The same direction

It’s been a great month for Maryland Republicans, and after a few weeks to finish the counting of both our votes and our blessings on Thanksgiving, the party will meet early next month to elect its new leadership.

Unlike the last few times we have done this (I say “we” because I was a part of the process for eight years) the convention mood should be pretty joyous. Consider the situations where we’ve had this election in recent years I’ve been involved:

  • In 2006 we elected Jim Pelura in the wake of losing the governor’s race and taking a step backward nationally.
  • In 2009 Audrey Scott was picked to finish Pelura’s four-year term at a time when the party was broke, desperate, and suffered from infighting over Jim’s activist role while he was Chair.
  • In 2010 we lost the governor’s race again after a contested primary, missing out on the TEA Party wave which otherwise swept the country with the exception of getting back the First District Congressional seat. Alex Mooney won based on a platform of improving the party’s fiscal situation.
  • In early 2013, Diana Waterman ascended to the position as the previous First Vice-Chair, taking over a party riven by discord between TEA Party conservatives and more moderate members. Mooney’s promise of financial health had not come true, so the party was forced to downsize its headquarters in an effort to maintain solvency.

I did a little reading of my archives over the last few minutes in order to rehash the 2010 race (which was decided a week later than this year’s convention will be) and it’s interesting to note I spent the better part of a month talking about the race and its various players last time. Granted, we were talking about an open seat since Audrey Scott didn’t want another term, but the success of 2014 means a lot of people should be happy with the current leadership.

Moreover, there is a slightly different dynamic at play this time around – by-law changes a few years back mean the recently-concluded term of Mooney/Waterman was the final four-year term for a party Chair. As of this election, the new Chair will be in office for just two years, through the Fall Convention in 2016.

This gives the party an opportunity to split the four-year cycle into two logical halves. The first half should be devoted to something which was done fairly well in this cycle with a few exceptions – candidate recruitment and growing the party. Once we see the 2016 results and know the health of the national party, we can go to more of a re-elect Hogan mode with fundraising being the main idea. Personally, I think Diana deserves the opportunity to lead over the next two years, while the Hogan administration can have its selection for years 3 and 4. The 2018 election will be important to our side as the winner controls redistricting, so egregious gerrymanders such as the Third and Sixth Congressional Districts can be addressed once the 2020 census is complete.

Unless I hold a proxy for the convention I won’t have a direct say in the matter but I think the Maryland GOP would be well-served to avoid a divisive fight in this convention and work toward making inroads into more Democratic-controlled areas by identifying and recruiting good candidates, volunteers, and financial supporters for the 2018 cycle. I see no need to make a change if Diana Waterman wants the job for another two years.

Update: Going by her reply to my Facebook post promoting this piece, she’s in.

Mooney rising

If I didn’t give enough attention to the former Senator-turned-party-chair-turned-Congressional candidate (twice) I think I will now. But at the intersection of familiar former radio personalities from my hometown and party chairs who were my second or third choice for the job, along comes this podcast from Mark Standriff and the Tea Party Express, telling me, “This candidate is a movement conservative.”

In this week’s “On the Campaign Trail” podcast, we are joined by Alex Mooney. Alex discusses his campaign for the U.S. Congress in West Virginia’s 2nd District where he hopes to replace the seat vacated by Republican Shelley Moore Capito.

Alex Mooney is exactly the kind of Constitutional conservative that will bring the voice of the working class to Washington, D.C. He is a proven conservative champion who will never back down in the face of President Obama’s war on coal and will stand strong against the EPA’s radical anti-coal agenda.

Alex talks about his experience as a Maryland state senator and how it compares to his current campaign, as well as Obamacare, Obama’s war on coal, the recent debt ceiling deal, and states rights.

As I’ve pointed out in the past, Mooney had a very conservative voting record while he was in the Maryland Senate, and for want of 1,045 votes would probably either be running again for State Senate in Maryland, or more likely trying again for a Congressional seat from our Sixth District. (He also could have pulled an E.J. Pipkin and resigned mid-term to do what he’s doing now.) In any case, the carpetbagging aspect of Mooney’s run was ignored in Standriff’s line of questioning, which is too bad. I think if Mark were still doing the radio show it may have come up.

All this leads me to ponder whether the TEA Party Express will be helping Maryland candidates like Dan Bongino, who perhaps could have used it in his last run. While the TPX has done eight national bus tours and a handful of regional ones, Maryland is one of just five states to have never drawn a stop. (For obvious reasons, Alaska and Hawaii are two of the others, as are Vermont and Idaho.) That may not be in the cards anymore, as the TPX hasn’t done a bus tour since 2012, but it would be nice to see some support.

Apparently Andy Harris likes the guy, though. And why shouldn’t he? They served together in the Maryland Senate for the same three terms, and where Mooney had the second most conservative voting record, Harris was number one.

Greener pastures

A couple years ago there was this guy who ran the Maryland Republican Party, but left because he thought he would have a much better chance to live out his dream of becoming a Congressman if he moved to another state.

I think you know where this is going. Late last night I got an e-mail from the TEA Party Express with the subject line “Big news from West Virginia.”

Hundreds of Republicans in Maryland (and at least one Maryland refugee) probably threw a brick at their computer just then. The TPX went on:

Today, the campaign trail led us to the Mountain State where we had the honor to endorse a true movement conservative, Alex Mooney for the 2nd Congressional district in West Virginia.

Alex Mooney is exactly the kind of Constitutional conservative that will bring the voice of the working class to Washington, D.C. He is a proven conservative champion who will never back down in the face of President Obama’s war on coal and will stand strong against the EPA’s radical anti-coal agenda.

Alex Mooney has a history of standing up for what is right and best for the people.  Too many D.C. politicians say one thing while on the campaign and act and vote a different way once they are elected.

