A welcome respite

The sign said Andy Harris was welcome. But how would the crowd feel?

The last time I went to an Andy Harris town hall meeting, it was a time when “Indivisible” passions ran high and the “traveling roadshow” was out in force. One successful re-election for Harris later, the group on Monday was more subdued.

My spot of activity this week didn’t allow me to get to this right away, which wasn’t the worst thing in the world. I was sort of curious to see if any of his other stops would be controversial and it doesn’t appear they made a splash in the news cycle. And speaking of news cycle, this was a familiar sight.

WBOC wasn’t the only TV station at the event, but they were set up in the lobby when I walked in.

As a matter of fact, had I chose to I could have been on TV myself (on local rival WMDT) but I just didn’t feel like I could answer their questions. My thoughts and recollections are better suited for this space.

After doing it for almost a decade, perhaps Andy has figured this town hall thing out. First of all, you couldn’t help but admire his work in getting a local veteran named George Hornsby the medals and commendations he’d been owed for over fifty years.

Something else that was different (and better) was how the questions were selected. Rather than soliciting index cards for written questions for a moderator (and leaving himself open for the charge of not answering difficult questions) each person had a number given to them and when their number was drawn, they were given the opportunity to stand up and ask their question. In a little over an hour, we got to about 15 people that I wrote down.

And I thought the questions were nicely varied, which made them a little bit difficult to categorize. As a summary and not a blow-by-blow, I think I can take a bit of editorial license and group questions into more broad categories.

The first is a sort of “role of government” track. People had concerns about the direction of the House, and were asking what he could do to assist President Trump. There was a person concerned about robocalls, another who asked about sanctuary cities, and someone else who asked about the Kavanaugh confirmation.

Regarding the direction of the House, Harris just reminded us, “everybody has a vote” each two years. It’s the worst system – except for all the rest, he continued, conceding that the voters wanted divided government. “I try to represent the district,” he added, noting his belief he’s conveying the wishes of the majority of the First District.

Unfortunately, being in the House minority means there’s “not a whole lot” he can do to help Donald Trump, a President he agrees with “90 percent of the time.” One of those cases will be his vote to sustain President Trump’s veto of the rescission of his state of emergency. “My vote will sustain his veto,” said Harris.

One reason he cited was funding for border security. “As a nation you have to control your borders,” he said. Andy also alerted us to the 90% of our heroin that comes across the southern border, not to mention the amount of fentanyl – enough to kill 9 times the population of Maryland from one particular recent seizure – that we stop.

Eventually the conversation on the border led to a question on sanctuary cities, and whether we could cut their funding. Andy told the questioner there was no statutory authority to do so, but having sanctuary cities also “creates a lack of rule of law,” which was something we needed to get back to. I also learned how Andy would handle the DREAMer situation: a “legal pathway” with permanent residency status but no citizenship unless they returned to their home country to start the process there.

All that made the concern about robocalls, which was a concern he agreed with – and even spoke to the committee chair regarding it – rather mundane. It also has an international aspect to it since most originate in foreign countries but spoof domestic numbers.

Harris also agreed the Kavanaugh confirmation was “a spectacle,” although as a member of the House he was but an observer like the rest of us. “In the end, I think the American system worked,” he added.

In a sort of peripheral way, those couple people who were concerned about environmental issues were looking at the government for help, too. One was concerned about garbage, which is a problem in, of all places, the middle of the Pacific. In that case, one of the issues was that China no longer takes our garbage. The reason? We are dirty recyclers: oftentimes the leftover products originally encased within the plastic containers are still present in enough quantity to make recycling less cost-effective. Perhaps a solution is in “waste-to-energy” or chemical recycling.

Their other concern was Bay funding, which President Trump’s budget cut from $73 million to $7 million. The Maryland delegation is working to at worst level-fund it, although if there is a continuing resolution the spending would continue as before, too.

Here Andy brought up one area where he and I part ways: stating that offshore drilling needs the permission of the state, Harris stated his opposition to not only offshore drilling, but offshore testing as well. That is a short-sighted approach, but I think opponents like him are afraid that there’s a vast supply of black gold or natural gas out there. I’m not sure why that’s something to fear, but why not do the testing anyway to verify one way or the other?

A lot of people had guns on their minds. There are “too many guns in this country,” said one questioner. But we have the Second Amendment, which makes us unique among nations.

And guns aren’t necessarily the problem, said Andy. We’re not dealing adequately with the issue in several respects:

  • The celebration of violence in video games, which was even something President Obama spoke about.
  • The lack of control of gangs and drugs. Are laws as enforced as they should be?
  • A decrease in religious observance, which you could also consider a lack of morals if you prefer. (My words, not his.)

And while Baltimore “went after their police force,” they are “allowing young lives to be destroyed” there. And as an homage to Captain Obvious, Harris said “we will never disarm non-law-abiding citizens.”

He had some unkind words about Maryland, too, noting that while the state has universal background checks, they are one of the worst states at reporting mental health issues to the federal government for those checks. Don’t do more gun laws if you’re not enforcing the ones you have, he said: for example, out of the thousands who knowingly stated falsely they didn’t commit a crime – thereby committing perjury on a federal form – only ten of those cases were prosecuted because former AG Eric Holder didn’t make it a priority.

Andy’s opposition certainly had its say, although to their credit they were reasonably non-disruptive. The only exception was a case where two people objected to Andy’s reticence to commit to an hour-long face-to-face meeting with that constituent who disagreed with Andy’s stance against Obamacare. The tension got thick when Andy was accused of anti-Semitism for meeting with a “Holocaust denier” as well as chastised for a visit to Hungary to meet with Prime Minister Victor Orban, leader of a “center-right” government. (Harris, a first-generation American whose parents fled Hungary amidst a Communist takeover, leads the Hungarian-American Caucus in Congress.) It’s “pretty repulsive to me” to be called anti-Semitic, Harris countered. But the disruptive pair were not escorted out as cooler heads prevailed.

While Harris objects to Obamacare, it should be pointed out that he’s for several reforms to Medicare Part B – specifically, the area of prescription drugs administered in a physician’s office or hospital where Andy remarked “Medicare has no leverage” to deal with increasing costs. As it stands now, these providers are allowed a 6% surcharge on top of list price reimbursement, as I understand it. (I’ll plead ignorance since I am not on Medicare.) Apparently HHS Secretary Alex Azar has a plan to revise this scheme to account for the reduced price other nations pay to allow these drugs into their market – a gatekeeping system Medicare doesn’t have. Using a weighted average of the prices charged to 12 other leading industrialized nations plus a 30 percent premium is “a pretty good compromise” according to Harris.

I suppose if the drug cost us $10, the weighted average of the 12 was $5, and the 30% premium added $1.50, yeah, there could be some savings. Of course, I have no idea about the actual numbers.

(It should also be mentioned that opioid addiction was brought up in the meeting. His opinion: “It will take a long time to fix,” because the problem isn’t just drug companies or overly aggressive doctors. But no one ever did any studies on how addictive these painkillers could be until much more recently.)

A more significant part of the time was spent by Andy explaining his opposition to H.R. 1, the (so-called) For The People Act. “What part did you object to?” he was asked, answering “why not (send up the provisions) one at a time?” rather than a 400-page bill that’s been amended several times. “We have to stop doing bills like this,” he continued, holding up a copy of the bill that takes up half or more of a ream of paper.

“Really, it’s an incumbent protection plan,” Harris added, and while in that respect he theoretically should favor it, his primary complaint on it was that “it tells states how to conduct their elections.” He wasn’t in favor of public financing of elections and had a problem with its oversight provisions, such as voting in other states (as a former opponent of his was caught doing.)

Yet a GOP amendment making “ballot harvesting” illegal was defeated – its main flaw is allowing anyone to bring in ballots, rather than specifically a family member or guardian. I personally see it as a chain of custody issue, and ironically the same technique that turned the tide in several California House races was the reason North Carolina voters in their Ninth District have an upcoming “do-over” in their race, won on election night in 2018 by a Republican. Ballot harvesting is illegal in North Carolina, precisely because of those chain of custody issues.

One last thing I’ll bring up is the charge Andy often receives about not having empathy or sympathy. “I take care of patients!” he replied. His job is to pay attention and read the bills, and when it comes to health care it’s to maintain coverage of pre-existing conditions and keep insurance affordable. Personally, I just think there are too many people who equate big government with empathy or sympathy but would object to a faith-based solution because it’s “pushing their religion on people.” To those whose god is government, perhaps I’m tired of you pushing your religion on the rest of us. I’d just like to render unto Caesar only what is supposed to be his and not all of my freedom, too.

But a nice lady had her number called shortly after this and told the audience she had dealt with Congressman Harris’s office regarding her mesh implants and thanking him for helping her with the issue. It’s one where the public and physician databases need to be better integrated so that doctors can be better informed with real-time reporting and analysis. “Sunlight solves a lot of problems,” said Andy.

We also talked about suicide, which was a byproduct of the same culture that’s led to so much gun violence. In a nation founded on religious principles, it’s no surprise to me that being religious cuts the risk of suicide in half – at least that’s what Harris claimed. “If we abandon religion, we abandon some of those (founding) principles,” Harris remarked.

I’m certain there were those agnostics in the room who scoffed at that assertion. “There’s a separation of church and state!” they thunder, and if there could be a border wall built between the two that’s a wall they would support 200 percent and have that sucker built a mile high and twice as deep, halfway to God or Gaia or who/whatever they believe in.

In a letter from John Adams to officers in the Massachusetts militia (October 11, 1798) our second President remarked as a close to a longer point, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” If you presume that “any other” is the irreligious lot we have now, Adams was probably right and, as a group, they tend to be the ones who want to revamp our founding document.

But I get the idea that our Constitution was Divinely inspired, and as such I like to see us hew to it as best we can. While it does need some modern-day tweaking, including a pruning of the amendments ratified in 1913, the Constitution can continue to serve us well if lawmakers just remember their oath to defend it. I think Andy Harris does a reasonable job of that and I’m glad he stopped by.

So, about those Jeremiah conservatives…

I made an executive decision as I wrote this: an edited (no blockquote) version is crossposted to my book site.

I’ve been meaning to get to this all week and the opportunity has finally arrived. Last week Erick Erickson at The Resurgent did a piece on what he called “Jeremiah 29 conservatives.” In the post, he cites Jeremiah 29:5-7, which is a portion of a letter from Jeremiah to those who were captured and forced to relocate to exile in Babylon. Erickson uses it to springboard to his main point:

There is a growing class of conservatives in the United States who can be considered Jeremiah 29 Conservatives. They have given up on national politics. It has become too ugly, too compromising, too unaligned with their values, and too willing to make compromises with bad government and big government to advance a compromised agenda.

These conservatives are trying to seek the welfare of the cities in which they live, recognizing that it is there they will find their welfare. They want good government and understand the most important fight of the day is the one for their family’s daily well being. Washington, they know, is too far removed from their daily lives and, in their mind, Republicans and conservative institutions in Washington have made too many compromises to be effective.

