Cane no longer able

February 28, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Cane no longer able 

As I predicted in this space a few weeks ago, Rudy Cane has indeed pulled out of the District 37A race; he will leave after 16 years of service to his Dorchester and Wicomico county constituents. While the Delegate is having some minor health issues, the fact that he all but ceased fundraising last year and allowed his website to go dark pretty much revealed his plans. It seems he was in the race simply to keep other interested Democrats away from challenging his would-be successor.

With Cane’s withdrawal Wednesday, current Wicomico County Council member Sheree Sample-Hughes will become the Democratic nominee. And unless a Republican who is agreeable to both the Wicomico and Dorchester county Republican Central Committees steps forward before next Monday, it’s likely she will be sworn in next January as the new District 37A representative. I think this was the plan all along.

So the questions going forward are twofold: what will happen to the $47,742.40 remaining in Cane’s campaign account, and how would Sample-Hughes fare in the General Assembly if no opponent is found?

I suspect a number of Democrats – particularly minority ones – around the state already have their hands out trying to get some of Rudy’s leftover campaign cash. In order to close his books according to state requirements, he has to have a balance of zero. Rudy has already transferred $6,000 to Sample-Hughes, which made up most of her cash on hand as of the January filing.

As far as voting record goes, Sample-Hughes will probably be as reliably leftwing as Cane, which doesn’t necessarily reflect the makeup of her district. For example, while Cane serves as the Chair of the Agriculture, Agriculture Preservation and Open Space subcommittee of Environmental Matters, he voted for the SB236 Septic Bill in 2012 and against its repeal in 2013 as a member of the Environmental Matters Committee. Cane is also infamous for his strident opposition to an elected school board in Wicomico County, a position which is shared by Sample-Hughes. While they cite the concerns of the minority community, it would be interesting to see how quickly those concerns would vanish should a Republican governor be elected.

Yet this potential Sample-Hughes walkover could be a concern a few years from now, as she may use the Delegate seat as another stepping stone to the Maryland Senate in 2018, as either Richard Colburn or Addie Eckardt may be ready to retire. (Current Democratic opponent Chris Robinson lost to Colburn by 18 points in 2010, so it’s likely the winner of the GOP primary will be the Senator.) But with the prospect of a majority-minority district remaining carved out of the strip between Salisbury and Cambridge, she may be difficult to beat (but not impossible – ask Don Hughes, who squeaked out a win over Cane in 1994 in a 3-way race) regardless of voting record.

The first ad

February 27, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Bloggers and blogging, Campaign 2014, Maryland Politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off on The first ad 

In case you can’t tell from the bright blue splash of color on the site, I have my first political ad of the campaign. Mary Beth Carozza is looking to win the newly-created District 38C seat and what better way to reach a conservative audience than this site? I wanted to take this moment to welcome her to the fold and thank Mary Beth for her support! The ad turned out nicely, didn’t it?

So last night, after I put up the ad, I updated my ads page with the exciting offer Mary Beth took advantage of. I have plenty of room for more ads. I even put up my own, since this site doubles as my campaign site and has the authority line.

Now the ball is in your court. Even if you have something to sell besides politics, why not take advantage of a growing conservative audience and advertise here?

A cross as a sign of the times

For over 90 years, the Bladensburg Peace Cross has stood on property which is now public land. Two years ago, the American Humanist Association asked the memorial to World War 1 veterans be removed from its site, saying it “sends a message that Christianity is preferred by the government.” Since it’s still there, the AHA has filed a lawsuit against the Maryland – National Capital Park and Planning Commission, which controls the plot of land near a heavily traveled intersection. The suit cites a “violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, as applied to Maryland by the Fourteenth Amendment.” Yes, it’s the old saw that the sign of the cross is the establishment of religion. I find it interesting that thousands of crosses and other religious symbols have been erected as tombstones or prominently featured on them in public and private cemeteries around the country, yet because of the location and visibility of the Bladensburg Cross, the AHA has chosen to sue about this one.

But the reason I heard about this was a voice of resistance:

Given the wave of revisionist lawsuits intended to dismantle battle monuments and other sites important to ordinary Americans since the 1960s I suppose it was only a matter of time until the Bladensburg Cross came under attack. But perhaps the attackers have bitten off more than they can chew.

I attach the complaint, and want to organize resistance. I think “Task One” will be to make sure the Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission (the named defendant) does not roll over and decide to default.

If you are concerned about this assault on historical memory, kindly consider pushing this news out to your networks and contacting your representatives in the Maryland General Assembly.

I will go to the Courthouse today to see about getting more info.  I realize that not everyone reading this note will agree with me on this.  I respect your opinion, so please let me know if you would like to be removed from further mailings.

These are the words of former U.S. Senate candidate Richard Douglas, who passed on a run for Attorney General here in Maryland but may be interested in this case.

Yet this somewhat local push to eradicate a so-called religious symbol from the landscape comes at a time when the faithful in and around the country are under assault from all directions – witness the firestorm of protest, including a threat to relocate Super Bowl XLIX from the state, which surrounded an Arizona bill which would have allowed business owners to follow their conscience when it came to service gay or lesbian couples. The measure was vetoed by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who called it “broadly worded.” Other states, such as Texas, Utah, and Virginia, have seen their gay marriage bans thrown out by activist federal judges.

In Maryland the judiciary seems to be a little more conservative than the general population, but this is going before a federal court so all bets are off.

Grading the second bananas

Now that we’ve filled in the gubernatorial primary with all the major players from each party (as well as a handful of lesser lights who probably won’t have the wherewithal to make a dent in the race) it’s time to look at who they are and perhaps why they were selected.

It’s been many years since a party nominated a pair of white males to the state’s two top jobs, and once again the tickets are diverse in terms of race, gender, or in a couple cases, both. These thumbnails will be in alphabetical order of lieutenant governor candidates, beginning with the last one to be named today.

