Time to get serious

While I mentioned the other day that not much fresh news would come from the political races until after the Independence Day holiday, that doesn’t mean that “Maryland’s top conservative blogger” (at least according to David Gerstman, contributor to Legal Insurrection) won’t have his say on things. I wanted to open up by taking a look at Larry Hogan’s “Hogan’s Plan” for the state’s finances.

Over the course of the primary campaign I was critical of Hogan for having such a vague “to-do list” of priorities he would have as governor, and this wasn’t a whole lot better. Be that as it may, I’m going to try and work with it in the real world anyway.

In Maryland, the governor perhaps has the most power of any such chief executive in the country – particularly if he wants to get serious about cutting the budget. The General Assembly can’t come back with a larger budget total, although they can tweak around the edges to some extent. So let’s go with the baseline established by Martin O’Malley when he set the FY2015 budget that takes effect tomorrow at $39.224 billion. Hogan promised that:

On day one, he will begin to run the government more cost-effectively and honestly. The Hogan-Rutherford administration will implement the recommendations of past audits, conduct additional independent audits of every state agency, and immediately get to work eliminating duplication, fraud, and waste to make sure that every cent of taxpayer money is spent efficiently.

By his reckoning, there is “$1.75 billion in waste and abuse” in state government. Figuring this with my public school math, that is 4.46% of the state budget – which seems like a nice little chunk of change until you realize the difference between the FY2015 and FY2014 budgets is $1.886 billion. In other words, the “waste and abuse” only accounts for about the same amount of money as an average annual increase. Something tells me there’s more low-hanging fruit than that. Yet Hogan says:

By cutting the waste and abuse from state government, he will be able to save the taxpayers of Maryland billions of dollars without having to cut our priority programs and agencies. It is a simple solution to a problem that has plagued our state for the last eight years, and it will enable him to cut and eliminate the regressive taxes that have crushed middle-class families and small businesses.

Nothing is ever that simple, but on the other hand his opponent is willing to blow up the budget with millions and millions of dollars in additional spending. If Anthony Brown simply maintains the Martin O’Malley glide path of 4% budget increases each year, this is what the next four budgets would look like:

  • FY2016: $40.793 billion
  • FY2017: $42.425 billion
  • FY2018: $44.122 billion
  • FY2019: $45.887 billion

Compared to level-funding the budget, that’s an additional $16.331 billion in tax dollars needed and you can bet your bottom dollar the Democrats will take all that and more from hard-working Maryland families.

And if you look at what Anthony Brown is promising, particularly in the area of education with universal pre-kindergarten, student loans for children of illegal aliens, creating a new Office of Educational Disparities, and providing extra money for HBCUs, assuming 4% annual increases may be on the low side.

The other part of Hogan’s Plan deals with business climate:

Maryland’s unemployment rate is 75% higher today than it when the recession began. In fact, the nonpartisan Tax Foundation ranked Maryland #41 in the nation for business climate. The main reason for this unfortunate reality is that it costs too much for job creators to stay in or come to Maryland. He will reduce the burden on job creators, open Maryland for business, and make our state more competitive with others in our region. The Hogan-Rutherford administration will overhaul the Department of Business and Economic Development to focus on aggressively attracting and retaining job creators in order to bring more and better-paying jobs to Maryland.

This is where the lack of specifics is really aggravating, particularly when Hogan’s vanquished opponents directly addressed the issue by proposing corporate tax cuts. In the FY2015 budget, corporate taxes bring in $1.011 billion so eliminating them entirely is affordable if you assume Hogan has the $1.75 billion of waste and fraud elimination in his pocket. Now THAT would turn some heads, but Hogan refuses to make the commitment.

Let’s look at Brown’s “Competitive Business Climate Tour” plan, though. There are nine “areas of focus” therein, but I’m going to focus on five of them:

Tax Liability: Reform our tax code to ensure that it reflects our current economy, enables state and local government to adequately fund our shared priorities, and encourages job generating investments in Maryland.

If you want the tax code to reflect our current economy, rates should be decreased to match the zero growth Maryland is enjoying right now. Unfortunately, it will instead be certain to “enable…government to adequately fund” all the brilliant schemes these liberals come up with. And don’t be surprised if combined reporting isn’t among those items designed to “encourage” investment in the state by hiking taxes on national companies.

Cost and Reliability of Energy: Promote the cost-effective generation of energy and improve the reliable delivery of energy through the grid to businesses and residents while transitioning to more sustainable energy sources.

There’s either one of two ways to go here: we get a “grand bargain” where fracking is finally allowed on the western end of the state in return for “investment” in wind turbines off Ocean City (perhaps via a tax on natural gas producers), or we just get the necessary subsidies to make these unsightly and inefficient wind turbines and land-wasting solar panel farms a reality. Look for the “renewable energy portfolio” to increase the percentage of “sustainable energy sources” to levels unsustainable for utilities to address without huge increases in consumer bills.

Cost of Living: Expand access to affordable housing and healthcare, healthy food options and cost-effective transportation to create a reasonable cost of living for all Maryland families.

When you see the words “expand access to” they really mean “spend more on,” with two exceptions: expanding access to “healthy food options” will involve the elimination of those options deemed unhealthy, such as fast food outlets. You will eat your broccoli and like it. The same goes for “cost-effective transportation” because, for many, transportation will become cost-ineffective: gas taxes will increase in order to subsidize mass transit, which is only cost-effective to the inner-city user whose farebox donation isn’t nearly enough to cover its cost.

And just how is a “reasonable cost of living” determined by the government? To me, that is determined by the market and the desires of those families as to their priorities.

Reliable and Predictable Legal System: Provide a civil justice system that allows deserving individuals to get justice and hold wrongdoers accountable while ensuring that awards are fair and equitable.

