the private sector producers, who can’t trickle anything once the state is through with them.

Here’s the second issue – stop me if you’ve heard this one before:

Seven years later, we are not just One Maryland. By many measures, we are Number One Maryland.

And by many other important measures, we are number 24 or 41 or 44 Maryland. But my contention is that the state is not One Maryland, but really at least four: the western panhandle, which combines rugged beauty with the potential to tap significant energy reserves; the I-95 corridor where most people live, a study in contrasts between rich and poor, educated and streetwise, and all shades in between; southern Maryland, which is the quickly evolving bedroom community and playground for those who work in government; and the Eastern Shore, where agriculture and tourism have to co-exist, doing so more or less peacefully. Making decisions for one region tends to adversely affect the other ones.

But I think “One Maryland” to Martin O’Malley is his code to continue the top-down, Annapolis-knows-best leadership style for which his administration has been known. We’ve had the septic bill, the rain tax, educational maintenance of effort requirements, and dozens of other instances where counties serves as little more than lines on a map because their authority is folded under the Annapolis bureaucracy.

I understand the Republicans only had a limited time to respond, but there was so much we left on the table in replying to Martin O’Malley’s message. I’m looking forward to Republicans laying out their plan for Maryland, since I’m confident conservative leadership can really move this state forward.

Sending a message

A confluence of factors gives certain residents of the Eastern Shore an additional opportunity to make their feelings known on issues near and dear to conservative hearts everywhere.

Let me preface this by mentioning something from an e-mail I received from Heritage Action:

On January 29th, the House Republican Conference will begin its annual retreat to discuss its legislative agenda: their plans for piecemeal (immigration) reform will undoubtedly be the subject of much debate. All Sentinels are encouraged to contact their Members of Congress in advance of this strategy session to remind them to oppose all piecemeal amnesty bills.

Well, consider this my contact. But I also had an idea, based loosely on those who have been decorating overpasses with various political messages.

My friends in Dorchester County probably already know this, but the annual retreat Heritage Action alludes to is being held at the Hyatt resort in Cambridge. The setting is no stranger to political gatherings; on a few occasions the Democrats have used the facility and it also was the location of the first GOP state convention I ever attended (as a guest) in 2006. It also bears retelling the story about the first time I ever came here, to interview for the job which brought me to the Eastern Shore in 2004. I knew I’d like the area because it was like home: flat, dotted with little towns, and conservative – at least based on all the Bush/Cheney signs I saw up and down U.S. 50.

But there are no overpasses to decorate once U.S. 50 and U.S. 301 part ways in Queen Anne’s County. So perhaps in the next few days those who have message boards, yard signs from old campaigns, or other ways to convey opinion may want to place a sign along U.S. 50 between the Bay Bridge and Cambridge. (An alternative can be along the roads between the Dorchester airport and the Hyatt in case they fly over, but I suspect most will drive the couple hours.) Imagine seeing mile after mile of a “No Amnesty” message – think they may get the hint?

Obviously the GOP wants to spend time in its own enclave: presumably the entire resort is rented for this purpose, thus for the most part closing it to the public. But they can’t control the entire 80 miles or so that they have to traverse, and the message can be broadcast to ignore us at your peril.

Campaign 2014: a look at finance

January 22, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Campaign 2014: a look at finance 

This is the piece I promised you the other day. Originally I was going to lay this out one candidate at a time, but then decided it may be more to the point to compare and contrast all of the gubernatorial candidates in one place. It’s a lot of numbers, but I’ll try and make it interesting.

For each category, I’m going to do a rank order among the six gubernatorial contenders who have filed a campaign finance report covering 2013. There are a few other candidates who have filed or seem to be raising money – on the GOP side they are Brian Vaeth and Meyer Marks, while the Democrats have perennial candidates Ralph Jaffe and Charles Ulysses Smith. Except for Marks, all have turned in an Affidavit of Limited Contributions and Expenses, better known in our game as ALCEs. Marks has an active account but no report, which is a no-no.

To begin this comparison, it helps to know how much was raised during the 2013 period, which is about a week off the actual calendar since it ended January 8, 2014.

  1. Anthony Brown (D) – $4,019,803.13
  2. Doug Gansler (D) – $1,487,704.79
  3. Heather Mizeur (D) – $493,173.55
  4. David Craig (R) – $249,808.75
  5. Ron George (R) – $130,159.00
  6. Charles Lollar (R) – $65,329.67

Another piece of this puzzle which interests me is trying to figure out an average contribution. But rather than count the actual number of line items, I decided it was easier and far faster to assume there would be a certain number of contributions per page. This is the number of pages of contributors each report had.

