Thoughts on 3rd Friday – April 2018 edition

The beauty of having a blog is that I don’t have to be in any hurry to post what, to others, may be old news by now.

Yes, this month’s Third Friday is a hazy weekend past and normally about this time I would be starting my wrapup of the monthly Republican Club meeting. But since I don’t play as much in the political game (and I had a previous commitment anyway) I was someplace else tonight. (Apparently I missed the annual legislative wrapup this evening, but it doesn’t matter because I’m working on the real legislative wrapup called the monoblogue Accountability Project. What do you think I spent a good part of my weekend doing?)

Digression aside, on Friday evening the family and I went downtown for a little while to see what we could see.

Looking west down Main Street as the sun starts to sink on downtown Salisbury.

The parking lots were about full, but it didn’t seem like that translated into a lot of people on Main Street. It was a nice gathering, but I’ve seen wall-to-wall people down there, too.

The wares of Zockoll Pottery.

One business that has seemed to be down there month after month is Zockoll Pottery. Now I’m a little biased because I know Brent through church, but he’s quite the artisan and even tossed a little bit of clay while he was down there. His business is slowly recovering from a fire that damaged his studio around the holidays.

At the top of the Plaza hill looking east down Main Street.

As I strolled up Main Street to the top of the hill, it seemed to me the crowd was a little thinner. Granted, we arrived about 6:30 or so, thus the sun was going down and it was cooling off rapidly. Also, there’s been a bit of a change in the setup where the area that’s being closed off has increased to the first block of Market Street so the focus of Third Friday is geographically shifting a bit to the west.

This is the forgotten corner of Third Friday, down St. Peter Street.

The photo probably doesn’t do this justice, but this is where the bubbles were coming from. Sometimes there’s been a food truck down there but this is also where the Jaycees sell the beer. It’s an unusual setup to have such a large open container section since there are two blocks of space where people may imbibe.

The band of the month was a staple local cover band called Tranzfusion.

The musical choice was one of the more unusual ones – normally they don’t do a straight-ahead classic pop cover band. Normally they choose something in a more alternative or acoustic vein, but these guys kept a decent crowd nearby. Wasn’t completely my thing but that’s quite all right.

Back in the day Third Friday used to be more ambitious with multiple music groups on two or three stages, but in recent years they’ve settled on the single stage of the Plaza for music and maybe some other act (like a youth dance group) on the courthouse steps. One thing that I’m going to be curious about regarding downtown development is whether Third Friday will eventually be relocated to focus the music on the amphitheater that’s under construction – alas, that location doesn’t leave a lot of space for artisans unless they are placed across the river.

Not much was up on North Division Street this particular Third Friday.

The event that would make good sense based around the amphitheater is the “Fridays at Five” event (like the last one from 2017 that I attended in this North Division Street location.) That is a gathering where such a focal point would enhance the event. (The same goes for First Saturday, which I’ve always managed to miss. Half the time it’s held inside anyway.) I think there will be some events held in and around the amphitheater this summer as a dry run for the National Folk Festival.

Suzanah Cain, running for District 4 County Council, was one of several candidates at Third Friday. By the way, she’s not in the photo because she was circulating as a good politician would.

While Third Friday’s physical location lies just outside the district, both County Council District 4 hopefuls were pressing the flesh. I saw Josh Hastings out walking around, while I got to at least introduce myself to Suzanah Cain before I left. At the time she was standing with the guy in the ultimate catbird seat, Delegate Carl Anderton. (The third in the confab was one of my favorite Democrats, Sarah Meyers – so it was a reach across the aisle.) Also making his rounds was Clerk of Courts candidate Bo McAllster, who I saw for the second time in less than a week. He had his wife and two kids in tow.

One place I didn’t stop by and say hello was the Republican Women’s booth. (Honestly, I’m not sure which of the two local groups was there. I’m sure someone reading this would tell me and break my you-know-whats for not dropping in.) But this was while I was still walking with Kim – shortly after she stopped and I kept going until I got to the band – only to turn around and see she was talking to Carl Anderton, who I had seen a couple minutes earlier and said hello to walking by. (Turnabout is fair play, I suppose.)

Anyway, we checked out the scene and departed as things were already breaking down about a half-hour before the scheduled (but informal) 8:00 close of festivities. Seeing them bail early was the second part of the foundation of my theory that the crowd was less.

A final thought: in years past this particular Third Friday date would have been a lead in for Pork in the Park. But for just the second time in over a dozen years, there was no Pork in the Park in April. (In 2014 it was held in May because it would have fallen on Easter weekend.) A few months back Wicomico County finally decided to pull the plug on that event to concentrate on the WIcomico County Fair, which is held in the same location.

You could couple that somewhat official excuse with the cyclical nature of food-related events. Even the venerable old Delmarva Chicken Festival that had dated from the 1940s ran out of time a few years ago and was – ironically – folded into the former Wicomico Farm and Home Show and rebranded as our county fair in 2015. It’s sad because Pork in the Park was one of my favorite weekends of the year until they ruined it by being greedy. That began in 2012, which was the year they alienated half their food vendors, and then a couple years later Pork in the Park doubled down by charging a hefty admission fee. Anyway, to get a “do you remember when” back when Pork in the Park was a premier event, here is a nice walk around video from 2012 with a cameo from Jonathan Taylor of Lower Eastern Shore News – watch from the beginning and you’ll see him.) After those spectacular failures and the loss of the KCBS competition, it was never the same. Even worse, the event that succeeded it with KCBS (Pig and a Jig, down in Snow Hill) also seems to be no more.

But the demise of Pork in the Park and the former Salisbury Festival a few years apart means that two staple events of the so-called spring shoulder season are no more. The Wicomico County Fair is held in the traditional late-summer slot one would associate with a county fair, while the Salisbury Festival is being rebranded as the Downtown Salisbury Festival and they will try it in early June, when the june bugs are in OC.

With those cautionary tales in mind, we will see how Third Friday fares as the years go on. Has it reached its peak like all these other events did?

Democrat gubernatorial hopefuls invade Salisbury

There are eight candidates on the Democrat side of the ballot hoping to be the challenger to current GOP Governor Larry Hogan. On a gorgeous, almost summer-like day on the Eastern Shore, only four of them could be bothered to come to Salisbury University to address their would-be primary electorate.

Originally that was supposed to be five of the eight, though.

An empty table...sort of like their bag of new ideas.

The lineup as originally intended: Alec Ross, Krish Vignarajah, Rushern Baker, Jim Shea, and Richard Madaleno.

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker was slated to be there, but informed the event organizers 15 minutes beforehand that he had an “emergency” and could not appear. According to his Twitter feed, he had begun the day campaigning in Baltimore City but the trail grows cold afterward. Yesterday evening there were Tweets and social media posts touting his previous endorsement by Congressman Steny Hoyer (who represents a portion of his county) and a piece touting his partnership for STEM training, but no mention of the forum or an apology for missing it. A Democrat friend of mine remarked afterward that “I know quite a few people who were definitely upset and said they wouldn’t vote for him now even if they had considered him before.” Unfortunately, that left us with a group of what would be defined as “second-tier” candidates who are polling in low single digits – combined they’re not Baker’s equal polling-wise.

On top of that, State Senator Richard Madaleno was a few minutes late, missing the opening statement but being allowed to make up for it when he answered his first question. Apparently there was an accident on the Bay Bridge, which was the topic of a subsequent question.

So the order was set, and placeholders were rearranged. This photo was taken once Madaleno arrived.

State Senator Richard Madaleno (right) answers a question as moderator Don Rush of Delmarva Public Radio (far left), Alec Ross (second from left), Krish Vignarajah (center), and Jim Shea (second from right) look on.

The Wicomico County Democratic Central Committee co-sponsored the event with the Salisbury University College Democrats, and aside from the horribly uncomfortable chairs we were forced to sit in for two hours the event was well-conducted for the 100 or so in attendance on this beautiful afternoon. I learned that a group of liberal Democrats can sit and listen attentively, so now I expect that same behavior at the next Andy Harris town hall that I attend. Moderator Don Rush instructed the audience early on to keep their reactions to themselves, and they complied.

