Thoughts fit for a Prince

January 28, 2017 · Posted in Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off 

Like many on my social media feed, I was stunned to learn of Friday’s sudden passing of Maryland political figure Joe Steffen, who reportedly died from a stroke and cardiac arrest at the age of 57. As a regular follower of his writings, I seem to recall this wasn’t the first stroke or heart issue Joe had endured, but this was one he did not survive.

While a lot of people are relating their experiences with Joe, including accounts of lengthy late-night chats and other time spent together, my time with Joe in person was relatively fleeting. I think the last time I ran into him was at last spring’s Maryland GOP convention in Annapolis, and I seem to recall as part of the general chit-chat I asked him how his books were coming. But the fact he could set aside his political career and write something that was totally 180 degrees out of phase with that part of his life – as opposed to books in the political realm - was admirable. Yet Joe had finished two novels in what he called the Death, Wish trilogy and was working on the “prequel” third part at times over the last few months. (Death, Wish debuted in 2013 and Dead, End came out last summer.) So I guess we’ll never know how Charlotte got to be the main character in Joe’s work.

But one thing that has inspired me to this day is that he would occasionally update his word count as he progressed with his novels, and that’s where I got the idea with my social media for updating with the running total of the word count on my forthcoming book to keep people in the loop on my progress. Perhaps it was also a tangible reminder to him as well, but I liked the idea so I’ve taken it on.

Since Joe was such a fixture on social media, though, I did engage with him quite a bit on some of the most unlikely subjects. One subject in my wheelhouse was baseball, as Steffen was a fan of the Oakland A’s and I like to follow my Detroit Tigers as well, so I would chime in at times during baseball season. And while his musical tastes weren’t exactly like mine, he often selected what he called “Get Your Ass In Gear” songs that I enjoyed hearing, too.

The one thing that seemed to endear Joe to many of the same people I engage with in the political realm, though, was his rebellious attitude toward party politics in Maryland. I don’t know about you, but at a wake of a Maryland GOP Fall Convention back in the bleak post-election landscape of 2010 – an election where the TEA Party wave that swept the nation somehow missed our state – this was my one cherished memory: the Renegade Room.

Somewhere on that document is my signature, too. Yet Joe insisted to the end that he didn’t dislike defeated 2010 candidate Bob Ehrlich – he just lost all respect for him. Obviously this and a lot of other statements from Steffen led to a lot of friction with certain quarters of the Maryland Republican Party, including areas where little guys seem to congregate.

Anyway, I went to his blog site and it turns out his last post is only about a week old. And it was interesting that the seminal event he picked out insofar as defying the conventional wisdom that there was no way a Trump election victory would occur is the day Donald Trump hired David Bossie, our National Committeeman. With that move, Steffen believed Trump had just won the election – turns out he may have been correct.

So if there’s one good thing we can look back on and smile about regarding Joe’s life, it’s knowing that he managed to live until “Borat” was safely out of office.

Now I’m sure there will be a formal service and whatnot for Joseph Steffen, but in reality he will be remembered by most in an informal manner for years to come when people continue to toast his memory with the adult beverage of choice. Yet there will be a few special people, including the princess of his world, who will remember him fondly for a lot of other things after the weeping of the immediate present is finished. It’s those people who deserve our thoughts and prayers upon Steffen’s sudden passing.

All this serves as a reminder that we all have our time in this world (after all, Joe was only about a half-decade older than I am now) but those who make the most of it are the ones long remembered. I don’t often write pieces like this – in fact, the last time I did was for my late brother almost seven years ago – but seeing the outpouring of shock and grief on my social media page, and having the respect for him that I did, even if from afar, I felt it was something we all needed. And in Joe’s memory, I did it in 851 words.

More for my friends north of the border

There’s always been some percentage of my readers who hail from the First State, even though I really never covered a whole lot in the way of politics for them. They may have enjoyed my perspective on national issues or realized that the economies of the Eastern Shore and Delaware are well-intertwined because of their common industry base in agriculture and the fact that several areas of each state may rely on the other for basic necessities – for example, people in Delmar, Maryland may go to the Food Lion just across the line in Delaware but the reverse is true if the folks in Delaware want to shop at Macy’s or go to a movie, since both are in Salisbury, Maryland.

Over the last year or so I have probably made most of my readers aware that I now work in Delaware, and the same holds true for my spouse. And particularly in my line of work, I would like the state to succeed as it keeps me employed.

So a week or so ago I decided that it was time to follow up on the Accountability Project I’ve done for a decade in Maryland with one for Delaware. Notice I said a week ago: thanks to the fact Delaware only has about 1/3 the legislators that Maryland does and far fewer bills introduced – plus a very nice tracking system for votes (albeit the tallying leaves something to be desired) - the process for wrapping up a two-year session (as both 2015 and 2016 are considered the state’s 148th legislative session) was rapid compared to doing one yearly session in Maryland. Tonight I did a soft opening and placed the widget on the sidebar, so anyone with interest in the Delaware General Assembly can see how I graded them.

But why now, well after the election? Well, first of all, I was a little busy. Second of all, I never really figured it would be as easy of a project as it was. But I also look at this as a baseline to establish a record for the next election, so they will have more meaningful lifetime scores when I do this for next session.

With the Delaware Edition of the monoblogue Accountability Project, my plan is to do the next iteration in the summer of 2018, shortly after their session ends at the end of June. (One disadvantage I can see: it appears the governor has a much longer window to decide what to do with the passed bills, which may affect disposition.) In 2020 I may have a problem, though, as it’s been proposed to move the gubernatorial primary to April (with the presidential primary) meaning the vote would come mid-session. There may have to be a smaller 2019 edition if this comes to pass.

So this one is for you, Delaware. Read it and weep.

A look ahead: 2017

Last year I did this in three parts, but to me that may be overkill this time around. Consider that 2017 is not an election year, so if anything we will not see much on that front until the latter stages of the year as the campaigns for 2018′s state elections ramp up. And because all but one of our local officials are first-term representatives in their respective offices, it’s likely they will wish to continue in office. Bear in mind, though, on the Senate side longtime House member Addie Eckardt will be 75 and Jim Mathias (who is in his second term as Senator after one-plus in the House) will be 67 by the time the next election comes around, so they are likely closer to the end of their lengthy political careers than to the beginning. And thanks to Wicomico County voters who passed the referendum this past November, 2017 will be the year we formally set up the elections which will net the county its first fully-elected Board of Education in late 2018.

Speaking of the local BOE, we still have an appointed board until that election and the two members whose terms expire this year are both Democrats who are term-limited. I suspect the local Democrats will try and send up names of people who will run for seats in 2018 to gain that incumbency advantage – as envisioned, though, these will be non-partisan elections. And the final say goes to the state Secretary of Appointments, who over the years hasn’t always been kind to those we preferred, either. Or, conversely, since the incumbents serve until their successors are appointed, we may see a long stalling technique, too. It will be interesting to see how that plays out, but I’ll bet those who are appointed will use that tenure as a springboard for eventual election.

Elsewhere in Wicomico County as 2016 comes to an end, it appears the city of Salisbury and Wicomico County are working out their issues rather well. The biggest sticking point remains fire service, and it’s relatively likely the city is going to see more of a reimbursement from the county when it comes to that – perhaps to the tune of up to $2 million a year. It’s possible there may be something to cut to make up for this, but as the county has increased its debt in the last few years to build several schools it leaves less room for spending cuts to make up the difference. If the city receives $2 million annually that would equate to about a 3 or 4 cent property tax increase for county residents. There’s also the chance that a tax differential or rebate may be on the table in order to reimburse city residents, as they pay the same tax rate as county residents. Wicomico is one of only three counties in the state that choose not to provide a tax differential to their municipalities.

