He’s out, he’s in – Michael Steele looks like a contender

After spending a good part of yesterday salivating over rumors that Michael Steele would give up the reins of the Republican National Committee after his term is over in January, much of the media had to eat crow when Steele announced he was in last night. So what does this mean?

Currently there are several potential opponents for Michael Steele. Saul Anuzis of Michigan, who is one of them, claims that there are four announced contenders on his website and has already done his own video:

Perhaps Saul’s biggest selling point is the vow to be a “behind-the-scenes” chairman, which isn’t exactly Michael Steele’s forte.

But the other contenders aren’t letting Anuzis, who announced first, get a large lead. Here’s Ann Wagner of Missouri making her pitch.

It’s longer and less slickly produced than Saul’s, but Ann touts her experience.

Yet perhaps the most formidable contender is a former Steele supporter and party General Counsel, Reince Priebus of Wisconsin.

Obviously both he and Wagner can point to statewide successes where Steele cannot.

Others who have announced include Maria Cino from New York, who was a former Deputy Secretary under George W. Bush and former RNC Deputy Chairman, and Gentry Collins of Iowa, who has the slickest website by far.

Regardless of how many contend for the title, it’s highly doubtful that anyone in Maryland’s RNC delegation would vote against Michael Steele. But I believe it’s up to our three representatives – particularly newly elected Chair Alex Mooney – to carefully consider the alternatives. While Steele points to his electoral successes, there are others who contend that we left a lot of races on the table nationally due to a lack of fundraising just as Alex Mooney bemoaned the close races the Maryland GOP lost for much the same reason.

We’ll never know if one of the five contenders Michael Steele bested in 2009 would have taken the GOP to further victories. But the uncertainty of whether the party is positioned well for the 2012 cycle should give pause to those who reflexively believe Michael Steele deserves another two years at the helm. In truth, his position parallels the initial position Mary Kane was in for our state Chair race – Steele is the favorite, but by no means a prohibitive one. And we saw just how that favorite ran on Saturday as the state party decided a clean break from a previous era was best.

Our delegation might be forgiven to support the favorite son once, but as subsequent ballots go on – and I’m sure there will be – they should consider the other candidates remaining as well. Remember, you are elected to represent us and to do what’s best not just for Maryland but for the Republican Party at large. Don’t sell us short.

Update: John Gizzi at Human Events has his take on the race.

The aftermath

Tying up loose ends from the last few weeks…

As luck would have it, fellow blogger Daniel Vovak spent some of his convention seated directly in front of me so let’s see how he did in picking every state party leadership race. To refresh your memory, here are his picks in order of selection – the number in (parentheses) is the actual finish:

  • Chair: Mary Kane (2), Alex Mooney (1), Sam Hale (4), William Campbell (3), Milke Esteve (5)
  • 1st Vice-Chair: Diana Waterman (1), Moshe Starkman (2), Debbie Rey (3)
  • 2nd Vice-Chair: Larry Helminiak (1), Brandon Butler (2), Debbie Rey (3)
  • 3rd Vice-Chair: Collins Bailey (6), Patt Parker (2), Brian Griffiths (3), Matt Teffeau (-), Debbie Rey (5), Adol Owen-Williams (4), Meyer Marks (-)
  • Treasurer: Chris Rosenthal (1), Mark Uncapher (-)
  • Secretary: Nora Keenan (2), Alfred Griffin (3), John Wafer (1)

(To address the naysayers who point out the weighted results are slightly different, I’m going by the rule I favored – the ‘one man, one vote’ system. Otherwise, the four from Anne Arundel County who supported Mary Kane have more of a say than my seven Wicomico cohorts who supported Alex Mooney did – how fair is that? In the grand scheme of things, coming in third or fourth really doesn’t matter.)

Overall, if he were picking ponies Daniel would have a pretty good day at the track. He certainly nailed the trifecta in some of the undercard races.

As Daniel wrote this on Wednesday he wasn’t aware that Mark Uncapher would withdraw, and apparently Meyer Marks didn’t follow through on his stated intentions to run. Matt Teffeau suggested that he wasn’t sure where the report he was running came from. Conversely, nobody expected Eric Grannon to be entered into the 3rd Vice-Chair race; perhaps had Alex Mooney been more of a stickler Patt Parker would have won.

Of course, my personal forecast had the order of Mary Kane first and eventually Alex Mooney second – however, it’s worthy of noting that each of my updates gave Alex tighter and tighter odds. I could sense he was closing on Mary, and I was correct that she didn’t have enough support – despite her favorite status – to close the deal on the first ballot. In all candor, though, I thought Mary would lead the first ballot but perhaps she counted on Montgomery County a little too much. Alex probably sealed her fate by getting 23 of 45 first-ballot votes from there.

I also thought we would possibly have a third ballot, but when the bottom three all dropped out the die was cast. The top two combined for over 200 of the 265 first-ballot votes, though, and that left little hope for anyone in the bottom three. Mooney was familiar enough to the establishment Republicans (who didn’t want to leave the party to an unknown quantity like the three who trailed) but conservative enough to be agreeable to the TEA Party movement. He became the compromise choice I originally envisioned William Campbell being, and in about two fewer ballots.

So the page is turned and the Mooney era of the Maryland Republican Party begins. We can’t have the complaint that it’s a bastion of white males, either, since we selected a female for 1st Vice-Chair and a black man for the 3rd Vice-Chair position. I didn’t vote for everyone who won, but I think we have a solid team with which to move forward.

A couple weeks ago I wrote a line that Mark Newgent told me Friday evening he really liked: “Hunting season on Democrats and their loony liberal ideas has just begun, and there’s no bag limit.” If Alex Mooney can indeed achieve his lofty fundraising goals and keep the party united in a post-Ehrlich era, we may just have the guns at the top to start picking off targets two years hence.

Maryland Republicans, are you ready for the hunt? I’m not going to stop hunting, but now I can turn my focus to other topics like national issues and a hotly-contested local election before the General Assembly session kicks into gear. So all you fans who have come to monoblogue as a result of my coverage of this race – don’t stray too far or you might miss something good!

2010 MDGOP Fall Convention in pictures and text (part 2)

And now we resume coverage (Part 1 is here) with a cold, crisp Saturday morning. Actually, the cold felt sort of good since I needed to wake up a bit after just a few hours of sleep.

If I turned around 180 degrees I’d see something like this, as candidates greeted Saturday arrivals with their pitch.

We didn’t have a breakfast speaker this time, but during breakfast I did have the pleasure of finally getting to meet Ann Corcoran of Potomac TEA Party Report. She was there as a proxy for another in her county and to help man the table for the Conservative Action Network, which has an upcoming event.