Shelley Aloi was introduced by her running mate Ron George this morning. In terms of political experience, she’s in the middle of the pack as she served as an alderman in the city of Frederick for one term (2009-13) before losing in the GOP primary for mayor last year to the eventual winner, incumbent Randy McClement. So she has a little bit of political experience, as well as a diverse resume of accomplishments. In her mayoral run, she stressed a relatively conservative approach of public safety, responsible spending, and job creation.

In sum, it was an interesting choice by Ron. Detractors will probably wonder if the move was made out of desperation as a second-tier choice, but Ron has always maintained he would announce his LG late in the game. It’s certainly not a head-scratcher to the level of the ill-fated Kristen Cox selection by Bob Ehrlich in 2006, but may not do a lot to lift the ticket either.  Grade: C.

Back in November Democratic contender Heather Mizeur announced Delman Coates as her running mate. In doing so, Mizeur selected a black man with no political experience to round out the twofer of both female and minority on the same ticket. One thing both share is a political philosophy way out on the left wing, as Coates is described as “an outspoken champion on a range of progressive issues, including health care, the Voting Rights Act, immigration reform, and foreclosure protection.” It’s not unusual to have compatible political viewpoints on a ticket, but generally running mates come from the political world or have a business background, and Coates has neither.

It may be great for Heather to have in Coates “a friend, a confidant, a brilliant mind and a caring heart,” but when it comes to governing those who have little political background tend to be the most susceptible to a corrupt administration when placed in power. Grade: D.

The first lieutenant governor candidate to be selected was David Craig’s pick of Jeannie Haddway-Riccio, who has dropped the married Riccio name for this campaign. Admittedly, it’s a long name for a sign. But for several years, GOP observers has believed she would be an ideal LG candidate – young, but with over a decade of political experience under her belt as a member of the House of Delegates and a background from the conservative Eastern Shore. She was a sought-after quality to be sure, and it’s likely she was asked by at least a couple contenders to be part of the ticket. Perhaps the only knock on her was that she only has legislative experience, but that didn’t stop the current lieutenant governor.

When he selected her, David Craig said of Haddaway, “I chose Jeannie because she will actually help me run the government.” She hasn’t done anything to hurt the ticket and is the strongest of the four GOP running mates. Grade: A.

A fellow Delegate was the selection of Doug Gansler in October. Jolene Ivey, of Prince George’s County, brought the requisite balance to the ticket as both being a woman and of mixed race, but perhaps was more useful to Gansler as a counterbalance to Anthony Brown’s background in Prince George’s County. Rather than a business background, Ivey worked in television for several years.

But playing up her biracial background and being a mother to five boys didn’t save her from this unfortunate utterance: “I am Trayvon Martin’s mom,” she told the Baltimore Sun last October, just after accepting the second spot on Gansler’s ticket. She seems more like a pick strictly for political expedience than a woman ready to lead, particularly with her unremarkable record in the House of Delegates, even as a member of the dominant party. Grade: D+.

The last candidate to announce his intentions, Larry Hogan took the occasion of formally entering the race to announce Boyd Rutherford as his running mate. The pairing is unusual in that neither have held elective office, but both served in the same Bob Ehrlich administration. In one respect, Boyd is the perfect lieutenant governor candidate given his experience in the public and private sectors, but the question is how he would do in a political campaign.

When Hogan selected Rutherford, he said Boyd would bring “real management experience who has the ability to be a full partner in our administration and who is actually qualified to be governor.” If he can work through the rigors of a campaign without making the mistakes a political novice tend to make, he would indeed be an asset. Grade: A-.

Perhaps the most unusual running mate of the seven is Ken Timmerman, who was announced as Charles Lollar’s running mate Monday. While Timmerman has campaigned through the state as an aspirant for a U.S. Senate seat in 2000, his more recent experience in that field was being routed by Chris Van Hollen in 2012 for the Eighth Congressional District seat.

And while Lollar “intend(s) on using Ken as Maryland’s chief investigator to help us uncover all of the excessive spending and misplaced tax dollars,” according to the Washington Post, one has to ask how Ken’s national and international background really matches up with state government. There’s been the undercurrent of rumor that Lollar was practically to the point of using Craigslist to find a running mate; unfortunately, Timmerman wasn’t the guy to completely dispel the notion. The one asset Ken may have, though, would be that of having the name to possibly nationalize the race for Lollar, enabling him to increase his barren coffers. Grade: C-.

It was the ultimate marriage of convenience: two contenders unite to make a strong financial team for the Democratic nomination. Since Anthony Brown was the chosen successor to Martin O”Malley, Ken Ulman made the political calculation that he’d rather switch than fight. Along with David Craig, Ulman brings executive experience to the race as chief executive of a medium-sized county – Howard and Harford counties are fairly similar in population. More importantly to the O’Malley wing of the Democrats, the two combined had a warchest large enough to overcome the initial financial advantage Doug Gansler had built up.

But while I doubt I’d be enamored with all of his political moves, there’s no question Ulman would be able to easily assume the duties of governor should be need arise based on his experience as Howard County Executive. Insofar as the quality of the choice: Grade: A.

So we have the seven main contenders now, and the guessing games are over. Let the campaign begin.

WCRC meeting – February 2014

Tonight’s gathering wasn’t exactly the one we had planned, but it turned out all right. Considering our outgoing first vice-President Marc Kilmer was placed in charge by the late arrival of president Jackie Wellfonder and that our speaker, District 38B candidate Carl Anderton Jr., was late due to mayoral duties in Delmar, the agenda was reshuffled a few times but we got through in one of the speedier meetings we’ve had recently.

Yet we began the meeting in much the same way many previous meetings have commenced, with the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer and Pledge of Allegiance. And while I don’t read the minutes anymore (because they’re posted on the website), we still had the Treasurer’s Report to file.

But because of the absences, we actually led off with Dave Parker’s Central Committee report. He assessed the election as “shaping up rather nicely” as he reported on the candidates who had filed, with a couple last-minute updates from those in attendance. Parker also had some lighter fare as he recited a number of observations based on the thought that “you might be living in a country run by idiots.”

