Gazing northward at a campaign

July 15, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Delaware politics, Delmarva items, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Gazing northward at a campaign 

With Maryland’s primary in the rear-view mirror and the fields all set, the timing of Delaware’s filing deadline was good for my purposes. By the time they have their September 6 primary, the campaigns will be in full swing in both states.

Unlike Maryland, Delaware doesn’t have a gubernatorial election this year, as Democrat John Carney is in place until 2020. I would expect him to begin his re-election campaign in the early stages of 2019; in the meantime there are three state government offices up for grabs there: Attorney General, State Treasurer, and State Auditor. (The offices are self-explanatory; in Delaware the Treasurer serves the same purpose as Maryland’s Comptroller.)

Since incumbent Delaware AG Matt Denn (a Democrat) is not seeking another term, the race is wide open. Given the perception Delaware is a Democrat-run state, there are four Democrats seeking to succeed Denn while only one Republican is running. On the Democratic side we have:

  • Kathy Jennings of Wilmington, who most recently served as Chief Administrative Officer of New Castle County but has also served as Chief Deputy AG in the past.
  • Chris Johnson of Wilmington, a private-practice attorney who has specialized in fighting voter suppression, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Delaware Center for Justice.
  • Tim Mullaney of Dover, currently the Director of Labor Services for the National Fraternal Order of Police but was Jennings’ predecessor as Chief Administrative Officer of New Castle County.
  • LaKresha Roberts of Wilmington, the current Chief Deputy AG under Denn.

On the Republican side, the lone aspirant is Peggy Marshall Thomas of Harbeson, who has served as the Sussex County prosecutor. She bills herself as the first Delaware woman to serve 30 years as a prosecutor. My guess is that she will face either Jennings or Roberts in the general election.

In the case of the state Treasurer, the field for November is already set as just one candidate from three of the on-ballot parties is represented:

  • David Chandler of Newark, the Green Party candidate for Treasurer in 2014 and a State Senate seat in 2016.
  • Colleen Davis of Dagsboro, who is self-employed “as a consultant to major health-care systems” and running as the Democrat.
  • Ken Simpler of Newark, the incumbent Republican first elected in 2014. Prior to that, he was CFO for Seaboard Hotels.

Longtime State Auditor Tom Wagner (a Republican) opted not to seek another term for health reasons, opening the way for a new face in the office. The Democrats have three interested in the position:

  • Kathleen Davies of Dover, who has spent six years as the Chief Administrative Auditor.
  • Kathy McGuiness of Rehoboth Beach, a longtime Town Commissioner who most recently ran for Lieutenant Governor in 2016.
  • Dennis Williams of Wilmington, who served in the Delaware House for six years before losing a primary in 2014.

Trying to succeed his fellow Republican is James Spadola, a former Army Reservist who served in Iraq and has spent time in the finance industry and as a police officer. I’m thinking the race is between Davies and Williams.

But while these are all important elections, my focus this cycle is on the two federal races. For whatever reason, races in Delaware don’t seem to attract the cranks and perennial candidates that we have in Maryland – with one big exception I’ll get to in a moment.

In 2016, Democrat Lisa Blunt Rochester from Wilmington became the first woman of color to represent Delaware in Congress. As such, she has gotten a free ride through her primary and will face one of two Republicans in the November election:

  • Lee Murphy of Wilmington, a retired railroad worker who moonlights as an actor. He’s previously run unsuccessfully for New Castle County Council and twice for State Senate.
  • Scott Walker of Milford – no, not the governor, but a previous candidate for Congress (2016) who ran that time as a Democrat and finished fifth in a six-person primary.

Most likely it will be a matchup of Murphy vs. Rochester, with the incumbent being a heavy favorite.

The other race pits incumbent Senator Tom Carper against a fellow Democrat in the primary. Carper, yet another Wilmington resident, has been a fixture in Delaware politics, serving as Senator since 2001 after an eight-year run as Governor that began when he arranged to swap positions with then-Governor Mike Castle in 1992. (Castle served in the House from 1993-2011, succeeding the five-term incumbent Carper.) Before all that, he was State Treasurer from 1977-83 – add it all up and Carper has spent the last 41 years in political office.

His opponent hails from Dover, and she is a Bernie Sanders acolyte. Kerri Evelyn Harris describes herself as “a veteran, advocate, and community organizer” who is opposing Carper from the far left. It will be a definite study in contrasts, with the 38-year-old woman of color and mother of two who professes to be a lesbian in her first race facing the 71-year-old political veteran. It will most likely be a successful primary for Carper, who will probably play rope-a-dope with his opponent by denying her the opportunities for face-to-face debates and other methods of low-cost publicity.

That may not be allowed for the general election, where there will be three opposing Carper. On his left may be a repeat of the Harris candidacy with Green Party candidate Demetri Theodoropoulos of Newark holding their banner, while the Libertarian Party runs Nadine Frost, who previously ran for a City Council seat in Wilmington two years ago. (Aside from changing the title, her campaign Facebook page appears to be in that mode.)

While the two main opponents may not be as far apart on the issues on the GOP side, they are geographic opposites in the state. And the quixotic entry of a third person (who is an extreme geographic opposite) may make some impact in the race. That person is Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente, who hails from San Diego but is on the ballot for Senate in Delaware…as well as Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota, Vermont, Washington, and Wyoming. (He’s already lost in California.) Delaware will be his last chance as the remaining states all have their primaries in August.

De La Fuente, who ran as a (mainly write-in) Presidential candidate in 2016 representing both the Reform Party and his American Delta Party – after trying for the Senate seat from Florida as a Democrat (to oppose Marco Rubio) – is undergoing this campaign to point out the difficulties of being an independent candidate. He’s taking advantage of loose state laws that don’t extend the definition of eligibility for a Senate seat beyond the Constitutional ones of being over 30 and an “inhabitant” of the state at the time of election – in theory he could move to Delaware on November 1 and be just fine.

So the question is whether the 1 to 3 percent De La Fuente draws (based on getting 2% in California’s recent primary) will come from the totals of Rob Arlett or Gene Truono.

Truono is a first-time candidate who was born and raised in Wilmington and spent most of his life in the financial services industry, most recently as Chief Compliance Officer for PayPal. While he’s lived most of his life in Delaware, he’s also spent time in Washington, D.C. in the PayPal job as well as New York City with JP Morgan Chase and American Express.

From the extreme southern end of Delaware near Fenwick Island, Arlett owns a real estate company, is an ordained Christian officiant and onetime Naval reservist, and has represented his district on Sussex County Council since 2014. But there are two things Arlett is more well-known for: he spearheaded the drive to make Sussex County a right-to-work county and, while he’s never undertaken a statewide campaign for himself he was the state chair of Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign.

Since it’s highly unlikely De La Fuente will emerge from the primary, the question becomes which of these two conservatives (if either became Senator, it’s likely their actions will fall under the Reagan 80% rule for the other) will prevail. Obviously Truono has the bigger voter base in New Castle County, but he’s laboring as a basic unknown whereas Arlett may have more familiarity with voters around the state as the Trump campaign chair. But would that repel moderate Republicans?

Of the statewide races in Delaware, I think the Senate one is the most likely to not be a snoozer. I’ll be an interested observer, that’s for sure.

The first piece of advice

July 3, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Culture and Politics, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on The first piece of advice 

If you haven’t figured this out in the 12 years, 7 months, and a bit of change since I began this here website, I have an agenda I want to share with you, and sometimes that intrudes onto other parts of my life. I also have gained in my 53-plus years on this planet a little bit of institutional memory and sometimes that dictates my actions.

One case in point occurred a few weeks back and it was because I knew several things would be true and coincide with things I was already planning to do anyway.

  • First of all (and again, in case you didn’t notice over the last 13 seasons) I am a regular devotee of Delmarva Shorebirds games. One season (before I met my wife) I think I made it to about 60 home games out of 70 scheduled. Since I’ve been married I’ve toned it down somewhat, but I will be somewhere in the high 20s this year I believe. Anyway, my favorite days to attend are Sundays and Thursdays, so I got my half-season package in order for me to attend most of those games. Thus, I knew I would be there for the game on Sunday, June 10.
  • Secondly, I had found out a few weeks earlier that Larry Hogan would be in attendance for a game against the Hagerstown Suns, with the reason being that of inaugurating an annual competition between the two called the Governor’s Cup. It turns out we are the only two pro teams in a major sport that are Maryland-based and play each other annually in the regular season in the same league. The date: June 10.
  • Now this is something I didn’t plan for many years ago when I secured the seat, but it so happens that most of those who participate in on-field ceremonies walk up the aisle right by me. So I have had the pleasure of meeting many of those who sing the National Anthem, throw out the first pitch, and so on.
  • Knowing all that, I decided it was time to do a little promotion for a cause I held dear, and create a message at the same time. And thank goodness I lent my cell phone out because the “official” photo from the staff photographer was nowhere near this good.