I debated whether I wanted to handle this by candidate or by question, and decided that keeping the candidates’ answers together for each question would present a better, more comparative format. But first I wanted to mention something that was said by WCDCC chair Mark L. Bowen. (Just to be clear, this Mark Bowen is not Mark S. Bowen, the current Democrat Clerk of the Court for Wicomico County.) Bowen assured the gathering that “our work is being done for us…all we have to do is close the deal.” He was also the one who informed us that Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and former NAACP head Ben Jealous were absent due to “previous commitments.” (That would be their personally lobbying the state’s teacher’s union, which endorsed Jealous yesterday at their meeting. Perhaps endorsing Kamemetz or Baker would have been problematic for the teachers given educational scandals in their respective counties.)

So after an opening statement, the four remaining candidates answered questions on these topics:

  • New “economic engines” for the Eastern Shore
  • Balancing the interests of agriculture and environmentalists
  • Offshore wind energy development
  • How they would assist watermen and the Bay
  • Transportation priorities for our area
  • A new Bay Bridge
  • Their focus on education
  • Health care – a single-payer system?
  • Redistricting

But I want to begin with separate categorizations of their opening statements, and I’ll proceed in the order that they spoke. This means Alec Ross goes first and Richard Madaleno goes not at all because he was tardy.

You may recall that I spent a few minutes speaking to Alec at the Tawes event last year, when he informed me that he had a rather unique view on education for a Democrat, since he focused more on vocational education than college readiness. Obviously coming over here is something he cherishes, as he recalled childhood vacations spent in Ocean City and told the crowd his blood pressure comes down when he crosses the Bay Bridge as part of his opening statement.

His main point, though, was that “talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not.” And while “we are bringing new faces and new ideas to the Democratic Party,” Ross noted their voter registration numbers are trending downward.

I could have spent a couple minutes speaking to Krish Vignarajah, but I didn’t realize she was one of those waiting with me on the elevator to arrive. With her husband in tow and a young child, she could have been an interested observer. (She was also somewhat casually dressed.)

Krish came to America as a infant, emigrating from Sri Lanka with her parents. (A few years later, Sri Lanka would be embroiled in a civil war, so tensions were rising at the time.) She also painted a gloomy picture of Maryland, telling the audience that “opportunities are declining” but she would be “Larry Hogan’s worst nightmare” as a candidate. “We need to give people a reason to vote,” she exhorted.

Jim Shea used the Bay Bridge as an example of how infrastructure could help the economy. He was running to “invest in Maryland,” with a focus on three areas: education, transportation, and infrastructure.

Leading off the questioning was one about new economic engines for the Eastern Shore. All of them agreed agriculture was going to remain the primary driver, but they also wanted to add green energy to the mix in various ways.

For Vignarajah, the object wasn’t to attack “Big Chicken” but to address its environmental issues through research. She also touted the idea of tourism, both as part of an “outdoor economy” and “heritage tourism.” Shea stressed his belief that we need to bring the two sides of farmer and environmentalist together. Corporations want a good environment, too, he said, but “we need clarity on the regulations.” Jim also believed that we needed to grow our own businesses and not work as much at attracting those from other states.

Madaleno, after giving a brief introduction, talked about keeping agriculture sustainable, both environmentally and economically, but also brought up the idea of “eds and beds” – our educational institutions and tourism industry. Richard also pointed out the impact from Wallops Island and its space industry. He had one other point, but he joked that “I feel like the Secretary of Energy” because he couldn’t recall it. Later, he said Shea reminded him it was offshore wind – it was a byproduct of seeing each other so much and knowing their talking points, as Shea mentioned later: “(Madaleno) did the same thing for me at another forum.”

Perhaps Alec’s drop in blood pressure stemmed from the produce he’s purchased at an Eastern Shore roadside market. As the produce was bigger and better than ever at his last stop, Ross asked how they did it. “Precision agriculture,” the stand owner beamed. Agriculture in the state needs to continue to evolve, he added, the combination of analytics and agriculture would allow that to happen. And to help small farmers, Ross was proposing a billion-dollar investment in a “green bank” model – a model already in place in New York and Massachusetts. (In looking this up, perhaps Ross misspoke: I found programs in place in New York and Connecticut as a way to promote “clean energy.” What Ross proposes may have a slightly different focus.)

So how do you balance agriculture and the environment? Would you add restrictions to the poultry industry?

Madaleno, Shea, and Vignarajah all touted the Community Healthy Air Act, a measure Madaleno sponsored during the last General Assembly session, and one that Shea said “made sense.” (It did not get beyond the hearing stage.) Alec and Krish also brought up the Phosphorus Management Tool, with Krish calling it a “win-win.” She also proposed to “empower” farmers with a Farmers Rights Act.

Ross wanted all sides to play by the same rules as well, saying that neither side thinks they are lying when it comes to the facts.

Needless to say, all of them were supportive of wind energy development. Madaleno said they “will make a lot of sense,” believing the won’t impact the viewshed and be the basis for job growth. They can “drive the economy ahead,” added Shea; however, he was concerned that there was no way to store their energy. We need to invest in that technology, he added.

Ross and Vignarajah were just as aggressive, with Alec comparing areas that don’t “embrace the future” through wind to the coal country he grew up in and assuring us that windmills would not keep them from the beaches. Vignarajah promised 2,000 megawatts of wind power in her first term and chided Larry Hogan for not being proactive. We are exporting our dollars and importing their pollution, she said regarding the current situation.

This question also provided a couple of shout outs: Madaleno praised fellow Senator Jim Mathias: “No one fights harder for the Eastern Shore – I have some of the scars.” Alec Ross said of Salisbury mayor Jake Day. “I like the work (he) is doing as mayor.”

When it comes to watermen and the Bay, the answers were again rather similar because they focused more on the Bay, with some expressing the recovery of the oyster population as one positive development. It’s a “win-win” to support the oyster industry, said Vignarajah, but don’t forget the tributaries to the Bay like the Choptank, Potomac, and so forth. Shea warned that it’s “too soon” to harvest oysters as watermen are pleading with Governor Hogan to allow.

Madaleno, though, expressed the opinion that the Bay’s recovery was evidence that “government can do and does good things.” And while he joked that being a member of the General Assembly meant he had to become an expert in crabs, oysters, and chicken, he added that cleaning the Bay has to be a multi-state effort. Richard also pledged to give waterman “a voice at the table.”

And while Ross would do “whatever it takes” to accomplish this difficult and expensive work, he spent part of his time noting that “when you drive into Maryland, you should be entering The Resistance.” Chiding the “abhorrent” leadership at the EPA, he wanted a set-aside to sustain watermen. Shea temed a similar concept as an “investment” in the needed vocational training for the “social costs of our advancement.” On the other hand, Vignarajah expressed the “unpopular” view of crediting Larry Hogan with trying to protect Chesapeake Bay funding.

As far as transportation priorities for our rural areas are concerned, there was no real shock in their answers. Krish led off by saying “let us try to be innovative,” making the investment in our economy of extending the MARC system to Salisbury and Ocean City as “an attraction” to provide “more mobility.” Jim Shea agreed that the Eastern Shore has a lack of mass transit.

Madaleno and Ross blasted Larry Hogan’s transportation plan, with Ross calling it “a press release” and “not realistic” because it mainly focuses on DC and Baltimore. Hogan was “one of the luckiest politicians around,” said Madaleno, who noted that the Purple Line was “placed on a credit card” while the gas tax Hogan criticized was now being used for highway widening. Richard would invest in “smart mass transit,” meaning on demand.

Shea was more realistic, calling transportation “anathema” for career politicians because projects take so long. He termed the high-speed rail project backed by Hogan “pie in the sky” and would vet his plan with citizens around the state.

Most telling to me was part of Alec’s answer, where he called widening U.S. 50 “looking backward” and mass transit “looking forward.” So I wasn’t shocked by their answers to the next question, about a third Bay Bridge.

At least Jim Shea was honest enough to answer “I don’t know what the correct answer is.” (Hint: look at how close Dorchester and Calvert counties are.) His bigger issue was funding education. Madaleno was more worried about whether the current bridges survive, as the Hogan toll reductions “restrict the decision” on these bridges, which Madaleno would replace there.

