A Delaware political update: part 4, Lieutenant Governor and Insurance Commissioner

The final two statewide offices on the ballot this fall may seem insignificant but potentially can have a great effect on people’s lives. At the moment, though, there’s not a great deal of interest in these ballot lines as only a few candidates have actually filed between the two downballot races.

The lieutenant governor’s race is generally ignored unless and until a day nearly four years later when we wake up to realize the second banana is now the fruit in charge. The last time this happened in Delaware it was a brief precursor to what was to come as then-LG Ruth Ann Minner got a few extra days at the helm when her former boss Tom Carper moved on to the U.S. Senate in 2001.

While we never know what will happen to the sitting governor, we do know that the incumbent, Bethany Hall-Long, is seeking a second term of her own. Hall-Long won a six-way Democrat primary in 2016 but is likely to be unopposed in her primary this time. She worked her way up the ladder by serving 14 years between the Delaware House (6) and Senate (8).

The Republicans were initially believed to have a gubernatorial candidate by the name of Kevin Baron, but he decided not to enter the race. Instead, he is now on the Independent Party of Delaware ticket as their lieutenant governor candidate, recently appearing at the Reopen Delaware rally as a team with their gubernatorial candidate Kathy DeMatteis.

In turn, although she hasn’t formally filed, the GOP is pushing Donyale Hall as their LG candidate. I’m not sure if having a candidate with the same last name as the incumbent was intentional, but Hall seems to have a relatively standard GOP platform stressing education, economic advancement, and “effective” government. (As opposed to limited government, I suppose.)

At this time there is no primary race for any of those spots, but the same is not true for Insurance Commissioner.

Right now the current Insurance Commissioner is Democrat Trinidad Navarro, who will seek a second term. Navarro, who came into the race as the New Castle County sheriff (first elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2014), surprised the incumbent Karen Weldin Stewart in the 2016 Democrat primary and defeated Republican Jeff Cragg in the general election. He has an opponent in his primary by the name of Kayode Abegunde; unfortunately, Kayode’s biggest problem is an extraordinarily painful to read website – not to mention a presumably well-funded incumbent.

On the other side, instead of Cragg making a third try for statewide office, the Republican candidate is Dr. Julia Pillsbury, who has a military background and wasn’t previously directly involved in the insurance business. She’s pledging to be an independent voice and advocate for patients and ratepayers and, while she hasn’t filed yet, is listed on the state GOP website as a candidate so we’ll go with it.

Over the years there have been a sprinkling of minor party aspirants for the position, but so far none have emerged for 2020.

So that concludes the state races up to this point, although much will likely change before the July filing deadline. I’ll likely do an updated series of posts once we know all the candidates on the primary ballot – if they are uncontested I may wait until October to revisit the races. (I want to get to the monoblogue Accountability Project as quickly as possible this summer since over 50 of the sitting legislators are on the ballot. Maybe we can goad some conservatives into making a last-minute bid.)

In the meantime, I have planned for one last part where I look at the doings so far in eleven Sussex County races – nine for the state House and two for the state Senate. In looking at the filings to date, though, I may postpone this final part a few weeks and see what develops, because in 2018 there was only one contested primary out of 12 seats available in the county. If the same holds true there may be little point in doing Sussex County legislative races as a post – I’ll just add them to the widget.

A Delaware political update: part 3, the Governor’s race

I have probably screwed this series up by not saving this part for last because, frankly, this is the race most people in Delaware are interested in given this era of Wuhan flu.

But the actions of current Governor John Carney have alienated many voters who may have previously believed he was another executive cut from the cloth of the prototypical business-friendly, somewhat centrist Democrat Delaware governor. His clampdown on business activity and alliance with other governors in states similarly affected by COVID-19 – including New York’s Andrew Cuomo – have brought many voters to the point of demanding an alternative, if not Carney’s head on a pike.

To his credit, Governor Carney has pretty much abandoned his campaign mode for the upcoming election as he’s not been updating the campaign Twitter or Facebook feeds over the last couple months. Having said that, though, it’s not like he’s not in the news as we deal with the pandemic and it’s his response that will likely make his re-election bid sink or swim. Assuming he decides to run for another term since he hasn’t formally filed yet, Carney would seek to make it four in a row – four consecutive two-term Delaware Democrat governors, that is. Include two Republicans in the mix during the Reagan/Bush era and you get six consecutive* two-term governors.

(Trivia points: Ruth Ann Minner was actually a slightly over two-term governor since she succeeded Tom Carper as his lieutenant governor in the waning days of Carper’s second term before he joined the U.S. Senate before starting her own terms in the state’s highest office. *And the last Republican governor was Dale Wolf, who as lieutenant governor served out Mike Castle’s last term for 20 days in 1992-93 as Castle moved to Congress. In theory, he was not a two-term governor, hence the asterisk.)

In case Carney does not run, there is another candidate who has set up a campaign account and, since he is running on a progressive platform, may well face a last-minute party-favored substitute such as current LG Bethany Hall-Long in a primary. But David Lamar Williams, Jr. isn’t on the primary ballot yet so we don’t know.

Until this past week, the only one who was on the ballot for governor was Libertarian Party member John Machurek, but he doesn’t have much of a presence out there. Machurek has been on a ballot for most of the last several cycles, doing the standard third party believer chore of running for office to advance their views despite having a severely limited chance of success.

It’s always been my belief that, in order to have a chance to succeed as an unknown, a candidate needs to get out there as early as possible and build up name recognition. Despite the fact Delaware has a late primary date, unknowns should be in the game several months beforehand. (Senate candidate Lauren Witzke is a case in point – she filed her FEC paperwork the day after New Year’s Day, which was pretty good.) At the time I began writing this, there were only two Republicans who have active campaign accounts for governor and I’m not sure Colin Bonini wants to loan himself another $60,000 to run. I think that’s the only reason his 2016 governor’s race account remains open.