The big guy on the left is big because he runs a state. The big guy on the right is at least losing a few pounds.

So what message do I want to impart to the reader? First of all, if you’re looking for a good Christian school in the Salisbury area you should consider Faith Baptist School, which is the educational ministry of my church.

But it also gives me an “in” to talk about an issue that I think needs to be brought into the gubernatorial race. Why do you think I picked that shirt?

Back in April, the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) endorsed the primary campaign of eventual Democrat nominee Ben Jealous. Echoing the teacher’s union, Jealous has this as a priority for his campaign:

Before Governor Hogan took office, Maryland’s public schools were ranked first in the country for five years running. Now, under his leadership, we’ve slipped to sixth. As governor, I will reverse this trend by making sure we raise teacher pay by 29%, fund full-day universal Pre-K by legalizing and taxing marijuana for adult use, and force Annapolis to finally keep its promise to use all of the casino and lottery revenue to increase education spending, not replace money they’ve shifted to other priorities.

In addition, Ben has this plan in mind: “Jealous proposes implementing recommendations from the Kirwan Commission and expanding vocational training in Maryland’s high schools so that every child graduates career and college ready.”

While I don’t mind some additional love to vocational education, here’s the rub: his agenda won’t significantly increase our ranking, which is based on a number of factors as defined by Education Week. That publication, in turn, has its own sponsors and trustees who cheerlead for public education. But Maryland being in sixth place is really as meaningless as Maryland in first place if Johnny can’t read and Suzie can’t do simple math or point out Maryland on a map.

So let’s first talk about the Kirwan Commission: if there ever was a group who was ready and willing to raid the pockets of taxpayers, this would be it. This one was doomed from the word go just based on who appointed people to it. (The sad thing was that not one Delegate or Senator objected to its creation.)

And it’s interesting to me that, when you look at the numbers, the Jealous plan can’t even support the teacher raises, let alone the rest of the wish list:

The first four years can be paid for with the phase-in of the Fix the Fund Act that ensures $125 million in FY2020, $250 million in FY2021, $375 million in FY2022, and $500 million in FY2023 will be added to school funding through casino gaming revenues. The fifth year can be covered by $500 million from the Fix the Fund Act and revenue generated by requiring combined reporting for Maryland taxable income. (Emphasis mine.)

Welcome to tax increase number 1, slamming multistate employers who do business in Maryland. (I’m not even counting the pot tax because that’s simply a new tax that’s going to hit the poor hardest – just like the casino tax will, come to think of it. How many rich people go to casinos?)

And the funny thing is: we spend more on education than ever before – just not as much as the teacher’s union wants. (Aside to teachers out there: do you really want sin taxes to fund your schools – more importantly, do you really want your dues supporting this agenda? Now you can take advantage of Janus rights and I encourage it.)

But I don’t want to get into the weeds of taxes because it goes without saying a Democrat will raise them: it’s what they do.

I believe there is a solution that obviates the need for tax increases and produces better results for all Maryland children and parents: school choice. (Or as I like to call it, money follows the child.) Democrats HATE this issue because it’s broadly supported by one of their key constituency groups (inner-city minority voters) yet feared and despised by one of their main financial contributors (unions in general, teachers’ unions in particular.) And who’s winning? Follow the money.

If Larry Hogan wants to drive a wedge into a core constituency of his opponent and peel off a few voters in Baltimore City, he could travel into some downtrodden neighborhood to find a rare success of a school, then make the following statement:

My opponent wants you to gamble more and smoke marijuana just to raise the money to plug into the schools you know aren’t doing the job. I believe we can do better by giving you the power to send your children to whichever school will take them – public, charter, private, it does not matter. If you wanted to send your child to this school (points back at said successful school) we could give you the opportunity. You can decide which option is best for your child.

So let’s talk about private school – in my case, Faith Baptist School.

Right off the top of my head I don’t have the number for tuition for next year but it’s certainly nowhere near the $12,249 a year the local, state, and federal government spends per pupil for our public schools. I’ll bet it’s not more than half of that, but let’s say the state adopts such a program.

First of all, this could allow FBS to increase tuition and better compensate their teachers and staff. Just picking a number, we’ll say tuition and fees come in at $8,000 a year, which would certainly be enough to provide raises and hire more teachers for the need – perhaps from the ranks of former public school teachers fed up with the eradication of God from the public school classroom. (FBS has one such refugee on staff.)

But Michael, you say, that wouldn’t be a benefit to us because you are encouraging these non-market forces to artificially raise the school’s tuition. Again, please read the Jealous plan and his goal to raise teacher (and staff) salaries significantly, and ask yourself: which teachers would you rather reward? And it’s not like I didn’t think about this aspect.

The kicker would be that, for parents who choose to send their child to a school that costs less than the state-allotted sum for the county (the $12,249 a year) the program would allow a portion of the savings to be passed on to the parents. Now I’m not saying they stroke a check directly to the parents, but instead a share of the savings (perhaps 20%) would be given to an account for the child created within the existing 529 program the state has to encourage college savings. They could maintain the same stipulations on use that already exist.

So here are the benefits:

  • Parents are free to send their child to any school which would accept them. This is key because it makes parents accountable for a child’s behavior – perhaps they will encourage good, respectful behavior from the children so as not to be expelled from a school that promotes good teaching.
  • Those parents would accrue money toward their child’s higher education – using my difference of $4,249 as an example, a 20% credit to their 529 plan would be almost $850, simply for shopping for a good deal and having a child accepted.
  • It would also create an incentive for public schools to both cut their costs (to help negate the advantage private schools have on cost) and improve themselves to be more attractive because, remember, having the child in the public school does not add to the college fund. But not all private schools have vocational programs, extracurricular activities, or athletics at a high level. For example, the large public schools locally are able to have robotics clubs that competes regionally and nationally whereas a small school like FBS just can’t.

And don’t think I forgot homeschoolers, who in theory cost the state nothing. They could be eligible for a small stipend from the state – perhaps $1,000 for an academic year and the 529 benefits the other parents get based on the larger savings – it would be over $2,000 a year added to that account.

And because these 529 funds are generally only allowed to be used at Maryland schools, it would create a boost to enrollment for those institutions as well as incentive to broaden their offerings.

The big loser in all this: a moribund public school system that’s been resistant to grassroots change and local control. They would remain as the backstop provider of education as they always have been. Yes, they will have the problem children but remember these children are problems because they weren’t brought up to behave properly and in a manner conducive for learning for those around them. Yet there could be a private school created to give these children the support they need, whether it’s just encouragement for slow learners or tough love for those who refuse to behave.

So this is some free advice I can give to a governor who has let me down in myriad ways since taking office: ignore the naysayers who tell you school choice is a bad thing. I’m not going to tell you the writer makes all invalid points, but I believe the bad seeds would be weeded out in short order because the public schools would be the first to tattle. After all, school choice is a winning issue because people get it.

Those who fret about school choice bringing on “the destruction of public schools” obviously sell themselves short. Sometimes we all need a kick in the behind to motivate us and two things are clear: the status quo isn’t working and simply throwing money at it isn’t changing that fact.

Given this will appear just before Independence Day, maybe it’s time to free those parents that care from the shackles of poor-performing public schools.

What a party should be looking for

June 20, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on What a party should be looking for 

The other day I ran across a social media post from a friend of mine remarking how it was strange to see her name on the election ballot. Conversely. for the first time in 12 years, my name isn’t on a gubernatorial primary ballot in Wicomico County – so I retire with a record of 4-2. Granted, three of the four wins were situations where I could not lose, but a W is a W. (I won twice in three tries in Ohio, too.)

Anyway, since there are several former colleagues of mine who are running this time around, I didn’t want to make endorsements so much as give you an idea of what I think a good Central Committee member would be like.