But there is another factor to consider. Back in June the number of people working in Wicomico County set an all-time high of 52,010, eclipsing a mark that had stood for nearly a decade (July 2006.) That record lasted a month, as July came in at 53,668. While the number of jobs has finally reached where we were a decade ago, bear in mind the labor force is about 1,000 larger – so unemployment is in the 5.5% range rather than 4%. Even so, that extra number of people working – a number which year-over-year between 2015 and 2016 has fluctuated quite a bit but usually comes in at 1,000 or more additional workers in 2016 – means there’s more revenue to the county from income taxes so paying the city of Salisbury may not be such a heavy lift. The question for 2017 will be whether these economic conditions continue and whether Wicomico County will want to spend every “extra” dime on items which are unsustainable in rougher economic times.

That same question goes for the state, but the trend there has been for more spending. Democrats in the General Assembly added millions in mandated spending to the state budget and it’s a sure bet they will try again this year. Add to that the general belief that year 3 of a Maryland political cycle sees the most ambitious agenda put forth – it’s time for those incumbents to bring home the bacon and burnish their re-election chances the next year – and you can bet that paid sick leave will pass, Radical Green will have its day (perhaps with a fracking ban, which would devastate Western Maryland), and any Hogan veto will be promptly overridden. It’s certain that they will leave enough time in passing these controversial bills to do so. We’ve already seen battle lines drawn with the counter-proposal from Governor Hogan on paid sick leave and the social media-fueled drive to repeal the “Road Kill Bill” that Democrats passed over Governor Hogan’s veto in the spring of this year.

The wild card in state politics, though, comes from national politics. It’s not because we had the well-publicized answer to an extremely nosy press – if only they paid as much attention to some of Martin O’Malley’s foibles and scandals! – that Larry Hogan wasn’t going to support his (nominally at best) fellow Republican Donald Trump, but the idea that Donald Trump may actually do something to cut the size and scope of government. (Military contractors, particularly, have reason to worry.) And because Maryland’s economy is so dependent on the federal government, to a shocking and sickening degree, we know that if Trump begins to make cuts it will hurt Maryland the most. Given the typical bureaucrat CYA perspective, it explains perfectly why four of the five jurisdictions Trump did worst in - the only five which came in below his 35% statewide total – were the four counties closest to the District of Columbia (MoCo, PG, Charles, and Howard. Baltimore City was the fifth.) While I am entirely a skeptic on this, there seems to be the belief that Trump will take a meat cleaver to the budget and thousands of federal and contract workers will be cast aside because of it.

And in a situation where revenues are already coming up short of forecast, a recession in the state’s biggest jurisdictions, coupled with the mandated spending Democrats keep pushing through, will make it really, really difficult on Larry Hogan going into 2018. You will be able to judge who has the most ambition to be Governor by who carps the longest about these cuts.

While the Dow Jones stalled this week in an effort to breach the 20,000 mark by year’s end, the rise in the markets echoes consumer optimism - even as fourth quarter GDP forecasts turned a little bearish, consumers still feel a little better about the state of our economy. If we can get the 4% GDP growth Donald Trump promised we may see some of these fiscal crises take care of themselves.

Yet there was also a sentiment in 2016 that the world was going mad: consider all the terror attacks, the seemingly unusual number of and extended shock over high-profile celebrity deaths, and a general turning away from that which was considered moral and proper to that which fell under the realm of political correctness, wasn’t a “trigger” and didn’t violate the “safe spaces” of the Millennial “snowflakes.” (I can’t resist linking to this one I wrote for The Patriot Post.) At some point the pendulum swings back the other way, but in most cases that takes a life-changing event like 9/11 or Pearl Harbor. I’d prefer a much softer transition but a transition nonetheless.

As I see it, the key word for 2017 will be leadership: if the current elected officials and new President have it and use it wisely to the benefit of our county, state, and nation “so help me God” things will be okay. If not, well, we’ve seen that movie for about eight or ten years already and we will continue to slouch toward Gomorrah.

Eight is far less than enough: a postmortem, part four (and last)

For Maryland, the results for the 2016 finally in and official. There are a number of conclusions which can be drawn from them.

Originally I predicted that Evan McMullin would be ”eclipsing the 5,000 mark statewide” while Darrell Castle would pick up about 1,100 votes. Turned out that McMullin exceeded expectations by about as much as Castle underperformed them, with the former garnering 9,630 write-in votes while the latter had 566.

As I see it, this has as much to do with press coverage and awareness of the McMullin campaign as it did where he stood on the issues – but it’s interesting that McMullin did the best in Anne Arundel, Howard, and Frederick counties as a percentage of the vote. In those three counties he had over 1/2 percent of the vote as a write-in. These were also counties where Trump received less than 50% of the vote – in all, his 35% of the vote was driven down by just five jurisdictions where he was under that mark: the usual suspects of Baltimore City, Montgomery, and Prince George’s counties, along with Charles and Howard counties. (In essence, the inner city and capital regions.) On the other hand, Castle’s performance was more consistent with his small average – he actually did best in Somerset and St. Mary’s counties by percentage, although in Somerset’s case it’s just 6 votes of 9,900 cast. The “eight” in the title refers to the 8 votes Castle received in Wicomico County. So there are seven others who agreed with me.

But if you look at this race from the perspective of breaking a two-party duopoly that seemed very evident in this race – as both candidates did their share of moving to the left on certain issues, making themselves indistinguishable as far as rightsizing government goes – there is a huge lesson to be learned: ballot access is vital.

If you take McMullin, who entered the race too late to make the ballot in most of the 42 states where he actually contended (there were several where he even missed the cutoff for write-in access) and analyze his vote totals nationwide, he’s received between 60 and 70 percent of his votes from those 11 states where he was on the ballot. Granted, Utah by itself – a state where he was on the ballot - will make up about 1/3 of his overall total once all the write-ins are tabulated (hence the possible range on ballot vs. write-in) but the disparity between states where he was on the ballot and listed as a write-in is quite telling.

It’s even more steep for Castle, who put the Constitution Party over the 200,000 vote plateau nationwide for the first time. The 24 states where he had ballot access ended up accounting for 186,540 of what should end up being between 204,000 and 210,000 votes. (With seven states that have not yet or will not report write-in totals under a certain threshold, Castle is at 202,900 nationwide, so 204,000 seems plausible.) There were 23 write-in states for Castle, so the difference is quite stark.

[By the way, 200,000 votes may not seem like much, but at last report two other candidates I considered, James Hedges of the Prohibition Party and Tom Hoefling of America's Party, had 5,617 and 4,838 votes, respectively. The vast majority of Hedges' votes came from Arkansas (where he was on the ballot and edged Castle by 96 votes with 4,709 vs. 4,613) and Mississippi (715 as a write-in), while Hoefling got nearly half of his total from the two states he was on the ballot (Colorado and Louisiana.) In Maryland they had 5 and 42 write-in votes, respectively.]

And if you compare the Constitution Party to the Libertarians, the vote totals over time have been far smaller but Libertarians have had ballot access in most states since 1980. Considering the Constitution Party only made it in half the states (and missed in four of the six largest, with only write-in status in Illinois, New York, and Texas and no access in California) they overcame a lot just to get as far as they did.

As the Republican Party moves farther and farther away from conservatism toward the adoption of populist planks, softening on social issues, and the idea that government simply needs to be more effective and efficient rather than limited - a philosophy that will probably take further root as they’re going to have Donald Trump’s hand-picked chairperson to lead the GOP come January – those of us on the political right may have to search for a new home. (Obviously I’ve had this thought in mind, too.) The Constitution Party may not be perfect – I don’t agree 100 percent with everything in their platform but that’s true of any political party – but perhaps it’s time to bring them to the point of being a viable place for those who believe in all three legs of the Reagan-era conservative stool.

To have ballot access in 2020 in Maryland, the Constitution Party would have to follow the same route the Libertarians and Green Party have often had to: collect 10,000 signatures to secure access for the remainder of the gubernatorial cycle. If they can secure 1% of the vote in a statewide election they maintain access – based on their showing in the 2014 election, the Libertarians automatically qualified for this cycle but for several beforehand they went through the petition process.

