Some Maryland GOP inside baseball that could lead to an interesting race

We’re still six weeks away from the Maryland Republican Party Spring Convention, to be held May 14 in Annapolis, and much of the interest in the event will be driven by the selection of eleven at-large Delegates and Alternate Delegates to the national convention in Cleveland. Since Maryland’s primary will be completed, not only will we know which aspirants advanced from each of the state’s eight Congressional districts, but we will also have a clearer picture of whether a first-ballot victory is still mathematically possible for Ted Cruz or Donald Trump. By then, just 375 delegates will remain to be determined (from primaries in Oregon, Washington, California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota) with the lion’s share awarded by the June 7 primaries.

Yet those who become Delegate at the state primary will be bound to vote for the statewide winner. Polling has been scarce in Maryland for the GOP, as the last major poll came out a month ago and included Marco Rubio and his 14% of the vote. At that point, Trump led Cruz 34-25, with Kasich at 18. Following the trend, Maryland may be a state where Trump wins with only about 40% of the vote but Cruz picks off a Congressional district or two to gain a few delegates. But The Donald will get the lion’s share as it stands now, meaning some of the alternate delegates could come into play. (If I’m a Cruz backer I’m refusing to vote for Trump.)

So a lot of the interest will come from that demolition derby of a race, which normally draws 20 to 25 names for each. (In 2008, I was one of about 23 who ran and I was second or third from the bottom. Name recognition goes a long, long way in the race.)

But at the Spring Convention we will also be selecting our next National Committeeman and National Committeewoman, who will take office after the November election and help to select the next RNC Chair in January 2017. As a Central Committee member, I have already received a handful of appeals on the races where both incumbents, Louis Pope for the men and Nicolee Ambrose for the women, are running again. Several weeks ago I got the letter from Nicolee that she was running, and I’m unaware of any challengers. Aside from her letter announcing her bid for re-election, my mailboxes have been empty on the race – and that may be a good thing, since Nicolee has been out front with her party-building efforts. Here in Salisbury I’m sure Muir Boda would be in agreement that she deserves support for another term.

On the other hand, today I got my third letter from one of the party’s old guard beseeching me to vote for Louis Pope, who has also sent me a letter asking for support. Apparently he will have an opponent come May 14 so I suspect my mailbox will be full of these appeals from names I know.

Back in 2012 we had that same kind of race for National Committeewoman, with the exception that it was an open seat as incumbent NCW Joyce Terhes decided to retire. The party leadership and “establishment” was backing Audrey Scott, who had ridden in to “rescue” a bankrupt Maryland GOP as Chair in 2009 after former Chair Jim Pelura resigned. Ambrose appealed to a different sector of the party, and the clash between the two came down to a close, emotional vote at the Spring 2012 convention. (Worth noting: Pope was re-elected handily at that same convention over Anne Arundel County Republican Scott Shaffer.) Incumbency seems to have its advantages, but I haven’t received the same outpouring of support from party regulars for Ambrose.

Our representatives on the RNC are just a small part of a 168-member body (three from each state and certain territories) but they also represent us in regional matters as well. Over the last term, Ambrose has taken charge of grassroots organization and GOTV efforts while Pope has portrayed himself as a fundraising expert. Granted, the state GOP (which includes Chair Diana Waterman) has been successful insofar as electing Governor Hogan and increasing the number of Republican elected officials, but perhaps not so much on moving the needle on key issues. (Just as an aside, Waterman’s term will come to an end this fall, meaning we will have a Chair election then. A few years ago we adopted two-year terms for the Chair to match the national Republican Party.) With the national mood registering against establishment candidates of all parties, one has to ask how far the “throw the bums out” mentality will go when it comes to state party affairs.

It should be a fun convention; that is, if fun is defined by being on pins and needles the whole time like I was four years ago when I strongly backed Ambrose. We’ll see what the next few weeks brings.

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