In Maryland, Central Committee members for the GOP run on either a county level at-large or as part of a district within a county. In those instances where aspirants run for an entire county, there are normally seven to nine seats available and the race basically comes down to having enough name recognition to place in the top portion. For a district, it’s harder because there is generally just one seat to be had – so those seeking the seats often need to spend money or go knock on doors, or both.

One drawback in either case is being forced to compete with someone who’s already in elected office. For example, here in Wicomico County we have County Councilman Larry Dodd running both for County Council and the Central Committee. Obviously there’s no regulation against it (several elected officials around the state also sit on their county’s Central Committee) but one has to wonder whether they are doing it to boost their party or simply enhance their chances at re-election.

So we eliminate the self-servers. What that leaves is a collection of some people who know the ropes and a number of prospective newcomers. Using the slate I face as an example, 5 of the 13 on the ballot are already on the Central Committee, with four elected in 2014 and one appointee who happened to be my replacement when I left. One of the four remaining is running for a fourth term (coming in the same time I did), two are running for a third, and one is seeking re-election for the first time.

Obviously I know these people well because I worked with most of them, so that clouds my judgement a little bit. But if you’re on the outside, the operative question to ask is whether the party you’re a member of is better off than when they started. For instance, one longtime goal of our Central Committee was to get an elected school board – it took 12 years and removing a number of elected officials who were standing in the way, but this year we finally get a choice. (Well, some of us do: my district happens to have just one person running. But there are options for the at-large seats.)

As far as elected officials go, over the last twelve years my county has gone from having a 4-3 Democrat majority on a County Council that handled both legislative and executive duties to a 6-1 GOP majority with a Democrat county executive that became a Republican in 2014. Republicans gained the Sheriff and State’s Attorney positions but lost a spot on the Orphan’s Court. The local GOP also lost one State Senate seat but picked up one Delegate seat at the same time. (In theory, the GOP lost a seat but that was because one Delegate was redistricted out of the county.) In 12 years, though, the Republicans have gone from trailing Democrats in registration by 4,145 at the end of 2006 (a D+8 county) to trailing by 3,703 as of April (a D+6 county.)

The gains have been incremental: the Sheriff came in with the 2006 election (along with one County Council seat), the State’s Attorney in 2010 (with 2 more Council seats), and County Executive in 2014. In 2010 we gained one GOP Delegate but that was because the Democrat moved up to Senator, replacing a Republican stalwart. So there’s been a pretty good record of success for the Central Committee incumbents in my county, but your mileage may vary. (It was also a very stable group: for one term – 2010 to 2014 – we had no turnover at all. The nine elected in 2010 all served their full term, although some did not wish to return.)

The final qualification, though, is pretty subjective and requires some thought on your part.

There are some people out there who believe in their party, wrong or right. They’re the ones who complained about everything Barack Obama and Bill Clinton did but defend Donald Trump and the legacy of George W. Bush simply based on the letter behind their name. In honor of onetime Maryland GOP Chair Audrey Scott, I call them the “party over everything” group.

Eight years ago when I was first standing for re-election down here I wrote a post called “Party uber alles?” In it, I said this:

Yes, I’m proud to be a Republican but the “R” next to the name doesn’t guarantee a vote when I think they fall short on principles. That’s why I am unabashedly a (2010 GOP gubernatorial challenger Brian) Murphy supporter – on the other hand, Wayne Gilchrest was one of those types who wasn’t what I considered a good Republican to be.

(…)

It’s what makes your local Central Committee elections almost as important as choosing the best Republican candidates to follow the party’s conservative, limited-government philosophy through to a seat in the General Assembly.

It’s no secret I am to the right of the GOP’s center – I’m only half-joking when I say I’m “barely left of militia.” I left my Central Committee when my party left me and supported Donald Trump, who I considered to be too far left. (As a President, he’s often been a pleasant surprise in his manner of governing but isn’t the Reaganesque leader I was seeking.)

On most local Republican Party websites they will have a list of principles, often called “Why I Am A Republican.” The problem is that party leaders and elected officials too often talk a good game, but fail when it comes to principle. Above all, a good Central Committee member has to have principles more or less in line with their party’s – but a great Central Committee member has principles in line with the Constitution and its original intent.

So next Tuesday I’m going to fill out my ballot with some of those running, although I’m not going to vote for the full nine. (Not that I ever have: no disrespect to my erstwhile colleagues, but I always bullet voted just for myself. I didn’t care so much about who I served with so long as I served.) But as long as you’re not on the ballot, feel free to vote for the candidates you believe will fulfill the Constitutional principles that made our nation great. That’s how I’m going to do it.

Help for the next Senator

Maryland has not had a Republican United States Senator since the final of three terms of Charles “Mac” Mathias came to a close in 1987. He was succeeded by Barbara Mikulski, who held office for thirty long years before finally retiring before the 2016 election won by Chris Van Hollen. Mathias, who previously represented portions of western Maryland in both the House of Delegates and Congress before taking his success statewide in the 1968 election, was known for being a staunch member of the now practically-defunct liberal wing of the GOP.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Class 1 seat that’s now occupied by Ben Cardin, who succeeded another thirty-year veteran in Paul Sarbanes back in 2006. With his Senate election, Sarbanes had ended something one would think to be impossible in Maryland – a Republican monopoly on U.S. Senate seats thanks to the single term of John Glenn Beall, who parlayed his spectacular failure at re-election (losing to Sarbanes by 18 points in, admittedly, a bad post-Watergate election cycle for the GOP in 1976) into an even worse 40-point plus shellacking at the hands of Harry Hughes in the 1978 gubernatorial race.

However, since that fateful 1976 election Maryland Republicans who have gone up against Mikulski, Sarbanes, and Cardin have mostly pined to be as close as 18 points in a Senatorial election. (They were even swamped in the open seat election in 2016.) In all but one instance, the Democrats have come away with victories in the 20- to 40-point range. The one exception? Ben Cardin’s 10-point win over Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele for the open seat in 2006 – another bad year for the GOP.

I believe it’s in that Mathias vein that Christina Grigorian entered the 2018 Republican Senate race as a first-time statewide candidate. And I say that because of statements like this from her social media:

In my opinion, women are not voting in greater numbers now than they used to – rather, they are giving a great deal more thought to the candidate who deserves their vote. Women want SAFE SCHOOLS AND NEIGHBORHOODS, GOOD JOBS for themselves and their family members, and HEALTHCARE for all those entrusted to their care, from their newborn child to their elderly parent. In Maryland, we have the opportunity to make sure this voice is heard in the 2018 election – given that our ENTIRE FEDERAL DELEGATION is male (8 male Congressmen and 2 male senators), it is time for the 52% of us in Maryland who are WOMEN to VOTE GRIGORIAN on June 26 and then again on November 6!

Setting aside both the Caps Lock and the fact that the last GOP nominee for Senator was a woman, and there were a number of female candidates who ran for Congress in the last cycle representing all four on-ballot parties here in the state of Maryland, I wonder why she so often chooses to play the gender card. Obviously I’ve voted for women in the past and surely I will do so again if the right ones come along. But I don’t think she’s the right one.

This is particularly true in the light of how Tony Campbell is running his campaign. I have not heard Tony say that someone needs to vote for him because he’s a minority candidate – granted, this could be a function of more than one being in the race, but he’s not come across as the affirmative action candidate.

Rather, in the last few days I’ve noticed Tony has received a couple important ratings and endorsements that check off important boxes with me.

First, I got wind of his AQ rating from the NRA’s Political Victory Fund, which is basically the best rating a non-elected candidate can get. The Second Amendment is a hot-button issue right now, and Tony added that he “believes our 2nd Amendment liberty protects all of the other rights, our families and our property.” On the other hand, his opponent Grigorian seems to have the more tepid support, saying “I support the US Supreme Court’s decision in the Heller opinion which ensured that the 2nd amendment’s right to bear arms extends to individuals.”

(You’ll notice I only talk at length about two of the many Senate candidates in this piece, but there are reasons for this I outlined here.)

Then today I read that Tony was also endorsed by Maryland Right to Life, which is a good omen for turnout. While it’s most likely that MRTL will endorse a Republican candidate in a particular race, with this many hopefuls a pro-life endorsement is a good one to get.