Alec and Krish were even more blunt. “People need investments in them,” said Ross. High-speed connectivity and schools were a higher priority in his eyes, with another Bay span “way down the queue.” Vignarajah echoed the sentiment: “A lot of priorities are ahead in the queue” over the Bay Bridge, adding “we have a 1950s budget in many respects.” She would spend money on universal broadband, too, noting 1 in 12 Maryland residents don’t have high-speed internet access.

Since it had been hinted around at, the focus shifted to education. Education “will be the centerpiece of (a Madaleno) administration,” said Rich, and “this is why (Ross) is running for governor,” he said, but all of them were ready to give free stuff out: universal pre-K and community college were most mentioned.

Madaleno touted his membership on the Kirwan Commission, while Krish advocated for a “cradle to career” educational policy, including “hot and healthy meals.” Shea’s “bold and comprehensive” plan (which he mentioned was there in full on his website) included as well what he called “wrap-around services” and “funding solutions.”

One thing I did like about Alec was his advocacy for vocational education, rather than the “terribly elitist” idea all kids have to go to college. He promoted an online academy to assist rural students in receiving services not otherwise available to them and advocates for universal computer science education.

We also waited until nearly the end to learn about their proposals for health care, and whether it included single-payer?

Of course it does, but not everyone is as honest as Jim Shea, who, while he told the audience that “a single-payer system is something we will eventually move to,” it wasn’t practical for a single state to adopt. That push had to be at a federal level, but we could control costs locally through a collaborative approach.

Otherwise, it seemed the consensus was that Obamacare was just a start, or a “strong start” in the words of Vignarajah. For her, “health care is a basic human right” and she advocated for a public option to lead to single-payer. Madaleno insisted that Obamacare “has worked to reduce costs” and brought Maryland down to 6% uninsured. He warned the gathering to not fall for the “trumped-up theory” that the ACA has failed. The fight was against insurers and Big Pharma to cut costs. (This also gave Madaleno a chance for a second Mathias shout-out: he was a “hero” as a voice for rural health care.)

Alec called on us to “resist the evil that is coming out of Donald Trump’s Washington.” While he admitted that “we have to continue to play defense,” he gave an example of something he would do differently: because of the waiver system Maryland was benefiting from, Medicare for All wasn’t possible – but Medicaid for All as a public option was.

I was honestly surprised by the final question, which had to do with redistricting. Had there been five participants, the health care question would have likely been last.

Only the American system allows for politicians to pick their voters, said Krish, but it was a “problematic” issue that had to be addressed at a national level. Shea disagreed, saying that while gerrymandering had polarized us, it wasn’t a federal problem – but the solution wasn’t (as he called it) “unilateral disarmament” here in Maryland. It needs to be “fair and smart,” Jim added, but he warned there’s no such thing as a non-partisan group.

Madaleno admitted that the gerrymandering “got out of hand” during the O’Malley administration (but failed to mention his lack of objection at the time.) Going with the theme that “the Koch brothers have bought the Congress they wanted,” Rich wanted to reform as part of a multi-state compact.

Alec saw the issue as part of the “damage to democracy,” which has led to both far-right and far-left factions in Congress. “We need representatives to engage with everyone in the district,” he said.

It should be noted that Vignarajah used part of her answer time to express her disappointment that no question was asked on opioids. “We need action” on both the over-prescription and treatment aspects of that problem.

In conclusion, Jim Shea said Democrats needed to unite as a party. “We’re going to pull together because we are a great party and take the governor’s seat back.”

Richard Madaleno contended that the GOP of Donald Trump is “in the process of imploding.” Yet since there will be gridlock in Washington, it make the governors more important, and Maryland has one of the most powerful chief executives in the nation. “It matters who the governor of Maryland is,” he continued, and “this is the time to have serious experience in office.” That was a nod to his years in the General Assembly, but his goal was to “move the state in a progressive way.”

Alec Ross told the local Democrats that it’s “more about ‘we’ than ‘me,’ but disagreed with Madeleno on one point: the GOP is not coming apart. “We’ve got to work for it,” he said. He also promised “no one will be more anti-Trump than me,” but warned the group they “can’t just resist,” they have to have an “aspirational agenda.” It was time for new faces and new ideas to come forward., Ross concluded.

“How do we beat Larry Hogan?” asked Krish Vignarajah. “No man can beat Larry Hogan, they say. Well…?” While Hogan “fakes left and moves right,” Vignarajah pointed out that 61% of those who toppled incumbent Republicans in this cycle were women. She pledged a “fiscally responsible. socially progressive” administration.

I’ve noted above that Jim Mathias was in the building, but there were a handful of other Democrats seeking local and state office there: Michael Pullen for Congress (who sat two seats away from me and never said a word), Holly Wright for Senate District 37 (who did introduce herself to me), Delegate 38A candidate Kirkland Hall, and county-level candidates Bill McCain (County Council) and Bo McAllister, who I had spoken to at last fall’s Good Beer Festival. (You would have known that had my old cell phone not crapped out the next day, before I could write the post.)

They did their thing and I did mine, but mine is done.

When we really determine winners and losers…

I’ve noticed a few articles the last couple days that expound on the topic of winners and losers from the recently-completed General Assembly session. That’s good fodder for punditry and blogs, but the real winners and losers are going to be determined in a little less than seven months.

The vast majority of General Assembly members are seeking re-election, although a select few are trying for a different office. (Among them is Delegate Mary Beth Carozza, who’s seeking the upgrade to the Maryland Senate.) But the more important election on a state level is that of Governor Larry Hogan. If Hogan wins, he not only becomes the first Republican to be re-elected as governor in 64 years but he also gets to draw the legislative lines for the 2022 election. (The Census won’t be completed in time to rework 2020 Congressional districts because the primary will be in the early spring with the Presidential primary.)

Since it’s not likely the Supreme Court is going to declare the state of Maryland has to completely redraw their districts – the Pennsylvania example came from a state court which is split 5-2 in favor of Democrats, meaning a similar decision wouldn’t be forthcoming from Maryland given the gerrymander favors Democrats and most of the seven-member court was appointed by a Democrat governor – that’s the top prize for which Republicans are shooting.

So the eventual success or failure of this particular legislative session is going to be measured by whether Larry Hogan will stay in office. Certainly it would be helpful for him to have enough legislators in one of the two General Assembly bodies to sustain his vetoes, but half the time he has the votes to sustain and chooses to let the law go by anyway not signing it or pulling out his veto pen.

In turn, the key to the 2018 election is reflected in something I wrote in the wake of the 2014 balloting:

But as it happens, turnout is going to be about 46%, which is a significant decline from the 54% posted in 2010. If the Democratic turnout followed that pattern it was about 10% less than I figured it would be, and those that were passionate enough to show up may likely have cast a number of votes for the GOP.

Simply put, the Democratic base didn’t show up. Whether it was disillusionment with the candidates or just a general apathy, it looks like the GOP filled the void, to the benefit of the state.

As of the end of March there were over 2.1 million registered Democrats in the state of Maryland, so even a 5% increase in turnout and voting for the Democrat nominee will swamp Hogan’s 2014 margin of victory. To counter any increase in Democrat turnout, Republican turnout has to increase twice as much, so a 5% increase in Democrat turnout means 10% more Republicans have to show up. Unfortunately, this election is coming at a time when the GOP is disillusioned at both a state and national level, and for many of the same reasons: overspending, a lack of progress on promised or desired action items, and the perception that the Republicans are no better or different than the Democrats. In the case of the latter, the worry is that conservatives who are upset at Hogan for a lack of progress on upholding our Second Amendment rights or his betrayal of those in Western Maryland by enacting the fracking ban will erode his support base. (This doesn’t include the people mad at him for not supporting Donald Trump.)

Hogan won in 2014 with numbers that bordered on the absurd in some counties, piling up over 80% of the vote in a few select jurisdictions. But if he’s alienated supporters to the point where those low 80s become low 70s and a county like Wicomico comes back with a percentage in the mid-50s, well, the game is up. When it became apparent that Bob Ehrlich was going to come in at 55% in Wicomico County I knew he was toast, and the same goes for Hogan. That, in turn, will make it tough on downballot races, too.

While the legislative session came to a screeching halt April 9, the real winners and losers are determined November 6.

