Well, that was stupid

First of all, credit where credit is due, Bill Duvall got me thinking about this topic with his post this morning. He was looking at it through the prism of this being Jim Mathias’s possible one-day term in session.

But I’m looking at it for several other reasons. First of all, it shows us where the true interest lies in Maryland government, and it’s not here. Delmarva Power is raising rates 35 percent? Well, that’s the Eastern Shore, who cares? I rent out that Ocean City condo anyway so I’ll raise the rent another $50 a week.

I looked up on BG&E’s website where their service area is. According to their service map, they have operations in 10 Maryland counties, but predominate in 6 – Baltimore City/County, Carroll, Howard, Anne Arundel, and Harford. Looking further, I coordinated those counties with the Maryland General Assembly districts and found that about 63 Delegates and 21 Senators would likely be within the service area. That’s about 2/5 of the General Assembly, and surprisingly to me, it’s not a huge Democrat majority in the House of Delegates (37 to 26.) But in the Maryland Senate those 21 seats split 15-6 Democrat. As it turned out, 13 of the 15 Republicans in the House of Delegates and 2 of the 3 GOP Senators voting for the new deal live in these areas. The exceptions were RINO Delegate Jean Cryor of Montgomery County, our own Delegate Page Elmore (why, Page, why?), and Senator E.J. Pipkin of Queen Anne’s County (a strong anti-BG&E advocate.)

Now you know damn well that the Democrats in Annapolis aren’t going to let Bob Ehrlich take credit for anything. Because the General Assembly couldn’t solve this issue in April, the negotiations that took place changed the proposed 72% rate hike to a more tolerable 21% and deferred payments over the next two years. However, a customer could opt out if he or she chose to swallow the whole increase.

Enter Baltimore mayor and gubernatorial candidate Martin O’Malley. He decided to gamble on getting a special session, and hopefully a deal that Democrats (and his campaign) could crow about. The city sued to stop this increase and forced the special session.

According to the Baltimore Sun, these were the opt-in/opt-out plans previously on the table (notice there was an option):

Opt-in plan (negotiated by Governor Ehrlich and the PSC): July increase of 19.4 percent, customers phased into market rates over 18 months with no more than a 25% increase at one time, a $19 per month fee that would run July 2007-June 2009, and no interest on deferred costs.

Opt-out plan: July increase of 21 percent, remaining 50% or so deferred to February 2007. Payments on deferred costs would start in March 2007, with a 5% interest rate until payoff (about 15 months).

The new plan goes like this: July increase of 15 percent, with remaining increase as early as June, 2007. Instead of the deferred cost being spread out over 15 months, it’s now going to be spread over 120 months, including interest. And for BG&E customers who read this from my fellow MBA members’ links – you are stuck with this deal.

So Martin O’Malley’s gamble got BG&E customers (and only those customers, must be all he cared about) a 6% difference in rates, but almost 9 more years of interest charges in paying the deferral off. For the rest of us, it got a brand new PSC because this measure usurped the role of the executive branch in selecting members and placed it in the hands of the General Assembly – a nice naked power grab.

Oh, and if the governor wants to take this mess to court himself, it’s mandated the case be heard in Baltimore City. There’s some real Ehrlich-friendly judges there. Of course, that has to be done gratis anyway, because also in the bill is a provision forbidding state funds be spent on a challenge!

It’s no surprise then that both the Democrats running for governor are patting their own backs until their arm falls off. Martin O’Malley beams that it was his lawsuit that has saved the day for Maryland consumers, while Doug Duncan gushed, “I urge you once again, as you did with the medical malpractice crisis, to work together to craft a short-term solution that will relieve the fears of Marylanders and build a foundation for a long-term solution to this issue.”

And Duncan is more right than he might know, it is a short-term solution. It keeps the wrath of the voters from falling on the Democrats’ precious majority. All they give a crap about is keeping enough seats in the General Assembly to thwart any Ehrlich actions if he’s re-elected. If Governor Ehrlich is defeated, the refrain of “Happy Days Are Here Again” will echo through Annapolis as the four-year nightmare of a GOP governorship will come to an end, and the redistribution of wealth to build power can recommence posthaste. Well, they would have to wait until January. Minor detail, and besides, why should Democrats follow the Maryland Consitution then? It’s a poor precedent!

