In the department of “okay, so…”

The other day I mentioned that I was so far out of the political loop that I didn’t even know who was running for state party chair – in elections past my e-mail box would be chock full of appeals from candidates, but not this time. So it took me to see something on Red Maryland to know who was in the running for the various positions. (I notice none of the RM brain trust is running to have their doors blown off once again, but I digress.)

At this point it looks like only two incumbents are running. We knew Chair Diana Waterman was not interested in another term, but it appears 1st Vice-Chair Mary Burke-Russell won’t be back, either, nor will 3rd Vice-Chair Eugene Craig III or Secretary John Wafer. (No more vanilla wafers when he’s running for something. Pity.) The only one assured of returning is Treasurer Chris Rosenthal, who’s been at it for at least a decade. (Maybe no one else wants the job.) Larry Helminiak is up once again for Second Vice-Chair, but this time he has opposition: Lee Havis (who ran the Cruz campaign in Maryland but became a strong Trump backer; he also heads the Maryland Grassroots Republicans group) and Tim Kingston, who I believe chairs the Queen Anne’s County party.

On the other hand, there are two other walkovers besides Rosenthal’s: Mark Uncapher is the lone candidate for Secretary and Michael Higgs is all by himself for First Vice-Chair.

This leaves two contested races: Maria Pycha vs. Shannon Wright for Third Vice-Chair and a four-way contest for Chair I’ll get to momentarily. Pycha is probably best known recently for managing Dan Bongino’s unsuccessful run for Congress, while Wright had a similar lack of success running for president of Baltimore City Council.

As has often been the case, the biggest race is for the Chair, and it has generally gone more than one ballot. But something tells me Dirk Haire is going to win on the first try, despite having three opponents. William Newton has been a political fighter in a thankless area, but that serves to his disadvantage because he won’t have a support base. Meanwhile, no one has ever heard of Sajid Tarar and Red Maryland already dug dirt up on him.

The race, then, basically comes down to two-time former Comptroller candidate William Campbell (who also unsuccessfully ran for Chair in 2010) and Haire. But if you recall my post about slates in the last convention I attended, you may recall they were a hit:

Having done this before and not been on any sort of slate, my advice to those of you wishing to try in 2020 is to get on one. Unless you have stratospheric name recognition in the party, it’s highly doubtful you’ll advance to the national convention based on past results. It’s a sad state of affairs that this process generally benefits the “establishment” but it is what it is, and the best way to combat it seems to be putting together a slate. Remember, the bottom half of this field was littered with non-slate hopefuls, distasteful as that may seem.

Insofar as I know, there is only one slate and that is the Conservative Club slate that found success in the spring. Haire is on that slate along with Higgs, Kingston, Pycha, Uncapher, and Rosenthal. It will be tough to defeat this sort of saturation bombing (although it can be done) but I think what actually hurts Campbell is the split vote among those who may not prefer Haire because he is a party insider (he has served as General Counsel to the MDGOP.)

Obviously I have no say in the matter, and what will drive the MDGOP through 2018 is the popularity of Governor Hogan to a point where it almost matters not who is Chair. Just smile and look pretty. But I think at this stage of knowing the players a little bit as I do my ballot would go Campbell, withhold, Helminiak (in the sense of leaning that way, with reservations), Pycha, Uncapher, Rosenthal.

But there was a reason why this is in the department of “okay, so…” – this and $5 might get you something at Starbucks. Hope you all have fun at the convention; luckily I have far better plans for the weekend.

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.

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.

Regarding Delaware statewide races

I have finally come around to the Delaware state races after speaking on Congressional races both in the First State and the First District of Maryland as well as the U.S. Senate race here in my adopted home state. Unlike Maryland, Delaware’s top two statewide offices are elected in separate ballots, meaning it’s theoretical that the governor represents a different party than his or her lieutenant governor.

I will begin with the race for governor, which features four on the ballot and one write-in hopeful. As I have done previously, we’ll go in alphabetical order on the ballot which means the GOP standardbearer leads off.

Colin Bonini (Republican Party)

Key facts: Bonini has held elective office as a State Senator since 1994, which is the vast majority of his adult life as he first won at the age of 24. He also previously ran for state Treasurer in 2010, losing narrowly, so this is his second run statewide. Colin also works in the financial industry for a bonding agency and owns a small venture capital firm. Bonini is 46 years of age. Of the four on-ballot candidates for governor Bonini was the only one with a primary challenger, and he defeated Sussex County businesswoman Lacey Lafferty by a nearly 70-30 margin.

Key issues: Education, Economic Development, Crime, State Budget, 2nd Amendment, Regulations, Personal Freedom and Liberty

Thoughts: In looking at Colin’s platform and some of what he is about, he strikes me as a relatively by-the-book conservative who wants to make government work better yet also has the potential of rightsizing government in a number of ways. Because of the nature of Delaware’s budget, Colin may have the better mindset for a potential pitfall to come based on a recent federal court decision regarding Delaware’s unclaimed property laws. Two definite items in his favor: an advocacy to make Delaware a right-to-work state and a pledge to pull Delaware out of the RGGI boondoggle – a step Larry Hogan should also be taking in Maryland to relieve pressure on state utilities.