Bonini is one of just a few Republicans who have run a major statewide race in the last decade, so there aren’t many options with that sort of name recognition. Perhaps the best out of that group are the two most recent U.S. Senate candidates, Rob Arlett and Kevin Wade. Both of them have won contested primaries, as did Bonini in 2016. If one of them decided to get into the race it would be an advantage to get through a GOP primary – but, aside from Bonini, none have created a new non-federal account to run for governor.

However, in this era of coronavirus and short attention spans, there are those who believe a new face is just what the doctor ordered. In the space of a few weeks since this virus hit home, the situation got a 30-year-old former Marine and entrepreneur named Neil Shea to run on the Republican ticket, making it three statewide races with GOP millennials in them. His platform stands in direct opposition to Clampdown Carney’s, stating in part:

We think the current administration is out of ideas. That’s okay. We’re Americans. We’re innovative. We’re resillient. We always find a way to survive. All we ask is that you get out of our way while we do what is necessary to earn a paycheck.

“Economy & Jobs” platform plank, Shea for Delaware website

Back on Friday night, as I was writing this, I concluded, “It’s doubtful Shea will get a free pass to the GOP nomination, but at this late date there are few who could jump into the race with enough name recognition to make a splash and secure the nomination.” Sure enough, on Saturday afternoon I learned that State Senator Bryant Richardson had let the cat out of the bag at a religious freedom rally in Dover. (Surely he can’t formally announce a run until he has the campaign finance committee in place, although I suppose that could be as easy as changing the office sought since he already has a Senate account.)

It turns out that Richardson is my state senator as I live in his 21st District; however, I have never met the man. (He did send me a form letter when my voter registration came in, so he may know my actual affiliation.) I know he will get a little bit of favorable press because he owns the Star newspapers that service Laurel and Seaford, among other places. I also know that out of 21 current Delaware Senators Bryant has the third-best lifetime voting record on the monoblogue Accountability Project and is one of only two Senators to be one of my Legislative All-Stars. (The other is 2016 GOP nominee Colin Bonini.) So I can assume that his platform will probably be at least somewhat agreeable to me.

Because it’s a statewide race with different campaign finance rules, this one may be in flux for a little bit longer; however, I can’t see there being more than two or three on the GOP primary ballot for the office thanks to the hefty filing fee.

In my next part I’ll do a twofer as I explore the final two statewide races: lieutenant governor and insurance commissioner.

Late edit 5-26-2020: I have found out the Independent Party of Delaware has nominated Kathy DeMatteis of Newark for the governor’s chair. Her Twitter page tells us she is a “20 year veteran of the healing arts” and an aspiring novelist (as well as Delaware’s next governor.) They also nominated an LG candidate, which I will get to in the next part.

Also filing as a Republican is David Bosco of Greenwood. This just happened today so things are beginning to get active.

A Delaware political update: part 2, the U.S. House race

After looking at one statewide federal race in my last post, I’m going to tackle the other one today. In a game of musical chairs that I suppose is part of the “Delaware Way”, our current governor left his seat in the House four years ago to run for the office, leaving an opening and several Democrats salivating to fill that House seat. Lisa Blunt Rochester (for sake of typing, I’ll call her LBR) was the survivor among the Democrat field and has prevailed in the general election twice, first defeating Republican Hans Riegle by 14.5 points in 2016 and perennial candidate Scott Walker by 28 points in 2018. She’s gotten a lot of mileage out of being the first “woman and person of color” representing Delaware in Congress.

However, while her Senate counterpart Chris Coons is fighting a primary opponent from the left, LBR has an announced (but not filed) opponent who would most likely nestle himself to her right, and perhaps even right of center. I have to say, though, that I have not heard much about the run of Andrew Webb and his campaign Facebook page (which is apparently the only campaign organ) has not been updated regularly.

Even more recently, a lady named Anne Kerner has filed the FEC paperwork for the House seat despite having a campaign listed as being for the governor’s chair. With that confusion combined with lack of presence – and given the steep filing fees in Delaware – it’s likely LBR will be unopposed on the Democrat side.

Also unopposed for a party bid according to the state BOE is Libertarian David Rogers, but he’s running a pretty stealth campaign so far since I can’t dig up a website, social media, or anything like that. Don’t you just hate that?

So again we end up on the Republican side, where we have a previously unsuccessful aspirant against a first-time candidate who has had issues with substance abuse. It’s deja vu all over again.

Playing the role of unsuccessful aspirant is Lee Murphy, who has tried this before – this is his (at least) fourth bite of the apple, having been an unsuccessful state legislative contender in 2014 and 2016 (he did not make the general election ballot in either case) and losing in the 2018 GOP primary to Scott Walker. (Per Ballotpedia, Murphy has also ran without success for New Castle County council, but for the sake of this comparison we will go with this being his fourth try.)

Yes, he lost to Scott freaking Walker, the guy who hasn’t yet found a tree he wouldn’t like to nail an illegal campaign sign to. The guy who was running as a Democrat again, for president. I’m sure Lee is a nice guy, and he was probably as surprised as anyone the day after the 2018 primary, but he lost to Scott Walker so what does that tell you about his chances against an opponent with money and actual personality? (Or, what does that tell you about Delaware primary voters? Maybe there was something to that 2010 criticism the establishment had.) Anyway, it looks like Lee’s running a solid if not spectacular primary campaign, so maybe he’s not taking this for granted as he may have before.

So if Murphy doesn’t have hindsight, why is his opponent promoting his? Matthew Morris promises “Restoring Power to the People” but he also has a unique backstory, including a stint in prison. But he’s promising accountability should he be elected to Congress.

Being a Congressman shouldn’t be about reporting to Washington and leaving my constituents behind, never to be seen again, or at least not until the next election time.  No, I want to be involved with ALL of my constituents ALL THE TIME .  That means, when voting on bills, I want to provide the State of Delaware with real time information and interaction about what is being passed, why it has been brought before the house, and base my voting directly reflecting my constituent’s wants and needs.

https://www.matthewmorrisfordelaware.com/platform

I must say that, being a resident of a seemingly forgotten corner of the state, it would be nice to have a representative who has a little involvement here. But Matt has a curious set of priorities: the opioid epidemic, education, and prison reform are his top issues. The question is whether Republican voters would agree with him?