It’s somewhat easier in Delaware, as the Constitution Party already has a portion of the number of 600-plus voters registered with the party they need to be on the ballot. Perhaps the place to look is the moribund Conservative Party of Delaware, which has a website full of dead links and no listed leadership – but enough registered voters that, if the two were combined under the Constitution Party banner, they would have enough for access with about 100 voters to spare.

While I’m not thrilled that the candidate I selected after a lengthy time of research and bout of prayer received just eight votes in Wicomico County, I can at least say there are a few of like mind with me. It’s seven fewer people I need to educate because they already get it and won’t compromise their beliefs. As for the rest of the conservatives in the nation, the task over the next four years is to convince them they don’t have to settle, either.

A rally for a better way of life

I’m certain there’s a percentage of my readers who would disagree with the title, but for those who would like to improve our state there’s a chance to take action: specifically a week from tomorrow, but in general before the Maryland General Assembly begins its annual “90 days of terror” in January.

I was introduced online, through a mutual friend, to one of the leaders putting together a rally in Annapolis, as she explains:

The Maryland legislature is considering regulations that would finally allow natural gas development in our state.

We need to show that Marylanders want responsible energy development and that any regulations MUST be reasonable and consider their impact on Maryland jobs and energy costs.

Please join us Tuesday, December 20 for an Energy Citizens and Energy Nation Rally to support clean and affordable natural gas and jobs for Marylanders!

The Energy Citizens group is springing for breakfast at Harry Browne’s beginning at 8:30 a.m. before reconvening for the rally at 9:30 a.m. on Lawyer’s Mall. (All they ask is that you RSVP first.) They will stay until 11, hopefully long enough to make their point, which is:

A Maryland legislative committee is considering new regulations for natural gas development in our state. Any regulations MUST be reasonable and consider their impact on Maryland jobs and energy costs.

Responsible energy production would give Western Maryland the chance to create thousands of good-paying jobs, boost the local economy, and make energy more affordable for families and businesses across the state. But time is short.

Please Email your Representatives now. Tell them you support responsible natural gas development and to consider jobs and energy prices when any new regulations are being discussed!

(snip)

Hydraulic fracturing is safe, and reasonable government oversight and regulation are appropriate, but Maryland should follow the example of dozens of other states where production has proceeded safely for years.

The Western part of our state should have the chance to create thousands of jobs and stimulate their local economy. Our families deserve affordable energy to heat our homes and power our businesses. (Emphasis in original.)

Now this is the part where I may go off the organizer’s script (if she had one in mind for me) but I’m a guy who tries to give the straight scoop. The lefties* at SourceWatch sneeringly call Energy Citizens “a front group backed by the American Petroleum Institute,” and the backing part is absolutely true. I knew this awhile ago because I’m quite familiar with API. It’s a very good group from which to get energy information, and I have a vested interest in keeping energy as reliable and inexpensive as possible – it’s called electric and heating oil bills to pay. 200 gallons in the oil tank isn’t cheap, but we needed to get them nonetheless to have a full tank once the cold weather hit. I definitely prefer not to have to run my laptop and internet off a battery and at this time of year I like to be something close to warm.

And look at the approach they are taking, saying “reasonable government oversight and regulation are appropriate.” They are not advocating for the Wild West of fracking, but something that is reasonable – unlike the authors of the various proposals in the General Assembly. I’ve not forgotten that the original first reading bill that mandated the halt on fracking through October of next year originally had an expiration date of April 30, 2023 – and only after a panel stacked with “public health experts” as opposed to those expert in ”science and engineering” were charged to ”examine the scientific literature related to the public health and environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing.” I wonder what a panel of “experts” appointed by liberal leadership would have found? </sarc>

Bear in mind that the bill was not properly vetoed by Governor Hogan, but he didn’t sign it either. He just let it become law without his signature, rather than tell these misinformed environmentalists to pound sand and dare the Democrats to vote against good jobs once again.

Furthermore, according to that bill, these regulations should have been in place by this past October. The MDE, however, was about 6 weeks behind and put them out November 14, with public comment closing later this week. Assuming they are close to those detailed back in June, the state will have some of the most stringent regulations in the nation. That doesn’t seem to be very balanced or reasonable.

If I were to make a modest, sensible proposal, I would posit that Maryland’s regulations should mirror Pennsylvania’s as closely as possible, for a very logical reason: for most of those companies already doing business in Pennsylvania, that portion of Maryland is but a short distance from their other operations and would likely by overseen by supervisors based in Pennsylvania – a state which, by the sheer size of its share of the Marcellus Shale formation, will have far more natural gas output than Maryland ever will. If Maryland even gets to 10% of Pennsylvania’s output it would be a victory for the Old Line State. So why not make it easy and convenient for those experts in the field, considering that they’ve had the better part of a decade now to iron out the kinks just on the other side of the Mason-Dixon Line?

At the market price for natural gas, we should be doing all that we can to make it easier to create the good-paying jobs (not to mention the royalty payments landowners could receive) for a part of the state that, like the Eastern Shore, always seems to lag behind the economic curve thanks to shortsighted policy decisions in Annapolis. I hope a lot of my Western Maryland friends (and maybe some from our part of the state) go to support a better way of life for themselves a week from Tuesday. They’ll even bring you over to Annapolis from the west side of the state.

You can call me just another Energy Citizen.

______________

* I like this description of the Center for Media and Democracy, which is the backing group of SourceWatch:

CMD takes significant sums of money for its work from left-wing foundations, and has even received a half-million dollar donation from one of the country’s largest donor-advised funds – all the while criticizing pro-business or free-market advocacy groups who also use donor advised funds or rely on foundation support.

Don’t you love the smell of hypocrisy in the morning?

Carrier economics

December 6, 2016 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

I’m really not a great fan of tax breaks and such to attract or maintain companies, but I’m realistic enough to understand that most states and regions use these as one of the weapons in their arsenal to attract new companies. (Case in point: last year Governor Hogan proposed a ten-year tax break for companies relocating to certain parts of Maryland, but the proposal went nowhere.) So it was with Carrier Corporation, which was supposed to abandon the state of Indiana for Mexico but brought that move to a screeching halt at the behest of President-elect Trump and his running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence.

One thing that has been brought out in the general conversation over Carrier’s change of heart was the Trump proposal to punish companies that move overseas. He’s proposing a 35 percent tariff on such firms, so under his idea had Carrier moved its operations to Mexico they would have had a 35% surcharge on their product.

But the incoming President is also advocating for a series of proposals to make America more business-friendly, such as cutting regulations and lowering the corporate income tax from roughly 35 to 40 percent down to about 15 percent. (These are ballpark figures, but that’s okay since Trump only sees these as starting points for negotiation anyway.)

The reason I bring this up is to make the case that all the carrots should be utilized before a stick is ever brought out. It’s patently obvious that America doesn’t make things like it used to, but the factors of why are most important. Just off the top of my head, here are some possible reasons:

  • Overseas labor costs are far cheaper.
  • There are fewer labor and environmental regulations to deal with.
  • China is a larger market overall and is growing in its consumerism.
  • The tax structure overseas is more beneficial.

However, even if all these things are true, it boggles my mind that it’s possible to profit by creating a product halfway around the world and shipping it back here on a slow boat when the most affluent consumers are still in the good old U. S. of A.

And then you have certain advantages we can exploit for ourselves: a first-class transportation system, a ready-made skilled workforce, and sufficient, reliable energy that’s inexpensive. Unfortunately, previous administrations were reluctant to allow companies to use these advantages, so they departed for greener pastures. In the case of labor-intensive products such as clothing, it’s not likely they will be coming back.

But at the same time we are looking to make things in America, it’s worth pointing out that these things that we can make use more and more automation to create. I’ll jump across the pond for this example, but a reason cited for the demise of the long-running Land Rover Defender model (a 67-year run) was that:

Five hundred workers build the car by hand – there are fewer than 10 robots on the whole line; step across to the Range Rover line on the other side of the Lode Lane, Solihull factory and you’ll find 328 robots.