John Carney (Democrat Party)

Key facts: Carney was supposed to be governor eight years ago (as the survivor of the Democrats’ primary is the odds-on favorite to win) but he was displaced in the primary by now-outgoing Governor Jack Markell. Carney was the favorite because he served eight years as the Lieutenant Governor under fellow Democrat Ruth Ann Minner, but voters rejected him in 2008. He’s also been the state Secretary of Finance and the deputy chief of staff for another former Democrat governor, Tom Carper. But when the Delaware Congressional seat opened up in 2010 because Mike Castle wanted to move up to the U.S. Senate, Carney was Johnny-on-the-spot and bucked the TEA Party trend sweeping the nation as one of just a handful of newly elected Democrats. Like many other Democrats running, Carney has spent practically his whole adult life in government, although he briefly served as the chief operating officer of a wind energy company during his downtime from being LG to winning the Congressional seat. Carney is 60 years old.

Key issues: John’s “Vision for Delaware” includes sections on The Economy, Education, State Budget, The Environment, Healthcare, Criminal Justice, and Agriculture.

Thoughts: Truth be told, his is not the worst, most liberal platform out there (although it definitely has its pitfalls.) But the overarching problem with state assistance in a number of areas is that it becomes state control rather quickly. Carney’s policies to me come off as Wilmington-centric, which addresses the population as currently comprised but fails to account for the growth area of the state, which would be Sussex County. (Kent County is also growing faster than the state average, which is held down by New Castle County and Wilmington.) It’s likely Carney would govern in the same manner that Jack Markell has done – business-friendly enough to please those interests, but liberal enough to keep the machine which has propped up his political career for most of the last 35 years backing him.

Sean Goward (Libertarian Party)

Key facts: Goward is an Air Force veteran who made a lengthy career of it before retiring two years ago. Now he works as a railroad signal technician. Goward is 37 years old and making his first run for political office.

Key issues: Education, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice Reform, Fiscal Policy, Accountability

Thoughts: Goward has some interesting ideas about the state of the state, but they seem to be lost when he makes civil liberties and criminal justice reform priorities over the economic issues people truly care about. I know that Libertarians are for smaller government, but where Goward fails in making the sell is relating the benefits of limited government to the voters of the state. It’s one thing to promise to cut spending in half in four years, but the reality of the situation would dictate a much less rapid winding down as well as an education course on why this would be a good thing. Also, Goward hasn’t updated his site since April so why should I take him seriously?

Andrew Groff (Green Party)

Key facts: Like the other Delaware Greens, Groff doesn’t have a formal website. What I did find is that he is 58 years old, and while he’s not run for governor before he ran for the U.S. Senate seat in both 2014 and 2012 – the 2012 race was run with the additional blessing of the Delaware Libertarian Party.

Key issues: From the limited reading I have, Groff is well entrenched with the Green Party line which would entail a much larger government.

Thoughts: As a party, the Green Party barely made the 636 registered voter cutoff for ballot access this year. (As a comparison, Maryland has 8,614 registered Greens in a state about sevenfold Delaware’s population.) So it’s not like Groff will make a large dent, but the fact he’s not making it easy for people to learn about him makes things even more difficult.

There is also one write-in candidate for governor by the name of Benjamin Hollinger, Sr. but I found nothing on him. So I will turn to the two LG candidates.

La Mar Gunn (Republican Party)

Key facts: Perhaps he’s one of the few Republicans to be the head of a local NAACP chapter, as he leads the Dover chapter. Gunn ran for the Kent County Recorder of Deeds in 2014 and won the vote on election day by two votes, but four non-identical recounts later (two of which expanded Gunn’s lead and one that was a flat tie) it was deemed in court that the office was vacant, and Governor Jack Markell appointed his fellow Democrat. Gunn is a financial consultant by trade.

Key issues: Placed under two non-specific categories, “Jobenomics” and Fighting for Delaware.

Thoughts: Jobenomics is a carefully thought-out plan, but it’s way more complex than the average person wants to consider in a political context. If he could have boiled it down to a couple pages and related it to actual policy it may have been more helpful. As for the rest, it’s extremely skimpy. Granted, lieutenant governor may be a “bucket of warm spit” position (as evidenced by its vacancy over the last two years) but I think there needs to be more of an accessible platform for people to understand.

Bethany Hall-Long (Democrat Party)

Key facts: Hall-Long is one of the few Delaware candidates to be born in Sussex County, although she has spent the last 14 years in the state legislature representing portions of New Castle County. However, she spent several years outside the state, particularly in the Washington D.C. area (her husband was stationed in the Navy) and served as a Fellow in both the U.S. Senate and Department of Health and Human Services. She has a background in nursing, is 52 years old, and won a six-way primary for the LG nomination with just 29% of the vote.

Key issues: Jobs and growing the economy, Health, Education, Environment, Infrastructure

Thoughts: When I read the word “invest” four times in five paragraphs, I know I have to hold on to my wallet. Yet while Gunn is remarkably detailed in one area until one’s eyes glaze over, the platform of Hall-Long has the depth of a cookie sheet. And while I am not a grammar Nazi, I must say whoever wrote the copy for her website needs lessons in sentence structure. Again, there’s really not a great deal of function to the position but Hall-Long has some of the worst platitude speaking I’ve seen in this campaign. She may be a mom, a nurse, and a state senator but I have to wonder how much she knows about the role of government.

As far as those I would recommend to Delaware voters, there are really two clear-cut choices here. Since Colin Bonini knows John Carney fairly well, he can keep John around as an advisor on business issues. But the more aggressive job creation approach from Bonini is the one Delaware needs right now. And having a laserlike focus on job creation isn’t the worst thing in the world for a lieutenant governor to have, either. Remember, I’m looking at this not as a voter (because I live in Maryland) but as one who wants the First State to succeed because my employment depends a lot on it. The more people find Delaware attractive, the better chance my employer succeeds.