That is called tort reform, and the chances of pigs flying in Maryland are probably far higher than passage and enforcement of anything of the sort – especially if Brian Frosh is elected as AG.

Small- and Medium-sized Business Access to Working Capital: Ensure all viable small- and medium-sized businesses have access to affordable capital by working with lenders and businesses to maintain a strong environment for growth.

When I read this, I immediately thought: nice little financial institution you got there, be a shame if something happened to it. It’s the market’s job to figure out if a business is capital-worthy, not government’s.

My gosh, Larry Hogan, you have to do better than this. There are so many holes and code words in Brown’s plans that it should be easy to come up with something actually viable for keeping businesses and people from leaving the state.

AC Week in review: June 29, 2014

June 29, 2014 · Posted in Business and industry, Personal stuff · Comments Off on AC Week in review: June 29, 2014 

I knew this would be a slow week for me because of the election, so I only had a couple posts for American Certified this week. But they were important because they were on a subject near and dear to manufacturers’ hearts – financing.

First, though, I want to point out something my AC colleague Ed Braxton put together on high tax rates and how they affect us on a global scale. Ed points out that many of our competitors across the globe have relented on corporate taxation, a practice which encourages multinational corporations to park their profits elsewhere.

As I promised a week ago, my two-part series on the Ex-Im Bank’s fate was put up over the last week. I decided to devote part one to what its proponents have to say, with the opponents’ case discussed in part two. Personally, I’m not convinced that we need to reauthorize the institution, particularly in an era where government is already trying to get its tentacles into myriad areas of financing.

One product already made in America, and probably getting its financing from private sources, is the Clif bar. These energy bars got a glowing review from my AC cohort George Pitsakis in his latest piece. However, I have one bone to pick with George – he notes how the company has gone green but I’m wondering how much was on their own and how much incentive was dangled in front of them. If they can make a superior American-made product in a competitive marketplace, though, more power to them.

I’ve already put a couple items in the pipeline for next week and will work on more in the next few days.

A renewal of action?

Last night I went back through and redid an old post, an event for which there is a backstory.

For about two or three years I employed a service called Photoshop Express as a repository for photos I used on monoblogue. But about this time last year the Photoshop Express site went away and while I still could get to the photos every single link I had to it became a dead one. If I had lots of time and patience perhaps I could go back and rework the links but in the interim I found a different service and repaired a select few of these posts (usually ones I link to semi-frequently) so I could restore them to their original glory.

The one I fixed last night was this one, which I wanted to use as an example of where a group of motivated people descended on Washington because I was part of the group. It’s a definite blast from the past since we did this back in 2009, but it was a useful comparison to a manufacturer summit I wrote on for American Certified.

But looking through that album of pictures reminded me of the days when those of us who would be considered “TEA Party” seemed to be much more activist than we are now. Sure, some would chalk the change up to a more sophisticated approach, but when dismal failures like Operation American Spring become the norm one has to ask if people are resigned to their fate. Or maybe they’re just trying to scrape by and survive.

With the events in Mississippi revolving around the Chris McDaniel – Thad Cochran runoff, it’s obvious there are some people who are terrified of the huddled masses. Yet while McDaniel isn’t conceding the race, it’s worthy to note no one is out yet protesting the election like, say, union activists harassing Scott Walker and the Wisconsin legislature. (I have many more thoughts on the Mississippi situation I’ll share in a future post.)

At least there’s a political race that has a pulse, though. Look at the pathetic turnout for Tuesday’s primary, where I can give you a good example of this.

As it was in 2010, there were 13 Republican candidates for our Central Committee. In every case – except perhaps the 13th and last position where the difference is small at the moment – either those of us who chose to run again garnered fewer votes than we did four years ago or the person who finished in that position did worse than the last time (i.e. our first place finisher was a newcomer while 2010’s first place finisher chose not to run again. The difference there was a whopping 1,192 votes.) Those who ran both times lost anywhere from 291 to 653 votes, based on the unofficial 2014 results. Put another way, our winner this time would have finished seventh in 2010.

Obviously some will blame the change in primary date, but I think there’s that same resignation and malaise at work in this case, too. After all, compared to 2010 we had a much more competitive governor’s race and a significant portion of our county had two General Assembly races which were quite spirited.

I’m not quite sure what we can rally around anymore. As it turned out, the original “Emergency House Call” rally didn’t matter because we got Obamacare anyway. It’s a little like the philosophy which guided the Long War in that we almost have to be effective 100% of the time to elicit significant change – yes, we got our Dave Brat but it’s sort of countered by the Beltway insiders not losing Thad Cochran – in the meantime, more regulations are promulgated by unelected bureaucrats and a President left unchecked by an impotent Congress. As we slide closer and closer to a yet-to-be-defined abyss, the ideas of the Founders slip out of our grasp.

Sometimes I think ballots will be replaced by bullets, and that’s not something most of us want. But it’s happened before, and history has a nasty habit of eventually repeating itself.

Snapshots of an election

To be honest, I took these photos on Tuesday intending to add them to my coverage – then promptly forgot and posted it anyway. But it doesn’t hurt to have a second look back before moving forward. There’s really not going to be a lot of fresh news until after the Independence Day holiday anyway, plus it also proves the adage that every picture tells a story.

So I’m going to lead with this one I also posted to Facebook.

It’s interesting to see this pile of Anthony Brown signs, which as I recall were pretty much all of the Brown signs I saw. Now one person suggested that they were originally set within the 100′ limit then relocated against the tree, which is possible – but I doubt it. Instead, my thought was someone left the pile of signs earlier that day or the previous night intending to have the first volunteer at the site place them in the morning – sort of like someone decided to have a insurance exchange website intending to have the thing actually work and not waste millions of dollars.

If you don’t get the small details, the large stuff bites you in the ass.