I also ran into Chair candidate Mike Esteve, who was the lone hopeful I didn’t catch with my camera Friday night.

After breakfast we crowded into the main ballroom.

I must say whoever decided on this setup needs to return to Seat Arrangement 101. The worst part was not having a center row, although being placed in the back wasn’t all that great either. Guess it was our turn.

We had a very popular guest speaker, however. (Being in the back did no wonders for my photography.)

Congressman-elect Andy Harris praised Audrey Scott for being the “key to victories around the state” and reminded us of where we were just two years ago and how far we’ve come. We’re not a regional party as some predicted nor is Reagan conservatism dead. “87 freshmen are living proof that American conservatism is alive and well,” Andy said.

Yet we have to win back Americans’ trust by being innovative, efficient, and willing to listen, added Harris. “Government must first do no harm.”

He vowed to support across-the-board budget cuts, a total earmark ban, and no new taxes as his agenda. “We don’t want the government to put a limit on our hopes and dreams,” Andy concluded to a standing ovation.

While Delegate Tony O’Donnell named the names of all 16 new Republican members of the House of Delegates and applauded our six seat gain in his report, he set his sights higher. “It’s possible to get 28 seats in 2014,” O’Donnell opined. We have to start recruiting now to reach that magic 71 number for the first time since at least Reconstruction, Tony noted.

Senator Allan Kittleman was a little less optimistic about GOP hopes, but did state the case that, “there’s not a whole lot of trust in the (state) government.” In a veiled reference to a former chair, Allan added “we had a hard few years there (in the General Assembly.)”

Giving the county report, Harford County Executive David Craig compared our fate to that of a familiar team.

“Being a Republican in Maryland is a lot like being an Orioles fan,” he noted wistfully, but we were developing the farm team to win. We have a base to start from with all the local successes, even though they occurred in smaller counties. At this time (and Wicomico reflects this as I said the other day) there are more Republican elected officials at the county level than Democratic ones. Still, “we need to help those people out” in areas like Prince George’s County and other Democratic strongholds.

As seems to often happen, we had to do some shuffling around of the itinerary because the Credentials Committee had its hands full with latecomers and proxies. So we next heard the Chair’s Report.

While being Chair “wasn’t on her radar” about 16 months ago, Audrey Scott called the post the “experience of a lifetime” and a “labor of love.”

“We have come a long way” in her tenure, she said, but also believed that our message was sound. It was embodied in a recent experience she had with Newt Gingrich, who expounded on the theme of jobs vs. foodstamps. O’Malley and Obama “just don’t get it.” Speaking of O’Malley, she praised MDGOP’s Ryan Mahoney as being “solely responsible” for uncovering his jobs coverup last August.

And while she claimed to inherit a party a quarter-million dollars in debt and staff unpaid for months, she said the party raised $1.15 million this year, including ‘Victory’ money from the national GOP. (Later Chris Rosenthal said the non-Victory total was about $893,000.) It was fortunate we had Michael Steele as the RNC chair, she continued, saying “Steele deserves to be re-elected.”

While she later joked, “I have lots of critics,” she asked that we “never, ever again…begin an election year in debt” because “the enemy is the Democrats.” (And, if I may add again, there is no bag limit.)

Later, we got other reports which basically repeated what was said Friday night to the Executive Committee from National Committeewoman Joyce Terhes, National Committeeman Louis Pope, and Treasurer Chris Rosenthal.

One issue I had was with the Rules Committee. Why some counties continue to slit their own throat is beyond me, but we retained the ‘compromise’ voting system which has plagued us over the last two years on a 196-69 vote, exceeding the 2/3 majority needed. Wicomico went 4 in favor, 5 against and was joined by Allegany County, Baltimore City, and Montgomery County as counties in opposition. I’ve got an idea to end that mess once and for all!

Thus, my counts (which are based strictly on ‘one man, one vote’) aren’t exactly correct, but should be reasonably close.

Which brings us to the Chair election.

It was a LONG process, as nominees and seconders had several minutes to speak before the candidates did. Notable quotes from each contender:

  • William Campbell believed that “all Republicans have the same values…we are conservative.” He also told us, “if we don’t unify we will be irrelevant” and alluded to his fiscal conservatism by alluding, “when I squeeze a nickel Jefferson ends up in the library in Monticello.”
  • Mike Esteve noted as a Prince George’s County Republican “I want my vote to count.” The Baltimore TEA Party he helped to organize was an “indication that things had changed forever.” He also suggested adopting charitable efforts in impoverished neighborhoods as they would pay dividends down the road as far as minority voting goes and chided the infighting among Republicans – “if you could measure infighting in blood the state would be red from end to end.”
  • Asking “are you proud to be a Republican?” Sam Hale stressed his grassroots background, but also had a good idea for subscription-based fundraising. If just 1/3 of 1% of the party’s registered voters pledged $25 per month the party could raise $75,000 per month – enough to cover expenses and salt some aside for candidates.
  • Mary Kane pointed out things we’re doing better than the Democrats and vowed, “I plan to be honest and transparent for each and every one of you.” Our “opinion diversity” defined the word and she would welcome all opinions. Moreover, no longer could the MDGOP be a “one-man show” and, if she was successful, “we will show up in places we’re not expected.”
  • Alex Mooney was raised to fight for freedom as the son of a Cuban refugee. He was frustrated by not only his close Senate race loss, but three other races where the GOP losers received 49% of the vote (including Michael James in District 38.) We can’t ask our candidates to devote a year or more of their lives to a race and not back them financially, Mooney said.

Our delegation split 7-1-1, with the seven being Mooney and one each for Kane and Hale (me.) Alex carried 12 counties (Allegany, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Charles, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, Montgomery, Washington, Wicomico, and Worcester) while Mary Kane won majority support in six (Calvert, Caroline, Howard, Kent, Queen Anne’s, and Talbot.) Meanwhile, Campbell won three (Dorchester, Prince George’s, and St. Mary’s) and Hale carried Cecil County. Baltimore City and Somerset ended up split between Mooney and Kane.

The ‘one man, one vote’ totals: Mooney 116, Kane 87, Campbell 25, Hale 24, and Esteve 13. Mooney was closest to a majority but couldn’t receive it through either tabulation.

Obviously, having won no counties and just a handful of votes, Mike Esteve dropped out after the first round and endorsed Mary Kane. Then William Campbell decided enough was enough and bowed out.

Despite impasssioned pleas of “no!!” from supporters, just before the second ballot Sam Hale also gave in and endorsed Alex Mooney.