And I didn’t forget about Insurance Commissioner, but that balloting isn’t one that’s really important to me right now. So I have no opinion on it.

So if you are a Delaware voter, it’s in your best interest to vote for Colin Bonini and La Mar Gunn on Tuesday. They are clearly the better choices in their respective fields.

Regarding the Delaware Congressional race

No, I do not have a vote in this one; however, since our family makes most of its living in the First State this race is worth my trouble to talk about. Plus I have a fairly decent contingent of readers residing north of the Transpeninsular Line who actually will have a voice.

Unlike the Maryland First District race I covered a few days ago, this one will be an open seat. (In fact, thanks to term limits, vacancies, and primary election results I believe all of Delaware’s statewide races are open-seat races this year.) I will do this in a similar format as the Maryland races, although perhaps with a little less detail. We will begin with the candidates on the ballot, and in alphabetical order it means the minor parties go first.

Scott Gesty (Libertarian Party)

Key facts: For the third consecutive cycle, Gesty is the Libertarian nominee for Congress. In the previous two renditions, he finished fourth of the four just slightly behind Green Party nominee Bernard August. Gesty advised the Delaware Libertarians that this year would be his last run. Gesty is 46 and is a licensed CPA in Delaware.

Key issues: National Debt, Taxation, Education, Personal Privacy, Foreign Policy, Health Care

Thoughts: Gesty’s philosophy and run seems to me very similar to that of our local Libertarian Congressional candidate Matt Beers. They both have a relatively straightforward adherence to the Libertarian line of smaller government, a more isolationist foreign policy, and reticence to discuss social issues on their websites. Unlike the First District, though, Delaware has a Congressional district which tends to lean left (as a statewide district, it includes the urban environs of Wilmington) so the Libertarians don’t fare as well there. I give kudos to Gesty for maintaining his stance (and limiting himself as opposed to becoming the dreaded perennial candidate) in the face of all that.

Mark Perri (Green Party)

Key facts: Perri is making his first run for Congress but was the Greens’ gubernatorial candidate in 2012, finishing third of the four on-ballot candidates. He is one candidate who does not have his own website, which is unusual as he is listed as the web admin for the Delaware Green Party. He is a 56-year-old PhD who works as a clerk, oddly enough.

Key issues: Perri describes them as C.O.R.N. – Climate Crisis, Overpopulation, Racism, Nuclear War

Thoughts: In reading through some of the items on Perri (again, a slow process because he doesn’t have a typical political website) he is another who fits the Green Party mold of radical statist government – a belief system that everyone will give up their freedom to advance for the false assurance that outcomes can be equalized. One quote that struck me was, “Encourage immigration, but we Americans must learn to consume less (by a factor of 2 or even 10) resources and energy.” Why? We are the economic driver of the world, and our leadership and innovation has raised the global standard of living. That may not be a popular sentiment in Green Party circles, but I believe it to be true. I believe in American exceptionalism – not because we are necessarily better people, but we live under a better system despite the best efforts of leftists to knock it down several pegs.

Hans Reigle (Republican Party)

Key facts: Reigle has spent his career in the aviation field as an Air Force Reservist, commercial pilot, and until recently was the assistant director of the aviation program at Delaware State University. He also has served as a councilman and mayor of the town of Wyoming; this is his first run for a statewide office. Reigle is 52 years of age.

Key issues: Job Growth, Education Reform, Spending, Security and Immigration

Thoughts: Reigle seems to have a fairly moderate-to-conservative approach to issues, which begins to border on “tinker around the edges” territory. I don’t see any radical changes in government here, although he does advocate for a modest reduction in the federal budget over time. He’s been billing himself as an “outsider,” which is true, and has a unique combination of military and political experience that has long been a training ground for potential Congressmen.

Lisa Blunt Rochester (Democrat Party)

Key facts: Her career has primarily been spent in government: a caseworker for Congressman Tom Carper, she eventually served as the state’s Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services, Secretary of Labor and state Personnel Director. She is 54 years old, and while she’s been involved in government for much of her life this is her first try at federal office.

Key issues: Jobs, Equal Pay for Equal Work, Women’s Health, Preventing Gun Violence, Affordable and Accessible Education, Campaign Finance Reform and Expanding Voter Rights, Social Security/Medicare, Protecting Obamacare, Public Safety

Thoughts: She gives the game away when she mentions “Lisa’s election in 2016 would mark the first time The First State has sent a woman or person of color to Congress.” I didn’t realize there was a quota to fill. And it’s patently obvious by the subjects she chooses to highlight that she is in favor of a larger, more intrusive federal government – perhaps not to the extent of the Green Party that seems to exist to make Democrats look moderate by comparison, but more than would be healthy for the First State. If voters are wise, they will wait until a more qualified “woman or person of color” enters the Congressional race at some future date.

There are also four write-in candidates: Robert Nelson Franz III, Rachelle Lee Linney, Campbell Smith, and Scott Walker. Of that group I found in a little bit of research that Franz bills himself as a “conservative Democrat,” and Walker is a 65-year-old Milton resident who is a landlord and wants to address discrimination as Delaware’s Congressman. He ran and lost in the Democrats’ primary to Rochester. As for the other two, they are not obvious on the World Wide Web.

If I were a Delaware voter, it’s quickly obvious that my choice comes down to Reigle vs. Gesty. Yet one important area for me isn’t addressed, and that is social issues. Certainly I prefer the limited government ideas of Gesty, but I also have to be mindful that Libertarians tend to be very liberal on setting those boundaries. (They sometimes forget that liberty is subordinate to life for a reason, because to have liberty you must have life. And there is truly no other measuring stick to determine when life begins than conception; thus the unborn’s right to life trumps the mother’s so-called “right to privacy” that some consider a form of liberty.) I saw Reigle supported a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, which is in his favor, but Gesty didn’t return the survey.