At the end of the Bush Administration and beginning of the Obama era, thanks oddly enough to the Citizens United case, grassroots groups were springing up around the country to help conservatives down to the local level. There were training sessions for conservative activists on simple things like the best way to write editorials to local papers. They grassroots groups provided tools for local activists to contact their state legislature. They explained how to find when a city council met and how to show up to speak on an issue. They encouraged conservative activists to run for the school board.

As the tea party rose, conservative organizations began focusing more and more on fighting Barack Obama. They abandoned the fights in the states.

Obviously this quote hit home with me given my passion for the TEA Party and its principles. But to a great extent it’s true.

I’ve probably researched the TEA Party more than 99% of the people out there and I found that it was a very unusual phenomenon in that the TEA Party began as a nationwide effort but then decentralized itself to the local level for a time. Think of the TEA Party as three early stages, which I’ll distinguish by their dates: February 27, April 15, and September 12. (All these occurred in 2009.)

The February 27 wave occurred in fewer than 50 cities and was really put together for one purpose: to make a statement about the unwillingness of government to consider solutions other than top-down financial stimulus and increased government control in addressing the Great Recession. Some may have organized this believing it would be a one-time deal, but there was such a success created that thousands of others, helped along by mass media, decided to get in on the action at the local level.

So rather than 40-odd mainly large cities, the April 15 (and later July 4) wave of TEA Parties took place in a thousand cities around the nation, big and small. Each local event had its own flavor, with some rallying around strictly financial and national issues and others departing from that script to address local items or topics dear to social conservatives, particularly those in the pro-life movement. There was no “right” way to do a TEA Party, and part of its appeal was the grassroots organization that didn’t get marching orders from a party or inside-the-Beltway group.

But by the September 12 Taxpayer March on Washington – an event I simply call 9/12 – local groups were being encouraged to join up in a national organization, supposedly to increase the clout of the movement. While some TEA Party groups remained fiercely independent, most others gravitated toward an alliance with organizations such as the Campaign for Liberty or Americans for Prosperity. (The latter is basically what happened to our local TEA Party.) This also coincided with the rise of Tea Party Patriots as an umbrella group, although they weren’t the only one as many states had similar entities.

Once the rallies became less frequent, though, hundreds of TEA Party groups withered on the vine. And many of those individual participants who stuck it out for the first couple years were perhaps made complacent by how easily the political tables were turned in 2010 and figured the movement didn’t need them anymore – they let the most passionate ones soldier on. So by the time 2012 and 2014 rolled around, many of those who believed in the TEA Party early on saw that the movement was no longer locally grassroots but corporate-style Astroturf, and no longer fiercely independent but now the red-headed stepchild of the national Republican Party.

As Erickson might tell it, that’s what happens when outsiders try to get involved in national politics, which is way out of the league of the average person. Most people are more interested in local activism, and (to be honest) if government were as it should be that’s all they would need to deal with.

So today I decided to look again at the Tea Party Patriots’ website as they celebrate their tenth anniversary. In a celebratory op-ed by Jenny Beth Martin – the only one of the three original co-founders of Tea Party Patriots to still be with the group – she cited a number of Washington initiatives as accomplishments of the TEA Party and noted they would continue to fight in the halls of Congress – just like any other lobbying group. They pay lip service to the local groups, but their focus is on stopping socialism on a national level. There’s nothing wrong with that, but let’s stop pretending they’re a grassroots group, okay?

It’s very sad to think that the TEA Party may have missed its golden opportunity because they lost focus on the local groups. If local needs are addressed, it’s more likely that states will follow and eventually the nation.

I have a suggestion for all this, but I can’t reveal it here – it’s waiting until my book is ready. (That’s called a tease.) Good Lord willing and if the creek don’t rise, look for it April 15.

Why $15 is the wrong fight

I have seen reports all over social media and the “real” media that the Maryland House of Delegates has passed an increase in the minimum wage that will eventually lead it to $15 per hour by 2025. I’m not up on just who is who in the House these days but I presume a 96-44 vote is pretty much party line – there may have been a Democrat who voted against it, but I don’t know and it likely doesn’t matter in the scheme of things because it’s a vetoproof majority and the way Democrats are ramming this through it will be passed at a time when the veto can be overridden in session. (With Larry Hogan’s record, I can no longer say “inevitable veto.”)

It should be pointed out first of all that the “fight for $15” is sort of a misnomer because the raise from the current $10.10 per hour – a rate established last July – to $15 an hour would not be complete until January, 2025. This is a significant change from the original bill, which mandated the raise be in place by July, 2023. (The House bill has been amended while the cross-filed Senate bill remains as it was originally intended, so it works well for comparison.) But since the state began regularly raising its minimum wage in January, 2015, workers have already received a 26.3% bump in four years – well beyond the rate of inflation and a far cry from the normal 2-3% annual raises many workers receive if they are lucky. Whether it takes eight years or ten years, a salary increase of 87.5% for gaining absolutely no skills is far more than the market would naturally allow.

I’ll circle back to that point in a moment, but it’s also worth considering that union workers who have their wage rates tied to a point above the minimum wage will also get a raise. And when workers get a raise, guess who else does?

In today’s climate of dramatic minimum wage increases of 50% or more, unions — predominantly in the service sector — can also directly benefit from minimum wage increases because their members’ pay is less than the new minimum. Take California, for instance, which passed a $15 minimum wage last year. The Employment Policies Institute (EPI) usedCensus Bureau data to estimate that roughly 223,000 union members in the state will receive a direct pay increase by the time the law is fully implemented.

It’s bad news for taxpayers, but a solid investment for unions. A powerful California-based SEIU local spent about $1.6 million to collect the signatures needed to qualify the $15 ballot measure that forced Gov. Jerry Brown to back such a mandate. EPI estimated that California unions can expect a return on investment of roughly $9 million in additional dues per year.

“Why Do Unions Fund The Fight For $15 Minimum Wage? Because They Gain A Financial Windfall In Return,” Ed Rensi, Forbes, January 19, 2017.

You can bet your bottom dollar that Big Labor here in Maryland has similar deals with business owners held hostage to these union contracts.

Now circle back with me if you would and think about who earns minimum wage from a job. Generally they are people just entering the job market or those who don’t develop their skills beyond the point of being barely hireable. My first “real” W-2 job was working in the on-campus dining halls at college, and it was a minimum wage job – just as my roommate who snagged a cushy library job made. Since I was essentially a temporary worker, it didn’t matter to the school that I was making $3.35 an hour to run a dishwasher. And since most of my money went to the local sub shop or to buy the occasional 12-pack when I became legal, I didn’t much worry about it, either. In fact, my first job out of college at a department store was minimum wage – but this college graduate quickly parlayed his degree into a 49% raise when the architectural firm I interviewed with a few weeks earlier offered me a position less than a month after I started working at the store. More skills and a little bit of work experience = higher wages. I created more potential value from my labor.

This is the problem with minimum wage as I see it. Do you think Maryland workers are going to instantly create another 75 cents to a dollar’s worth of value to their employers each hour just because the calendar flipped from 2020 to 2021 or 2024 to 2025? Of course they won’t – but if a business owner had 20 minimum-wage employees who worked an average of 20 hours a week, it’s an extra $300 or $400 they need to clear.

I’ll grant there’s a bit of merit to the argument that raising the wage creates people with more money to spend, but what are the chances enough people will take their extra money and spend it at the business in question? When the percentage of workers who make minimum wage hovers in the low single-digits, there’s not enough of an impetus for that so-called “extra” money to make much of an impact on the economy at large but, at the same time, it can be devastating to a business that requires a lot of unskilled labor.

There’s also the impact on workers who make slightly to significantly more than minimum wage to consider. They won’t get an automatic raise, but their standard of living declines by the amount that businesses have to raise their prices to cover costs. It may only be an extra percent or two in scattered businesses, but eventually that adds up. Note that amendments to Maryland’s most recent minimum wage bill not only slowed down the increase by 18 months but also scrapped the automatic increase based on inflation – probably to make it an issue for the 2024 or 2026 elections.

I have often said, and will continue to say because it’s true, that the real minimum wage is zero – the amount you make when the job you may have secured when the minimum wage was $8 an hour and you weren’t a significant risk to the employer if you didn’t work out is the job that’s no longer available at $10.10 an hour.

Regardless, it’s all but certain that a minimum wage increase will pass in Maryland this year. The Left needs that victory and many others in order to try and tank the state and national economy for the 2020 election. (Notice the lack of enthusiasm over the 2.9% GDP increase despite the fact it’s our best since 2015 – losing by a fractional .0009% – and close to the first 3% annual calendar year growth rate since 2005. One could argue the Schumer-Pelosi-Trump shutdown may have cost us that 0.1 percent.) Apologists for the Obama economic record (“Analysts have called into question just how much a particular president actually impacts the economy during his tenure”) now expect a recession to hit by the next election (“While the fourth-quarter cooling isn’t quite as extreme as some economists feared, the metric does little to placate existing concerns about a global economic slowdown.”)

But someone believes in magic, as in that people will magically produce more value through an arbitrary wage increase. Cue the pixie dust and unicorns.

Indivisible by zero: a local “Day of Action” in pictures and text

I decided that downtown was a good place to go for lunch today. So I popped into Maya Bella’s, got a slice of pepperoni, chips, and a drink, and strolled down the Plaza because I knew there was a show going on at the other end. At least that’s what I told the three SPD officers who were obviously detailed with the security.

This is what I found:

I took this from about the same general location as the TEA Party shot to follow. For a group claiming 2018 was their “first big victory” I expected more than this.

It’s a nice little crowd, but if you want to model yourself after the TEA Party you may want to step up your protest game. I found my shots of the 2009 Salisbury Tax Day TEA Party awhile back (this one also graces my book website) and it so happens I took it from about the same perspective as the shot above, give or take.

This is a shot from the Salisbury Tax Day TEA Party, April 15, 2009.

For good measure, even though it’s not quite from the same angle, I also have one from the No Ban No Wall Rally in February, 2017.

This came from the No Ban No Wall No Registry Rally held in front of the Government Office Building on February 18, 2017. That was when the anti-Trump movement was still white-hot. (Pun not initially intended, but I decided to keep it.)

In terms of caveats, the TEA Party was held late on a Wednesday afternoon (as opposed to lunchtime) and the No Ban rally was on a Saturday, so the crowd was naturally going to be larger. It also had a counter-protest, which is actually in the foreground of my photo of the event.

So suffice to say today’s group was just a portion of what I like to call the “traveling roadshow.” These are the same folks who go to give Andy Harris a hard time at his town hall meetings – in fact, one speaker today led the group in one of their many chants, “Andy, we’re watching you.”

Addressing the Congressman, that same speaker intoned, “we’re very interested in what you’re doing.” Well, I’m interested in what you are doing, too. Why do you think I showed up?

I moved a little closer so I could make out what the speakers had to say. It wasn’t the best setup. Look closely on the left side and you may notice the lady with the rainbow bag has a genuine “p” hat.
This shot was taken just before I left. I spent about 20-25 minutes listening to a litany of complaints about our “democracy.” “This is what democracy looks like,” said a speaker previous to this one – I think that’s Jared Schablein speaking in the photo, way back by the building.