He invited all local Republican candidates to our next Central Committee meeting on March 3, and updated us on the Lincoln Day Dinner where we are still working with our desired speaker on a date – however, if only a midweek event is possible we may have to change the venue.

A number of candidates (or their surrogates) gave updates and reports.

John Hall, who is running for a full term in County Council District 4, noted that “next year will be a very difficult year” financially for the county, and that needed future school projects may have to wait. Hall was appointed to fill out the unexpired term of the late Bob Caldwell in 2011.

Mary Beth Carozza spoke about being an advocate for several causes in Annapolis, particularly against the “chicken tax.” And while she was still out knocking on a lot of doors, she was still finding she needed to educate voters about the new district setup and the June primary.

Larry Dodd, who’s in the ring for County Council District 3, gave a shortened stump speech highlighting his experience and time at the Board of Education. If elected he woould work to reduce crime and make sure farmer’s rights are protected, along with making sure government lives within its means.

This was important because the next to speak was Dodd’s recently-filed primary opponent, Tom Taylor. After reaching over and shaking Dodd’s hand, Taylor stated his case that the GOP should have a choice and that he was committed to fiscal conservatism and “better government through being smaller.”

County Executive hopeful Bob Culver told those gathered that “this was the best time we have to take Rick (Pollitt, current County Executive) out of office.,,it’s time for a change.” He called on us to give him a strong primary showing.

On behalf of District 37B candidate Christopher Adams, Marc Kilmer said Adams was busy meeting voters, but was also testifying in Annapolis on a number of business bills. Kilmer then went on to discuss his own camapign, with an April fundraiser in the works.

Fellow District 37B hopeful Johnny Mautz Jr. had a surrogate as well in Shawn Jester. Shawn passed along word that we were invited to a Mautz campaign event March 2 in Cambridge, from 4 to 6 p.m.

Dr. Rene Desmarais, who was a little late but is also a District 37B contender, assessed his campaign as “going great” and raising a lot of money. He invited us to an event March 12 in Fruitland. He actually spoke after our featured speaker, who came in about a half-hour late.

But Carl Anderton, Jr. had a good excuse as he was at a meeting involving the two commissions which run their respective sides of Delmar. (Part lies in Maryland and part in Delaware; however, they strive to coordinate efforts as one entity where possible.)

He led off with his meeting with the governor as head of the Maryland Municipal League. catching Martin O’Malley by surprise when he told him about the proposed “chicken tax” and its potentially devastating effect on the Eastern Shore. That led to the O’Malley “read my lips” veto threat a few days later. And when Carl confronted House sponsor Delegate Shane Robinson with the fact that 40% of Eastern Shore jobs have some reliance on the poultry industry, Delegate Robinson backed off, saying that he “just wanted to have a conversation” about the idea.

Yet this played into a significant part of Carl’s campaign: the premise that we have great educational institutions locally but no jobs to keep the graduates here. Even the potential explosive growth at the Wallops Island space complex just across the Virginia line may be squandered by Maryland’s poor business climate. Anderton’s was a “we need to get back to basics” approach, charging that part of the Eastern Shore delegation was working against us. Not only could we not attract business, continued Carl, but we can no longer attract retirees either because of our punitive income and estate taxes. “It’s time for a whole lifestyle change,” concluded Carl.

We finally got around to a little business once Carl finished, most importantly the election of officers. For 2014, they will be almost the same group as last year’s, with one exception.

  • President: Jackie Wellfonder
  • First Vice-President: Shawn Jester
  • Second Vice-President: Larry Dodd
  • Third Vice-President: Sean Fahey
  • Fourth Vice-President: Cathy Keim
  • Treasurer: Deb Okerblom
  • Secretary: Michael Swartz

Jester is the newcomer, replacing Marc Kilmer.

We also made and passed motions to secure a table at the Salisbury Festival and potentially one at Pork in the Park as well. There’s also the prospect of needing a headquarters for this fall’s election, and some members are already chomping at the bit to secure a location – unfortunately, we have several of our old ones to choose from because they are still vacant after all this time.

All told, we were through in less than an hour, but we accomplished quite a bit. It’s also worth noting that a man who’s perhaps one of Maryland’s longest-serving elected officials announced his retirement tonight. After close to a half-century on the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee, Blan Harcum will not seek another term. We applauded him for his efforts tonight.

Dossier update number 1

Back in December, once I finished the original dossier series, I noted this would be an ongoing process. To that end, here are further statements made by the three contenders at the time, with the addition of items from Larry Hogan.

Each of these subcategories will be revisited, with changes in score noted.

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The 2014 monoblogue endorsement will be based on the following formula:

Election/campaign finance reform (3 points)

Larry Hogan: As a practical matter, seeking public financing made sense for Mr. Hogan, who entered the Republican primary race relatively late and was unlikely to raise as much privately as he may qualify for publicly. But he also noted that his decision ‘sends a great message’ about his grass-roots efforts. (Baltimore Sun, February 4, 2014)

Ron George has also talked about taking public financing, although he’s made no formal decision on the matter. He had no points anyway, nor will Hogan receive any.

Illegal immigration (5 points)

No candidates have made significant public pronouncements on the subject, so no changes and no points for Larry Hogan.

Dealing with Obamacare (7 points)

David Craig: Craig has previously called on O’Malley and Brown to stop wasting money and hindering access to health care and to promote direct enrollment options through insurance carriers and brokers. The Administration then took a modest step in that direction by working with insurance industry leaders to develop a telephone help line. (press release, February 10, 2014)

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Craig, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, said the O’Malley administration should instead be helping people get coverage directly through the insurers. He wants to reallocate $150 million, originally earmarked in part to market the problematic exchange, toward promoting alternative enrollment options.  (Fox News, January 7, 2014)

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Craig’s proposal would seek an HHS waiver to re-program funds to launch a public awareness campaign informing consumers of their right to obtain health insurance directly through carriers. A complimentary awareness campaign would inform people of their rights to utilize Maryland insurance brokers who are licensed and experienced in helping individuals with health insurance. Utilizing call centers for those needing assistance with the website would remain in place. Craig, however, would re-examine the navigator model in which people having problems with the website must set appointments with temporary workers disbursed among several organizations.