So I don’t feel like I have enough information to make a formal endorsement to my Delaware friends, but if I were to make a guess at this time as to how I’d vote I would still lean toward Scott Gesty. It’s almost like my heart would be telling me to vote for Gesty but my head would say to vote Reigle because he has a more legitimate shot at winning. Let’s just say you have two good choices on the ballot and leave it at that.

Regarding Maryland’s U.S. Senate race

My second in a series of overview posts looks at the open-seat race for Maryland’s United States Senate seat – the first such Maryland race in a decade since thirty-year incumbent Senator Barb Mikulski decided to call it a career as she’s reached octogenarian status. This race features three candidates on the ballot, but also six write-in candidates. Four of them are running as Democrats while the other two are unaffiliated. Of the Democrats, three lost in the primary so their only recourse for continuing was write-in status.

So without further ado, here are those running for this office. Those on the ballot will be listed in alphabetical order. Information is gleaned in large part from the respective websites.

Margaret Flowers (Green Party)

Key facts: In recent days, Flowers is most known for crashing a scheduled debate between the other two candidates on the ballot (although it was the moderators’ choice to escort her out.) But she describes herself as a long-time activist for a number of progressive causes, abandoning in frustration with the system a career in medicine in 2007 to concentrate full-time on securing single-payer health care. Flowers is 54 years old but this is her first run for federal office.

Key issues: Under “Solutions” she lists Improved Medicare-for-All, Hold Wall Street Accountable, Get Money Out Of Politics, Rapid Transition To A Clean-Energy Economy, Protect Workers, Education Not Mass Incarceration, Healthy Food, Building Community Wealth, Guaranteed Basic Income, Fair Trade, End The Drug War, End Police Brutality, A Foreign Policy of Cooperation, and Cut Wasteful Military Spending.

Thoughts: With the vast issues page, she almost doesn’t need to debate. It’s obvious that Flowers occupies the far left end of the political spectrum; the end that just can’t seem to wrap its head around human nature and the idea that capitalism has been the ticket to prosperity for the largest amount of people. I often wonder how someone can see examples of socialist government such as Cuba, Venezuela, and the former Soviet bloc and believe it’s a better alternative to what we have. Perhaps they believe they are more selfless than leaders in those aforementioned nations, but surely those who came in at the beginning of those failed experiments also believed the same thing. To me, a nation run by the Green Party would be a real-life Atlas Shrugged.

Kathy Szeliga (Republican Party)

Key facts: Kathy – the Minority Whip in the House of Delegates – has been a Delegate representing Baltimore and Harford counties since being elected in 2010; prior to that she was a legislative aide for over a decade who eventually worked her way up to being Andy Harris’s chief of staff while he was a State Senator. She was the third-place finisher in the 2010 election but moved up to second in 2014 in a district where all Delegates are elected at-large. Kathy and her husband operate a construction business; she recently turned 55 years old.

Key issues: Reforming the Federal Budget, Bringing Business Sense to Washington, Prioritizing National Security, Providing the Best Education for Our Children, Keeping Our Promises to Our Veterans, Reforming Obamacare, Protecting Farmers and Ranchers, Securing Our Borders and Fixing Immigration, Adopting an All of the Above Energy Strategy, Protecting Social Security and Medicare.

Thoughts: In reading her issues page, I got to thinking that Szeliga would likely be Maryland’s answer to Susan Collins – yet another Republican who regularly frustrates the conservative base of the party by not working to rightsize the federal government. After all, she’s already punting on the budget, Obamacare, energy, and entitlements - and that’s before she even begins to deal with the culture inside the Beltway. It reconfirms why she wasn’t my choice in the primary, because tinkering around the edges isn’t going to get it done in our current situation.

Chris Van Hollen (Democrat Party)

Key facts: This Senate seat is a job Van Hollen was seemingly groomed for: throughout his adult life he has been in law school, worked as a Congressional aide and an advisor to former Governor William Donald Schaefer, and been an elected official for 26 years. He served in the Maryland House of Delegates for 12 years before taking advantage of newly gerrymandered Congressional districts and winning the reworked Eighth District over incumbent Connie Morella in 2002. He has served there since, as well as running the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2006-10. Van Hollen is 57 years old, meaning the three on-ballot candidates are all of a similar generation.

Key issues: An Economy that Works for Everyone, Expanding Educational Opportunity, Ending Gun Violence, Access to Affordable and Quality Health Care, Keeping Our Promises to Our Seniors, Keeping our Promises to our Veterans, Our Environment, Ending Secret Money in Politics, The Struggle for Equal Rights and Equal Justice, Women’s Health, Pay Equity, and Choice, Immigration, National Security and Foreign Policy.

Thoughts: Given the small on-ballot field, Van Hollen is trying to position himself to the left of Szeliga and to the right of Flowers - that places him well left of center as Szeliga occupies the middle and Flowers is beyond the wall in left field. He’s the typical big-government liberal Democrat, with a myopic vision of reality since he has worked in and around government his whole life – he obviously believes the solutions aren’t found in the people of our nation but in those who occupy the catacombs of our nation’s capital. Unfortunately, that makes him popular in the part of Maryland that depends on Uncle Sam for its livelihood and that’s about 2/5 of the voters right there.