I thought it was interesting that Indivisible was described by one of the local organizers as run by attorneys in D.C. who used to work for the Obama administration. That’s a point I’m planning on returning to, but the same lady also noted that “we are on offense,” which has been an Indivisible talking point since the election. In fact, they have several of them:

As always, Indivisible has you covered. In this toolkit, you will find a planning meeting agenda, sample roles, a press kit, and more to make your event as successful as possible. Because whose House? Our House! (Emphasis in original.)

The online Indivisible “January 3 Day of Action Organizing Toolkit.”

That, by the way, was another chant they serenaded downtown with at least a couple times: “Whose House? Our House!” Just remember, you only have a 2-year lease.

Another key talking point was the Democrats’ H.R. 1 bill, which was slated to be introduced today (along with articles of impeachment, to no one’s surprise, but that’s a different story.) Redistricting was on Jared Schablein’s mind, but as I brought up on social media with him, the Eastern Shore is going to have to share with someone. And if they feel unrepresented, bear in mind that the last Democrat nominee for Congress from our district also came from across the bridge (and he carried Wicomico in the primary.)

But it wasn’t all talk about H.R. 1. Just like the TEA Party got off on other tangents, the Indivisible rally strayed at times, too. As a prime example, there was some lady speaking on gun control. One thing I found interesting in her remarks was the disparity in concealed carry permits between Maryland (20,000) and Pennsylvania (1.3 million) – all in the difference between being a “may” issue state like Maryland and a “shall” issue state like Pennsylvania. She thought it was a good thing, I beg to differ.

I have one more photo to use from the event.

You know, if the TEA Party used preprinted signs it would be called “Astroturf.” So is this really grassroots or just manipulation of a group of malcontents?

They actually hadn’t handed out many of these signs; in fact, there really weren’t that many signs there. Maybe the threat of rain made the participants decide to keep them at home. So it wasn’t a media-friendly event – I believe the only media person I saw there was Don Rush from Delmarva Public Radio (naturally.) He was taping some “man-on-the-street” interviews with various participants and bystanders, and I was taking photos and notes on my phone.

But the signs bring up a final point. Do a Google search on “indivisible astroturf” and you get about 28,400 results – many of them left-leaning sites denying the claim. On the other hand – and yes, this could be from a much longer history – the search “tea party astroturf” gathers 513,000 results. You can easily find claims about billionaires funding the TEA Party in the New York Times but it takes digging into the far more obscure Capital Research Center website to get an idea of where Indivisible gets its funding. Indivisible is the brainchild of Beltway insiders using standard sources of left-wing funding to try and appear to be a “grassroots” movement. This wasn’t nearly as spontaneous as the TEA Party was, and you can see the proof right here.

My pizza was pretty good. But if you were looking for a day of action today in downtown Salisbury, frankly, there wasn’t much to see. Sorry.

A better minor-league town

This definitely goes in a unique “stack of stuff” but to me it’s also a springboard to a relevant point. Plus it’s a dead week between Christmas and New Year’s so it’s not a political week.

If you go back to post number 2 – number one being the “soft opening” URL placeholder – in this long-running saga of my political thoughts and life in general, you will find it’s related to my hometown baseball team. So it is with this post, as Toledo was named the nation’s top minor league town.

The hometown rag had a good time with this, but if you read the piece you’ll see why Toledo was selected. And it’s worth mentioning something the writer of the original assessment said in the Blade story:

“They took a big risk coming back to downtown when they did, and deserve a lot of credit for the excitement in downtown revitalization,” said Birdwell-Branson, who recently moved to Toledo. “Essentially, it came down to this: Toledo is not Toledo without its Mud Hens or its Walleye.”

“Toledo ranked No. 1 among minor league sports towns”, Mark Monroe, Toledo Blade, December 12, 2018.

Just for context’s sake, Toledo, with its metro area of about 600,000 hardy folk, has two major professional sports teams. Most not under a rock have heard of the Mud Hens baseball team, in large part thanks to a guy best known as Max Klinger, the dress-wearing corporal in the TV series M*A*S*H. (Far fewer know him as Jamie Farr and only real trivia buffs – or Toledo natives – know him as Jameel Farrah, but that’s his real name.) While 507,965 made it out this season, it was a down year for attendance: the Mud Hens’ worst since moving to Fifth Third Field in 2002 and despite winning their first IL West title since 2007. (Perhaps eight losing seasons in a row prior to 2018 dampened enthusiasm.)

It could also be that some of their thunder was stolen by the Walleye, as the hockey team set new attendance records in the 2017-18 season and finished second in attendance in the 27-team ECHL, a league analogous to the AA level in baseball. Had their Huntington Center been larger, it’s likely they would have led the league in attendance as the Walleye averaged 102% of capacity. In 2018 the Walleye season didn’t end until early May when they lost in their division finals – they have won their ECHL division in the regular season four straight seasons – so there was an overlap between the two teams that may have cut the Mud Hens’ attendance.

In the minds of ownership, however, it doesn’t matter if the fans flock to Fifth Third Field or the Huntington Center because both are owned by the same entity: Toledo Mud Hens Baseball Club, Inc. (The Walleye are owned by the subsidiary Toledo Arena Sports, Inc. They purchased the former Toledo Storm ECHL hockey franchise in 2007 and put the team on ice, as it were, until the Huntington Center was finished in 2009.) It’s a business entity with an interesting background:

The unusual ownership structure was inaugurated in 1965 when Lucas County formed a nonprofit corporation to buy and manage a team. A volunteer board of directors appointed by the county board of commissioners owns and operates the team, with the county as the ultimate financial benefactor.

“Toledo Mud Hens, Walleye reorganize top management”, Bill Shea, Crain’s Detroit Business, June 15, 2015.

In Toledo, then, Lucas County (Toledo is county seat) owns both the teams and the venues, which are conveniently within blocks of one another in downtown Toledo. Spurred on by government money, the county has also invested in Hensville, a renovation project taking existing adjacent building stock and creating an entertainment center with the ready-made prospect of 7,000 or more fans at an adjacent venue on about 100 nights a year, mainly on weekends in the winter and spring and any night during the summer. (Note this doesn’t count concerts and shows held several nights a year at Huntington.)

Now let’s compare our scenario: the recent (2015) addition of Sussex County, Delaware and Worcester County, Maryland to the existing Salisbury metro area gives it a population of about 390,000, about 2/3 of Toledo’s but spread over a much wider geographic area. This difference, as well as the disparity in levels as the Delmarva Shorebirds are three steps below the Mud Hens, more than likely explains why attendance for the Shorebirds is less than half that of the Mud Hens, barely eclipsing the 200,000 mark in 2018 as an all-time low. Moreover, even if Salisbury had a hockey team, as has been rumored for the past few years, it would probably be at the commensurate level to the Shorebirds, and at least one step below the ECHL.

On that note, the two most likely possibilities for pro hockey in Salisbury are the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL), a 10-team league as currently comprised, and the Federal Hockey League (FHL), which has six teams at present. The SPHL is the more stable of the two, and has better-attended games: league average attendance for the SPHL is 2,870 so far this season compared to a puny 1,409 between the six FHL squads – but only two Federal League teams are solidly in a four-figure average; a third is at 1,010 per game.

Unfortunately, the travel scenario for a Salisbury-based SPHL team would be dicey: the league’s closest franchises are in Roanoke, Virginia and Fayetteville, North Carolina and both are just under six-hour trips; moreover, six of the ten teams lie in the Central Time Zone. The most likely way Salisbury could be added to the SPHL would be in a pairing with another expansion team along the East Coast and a switch to a format with two six-team (or three four-team) divisions. On the other hand, while the FHL is somewhat spread out over a geographic area ranging from upstate New York to North Carolina to Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois, Salisbury is within the footprint and the league only schedules games on weekends, with one team generally playing two consecutive nights against the same opponent. Placing an eighth team in the Midwest would allow the league to have two four-team divisions (and possibly even adding a weeknight game within the four-team blocks, expanding the FHL’s current 56-game schedule. The schedule is similar in the SPHL; by comparison the ECHL plays a 72-game season.)

While the lack of a hockey team is a major stumbling block, the bigger issue is a lack of synergy between the two venues because they are several miles apart. And since a downtown location is out of the question for these facilities, the next best scenario to me would be to eventually replace one of the two facilities and move it adjacent to the other. Of course, having just spent millions of dollars of state and county money to repair both facilities as part of renovations requested in part by the Orioles (for Perdue) and a county study (for the WYCC), that’s not happening anytime soon, either.

So we have to make do with what we have. While it won’t necessarily be pedestrian-friendly, there is available land adjacent to both venues that could be developed into further entertainment options. In all honesty, there are pros and cons to development at both locations: the Hobbs Road site has great highway access and open land with infrastructure in place as it’s already annexed to the city. Would it be out of character with the area to have an urban-style development close by Perdue Stadium? Perhaps, plus there’s also the aspect of certain city leaders who seem to want all the entertainment options to be downtown and not develop the outskirts as a competitor.

On the other hand, redevelopment of the Old Mall site would be a welcome lift to that part of Salisbury but it’s not going to happen without a steady stream of events at the Civic Center, and minor league hockey seems to have the same level of fickleness as independent league baseball.

Every town is different, but I think Salisbury is missing out on some opportunities. I’m truly hoping that renovations in progress at Perdue Stadium bring out some of that entertainment district element and the WYCC gets that hockey team tenant to help fill the venue another 30 or so nights a year. It’s probably the best we can do for the immediate future.

Odds and ends number 90

The first real odd or end is writing this post in WordPress 5.0, which is a completely different interface than the editor I’ve been used to for over thirteen years. It was the upgrade that inspired me to change my theme – although the thought that my old theme may become a “legacy” theme crossed my mind as well.

So again we deal with items that take from two sentences to two paragraphs. But there’s one other neat thing about this new product – being block-based makes it easier to add headings, so maybe this is a good place to begin.

MPPI preparing for new GA session

My friends at the Maryland Public Policy Institute have been busy laying the groundwork for a new session of the General Assembly. 

We know that the new year will bring to Maryland a legislative body that, if you can imagine, will lean even further to the left than previous renditions despite the fact the GOP has a modern record of 15 Senators. (Now they are only losing 32-15! Yeah, there’s a cause for celebration.) And while 99-42 in the House of Delegates isn’t as bad as previous terms where Democrats numbered over 100, it’s not good either – especially when they had 50 last time.

(Although, technically the GOP had just 49 at the very end thanks to the departing Meagan Simonaire going where her political home was anyway. By the same token, though, the Democrats stayed at 91 because another departing Delegate, Shane Robinson, switched to the Green Party. Oddly enough, the MGA site acknowledges Simonaire’s change but not Robinson’s. So the final 2015-18 HoD count was 91 Democrats, 49 Republicans, and 1 Green.)