Some shoppers buy their Christmas presents in the summer. With their vote this week, the Democrats in Annapolis wanted to assure their Christmas comes on November 8th, when they can gleefully revel in the words of Mike Miller, “(the GOP is) going to be flying high, but we’re going to get together and we’re going to shoot them down. We’re going to put them in the ground, and it’ll be 10 years before they crawl out again.

You ain’t burying my ass, buddy. It’s time to fight.

In print no. 4

This also got pushed back a couple days because of the announcement of my candidacy for Wicomico County Republican Central Committee.

On Wednesday, I was quoted in a Daily Times story on Ben Cardin’s new War on Terror stance. If the link ceases to work, here’s the money quote I gave to reporter James Fisher:

In any case, conservatives who may have been inclined to pick Steele over Cardin or Mfume won’t have second thoughts after Cardin’s speech, said Michael Swartz of Salisbury, who runs a Web log that focuses on state and local politics, www.monoblogue.us.

“I think, in a way, he’s trying to kick Bush when he’s down,” Swartz said of Cardin.“I think he’s wanted to say this for awhile. He might have thought this in 2002, but he sure as heck wasn’t going to say it. Now he can get away with it.”

He actually did quote me pretty well, the only thing is I actually misspoke. I was thinking of when we started the push to topple Saddam Hussein (that actually occurred in 2003), but no matter. The point remains.

Now, as part of my efforts to collect items for the weekly election calendar, I’m now on Rep. Cardin’s mailing list. Here’s a release I got in my e-mail on this subject:

Dear Friend,

More than three years ago, President Bush sent our brave men and women to war in Iraq with no strategy in place to bring them home – and the American people have paid a heavy price. To this day, the President wants to simply stay the course.

I disagree.

I voted against the war in 2002 and today, in a speech at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, I called on President Bush to take a new direction in Iraq. We must immediately start bringing American troops home and we must reengage the international community in Iraq’s reconstruction.

Military experts recommend bringing American troops back home at the rate of 10,000 per month, which would cut our troop level in Iraq in half by the end of 2006. We should be able to bring all American combat troops home from Iraq by the end of 2007. A gradual drawdown will allow U.S. military advisers to continue training Iraqi troops but will put Iraqi officials on notice that the new Iraqi government must soon take full responsibility.

Our troops have performed magnificently under difficult conditions in Iraq, but they can not remain there indefinitely. Most military officials agree that American forces are over-stretched and would be unable to quickly respond to another situation at home or abroad. Furthermore, military recruitment has slowed considerably during the Iraq war.

At the top of the list to come home should be our National Guard units. Many of these units, including hundreds of guardsmen and guardswomen from Maryland, have been overseas far longer than ever intended. They need to come home so they are prepared to respond to local needs.

In order to effectively drawdown American troops from Iraq, we must have the cooperation of our allies in the international community. President Bush and Secretary of State Rice should organize a peace conference to negotiate international responsibilities with allied nations and mend the relationships that were damaged by ignoring diplomacy and rushing to war three years ago. The entire world has an interest in a free and secure Iraq; rebuilding Iraq should be a shared responsibility among allied democratic nations.

More than 2,400 young American men and women have lost their lives in Iraq. More than 18,000 troops have been wounded and more than $300 billion dollars have been spent. It’s time for a change of course.

I hope you will join me in calling on President Bush to begin bringing American troops home.

(at this point he references an item on his website)

Thank you for your trust and support,

Ben Cardin

Well, I don’t know if I can trust him with national defense issues and I certainly don’t support his call to bring the troops home by a date certain. When the job is finished, we will bring the troops home. As I’ve said before, I think we’re closer to the end than to the beginning now. But it’s foolhardy to give the enemy a timetable so they can lay low until the time is right.

Personally, I see no problem with having a forward base of operations in Iraq much as we do in Germany, Japan, Korea, and dozens of other countries. Obviously, that’s up to their government but seeing that we’re going to be dependent on a lot of oil from that region of the world (with thanks to Rep. Cardin on that since he’s a reliable vote against U.S. drilling) it’s clear to me that a forward deployment is a good thing.

Our enemy doesn’t go by a timetable dictated by the next election. They’ve waited many years and generations to have their opportunity to strike back against the Christians and the West. We need to have the same resolve they do and the same goal: to subdue the enemy until he’s no more.