Speaking of signage, I did not count how many signs were out there on the grounds of the Civic Center, but I would suggest the ratio was perilously close to one for every other voter. Interest seemed to be quite low.

I took that picture about 5:00 after I arrived about 4:30. (This was an election day I had to work – I couldn’t alter my schedule enough to avoid it.) There were literally three people working the polls when I got there – M.J. Caldwell’s wife Pam, a lady representing Circuit Court appointee Jimmy Sarbanes, and Jim Jester, who was doing double duty with an Andy Harris shirt and Mike McDermott sign. This is one of the busier polling places in the county, and only three people were there.

If I saw 100 people vote in the time I was there, it was a lot.

Speaking of M.J. Caldwell, the Republican voters of this county need an education. I would expect about 60-65% of Democrats to blindly support someone named Sarbanes, but 43% of Republicans? Really? Someone selected not on qualifications, but on name recognition by a political hack governor we can’t stand? Get real. That has to turn around in November.

Even the news coverage was lackadaisical. Channel 47 did a live remote, but they never came out to talk with us. They probably showed the pictures of an all-but-empty polling place to an audience which can be charitably described as second-best in the market.

In terms of poll workers, it did pick up after a time. Jackie Wellfonder came along to work this poll.

Turned out the face-to-face didn’t do either of us much good because we got about the same amount of votes, and that wasn’t enough.

Josh Hastings was unopposed in his primary, so all he had to do was await the winner on the GOP side.

His opponent will be Larry Dodd, who had someone there eventually but he wasn’t the social type.

Having worked polls a few times here, I know that after about 7:00 it’s pretty well done for the night. So there were a gaggle of people with Hastings who got to talking down the way on the Democratic side, and a few of us for the GOP. It’s not like we had voters to convince, as maybe 20 stopped by during the last hour.

At the very end, Carl Anderton dropped by to retrieve his signs as did Jim Mathias. They had a nice conversation, although I didn’t get a picture. I was even bipartisan and helped Jim pick up some of the Democrats’ signs.

I was in a group which went on to The Cellar Door to check on the returns, but it wasn’t really a good night for most of us as you now know.

There were a couple things I learned, though. First and foremost is that Facebook is worthless as a campaign aid unless you want to pay through the nose. Social media isn’t really social anymore; it’s become commercialized like everything else. I had 60 likes for my Facebook page, which isn’t much but it at least gives me insight on how my posts did. (By comparison, Jackie Wellfonder also had a similar page and got 100 likes – but about 60 fewer votes.)

I placed a total of 41 posts on the page, although there was one I shared multiple times. My total reach was 2,718 – it’s about 66 per post. Ironically, my best post insofar as Facebook is concerned is the last one I think of as my concession speech, which reached 298 people. A little late, don’t you think? But if you figure a good number of those 66 per post see my stuff time after time, it’s not all that efficient for the investment.

I didn’t have thousands of dollars laying around to get my Facebook page up to 100,000 likes as Change Maryland did, and we only know about the last 30,000 or so because the campaign paid for those – Change Maryland was close to 70,000 when Hogan made it official. So who knows how much he paid for that promotion? More than I had in my pocket.

Anyway, social media isn’t really the way to go. But what is?

The second thing I found out is that the public seems to be unmotivated to find out what people really stand for. In race after race, I saw that those who spelled out their platform in the most complete manner lost to those who were a mystery to voters but had name recognition. It also didn’t necessarily matter how hard you worked – if John Cannon or Matt Holloway went door-to-door I didn’t hear about it, but Muir Boda did and got 18% of the vote to show for it. Tyler Harwood went door-to-door with Greg Belcher (in the same group which at times featured Carl Anderton, Marc Kilmer, and Boda) and finished dead last for Central Committee (Greg was 8th.) Hard work wasn’t its own reward, and no good deed went unpunished – or so it seemed. (Nope, Marc corrected me – it was just his lit, not him.)

In short, I’m not sure I did my job very well on a local level. If I have a mission to educate voters, it looks like I have to work a little harder on it – and so I shall. I suppose the one thing about being a lame duck is that I have no election to worry about anymore, so I can speak my mind perhaps a little moreso than political correctness may dictate.

One source of relief is that I have a smaller range of people to keep up with for November. I think we could have done somewhat better coming out of this primary, but at least now I know whose feet I’ll have to keep to the fire and who I should be able to count on with a minimum of supervision.

Shorebird of the Week – June 26, 2014

June 26, 2014 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on Shorebird of the Week – June 26, 2014 

His stats and accolades have not been as gaudy as those of others in the Shorebird starting sextet, but lefthander Steven Brault is piling up impressive numbers this season for Delmarva.

This is a guy who may be considered a fringe prospect, as he was drafted in the 11th round last year out of Regis University in Colorado. But the California native did just fine at Aberdeen last season, posting an impressive 38/12 K/BB ratio in 43 innings last season, with a WHIP of 1.09 and ERA of 2.09 in 12 starts.

And that success has carried on to Delmarva, where Brault is now 7-3 despite a tough 1-0 loss in his last outing last Friday. It was the third time Brault had gone seven innings, but the first time he lost such an outing. He also went seven against Greensboro on April 17 and threw a complete seven-inning game against Hagerstown May 26. The latter was distinctive because Steven gave up six runs in the second inning but shut down the Suns after that, allowing the Shorebirds to come back for a 7-6 win.

Just like in Aberdeen, Steven boasts an impressive strikeout/walk ratio of 70/15, but has maintained a stinginess for allowing hits with just 60 given up in 79 innings. It leads to an outstanding 0.95 WHIP that leads the team among active pitchers. His ERA is a solid 2.73 to date.

