Another Republican enters the 1st District fray

Just as soon as I start a mini-controversy about my view on the NRCC already endorsing Wayne Gilchrest 6 1/2 months prior to the GOP primary, I get word (h/t to Dave Wissing at Hedgehog Report) that a third candidate entered the field earlier this month.

Joe Arminio is the third guy in the race, and I’ve already linked to his website.

The Arnold resident certainly has an interesting set of views to be sure…a 3-way partition of Iraq, slashing immigration, and dropping out of NAFTA and CAFTA are his lead issues at the moment. Joe is the author of one book and is finishing up a second to be published later this year, The Decline And Fall of the American Way.

So Arminio is another face in the crowd seeking the seat. It’ll be interesting to see whether the conservative and/or anti-incumbent vote is split off enough by having two opponents to see Gilchrest get through the primary with just a plurality of the vote. Arminio claims to have raised $60,000 before entering the race, so he has a bit of a bankroll going in too.

If this keeps up, the WCRC is going to have a difficult time finding speaking slots for all of the GOP hopefuls for the First Congressional District seat.

Late edit:

While I’m on the subject of the First District race, Wayne Gilchrest is back trying to act like a deficit hawk:

U.S. Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest voted in favor of legislation last week that would have required an across-the-board spending cut in two key House spending bills.

Gilchrest voted for an amendment on Tuesday by Rep. Marilyn Musgrave that would have cut the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill by .5 percent or, $522 million.

“At a time when our national debt continues to spiral out of control, this seemed like a reasonable cut to help us reign in federal spending,” Gilchrest said.

Unfortunately, the vote failed by a vote of 198-229.

On Thursday, Gilchrest voted for the Musgrave amendment to the appropriations bill funding the Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science and Related Agencies. That also would have implemented an across-the-board .5 percent cut, resulting in savings of $268 million. That vote also failed by a vote of 186 to 235.

“We had an opportunity to trim these proposals by a modest amount, but even that would have resulted in a savings for the taxpayers of $790 million,” Gilchrest said. “We will keep pushing for opportunities to cut spending in Washington rather than raising taxes.”

Gilchrest voted against the Democrat budget proposal earlier this year because of increases in spending and tax increases that were necessary to pay for the additional spending. He has cosponsored legislation to make the President’s tax cuts permanent and has called on his colleagues to cut spending rather than raise taxes to help get the budget back in order.

Somehow I don’t see that as being different than anyone else in the race would have done. Perhaps another candidate would have sponsored the measure or even went farther to curb spending.

Angering the local base?

Got this in my e-mail this morning, from the Gilchrest campaign:

National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Chairman Congressman Tom Cole endorsed the re-election bid of U.S. Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest today, and urged Marylanders to return Gilchrest to Congress in the 2008 election.

“Wayne Gilchrest is an important part of our Congress and our Party, and I am pleased to offer my strong support for his re-election,” said Cole.

“While we may not agree on every issue, the strength of our Party lies in our diversity of opinions, and in the end, Wayne offers an honest and thoughtful perspective in the House.”

The NRCC is the Congressional arm of the Republican National Committee. U.S. Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma is the elected national Chairman.

Gilchrest said there are several issues that the Congress must face, including addressing deficit spending, resisting the urge to raise taxes, pushing through strong border security legislation, passing a comprehensive energy independence policy, and stabilizing Iraq and improving the United States’ standing in world affairs.

Gilchrest recently voted against a proposed $200 million tax increase put forth by Congressional leaders, co-sponsored legislation to strengthen border security and has co-sponsored legislation to make President Bush’s tax cuts permanent.

Gilchrest is currently serving his ninth term in Congress. He lives in Kennedyville with his wife, Barbara, and has three grown children. Prior to his election to Congress he was a public school teacher in Kent County. He is a former United States Marine who was wounded in combat in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and Navy Commendation Medal. He has an associate’s degree from Wesley College in Dover and a bachelor’s degree in history from Delaware State College.