Mooney has already proven his willingness to stand up to the establishment of both parties at the state level in order to fight for his constituents and his conservative values. Now we need him to do the same thing in D.C., and stop the Obama-Pelosi big government agenda of tax increases, crippling regulations, and reckless spending.

Unlike the career politicians that have buried future generations under crippling debt, Alex Mooney is a conservative game-changer that will tackle the complacent, “do nothing but spend” culture of D.C.

Of course, they say nothing about these legislative accomplishments being conducted here in Maryland. And don’t get me wrong: over his final term in the Senate, the monoblogue Accountability Project pegged him as the second-best Senator in Maryland (behind Andy Harris) so he certainly has the conservative bonafides in my reckoning. I just think the TPX is being a little less than honest in their presentation, as opposed to the Madison Project which acknowledges some of his Maryland work.

Yet Mooney is having done for him (to a lesser extent) what Dan Bongino is doing in his Sixth Congressional District race here in Maryland – taking it to a national level. You don’t often see “establishment” Republicans do so as blatantly, but they tend to live off larger donations whch come to them more quietly.

And there is one other advantage to nationalizing Mooney’s campaign: maybe he can return some of the donations from Maryland Republicans who can use the money in their candidacy. We’ll see if he has enough support to win and finally achieve his dream.

Update: if your computer survived the first salvo, you probably don’t want to know that the Senate Conservatives Fund has also endorsed Mooney as one of five House candidates they’re backing.

A monoblogue year in review

Having a holiday schedule based on Wednesday holidays seems to play havoc with the news cycle, as there’s not much going on with Maryland politics right now. By the time the holiday hangover is done, it’s the weekend.

So over the next four days I’m going to provide for you a look back and look forward. As part of that, tonight’s post will be the look back, with some of the highlights of my political coverage – and a couple other items tossed in for fun as well. This is the first time I’ve tried this, so I’ll see how it goes.

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The year began, as it always does, in January. As will be the case even moreso this year, political fundraising was in the news as there was a surprise leader in the gubernatorial money race on the GOP side. Another highlight of the month was a spirited and enlightening discussion of state issues at the Wicomico Society of Patriots meeting – something all too infrequent this year, unfortunately.

But the highlight of the month was my two-part coverage of the Turning the Tides conference in Annapolis. which had a plethora of good speakers and discussion. It was so good I had to post separately on the morning and afternoon events.

In February my attention was turned to several topics, particularly providing coverage of the financing and the events surrounding the Salisbury municipal elections, for which the primary was February 26th. A key issue brought up was a state mandate for the city to help pay for cleanup of Chesapeake Bay, to the tune of $19 million a year.

Another state mandate took center stage in February, as the Wicomico County Council held a Tier Map forum to find out citizens weren’t exactly enamored with the idea. As part of that I read from my written testimony on a Tier Map repeal bill, which wasn’t the only testimony I wrote – I also put in my two cents on the gun grab bill.

We also found out that month that the Maryland GOP would get new leadership following the resignation of Chair Alex Mooney.

March found me continuing my coverage of the Salisbury city elections, but only backing one candidate. More important were local developments on the state level, where the Second Amendment was a hot topic for a local townhall meeting and our county’s Lincoln Day Dinner.

But the highlight for me, by far, was my day at CPAC. That turned out to be a two-part set of posts.

As the area began to wake up from a winter slumber in April, so did the political world as it turned from the General Assembly session to the 2014 campaign. The Salisbury city elections went as expected, so I turned my attention to the race for state party chair. Interim Chair Diana Waterman ran a campaign which was at times embroiled in some controversy, but prevailed on enough supporters to make it through the lengthy grind of campaign forums (including one in Cambridge on the eve of the state convention) and win the remainder of Alex Mooney’s unexpired term. But even the convention itself had its share of ups and downs, particularly a chaotic ending and a rebuff to new media.

While that was happening, the 2014 election was beginning to take shape, with familiar names both trying their luck again and trying for a promotion. Others had interesting endorsements as feathers in the cap.

But it wasn’t all political in April. The outdoor season began with two local mainstays: Pork in the Park and the Salisbury Festival. I also found out I was immortalized on video thanks to Peter Ingemi, better known as DaTechGuy.

Those things political slowed down in May, with just a little reactionary cleanup to the state convention to begin the month, along with other reaction to the recently-completed General Assembly session. In its wake we also had turnover in Maryland House of Delegates GOP leadership.

But one prospective candidate for governor announced other intentions, leaving another to confirm what we knew all along.

On the fun side, I enjoyed Salisbury’s Third Friday celebration with some friends and stopped by to see them at another barbecue festival, too.

June began with a visit from gubernatorial candidate David Craig, who stopped by Salisbury and in the process gave me an interview. And while he didn’t make a formal tour, fellow Republican Ron George made sure to fill me in on his announcement and establish tax cutting bonafides. We also picked up a Republican candidate for an important local seat and found out political correctness pays in the Maryland business world.

A local doctor gave us his perspective on Obamacare and our area celebrated the chicken in June, too. I also learned of a special honor only a handful of political websites received.

As is often the case, our wallets became a little lighter in July. In the aftermath, we found out who David Craig picked as a running mate and welcomed both of them to our Wicomico County Republican Club meeting. I also talked about another who was amassing a support base but hadn’t made definite 2014 plans at the time.

On the other side of the coin, we found the Democratic field was pressing farther away from the center, a place the GOP was trying to court with the carrot of primary voting. Meanwhile, the political event of the summer occurred in Crisfield, and I was there.

There were some interesting developments in the new media world as well – a plea for help, a shakeup in local internet radio, and my annual monoblogue Accountability Project all came down in July.

The big news in August was the resignation of State Senator E.J. Pipkin, and the battle to succeed him. And while one gubernatorial candidate dropped out, another made his intentions formal and stopped by our Wicomico County Republican Club meeting as well. Even Ron George stopped by our fair county, although I missed him.