If you assume that each robot takes the place of a single employee (which is probably generous to the employees) that means about 1/3 the manpower built the Range Rover compared to the Defender. The same is true in Detroit and Japan. To a manufacturer, there’s a lot of appeal to automation: it doesn’t take smoke breaks or mental health days, won’t come back from its lunch break drunk or stoned, and won’t go on strike for ever-increasing health care benefits or wages. The quality of work is very consistent, too, and once set up there’s no such thing as training a new hire.

For decades, though, workers have used machines to assist them in creating products – even the assembly line itself was a vast machine that automated the process of moving the frame of the car along as its component parts were added. Plastic products aren’t really created by hand, but by machines that extrude the parts for them – an offshoot of the process is 3D printing. When you come right down to it, the Carrier plant is one where premade components such as a motor, fan, cooling unit, outside shell, and electronics are assembled to create a larger product, which is where the value is added in this case. There’s not a huge amount of skill needed to put these things together – the skill comes from the design of these units to keep up with the demands of regulation, consumer preferences, and profitability. (Apparently the luckless Land Rover Defender stopped keeping up with these demands.)

But no amount of physical skill can overcome the capricious nature of government whim, and this is where Trump’s idea becomes somewhat impractical. Let’s say in three years Carrier decides it has to move production to Mexico, so it becomes subject to the 35% tax. A unit that cost $10,000 will now have to run at $13,500.

On the other hand, Carrier’s competitor Fujitsu, which is headquartered in Japan, may have a price for a similar unit of $11,000 because they have to ship it over. (For the sake of argument, I’ll assume their products are made overseas.) Thanks to Trump’s proposal, they can raise their price to $12,500 – making more profit for their foreign owners yet still undercutting their competition. Similarly, if Trump decides to go full-bore protectionist and slap tariffs on imported items, there’s no doubt everyone else will do the same thing and that will kill our export market.

I understand the frustration Americans have when they perceive China and others are beating us economically because they are cheating. Truthfully, they could be absolutely correct – in the case of China, I put nothing past Communist scum. But the solution is to make China less attractive by making ourselves more attractive, not trying to punish people. If Trump wants his 35% penalty, that should be the absolute last resort once all other efforts have been made to make our nation as business-friendly as possible. Unfortunately, I think The Donald is too vindictive for his own good.

Someone will pay for all these Carrier incentives, and I suspect these far smaller businesses will be the ones who suffer for the sins of others around the world.

Advice for the next MDGOP leader

On Wednesday night I put up a relatively quick post handicapping the various officer races for Maryland Republican Party leadership. But there was one person I may have missed, and his name is Gary Collins.

Over the last few days his social media has been on fire because he had noted his thought about trying for the brass ring, but deciding against it – only to find a lot of people want him to consider it anyway. It seems to me there can be floor nominations (although my recollection is rusty on this) so he may have something of a support base if he decides to try.

Back in the summer, though, Gary was one of the strongest Trumpkin voices screaming for my resignation, and I suppose he eventually got his wish because I did. Now he has to be careful what he wished for, though, because I’m going to give him (and anyone else who seeks the top spot) some free advice from an outsider who was once on the inside. It’s not so much on how to be chair of the party as it is a general treatise on philosophy. So here goes.

  • There are two numbers for the new Chair to remember: 818,890 and 1,677,926. The former number is the Democratic vote in 2014, and the latter in 2016. We can’t count on a weak Democrat that the party can’t get excited about to run in 2018, and you can be sure that the other party will be trying to tie the person who only won in 2014 by about 65,000 votes to the guy who lost two years later, in large part from Democrats and independents voting against him as opposed to being for their own flawed nominee, by over 700,000 votes. (You can fairly say that 1/3 of Hillary’s popular vote margin came from this state.) This is true even though Larry Hogan didn’t support Donald Trump and reportedly didn’t vote for him.
  • Thus, job one for the party Chair is to re-elect the governor and job 1A is to get him more help. You may not like it, and the chances are reasonably good the winner supported Trump from early on. But not everything Trump says or does will play well here, especially when 2/5 of the voters live in the Capital region.
  • Legislatively, this will be the year in the cycle the General Assembly majority is most aggressive. You can bet that paid sick leave will pass and they will dare Hogan to veto it. Even other crazy stuff like the “chicken tax” and a renewed push for the O’Malley-era phosphorus regulations have a decent chance of passing – both to burnish the far-left legacy of ambitious Democrats and to attempt to embarrass Governor Hogan. Meanwhile, if it’s an administration-sponsored bill you can be certain the committee chairs have standing orders to throw it in their desk drawers and lose the key. (Of course, identical Democrat-sponsored legislation will have a chance at passing, provided they get all the credit.) Bear in mind that 2017 will be aggressive because 2018 is an election year and the filing deadline will again likely be during session – so those who wish to move up in the ranks may keep their powder dry on the most extreme issues next session until they see who wins that fall.
  • Conservatives have a lot to lose. Larry Hogan is not a doctrinaire conservative, but he needs a second term for one big reason – sort of like the rationale of keeping the Supreme Court that #NeverTrump people were constantly subjected to. It’s the redistricting, stupid. They got rid of Roscoe Bartlett by adding thousands of Montgomery County voters to the Sixth District (while diluting the former Sixth District voters into the Eighth or packing them into the First) so the next target will be Andy Harris. If you subtracted out the four Lower Shore counties from his district and pushed it over into Baltimore City, you would only lose a little in the Democratic Third and Seventh Districts but pick up the First. The Lower Shore voters would be well outnumbered by PG and Charles County as part of the Fifth District (such a district split is not unprecedented.) Democrats dreamed about this last time out, and they want no part of an independent redistricting commission.
  • One place to play offense: vulnerable Democrat Senators. I live in Jim Mathias’s district, and it’s very interesting how much more of an advocate he was for an elected school board after 2014. He’s always tried to play up his somewhat centrist (compared to most Democrats. anyway) voting record, and I suspect there are a handful of other D’s who may try to do the same. Don’t let them get away with it, because over years of doing the monoblogue Accountability Project I’ve found (with a couple rare exceptions) that even the worst Republican is superior to the best Democrat as far as voting is concerned.

So whoever wins Saturday can feel free to use these ideas. As for me, I have far better plans for my weekend – I’ll wave in the general direction in Frederick as we go by. Fair warning: comment moderation may be slow or non-existent.

Sitting right next to square one: a postmortem, part three

I’m not patient enough to wait on the final Maryland results, but if they hold fair enough to form they will conform to a degree with my prediction.

Evan McMullin will get the majority of counted write-in votes, eclipsing the 5,000 mark statewide. I think Darrell Castle comes in next with around 1,100, which almost triples the 2012 Constitution Party candidates Virgil Goode and James Clymer (both ran under that banner as the party had split factions.) This would be astounding when you consider there were over 10,000 write-in votes cast in 2012 but most of those weren’t counted…Thanks to McMullin, though, this year the stigma behind write-ins will be broken somewhat.

On the Wicomico County level…Evan McMullin will beat (Jill Stein) by getting 0.6% of the vote. Of the other 100 or so votes, I figure Darrell Castle gets about 45.

If I had to make a living predicting write-in votes I would go broke in a week. However, there is something very instructive about how they did turn out.

Just based on the state results that are in, and making an educated guess about the remainder, it looks like Evan McMullin will handily exceed the 5,000 mark. Based on the number of votes left to be counted and where they come from, I wouldn’t be surprised if McMullin picks up close to 9,000 statewide. But compare that to the 34,062 Jill Stein received as the bottom on-ballot candidate. McMullin’s success comes in a field of write-ins that is far outshadowed by the “other” write-ins category they don’t count (that category is beating Stein so far but its numbers will dwindle as counties sort out the results.)

On the other hand, my expectations of Castle may be twice what he actually draws, as he’s looking at about 500 to 600 votes when all is said and done. However, there is a chance he may finish third among the group of write-ins depending on how many wrote in Michael Maturen of the American Solidarity Party – I would describe that group as having a left-of-center Christian worldview and the counties that remain to be counted would be more likely to support that than a conservative, Constitutional viewpoint. (99 votes separate the two.)