With so few more votes needed the second ballot was relatively anticlimactic, with Mooney winning the actual count 164-97. Sixteen counties went for Mooney (Allegany, Baltimore, Carroll, Charles, Dorchester, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Somerset, St. Mary’s, Talbot, Washington, Wicomico, and Worcester.) We were a 7-2 group as I switched to Mooney but someone else switched from Mooney to Kane.

The next two races were relative walkovers: Diana Waterman was elected 1st Vice Chair with 160 votes, easily outdistancing Moshe Starkman with 57 and Debbie Rey with 47. (We all supported Diana in Wicomico.)

In the 2nd Vice-Chair contest, Larry Helminiak emerged victorious with 151 votes while Brandon Butler (the incumbent) had 78 and Debbie Rey finished with 30. (Wicomico split 5-3 for Helminiak over Butler, I voted for Larry – who I nominated.)

A controversy erupted in the already-crowded 3rd Vice-Chair race when a supporter of Eric Grannon claimed his paperwork was in order aside from a minor error. Chair Alex Mooney allowed him to be on the ballot, making it a six-way race.

Grannon was the leader after the first ballot, gathering 109 votes. Patt Parker was second with 55, followed by Brian Griffiths with 34, Adol Owen-Williams with 32, Debbie Rey with 21, and Collins Bailey with 11. The bottom three finishers all decided to withdraw after that ballot, leaving three for the second ballot. (We in Wicomico split four ways, with five votes for Grannon, two for Owen-Williams, and one each for Parker and Griffiths (mine.)

Eric easily won the second ballot with 191 votes to Parker’s 47 and Griffiths’ 19. We had seven Grannon votes with the Parker and Griffiths tallies.

But the addition of Grannon left a bad taste with at least one competitor, who fumed that the victor should have been left off the ballot. “It’s a story for you,” he said.

We had an easy ballot next since Chris Rosenthal was unopposed for treasurer – Mark Uncapher of Montgomery County announced he was dropping out Friday.

Almost as easy was John Wafer’s win for secretary, where he overwhelmed the field with 210 votes to 35 for Nora Keenan and 13 for Alfred Griffin. (We all went for Wafer.)

But we weren’t done voting yet – there were four resolutions on the table.

  • Somerset County was allowed to expand its Central Committee to nine by unanimous voice vote.
  • The most controversial resolution was to “highly encourage” the RNC to “highly recommend” that early primary states New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina close their Republican primaries or caucuses to registered Republicans only. Since the Chair couldn’t determine the intent of a voice vote, it passed a roll call 116-87, with Wicomico 6-1 in favor (I voted yes.)
  • We asked Chairman Mooney to appoint an ad hoc bylaws committee by almost unanimous voice vote. Our county chair Dave Parker submitted this resolution.
  • We honored Richard Taylor, former National Commiteeman from 1983-2004, by unanimous voice vote.

Finally, just after 3:00, we ate the lunch scheduled for 12:30. Louis Pope gave the edited presentation familiarizing the new Central Committee members with their duties – I caught up with an old friend while I ate.

So there you have it, the wildest and wooliest convention I’ve ever attended. Next spring we do it again in a time and place to be determined. Congratulations to Chairman Mooney and the other winners – feel free to stop by our county anytime!

2010 MDGOP Fall Convention in pictures and text (part 1)

It was such a big and exciting convention this time that I decided to return to the practice of making this post in two parts. Part 1 tonight will deal with what occurred Friday night and tomorrow I’ll review the convention itself that occurred today. (One spoiler – our new Chair is former State Senator Alex Mooney.)

Once I arrived and cleaned up, I went down to check out the Executive Committee meeting – the last chaired by Audrey Scott.

The first interesting portion of the meeting occurred with the reading of the Treasurer’s Report. I was thrilled to find our line of credit we’d had since 2007 or so had been paid off, but not so pleased to find out what our outstanding bills were.

With a number of new Chairs there, the questions came fast and furious during this portion of the meeting. One key point zeroed on the lease the Party holds on its current headquarters and why it’s so seemingly excessive. Perhaps a facilities task force is in order, opined Treasurer Chris Rosenthal.

It was also interesting to hear the impact of “Victory” money on the party’s finances; however, the 2011 budget is conservatively based on doing without help from the national Republican Party.

Yet for Audrey Scott it was “extremely satifying and gratifying to be Chair this year.” Our 40 seat gain in local and state races was a “phenomenal achievement” and she thanked all the candidates and their campaign workers.

In the future, our goal is “viability” and “instant credibility,” continued Scott. But “I’m not wearing rose-colored glasses” as Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and Baltimore City would continue to be issues.

While National Committeewoman Joyce Terhes remarked in her report that the newcomers are “embarking on a four years you’ll love,” Louis Pope said he couldn’t recall a 48% turnover in the Central Committees in his nearly 40 years he’s been active in the party. It’s an “incredible opportunity,’ said Pope.

It was comforting to hear from the party’s legal counsel Bob Ostrom that we have a “tremendously positive” relationship with the Maryland Board of Elections. We may not agree with the outcome, but he also stated this most recent election was the “most fraud-free election that Maryland has conducted in many years.”

Among the organizational reports, three stood out.

Moshe Starkman, who was in the running for 1st Vice Chair, gave the Young Republican report. While he talked about effective engagement and involvement, one observer was “very troubled” with the YR Network he set up. The two were encouraged to discuss these issues at a later time as it began to get a little heated.

Chair candidate Mike Esteve gave the College Republican report, noting “this has been a tough year for everyone.” But he pointed out the growth of the CRs from five chapters to eleven, with a goal of 15 by April. Mike also explained the process and discussion behind a controversial CR bylaw change that allowed them to support Bob Ehrlich pre-primary, stating that they had spoken with both candidates before making the decision.

Mike also had complementary words for Fiona Moodie, who ran for office in Prince George’s County at the tender age of 18 – “imagine what she’ll be like at 28,” said Esteve. (She was the only Republican to run for their County Council, getting 21.5% of the vote in her district.) It was apt as Moodie gave the Teenage Republican report. They were working with the CRs on getting a vote on the Executive Committee.

The county reports were waived – everyone wanted to party, and I’m sure you want to check out the pictures!

Some Chair candidates had their own setup, with Mary Kane’s being the most elaborate. She even had an elephant.

Here she is with a couple supporters inside her ballroom.

On a more moderate scale was Alex Mooney’s hospitality suite, where he held court.

His main issue, of course, was fundraising, and he reminded those who dropped by of his plan.

The other candidate who had his own suite was Sam Hale.