A look at our federal races

Finishing my book draft has opened up my calendar just in time for the local political races to begin heating up. If you consider the June 26 primary as the “November” of this particular campaign, that means we are at about the mid-August of the race. But I’m already seeing the yard signs pop up for some of the local contests, so I decided over the last couple days to take a pretty comprehensive look at our two federal races: the battle for Maryland’s U.S. Senate seat and our local First District Congressional contest.

On the Senate side, thus far most of the news has come from the entry of the former PFC Bradley Manning, who has transitioned in identity to the female Chelsea Manning. (Never mind he was convicted of espionage and released just a few years into a 35-year sentence, much of it spent in the process of indulging a case of gender dysphoria.) Aside from he/she/it, there are the usual complement of perennial candidates and those who decided their first try for office would be for a statewide post. There are a total of eight Democrats on the ballot, but the prohibitive favorite among them is incumbent Senator Ben Cardin. The primary field looks similar to that in 2012 when Cardin last ran, with Manning probably getting about the same share (15%) as the doomed Senatorial campaign of current State Senator C. Anthony Muse while Cardin should retain his 75% or so. (Because it’s a state election year, you don’t have the opportunity for some officeholders to “run from cover” for a higher office – they forfeit the one they have to run. However, in the Sixth Congressional District, which is an open seat due to the departure of John Delaney for a quixotic Presidential bid, there are a couple of current state officeholders vying for the opening.)

Since I’m not voting on the Democrat side, though, my interest in this case is the GOP battle. As usual, there are a number of prospective candidates on the ballot: 2018 brought 11 aspirants to the fore, many of whom have played this game multiple times. For example, in 2016 Chris Chaffee was the (distant) runner-up to GOP Senate nominee Kathy Szeliga, John Graziani was 8th in the 14-person field, and Blaine Taylor was 9th – out of 10 Democrats. (Maybe he’s a Trump Republican now?) Brian Vaeth previously ran for Senate in 2012 as well. (It’s possible he may have suspended his 2018 run, anyway.) Chaffee was a definite surprise given that he was never polled into the 2016 Senate race, but he beat more established candidates such as Richard Douglas and Chrys Kefalas.

Considering the incumbent Senator is well-funded, I thought the best place to begin culling the field was to see who had actually set up an FEC account, which is a must for candidates who want to fundraise beyond a certain point. (Despite the fantasy some have of running a completely grassroots effort to win a statewide office, that’s not happening.) It turns out the only one to actually have a report is Charles “Sam” Faddis, who decided not to follow through and file this time around. (Faddis was an unsuccessful Congressional challenger to Steny Hoyer a few years ago.) But four in the field have established FEC accounts earlier this year so their first quarterly report just came due: Chaffee, Tony Campbell, Christina Grigorian, and Albert Binyahmin Howard.

Out of that quartet, I’ve already discounted the chances of Chaffee and Howard. Why?

Well, if you look at Chaffee’s website, you’ll see that it’s a poorly-written one. Granted, we have a President who mangles the English language on a regular basis, but one thing that I’ve come to believe is that a good-looking website conveys a good impression. And it’s difficult to get past the generalities and platitudes that stand in for his issue positions. He would really have to sell me in a debate to have a chance at getting my vote, which is discouraging because I suspect he is rather conservative. Honestly, I think his second-place finish last time was by virtue of being first on the ballot since few people knew the players aside from Kathy Szeliga. Chaffee won’t have that leg up this time because Tony Campbell is listed first.

Even worse is the website for Howard, whose chief claim to fame seems to be that of being the founder of Hebrews for Trump. Okay, then.

So I’m down as of now to Campbell and Grigorian. Ladies first.

Christina has started off on the wrong foot with me in two respects: number one, her website is nice but insofar as issues go I see nothing but general platitudes of being an advocate for the state and assisting Governor Hogan in his efforts. Yet to be a Senator from Maryland in this current political reality is to be (hopefully) fortunate enough to take office as Hogan begins his second term because in order to save America the state of Maryland has to endure a world of hurt for a few years, and the GOP is going to take the blame to a point where 2022 local elections would be a bloodbath. This is because the state has foolishly put most of its economic and job creation eggs in the basket of an ever-expanding federal government when the real solution is rightsizing our federal bureaucracy to the extent it’s allowed to be by the Constitution. Hogan is best-equipped to solve that problem as a more or less business-friendly governor, albeit one who gets it seriously wrong on some good job-creation issues like fracking in Western Maryland.

My other issue with Grigorian is making her first issue-oriented video one of celebrating International Women’s Day as well as making the point Maryland has no female representation in Congress. Okay, I’m going to admit I’m a little biased on this, but making a case about being a female candidate is a little Hillary-esque. Maryland had a female Senator for three decades and all it did was set the country back a little bit. Certainly I know of a good share of women who would make great Senators or members of Congress, but the reason they would be so is because they don’t base their politics on their gender.

Grigorian is so far to me coming off as a moderate, based on her bland answers to key issues. We really don’t need a woman in the Senate if she’s a clone of Lisa Murkowski or Susan Collins, the bottom two Republicans as graded by Heritage Action. (A third woman, Shelley Capito, is in the bottom 5 – none of the five female GOP Senators are in their top ten.) She has a lot to sell me on, too.

What I will say about Tony Campbell is that he has manned up and apologized for a couple past mistakes, the chief one being part of Republicans for Obama. Tony’s not going to make me jump up and down in supporting him, but based on what I’ve learned about his positions I’m leaning his way. I think with a little bit of work he could be an effective, relatively conservative Senator. But he has to win first.

Now I’ll sharpen the focus a little bit to the First District race. You know, they keep talking on the Left about “flipping the First” but to do so would take the right candidate and electorate. Unfortunately for the Democrats, the right candidate for the job is the only one who hasn’t filed FEC paperwork and that would be “conservative Democrat” Erik Lane. (Even so, the “right electorate” went away when Martin O’Malley submitted his Congressional plan in 2011. That made the First a highly Republican district that even Donald Trump – he of the 34% statewide vote – won handily.) As for the rest, I tend to believe the “establishment” Democrats and media (but I repeat myself) would prefer to see Jesse Colvin win because that would immediately be portrayed as our version of the Conor Lamb race in Pennsylvania. (He has the most campaign cash to spend, too.) Perhaps their second choice would be Allison Galbraith, who is a single mom and rather spunky both in person and online – I know because I’ve sparred with her on several occasions.

But you also have the Eastern Shore factor, and two candidates hail from our side of the Bay – Michael Brown and Michael Pullen. So parochial voters may opt to elect them, too.

And then you have Andy Harris, who hasn’t had a primary where he’s unopposed since 2012. Then again, since first being nominated in 2008 in a surprise upset of longtime erstwhile moderate GOP Congressman Wayne Gilchrest (who will likely continue his semi-annual biennial tradition of endorsing the Democrat in the race) Harris has dispatched primary foes like King Kong swatting away airplanes while perched on a skyscraper: 68% against Rob Fisher in 2010, 78% against Jonathan Goff, Jr. in 2014, and the same 78% against a tag team of Goff, Sean Jackson, and former Delegate Michael Smigiel in 2016. Martin Elborn and Lamont Taylor may be nice guys, but they probably won’t do any better – nor should they. It would be the Democrats’ dream if one of these two somehow won the primary because they aren’t coming across to me as very serious candidates. That would be about the only way the Democrats could level the field in this district.

I’ve liked Andy Harris as a legislator since his days in the Maryland General Assembly – Andy was, for several years until 2016, the only Maryland legislator to achieve a perfect session score on the monoblogue Accountability Project., Admittedly, there have been a couple times I didn’t vote for him: come on, when your Libertarian friend is running for Congress, how can you not vote for him when you know the district is safely Republican? And I liked the last guy the LP had (Matt Beers), too – he was ready to shrink government more than Andy would, and that’s saying something.

But this year’s Libertarian model seems to be the left-libertarian type, so there’s no excuse for me not to vote to retain Andy Harris for another term in both the primary and general elections. It makes the town hall meetings that much more entertaining.

I really don’t need to go over the state races in much detail because all three GOP nominees are set; meanwhile, the only suspense on the Democrat side is whether Tweedledum x 5 or Tweedledee x 4 will win the nod for Governor. The early polling favorite is PG County Executive Rushern Baker. In fact, my ballot on the GOP side is very boring – I have no State Senator, Delegate, or county race to vote in except for the downballot Clerk of the Court and Central Committee races. So this is probably all the analysis you get.

