The required renovation of Andy Harris

For the four years he has been in office, Andy Harris has generally enjoyed the support of his conservative Eastern Shore constituents. He’s not had a serious primary challenge since he was elected and garnered over 70% of the vote in 2014 against Democrat Bill Tilghman, whose centrist posture was well right of mainstream Democrats but far out of step with the district.

But since that resounding November victory, Andy’s actions in Congress during the lame duck session have earned him further enmity from the strong libertarian wing of the party and alienated conservatives as well.

By inserting a provision into the so-called CRomnibus bill preventing the District of Columbia from enacting its Proposition 71 marijuana legalization, Harris again became the target of District residents and leaders who demanded a tourism boycott of Andy’s Eastern Shore district earlier this summer. Accusations of being in the pocket of Big Pharma followed, but Harris defended the role of Congress spelled out in the Constitution [Article 1, Section 8] as overseer of the District’s affairs.

Yet while the libertarians of the Shore make up a small slice of the constituency – a Libertarian candidate ran in the First District for three successive elections from 2008-12, but never received even 5% of the vote – the conservatives are upset about Andy’s vote in favor of CRomnibus. That segment of the electorate is Andy’s bread and butter.

In the TEA Party community, there are whispers about who could challenge Andy from the right, as several feel he is on the same glide path that Wayne Gilchrest took during his long Congressional career. His 2008 primary defeat (by Harris) came after a bitter campaign where Andy stuck the “liberal” tag successfully on the longtime pol as well as fellow Maryland Senate opponent E. J. Pipkin.

Ironically, a politician long allied with Pipkin could be a prospect to make that challenge. Michael Smigiel, a delegate who was defeated in the 2014 District 36 GOP primary, is popular among the TEA Party community for his strong Second Amendment stance. But it would be difficult for anyone to raise the money Andy has at his disposal and Harris has bolstered his profile among local elected officials and the state Republican party by being generous with his campaign funds through A Great Maryland PAC.

It’s also worth mentioning for context that CRomnibus is probably roughly the same deal which would have been made if the budget were completed in regular order, given the partisan divide between the House and Senate.

Instead, while most functions of the government will continue through next September, the Department of Homeland Security budget has a February expiration date. This sets up a showdown between Congress and Barack Obama regarding the latter’s executive actions to give de facto amnesty to millions of illegal aliens; however, some hardliners already feel the damage is done.

In response to a lengthy Facebook post by Harris explaining his CRomnibus stance, though, local activists summed up the frustration TEA party activists felt, noting:

  • “(Harris) does a nice job of listing those riders and amendments that might seem to gain the approbation of the conservative and Republican audiences, while omitting anything that might serve as a balance – what effectively was the PRICE paid for what was had, the PRICE of ‘compromise.’”
  • “It is rather sad that Andy thinks that he can list a few paltry gains and that will make us overlook the whole thousand page monstrosity. The obvious question is that if he got in a few tidbits that he wanted, then who else got in their tidbits and what are those?  I would imagine that they will far outweigh any small gains that he is bragging about.”

These activists agree one way Harris could help to restore his image would be to take the lead in the conservative grassroots push to replace John Boehner as Speaker of the House. Bear in mind that this could come at some cost as Andy serves on the Appropriations Committee and a Boehner victory over any challenger for whom Andy shows support could bring repercussions such as the stripping of his position there, but on balance I believe a potential sacrifice such as that is worth the opportunity to have a stronger conservative leader as Speaker. It’s a sentiment shared by commentators at American Thinker, WorldNetDaily, and RedState.

On November 4, people hungry for real change went to the polls to reject the Democratic Senate and place Republicans firmly in control of Congress. The events leading to the CRonmibus, though, shook the confidence that Washington would depart from its business-as-usual benefits to the ruling class by allowing the outgoing defeated members one last hurrah. While all of this blame cannot be laid at the feet of John Boehner, there is a mood in this country that a strong counterbalance is needed to the increasing use of Executive Branch power by Barack Obama, particularly on immigration and Obamacare. The fear of many conservatives, particularly those in the First District, is that John Boehner doesn’t have the spine to rein in the executive.

Just like in 2008, when Andy Harris first ran for Congress, the potential is there in 2016 for state elected officials to “run from cover” as their Delegate or Senate seats aren’t on the ballot. During the similar 2012 election, 7 members of the Maryland General Assembly ran for Congress – one for the Senate and six for various Congressional seats. While none were successful overall, two won their party primary and ran through November.

No member of Congress is universally loved, and being a representative at any level of government means you won’t please everyone. But there’s a growing number who want Andy Harris to be a conservative leader and not just talk a good game.

Who’s out may be as important as who’s in

Recently I’ve posted about three likely entrants into the 2016 Presidential race – Jeb Bush and Dr. Ben Carson on the Republican side and Jim Webb representing the Democrats. Naturally with an open seat the interest in the job increases, since there’s no incumbent with his built-in advantages to contend with. This opens the field to a lot of potential contenders who passed on the 2012 race for various reasons. Recall that many of those who ran in 2012 on the GOP side are still active in the political arena – Newt Gingrich with his production group, Rick Santorum with Patriot Voices, Mitt Romney with endorsements and help with financial support, and Rick Perry with his RickPAC, among others.