Here in Wicomico County I think double-digits could be a stretch, although the comparable Cecil County gave Castle 17 votes. (Proportionately, though, Somerset County cast 6 votes for Castle, which put him at 0.1%. So my vote for Castle may have quite a bit of company.)

But think of all the press coverage Evan McMullin received during his brief run of 3 months; by comparison we heard next to nothing about Darrell Castle accepting his party’s nomination in April of this year. I did a Bing search just a day or two before the election and found out that McMullin had five times the number of mentions that Castle did. Although that rudimentary measuring stick alluded to a large disparity, it doesn’t factor in the depth of coverage, either. McMullin got a serious number of pixels from #NeverTrump personalities such as Erick Erickson and Glenn Beck, so people had an awareness of a candidate whose campaign turned out to be more or less a favorite-son quest in Utah to deny Trump 270 electoral votes.

And there is a legitimate argument to be made for a very pessimistic point of view regarding this. My friend Robert Broadus remarked yesterday on Facebook that:

Considering that among all these choices, Castle was the only candidate representing a pro-God, pro-Family, pro-Constitution platform, I think it’s safe to say that conservatives are a negligible minority in the United States. Either it’s time for conservatives to adopt a new philosophy, or it’s time for a new party that can attract conservative voters, rather than abandoning them to liberal Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Greens, and all the other flavors of Communism that exist on the ballot.

Nationwide, Evan McMullin has 545,104 votes (with ballot access in just 11 states and write-in access in 31 others) while Darrell Castle is at 190,599 with ballot access in 24 states and write-in access in 23. If nothing else, this shows the power of media, but I disagree that conservatives are a negligible minority. Rather, they fall prey to the notion that the election is a binary choice and the two major parties aren’t exactly going to go out of their way to say, hey, we know you may not agree with us so you may want to consider (fill in the blank.)

But it’s also clear that ballot access makes a difference. In looking at the states where Castle was on the ballot and McMullin a write-in, the limited amount of data I could find (the state of Missouri and a sampling of Wisconsin counties – they report that way) suggested that a Castle on the ballot far outdistanced a McMullin write-in. Castle received nearly ten times the votes in Missouri, for example, and generally defeated McMullin by a factor of 2 to 4 in Wisconsin.

So if you are the Constitution Party (which, based on their platform, would be my preference as an alternate party) – or any other alternate to the R/D duopoly not called the Libertarian or Green parties – job one for you is to get ballot access.  Granted, the Constitution Party only received between .2% and 1.1% of the vote in states where they qualified for the ballot, but that was vastly better than any state where they were a write-in.

Maryland makes this a difficult process, and this is more than likely intentional. To secure ballot access, a party first needs to get 10,000 valid signatures to the Board of Elections stating that these voters wish to create a new party. To maintain access they then need to get at least 1% of the vote in a gubernatorial election or 1% of the total registered voters – at this point, that number would be about 38,000. The Libertarian Party maintained its access in 2014 by receiving 1.5% of the vote, while the Green Party managed to once again qualify via petition, so both were on the ballot for the 2016 Presidential race. The Constitution Party did field a candidate for Maryland governor (Eric Knowles and running mate Michael Hargadon) with ballot access in 2010, but did not qualify in subsequent elections.

I also looked up the requirements in Delaware:

No political party shall be listed on any general election ballot unless, 21 days prior to the date of the primary election, there shall be registered in the name of that party a number of voters equal to at least 1 0/100 of 1 percent of the total number of voters registered in the State as of December 31 of the year immediately preceding the general election year.

In the First State the same parties as Maryland (Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green) qualified for the ballot; however, the Green Party made it by the skin of its teeth as they barely broke the threshold of 653 they needed – they had fallen below that earlier in 2016. At this point Delaware would be adding the American Delta Party (2016 nominee: Rocky De La Fuente, who has 6 Maryland write-in votes so far) and maintaining the other four; meanwhile the Constitution Party sits at 311 of what is now a requirement of 676. (The Conservative Party is also in the same boat with 432. Perhaps a merger is in order? Also worth noting for the Constitution Party: Sussex County could be a huge growth area since they only have 36 of the 311 – they should be no less than Kent County’s 135.)

So the task for liberty- and Godly-minded people is right in front of them. While it’s likely the Republican Party has always been the “backstop” party when there are only two choices, more and more often they are simply becoming the lesser of two evils. Never was that more clear than this election, as most of the choices they presented to voters were the “tinker around the edge” sort of candidate who will inevitably drift to the left if elected.

Of course, Broadus may be right and those who are “pro-God, pro-Family, (and) pro-Constitution” may be a tiny minority. But so are homosexuals and they seem to have an outsized role in culture and politics. (I use that group as an example because they have successfully created a perception that homosexuals are 20 to 25 percent of the population.) It’s time for the group I write about to become the “irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.” It may be a stretch when most people think Samuel Adams is a brand of beer, but I choose to try.

Thoughts on Trump: a postmortem, part two

November 11, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off 

When I did part one I intended to wait until all of the write-in votes were counted and tallied before continuing, but it appears that process will be very time-consuming and drag out over the next couple weeks. So I will save the third part for that facet of the evaluation I wasn’t anticipating would take so long and carry on with what we do know to date, beginning with the rest of my predictions. I’m still working in reverse order.

On the Wicomico County level, Donald Trump will carry the county with ease, with 63.7% of the vote compared to 32.8% for Hillary. Gary Johnson will hover around 2.3% here and Jill Stein at 0.4%; in fact, Evan McMullin will beat her…

I keep making the mistake of thinking Wicomico County is more conservative than reality bears out. Trump won Wicomico County, but underperformed my expectations by a full 10.6 percentage points (53.1% vs. 63.7%.) Hillary received 8.8% of my overage, going from the 32.8% I guessed to the actual 41.6%, while Gary Johnson was the recipient of a small portion as well, outperforming with 3% against the 2.2% I predicted.

But it was the Green Party candidate Jill Stein who vastly outperformed, going from a cipher to a semi-cipher with 1%. She received 388 votes, and with 526 write-in votes to allocate – a total which presumably includes a batch for non-candidates like Larry Hogan or Mickey Mouse – I think Stein will end up beating McMullin after all. He needs nearly 3/4 of all the write-in votes and that’s a tall order.

The suspense will be much less in Maryland, where Trump will lose but not as badly as polls once suggested. Out of 2.6 million votes cast (again, down slightly from 2012) Hillary will get 56.1% and Trump 38.7%. Among the rest, Gary Johnson will get 3.3%, Jill Stein will pick up 1.2%, and write-ins the rest.

Turns out turnout wasn’t even as good as I thought, even knowing the high number who voted early. As of this writing, there were 2,545,896 Maryland votes for President, and you’re asking a lot for a 2% undervote on that part of the ballot (although it is possible.) But Hillary picked up an “extra” 3.5% in the state, a total that Trump exceeded by underperforming my estimate by 3.8%. (It is 59.6% for Hillary vs. 34.9% for Trump.) Gary Johnson also came up short, getting 2.8% vs. the 3.3% I projected, but Jill Stein came close with 1.3% as opposed to the 1.2% I predicted. But the write-ins I guessed would be less than 1 percent are (as a combined total) leading Stein 32,957 to 32,406. (Worth noting: over 6,000 absentee/provisional votes have been deleted from the write-in totals, so the final tally among them may be closer to 30,000 rather than the 40,000 I noted in part one. Still, that is over thrice the number of write-ins cast in 2012 at this point – although a high number will be non-official candidates as well.)

For the last part, I’m going to bring in my predicted electoral map.