On the flip side, Campbell has touted his winning the Red Maryland poll for several months in a row. Now I caution readers to take their results with a grain of salt because it’s not a scientific poll, nor is Red Maryland much use for the more moderate Republicans who would likely be attracted by Grigorian. Just as unscientific, but important to make a point, is the social media presence of each candidate – oddly enough, the largest in raw numbers comes from the otherwise obscure GOP hopeful Nnamu Eze, who ran for Congress as a member of the Green Party in 2016. He has over 1,300 Twitter followers but has followed over 3,000 others to get them. (Eze has no Facebook page.) Another longshot candidate, Bill Krehnbrink, who also ran as a primary candidate decades ago in another GOP bloodbath, has 223 Twitter followers without a campaign Facebook page, while Chris Chaffee is at 120 Twitter followers with no other campaign social media. The Twitter-only social media campaign of Albert Howard stands at 11 followers.

Only four candidates have active campaign Facebook pages, with Evan Cronhardt holding 158 followers (plus 10 on Twitter), Grigorian 606 followers (all but 12 on Facebook), John Graziani 673 Facebook followers (his page has been active for well over a year), and Campbell a total of 756, with 85 on Twitter.

It may seem like a small drop in the bucket, and it is: Ben Cardin has almost 31,000 Facebook followers and nearly a quarter-million on Twitter. Even the otherwise unknown Democratic challenger Eric Jetmir is more popular on social media than the Republican leaders, and this doesn’t count Bradley “Chelsea” Manning’s following. Granted, many of those followers aren’t there for the Senate campaign.

Yet social media prowess doesn’t erase a fact: too many in Maryland are held back by the system as it currently exists.

On Election Day, Ben Cardin will be 75 years old. He won his first election at the age of 23, taking his uncle’s seat in the Maryland House of Delegates and winning re-election four times afterward until he decided to run for Congress in 1986 (the seat Barb Mikulski was vacating.) That victory was the first of 10 for him in what was admittedly a heavily Democratic district, and now he’s running for a third term in the Senate.

So let’s do the count backwards: 2012, 2006, 2004, 2002, 2000, 1998, 1996, 1994, 1992, 1990, 1988, 1986, 1982, 1978, 1974, 1970, 1966.

Fifty-two years.

Seventeen elections without a loss for Ben Cardin.

But what has the state won? An unhealthy dependence on government at all levels.

So I think it’s time for a change. I think it’s time the rest of Maryland – the hard-working, productive people of the state who just want to live their lives and not have to worry about Uncle Sam intruding therein – gets a voice in the United States Senate. Let’s put an “and one” on Ben Cardin’s final record.

Let’s help Tony Campbell become our next Senator.

Grigorian campaign is taking notice

May 30, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, Senator Watch, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Grigorian campaign is taking notice 

Last month I received some feedback on a recent post of mine detailing, among other things, the Maryland Senate race, to wit:

Thank you for your insights into the Maryland U.S. Senate race for 2018 (“A Look at Our Federal Races,” posted April 8, 2018). We appreciate your observations about each of the candidates, and note that our candidate, Christina Grigorian, will be continuing to communicate her position on issues like preserving the Second Amendment and school choice throughout the remainder of the primary season.

We did want to respond to one point you raised in your post – Christina’s International Women’s Day video was not her first issue-oriented video. Rather, it was specially created to run in March during International Women’s Month. Christina’s campaign launch video, which sets forth her priority issues, was published on February 27 and can be found (below).

We wanted to clarify this as you continue to assess the candidates and their viability to win a statewide race in Maryland against a heavily funded Democratic candidate. We strongly believe that Christina presents the right balance of Republican “bona fides” and professional experience to turn that Senate seat into a Republican one and look forward to your further assessments on this important race.

Thanks!

Grigorian for Senate

Admittedly, this is a little bit of nitpicking on my part because I don’t consider the introductory video shown below as issue-oriented.

What I was looking for was something on a particular topic or maybe two, which meant to me that the International Women’s Day video was the first issue-oriented one since it used the occasion to present a common theme. In fairness, since I began this post (another I started and put on hiatus) she’s elaborated a little more later on various topics for a local cable show.

Given that break, this has led me to consider some of the other social media that the two leading contenders for the nomination (IMO) have put out.

From looking at Christina’s social media, I can see her travels around the state to some extent – she seems to be more focused on the center in both geography and tone. Yes, that’s where a lot of the votes are but we like a little Shore love as well and she hasn’t been over here in a month, since the Worcester County Lincoln Day Dinner.

One helpful link she did put up was a link to her answers to a candidate survey put out by the Sun. Very enlightening in comparison to the platitudes she originally based her campaign on as presented by her website.

On the other hand, Tony Campbell’s social media is full of videos explaining his positions – add that to the Sun questionnaire and I get a better idea of where he stands. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says but he makes the arguments Christina doesn’t seem to want to make by speaking more to the voters on social media. (Though he hasn’t been over here in a month, either.)

So the leaning continues, but the scales can be tipped the other way with honest and correct answers. I suspect by mid-month I will have my endorsement in place.

Odds and ends number 86

As I culled the vast number of possible items I had in my e-mail box down to a manageable few for this latest excursion into stuff I can handle in anything from a couple sentences to a couple paragraphs, I took a break – then promptly forgot I’d started this and let it go for several weeks. Sheesh. So, anyway…

The election season is here, and it’s blatantly obvious that the Maryland Republican Party feels local Senator Jim Mathias has a vulnerable hold on his position. One recent objection was the vote to both pass and overturn Governor Hogan’s veto on House Bill 1783.

If you want a cure for insomnia you could do worse than reading all 53 pages of the House bill. But what I found interesting is the vast difference between the amended House version and the Senate version that never made it past the hearing stage. The bills were intended to codify the recommendations of the 21st Century School Facilities Commission, but the House bill added two new wrinkles: eliminating the input of the Board of Public Works by upgrading the current Interagency Committee on School Construction to a commission and adding to it four new members (two appointed by the governor and two by the leaders of the General Assembly) and – more importantly for the fate of the bill – adding an appropriation to prevent it being taken to referendum. All those amendments came from the Democrat majority in the House Appropriations Committee, which meant that bill was put on greased skids and the other locked in a desk drawer.

Yet there wasn’t a Democrat who objected to this, and that’s why we have government as we do. It also proved once again that Senator Mathias is good at doing what the other side of the Bay wants – obviously since I have done the monoblogue Accountability Project since the term Mathias was first elected to serve in I know this isn’t the first time it’s happened.

But the fair question to ask is whether anyone else is listening? Results of a recent poll tended to be a little disheartening to me. According to the Maryland Public Policy Institute:

Marylanders support spending more money on school safety and career and technical education, according to a new statewide poll. But they are less enthusiastic about expanding pre-kindergarten or paying teachers more if those initiatives mean higher taxes or reductions in other services.

(…)

Broad majorities oppose paying more in income or property taxes to expand pre-K. Voters are against making cuts to roads and transportation (70% total less likely), public safety (70% total less likely), or children’s health insurance (77% total less likely) to afford expansion of pre-k education.

They should be opposing universal pre-K in general. Far from the days when kindergarten was optional and getting through high school provided a complete enough education to prosper in life, we are now working on taking children as young as 4 or even late 3 years old and providing schooling at state expense for 16 to 17 years – pre-K, K through 12, and two years of community college. This would be more palatable if public schools weren’t simply Common Core-based indoctrination centers, but as the quality of education declines quantity doesn’t make up for it.

For example, a real public school education would teach critical thinking, exhibited in these facts about offshore drilling and steps the industry is taking to make it safer. After all, logic would dictate they would want to recover as much product they invested in extracting as possible – spills benefit no one.

Interestingly enough, my friends at the Capital Research Center have also embedded a dollop of common sense into the energy argument.

This goes with the four-part series that explains the pitfalls of so-called “renewable” energy – you know, the types that are such a smashing success that the state has to mandate their use in order to maintain a climate that, frankly, we have no idea is the optimal, normal one anyway. (For example, in the last millennium or so we’ve had instances where vineyards extended north into Greenland – hence, its name – and times when New England had measurable snow into June due to the natural cause of a volcano eruption.)

Solar and wind may work on a dwelling level, but they’re not reliable enough for long-term use until storage capacity catches up. The series also does a good job of explaining the issues with the erratic production of solar and wind energy and the effect on the power grid.