But I’ll keep an eye on it nonetheless in case I’m moved to say more.

A farmer’s lament

April 2, 2018 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on A farmer’s lament 

In the interest of total and full disclosure, I’m not a farmer. In fact, I’m probably as far from a green thumb as they come – usually any gardening efforts of mine are so paltry that even the rabbits turn up their wrinkly noses and pass on by.

But one blessing I did enjoy was growing up in farm country, where the blue FFA jackets emblazoned with “Ohio/Evergreen” were worn just as proudly as the green-and-gold varsity jackets our school athletes wore. Most of those FFA members came by it honestly as their parents were but the latest generation of farmers in their families, and they surely had the support of a number of local businesses as well.

So to read an article like this was bad enough, but then it reminded me of a related local story from a few weeks ago. I knew the late patriarch of that farm from serving with him on our Republican Central Committee from 2006-14, finally retiring in his nineties. (Blan Harcum Sr. passed away in 2016.) Like the farms in the Michigan story, his is being squeezed by low dairy prices and mounting debt.

Dairy farming is sort of an odd pastime here. Although there is a minor resurgence here in the dairy industry thanks to a handful of local ice cream makers, only one that I’m aware of uses local cows (and they host those cows on their own farm.) Instead, most of the agricultural production locally is intended for one purpose: feeding chickens. Most area farmers had a good thing going for awhile: send their corn or soybeans to the local poultry grower and use the end result of those chickens being fed as fertilizer. It’s a rite of spring; one that I call “smells like Delaware.” But in the past decade or so local regulation has curtailed that particular usage of poultry by-products – our state pays cash money to truck poop someplace else. Farmers, though, still get the blame for what often is an urban-based problem of excess nitrogen in the Chesapeake Bay.

But in a nation where a significant percentage of the corn crop is devoted to fueling our cars and not feeding our (rapidly expanding) waistlines, there are some good ideas that get past the inefficient, one-size-fits-all solutions the current market encourages with subsidies and government cheese. People often complain about the farm price supports, but I suppose that’s what keeps the price of groceries down. On the other hand, though, we make it difficult for those who want to try a different way to succeed – just try buying unpasteurized whole milk, for example.

A few weeks ago I heard another idea: since local brewers often have a hard time securing the varieties of hops they desire, would that be something that could be accomplished locally? The question is a good one, but most domestic hop growing is concentrated in the Pacific Northwest. Historically, I found it occurred in states like New York and Massachusetts and that leads me to believe that a cooler climate is desirable. (If you look at it from a state standpoint, though, it may work on the other side of Maryland.) Then again, people may think of a place like California to grow grapes for wine but we have shown it can be done locally.

The question should become one of how to allow the most market flexibility, while encouraging innovation. Farmer’s markets are nice, but that’s still rather inefficient – just like when we get some extra zucchini from our friend, too often what we get goes to waste. I’m not sure the system we have is the system we need, and that lament made me stop and ponder enough to write this.

The state of the ballot

March 24, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Personal stuff, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The state of the ballot 

Is it just me or is the 2018 primary season just not that exciting?

The reasons it could be just me are both an accident of geography and the fact that something is missing. Since we moved again last year, I’ve returned to County Council District 5. If you are a voter there of either principal party, you have very little to choose from on a district level: we have one Republican running for County Council (incumbent Joe Holloway, seeking a fourth term) and one person for school board (incumbent John Palmer, who we Republicans appointed a few years back. Bear in mind school board is non-partisan.) The poor Democrats in my district don’t even have a candidate.

In fact, unless you live in County Council District 1 and are a Democrat, there’s no need for a primary to whittle the field for County Council. Both parties found the requisite two candidates for the at-large seats, and all district incumbents who chose to run (John Hall of District 4 did not) except Ernie Davis in District 1 are unopposed for their spots. The Democrat primary in District 1 decides the seat, since no Republicans ran there.

That District 1 race will be interesting as it features three familiar names. Marvin Ames ran for the seat last time around and was third in a three-person field. More than likely that will be his fate yet again as he takes on the incumbent Davis and the former Salisbury City Council member Shanie Shields, whose district there overlaps to a great extent with the County Council District 1 boundaries.

Council Districts 1 and 4 have the best school board races as well, as there are three contenders for that position. To be perfectly honest, I don’t know if there’s a primary runoff for the position to whittle three candidates down to two or if it’s left to voters in November. I think the latter course of action is more prudent, particularly since more unaffiliated voters would be involved in a non-partisan race. There are four vying for the two at-large spots, which would reflect the County Council at-large race – so it’s likely that’s how a primary would proceed. Having an elected school board is a new process, so there’s no experience to back it up.

I mentioned earlier that something’s missing: well, that would be me. The ballot looks strange without my name on it for the first time in twelve years. But they found – for the third cycle in a row – thirteen Republicans to run for nine spots on their Central Committee, and the Democrats (who are showing their segregationist roots) feature the same number but split among five women and eight men for four spots apiece. (If you are keeping score, Republicans have four women in their thirteen-candidate field, the most in recent history. When I was first elected in 2006, we had none.)

I can’t speak for the Democrats, but the GOP Central Committee is assured of some significant turnover. Only four of the nine elected four years ago are seeking another term, as is appointed incumbent Nate Sansom – a.k.a. the guy who I recommended for the job when I left. If just one of them loses the WCRCC will be a majority of “new” people, although most have been involved with the party for several years beforehand. It also means I’ll cast multiple votes for the position for the first time – nothing against my peers, but in a race such as that you better believe I bullet-voted just for myself. This time I may cast a half-dozen or more as a sort of referendum on job performance.

Now I haven’t even discussed some of the bigger, statewide races. That boring primary in my County Council district extends to those who happen to reside in the state District 38B end of it, where Carl Anderton will be elected by acclamation. Those Democrats still have nothing to do in the adjacent District 38C (which overlaps into that Council district) because none ran there – my Republican fellows, on the other hand, have a great four-person race to attend to. On the other side of the county, District 37B Republican voters have a four-person race they get to whittle down to two, and Democrats in District 37A pit the incumbent Sheree Sample-Hughes against fellow Democrat Charles Cephas. (There’s also a Republican in the race for the first time in eight years.) Meanwhile, on a State Senate level, the fields are already set.

For all their bluster, Republicans who were upset with Larry Hogan as governor couldn’t put their money where their mouth was and find a primary opponent (like Brian Murphy in 2010 against Bob Ehrlich.) At least there are GOP candidates for the other two statewide slots, so neither Peter Franchot nor Brian Frosh get a free pass.

As for Democrats in the governor’s race, having a governor who governs from the center means they are positioning themselves just as far-Bernie Sanders-left as they can go. I don’t think there’s a conservative atom in their collective bodies, although to be fair I don’t know all of their positions. If they have any conservative ideas, they hide them well.

It’s also interesting how many Democrats signed up for the “I’m the insurance policy in case Ben Cardin crumples over from a coronary” part of the ballot. (Based on name recognition, the winner in that case could be Chelsea Manning, the artist formerly known as Bradley.) There are eleven Republicans in that race as well although none of them have thrilled me yet to put my support behind them like a Jim Rutledge, Dan Bongino, or Richard Douglas did. And considering none of these eleven had a current FEC account, voting for one may be an exercise in futility – in their defense, though, the FEC only reports quarterly so this doesn’t yet reflect 2018 results.

So pardon me if I have to suppress a collective yawn for this election, particularly given the tendency for both parties to govern in a manner that’s reminiscent of two teenagers fighting over who’s going to go out and wreck Dad’s car. They may not know the result at the time, but that’s what’s going to happen if they win.

The deal with ‘misinformation’

Over the last week or so we’ve been treated to some of the most furious backpedaling we’ve ever seen. I don’t know if it’s the same elsewhere in the state, but the Eastern Shore delegation has been taking an earful from constituents about a bill with the innocuous title “Public Safety – Extreme Risk Prevention Orders.” But that’s not the bill’s original title: as first introduced it was “Seizure of Lethal Weapons – Lethal Violence Protective Order.” Unfortunately, the bill still deals with seizure and arguably does little to promote the safety of the public.