Oddly enough, I guess it was Friday afternoon I got a phone call from this very same organization, looking for contributions. I explained to the lady on the other end that my policy is to donate to individual candidates, and this is the very reason I refuse to donate to such organizations.

The NRCC should be advocating the benefits of restoring a Republican Congress, but not supporting individual candidates at this juncture. Unfortunately, like Lincoln Chafee in 2006 and Arlen Specter in 2004, the RNC puts its weight behind incumbents who seemingly have the “R” behind their name for decoration rather than principle at the expense of candidates who I feel would align more closely to Republican principles.

And they’re doing it again here. So, instead of sending my money to the party I’m going to send it to Andy Harris. Hopefully the Maryland GOP is carefully reading what I say because I got into the group in order to stop their ludicrous pro-incumbent policies unless the voters wish to retain them. Obviously, the First Congressional District jury hasn’t spoken yet and I personally condemn the NRCC for taking sides already.

Gilchrest gets one right

I knew I’d hear from the Harris campaign – their reaction is at the end. Also Marc has added his usual good commentary as well in the “comments” section.

It’s sort of sad that I have to point something like this out when he and I are in the same party, but unfortunately my Congressman, Wayne Gilchrest, has strayed from the GOP orthodoxy so often this term that he’s rapidly earning the moniker “Wrong-Way Wayne.”

But I’m one to give credit where it’s due and give his side of the story where appropriate. The other day I got a press release from the Gilchrest office discussing the Bush tax cuts. Entitled in bold capital letters, “Gilchrest supports making Bush tax cuts permanent”, the press release stated:

As Congress begins to debate the future of President Bush’s tax cuts, Congressman Gilchrest has cosponsored legislation that will make them permanent.

“Those tax cuts have helped stimulate our economy and kept it going strong in the face of some of difficult times,” Gilchrest said. “To repeal them now would be a disaster, and would hurt families across the country.”

Gilchrest this week cosponsored HR 2734, the Tax Increase Prevention Act, which makes the tax cuts the President introduced and Congress passed into law in 2001 and 2003 permanent. Currently they will expire in 2011 if Congress does not act.

“If we don’t make these tax cuts permanent, income tax rates will rise substantially in each tax bracket, and low income-taxpayers will see the 10-percent tax bracket disappear,” Gilchrest said. “Married taxpayers will see the marriage penalty return, and taxpayers with children will lose 50 percent of their child tax credits.”

He has also cosponsored HR 2380, the Death Tax Repeal Permanency Act. That bill would eliminate the estate tax, or so-called “death tax”, which can be crippling to families struggling to keep second and third generation farms and businesses alive.

“I think it’s pretty clear that this tax policy has helped our economy thrive, with steady job creation and strong economic growth. To change course now would be short-sighted and damaging to our economy and to jobs.”

Earlier this year, Gilchrest voted against the Democrat-sponsored budget because it sought to increase taxes by more than $200 billion. Instead, he voted for a Republican alternative that would have made the President’s tax cuts permanent. That alternative budget vote, however, failed.

While very little is “permanent” inside the Beltway (even the Constitution is routinely ignored), the idea behind making the 2001/2003 Bush tax cuts permanent is sound, as it would prevent the chaos bound to occur 3-4 years hence when the present tax rates and categories expire. The only reason I would want to see the Bush tax cuts expire is if the Sixteenth Amendment were somehow repealed and the FairTax put in place. Call me a doubting Thomas, but I don’t see that coming about before the end of 2010.

One thing I was trying to find out in doing a quick bit of research was why these tax cuts weren’t made permanent in the first place. While I didn’t locate a specific reason why, something tells me that the moderates on the GOP side, especially in the Senate, were appeased with this sunsetting measure because there are still a few so-called deficit hawks out there who’ve failed to learn the Reagan-era lesson that tax cuts INCREASE revenue. And it practically goes without saying (but I will anyway) that Democrats are always against people having more money in their pocket unless there’s a federal government program or targeted tax cut putting it there. While those on the left have the mantra about the “Bush tax cuts for the wealthy” they conveniently omit the fact that the top quarter of all taxpayers pay 85% of the freight – thus that group would naturally get some additional benefits in an across-the-board cut.