Obviously Democrats were silent in 2012, but it’s been known that grassroots movements have sprung up for Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren (who’s trying to tell her supporters “no”) while Martin O’Malley began his own PAC for 2014. Joe Biden claims he “honest to God hasn’t made up my mind” about running.

On the GOP side, these aforementioned contenders have one thing in common: except for Perry, who did not seek another term and leaves next month, they are not currently serving in office. (On the other hand, among the Democrats only Webb and Clinton are out of office, although O’Malley joins that group January 21.) Yet the GOP has an extremely deep bench of current governors, many of which are in their second term and have national name recognition: in alphabetical order, the group includes Chris Christie of New Jersey, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, John Kasich in Ohio, Mike Pence of Indiana, and Scott Walker in Wisconsin.

In recent years, our presidents have tended to be former governors: George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter all came from that background. Obviously their tenures in the Oval Office were a mixed bag of success, but Americans tend to be more confident that those who ran a state can run a federal government. (The only recent exceptions to this were 2012 with Mitt Romney and 1988, where Vice-President Bush defeated Michael Dukakis. Maybe being governor of Massachusetts works as a disqualifier.)

With the large potential field of governors, it may be just as important to know who’s out. When you have a state to run for another four years, the excuses for trips to Iowa and New Hampshire are fewer. It’s not to say that governors who want the brass ring won’t try and make that effort, but as we’ve seen with Martin O’Malley and his frequent journeys to New Hampshire and Iowa in his second term, there is the potential for losing focus on your real job. It was enough to cost his anointed successor his election, for the dubious gain of polling at 1 percent or less in most 2016 Presidential polls.

There are perhaps 15 to 20 figures in national politics who could potentially run for President on the Republican side – far more than the Democrats boast. Of course, only one can win a party’s nomination, but beyond that there are only three or four who can be in the top tier and raise the money necessary to wage a national campaign. (It’s something that Martin O’Malley is finding out firsthand on the Democrat side, since he’s not one of those.) It’s been claimed on a grassroots level that the last two Republican campaigns were decided when the “establishment” settled on one candidate before the activists did – that group split their allegiances and votes several ways until it was too late. By the time Rick Santorum outlasted Gingrich, Perry, et. al. he was no more than the highest loser because at that point the nomination was just about sealed for Mitt Romney. Romney may have been the best candidate for 2012, but he wasn’t good enough to get the nearly 3.6 million who passed on voting for Barack Obama a second time to come on board.

People like to keep their options open, but since the announcements of who’s in seem to be receding farther and farther from the actual election, it may help those of us on the Right who would like to select a candidate to know who won’t be running. Obviously there will be a few ardent supporters who will pine for that candidate to reconsider – as far-left populist Democrats are finding with Elizabeth Warren – but we could save a lot of wasted money and effort by finding out who won’t make a half-hearted attempt at an early date.

Bush redux

Just a day or so after the push continued to retool Mitt Romney for 2016, the counter-movement came from another Presidential family: on his Facebook page, John Ellis “Jeb” Bush, the former governor of Florida, announced he would seek the office his father occupied for four years and his brother held for eight. While this wasn’t a complete surprise out of left field, the pundits speculated how it would affect the Presidential horserace for 2016 and seemed to believe that this move by Jeb was going to hurt the prospects of both Romney and Chris Christie.

Even the Democrats decided the prospect of another Bush was a good excuse to push for donations; then again, almost anything can be a reason for them to go begging.

I seem to recall we had 5% unemployment with a booming economy at the time the last Bush was in office, and it was 5% unemployment they didn’t have to drop millions from the workforce to achieve. So there is that.

Anyway, it looks like Jeb will be making his first run for the Oval Office. To be honest, if his last name were anything other than Bush I think more people would be very interested in his record and accomplishments. I recall at the time George W. Bush ran many already said the wrong Bush was running for the office.

But there is the question of whether eight years away from political office will make him more of a relic. Jeb has been out of office just as long as Bob Ehrlich, but while few believe our former governor has any shot at being President, there are those in the political world who believe Jeb is a shoo-in to be the Republican nominee. If so, that sets up the second Bush vs. Clinton election nearly a quarter-century after the first and the fifth out of the last seven to feature either a Clinton or Bush (or both) as a nominee. (Since Hillary ran in 2008, seven of the last eight Presidential campaigns have featured a Bush or Clinton. One can even argue it’s 9 of 10 if you count George H.W. Bush running as Reagan’s Vice-President in 1984 along with an abortive 1980 Bush campaign.)

Bush’s entrance into the race, though, may mean the “Ready for Romney” movement will be short-lived – and that’s not so bad.