There are also a number of write-in options, although information on them is more sketchy because several don’t have websites I can find.  That applies to four of the write-ins: Jeffrey Binkins, Bob Robinson, Charles U. Smith, and Lih Young. The latter two grace Maryland ballots every two years as perennial candidates who seldom break much more than a percent or two in the Democratic primary, but somehow feel a larger electorate will change their outcome.

The other two are running as unaffiliated, although Tinus was an also-ran in the Democrats’ primary this year.

Greg Dorsey (unaffiliated)

Key facts: Dorsey tried to petition his way onto the Senate ballot this year, but failed so he is running as a write-in. However, he may have secured a future victory by contesting the rules for petitioning one’s way onto the ballot by contending the individual signature requirements in Maryland were too onerous when compared to how a political party receives ballot status. He owns a small business and ran previously as a write-in candidate for the Maryland House of Delegates in 2014. At 41, he is likely the youngest of the candidates seeking the Senate seat. Dorsey is active in the movement for non-partisan politics.

Key issues: Good Government Priorities, Money and Politics, Fiscal Responsibility and Government Efficiency, Environmentally Concerned, Tax Code, Immigration, 2nd Amendment, Healthcare, The Failed “War on Drugs” & the Marijuana Conundrum, Urban Public Education Revival

Thoughts: Dorsey seems to fit right into this race as a candidate who’s somewhat left of center – paying for programs with a “Wall Street Type Tax” isn’t exactly a conservative idea. Dorsey isn’t as far left as Van Hollen or Flowers would be, but aside from the libertarian slant on the “War on Drugs” he seems to be reliably leftist in his philosophy. One aspect of his website that is perhaps a vestige of his previous race is how he cites a lot of information on the state of Maryland – information that wouldn’t necessarily be relevant for a Senator.

Ed Tinus (unaffiliated, but ran in the primary as a Democrat)

Key facts: Tinus is the only Eastern Shore resident in the race, and is a 56-year-old upholsterer from Worcester County. His 2016 race has so far followed the path of his 2012 run for the same seat – finish last in the Democratic primary then run as a write-in in the general election.

Key issue: Ed doesn’t have a true “issues” page, for his philosophy and approach to governance would be to solicit public opinion through the internet to determine his vote. “I stand before you as the only U.S. Senate candidate in this Presidential election that will surrender the authority of governance to a Public vote as the Constitution dictates,” says Tinus.

Thoughts: I would like to know just where in the Constitution Ed’s philosophy emanates from. If he were true to the intent of the Founding Fathers, he would be addressing the state legislature when they selected a Senator, because that was the case before the Seventeenth Amendment was ratified. And while he bills himself as a “Constitutional Conservative” and TEA Party regular, I question that when he advocates a $15 minimum wage (and government subsidy) and compares himself favorably to both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

So this is your Senate field. To be quite honest, I wish the Libertarian had made the ballot to give me another choice because I’m not truly crazy about any of them – and in my humble opinion some are just truly crazy. Out of the group, this basically means Kathy Szeliga gets my vote by default as the least bad alternative – granted, she would be an upgrade over Barb Mikulski, but I’m not going to hold my breath she will embark on the rightsizing government that we truly need. Thus, I will withhold a formal endorsement - I don’t have to play those partisan games anymore.

The Buffalo Billion fraud and bribery scheme: corruption and pay-to-play, a symbol of everything they’re doing

Commentary by Marita Noon

When New York’s Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo gushed over SolarCity’s new solar panel factory in Buffalo, New York, the audience likely didn’t grasp the recently-revealed meaning of his words: “It is such a metaphor – a symbol of everything we’re doing.”

The 1.2 million square foot building, being built by the state of New York on the site of a former steel plant, is looking more and more like another political promise of help for one of the poorest cities in the state that ends up enriching cronies without ever achieving any potential for the people.

Yes, it is a symbol of everything they’re doing.

Previously, during her first senatorial bid, Hillary Clinton also promised jobs to the economically depressed region of the state of New York – 200,000 to be exact. Citing a report from the Washington Post, CBSNews states: “Jobs data show that job growth stagnated in Upstate New York during her eight years in office, the report said, and manufacturing jobs dropped by nearly a quarter.” The Post’s extensive story reveals that jobs never materialized – despite “initial glowing headlines.” It claims: “Clinton’s self-styled role as economic promoter” actually “involved loyal campaign contributors who also supported the Clinton Foundation.” Through federal grants and legislation, she helped steer money to programs, companies, and initiatives that benefitted the donors but failed to reverse the economic decline of the region.

Now, new corruption charges reveal the same pay-to-play model linked to Cuomo’s upstate “Buffalo Billion” economic revitalization plan – and the promised jobs also look they will never materialize.

Back on January 5, 2012, Cuomo announced a $1 billion five-year economic development pledge for Buffalo.  It was to be the governor’s banner economic initiative with the SolarCity factory as the cornerstone and a pledge of 1,460 direct factory jobs. Other companies, including IBM and a Japanese clean-energy company were also lined up.

With the state-of-the-art solar panel factory ready for equipment to be installed, the wisdom of the entire program is being scrutinized – and is coming up short.

First, on September 22, two of Cuomo’s closest aides – along with several others – were charged in corruption and fraud cases involving state contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Addressing the press at his Manhattan office, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara asserted: “that ‘pervasive corruption and fraud’ infested one of the governor’s signature economic development programs. Companies got rich, and the public got bamboozled,” reports The Observer. Bharara described the bid-rigging and bribery arrangement: “Behind the scenes they were cynically rigging the whole process so that the contracts would go to handpicked ‘friends of the administration’ – ‘friends’ being a euphemism for large donors. Through rigged bids, state contracts worth billions of dollars in public development monies, meant to revitalize and renew upstate New York, were instead just another way to corruptly award cronies who were willing to pay to play.”