It seemed like the gubernatorial campaign got into full swing in September – Charles Lollar announced in an unusual location, the Brown/Ulman Democratic team came here looking for money, Ron George tangled with Texas governor Rick Perry and showed up to make it three Wicomico County Republican Club meetings in a row with a gubernatorial candidate, and Doug Gansler decided to drop by, too. On the other side, Michael Steele took a pass. I also talked about what Larry Hogan might do to fill out the puzzle.

Those up the Shore made news, too. Steve Hershey was the survivor who was appointed State Senator, and I attended the First District Bull Roast for the first time. I’ve been to many Wicomico County Republican Club Crab Feasts, but this year’s was very successful indeed.

September also brought the close of our local baseball season. As is tradition I reviewed the season, both to select a Shorebird of the Year and hopefully improve the fan experience.

October was a month I began considering my choice in the gubernatorial race. That became more difficult as Larry Hogan took an unusual trip for a businessman and Charles Lollar’s campaign worked on self-immolation, while Doug Gansler needed his own damage control.

I also had the thought of going back to the future in Maryland, but a heavy dose of my political involvement came with the tradtional closing events to our tourist season, the Good Beer Festival and Autumn Wine Festival.

Most of November was spent anticipating the Maryland GOP Fall Convention; in fact, many were sure of an impending announcement. Honestly, both may have fallen into the category of “dud.” But all was not lost, as the month gave me the chance to expound on manufacturing and share some interesting polling data.

Finally we come to December. While the month is a long runup to the Christmas holiday, I got the chance to again expound on manufacturing and come up with another radical idea for change. We also got more proof that our state government is up for sale and those who are running for governor place too much stock in internet polling. My choice is still up in the air, even after compiling an 11-part dossier on the Republicans currently in the race.

Locally, we found a good candidate to unseat a long-time incumbent who has long ago outlived his political usefulness. And the incumbent will need to watch his back because Maryland Legislative Watch will be back again to keep an eye on him and his cohorts. I’ll be volunteering for a second year,

And while I weighed in on the latest national diversion from the dreary record of our President and his party, I maintained two December traditions, remarking on eight years of monoblogue and days later inducting two new players into the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame.

You know, it was fun going down memory lane for 2013. But tomorrow it will be time to look forward, beginning with the local level.

Bongino echoes “high road” sentiment

Well, folks, I have to admit my wheel wasn’t the one which squeaked last on the matter since the crap I described last Wednesday continues apace. So hopefully someone with a little law enforcement experience can get this din to a dull roar:

As Republican candidates in a deep-blue state, we have a responsibility to provide you with a quality message and a quality campaign.

The likely nominees for office on the Democratic side will be flush with campaign cash, aided by an accommodating media and, in the case of Democratic candidate for Governor Anthony Brown, operatives from the Obama campaign. These campaigns are not playing games and this is not a joke, they are running to install a permanent tax and spend super-majority which will bankrupt our beautiful state and drive thousands more to flee across our borders.

I write this out of a deep and genuine concern for our state’s future. Some of the parochial spats developing amongst a limited number of campaign staffs are causing unnecessary and damaging rifts within our Party while we struggle for relevancy and the support of the people of Maryland.

It’s time for us to put the games and the nonsense aside and focus on the real fight. As the head of my campaign team I promise you a relentless effort and a quality team and if either I or my team fail to produce, email me immediately at campaign@bongino.com. I respectfully request that the remaining candidates on our Party team do the same and start to prune their campaign trees of people who alienate rather than unite.

That’s what Dan wrote on his Facebook page earlier this Tuesday evening, and I (almost) couldn’t agree more. (I think we will get the Obama operatives regardless of who wins that Democratic primary because we have one of the state-run exchange states.)

But we’ve had “unnecessary and damaging rifts” for a long time, well before this campaign began. I’m going to go beyond the whole Lollar aspect for the moment because plenty enough has been said about that over the last week; in fact, the controversy over that has enabled the argument over open primaries to be swept way under the rug. People may need to be reminded we have a convention next week.

In essence, it seems to me the party lost its unity when Bob Ehrlich lost. That so happens to be the time I was elected to my Central Committee – I swear, though, this is not cause and effect – and these are just some of the political slugfests we have endured since:

  • The argument over convention voting, which got so bad for a time some small counties boycotted the whole thing
  • The vote of no confidence on party Chair Jim Pelura
  • The return of Bob Ehrlich, which begat the Rule 11 controversy because Brian Murphy was also in the race (as was a challenger for Andy Harris, who also benefitted)
  • Audrey Scott and “party over everything” – her tenure neatly coincided with the rise of the TEA Party and pro-liberty movement
  • Speaking of Scott, her battle with Nicolee Ambrose for National Committeewoman
  • The ongoing question about whether Delegate Don Dwyer should resign, which one of the current gubernatorial candidates used to score political points
  • The referendum battles, including the times we chose not to use it
  • Alex Mooney’s resignation and the bitter subsequent election for party Chair
  • And now the open primary question

It’s been a constant routine of renegades, rule changes, and rancor for the last eight years – all we’ve been missing is the string of victories we need to make ourselves relevant in Maryland. The math is simple: one governor + one comptroller + 19 Senators + 57 Delegates = relevance. Anything less and we may as well not be there at all. Get that or more and maybe this state can be saved.

Now I will cheerfully admit I’ve had a hand in a couple of these issues I alluded to above; surely I’m not on Audrey Scott’s Christmas card list. But my goal is to help drag the Maryland Republican Party (insofar as it relates to the idea of enhanced liberty and freedom) over the finish line and make this more of a truly “free state.” (I’d like to do the same for all the other states as well.)