Since he just turned 22 in late April, Brault is on a good schedule for development, providing yet another link in a chain of outstanding starting pitching for Delmarva – the Shorebirds led all of organized baseball with a 2.11 team ERA in May, which allowed them to make a run at the first half title. Success in the second half could depend on how many innings Brault is allowed to complete, since many prospects are limited by the Orioles to about 100-120 innings in their first full season and Steven has gone 79. His appearances may start being limited to 4 or 5 innings to keep his arm fresh – in a six-man rotation he could expect to have about 10 more starts this season. Certainly they want this lefthander to show his stuff at an advanced level next season.

A post-primary look back

I actually started this a couple weeks ago, when writing about Ron George’s last stand, and just added to it here and there every couple days – if only to keep it atop the queue. Regarding Ron, it was unfortunate that such a good candidate couldn’t get much traction in the race.

But as the race comes to an end for three of the four gubernatorial hopefuls, I’m convinced that my initial instinct was correct and there was really only money enough for three candidates. Blaine Young saw this early on and, despite a solid period of fundraising, opted to drop out of the gubernatorial race and focus on a local campaign for the newly-created Frederick County Executive post. “We have a tendency to eat our own,” he said.

To me this is yet another legacy of the Ehrlich era, which in some respects set our party back several years.  With the most direct connection to that administration, Larry Hogan was perhaps the second-most natural successor – besides Michael Steele, who took a pass in 2014. More and more I see 2010 as a completely missed opportunity in this state, and its domino effect is hurting us in 2014.

So Hogan starts out about 15 points down, just like Ehrlich ended up in 2010. How does he close the gap?

Out of the box, he’s taking the approach which he used a little bit in the primary: Anthony Brown as incompetent.

Driving up negatives is generally a conventional wisdom play, but there are a couple downsides. First of all, Brown is, well, brown and the inevitable comparison to Republicans picking on Barack Obama will occur. I also don’t see the counter of a positive agenda from the Hogan camp, which seems to be focusing more on undoing things than doing new things.

I mentioned Ron George early on and it was interesting how he accepted his defeat, as a letter to his youngest son Tommy:

Tommy, I lost. But that is okay. Many took my ideas, and I know those ideas will help our state. Your dad is now able to go camping with you and have more time with you, and that alone makes me glad I lost. I can go on trips with you and Mom visiting your nieces and nephew, and I look forward to that also. I did what God asked of me and did my best and that is all we are to do. I never wanted to do anything that took time from you, so I am happy to say I am not a governor but I am Tommy’s dad. Love you, Dad.

Perhaps had Ron been given a do-over, he may have decided to devote full-time to running for governor. Surely he had people to run his business, but while David Craig had a staff to help him do his job as County Executive, Larry Hogan the same for his business, and Charles Lollar was granted extended leave from his duties, Ron had to also function as a Delegate. That was 90 days basically off the trail in the formative part of the campaign. It may be disappointing to me because it was one of two decisions that cost him my vote and endorsement; otherwise Ron had perhaps the best overall platform and he came very close to getting both from me.

But Ron ran the best campaign insofar as staying issue-based and not going off on personal attack tangents.

For David Craig, he pretty much spent the last three years trying for this. Obviously the blogger meeting he had early on didn’t do him much good.

There have been people who opined privately that Craig should have attacked Hogan earlier, just as there are people who believed attacking Charles Lollar was a mistake. I would place myself in the latter camp, but what did Craig in was the lack of money to overcome Larry Hogan’s advantage there. Once Larry got the public financing, the race was over and Craig couldn’t chip away at the double-digit lead.

It’s the Charles Lollar supporters I worry about, as in my opinion they are most likely to stay home in November. Charles tried to convince them otherwise:

Wow, family, what an experience! I can honestly say that the past 16 months have been filled with such excitement and joy as my family has had the chance to meet so many good people across the state of Maryland. I could not be happier with the extended family that I have acquired as a result of this campaign. While the results may have not been exactly what we wanted at least we know that there were many out there who share our vision for a better Maryland and a New Way Forward. From the bottom of my heart I want to thank everyone who played a role in making this such a successful campaign.

As many of you know there is still more work for us to do. A New Way Forward for Maryland is still out there for us to obtain and together we can make this happen. I want to congratulate Larry Hogan on a job well done as well as David Craig and Ron George for successful campaigns of their own.

I look forward to coming together in unity to win the state of Maryland and I urge all of my supporters to do the same and ensure unity within our state across the board.

It makes me wonder what Charles will do with the next few months, although his July 5th event for supporters and volunteers will likely have a lot of clues.

Looking down the ballot a little bit, there were some interesting upsets from both parties.

Two incumbent Senators lost in their primaries as ambitious House members ousted them: Republicans David Brinkley and Richard Colburn were knocked off. By the same token, many of the nine House members who were defeated were victims of redistricting: Republicans Joseph Boteler, Don Dwyer, Donald Elliott, and Michael Smigiel, and Democrats Keiffer Mitchell, Melvin Stukes, Michael Summers, Darren Swain, and Shawn Tarrant. Mitchell and Stukes were drawn, along with winner Keith Haynes, into one Baltimore City district.

In particular, Boteler was one of the good guys, and the reigning monoblogue Accountability Project Legislator of the Year. That district’s voters made a serious mistake by pushing him aside.

Aside from the shocking margin of Addie Eckardt’s victory, the Wicomico County results were pretty much what I expected. Obviously I was disappointed by Muir Boda’s loss but apparently county Republican voters like mushy moderates. If things hold as expected, we will still have a significant GOP majority on County Council but it won’t always govern like one.

It should be noted, though, that my advertisers went 3-1 for the primary. Mary Beth Carozza easily had the most primary votes in District 38C and Chris Adams and Johnny Mautz paced the field in District 37B. Mautz carried three of the four counties, with Adams second in all four (Rene Desmarais won Wicomico County.)