Ten questions for…Michael Steele

This got pushed back a day because of the announcement of my candidacy for Wicomico County Republican Central Committee. But it still didn’t help.

You know, it’s very disappointing when the front-runner for your party’s nomination doesn’t answer simple questions. Unfortunately, he seems content to cruise to the nomination THEN kick his campaign into high gear. Well, I have news for him: I don’t think the voters are in the mood for a campaign solely of 30-second commercials and staged appearances, and with a primary battle shaping up on the Democrat side someone is going to be more battle-tested.

Answer the Ten Questions, Michael.

By the way, when I got the newest updated list of candidates yesterday for the 2006 ballot (with me on it) I found two more people running for the U.S. Senate seat on it. So I will send them a copy of the Ten Questions posthaste, luckily I have e-mail addresses for both.

Announcement

Tonight on monoblogue I’m formally announcing my candidacy for a seat on Wicomico County’s Republican Central Committee. My treasurer, Michael Waldman, and I filed the papers this afternoon with the Board of Elections. Hence, the new AUTHORITY statement in the upper right hand corner. I was told that this will satisfy the requirements for the state. I’m unique in that monoblogue is not exclusively a campaign site like many I link to, but there will be elements of the campaign that will be posted here. This way all who visit know that I’m being above board when it comes to my quest and there’s items pertaining to my race that are posted here.

So why am I running?

This will be a four-year term that I’m running for. My goal in that four years is to help strengthen the Wicomico County Republican Party to a point where they become the larger of the two major political parties in this county. Currently this disparity runs about 18,000 Republicans to 23,000 Democrats.

However, I’m of the opinion that the Republican Party is truly the majority party both in Wicomico County and the Eastern Shore in general. We need only look at what our county contributes to the statewide and national election results. The last even-year election where a Democrat candidate for governor or President carried Wicomico County was 1986, the year William Donald Schaefer crushed a weak GOP opponent. With that success, I feel that the goal of majority status is easily attainable.

In my belief, the most important immediate goal of our party should be to help Governor Ehrlich attain another term. The second 2006 goal is to elect at least one if not two Republicans to the District 38B seats in the General Assembly while keeping our current crop of Wicomico’s Republican representatives in office. The party needs to have at least enough people in Annapolis to enable Governor Ehrlich’s vetoes to stand. Had the GOP held 5 more seats in the House of Delegates this spring, Wal-Mart might well be breaking ground this summer on a new Somerset County distribution center.

And it’s obvious that the GOP slate extends beyond those races, both at a state and local level. Fine candidates are stepping up from all over Maryland to attempt a breakup of the Democrat dominance that has placated the Baltimore/DC region but left the Eastern Shore fuming.

While the main goal of my agenda is to place Wicomico County in the GOP column as far as voters, there is a more in-depth plan I’d like to adopt to begin a wholesale change in our county, state, and national governments.

Those who know me from reading monoblogue these last few months probably understand that I’m a believer in the Reaganesque mantra which states government that governs best governs least. The problem we have is that most of us have grown up in an era where government has become less like a genial Uncle Sam and more like Orwellian Big Brother. Even the Reagan mystique and the Contract with America have only been speedbumps on this road paved with good intentions, but bad results.

I think that those who have the youth, have the future. I’m 41 years old. Assuming it’s still around in its present form, in 21 years I’d be eligible to collect Social Security. In just 9 years I can become an AARP member should I choose to. (Yeah, right.) While a lot can change in 20 years, the problem with my generation is that there’s as many or more who like to belly up to the government nipple and drink to their fill as there are people who agree with me that this madness needs to come to an end, better sooner than later.

One thing I would like to adopt if elected is an open-door policy and outreach to the Salisbury University College Republicans as well as local Young Republican chapters. While they legally wouldn’t get a vote in Central Committee decisions, they certainly could and should attend and offer input. In turn, we as Central Committee members need to do what we can to encourage these interested youths to get involved with the political process. Take advantage of their youthful energy, not just as grunt workers for the same old candidates but give them an opportunity to make a difference. Will mistakes be made? Yes, but it’s better to make a mistake trying to make a positive change than screwing up doing the same old thing.

I’ve done this sort of thing before, but on a much smaller scale. Between 1998 and 2002 I served on the Republican Central Committee in Lucas County, Ohio. While Lucas County (city of Toledo and surrounding suburbs) has 6 times the population of Wicomico County, they also had over 200 on their Central Committee, with many other seats available since the county has about 500 precincts. The area I represented was just a couple dozen blocks.