Inevitability, though, has its pitfalls – just ask 2008 nominees Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani. Oh wait, neither won the nomination, did they? But through most of 2007 that was how the election was predicted to shake out – no chance the rest of the field would beat them; that is, until we counted the votes.

So if you are reading this from Iowa or New Hampshire, please say hello to Jeb for me when you see him, because chances are he will be in those places quite a bit. One advantage of being a retired public official is the schedule is pretty much free and I suspect Jeb will be a familiar face in those places.

Ready for…another shot?

Since the 2012 election came to an unsatisfying close, there’s been a portion of the Republican Party who wondered how Mitt Romney would have done with an open seat as opposed to facing an incumbent with those built-in advantages. That group must be the people behind the Ready for Romney movement.

Not much more than a website with a brief “about” page and donate button, the simple fact that some Republicans want Romney to stop being coy about it and make the commitment for a third consecutive run may be enough to make Mitt a front-runner. Historically, a major-party nominee who has lost before doesn’t fare too well – since 1900 William Jennings Bryan (Democrat. 1896 and 1900), Thomas Dewey (Republican, 1944 and 1948), and Adlai Stevenson (Democrat, 1952 and 1956) have lost two straight elections. Republican Richard Nixon bucked the trend but there was an interceding election as he lost in 1960 before winning eight years later. I don’t think anyone is clamoring for nearly 80-year-old John McCain, though.

Yet the question is whether Romney can turn things around for a Republican Party which has cleaned up at state and Congressional-level midterm elections in the last two cycles only to lose their way in the Presidential year. It seems like Republican leadership has already deemed Romney as one of the three most “electable” candidates (the other two being Jeb Bush and Chris Christie) while discounting the chances of one of the other sitting GOP governors, firebrand Senators who have developed a following like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, or Marco Rubio, or the outsider Dr. Ben Carson. Since the polls now are pretty much name recognition anyway, the true desire for another dose of Romney may be overstated.

The last time I compared Presidential candidates Mitt Romney was near the back of the pack, even worse than he was in 2007 during his first try. There were a number of candidates who I thought were better, but they all seemed to fall by the wayside for a number of reasons. The same is probably going to be true this time because there is an establishment Republican cadre of donors who will back Romney while smaller donors will spread their money among the half-dozen or so conservative favorites.

For these reasons and more, I sort of hope Mitt returns to being a private citizen to stay. The candidate we need for 2016 will have to be a broad reformer who will hit the ground running because he (or she) won’t have much time to waste. 2017 will, by electoral necessity, have to be a very busy year and it’s guaranteed the Democrats and the press (but I repeat myself) won’t be giving much of a honeymoon.

Pray for the best and prepare for the worst.

An update on Turning the Tides 2015

Maybe it should be subtitled: we won, so what’s next?

Regardless, the Maryland Citizen Action Network announced more speakers for their annual event coming up January 10 in Annapolis. The list now includes:

Dr. Alveda King
Niger Innis
Kira Davis
Sonnie Johnson
Scott Blevins
Leonard Robinson III
David Spielman
Dan Bongino
Cindy Strickline-Rose
Christina Delmont-Small
Wayne Dupree
Tony Ristaino

Obviously not all of these speakers are household names, even to me. Instead, they are local experts on topics such as Common Core, border security, political campaigning, and several others. One thing I’ve noticed is that many of them are minorities, which reflects a push toward outreach to that community which is long overdue.

Something they could use, even at this late date, are sponsors. It’s unfortunate that I couldn’t be a Bloggers’ Table sponsor but perhaps someone out there who believes in the new media can step up and handle that responsibility. I know I enjoyed the experience a couple years ago when I was there.

TTT2015 will come at an interesting time – just days after the new General Assembly is sworn in, but a week and a half away from the inauguration of Maryland’s first Republican governor in eight years (and just third in the last half-century.) It will give activists an opportunity to brainstorm and hear some ideas on how to make Maryland a better, more competitive state as time goes on. A lot of damage has been done in the last eight years and undoing it will take effort and cooperation between conservative groups trying to combat entrenched special interests who look at the Larry Hogan administration as a temporary four-year aberration before business returns to usual. Simply put, we have to plan this term in such a way as to inflict maximum damage to those interests.

Right after the election, I saw a meme that joked about the old white male face of the Republican Party – I think it was photos of Mia Love, Tim Scott, and Elise Stefanik. (In order, they are a newly-elected black female Congressman from Utah, South Carolina’s junior Senator who was elected to a full term, and the youngest member of the incoming Congress.) Yes, there are still a lot of old white guys in the GOP (including me) but times are changing. I fall neatly along the line between Baby Boomer and Generation X; I tend to identify more with the latter. But the Millennial Generation isn’t exactly waiting its turn, and that’s fine with me.

You can see some examples of this in January in Annapolis.

And now for something completely different: I have exciting news about a new advertiser tomorrow.