The 79-page criminal complaint notes that campaign contributions to Cuomo poured in from people connected to the bribe-paying companies as soon as those businesses began pursuing state projects.

One of the companies that received the lucrative contracts was LPCiminelli – run by “Cuomo mega-donor” Louis Ciminelli. He allegedly offered bribes to Cuomo confidante Todd Howe – who has admitted to pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars from developers to rig bids on multimillion-dollar state contracts linked to Buffalo Billion projects.

Ciminelli received the $750 million contract to build the SolarCity plant. The Buffalo News cites Bharara as saying: “the state’s bidding process for the factory being built for SolarCity at RiverBend in South Buffalo turned into a ‘criminal’ enterprise that favored LPCiminelli, where company executives were given inside information about how the deal was to be awarded.”

Part of Cuomo’s deal with SolarCity – in which the state owns the building and equipment with SolarCity leasing it under a 10-year deal – requires the company to meet a timetable of job-creation quotas or pay hefty penalties. Even before the building was complete, however, the company slashed its job commitment from 1460 to 500. According to the Investigative Post, SolarCity claims it will still employ the original number, but due to automation, the majority of them will not be at the Buffalo plant. With the state’s $750 million investment, that works out to $1.5 million per manufacturing job. In a press release, Cuomo promised 1460 “direct manufacturing jobs at the new facility.”

Even the 500 jobs will only materialize if the plant actually starts production – currently slated for June 2017. SolarCity’s future is, as Crain’s New York Business puts it: “uncertain.”

Amid the company’s myriad problems are the facts that it has never been profitable, nor does it have manufacturing experience.

In February 2014, SolarCity’s stock price peaked at about $85 a share. Today, a share is less than $20. Microaxis gives it a probability of bankruptcy score of 48 percent. Crains reports that it posted a $251 million loss in Q1 2016 and a loss of $230 million in Q2. To “stop the bleeding,” Elon Musk (a donor to both the Obama and Clinton campaigns and the Clinton Foundation), who owns more than 20 percent of the company, announced that Tesla (of which he also owns more than 20 percent) would purchase SolarCity – this after as many as 15 other potential buyers and investors looked at the company and decided to pass. SolarCity even considered selling the solar panel manufacturing business.

Both SolarCity and Tesla are, according to the Buffalo News, facing a “cash bind” – this despite receiving billions in federal and state grants and tax credits as I’ve previously addressed. Tesla is described as “cash-eating electric vehicle and battery making businesses.” For SolarCity, its model – which finances its solar panel installations in order to make a profit on a lease that can be as long as 30 years, while it collects the lucrative government incentives worth billions (a practice for which Solar City is currently under Congressional investigation) – requires constantly raising new money from investors. Once the Tesla deal was announced, SolarCity’s lenders started to pull back.

The Buffalo News reports: “Stock in SolarCity…now trades for $4 a share less, or 19 percent less, than what Tesla is offering – a gap indicating that investors are uncertain the deal will be completed.” Additionally, the deal is being challenged by four separate lawsuits – which could delay the deal. Addressing the merger, one analyst said: “We see a lot more that can go wrong than can go right.”

Then there is the manufacturing angle. Originally, the Buffalo plant was going to manufacture high-efficacy solar panel modules developed by Silevo – a company SolarCity bought in 2014. Crain’s reports that it will instead produce complete solar roofs: something it says “Dow Chemical recently abandoned after five years because it could not find a way to make a profit on the technology.” But then, the Buffalo News says: “The initial production in Buffalo is expected to include photovoltaic cells that SolarCity purchases from suppliers and are used in the products that will be assembled in the South Park Avenue factory.”

Whatever the plant builds or manufactures, getting it operating will be expensive – even with the New York taxpayers owning the building and equipment – and will drain scarce cash from SolarCity at a time when its financing costs have increased.

Buffalo residents wonder if they’ll be stuck with the world’s largest empty warehouse and without the promised jobs.

No wonder the entire project is in doubt. Because of the Cuomo administration corruption allegations, other proposed job-creators, including IBM, have pulled out until the probe is completed.

For now, Cuomo is not a part of the criminal complaint – though his name is mentioned many times – and he claims he knew nothing about it, nor does he think he’s a target of the ongoing federal probe. “It is almost inconceivable the governor didn’t know what was going on,” Doug Muzzio, a professor of public affairs at Baruch College, said. “And if he didn’t know what was going on, you can argue he should have known.”

Bharara has suggested that the better name for the program would be: “The Buffalo Billion Fraud and Bribery Scheme.”

Yep, the Buffalo Billion project is a “symbol” of the political promises and crony corruption – “everything we’re doing” – that takes taxpayers dollars to reward political donors and then walks away when the jobs don’t materialize.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy - which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

The right idea but with the wrong approach

September 4, 2016 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off 

I find the controversy over Governor Hogan’s executive order mandating that Maryland public schools begin classes after Labor Day and wrap up by the following June 15 to be a good opportunity for commentary, so I decided to add my couple pennies.