If you’re not excited about these alternatives, the biggest problem is that there’s basically no time left for anyone with no name recognition to get into the race. Moreover, since Delaware is a one-district state, the House isn’t going to draw the same caliber of candidate a Senate race would get – why constantly be campaigning when you can represent the same district for six years and wield comparatively more power? We know LBR is probably waiting in the wings for Tom Carper to retire to move up, although there are probably a few other Democrats who would like the seat as well.

I’m hoping someone excites me with the prospect of improving our representation, but so far that’s not happened.

A Delaware political update: part 1, the U.S. Senate race

You have probably noticed that I have, over the last several months, kept an Election 2020 widget on my sidebar. Initially it solely focused on the various primary races for President but as the field narrowed and local filing dates passed (for a primary I assumed would be in April) I added the First District Congressional race in Maryland.

Here in Delaware, however, we have the old-school Maryland schedule of a mid-September primary and the filing deadline doesn’t arrive until July. So I don’t want to invest the time in doing the widget quite yet but there has been movement in some of the races that readers should be aware of.

Because all federal races in Delaware are statewide, I have just two to focus on this year. And because I wanted to focus on these races more in depth, I’ve decided to create a series out of the 2020 races here in the First State, with one part apiece focused on the U.S. Senate seat where Chris Coons desires another term, the House race where Lisa Blunt Rochester faces the voters for the second time as an incumbent, the re-election campaign of Governor John Carney, and a part devoted to the lesser statewide races such as lieutenant governor and state insurance commissioner. I may also do a part for the state legislative races affecting Sussex County, which has nine House districts and five Senate districts, although not all of the latter are on the ballot this year.

In the U.S. Senate race, the incumbent Democrat Chris Coons just filed for re-election this week and he’s looking for money to win a second full term – he was first elected in 2010 to finish Joe Biden’s term. Just like his counterpart Tom Carper did two years ago, Coons has a challenger from his left in Jessica Scarane. If you want proof that she’s to his left, on her campaign page is the statement: “Instead of cutting deals with Republicans that exacerbate racism and inequality, Jess will fight for policies that improve the lives of hardworking Delawareans so we can build a state and country that works for all of us.” She has the Indivisible-style jargon down.

While Coons is a prohibitive favorite in the Democrat primary, based on the 2018 result where the incumbent Carper won over a progressive upstart by 30 points, the U.S. Senate race is on the Republican side is wide open between two candidates – although neither has formally filed, both have campaign sites and both are from Sussex County. (Update 5/18: Lauren Witzke filed today.) We’ll go ladies first and introduce you to first-time candidate Lauren Witzke, whose key issues are immigration, restoration of family values, and dealing with the opioid crisis. On the other hand, James DeMartino – who ran for a seat in the Delaware House in both 2016 and 2018 but lost twice to a longtime Democrat incumbent – is pushing healthcare and jobs and the economy as his headline issues.

Filling out the Senate general election card so far are balloted candidates Mark Turley from the Independent Party of Delaware and Libertarian party candidate (once again) Nadine Frost.

Since the best action is on the Republican side, it’s worth pointing out that Witzke is a first-time candidate while DeMartino has run in a local House district race unsuccessfully the last two times, losing by 25-plus point margins in both 2016 and 2018. Perhaps it was a matter of facing the state’s Speaker of the House, but when I looked into it I found DeMartino underperformed every other Republican on his local ballot in both elections. To me, that’s not a great sign in a race that’s already a really steep uphill climb.

This is just one man’s observation, but the one who’s hustling in this Senate race is Witzke. Until just recently, DeMartino hadn’t updated his site from his previous races. Perhaps he would be considered the “establishment” choice, and he has a good resume of business and military experience; on the other hand Witzke is coming from a non-traditional background that includes her admission of past opioid abuse.

But Witzke is running an insurgent campaign that reminds me a little bit of Christine O’Donnell’s in 2010 – however, instead of a TEA Party platform Witzke is taking advantage of Donald Trump’s populist appeal with some unorthodox GOP approaches. (One thing I found out is that she is not in favor of right-to-work laws and is instead soliciting support from Big Labor. I don’t see it happening but stranger things have occurred.) She’s already taken an important step of nationalizing the race, bringing attention to a seat the GOP may need to counter prospective losses elsewhere. It’s an approach necessary to raise the funding to be competitive.

I hear so many establishment Republicans say that a campaign like Witzke’s can’t succeed in Delaware. This may be true; however, I don’t see the party establishment out educating the public about why conservative principles succeed and how they can improve the lives of average Delaware residents. If they give no effort, they get no results.

People may see Witzke as a flawed candidate, but she’s the one putting in the most effort right now and it’s pretty much too late for anyone else with negligible name recognition to jump in and have a realistic shot. DeMartino is a “Delaware Way” sort of Republican hopeful, sort of like the Washington Generals are a perpetual foil for the Harlem Globetrotters. Witzke may not be the perfect candidate but at the moment I believe she has the least long shot of victory among the GOP hopefuls.

Delaware, the Charlie Brown of states

John Carney is stunning in that blue dress, is he not?

Originally, the current state of emergency the First State is laboring under was supposed to expire on April 15, but days before that deadline was to occur Delaware Governor John Carney extended its provisions to May 15.

Yet despite the fact our state is “flattening the curve” and exhibits a trend of declining cases, this state of emergency and its onerous job-killing restrictions have yet again been extended through May 31. Lucy is yet again pulling the football away from Charlie Brown, meaning businesses that depend on a Memorial Day weekend surge to kick off their profitable summer season are now being starved yet again of their revenue source; meanwhile neighboring Maryland is cautiously reopening its beach areas. (This despite unseasonably cool weather in the region this weekend; something for which the extended forecast promises a makeup next weekend with highs here on the interior of slower lower Delaware passing the 80 degree mark.)