  1. Anthony Brown (D) – 358
  2. Heather Mizeur (D) – 202
  3. Doug Gansler (D) – 125
  4. David Craig (R) – 58
  5. Ron George (R) – 46
  6. Charles Lollar (R) – 36

So, assuming 17 contributors per page, the average donation per contribution comes out like this.

  1. Doug Gansler (D) – $700.10
  2. Anthony Brown (D) – $660.50
  3. David Craig (R) – $253.36
  4. Ron George (R) – $166.44
  5. Heather Mizeur (D) – $143.91
  6. Charles Lollar (R) – $106.75

Something I found intriguing, particularly in Lollar’s case, was the fact that several contributors were serial repeaters. Some campaigns seem to have a feature where a donor can use an automatic monthly withdrawal, but in Lollar’s case it appears to be through PayPal and a large share of his backers tended to use that feature. That made for dozens of pages of expenditures on individual PayPal fees, which don’t seem to be a very efficient use of what turns out to be hundreds of campaign dollars a few pennies at a time, particularly on a $10 monthly donation.

Now let’s look at where the overall take came from. In all cases, the overwhelming majority of funds came from individual donations. But Charles Lollar took the cake there.

  1. Charles Lollar (R) – 100%
  2. Heather Mizeur (D) – 99.53%
  3. Ron George (R) – 98.12%
  4. Doug Gansler (D) – 97.5%
  5. David Craig (R) – 93.19%
  6. Anthony Brown (D) – 91.65%

I think there is a glaring mistake in Lollar’s totals, though, as I think the $6,000 transferred in from Blaine Young’s shuttered gubernatorial campaign probably should count as being from what the Board of Election calls “Maryland candidates or slates” and not as an individual contribution. Based on overall 2013 totals, that would actually put Lollar near the bottom of the list. But he’s not the only one who made mistakes, as I found PAC money interspersed with individual contributions on a number of reports, along with missing addresses and the like.

Without changing the Lollar numbers, here’s the percentage of contribution some of these six receieved from other candidates or slates.

  1. Anthony Brown (D) – 3.27%
  2. David Craig (R) – 0.64%
  3. Doug Gansler (D) – 0.52%

The others received none.

But how about state PACs? I would have thought they comprised a much larger share of the pie, but none of the candidates received more than a tiny percentage of PAC money.

  1. Anthony Brown (D) – 3.13%
  2. David Craig (R) – 2.8%
  3. Heather Mizeur (D) – 0.44%
  4. Doug Gansler (D) – 0.42%

Neither Ron George nor Charles Lollar were beneficiaries of PAC money. Obviously in terms of actual dollars there’s a huge difference between Brown and Craig, but percentage-wise they are fairly even.

Oddly enough, though, Ron George leads in the percentage coming from political clubs. I think it’s based on one contributuion.

  1. Ron George (R) – 1.88%
  2. Anthony Brown (D) – 0.21%
  3. Heather Mizeur (D) – 0.04%

Again, it’s a matter of scale – Brown’s largesse from political clubs is nearly fourfold more in actual dollars. The lieutenant governor is also the sole beneficiary of federal committee money, to the tune of $69,000.

Since individual contributions are such a large part of the game, though, I wanted to take a closer look at where they came from. To that end, I decided to categorize appropriate donations into one of five categories, if they fit – most did not, while some fit more than one.

  • percentage from LLCs, LLPs, trusts, and other similar financial arrangements
  • percentage from law firms, as I could reasonably ascertain same (inexact, to be sure)
  • percentage from unions, although most give as PACs and I didn’t track those this time
  • percentage from businesses
  • percentage from out-of-state – in contrast to a federal race where out-of-state money is to be expected, it struck me that some campaigns leaned heavily on donors outside Maryland

I’ll start with the LLC category, which is being addressed for the next election cycle. Some believe it’s too easy to skirt contribution limits by maxing out a donation as an individual then shelling out more under the guise of an LLC. Each candidate got some LLC money, but some more than others.

  1. David Craig (R) – 25.16% of individual contribution money
  2. Anthony Brown (D) – 17.58%
  3. Doug Gansler (D) – 14.2%
  4. Ron George (R) – 4.69%
  5. Heather Mizeur (D) – 3.56%
  6. Charles Lollar (R) – 0.58%

Heather Mizeur is low on some of these categories because individual contributions from certain entities, like LLCs and businesses, could not be counted toward her matching funds for public campaign financing.