On another front, the summer driving season is here and we were cautioned that prices would increase by the American Petroleum Institute back in April. Oddly enough, a passage in that API piece echoed something I wrote a few weeks later for The Patriot Post:

But while it isn’t as much of a factor on the supply side, OPEC can still be a price driver. In this case, both Saudi Arabia and non-OPEC Russia have put aside their foreign policy differences and enforced an 18-month-long production cut between themselves – a slowdown that has eliminated the supply glut (and low prices) we enjoyed over the last few years. And since those two nations are the second- and third-largest producers of crude oil (trailing only the U.S.), their coalition significantly influences the market.

Finally, I wanted to go north of the border and talk about 2020. (No, not THAT far north – I meant Delaware.)

Since Joe Biden has nothing better to do these days and needs to keep his name in the pipeline for contributions, he’s organized his own PAC called American Possibilities. (He’s also doing a book tour that comes to Wilmington June 10, but that’s not important for this story.)

A few weeks ago his American Possibilities PAC announced its first set of candidates, and so far they’re uninspiring garden-variety Democrats. Supposedly they were suggested by AP members, but we have two incumbent Senators in vulnerable seats (Tammy Baldwin and Jon Tester both represent states that went to Donald Trump), current freshman Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Florida (another Trump state), and challengers Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania and Andy Kim and Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey.

As of this writing, all are still in contention; however, this comes with caveats. Baldwin and Tester are unopposed in their upcoming primaries for Senate seats, Houlahan and Kim are unopposed for nomination as well, and Murphy has token opposition. The one race that will test Biden’s “pull” is the NJ-11 race, where Sherrill is part of a five-person race on the Democratic side to replace retiring Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, a GOP moderate. All three House challengers Biden is backing are trying for GOP seats, as a matter of fact – no insurgents here. We’ll see in November if he fails.

Shifting sides on the political pendulum, here’s some good political news from our friends at the Constitution Party:

We received great news this week! The Constitution Party effort to gain ballot access in North Carolina exceeded the required number of registered voter signatures to qualify for ballot access in 2018 and 2020.

To do this they needed 11,925 valid signatures in a timeframe that stretched about five months – so far they have over 16,000 total signatures and 12,537 have been declared valid (at least until the NCGOP sues to deny them access because it will be deemed to hurt their chances – see the Ohio Libertarian Party cases for examples of this.) If that development is avoided, it will be the first time the Constitution Party has had ballot access in the state.

Honestly, I believe the two “major” parties should be made to live with the same petitioning for access standards the minor parties do. If they are that popular then it shouldn’t be a problem, right? Once the 2018-22 cycle gets underway, perhaps the same thing should be tried in Maryland.

Lastly is a housekeeping note: in updating my Election 2018 widget, I’ve decided to eliminate for the time being races that are unopposed and focus on the primary races only. So you’ll notice it’s a bit shorter.

After seven weeks of interim, now you know the truth: writing delayed is not writing denied.

When we really determine winners and losers…

April 12, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on When we really determine winners and losers… 

I’ve noticed a few articles the last couple days that expound on the topic of winners and losers from the recently-completed General Assembly session. That’s good fodder for punditry and blogs, but the real winners and losers are going to be determined in a little less than seven months.

The vast majority of General Assembly members are seeking re-election, although a select few are trying for a different office. (Among them is Delegate Mary Beth Carozza, who’s seeking the upgrade to the Maryland Senate.) But the more important election on a state level is that of Governor Larry Hogan. If Hogan wins, he not only becomes the first Republican to be re-elected as governor in 64 years but he also gets to draw the legislative lines for the 2022 election. (The Census won’t be completed in time to rework 2020 Congressional districts because the primary will be in the early spring with the Presidential primary.)

Since it’s not likely the Supreme Court is going to declare the state of Maryland has to completely redraw their districts – the Pennsylvania example came from a state court which is split 5-2 in favor of Democrats, meaning a similar decision wouldn’t be forthcoming from Maryland given the gerrymander favors Democrats and most of the seven-member court was appointed by a Democrat governor – that’s the top prize for which Republicans are shooting.

So the eventual success or failure of this particular legislative session is going to be measured by whether Larry Hogan will stay in office. Certainly it would be helpful for him to have enough legislators in one of the two General Assembly bodies to sustain his vetoes, but half the time he has the votes to sustain and chooses to let the law go by anyway not signing it or pulling out his veto pen.

In turn, the key to the 2018 election is reflected in something I wrote in the wake of the 2014 balloting:

But as it happens, turnout is going to be about 46%, which is a significant decline from the 54% posted in 2010. If the Democratic turnout followed that pattern it was about 10% less than I figured it would be, and those that were passionate enough to show up may likely have cast a number of votes for the GOP.

Simply put, the Democratic base didn’t show up. Whether it was disillusionment with the candidates or just a general apathy, it looks like the GOP filled the void, to the benefit of the state.

As of the end of March there were over 2.1 million registered Democrats in the state of Maryland, so even a 5% increase in turnout and voting for the Democrat nominee will swamp Hogan’s 2014 margin of victory. To counter any increase in Democrat turnout, Republican turnout has to increase twice as much, so a 5% increase in Democrat turnout means 10% more Republicans have to show up. Unfortunately, this election is coming at a time when the GOP is disillusioned at both a state and national level, and for many of the same reasons: overspending, a lack of progress on promised or desired action items, and the perception that the Republicans are no better or different than the Democrats. In the case of the latter, the worry is that conservatives who are upset at Hogan for a lack of progress on upholding our Second Amendment rights or his betrayal of those in Western Maryland by enacting the fracking ban will erode his support base. (This doesn’t include the people mad at him for not supporting Donald Trump.)

Hogan won in 2014 with numbers that bordered on the absurd in some counties, piling up over 80% of the vote in a few select jurisdictions. But if he’s alienated supporters to the point where those low 80s become low 70s and a county like Wicomico comes back with a percentage in the mid-50s, well, the game is up. When it became apparent that Bob Ehrlich was going to come in at 55% in Wicomico County I knew he was toast, and the same goes for Hogan. That, in turn, will make it tough on downballot races, too.

While the legislative session came to a screeching halt April 9, the real winners and losers are determined November 6.

A look at our federal races

Finishing my book draft has opened up my calendar just in time for the local political races to begin heating up. If you consider the June 26 primary as the “November” of this particular campaign, that means we are at about the mid-August of the race. But I’m already seeing the yard signs pop up for some of the local contests, so I decided over the last couple days to take a pretty comprehensive look at our two federal races: the battle for Maryland’s U.S. Senate seat and our local First District Congressional contest.

On the Senate side, thus far most of the news has come from the entry of the former PFC Bradley Manning, who has transitioned in identity to the female Chelsea Manning. (Never mind he was convicted of espionage and released just a few years into a 35-year sentence, much of it spent in the process of indulging a case of gender dysphoria.) Aside from he/she/it, there are the usual complement of perennial candidates and those who decided their first try for office would be for a statewide post. There are a total of eight Democrats on the ballot, but the prohibitive favorite among them is incumbent Senator Ben Cardin. The primary field looks similar to that in 2012 when Cardin last ran, with Manning probably getting about the same share (15%) as the doomed Senatorial campaign of current State Senator C. Anthony Muse while Cardin should retain his 75% or so. (Because it’s a state election year, you don’t have the opportunity for some officeholders to “run from cover” for a higher office – they forfeit the one they have to run. However, in the Sixth Congressional District, which is an open seat due to the departure of John Delaney for a quixotic Presidential bid, there are a couple of current state officeholders vying for the opening.)

Since I’m not voting on the Democrat side, though, my interest in this case is the GOP battle. As usual, there are a number of prospective candidates on the ballot: 2018 brought 11 aspirants to the fore, many of whom have played this game multiple times. For example, in 2016 Chris Chaffee was the (distant) runner-up to GOP Senate nominee Kathy Szeliga, John Graziani was 8th in the 14-person field, and Blaine Taylor was 9th – out of 10 Democrats. (Maybe he’s a Trump Republican now?) Brian Vaeth previously ran for Senate in 2012 as well. (It’s possible he may have suspended his 2018 run, anyway.) Chaffee was a definite surprise given that he was never polled into the 2016 Senate race, but he beat more established candidates such as Richard Douglas and Chrys Kefalas.