One extreme example of short-sightedness comes from the idea that farmer’s markets are “non-essential” in Delaware, so they can’t open until the state of emergency is lifted. Unfortunately, farmers need an outlet for some of their crops – perennials like asparagus and strawberries are early-season staples but they will rot in the field without outlets to sell them. Since the restaurant business is way down, farmers now face the question of whether to plant at all. If they don’t, then expect shortages and higher prices later this fall.

And while it’s more of a formality since the presumptive nominees have already been decided, the second postponement of the Delaware presidential primary until July 7 was completely unnecessary. Because the results are a fait accompli, voting could have been done safely with the addition of social distancing and personal protection on their initially rescheduled June 2 date. Instead, this push toward mail-in balloting seems to be the excuse to try to adopt it for November when much more is at stake: while Delaware is most likely a shoo-in for Joe Biden thanks to his longtime connection to the state, the governor’s chair, office of lieutenant governor, and control of the state legislature still hang in the balance. (The delay also affects a slew of local elections, including school boards which were pushed back to July 21.)

The next month or two is going to tell a tale in this country. We have states where personal responsibility is paramount, such as the otherwise generally ignored state of South Dakota where restrictions were very light, and we have states like Michigan and New York where governors seem to be drunk with power and, in the case of Michigan, ignore their legislative branch. Sadly, here in Delaware we have a governor run amok but no real opposition party to call him out on it. In fact, at this point in time there is no announced Republican candidate to oppose John Carney this November. (At the moment, the only contender is Libertarian John Machurek.)

That might be fine with the sheeple and Karens who continually complain about the out-of-state license plates on cars heading to the beach and want to keep the state closed, but there are those of us who echo Samuel Adams: “It does not take a majority to prevail . . . but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.” We are definitely irate given the current state of affairs, but my question is just how tired the TEA Party movement has become. Maybe it needs a second wind.

So I’m going to close with a throwback Sunday. For the course of a few years I did a series of posts called Friday Night Videos. It began as a way of sharing political videos but eventually evolved into an outlet for local music, including some of the video I took for doing photos and posts for another longstanding series of mine called Weekend of Local Rock. (I still have a Youtube channel.)

But aside from the items I uploaded, one of my all-time favorite Friday Night videos on the music side came from a talented and patriotic New York-based singer named Ava Aston. If you have read this blog for awhile, you’ve seen this video before but I thought over the last week or so it was time to bring it back.

It was time to bring this song back…for the people.

(This is the original 2009 version – a few years later Ava did a remix but I like the original a little better.)

I realize we are in a pandemic, but shutting down should have been the last resort, not the first option. Let’s get things back to normal prudently, but quickly. And don’t believe Lucy when she puts down that football.

Lowered expectations

Subtitled, kicking the can down the road.

I’ve been blogging now for a decade and a half, with most of that time being spent creating and curating content for this website. In that time I have found my way onto many mailing lists and searches, but few have been as bizarre as something I received the other day.

I had to look up who Sara Croom was, but her story seems legit: She is the Managing Director of a PR firm called Ainsley Shea, which is somewhat unusual because they are headquartered in Minnesota yet keep a branch in the D.C. area where Sara works.

It was a nice enough ask:

As you continue your political coverage, please find the attached memo outlining national popular vote – as well as offering a few of National Popular Vote (NPV) key spokespeople, who are available for interviews. 

If you have any questions, or need anything further, do let me know and I would be happy to help. 

Be well and stay safe. 

E-mail from Sara Croom, April 30, 2020

Even though I am a definite skeptic, I looked up the memo, entitled “National Popular Vote: Media Guidelines” to see if they had any different talking points. There were none, but the one thing I noticed was the end goal: having NPV in effect in time for the 2024 election. (Another thing: a key spokesperson for NPV is former Maryland LG and failed Senate candidate Michael Steele. That tells me a lot.)

This is in contrast to the Democrat Party’s seemingly overt goal for 2020, which is to conduct strictly mail-in balloting so they can more easily manipulate the results in states they control. (Bear in mind that there are four key states which Trump won in 2016 which now have a Democrat governor: Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.)

The method of enacting NPV has been the same since Maryland was the first state to join the proposed compact in 2007: once states representing 270 or more electoral votes sign on, those states will give their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote regardless of the results within their state. Given the fact that every state currently in NPV is a reliably Democrat state I’m going to assume this will work only until the time some “racist” Republican carries the overall popular vote, in which case these states will certainly renege on the deal.

Their key argument, however, continues to be that elections are decided in just a few swing states and they get all the attention despite being a small subset of the overall electorate. (Remember, prior to 2016, states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin weren’t considered swing states because they had been solidly Democrat for several cycles in a row.) The election focused on states like Iowa, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Ohio – states outside the bicoastal focus of news networks and full of icky “deplorable” voters. If you lived in one of those coastal blue states or the deep red states in the Bible Belt, the campaigns basically ignored you.

Where that argument falls apart is that, under NPV, rural and sparsely-populated states will be ignored even more by campaigns as they would cater to the desires of densely populated urban areas – of course, to pander to those areas the campaigns would have to steer themselves to the left of center. Had 2016 been an NPV election, Hillary would have won in a larger popular vote landslide because Trump’s secret weapon of Rust Belt lunch-pail voters would have been less likely to come out, skipping yet another election thanks to their discouragement at a rigged system. As it turned out, just enough of them turned out to tip the scales in the aforementioned key states heretofore presumed Democrat blue to swing an election decided by less than 80,000 votes in three large states. All because Hillary took them for granted.

Since the founding of our country, the electoral system has functioned as anywhere from 13 to 51 separate state elections leading to one balloting that as of 2020 will feature just 538 voters selected by individual states. Has the will of the people always held sway? No, but it’s not like a tiny majority dictated the tune for the rest of the nation – or is it? Not only did neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump garner a majority of votes cast, but based on voter registration and turnout, the real winner in 2016 was none of the above since only about 55% of eligible voters showed up.