The important race: Hillary Clinton will pull out a fairly close popular vote race by 1 or 2 points nationwide, but fails to eclipse 50 percent just like her husband. However, there is a highly distinct possibility we may live the 2000 election all over again: the Electoral College very well could finish 279-259 Trump and the straw that breaks Hillary Clinton’s back will be losing Florida. Trump will win 30 states but Florida will be the dagger the GOP regains to defeat Hillary. Also from the 2012 map Trump will regain Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Ohio for the GOP, plus one Electoral College vote in Maine. (That one vote in Maine could be key if Florida and Pennsylvania trade places, with the former going to Clinton and the latter Trump. If Trump takes one Congressional district in Maine he would prevail 270-268, but if that elector decides to go with the other three Maine electors it becomes a tie.)


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

The reasons neither candidate breaks 50 percent: about 4.5% for Gary Johnson, 1.5% for Jill Stein, and various write-in candidates will split roughly 2% of the vote. This means Hillary beats Trump by something like 46-45 or 47-45.

It does not look like Hillary Clinton will win the popular vote by more than a margin that would trigger an automatic recount in many states (0.5%.) Both Clinton and Trump are hovering in the 47 to 48% range; based on standard rounding rules it’s 48-47 Hillary right now. So I was actually correct on margin.

But I’m intrigued by the states I messed up on. Let me share a little secret with you: my prediction map was based on a very simple formula – take the last poll from each state and if it was anything less than Clinton +3 give it to Trump. After all, people tell me I barely know Maryland and Delaware politics, let alone the dynamics of swing states I have never been to. But I did sense there was a Bradley effect going in that people either wouldn’t admit to a stranger they were voting for Trump or they were convinced that where there was the smoke of allegations over dirty dealings by Hillary Clinton there was the fire of influence-peddling, despite the FBI clearing her twice.

So Donald Trump did not win Colorado, Nevada, or New Hampshire as I predicted (although there may be an automatic recount in New Hampshire based on margin.) But I think he will gladly trade those 19 electoral votes for the 46 he gets by winning Michigan (maybe, as that is also likely an automatic recount margin), Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin (!). Trump lost Colorado by 3 and Nevada by about 2, so they were close as were Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, both taken by Trump by about 1 percent. Even if they find a trunkful of votes somehow deposited under home plate where Tiger Stadium once stood, though, Trump wins the Electoral College by 290-248. (If Michigan holds it’s 306-232, not quite the 332-206 Obama was re-elected with, but a healthy margin nonetheless. Even without Michigan, though, Trump beats Bush’s 2004 re-election, let alone the 2000 race.)

Yet despite underperforming my expectations, the Libertarian Gary Johnson blew away his party’s previous best national showing with 3.3%. Jill Stein actually did worse than I expected, garnering just less than 1% nationally. On both sides of the spectrum, those who wavered in their support for alternative candidates fell prey to the siren song of the duopoly who continually tries to convince people a vote other than R or D is “wasted.” And that’s the way the establishment continues to reign. So let me digress for a moment to wrap up the prediction part of this post…

First of all, national turnout will be about 124 million votes, which will be down from 2012 but not as bad as I once predicted.

Turnout was better than I guessed, but it will still be down from 2012. (By the way, I thought someplace I wrote it was 128 million in 2012, but the undervotes pushed it beyond 129 million casting a ballot. So far they have counted 126.8 million ballots.)

…and pick up with my thoughts on why Trump did so well where he was expected to lose.

If you see a common theme in those three states (as well as Ohio) this election was all about trade and job creation. These are the voters who have seen their livelihoods taken away by NAFTA and the relocation of manufacturing to other nations like China, so they have a latent animus against the Clinton family to begin with.

Yet these were also the union voters who either went with their union leadership to support Al Gore, John Kerry, and Barack Obama, or (more likely) just said the heck with it and stayed home because they liked neither choice presented by the duopoly. And let’s face it: to these working-class people George W. Bush only became president because his dad pulled the strings,  John McCain wasn’t appealing because he was a Washington insider, and Mitt Romney was the subject of their class envy. But Donald Trump made the election about things they cared about with his populist, pro-America appeal, so they turned out for him.

And it’s worth adding that pollsters tend to call those they know are likely voters. As I noted, much of this group stayed home for the last several elections and they’re skeptical enough of the press to deceive the pollsters if they do happen to call – thus, all the pollsters overestimated the base of support for Hillary in these states.

If I have a perception of these Trump voters, they remind me of my dad: he was a union worker for over 35 years, was drafted into the Army and served his hitch (fortunately in the period between Korea and Vietnam), and he worked for several years at a friend’s greenhouse even after he “retired” from his longtime employer (a concrete block plant that is no longer in business.) I have no idea if he voted, but if he did he fits well the profile of one of those Trump supporters who came out of the woodwork.

So I’m left with the surprise and shock I received when I opened up my browser to the New York Times website where I was tracking the results and finding they were predicting a Trump victory was more and more likely. It was surprising because it was lining up with my EC prediction, and shocking once the results began rolling in from Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Conversely, I’m not shocked by the discord in the election’s wake, just saddened (remember, I didn’t vote for Trump either – but I’m not going to march in the streets about it.)

My last part is going to wrap up the predictions once I get the write-in results. Already Darrell Castle is at 180,000 votes nationwide and that will hopefully increase as states where he was a write-in tally their ballots. Considering the Constitution Party has never broken 200,000, it’s a start. I’m going to be interested to see how Castle fares in Maryland and Delaware.

I suppose the next great political event around these parts will be the runup to the Maryland GOP Fall Convention that I will miss (but only in the sense I won’t be there – as it turns out I have much better plans for that particular weekend) but will elect a new party Chair whose top job will be to re-elect Larry Hogan in two years.

In the meantime, I may do a little work on my book this weekend. I also found out there will be a change afoot with this site, so stay tuned.

Closing the loop: a postmortem, part one

I’m sure that many millions of people like me who stayed up until almost 3 this morning (yet had to get up and go to work) were of several minds: anything from watching a slow-motion trainwreck to openly savoring the bitterness coming from the hearts of the so-called “experts” who predicted a massive blowout loss for Donald Trump. And until the last maybe week to 10 days I was among that group, but it seems there is a reservoir of support Trump could keep tapping into that other Republicans could not.

That subject is one I will get to in due course (that being part two) but for the moment I just want to work through my series of predictions and see if my crystal ball has been fixed. Just as I reeled them out from national to local, I will wind them backward to wrap them up.

And just as an aside, while early voting had historically high turnout, the reason will end up being that people just wanted to wash their hands of this election.

I think that panned out to a fair extent. Turnout is lining up to be right around or perhaps slightly below where it was in 2012, depending on how many absentees or provisional ballots there were. Including early voting, Maryland brought out a little over 2.5 million voters. Considering the state has about 300,000 more voters in this cycle, I think the turnout percentage will decrease or stay about where it was – the timing of votes was what shifted.

Across the border, I fear Delaware will vote for more of the same then wonder why their state isn’t getting better. Basically the state will have the same political composition with different names on the nameplates in Congress and state executive offices – not that Sussex County agreed with it, but they will be outvoted as usual by the New Castle Democrat machine.

In the state of Delaware, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by a 53%-42% margin, Democrat Congressional hopeful Lisa Blunt Rochester won 56%-41% over Republican Hans Reigle. and in all three state government races, the Democrats won by almost identical margins: 58%-39%, 59%-41%, and 59%-41%. Aside from an extra 10,000 or so votes cast in the governor’s race to accommodate the Green and Libertarian candidates, the Democrats’ totals were all within 2,000 votes and the GOP within 2,500.

But if you break it down by county and the city of Wilmington, you find that Hillary won 84.8% in Wilmington, 59.4% in the rest of New Castle County, 44.9% in Kent County, and 37.2% in Sussex County. The problem is New Castle County’s Hillary votes were more than the combined overall total of either Sussex or Kent County. Sussex only went 41% for Rochester, 45% for governor-elect John Carney, 47% for lieutenant governor-elect Bethany Hall-Long, and 40% for new insurance commissioner Trinidad Navarro. Going forward they need to keep statewide Democrats in the 20s in Sussex County, but that may be a tall task as those who retire there generally come from Democratic core states and apparently don’t change their voting patterns.