To the left, the world is not enough

I’ve probably given as many pixels to failed candidate Rick Weiland as anyone outside his native South Dakota, but it’s because I think he’s very useful as a gauge of reactionary liberalism in a part of the nation which has maintained a streak of populism surprising for such a rural area. While the South has gone almost completely Republican, those in the rural Midwest will occasionally elect Democrats they deem to be centrists or populists on a statewide level. South Dakota has rejected Weiland several times, but it doesn’t mean he’ll stop trying and to me that exhibits precisely how the far left operates and why it’s important to hear about their desires. (He could also use the money since he can’t manage his campaign funds, but I digress.)

So yesterday, in the wake of the debate about CRomnibus, I received a missive called “We can’t breathe!” from which I quote in part:

The revenge of the money changers is in full swing in Congress today.

Let the big banks have their swaps back. Let Las Vegas advertise itself with your tax dollars. Increase by 1000% the amount billionaires can contribute to buy off our political parties.

Men of color are not the only ones they have in a choke-hold – now they’ve got all of us – and it’s way past time to tell them none of us can breathe!

Emboldened by the Obama-haters they just elected, Wall Street is readying the nooses for Obamacare and Dodd-Frank. They think they can’t be stopped.

But WE can stop them!

24 states allow initiatives and referendums – 24 states where you can show them exactly what you think of their choke-hold on the rest of us.

So let’s put what they are doing to us on the ballot in those 24 states and find out who is right.

(snip)

Help us close down the debt on my just completed Senate campaign, and fire up our initiative and referendum team. Because we are going to turn our little state into a laboratory for direct democracy.

A laboratory and an export market.

Let’s put Citizens United, Ferguson, and Big Bank plutocracy on trial at the ballot box.

Because when you go down fighting instead of whimpering, a funny thing often happens: people notice, then they think a little, and pretty soon they’re fighting too.

If you have to vote on it you have to think about it.  So let’s put our ideas directly on the ballot and pick a fight. (All emphasis in original.)

This is the mirror-reverse of the strategy Maryland Republicans tried in 2012 to petition already-enacted legislation to referendum, which failed. Looking back, I wonder if the Maryland Republican Party isn’t kicking itself for not placing the “bathroom bill” or 2013 gun bill on the ballot this year – we may have even had a more shocking victory by repealing both laws. (The counter-argument, of course, is the “sleeping dog” school of thought which liked the Democrats’ low turnout – perhaps the inclusion of those ballot measures would have hurt Larry Hogan’s chances by bringing out more liberal Democrats.)

It’s also true that, even in the face of a Republican wave election, four states that had a minimum wage increase on the ballot, including the aforementioned South Dakota, passed these measures while electing Republican Senators – in Alaska and Arkansas the Democrats seeking re-election to the Senate were defeated on that same ballot. (Nebraska was the fourth state.) Again, this shows the streak of populism which occurs in the Midwest.

Obviously Weiland sees a trend, exhibited in his home state, where direct democracy can succeed in accomplishing those things a representative republic would not. As the minimum wage example shows, people can be fooled into voting against their best interests – that’s why we were founded as a Constitutional republic.

Weiland’s mindset is shared by a lot of people, though. Witness the populist appeal to Southern voters espoused by the writer of the linked New Republic piece, Michael A. Cooper, Jr., who pleads with his party:

Speaking as a southerner, we need help, not from the DCCC but from government to deal with issues like homelessness and drug addiction.

These aren’t esoteric concerns Beltway liberals tut-tut about like global warming or political correctness, but true pocketbook issues which unfortunately tend to affect the poorest among us. Conservatives would prefer these issues be dealt with on more of a faith-based level through private charity but it can also be addressed by local and state governments. (By the way, thanks to Jackie Wellfonder for bringing the New Republic piece to my attention just in time for me to add it in because it fit the point so well.)

Just as the right has its TEA Party movement which has cooled to the mainstream Republican party – and for good reason – many activists on the left are embracing their new savior as Senator Elizabeth Warren, whose populist screed against Wall Street has won the backing of elements of the Democrat Party who think Barack Obama sold them out and Hillary Clinton is too close to the right wing. They are also fed up with the government, but stare at the problem from the other side of the fence because they want the power of government to regulate corporatism out of existence, or rein it in as fascism dictates.

Meanwhile, while these Warren acolytes whine about what Barack Obama is not providing them, they fail to see that many of their goals are being realized anyway. Truly it’s the Right that’s not being served.

As the new year arrives and Republicans take over Congress (along with the governor’s chair in Annapolis) we will begin to see all the stories and tales of woe unreported on over the last six years. There’s a lot of work to do, and Republican leaders in Congress didn’t get off on the right foot by passing CRomnibus. We must demand, now that we’ve granted them the opportunity to complete the FY2016 budget in regular order as they’ve wished to do for several years, that our priorities be the ones funded and the mistakes of the last six years deleted.

Perhaps we can also do our part in using the referendum system in advancing conservative causes as well. Two can play that game, and it’s just as important to motivate our voters as it is for the other side to buy theirs.