NPV is one of several voting initiatives championed by the Democrat Party, all of which are calculated to bolster “turnout.” Unfortunately, vote-by-mail, automatic registration, compulsory voting, and ballot harvesting create vastly increased potential for mischief that just somehow almost always seems to accrue in the favor of Democrats. (Just ask Norm Coleman, right?)

If we really want to do electoral reform, how about culling the voter rolls to keep those who are serious about voting on them and eliminating duplicates and dead voters, and requiring a photo ID for voting in person on Election Day? I take the time to learn the candidates and issues and show up, so why can’t everyone else?

Maryland gets a little less red

When I moved across the line to Delaware, one thing I noticed about the blogosphere was that there was no active conservative blogging voice in the First State. While the political blogging world has changed significantly in the last decade-plus from the halcyon days where thousands used that medium to express their opinion – as opposed to the rise of Facebook or Twitter – thanks to the traditional media outlets expanding their influence into the online realm there aren’t many independent survivors from that era. And in Maryland, that number will soon decrease further.

Citing burnout and a lack of focus on state politics in this era of Trump, the Red Maryland blog announced it would cease operations on June 4, two days after Maryland’s presidential primary. While I’m among a host of erstwhile contributors (along with a handful of additional voices who currently contribute) the two remaining founding members, Brian Griffiths and Greg Kline, have decided to pull the plug. (The archives will remain at the Red Maryland website.)

While I’m definitely not on either Griffiths’ or Kline’s Christmas card list, there is respect due for having stuck with it so long. If my memory serves me correctly, Red Maryland began in 2007 just after the mid-aughts GOP relevance in the (not so) Free State came to a screeching halt thanks to the defeat of the moderate Governor Bob Ehrlich by popular Baltimore mayor Martin O’Malley. (This post worth mentioning is my first mention of it, back when RedState‘s managing editor streiff was still part of the RM cast.) It’s interesting to note that I cited nine contributors to the site when it was published, but somewhere around 2010 or so many of them were dismissed because they weren’t contributing. (That was about the time the blogging world began to consolidate and Facebook and Twitter were starting their rise.)

The timing of this seems interesting, since RM had branched out over several years from being just a blog. One limb was a long-standing internet (and occasionally terrestrial) radio network that was once live several nights a week but had dwindled down to one flagship show; however, a twig off that branch was Kline’s weekly spot on local station WGMD-FM. On another side: after a few fits and starts into the print medium, including a brief stint with Maryland’s largest newspaper, the Baltimore Sun, Griffiths has settled into a role of writing a weekly column in the Annapolis Capital. And finally, this year was the first (and presumably only) Red Maryland Conference held back in January. It was held in the same venue and timeslot as an event I attended a few years back called Turning the Tides, and attracted much the same audience.

In their FAQ post they put up after the announcement, Griffiths also noted he was moving on to create a new website. My speculation is that it will be more of a general interest website and not focus on Maryland politics. Why continue to beat your head against the wall?

So I’m not sure what conservatives in Maryland are going to do for blog reading, given I’ve left the state and those guys are giving up the ghost. But it was worth mentioning that I came to praise the site, not bury it.

Patriots Day version 2.0?

This has become the season of discontent.

Weary of restrictions spawned by a virus we imported from a nation which has generally meant us harm – one which has continually underperformed extreme expectations insofar as hospitalizations and deaths are concerned – Americans are beginning to bristle at their restrictions as a federally-imposed April 30 restoration date approaches.

While it’s the proper method Constitutionally, states which have clamped down on their populace based on the Wuhan flu’s effect on certain urban areas now exist cheek-by-jowl with states using a more laissez-faire approach. Yet as the pressure mounts to restore liberty, governors in several states have adopted a more regional approach: the three West Coast states of California, Oregon, and Washington are planning a more concerted (and more restrictive) reopening, as are governors in seven northeastern states including mine in Delaware – the other states are Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. Of that group, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker was the last to join and is the first Republican.

Chances are these ten states will exhibit a slothful, “go-slow” approach designed (at least to the public) to enhance safety. In political terms, some cynics would counter that the slow movement is designed to tank the economy further, extending any possible recovery beyond the November elections. (It’s interesting to note that, of the ten governors involved, only two are on the ballot this year – Jay Inslee in Washington state and John Carney here in Delaware. But both are considered safe Democrat seats nonetheless. I’m not even aware if the GOP has a contender here in Delaware.) On the other side, a handful of non-allied states have never provided more than just limited restrictions and Texas is leading an effort to quickly start things back up from a restrictive state.

At noon today in Annapolis, Marylanders were scheduled to hold a protest imploring Governor Larry Hogan (aka “Lockdown Larry”) to move quickly in bringing Maryland back. The morning’s rain should have cleared out in time, so we will see what develops out of this protest – I expect maybe a couple hundred people will show up. (There are two separate protests planned thus far in Delaware – one on Wednesday and one on May 1.)

But what concerns me are the people I see on social media who have traded their liberty for a security the government can’t assure regardless of whether we have masks on, close all the so-called non-essential businesses, or practice social distancing. (If I never hear that phrase again after this is over, it will be too soon.) When the governor puts cops on the side of the road to pull over cars with out-of-state license plates, they’re the ones who say “go for it, we want more!” I wouldn’t be surprised if those who advocate for this are secure in their jobs – after all, those who aren’t working have the most time to protest.

The other day my friend Bob Densic asked me if this could be the resurrection of the TEA Party movement. After I pondered it a moment, this is what I said:

“You know, that thought DID cross my mind. There are two big differences though. First off, you’re going to have a more “purist” group, although we will see just how well they know the Constitution when it comes to federalism and rule of law. One key thing to watch is the reaction to these compacts between (mostly Democrat) governors, one of which involves us here in Delaware.