Considering the incumbent Senator is well-funded, I thought the best place to begin culling the field was to see who had actually set up an FEC account, which is a must for candidates who want to fundraise beyond a certain point. (Despite the fantasy some have of running a completely grassroots effort to win a statewide office, that’s not happening.) It turns out the only one to actually have a report is Charles “Sam” Faddis, who decided not to follow through and file this time around. (Faddis was an unsuccessful Congressional challenger to Steny Hoyer a few years ago.) But four in the field have established FEC accounts earlier this year so their first quarterly report just came due: Chaffee, Tony Campbell, Christina Grigorian, and Albert Binyahmin Howard.

Out of that quartet, I’ve already discounted the chances of Chaffee and Howard. Why?

Well, if you look at Chaffee’s website, you’ll see that it’s a poorly-written one. Granted, we have a President who mangles the English language on a regular basis, but one thing that I’ve come to believe is that a good-looking website conveys a good impression. And it’s difficult to get past the generalities and platitudes that stand in for his issue positions. He would really have to sell me in a debate to have a chance at getting my vote, which is discouraging because I suspect he is rather conservative. Honestly, I think his second-place finish last time was by virtue of being first on the ballot since few people knew the players aside from Kathy Szeliga. Chaffee won’t have that leg up this time because Tony Campbell is listed first.

Even worse is the website for Howard, whose chief claim to fame seems to be that of being the founder of Hebrews for Trump. Okay, then.

So I’m down as of now to Campbell and Grigorian. Ladies first.

Christina has started off on the wrong foot with me in two respects: number one, her website is nice but insofar as issues go I see nothing but general platitudes of being an advocate for the state and assisting Governor Hogan in his efforts. Yet to be a Senator from Maryland in this current political reality is to be (hopefully) fortunate enough to take office as Hogan begins his second term because in order to save America the state of Maryland has to endure a world of hurt for a few years, and the GOP is going to take the blame to a point where 2022 local elections would be a bloodbath. This is because the state has foolishly put most of its economic and job creation eggs in the basket of an ever-expanding federal government when the real solution is rightsizing our federal bureaucracy to the extent it’s allowed to be by the Constitution. Hogan is best-equipped to solve that problem as a more or less business-friendly governor, albeit one who gets it seriously wrong on some good job-creation issues like fracking in Western Maryland.

My other issue with Grigorian is making her first issue-oriented video one of celebrating International Women’s Day as well as making the point Maryland has no female representation in Congress. Okay, I’m going to admit I’m a little biased on this, but making a case about being a female candidate is a little Hillary-esque. Maryland had a female Senator for three decades and all it did was set the country back a little bit. Certainly I know of a good share of women who would make great Senators or members of Congress, but the reason they would be so is because they don’t base their politics on their gender.

Grigorian is so far to me coming off as a moderate, based on her bland answers to key issues. We really don’t need a woman in the Senate if she’s a clone of Lisa Murkowski or Susan Collins, the bottom two Republicans as graded by Heritage Action. (A third woman, Shelley Capito, is in the bottom 5 – none of the five female GOP Senators are in their top ten.) She has a lot to sell me on, too.

What I will say about Tony Campbell is that he has manned up and apologized for a couple past mistakes, the chief one being part of Republicans for Obama. Tony’s not going to make me jump up and down in supporting him, but based on what I’ve learned about his positions I’m leaning his way. I think with a little bit of work he could be an effective, relatively conservative Senator. But he has to win first.

Now I’ll sharpen the focus a little bit to the First District race. You know, they keep talking on the Left about “flipping the First” but to do so would take the right candidate and electorate. Unfortunately for the Democrats, the right candidate for the job is the only one who hasn’t filed FEC paperwork and that would be “conservative Democrat” Erik Lane. (Even so, the “right electorate” went away when Martin O’Malley submitted his Congressional plan in 2011. That made the First a highly Republican district that even Donald Trump – he of the 34% statewide vote – won handily.) As for the rest, I tend to believe the “establishment” Democrats and media (but I repeat myself) would prefer to see Jesse Colvin win because that would immediately be portrayed as our version of the Conor Lamb race in Pennsylvania. (He has the most campaign cash to spend, too.) Perhaps their second choice would be Allison Galbraith, who is a single mom and rather spunky both in person and online – I know because I’ve sparred with her on several occasions.

But you also have the Eastern Shore factor, and two candidates hail from our side of the Bay – Michael Brown and Michael Pullen. So parochial voters may opt to elect them, too.

And then you have Andy Harris, who hasn’t had a primary where he’s unopposed since 2012. Then again, since first being nominated in 2008 in a surprise upset of longtime erstwhile moderate GOP Congressman Wayne Gilchrest (who will likely continue his semi-annual biennial tradition of endorsing the Democrat in the race) Harris has dispatched primary foes like King Kong swatting away airplanes while perched on a skyscraper: 68% against Rob Fisher in 2010, 78% against Jonathan Goff, Jr. in 2014, and the same 78% against a tag team of Goff, Sean Jackson, and former Delegate Michael Smigiel in 2016. Martin Elborn and Lamont Taylor may be nice guys, but they probably won’t do any better – nor should they. It would be the Democrats’ dream if one of these two somehow won the primary because they aren’t coming across to me as very serious candidates. That would be about the only way the Democrats could level the field in this district.

I’ve liked Andy Harris as a legislator since his days in the Maryland General Assembly – Andy was, for several years until 2016, the only Maryland legislator to achieve a perfect session score on the monoblogue Accountability Project., Admittedly, there have been a couple times I didn’t vote for him: come on, when your Libertarian friend is running for Congress, how can you not vote for him when you know the district is safely Republican? And I liked the last guy the LP had (Matt Beers), too – he was ready to shrink government more than Andy would, and that’s saying something.

But this year’s Libertarian model seems to be the left-libertarian type, so there’s no excuse for me not to vote to retain Andy Harris for another term in both the primary and general elections. It makes the town hall meetings that much more entertaining.

I really don’t need to go over the state races in much detail because all three GOP nominees are set; meanwhile, the only suspense on the Democrat side is whether Tweedledum x 5 or Tweedledee x 4 will win the nod for Governor. The early polling favorite is PG County Executive Rushern Baker. In fact, my ballot on the GOP side is very boring – I have no State Senator, Delegate, or county race to vote in except for the downballot Clerk of the Court and Central Committee races. So this is probably all the analysis you get.

But I’ll keep an eye on it nonetheless in case I’m moved to say more.

A farmer’s lament

April 2, 2018 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on A farmer’s lament 

In the interest of total and full disclosure, I’m not a farmer. In fact, I’m probably as far from a green thumb as they come – usually any gardening efforts of mine are so paltry that even the rabbits turn up their wrinkly noses and pass on by.

But one blessing I did enjoy was growing up in farm country, where the blue FFA jackets emblazoned with “Ohio/Evergreen” were worn just as proudly as the green-and-gold varsity jackets our school athletes wore. Most of those FFA members came by it honestly as their parents were but the latest generation of farmers in their families, and they surely had the support of a number of local businesses as well.

So to read an article like this was bad enough, but then it reminded me of a related local story from a few weeks ago. I knew the late patriarch of that farm from serving with him on our Republican Central Committee from 2006-14, finally retiring in his nineties. (Blan Harcum Sr. passed away in 2016.) Like the farms in the Michigan story, his is being squeezed by low dairy prices and mounting debt.

Dairy farming is sort of an odd pastime here. Although there is a minor resurgence here in the dairy industry thanks to a handful of local ice cream makers, only one that I’m aware of uses local cows (and they host those cows on their own farm.) Instead, most of the agricultural production locally is intended for one purpose: feeding chickens. Most area farmers had a good thing going for awhile: send their corn or soybeans to the local poultry grower and use the end result of those chickens being fed as fertilizer. It’s a rite of spring; one that I call “smells like Delaware.” But in the past decade or so local regulation has curtailed that particular usage of poultry by-products – our state pays cash money to truck poop someplace else. Farmers, though, still get the blame for what often is an urban-based problem of excess nitrogen in the Chesapeake Bay.

