Before I step aside for a few days, there are some things I’ve been meaning to push. I’ll do these in chronological order of occurrence.
I had wondered when the First District challenger would have an event in Salisbury, but he has the uncharacteristic bad luck of picking the weekend I’m away (this Saturday) to do a combination townhall and fundraiser at two popular downtown venues. So I will just pass this on without additional comment, except for noting that the Roadie Joe’s event is $40 (or $30 if you’re wearing camo or hunter orange.)
Another would-be challenger is bringing one of the last stops on his three-day announcement tour to Salisbury University next Wednesday. SU is the penultimate stop on the tour for U.S. Senate candidate Dave Wallace, who will stop at Holloway Hall next Wednesday, February 10th, around 4 p.m. (His day will wrap up in Easton before returning the vehicle to the Western Shore.)
As his campaign’s advance person pointed out:
If you have owned or operated a business on the Eastern Shore, you know how hard it has been to work with all the new laws, regulations, fees and taxes. When did Senator Barbara Mikulski, our Democrat US Senator for 30 years, decide to work with Safran Labinal, one of Wicomico County’s largest companies, with more than 650 workers? When they announced they were moving to Denton, Texas – a bit too late, don’t you think? Have you wondered why Perdue AgriBusiness is planning to build their corporate offices in Delmar, DE? Could it be that Delaware is more business friendly?
Wallace will be the second candidate to announce in Salisbury, as Kathy Szeliga made a swing through town in November.
Finally, I took advantage of a rare weekday off to attend yesterday’s Republican Women of Wicomico monthly meeting. (Yes, there were three guys there, including speaker Muir Boda.) But they wanted me to pass along word of their Paint Night fundraiser on Thursday, February 11 at Brew River. It goes from 6 to 8 p.m. and the cost is $40. Men are invited and encouraged to both attend the fundraiser and be associate members of the group, said RWOW president Julie Brewington. (Associate membership is only $15, if I recall correctly, and they run a pretty good meeting.)
This should fill the political calendar pretty well.
There are still a few days to the primary, but I’m using the occasion of Greg Holmes’s entry to the Republican U.S. Senate race and check how the field is shaping up. (And if you say “who?” you’re not alone – Holmes was one of the also-rans in 2014′s Fourth Congressional District primary.)
Having done this political thing for a few years, I know that there are usually 10 or so Republicans who run for U.S. Senate in any given cycle. My first election here was 2006, the year Michael Steele was the overwhelming choice of the state party (and accordingly won 87 percent of the vote.) Despite that, there were 10 people on the GOP primary ballot, nine of whom split the other 13 percent of the vote. (With an open seat, that was a scrum on the Democratic side – they had 18 running.)
As of this writing, though, we are only at eight running on the GOP side and Holmes would be nine – so we should be in the ballpark for an average election. On the other hand, the open seat on the Democratic side isn’t bringing out nearly as many – just nine have signed up for the Democrats, with at least four being the perennial candidates who rarely get more than 1% of the vote.
Of those nine Republicans, most have some sort of electoral history: Holmes and John Graziani both ran for the same Congressional seat in 2014, while Dave Wallace was the Republican nominee against Democrat Chris Van Hollen that same year. Richard Douglas was a Senate candidate in 2012 and Richard Shawver was in 2006, but Kathy Szeliga is the only one who’s won a legislative position as a Delegate in the Maryland General Assembly. It appears Chrys Kefalas, Lynn Richardson, and Anthony Seda are first-time candidates.
So while Szeliga probably has the greatest name recognition, followed by Douglas, it is a relatively wide open race. If someone were to do favorability numbers on the GOP side right now, I doubt any one of the candidates would be over 20% favorable, with the vast majority saying “never heard of them.” I myself didn’t know many of these people were in the race until I looked tonight.
Meanwhile, in looking at our First District, it’s still a four-person race on the GOP side where incumbent Andy Harris is joined by 2014 challenger Jonathan Goff, first-time candidate Sean Jackson, and former Delegate Mike Smigiel. Jim Ireton hasn’t filed yet, so Joe Werner (who ran for the seat in 2008) is the only candidate so far on the Democratic side.
I think there will be between one and three more in each of the aforementioned races by the time Wednesday’s filing deadline expires. But I am sort of surprised that we’re not seeing as many candidates up and down the ballot this year.
A comparatively modest gathering stood by Salisbury City Councilman (and former mayor) Jim Ireton as he embarked on his quest to unseat current Congressman Andy Harris in Maryland’s First Congressional District. And his opening salvo naturally was critical of the incumbent:
I’m here (in Crisfield) today because the 1st District needs a Congressman who won’t just say no and vote no. In just 6 years in Washington, Andy Harris has done nothing for the people of the 1st District.
Crisfield, the southernmost city in Maryland, was chosen by Ireton because it was hit hard in 2012 by Hurricane Sandy, with Ireton contending it has not recovered. Jim chastised the incumbent because “he voted against $9.7 billion in hurricane relief.”