The other aspect that I would like to see is the absence of hypocrisy. You would have TP people complain about the stimulus but then turn around and warn, ‘don’t touch my Social Security (and/or Medicare),’ not realizing it was a large component of the problem! This one isn’t so much financial – an argument can be made that the stimulus is, in part, repayment per the Takings Clause since the government shut down – but is more rights-based, sort of like the civil rights movement.”

If it takes a virus to remind us of our rights, so be it. (I’m also heartened by the uptick in Bible reading since this all began.) But it’s time to turn talk into action as we commemorate the first Patriots Day on Sunday.

The clash of the titans

I saw an interesting e-mail and release cross my desk the other day, reminding me of my halcyon days in the Maryland Republican Party. But before I get to that, allow me to explain my extended absence.

Back about two weeks ago, the company which handles my website as part of a shared server had a major problem with said server, which knocked me offline by itself for a couple days. Once the server was restored, however, there was an issue with the database – which is why you may have seen a lot of oddball text where my header photo would go and all of my links and posts were no longer categorized – the links were in an alphabetical jumble. It was really bad on the back end where I do my handiwork.

So finally I got tech support to fix that issue, only to find out I had yet another database error which occurred after I added a plugin which allowed me to back up this website to a remote place. That was what you may have seen yesterday evening when I noticed I couldn’t access my site. I finally repaired the database on my own – I found the instructions on a WordPress help side and lo and behold, it actually worked! So I also took the moment to upgrade to the latest version (now we are up to WordPress 5.4) and update the other plugins and themes. Hopefully I can keep this thing afloat for awhile longer.

Now that I have begged your indulgence and you (hopefully) stuck with me, allow me to speak my little piece.

I know I’m trying to focus on Delaware, but I have a lot of Maryland friends and a few days ago I received word that Nicolee Ambrose, who has been Maryland’s RNC National Committeewoman for the past eight years (elected in a convention that may have been one of my all-time favorites for the drama and successes, but one which – alas! – the post’s photos haven’t yet been restored which destroys my narrative) is trying for term number three. That’s not a surprise, as she seems to enjoy the job.

In fact, the surprise came from a blog for which I’m an “erstwhile” contributor, Red Maryland. This deeply slanted piece came from Brian Griffiths, who has no love lost for Ambrose, and announced that former party Chair Diana Waterman has decided to seek the position. It’s rather funny to me because politics makes strange bedfellows – Griffiths’ dislike of Ambrose led him to support “party over everything” matron Audrey Scott during that fateful 2012 convention. He may have one more vote than I do on the matter, though.

Truth be told, I think Nicolee has done a reasonably good job, but the argument that eight years is long enough in office is a compelling one, too. Unfortunately, I think the idea is that of getting new blood into the office, not using the position to be a cushy golden parachute because life gets boring when you’re not the leader. (I think that was Audrey Scott’s intent.) I’m not going to lose any sleep over it should Diana prevail, but I don’t see it as a vast improvement.

At the time she was elected, Nicolee was exciting and new while Audrey Scott represented the old guard that seemed to be happy with the Republicans being a perpetual (and not very principled) minority party in Maryland, save for the more rural parts of the state. (In that respect it reminds me of the current Delaware GOP.) I’m not going to paint Diana Waterman with that same brush I used for Audrey Scott, but what I will say is that she’s not exactly going to take things in a new direction, either. Diana reminds me a lot of Larry Hogan, and not just in the fact both of them took on cancer and won.

Speaking of the governor: as I see it, the Ambrose-Waterman race is interesting enough for me to write about as a horserace, but what I want to know is what they would do about the real problem with the Maryland GOP: its titular head, Governor Larry Hogan.

What we saw in the 2018 elections was embarrassing: Larry Hogan lost what mojo he had as the opposition leader to Martin O’Malley with Change Maryland because he decided not to change the state that much from how it was the several terms before him. First he sold out the Eastern Shore farmers, then he sold out the people of Western Maryland, and finally he sold out two good conservative Republicans with the singular focus of a “drive for five” that fizzled badly. Given Larry’s distaste for Trump, I’m sure that Maryland has already been written off by the national GOP for 2020 so the Democrat majority in the House of Representatives isn’t going to be addressed in this state.

To be quite honest, if John Delaney had opted out of his quixotic bid for President and opted in to the 2018 governor’s race, we would be talking about Governor Delaney’s prospects for re-election two years hence. Despite Hogan’s poll-based popularity, I’m sure 30 percent of Democrats would not have crossed party lines to vote for Hogan because they were repelled by the far-left Ben Jealous if the more moderate Delaney were the 2018 standardbearer. (The Democrats may learn their lesson as the 2022 frontrunner seems to be Comptroller Peter Franchot, who is a progressive wolf in moderates’ clothing. He talks a good centrist game.)

Maryland as a state, though, faces a unique problem. Notwithstanding the recent Wuhan virus and government-caused economic meltdown, a Donald Trump who is more successful in draining the swamp leads to economic pain to certain regions of the state – regions which contain about 40 percent of the state’s voters. It’s become a statewide company town, and that company is the federal government. I’d love it, sitting here in Delaware as I do, if the federal government cut its budget in half, but those who toil for Uncle Sam would be staring at a financial pit not unlike the one workers at suddenly-shuttered businesses face at this very moment. It’s a case where the 60 percent in Maryland need to feel a little less empathy for their brethren at the ballot box but a little more at the collection box to help those who would be in need.

So it really doesn’t matter which Titanic deck chairs go where, because in my humble opinion the problem is more than either Ambrose or Waterman can address by themselves. They’re just there to pick up the pieces when the Maryland GOP game is up in 2022.

The state of the TEA Party: spring 2020

Subtitled, the Wuhan coronavirus edition.