Arguing there “has been some misinformation” about this bill, three members of our local delegation (Chris Adams, Carl Anderton, and Mary Beth Carozza) issued a joint statement vowing that if certain defects aren’t fixed, they won’t back the bill when it comes back from the Senate. Of course, that makes the assumption that the majority in the Senate won’t just pass this unmolested and dare Governor Hogan to veto a bill many in his party detest. (Hint: he won’t. It may not be graced with his signature, but he won’t veto it.)

We’ll come back to Hogan in a moment, but in the last few days since the vote we have heard many excuses from the GOP, most of whom voted for the bill. It doesn’t take the cake of Delegate Barrie Ciliberti co-sponsoring the bill then changing his vote to be against it (unless that change is made for some arcane parliamentary maneuver) but much of the blame has come from being “misinformed” or being “led to believe” Second Amendment groups were behind this. There is an argument to be made that there is so much information being thrown at these elected officials (with this year’s docket exceeding 3,000 bills to be considered over a 90-day period) that mistakes can be made, but then one has to ask: what else are they missing? “You know, the bill sounds good, and it IS public safety…”

It should be noted, though, that the Judiciary Committee in the House did a complete bait-and-switch on this one, perhaps seizing on the hot-button topic of the Parkland shooting. HB1302 was completely gutted and replaced by the Judiciary Committee that the original sponsor (Democrat Geraldine Valentino-Smith) doesn’t sit on. That event happened between the initial introduction and the House hearing, but the bill was marked up in committee on March 12. It passed by a 12-4 vote, and notably several Republicans did not vote on the bill in committee: Delegates Susan McComas, Neil Parrott, and Deb Rey were excused, and Delegate Trent Kittleman abstained. The other four (Joe Cluster, Paul Corderman, Glen Glass, and Michael Malone) voted against it; however, Cluster and Glass were absent from the third reading vote and Malone voted in favor of the bill. Of those on the Judiciary Committee, only Corderman and Parrott voted no.

It’s patently obvious to me that the House Republicans were trying to appeal to the so-called popular opinion that everything gun-related is bad. They read the tea leaves and newspapers and everywhere you turn you’re being assaulted with anti-Second Amendment propaganda. Yet out of our local District 37 and 38 delegation, the only Republican with a really difficult race is Mary Beth Carozza and that’s because she’s opted to try and advance to the Senate. (Valid question: will this vote tip the scale to another NRA endorsement for Democrat Jim Mathias? Ask the liberals in District 38 how they like his receipt of NRA money.) The other Republicans either voted no on HB1302 (Charles Otto) or have stiffer opposition in the primary than they do for the general election – Adams and Mautz have two primary opponents but only one Democrat is in the race.)

Yet this brings up another point about the top of the ticket. Last night I did a bit of research and remembered the 2014 election – you know, that one Larry Hogan shocked the state and won? Well, a significant part of the reason was carrying the suburban counties like Anne Arundel, Baltimore County, and Frederick with over 60% of the vote (collectively, since he was 59% in Baltimore County) and blowing out Anthony Brown in the rural areas with anywhere from 65 to 82 percent of the vote. That made up for soft numbers in the D.C. region and Baltimore City.

The problem Larry Hogan has this time around is twofold, and has a little bit of irony to it: for a Republican to succeed nationally in the cause of limiting government he has to put a chill in Maryland’s economy. Thanks in no small part to the Trump administration, Larry Hogan will be lucky to get 35% in Montgomery County – compared to 36.7% last time. That may not seem like a lot, but out of 300,000 votes losing a 2% share is 6,000 votes.

You can argue, that’s fine, he won by 65,000 the first time. But what if his reversal on the fracking ban costs him 10% of his vote in Western Maryland? The three westernmost counties combined for about 70,000 votes last time and were a significant portion of his victory margin. That could be another 7,000 votes. Taking a similar share from an Eastern Shore upset at his Second Amendment stance and early cave on phosphorous regulations could be another 10,000 votes lost. Without touching the suburban counties, we’ve eroded 1/3 of his victory margin and the rest may come from Democrats who decide to stay loyal and vote for their candidate. (Fortunately for Hogan, the Democratic field seems to all be trying to leapfrog left of each other so turnout may not be as great as the Democrats think they will get. The biggest break Hogan has received in this cycle was not having to contend with either John Delaney or Peter Franchot, either of whom would probably have easily won the nomination against this field.)

Simply put, there are a lot of people who held their nose and voted for Larry Hogan the first time in the hopes he would govern as a conservative. Well, they were surely disappointed and the fear is that they just stay home this time around: why bother voting when you have the same results regardless of which party is in charge, they say. Perhaps it’s an information silo I reside in, but I often see people claiming they won’t vote for Hogan this time (meaning they’ll likely stay home or skip the race) but I never hear of a Democrat who voted for Brown being convinced the Republican is doing the job and will get his or her support. Most Democrats I hear from already voted for Hogan last time.

So this gun bill has really exposed some fissures in the state GOP, and the party brass has to hope their electoral hopes don’t fall through the cracks.

Would a Lamb be slaughtered here?

March 16, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on Would a Lamb be slaughtered here? 

Until a bridge collapsed in Miami, the main news item drawing attention was Democrat Conor Lamb’s upset win over Republican Rick Saccone in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District. Since I was assigned to write about Lamb’s victory in The Patriot Post this week, it got me to pondering if the Democrats’ bold local pronouncements about “flipping the First” are realistic.

So let’s begin with a little history. I’m working from my faulty memory here but I thought I read that the 18th was an R+11 district. According to our the latest voter registration numbers by district (which were just prior to the 2016 election, so perhaps a bit out of date) the First District was about R+9.5 or so. But where Trump won by 22 points in the 18th, he won by nearly 29 points in Maryland’s First. Thus, the question is whether those Democrats who “stayed home” and stuck with their party in Pennsylvania would do so here, or will they abandon the Democrat Party once again. (Case in point: while Democrats have always held a voter registration advantage over the GOP in Wicomico County, it hasn’t voted for a Democrat for governor or President since 1986.)

In doing my research, I found seven major “priorities” Lamb was running on:

  • The heroin crisis (and props to him for spelling “heroin” correctly, with one “e”)
  • Jobs and infrastructure
  • Affordable health care
  • Protecting Medicare and Social Security
  • Student loans
  • Union issues
  • Modern energy development

Here’s some of what he had to say for each:

On heroin:

We need to invest in prevention. We need to expand access to treatment and rehabilitation. And we need to crack down on the people who are fueling and profiting from this crisis. There are drug dealers on the street, in doctors’ offices, and in drug company boardrooms, and we need to pass legislation that guarantees every one of them will face justice for their crimes.

So in a nutshell, more federal money thrown at the problem and tougher drug laws.

For infrastructure, Lamb wants “a serious bill big enough to match the urgency of the situation,” with “investments” in job training that he claims companies want to have done through public schools and community colleges. He also wants companies to hire their trainees with “full-time, family-supporting jobs.”

On health care:

I believe that every American has a right to go see a doctor when they’re sick, and that means every American has a right to health insurance they can afford…I’ll work with anyone from either party who wants to help people with pre-existing conditions, improve the quality of care, and reduce premiums, out-of-pocket costs, and prescription drug prices.

In other words, Obamacare isn’t the problem.

Conor also goes after that old “third rail” of politics, making the shopworn claim that Republicans are out to gut entitlements and solemnly vowing to protect Medicare and Social Security. If only Republicans would actually threaten them.

I will give Lamb a little credit for this one, no pun intended:

We need to allow people to refinance their student loans, just as we do for corporations and credit card holders. And I believe we should let people pay at least some portion of their student loans with pre-tax dollars.

He also gets into the idea of paying them back through serving in underserved areas – think of the old TV series “Northern Exposure” and its plot of having a New York doctor practice in rural Alaska to pay off student loans.

With his district being heavily union, Lamb is a proponent of their causes. That’s a key difference between his district and ours, which is not infested much by Big Labor.

The other big difference:

I support robust and responsible energy development. Natural gas extraction is creating and supporting a lot of good, middle-class jobs in our region, and I want more of those jobs for our people.

Yes it is; unfortunately, we have a governor who foolishly and short-sightedly took the option off the table in our state.