The start of something good?

Last week, Mark Green at the Energy Tomorrow blog posted a critique of the proposed fracking regulations Maryland may adopt in the waning days of the O’Malley administration. In his piece, Green stressed that Maryland needed to adopt “sensible” restrictions but feared Maryland would go too far. It was echoed in the Washington Post story by John Wagner that Green cites.

But the money quote to me comes out of the Post:

“In the short term, as a practical matter, the industry will probably choose to frack in other states than Maryland where the standards are lower,” O’Malley said. But in the longer term, he said, “it could well be that responsible operations may well choose to come here.”

Or maybe not, which seems to have been the goal of O’Malley and Radical Green all along. It’s funny that they don’t seem to have the objections to wind turbines dotting the landscape despite their own health issues. Certainly no one studied them to death.

Being a representative of the energy industry, Green naturally argues that “sensible” regulations are similar to those already in place in states which already permit the practice. As he notes:

Hydraulic fracturing guidelines developed by industry – many of them incorporated into other states’ regulatory regimes – offer a sound approach proved by actual operations.

I can already hear the howling from Radical Green about the fox guarding the hen house, and so forth. But is it truly in the interest of industry to foul its own nest?

On the other hand, the success of fracking and other domestic exploration may create an interesting situation. Even back in October, when oil had declined to $90 a barrel from a June peak of nearly $115 a barrel, analysts were speculating on the effects the drop would have on the budgets of OPEC member nations. Now that oil in closing in on $60 a barrel, the economic effects on certain nations will be even more profound, and contrarian economic observers are already warning that the oil boom is rapidly turning into a bust with a ripple effect on our economy.

Even the revenue scheme by which Maryland would collect a sales tax on gasoline depended on gas prices staying somewhere over $3 a gallon. Assuming the price of gasoline stays at about $2.70 per gallon through the first of the year, the predicted 8-cent per-gallon rate will only be 5.4 cents. (The sales tax on gasoline is slated to increase to 2% on January 1.)

In any case, there is a price point at which non-traditional oil extraction such as fracking or extraction from tar sands – the impetus for the long-stalled Keystone XL pipeline – becomes economically non-viable. I had always heard that number was $75 per barrel, which was a number we had consistently hovered above for the last half-decade. Now that we are under that number, the question of exploration in Maryland may be moot for the short-term, although the price of natural gas is only slightly below where it was this time last year so that play is still feasible.

Whether the decline in oil prices is real or a manipulation of the market by a Saudi-led OPEC which is playing chicken with prices to try and restore its bargaining position by outlasting domestic producers, it may be yet another missed opportunity for Maryland as it could have cashed in during a difficult recession and recovery if not for an administration which believed the scare tactics and not what they saw with their own eyes as neighboring Pennsylvania thrived.

A full-court press for support

Last Saturday I received this pamphlet in the mail, something I could only describe as a full-court press to make Dr. Ben Carson into a viable Presidential candidate for 2016.

To those who didn’t receive it, here is a description: it’s a 32-page, full-color pamphlet – essentially 8 full-sized sheets of paper, front and back, with a cardstock cover, festooned with patriotic images and some descriptive text. In essence, it’s a very long fundraising letter but its stated purpose is for the reader to sign it as if it were a petition in an enclosed envelope and send it back, preferably with a personal note of support.

But wait, there’s more! I also received ANOTHER six-page fundraising pitch along with yet a third single-page cover letter, again asking for money. Not knowing just how many were sent out – I received two because another copy was inadvertently left with mine in the mailbox (it’s been sent on to the intended recipient down the road) you have to figure this operation is costing the “Run Ben Run” front group at least low six figures and perhaps even seven if the list is over 200,000 people.

So what is the pitch? The booklet claims Carson is the only one who can beat Hillary Clinton. Why?

It all comes down to 17% of the Black Vote!

Hillary knows that any Republican candidate who wins just 17% of the black vote makes it impossible for her or any Democrat running for President to win even one swing state.

Why am I so sure that Dr. Carson will win at least 17% of the black vote? Here’s why…

2012 Presidential Candidate Herman Cain’s Internal Polls Revealed A Shocking Revelation!

When Herman Cain ran for President in 2012, he was stunned to learn that his internal polls showed him winning more than 40% of the black vote and more than 60% of the Latino vote.

As you can imagine, the Cain campaign team was perplexed. How could Herman Cain draw huge support from both the African American and the Hispanic community running against America’s first black president, Barack Obama? It didn’t seem to make any sense.

What they concluded was that poor African Americans and poor Latinos saw in Herman Cain a man who had experienced their lot in life – being born into poverty. They believed that he understood their plight and more important, he understood how to escape poverty and experience economic success.

In short, they identified with Herman Cain.

Now, if African Americans and Hispanics identified that much with Herman Cain…

Imagine How African Americans and Hispanics Will Identify With And Support Dr. Ben Carson! (All emphasis in original.)