So this is why it bugs me that we have this whole power struggle between campaigns, between individuals – and even between websites. I like a good argument as much as anyone, but after awhile it gets pretty pointless. (Although I should take this moment to thank those who have supported me and my efforts – never hurts to acknowledge them! I have a support base I’d stack up to anyone’s.)

Certainly the average person, who may only now be starting to pay attention peripherally to the race (we’re months away from it being foremost in mind to probably 90% or more of Marylanders; this won’t occur until after the primary) would be unaware of what has transpired so far but right now we’re doing a damn fine job of both providing the opposition research Democrats can use in the general election and probably cheap entertainment for them as well. Doug Gansler has to be thanking his lucky stars that word of these shenanigans on our side is starting to get out because people will forget his transgressions long enough for him to rehabilitate his image.

I can surely guarantee, though, that Dan Bongino’s got enough of a struggle on his hands without having to worry about being tarred with these same broad brushstrokes. His is advice which should be heeded.

Unofficially official

June 3, 2013 · Posted in Campaign 2014, Maryland Politics, Politics · 1 Comment 

Bongino for Congress

I don’t know about you, but I like the looks of that.

What he described as “probably the worst kept secret” in Maryland politics was confirmed by Dan at the state Young Republican convention over the weekend. This came after the story broke at The Quinton Report and The Red White Blue on Wednesday, but the rumor began to spread a day or two earlier.

So the question becomes: what is he up against?

Well, at the state level no one has officially filed for the Sixth District Congressional seat. But FEC records show one current challenger in David Vogt, who is a Republican but has not shown any financial activity as of yet. (Alex Mooney is also on this list, but we know he’s departed the state.)

Meanwhile, incumbent John Delaney filed an amended first quarter FEC report which showed his financial situation wasn’t as strong as one might think: only $43,094 cash on hand and $638,675 in debts owed mainly to himself ($573,250 – including $160,000 incurred after the election, in December) but also to three other persons/entities: fundraising consultant Barbara Kaltenbach, campaign manager Justin Schall, and political consulting firm SKD Knickerbocker. So one could argue Delaney’s not paying his bills, which is sort of amazing when you consider the $69,500 in special interest money he collected over the first three months of the year.

Even Bongino’s cash on hand from his defunct Senate campaign at the end of 2012 was more than Delaney has now: $58,813 remained in his coffers at that point, although it’s likely much of it was spent getting the Cede No Ground PAC off the ground.

Certainly the situation of Dan’s entrance to the race, considering that he lives in Severna Park – well away from the Sixth District boundaries – is tempered by the fact that Delaney doesn’t live in the district, either. Granted, he’s less than a mile outside the lines but I have it on good authority that the property Dan alluded to in the Post story is very deep inside the Sixth District. Residency questions would not be a problem, and it would be almost impossible to gerrymander him out next time without a LOT of work.

And as I noted before in my previous speculation on the race, Dan carried the rural parts of the district over Ben Cardin while Roscoe Bartlett only carried Garrett and Allegany counties, somehow losing in Washington County. (Bartlett also lost badly in the portions of Frederick and Montgomery counties cherrypicked for the new Sixth District.) For all the talk about how much Montgomery County influenced the district, this is only a D + 4 district and 2014 will not be a Presidential year. I’m certain he broke this down by precinct, as I alluded to before.

So is a Bongino Congressional run worth the effort? Obviously he thinks so, otherwise he would have stayed in the race for governor, which was one he said he thought he could win. Moreover, with this being an election year for the Maryland General Assembly, there won’t be nearly as many Republicans who consider the idea of dabbling in a Congressional race knowing they have their seat to fall back upon. (I also reported LeRoy Myers may run for Congress, but some have also speculated Myers may run for a local seat in Allegany County instead. He announced last month he wouldn’t seek another term in Annapolis.)

If this is so, the field is relatively clear for Bongino insofar as the GOP nod goes. Because it’s not such a safe Republican district, winning the GOP primary is no longer a ticket to Congress as it was, which will also decrease the number of serious challengers.

On balance, this seems like a politically savvy move; one which would serve the heartland of Western Maryland well if Bongino wins.

Rumor has it…

Certain quarters of the Maryland blogosphere are reporting that one prospective participant in the governor’s race is going off in another direction. A website called The Red White Blue as well as Jeff Quinton at RedState have both made the assertion that something I heard when speaking with a representative of another politician was true – Dan Bongino will be announcing his intention to reclaim the Sixth Congressional District seat for the GOP. Shades of Alex Mooney!

This is particularly interesting to me when you consider that just last week Bongino put out a release purportedly critical of Martin O’Malley:

Sadly, the plague of bureaucratic, government corruption is not limited to the IRS and DOJ. It appears that the O’Malley administration is attempting to rival the Obama administration in bureaucratic ineptitude with its newest scandal. The lavish, inappropriate spending of federal “stimulus” funds by Baltimore City school staff on fancy dinners and expensive watches is another sad example of the very real penalty of an increasingly unaccountable and growing government. The growth of both federal and local bureaucracy has created a ‘soft tyranny’ of diffuse responsibility. When government grows large enough to diffuse responsibility among many than the responsibility for managing it effectively belongs to no one.

But that O’Malley criticism was absent in a statement Dan made yesterday on Facebook. Instead, it leaned more in a direction critical of Washington:

The recent spate of scandals is indicative of a trend line moving painfully in the direction of a “Members-Only” government.

In over a decade within the ranks of the Secret Service, and many years in the White House, I was unfortunate enough to have been a witness to this system, which has become strictly insider-driven.

Those who are appropriately “connected” live by a completely different set of rules & government means something completely different to them. The tax code, healthcare policy, election law, environmental regulation and many other areas have been corrupted and are being used as tools to both punish and reward.

There are solutions out there but you must push your Representatives. A simplified tax code, patient-centered healthcare reform, a reduction in the burgeoning administrative state and the rolling back of many administrative functions to the states would reverse this destructive trend and help restore us to vibrant growth and give our children hope that this is not the best it is ever going to be.