Someone showed off their baking ability there.

But perhaps the most anticipated party was sponsored by someone who had no dog in the Chair fight whatsoever. It was dubbed the ‘Renegade Room’ and Joe Steffen (a.k.a. the ‘Prince of Darkness’) was the man with the plan, plastered on the wall to see and sign.

The “Renegade Revolution Resolution” went with the room’s ‘speaking truth’ theme – Joe and Don Murphy only had to kick a couple people out, none named Bill Campbell. The Chair hopeful stopped by to chat with Red Maryland‘s Mark Newgent.

They even had an honor roll out in the hallway.

You may have noticed the text of the document behind Joe Steffen. The signature in the upper-left hand corner is mine, but a number of other people signed too. We don’t hate the party, we’re just concerned.

But the election of Alex Mooney may go a long way in assuaging our concerns, and that’s the subject of tomorrow’s post on the events of today. (A good host leaves ’em wanting more!)

And there is a LOT more of the inside scoop. Part 2 is here.

The final MDGOP line

Well, I’m sitting here at the Doubletree Hotel in Annapolis having spoken with all the contenders for the crown, however briefly. Apparenly many are big fans but we’ll see how they feel after this post. Here’s the morning line as the racers enter their stalls (well, sort of…actually I’m getting ready for breakfast.) Previous odds are below.

  • Mary Kane (3-1): She has the biggest suite and the most money. I’ve seen a lot of the “establishment” people wearing her red lapel stickers, and she was very pleasant to me when we spoke yesterday evening. Still, the question remains whether she has the amount of support to go all the way or will she fade going through the backstretch. It’s going to be a long morning for her.
  • Alex Mooney (5-1): Having listened to Chris Rosenthal go through the financial state of the party at the Executive Committee meeting, surely many of those present will be receptive to Alex’s pitch and his lofty fundraising goals. But a lot of how he does depends on who is installed under him, and he may or may not have all the detail work down – only time will tell. There’s also the question of his future plans out there. He had the liveliest and most well-attended suite of the three I stood in, given size and location.
  • William Campbell (10-1): I still think Campbell could be a compromise choice when the time comes, or he could get the endorsement of one of the other also-rans to push him onward. He’s become sort of a dark horse, but his independent streak and reputation as a newcomer will garner him some support – and you can’t beat his fiscal acumen. He’s not spent his money wining and dining would-be voters on hospitality suites and paraphrenalia, which could either boost his outsider image or relegate him to also-ran status.
  • Sam Hale (10-1): The question for Sam is very simple: will the Maryland GOP go with a person who mainly receives his support from a number of TEA Party members who haven’t been involved in the MDGOP political process all that long. If the answer is yes, he beats the odds with a fairly captive audience. If not, he’s out after the first round of voting. Rural areas tend to support him more, but with that he bumps into the same support base that Alex Mooney has.
  • Mike Esteve (20-1): He deftly answered questions last evening regarding the College Republicans’ endorsement of Bob Ehrlich over Brian Murphy, but the group seems to prefer experience over youth. It hurts Sam Hale but hurts Mike moreso. And not having a base of operations (but instead roving around between parties) seems to reduce his legitimacy moreso than it does Bill Campbell.
  • The field (100-1): It’s just the five of them, and I believe we will have our winner from the group – no matter how excited or not the outside observers believe it is.

So there you have it, at least my strictly amateur prognostications. Later tonight I’ll let you know how it all shook out!

Pelura: Mooney’s my guy

Unlike his immediate successor, Audrey Scott, former GOP Chair Jim Pelura weighed in on the race to former supporters. While it may be the kiss of death to some, Pelura has remained engaged with the party he once headed but has gone against conventional wisdom on at least one occasion as an early backer of insurgent gubernatorial candidate Brian Murphy.

Part of what Pelura sent out follows:

When I decided to run in 2006 for Chairman, I did so because I saw a void in our Republican Party that had been unfilled for some time.  I believed that Conservative Republican values could win in Maryland if only we had the opportunity to govern by those values.  I believed that those who  thought  Republicans could not win in Maryland were wrong, and that we only needed to convince Marylanders that Republicans would govern according to the traditional Republican ideals of smaller government, low taxes, faith in the private sector and faith in the individual.

My plan as Chairman was simple…….promote traditional Republican ideals and convince our fellow Marylanders that elected Republicans would govern likewise.

America just witnessed an amazing resurgence of conservatism and a rejection of liberalism.  Why did this tsunami miss Maryland ?  I am convinced we lost because we still have not convinced enough of our fellow citizens that Republicans in Maryland can govern and more importantly, will govern according to the conservative ideals that we profess. 

We cannot continue to rely on Democrat failures to send voters to our Party.  We must offer real solutions to Maryland ’s problems and not wait for voters to vote for Republican candidates simply because they are not Democrats.

There are numerous questions that those who desire leadership positions in the Maryland Republican Party must ask themselves:

§         Being out of power in a one-party state, what reasons can the Party offer to disaffected Republicans, Independents and conservative Democrats to register Republican?

§         Being out of power and in such a minority, what reasons can the Party offer to attract the financial support of large donors?  I believe we must stand up for our principles.

§         Serious consideration must be given to expenses.  Can we stay at the current location or should we move?

§         What will the Party’s relationship be with the RNC?  Can we expect as much support as the outgoing Chairman received in the form of personnel, field offices, etc.?  Our newly elected Chairman will also vote for the new RNC Chair in January.   What direction will the outcome of that vote take for our Party nationally?

§         How will you handle the hypocrisy of verbally promoting the core Republican values while supporting those elected Republicans that do not?  How will you convince the voters that we Republicans “say what we mean and mean what we say”?

§         Why would voters believe in our Party when the MDGOP interferes in the Primary process under the guise of RNC Rule 11 and not give Republican voters the opportunity to choose their nominee?

The Maryland Republican Party is the leadership center for all Maryland Republicans.  It is, and must be, a very partisan political office.

I think that a slate of officers that represent former elected officials, former Party members, activists and those associated with the Tea Party would best serve our Party. 

With that in mind, I would like to see the following slate of candidates run as a united team:

  • Alex Mooney            –     Chairman
  • Sam Hale                  –     1st Vice Chair
  • Larry Helminiak       –     2nd Vice Chair
  • Collins Bailey           –     3rd Vice Chair
  • Nora Keenan             –     Secretary
  • William Campbell     –     Treasurer

I wish all the candidates the best and applaud their desire and willingness to step up and sacrifice their time and talents for a worthy cause, the Republican Party of Maryland.