In getting this press release I wondered, well, what would Wayne’s First District opponents say? For example, I’m sure that since the Andy Harris campaign reads monoblogue they’ll add their two cents, but all I found on the tax issue from the Harris website was the terse statement:

Andy has signed ATR’s No New Tax Pledge. He opposes all new taxes and all increases in taxes.

Andy will fight to lower taxes every change (sic) he gets as a Congressman.

Meanwhile, Democrat opponent Frank Kratovil is silent on the tax issue, but calls for additional “resources” for environmental measures and universal health care – so I’d not paint him as a tax decreaser by any means. The other Democrat in the race, Christopher Robinson, bills himself a “fiscal conservative” and talks about “bring federal spending under strict control” but fails to mention anything about not picking our pockets in the meantime.

In this instance, where Wayne is hoping to use this press release to differentiate himself from the GOP challenger, there’s really no difference. The decision will be made on the GOP side because of a host of other issues – taxation won’t be a deciding factor in the primary race. A correct stance on the tax issue doth not a conservative make.

The Harris campaign’s reaction:


As I read your blog today I was very surprised to see you praising Gilchrest for NOW supporting the president’s tax cuts. A month ago, in an Examiner interview Gilchrest states when asked about whether he supports the president’s tax cuts “I’ve actually supported most of the president’s tax programs. Not all of them. I’m probably up there about 90 percent in support of them.” Why is the congressman changed his mind about supporting Bush’s tax cuts? I think it is because he is seeing support for Andy’s message of Consistent Conservative Leadership resonating with voters.

Andy Harris supports all of the president’s tax cuts and all future presidents tax cuts as well. He has a long record of not only fighting against new taxes and tax increases, but also against wasteful government spending. In the last 3 weeks, Democrats have increased the appropriation requests submitted by the president. When Republicans put in amendments to limit the growth of government and to elminate the extra pork Pelosi has put in the appropriations bills, Congressman Gilchrest voted against the the amendments. He is opposing Republicans attempts to reign in wasteful government spending and siding with the Democrats. Andy in contrast, has voted against 6 of the last 9 state budgets including the last budget under Governor Ehrlich because he believes the growth rate was too big (8% in one year). The contrast between Andy and Gilchrest on fiscal issues could not be more clear.

Andy’s statement on his website is short and simple because that is how it should be in regards to taxes. Andy opposes all new taxes and all tax increases. He signed the ATR “No New Tax” Pledge because he believes government is too big and people are taxed too much. (Note: Gilchrest has also signed the No-New Tax Pledge and has broken it just in the last month with a vote on the appropriations bill for the Department of Energy) When politicians make their positions on taxes complicated, it usually results in you and me paying more in taxes. If you would like more information on Andy’s positions on a wide range of specific taxes, we will be more than happy to get it to you.


Chris Meekins
Political Director
Andy Harris for Congress

Tawes Crab and Clam Bake overview

This was my first round. I made sure to get more of the fried clams, they were great!

About 5,000 people joined me down in Crisfield today to eat crabs, clams, and lots of other good food and drink. This is a pictorial article about my impressions.

Somerset County takes this opportunity to push their county for economic development purposes.

One business entity doing its share of recruiting was the U.S. Army.

One of the most elaborate business tents, this belonged to the Hebron Bank. There were dozens of businesses and groups with tents or parts of tents.

Obviously with this not being as much of a political year as 2006 (my first time there), the business community took most of the slack in getting tent spaces filled up. One person I talked to complained that the event was almost getting to be overrated as a political gathering because of all the corporate presence – he pined for the Schaefer days. But I would think the Crisfield Chamber of Commerce prefers the business showcase and that politics take more of a back seat. Next year’s event will likely be the same way as there’s only two races on the docket and, while candidates will be established in the Congressional race that highlighted this year’s event, the Presidential race will be down to just the presumptive Democrat and GOP nominees. The truly business-oriented event will be 2009’s, since there’s no early primary in 2010.