Interesting choice of words: “you must push your Representatives.”

Yet the obvious question I first had when I heard this assertion was: Bongino lives nowhere near the Sixth District. There’s nothing stopping Dan from moving to that area prior to the 2014 election, though, nor does the law preclude a “carpetbagger” from representing a district because Congressmen need only live within the state they represent. Perhaps it’s still the second-best Maryland option for a Republican despite Roscoe Bartlett’s 20-point loss last year. (Andy Harris isn’t going anywhere.)

But if you look at election results, the numbers indicate an uphill battle for Bongino: he ran seven points behind Bartlett’s pace in Montgomery County – albeit these are countywide numbers for Dan and his was a three-way race.

On the other hand, Bongino carried Frederick County over Ben Cardin (although not necessarily the Sixth District portion, which Bartlett lost by 20 points.) Bongino was 400 votes behind Bartlett in Washington County, just over 1,000 votes behind in Allegany, and a little over 200 behind in Garrett. In the latter three counties, though, Rob Sobhani drew 19 percent, 13 percent, and 4 percent respectively. These counties also lie completely within the Sixth District, permitting a more direct comparison.

So I’m sure Dan Bongino has the same information I do, and probably more since he has the time and staff to delve into precinct-by-precinct results. The obvious question is whether he can make up twenty points.

One thing Democrat John Delaney has now that he didn’t have in 2012, though: a voting record. But John will have plenty of money, and perhaps the one advantage Bongino would have over would-be challengers like Delegate LeRoy Myers – who decided earlier this month not to seek another term as Delegate – is the success he had nationalizing his Senate campaign.

Of course, all this speculation could be for naught, just as the phony Bongino/Keyes ticket was last month. This is doubly true considering the source, who would likely benefit from Bongino skipping the governor’s race. But if anything it proves that Dan Bongino has some mojo as a prospective candidate for something, whether he stays home or becomes a proverbial carpetbagger.

Maybe Andy Harris should watch his back.

Why I’m choosing Collins Bailey

In February, Alex Mooney confirmed what some had suspected all along: he would be leaving the Chair position of the Maryland Republican Party to pursue other political opportunities. As the party bylaws state, the First Vice-Chair took over the duties of running the state party and that First Vice-Chair was Diana Waterman.

I have been directly involved in the state party since 2006, and this isn’t the first time we’ve been through this rodeo. In 2009 embattled Chair Jim Pelura resigned – however, just before the Fall Convention that year First Vice-Chair Chris Cavey announced he would not seek the job full-time for the remaining year on Pelura’s term and the MDGOP instead overwhelmingly elected Audrey Scott.

(The original version of this post incorrectly stated Chris Cavey served on an interim basis as Chair; he reminded me – see comment – that was not so. Unlike this year with Alex Mooney, Jim Pelura served the entire sixty days between the announcement of his resignation and the selection of Audrey Scott at the Fall 2009 convention. Error on the blogger, if you’re scoring at home.)

And in looking at this more recent race, we’re actually dealing with many of the same issues we dealt with back in 2009. In reading through what each of the three candidates has to say about the race, it seemed like three main themes came up: fundraising, communication, and goals for the 2014 election. Specific to each candidate, this is what I took away from their ideas.

Diana Waterman looks to mine some of the former donors who may have stopped or just donated to national candidates. She also promises personal meetings with donors and wants to assist counties in developing their own fundraising strategies for 2014. It’s a sound conservative approach but doesn’t really depart from the plan we have now or the top-down thinking. I know in our county we have ideas for fundraising but we’re never sure what sort of follow-through or assistance we can expect from the state party, if any. At times, it may not even be needed.

On the other hand, while Greg Kline hasn’t yet firmed up his specific plan, his overall goal is to set electoral goals as a product to sell while expanding the pie of potential donors. I like the concept of “1914” but because this plan is still in the process of creation, we lose more valuable time getting it together.

The things which appeal to me with Collins Bailey regarding fundraising are the specificity of his goals – $800,000 by the 2014 election is actually rather attainable – and the idea of expanding the pool of donors through online fundraising. I was actually considering the next point as a separate post, but I think I’ll bring this example into my writing here.

The other day I got one of my frequent e-mails from Organizing Against America For Action, which detailed that they had raised money from 109,582 supporters with an average donation of $44 apiece. While $5 million is modest for a national organization with millions of e-mail addresses on file, imagine how many people it would take to raise, say, $240,000 for the party at $40 apiece over the internet. We would be 30% of the way toward our November 2014 goal with a minimum of effort and the assistance of just 6,000 Republicans.

Do you know what the total internet fundraising was for the party from January 2011 to September 2012? $31,352. That’s it. We can do a LOT better – in my estimation we are vastly underutilizing the internet. Advantage Bailey.

Second is communication, which is a hot topic of mine. Needless to say, with the decision already made by Diana Waterman regarding the RNC Rules Committee controversy, I don’t have a lot of confidence she will work to improve communication. Note that I’m not talking about the means of communication but the content of communication. Just like in the arena of fundraising, the MDGOP hasn’t taken advantage of social media and new technology and Diana is part of the team which seemingly sat on its hands.

Meanwhile, Greg Kline gets it partially right in terms of utilizing the new media – and why not? He’s a member of it, as am I. The party should be keeping us in the loop because Lord knows they’re not getting a fair shake from the Baltimore Sun or Washington Post anytime soon; meanwhile, Martin O’Malley and Democrats have their narratives set for them.

But Collins Bailey goes a little beyond that to embrace what he calls an “integrated web presence,” utilizing the social media side of the equation for messaging, fundraising, and outreach. And I believe Collins would also be amenable to following the best aspects of the Kline plan, as Greg would probably lean on advice from Collins. To me, this second area is a wash between Kline and Bailey, as both of them seem to “get it” moreso than Diana does based on her brief track record.