So I did a little research. It turns out the $9.7 billion bill Harris voted against was a measure to extend the borrowing authority for FEMA. Harris later voted against the overall supplemental appropriations bill but supported a substitute which would have offset $17 billion in approved aid by making other cuts (making it budget-neutral.) He ended up voting for a different appropriations bill that improved the original but did not clear the Senate. You may recall many were concerned about the budgetary impact in that era of sequestration.
Ireton went on about how Harris doesn’t support farmers and voted multiple times to repeal Obamacare before stepping boldly into Jim Crow territory.
He wants to return us to the days of insurance companies legally discriminating against Americans. Just like landlords in the 1950s could tell a black family no, and do so legally, Andy Harris wants to give insurance companies the legal right to say no to people with pre-existing medical conditions.
I think Jim forgets that insurance companies are like any other business as they need to be profitable to survive. Then again, that can be expected of a mayor who enacted the “rain tax” in Salisbury and decided landlords shouldn’t charge what he considered excessive rent.
And in the department of “it takes two to tango”:
From here on, it’s going to get ugly – Andy Harris will make sure of that. He will attack me as a person, and attack the issues you care about. He will issue dire warnings about taxes, even though I have a record of cutting fees as the mayor of Salisbury. He will issue dire warnings about crime, even though Salisbury’s Part I Violent Crimes dropped every year I was in office, and dropped almost 50% over my 6 years as mayor. He will try and scare farmers, even though the Wicomico River is now healthier than it’s been in decades due to the work of the city while I was in office. And I can only imagine what he will make up to say about me personally. (Emphasis mine.)
I noted back in October when the rent stabilization program was bounced out of City Council that Ireton is in a catbird seat of sorts. During the next 9 1/2 months, assuming he wins the primary – and he is the prohibitive favorite given the field – Ireton can take credit for all of the city’s successes by saying that he initiated them as mayor, yet any failures will see Jake Day thrust in front of the nearest Shore Transit vehicle. I figured that Jim was simply using the office to cool his heels for a later political run, but my error was in assuming that he’d have the decency to at least wait until the results became official before jumping into his next campaign, not spill the beans on election night. (Had he upset just 33 of his prospective voters enough to make them change their minds. he would have had a lot more time to run.)
Harris now has a challenge from both the Democrat and Republican sides, with both being uncommonly well-known entities. It’s the first time he’s had elected officials against him since he took office in 2011. And it already is ugly with push polls and charges of not doing his job, so we’re already on the glide path to a nasty campaign.
If not for Jonas, this post probably would have had at least one photo of our former Republican governor Bob Ehrlich. But since our friend Jonas left him stuck across the bridge, in lieu of the book signing fundraiser we instead had a hastily arranged meeting to go over a handful of announcements, with the first one being prospective dates for rescheduling the event are March 7 or 14. Of course, that’s subject to change and as I brought up the former date would conflict with our Central Committee meeting. Jackie Wellfonder added that the event was nearly sold out, but there were still a few spots available.
(Historically there seems to be an issue with wintertime events featuring Bob Ehrlich here in Wicomico County.)
But anyway, the meeting announcement caught me by surprise since I hadn’t even gone through and compiled the minutes from the last one. Nor did we have a copy of the Treasurer’s Report, but interim treasurer Muir Boda had the excuse of having a meeting prior to this one. We were informed, though, that there were some changes to our accounts made necessary by the abrupt resignation of our previous treasurer and integration with the WCRC Paypal account.
Julie Brewington and I tag-teamed on the Central Committee report, which didn’t feature a whole lot. As a body we had done our post-mortem on the Lincoln Day Dinner and discussed having another “retreat” as we did last year.
Jackie Wellfonder informed us that the Governor’s Ball would be February 18. That brought up another question regarding how successful a couple local events turned out to be, with Jackie and Julie replying that Mary Beth Carozza’s fundraising event was “hugely successful.” Shawn Jester added that Andy Harris’s Fruitland town hall meeting was well-attended, without the drama of the subsequent Bel Air townhall.
Julie Brewington then noted the Republican Women of Wicomico group was growing, and its next meeting would be February 3 at Brew River. Muir Boda is the slated speaker for the 11:30 lunch meeting, with Mitzi Perdue set for the March meeting. She was “very optimistic” about the direction the group was taking. Julie also took a moment to announce she was the Ted Cruz campaign coordinator locally.
Marc Kilmer gave us an impromptu update on County Council, with the biggest issues right now being the capital budget and proposed mega-chicken house. The bulk of the capital budget borrowing would be going toward updating and upgrading the county’s radio communication system, to the tune of $11 million. As for the chicken house, which would be the largest in the county, Kilmer explained that the county really had no say on its construction and operation beyond the planning and zoning aspect – it would be an agricultural use in an area zoned for agriculture. Most of the scrutiny of its operation would come from the state, Kilmer added.
Kilmer also expressed his concern with negotiations with the county’s law enforcement officers regarding a proposed pension program, noting other counties have had issues with the costs.
There were a couple legislative updates given. I updated the progress of the school board bill (SB145), which has a hearing on Wednesday, while we also were alerted to the possibility the sprinkler bill (HB19) wouldn’t make it out of committee. (I checked on the latter, and found its scheduled hearing has been cancelled.)
