How to lose a Congressional race in one speech
If any post I’ve ever done deserved to be put up on 4/20, it’s this one. But suffice to say there are times when the perfect becomes the enemy of the good, and for Congressional candidate Mike Smigiel that point may have been reached.
On Monday I received a press release from the Smigiel campaign promoting his appearance as a featured speaker at the National Cannabis Festival, an event to be held Saturday in Washington, D.C. Held for the first time this year, the Cannabis Festival promotes itself as:
More than just a festival, NCF is a chance to connect with members of the cannabis community and industry from across the country while enjoying a full day of music, games, delicious food and drink.
In the release, there was a rationale provided for Smigiel’s remarks:
The Maryland 1st District Congressional Race is of national importance and serves as a barometer to gauge the mood of the country regarding removal of barriers for the cannabis industry. (Andy) Harris is seeking re-election in a tough primary that Marylanders will be voting in on April 26th, and Del. Smigiel has released polling that suggests that when voters know of Harris’ votes, including his actions with cannabis prohibition, residents will not vote for Harris at an overwhelming majority. Industry supporters are upset because Congress renewed the prohibition on the District’s government from spending any funds to set up a legal market for marijuana distribution and taxation, a move lead by Congressman Harris. There is a deep seeded negative sentiment against Rep. Harris as he is seen as an exemplification of the worst of big government overreach when he interfered with District voters’ attempt to follow Colorado, Washington State and others in exercising political autonomy with Initiative 71. The initiative appeared on the ballot and was approved by voters, only to have Rep. Harris successfully lead the effort to block the District government’s implementation efforts. Since that time, several unintended consequences have resulted from Rep. Harris’ paternalism.
The District is still unable to tax and or otherwise control the manufacturing and distribution of marijuana thus is losing out on tens of millions of dollars of new tax revenue.
Harris’ vote against the District not only exemplifies the overreach of big government it is also indicative of an arrogance where elected servants of our government presume to have a better understanding of our needs than we, the electorate do. The ramifications are far reaching throughout Maryland’s 1st District as well, affecting opportunities for the development of agricultural crops, business, and also resulted in a boycott of Ocean City, Maryland.
I get all that argument (aside from the state’s rights argument, since the District of Columbia is not a state), but perhaps the weekend before the election is not the best time to be hanging out with a crowd that few in the First District would identify with. Even worse is the idea of promoting recreational drug use (and let’s get real, most of the support for the “cannabis industry” isn’t so we can produce more industrial hemp) at a time when the local headlines often shout about yet another death by drug overdose. Simply put, the optics are really bad on this one. What may grab you another handful of votes among those who are passionate about the issue will turn off a lot of people who are already concerned about the impact of drugs on crime and on society at large.
And in what may be the sharpest 180 degree turn ever in politics, the chances are pretty good (since he appeared at last August’s rendition) that Smigiel will spent at least some of his morning protesting Planned Parenthood in Easton since that event is also Saturday. (Harris may also make an appearance for that same reason.) I don’t think the devout pro-life crowd would much approve of the National Cannabis Festival, and in the case of abortion Harris can claim pro-life groups’ support despite the objections Smigiel puts up.
There is definitely a libertarian streak in me that likes how Smigiel looks at certain issues, and he’s made his campaign into one that is a near-constant diatribe about what he feels is the hypocrisy between Andy Harris the campaigner and speaker and Andy Harris the Washington insider Congressman. A lot of that is legitimate, but the question is just how much of that comes with the territory. Unfortunately, purists seldom make it far in politics, especially on the conservative side.
Yet in making his point about how Harris is not a Tenth Amendment kind of guy, Smigiel is taking the time that I feel would be better served in the district trying to win votes in what’s already an uphill battle. I know Mike’s been working hard for nearly a year to make his case to the people of the First District, but unless there’s a fundraising element involved in his Washington trip (and I highly doubt this) in my opinion it’s an unforced error to spend valuable time just before the primary to tell the cannabis industry how bad Andy Harris is.
Despite what Jim Ireton might believe, the election for the First District seat occurs April 26. If Mike Smgiel loses a close election, I suppose he will have the cold comfort of losing on a particular principle.