So imagine my shock when the Kirwan Commission did what commissions often do and recommended more spending. (We should have had an inkling of that from their preliminary report last year, a time when they begged for extra time to finish their plea for massive extra spending.) Noted MPPI’s release on the Kirwan report:

The Daily Record reports that Kirwan Commission member Kalman Hettleman said at the commission’s Thursday meeting, “($4.4 billion) is a very small amount of money for the near-term years to get about the work that needs to be done.”
 
“Four billion in new spending can only be called ‘a very small amount’ by those who make a career out of spending other peoples’ money,” said Christopher B. Summers, president and chief executive officer of the Institute. “Maryland taxpayers should be concerned by the commission’s recommendations. Our in-depth analysis of the commission’s work finds scant evidence that their recommendations will benefit Maryland children and families, while ample evidence shows that historic school spending increase since 2002 has produced disappointing results.”

MPPI Press Release, December 7, 2018. Link added.

The MPPI has been busy lately, adding their thoughts on the Amazon headquarters situation – thoughts that can be described as common sense on keeping and attracting business. Too bad the General Assembly haughtily laughs at these helpful suggestions. 

But wait – there’s more on schools…

It’s a bit of a slog, but thanks to the fine folks at the Capital Research Center I learned another reason why teachers’ unions don’t like school choice. Railing against what’s known as public choice theory, which is described as “ask(ing) questions about government accountability and transparency, the influence of special interests, and the incentives that drive political decision-making,” these teacher’s unions are attempting to smear the legacy of the late Nobel Prize winner James M. Buchanan, who won his Nobel in 1986 on that subject. Public choice theory is popular with libertarians and like-minded conservatives.

On that front writer Christine Ravold not only points out the false charge of racism, but extends the blame for its spread to a union-backed push for colleges to eschew donations from libertarian philanthropists via a group called UnKoch My Campus. That front group lists a number of programs backed by the Charles Koch Institute as ones colleges should divest themselves from, never mind the idea of academic diversity.

Panic in Detroit

While we are talking about the CRC, it should be noted that Michigan-based writer and researcher Ken Braun has been turning a critical eye to a Detroit-originated institution, the Ford Foundation. 

Claiming the Foundation has abandoned the city of its birth, Braun wrote a three-part series for CRC detailing their history of ignoring Detroit as the city decayed over the last half-century.

As you may have guessed over the years, growing up an hour or so south of there and following their sports teams gives me a soft spot for the Motor City and a rooting interest in their success.

More smarts from Bobby Jindal

Another of my favorite conservative thinkers had a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (alas, behind a paywall for those who don’t get the daily) so I will give you his conclusion and my thoughts (for free, which may be all they are worth.)

The left’s effort to shut down free and open debate and banish people with opposing views is a tacit admission that they lack confidence in their own arguments.

Conservatives are often described as underrepresented and under siege on college campuses and in newsrooms. Even as professors and students continue to be disproportionately liberal, conservatives should take comfort that their ideals concerning free markets, the American dream, the traditional family structure and liberal democracy continue to prove themselves on their merits to each rising generation.

“Conservatism Isn’t Dead Yet,” Wall Street Journal op-ed by former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, November 25, 2018.

Why are conservatives underrepresented in those areas? Well, for one thing, the welcome wagon doesn’t seem to be out for them there and people like to go where they are wanted. (Plus the capitalist business world makes them a better living.)

Not to give away a lot on my forthcoming book, but there is a quote from columnist Kira Davis that I use in my epilogue that goes into discussing the fields conservatives should begin focusing on. This isn’t the quote I use in Rise and Fall, but later in the same article Davis adds: 

As it stands now,the people with the power to shut down our voices at places like Google and Facebook are largely millennial liberals who moved directly from the insulation of a progressive college campus to the insulation of a progressive technological campus often housed inside the bubble of a progressive large city.

(…)

It’s a culture, not a grand plot. The only way to change that culture is to flood it with a counter culture.

“Dear Conservative Parents: Stop Raising Politicians and Pundits,” Kira Davis, RedState.com, March 2, 2018.

People need to use a bit of an Alinsky-style tactic against Google, shaming them for their lack of diversity in thought by their witch hunt against online conservatives and their lack of conservative employees in general.

More election postmortems 

I just can’t get enough election analysis. Worth reading is a piece from Charles S. Faddis at AND Magazine written while the votes were still being counted. It make the case that both Democrats and Republicans are being torn apart by forces within their respective parties, leaving a lot of folks on all sides outside a political home and the parties in need of “soul searching.”

And this came from the Constitution Party, which managed to duck under the “blue wave”:


We maintained ballot status in all ten states where we ran candidates. The Constitution Party was the only minor party that did not lose ballot status in the states where we ran candidates for office.

“Constitution Party Bucks National Trend” e-mail, December 3, 2018.

This is in contrast to Maryland, where both the Libertarians and Green Party will have to have ballot access restored before the 2020 elections. While Maryland had a Constitution Party for one term (I believe it was 2006-10) they could not keep their momentum going. However, given the direction of the state Republican Party (or, more specifically, its standardbearer) the time may be ripe for a renewed push for ballot access in 2020.

In Delaware, their ballot access may be as simple as convincing some of the other smaller parties to disband and cast their lot with the Constitution Party. (One example: the American Party, which has a platform relatively in line with that of the Constitution Party, has more registered voters in Delaware but not enough for ballot access, nor is it as well organized nationally.) They could also get disgruntled Republicans who aren’t happy with the state party apparatus that has no statewide elective offices. 

And so, in conclusion…

Now that I have emptied out most of my mailbox, I’m closing in on the end of another edition of odds and ends, done the WordPress 5.0 way. But a heads-up on a couple pieces: One, I’m really interested in the vote proportions of the midterm election here in Maryland given the national oddity of 14 Congressional races all tilting to Democrats after the election night totals were released. The second is a discussion of new tactics from the Indivisible crowd upon the changeover in Congress.

Look for those in coming weeks.

Coattails tucked into his pants

So let’s talk about Larry Hogan, shall we?

I’m going to start way back in 2009. People tend to forget Larry actually had his eye on running for Governor back then and was briefly in the running until he deferred to his old boss and allowed him to get his doors blown off by Martin O’Malley. (Of course, I chose better in that primary, too.)

After the 2010 Ehrlich debacle – an election where the TEA Party wave somehow missed all of Maryland except for the Eastern Shore – you just had to know that Hogan, a vocal critic of Martin O’Malley during his brief time in the race, would figure out some way to stay in the headlines; thus, Change Maryland was born. I thought it was a great idea.

But when Hogan actually completed the fait accompli of getting into the 2014 open seat Governor’s race, I found he was great at articulating what he was against but not so much what he was for. Given a good field to choose from and one where all the contenders (save Hogan) spelled out their agenda, I supported someone else in the Republican primary but we got Larry. Of course, the rest is history.

I’m going to talk about two memories of Hogan from the campaign and how those issues were resolved.

As the O’Malley administration was heading out of town, one last-minute priority of theirs was an attempt to saddle our farmers with new phosphorus management rules that were basically written by the environmentalist wackos of the state. Hours after being sworn in, Hogan beat a deadline and pulled the regs – much to the chagrin of Radical Green.

But barely a month later, Hogan basically put the same thing into effect with a little bit of window dressing. I will grant that it was in the face of a bill with those same regulations in them but it also put the General Assembly on notice that Hogan could be rolled. And boy, was he ever when he reneged on a promise to eliminate the MOM-imposed moratorium on fracking in Maryland and sold the panhandle of the state down the river by endorsing a ban.

Aside from eliminating some tolls and reallocating money that could have been needlessly wasted on a light-rail boondoggle in Baltimore known as the Red Line, it’s really hard to compile a list of quantifiable, significant Hogan accomplishments but easy to find where he capitulated. We still have to pay for the Purple Line (not to mention a huge subsidy for the D.C. Metro), the “rain tax” repeal really wasn’t one, we got stuck with competing versions of paid sick leave (from a supposedly “business-friendly” governor) and on and on. Even at the end of this term, when he was free to use his veto pen because the terms of legislators were ending and there would be no override votes, he still let a lot of bad stuff through.

But I was still planning on holding my nose really, really tight and voting for Hogan, until he sold Tony Campbell out. That was the last straw. So I looked into Shawn Quinn. Lord knows there is a lot of his platform I didn’t agree with, but there is one key philosophy where Quinn and I are in complete agreement: when it comes to education, money should follow the child.

So thanks to all the betrayals and broken promises, Larry Hogan managed to lose my vote and Shawn Quinn received it – a little bit of unexpected help. No doubt Larry doesn’t really care because he won and now he’s a lame duck until he decides to run for something else (U.S. Senate in 2022?) but look at what he lost. He may blame Donald Trump, but I think Hogan’s reliance on Democrat votes bit him in the behind when it came to downballot races like the ballyhooed “Drive for Five” with state senators. Cases in point:

In District 3B, Bill Folden won with 7,522 votes in 2014 but lost with 8,775 votes this time.

In District 9B, Bob Flanagan won with 8,202 votes in 2014 but lost with 8,311 votes this time.

District 29B’s Deb Rey won last time with 5,334 votes but this time had 6,281 and still lost. That one sucked because Deb was always in the running to be one of my monoblogue Accountability Project Legislative All-Stars and achieved that goal twice, 2016 and 2017.

Glen Glass led all of District 34A with 10,779 votes in 2014 and may lose as the third-place finisher with 11.564 this time. He’s 19 votes out of second.

Glass was a Legislative All-Star way back in 2012 but was more comfortably average of late – still, a significant loss. Senate seat loser Gail Bates was also an All-Star as a Delegate in 2011 – I lost a total of three. One piece of great news, though: two-time mAP Legislator of the Year Joseph Boteler is back in the fold as he was one of three winners in District 8 (and the lone Republican, a net loss of one from the three-seat district), squeezing out Cluster.

Meanwhile, Hogan ran ahead of his 2014 pace in every county. Ironically, Anthony Brown would have killed for the 917,484 votes received by Ben Jealous, as that total would have won it for him four years ago – instead Jealous lost by over 300,000 votes.

But if you do a top 6/bottom 6 list of Hogan gains, it’s rather telling about the electorate.

Top 6 gainers:

  1. Prince George’s – up 13.3 percentage points
  2. Baltimore City – up 10.0 percentage points
  3. Kent – up 9.1 percentage points
  4. Talbot – up 8.0 percentage points
  5. Allegany – up 7.9 percentage points
  6. Montgomery – up 7.9 percentage points

Out of all those counties, though, there was not one Republican gain in the General Assembly because among these are the three most dominant Democrat counties in Maryland – only Allegany, Kent, and Talbot had GOP representatives prior to 2018 and all were re-elected.

Bottom 6 gainers:

  1. Cecil – up 0.4 percentage points
  2. Harford – up 0.9 percentage points
  3. Carroll – up 1.4 percentage points
  4. Baltimore – up 2.7 percentage points
  5. Charles – up 2.9 percentage points
  6. Anne Arundel – up 3.0 percentage points

In those six counties, the GOP lost Delegate seats in several districts: 8 (appointee Joe Cluster lost his election bid), 30A (Herb McMillan retired), 34A (Glen Glass lost his re-election), and 42B (Susan Aumann retired). St. Mary’s County (Delegate Deb Rey, District 29B) fell just outside this bottom 6 list and she paid the price, too. Also losing: Frederick County’s Bill Folden (District 3B) and Bob Flanagan from Howard County (District 9B) – epitomes of suburbia.