In more mundane club news, we’ll have to look for a new Crab Feast chair and we discussed some planning items for the coming year.
Things to add to the calendar: The RWOW group is doing a paint night at Brew River on February 11 from 6 to 8, said Julie, while Jackie added that Bob Ehrlich is scheduled for another book signing event at SU, but there you don’t have to buy the book to attend (at a reduced cost.) She suggested we could support their February 15 event without buying the book then doing the WCRC fundraiser to get a copy.
Next month’s meeting will be a double dip: Walter Olson of the Cato Institute will discuss Maryland’s gerrymandering, while Anthony Gutierrez of the Wicomico Board of Elections will demonstrate the new voting machines. That meeting will be February 22. Sounds like a good one!
With the winds of Jonas howling around us last night, I decided it was a good night to clean out the old e-mail box. One result of that is the Liberty Features widget I placed in my sidebar. They have a lot of good content I use for these “odds and ends” posts as well as other content – that and once upon a time I was a writer for them. You just never know when doors may open back up.
On Tuesday last I alerted readers to the Maryland Senate bill that would allow Wicomico County to determine whether or not they want an elected school board. It’s doubtful they picked up on the coincidence that their hearing will occur in the midst of National School Choice Week. But we deserve a choice, so there’s just something appropriate about this – it may even occur during the #schoolchoice Tweetup occurring Wednesday afternoon.
Teachers may be gaining a choice in how they wish to be represented thanks to an upcoming Supreme Court case. Here’s hoping the side of right prevails and teachers are freed from paying excessive union dues to support political causes they don’t agree with.
And since a lot of my cohorts in the region are using their heat, it’s a good time to talk a little about all the energy news that’s been piling up. For example, energy writer Marita Noon recently detailed the Obama administration’s War on Coal. She quotes one Pennsylvania United Mine Workers officer who says, “Obama’s actions have alienated those who work in the industry from Democrats in general.” I think someday there may be thousands of workers in the green energy field, but for now the people who work in the coal mines are looking desperately for jobs.
On the other hand, if the government showers you with favored status, you have a golden ticket. Noon also wrote about the subsidies and rent-seeking that green energy company Solar City is in danger of losing in several states.
Our fracking boom has gone bust, though, since oil has approached $25 a barrel. Some of those furloughed employees could be rehired to pump oil for export, but this game of chicken between OPEC and American producers shows no sign of ending soon.
Those would-be workers could also be good candidates for rebuilding American manufacturing – if any jobs were to be had, that is. Over at the Alliance for American Manufacturing, Scott Paul notes:
I know I don’t have to tell you how important manufacturing is. More than 12 million Americans are directly employed in manufacturing, and many more are employed indirectly.
These good-paying manufacturing jobs are key to a healthy middle class. It’s no coincidence that the middle class is shrinking at the same time manufacturing is struggling.
Manufacturing certainly faced a tough 2015. There were only 30,000 new jobs created nationwide. We still only have gained back 40 percent of the jobs lost during the Great Recession.
They ponder what the 2016 Presidential candidates will do and invite you to ask for yourself (through their form letter, of course.) The valid question is:
What will you do differently? How do you plan to help spur manufacturing job growth and grow the middle class?
Perhaps Larry Hogan’s plan is one answer, although federal intervention may be needed to bring jobs back from overseas. Maryland, though, could create the conditions for growing new companies.
Finally, I wanted to give a shout out to a long-distance supporter of mine over the last several years, one who has decided to make the leap and run for public office. Jackie Gregory threw her hat into the ring for Cecil County Council back in November, running as a Republican in the county’s District 5. That district covers the central part of the county, from the town of North East south along the Elk Neck peninsula.
If you are in the area, she’s having a breakfast next weekend in North East so I would encourage you to drop by and give her some support. Cecil County has been an interesting subject to me for several years, with Gregory’s Cecil County Patriots group being an advocate for change.
So my 79th edition of odds and ends comes to a close as my heater kicks on again. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for summer. By the way, I also finally finished my updates to the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame so the page is back up. I’m not sure it’s odd, but it is the end.
Surely you follow my site and know that each year, once the General Assembly session is over, I compile the monoblogue Accountability Project. Last year I believe I mentioned that some of the bills that I tracked were vetoed by Larry Hogan but would likely be revisited by this year’s group – sure enough, the “travel tax” was passed for a second time despite the efforts of every Republican who stood behind his or her governor. Even Senator Addie Eckardt, who co-sponsored the original bill, voted to sustain the veto.
That was one of the two bills I used for last year’s mAP. The other bill, which allows felons to vote before completing their sentences (as parole and probation are part of the sentence) has not received a veto vote yet. According to the Maryland House Republican Caucus, the reason why is that Mike Miller is one vote short and waiting for an appointee to replace former Senator Karen Montgomery, who resigned effective January 1. Given the fact Democrats hold a 32-14 edge and will get the 33rd vote when Montgomery is replaced, it appears four Democrats are feeling the pressure to stand with the governor. (If I were to guess I would say three of those four are John Astle, Jim Brochin, and Jim Mathias. They tend to be the most willing to cross the aisle in the Senate and represent conservative districts.)