Oh yeah, it’s laid on just that thick and written that breathlessly throughout the pamphlet, which also includes the claim that Ben is “A Genuine Ronald Reagan Conservative.” (No conservative worth his salt can make a statement without comparing himself to Reagan.) That’s not to say the results wouldn’t be similar, but I suspect there’s a giant disconnect between the situation in 2011 when Herman Cain was planning a run and 2015 when Carson is contemplating his. Remember, Cain had at least run for office once before in a statewide race – campaign experience Carson is lacking. Something this book doesn’t cover is how Carson will fend off every liberal member of the media digging up (or making up) whatever dirt on Carson they think will stick. Any crank with a malpractice suit against Dr. Carson’s practice will walk away with their 15 minutes of fame for sharing their (probably embellished) story.

Something this book does have, though, is very sketchy bullet points on some issues.

For example, Carson “advocates cutting government spending by 10% each year, across the board, until the budget is balanced.” So defense that’s already being cut to the bone would fare worse still under Carson. It’s the problem with across-the-board cuts – things which are bloated are cut too slowly, while vital programs are starved of funds.

He would repeal and replace Obamacare while giving everyone in America an electronic medical record and pretax health savings account. That makes more sense, but still leaves me mildly skeptical.

Carson advocates a flat tax in order to “make sure that everyone has skin in the game.” I’d prefer the FairTax but a flat tax would be acceptable provided we also eliminated backup withholding. Our church doesn’t take money out of our paychecks off the top, so why should the government?

As for social issues, Carson believes marriage is only between a man and a woman and is pro-life. The book also quotes Carson on welfare:

A truly moral nation enacts policies that encourage personal responsibility and discourage self-destructive behavior by not subsidizing people who live irresponsibly and make poor choices.

He also points out:

While values, knowledge, and compassion are the key for getting America back on track, the most important thing is prayer.

Carson seems to get most of his support from social conservatives who haven’t been terribly thrilled with the last two Republican nominees. It’s a branch of the Republican party that the powers that be seem to take for granted, although they helped to maintain the campaign for Rick Santorum for quite awhile in 2012. Many of those southern and midwestern states (including Iowa and South Carolina) will probably be the most fertile ground for Carson if he decides to run – on the other hand, this may not play as well in New Hampshire and Nevada, although the latter would be a test case for the Hispanic vote.

The pamphlet comes on the heels of a 40-minute long infomercial which aired last month in a number of markets just after the election (and is being re-broadcast this week on the Newsmax TV network, available from satellite providers.) Carson isn’t officially in the race but isn’t preventing the speculation, either.

As for the petition: sure, I sent it in. There’s nothing wrong with Carson that the run won’t reveal, although if I were leaning toward anyone right now I would say it would be one of the governors considering a bid. But it’s good to see someone who explicitly exhibits Christian values take a shot at the brass ring.

PCUCPA will be back, under a new name

Naturally the news came with an appeal for financial help, but the Maryland Pro-Life Alliance shared some good news on the pro-life front for next year. They announced that newly-elected Senator Michael Hough will sponsor the Women’s Late-Term Pregnancy Health Act (WLTPHA) in the upcoming session.

The bill is described by MPLA as having several purposes:

  • Documents the undisputed medical risks to a pregnant woman’s health when an abortion is performed at 20 weeks gestation.
  • Substantial medical evidence verifies that an unborn child by at least 20 weeks gestation has the capacity to feel pain.
  • Based upon medical evidence of the risks to women’s health and the pain felt by unborn children, this bill will prohibit abortions at or or after 20 weeks gestation.

Without knowing the text of the bill, it sounds markedly similar to the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB283/SB34 in 2014) which went nowhere in the last two sessions. I doubt this bill would pass in Maryland, but there are purposes for introducing it in the upcoming session.

First and foremost, this bill surveys the lay of the land in the Senate. How many co-sponsors does it get? To use last year’s examples, the House version had 43 co-sponsors but the Senate bill had none other than its original backer, Senator Ed Reilly. Certainly there are more pro-life members there than just Senator Reilly but apparently no one wanted to step forward in an election year. That pressure is eased this time around.

And while the sponsors in the House for last year’s version included four Democrats, only one (Delegate Ted Sophocleus) returned for another term. Conversely, a handful of Republicans were not co-sponsors but of those only Delegates Wendell Beitzel and Mark Fisher came back. A companion cross-filed House bill could be important because there are now enough Republicans to force a floor vote if desired through the process of bypassing the committee it would be assigned to. Whether the WLTPHA is an important enough issue to use that option will also be a story that develops, especially if the fiscal portions of Governor-elect Hogan’s agenda have a difficult time getting a committee vote.

It will be many years before Maryland becomes as enlightened as other states about the physical and psychological hazards that freely available abortion carries. But the first step has to be made somewhere, and just as bad legislation sometimes needed to be introduced year after year to break down the barriers to passage, so do bills like this. Progress in Maryland for this year would be getting non-sponsoring legislators on record as to their support or lack thereof.

