The quest for energy security – and sanity

It’s been awhile since I wrote about the energy industry but things are always happening there and I decided to take a peek because of some items I’ve spied in daily updates I receive from the American Petroleum Institute. I like to know what’s going on in important growth industries which profoundly affect our daily lives.

As one might expect, API CEO Jack Gerard is a leading spokesperson against what he calls Barack Obama’s “irrational” energy policy. It makes sense when you consider that the United States is now the world’s leading producer of both natural gas and oil, thanks in large part to recent advancements in fracking technology which have revitalized the once-moribund American energy industry. Speaking before an audience in New Orleans, Gerard noted:

The choice before us is whether we pursue an American future of energy abundance, self-sufficiency and global leadership or take a step back to the era of American energy scarcity, dependence and economic uncertainty.

It is that simple.

There’s a clear benefit to having the abundant resources we do. I was only nine years old when the first oil crisis hit in 1973, but I remember the long gas lines and jump in prices. If you consider the long-term effects in policy and marketing, such as the adoption of fuel economy standards and the push toward smaller cars, ask yourself what may have happened if we hadn’t become so dependent on Middle Eastern oil. Would we have had the resulting mid-1970s recession?

Obviously we have recessionary conditions now in spite of the current oil boom, but there’s a valid argument that opening up the spigots (so to speak) and allowing more extraction would push the economy into more consistent growth.

Another example of an irrational energy policy is our continued ethanol mandate, about which API is asking for another cutout of a mandated increase. The EPA decided not to change the allotment for this year, but needs to finalize the rule.

To me, there are two telling facts about this story: one is that API has given up on legislative relief from Congress and appealed directly to the EPA, which speaks volumes about the transition of our supposedly limited government into a fiefdom unto itself.

The second is the sheer volume of interests on the side of eliminating the mandates entirely – everyone from motorcyclists who complain about ethanol’s deleterious effects on their engines (as is the case for other small engines from boating to lawn equipment) to the poultry producers who have seen corn prices artificially propped up due to the amount of corn necessary for creating ethanol and even environmental groups who fret that the corn-based product is actually worse for the environment. Obviously the corn growers love the price support, though, and farmers have their own determined lobbyists who would love to see an even higher ethanol blend called E-15 allowed.

API and other ethanol opponents are hinging their future hopes on a more business-friendly Congress in the next term, though.

Irrational energy policy on the state level may occur after this fall in Colorado, a state which has taken advantage of the energy boom but may fall prey to the scare tactics environmentalists use to portray fracking in a negative light. There Governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, sees his state’s energy success being threatened by a petition drive to place further restrictions on fracking on their November ballot. Hickenlooper is quoted in Bloomberg as pointing out, “(t)hese measures risk thousands and thousands of jobs and billions in investment and hundreds of millions of dollars in state tax revenue.”

I found this interesting because the proposed restrictions would prohibit drilling within 2,000 feet of structures, a change which energy companies complain would “effectively ban” fracking in the state. Their current restriction is 500 feet.

Now something which came out the other day to little fanfare was a draft report outlining some of Maryland’s proposed fracking regulations. The original recommendation, based on other states’ best practices by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Appalachian Laboratory, was for a 500-foot setback from wells. That guidance was expanded by the Department of Natural Resources and Maryland Department of the Environment to – you guessed it – 2,000 feet. (Page 18-20 here shows the recommended DNR/MDE changes.) In short, these regulations are intended to “effectively ban” fracking in Maryland to the detriment of not just our far western counties, but any of the regions of the state (including the Eastern Shore) that have shale deposits underneath. Talk about an “irrational” energy policy!

So here’s the deal: Maryland wants to depend more and more on methods of generating electricity which lack reliability and increase cost to consumers. Yes, that’s sounds like “smart, green, and growing” to me – not too bright, costing more green, and growing the desire of businesses to leave the state to find a place where energy exploration and extraction is encouraged and rates therefore are cheaper.

I know the Hogan administration would want a “balanced approach” to energy in the state, but I would have to hope part of that balance is returning to the best practices suggested by UMCES and not the onerous restrictions which would effectively ban fracking in the state.

38th annual Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in pictures and text

Once again, thousands came to Crisfield and heeded this advice.

Somers Cove Marina was set up a little differently this year, but the real difference was that the attendees didn’t soak through their clothes this year – instead, the day was cloudy but relatively comfortable, with only a small touch of humidity. Most years this setup – by a local engineering firm, naturally – would be oh so handy. But not so much this year.

One key difference in the arrangement this year was the prominence of this tent.

Annapolis lobbyist Bruce Bereano always has a crowded party, and it’s a bipartisan affair.

The GOP tent this time was set up behind Bruce’s, and it was a hub of activity for the Republican side. A lot of local and state hopefuls were there at some point.

GOP gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan decided to have his own space, which ended up by the side entrance.

On the other side of the Republican tent and just around the corner, the Democrats were set up close to their usual rear location along the waterfront. Salisbury mayor Jim Ireton was holding court there. (He’s in the white at the center, in shades.)

By and large, though, most of those in attendance were interested in one thing. See the light blue lean-to to the left of the Sysco trailers in the photo below? That’s where the crabs were being served, and the line indeed stretched that far back 15 minutes before the announced noon opening – they really start serving about 11:30 or so.

I think the longest wait I had was about 10 minutes for the Boardwalk fries. As it turns out, I’m not a crab eater – but I like the fried clams and the fish sandwiches. Oh, and there’s a few politicians there too, but I’ll get to that in due course because I can find the political in a lot of things – except perhaps this.

The hosts of a locally-produced show called “Outdoors Delmarva” always seem to find time to tape a segment here.

Another local business I always find at Tawes made a very classy, and apolitical, gesture this year.

But I do find the irony in some things. For example, those of you familiar with the Hudson case may appreciate some here.

It seems to me the UM law school was on the other side of the fence before, as opposed to this group, part of the Clean Chesapeake Coalition, which tends to take agriculture’s side as well as that of local government.