I originally intended for this piece to have a completely different look and feel than it will have, not to mention it was moved up in time about two to three weeks from its original intention of coinciding with the anniversary of my book release last year. (Yes, it’s been 12 months since I wrapped up that labor of love.) But the question of just how the TEA Party is reacting to a government stimulus that is over twice again the one it was initially formed in response to was on my heart, so this post is brooming the original concept of answers to a rhetorical question that, frankly, was never asked anyway. Life gets in the way.

This is going to sound completely hypocritical to many, but I sort of expected the one response I found in a local Florida newspaper – the Sunshine State being one of the remaining hotbeds for the movement. One I didn’t expect but am not surprised by is the reaction to a New Mexico businessman apparently best known as a TEA Party leader suing his state government, claiming the disease “is not serious enough for emergency orders, enforcement of restrictions on socializing is impossible, and the orders deny him the right to free assembly and worship.” Aside from the lack of certainty that a mix of commonly available drugs presents a cure (the research on that is promising but ongoing) the complaint is very truthful. Yet it’s going to go nowhere.

(It’s sort of like the Rick Santelli approach that was blown way out of proportion by the Left and media – but I repeat myself.)

On the other hand, while I have been critical at times of the personally opportunistic leadership of Jenny Beth Martin and the Tea Party Patriots, I have to commend both her and the organization for the tone they have struck in their response to this ordeal. Citing Scripture (in this case, 2 Timothy 1:7). Martin writes in part:

(T)he best advice I can give is to take this virus seriously, but don’t panic. Don’t let the bloodthirsty media panic you. But, at the same time, please take appropriate precautions. Follow the recommended guidelines about washing your hands, don’t touch your face, sanitize surfaces, and stay home more. And, if possible, support your local businesses and restaurants – you can order food to go so you aren’t eating in, but still helping them keep their doors open.

Also, please if you are not in an at-risk category and you are able, help your friends, acquaintances or neighbors that are over 60 or already ill. Call them up and find out if they need anything from the store that you could pick up for them, so that they don’t need to risk going out. You can even drop it off on their doorstep so that they can avoid human contact.

“My thoughts regarding the Coronavirus,” Jenny Beth Martin, March 19, 2020.

The TPP also has a nice coronavirus portal on their website, with an editable form letter that’s honestly full of good advice for individual initiative.

But there are a couple questions going forward that those interested in fiscal conservatism and limited government should point out, particularly since those on the Left had their own wishlist that could come in yet another Wuhan virus relief bill. Aside from the non-virus related pork in the bill, another thing to watch for is whether this new, vastly increased amount of spending becomes a new artificial baseline from which the Left will scream about “cuts” if we even level-fund in the next budget year.

And when they are not wailing in their best shrill girly scream about how Donald Trump is “a president who will bear responsibility for the death of many of our neighbors, friends, and loved ones, and for an economic nightmare… an outcome of the right-wing project to undermine and vilify government,” they’re certainly scheming on how to not let this crisis go to waste:

At the end of this pandemic, more Americans will view the government as capable of solving big societal problems, progressives argue. New emergency-aid legislation dramatically expands paid sick and family leave for millions of workers and suspends work requirements for food assistance, two agenda items progressives have long supported. And the $2 trillion stimulus package that the president just signed into law would provide a $1,200 direct payment to most American adults—similar to the Freedom Dividend championed by former presidential candidate Andrew Yang—and another $250 billion in unemployment-insurance benefits. “There’s going to be an amazing shift where we recognize the impact government can have on our lives for the better,” says Charles Chamberlain, the executive director at Democracy for America, a progressive political-action committee.

“What Do Progressives Do Now?”, Elaine Godfrey, The Atlantic, March 28, 2020.

Unfortunately, that “amazing shift” isn’t going to come with the economic activity required to create the value to come anywhere close to repaying the debt or preventing a return to rampant Carter-era inflation.

Finally, it’s interesting to me that both of these stimulus programs come in response to government actions perhaps the opposite of what would be expected from the party in charge. The Obama stimulus came after the months of uncertainty that spanned from the tail end of the George W. Bush administration (when he had to destroy the free market to save it, and which briefly took GOP candidate John McCain off the campaign trail) whereas this stimulus came from the unprecedented government action of ordering certain businesses to close to prevent the spread of a virus unknown just six months ago. It’s worth pointing out, though, that the decentralization of the federal response is more or less in line with the philosophy of the Trump administration (hence the whining from the Left.)

Whether I’ll come back to my originally scheduled summer TEA Party update or change up again may depend on circumstances both national and personal. I’m definitely hoping we return to something approaching normal by then, but there’s always the prospect that we are in a new normal – and that’s what’s scary.

I’d love some thoughts from my TEA Party friends on this theory, either here or the places I’ll share.

A business state of emergency

It’s amazing in a way to think that we’ve only gone a week and change since the NBA suspended its season in an effort to stifle the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus. Since then we have endured a week of drastic bad news the likes of which we haven’t seen since 9/11 and perhaps longer. What was shaping up to be a pleasant spring routine has now been destroyed, along with the hopes and dreams of anyone who wanted to participate in the NCAA basketball tournament, their senior proms, and graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2020, among countless other annual and special events.

On Tuesday night we resumed our bowling season under different rules, splitting the league squads into two shifts to keep the number in the bowling alley below 50. Unfortunately, that change was short-lived as Governor Carney expanded his previous State of Emergency order the next day to demand the closing of bowling alleys, among other businesses.

While I get the necessity of the closings to “flatten the curve” my problem is the open-endedness of such an order. While there is CDC guidance suggesting this will last about eight weeks, the reality is that many people and businesses can’t survive an eight-week shutdown, at least not without some sort of mitigation. I love how the private sector has moved into action in a lot of cases.

Now let me make a confession: I was sort of stuck as to how to continue this post, at least until I got a comment to Wednesday’s Patriot Post commentary that I shared by Mark Alexander. This response is from a person I’ve known for awhile who is well over on the other side of the political fence, and is quoted verbatim:

Jesus christ ppl are losing jobs, dying, mass hysteria, and hoarding of vital medical supplies. I am working as so many other low paid workers in constant contact with people of high and low risk of severe illness. This is not political. The facts are this we are not prepared and a clown is running the circus. I dont want people to lose their homes, jobs, lives. Or leader need to put their big girl panties on and do what’s right for the millions of Americans and not ask first what party or income bracket they belong in.