On the questions, I believe Question 1 will get in the neighborhood of 80% statewide but maybe 75% here. The biggest controversy will be that Question A’s Option 2 will win a plurality of the vote but not quite a majority – a spirited Democrat effort will pull Option 2 down to 48% but Option 1 will get just 32%, with 20% opting for the hybrid. Otherwise, all the charter amendments will pass by healthy margins of 65 to 80 percent in favor.

Question 1 got 73.6% here (so I was close) but I underestimated the statewide wisdom to some extent, as the partisan measure passed on a 72-28 margin overall (as opposed to 80%.) I was just 3 percentage points off on Question A but Option 2 managed a slight 51% majority rather than a plurality. The Democrats probably got a late start in backing Option 1 because it underperformed my estimate by 7 points while the hybrid Option 3 outperformed by 5 points. The other questions ranged from 63 to 77 percent in favor, so I was in the ballpark. Maybe my public opposition brought them down 2 to 3 percent each.

Andy Harris will be returned to Congress, but not by as much as previous years. He will get 60.7% of the vote both overall and in Wicomico County, but Joe Werner’s 35.9% of the vote districtwide will shrink to 33.8% here. The Libertarian Matt Beers will have 3.2% districtwide but do somewhat better here, with 5.2% support in Wicomico County.

I was somewhat correct with Harris. He got 7% better than I predicted districtwide, but I was correct that he did decline slightly from 2014, when he was a shade over 70%. That extra came from Werner as he came up 7.9% short of what I thought he would and Matt Beers came in 1% better at 4.2%. Here in Wicomico, though, I was much closer: Harris underperformed my guess by 1.7% while Werner jumped 3.3%. The Libertarian Beers came in 1.5% less here. It’s worth noting, though, that the Libertarians’ share of the vote has increased slightly with each election they participate in – back in 2008 they had 2.5%, in 2010 3.8%, in 2012 3.8% (but Muir Boda came close to edging the write-in Democratic candidate here in Wicomico with 5.9% vs. 6%) and now 4.2%.

Looking at the U.S. Senate race, I think that Chris Van Hollen wins no more than eight counties but those will be enough to propel him to victory with 61.1% of the vote, compared to Kathy Szeliga’s 37.8%. Margaret Flowers will get 0.6% and various write-ins the rest. Wicomico will be one Szeliga wins, but not quite as strongly as Trump – she gets 59.3% of the vote while Van Hollen has 40.3% and Flowers 0.2%.

Van Hollen won just six counties, but unfortunately for Szeliga they included the four biggest so she was trounced. I gave Van Hollen about 1% more credit than he deserved, but Szeliga got no benefit as she was 1.4% short. All the underage went to Flowers, who grabbed over fivefold the share I predicted at 3.2%. Just as some on the right may give Libertarians the vote in a race they know is safe (I’ve done this several times in the past) I think those well out on the left figured it wouldn’t hurt to push the Flowers total up. But when Szeliga undercuts my modest expectations (to have a shot, she really had to be in the 75% range here and elsewhere on the Eastern Shore) by a full 5.7%, it’s a short wait for a concession speech. Van Hollen only lost our supposedly conservative county by 10.4 points (and beat my guess by about 3 points) but a shocker was that Flowers did about as well here as she did statewide. I thought she would be lucky to get 100 votes locally; she picked up 1,163.

I’m going to stop with that because I want to see the write-in votes for President before I comment on that race. But I will say that I am shocked at the number of write-in votes, as over 40,000 were cast statewide. I’m sure many of these won’t be counted, but it won’t be 85% of them like it was in 2012. I may have been overly pessimistic on Evan McMullin, Darrell Castle, Tom Hoefling, and so forth as they may split 15 to 20 thousand votes (although McMullin will get the lion’s share.) We won’t know for a few days, though, and when we do I will pick up with the second part regarding the Presidential race.

The wild guesses for 2016

In years past, our Central Committee used to make a gentlemen’s bet on the election results and I was often the one who prevailed. But I seem to recall I had a rough go of it the last couple times out and these days I have no idea if my crystal ball is broken or not. Undaunted, here are my slightly educated guesses on how this election will turn out locally, statewide, and nationally.

First of all, national turnout will be about 124 million votes, which will be down from 2012 but not as bad as I once predicted.

The important race: Hillary Clinton will pull out a fairly close popular vote race by 1 or 2 points nationwide, but fails to eclipse 50 percent just like her husband. However, there is a highly distinct possibility we may live the 2000 election all over again: the Electoral College very well could finish 279-259 Trump and the straw that breaks Hillary Clinton’s back will be losing Florida. Trump will win 30 states but Florida will be the dagger the GOP regains to defeat Hillary. Also from the 2012 map Trump will regain Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Ohio for the GOP, plus one Electoral College vote in Maine. (That one vote in Maine could be key if Florida and Pennsylvania trade places, with the former going to Clinton and the latter Trump. If Trump takes one Congressional district in Maine he would prevail 270-268, but if that elector decides to go with the other three Maine electors it becomes a tie.)


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

The reasons neither candidate breaks 50 percent: about 4.5% for Gary Johnson, 1.5% for Jill Stein, and various write-in candidates will split roughly 2% of the vote. This means Hillary beats Trump by something like 46-45 or 47-45. But if Hillary wins in the Electoral College by keeping Florida (or another close state like North Carolina or Ohio), by dawn on Wednesday the caterwauling about #NeverTrump begins, conveniently forgetting that not only was Trump a weak candidate propped up by initial incessant and fawning media coverage that (as if by magic) turned more negative when he won the nomination, but Gary Johnson and Jill Stein took enough from Hillary to deny her a majority, too.

The suspense will be much less in Maryland, where Trump will lose but not as badly as polls once suggested. Out of 2.6 million votes cast (again, down slightly from 2012) Hillary will get 56.1% and Trump 38.7%. Among the rest, Gary Johnson will get 3.3%, Jill Stein will pick up 1.2%, and write-ins the rest. Evan McMullin will get the majority of counted write-in votes, eclipsing the 5,000 mark statewide. I think Darrell Castle comes in next with around 1,100, which almost triples the 2012 Constitution Party candidates Virgil Goode and James Clymer (both ran under that banner as the party had split factions.) This would be astounding when you consider there were over 10,000 write-in votes cast in 2012 but most of those weren’t counted. (The actual top vote-getter among write-ins back in 2012 was Santa Claus with 625 – Goode was second.) Thanks to McMullin, though, this year the stigma behind write-ins will be broken somewhat.

On the Wicomico County level, Donald Trump will carry the county with ease, with 63.7% of the vote compared to 32.8% for Hillary. Gary Johnson will hover around 2.3% here and Jill Stein at 0.4%; in fact, Evan McMullin will beat her by getting 0.6% of the vote. Of the other 100 or so votes, I figure Darrell Castle gets about 45.

Looking at the U.S. Senate race, I think that Chris Van Hollen wins no more than eight counties but those will be enough to propel him to victory with 61.1% of the vote, compared to Kathy Szeliga’s 37.8%. Margaret Flowers will get 0.6% and various write-ins the rest. Wicomico will be one Szeliga wins, but not quite as strongly as Trump – she gets 59.3% of the vote while Van Hollen has 40.3% and Flowers 0.2%. Not backing Trump will give Szeliga a larger undervote than normal, while Van Hollen may actually exceed Hillary as independents split their tickets.

Andy Harris will be returned to Congress, but not by as much as previous years. He will get 60.7% of the vote both overall and in Wicomico County, but Joe Werner’s 35.9% of the vote districtwide will shrink to 33.8% here. The Libertarian Matt Beers will have 3.2% districtwide but do somewhat better here, with 5.2% support in Wicomico County. Because of the nature of the First District, don’t be surprised if Harris runs slightly ahead of Trump (mainly across the Bay.) The Maryland Congressional delegation will remain 7-1 Democrat, with Amie Hoeber and Mark Plaster coming the closest to ousting the incumbents but losing by single-digits.