The GOP did grab Jim Brochin’s old Senate District 42 seat in Baltimore County as Delegate Chris West vacated a District 42B seat to move up, but that was tempered by the loss of the Senate District 9 seat held by Gail Bates, who was defeated in Howard County. That seat also has a small portion of Carroll County, one of my bottom 6. And of course everyone knows that MBC won in District 38, which I will get to in due course.

As more proof that Larry Hogan was the most popular Democrat in the race, let’s compare federal offices from 2014 to 2018:

  • Andy Harris (District 1, Maryland’s only GOP representative) fell from 70.4% of the vote in 2014 to just 60.3% this year. On the other hand:
  • Dutch Ruppersberger (District 2) gained from 61.3% to 65.7%, a 4.4 point increase.
  • John Sarbanes (District 3) gained from 59.5% to 68.6%, a 9.1 point increase.
  • Steny Hoyer (District 5) gained from 64% to 69.9%, a 5.9 point increase.
  • Elijah Cummings (District 7) gained from 69.9% to 76.1%, a 6.2 point increase.

In the apples to oranges category as there was a change in the office between 2014 and 2018:

  • District 4: Donna Edwards had 70.2% four years ago, Anthony Brown (running for re-election) got 77.6%.
  • District 6: John Delaney had 49.7% four years ago, but this time David Trone was elected with 57.6%. Republican Amie Hoeber lost to Delaney with 40.1% in the Presidential year of 2016 (typically high turnout) and only had 39.4% for an open seat this time.
  • District 8: Chris Van Hollen had 60.7% in 2014, Jamie Raskin (running for re-election) got 66.8%.

We always knew a Republican needed Democrat votes to survive statewide in Maryland, but the lack of coattails Larry Hogan had for his titular party was more than ridiculous. Their only two wins were in districts that were already primed for the GOP – District 42 had 2 of 3 GOP Delegates and a moderate Democrat Senator, while District 38 was all Republican aside from the Democrat Jim Mathias, who succeeded a longtime Republican Senator. I’m sure local Democrats are kicking themselves for not challenging Carl Anderton because they may well have won the seat back in this climate.

Indeed, the victory of MBC and the fact our other state legislative incumbents were unopposed or drew token, underfunded opposition was perhaps the only thing local Wicomico County Republicans could cheer about. Out of all the Delegate races locally, the only semi-constant was District 38A’s Charles Otto. While he had more votes this time around, he lost 1 percentage point and fell below 60 percent. Despite the fact his district no longer includes Wicomico, he is often present at local party events.

Looking at District 38, Jim Mathias actually drew more votes than he had in 2014 overall, although it appears he will be right about even in Somerset County. (As of this writing, Jim is 71 votes shy of his 2014 total there.) MBC playing Mathias nearly even (six votes’ difference) there in Somerset was one key, and her domination in Worcester County was the other. Compared to his 2014 race against former Delegate Mike McDermott, Mathias lost 1.6 percentage points in Wicomico, but plummeted 6.3 points in Worcester and 5.8 points in Somerset.

Locally, perhaps the biggest mistake Democrats made was not convincing Jack Heath to run in their primary. For all the angst about his independent bid, you have to call it a failure when Heath outspent his Democrat opponent by a margin of $20,556.63 to $1,266.66. (Bob Culver spent $21,616.99 through the final reporting cycle so financially the race was even between Heath and Culver.) Yet the race wasn’t even close between Culver and Democrat John Hamilton, as Bob won by 19 points with Heath barely breaking into the twenties with 21% – 28 points behind Culver. In other words, Democrats were so determined to elect their own they didn’t inform themselves about qualifications or readiness for office – they just saw the word “Democrat” and filled in the oval. Had he run as a Democrat, Jack could have won (or come much closer) since I suspect he split the Democrat vote.

Yet the GOP has to take some blame locally, too. I’m not sure their candidate recruitment was up to par this time around: two of their primary candidates had scrapes with the law, and while one of them was defeated in the primary the other was unopposed. I know that party preference is to avoid primaries, but I don’t think voters were served well when Julie Brewington didn’t withdraw prior to the primary, allowing the Central Committee to select a candidate with less baggage. She was one I withheld my vote from; instead I wrote in my friend Cathy Keim – who should have been on County Council in 2011 to succeed the late Bob Caldwell because all of us on the Central Committee except the one also running for the job, who recused herself, voted for Cathy. That was a County Council seat needlessly lost, and they were already looking at a tough district race in a heavily D district that, predictably, went for the Democrat. (And a loony-tunes lefty he is, too – grab a hold tight to your wallet and private property rights.) So the previous 6-1 margin for Republicans is now a scant 4-3, with one less-than-trustworthy vote on the R side and a Board of Education lackey there to boot, too. The only two R’s I can trust to generally look out for my interests now are Marc Kilmer and Joe Holloway. (Funny, but things never change.)

Then we had another candidate who refused to knock on doors, and I told him that’s how you win votes. (Ask Carl Anderton or MBC.) Great guy, very qualified for what is essentially an administrative post, but lost by about 2,300 votes (or doors he didn’t knock on.) Now that his opponent is in, good luck winning that office until he retires, just like Mike Lewis or Karen Lemon are lifers where they are at.

And for all that work we did to have an elected school board, I can’t say I’m pleased with the results. Out of seven spots, the two at-large winners were the ones on the teacher union’s “apple ballot” – an automatic vote for their opponents in my book – and we also got a longtime board member when the Republican who was on that ballot could no longer campaign because she took a county job. So right there are three votes for the status quo – or worse. I believe, however, that Gene Malone was the last Republican BoE appointee and, having served with both John Palmer and Ann Suthowski on the Central Committee I think they will be relatively conservative (although Ann may be a squish on the wasteful mandatory pre-K idea.)

The fate of the school board, then, is coming down to District 3. David Goslee, Sr. (who I also know from serving with him on the WCRCC) is literally hanging on by the skin of his teeth – 9 votes separate him and his opponent, who is another mandatory pre-K supporter. I’m putting out the bat-signal to my friend and cohort Cathy Keim – watch that race like a hawk, I don’t want them to “find” another box of provisional votes someplace.

That pretty much covers my ballot. It wasn’t a straight R ticket, since there were a couple Democrats who were unopposed that were worth my vote to retain. (Same for the unopposed Republicans, by the way.) I just wish the person at the top would not have broken the little trust I had in him.

Two more quick thoughts: for all we heard about the “progressive” movement locally, they mainly got spanked at the ballot box. But it could be worse: they could be Republicans in Delaware – who now have literally no statewide offices after the lost the couple they had and saw their deficit in both House and Senate increase by one seat, a casualty list that included both their Minority Whips. Hey, maybe Larry Hogan can move there in time for 2020 and that election.

Odds and ends number 89

Call it the final culling of the election mailbox, and not a moment too soon. Yet again we dispatch with stuff in anything from a few sentences to a few paragraphs.

One effect of the Trump presidency has been a resurgence in manufacturing, which has pleased my old friends at the Alliance for American Manufacturing to no end. “Any job losses – and there have been very few actually documented – as a result of tariffs are being more than offset by the strength of the factory economy,” said AAM’s president Scott Paul in reaction to September’s job numbers. But with even better numbers in October (32,000 new jobs vs. 18,000 in September) Paul was a little more greedy:

It’s good news that factories hired 32,000 new workers in October. If there is any employment impact from tariffs or retaliation, it’s being more than washed away by the overall strength of the manufacturing economy. That said, tariffs alone aren’t going to keep manufacturing strong.

We need to see structural economic reforms in China, a better deal for workers through fairer trade agreements with Mexico, Canada, Japan and the European Union, as well as a renewed effort to crack down on exchange rate misalignment and manipulation.

It’s a start on the 3.4 million jobs claimed to be lost to China by the (left-leaning) Economic Policy Institute in a recent report.

But my question for Scott would be how much effect he believes the dismantling of the regulatory state on Trump’s watch has helped the situation. AAM seems to focus more on the aspect of trade and less on the other areas where we labored at a competitive disadvantage, but that could be a product of its union background. Interestingly enough, a recent survey AAM commissioned was bullish on President Trump and his effect on manufacturing in America – far more than Congressional Republicans or Democrats.

President Trump may have good reason to be bullish himself after what was described by my friend Rick Manning at The Daily Torch as “One of the best job reports imaginable.”

250,000 more jobs created in October alone, in spite of the impacts of two major hurricanes. The unemployment rate rests at 3.7 percent, the lowest rate since 1969, the year Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. More than 4 million jobs created since Donald Trump became President, with more than 1,000 manufacturing jobs created each day during October and nearly 300,000 overall in the Trump time in office. And when it comes to where the rubber meets the road – in the paycheck – America got a raise over the past year which exceeded the inflation rate.  That’s right, a real raise year-over-year for the first time in nine years.

Despite the Left’s insistence that this election is about the accused rapist Brett Kavanaugh, supposedly pro-Trump criminals who mail inert bomb-like devices or savagely butcher defenseless worshipers at a Pittsburgh synagogue, or the overreaction to the forthcoming caravasion, they are all desperate diversionary tactics to take the voters’ minds off of their fattened bank accounts since Trump took office.

And speaking of the caravasion, a little digging by Hayden Ludwig of the Capital Research Center has found one key American sponsor of the effort, the infamous “Puebla Sin Fronteras” (People Without Borders). That group is but a small part of a tangled web Ludwig details in his stateside investigation. On the other end, writer and former CIA operations officer Charles Faddis asserts:

Yet, already what has emerged shows that far from being a campaign for the rights of oppressed peoples (the caravan) is a deliberate, pre-planned effort on the part of socialist enemies of the United States to damage American prestige and to embarrass American allies.

Perhaps this is why the caravasion’s rumored arrival as a late “October surprise” has now been pushed back as the first wave has hit some turbulence.

A much earlier surprise was the arrival and successful ballot access of an unaffiliated candidate in our Maryland U.S. Senate race. Neal Simon continues to be on my radar as we reach the final day of the campaign.

It began in early October when a poll touted by his campaign came out, putting his support at 18 percent. See if you can follow this:

Despite common misconceptions from the press, including The Washington Post, about a lack of support for unaffiliated candidates, 54 percent of voters said they will consider an unaffiliated candidate for U.S. Senate; 56 percent of Democratic respondents also said they would consider an unaffiliated candidate; 30 percent of undecided voters lean to Simon. In comparison, only 4 percent of undecided voters are leaning towards Cardin and only 3 percent are leaning towards voting for Republican candidate Tony Campbell.

I actually asked the campaign for the crosstabs (since it was an unreleased part of the overall Gonzales Poll) and they never responded. I say unreleased because:

Neal Simon’s campaign purchased three rider questions on the Gonzales Maryland Survey conducted from October 1-6, 2018. The campaign purchased the questions because the polling firm had not planned on including the Maryland U.S. Senate race in its poll.