One other thing worth pointing out is the media frenzy this event creates. Here’s Delegate (and Senate candidate) Mike McDermott being interviewed. Wonder how much they actually used?

Most of the excitement occurs when the top members of the respective tickets arrive. Hogan had the tent but didn’t come until the event was well underway. His entrance was rather modest.

Oh, did I tell you pretty much everyone in the tent was waiting for him?

Naturally, everyone wanted to get their quote from him – perhaps even the tracker from the Brown campaign. I’m told Hogan has one.

While I’ve been critical of the Hogan campaign throughout, the way their team handled today was outstanding. This was the first stop I noticed him making after all the interviews were through.

In case you can’t read the sign above, it’s the tent of the Somerset County Economic Development Commission. To me, that was the perfect place to be seen.

They took a little time to meet and greet; they being both Hogan and running mate Boyd Rutherford. But the point was that I didn’t see them walking around much – instead they were engaging voters.

As I noted earlier, there were a number of other politicos there, but the statewide Democrats were not well-represented. I did see their AG nominee Brian Frosh. He’s the small guy in the center, violating the Don Murphy rule about not wearing white.

Notably absent, though, was the top of their ticket, Anthony Brown. It’s odd because he’s been here a few times.

One guy who wouldn’t dare miss this is local Delegate Charles Otto (center.) His Democratic opponent is the just-replaced former mayor of Crisfield, which certainly made for interesting retail politics for them.

A guy who lost his primary, Muir Boda (left) was out supporting those who won – and yes, Johnny Mautz was in the house. Muir’s with Democratic Wicomico County Council candidate Josh Hastings (right.)

All told, there were a lot of people there. I took this panoramic shot about quarter to three, which is just before those who had their fill begin to trickle out.

One other difference was not seeing all the Red Maryland crew there, although I did speak to Duane Keenan, who does a radio show on their network. Another media guy trying to drum up business was Phil Tran, who you couldn’t help but notice.

The other new media people I saw there were Jackie Wellfonder – although she hasn’t blogged about her experiences yet, she did burn up Twitter – and Jonathan Taylor of Lower Eastern Shore News, who has his own photo spread.

But as the event came to an end, we know that by week’s end Somers Cove will be back to normal.

In 2015 the Tawes event should be good for sizing up the lone statewide race in 2016. While Barbara Mikulski has given no indication on whether she will retire, the soon-to-be 78-year-old senior Maryland Senator may not like being in the minority come next year and could decide to call it a career. We should know by next July.

Head south, everyone!

Crisfield is the southernmost town in Maryland, but one day per summer it becomes the state’s political capital. Anyone familiar with Maryland politics knows that a summer tradition is standing around on the blacktop at Somers Cove Marina waiting for crabs and watching politicians try to create a show of support. But this year’s affair promises to be somewhat different than ones in years past, perhaps getting the feel of one held the year after the previous gubernatorial election.

This is because, for the first time, we already know for sure who the nominees will be. In years past we had a primary just weeks away but that’s no more. So Anthony Brown will be there, presumably with a cadre of blue-shirted volunteers who will head straight to the AFSCME tent. Larry Hogan’s posse will arrive at some point and the question will be how much smaller will his be, as it always seems Republican groups are smaller.

If things hold as they have over the past few years, there will be a steady stream of traffic going by the GOP tent, if only because Bruce Bereano’s bipartisan party is generally right across the walkway; meanwhile, the Democrats will hole up in the opposite corner by the cove, near a place I generally go to get some shade as I walk around. The only difference is that shade may not be such a requirement – the forecast for Crisfield tomorrow is for temperatures only in the upper 70s but a chance of rain throughout the afternoon after a stormy early morning. It could affect the business portion of the event, as a number of local businesses use this as a party for their employees and clients. (It’s not just politicians having a good time – I have some beer pong photos from a few years back. I was not a participant.)

I have no insight as to how ticket sales are doing, aside from knowing we sold most of our allotment. I do know this will be the ninth straight one I’ve gone to (beginning in 2006) and a lot of things have stayed pretty constant. Something worth noting from 2006 is that then-Governor Ehrlich skipped the event – and lost. Martin O’Malley didn’t skip the event in 2006 and 2010, and won.

But instead of blast-furnace hot as is usual, we may be drowned rat wet. Fortunately, there are tents but those cardboard box halves may come in handy as makeshift umbrellas. (Pro tip: don’t forget the box half, although occasionally campaigns will be one step ahead and bring a bunch. It’s a good place to use old bumper stickers.)

In any event, be looking for me. I got my ticket last week and will be there with my little camera taking pictures as I have for most of the last several years. I have a lot of good memories of Tawes and met some fine people, so there’s no reason to stop going now.

Rasmussen: Hogan trails by 13

I’m breaking into my normal Sunday to bring you the latest polling on this race.

While it’s not precisely what Maryland Republicans are hoping for, there is a little crack as the Hogan electoral door is slightly ajar. Bear in mind that a projected matchup polled by the Washington Post last month had Brown leading 51-33, so his support is retreating while Hogan’s has grown. Perhaps people are realizing what I wrote last month on Brown’s lead:

It’s a counter-intuitive result when you look deeper into the poll’s questions to find that Democrats want the next governor to lead the state in a different direction from Martin O’Malley by a 58-34 margin. Yet they have given Anthony Brown a significant primary lead and would presumably back him in the general election.

Then again, it’s very rare that Maryland votes in its own best interests anyway – they would rather genuflect to an all-encompassing government which distributes crumbs in an arbitrary and capricious manner, depending on the favored status of prospective recipients, than breathe the air of freedom and opportunity for all. But there’s always a first time, and as for the rest some areas of the state still have common sense.

So Hogan has picked up a little bit, but more importantly Brown has been driven under the 50% mark. Conventional wisdom holds that an incumbent under 50 percent is in trouble, so this should be added motivation for conservatives to work for an upset.