Assuming the Senate gets that vote – and it won’t happen if Miller can’t rustle up the votes – that will be 2 of my 25 votes. I’m debating whether to eliminate one committee vote and one floor vote or two floor votes to accommodate these veto votes – it may depend on what else shakes out.
The felon voting override was particularly galling because it made it by one vote, and the one member of the Eastern Shore delegation who voted to override should have known better. Perhaps a “soft on crime” label will come in handy in four years because Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes won’t have an incumbent to protect her next time. It was an office that should never have received the free ride she got in 2014.
Next week’s assignment will be to get testimony in favor of our elected school board bill. Those of us who do honest work for a living can’t drop everything and go to Annapolis, but I will make it a point to write up my own statement of support. The hope is that the bill emerges unmolested and we get to decide how we want our school board to be come November.
The half-decade or more process of securing a Board of Education in Wicomico County that’s directly elected by the people entered a new chapter late last week with the introduction of the appropriate legislation in the Maryland General Assembly. Senate Bill 145, with Senator Jim Mathias as lead sponsor and Addie Eckardt as co-sponsor, provides for the makeup of the board as well as a three-way referendum to be placed on this November’s ballot. It’s a relatively complex 16-page bill, subdivided into several sections because the sections which would actually become law are dependent on the results of the referendum.
To make a long story short, voters would face three choices in November, from which they can only select one:
- FOR a Board of Education with seven members appointed by the Governor;
- FOR a Board of Education with five members elected by district and two members elected at-large;
- FOR a Board of Education with five members elected by district and two members appointed by County Council.
The method with the most votes wins, regardless of whether it is a majority or plurality.
SB145 was assigned to the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs (EHEA) Committee and given a relatively quick hearing date of Wednesday, January 27. The EHEA committee has 10 members and is led by Chair Senator Joan Carter Conway of Baltimore City and Vice-Chair Paul Pinsky of Prince George’s County. Other Democratic members are Cheryl Kagan of Montgomery County, Shirley Nathan-Pulliam of Baltimore County, Jim Rosapepe of Prince George’s County, and Ronald Young of Frederick County, while Republicans Gail Bates of Howard County, Johnny Ray Salling of Baltimore County, Bryan Simonaire of Anne Arundel County, and Steve Waugh of Calvert County also sit on the committee.
At the present time it’s the smallest committee with just 10 members (and a slim 6-4 Democratic advantage) because there’s one vacancy in the Senate. At some point it’s presumed that a Montgomery County Democrat will join the committee to be its eleventh member, but the bill will likely have its hearing and committee vote by then. (Former District 14 Senator Karen Montgomery resigned as of January 1.)
An interesting note regarding the makeup of the committee is that Conway and Simonaire represent counties with appointed boards, while Pinsky, Nathan-Pulliam, Rosapepe, and Salling represent counties with hybrid boards. Moreover, none of these committee members represent the Eastern Shore. It’s worth noting as well that Conway was the chair of EHEA when Caroline County got its hybrid board. It was Senator Conway, who represents a district several counties and a completely different way of life away, that deemed that Caroline County didn’t have sufficient minority representation with a fully-elected board, so if the initial all-elected option is scrubbed for Wicomico it’s likely her doing. (This despite the fact we have one majority-minority County Council district and two others with significant minority populations, out of five.)
So the goal is to make sure this bill gets through without being tampered with, but that will be difficult since we don’t have a local representative on the board. And remember: last year when we had a bill for a hybrid board, their excuse for stopping it was that only one of the two Senators were supporting it. Now both are sponsors, and thanks to the public hearings we know that a lot of support was there for the all-elected option as one of three choices. Anything less is a disservice to the people of Wicomico County.
One little piece of Larry Hogan’s FY2017 budget proposal caught my eye, but I want to begin with a little reaction to the State of the Union show from my favorite manufacturing advocacy group, the Alliance for American Manufacturing and its president Scott Paul:
President Obama cited economic progress in his State of the Union address, and he also noted the need to address income inequality. If he wants to address this, he need look no further than manufacturing, which had its worst year in 2015 since the Great Recession.
While the president was right to highlight economic progress, he missed an opportunity to address some of the core concerns that are holding back manufacturing. Yes, manufacturing has added nearly 900,000 jobs over the past six years, but that represents less than 40 percent of the factory jobs lost over the recession. Only 30,000 jobs were created in 2015.
Keep that in mind as you read on, particularly the income inequality part. So I noticed a particular piece of news today, and after a bit of searching I found that Baltimore Sun writer Erin Cox included this in a story on Hogan’s tax plan:
Hogan also proposed granting a 10-year corporate tax income break for manufacturing companies new to the state who open in Western Maryland, Baltimore and the lower Eastern Shore, areas where unemployment is dramatically higher than the rest of the state.
“We’ve lost 28 percent our manufacturing base because other states were stealing our manufacturers,” Hogan said. “It was like spearing a fish in a barrel. It was too easy. We’re trying to bring back the manufacturing base because there are a lot of hard-working people in the heartland of Maryland who want to work.”