As for the vexing issue of low-income individuals seeking subsidies, Craig supports U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski’s proposal to HHS to enable a direct data hub allowing people to obtain financial assistance without going through an exchange. (citybizlist, January 7, 2014)

Charles Lollar: Lollar advocates making hospital costs “much more transparent” by posting the prices. “Until we control the costs we’re not going to get our arms around the health care issue.”

“I’m all for a moratorium on the Affordable Care Act.” (Fox 45 debate, January 16, 2014)

I had previously chided Craig for not offering up solutions (although he had done a nice job identifying the problems) but I’m not sure I like much of the approach he’s taking besides the idea about promoting alternative enrollment options. I’ll give him 1.5 points, up from none.

Lollar seems to have a better idea as far as approach, although it’s still very vague. The moratorium alone, though, is worth 2 points (he had none as well.)

Larry Hogan hasn’t addressed this, so no points.

Energy policy (8 points)

No candidates have made significant public pronouncements on the subject, so no changes and no points for Larry Hogan.

Education (9 points)

Ron George: He acknowledged that a repeal of Common Core “ain’t going to happen in the state” of Maryland. But he argues for putting the educational focus back on what he calls a “local locus of control” rather than a one size fits all federal mandate. George also believes it is important to teach entrepreneurship and financial literacy in schools in an effort to help minorities and low-income Marylanders understand how to be successful in a free enterprise system. (In The Capital, January 15, 2014)

Charles Lollar: Lollar wants to stress internships for high schoolers, with the help of corporations. (Fox 45 debate, January 16, 2014)

Let me talk about Ron George first. It’s interesting that he has gone from “I intend to fight it with all my energy” in September to “(repeal) ain’t going to happen” just four months later. I have a problem with that change of heart because if you’re elected as governor you have an automatic bully pulpit.

Look at how we were saddled with gay marriage. It didn’t happen until Martin O’Malley decided to burnish his 2016 credentials and made it an issue in 2012 (with an assist from Barack Obama, who needed the gay vote.) If you want to get rid of Common Core, you browbeat the legislators who oppose you until you get your way. So I took him down from 4 points to 3.

On the other hand, I think Lollar’s idea is pretty good so I bumped him from six points to seven.

Second Amendment (11 points)

David Craig on Rodricks show tells Dan Yes I SUPPORT concealed carry! (Facebook page, February 10, 2014)

Larry Hogan is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and is opposed to SB 281. He will work to keep guns away from criminals and the mentally ill. Hogan supports tougher mandatory sentencing for criminals who commit crimes with a gun, but he is against taking away the rights of law abiding citizens. (Facebook page)

I added a half-point to David Craig (from 8 to 8.5) for the clarification. Conversely, I think Hogan’s canned response is somewhat wishy-washy and political. He may be opposed to SB281, but will he repeal it? The time for opposition is over – the word is “repeal.” So he gets 4 points of 11.

War on Rural Maryland (12 points)

Charles Lollar: Leadership in Annapolis needs to craft a regional solution to this problem that requires all states that pollute the Bay to “pay their fair share” to keep it clean. We must not allow legislators in Annapolis to “hurt Maryland first” by bankrupting hard-working farmers with a “Chicken Tax” and putting the future of Maryland’s number one economic industry at risk. (press release, February 5, 2014)

Lollar picks up a half-point for this, from 5 points to 5.5 points. It’s pretty easy to oppose the chicken tax but Lollar did it quite forcefully.

Role of government (13 points)

Larry Hogan: Job one will be to get the government off our backs and out of our pockets so we can grow the private sector, put people back to work and turn our economy around.

Every decision Larry Hogan makes as governor will be put to a simple test – Will this law or action make it easier for families and small businesses to stay in Maryland and will it make more families and businesses want to come to Maryland?

If something comes across Hogan’s desk as governor that doesn’t pass this test, he’ll veto it. (campaign website)

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We’ve got to be able to run the government, provide the services that are important and necessary to people as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible, so it’s not like let’s lop off this department or stop providing these services – I think it’s just looking at zero-based budgeting and doing outside audits of every state agency and saying how do we use those tax dollars more effectively.

I think we need to focus on – these aren’t Republican problems or Democrat problems, these are serious problems that our state has. We’ve got to reach across the aisle and work together between the parties to come up with common-sense solutions to solve these things. (NewsTalk with Bruce DePuyt, January 21, 2014)

Charles Lollar: A government should serve its citizens, not burden them. It must also provide for citizens truly in need without trapping them in an endless cycle of dependency on government programs that erode their self confidence, human dignity, and a chance to live the American dream.

The answer is not to grow bigger government.

The answer is to empower people with the skills and opportunity to grow a better future for themselves, and not allow government to stand in the way of these goals. (Facebook page, January 12, 2014)

Okay, as far as Larry Hogan is concerned, I get it. You want to work with Democrats. Good luck with that, because we will likely have four years of gridlock unless the voters of Maryland come to their collective senses and elect a Republican majority in the General Assembly. You will have a LOT of vetoes otherwise.

I have yet to be convinced there is such a thing as a broad centrist coalition, since to me all it means is we walk further away from truly being a Free State rather than sprint headlong as we are now. But I will allow 4 of 13 points for the smell test and the zero-based budgeting.

Lollar loses one point for that answer, from 6 to 5. Where is it government’s role to provide for those truly in need? Shouldn’t that be more of a function of the faith-based community? The very definition of government standing in the way is to have government programs one can become dependent on – to me the continuing spiral of unemployment benefit extensions is a perfect example.