I’m certain they have had internal polling all along as well. The U.S. Senate race is definitely one of the topics I’m going to discuss in my postmortem, in part because of this claim:

Gov. Larry Hogan today announced that he has cast his vote for Maryland’s U.S. Senate seat for unaffiliated candidate Neal Simon.

To be quite honest, that would not surprise me. Maybe it’s a quid pro quo, as Simon earlier said:

I’m happy to announce my endorsement of Gov. Hogan today for another term as Maryland’s governor. From cutting taxes and fees, to investing in education and cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, Gov. Hogan has accomplished a lot for Marylanders. And he’s done it by working across the aisle to find common ground. Instead of sowing divisiveness and conflict for cheap political points, Gov. Hogan has stayed true to his promise to govern from the center. He’s a true model for how to get things done.

Of course, according to the iVoter Guide, Neal Simon is a liberal.

It was a couple years ago that I first mentioned the group, which was asking for prayer:

Pray for unity and peace.  Our country is deeply divided. Christians must truly start loving our neighbors as ourselves so that there can be a spiritual awakening.  Now is not a time to gloat but to turn our hearts continually toward God so we can be examples of His love and work toward reconciliation and unity.  Pray for all nations, as a new stage is being set both nationally and internationally.

A couple weeks ago I found out they had expanded their iVoter Guide to Maryland – alas, this time only for federal races. But it’s a well-documented source to help you through the clutter, especially all the clutter caused by an estimated $5.2 billion in spending this time.

Yes, you read that correctly: five point two billion, with a “b” dollars. (I think half of that was spent on mailings to my house.) From OpenSecrets:

While Republican candidates are raising funds at record levels, the huge uptick in spending is driven primarily by unprecedented Democratic fundraising. Democratic candidates are projected to spend more than $2.5 billion this cycle, while Republicans are expected to spend approximately $2.2 billion.

Democratic House hopefuls have raised more than $951 million, crushing their Republican opponents’ $637 million haul. Things are closer in the Senate – $513 million to $361 million – but Democrats are still ahead.

Gee, do you think they’re a little upset that Hillary couldn’t close the deal?

Last but not least is something from a woman basically forgotten in the 2018 race. Available online election results for the Comptroller’s office over the last 32 years show that only one Republican has ever exceeded 40 percent of the vote: Anne McCarthy was the last woman to run as a Republican nominee back in 2006 and received 40.8% of the vote in the election that elevated Peter Franchot to the job. Twelve years later he faces another woman, but one who has been severely underfunded from the start because Franchot has the advantage of a healthy relationship across the aisle with Governor Hogan.

So when you receive an e-mail appeal from Anjali Phukan saying “Franchot is in the pocket of special interests and here’s proof!” you think to yourself, that’s nice, but perhaps that vein should have been mined back in March. And it’s too bad because this is interesting:

I believe at least 29 entities overcontributed (to Franchot), questioning the validity of over $354,000 in donations. The biggest overcontributor gave about $140,500 (David Trone via RSSI, Total Wine, and other related entities). There was a court case in September 2016 for this matter, but Franchot only returned $62,000. Other overcontributors looked like the entity name was typed slightly different to be perceived as a different person for donating over the limit without triggering reporting system red flags, others looked like a primary entity was using small business(es) owned by a donor, for donating over the limit without triggering reporting system red flags.

I have noticed this on a number of financial reports over the years: a donor name may be typed in slightly differently or the address is incorrect – a case in point: there are campaign finance reports out there which have my address in Ocean Pines for some strange reason, perhaps because someone read a long list of names and addresses incorrectly and put line 62’s name with line 63’s address and never bothered to change it in the system for awhile afterward until it was pointed out. It happens.

But the system is only as good as its reporting because the software appears to keep a running total for each contributor. If a name is spelled differently that resets the system, so let’s say I wanted to be devious and donate $12,000 (twice the legal limit) to a candidate. If I found an old check at an old address and told the treasurer to spell my name “Schwartz” (a common error, trust me) I just might be able to get away with it unless someone audited the account later. And then I could say it was an honest mistake – I just forgot I maxed out to the candidate already. (Either that or I can just set up multiple LLCs, which seems to be a time-honored avoidance technique, too.)

Anyhow, it’s a good point but unfortunately far too little and far too late. Phukan will be hard-pressed to beat 30% today, and it may be a good test to see how loyal Republicans are to their straight ticket. I can tell you that I will not be, but where I depart is for me to know and you to maybe find out at some later time.

Let’s put this election cycle to bed. Pray for the best possible results.

The choice on Tuesday

It’s actually pretty simple in my eyes: jobs not mobs. This is a great illustration in about 1 minute and 24 seconds.

There’s really no better way to illustrate the choice. And look: I may have been part of the Republican party apparatus around here for a decade, but people should know by now that I don’t always subscribe to the theory of “my party, wrong or right.” When they made what was, in my opinion, a choice for Presidential nominee two years ago who was both insufficiently conservative and of questionable character and morality, I decided I couldn’t continue in good conscience.

But don’t forget I wrote this, too:

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

Indeed President Trump has, in several respects, dragged the GOP kicking and screaming into doing some great things such as taking a meat axe to the regulatory state, beginning the process of cutting taxes, and renegotiating the progressively more awful NAFTA trade agreement into something that will hopefully be more America-friendly. Of course, to do this we have had to endure a significant coarseness of dialogue and continuing circus sideshow on Twitter – although the latter is also egged on by a mainstream media that will not give him the same sort of fawning coverage his predecessor (who, by the way, has abandoned the traditional role of an ex-president of gracefully leaving the stage and allowing his successor to govern as he sees fit) received in his eight years.

So now I have some evidence that Donald Trump is at least trying to lead us in the right direction. In many respects he’s like Larry Hogan here in Maryland: neither of them are doctrinaire conservatives, but in the time and place in which they were placed in power they could be just what is needed to make a transition to even better leadership.

And both these men have had a significant obstacle put in their path over their first term: in Trump’s case, not only was the media against him, but so were those Americans who believed that the majority should have ruled – even though it was a plurality in fact and the rules of the game were long-established in that we have a national election that is scored as 50 separate state elections. (In Maine and Nebraska, it’s cut down even further into elections for each Congressional district since each represents one electoral vote. Maryland should adopt the same model.) Because of that, Congressional Republicans were cowed into not being as conservative as they had led their voters to believe they would be – and to prove they had spines of rubber, a large number of them bailed rather than risk losing an election in what was hyped for many months as a “blue wave” for 2018. This unusually high number of retirements has left the GOP majority vulnerable.

In Larry Hogan’s case, the problem was much more simple: the same voters that put him in place as a counter to the previous leadership left too many in office who represented the other Maryland problem: gaining seven Delegates and two Senators was nice, but still left Hogan short of the number needed to really Change Maryland. Moreover, some of those departing Democrats were the ones more likely to support Hogan (in fact, one endorsed him) while those that came in seemed to harden their resistance. They weren’t your father’s Democratic Party, the ones who believed government should provide a hand up – but not be the dictator of all in your life, for to be such would prove them to be Soviet-style communists. (That strain of Democrat lives on in some places, like the Eastern Shore, but not in Annapolis or Washington, D.C.)

So let’s say the conventional wisdom pundits are correct in the case of Congress, and it swings back to a Democrat majority – even if it’s only 218 to 217. (In that case, it’s possible we may not know until December when Georgia and Louisiana complete any necessary runoff elections.) What will be accomplished in the runup to the 2020 Presidential election? Not much, unless you consider continual investigation and grandstanding to promote the eventual Democrat candidate opposing President Trump to be worthy goals. We will continue to live by continuing resolution and omnibus spending pacts that grow government and kick all those cans we should be gathering for recycling down the road instead of solving problems. It won’t make the mobs go away and it won’t satisfy those who are looking for revenge for Hillary’s loss, but it will anger Trump supporters – and that’s a group one could describe as the backbone of America:

On the other hand, even if the Republicans prevail in the House by 218-217 or better, it will keep a lid on unnecessary grandstanding and investigation. Perhaps some of the other needed reforms in immigration, entitlement programs, and regulation will take place – items which have zero chance of succeeding in a Pelosi-controlled House. It also will help to convince those in the middle that the Antifa mobs are representing a fringe element since they could not effect elective change when they had the opportunity, and that their radical ideas such as Medicare for All, abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or scrapping the Electoral College are not issues with which one can win election in most of America outside ivory towers and the Beltway.

The same holds true in Maryland. There’s a reason the Maryland GOP is doing a “drive for five” new State Senators: the prospect of a Hogan veto being upheld would be enough to dissuade the radical Left in Maryland from introducing more of the extreme proposals that they did in his first term, such as the overbearing paid sick leave bill, school “reform” that eliminates the stick of introducing competition to improve school quality, and many other measures Hogan either vetoed and saw overturned or threw up his hands and allowed to become law without his signature. To have that protection in his pocket means Maryland Democrats would have to hew more closely to the “middle temperament” for which Maryland is supposedly famous.

So there is a choice to make tomorrow and I encourage you to prayerfully consider yours. In the meantime, tomorrow I will have the little odds and ends that have made up the runup to Election 2018, and then on Wednesday or Thursday I will probably look back on what transpired and take my guess as to why.

The story on early voting

From its institution (against my better judgment) for the 2010 election, early voting has become more and more of a portion of total turnout here in Maryland.

In 2010, when it was first adopted, only 11.77% of those who actually voted used the option, with 13.07% of Democrats and 10.13% of Republicans partaking, That number increased to 15.75% of voters in 2012 (18.44% of Democrats, 11.98% Republicans), and – once early voting was expanded from six to eight days – to 17.66% of those who voted in 2014, with 19.86% of Democrats and 15.61% of Republicans using the option.

In the last go-round in 2016, however, early voting came into its own: a full 36.02% of Democrat turnout came during early voting, while 24.76% of Republicans who voted used the option. All told, an astounding 31.23% of those who voted did so early.

So it was no shock that Democrats “won” early voting once again: according to the Maryland Board of Elections, 16.72% of eligible voters came out for the eight days of early voting. (19.08% were Democrats, 15.44% were from the GOP.) While this is less than the 22.48% that came out in 2016, bear in mind turnout isn’t nearly as good in a midterm election. The all-important question, though, is what percentage of overall turnout is represented by early voting. In 2014 just under 50% of Republicans waited until Election Day to vote (49.6% to be exact) but only 37.5% of Democrats voted on Election Day.

If the 2014 numbers hold true, though, turnout for Democrats will be over 10% better than the last gubernatorial election, which was for an open seat, as former Governor Martin O’Malley was term-limited, but the GOP will counter much of that increase with a stratospheric 65% turnout of their own. The question, therefore, is whether those extra 10% of Democrats are going to be loyal to Democrat gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous or not – he basically needs them all to be to drive incumbent Larry Hogan’s numbers among Democrats down to the 20% or so he needs in order to defeat Hogan – despite polls that have had Jealous down double-digits all summer.