Hogan’s manufacturing tax amnesty would extend to employees of those businesses. Workers earning less than $65,000 a year would be exempt from state income taxes for a decade.
So let’s say XYZ Widgets opens a manufacturing plant in Salisbury. Not only would they get a tax break from the state of Maryland for a decade, so would the workers who make less than about $30 an hour be exempt from paying Maryland state income tax. (This would probably come as a refund once the taxpayer files his or her return.) I will cheerfully admit this goes against my grain of not supporting targeted tax cuts – particularly since it’s micro-targeted to maybe a few thousand taxpayers at most over the ten-year period – but it is an idea for the hopper that could be successful.
In fact, it extends a practice of states and municipalities granting a tax abatement to chosen entities to convince them to set up shop there. We have enough of a knowledge base now to see how these programs work for large-scale employers such as automotive assembly plants – here is one example from South Carolina, where BMW set up shop over two decades ago.
The other fly in the ointment, though, is determining what happens when the decade is up. Surely it’s the hope of Hogan and his economic development team that these companies would stay, but if not it’s the problem of his successor. My suspicion is that this program will maintain the exemption for the workers, because let’s say you’ve put your ten years in at XYZ Widgets and have become accustomed to that big state refund check. When those sands run out there will be a lot of upset taxpayers who just saw their state tax bite increase by up to $3,000 depending on income and deductions.
There’s also the question of timing. If we are to assume that the 10-year clock begins to tick for a company when they set up shop, we may see a cottage industry of new employers taking advantage of workers who are on the eighth or ninth year of their term of employment and hiring them on. Not only does the new employer poach skilled labor from the older competitors, the older companies won’t have the incentive of being able to work tax-free anymore. Conversely, a blanket starting date means that the program will work well for years 1 through 5, then begin to peter out unless extended.
And then there’s the job creation aspect that Scott Paul and AAM touch on above. Oftentimes with the use of tax incentives a manufacturing job isn’t so much created as it is transferred from somewhere else, and this particular proposal is specific to companies new to the state. So we may see a zero-sum game being played, particularly in Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore as companies simply move a few miles from Delaware, Pennsylvania, or West Virginia to take advantage with many of the same workers staying on. Locally, we will see this in reverse as Perdue moves some of its operations in the next few years just across the state line to Delaware – it makes Delaware’s bottom line look a little better and takes a little bit from Maryland, but the workers are just driving a different distance and will stay in this area. (Those who live in Maryland and work in Delaware, though, will have the joy of filling out two state tax returns.)
Overall, this is an interesting idea but there are a number of ways I’ve already found to play devil’s advocate with it. Lord knows ours is a region of the state which could use an economic shot in the arm, though. I still think the complete elimination of the corporate tax (which is also discussed briefly in the South Carolina study I referred to earlier) is the better play as a job creator overall.
And lastly, I’m sure Democrats will be whipping up their base in the Capital region by pointing out they’re not included in this deal. I guarantee that if this program works for the areas with high unemployment there will be a bill within the first year or two adding the rest of the state to the mix (in the interest of fairness, of course.)
Since it’s not clear what the vehicle for attempting to bring about this change will be, I can’t track this proposal to see just what progress it makes. Perhaps it will create a split in the majority party since Baltimore City will be a beneficiary and they’ll back the Republicans who follow the governor to see this through with a narrow victory.
In the First Congressional District, winning the Republican primary is tantamount to winning the race: the latest round of gerrymandering by Maryland Democrats made sure it would be by creating an R+13 district in a state that’s nominally D+26. So what do I make of an announcement by upstart former Delegate Michael Smigiel that he has a 2-to-1 lead over incumbent Andy Harris in a pre-primary poll?
If you read between the lines, you’ll see a few interesting tidbits. And my readers may recall that my co-writer Cathy Keim talked about a survey she took a few days ago. Chances are this was the same Gravis Marketing survey Smigiel is referring to in his work, which leads me to believe this was a push poll Smigiel did to build up his support. If you’re a relative unknown in much of the district, a tactic often used is that of driving up the negatives of the established politician.
Ironically, it’s much the same tactic Harris used to win the nomination in 2008 against a well-known incumbent, Wayne Gilchrest. Wayne’s biggest issue was the leftward drift of his philosophy and voting record, so much so that a clearly upset Gilchrest later rejected his party’s nominee and endorsed the Democrat challenger, Frank Kratovil. That and the Obama wave election led to Kratovil being a one-term Congressman before Harris defeated him in the TEA Party wave election of 2010.
As Cathy described it – a manner which isn’t reflected in Smigiel’s narrative – the issue questions came first:
Calls were made to over 20,000 voters with over 600 individuals answering the poll, and results indicate that when voters were informed that Rep. Harris had voted to fully fund Obamacare, 82 percent (82%) of the Republican primary voters surveyed would not vote for Harris.
When voters were aware that Rep. Harris had voted to fully fund President Barrack (sic) Obama’s unconstitutional use of executive power to grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens, 85 percent (85%) of Republican voters said they would not vote to re-elect Harris.