Job creation and transportation (14 points)

David Craig: I think that each individual county should establish its own minimum wage. It just makes sense that local officials make laws and the State doesn’t simply dictate what should be done. (Facebook page, February 11, 2014)

Ron George: 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. (Press release, January 23, 2014)

Charles Lollar: Of course we want better opportunities, better modes of transportation – a diverse collection of different ways to get back and forth to work. Liveable, workable, playable communities where you can actually live, work, and play in the same place and have a legitimate conversation with yourself in the morning whether to walk or drive your bike to work and get there on time.

I think (the Purple Line) is absolutely doable. The question is – is it affordable? If it is, let’s push forward. (2014 gubernatorial candidate transportation forum, February 18, 2014)

The idea David Craig has is a good one, and would have raised him a full point if he had allowed counties to do away with the minimum wage altogether. Yes, this would be a fight with the federal government but it’s a Tenth Amendment fight worth having. I’ll give him a half-point so he goes from 9 to 9.5 points.

Ron George already had a very solid approach, so there wasn’t a lot of room for imporovement there. The statement is a little bit generic.

Suddenly, though, I think Charles Lollar caught his populist, pandering disease at an inopportune time. I know Red Maryland nailed him for one statement (which brought this gem to my attention) but I remembered that Lollar was opposed to the Purple Line last September – now he says it’s “absolutely doable”? He wasn’t pushing the bus alternative in front of that crowd.

And the phrase he was looking for insofar as “livable…communities” is (so-called) Smart Growth. Don’t encourage the idiots, Charles. I took off three points, from 7 to 4.

Hogan misses out on this category so far.

Fiscal conservatism/taxation (15 points)

David Craig: Under Craig’s plan, tax brackets would be lowered across the board to 4.25 percent as of 2016. Couples now pay a basic rate of 4.75 percent on most of their income. Wealthier Marylanders pay a higher percentage on a sliding scale that tops out at 5.5 percent on income above $300,000.

Craig said he would couple that with an increase in the personal exemption from $3,200 to $5,000. He said that will provide relief to middle-class that would help offset the face that the greatest benefits under his plan would go to the higher income brackets, which would see the highest percentage drop.

In the second phase, Craig said he will call for a further reduction to a maximum rate of 3 percent — with a bump in the exemption to $6,000.

Craig said a third phase in his plan, which would come sometime in what he hopes will be his second term, would eliminate the tax entirely. He said his proposal would not affect county piggyback income taxes, which the state would continue to collect.

According to Craig, elimination of the income tax would put Maryland in the company of nine states that have no income tax, including Texas, Florida and Tennessee. (Baltimore Sun, February 18, 2014)

Ron George: When asked what policies he will put in place to foster job creation, George said lowering the corporate tax rate is a necessary first step. “We have to lower the corporate tax rate,” he said. “I would like to get it down to 5.75 percent and I think that sends a strong message out there that we’re open for business.” This, he argues, will help bring businesses back to Maryland thereby expanding the tax base and creating more revenue for the state. (In The Capital, January 15, 2014)

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In addition to the expansion of jobs, George is planning on cutting income tax by 10 percent, building a tax base in Baltimore, and putting in place what he is calling the “Buy Maryland Program.”

In this program, if Maryland residents itemize purchases over $100 on their tax returns, then they will receive 20 percent back. That way, George said, people will have a lump sum in the spring that they can then use for a down payment on a house or car. (Easton Star-Democrat, January 9. 2014)

Larry Hogan: When Hogan is governor, we’ll repeal the rain tax. That’s one change you can count on.

Charles Lollar: Our plan is to take a look at every regulation out there – all 74 of them. We want to peel this thing back. People are tired, here in Maryland, with this bait-and-switch tax scheme. So we’re going to compose independent audits annually. We’ll determine how the monies are collected, how they’re being spent, and whether this spending demonstrates an efficiency of how we use taxpayer money. And this audit will be published online…In addition, I am not going to sign any tax bill that’s void of an enforceable lockbox provision. (Bill Bennett Show, January 23, 2014)

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In addition, Lollar pointed out on the Fox45 debate that this would be all taxes, not just the ones passed under Martin O’Malley.

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In a fundraiser with economist and advisor Arthur Laffer, he supported the Lollar idea for eliminating the state’s income tax but gave no details. (Press release, January 28, 2014)

David Craig followed the lead of another with his tax plan, but the timing is a little more specific. I think it’s a great idea, though, and he seems to have the understanding that, because he controls the budget, that the idea is doable. He gained three points from 11 to 14 with one (somewhat) bold move.

Ron George is restating previously noted material, so there’s no bold moves there.

Larry Hogan will repeal the rain tax. That’s a start, but really it’s only an entry-level gambit in this race so he gets just 5 points.

Charles Lollar was first to the post with the idea to eliminate the income tax, but hasn’t elaborated on the details. But because he was so close to the maximum point total already with 14, I could only bump him up to 14.5 because I think eliminating the income tax is a splendid idea.

Intangibles:

Larry Hogan: Phony political spin, questionable donations, cronyism, and backroom deals pervade the current culture in Annapolis. We need more transparency in our government, more truthfulness and tougher ethics and disclosure laws that will begin to clean up the mess in Annapolis and restore integrity to our state capital. (campaign website)

*

It’s time to engage every citizen who wants to get involved in the policy process. Policymaking should not be left exclusively in the hands of an oligarchy of anointed Annapolis lobbyists and lawmakers. (Capital Gazette, January 17, 2014)

Charles Lollar: First and foremost, I would do all I can to get rid of comments like the one I just heard. It’s unfortunate, but I do take a bit of offense to that because the idea that all Republicans think the same way is probably about as similar as all blacks thinking the same way – it’s not true – or all whites thinking the same way, it’s not true. I want to be the best governor of Maryland I can be – not the best Republican governor I can be, and not the best Democrat governor I can be, I want to be the best Maryland governor I can be.

And I’m sick and tired – no matter where I go or who says it, I attack it the same – of people using partisan politics, skin color and gender, to separate us from real solutions that are at hand. (Purple Line Forum, February 18, 2014)

I’m not quoting him on anything here, but because he’s been the most open and responsive candidate to me I added one point to Ron George’s intangibles.