Leaving the resistance: a case study

This article was actually going to be about one piece of information I received, but then I got another which I can tie in. I do that every now and then.

The TEA Party movement, depending on how you determine its beginning, is somewhere between five and seven years old now. Thousands upon thousands of activists have participated in it, but in reality conditions have generally become worse in terms of its main fiscal goals.

It’s a well-documented lack of success, and perhaps that lack of reward is frustrating those who want real positive change. Take this piece I received an e-mail the other day from an area TEA Party group lamenting the writer’s Independence Day plans.

This year for the July 4th Holiday I spent it doing laundry or something mundane like that. No family gathering, no special commemoration or meditation on my part to mark this critically important day. I cannot let this happen again.

When I think of the miracle of the founding of this nation and the sacrifice made by millions to preserve it I am ashamed that it passed like another day, a long weekend. I’m sure most of you reading this didn’t abuse this important day to the extent that I did – hopefully. I serve in a position of leadership in this organization; I know better. God forgive me but God help me to do better not just next year but every day from this point on.

This organization didn’t participate in (a local) event due to lack of interest from the membership. We didn’t walk in the July 4th Parade, also due to lack of interest. The Summer BBQ will most likely be pushed out again due to lack of interest. These are perhaps less important than what we do daily to mark the miracle that is this precious nation BUT they are outward expressions of our commitment to each other, to this nation, to our God in front of others. If we don’t stand up in front of an unschooled community every chance we have, how can we hope to shift this paradigm?

I know we are all tired, exhausted, hardly able to pay our bills and take care of our families. Perhaps we are in our senior years and feel that we have paid a hefty price already. Many of us are weary from trying to inform a willingly uninformed public, legislature, clergy, education system, healthcare system, etc. I get it; I’m part of that tired and huddled mass.

If you go back on my website you’ll find numerous references to TEA Party gatherings, local meetings of an Americans for Prosperity chapter, or the Wicomico Society of Patriots – these are all groups which flourished for a brief time but then died due to lack of interest, leadership issues, or both. Some of those organizers have moved into the mainstream of politics, but many others found that activism too difficult to keep up when their family’s financial survival was at stake.

But then we have the diehards, among them the purists who will accept no compromise. That’s one lament of Sara Marie Brenner, a conservative activist who announced on her Brenner Brief website yesterday that she was taking a hiatus from her news aggregation website and radio show.

I bring this up as I’ve interviewed her for my now-dormant TQT feature as well as talked about a venture she launched late last year. While I definitely haven’t agreed with her on everything and incurred her wrath by pointing out the lack of viability of her many past and present enterprises in the new media world, I think she makes some very good points in her lengthy piece.

For one, I nearly laughed out loud when she wrote about the Ohio PAC where $7,000 or the $7,400 raised went to the leader’s own company knowing that the Maryland Liberty PAC has a similar history – the majority ($14,826.03) of the nearly $26,000 MDLPAC spent last year went to Stable Revolution Consulting. It’s one thing to collect money for a cause, but the same people who question the Larry Hogan connection with Change Maryland may want to ask about that arrangement as well.

As a whole it seems that some in the TEA Party movement can’t be happy unless they either amass power and wealth for themselves – making them little better than the big-government flunkies they decry – or refuse to compromise on one particular issue, forgetting that they may need their conservative opponent for some other pressing issue tomorrow. Brenner brings up two hot-button items of interest – Common Core and Glenn Beck’s charity effort to assist the unaccompanied minors streaming over our southern border from Central America. On these I only agree with her 50% but as I said she makes other good points.

I don’t blame Sara Marie for backing away from the fray; that’s her decision just as it was to get involved in the first place – and I wish her nothing but the best in her ventures as she follows her other passions. But we have to remember that the other side wins when we stop fighting.

It was a more hopeful tone from the other side of the TEA Party:

I hope that we will always remember that no matter what the political ideology, we must find commonalities if we are going to make any progress. I hope that we make a concerted effort to reach out in peace to at least one person over the summer that we have heretofore had disagreements. We know that the truth is on our side as long as we deliver it in peace and love.

Now if anyone would have sour grapes and wish to take their ball and go home, it might be me given recent election results. Believe it or not, though, after nearly two decades in the political game I am still learning and listening, so losing an election won’t crush or define me – it just means I retire with a .500 record. But I’m still going to participate because it’s important, if not necessarily lucrative.

The trick is getting new people into the fray to replace those who can’t go on for whatever reason. Because I have a talent for writing – or so I’ve been told – I have soldiered on with this website for going on nine years. It may not be the most useful or unique contribution, but it’s what I have.

So those who have departed will be missed. However, they are always invited back once they recharge and reload because we can always use the help.

A 2016 Congressional matchup?

I’m not on the Jim Ireton e-mail list, but a friend of mine forwarded this to me. The reference is to a Baltimore Sun editorial which ran on Monday.

From: Jim Ireton <jimiretonformayor@gmail.com>
Date: July 9, 2014 at 1:50:45 PM EDT
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Subject: You might find this interesting about Andy Harris….

I saw this in today’s Baltimore Sun and thought you might find it interesting, too.

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/editorial/bs-ed-harris-20140707,0,4748548.story

It concerns his actions against the residents of Washington, D.C.:

“There are several notable elements in this imbroglio. First, anyone who believes that Dr. Harris might change his mind because of a potential economic threat to his district doesn’t know Dr. Harris, a man not given to self-doubt or the concerns of others. This is someone who actively fights against efforts by the EPA to reduce pollution flowing into the Chesapeake Bay and to forestall the effects of climate change and rising sea levels, either of which would be far more ruinous to his waterfront district than a mere summer boycott.

More remarkable is that Dr. Harris, a reliable Club For Growth and tea party acolyte who so often preaches against an overbearing federal government, is so proud to have thwarted the will of District residents. The decriminalization measure has the support of 80 percent of the populace, according to a recent poll.”