I sort of expected this result from law firms, although percentages were lower than I figured on.

  1. Doug Gansler (D) – 3.6%
  2. Anthony Brown (D) – 0.73%
  3.  David Craig (R) – 0.6%

They were the only three receiving contributions from what I reckoned were law firms. Even if I was wrong on a few, Gansler took that category with ease.

The same was true of unions, where Democrats Anthony Brown (0.59%) and Doug Gansler (0.07%) were unsurprisingly the leaders.

And if you thought pay-to-play was the rule in Maryland, well, you may be correct. The individual share from businesses went like this.

  1. Anthony Brown (D) – 17.38%
  2. David Craig (R) – 15.33%
  3. Doug Gansler (D) – 12.6%
  4. Ron George (R) – 5.09%
  5. Charles Lollar (R) – 2.85%
  6. Heather Mizeur (D) – 0.17%

Maryland may have one of the worst business climates in the country, but the big, established players must like the way competition is curtailed in the state. Some of the largest businesses in the country gave big checks to Brown and Gansler, with health care businesses propping up Brown and some large technology firms backing Gansler.

Finally, I thought it was telling who got support from out-of-state. This may be controversial because I counted Washington, D.C. addresses as out of state and surely some business people who are Maryland residents wrote checks based on their place of business. But I had to draw a line somewhere and the results are telling to me. These figures represent the percentage of individual contribution money drawn from out of state.

  1. Heather Mizeur (D) – 36.63%
  2. Doug Gansler (D) – 32.67%
  3. Anthony Brown (D) – 25.55%
  4. Charles Lollar (R) – 7.09%
  5. Ron George (R) – 4.11%
  6. David Craig (R) – 3.87%

In the cases of Brown and Gansler, it seemed like much of their out-of-state take came from the District of Columbia, while Mizeur’s came from all over the country. Yet if you considered Takoma Park and Silver Spring as part of another state (sometimes we here on the Shore consider them another country) I believe Mizeur would have been over 50 percent. Does everyone in Takoma Park have an extra Benjamin to spend on her race? Seems like it.

This final category shows that Maryland Republicans can’t seem to nationalize this statewide race as they could recent federal races with Dan Bongino and Andy Harris, for example. This is a pity because what better encouraging message to conservatives than a Republican winning in Maryland?

To be a Republican in this state, though, it almost always means being outraised and outspent. But I find it interesting that Democrats have to pull so much money in from other states or corporate entities to produce these war chests. Sure, in Maryland we have our share of those who would dream of purchasing access via political contribution but it is encouraging that four of the six in the race still rely heavily on the grassroots. Sadly, though, they are the four who don’t have seven-figure bank balances.

So when you see the inevitable campaign commercials building up one candidate or tearing down another, consider where the money came from. The reports are somewhat dry reading, but you might find out the business you patronize donates to the wrong side.

Over the next few weeks I’ll look at some other races, including a couple local ones. Bet I find a few surprises.

Update: It’s probably been priced into the market anyway, but Brian Sears reports that Second District Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger is, as most have come to expect, skipping the 2014 gubernatorial race to make another Congressional run. So the fields will probably not get any larger, although I wouldn’t be shocked to see a dropout on the GOP side.

Best laid plans

Hopefully this is not an indication of how the remainder of the campaign will go, but the best laid plans of Larry Hogan had to take a back seat to the weather tonight. Instead he made the announcement in a release where Hogan noted:

An overwhelming majority of Marylanders, regardless of party, feel that we are way off track, heading in the wrong direction, and that new leadership is needed in Annapolis. And one thing is clear: we can’t change Maryland without changing governors. So after serious reflection, I have decided to answer the call, and step up to this challenge.

The establishment in Annapolis has just been expecting another coronation in November. But today, regardless of the weather, we’re putting them on notice that we’re going to give them the toughest fight of their lives.

While our initial intention was to continue despite the weather, as we monitored the situation overnight, it became clear this was going to be a significant weather event. We’ve postponed today’s event, but no amount of snow is going to stop our grassroots army of 75,000 fed-up Republicans, Democrats, and Independents from bringing real change to Maryland.

We have already started our work to change Maryland for the better, but our primary concern today is the safety of Marylanders. Due to extreme winter storm warnings we are strongly advising our supporters to stay home and stay off the roads.