With so many people holding seats, it was a little bit difficult to change the status quo. Unfortunately, the status quo in Toledo and Lucas County was the Democrat machine continuing to operate almost uninterrupted. So I see a much better opportunity for change in Wicomico County.

In Wicomico County, as anywhere in America, the Republican Party seeks to gain control of government. Saying that, I’d like to see our party win the County Executive post and a majority on County Council as well as the lesser offices, particularly the high-profile Sheriff post. We have a good slate of candidates in 2006. However, part of our job has to be holding their feet to the fire. As a new candidate, for me to win means that one incumbent on the Central Committee has to be bumped out. It’s possible he or she simply may not choose to run and there’s an open seat.

But I’m a believer in contested primaries regardless of office. Just because someone is in elected office makes them no more special than the rest of us. In Ohio, the state GOP used to drive me crazy by annointing candidates prior to the voters getting our say. In this year’s race for governor, once again they attempted to thwart the will of the rank-and-file by throwing their support behind Jim Petro – but the Republican voters chose the more conservative Ken Blackwell as their nominee. In 2010, I would like to see even the Republicans who win election this year pushed to a contest in the primary. A spirited but friendly competition is a good warmup for the real test, when our candidates square off with those Democrats who will likely have the advantages of help from Annapolis and a friendlier media.

This is my platform. I think it’s time for some new blood and new ideas on the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee, thus I’ve placed my hat squarely in the ring. While we’ve had some success doing things the way we always have, I think we should take advantage of the opportunities presented to us right here in Wicomico County and improve things for everyone by promoting candidates with varied ideas on how to achieve a more well-governed county and state.

I’d appreciate your help on September 12 in making the first step toward government that’s more honest, more efficient, and more in tune with the common-sense values I see among those on the Eastern Shore. Don’t just pick the first seven people on the list for Central Committee. Being at the end of the alphabet, I’m going to be toward the bottom of the list, so make a note to look for it. My name is Michael Swartz and I’m asking for your support.

Shorebird of the week 6-15-2006

Brad Bergesen of the Shorebirds pitching in a replica Negro League Baltimore Elite Giants uniform.

The honors for SotW this week go to a gentleman lucky enough to be pitching on a night the Shorebirds wore a special tribute uniform to the Negro League’s Baltimore Elite Giants. But Brad Bergesen has done more than be a good uniform model. Despite a recent bout of illness, Bergesen has pitched relatively well when healthy.

One thing the 2004 4th round pick (another high pick toiling for Delmarva this season) doesn’t do is walk a lot of batters. Last season in Aberdeen Bergesen walked just 14 in 71 innings, this year only 4 free passes have been granted in 35 1/3 innings. So count on Brad to be around the plate. It’s unusual for a young pitcher just a couple years removed from high school to have such good control. However, he is susceptible to giving up a lot of contact, thus his total number of hits given up will likely exceed 1 per inning. So far this season that has held true (44 hits allowed.)

With Bergesen’s 21st birthday not on the horizon until after the season in September, the California native is another of the Orioles’ promising crop of very young pitchers. The late collapse of the Shorebirds, who were eliminated from a possible first-half title with a loss tonight, cannot be laid at the feet of the pitching staff. With several changes to the team’s makeup likely to happen over the SAL’s All-Star break next week, look for Bergesen to regain a spot in the rotation before the end of the season as he recovers from his unusual trip to the disabled list.

Virginia results

According to the Virginia Board of Elections website, as of 10:13 p.m…

With all but 3 precincts reporting statewide, Jim Webb has won the nod to face George Allen this fall. The turnout was a pathetic 3.44%. In raw numbers, it’s 83,146 to 72,352.

Our friends in Accomack County favored Miller by a 280-205 margin. That turnout was even worse, 2.36%. Miller also carried adjacent Northampton County 124-85 with a 2.46% turnout. I guess that tells you how small the Eastern Shore of Virginia is in comparison to the whole state, less than 700 people voted on the Shore out of over 155,000 statewide.

What this doesn’t tell me is whether that’s a percentage of Democrat voters or all voters. But I suppose I can drop Harris Miller’s website out of my political links soon, I’ll check to see if he posts any congratulations to Jim Webb over the next few days.