That, then, is the (somewhat oversimplified) baseline for local Democrats. There are a total of six on the ballot but only four have FEC accounts (Michael Brown and Erik Lane do not – this is a shame because Lane is the one who’s claiming to be the “conservative Democrat” but he’s not set up the FEC account – which most likely means he has little to no money. I’m sorry but you can’t win an election without some money.)

Out of the other four, as of the end of last year, the cash on hand was as follows:

  1. Jesse Colvin – $186,101
  2. Steve Worton – $99,630 (most of which he loaned)
  3. Michael Pullen – $33,433 (he owes himself over $55,000)
  4. Allison Galbraith – $32,465

Just by comparison, Andy Harris is sitting on over $1.1 million. We pretty much know where he stands on issues as Harris tends to hew to the GOP line and it’s paid off: in three re-election campaigns since being elected in 2010 Andy has averaged 67% of the vote, which was the mark he hit in 2016.

So if we do the “Lamb test” for each of the four remaining candidates, let’s see how they stack up. Women and children first, we start with my sparring partner Allison Galbraith and her “priorities.” You get the sense after reading them that Galbraith would fail the Lamb test by being several steps to his left.

And then you have Michael Pullen, whose website plays heavily on his name by announcing he’s “Pullen for…” various policy items to occur. I read through them and was fascinated: by making Galbraith look centrist by comparison, Pullen truly flunks the Lamb test.

Steve Worton stakes out a number of positions on his key issues with a good, old-fashioned “trifold.” He’s closer to Lamb than the other two, but I believe that title will go to our next competitor.

If you look at the background and profile,, Jesse Colvin is very similar to Conor Lamb: just swap out military branches. He comes out of Democratic Central Casting: a war veteran who spouts more or less center-left talking points. (He and Lamb even have a scarily similar website setup.)

I think that if the powers-that-be in the Democrat Party had their choice it would come down to either Colvin or Galbraith. (They certainly wouldn’t want the conservative guy, who may well be the most appealing to district Democrats but has no money.) Colvin has a young family he can use as props (like Frank Kratovil did to some extent) but so does Galbraith and she’s not afraid to use them. But compared to Colvin she’s vastly underfunded.

Being three months out a lot can (and will) happen, and the race is tough to handicap because there are so many competing interests: Galbraith is the only woman in the race, but Pullen is the only major contender from the parochial Eastern Shore. If people hear about the conservative Democrat Erik Lane he may steal some votes from the more centrist Worton, who can ill afford to lose them.

But the bigger question is whether any of them can beat Andy Harris. Unlike the PA-18 race, which was an open seat, Harris is an incumbent that people seem to like well enough. Once June rolls around we will see how well the local Democrats embrace their choice.

The sidebar sidestory

January 25, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Bloggers and blogging, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on The sidebar sidestory 

While I haven’t been hanging around here as much as I used to with this book I’m writing and all, a service I’ve always provided here is being a one-stop shop to link to political candidates in season. And seeing that the season is fast-approaching – the filing deadline is barely a month away – I suppose it’s time to build out the 2018 version of my widget.

One change I think I’m going to make from previous years is to not just link their websites, but their social media as well. It seems now that most of the action on the political position front comes from those sites because they are interactive by nature. So I’ll figure out a way to integrate them into the links.

In looking at some of the local races, the most statewide attention seems to be on the State Senate race between incumbent Jim Mathias and current Delegate Mary Beth Carozza, who’s trying to move up after just one term in the House. If that seems opportunistic, bear in mind that Mathias also moved up after one term and about six months of change (he was appointed Delegate after the incumbent died in office.) However, at the time Mathias ran for an open seat thanks to the retirement of longtime GOP State Senator Lowell Stoltzfus. And while Mathias is best known for being the popular mayor of Ocean City, it’s also the area Carozza represents in the House. Her task will be to catch up name recognition in Somerset County, although it’s likely she’ll get the backing from Stoltzfus and current Delegate Charles Otto to help her along there.

With Carozza moving up, the opening for Delegate in District 38C is shaping up to be an interesting GOP primary. (With the political composition of the district, frankly that is the race.) Four contenders are in the running so far, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see one or two more crowd the ballot. While Ed Tinus, a perennial candidate, moved down from the Senate race when Carozza made it official, the others waited to jump in and made it a race. Wayne Hartman is an Ocean City Council member trying to advance, while Joe Schanno is making a second run eight years after his first in what was then a two-Delegate district. (He finished fourth of the four in the GOP primary.)

There’s not nearly as much suspense in the other local districts. The only other one really worth mentioning at this point is District 37B, where a third business person has thrown his hat into the ring in a district already boasting two in Chris Adams and Johnny Mautz. Keith Graffius is running in large part because Dorchester County doesn’t have a native Delegate – an unfortunate reality in that part of the Eastern Shore where two three-person districts span seven of the nine counties of the Eastern Shore – so someone will be left holding the bag and after the last election Dorchester County replaced Caroline County as the state’s red-headed stepchild. (The District 37 Senator, Addie Eckardt, lives in Dorchester County so they are not shut out entirely.)

Here in Wicomico County, the key races are the County Executive race, which thus far pits incumbent Bob Culver against independent Jack Heath, who has to petition his way onto the ballot, and the new school board elections that will fire up for the first time in 2018. So far only three incumbents on County Council have filed (Democrat Ernie Davis and Republicans Larry Dodd and Joe Holloway) and one challenger had popped up for an open seat – Josh Hastings makes his second try after moving from District 3 to District 4.

Something I’ve found interesting is how many people have already filed for Central Committee races. In the three times I ran, I was not one who waited around – I filed several weeks before the deadline and was normally among the first to do so. (The only election I was a dawdler was my first, but I was still 5th of 7 to file. The other two I was 4th of 13.) These candidates are notorious for waiting until the last minute, but this year there are already enough Central Committee hopefuls on the male side of the Democrat Party and they’re only one short among females. On the GOP side we already have five of nine so they may exceed their previous high-water marks of thirteen in the last two elections. I suspect the same may be true for school board as well. And because of school board, for the first time every voter in Wicomico County may have a ballot to vote on come June since school board is a non-partisan race.

So anyway I will have some work to do over the coming days. Fortunately I have an old widget extant so it’s not much of a chore to do.

A jealous man can’t tell the truth

January 17, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, Radical Green · Comments Off on A jealous man can’t tell the truth 

If it’s a date on the calendar, it must be a day when someone twists the truth about their political opponents. But this one hits us where we live.

Ben Jealous is one of several Democrats seeking to oppose Larry Hogan this fall, and as his latest salvo he’s accusing Hogan of pay-for-play. Pointing out a recent Wall Street Journal story about how corporate entities are using the respective governors’ associations (both Democrat and Republican) as a means to donate additional funding beyond candidate limits, Jealous claims that “Poultry industry gives $250,000 to help Hogan campaign…Gov. Hogan slashes chicken manure regulation, putting more chicken (stuff) in the Chesapeake.”

The WSJ story is now behind a paywall, but fortunately I have access to the pertinent part for my purpose:

In October 2014, the Republican Governors Association needed help in Maryland, where the gubernatorial race was tight. So it called Mountaire Corp., one of America’s largest suppliers of chicken products.

Companies can’t donate large sums to candidates in many states, including Maryland. But they can give unlimited sums to governors associations, which sometimes use the donations to support a company’s favored politician without any indication in the public record of the original source.

According to a then-RGA official, the RGA needed $500,000 for an ad campaign to help Republican Larry Hogan. Mountaire was facing tough new environmental regulations in Maryland, where it raises and processes millions of chickens every year. Mr. Hogan had criticized the regulations.

Mountaire sent $250,000 to the RGA on Oct. 31, according to filings from the Internal Revenue Service. It didn’t give its Democratic counterpart, the Democratic Governors Association, a penny that year.

On inauguration day, Mr. Hogan blocked the proposal opposed by the poultry industry. He later negotiated new rules that won some praise from environmental groups but also gave the poultry industry more time to comply. (Link added.)

Even the Washington Post noted that the Hogan regulations which were placed as a substitute – something Jealous obviously didn’t mention – were fine with the environmentalists:

Hogan won the support of environmentalists and Democratic legislators when he negotiated a revamped set of regulations during his first months in office. The plan phased in stricter restrictions over a number of years and allowed extensions for some farmers if major problems arise.