-Jim

It may have been just idle chatter, but at the bottom of the e-mail was the authority line: “Authority: Ireton for Maryland. William C. Duck, Jr., Treasurer.” Before Jim can worry about 2016, though, there is the matter of getting through another election in Salisbury; however, at this early stage no opponent for Ireton has stepped forward.

Despite only being the mayor of a relatively small city, Ireton has been attracting notice in progressive Maryland circles. There was the rumor last summer that Doug Gansler had Ireton on his short list for his running mate; he eventually selected Delegate Jolene Ivey. The “Ireton for Maryland” campaign account is still active, although he has filed what are known as ALCEs for the filing deadlines this year, affirming he has neither raised nor spent $1,000 over the preceding periods since his last full filing back in January. At that point Ireton had $1,384.68 in his account, much of that from the transfer of over $2,100 from his mayoral campaign. He supplemented this income with a fundraiser on his behalf last November, spending several hundred dollars on attending and supporting various Maryland political causes and events.

But to make a run against Harris, Ireton would have to open a federal account and no move in that direction has been made.

The entire incident surrounding the Sun editorial centers around an amendment Harris made to the District of Columbia’s budget preventing the funding of a measure decriminalizing marijuana. In response, outgoing District mayor Vincent Gray and local advocacy groups called on District residents to boycott the Eastern Shore as a vacation destination. (Judging by some of what I saw on July 4th, the call wasn’t heeded.)

To an extent, I actually disagree with Harris. Although it’s not a true state’s rights issue because the District of Columbia is not a state and depends on Congress to dictate its budget, I would tend to favor allowing them as much local control as possible. Decriminalizing marijuana is not the Constitutional issue that, say, an overly restrictive gun law would be. It doesn’t bother me that Maryland did it, and it wouldn’t bother me if the District of Columbia did, either. Decriminalization is a somewhat sensible middle ground between the outright ban some states still have and the larger steps taken by Colorado and Washington state. If those two states can find success in accommodating the legal and recreational use of marijuana with the prospect of ill effects from overuse, the idea may spread. If not, the window will close on advocates just like Prohibition did once it was discovered that criminal activity skyrocketed as people willingly ignored the ban.

Yet the Sun doesn’t hide its disdain for Andy, either:

House Republicans have long made kicking District government around a veritable sport and, as Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton has observed, often do so to raise their standing among conservatives. And that would be classic Andy Harris — to confidently impose his will on others with a breathtaking level of moral certitude. As a state senator, his one-man crusade against students screening X-rated movies at the University of Maryland College Park five years ago included an unsuccessful effort to tie state funding to the development of a college “porn policy.”

In Annapolis, however, Dr. Harris was mostly a preening pest who made sanctimonious speeches on the Senate floor that annoyed even his GOP colleagues. In Washington, he’s among enough like-minded right-wing zealots to cause real trouble. Those who make their living in the tourist trade on the Eastern Shore are just collateral damage, victims of a congressman’s runaway ego. The self-serving amendment is likely to be tossed out by the Democratically-controlled Senate; a cure for the district’s bigger problems can only be achieved by its voters in November.

Actually, the Sun is right in one respect – we can cure many of our district’s bigger problems by getting rid of the current Annapolis regime in November, replacing them with people who have respect for our way of life and our values. For that, though, we need cooperation from elsewhere in the state.

But I think the “runaway ego” is exhibited by a newspaper which becomes more shrill as its readership fades away, yet still deigning to exhibit the sheer condescension to posit that Congress can do a thing about climate change and the supposed rise in sea levels which would follow. (Given recent temperature trends, I’d say Harris has a point.) Even if I don’t agree with him on this particular issue (as well as a handful of others) I still believe having about 400 carbon copies of Andy Harris in Congress would help turn this country in the right direction.

Debating the coverage

It’s a political tradition stretching back decades, but the debate over how executive debates will be conducted is generally as interesting as the debates themselves.

In a Thursday news dump before the Independence Day holiday, the Anthony Brown – Ken Ulman campaign proposed three debates “maintaining the tradition set from previous gubernatorial elections… this schedule will reach more Marylanders by ensuring that all of the debates are broadcast statewide.” Basically, one would be on WJZ out of Baltimore (co-sponsored by the Baltimore Sun), one would be on WRC in Washington (co-sponsored by the Washington Post), and the last would be on Larry Young’s WOLB-AM morning show in Baltimore, “partnered” with the Kojo Nnamdi show on WAMU-FM. All three would be broadcast statewide on either Maryland Public Television or NPR. A lieutenant governor debate would be added, at an unspecified location in western Maryland.

Larry Hogan blasted the Brown-Ulman proposal:

We think that the voters of Maryland deserve the opportunity to know the differences between us. We have accepted every invitation received to date without any restrictions whatsoever as to the format and have also called for debates in all regions of the state.

We have said we would be pleased to participate in debates on all the Baltimore, Washington, Salisbury and Hagerstown television stations and before any important organization anywhere in Maryland.

We believe the people of Maryland deserve a real clear choice for a change and we plan to give it to them. They deserve to hear from both of us and we hope Anthony Brown will agree to frequent, substantive and real debates on the serious issues facing our state.

Interestingly enough, Hogan has agreed to three forums so far, sponsored by the Maryland Municipal League, Maryland Association of Counties, and WBFF-TV, which is Baltimore’s Fox affiliate. Personally I think it’s a good start. As there are over two dozen television stations in the Maryland and Washington, D.C. markets, it’s not realistic to think that each can sponsor its own debate but I think the idea of one each for Baltimore, Washington, Hagerstown, and Salisbury covers the state very well.

But the devil is in the details and in the political reality: Brown is about 15 points ahead – or so polls suggest – and has far more money to spend than Hogan does. So it’s in Brown’s best interest to let the air out of the ball and limit debate. He can afford to bombard the airwaves with commercials which define the message as he wishes to – look for a reworking of his record and lies about how bad things were under Bob Ehrlich, and the fewer debates and appearances where he can misspeak or make a gaffe, the better for him.