‘Made in America’ gains strength in November

It was good news in November for manufacturers, at least as expressed on the employment front – based on the November jobs report and revisions to previous reports, the sector gained 48,000 workers over that timeframe.

Naturally, manufacturing supporters were cheered by the news, with the union-backed Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) noting that Barack Obama is now over 1/4 of the way to his promise of a million new manufacturing jobs in his second term, while economist Chad Mowbray of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) trade group pointed out robust growth in new orders was beginning to translate into new employees.

However, both groups saw some clouds among the silver linings. In the case of AAM, their complaint was the “failure to stop currency manipulation by China and Japan” while NAM cited “headwinds such as rising health care costs and regulatory burdens.”

Each complaint has some validity, but for the majority of manufacturers the specter of operational costs is a key deterrent to expansion or even staying in business. While it’s not manufacturing in a traditional sense – and certainly applies on a more limited scale than federal edicts which can overturn an entire industry – one example could be how the local processing of chicken would take a blow from ill-advised state phosphorus regulations that have the potential to drive the poultry business to different areas of the country. Needless to say, such a result would be devastating to this part of the state, leaving just tourism and some limited local services to provide the employment to support our region.

And while I’m mentioning Maryland politics, I may as well make one other pronouncement here. As I followed his gubernatorial campaign for a year, I paid attention to how Ron George studied and shared his thoughts on the prospect of making things in Maryland. I hope Larry Hogan can utilize Ron’s passion and expertise in his administration. While we would love to score an auto plant or other similarly large employer in this area of the state, a more realistic goal might be to, as Ron stressed during his campaign, fill up the existing facilities and areas several towns on the Eastern Shore have already laid out for manufacturing. To use a local example, adding 100 jobs for Wicomico County residents would immediately shave 0.2% off our unemployment rate, not to mention bring up the standard of living for everyone else.

A week ago yesterday we celebrated Small Business Saturday, but the best way to support them (other than shopping there) would be to make their lives easier by calling off the government regulator’s dogs and encouraging them to grow so that sometime down the road we can be the manufacturing power we once were.

The spread of success

A few days ago I, along with other Central Committee members and “interested parties,” received a memo from the Congressional campaign of Andy Harris. While the information I received probably isn’t public knowledge in its format, it is possible to find all of the facts provided through diligent searching and I believe revealing a little bit of it will help me to make a larger point.

In this memo, Harris outlines the “work (the campaign) did this cycle for candidates in Maryland and around the nation.” Just before the election we found out about A Great Maryland PAC and some of the assistance it gave in promoting candidates or pointing out flaws in the record of incumbent Democrats, but Harris did more – a lot more. As the memo explains:

On the Eastern Shore, maximum contributions through the Andy Harris campaign and Chesapeake PAC were made to delegate candidates Carl Anderton and Kevin Hornberger, both of whom defeated long-time Democrat stalwarts. Carl defeated 28 year incumbent Norm Conway, who also is the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, in a Wicomico County based district. Kevin defeated 16 year incumbent David Rudolph, who is the Vice Chair of the Economic Matters Committee, in a Cecil County district. Every seat on the Shore other than the democratically drawn majority-minority district is now held by Republicans. The lone Democrat State Senator on the Shore, Jim Mathias, regrettably, barely held on to his seat despite investments of time and financial resources in the race. All three delegate seats in his State Senate district went Republican, but Mathias held on by the skin of his teeth.

Another big highlight on the Shore was the defeat of Democrat Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt by Republican Bob Culver. Congressman Harris donated significantly to Bob’s campaign, and Culver was able to pull it out. In addition to these Democrat-held seats, four candidates running in open seats and supported by Harris were able to put their races away with ease. Mary Beth Carozza (Worcester) won 74% in her single member district. Chris Adams (Wicomico) and Johnny Mautz (Talbot) each doubled the amount of votes received by their Democratic challengers. Jay Jacobs (Kent), Steve Arentz (Queen Anne’s) and Jeff Ghrist (Caroline) all ran strong victorious delegate campaigns. With the election of Jeff Ghrist, Caroline County has for the first time in decades a resident delegate.

Every Republican Delegate or Senate candidate who represents a part of the First District received some level of financial support from Congressman Harris.

A good illustration of the impact outside help can make is found with Anderton’s race. Throughout the campaign. incumbent Norm Conway’s bankroll fluctuated in a range of $75,000 to $100,000 on hand. With most candidates, it’s difficult to overcome that much of a financial disadvantage; indeed, it turned out Carl was outspent in the race by more than 4 to 1. While Anderton put in a tremendous amount of sweat equity, having the money to wage a little bit of a media campaign and not completely cede the airwaves made a big difference.