Finally, we have the 2014 goals. Diana Waterman’s goals are relatively modest, though, as she’s looking toward 2020 to achieve her plan. There are two basic problems I see with that deadline: one is that 2020 is not a state election year (and would feature an incumbent President running for re-election as we had in 2012) and the second is that we will have missed the opportunity to reset Congressional and legislative districts for more fairness in the next decade. The time to set that up will be 2018, yet she’s happy to have just a filibuster-proof Senate majority.

Kline’s “1914 Plan” is simple: get that 19-seat minority next year to stop bad legislation or sustain vetoes if we should elect a Republican governor. Greg also preaches the importance of filling out the ballot, wishing to recruit a Republican candidate for every contest on the ballot. Yet what are the long-term goals?

Again, Bailey goes a lot further. And damn it, we should have no less of a goal than turning this state Republican as soon as possible. Did the Democrats sulk and moan that all was lost when they lost Government House in 2002 and saw George W. Bush win nationally in 2004? No – they obfuscated, attacked, and played to win, which is what they indeed accomplished in 2006 and 2008. While we as a state and nation are the worse for it, just remember the stated goal of Maryland Democrats was to “bury (Republicans) upside-down, and it will be ten years before they crawl out again.” Well, I’d like to advance that timetable by a couple years and chuck some of the most useless politicians the nation has ever seen – those Democrats who rule our state with an iron fist – down into a hole of their own making. They’ve taxed us, regulated us, worked to take away our guns, gave us the gateway drug to societal breakdown with same-sex marriage, and made the state a magnet for illegal immigrants. That’s a pretty deep hole they’ve dug and we need to give them a push and grab the shovel to fill it in.

What’s quite funny, though, is that Collins is probably one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. If he doesn’t win, Bailey is happy to work with whoever does. So allow me to share something with you.

Last Wednesday, our four Lower Shore counties held a quad-county meeting as we always do prior to a convention. Collins spoke first, presented his ideas and answered a few questions; meanwhile, Joe Crawford was passing out his literature to those attending. Fairly typical.

Next up was Brian Griffiths, representing Greg Kline, who came by himself. As he began to speak, he started passing around Greg’s literature when Collins interrupted him. Brian gave him a piece when Collins said, “no, give me half,” and proceeded to pass it around the opposite table. To me, that’s the difference between a leader and a statesman, and it’s little gestures like that which convey to me the intent of Collins Bailey to be a rock-solid steward of the Maryland GOP.

That’s not to take anything away from Greg Kline, for whom I have deep respect as someone who has helped blaze a trail for Maryland’s new media. The one key concern I had on his behalf may not come to pass; if it does now I think we know how to deal with it. If Greg’s fortunate enough to win, I’m happy to work with him in carrying out the “1914” Plan, particularly since I have a sneaking hunch I live in one of those targeted districts.

If Diana Waterman wins, I hope she can work with whoever is elected as the new First Vice-Chair and – once those of us who care get her aligned in the right direction insofar as listening to the grassroots rather than those who seem to treat the MDGOP as a place to wield their microscopic bit of power – work with her on improving our chances in 2014 and not some far-off election cycle.

Originally I was planning on listening to the Dorchester County candidate forum tonight before I made up my mind. But with the voluminous information made available through the internet and social media on the candidates, it occurred to me that there’s already the tools out there for most to do their homework.

But it was that gesture in Fruitland, reinforced by the candid assessment and glowing endorsement of Gary Rumsey of St. Mary’s County, which tipped the scales. I decided that, even though I now have a stake in the race, those who know me also probably believe I’ll still be a fair arbiter of what’s said later tonight in Cambridge. That post will probably be the last thing I write before heading off to Timonium since I’m sure I will pre-write something unrelated to the convention for Saturday.

You know, it’s sort of funny. Originally I thought Collins was some sort of stalking horse for Diana Waterman but now chances are better and better he may walk off with the whole shooting match.

It’s time to put the bickering and acrimony behind us, and I think the best healer will be Collins Bailey. He doesn’t care about credit, just that the job is done right – and we have a LOT of work to do. He deserves your vote Saturday.

Furious backtracking?

I don’t know if all Central Committee members will get this in their e-mail, but at 12:35 this morning I received a missive (ostensibly) from Louis Pope claiming to be a “Response to Morton Blackwell’s incorrect diatribe!” When it begins with Pope asserting that:

Morton has now tried to inappropriately interject himself in the Maryland Chairman’s race. I have Never seen this type of behavior in any previous election. Morton Blackwell is the one who has recently made numerous resolutions to support of the Liberty Pack and the Ron Paul supporters trying to change several of the RNC Rules that were passes (sic) overwhelmingly by the Rules Committee in Tampa.

…you know it’s going to be a doozy.

At this point, it’s really beyond what happened at the RNC last week – the damage was done long ago, and Pope fails to mention that he was one of the 28 votes to provide the margin which killed the outright repeal of the Tampa rules as they didn’t get a majority in the Standing Rules Committee. Granted, had Nicolee Ambrose retained her membership the margin would have been 26-27 but one never knows if a vote was made to please an RNC master knowing there were 27 others to provide cover.

The other statement about Blackwell which interested me was the one where Pope denied accusing Alex Mooney of a quid pro quo involving the ascension of Nicolee Ambrose to the Standing Rules Committee at Pope’s expense. This is what Pope wrote in the original letter – judge for yourself:

Alex (Mooney) called me just before he announced his resignation effective immediately on February 22nd and said the RNC member Morton Blackwell of Virginia has (sic) asked that he sign Nicolee’s form. Alex and Morton Blackwell are in a business deal regarding the book Alex is preparing on door-to-door campaigning. He also told me in the same conversation that while he was doing this as a favor to Mr. Blackwell, Diana Waterman could reverse the situation…

Honestly, was there a need to bring up the business deal at all? Why the backhanded slap at a fellow RNC member? The point that the situation could have been reversed could certainly have been made without the insinuation that this was payback for services rendered. Obviously Morton Blackwell had a preference and a long-standing relationship with Alex, just as Pope obviously has his own (unnamed) friends in “leadership on the Rules Committee, all of who (sic) encouraged me to remain on the Rules Committee.” No word on what dealings Pope has with them.