This brings up one of my favorite comments along the way in the campaign, from an old NetRightDaily colleague of mine, Richard Manning. It was in response to a Facebook post I put up to promote this post.

(A)ll those ads along the side pay Michael for his great work. He should be commended that he has created something from nothing that has enough value that people want to advertise on it to reach his readers. That is the essence of the entrepreneurial spirit that those on the right claim to embrace.

So that brings me to the final race, which was my own. I posted this on the soon-to-disappear Facebook page for my campaign:

I’d like to thank my supporters. Looks like I’m going to come up one spot short this time, but with so many good people running I knew I was the most vulnerable incumbent because I only made it by a little bit last time.

So after November it looks like I may have some free time on my hands – or maybe not.

It does look like the Central Committee will have a little more TEA Party influence because Julie Brewington and Greg Belcher got their start as part of that movement, so that’s good.

As I’ve said all along, this will be my last election as a candidate. I was only planning to run this term anyway, and I would have definitely preferred to go out a winner. But I came home and got a hug from my treasurer, who happens to be my fiance. So everything is okay. I lost an election, but elections don’t define me anyway. In fact, in some respects this can be liberating.

Obviously there’s still the prospect of my involvement with the Central Committee, at least as secretary (it can be a non-voting position.) If they wish, I’m happy to stay on in that capacity.

But this will be the last time I have to go through all the hassle of getting a treasurer, filing campaign finance reports, and so forth. In the next few days we’ll close the campaign account, file the necessary paperwork to wind up this committee, and it will be time for a new chapter in political involvement.

So in a few days this (Facebook) page will also go away. Congratulations to the winners and hopefully many of those who tried but fell short will try again. But this will be it for me on the ballot.

Again, I appreciate the kind words from my supporters and thanks to those who voted for me.

A lot of those remarks have appeared on my Facebook page or in e-mails to me. I appreciate the sentiment, but I have an observation on this whole thing.

Of the nine who made it, six were already on the Central Committee and had name recognition for various reasons. I’ve lived in the county for less than a decade and, quite frankly, had the 2006 election featured more aspirants than candidates I probably wouldn’t have won my first term, let alone the second. Look at the three newcomers who won: two are doctors, and the other ran for the House of Delegates in 2010.

On the other hand, two of the other three who lost had been active in Republican circles but had little name recognition otherwise. Tyler Harwood probably knocked on hundreds of doors on behalf of himself and other candidates and was rewarded by finishing last. Jackie Wellfonder had bought signs and cards, and made her way around polling places yesterday to no avail. The gap between us and ninth place suggests that people just went with the names they knew, and that’s sort of a sad commentary.

I’m not going to lie to you and say I’m happy about losing this election, but I knew going in this time that I would have a hard time keeping my spot. I originally figured that only five or six incumbents would run, but with seven that made it really difficult.

So here we are. Even if I’m selected as secretary again (a non-voting secretary and treasurer are allowed) October will be my last meeting as an elected Central Committee member. It would be strange not having something to do on the first Monday of the month, but life changes and so we have to as well.

I didn’t plan on being a Central Committee member my entire life anyway, but now that this election is over my thoughts are on seeing our candidates through and working where I can to improve the process. It may not be completely universal, but one thing I think I’ve achieved over the last eight years is the respect of my peers.

Today is the day

June 25, 2014 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Personal stuff · 5 Comments 

Well, I didn’t win my election. But there’s another place I can be a winner with your help.

There are a number of bloggers competing for prizes in a contest sponsored by Troopathon 7, which goes online tonight. (Later this afternoon I will set up a live feed as I have done before.) Sorry, no live feed. I got home much later than I thought.

I found out last night that this humble blog is in fifth place overall, neck-and-neck with Pamela Geller’s Atlas Shrugs, and I’m not all that far out of the lead. So if you want to help out me and a good cause, donate through the box on the right-hand side of the page (it accrues to my score.) With some help I can win this thing.

WCRC meeting – June 2014

June 24, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on WCRC meeting – June 2014 

It was perhaps one of the more uneventful WCRC meetings in some time, because we chose not to feature a speaker and not much business transpired. Sure, we had the usual Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and Treasurer’s Report, but most of the time was given to those final appeals from all the candidates in the room.

However, we were introduced to two bright and talented young Republicans, as Shadi Jahelka of Mardela High School and Elizabeth Mills from Delmar High School were introduced as our Wicomico County Republican Club scholarship winners. Jahelka plans to continue her studies at the Maryland Institute College of Art, while Mills will be attending Potomac State College in West Virginia.

In a brief President’s Report, Jackie Wellfonder noted we were still looking for a headquarters. And “headquarters is a mess,” said Dave Parker to open his Central Committee report. A couple places we were interested in have fallen through, so we could have to move off the Route 13 corridor we’ve been on for several cycles.

In better news, Parker attended the state Red, White, and Blue Dinner with a mixture of people from Wicomico and Worcester counties. He also pointed out that he had tickets to the Tawes Crab and Clam Bake next month.

Dave also put in his plug for Circuit Court Judge candidate M.J. Caldwell, correctly pointing out “the difference is experience.”

At that point, we made the rounds of over twenty candidates and representatives, who we gave just 2 minutes to make their case. Many of them were those sharing the ballot with me for Central Committee, so let me take this opportunity to wish them good luck. Mark McIver said it best in his remarks: “I can’t say enough about how well our committee ran,” adding it was considered by others to be “very functional.”

Representing David Craig’s campaign, Joe Schanno made an important plea himself: “After tomorrow, we’re all on the same team.”

Essentially the only other business was the announcement by Joe Ollinger that he had tickets for the WCRC Crab Feast September 6 and was looking for volunteers to help out, and a point I brought up about integrating social media into our solicitations for help for upcoming events such as the Farm and Home Show, Good Beer Festival, and Autumn Wine Festival.