And there’s also the question of opening up the debate to other candidates. At this point there’s only a Libertarian candidate in the race besides Hogan and Brown, but it’s possible we could get a Green Party candidate or independent run. Do the minor party aspirants get a place at the table? Depending on who else decides to run, the answer from Brown may be “yes” – not only does it splinter the opposition to have a Libertarian in the race, it also leaves less airtime for Hogan to make good points or Brown to mess up. If a Green Party candidate comes in, though, the answer may become “no” because they tend to take from Democrats.

I suspect that Larry Hogan may be talking to some empty chairs at some of the venues where he’s accepted invitations. But even if he does have to accept Brown’s terms, the key will be in the moderation and questioning. Someone from the Washington Post or Baltimore Sun will be sure to pitch items in Brown’s wheelhouse, so there should be voices from other media outlets as well. I can think of a good conservative member of the “new media” who might have a question or two to ask.

The age-old argument

In the drive to unify a party after a contentious primary in certain quarters, state party Chair Diana Waterman put out a message at once congratulatory to the primary winners and conciliatory to the losers. It was the standard boilerplate stuff until I ran across this passage:

There has been much said and debated in social gatherings and on Facebook about “Party over Principle or Principle over Party.” I do not believe that supporting the elected nominees of our Party and following your principles are mutually exclusive. While a candidate may not agree with you on 100% of the issues, they will always be more in line with your beliefs than the liberal Democrat will ever be. We must elect more Republicans if we want to have any hope of challenging the stranglehold of the Liberals in Annapolis!

Our only hope to be victorious on November 4th is TO UNITE. Not voting for the Republican in the General is the same as casting a vote for their Democrat opponent. Do not give the Democrats one iota more of an advantage over our candidates. (Emphasis in original.)

Those who have followed Maryland politics for awhile know why the subject comes up; if not, it came from a video put out some years back when Audrey Scott was running the show.

In general I agree with Diana on this one because she’s exactly correct. In a universe where there are a finite number of votes out there and one entity already has a numerical advantage, all other entities do themselves a disservice by not participating because their decision makes it even easier for the majority to prevail. If I have a classroom with 20 votes and 11 support Jack, six support Jill, and the other three blow with the wind, but find only about 10 of those members actually participate, it’s a reasonable assumption that if those six supporting Jill hold together – and vote – they have a fighting chance to win.

Excluding the Central Committee race, I had three contested races and I didn’t vote for a single winner; in fact, those who voted for all winners in all races are probably few and far between. So unless you’re one of those fortunate souls – and that number was immediately trimmed by 57% in the gubernatorial race because that many voted for someone other than winner Larry Hogan – you will have to make some compromises in order to vote Republican. (David Craig handily carried Wicomico County, though, so in that sense I voted for one winner.)

But something I’ve studied over the years is the big, big difference between Republicans and Democrats in this state. As I noted Monday, the fiscal difference between a guy who believes there is $1.75 billion in fraud and waste to be had in the state budget and a guy who wants to spend additional millions and could grow the budget as much as $16 billion over four years is stark. I understand the whole “lesser of two evils” argument, but there are only two people with a realistic chance of winning and the stand has to be made sooner or later. Larry Hogan wasn’t my dream candidate, and I suspect we would have to watch him like a hawk to make sure he doesn’t drift over the political center line, but given the choice between him and Anthony Brown it’s a no-brainer. Those who backed Martin O’Malley because they didn’t like how centrist Bob Ehrlich was and thought we needed to be taught a lesson – well, class was dismissed.

I repeat again: this is an “all hands on deck” election. Even adding up the totals for all four GOP gubernatorial candidates, the sum doesn’t match the vote total Anthony Brown got in a contested Democratic primary, so it’s obvious there’s work to be done. You know it and I know it, but the labor needs to be put in.

Yet I’m going to encourage you to take an evening off on July 17 and spend it with a Congressman who knows a little something about agriculture. The Dorchester County Lincoln Day Dinner features Rep. Frank Lucas, who is the Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. He will be speaking to the gathering, which will be held at the East New Market Fire Hall in that community east of Cambridge. Tickets are $70, but the menu promises to be outstanding.

The Mississippi mud

Here’s the problem with being a conservative Republican. It’s a little bit like an adage we heard during the Long War against terrorism – we have to be successful 100% of the time or else there is no success.

This brings me to the situation in Mississippi, where Chris McDaniel had an apparent victory snatched from him because those who would nominally be Democrats decided to vote for the establishment Republican incumbent, 76-year-old Thad Cochran. Cochran has spent nearly half his life in the United States Senate, but lost the initial primary by 0.5% to McDaniel. In many states (including Maryland) that would have been the end, but Mississippi election rules demand a runoff when no candidate attains a majority and Cochran won the rematch with thousands of black voters switching allegiance to support Cochran. One member of the Congressional Black Caucus has already said “we have expectations” for Cochran – but promised to campaign for his Democratic opponent.

A friend and supporter of mine sent this e-mail, saying it made her “angry and confused,” and asked me for comment. First of all, it’s another reason why I’ve stopped giving to party organizations and simply give to individual candidates.

But it’s also another illustration of what Angelo Codevilla calls the “ruling class” spending thousands to maintain its grip on power – perhaps it’s the one bipartisan effort in our nation’s capital right now. He wrote a fine piece on this very situation, and thanks to the folks at Blue Ridge Forum for pointing it out.

Now I will cheerfully tell you I’m not the be-all and end-all of political experts – after all, if I were I think I may have been able to pull off the most recent election. But it seems to me that the overall lack of growth in the Republican Party on a national scale isn’t because they’re too conservative, but because they aren’t conservative enough. Most people who leave the party don’t switch to the Democratic column but to independent or unaffiliated status.