While I saw no need for Jim to justify his intentions for his late term of office, the slate he presents also would require a few breaks to occur. First, we have no idea if Campbell or Hale would be willing to take their demotions – on the other hand, Mooney originally expressed a willingness to be 1st Vice-Chair. Obviously the floor would have to be opened up for nominations as well unless a last-minute nomination is made through normal channels (would-be nominees have until close of business Friday to secure a spot on the ballot.)

Yet if you ignore the slate and look at the criteria he used it makes a lot of sense. (Maybe that’s why I turned out to be one of his most diehard supporters since he walked this walk as best he could.) Sometimes a ‘party uber alles” attitude can get us in trouble when the rank-and-file don’t buy what we’re trying to sell.

Ronald Reagan is the perfect example – in 1984 he proved he could govern as a conservative and Maryland voted for him over Democrat Walter Mondale. Four years later, the promise of continued governance in the Reagan tradition carried George H.W. Bush to victory.

Obviously some will let me know that this happened over 20 years ago in a different era and different demographic. But when has a good, conservative alternative been presented to Maryland voters? Ellen Sauerbrey? (We saw what gymnastics the Democrats had to undergo to win that 1994 race.) 

My contention is that, had the national GOP placed its time and resources behind a candidate like Brian Murphy as it had Bob Ehrlich, we would have done no worse and perhaps even better. Martin O’Malley didn’t exactly run as a full-flegded liberal except when he palled around with Barack Obama – and even then they had to carefully select a location (Prince George’s County) where he was simply making sure his base turned out.

You moderates have tried it your way for most of the last decade and we can see the stunning successes you’ve had. Our victories on a local level came from tried-and-true conservatives, and even the Democrats who won had to play our game.

It’s time to try conservatism on a state level and quit being the nice guys.

Questions for the MDGOP Chair candidates

Last week I sent a questionnaire to all of MDGOP Chair hopefuls; a list that at the time had eight names. Of the five remaining I got direct written responses from three (William Campbell, Mike Esteve, and Sam Hale) while a fourth (Mary Kane) phoned me. I also have a letter Mrs. Kane sent out to all the candidates so her answers will be a hybrid of that information and what I recall from the phone conversation.

Since I have received no similar information from Alex Mooney he’s not included. (However, he answered a longer and somewhat different set of questions for Ann Miller yesterday, so maybe I took this to press a bit sooner than he would have liked.) Order of presentation is more or less random.

What will you do to encourage new candidates to step forward and avoid putting all our electoral eggs in one basket as the party seemed to during the last decade? 

William Campbell (WC): I will use the Central Committees, Clubs, and activists to encourage highly qualified individuals to become Republican candidates for elected office. Many interested individuals have a misconception that we have lots of potential candidates waiting to run for office. In addition, many potential candidates are frustrated by the lack of information to help them become candidates. We should run training courses on critical skills that successful candidates need to master. My one day candidate training course was inadequate, and far too late to be helpful. At a minimum we should teach the regulations covering ethics (how to file a personal financial disclosure statement), election laws and filing requirements (including a using the financial reporting software), and basic campaign operations.

We should also make a commitment to our successful nominees running in the General Election that they will receive funding and other meaningful support from the MDGOP. Our current “every candidate for themselves” approach discourages many potential candidates, and frustrates our nominees. They should also know that there will be a level playing field where all candidates are treated equally. In closing, we should not preselect our nominees. Each nominee should compete to win their nomination.

Mike Esteve (ME): My philosophy is where you can’t beat them, bleed them. Not putting up a candidate against Doug Gansler has allowed him to continue to build a two-million dollar war chest to use in two years. It is the role of the State Central Committee to ensure that there is as viable as possible of a candidate running for every statewide office. Likewise, it is the role of the County Central Committees to ensure every local Democratic candidate has a Republican challenger. Even just a name on the ballot, where we can’t find a strong Republican, forces the Democratic incumbents to spend money otherwise sent to more vulnerable candidates.

Sam Hale (SH): In a mailer to central committee members, I recently wrote:

“My top priority will be installing a Republican grassroots network across Maryland. As a conservative grassroots activist myself, I believe my biggest contribution to the party will be my ability to involve and relate to the increasing number of conservative grassroots groups in Maryland.”

I plan on installing grassroots networks and empowering central committees to grow the party on the local level. With that in mind, I will encourage those involved to win the registration battle, and elections on the local level first. This will allow us to build the party from the ground up, find viable candidates for every race and avoid placing “all of our eggs in one basket.”

Mary Kane (MK): In her letter, Mary wrote that, “A strong MDGOP means hard work. We must raise money, continue to build a strong grassroots organization, assemble a very strong media response presence throughout the state, and employ these efforts to recruit candidates and increase voter registration. These are basic functions of party building everyone understands and can agree upon.

We will do voter outreach, send new resident mailings, grassroots training, and candidate recruitment to grow our party. And we will work closely with our local committees and elected officials to solidify a strong crop of up and coming leaders.”

Describe your grand plans for fundraising – is it better to look for a few large donors or many smaller ones, and are you already scouting for new sources?

MK: Mary wrote: “We must have a state party that can raise money every week, every month, and every year. We cannot again allow for an MDGOP on the verge of bankruptcy a year and half out from statewide elections. We have donors that will support us. We have to assure them that their investment is an investment in a better future for our small businesses, our economy, our families, and our state.

We can and will have success in our fundraising efforts. Working with the Executive Committee as partners we can put a strong structure in place and develop a long term plan to fill our coffers for 2012, 2014 and beyond. We must actually utilize the talents of our Republican officials and a new Finance team. Our counties and MDGOP will be working together, not undermining and competing for every dollar. Fundraising plans should be coordinated in order to maximize support and to avoid overlap.”

SH: There are close to 1 million registered Republicans in the state of Maryland. In that pool I see 1 million potential donors. The average Marylander spends well over $100 a month on cable, internet and phone. Let’s ask them to spend 1/10 of that on saving their state.

One of my opponents recently said average people do not donate because they hope to gain something from the contribution; they donate because they believe in a cause. He was exactly correct, but the MDGOP is not currently a cause a traditional Republican can “believe in.” Once we restore principal and values to our message, we will restore our competitive advantage as a fundraiser.

I do not believe, however, that big donors and a large pool are mutually exclusive. The Obama campaign recently showed it is possible to be very successful on both levels. Once we restore contrast to our message, principal to our party and clear goals for success, the MDGOP will be something we can sell to every potential donor.

WC: There are two facets to MDGOP fund raising that need to be addressed; raising funds for general operations, and for election support.