In fact, we were done in less than an hour, although many stayed around to work on distributing signs for tomorrow’s election. There are 31 polling places in Wicomico County, so the goal was to cover all of them with the appropriate signs.

We have five weeks until our next meeting, which will be on July 28.

The final appeal

June 23, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Personal stuff, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The final appeal 

Tomorrow the vast majority of those who will participate in our primary process this year will go out and vote. While early voting did bring a few to the polls, about 70 to 75 percent of the overall vote is cast on election day, based on previous results. And if you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m on the ballot tomorrow as I run for one more term on the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee.

Perhaps some of the others who are running have spelled out their agenda for the next four years, and we on the Central Committee have a lot to do in the next 4 1/2 months – our terms do not end until after the polls close November 4. I’ll be busy trying to find volunteers for the Farm and Home Show, Good Beer Festival, and Autumn Wine Festival. All these events are important for voter outreach and I have served as a coordinator on all these the last several years, along with being the Secretary this term.

But a couple weeks ago, before early voting began, I wrote a piece on my campaign’s social media page outlining my goals for the next Central Committee should I be fortunate enough to be re-elected.

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Now we’ve begun the actual voting process, the culmination of a campaign which began for me when I filed back in February. I could only imagine how it is to toil for 18 months or more to win a regional or statewide office, and several candidates have gone that long in their quest. The beginning of the end of my quest for a third (and final) term on the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee opened last Thursday morning at the Civic Center when the polls opened.

Bear in mind that, win or lose, my current term doesn’t end until the polls close on November 4, 2014. We all have a single-minded goal to win as many elections as we can for local Republicans, particularly in races where we can unseat longtime Democrats like Rick Pollitt, Norm Conway and Jim Mathias. With that said, while I’m pleased with a lot of what I’ve done over the last eight years, I have some unfinished business I’d like to attend to over the next four.

First and foremost, candidate recruitment has to step up. We have a good team in place right now, but there are some holes we need to fill around the county, and a particular focus for the next four years is finding people willing to participate at the community level in towns like Salisbury, Delmar, Fruitland, and the others around the county. These local elections are stepping stones for eventual candidates, but they’re also the place where prospective campaign managers and treasurers can learn the ropes as well. This even extends to recruiting for other appointed posts such as zoning boards and similar local openings which can use a dose of conservatism. I would like to see a well-connected member of our group be the point person for knowing which openings can be filled and looking for the right people to apply.

A second focus is the quest for an elected school board in Wicomico County. Obviously we can go a long way toward that goal by making a couple changes in our elected officials this year, since Rick Pollitt and Norm Conway have been the roadblocks in place over the last four years. If not, we have to aggressively pursue other avenues such as a petition drive. We believe the county should join much of the rest of Maryland in pursuing that course; personally I think we could model it on our existing County Council districts.

Lastly, there should be better organization at the precinct level. Now that we’ll have an idea of just where precinct lines will be, the next step is to seek out and find local leaders who can work at the grassroots level. It’s a role which can evolve, but as an example when I led a precinct over a decade ago I printed and distributed a quarterly newsletter to my GOP constituents alerting them to candidates and issues we as a party were promoting. Some of us are already developing databases which can be of assistance in this regard.

Don’t forget you can vote for up to nine of us. I can work with any of the other twelve on the ballot, but the key for me is making it into the top nine once again. In 2010 I made it by just 30 votes and I wouldn’t be surprised if things are that close again.

You can make the difference. Ask yourself: what other candidates have spelled out their agenda to such a degree? Only a few of us bothered to fill out the League of Women Voters questionnaire, but I’ve not been shy about saying exactly where I stood on the issues.

So this is my case. I’m asking for and would appreciate your support between now and June 24.

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I was also one of the few Central Committee candidates to fill out a survey from the state’s League of Women Voters. Bear in mind I had to stay under 400 characters, so it was a tough editing job.

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1. Qualifications: How do your qualifications and experience prepare you for the duties of this office?

I have already served on the Central Committee for eight years, currently acting as the Secretary. It’s the culmination of nearly two decades of political involvement both here in Maryland and in my native Ohio. I also serve as the Secretary of the Wicomico County Republican Club, and have been entrusted with a leadership position there for the last several years.

2. Priorities: What should be the priorities of the party?

As a local Central Committee, our most important job is recruiting and supporting Republican candidates for elective office. But a key secondary duty is registering new voters as we try to make this a Republican county. Our candidates should stand for limited government which exists at the level closest to the people, so that local matters are handled here in Wicomico County and not Annapolis.

3. Filling Vacancies: If the Central Committee is called upon to choose a candidate to fill a vacancy in the General Assembly or other office, what would be your criteria for selecting the replacement?

In my time on the Central Committee, we’ve had to replace Page Elmore in the House of Delegates and Bob Caldwell on Wicomico County Council. While the rules are different in each case – particularly in Elmore’s case, where he passed away during a contested primary – the aim is to find a good, conservative candidate who will best represent the people as well as hold the seat in the next election.

4. Open Primary: Would you support opening the party’s primary to voters who have not chosen a party affiliation on their voter registration?

I do not support an open primary. While there are compelling arguments for an open primary, I believe that the closed primary represents an incentive for interested voters to choose a party. Unless the primary is opened up for both Democrats and Republicans so that unaffiliated voters have that choice, the GOP should maintain its closed primary system.

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In closing, I should remind voters that many of those who are or seek to be on the Central Committee will be in attendance at the Wicomico County Republican Club meeting tonight. We’ll be meeting at the Chamber of Commerce building, 144 E. Main Street in downtown Salisbury. The social time begins at 6:30 and meeting at 7.

Several members also attend a pre-event Happy Hour at the Cellar Door Tavern, which is located at 111 Camden Street. That begins around 5-ish and runs until around 6:30 – we’re informal like that.