Likewise, 80 percent (80%) of those surveyed reported that they would not vote to re-elect Rep. Andy Harris if they knew he had made the statement that it was “just fine” for Planned Parenthood to sell baby parts as long as they did not use federal money to do so.
Nationally, Rep. Harris is known as the most outspoken critic of D.C. and states which have chosen to allow medical marijuana, decriminalization or legalization. In the 1st District, fifty-nine percent (59%) of the Republican voters surveyed reported they would be less likely to vote for Harris because of his anti-marijuana, anti-state’s rights stance.
In that context, it’s hard to believe Harris got 29% when over 80% of Republicans disagreed with him on one or more issues.
But there are two advantages Andy still enjoys in this race. While the FEC data is still from back in September, Harris had over a half-million dollars in cash on hand while Smigiel barely registered. Certainly Harris has been fundraising since then, and incumbents often enjoy the largest share of PAC money. In the 2015-16 cycle Harris had already amassed over $166,000 from various committees, a large portion of them in the medical field.
The second advantage is the IOUs Andy has built up through donating to local candidates. Here’s just a few that I noticed on his 2013-14 FEC report:
- Bob Cassilly (Senator, Harford County) – $4,000
- Matt Morgan (Delegate, St. Mary’s County) – $1,000
- Theresa Reilly (Delegate, Harford County) – $1,000
- Mike McDermott (former Delegate, Worcester County) – $4,000
- Bob Culver (Wicomico County Executive) – $4,000
- Carl Anderton (Delegate, Wicomico County) – $4,000
- Christopher Adams (Delegate, Wicomico County) – $1,000
- Jay Jacobs (Delegate, Kent County) – $1,000
- Jeff Ghrist (Delegate, Caroline County) – $1,000
- John Cluster (Delegate, Baltimore County) – $1,000
- Johnny Mautz (Delegate, Talbot County) – $1,000
- Justin Ready (Delegate and now Senator, Carroll County) – $4,000
- Kathy Szeliga (Delegate, Baltimore County) – $4,000
- Kevin Hornberger (Delegate, Cecil County) – $4,000
- Mary Beth Carozza (Delegate, Worcester County) – $4,000
- Nic Kipke (Delegate, Anne Arundel County) – $4,000
- Rick Impallaria (Delegate, Baltimore County) – $2,000
- Robin Grammer (Delegate, Baltimore County) – $1,000
- Steve Arentz (Delegate, Queen Anne’s County) – $1,000
- Susan Krebs (Delegate, Carroll County) – $4,000
- Addie Eckardt (Senator, Dorchester County) – $1,000
- Michael Hough (Senator, Frederick County) – $4,000
- Herb McMillan (Delegate, Anne Arundel County) – $4,000
- Ric Metzgar (Delegate, Baltimore County) – $1,000
- Johnny Salling (Senator, Baltimore County) – $4,000
- Maryland Republican Party – $49,500
Well over $100,000 went from Andy’s campaign coffers to help build the GOP state bench with several new legislators being the result. I don’t look for a lot of those folks jumping ship to support (in several but not all cases) a more recent former colleague. That’s a significant part of the state GOP delegation, including all three who defeated Smigiel in the 2014 Republican primary. And electability is a legitimate question mark for Smigiel.
In the 2014 Republican primary, Smigiel was fourth among seven candidates, four of whom hailed from Smigiel’s Cecil County portion of the district – those four finished fourth through seventh. (Mike finished third in Cecil behind fellow resident Alan McCarthy, who finished a distant fifth overall, and Jay Jacobs of Kent County, who was second overall.) Smigiel was third among five candidates in 2010 (all three winners were Republican) and while he kept the seat in 2006 based on the overall district vote he actually lost in his home Cecil County to Democrat Mark Guns. Smigiel was barely second out of five when he won his first term in 2002, so he’s never been overwhelmingly popular at the ballot box – just good enough to win three terms in a very safe GOP district. The fact that three other people challenged Smigiel from Cecil County – knowing only one of them could win due to an election law stating only one person could advance from any particular county – indicates there was some dissatisfaction with him, just as many are now displeased with Harris.
That anger toward Harris attracted Smigiel to the race and produced a poll result like this. Since he won the election in 2010, Harris has had little in the way of a challenge from either party until now. It’s a race perhaps reminiscent of the 2004 primary between Wayne Gilchrest and then-Maryland Senator Rich Colburn – the fact Colburn got 38% against a sitting Congressman may have opened the race up four years later when state officials could run from cover again without having to risk their own seats.
If I were to handicap the election today I would put it around that 60-40 range with Harris prevailing. A lot can occur in 3 1/2 months, though, and it’s probably good for Harris that there are a couple of other lesser known hopefuls in the race to split the protest vote.
This may be a good time to point out that Andy has a couple of townhall meetings slated for the Eastern Shore. On Monday night the 18th he will be at the Black Diamond Lodge in Fruitland for a 6 p.m. meeting. (Right next door is the site of Andy’s chicken suit affair of a few years back.) Then Tuesday at noon he will be the host at the Easton Volunteer Fire Department headquarters on Aurora Park Drive.