So there was an election in Mississippi where the chances were really good the Republicans would retain the seat. If you asked conservatives around the country who they thought would be the better Senator, I would guess the vast majority would say Chris McDaniel – if for no other reason than to oust a 36-year Washington incumbent. You would probably get the same response in Mississippi, which is why the Cochran side had to appeal to Democrats to maintain their hold on the seat, smearing the TEA Party along the way. (Never mind that the TEA Party is one key reason Senate Republicans are even sniffing the chance for a majority this year.)

More than ever, after this McDaniel debacle the clamor will rise for a third party. Obviously Democrats would love this because it would guarantee perpetual power for them, even if they’re not a majority of the voting public. As we see time and time again, Democrats stick together regardless of who wins their primaries. Here in Maryland, the Doug Gansler and Heather Mizeur supporters won’t take their ball and go home like disaffected Republicans do – they will pull the “D” lever right down the line beginning with Anthony Brown. He may not be their preferred candidate, but as long as the goodies keep flowing they really don’t care.

Having said all that, though, I think the rumors of the TEA Party’s demise are a little overblown; however, it is developing its own ruling class. That’s the problem, because when it was just about activism we were at our most effective.

One thing I’m not hearing much about in the Mississippi race – granted, I’m not on the ground there so take from it what you will – is any GOTV effort on McDaniel’s part. There was a lot of money spent on political ads, but perhaps the most effective spending was that done on the robocalls and flyers which whipped up the black vote. That spending gave the most benefit to Cochran – yet no one wants to take credit for it! Wonder why?

Some years ago, Republicans were pilloried for an ill-advised robocall here in Maryland to benefit one of their own, despite the fact it was the doing of a former Democratic chief of staff and rough-and-tumble operative. Hopefully the Mississippi media will be as curious about the origins of that Cochran robocall as Maryland’s was about the Ehrlich one, and justice will be served as it was with the Ehrlich robocall.

I suppose the lesson our side has to learn is that you can never take anything for granted except for one fact: those in power will stop at nothing to keep it. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Update: And now we get the prospect of vote buying – by Republicans. We can joke all we want about Democrats securing votes from the graveyard, but thanks to the lust for power by the Beltway establishment, our hands are forever sullied as well.

Time to get serious

While I mentioned the other day that not much fresh news would come from the political races until after the Independence Day holiday, that doesn’t mean that “Maryland’s top conservative blogger” (at least according to David Gerstman, contributor to Legal Insurrection) won’t have his say on things. I wanted to open up by taking a look at Larry Hogan’s “Hogan’s Plan” for the state’s finances.

Over the course of the primary campaign I was critical of Hogan for having such a vague “to-do list” of priorities he would have as governor, and this wasn’t a whole lot better. Be that as it may, I’m going to try and work with it in the real world anyway.

In Maryland, the governor perhaps has the most power of any such chief executive in the country – particularly if he wants to get serious about cutting the budget. The General Assembly can’t come back with a larger budget total, although they can tweak around the edges to some extent. So let’s go with the baseline established by Martin O’Malley when he set the FY2015 budget that takes effect tomorrow at $39.224 billion. Hogan promised that:

On day one, he will begin to run the government more cost-effectively and honestly. The Hogan-Rutherford administration will implement the recommendations of past audits, conduct additional independent audits of every state agency, and immediately get to work eliminating duplication, fraud, and waste to make sure that every cent of taxpayer money is spent efficiently.

By his reckoning, there is “$1.75 billion in waste and abuse” in state government. Figuring this with my public school math, that is 4.46% of the state budget – which seems like a nice little chunk of change until you realize the difference between the FY2015 and FY2014 budgets is $1.886 billion. In other words, the “waste and abuse” only accounts for about the same amount of money as an average annual increase. Something tells me there’s more low-hanging fruit than that. Yet Hogan says:

By cutting the waste and abuse from state government, he will be able to save the taxpayers of Maryland billions of dollars without having to cut our priority programs and agencies. It is a simple solution to a problem that has plagued our state for the last eight years, and it will enable him to cut and eliminate the regressive taxes that have crushed middle-class families and small businesses.

Nothing is ever that simple, but on the other hand his opponent is willing to blow up the budget with millions and millions of dollars in additional spending. If Anthony Brown simply maintains the Martin O’Malley glide path of 4% budget increases each year, this is what the next four budgets would look like:

  • FY2016: $40.793 billion
  • FY2017: $42.425 billion
  • FY2018: $44.122 billion
  • FY2019: $45.887 billion

Compared to level-funding the budget, that’s an additional $16.331 billion in tax dollars needed and you can bet your bottom dollar the Democrats will take all that and more from hard-working Maryland families.

And if you look at what Anthony Brown is promising, particularly in the area of education with universal pre-kindergarten, student loans for children of illegal aliens, creating a new Office of Educational Disparities, and providing extra money for HBCUs, assuming 4% annual increases may be on the low side.

The other part of Hogan’s Plan deals with business climate:

Maryland’s unemployment rate is 75% higher today than it when the recession began. In fact, the nonpartisan Tax Foundation ranked Maryland #41 in the nation for business climate. The main reason for this unfortunate reality is that it costs too much for job creators to stay in or come to Maryland. He will reduce the burden on job creators, open Maryland for business, and make our state more competitive with others in our region. The Hogan-Rutherford administration will overhaul the Department of Business and Economic Development to focus on aggressively attracting and retaining job creators in order to bring more and better-paying jobs to Maryland.

This is where the lack of specifics is really aggravating, particularly when Hogan’s vanquished opponents directly addressed the issue by proposing corporate tax cuts. In the FY2015 budget, corporate taxes bring in $1.011 billion so eliminating them entirely is affordable if you assume Hogan has the $1.75 billion of waste and fraud elimination in his pocket. Now THAT would turn some heads, but Hogan refuses to make the commitment.

Let’s look at Brown’s “Competitive Business Climate Tour” plan, though. There are nine “areas of focus” therein, but I’m going to focus on five of them:

Tax Liability: Reform our tax code to ensure that it reflects our current economy, enables state and local government to adequately fund our shared priorities, and encourages job generating investments in Maryland.