Both major parties had a tent or portion of one in Crisfield today. The Democrats had the smaller of the two, and sort of a lackluster turnout.

There was a fairly small Democrat tent there. No O'Malley, small tent.

I’m guessing that their turnout was smaller because they didn’t have their big names coming here. Supposedly Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown was about, but I did not see him. I did say hello to two of our local delegates, Norm Conway and Jim Mathias, at the event.

Meanwhile, the GOP had a portion of a much larger tent (appropriate, don’t you think?) with all of the Tri-County represented.

If you hadn't registered to vote, the GOP was happy to help you out!

A view of tables full of Republicans and friends enjoying the day.

Signs wave for Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester County Republicans.

The only Presidential candidate with any sort of item there was Mitt Romney, as somebody brought a bunch of his signs. But I did see a nice lady with a Newt Gingrich button.

Mitt Romney wasn't there in person, but a supporter was.

Loking at the Congressional race, three of the four major-party candidates for the First District Congressional seat were in the house, with the incumbent away but having workers there in his stead.

These two young ladies were helping out the incumbent by distributing his stickers to those willing to sport them.

Beacuse of today’s Congressional session, Wayne Gilchrest wasn’t here. At the start it seemed like he had a lot of kids about passing out his items, but toward the end they seemed to disappear. I think the fans below that the Gilchrest camp distributed disappeared quickly as well.

I didn't see a whole lot of these waving about. Whether it was because of a nice breeze or a lack of supporters is to be determined.

Meanwhile, both challengers on the Democrat side had a small presence, with just a few supporters milling about. Of the two, Chris Robinson seemed to be a little more prepared with his stuff. Here he chats with some of his supporters.

Democrat Congressional candidate Chris Robinson (far right, in white shirt and tie) talks with some of his small legion of helpers at the Tawes Crab and Clam Bake.

Queen Anne’s County State’s Attorney Frank Kratovil is the other Democrat seeking the nod to run against Gilchrest. I actually met the gentleman, he’s a nice guy – just wrong on the war.

Sometimes I wish I was quicker on my feet because I couldn’t define victory when Frank and I discussed the Long War. (That’s why I do this gig.) But here’s how I define it: we achieve victory when the threat from al-Qaeda and other radical Islamic fundamentalist entities is subdued militarily to a point where they are no longer a significant threat to our security and safety here in America. At that point, I expect the restrictions placed temporarily on our civil liberties (such as the PATRIOT Act) to be lifted. If we withdraw from Iraq now, we cannot achieve that objective unless the fight is brought over here because at this point the military fronts are Iraq and Afghanistan.

So this is the guy you’ll likely see at candidate forums, pictured below:

Democrat hopeful Frank Kratovil (left) and a supporter at the Tawes Crab and Clam Bake.

I saved Andrew Harris, the challenger on the GOP side, for last because he had by far the largest group assisting him at the event. Now, it wasn’t rock star standards but the turnout on his part was pretty good.

The only candidate with his own tent. That's what good fundrasing will get you I guess.

There were a LOT of yellow-clad Harris helpers at Tawes, I was impressed.

Andy actually was a bit late in arriving (about 2:00 or so.) Unlike what I recall about Martin O’Malley last year, Harris didn’t arrive with a large entourage. (It was already there?) He just came in the gate like everyone else.

GOP candidate Dr. Andrew Harris (center, in baseball cap) is a little late but none the worse for wear.

You know, here’s another reason I couldn’t run for higher office. I wonder if Harris, Robinson, or Kratovil ever got something to eat? Just occurred to me I never actually saw them take a bite.

And it didn’t take long for those arriving to be exposed to the politics of the day.

Candidate supporters line up along the main entryway.

For the GOP’s part, I did get to chat briefly with Senator Lowell Stoltzfus and Delegate Jeannie Haddaway. Haddaway noted she’d be the speaker at an upcoming WCRC meeting in the fall, and we’ll be glad to hear from her. I also renewed acquaintances with a number of friends on the GOP side, and actually met a reporter I’d spoken to on the phone about the Gilchrest race, Tom LoBianco of the Washington Times. So now I have a face to the name. And he wasn’t the only media person there by any means.