But another local race illustrates the problem a statewide minority party has. That “skin of the teeth” victory by Jim Mathias also was won at great cost – like Anderton, Republican challenger Mike McDermott was outspent by better than 4 to 1. For Mathias, though, the victory was won on the airwaves as he spent $268,850 over the last month at a company called Screen Strategies, which is a really big gun in that it’s worked for several statewide Democratic campaigns and leftist interest groups, including anti-traditional marriage and pro-abortion entities. On just that firm alone, Mathias spent 2.3 times what Mike McDermott spent on his entire campaign. And since it’s a more far-flung Senate district – as opposed to the relatively compact confines of House District 38B in the immediate Salisbury metro area – the impact of media is much greater because no candidate can be everywhere in three counties every day.

What the Maryland Republican Party needs is more people to pull in money like Harris does and spread it around. While Democrats have a registration majority of roughly 2 to 1 over Republicans and 56% of the overall electorate, they hold a margin larger than their proportion in the Maryland Senate and prior to this year’s election did the same in the House – and that’s not to mention their 9 to 1 advantage in Maryland’s Congressional delegation. When Jim Mathias and Norm Conway needed financial help, their party and interests were able to provide it. Unfortunately, it’s only because of Andy Harris that the First District is the one portion of the state where the GOP can counter this – the rest of the state exists more or less on its own. The loss of Dan Bongino in the Sixth Congressional District was troubling because that end of the state could have received the same assistance down the road.

One big, big problem with the Republican Party in Maryland is that they can’t fill out their ballot throughout the state, and even in certain county races. While Republicans have outdone their registration disadvantage in Wicomico County for the past several years, we still could not find candidates willing to go after two open seats, one for Delegate and one for County Council, in majority-minority districts. Granted, one only became open when the current Delegate withdrew at the last possible minute AFTER the filing deadline, but the GOP still could add a name to the ballot for a few days afterward. We tried, but no one would make that commitment. Now that people are becoming aware they could get at least a little financial help, though, that problem could be solved in 2018.

Though they have an uphill battle at best, those sacrificial lambs serve a noble purpose by making the Democrats spend money on their campaigns, money that they can’t send off to a vulnerable fellow candidate someplace else in the state – as many “safe” Democrats did to help Mathias. With few exceptions, Democrats found people willing to carry their banner in Republican-held areas so we had to pay some attention to them.

And there’s always the possibility of catching lightning in a bottle because once in awhile miracles happen – everyone and their brother thought District 38B was gerrymandered into a safe seat for Norm Conway, but the voters proved otherwise.

Those District 38B voters were better informed because they have a Congressman who’s willing to not just vote conservatively in Congress, but help in building a viable conservative movement in Maryland. In the meantime, state Republicans could stand some lessons from Carl on how to win an uphill battle.

Same boss – but a couple new underlings

As many who read this space might be aware I took a pass on this year’s quadrennial Maryland GOP organizing convention, so I have Jackie Wellfonder to thank for this picture of our returning Chair.

It’s suitable for framing and sending to Mike Miller. Two years ahead of schedule, bro.

So while there weren’t as many on the ballot as there were for the very contentious 2010 organizing convention, this year still featured some interesting races with the results being perhaps slightly unexpected. But they could be considered a blow to the libertarian wing of the Maryland Republican Party, as the two candidates most directly tied to their effort both lost – Joe Fleckenstein falling far short against incumbent Secretary John Wafer and incumbent 1st Vice-Chair Collins Bailey losing decisively to Mary Burke-Russell by a weighted 298-249 vote, according to observer Dave Wissing. Bailey was the only incumbent to run and lose, while Burke-Russell wins a position she unsuccessfully sought last year in the wake of Diana Waterman’s ascension to Chair.

Meanwhile, the 2nd Vice-Chair race turned out as I expected, with Larry Helminiak easily winning another term over Greg Holmes.

Perhaps the most interesting dynamic was the 3rd Vice-Chair race, which went to a second ballot when none of the three contenders could garner a majority. On the opening ballot Rob Willoughby held on to a narrow lead over Eugene Craig III with Tommy Rodriguez bringing up the rear. Before the second round Rodriguez dropped out and endorsed Craig, enabling him to come from behind.

Since it may have been that endorsement that made the difference, I asked Tommy Rodriguez why he backed Eugene Craig:

I had great respect for Eugene coming into this race, and I am personally familiar with his charisma and willingness to help our party grow. His Young Guns initiative is exactly the kind of innovative thinking that will help grow the Republican bench and make our party more appealing to young voters.

It was a good enough reason to propel Craig to the victory.

As the party hierarchy preached unity to the convention, though, there was one element which couldn’t resist its sack dance:

Stay classy, guys. I don’t think Collins Bailey will be going away anytime soon, and the libertarian wing of the party may be more feisty than ever during the General Assembly session.

Now that we’ve made it through the convention in a more or less united fashion, the party can begin planning strategy for the aforementioned session. But perhaps the best news of all that came out of the convention was that the party can apparently finally retire its long-term debt. It was something which always concerned me during my tenure on the Central Committee and now that we’ve finally broken into the black we can more easily continue painting Maryland red in 2016 and 2018.

So, to borrow a term from my incoming Delegate, let’s get back to work!

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