For Hogan’s part, I agree with the sentiments for the most part. But they are belied by the way his campaign is conducted – missing opportunities to discuss issues with fellow candidates and instead uttering many of the same campaign mantras in one-on-one interviews with generally friendly questioners. It’s not enough of a change from the current culture he decries, and until I start seeing and hearing answers on issues above and beyond the Change Maryland mantra, I have to deduct two points for intangibles.

Charles Lollar, though, has really cleaned up his campaign, and the statement I included is apt because he was responding to Democrat criticism. So he went from a -3 score to a wash – his campaign isn’t firing on all cylinders yet but it is improving.

If you’ve been keeping track, well, more power to you. But unlike other bloggers, I’m not ready to make a choice yet because there’s still a lot of information I’d like to have before making my choice.

What I can tell you is that David Craig and Ron George seem to have an edge over Charles Lollar, with Larry Hogan far behind simply because he’s not addressed many of my key issues yet. His is a one-note samba so far. It turns out that the Craig tax plan has now vaulted him slightly ahead of Ron George – very surprising because my initial perception was that David was the most moderate of the four candidates.

But above all, my main complaint is with the Larry Hogan campaign. Stop skipping debates where everyone else shows up! You may have 40,000 Democrats and unaffiliateds in Change Maryland, but there’s one problem with that: they get no Republican primary vote and you probably won’t win with 40,000 votes (assuming all Change Maryland ‘likes’ = Hogan supporters, a very dubious assumption.)

So my plan is to revisit this sometime in April, with perhaps a final decision in early June. I don’t think an early endorsement will do me a lot of good here because no candidate is standing out in this race.

Harris draws a GOP challenger

February 22, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Harris draws a GOP challenger 

For the first time since he won a contested Republican primary in 2010 over Rob Fisher, Andy Harris will have a GOP challenger in the primary. Jonathan Goff, Jr. is a Fallston resident whose nascent campaign features the key issues of foreign policy and immigration, with the sentiment that:

I have never seen this Government so bad. I have been sending emails and calling Washington just about every week. There are lights on, but there is nobody home. They just don’t listen to “we the people” and there is no common sense.

All that is fine and to a great extent I agree. But there are some questions I have about the wisdom of his political philosophy, as well as proofreading skills. This is taken verbatim from his website’s home page:

80% of America’s energey comes from America, leaving 20% outsourced. The remaining 20% is manipulating out fuel prices. If our Government can allow private oil companies to extract oil on America’s lands and waterways, refine it and reach record profits, then why can’t we have our Government extract and refine American owned oil and sell it only to American owned businesses and citizens with no loop holes.

As I often say, proofreading is your friend. But more importantly, the question I have is: when the federal government can’t seem to handle the health care industry, why would we trust them with the energy industry? Goff doesn’t seem to understand that the oil company profits – large as they may be – pale in comparison to the tax burden government places on each and every gallon of gasoline. Interestingly, his header graphic depicts a gasoline nozzle sucking up dollar bills.

But it’s not like Andy Harris is on top of his game, either. It appears his campaign site hasn’t been updated since the 2012 election, although the issues page should still be relevant. Obviously the two Democratic challengers are keeping their sites more current, particularly first-time candidate Bill Tilghman.

In effect, the Republican primary will serve as a referendum on how Andy Harris is doing with Republicans. Despite a few unpopular votes, it’s likely he’ll have little trouble making it through the primary unless Goff vastly steps up his game.

Now things get interesting

Somehow I missed this becoming official, although the rumor has been lurking for awhile. But yesterday Delegate Addie Eckardt withdrew from the District 37B Delegate race and decided to challenge embattled incumbent Senator Richard Colburn for his State Senate seat. The local fallout from this decision is obvious.

First of all, the Democrats will have to scramble to take advantage of this. They still have a candidate who has filed for the Senate seat in Cheryl Everman of Talbot County, but I had seen a report on her Facebook page she was withdrawing. She has not filed that paperwork yet, though. Meanwhile, Jeff Quinton reported late last month that former Baltmore County Councilman and Delegate Joe Bartenfelder was considering a run, as he owns a farm in the district. Neither Everman nor Bartenfelder would have the financial resources initially to compete, but if one cedes the field to the other it could make for an interesting election in November.

The same could hold true in the Delegate race, which is now for two open seats and has three Republicans running in the primary. Obviously this is good news for one of them, since it was widely considered that Eckardt would be a shoo-in to secure one seat. It also gives Democrat Keasha Haythe a fighting chance, but she labors under the restriction that both Delegates must represent separate counties – both she and Republican Johnny Mautz, Jr. hail from Talbot County. The other two Republicans, Christopher Adams and Dr. Rene Desmarais, come from Wicomico County. It leads to a lot of different possible dynamics.

But who would win a primary election for the Senate district? Well, if 2010 voting is any indication, Addie Eckardt has the advantage. While she polled 17,853 votes in her legislative district Colburn only received 17,174. Both had some Democratic opposition but in Eckardt’s case there was only one running for the two seats in the House district. The same was true in 2006, although Colburn had both Democratic and independent opponents while Eckardt defeated two Democrats for the seat. Philosophically, both are relatively similar as Colburn’s monoblogue Accountability Project lifetime score of 72 barely beats Eckardt’s lifetime 71 score.

So it appears the Eastern Shore political landscape will continue in a year of upheaval. Of the twelve who represented the Shore at the beginning of 2013, one has resigned, one has advanced from Delegate to Senator to replace him (and faces a primary challenge), one is the lieutenant governor candidate on a statewide ticket, two current Delegates are contending for Senate seats against incumbents, and out of the other officials one has just a primary opponent while the remainder have drawn general election opponents.

Denying the market

To be honest, I’m not sure if I was sent this to provoke a comment or if I just happen to be on a list that gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur doesn’t use all that often. I think most observers know I have an interest in energy issues, and this definitely falls into one of them. You just have to ask yourself why Mizeur counts herself among the Democrats are so insistent on denying the opportunity for shovel-ready jobs and investment – I thought that was what they were all about.