There were two things that surprised me business-wise and one shocker politically.

There's a lot more of these left than I figured there would be.

Attendance must have been off because as I recall they ran out of mugs last time around.

I took both of the pictures above toward the end of the day. I’m wondering if attendance was a bit off because of the heat and threat of rain. We did have a shower pass by to the south but this year it didn’t rain on the event. The weather was actually tolerable. Either they made more items assuming another crowd like last year’s or they didn’t get the count they thought they might. I suppose it’s the loss of those who paid for tickets but didn’t use them.

On the political side, the first new signs I saw sprouted up were in Princess Anne, the same place a large O’Malley sign has sat for a year (since Tawes 2006.) Those were Kratovil signs. The next signs I saw were turning onto Route 413, where Chris Robinson and Wayne Gilchrest signs vied for position all the way to Crisfield. I only saw a handful of Harris signs with the first not being until I hit Marion. That was shocking to me, but then again, a lot of signs were at the tent so maybe the Harris campaign’s idea was to keep their powder dry. I did hear one Harris supporter complain about that strategy though.

So it was a long and filling day for me. I had a pleasant surprise or two as there were some people who I’d not met previously but knew me from monoblogue. That was pretty cool. Overall, I had a good time as I expected to, and I’d like to take an opportunity to thank all those who put it together because they do a great job working while we visitors have the fun. My hat’s off to you.

Kratovil speaks his piece

I guess I’m going to have to start early with a request I made last year during the campaign season for Bill Reddish to let me know who his 7:40 a.m. guests will be on the “AM Salisbury” radio show. I was caught unaware this morning but managed to listen to most of his interview with First Congressional District hopeful Frank Kratovil of Queen Anne’s County.

The overall theme Frank had was that it was a time for a change. Noting that “I think we can have more effective leadership than we have in Washington”, Democratic hopeful Kratovil spoke during the 10 minute interview mostly on the issues of Iraq and immigration.

In his personal view, Frank thought the “decision to go in(to Iraq) was incorrect” and talked about his support of the Iraq Study Group report, which tends to favor diplomacy over military action to root out and eliminate the terrorist problem. (I happen to think the name of the confab was incorrect, it should’ve been “Iraq Surrender Group.”)

Hindsight is quite easy when things aren’t going as well as hoped. I seem to recall the vast majority of Americans (possibly including Mr. Kratovil) were chomping at the bit in late 2001 and 2002 wondering when we’d get even for the attacks of 9/11, and chastising President Bush for attempting diplomacy to resolve the situation. One word I did not hear escaping from Frank’s lips today was “victory.” Like Congressman Gilchrest, Kratovil would be a cheese-eating surrender monkey and vote for withdrawal just as soon as he was sworn in.

On the other hand, I agree with Kratovil’s call to “enforce the (immigration) laws we have”, but I wonder if he would feel that way given the Democrats’ tendency to support amnesty in order to gain the favor (and raw numbers) of Hispanic voters. He did speak about his experiences regarding the illegal immigrant problem affecting his own job as State’s Attorney for the county, but will that translate into votes against the party line? There’s a reason I bring this up.

The other day I received a press release from Andy Harris’s campaign talking about how often Wayne Gilchrest has strayed from the GOP party line. The study, done by the website, noted that Gilchrest voted barely 50% of the time with his party. It so happens that Gilchrest is both the top (or bottom) Republican in Congress by that measure and number one amongst all Congressmen.

On the Democrat side the least loyal House member is Rep. Gene Taylor of Mississippi. However, he still votes the party line 69.2% of the time in this study from 2007. Only four Democrats held under 75% loyalty to the party. Simply put, despite the Democrat challenger’s tough talk on immigration and the “law and order” approach instilled in him by his job, Frank is very likely to be a reliable vote in the liberal “D” column on at least some issues his district would like him to vote for in a conservative manner. Obviously, he’s also going to favor maintaining the ineffective (if not downright disastrous) leadership of Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer in the House as well.