On the questions, I believe Question 1 will get in the neighborhood of 80% statewide but maybe 75% here. The biggest controversy will be that Question A’s Option 2 will win a plurality of the vote but not quite a majority – a spirited Democrat effort will pull Option 2 down to 48% but Option 1 will get just 32%, with 20% opting for the hybrid. Otherwise, all the charter amendments will pass by healthy margins of 65 to 80 percent in favor.

Across the border, I fear Delaware will vote for more of the same then wonder why their state isn’t getting better. Basically the state will have the same political composition with different names on the nameplates in Congress and state executive offices – not that Sussex County agreed with it, but they will be outvoted as usual by the New Castle Democrat machine.

So that’s my take on how it will go – do readers have ideas of their own? And just as an aside, while early voting had historically high turnout, the reason will end up being that people just wanted to wash their hands of this election. Voting a week early enabled many to tune the election out – they did their civic duty and now could get on with life.

We will see on Wednesday how shocked and surprised I am. I was certainly shocked with the state-by-state figuring I did to predict a 2000 repeat.

A potential power grab?

In 2004, Wicomico County voters adopted a system of government that would be led by a county executive, scrapping the former system where County Council had both legislative and executive powers. One reaction from this: all four of the incumbent Democratic members of County Council opted not to run for re-election in 2006; however, the first County Executive elected was Democrat Rick Pollitt.

In 2014, we had the first transfer of power between parties as GOP standard-bearer Bob Culver ousted Pollitt, who was running for a third term. At the same time, County Council maintained the 6-1 GOP edge it had received in 2010 – that was an increase from the 4-3 control they won in 2006 with only two members from the previous Council surviving the election.

So you can perhaps chalk it up to management style, or maybe the turnover on County Council over the last eight years has placed a crop of people on there who long for the old system, but Wicomico County voters are facing a bewildering array of issues on their ballot. So let’s start with the no-brainers.

Question 1 is a statewide issue that compels the Governor to appoint a new Comptroller or Attorney General from the same party as the one most recently elected and provides for a special election in a Presidential year if the vacancy occurs soon enough.

You’ll notice that this was never a problem until a Republican was elected to the governor’s chair. In fact, the last time the state had a Republican AG was in the term of Republican Governor Theodore McKeldin (1951-1959), who appointed Edward Rollins to the post to finish out the term of Hall Hammond, a Democrat elected in 1950 and promoted to the state Court of Appeals. As for Comptroller, it has exclusively been a Democrat’s position for well over a century. But maybe we could use a Libertarian as Comptroller or a Constitution Party member as Attorney General – until either can break the two-party duopoly, though, we would likely be stuck with liberal Democrats.

So because of the cynicism in addressing a problem (that really wasn’t) for strictly partisan reasons, I urge a vote AGAINST Question 1.

Question A, for Wicomico County voters, addresses the composition of the Wicomico County Board of Education. For years I have advocated for an elected school board, and after eliminating the political obstacles in the 2014 election, the path was cleared for voters to address the issue in the first three-way referendum in recent memory. Option 1 is to maintain the current appointed system, Option 2 is for a fully elected board, one each representing the five County Council districts and two at-large elected by all county residents (the same makeup as our current County Council), and Option 3 is for a hybrid board of five elected (one from each Council district) and two appointed by a locally-created board with confirmation from County Council.

Once again the cynical local Democrats have cast their lot with the fully-appointed Option 1, which provides no shortage of irony considering it’s the least democratic process. It seemed more logical that they would be for Option 3, which was the fallback position many preferred in the hearings conducted in the summer of 2015, before the enabling legislation passed earlier this year. But to maximize accountability, the best choice by far is Option 2 – a Wicomico County Board of Education with five members elected by district and two members elected at-large.

Now it gets very confusing. There are nine county charter amendments on the ballot, and to me their net effect seems to be that of reducing the power of the county executive and shifting it to County Council. I wasn’t here for the 2004 vote, but it seems obvious to me that the county wanted a strong leader and a legislative County Council.

Let’s begin with Question B and its related cousin, Question D. Both would require a special election: Question B to fill a vacancy in the County Council, and Question D for the County Executive. However, either vacancy would only be filled in this manner if it occurred within the first year or so of the term, which seems to me a rather pointless change. Having gone through this process as a Central Committee member back in 2011 (to fill the vacancy created by the passing of Bob Caldwell) I can tell you that a special election would do no better and cost the taxpayers money to boot. Thus, the proper vote is AGAINST both Question B and Question D. (Editor’s note: Councilman Marc Kilmer clarifies the intent of these questions in comments below, but I still think the ballot language is misleading. Their idea of a “special election” coincides with the scheduled primary and general elections, which is not made completely clear in the ballot summary.)

Question C deals with vacancies as well, but it’s a common-sense measure to extend the time allotted for filling positions from 30 to 45 days and have them submitted at a legislative session. This extension makes sense as County Council only meets twice a month, and having gone through the Caldwell vacancy the extra time is good for getting things right. Vote FOR Question C.

Question E removes the authority of the County Executive to select a temporary successor and assigns the task automatically to the Director of Administration. While it’s likely he or she would do so anyway, the option should remain open for the head of our government to choose. We do not have a vice-executive here, so why create one? Vote AGAINST Question E.

Question F deals with the idea of “acting” appointments, and limits their term to 90 days unless Council chooses to re-appoint them. Since the idea of “acting” is that of being temporary, this proposal makes more sense than most of the others. Three months is generally suitable to find a permanent replacement, or determine that the “acting” head can handle the job, so go ahead and vote FOR Question F.

The final four questions seem to me very nit-picky, and obviously County Council’s reaction to not getting their way on various issues.

For example, Question G gives a specific definition to “reorganization” which is much more restrictive toward the County Executive. As I see it, this is a separation of powers issue and it’s strange that we went nearly ten years without ever having to deal with this problem. So I call on voters to say they are AGAINST Question G.

Questions H and I most likely are a reaction to the County Council’s desire to have its own lawyer. Currently the County Attorney represents both the County Council and County Executive, but Council wanted to change that. I see no reason to do so, nor do I see the logic behind forcing the County Executive to recognize a personnel system established by Council as authorized by this change. Thus, we should vote AGAINST Questions H and I. (Editor’s note: Again, see Kilmer’s comments below. By charter my assertion is correct in who the County Attorney represents; but in the county today there is an “acting” County Attorney while Council retains its own, which they are entitled to do. I see no reason to change the system if Question F is passed.)

Finally, we have Question J, and that’s the one I was most on the fence about. But what weighed my decision in the end was that the County Executive is responsible for the budget, so if County Council decides to cut something out it should be the County Executive’s call as to where the money goes rather than simply placed in a particular account. For that reason, a vote AGAINST Question J is the appropriate one.

So this is the monoblogue-approved ballot for Wicomico County voters. We all face the same questions and issues.

  • For Presidentwrite in Darrell Castle/Scott Bradley
  • For U.S. SenatorKathy Szeliga
  • For Congress – I did not make a formal endorsement. If you like Andy Harris, vote for him; if not, vote for the Libertarian Matt Beers.
  • Judge – Based on the fact Dan Friedman was an O’Malley appointee, vote AGAINST his continuance in office.
  • Question 1 – AGAINST
  • Question A – Option 2, the fully elected school board
  • Question B – AGAINST
  • Question C – FOR
  • Question D – AGAINST
  • Question E – AGAINST
  • Question F – FOR
  • Question G – AGAINST
  • Question H – AGAINST
  • Question I – AGAINST
  • Question J – AGAINST

For those of you across the line in Delaware, I weighed in on your state races as well.

Before I wrap up, I just ask that you all pray we make the best choices. We all have to live with what we decide, so choose wisely. After the election, it will be time to create the understanding many among us lack when it comes to making these selections because, in a lot of cases, we all have botched the process badly.

A nation divided against itself cannot stand.

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