Sounds awfully gubernatorial already. But, just like the 1,100 or so who crammed into his Annapolis event at the state Republican convention expecting Larry to lay out his campaign, another 500 were claimed to be awaiting this gathering. At one point this morning, I had heard there would be a live stream of the festivities but eventually the whole thing was scrubbed. Honestly, while there was a serious concern for safety, there was also the prospect of zero television coverage as most stations go wall-to-wall on their news with tracking the storm and its effects.

So Hogan will try this again on Wednesday, January 29. While it’s a long way out, Hogan supporters will be relieved to know the current Annapolis forecast for next Wednesday is for a sunny but chilly day, with a high of 28.

But as I joked with my blogging friend Jackie Wellfonder – a confirmed and diehard Hogan backer – if Larry had made the announcement when I thought he should have, it could have been an outdoor affair. You don’t have to plow sunny and warm. It is what it is, though, and perhaps the late-entry approach will work.

The real question, though, is how long the race can go with four main contenders, only two of whom have six-figure account balances to back them. It won’t take as much money to win the Republican primary, as it will be the race no one hears about – because the two leading Democratic contenders will likely soak up most of the available Baltimore and Washington commercial time – but it will require some financial prowess to compete. Obviously the concern is also how much a GOP contender will have remaining to go against a well-funded Democrat in the general election.

2014 is definitely an “all hands on deck” sort of year for Maryland Republicans. We always refer to the current election as “the most important in our lifetime” but in this one we sort of mean it. Either we watch our liberties continue to melt away into a morass of taxation, regulation, and usurpation of our God-given rights, or we grab the bull by the horns and wrestle it to the ground in order to save our state. The time to stand on the sidelines is long past.

Don’t let a little snow stop us in that fight.

Opposing a good idea

This came to me from the Wicomico Society of Patriots:

Citizens of Wicomico:

There is a county council meeting this Tuesday, January 21, at 10 a.m. that should not be missed by anyone concerned about their property rights, property values, and drastically increasing levels of taxation.

Your input is essential to let the counsel know how you feel about this county fighting back against legislation and regulation that will significantly effect our way of life here on the shore. The Septic Bill (SB236), the Phosphorus regulations, the Accounting For Growth land use regulations, and the 1.2 billion dollar estimated cost for imposing the Phase II Watershed Implementation Plan (on Wicomico County alone) are in play this Tuesday.

Several weeks ago in conjunction with a County Council meeting our County Executive, Rick Pollitt, pledged his support and that of the county in backing the work of the Clean Chesapeake Coalition. He also pledged $25,000 to help with the work of the Coalition. The Clean Chesapeake Coalition is the working group for those counties and other organizations and individuals who believe strongly that the state’s efforts at Bay cleanup, including those listed in the paragraph above, are not supported by sound science and will impose huge costs on individuals and businesses with very little if any measurable gain in the stated goal of Bay water quality improvement. The work of the Coalition is an outgrowth of the activism on the part of those Maryland rural counties who began to organize over two years ago in response to these onerous, questionable, and prohibitively expensive state mandates.

Partly in response to pressure from environmental groups, the Wicomico County Council voted to allow testimony and public comments in a future council work session prior to the council voting whether to go forward with county support for the Clean Chesapeake Coalition, or not. That work session is this Tuesday and should start around 12:30. I hope I can count on you to be there; and please pass the word.

So here’s the scoop: bowing to the same environmentalists who take the ideas “not supported by sound science” as gospel, the County Council is going to allow them to speak and try to back the county away from the $25,000 investment in the Clean Chesapeake Coalition. I’m not thrilled about dropping $25,000 on the effort, but if it saves us the $1.2 billion tab the county is supposedly on the hook for it would be money well-spent.

Obviously the same old environmentalist wackos will be there to spout their tired line that we need to pay more to make sure the Bay is pristine. They probably were tipped off to the hearing before anyone else.

I also realize that many of us work for a living; in addition, the weatherman is predicting about 4 to 8 inches of global warming, er, snow for tomorrow. For some, no big deal, but on Delmarva many freak out at the sight of a flake so proceedings may be delayed. It’s also worth pointing out that a future vote is in the offing for this so you can make your feelings known after the hearing (if it occurs) as well.

We all want the Chesapeake Bay to be a usable body of water for all those who depend on it. But the question is truly whether the additional taxes and restrictions on our freedom to develop our property as we see fit are worth a marginal improvement in water quality which could be wiped out by inaction by another state. In my opinion, the answer is no.

Update: the work session scheduled for this afternoon has been cancelled. Those environmentalists who worship Gaia may be cursing her for bringing the half-foot of snow and giving the side of common sense more of a heads-up to prepare.

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