With the support of the Maryland Democrat machine (including Governor O’Malley) behind him, the chances are quite good that Kratovil will face either Wayne Gilchrest or GOP challenger Andy Harris in the general election come November, 2008. It will be an interesting sight to see whether Kratovil runs right and fakes left or vice versa once the campaign begins in earnest next year.

Radio days volume 5

This won’t be too long as a review. As I’ve stated before, the way I approach these things is two friends talking politics with a microphone stuck between us.

But I still like the disclaimer I came up with, “the views and opinions expressed by this politician do not necessarily reflect the views expressed by common sense.” That was pretty much on the fly, I actually wrote that during the break. The other thing I wrote down (didn’t talk about it) was the fact that the state of Maryland is giving Allen Family Foods $1.7 million for 750 new jobs, but the jobs only need pay $7.73 per hour plus benefits. How long is it going to take for that $1.7 million to be paid back in taxes and economic impact? Working full-time at that wage only grosses $16,078.40 (based on 2080 hours per year). I know that amount would qualify for EITC and probably doesn’t make a whole lot back for the state in income taxes – so why the subsidy? I’d love to have someone explain that to me.

Anyway, it was nice to chat about things like the upcoming Crab Feast in Crisfield and our “cheese-eating surrender monkey” Congressman. I’ll have to look for a letter next week as he explains away this vote. (I thought I got an e-mail yesterday that explained it as well, but I’ll be damned if I can find it.) In the meantime, I did get assurance from the Harris campaign that he and his supporters will be down in Crisfield, and Andrew himself will have his own “radio day” Wednesday (the 18th) on the AM Salisbury program. (The usual 7:40 a.m. slot, WICO-AM 1320.)

Speaking of the Harris campaign, they did point out a New York Times article about party unity, part of which noted:

But a “party unity” study for the first half-year of the Democratic-majority 110th Congress shows that there still are a number of House Republicans seeking to strike independent postures — which contrast with the still-strongly conservative demeanor of their overall caucus.

And the analysis shows that these members appear more and more willing to distance themselves from President George W. Bush and other Republican leaders who are suffering from very low public approval ratings.

For example, the leading House Republican dissident over the year’s first six months, Wayne T. Gilchrest of Maryland, voted with most of his fellow Republicans against most House Democrats on just over half of the votes that broke mainly along party lines (the measure used in CQ’s long-running party unity studies).

To be exact, Gilchrest’s party unity score was 52 percent. While the nine-term House incumbent has bucked his party on some issues, particularly those involving environmental protection, for many years, his breaks with the party line have been much more frequent than usual this year. In 2006, his party unity score was 75 percent.

Hey, that sounds like something I saw as well.

Now I got some not-so-nice comments about my performance from another blogger, who wrote, “I wasn’t even around when I got calls this morning from OTHER PEOPLE who said that the Bill Reddish Show was a sleeper at 7:40 AM.” Tell me, who were the other people? I can tell you that I got a call from G.A. Harrison at the show’s break and he left me a message stating I was doing a “great job.” And obviously Bill must think I do all right as a guest, he keeps inviting me back (as well as G.A. for that matter.) It actually works out well for Bill, G.A. does more with the local scene and I focus on state and federal politics. And Bill’s the guy who has to worry about ratings, just like I keep trying to build my readership.

It just goes to show you can’t please everyone, I guess. I thought I did pretty well and I definitely had a good time.

Late edit: Back to Gilchrest…h/t to the newest MBA member, David at Abolition of Man. I found out the Iraq resolution was HR 2956 so you can read it yourself and judge accordingly.

Celebrities in Crisfield?

I’m just going to take a little time and do some idle speculation here. As we all know, in just 7 short months (yes it’s that close) the party-affiliated voters of Maryland will be picking their Presidential candidates. One would think that a good way to meet interested voters and those who are more interested in being political volunteers than most here in Maryland would be to make an appearance down in Crisfield at the Tawes Crab and Clam Bake next Wednesday (the 18th.)