Now let’s see if Jim Webb will turn his attention to the Ten Questions. I did send them Virginia way as well.

Ten questions for…Ray Bly

And everyone says “who?”

Well, according to my records of those who have filed their candidacy papers for the U.S. Senate seat, he’s there. And I sent him the Ten Questions like everyone else. But no word. In fact, the political portion of his website has been “under construction” for at least a couple months.

So, once again, it’s up to me to fill a little space. Right now, I’m batting .250 on Ten Questions, 1 for 4. I have Allan Lichtman’s answers up and three others’ sitting in a folder awaiting their turn. Looks like only 4 people truly want your votes and will answer questions to get them. The big guns just play those 30 second commercials.

I was going to use this space for the Virginia election results, but I think I’ll do that separately above.

Wish I had my camera

This is the first time I’ve ever crossposted between the LiveJournal I keep and monoblogue. But this is something I wanted to share.

This is one of those nights I’m skipping the gory details of life and focusing on a 20 minute walk.

Tonight we had one of the most gorgeous sunsets I’ve seen in a long time. It rained a good chunk of the day but now it’s cleared off. It so happened that a bank of high clouds was laying almost perfectly perpendicular to the sun angle. The best analogy I could think of as I walked and enjoyed the view was this:

Imagine if you will a barbeque grill full of charcoal that’s a fairly uniform gray and ashy. But between the coals there’s a lot of hotter spots glowing. The sunset tonight on those clouds reminded me of this – fiery orange at first, then fading through the spectrum of reds and slowly disappearing. What was projected on a whole large bank of clouds at first slowly receded in both brightness and area, finally becoming a dark reddish-gray smudge as the sun receded over the unseen horizon.

Then the sky itself took center stage, a million shades of yellow fading to orange then to purple as it met the remnants of the cloudbank as it moved southeastward. It backlit the trees and buildings in the medium distance. Where I walk is basically a quarter mile of so of open area sandwiched between my apartment complex on the east and an established neighborhood on the west.

At some point, I’m going to move on from this apartment I live in now, I’m already getting the itch to be back in a place I can call my own. I’m pretty settled on the Eastern Shore now. I’m sure there were a hundred sunsets like this when I was growing up in a rural area of northwest Ohio that had an almost clear view to the west, with the exception of the corn growing in the field. But tonight I wanted to reflect on this sunset that I didn’t miss and wanted to remember. It was an odd circumstance that I was out this late doing my walk, and maybe I needed a reminder that life’s not half bad if you take a little time and live in the world. Had I been in front of the TV or the computer I would’ve missed it. Hopefully you didn’t, but make sure you catch the next repeat performance if you did.

The newest Alliance member

If you had a sharp eye this afternoon or evening, you’d have noticed a new box on the left hand side of monoblogue with a Maryland flag up top. Yesterday I learned that I’m now the seventh and newest member of the Maryland Bloggers Alliance. I was invited by David of the Soccer Dad blog. He’s an occasional commenter here on monoblogue as I am on his blog.

So there’s a chance that I’m welcoming a few new readers from the other blogs in the Alliance (only my site counter knows for sure!) My blog is a little bit of a departure from theirs. Although we all generally have a conservative viewpoint, I think my blog is focused a little less on policy and more on process. My emphasis of late has been to get voters in the Eastern Shore area to inform themselves on those who seek their vote this fall. To that end, I’ve started two continuing features on monoblogue that I think would be good for the others to follow.

The first is called the Ten Questions. Back in early May, I sent a list of 10 questions on a variety of issues that will face them to each of the U.S. Senate candidates in Maryland, as well as Delaware and Virginia. Each Tuesday and Friday, I’m posting one set of answers from a randomly-chosen candidate. The bad news is thus far I’ve only posted answers from one hopeful (Democrat Allan Lichtman) out of the three who have had their turn. I do have three others who have responded but their publication date’s not come up yet. This series will continue through to the primary. In addition, I’m going to do another set of questions on state issues tailored to our state Delegate and Senate candidates in July after the filing period is over. Because of the death of one of our Lower Shore delegates (K. Bennett Bozman) in April, we’ll have an open seat for both parties to contend for. That seat’s now held by former Ocean City mayor Jim Mathias, it’s a question whether any other Democrats will covet the seat and seek to join his fellow Delegate Norm Conway (or a GOP successor) in Annapolis.