And despite the fact it’s elsewhere on the page, let me note: For items which pertain to my campaign Michael Swartz for Republican Central Committee – Authority: Kimberley Corkran, Treasurer, Michael Swartz, Candidate.

There. Now I’m covered. So if you want to cover the common-sense conservatism space on the Central Committee, I would appreciate your vote tomorrow.

The 80-20 rule (part 2 of 2)

June 22, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, Radical Green, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The 80-20 rule (part 2 of 2) 

I had originally intended to do a short post noting that Ron George is still in the race and garnered the endorsement of the Conservative Victory PAC, which said of George:

Ron’s plan for economic recovery and development coupled with his knowledge of the issues as a Delegate gives us full confidence that he is the right candidate for the job.

Ron has shown that he knows how to take on Democrats and win when he beat Democrat House Speaker Michael Busch as the top vote getter in their majority Democrat district.  We have great confidence in his ability to draw a sharp contrast between the liberal policies of Brown, Gansler, and Mizeur and our conservative vision for Maryland.

We would like to thank the other candidates and wish them all well on Tuesday, June 24th.

But then I was made aware of a lengthy piece put together by the Ron George campaign, which takes the form of a 16-page newsletter. It’s actually a very nice summary of Ron’s campaign and I wish he had finished it a month or two ago. Had he done so, he may not be lagging in the polls – although polls can be less than meaningful in a low-turnout election as this promises to be.

Being familiar with WordPress, though – as I use the platform to create monoblogue – I found it really interesting that work on this newsletter must have began nine months ago, as the source file comes from September 2013. Maybe at that time he was expecting more fundraising, because the mailing would have been quite pricey.

Knowing that, it’s interesting to speculate why he kept the information on pages 10 and 11 – where he points out reasons not to vote for David Craig and Larry Hogan, respectively – in his pocket for so long. I suppose I should be pleased with that since Ron had hitherto run a fairly positive campaign.

I thought this statement on two others intriguing as well:

My friend Dan Bongino was about to switch to run for a seat in Congress. And Charles Lollar, besides repeating whatever Dan Bongino said, lacked any understanding of how government worked.

Sounds like George would have passed if Bongino ran, but we’ll never know.

Yet taking a page from the Maryland Liberty playbook, Ron takes decades-old votes and statements from both Hogan and Craig out of context.

Take for example this point:

When running for Delegate in 1990, the Baltimore Sun reported, “Craig said he would work to get the state to give counties greater latitude to raise taxes or lower them, thus reducing their reliance on property taxes” (Baltimore Sun, November 4, 1990). This would have enabled the counties to raise many taxes without approval or debate by the state legislature, which give a greater proper vetting of tax-raising proposals. Mr. Craig’s idea was not a very Republican idea.

Actually, bringing that power to a point closer to the people is a very conservative idea. I would rather fight battles against raising taxes here in Salisbury than up in Annapolis; moreover, counties are exempted or mandated by state fiat on many occasions – chief among them the “rain tax.” As I recall, Montgomery County already had a similar program in place when the state passed theirs. That was an example of a county making their own decision.

Yet there are more recent statements and votes I can take from Ron which would suggest he isn’t exactly the standard-bearer for liberty or conservative principles, either, particularly when it comes to Radical Green. Just check out this screenshot from 2010, when Ron campaigned as “the Green Elephant.” I pointed all this out when Ron was launching his bid. And Ron isn’t exactly trumpeting his support for that key part of the O’Malley “Smart, Green, and Growing” agenda now, is he?

As I have said privately to people who asked for several weeks now, I can easily tell you something good and something bad about each one of the four gubernatorial campaigns. To me, it was a race with no clear favorite from day 1.

So on Tuesday we will come to the end of a long, exhausting slog to secure the GOP nomination for governor. For three of the candidates (David Craig, Larry Hogan, and Charles Lollar) it can be argued they have been running for the last three years. Whether it was the more formal effort by Craig, Larry Hogan’s formation of Change Maryland, or Charles Lollar’s New Day Maryland group, these were hatched at various points way back in 2011. While Ron George may have been considering it for far longer, he’s only been at it for a little over a year – still, it’s a long time in one’s life to work toward what many argue is an unattainable goal anyway.

Aside from having this forum to speak my mind and the passion to follow this campaign practically since its beginning, I’m probably like many other voters in the sense that I have 100% agreement with none of the candidates. Obviously some spoke better to the issues which I care most about better than others, and some have lengthy records I could examine, particularly in a legislative sense. Still, in order to select one I have to compromise on some things, and my vote goes where I judge that I have the least amount of compromise.

Now do I worry that David Craig will run to the center once June 25 rolls around? Yes, of course, and I would for Ron George as well given his abandonment of the “Green Elephant” moniker to secure a statewide nomination. But given his refusal to take a stance on some issues, I think Larry Hogan has already started in the middle, and in many respects so has Charles Lollar. Do we really know what he is telling these Democratic groups to earn their support?

Yet, regardless of who wins, at the end of the day it would be better to have someone you agree with 70 to 80 percent of the time in charge than continue to lose ground with someone who may be right 20 percent of the time (if we’re lucky.)

It’s also worth making this final point. On Wednesday, there will be winners and losers in more than just an electoral sense. Many people have put their hearts and souls into this race but it’s worth remembering that, in our little Maryland Republican community, the guy whose brains you were trying to beat out a month earlier may have to be your best friend in a future fight – so don’t burn the bridges behind you. The long-range goal should be kept in sight as you celebrate the moment of victory.