The funding for MDGOP operations is relatively modest. Our annual budget is only about $500,000. The Chair is expected to raise approximately $125,000 from donors. This is a modest amount and with our existing donor list should be achievable. I would like to keep our existing pool of donors engaged, and reach out to many small donors. This increases our overall funding, and increases the commitment and influence of the wider Republican community. We are not currently set up to be effective in increasing grassroots support of MDGOP. We would have to greatly improve our information technology suite, and increase our use of social media. I am committed to making these improvements.

The funding requirements for election support are more difficult to address at the moment. First, what is the MDGOP going to do to support our candidates and win elections, and how much will that cost? In the 2010 election cycle, it appeared that the party was competing with the candidates for scarce campaign dollars. Many of the candidates, including myself, were frustrated over the lack of financial support from the MDGOP. I would like to develop both a 2012 and 2014 campaign budget quickly, and then commit to placing all funds collected over those budget levels into a candidate fund that will be disbursed directly to our nominees for the General election.

ME: Fundraising is, by far, the most important role of the State Party Chairman. There are three main points on fundraising:

1. Over the last year, the State Party has rightly expanded and shallowed their donor base. In other words, rather than being dependant on fifty donors for ten-thousand dollar donations, we’re moving in the direction of receiving fifty dollar donations from ten-thousand donors. This creates a much more stable and reliable donor base and that is precisely the direction in which I want to take our State Party – more in the direction of grassroots fundraising.

2. It is not unhistorical that the State Party appoints fundraising directors to reach out to a broader donor base. I have spoken with numerous such potential fundraising directors since my announcement, and it is clear that we have the opportunity to tap into previously uninterested donor sources given our traditional flagship candidate is no longer in the limelight. Potential supporters, particularly wealthier gun owners, who stand to lose many of their rights under another four years of the O’Malley regime, and worse yet, under an additional eight years of an O’Malley successor, are far more willing to support the Party knowing what they stand to preserve. This is the type of outreach we must conduct. 

3. For every successful business, institution, and campaign in the world, there are numerous failed ones. Just in the realm of politics, candidates run and parties form with little chance of success, yet manage to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. When it comes to major donors, individuals don’t contribute their money strictly on the mathematical basis of seeing a return in dividends, but because they believe in the cause. What I offer that no other candidate offers is a fundamental change in belief that this State Party can be successful and can close the chapter of the last ten years. We can rebuild and reform to be more competitive in this state, and stand on the values of our Party. What I offer is faith in the organization and a clear vision forward – that’s what donors want when considering contributing to the cause: vision, direction, and faith.

Our current chair is known for saying, “it’s party over everything.” Is it? Or do principles truly matter to you? 

ME: We have the potential to get conservatives elected in most Maryland counties. The key is to campaign on issues that matter to local constituencies and be mindful of the political makeup of every demographic. Stand on your principles, but market what sells to the electorate.

MK: Mary did not address this directly but wrote: “we will develop the statewide campaign to demonstrate the synergy of the core principles and values of the Republican Party with all Marylanders.”

SH: This type of statement brings up the question: What is the purpose of a political party? Is it solely to win elections for its namesake, or to move the country/state in a positive direction?

I recently wrote in a blog for marylandpatriots.org:

“I believe the purpose of a political party should not be solely to win elections, but rather to move the country in a positive direction. Therefore, if the GOP witnesses the social/political tide moving to the left, its objective should be to “turn the tide” rather than “go with the flow.” In “going with the flow” the GOP will not only lose its identity; but ultimately become obsolete, as the electorate’s mindset shifts further left.”

Not only is party over principle wrong morally, but also a ridiculous strategy for long term victory. If nothing is done about the social/political tide moving left the GOP will cease to exist in the long term. As Republicans, we need to fight for what we know is right and refuse to sell ourselves out in the hopes of stealing one or two elections.

WC: I believe that principles are the bedrock for our party. A party, organization, business, or individual without principles is not serving our citizens well, and would not have my support. I am running because I believe that the appearance of compromised principles is just as damaging as the actual commission of unprincipled acts. Many Maryland Republicans believe that we are compromised at present and need to change course immediately. I have a distinguished record of public service, and I will not compromise my principles for political gain.

Regarding internal party business, we have fought over regional chairs and other small county vs. large county issues for some time now. How will you address these internal disputes?

WC: I am amazed that we continue to waste valuable convention time to debating the voting weights of the jurisdictions. I would establish a working group to present an array of proposals to the various Central Committee members for their consideration and approval. In addition, it seems counter-productive to elect the Chair, Vice Chairs, Treasurer, and Secretary to four year terms. We should make these two year terms so we can evaluate their effectiveness after the 2012 General Election and not have another crisis if we need a leadership change. I am also, concerned about the prerogative we grant to Republican Governors to appoint the Chair. We need to have checks and balances between the party itself, and our elected Republican office holders. Otherwise the MDGOP could become an extension of a future Republican Administration, and do their bidding rather than protect the interest of the party.

MK: Mary wrote: There are also internal issues to be discussed. First, I will advocate that the term of office for the state party chair be reduced from 4 years to 2 years. Second, I will form an Ad Hoc Committee immediately to determine the appropriate permanent voting process for our MDGOP meetings to be presented at the spring convention. 

SH: It makes sense that those who represent a larger amount of Republicans should carry a larger weight to their vote. That is the way the Founder’s framed the House of Representatives.

On the other hand, I understand the argument that certain counties that elect zero or few Republicans to office should not drive the ideology for the state party.

I think the long-term solution is to raise awareness among voters as to who they are electing to central committee. Republicans need to realize who is representing them on the party level and the vital role they have on the direction of the party and the state. Sadly, I believe that most Republicans do not know what a central committee is. If this can be solved rank and file Republicans take a role in these elections and elect people who share their values, I feel much of the infighting will dissipate.

ME: Our State Party Constitution is clear that every County Party should have an equal vote in State Party Conventions, yet we suspend the rules every time. This needs to stop. No one county deserves more of a say than another.

How will you deal with the TEA Party influence given its mixed record?

ME: As a co-founder of the Baltimore Tea Party Coalition, I appreciate the energy that the Tea Party has generated. If we as a Party are to succeed, we need to bring together all elements, be them establishment, Tea Party, etc. Only together can we hope to rebuild as an organization.

WC: In running a statewide campaign I met many TEA Party and other Conservative voters. I admire their commitment and passion. They could bring a great deal of energy to the MDGOP, but I do not believe that many of them want to become Republicans. They are fiercely independent and are equally critical of Democrats and Republicans. I would certainly reach out to them whenever possible to find common ground. We have much in common and could work together to elect our candidates.