But in a nation where a significant percentage of the corn crop is devoted to fueling our cars and not feeding our (rapidly expanding) waistlines, there are some good ideas that get past the inefficient, one-size-fits-all solutions the current market encourages with subsidies and government cheese. People often complain about the farm price supports, but I suppose that’s what keeps the price of groceries down. On the other hand, though, we make it difficult for those who want to try a different way to succeed – just try buying unpasteurized whole milk, for example.

A few weeks ago I heard another idea: since local brewers often have a hard time securing the varieties of hops they desire, would that be something that could be accomplished locally? The question is a good one, but most domestic hop growing is concentrated in the Pacific Northwest. Historically, I found it occurred in states like New York and Massachusetts and that leads me to believe that a cooler climate is desirable. (If you look at it from a state standpoint, though, it may work on the other side of Maryland.) Then again, people may think of a place like California to grow grapes for wine but we have shown it can be done locally.

The question should become one of how to allow the most market flexibility, while encouraging innovation. Farmer’s markets are nice, but that’s still rather inefficient – just like when we get some extra zucchini from our friend, too often what we get goes to waste. I’m not sure the system we have is the system we need, and that lament made me stop and ponder enough to write this.

The deal with ‘misinformation’

Over the last week or so we’ve been treated to some of the most furious backpedaling we’ve ever seen. I don’t know if it’s the same elsewhere in the state, but the Eastern Shore delegation has been taking an earful from constituents about a bill with the innocuous title “Public Safety – Extreme Risk Prevention Orders.” But that’s not the bill’s original title: as first introduced it was “Seizure of Lethal Weapons – Lethal Violence Protective Order.” Unfortunately, the bill still deals with seizure and arguably does little to promote the safety of the public.

Arguing there “has been some misinformation” about this bill, three members of our local delegation (Chris Adams, Carl Anderton, and Mary Beth Carozza) issued a joint statement vowing that if certain defects aren’t fixed, they won’t back the bill when it comes back from the Senate. Of course, that makes the assumption that the majority in the Senate won’t just pass this unmolested and dare Governor Hogan to veto a bill many in his party detest. (Hint: he won’t. It may not be graced with his signature, but he won’t veto it.)

We’ll come back to Hogan in a moment, but in the last few days since the vote we have heard many excuses from the GOP, most of whom voted for the bill. It doesn’t take the cake of Delegate Barrie Ciliberti co-sponsoring the bill then changing his vote to be against it (unless that change is made for some arcane parliamentary maneuver) but much of the blame has come from being “misinformed” or being “led to believe” Second Amendment groups were behind this. There is an argument to be made that there is so much information being thrown at these elected officials (with this year’s docket exceeding 3,000 bills to be considered over a 90-day period) that mistakes can be made, but then one has to ask: what else are they missing? “You know, the bill sounds good, and it IS public safety…”

It should be noted, though, that the Judiciary Committee in the House did a complete bait-and-switch on this one, perhaps seizing on the hot-button topic of the Parkland shooting. HB1302 was completely gutted and replaced by the Judiciary Committee that the original sponsor (Democrat Geraldine Valentino-Smith) doesn’t sit on. That event happened between the initial introduction and the House hearing, but the bill was marked up in committee on March 12. It passed by a 12-4 vote, and notably several Republicans did not vote on the bill in committee: Delegates Susan McComas, Neil Parrott, and Deb Rey were excused, and Delegate Trent Kittleman abstained. The other four (Joe Cluster, Paul Corderman, Glen Glass, and Michael Malone) voted against it; however, Cluster and Glass were absent from the third reading vote and Malone voted in favor of the bill. Of those on the Judiciary Committee, only Corderman and Parrott voted no.

It’s patently obvious to me that the House Republicans were trying to appeal to the so-called popular opinion that everything gun-related is bad. They read the tea leaves and newspapers and everywhere you turn you’re being assaulted with anti-Second Amendment propaganda. Yet out of our local District 37 and 38 delegation, the only Republican with a really difficult race is Mary Beth Carozza and that’s because she’s opted to try and advance to the Senate. (Valid question: will this vote tip the scale to another NRA endorsement for Democrat Jim Mathias? Ask the liberals in District 38 how they like his receipt of NRA money.) The other Republicans either voted no on HB1302 (Charles Otto) or have stiffer opposition in the primary than they do for the general election – Adams and Mautz have two primary opponents but only one Democrat is in the race.)

Yet this brings up another point about the top of the ticket. Last night I did a bit of research and remembered the 2014 election – you know, that one Larry Hogan shocked the state and won? Well, a significant part of the reason was carrying the suburban counties like Anne Arundel, Baltimore County, and Frederick with over 60% of the vote (collectively, since he was 59% in Baltimore County) and blowing out Anthony Brown in the rural areas with anywhere from 65 to 82 percent of the vote. That made up for soft numbers in the D.C. region and Baltimore City.

The problem Larry Hogan has this time around is twofold, and has a little bit of irony to it: for a Republican to succeed nationally in the cause of limiting government he has to put a chill in Maryland’s economy. Thanks in no small part to the Trump administration, Larry Hogan will be lucky to get 35% in Montgomery County – compared to 36.7% last time. That may not seem like a lot, but out of 300,000 votes losing a 2% share is 6,000 votes.

You can argue, that’s fine, he won by 65,000 the first time. But what if his reversal on the fracking ban costs him 10% of his vote in Western Maryland? The three westernmost counties combined for about 70,000 votes last time and were a significant portion of his victory margin. That could be another 7,000 votes. Taking a similar share from an Eastern Shore upset at his Second Amendment stance and early cave on phosphorous regulations could be another 10,000 votes lost. Without touching the suburban counties, we’ve eroded 1/3 of his victory margin and the rest may come from Democrats who decide to stay loyal and vote for their candidate. (Fortunately for Hogan, the Democratic field seems to all be trying to leapfrog left of each other so turnout may not be as great as the Democrats think they will get. The biggest break Hogan has received in this cycle was not having to contend with either John Delaney or Peter Franchot, either of whom would probably have easily won the nomination against this field.)

Simply put, there are a lot of people who held their nose and voted for Larry Hogan the first time in the hopes he would govern as a conservative. Well, they were surely disappointed and the fear is that they just stay home this time around: why bother voting when you have the same results regardless of which party is in charge, they say. Perhaps it’s an information silo I reside in, but I often see people claiming they won’t vote for Hogan this time (meaning they’ll likely stay home or skip the race) but I never hear of a Democrat who voted for Brown being convinced the Republican is doing the job and will get his or her support. Most Democrats I hear from already voted for Hogan last time.

So this gun bill has really exposed some fissures in the state GOP, and the party brass has to hope their electoral hopes don’t fall through the cracks.

Would a Lamb be slaughtered here?

March 16, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on Would a Lamb be slaughtered here? 

Until a bridge collapsed in Miami, the main news item drawing attention was Democrat Conor Lamb’s upset win over Republican Rick Saccone in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District. Since I was assigned to write about Lamb’s victory in The Patriot Post this week, it got me to pondering if the Democrats’ bold local pronouncements about “flipping the First” are realistic.

So let’s begin with a little history. I’m working from my faulty memory here but I thought I read that the 18th was an R+11 district. According to our the latest voter registration numbers by district (which were just prior to the 2016 election, so perhaps a bit out of date) the First District was about R+9.5 or so. But where Trump won by 22 points in the 18th, he won by nearly 29 points in Maryland’s First. Thus, the question is whether those Democrats who “stayed home” and stuck with their party in Pennsylvania would do so here, or will they abandon the Democrat Party once again. (Case in point: while Democrats have always held a voter registration advantage over the GOP in Wicomico County, it hasn’t voted for a Democrat for governor or President since 1986.)

In doing my research, I found seven major “priorities” Lamb was running on:

  • The heroin crisis (and props to him for spelling “heroin” correctly, with one “e”)
  • Jobs and infrastructure
  • Affordable health care
  • Protecting Medicare and Social Security
  • Student loans
  • Union issues
  • Modern energy development

Here’s some of what he had to say for each:

On heroin:

We need to invest in prevention. We need to expand access to treatment and rehabilitation. And we need to crack down on the people who are fueling and profiting from this crisis. There are drug dealers on the street, in doctors’ offices, and in drug company boardrooms, and we need to pass legislation that guarantees every one of them will face justice for their crimes.

So in a nutshell, more federal money thrown at the problem and tougher drug laws.