But now Pope is doubling down, attaching a fundraising letter he considers a smoking gun of some sort. “This issue slandered No One and simply shows the connection and association and explains why Mr. Blackwell felt he has reason or right to inject himself into our own MDGOP Chairman’s race and previously the Rules Committee seat,” Pope adds in his most recent missive.

Yet Blackwell has made no formal endorsement in the race and simply reacted to what he saw in the letter as a false accusation! Morton, though, reveals something Pope failed to point out:

Your interim Chair, Diana Waterman, joined with Pope to pass the (Washington D.C. National Committeeman Ben) Ginsberg changes.

Although some members of the Convention Rules Committee, including me, strongly objected to Ben Ginsberg’s obviously centralizing power grabs, most members of that committee went along with everything Ginsberg wanted.

(snip)

Mr. Pope and Mrs. Waterman have made clear that they support the radical, destructive power-grabs that occurred at the national convention.

You would be well-served to elect a principled Chairman who works in the interest of the conservative grassroots.

Don’t you want a Chairman who will work to make the Republican Party about the grassroots ultimately telling the RNC how to operate, instead of the other way around?

I know I would. But this whole affair has reminded me of the Rule 11 imbroglio in 2010: moves which directly affect the future of the Maryland GOP made without input from the rank-and-file. Honestly, there aren’t a whole lot of decisions I would ask the Chair consult with the Central Committees about making but this is one of them given the work Nicolee did at the January RNC organizational meeting.

In short, it was a failure in leadership.

While I’m on the subject of questionable decisions made by the party, I should mention that I received a note from Chair candidate Collins Bailey which cleared the air on one subject:

I was also informed that (MDGOP Executive Director David) Ferguson was not paid to go to South Carolina which I think is positive. He went at his own expense.

This refers back to the March 23 Martin O’Malley campaign stop in South Carolina, which featured Ferguson shadowing him and led to the postponement of Wicomico County’s Pathfinders event. Glad Collins cleared that up and shared it, even though I still disagree with the trip’s intent. South Carolina has a GOP which can handle itself, in my estimation – and I still haven’t heard of any Palmetto State guests at our Lincoln Day dinners.

Controlling the message

As you are certainly aware, I have a voice and a vote in the workings of the Maryland Republican Party. To me, though, it’s not about the lady and seven other gentlemen I work with on our Central Committee or those we elect to represent us on the state level. I would even argue it’s beyond the 20,867 or so Republicans in Wicomico County, 2,139 of whom I thank once again for keeping me in my seat for another term in 2010. I happen to believe I represent most of the million or so conservatives who haven’t yet abandoned Maryland, so my philosophy is trying to share information and advance a conservative agenda more or less in line with the aims of the Republican Party. Yes, I will veer off in a libertarian direction at times and might even stop in the liberal camp on a rare occasion, but with most Republicans I’m sure I rest comfortably in that 80 percent agreement zone.

Yet there are some in the party who seem to have a much more myopic view. As a prime example, they seem to believe the upcoming Chair election is only a concern to those who will actually vote on it; worse yet, they seem to be taking pains to only portray their chosen candidate in a positive light. Far from representing their 11,173 constituents, they seem to have formed an insular club that will see no evil, hear no evil, or speak no evil about their preferred choice. Allow me to present Exhibit #2. (Note: this doesn’t seem to work on all browsers, but it did work on IE and the link is good too. You just have to come back here to finish.)

[gview file=”http://monoblogue.us/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Talbot-GOP.pdf”]

The reason this is Exhibit #2 is that Exhibit #1, a link to a note reposted by Andrew Langer and written by Virginia RNC National Committeeman Morton Blackwell refuting recent claims by our National Committeeman Louis Pope about a deal between Blackwell and former MDGOP Chair Alex Mooney in placing Nicolee Ambrose on the RNC Rules Committee and shedding light on Diana Waterman’s role in last summer’s convention rules brouhaha, was only on the Talbot GOP Facebook page for a few short minutes before being deleted. (Mark Newgent shared the note on the Talbot GOP page as well as some others.) Exhibit #2 was my response to that redaction.

There’s no doubt that the Talbot GOP and their Chair Nick Panuzio have the right to do what they want on their page (as well as write misguided policy statements like this) but to me this reflects a mindset that it’s only about the views of their Central Committee and not about informing the rank-and-file Republican voter. (Very astute readers may recall that Panuzio moved to adjourn our convention in the fall of 2011 rather than further discuss the Rule 11 resolution Heather Olsen and I presented to that meeting. So shutting down debate seems to be nothing new with this crew.)

I get that they seem to be solid Diana Waterman backers, but I believe in order to select the right Chair we need to vet our candidates carefully and question their motives when needed. Remember, it was Louis Pope writing on behalf of Diana Waterman who made the Blackwell accusation in question. The objection many had to the change wasn’t solely in the removal of Nicolee Ambrose from nomination to the Standing Rules Committee but in the manner by which it was handled. To me, it was Rule 11 all over and the MDGOP shouldn’t operate like that.

I’m not sure how many readers I receive from Talbot County but this is a practice within your county’s Central Committee you should be aware of. Perhaps in 2014 you can advocate for candidates who will be more open to the party’s membership.