So Jealous is sort of hiding the truth, although I expect that out of a politician.

That’s not to say I was enamored with Hogan’s retreat on the issue, which was something I originally was happy to see him address so quickly. However, it also allowed the O’Malley regulations that were on the verge of passing the General Assembly to be pulled, and that was a good thing. But when people try to stir up sh*t by twisting the truth and distorting the record because they have nothing good to run on besides rewarmed old socialist bromides that would bankrupt the state and drive the producers away, I figure it’s time to speak out.

And here’s my question for Ben Jealous: are you going to refuse DGA money or assistance if you get the nomination? Something tells me he’ll be lined right up to receive that manna from heaven if he gets the nomination, so don’t try to sell us your story. You must want to be completely shut out on the Eastern Shore.

One place gets it right

January 16, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Delaware politics, Delmarva items, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on One place gets it right 

If you’ve been keeping up with my infrequent musings of late (admittedly, it’s not hard to do) you’ll probably know that I’ve been keeping an eye on the struggle to bring common-sense, job-creating right-to-work legislation to Delaware – as has the national internet site The Daily Signal.

On that front I bring you some good news and some bad news: first, the bad news.

As a prospective resident of Sussex County, I was dismayed to find out that the County Council there is four shades of gutless. That represents the four County Council members who let the vague threat of lawfare scare them into rejecting a bid to make the county the first in the state and region to become a right-to-work county. Only Rob Arlett, who represents District 5 – a district that takes in much of the southern third of the county, including Delmar, Millsboro, and Fenwick, but not Laurel – voted for the measure he sponsored.

Granted, the ink wouldn’t have been dry on the ordinance before Big Labor found a friendly judge to slap a TRO on it (and that would have been done out of Wilmington or Philadelphia, since there’s not a ton of union presence in Sussex County) but it also would have allowed a second circuit to rule on the law, just as the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that covers Kentucky ruled favorably on a county-level law there. (Later, the entire state adopted right-to-work legislation.) Since Delaware is in the Third Circuit and it’s fairly dominated by Democrat appointees, it’s likely they would have ignored the Tenth Amendment and found some excuse to thwart the county’s will. (Bear in mind that the County Council didn’t seem to object on the aims of the law but only the fact it would create a legal hassle.) Yet once two circuits come to a split decision, the next step is the SCOTUS and maybe this is a good time for them to decide on it.

So it was left to the town of Seaford to accomplish what their larger governmental unit could not, approving a right-to-work ordinance in December that was announced today. Good for them, and that was definitely good news.

And it may well be good for them. The timing was probably coincidental, but it was also announced today that a former industrial plant in the city would be getting new life as an intermodal rail and truck facility. So if you figure there’s going to be needed renovations that create construction jobs as well as a handful of jobs for distributing the freight from railcar to tractor-trailer and vice versa, that could be the difference between sitting at home making a wage of zero and working for someone making a reasonably decent wage. It could even be a union shop, with the key difference being that not everyone would be forced to join or pay dues.

Here’s the thing. What unions seem to be most afraid of isn’t the fact that they would have to compete and sell new workers on the benefits of joining, but the prospective loss of political power they would suffer if the number of dues-paying members drops off. Wisconsin is a good example of this: the unions’ dues-paying rolls are off 40 percent since right-to-work legislation passed in 2011.

(As an aside, isn’t it interesting that union members have time to go picket and speak at public meetings? So who is doing their jobs?)

Assuming the Seaford measure isn’t taken to court, which it probably will be for the reasons stated above, perhaps more businesses can help boost Seaford’s bottom line. Unlike a lot of other similar-sized towns, they have the slight advantage of having infrastructure for growth already in place thanks to a number of shuttered or underutilized industrial sites left over from the days it was the “nylon capital of the world.” I’m sure they don’t care if they get back to making nylon, or even if they’re the capital of anything – they just want to thrive.

While Big Labor may beg to differ, even the average union guy on the street knows the true minimum wage is zero. And in an area that cries out for good-paying jobs, why not make yourself as attractive as possible to secure them?

Making Maryland’s employers sick

January 13, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Making Maryland’s employers sick 

As would be expected from a body that’s never passed up on a chance to saddle Maryland’s business community with more dictation and regulation, the Maryland General Assembly overrode Governor Hogan’s proper veto of last year’s hilariously misnamed Maryland Healthy Working Families Act. All Republicans voted to uphold the veto, along with the top five early contenders for the monoblogue Accountability Project’s final Top (Blue) Dog Award, given to the Democrat who most crosses the aisle in the right direction. But those five Democrats could be spared because the majority party had more than enough to pass the override – a situation that must be addressed in November.

Rather than write a summary of all 22 pages of the bill, which among other things requires the state to “develop a model sick and safe leave policy that an employer may use as a sick and safe leave policy in an employee handbook or other written guidance to employees concerning employee benefits or leave provided by the employer,” the chief takeaway is that an employer has to provide approximately 9 days of sick leave a year to full-time employees. Yes, it’s one hour for every 30 hours of time worked, with employers that have 15 or more employees also required to pay for the privilege. (Those with 14 or fewer still have to provide the time; it just need not be paid time.) In short, once again the state butts its head into something that should be between employee and employer, doing so based on their vast amount of time running businesses. (I would be curious how many in the majority have actually signed the front of paychecks for their employees.)

I’m not going to say that every business is like my employer, but I think most are understanding of various situations. Mine is a good example: seeing that it’s our daughter’s senior year and last basketball season, he and I have worked out a way for me to get to all of her games, home and away. I just shift my schedule accordingly and do the work needed beforehand. Luckily I have a job that allows this, and I know not everyone is that fortunate. But there are ways to work these situations without the state’s heavy hand and threat of liability from employees who may have an axe to grind months after their dismissal. (Three years of record keeping on this is even more paperwork for employers.)

In keeping with this I see employers doing something I’m familiar with as a policy: simply roll vacation and sick days into an overall category of “paid time off.” Those who use more sick days than the three previously allowed are fine, but they have fewer vacation days as a result. Next year we will see a law that prohibits employers from rolling the two together: that’s my guarantee. They can’t leave well enough alone.

It seems to me that General Assembly Democrats, not content with the plethora of people who are already drawing some sort of welfare from the state and cognizant of Margaret Thatcher’s asserting that socialism works until you run out of other people’s money, are trying to make employers into the new providers of welfare in the state. How else would it be that employers are forced by the state to pay people who aren’t being productive rather than work it out in-house? Shouldn’t there be an incentive for employees to develop their skills to make themselves more attractive to employers with better benefits rather than those employees running to the state? The market will eventually favor the employer who is most fair because they’ll get the best employees; that is, if the state doesn’t figure out a way to screw that balance up.

To use a similar example, Obamacare tried to supplant a system that almost everyone was either happy with or at least grudgingly accepted as a benefit that maybe wasn’t perfect but was better than nothing. It turned out to be a solution that didn’t perform as intended in whittling the number of uninsured down to near zero yet made the previous beneficiaries suffer with higher premiums and co-pays. Having seem this example first-hand, I can tell you this paid sick leave bill won’t work as intended either.

But Democrats win (and working Marylanders lose) in several ways: now they have created yet another entitlement that those unmotivated to work will bitterly cling onto with Democrats having the expectation of gaining their votes for another couple hundred years. Plus, as a special added bonus, they can either bludgeon Hogan with the resulting hiring slowdown or point to employment gains as evidence that this is no big deal – in fact, they would probably use it as evidence it should be expanded, never mind unrealized potential left on the table thanks to their meddling. Remember, being a Democrat in government is never taking responsibility for adverse real-world actions.

So I suppose those on the “progressive” (read: regressive) side will be cheering the override of this bill, a measure that’s wrong for the Eastern Shore and wrong for Maryland. They may like Jim Mathias’s support of it, but when he comes around later this year trying to convince us that he’s “fighting for us” just remember how he sold out the job creators for something that didn’t need to be a state concern. If I, with my public-school education, can wade my way through the bull to find the common sense, so can the average voter.

Sorry, liberals, sick leave is not a right and a sane General Assembly would rescind this in the future. In November we can work on restoring that sanity.

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