First of all, this is what Mizeur had to say about the proposed Cove Point LNG export facility.

(Yesterday), Delegate Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery), candidate for governor, called on Governor O’Malley to join her in opposition to the Dominion Resources liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility at Cove Point in Calvert County. She made the announcement during a speech at the Stop Cove Point Rally in downtown Baltimore City earlier today.

“I am calling on Gov. O’Malley to take a stand with us today to reject Cove Point,” Mizeur told the audience. “You cannot leave a legacy on addressing climate change and be silent on Cove Point. It’s time for Gov. O’Malley to break the silence and join us in saying no to Cove Point.”

The rally, which was attended by 500 people, was organized by climate, health and anti-fracking activists from across the state, and was one of the largest environmental rallies ever in Baltimore City. It came as the state Public Service Commission begins official hearings on the project.

Mizeur is currently the only gubernatorial candidate to state her opposition to the project. When she announced her opposition in December, both Lieutenant Governor Brown and Attorney General Gansler – the two other Democratic candidates in the race for governor – expressed a desire to build the project without environmental damage, but failed to explain how such a plan would be possible.

Dominion Resources, a Virginia-based energy company, is pursuing the construction of a $3.8 billion facility to serve as a collection point for fracked natural gas from throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, where cargo tankers would then ship it throughout the world.

But the Cove Point facility would release 3.3 million tons of carbon dioxide and other harmful greenhouse gases into the air annually, making it a serious setback to achieving the state’s goals on fighting climate change, including a plan for a 25% reduction of greenhouse gases by 2020.

Mizeur has also called on Dominion Resources to invest $3.8 billion – the construction cost of the proposed facility – in the state’s renewable energy sector. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, clean energy investments create more permanent jobs than exporting fracked gas.

Obviously Mizeur is an adherent to the religion of manmade climate change, a belief system which fails to address why none of the climate models have predicted the lack of warming this century. The fact that they managed to get just 500 people to a climate change rally shows how small the cadre of believers really is – a good Second Amendment or TEA Party rally can rustle up similar numbers without really trying. If this is “one of the largest environmental protests in state history” then we really are letting a tiny minority dictate policy.

But let’s say these guys are really serious – I suppose living in a state foolish enough to believe that artificially limiting its carbon emissions will have an effect on our overall global climate will do that to you. Even if the point source of 3.3 million tons is correct, it doesn’t take into account the reduction in emissions at destination points abroad. Natural gas is cleaner burning than coal, and until we figured out that fracking was a way to supercharge the moribund domestic natural gas market it was a fossil fuel environmentalists weren’t uncomfortable with. To show how the market has changed, the Cove Point facility was originally built in the 1970s as an import facility because the domestic natural gas market was thought to be in an irreversible decline.

On the other hand, the point source investment of $3.8 billion will have a positive effect on the regional and state economies. Last year, in announcing its filing, Dominion claimed the project will create up to 4,000 jobs during the construction phase and perhaps over 14,000 jobs overall, not to mention billions in royalty payments. Because most of the supply would come from regional producers, the entire mid-Atlantic area would benefit (except Maryland and New York, which currently have bans on fracking.) The facility would also provide a needed boost to our export tally to address a persistent American trade deficit, as the LNG is already contracted out to distributors in Japan and India.

Finally, Mizeur complains that the $3.8 billion Dominion is willing to invest in the project could be better spent in the renewable energy sector. Does the name “Solyndra” ring a bell? Despite its best efforts to create a market for offshore wind, companies aren’t willing to make the investment in that area – remember Bluewater Wind? In the area of solar energy, it took billions in taxpayer-guaranteed loans – and mandated renewable energy portfolios such as the one Maryland is saddled with – to get that market off the ground, yet it still produces but a tiny fraction of our electricity needs at a cost several times the going rate for electricity produced from coal or natural gas.

And it’s funny that Mizeur worries about the cost of natural gas going up due to exports, but had no problem with raising the gasoline tax on a perpetual basis. So much for supporting hard-working Marylanders.

So the choices are either zero or $3.8 billion; that’s reality. We can take advantage of proven resources we already have or listen to alarmists whose real goal is to foster dependence on government under the guise of saving the planet. It’s just too bad our little sandbar is energy-poor, unless you deign to call chicken manure an energy gold mine, and even the proponents concede its not as efficient as natural gas.

Lollar to introduce running mate Monday

The puzzle pieces will be complete by Tuesday.

I had already found out with good authority that Ron George has secured a running mate, with an announcement to come at a later time, but Charles Lollar sent out word yesterday evening that he will announce his LG pick Monday morning in Annapolis. For these two, that will be the final hurdle before beginning the campaign. (Update: George will introduce his running mate Tuesday morning in Annapolis.)

While Maryland election law dictates each candidate for governor have a running mate, the idea of waiting until the last minute fueled speculation that one or both of the two who selected last would be dropping out; moreover, the idea of the two joining forces has even been pitched to me as well. Since both Lollar and George have trailed in polling and in fundraising, there’s a certain logic to this.

And the dance card is filling up around the state. Just so you know, last Monday I filed for re-election to the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee for a third term. At the time I was the third to file, but the race has blown up over the last couple days and it appears we will have about the same number of candidates as we did in 2010 – a lucky 13. (I was the luckiest because I finished ninth with just 30 votes separating me from being tenth and out in the cold.)

But around the state it’s not filling as fast as I’d like. As of today we are conceding 21 State Senate seats to the Democrats (out of 47) and 72 of 141 Delegate seats. Even if we won them all it’s still a minority in both houses. Obviously some will be filled at the last minute, but not enough.