First of all, this isn’t a new idea. In 2015 and 2016 legislation was introduced in the Maryland General Assembly to create a similar mandate. As proof of how Annapolis works, the 2015 versions only got House and Senate hearings but the 2016 versions picked up the remaining local House delegation as sponsors (only Delegates Mary Beth Carozza and Charles Otto were local co-sponsors in 2015) and got a Senate committee vote. (It failed on a 5-5 tie, with one of the Republicans on the committee being excused. The other two voted in favor.) There was a chance this legislation may have made it through in 2017, but apparently Hogan was unwilling to take the risk. He took the opportunity to make a news event at a perfect time – when most local districts were already a week or two into school, Larry announced this from the Ocean City boardwalk on a pleasant beach day – and showed he was willing to stand up for one of his principles, that being improving opportunities for small business. (At a minimum, with Hogan’s edict kids are off for 11 weeks for summer vacation.)

In reality, what Hogan has done is shift the calendar backward by about a week: for example, Wicomico County public school kids had their last day of school June 9 and returned August 29 and 30. But the thought process is that families are more likely to take a vacation in July and August than they are in June, so because Ocean City is a great tourist attraction the state should follow Worcester County’s lead and begin school after Labor Day. (They simply went an extra week into June, concluding on June 17 this year.)

Granted, our family has enjoyed a post-Labor Day start for a number of years since parochial schools have more calendar flexibility: our child began her summer vacation after classes ended June 3 and returns on Tuesday the 6th. Growing up, I seem to recall the city schools I attended began after Labor Day and went into June but the rural school I graduated from began classes in late August and was done by Memorial Day. (We had a longer Labor Day weekend, though, because our county fair runs that weekend and the Tuesday after Labor Day was Junior Fair Day. Thirty-odd years later, it still is.) The point is that each of these localities knows what works best, so I can understand the objection from those who advocate local control of school schedules. And talk about strange bedfellows: I’m sure many of those praising Hogan’s statewide mandate locally are also those who have fought for local control of our Board of Education - after at least ten years of trying, we finally have a chance for local control (as opposed to appointments by the Governor) over our Board of Education through a referendum this November. (I recommend a vote for the fully-elected Option 2 on Question A.)

So I agree with the objections on those grounds, even though I personally think a post-Labor Day start is a good idea based on the school calendar typically used. (If I truly had my way, though, we would adopt a 45-15 style plan so that summer break is somewhat shorter and kids spend less time relearning what they forgot over the break.) What I don’t see as productive are those who whine about how this would affect preparation for particular tests – that shouldn’t be the overall goal of education. Obviously they would be the first to blame the calendar (and by extension, Larry Hogan) if test scores went down. But Hogan’s not alienating a group that was squarely in his corner anyway, as the teachers’ unions almost reflexively endorse Democrats, including his 2014 opponent, and mislead Marylanders about education spending. It’s increased with each Hogan budget - just not enough to fund every desire the teachers have.

Come January, it will be interesting to see if the Democrats attempt to rescind this executive order through legislative means, daring Hogan to veto it so they can override the veto and hand him a political loss a year out from the election. While most Marylanders are fine with the change, the Democrats are beholden to the one political group that seems to object and those special interests tend to call the tune for the General Assembly majority.

Yet the idea that the state feels the need to dictate an opening and closing date to local school districts is just another way they are exerting control over the counties. We object when they tell us how to do our local planning, so perhaps as a makeup for this change our governor needs to rescind the PlanMaryland regime in Annapolis.

A position of power for Andy Harris?

In the middle of reading a story about a possible breakup between two conservative factions in the House, I found what should be a very, very fascinating tidbit to folks in these parts. According to Phillip Wegmann at the Daily Signal:

“I’ve heard of no mass exodus (from the Republican Study Committee),” a GOP aide said, “just a few members here and there who don’t feel they use the resources [RSC] provides often enough to justify paying the dues.”

The right candidate for RSC chairman could change that dynamic though, the aide speculated. “I’d imagine a Chairman Andy Harris would make (House Freedom Caucus) folks more likely to stick around.”

Harris, a Maryland Republican, is a potential candidate for RSC chairman, according to multiple Capitol Hill sources. He has remained tight-lipped about his plans, however. Harris’ office did not respond to multiple requests by email and phone from The Daily Signal.

The race for RSC chairman will officially be decided after the November election, but members have been talking about it at least since July when Flores announced this year’s process. When lawmakers return in September, interested candidates will meet with the study committee’s founders. Because the House is in recess all of October and most of November, that only leaves next month for campaigning.

No congressmen have declared their candidacy officially, but a senior GOP aide told The Daily Signal that both Harris and Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., are building support inside the caucus for a bid. (Emphasis mine.)

I realize we are going by the word of an unnamed “GOP aide” – for all we know, he or she may work for Andy – but assuming this is true, it is an intriguing prospect for Andy’s national profile. Because he is far more conservative than most Maryland voters are perceived to be (and certainly Democrats are happy to help that perception along) it’s quite likely that a statewide position isn’t in the cards for Andy. However, he does represent a conservative district that is quite pleased with his record based on the fact he’s received over 75% of the primary vote each time since his 2010 election against challengers who ranged from neophyte to crackpot to serious enough to have some name recognition in portions of the district.

While the RSC has maintained a reputation as the conservative hangout for the House, the fact that membership includes the vast majority of the Republican caucus seems to give a perception that the RSC is now the “establishment.” At the beginning of the current iteration of Congress, the more conservative members decided they needed their own group because they felt the large size of the RSC was watering down its conservative message – hence, the House Freedom Caucus was born. While Harris wasn’t a founding member of that group, he is one of 42 members of the Freedom Caucus as well as an RSC participant.