SH: I don’t think their record in this state is mixed. I believe on the state level their influence was completely disregarded due to the record of our governor candidate and pre-primary shenanigans. In the first district, where the tea party was able to play an active role in providing grassroots for Dr. Harris, he won by 13 points. On the state level where they were either not empowered or not comfortable supporting certain candidates, we lost by about the same margin.

My goal as chairman will be to correct this discrepancy by providing principal to our message and reaching out to the tea party on a state-wide scale. The state party cannot be successful without the enthusiasm and grassroots prowess of the tea party. The MDGOP needs to not only reach out to local leaders and empower them to grow the party, but most importantly gain their trust. They need to know that if they give their time and money, we will support their conservative values. I believe electing a chairman who is one of their own, will send that message.

MK: I don’t recall what Mary said regarding the TEA Party during the phone conversation and she didn’t address this in her letter.

In what rank order would you put the concepts of candidate recruitment, fundraising, fealty to party principles, addressing the needs of smaller counties, and dealing with the TEA Party?

MK: The part of our discussion I recall best is our discussion of this point. We agreed that perhaps a better analogy than the one I presented would be as in a wheel, where fundraising is the hub and six spokes extend out to the other facets, which form a circle.

SH: This is a difficult question as I feel the areas are intertwined. I feel someone who shares traditional party principles will be able to relate to, and inspire, the tea party. And a principled candidate should have the common sense approach to weigh the needs of individual counties. . A candidate who cannot inspire grassroots support will not be an effective fundraiser.

1) Principles
2) Fundraising

ME: The most important job of the State Party Chairman is to fundraise. I don’t see why any of these other elements would have to be separated, or contradictory from that. We fundraise when we stand on our principles. We fundraise when we tap into grassroots Tea Party energy. We fundraise when we represent the needs of all counties. Frankly, we have bigger problems than the feelings of individual Central Committees. We are facing redistricting, which could cost us the first and sixth congressional districts, and trim are already dwindling minorities in the State Senate and House into oblivion. We are facing the crisis of a 35 billion dollar pension and health plan liability that will force 17 billion dollars of unfunded pensions onto the already burdened counties. We have bigger problems than “party fealty.” We, as Maryland Republicans, offer our state something that few other Republican State Parties can offer: the hope of accountable, transparent government. If we are not marketing a clear vision to this state; if we are not acting as whistleblowers and calling out the corruption of the arrogant House and Senate majorities, and their governor; if we are not taking the issues of this state seriously, and offering the voters of Maryland a genuine and clear alternative, then we are simply wasting our time.

WC: This would not be my choice for a priority list. Mine priorities would be (in order of importance) party unity, financial solvency, candidate recruitment and development, and increasing Republican voter registration and participation in Baltimore City, and Prince Georges and Montgomery Counties. However, to answer your question I would rank you issues in the following order: 1. Principles, 2. Candidate recruitment, 3. Fund raising, Smaller County needs, and 5. dealing with the TEA Party. While some may object to ranking the TEA Party relationship last, the reality is that (unlike the first 4 issues) we do not have complete control over that relationship.

Also, please assess the strengths and weaknesses of your last two predecessors as chair, Audrey Scott and Jim Pelura.

WC: I only got active in MDGOP politics in April of this year. I had not known either Audrey, or Jim before then, and have only spoken to them briefly on a few occasions. They have both been courteous to me and I personally like them. I am unable to judge their strengths and weaknesses, and I don’t believe that the past performance of MDGOP Chairs is relevant to the current election. We need to focus on the future of our party and not re-plow old ground.

ME: I have nothing but sincere respect and admiration for the Chairman. She came into a mess of a Party that was deeply in debt and highly divided. She united the Party, dug us out of debt, established a fulltime fundraising and political staff, raised seven victory centers statewide, and left us in the black when it was all said and done. As far as I’m concerned, she met all of her campaign promises and did a phenomenal job. I did not agree with all of her decisions; I did not support all of her methods. She was the best possible Chair at the right time. Now that chapter has come to a close and the Party has different needs. I believe the Chairman recognizes this, which is why she is not pursuing reelection.

I have no comment on Mr. Pelura.

SH: Scott – I admire Audrey’s strength as a fundraiser, her ability to remain positive and upbeat, and her work-ethic and resolve. But she conveyed a lack of adherence to party principles (and rule 11) which alienated the party’s base. She also was unable to innovate and improve on party strategy which led to a continued decline in statewide elections.

Pelura – Jim is a great man of character who was unable to work with the party apparatus to get things done. Much of things said about him simply are not true. Regardless of personal opinion, his term was not an effective one.

I would like committee members to think of my candidacy as the opportunity to start a new chapter of Republican Politics in Maryland. This November proved that we cannot afford more of the same and drastic change is required. I hope to provide that change if elected.

MK: Mary did not address her predecessors.


After reading these questions and compiling this post, I hope this helps – whether you have a direct stake in the decision as a Central Committee member or just happen to be a rank-and-file Republican or conservative concerned about the state of the party in the Free State.

I look forward to a spirited contest culminating sometime Saturday morning.

Braver than I

Another of the Maryland pundits who actually gets a vote on the upcoming state GOP leadership elections, Daniel Vovak takes my oddsmaking a little farther and predicts the order of finish in each race on his Montgomery County Daily website.

I’m not going to sit and argue with his forecasts, but I will say there’s precious few of his winners on my personal voting list. (Of course if it were up to me I’d go 6-for-6 so anything less is sort of unsatisfactory. Yes, I can live with most of these people.)

The first thing which jumps out at me is the number of people running from Montgomery County – in theory four of the six officers could come from one county. Anne Arundel County has three hopefuls and Howard County two, but one notable omission is that Baltimore County has no one running for party office. How long has it been since that happened? Of course, the lower Shore isn’t represented, although Matt Teffeau of Caroline County (running for 3rd Vice-Chair) has a local connection as he’s the head of the SU College Republicans.

Another interesting facet of Vovak’s piece is his division of labor between the three vice-chairs. While under Alex Mooney vice-chairs would have specific fundraising targets he didn’t spell out any other duties, nor has any other candidate. Certainly part of this may be holding cards close to the chest to see who he or she works with, but I would presume the Chairs have an agenda and duties for the vice-chairs to follow. Perhaps Vovak’s plan is a template but as he points out the by-laws are silent on specifics.

So I give kudos to Daniel for adding his expertise and perspective to the race.