I did a little bit of checking over the last couple days only to find that most of the Presidential candidates only post their schedules a week in advance, so they just have this week’s schedule up. I did see that Mitt Romney is slated to be in Colorado that day and John Edwards begins his “one America” tour or whatever he calls it in West Virginia. But part of that was a pledge not to visit states with early primaries, thus that would freeze out Maryland.

So it’s up in the air at best whether we’ll be blessed with an appearance from any national officeseeker. It’s likely that we won’t but one never knows – after all, since many of the candidates reside in Congress and the Senate they’re not all that far from Crisfield to pop in and check things out. On the Democrat side that covers Biden, Clinton, Dodd, Kucinich, and Obama; for the GOP hopefuls the list goes Brownback, Hunter, McCain, Paul, and Tancredo. Congress is in session next Wednesday though so it’ll most likely be many of Maryland’s lesser lights who attend. Of those candidates who aren’t in Congress, many of them are spending their summers in Iowa and New Hampshire.

However, another intriguing sidelight about Congress being in session is that there might be a free opportunity for the three hopefuls running for Wayne Gilchrest’s seat to meet and greet voters without the incumbent being able to compete. It’s been well-documented both locally and on the regional front that Andy Harris made a deep cut into the cash advantage Congressman Gilchrest enjoys. I’m quite sure Harris will be in Crisfield, and it’s a fairly safe bet that Democrats Frank Kratovil and Chris Robinson will be partaking in Crisfield’s finest seafood that day as well. (By the way, I did get the Harris press release but I saw others had posted it before I would’ve had the chance to. I even got a call from the Harris folks asking me if I got it.)

Another guy who should show up down at Somers Cove is State Senator E.J. Pipkin. No, I don’t think he’s running for anything this time but it gives me a segue to another press release I received from his office concerning state spending. Calling Governor O’Malley’s budgetary sleight-of-hand “fiscal magic at its clumsiest”, State Senator Pipkin also said:

“For the Governor to suggest that $153 million in cuts, of which some will be replaced by federal dollars, some are simply not filling vacant positions, and still more is from the savings of shutting down the House of Corrections, is nothing more than window dressing.”

“I am pleased to see that the Governor is willing to make these types of efficiencies,” said Pipkin. “But there is much more work to do, and not a lot of time to do it.”

“I hope everyone in Annapolis is not going to point to these cuts and say ‘This is the best we can do, now we need to raise your taxes!’” added Pipkin. “As the Governor’s own spokesperson said ‘these are the first cuts, they certainly may not be the last’.”

Governor O’Malley’s meager cuts represent only ½ of 1% of the states total $30 billion budget and only 10% of the looming $1.5 billion deficit.

“Who’s kidding whom?” asked Pipkin. “I have suggested putting a lid on spending increases as an effective way to fix the budget shortfall, and that would save $955 million.”

Sen. Pipkin’s plan is a combination of holding the states spending growth to 2.5% for 2008, reallocation of a portion of the teacher’s pension and retirement back to the Counties where it is incurred, and legalizing video lottery terminals. The plan could net the state as much as $1.9 billion in combined savings and revenue for the 2008 fiscal year.

“This combination of belt-tightening, reallocation of fiscal responsibilities, and realizing revenue from slots, would allow the state to get its fiscal house back in order,” said Pipkin, “and would not dig even deeper into the pockets of the hard working families of Maryland.”

Aside from the tax on the poor (slot machines) Pipkin has some good ideas, probably from the same batch Senator Stoltzfus attempted to get through during the last regular General Assembly session.

(By the way, who’s kidding who about slots? In all honesty, both the Maryland Lottery and the proposed slots act as a tax on the poor. Because no one wants to raise their income tax rates, the state provides the allure of “easy money” which works best on those who may not have a lot to spare, mostly poor, working-class, and elderly. I’ll bet they don’t sell a whole lot of lottery tickets in Ocean Pines.)

The looming special session is another reason for politicians to show up in Crisfield, an opportunity to interact with voters and soft-sell some of the hard decisions that will have to be made. Whether it’s through spending cuts or (much, much more likely) higher taxes and more legal gambling, the structural deficit will be addressed this fall.