Second is a weekly political calendar that I debuted tonight (see below.) This will cover events on the lower shore, plus nearby Sussex County in Delaware. I’d like voters to see these folks and ask them the tough questions.

The second major difference between myself and the rest of the Alliance is simple geography. The rest are Baltimore-area blogs and I’m here on the Eastern Shore. We have a little different opinion on the shenanigans of the big city here, but we have our share of those urban problems, particularly gangs and drugs. There’s a thriving blogosphere here too, several are linked from my site.

Again, I’d like to welcome readers of my fellow Alliance blogs to monoblogue. And to my adoring fans here on the Eastern Shore, please partake in reading my fellow MBA cohorts.

Election Calendar – June 12 thru 25

This will be my first crack at establishing a local political calendar, subdivided by county.

Obviously I don’t have a lot yet, but that’s because the ball begins to roll slowly. Once I get a calendar or two in the pipeline I think things will go more efficiently. Prior to starting this I attempted to put an e-mail address on the mailing list of as many state and local candidates as I could easily do. Additionally, I sent a blanket e-mail to whatever local party chairs (both major parties and minor ones) that I could get an address for, asking for their cooperation.

For today’s version, I’ve pretty much perused the candidate websites. Some of them have calendars that are up to date, others do not. In the future, I’m hoping that the local parties will see this as an opportunity to get their candidate appearances more known to the public.

I plan to provide an updated calendar each Sunday night through Election Day, except for the Sunday I will be on vacation (coming up in August.)

Wicomico County:

Believe it or not, I have no events for Wicomico County in the next two weeks. Surprises me too.

Worcester County:

June 15: District 38B candidate Jack Lord will be at the Worcester County Farm Bureau. I assume this is a meeting of the Farm Bureau.

June 16 and 17: Jack Lord will also be at the Cypress Festival in Pocomoke. (If you haven’t guessed, he’s very good about having a calendar of events. Thumbs up Jack!)

June 20: Jack Lord will be at the Showell Fire Department. I’m unsure of the nature of the event.

June 23 and 24: I doubt he’ll be the only politician there, but again Jack Lord has scheduled himself to be at the “Delmarva Poultry Industry Festival” (aka Chicken Festival) at Byrd Park in Snow Hill.

June 25: This is an unconfirmed event, but I’m told that U.S. Senate candidate Michael Steele will be at the Four Corners Community Center in Berlin between 3 and 5 p.m.

Somerset County:

I have no event information at this time for Somerset County. Had this started a week earlier, I could have given Page Elmore’s event a plug here.

Dorchester County:

I do not have a date for this yet (perhaps someone up Cambridge way can help me, hint hint) but apparently U.S. House candidate Jim Corwin will be at the Dorchester Democrats’ Choptank Cruise. This is according to an e-mail update I got from the campaign (see how this works?)

Sussex County:

June 12: U.S. Senate candidate Jan Ting is scheduled to be at the Sussex County Republican meeting. Unfortunately, that’s all the detail I have.

June 17: Jan Ting will also appear at the College Republican fundraiser in Lewes. The Inn at Canal Square is the locale, from 6-8 p.m. I did not get info on the cost of the event.

********************

Again, if you are a candidate (or on their committee) running in these counties and have the scoop on events, WEBSITES (so I can link to them) or other helpful info I’d love to know about it. You can contact me at michael@monoblogue.us and I’ll give you a special e-mail I’m using for these campaigns. Basically it’s so I don’t get a lot of spam – so far it’s working.

In turn, I’ll try to keep our little corner of Delmarva posted on these events. Next calendar will be next Sunday and will cover June 19 through July 1.

5,000 plus words on the Crab Feast

Main course for a lot of diners today.

Sometimes the pictures tell a story. There wasn’t a whole lot said today at the event of profound political importance. It was simply an opportunity for residents of District 38A (and interested observers like myself) to eat a lot of good food and open their wallets at a live auction.

A view of the diners at the 2006 Crab Feast.

I took this photo about a half hour into the event. The place actually was teeming with folks by the time the auction started. It was funny, the last 3 items auctioned off were 3 bushels of steamed crabs that were left over. That’s not much considering the amount they started with.

Petitions for a referendum on early voting.