As evidence of just how early voting may affect the races, I put together a series of charts. The first one is a straight comparison of raw vote totals from the 2016 early voting and the 2018 version, divided by county and by party. It wasn’t worth comparing to 2014 because its totals were blown away just a few days into early voting and the 2016 election provides a better guide for both turnout and proportion of early voters.

D 2016 D 2018 R 2016 R 2018 Un 2016 Un 2018
Allegany 1435 1013 1815 1361 468 263
Anne Arundel 38527 35630 25550 22849 12314 10779
Baltimore City 59562 42176 3054 2055 4983 3129
Baltimore 83525 66160 28522 24597 14654 11071
Calvert 5457 3950 5147 3660 1861 1216
Caroline 1434 1142 1796 1637 465 339
Carroll 6374 5715 10313 8947 2866 2267
Cecil 4058 2996 5062 3738 1707 1105
Charles 17749 11849 5261 3284 2882 1701
Dorchester 1922 1529 1424 1243 355 248
Frederick 14338 11688 10550 8328 5446 3818
Garrett 812 710 2310 1903 309 216
Harford 18221 14926 19496 15994 6647 5025
Howard 35295 28421 12996 10450 10863 8261
Kent 1806 1612 1101 987 461 380
Montgomery 111432 81388 21972 14518 27588 17418
Prince George’s 138257 90120 7974 4933 12681 7551
Queen Anne’s 3648 3103 5546 4710 1517 1188
Saint Mary’s 5120 3907 5829 4388 2065 1406
Somerset 1262 1001 1006 999 253 195
Talbot 3848 3623 4096 3790 1284 1118
Washington 4726 3457 5366 4108 1704 1182
Wicomico 5433 4794 4264 4001 1544 1182
Worcester 2950 2652 3376 3205 1017 870
26.37% 19.48% 19.11% 15.44% 15.76% 10.63%
0.7387 0.808 0.6745

The number at the bottom is a comparison of percentages of voters – Democrats were 26.13% off their 2016 totals, while Republicans were only 19.2% off and all the others were 32.55% off. In no instance did the 2018 total surpass a 2016 total, as can be expected – however, Somerset County Republicans finished just 7 voters short of matching 2016 turnout. That’s most likely good news for incumbent Delegate Charles Otto.

So then I broke it down by county. Rather than do all the counties, I’m just doing top and bottom 6 in terms of how they matched up 2018 vs. 2016. The higher the number (the proportion of turnout in 2018 vs. that of 2016), the more excited the electorate is.

Top 6 Democrat counties Top 6 Republican counties
Talbot 0.9415 Somerset 0.993
Anne Arundel 0.9248 Worcester 0.9493
Worcester 0.899 Wicomico 0.9383
Carroll 0.8966 Talbot 0.9253
Kent 0.8926 Caroline 0.9115
Wicomico 0.8824 Anne Arundel 0.8943
Bottom 6 Democrat counties Bottom 6 Republican counties
Prince George’s 0.6518 Prince George’s 0.6186
Charles 0.6676 Charles 0.6242
Allegany 0.7059 Montgomery 0.6608
Baltimore City 0.7081 Baltimore City 0.6729
Calvert 0.7238 Calvert 0.7111
Montgomery 0.7304 Cecil 0.7384
Statewide average 0.7387 Statewide average 0.808

As you can see, there are some counties where turnout looks to be really, really good and others where it may be so-so – in particular, the Capital Region seems to be taking a beating while the Eastern Shore looked like they were ready from the word go. It’s telling to me, though, that traditionally Republican counties are leading the way for the Democrats while their strongholds lag behind – perhaps it’s the way for the minority to express a message?

But in those same Democratic strongholds Republicans aren’t coming out, either. Could they be believing the re-election of Hogan is a fait accompli  and don’t see the purpose of voting in down-ticket races, or are they simply being traditional Republicans who wait until Election Day?

You may notice some counties have more on the Democrat side and others are looking good for the GOP. I tabulated these differences as well as the decline when it came to independents and unaffiliated voters, which have the steepest dropoff from 2016. The color on the right-hand chart is that of the party which led the county in percentage, as shown in the left-hand chart. So on blue counties it’s the difference between Republicans and the “others” and on red ones it’s Democrats vs. the unaffiliated and minor parties voters.

Intensity difference (R vs. D) Intensity difference (lower of D/R vs. Ind)
Somerset 0.1998 Anne Arundel 0.019
Caroline 0.1151 Somerset 0.0224
Dorchester 0.0774 Prince George’s 0.0231
Baltimore 0.0703 Montgomery 0.0294
Wicomico 0.0559 Charles 0.034
Worcester 0.0503 Baltimore 0.0366
Allegany 0.044 Washington 0.0378
Washington 0.0341 Worcester 0.0435
Kent 0.0039 Howard 0.0436
Harford 0.0012 Baltimore City 0.045
Cecil 0.0002 Talbot 0.0546
Howard -0.0011 Calvert 0.0577
Queen Anne’s -0.0013 Harford 0.0632
Saint Mary’s -0.0103 Statewide average 0.0658
Calvert -0.0127 Queen Anne’s 0.0662
Talbot -0.0162 Caroline 0.0674
Frederick -0.0258 Kent 0.0683
Carroll -0.0291 Saint Mary’s 0.0719
Anne Arundel -0.0305 Carroll 0.0765
Prince George’s -0.0332 Frederick 0.0883
Baltimore City -0.0352 Cecil 0.0897
Charles -0.0434 Dorchester 0.0969
Garrett -0.0506 Wicomico 0.1169
Montgomery -0.0696 Garrett 0.1248
Allegany 0.144

Independent and unaffiliated voters were mixed in turnout: those representing “other” parties (holdovers from the previously-recognized Reform and Constitution parties, for example) led with 12.25% of 32,885 voters, but only 9.06% of the 9,164 Greens and 7.73% of the 21,713 Libertarians made it out. There were 10.66% of the 708,012 voters who list as unaffiliated at early voting, and they make up the bulk of the statistics.

I know it’s a lot of charts, but we can read a couple things into these, anyway.

For one thing, it does not appear that the feared malaise from constant chatter about a “blue wave” worked to dissuade overall GOP turnout. Granted, the Democrats might come fairly close on numbers, but the GOP should maintain its turnout lead they’ve had almost every election in the last 12 years, the lone exception being the Obama wave of 2008. This should enable Larry Hogan to stay in office, but it makes me question whether he will have coattails enough to get Craig Wolf – the GOP candidate for Attorney General – and the five new GOP State Senators he’s seeking into office. (High GOP intensity, though, is a good sign for the District 38 race – especially when two of the three GOP Delegates or primary winners for the post are unchallenged, save for a “sore loser” write-in effort in District 38C by perennial candidate Ed Tinus, a primary loser on the GOP side despite running for other offices as a Democrat.)

The other key point is that Republican voters outside the scope of the state’s two largest media markets (Baltimore and Washington, D.C.) seem to see this election as once again “the most important of their lives” and they are coming out accordingly. They are also reacting to downballot races – note the top three GOP counties (and two of the Democrats’ top six) are embroiled in perhaps the most heated State Senate race in Maryland, as I have frequently documented. On the other hand, lower turnout and enthusiasm in Democrat areas has to be worrisome to the state party, which has essentially abandoned its nominee Ben Jealous and appears to be concentrating on maintaining its hold on a State Senate majority that can override Larry Hogan’s vetoes. Their advantage in their regard is that none of their targeted State Senators are in traditional Democratic areas – in fact, ten of their number received free rides this year so they need only win half of the others plus one to maintain their vetoproof hold. Republicans also have a couple vulnerable seats they have to work hard to keep thanks to unaffiliated challengers and primary upsets.

But the real fun begins Tuesday. Those who voted early may be pleased to know that the forecast is for rain for most of the state, with the potential for severe weather. (Locally we are looking at just warm but cloudy.) Regardless, grab your umbrella and head out to the polls if you haven’t already.

The giant stack of stuff

Last night I took a picture of my dining room table. In this photo – with the exception of the Campbell and Wolf items that I picked up – are all the mailings and dropoffs I’ve had so far this campaign.

Over the last five weeks I have collected a blizzard of stuff. On the left is the pile for Jim Mathias and on the right the stack for GOP candidates. mainly Mary Beth Carozza.

One thing I have found out is that the Maryland Democrats really care about me voting. There are 15 mailings in that left-hand stack, all but one from the Maryland Democratic Senate caucus. Twelve of them have been from the caucus on behalf of Jim Mathias, and they have followed an interesting, perhaps focus-grouped pattern.

Mailings 1 and 2, back in late September, told us how much Mathias fights for the Eastern Shore and even tries to convince readers he’s being helpful to Governor Hogan. But that soon changed: mailings 3 and 4 tried to tell us how Mary Beth Carozza (and frankly, as much as I have to type that all out, I’m going to start calling her MBC) hates education because she voted against certain bills (with good reason, in my opinion.) But number 4 also introduced a main thread that has since permeated most of the remaining mailings: MBC as Washington insider. Mailings 5 and 6 tried to tie MBC to increasing health care costs, then mailings 7 through 10 returned to the Washington insider theme, even invoking the “Swamp.” Numbers 11 and 12 go back to the insider theme, but talk about a Big Pharma-sponsored trip MBC made to Belgium – presumably as a Congressional staffer. (The citation is from a website called Legistorm, which is a subscription-based database covering Congressional staff. Hence, most of its information is behind a paywall.)

So here is the pot calling the kettle black, at least in terms of special interest money. While MBC took travel with a value described as “nearly $7,000” in mailing number 8, a look at Maryland campaign finance records shows that Mathias has easily exceeded that figure from Big Pharma over the last four years – something I noted here. I might add this was before his most recent report that pushed him into five figures.

(As an aside, that most recent report also shows Jim has spent just shy of a jaw-dropping $170,000 on TV in this brief portion of the cycle – a modest $2,500 to Comcast but the real money went in payments of $70,400 and $97,000 to a group called Screen Strategies Media – its client list includes Martin O’Malley and Planned Parenthood. Great company, huh?)

As I mentioned, there were 15 mailings on Jim’s behalf. Two of them came from the Senate Democrats with the intended purpose of boosting turnout – the first urged me to have a voting plan (I already did) and the second listed my “public voting record.” (Which, by the way, is spotless over the last four cycles.) As they warn, “Your voting record will be updated publicly after November, 2018.” Go right ahead and be my guest, folks. But for the average low-information voter that may have an unchecked space or two, nothing like a little intimidation from the “mobs” side of the ledger, eh?

The remaining pro-Mathias mailing came from a group that already “owns” him to the tune of $1,350 this cycle, the Maryland Citizens Health Initiative (MCHI). Regarding the mailing, the MCHI site republished this post from the Maryland Matters website that trumpeted their release and notes:

(MCHI president Vincent) DeMarco said the nonprofit organization spent about $40,000 on the mailings, which were reported as independent expenditures to the Maryland State Board of Elections.