Reaction to social media post

This whole situation has been a balancing act I wouldn’t wish on anyone because you have two bad choices: go about normal life, leave the disease essentially unchecked, and overwhelm our health system, OR, shut down everything and place people out of work. President Trump has advised for the latter course but has left enforcement up to state and local officials. To me that’s the proper way to address this because they are more familiar with conditions on the ground, and besides: you can’t completely shut everything down because people have to eat.

And I have to ask: how do you prepare for something like this, a once-in-a-century disease? If we had somehow stocked up on respirators, medicine, and so forth ten years ago, say, as part of the stimulus, wouldn’t someone have complained that we were spending money to store supplies that might have deteriorated to the point of being useless by now anyway? It’s one thing to fill an oil reserve but quite another to stock up on testing kits for a disease that doesn’t exist at the time. Leaders can be prescient but I don’t think they’re often psychic.

So I will grant that we weren’t prepared, but then again that’s the nature of a crisis. We can only prepare ourselves so much for any particular risk so we go with what we know about risks we have experienced at the expense of other ones. (Cases in point: terrorist attacks begat the PATRIOT Act and Department of Homeland Security, both of which have survived nearly two decades now, and school shootings have necessitated upgrades to school buildings which do not necessarily improve the educational process.) After this Chinese virus has run its course we will probably go overboard with products and procedures that will be infringements on our wallets and liberty. (If it brings pharmaceutical manufacturing back from China, though, that would be a benefit.)

On the other hand, I don’t think we have a clown running the circus. A President Hillary Clinton would have dictated a more bureaucratic and more politically correct solution – in my opinion it would have paralleled Italy’s and sadly, that’s been a disaster for the Italian people who are sharing their misery with a huge Chinese national contingent within their nation. The experts have agreed that clamping down on travel from China when President Trump did may have saved thousands from getting the virus and overwhelming the American health care system. And, unfortunately, I don’t think slow Joe Biden would have fared any better than Hillary had this crisis occurred next year after his election. To a greater extent than we are already saddled with, the folks in a Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden administration would have seen this as a crisis they could have used to permanently secure more federal government power.

(That’s not to say those under Trump are immune – I’m somewhat leery of how we will address the financial end by setting a precedent of government payments. One can argue, however, that this direct payment would be compensation for the taking of one’s livelihood since many places of business were forced to close. Perhaps a complementary way to address this, though, would be to bolster state unemployment accounts.)

So thanks to my friend for giving me the inspiration to revise and extend these remarks – I started this on Wednesday but hadn’t felt the need to return to it until that response.

Putting the world on hold

They tell us it’s “flattening the curve.”

However, there are a huge number of economic impacts we will need to go through now that the Wuhan coronavirus escaped its Chinese captivity and has gone global. Let’s just look at one arena of economics for example. (And yes, the pun was intended.)

On Wednesday, just after I put up my previous post, it was announced that the NBA season was “suspended” until further notice. This quickly extended to the NHL and MLB, with the NCAA topping all of them and completely cancelling ALL winter and spring championship events. (In other words, it’s not just March Madness: the College World Series, normally held in late May into June, is off, too.)

I already feel horrible for those seniors who may have been going to The Dance for the first and only time in their college careers, but one also has to consider those people whose livelihood depends in part on these events. It’s two dates that the workers at the Mercedes-Benz arena in Atlanta will now be off, not to mention the host facilities of the other regionals that are held over two nights at various venues. (In the early rounds, this can be a full shift from noon to 9 or 10 at night.) Even worse is the fate of those who work at NBA or NHL host arenas, as their facilities are often used 5 nights a week or more thanks to sports, concerts, and other large gatherings. The same goes for spring training venues, which are used nearly every day during this time of year thanks to teams sharing fields and split-squad games. Now these facilities are closed to the public and these employees are out of work.

Generally these workers are the folks who were barely scraping by, so this pandemic is going to make it more difficult for them to pay their bills. (One exception: those who work for Ilitch Holdings, which owns Little Caesars along with the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings, among other entertainment properties. They are going to compensate part-timers for games and events they miss thanks to the cancellations, which included the NCAA hockey Frozen Four.)

So there are a number of events which will be lost and never made up; lost opportunities for commerce. Granted, public health is important but my gut feeling is that we’ve overreacted to this epidemic insofar as governmental entities are concerned. It’s one thing for a privately-run league to suspend operations for several weeks, but government declaring a state of emergency and forcing the cancellation of events slated to hold more than a few dozen people may be a little beyond the pale. These things should be decided by organizers, not dictated. Believe it or not – and despite the hoarders who think they need two cases of toilet paper – we have a little common sense left in this world.

I also believe we needed an end date to this state of emergency, or at least a date certain to re-evaluate the situation. Declare a state of emergency through March 31, with an interim deadline of perhaps March 28 to determine further course of action. (The professional baseball world at least knows two weeks’ worth of games will be cancelled, so that alternate planning can take place.) Much of the reason the stock market and oil futures have tanked over the last month is the uncertainty of the situation. Now we can’t predict a virus, but I think we can at least give a firm date for attempting to return to normal.

As I see it, leaving stuff open-ended gives potential for additional mischief from the “never let a crisis go to waste” crowd. We’re already staring a recession dead in the face (unless pent-up demand rescues us in 2020 Q2) and, being an election year, we know what that means. As always, the government has to do something to insure its re-election as opposed to following the Constitution or adhering to limited-government principles that would suggest a more hands-off approach.

We’ve already seen what a media-enhanced panic looks like by checking out the store shelves, so it’s time for vigilance and, once this is over, preparation for the next time. Trust me, it WILL happen again.