If you want the tax code to reflect our current economy, rates should be decreased to match the zero growth Maryland is enjoying right now. Unfortunately, it will instead be certain to “enable…government to adequately fund” all the brilliant schemes these liberals come up with. And don’t be surprised if combined reporting isn’t among those items designed to “encourage” investment in the state by hiking taxes on national companies.

Cost and Reliability of Energy: Promote the cost-effective generation of energy and improve the reliable delivery of energy through the grid to businesses and residents while transitioning to more sustainable energy sources.

There’s either one of two ways to go here: we get a “grand bargain” where fracking is finally allowed on the western end of the state in return for “investment” in wind turbines off Ocean City (perhaps via a tax on natural gas producers), or we just get the necessary subsidies to make these unsightly and inefficient wind turbines and land-wasting solar panel farms a reality. Look for the “renewable energy portfolio” to increase the percentage of “sustainable energy sources” to levels unsustainable for utilities to address without huge increases in consumer bills.

Cost of Living: Expand access to affordable housing and healthcare, healthy food options and cost-effective transportation to create a reasonable cost of living for all Maryland families.

When you see the words “expand access to” they really mean “spend more on,” with two exceptions: expanding access to “healthy food options” will involve the elimination of those options deemed unhealthy, such as fast food outlets. You will eat your broccoli and like it. The same goes for “cost-effective transportation” because, for many, transportation will become cost-ineffective: gas taxes will increase in order to subsidize mass transit, which is only cost-effective to the inner-city user whose farebox donation isn’t nearly enough to cover its cost.

And just how is a “reasonable cost of living” determined by the government? To me, that is determined by the market and the desires of those families as to their priorities.

Reliable and Predictable Legal System: Provide a civil justice system that allows deserving individuals to get justice and hold wrongdoers accountable while ensuring that awards are fair and equitable.

That is called tort reform, and the chances of pigs flying in Maryland are probably far higher than passage and enforcement of anything of the sort – especially if Brian Frosh is elected as AG.

Small- and Medium-sized Business Access to Working Capital: Ensure all viable small- and medium-sized businesses have access to affordable capital by working with lenders and businesses to maintain a strong environment for growth.

When I read this, I immediately thought: nice little financial institution you got there, be a shame if something happened to it. It’s the market’s job to figure out if a business is capital-worthy, not government’s.

My gosh, Larry Hogan, you have to do better than this. There are so many holes and code words in Brown’s plans that it should be easy to come up with something actually viable for keeping businesses and people from leaving the state.

A renewal of action?

Last night I went back through and redid an old post, an event for which there is a backstory.

For about two or three years I employed a service called Photoshop Express as a repository for photos I used on monoblogue. But about this time last year the Photoshop Express site went away and while I still could get to the photos every single link I had to it became a dead one. If I had lots of time and patience perhaps I could go back and rework the links but in the interim I found a different service and repaired a select few of these posts (usually ones I link to semi-frequently) so I could restore them to their original glory.

The one I fixed last night was this one, which I wanted to use as an example of where a group of motivated people descended on Washington because I was part of the group. It’s a definite blast from the past since we did this back in 2009, but it was a useful comparison to a manufacturer summit I wrote on for American Certified.

But looking through that album of pictures reminded me of the days when those of us who would be considered “TEA Party” seemed to be much more activist than we are now. Sure, some would chalk the change up to a more sophisticated approach, but when dismal failures like Operation American Spring become the norm one has to ask if people are resigned to their fate. Or maybe they’re just trying to scrape by and survive.

With the events in Mississippi revolving around the Chris McDaniel – Thad Cochran runoff, it’s obvious there are some people who are terrified of the huddled masses. Yet while McDaniel isn’t conceding the race, it’s worthy to note no one is out yet protesting the election like, say, union activists harassing Scott Walker and the Wisconsin legislature. (I have many more thoughts on the Mississippi situation I’ll share in a future post.)

At least there’s a political race that has a pulse, though. Look at the pathetic turnout for Tuesday’s primary, where I can give you a good example of this.

As it was in 2010, there were 13 Republican candidates for our Central Committee. In every case – except perhaps the 13th and last position where the difference is small at the moment – either those of us who chose to run again garnered fewer votes than we did four years ago or the person who finished in that position did worse than the last time (i.e. our first place finisher was a newcomer while 2010′s first place finisher chose not to run again. The difference there was a whopping 1,192 votes.) Those who ran both times lost anywhere from 291 to 653 votes, based on the unofficial 2014 results. Put another way, our winner this time would have finished seventh in 2010.

Obviously some will blame the change in primary date, but I think there’s that same resignation and malaise at work in this case, too. After all, compared to 2010 we had a much more competitive governor’s race and a significant portion of our county had two General Assembly races which were quite spirited.

I’m not quite sure what we can rally around anymore. As it turned out, the original “Emergency House Call” rally didn’t matter because we got Obamacare anyway. It’s a little like the philosophy which guided the Long War in that we almost have to be effective 100% of the time to elicit significant change – yes, we got our Dave Brat but it’s sort of countered by the Beltway insiders not losing Thad Cochran – in the meantime, more regulations are promulgated by unelected bureaucrats and a President left unchecked by an impotent Congress. As we slide closer and closer to a yet-to-be-defined abyss, the ideas of the Founders slip out of our grasp.

Sometimes I think ballots will be replaced by bullets, and that’s not something most of us want. But it’s happened before, and history has a nasty habit of eventually repeating itself.

Snapshots of an election

To be honest, I took these photos on Tuesday intending to add them to my coverage – then promptly forgot and posted it anyway. But it doesn’t hurt to have a second look back before moving forward. There’s really not going to be a lot of fresh news until after the Independence Day holiday anyway, plus it also proves the adage that every picture tells a story.

So I’m going to lead with this one I also posted to Facebook.