Divided by three endangered Senators, that’s over $13,000 more in help for Mathias. It also puts into perspective how much the Senate Democrats are throwing into this race – figuring $40,000 for every three mailings means they are closing in on a $200,000 investment and given the amount of taxing power at stake that $200,000 is probably chump change in their eyes. All told I wouldn’t be surprised there’s over a half-million dollars spent trying to prop up Jim Mathias and save his Senate seat for the special interests.

Back to DeMarco and the MCHI. In case you were wondering where they stand, these are among the “accomplishments” DeMarco cites:

He played a key role in the enactment of Maryland’s life-saving tobacco tax increase of 2007, alcohol tax increase of 2011, and Firearm Safety Act of 2013, and anti-price gouging law for prescription drug prices of 2017 and is working to guarantee health care for all Marylanders.

It’s not session in Annapolis without seeing DeMarco lobbying for a higher tax on tobacco. Yes, MCHI is all for higher taxes, O’Malley gun restrictions, and more tax money thrown down the rathole of socialized medicine. As for the price-gouging law, it was one of those that was close to making my 2017 mAP but ended up on the cutting room floor. It was watered down to some extent going through the MGA, but if that’s your chosen featured bill you should know both Mathias and MBC favored it – they just chose to reward Jim with more campaign cash.

What MCHI is really after, though, is a bill that would force pharmaceutical companies to justify price increases deemed too steep. It may sound good, but taken from their business standpoint it would place a lot of their trade secrets at risk. MCHI’s justification for a previous version of their bill conceded that, “While the bill does not directly decrease the price of drugs, it is a first step on the path to lower, fair, and justifiable drug pricing.” No, it’s a first step to further clearing the market of small, innovative companies that may need to increase prices to cover development costs. Perhaps that’s why Big Pharma likes Jim so much – they just don’t seem to have the juice for MBC anymore. Maybe she wasn’t useful to them?

It should be noted that the Maryland Republican Party has done the heavy lifting to back MBC, and while they are (rightly) critical of Jim’s tax-and-spend voting record, they are really trying to pin a particular bill sponsorship on him – the infamous “Overdose and Infectious Disease Prevention Supervised Drug Consumption Facility Program” known as Senate Bill 288. Jim must have known it was bad news because he was for it before he was against it. This bill, though, was an extension of a 2016 needle exchange bill (SB97) that Mathias voted for and MBC opposed. Even earlier, Mathias voted for a measure eliminating a “one for one” restriction on a long-standing Baltimore City needle exchange program.

Moreso than the record, though, the MDGOP is using the endorsements of three noted individuals and a photo Mathias probably wishes he never stood for. Then again, Jim’s voting record would make Ben Jealous proud.

The MDGOP keeps touting the Hogan endorsement of MBC, but has more recently sent out letters of recommendation from First District Congressman Andy Harris, who called MBC “an authentic, dependable leader who shares our values and will do what’s best for our community,” and Mathias’s predecessor, former Senator Lowell Stoltzfus from Somerset County. Wrote Stoltzfus in part:

I’ve stayed out of State elections since my retirement in 2011 but I feel obligated to make an exception because of a recent negative mailing by the Senate Democrat Caucus in support of Jim Mathias.

The mailing ridiculed Mary Beth Carozza as a “Washington insider” and labeled her negatively because she has worked for the federal government.

Here’s what they didn’t tell you.

Stoltzfus goes on to relate that MBC was on the job at the Pentagon on 9/11, and conducted herself in such an exemplary manner after American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the building that she received the Secretary of Defense’s Medal for Outstanding Public Service.

Out of the five mailers I’ve received on MBC’s behalf, 2 1/2 were positive toward her and 2 1/2 negative toward Jim Mathias – well, more specifically, his voting record and/or tying him to locally unpopular Democrats like Ben Jealous or Martin O’Malley.

That’s a stark contrast to the Mathias side having 10 out of 12 mailers be negative toward his opponent, with only a few referring to specific votes. They’re obviously hoping voters fail to understand there’s a bit of a difference between being a Congressional staffer and an Executive branch appointee, the latter of which is much of what comprises the Swamp. MBC did a little of both, but more of the time was spent working in Congress and not being a holdover of the previous administration causing headaches for the new boss.

To be so negative at this late juncture most likely means the incumbent (or, to be more candid, his special-interest backers) are worried. They have only one more recourse, and it’s going to be interesting to see if they fire that last bullet in the chamber before it’s all said and done. I know one thing, if nothing else: Annapolis Democrats are all about maintaining power by whatever means necessary, principles be damned. So I won’t be surprised if there’s one more special mailing from the Mike Miller swamp in Annapolis.

2018 Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner in pictures and text

As I have often done, I’ll allow the pictures to tell most of the story – at least until the speeches begin.

On Saturday night, a cautiously optimistic Wicomico County Republican Party welcomed our two federal candidates to its fold for its annual Lincoln Day dinner: our current Congressman Andy Harris and a man who hopes to join him on the Senate side of Congress, Tony Campbell.

But there were some other noteworthy things to relate as well, so I’ll begin with this picture.

There were 15 items in this silent auction, with many of them featuring experiences with various local officials. The take was well into four figures from what I saw.

Portrayed as an irregular detachment of a Maryland company, this band provided a musical backdrop – and a bit of controversy.

Flanked by two members of his Honor Guard, our sixteenth President, as portrayed by Dr. Art North, catches up with Dave Parker in his trademark red blazer and State Sen. Addie Eckardt in her traditional pink, both with back to camera.

It’s also worth pointing out that, besides the silent auction there was an envelope raffle (place $5 or $10 in the envelope and if drawn you win 10 times the amount) and a 50-50 raffle to benefit the co-hosting Salisbury University College Republicans. So a lot of money was changing hands.

In his remarks, Lincoln conceded that “the nation has taken a downhill course” in recent years, as “incivility is the new norm.” Cautioning the gathering not to betray tradition and values, Lincoln stressed the importance of his Cabinet being comprised of the most able men, not yes men.

As part of this narrative I also want to give a shout out to one of our two Volunteers of the Year, a young man who eventually closed out the evening with his benediction.

Nate Sansom was one of two selected as Volunteers of the Year, with the other being Joan Gentile.

Nate Sansom holds a special place with me because he’s the one I recommended to fill my spot when I left the WCRCC in 2016, and not just because to our knowledge he’d be the youngest CC member in state history: it was because I knew he’d be an asset to the committee. (I’d like to think his selection was out of respect to my wishes.) But because he wasn’t one of the top 9 contestants in the Central Committee’s election back in June, his tenure comes to an end when the final results are in next month. One of his legacies: the state GOP now officially favors a system where each Congressional district controls one Presidential electoral vote with only two at-large, similar to Maine and Nebraska but with ten electoral votes at stake, which would make it the largest such state.

Yet somehow I don’t think Nate has reached the limits of his political achievement. Perhaps someday he will be a successor to our main speaker.

I noted in the photo of Lincoln above the overall topic of his remarks, which may have been overly long for neither remaining speaker took a great deal of our time. (Photo credit for the next two pictures goes to Wendy Anspacher, an incoming member of the 2018-22 WCRCC.)

U.S. Senate candidate Tony Campbell was our first main speaker. Photo by Wendy Anspacher.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tony Campbell is, according to conventional wisdom, the latest cannon fodder for a Senate seat that’s been held by Democrats for seven consecutive terms (five for former Sen. Paul Sarbanes and two by Ben Cardin) and is being sought for the second time in a row by a (different) politically unknown but well-funded unaffiliated challenger.

But Tony saw it differently. Telling us that the Democrats were still trying to find themselves, Campbell predicted that Republicans will be elected on November 6 and it will result in “a whole bunch of gnashing of teeth by Maryland Democrats.” As evidence, he noted the increased early voting numbers in strongly Republican counties.

Campbell criticized Democrats by stating, “I would hope our elected officials have ethics,” and, referring to the uproar they caused over Brett Kavanaugh’s SCOTUS nomination, told the group that Christina Ford is simply “collateral damage” to the Democrats. To that end, the human caravan in Mexico “is all about the midterms.” Democrats, he continued, don’t care about people, they care only about power. To counter this, Republicans “just have to be bold,” but we have to make a commitment to principles. “We can win and be conservatives” in Maryland, said Tony.

But hanging over this was the specter of race. “I knew when I got into this I would be called an Oreo,” said Campbell. Noting that the band played Lincoln’s “favorite song” Dixie on his exit, Campbell felt he needed to speak the truth and tell us, while it may be historically accurate (and it is), playing that song sends a bad message to minority voters.

However, it should be pointed out that, aside from the two districts which are majority-minority, Maryland’s Congressional delegation (nine of ten of whom are Democrats) are all white males while the two non-incumbent Democrats (including the guy challenging our next speaker) are also. Compare that to Maryland Republicans having two women (including one woman of color) in the running for Congress as well as “minority” candidates in the two majority-minority districts (both are white) and the black man running for Senate and ask yourself: if diversity is your thing, which party is the more diverse?

Our Congressman Andy Harris wrapped up the night. I don’t think he was pointing at me. Photo by Wendy Anspacher.

While it was important to Andy Harris that we elect Republicans, he had a clear request for us: the next time he runs for re-election he wanted Wicomico County to be a Republican county in terms of voter registration: since they elect Republicans they may as well come home to the party. He added that if Larry Hogan wins re-election and brings in five new Republican state senators, the redistricting map they draw will likely allow for three Republicans in Maryland’s Congressional delegation.

He also had a job in mind for Larry Hogan once he vacates the governor’s chair in 2022: “Larry Hogan can beat Chris Van Hollen any day of the week,” predicted Harris.

Turning to the First District and his opponent, Harris saw him as soft on the Second Amendment, which was a core tenet of this district, Additionally, Andy opined that the state and national Democrats have left the First District Democrats behind in their rush to move in an even more leftward direction. It was beginning to work until the Democrats “overplayed their hand” with the Kavanaugh saga: for example, the Beto O’Rourke vs. Ted Cruz Senate race in Texas was a toss-up before the Kavanaugh confirmation, but now Cruz has opened up a significant lead.

Andy Harris speaks, people listen.

Meanwhile, the caravan in Mexico “is the Democrats’ worst nightmare” because it makes border security an issue and motivates GOP voters. The election will be about border security, Harris confidently continued, and “November 6 will be a great night in Maryland.”

One other race Harris had a keen interest in was the state Attorney General race. “Nothing Brian Frosh did as Attorney General surprises me,” said Andy, who served with Frosh in the State Senate. But under Frosh, Baltimore “is a lawless city.”

In conclusion, Andy urged his fellow Republicans to vote for their party up and down the ballot and encourage others to do the same.

I want to conclude this piece with a non-political photo I thought was pretty cool, if not necessarily in terms of color or composition. Outside on the sidewalk I saw this:

In case you can’t read this, the verse being referred to is 1 Peter 5:7.

Indeed I looked it up, but I like to have a little context in Scripture so let’s add the previous verse to this. 1 Peter 5:6-7:

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care unto him; for he careth for you.

It appears someone at Salisbury University has a serious Bible study going on. Considering I sat amidst several of the College Republicans and this was still on the sidewalk, maybe there’s hope for us yet.