This continues a sad trend among Republicans who leave a lot of seats uncontested – in 2010, 15 Democrats in the Senate and 35 in the House got practically free rides after the primary – only 4 Republicans in each chamber had the same luxury. Obviously candidate recruitment is difficult at best in districts where the voter registration numbers are skewed even 10 to 1 against a Republican, but it’s still important for candidates to hoist the flag and – more importantly – be educators. Plant the seed for future victories. And by pinning the Democrats down with at least some opposition, they can’t help as readily in other districts. The days you force them to campaign are days they can’t help out in a swing district. Notice that Democrats only left 4 seats uncontested – in House Districts 33A, 33B, 36, and 37B and Senate Districts 1, 2, 33, and 35. Even in the GOP stronghold of Carroll County, they contested those seats.

Hopefully the news will be better as we complete the field and find out who the last two running mates will be.

WaPo poll: Hogan lead cut to 4

February 19, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, Polling · Comments Off on WaPo poll: Hogan lead cut to 4 

Just a couple days after its Baltimore competitor unveiled an OpinionWorks poll which showed Larry Hogan with a six-point lead over David Craig and the others in the quest for the Republcan nomination for governor, the Washington Post put out its own survey which captured the views of 290 randomly selected GOP voters and leaners. In their survey, undecided was again the clear winner with 56%, with Hogan at 17%, David Craig at 13%, Charles Lollar in third at 10%, and Ron George pulling 5%. As I did the other day, extrapolating results leaves me with this breakdown:

  • Larry Hogan – 38%
  • David Craig – 29%
  • Charles Lollar – 22%
  • Ron George – 11%

The survey, though, has a large margin of error of 7% for Republicans, compared to 5.5% for Democrats. On their side, Anthony Brown has a 19-point lead over Doug Gansler, who in turn leads Heather Mizeur by seven points. The survey was conducted Thursday through Sunday.

Unlike the Sun poll, there are a wide variety of crosstabs available in the WaPo survey. Most of them favor Hogan, but the independents surveyed backed Craig by a 16-14 margin. David also scored well with Baltimore-area voters and with college graduates, both categories where he ran even with Hogan.

Another interesting facet of this poll was favorability ratings for each candidate. I’ll go from highest among all candidates to the lowest.

  • Anthomy Brown – 30% (16% unfavorable, +14)
  • Doug Gansler – 22% (17% unfavorable, +5)
  • Larry Hogan – 15% (8% unfavorable, +7)
  • Heather Mizeur – 13% (9% unfavorable, +4)
  • David Craig – 11% (10% unfavorable, +1)
  • Ron George – 8% (7% unfavorable, +1)
  • Charles Lollar – 6% (9% unfavorable, -3)

So it appears Hogan’s very non-specific campaign has attracted notice without driving up unfavorables. Note this was done before David Craig put out a program to eventually phase out the state’s income tax.

Making a RealClearPolitics-style average of the results so far, we get the following on the GOP side:

  1. Larry Hogan – 14.4%
  2. David Craig – 9.3% (-5.1)
  3. Charles Lollar – 7.5% (-6.9)
  4. Ron George – 5.1% (-9.3)

Doing the same for Democrats:

  1. Anthony Brown – 34.5%
  2. Doug Gansler – 14.4% (-20.1)
  3. Heather Mizeur – 9.1% (-25.4)

While it appears that George is slipping just beyond the margin of error, the other two are still within striking distance. On the Democratic side, it’s Anthony Brown’s race to lose. Note that the foibles of Maryland’s health exchange aren’t affecting Brown among the base.

Larry Hogan is spinning this, using an unreleased “internal poll” to note:

(I)nternal polling by a respected national pollster gives Hogan an excellent chance to win in November. Hogan has a 30% better chance of beating Brown than Gansler has, and the polling also shows Hogan has a 36% better chance of winning than Bob Ehrlich had when he was elected governor in 2002.

Obviously without context it sounds great, but one has to ask if Brown would be as weak of a candidate as Kathleen Kennedy Townsend was in 2002.

There is generally one more poll which comes out around this time of year, but I have no word on whether a new Maryland Poll will come from Gonzales Research anytime soon. Back in October, Brown had a 41-21 advantage over Doug Gansler, with 5% preferring Heather Mizeur.

That Rand Paul, he sure gets around

February 18, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Inside the Beltway, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on That Rand Paul, he sure gets around 

It’s become obvious that the junior Senator from Kentucky has become quite the item in Maryland, since he will be engaged in Free State-related causes supporting state political action committees twice in the space of slightly over a month. In this case, though, the support will be more indirect.

Instead of a relatively affordable event, though, it seems like Dan Bongino and the Conservative Victory PAC are going for more of the high-dollar donors. Perhaps that’s a function of holding the event in Washington, D.C. but the event doesn’t seem to be aiming for the attendance figures the Maryland Liberty PAC will be seeking a month later – of course, Bongino needs the money in a more immediate fashion as he prepares to presumably take on the deep pockets of incumbent Congressman John Delaney.

Rand Paul, by the way, is no stranger to the Conservative Victory PAC. He also was a featured speaker at a rally last October for Ken Cuccinelli, who narrowly lost the gubernatorial election there and was being mentioned as a candidate for U.S. Senator himself before quashing the rumors in December. For its part, the Maryland-based CVPAC took criticism from some quarters for supporting a candidate in Virginia. (I didn’t have as much of a problem with it.) The October event even featured Bongino as a “special speaker” so he knows the group too.

Once again, it’s worth pointing out the event is for Dan Bongino’s benefit because checks are made payable to Bongino’s Congressional campaign. But the CVPAC has plans for local Maryland campaigns as well:

We are launching this year in high gear with a fundraiser in February to support Dan Bongino as the next US Congressman from Maryland’s sixth district.  In March, we will roll out a multi-tiered plan to conduct fundraisers as well as grassroots outreach as part of our victory campaign for high caliber Constitutional Conservatives seeking elected office.

That statement was the introduction to the CVPAC January newsletter, available on their website. Presumably they are working on a list of candidates to support in local and perhaps statewide races. (I can think of a couple local candidates who can use the help as they face off against entrenched Democrats and their high-dollar consultants from across the Bay.) So I look forward to seeing if our humble little side of the state is included in that victory campaign.

And if Rand Paul wants to help us out, he’s more than welcome to.

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