Unfortunately, I already have a commitment for Monday night so I will have to hear second-hand about what the Congressman has to say. It will be interesting to hear how all that goes down.
For years I have dubbed the annual Maryland General Assembly session the “90 days of terror,” and with good reason: no wallet or personal liberty is safe when the statists who inhabit most of the seats therein get together. Over the eight years of the previous two terms we endured tax increases, spending boondoggles, and enough new regulations to choke a horse, not to mention three measures which were petitioned to referendum by angry citizens.
While a new broom swept the governor’s office clean last year, Larry Hogan needed to get his sea legs under him as he took the helm of the ship of state so he didn’t create a huge legislative agenda last year – in a broad sense, it was about easing some of the tax burden Marylanders had been subjected to over the O’Malley administration, including repeals of the rain tax and automatic increases in the gasoline tax. Other items Hogan focused on were charter school reform and public campaign financing, which were among the few items Hogan had passed.
So since Hogan didn’t get his tax relief last year, it’s the front and center item on his 2016 agenda that kicks off later today. Democrats, of course, believe shoveling money into a bloated public education system is more important than giving hard-working Marylanders a tax break.
Something else to keep an eye on, though, are the department-sponsored bills, which now will bear the stamp of Hogan’s departmental appointees. Just like the governor, this is their first full legislative session as well and I’ve noticed a number of interesting measures coming from various departments that have already been pre-filed.
But the tension will be thick as Hogan tries to enact the agenda he promised while Democrats strive to make sure he’s another one-term Republican governor. As of 2018, it will have been 64 years since a Republican was re-elected as Maryland governor; however, Hogan has began his term as one of the most popular governors in the country and this session will occur with the backdrop of a Presidential race in which the Democrats aren’t utterly sold on their potential nominee. (Tellingly, the previous governor couldn’t even be a “favorite son” Presidential nominee from his own state.) In a contest over pocketbook issues, Hogan may have the public on his side.
We will know quickly just how the session will go as several of Hogan’s vetoes will be up for override. This was a rarity in the previous administration, but it’s worth recalling that the Democrats didn’t give Bob Ehrlich much of a honeymoon so I expect there to be at least one Hogan veto rebuffed. Democrats want to raise taxes, give felons the right to vote before completing their full sentences, make some reforms on civil forfeiture, and decriminalize marijuana paraphernalia. Out of those four vetoes, only the civil forfeiture bill originally had enough House votes to override a veto.
On a local level, we will be very interested to see what becomes of our elected school board bill. Will this finally be the year the state relents and lets the voters of Wicomico County decide its fate?
With a projection that we will have a large increase in filings over last session, it should be a year worth watching. I suspect I will have a difficult time keeping it to just the 25 votes I use for the monoblogue Accountability Project given that the veto votes will likely be included. But with a little help from my friends I look forward to the challenge.
By Cathy Keim
I was just thinking the other day that now that the holidays were over, the Congressional races in Maryland should start heating up. Before the thought disappeared, my home phone rang – and I was asked to take a survey. I usually enjoy these surveys, as I try to see behind the questions and guess who is paying for the poll. If they have a live person, then I will ask questions to see if they will give out any information.
This automated poll asked questions about Congressman Andy Harris, the incumbent, and former Delegate Mike Smigiel in the Maryland First Congressional District race. The questions were worded in this format: “If you knew such-and-such about Andy Harris, would you be more likely to vote for him, less likely to vote for him, or no difference?” After several questions the questioning switched to Mike Smigiel, repeating the process but with different questions. The phone poll closed by asking who you would vote for if the election were today and gave three choices: Andy Harris, Mike Smigiel, and Sean Jackson. This surprised me, as I was not even aware of the third candidate.
I went to the Maryland Board of Elections website and found that candidates can file a Certificate of Candidacy until February 3, meaning we still have several weeks for additional candidates to file. So far one Democrat (Joe Werner of Harford County) and three Republicans (Jonathan Marvin Goff, Jr. and Sean M. Jackson, both of Harford County, and Smigiel from Cecil County) are listed. I am assuming that Andy Harris will file before the deadline.
(Editor’s note: Since Cathy wrote this, Matt Beers, a Libertarian candidate from Cecil County, has filed for the First District seat with the state Board of Elections. Meanwhile, federal campaign finance filings are not completed for the last quarter of 2015, but only Harris and Smigiel are listed with FEC campaign finance accounts.)
The primary is not until April 26, so we still have plenty of time for these candidates to present their positions.
But what are their positions? At least with Congressman Harris we have a current track record that can be poked and prodded, thus enabling the prospective voter to review the information and make a decision. But is it really that easy to know how any politician voted?
And even more to the crux of the matter: which vote do you look at?
John Kerry, former Senator and current Secretary of State, famously uttered the words, “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it,” cementing his reputation as a flip-flopper. But knowing which vote you are looking at and the context in which it was cast is particularly crucial in an election year. Voters’ memories are short, so a candidate usually only needs to vote as his constituents desire in the last few months before an election.