For infrastructure, Lamb wants “a serious bill big enough to match the urgency of the situation,” with “investments” in job training that he claims companies want to have done through public schools and community colleges. He also wants companies to hire their trainees with “full-time, family-supporting jobs.”

On health care:

I believe that every American has a right to go see a doctor when they’re sick, and that means every American has a right to health insurance they can afford…I’ll work with anyone from either party who wants to help people with pre-existing conditions, improve the quality of care, and reduce premiums, out-of-pocket costs, and prescription drug prices.

In other words, Obamacare isn’t the problem.

Conor also goes after that old “third rail” of politics, making the shopworn claim that Republicans are out to gut entitlements and solemnly vowing to protect Medicare and Social Security. If only Republicans would actually threaten them.

I will give Lamb a little credit for this one, no pun intended:

We need to allow people to refinance their student loans, just as we do for corporations and credit card holders. And I believe we should let people pay at least some portion of their student loans with pre-tax dollars.

He also gets into the idea of paying them back through serving in underserved areas – think of the old TV series “Northern Exposure” and its plot of having a New York doctor practice in rural Alaska to pay off student loans.

With his district being heavily union, Lamb is a proponent of their causes. That’s a key difference between his district and ours, which is not infested much by Big Labor.

The other big difference:

I support robust and responsible energy development. Natural gas extraction is creating and supporting a lot of good, middle-class jobs in our region, and I want more of those jobs for our people.

Yes it is; unfortunately, we have a governor who foolishly and short-sightedly took the option off the table in our state.

That, then, is the (somewhat oversimplified) baseline for local Democrats. There are a total of six on the ballot but only four have FEC accounts (Michael Brown and Erik Lane do not – this is a shame because Lane is the one who’s claiming to be the “conservative Democrat” but he’s not set up the FEC account – which most likely means he has little to no money. I’m sorry but you can’t win an election without some money.)

Out of the other four, as of the end of last year, the cash on hand was as follows:

  1. Jesse Colvin – $186,101
  2. Steve Worton – $99,630 (most of which he loaned)
  3. Michael Pullen – $33,433 (he owes himself over $55,000)
  4. Allison Galbraith – $32,465

Just by comparison, Andy Harris is sitting on over $1.1 million. We pretty much know where he stands on issues as Harris tends to hew to the GOP line and it’s paid off: in three re-election campaigns since being elected in 2010 Andy has averaged 67% of the vote, which was the mark he hit in 2016.

So if we do the “Lamb test” for each of the four remaining candidates, let’s see how they stack up. Women and children first, we start with my sparring partner Allison Galbraith and her “priorities.” You get the sense after reading them that Galbraith would fail the Lamb test by being several steps to his left.

And then you have Michael Pullen, whose website plays heavily on his name by announcing he’s “Pullen for…” various policy items to occur. I read through them and was fascinated: by making Galbraith look centrist by comparison, Pullen truly flunks the Lamb test.

Steve Worton stakes out a number of positions on his key issues with a good, old-fashioned “trifold.” He’s closer to Lamb than the other two, but I believe that title will go to our next competitor.

If you look at the background and profile,, Jesse Colvin is very similar to Conor Lamb: just swap out military branches. He comes out of Democratic Central Casting: a war veteran who spouts more or less center-left talking points. (He and Lamb even have a scarily similar website setup.)

I think that if the powers-that-be in the Democrat Party had their choice it would come down to either Colvin or Galbraith. (They certainly wouldn’t want the conservative guy, who may well be the most appealing to district Democrats but has no money.) Colvin has a young family he can use as props (like Frank Kratovil did to some extent) but so does Galbraith and she’s not afraid to use them. But compared to Colvin she’s vastly underfunded.

Being three months out a lot can (and will) happen, and the race is tough to handicap because there are so many competing interests: Galbraith is the only woman in the race, but Pullen is the only major contender from the parochial Eastern Shore. If people hear about the conservative Democrat Erik Lane he may steal some votes from the more centrist Worton, who can ill afford to lose them.

But the bigger question is whether any of them can beat Andy Harris. Unlike the PA-18 race, which was an open seat, Harris is an incumbent that people seem to like well enough. Once June rolls around we will see how well the local Democrats embrace their choice.

Let’s just stop with the gun grabbing talk

February 18, 2018 · Posted in Culture and Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on Let’s just stop with the gun grabbing talk 

For the past several days, we have learned more and more about the latest in what has become a depressing string of mass-murder incidents involving firearms of various types. Just as we as a society got all good and righteous over “bump stocks” along comes an obviously troubled teenager who hatched a plan to draw out unwitting students from the school he once attended into his own personal free-fire zone. What amazes me still about this perpetrator is that he’s still drawing breath – unlike most assailants in this style of massacre, he didn’t end the spree by blowing his own brains out.

I think we can all agree, however, that 99.9 or maybe even 99.99% of people could look at a gun, pick up a gun, or even shoot a gun (outside of self-defense) without the intention to cause harm to others. Unfortunately, that .01% in a nation of 320 million people, give or take, is still a sum of people that’s roughly equal to the population of our city of Salisbury. One of those people decided he was going to act out his fantasy of blasting his way through a school on Wednesday, and the resulting news cycle has once again stirred up the gun debate.

Look, it’s not the guns. Certainly this made the situation more dramatic but there’s nothing that says he couldn’t have killed as many people by driving a car up the sidewalk by the bus loading zone. I’ll concede, though, that for the sheer brutality, power in choosing victims, and making headlines the gun was the way to go. Sadly, the person with the gun who could have stopped him was nowhere to be found before the killer slipped away, blending in with the crowds fleeing the school.

But the extreme, draconian measures of banning so-called “assault weapons” (simple semi-automatic rifles) or repealing the Second Amendment aren’t realistic, either. Some take advantage of the ignorance and misinformation generally fed to the public in these situations to maintain that anyone can secure a fully automatic weapon, but that’s nowhere near the truth. And even though some are trying to tell us the Second Amendment is only about self-defense or that it’s no longer applicable because we have a National Guard, there’s zero chance a repeal of the Second Amendment would get a 2/3 vote in each house of Congress and pass muster in 38 states (although Maryland would waste no time in ratifying it.)

So let me give you the real question: have we as a society even considered this is the harvest we reap when we sow the cheapening of respect for life?And I’m not really talking the idea of violent video games where the “people” that die are just pixels on a screen (or, in that same vein, actors playing a role for a paycheck wallowing around in fake blood in a movie or TV show – surely some actors have “died” dozens of times on screen) or the fact that “choice” dictates we can murder a baby in the womb practically to the moment of birth – although all these contribute to the issue.

Is the real “mental illness” a distortion of the concept of right and wrong stemming from the fact it was never learned? We would expect predatory animals to cull the weakest from the herd of prey without compunction because their sole instinct is survival. A fox doesn’t stop to ponder their conscience or the chicken’s sense of (for lack of an equivalent term) “humanity” before tearing it apart to serve as an uncooked dinner – it only acts to stave off starvation and maintain the strength to reproduce. What sets humans apart from the lower realms of the animal kingdom is that conscience, but it has to be given some sense of direction. It’s obvious this young killer either didn’t get the guidance or chose to ignore it for reason only he knows. Of course, the same goes from the dozens of more anonymous young men who chose to take a gun and end someone’s life for reasons other than self-defense.

It’s extremely difficult for me to wrap my head around the mindset that it’s perfectly all right and justifiable to walk into a venue with a loaded rifle and wantonly kill defenseless people. And yes, I have seen the bumper stickers and memes that talk about the desire to kill people you find offensive or who burden you with a bad day, or the idea of revenge for a grievous wrong done to you. But sane people don’t act on those desires and eventually kick themselves for thinking that way in the first place because it’s wrong. Something about turning the other cheek?

So. my friends on the Left, banning guns is not the answer, nor can you prohibit people from buying them just because they give you the creeps. A gun ban puts us in a situation where a man with no conscience not only doesn’t know right from wrong but also knows he has his own free-fire zone enforced by people who can keep his conscience clean by doing the killing themselves. Leaders like Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and so forth probably executed few (if any) of their millions of unarmed victims themselves, but they had plenty of men with no conscience to do it for them.

In another time, the young gunman would have been right at home as a Nazi prison camp guard or a Bolshevik enforcer. When dealing with flawed humanity, we need all of the tools we can get and guns are a good line of defense.

 

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