As leadership will likely be rearranged in the wake of November’s election, Andy Harris may be presented with a number of opportunities. Given that the state’s blatant gerrymandering has placed Harris in an exceptionally safe seat, he has used the opportunity to try and build up the GOP farm team in his district – but now could be a spokesperson on a larger stage. (However, I am holding him to something he promised when first elected – six terms and out.) Love him or hate him, we will see if the back half of Harris’s Congressional service becomes a springboard to a leading role in the national conservative movement.

Taking the exit ramp

This evening I may have made some of the more radical Trumpkins happy: I resigned from the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee and as an officer of the Wicomico County Republican Club. It was the time of my choosing.

My original draft of this piece was much more angry and bitter, but I think now on reflection that it’s just a mounting frustration with all things political. I can see the iceberg as I’m standing on the deck of the Titanic but no one hears my warnings.

This is the time of year that I normally would begin the process for putting together volunteers to help out at the Wicomico County Fair, Good Beer Festival, and Autumn Wine Festival. But after a lot of thought, I realized that I would be lying to myself if I thought I could sit at a Republican table and hand out signage and trinkets for a candidate who I cannot support in Donald Trump. It got me thinking that we supposedly have all these new people who are willing to support Trump but would not support previous Republicans we worked hard to elect, so they can take over that duty.

In the last few months I have made a number of steps on my life journey, deepening in my faith. Now I understand I should be the forgiving sort, and if the reported conversion of Donald Trump to be a “baby Christian” is the truth, then I am pleased to hear it. But there also have to be deeds associated with the words, and the problem I have with Trump is that his version of the truth changes like most people change their socks. I find the lack of consistency to be an issue; while I know no one is perfect I would at least like to see him work in that direction. To borrow from the message I listened to Sunday on 3 John, Trump to me is still more of a Diotrephes and not enough of a Demetrius.

Because of that change, I’ve also realized that the party I have occupied for most of my adult life (aside from the two years I was classified as a Democrat because of my own Operation Chaos I did as a college student) has moved away from me. A party steeped in conservatism and willing to stand up for Judeo-Christian values would have laughed Donald Trump out of the race before we even counted the votes in Iowa because he has very little of either. And while the GOP talked a good game over the last eight years saying what they would do for the sake of government restraint via conservative principles if they were given enough power, their rank-and-file voters (well, the plurality of rank-and-file voters) decided to select a candidate who is, on balance, not for limiting government or for conservative ideals. This group of 44% of the Republican voters instead elected a television star and huckster whose claim to fame is a brand that’s always for sale; a man to whom practically everything is negotiable at some point. Call me hardline, but I have principles that are not negotiable.

Trump is correct in noting that he was running for the Republican Party, not the Conservative Party, but until he came along during most of my life it was understood that the Republicans were the conservatives. Not anymore.

So I have become a free agent. A party that embraces Donald Trump is no party for me. Certainly I will lean heavily to the right, but I think it’s time I freed myself from the shackles of having to be a spokesperson for a party that nominated so poorly for the top of the ticket.

While I am at it, I have to make a couple other observations. There are a lot of Trump supporters who are vowing not to support Larry Hogan in 2018 because he won’t vote for The Donald – a stand from Hogan that I applauded and let him know that I did. So let me ask them: are you going to find a primary opponent? I can’t wait to see that one. While I’m not the greatest fan of everything Hogan has done, I must say that you Trump backers are looking up the wrong hill to die on. If you want to push Hogan to the right, it’s called giving him more conservatives in the General Assembly, not tossing a governor who has a reasonable chance at a second term where he can do a lot for the GOP - like redistrict the state in a fair manner.

I also have something to say to the “party over everything” people, mainly those heavily involved in the Maryland GOP, who keep saying “not voting for Trump is a vote for Hillary.” I’m not voting for Hillary either, so neither side gets a vote from me. What you can’t seem to get through your heads is that, if Hillary is indeed elected in November, the moment she won the election was the moment you helped to nominate the extraordinarily unpopular, boorish, often truth-challenged Donald Trump to be the GOP standard-bearer. Not only did I not vote for him in the primary, I spent many weeks in the summer of 2015 researching candidates and can tell you that all but maybe one or two of Trump’s opponents would have been far better on top of the ticket. You chose to ignore me (and a lot of others who said basically the same thing) so you’ll get either a humiliating loss in November or a Republican president who will likely govern like the worst of Democrats, with the added “bonus” of making Congressional Republicans vote against their President. There were always a handful who voted against Bush’s government expansion, but most sold themselves out based on “party over everything.”  And what did it get us? Farther away from the ideals of our Founding Fathers, that’s what.

Unfortunately, the damage is yet to come: a lot of good people will be hurt by the short-sightedness of the portion of the GOP electorate that picked Trump. But I’m done carrying their water as a party officer, just as several of my friends and cohorts have already done. I was hoping against hope for a convention miracle; alas it was not to be.

This decision, however, will lead to a few changes here: no longer will I cover the Wicomico County Republican Club or the state party conventions. I may attend events after the election, but for now I think it’s better I do my own thing.

I guess the way I look at it there are three possibilities here: either Trump is going to lose to Hillary, he will beat Hillary and govern exactly as I predict he will, or he will be a great President and I will have assessed him incorrectly. Truly I wouldn’t mind being wrong for the sake of this great nation, but I have no evidence to believe I will be.

Finally, if I offended any of my erstwhile peers by my manner of springing this on you as the meeting tonight drew to a close, I’m truly sorry. But I believed I owed you an explanation. Some have been supportive and others not so much but that’s what I expected. It’s been a fun and rewarding ten years in the local Republican Party (not to mention another decade I did the same in Ohio) but all things must pass. So let it be.

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