Congress just voted to pass the omnibus spending bill which provides funding for Obamacare, Planned Parenthood, refugee resettlement, and oodles of other awful programs. If your Congressman voted no on it, then he should be in the clear, correct? Well, maybe not. You need to step back and examine the background behind the bill. Why was it allowed to be brought to a vote so it could be passed with Democrat votes? The Speaker of the House controls what comes up for a vote so Speaker Ryan did not have to bring the omnibus bill up for a vote where he knew it would pass with mainly Democrat votes. But he did.
Paul Ryan was elected Speaker of the House after John Boehner was forced out for not leading the fight against President Obama. Only nine Republicans opposed his nomination as Speaker. If a Republican Congressman voted for Paul Ryan to be Speaker but then voted against the omnibus bill, did he or she vote correctly?
Let’s go further back. How do last year’s votes count? What if a Republican Congressman voted for the CRomnibus bill in December 2014? Should that be held against them if they voted against the omnibus bill in December 2015? It takes a bit of interest and time to dig through the old votes to get the whole picture. And that is why politicians can dissemble so well. Who can keep up with the constantly changing stream of votes?
Remember: as Election Day draws closer and closer, we are going to see votes on one politicized project or issue after another — none of which will significantly change anything because the Omnibus bill, funding the Federal Government through next October, was passed in December. Congress, under the GOP leadership of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave up all power of the purse and the only restraint that was possible on an out-of-control President in his final year.
Do not be impressed by these showcase votes! The deed is done and all we can do is hang on for the increasingly bumpy ride until the new President is elected — and it may get bumpier yet depending on who is elected.
So how did Andy Harris vote in the last two Speaker of the House elections? He voted for Speaker Boehner last January, even after the CRomnibus horror was pushed through (which he also voted for). He voted for Paul Ryan to replace Boehner as Speaker this fall. Despite these votes, however, he “bravely” voted against the Omnibus Bill this December.
So, to paraphrase John Kerry, Congressman Harris voted for Speaker Ryan, Speaker Boehner, and CRomnibus before Harris voted against the Omnibus Bill.
Those are the facts. What is the truth?
One of the talking points that Salisbury mayor Jake Day has continually made about bringing jobs to Salisbury is that we need to improve our quality of life. Perhaps I’m oversimplifying the argument, but if we have a quality of life attractive to younger workers they will come here and create the jobs – or so the thinking goes.
So it was interesting that a few weeks back I received an e-mail from a company called LawnStarter. The reason I received it was that I have used business-related survey data from Thumbtack.com in the past and this entrepreneurial outfit had created something they called their Quality of Life Index. (Naturally, the company specializes in assisting lawn care startups by bringing customers and businesses together.) As a state Maryland ranks 13th out of 50, but the lone metropolitan area considered (Baltimore) ranked 73rd out of 101. (We in Maryland surely had assistance from 9th-ranked Washington, D.C. though.)
You may ask how they come up with this index – well, let them explain it:
The index is based on six quality-of-life factors analyzed by LawnStarter and borrowed from The Economist — GDP (economic output) per capita, average life expectancy, divorce rate, unemployment rate, geographic location (latitude) and male-female income equality. The Economist considers these factors to be good barometers for quality of life.
Based on some of the factors cited I suspect Salisbury would be near the bottom of the city list. However, they may not be at the very bottom because the lowest seven cities (and nine of the bottom ten) share one of two things in common:
- They are in California (Sacramento, Riverside, Fresno, San Bernardino, and Stockton) or
- are in close proximity to Lake Erie (Buffalo, Toledo, Cleveland, and Detroit)
Memphis is the outlier to that group, with Detroit occupying the 101st and bottom position.
However, Salisbury doesn’t have a particularly high GDP per capita or low unemployment rate, nor is life expectancy that great compared to other places. As a state Maryland is certainly aided by its close proximity to Washington, D.C. but Baltimore’s far lower rating may be closer to the conditions we have to endure here. It could be argued that our area has several of the same pitfalls that plague inland California (Sacramento, Stockton, et. al.) – chronic high unemployment in an area best known for agriculture due to a temperate climate. The agricultural base contributes to the low per capita GDP while the high unemployment eventually manifests itself in a shorter life expectancy thanks to crime and lack of preventative health care.
Short of a Bill Gates suddenly showing up and showering the area with wealth, these factors will remain common to our area. Unfortunately, the few assets we seem to have are difficult to leverage into productive careers. Most of our more lucrative jobs have to do with health care and government as opposed to STEM-based or manufacturing positions, which add more value and GDP. The exceptions to this are having the headquarters of Perdue in Salisbury and the Wallops Island NASA complex; while the latter is a government installation there are a number of private companies which use their facilities. While it’s almost 50 miles away, Salisbury is the closest city of reasonable size to the remote installation on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
But those two entities need to be joined by many others to truly bring a better quality of life to Salisbury. To use a good local analogy, it’s like a chicken-and-egg question: does the quality of life come from good jobs or do jobs spring from a good quality of life? I believe the former is true, while our mayor seems to side with the latter. Over the next few years, we will see who is correct in our local case.