Of course, this petition drive was continued at the event. But I’m not sure it’s “The Governor’s petition” as much as it is an effort to overturn a purely partisan and ill-conceived act. The dirty little secret is that separate legislation has already made early voting de facto by making absentee ballots “shall issue” regardless of reason.

Delegate Page Elmore addresses the feast goers.

As I said at the start, there wasn’t much said at the event. Just two politicians spoke…Lowell Stoltzfus was simply the MC, and Page’s remarks were finished in less than 5 minutes, basically a thanks for coming out, eat hearty, and bid high at the live auction that was to commence after he spoke. By the way, the auctioneer was Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Lewis Riley. I think he also did Senator Stoltzfus’s picnic auction last fall.

If you have a yard in District 38A, this would look good in it.

So today wasn’t a big push for votes. If you wanted a yard sign, though, feel free to take one. According to Maryland law, yard signs are legal anytime on private property, but not in state highway right-of-way.

I didn’t catch all the high bids because of various conversations I had, but from what I had heard I’m thinking the live auction raised over $4,000 for the 27 items and lots up for bid. He actually had several interesting things, lots of golf packages, three different groups of Orioles tickets, and football tickets to the Redskins, Ravens, and University of Maryland Terps, among other items. Next year I’ll have to bring my checkbook if the house hunting I’m starting now has bore fruit.

And if you’re wondering, I’m not a crab eater. (I realize that might be sacrilege to the Eastern Shore, but I’m from the Western Shore – of Lake Erie.) But whoever made the pork for the sandwiches – mmmmm, was it good! And I ate just enough to tide me through dinner. Looking at those trays of crab, I figured folks were done for the day after all that.

So tomorrow I’ll hopefully get a calendar of events started so all the monoblogue readers can do their own meet and greet with the local and state politicians. It’s off to a slow start but I’m sure the ball will roll before too long.

Tri-County Lincoln Day Dinner 2006

It was a dark and stormy night. Well, actually the storm blew through a few minutes before festivities began but undaunted the combined Republican Central Committees of Worcester, Somerset, and Wicomico Counties held their 2006 Lincoln Day Dinner this evening at the Salisbury University Commons.

Having not been to the SU main campus, I managed to park in a lot several hundred yards away. But I have to tell you, SU does have a nice campus, one of the better ones I’ve trod through. That aside, I arrived for the event and started seeing familiar faces in the crowd. I also saw the interesting items placed on silent auction:

Items on the silent auction table.

As it turned out, if you can see the tan-colored book on the back table, I ended up being the successful bidder on it. I’d taken a picture of it but I couldn’t crop the picture to suit my format. However, I did get a good shot of the inscription page, which was signed by our Congressman:

The book I bought, signed by Congressman Gilchrest.

Oddly enough, I paid less than cover price for it, so someone took a bath and I profited (as did the Somerset County Republican Club, who got the auction proceeds.) Boy I love capitalism.

And so does our main speaker, Maryland Secretary of Business and Economic Development Aris Melissaratos. In and of itself, his life story is a good rags-to-riches tale. The native of Romania emigrated from Greece at the age of 13 with his family, studied hard and went to school, and began a long career in business with Westinghouse. Governor Ehrlich picked Aris for the post at the start of his term in 2003.

While a lot of his speech touched on the talking points Governor Ehrlich made in his Cambridge stop, Melissaratos also said that there’s “no bad news about the Maryland economy, just bad news in Maryland politics.” This was in reference to the many veto overrides that have occurred during Ehrlich’s term. After just 2 veto overrides in the previous Democrat terms, the GOP governor has seen over 30 of his vetoes slapped down by the Democrat-dominated General Assembly. In Melissarato’s words, the General Assembly had the “wrong priorities.” Time after time speakers during the dinner reminded the gathering that the Republicans need either 5 Senate seats or 14 House of Delegates seats (or both) to achieve a vetoproof minority; in other words 1/3 plus one of each legislative body.

The Secretary continued that the goal of the Ehrlich administration in term number two would be to continue working on a “One Maryland” economy which would be strong and diverse. He claimed that 9 of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions (23 counties and Baltimore city) had unemployment rates under 3%. Part of this outstanding record was the 1/4 of the state economy provided by Maryland’s proximity to the federal seat of government. Further, being close to the nation’s nerve center would assist Maryland as they strive to become the IT center of the world for both civilian and military purposes.