A question of reputation

In the parlor game which we in Maryland call the race for the Republican party chairman’s seat, a fair amount of hay has been made  – even a couple years ago, when the event actually happened and way before Alex Mooney even considered resigning and handing over the hot potato to her – about interim Chair Diana Waterman deciding to name a black cow “Oprah.” Admittedly, that’s not the brightest move but to me that’s not necessarily going to disqualify Waterman – certainly I feel it’s much less damning than Diana’s complete mishandling of the whole RNC Rules Committee situation and its associated miscommunication.

But there is another question of perception in the race which needs to be answered to by challenger Greg Kline. Obviously his supporters are going to think it’s no big deal and his detractors may point to this and call it grounds for immediate disqualification. I bring this up to be fair warning on where I think it could lead and as what I think is a valid point to be made in the race.

If you listen to Red Maryland radio you will hear that one of the sponsors is Kline, who is a practicing attorney as well as one of several Red Maryland show hosts. But Greg’s bread and butter may be an avocation which turns off the soccer moms among us, for he promotes himself as a specialist in defending those accused of drunk driving. The website he promotes on the canned Red Maryland spot is simply called Anne Arundel DUI. Even though it was last updated about the time Diana Waterman was picking out names for a little black calf, the site gives somewhat generic legal advice (and a fair bit of self-promotion) for the person who’s had one too many.

There’s no question that those accused deserve professional representation in a court of law, and obviously drunk driving is a serious offense which has led to thousands of needless tragedies and could land those accused in deep legal hot water. But what perception would the press assign to a party which elects a drunk driving attorney as its chair – even though it’s not the majority of his work, according to this site.

Yet even as he’s running Kline makes no secret about his specialty:

Mr. Kline has extensive experience representing DUI/DWI defendants and is the author of the Anne Arundel DUI blog, which is full of helpful information for anyone facing a alcohol related driving charge.

So by the same token that naming a black cow “Oprah” disqualifies Diana Waterman, does the fact Greg Kline occasionally represents the reprobates among us who abuse the freedom we still have to drink alcohol take him out of contention?

(Just to be fair, Collins Bailey is a self-described lumber broker and owner of a lumber company. But surely some 2×4 he sold failed and caused an injury to someone.)

Indeed, we may be descending to the trivial in this race as the camps try to outdo each other in promoting their candidate at the expense of the others. But I’m figuring that a press which does its level best to dig up the absolute worst things about Republicans and promote their self-inflicted wounds – even if the facts don’t jibe with the presumed narrative – is going to store that little tidbit away as well as the whole “Oprah” affair and anything they can find out by snooping around Collins Bailey.

When we as Maryland conservatives, pro-liberty freedom fighters, TEA Party denizens, or whatever label we’re currently using to describe ourselves figure out that we’re not going to get a fair shake in the media and begin to use our own methods to fight back, that’s the time we begin to succeed. After all, we’ve known for decades that “politics ain’t beanbag” so we need to fight with the facts we know are on our side.

Remember, perception is reality.

The Pope perspective

In this continuing saga of he said-she said regarding the status of who represents us on the Rules Committee of the Republican National Committee, one person had remained silent – until now. Yesterday a copy of a letter from Louis Pope was acquired by the folks at Red Maryland and posted on their site. (Update: I finally received my copy today, April 8. My mail is apparently slow out in the hinterlands.)

While Brian Griffiths, who wrote the Red Maryland piece and is an avowed supporter of Chair candidate Greg Kline, makes the case that Pope’s objection stems in part from a supposed quid pro quo between Virginia RNC member Morton Blackwell and former Maryland chair Alex Mooney regarding a book Mooney is writing, I’m more appalled that Pope believes “a great deal of misinformation has been flying around the Maryland Republican Party through various blogs, e-mail chains, letters, etc.” about the affair. If this has been so, the (undated) letter to “set the record straight” should have come out some time ago in order to clear the air.

Also intriguing is the implication that Waterman indeed did not make the decision on her own, but spoke to “senior leadership at the RNC who encouraged her to have me remain on the Rules Committee.”

To me, that says the RNC is really not serious about revisiting the rules adopted in Tampa. Sure, they will pay lip service to the concept of listening to the grassroots but in the end they’re really going to listen to the cadre of inside-the-Beltway consultants who are already sizing up the 2016 field and trying to determine who is both most malleable and “electable.” My guess would be Marco Rubio, who remains popular among activists despite his pro-amnesty immigration stance.

As one would also expect, Louis states his support for Diana Waterman, saying “I feel terrible to have put Diana in such an awkward position…she deserves our thanks and admiration, not our criticism.”

While I agree that Diana has performed a number of valuable services to the MDGOP over the last two years as First Vice-Chair, I cannot place her above criticism for the way she has handled this particular duty. Central Committee members are assured over and over again that communication is paramount, only to be bowled over by incidents such as this Rules Committee dustup. Having seen this before with the Rule 11 controversy in 2010 I really don’t like how this movie ends.

Pope goes on to talk about the Tampa rules changes, which he conveniently did not vote on because of his leadership position. At the time, of course, our National Committeewoman was Joyce Terhes, who was not going to rock the boat on her way out the door to a well-deserved retirement from party affairs. Nor is it apparent that Alex Mooney strenuously objected.

The only person who has stood up for the grassroots and voiced her objection was our newly-elected National Committeewoman, Nicolee Ambrose. Since she was the squeaky wheel who got the grease, it’s no surprise that Diana Waterman was “encouraged” to keep Louis Pope in the Rules Committee position.

Lastly, it should be noted that not all Central Committee members have received this message from Pope yet; to be fair, it may have been mailed to all the 300-plus membership and perhaps my copy hasn’t hit my mailbox yet.

But once again it seems to me the party insiders are trying to play their games and, as the aforementioned Griffiths has pointed out, be “the tallest midget in the room.” I’d rather stand tall on my principles, thank you.

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