AC Week in review: June 22, 2014

June 22, 2014 · Posted in Business and industry · Comments Off on AC Week in review: June 22, 2014 

With the oncoming election, I sent over just a little bit less to my friends at AC – I’m hoping to make up for it next week once that fun and frivolity is complete and we can take a breather for a bit. Luckily, as I’ll note in a little bit, some of my fellow contributors picked up the slack.

But first I want to note that there are a number of good new jobs in America, particularly in the energy field. I took notice of one organization which is promoting a website to highlight these opportunities. Yet like any other field of work, manufacturing is at the mercy of policy uncertainty, a point which fellow AC writer Ed Braxton touches on in his look at the subject.

In an update to a story I’ve been following on the American Certified page, more members of Congress are demanding the Commerce Department take action against dumping of steel products by South Korea. In the article I pointed out an approved pipeline project in North Dakota, but hundreds of miles of new and retrofit piping could be affected.

I also began a two-part series on the fate of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, a little-known financial institution which has a big role in American manufacturing. It’s likely Part Two will roll out tomorrow, so stay tuned for that.

Finally, I’m not a guy who has the patience to sit in a deer stand or quietly await the presence of a wild turkey – but I know a 14-year-old who can’t wait to experience the former and did the latter during turkey season this spring. So this article by fellow AC contributor George Pitsakis may be something to check out if you enjoy the thrill of the hunt – apparently you’re in a growing industry, and one (I may add) ripe for opportunity to purchase American-made products. A search for “hunting” on the AC site netted almost 10,000 products.

Later this afternoon I’ll return you to the two-part series I started yesterday, but you can read this not-quite-so-political stuff in the interim.

 

The 80-20 rule (part 1 of 2)

The Maryland Liberty PAC is at it again.

It’s funny because I generally agree with these folks, but I can’t let their continued leap of logic stand. Here’s some of what we know so far:

  • In 2009, Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio voted in favor of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act of 2009.
  • A few months later, I wrote in that edition of the monoblogue Accountability Project: “Someday I’m confident that future generations will look back and wonder about the folly of such a bill thinking it would actually impact the climate. In the meantime we have to reduce our emissions to 75% of 2006 levels in eleven years. I know – let’s throw out all of the industry and job creation!” Needless to say, I was against the bill.
  • A couple years later, the Maryland Climate Action Plan was released. This is the document cited by those who insist that Haddaway-Riccio (and others I’ll shortly detail) were responsible for the proposed implementation of the VMT.

This is what the Climate Action Plan says about the VMT:

This policy option addresses transportation pricing and travel demand management incentive programs. It also tests the associated potential GHG reduction benefits of alternate funding sources for GHG beneficial programs. These strategies amplify GHG emission reductions from other strategies by supporting Smart Growth, transit, and bike and pedestrian investments. The draft MDOT policy design, developed by the pricing working group in Phase I, considers four strategy areas combined with an education component for state and local officials. (Emphasis mine.)

The detailed definitions of the four strategy areas are listed below:

  • Maryland motor fuel taxes or VMT fees – There are two primary options for consideration: (1) an increase in the per gallon motor fuel tax consistent with alternatives under consideration by the Blue Ribbon Commission on Maryland Transportation Funding, and (2) establish a GHG emission-based road user fee (or VMT fee) statewide by 2020 in addition to existing motor fuel taxes. Both options would create additional revenue that could be used to fund transportation improvements and systems operations to help meet Maryland GHG reduction goals.
  • Congestion Pricing and Managed Lanes – Establish as a local pricing option in urban areas that charges motorists more to use a roadway, bridge or tunnel during peak periods, with revenues used to fund transportation improvements and systems operations to help meet Maryland GHG reduction goals.
  • Parking Impact Fees and Parking Management – Establish parking pricing policies that ensure effective use of urban street space. Provision of off-street parking should be regulated and managed with appropriate impact fees, taxes, incentives, and regulations.
  • Employer Commute Incentives – Strengthen employer commute incentive programs by increasing marketing and financial and/or tax based incentives for employers, schools, and universities to encourage walking, biking, public transportation usage, carpooling, and teleworking.

The working group noted consisted (according to the report) of people from four groups:

The Working Groups provided technical guidance and included local representation though the participation of the Baltimore Metropolitan Council (BMC), the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG), Montgomery County and the City of Baltimore.

They met in the early part of 2009, pretty much simultaneously with the bill’s debate and passage, but there was no real way of knowing whether the VMT proposal would make the final cut until the report’s release two years later.

It’s a way of stretching the truth, so I’m curious why those who made a big deal out of Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio voting for the GGRA don’t say the same about David Brinkley, Richard Colburn, Barry Glassman, Andy Harris, Susan Aumann, Addie Eckardt, and Steve Schuh. All of them, along with the departed E.J. Pipkin and Richard Weldon, departing Bill Frank, and late Page Elmore, voted for the GGRA. Surprised?

Listen, I still say it was a bad vote. But this is why it pays to do your own homework, and also why one mustn’t make the perfect the enemy of the good. The Maryland Liberty PAC had Rand Paul for a recent fundraiser, but did they account for his pro-amnesty stance? Or is the Maryland Liberty PAC now in favor of illegal immigration? (Or, for that matter since Rand is doing a July event for them, is the Maryland GOP itself pro-amnesty?)

It seems to me that’s the same sort of stretch MDLPAC and others make when saying Jeannie Haddaway backs a VMT. And of the group of Republicans above, Aumann and Schuh co-sponsored an anti-VMT measure. Does that cleanse them of their previous sins? You can do this with any politician who holds legislative office (as you’ll read further in part 2 tomorrow), which is why outsiders can look so temptingly good.

I went and looked at the issues, one by one, to make my decision. It was a measured decision, not made because of hype or because I was a follower of a particular candidate. So while it disappointed me that Haddaway voted this way (which I knew about back in 2009), I took the 20% or so bad with the 80% or so good.

In part 2 tomorrow I will look at another candidate.

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