With all those jobs comes the need for housing, and one thing Aris spoke of glowingly was a program the state has to assist first-time homebuyers. In fact, speaking about transportation improvements he’d like to see, Melissaratos opined that it would be nice to see workers be able to live in inner-city Baltimore and revitalize those neighborhoods yet be able to quickly get to jobs in the DC area.

And there were several nods to our corner of the state. One balancing act Aris spoke of that the Ehrlich Administration had successfully performed was “keeping farmers happy but cleaning up the bay” as well. He also talked about visiting Pocomoke and Crisfield earlier during the day, speaking glowingly of revitalization and change in those two towns, as well as good things happening in Salisbury.

The final point Melissaratos drove home was an appeal. While he “(didn’t) want to name names…certain chairmen need to be punished for the Wal-Mart vote.” To us on the Eastern Shore, this hits home – 800 to 1,000 good jobs haven’t materialized because of the Fair Share Health Care Act that solely punished Wal-Mart and may have stopped their planned Somerset County distribution center in its tracks.

In actual order, two incumbent Delegates spoke before the Secretary because they had to leave early for another engagement. But for narrative’s sake, they’re all lumped together.

We started out with Addie Eckhardt, one of the Delegates from District 37B. She went through a laundry list of legislative accomplishments and called for more helpers for the GOP side of the General Assembly. Her 37B counterpart Jeannie Haddaway more briefly spoke that she was glad to precede the Secretary because he would be “a tough act to follow” and lauded his achievements.

After Melissaratos spoke, District 38 Senator Lowell Stoltzfus took to the microphone. He remarked that the “Democrats made sure of several things” like no action on the so-called “Jessica’s Law” aimed at child predators and stopping the state takeover of failing Baltimore city schools. On the other hand, they spent hours hearing testimony regarding the hiring and firing practices of Governor Ehrlich and whether it was politically motivated.

Wicomico County’s other Senator, Richard Colburn, decided to spend his time speaking of his opponent. He said that Maryland is like America in miniature, so in his case it followed that his opponent (Democrat Hilary Spence) was “Hillary Clinton in miniature.”

District 38A Delegate Page Elmore noted that if a Democrat wins the governor’s chair, it would be doubtful that much of the Eastern Shore delegation would be invited to the second floor, a reference to the governor’s office in the State House. Because the Eastern Shore was “becoming a Republican area” it was essential that Governor Ehrlich win another term.

We then heard from a statewide candidate. As it turned out, Comptroller candidate Mark Spradley was at his first campaign event since announcing his run today in Annapolis. Unfortunately, my photo of him didn’t turn out because it would have been illustrative. You see, he’s another of the Democrats’ worst nightmares: like Michael Steele, a conservative black Republican.

(Talk about fast action. I spoke to him last night and he said his website would be up this morning – indeed it is. You know that was the first question out of my mouth.)

He started out by saying that Free Staters “deserve more from the Comptroller’s office” and that the state needs to function more like a business financially. One of his pet issues: “Undocumented workers should pay taxes.” On the other hand, he wanted to help increase Maryland’s #24 national ranking in percentage of owner-occupied homes by pushing for a rollback in property taxes and a cut in closing costs.

Since the hour was starting to grow late, we heard briefly from each of the four contenders for the two Delegate spots in District 38B.

Bonnie Luna lauded Secretary Melissaratos’s message, Sonny “38B as in” Bloxom went through his experience and record as a Worcester County commissioner, Jack Lord portrayed himself as “the working man’s candidate”, and Michael James decried our “poor representation”, especially the Wal-Mart vote that was “for the unions.”

To wrap up the speaker portion of the program we got Governor Ehrlich’s regards, delivered by Deputy Chief of Staff Mary Beth Carozza. Then local elected officials and candidates were recognized from each of the three counties.

I had an interesting group at my table, split among Worcester and Wicomico County people. Worcester County Central Committeeman Larry Schrawder, the aforementioned Jack Lord and his wife, and Wicomico County Sheriff candidate Wayne Lowe and his better half all shared my table and were good company.

If memory serves me correctly, next year it’s Somerset County’s turn to host, although I was told the last time it was their turn it was actually held in Ocean City. But tomorrow I’ll be in Crisfield for Page Elmore’s event. As we speak, I’m sitting here setting my camera for better shots!