It’s interesting to see this pile of Anthony Brown signs, which as I recall were pretty much all of the Brown signs I saw. Now one person suggested that they were originally set within the 100′ limit then relocated against the tree, which is possible – but I doubt it. Instead, my thought was someone left the pile of signs earlier that day or the previous night intending to have the first volunteer at the site place them in the morning – sort of like someone decided to have a insurance exchange website intending to have the thing actually work and not waste millions of dollars.

If you don’t get the small details, the large stuff bites you in the ass.

Speaking of signage, I did not count how many signs were out there on the grounds of the Civic Center, but I would suggest the ratio was perilously close to one for every other voter. Interest seemed to be quite low.

I took that picture about 5:00 after I arrived about 4:30. (This was an election day I had to work – I couldn’t alter my schedule enough to avoid it.) There were literally three people working the polls when I got there – M.J. Caldwell’s wife Pam, a lady representing Circuit Court appointee Jimmy Sarbanes, and Jim Jester, who was doing double duty with an Andy Harris shirt and Mike McDermott sign. This is one of the busier polling places in the county, and only three people were there.

If I saw 100 people vote in the time I was there, it was a lot.

Speaking of M.J. Caldwell, the Republican voters of this county need an education. I would expect about 60-65% of Democrats to blindly support someone named Sarbanes, but 43% of Republicans? Really? Someone selected not on qualifications, but on name recognition by a political hack governor we can’t stand? Get real. That has to turn around in November.

Even the news coverage was lackadaisical. Channel 47 did a live remote, but they never came out to talk with us. They probably showed the pictures of an all-but-empty polling place to an audience which can be charitably described as second-best in the market.

In terms of poll workers, it did pick up after a time. Jackie Wellfonder came along to work this poll.

Turned out the face-to-face didn’t do either of us much good because we got about the same amount of votes, and that wasn’t enough.

Josh Hastings was unopposed in his primary, so all he had to do was await the winner on the GOP side.

His opponent will be Larry Dodd, who had someone there eventually but he wasn’t the social type.

Having worked polls a few times here, I know that after about 7:00 it’s pretty well done for the night. So there were a gaggle of people with Hastings who got to talking down the way on the Democratic side, and a few of us for the GOP. It’s not like we had voters to convince, as maybe 20 stopped by during the last hour.

At the very end, Carl Anderton dropped by to retrieve his signs as did Jim Mathias. They had a nice conversation, although I didn’t get a picture. I was even bipartisan and helped Jim pick up some of the Democrats’ signs.

I was in a group which went on to The Cellar Door to check on the returns, but it wasn’t really a good night for most of us as you now know.

There were a couple things I learned, though. First and foremost is that Facebook is worthless as a campaign aid unless you want to pay through the nose. Social media isn’t really social anymore; it’s become commercialized like everything else. I had 60 likes for my Facebook page, which isn’t much but it at least gives me insight on how my posts did. (By comparison, Jackie Wellfonder also had a similar page and got 100 likes – but about 60 fewer votes.)

I placed a total of 41 posts on the page, although there was one I shared multiple times. My total reach was 2,718 – it’s about 66 per post. Ironically, my best post insofar as Facebook is concerned is the last one I think of as my concession speech, which reached 298 people. A little late, don’t you think? But if you figure a good number of those 66 per post see my stuff time after time, it’s not all that efficient for the investment.

I didn’t have thousands of dollars laying around to get my Facebook page up to 100,000 likes as Change Maryland did, and we only know about the last 30,000 or so because the campaign paid for those – Change Maryland was close to 70,000 when Hogan made it official. So who knows how much he paid for that promotion? More than I had in my pocket.

Anyway, social media isn’t really the way to go. But what is?

The second thing I found out is that the public seems to be unmotivated to find out what people really stand for. In race after race, I saw that those who spelled out their platform in the most complete manner lost to those who were a mystery to voters but had name recognition. It also didn’t necessarily matter how hard you worked – if John Cannon or Matt Holloway went door-to-door I didn’t hear about it, but Muir Boda did and got 18% of the vote to show for it. Tyler Harwood went door-to-door with Greg Belcher (in the same group which at times featured Carl Anderton, Marc Kilmer, and Boda) and finished dead last for Central Committee (Greg was 8th.) Hard work wasn’t its own reward, and no good deed went unpunished – or so it seemed. (Nope, Marc corrected me – it was just his lit, not him.)

In short, I’m not sure I did my job very well on a local level. If I have a mission to educate voters, it looks like I have to work a little harder on it – and so I shall. I suppose the one thing about being a lame duck is that I have no election to worry about anymore, so I can speak my mind perhaps a little moreso than political correctness may dictate.

One source of relief is that I have a smaller range of people to keep up with for November. I think we could have done somewhat better coming out of this primary, but at least now I know whose feet I’ll have to keep to the fire and who I should be able to count on with a minimum of supervision.

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  • More Campaign 2014

    Contested races only.

    First District - Congress

    Andy Harris (R)
    Bill Tilghman (D)

    ___

    Maryland General Assembly (local)

    Senate District 37

    Addie Eckardt (R)
    Christopher Robinson (D)

    ___

    House District 37B

    Republican

    Christopher Adams (R)
    Johnny Mautz (R)
    Rodney Benjamin (D)
    Keasha Haythe (D)

    ___

    Senate District 38

    Mike McDermott (R)

    Jim Mathias (D)

    ___

    House District 38A

    Charles Otto (R)
    Percy Purnell, Jr. (D)

    ___

    House District 38B

    Carl Anderton, Jr. (R)

    Norm Conway (D)

    ___

    House District 38C

    Mary Beth Carozza. (R)

    Judy Davis (D)

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    Wicomico County

    County Executive

    Bob Culver (R)
    Rick Pollitt (D)

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    County Council at-large

    John Cannon (R)
    Matt Holloway (R)
    Laura Mitchell (D)

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    Council District 2

    Marc Kilmer (R)
    Kirby Travers (D)

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    Council District 3

    Larry Dodd (R)
    Josh Hastings (D)

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    Council District 5

    Joe Holloway (R)

    Ron Pagano (D)