At this moment my plan is to run the questions and answers I solicited from each hopeful tomorrow – my delay is waiting for William Campbell to follow through on his promise to send me his. (As if on cue, lo and behold they just showed up in my e-mail!) On Friday I’ll post my penultimate odds, although I am planning on bringing my trusty laptop for necessary updates. (I would assume a hotel such as the Doubletree has wifi, otherwise I’ll be sorely disappointed.)

In any event, this should be a newsworthy weekend.

Former MDGOP Chair candidate makes surprising choice

So much for my short hiatus from MDGOP politics – you could have knocked me over with a feather.

As he was preparing for a long-planned trip to Algeria, Andrew Langer wrote the following on his Facebook page:

I’m asking you to support Mary Kane for Chairman this Saturday.  I know this may come as a surprise to some of you, but since withdrawing from the race last week, I’ve had the opportunity to have a number of conversations with Mary—and it became clear to me that we share the same vision for the MDGOP.  It is a vision of strength and unity, one in which we all work together towards a common goal of electoral victory.

Mary has expressed tremendous enthusiasm for the principles that were articulated in my Vision 2010 statement—enthusiasm to the point that she has asked me to work with her on implementing those visions.  So those of you who were excited about the ideas contained in that document, you should rest assured that under Mary Kane’s leadership (with all of us working together), those ideas will move from concept into reality.

Mary also has a few key factors which make her the best choice for us in 2010:

1)      She has pledged that she is not using the Chairmanship of MDGOP as a springboard to another office.  I know that is an area of concern for many people, as we want a Chairman who is going to be focused on building and strengthening the MDGOP, not merely holding a post or adding to a resume.  This is implicit in Mary’s understanding;

2)      Mary has proven organizational experience.  This cannot be understated—whoever comes into this job ought to know how to manage an organization.  This is not the same as running things unilaterally—a great leader knows how to bring people together and move them towards a common goal.  She has already offered me some solid ideas as to how to bring the party together, and get the executive team working as a core group.   I think those ideas terrific;

3)      She has excellent fundraising credentials and connections.  Perhaps the most important role of a party chairman is raising money—and as someone who runs a non-profit organization, I can tell you that takes know-how and know-who.  You need to know the art of fundraising, and have some great ideas as to where that money is going to come from.  Again, Mary and I have talked about the development efforts articulated in my Vision statement, and other ideas that she has.  I am more-than-satisfied that she is going to be able to not only build on our fundraising successes of the past year, but substantially pass them.

We need to move beyond the clique mentality.  And I say this as someone who hold deeply conservative and libertarian beliefs.  I believe that we can grow this party by building on those core values, and created a plan for us to get there. 

With Mary Kane as Chairman, we can implement that plan.

Fair enough. However, there are other candidates who fall under each of the aspects Andrew pointed out about Mary Kane as well. I would suspect that, with the possible exception of Alex Mooney, we probably won’t see the other contenders deciding to run for something in 2012 or 2014. And this was the reason Eric Wargotz took a pass on the position.

Personally I would rate fundraising and messaging over organization, and one could also argue that others in the race excelled more at both aspects than Mary did.

Yet what makes this announcement by Langer most surprising is that Kane is perceived by many as the “establishment” candidate while Andrew has deep experience with the TEA Party and the conservative activist movement. Certainly Mary didn’t step far outside her running mate’s moderate campaign to endorse the TEA Party message.

It will be interesting to see whether this endorsement by Langer could convince a few more people within the convention to vote for Mary. The appeal may work for backers of some better than others, but I can’t see those new, more conservative TEA Party activists who attend the convention embracing Mary Kane right away. They’re the ones who feel left out of that “clique mentality” and some may even whisper the word, “sellout.” Unfortunately, Langer won’t be around to refute the charge.

MDGOP horserace: the update

It’s beginning to look like there will be five candidates for Chair; at least that’s how many are actively campaigning at this time.

Today we had a quad-county Central Committee meeting (Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester) and close to two dozen committee members were present. While we had no candidates visit us directly, we heard briefly from three candidates for Chair (Mary Kane, Alex Mooney, and William Campbell.) And while Mike Esteve and Sam Hale did not contact us directly, it’s by happenstance that I have received their answers to my questions and I have also gotten an advance copy of what Mary Kane is sending out to the rest of the state. Furthermore, I am told that Campbell will also be answering my questions in the next few days, so hopefully mid-week I can put together a debate-style presentation featuring at least four of the candidates.

One advantage of getting together a group as we had today was getting a real live sounding board for reactions, which helps in determining who is a favorite and who has less of a chance.

Previously I had placed the odds and race synopsis here; consider this post an update of that one.

Reposting the odds:

  • Mary Kane (4-1): I spoke with her at length yesterday and she answered several of my questions. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of her platform is changing the Chair term to be two years, and I can’t say I disagree with that idea. But I still hear the perception that she’s too tied into the old guard which did little to improve the party over the last eight years since Bob Ehrlich was elected, and obviously as a previous member of his administration and running mate she’ll be part of that legacy. Still, she remains the favorite and having fewer people to contend with helps her.
  • Alex Mooney (7-1): The factor affecting his rise most is his decision to go ahead and go for party Chair (although he would accept 1st Vice-Chair if he loses, and saying that he could be first out if he’s an also-ran on the first ballot, even if it’s not fourth or fifth place.) Yet if you look at party building strictly from a fundraising standpoint, Alex has a lot on his side as he was a rainmaker for state Republicans. Also, he is a known quantity to a number of supporters and his conservative stances on most issues (except perhaps illegal immigration) would bring him favor among movement conservatives. (His 88.49 term rating for the monoblogue Accountability Project placed him second in the State Senate, trailing only Congressman-elect Andy Harris.) His conversation today assuaged a lot of concerns about how much time he could devote to the job as well.
  • William Campbell (8-1): I have heard a few rumblings that the state party was a little less than forthcoming with information he requested, so his effort has been more of a face-to-face one. Yet he seems to be impressing those he talks to, and his late-blooming campaign may be hitting its stride at the proper time. Since it’s highly unlikely anyone will secure a first-ballot win I still think Campbell could be a compromise choice when the time comes, or he could get the endorsement of one of the other also-rans to push him onward.
  • Sam Hale (8-1): Certainly there are those in his corner, but the odds don’t improve for him as much as they do for fellow conservative Alex Mooney because Mooney attracts many in the same wing of the party Hale draws from – but with Alex accruing the added benefit of perceived fundraising ability. In addition, there are still a number of people skeptical that a man Hale’s age would have the connections necessary to build the party’s coffers. (By comparison, Mooney is 39, Kane 48, and Campbell 63.) Yet Hale has boundless energy and a background in grassroots organizing so you can’t count that out completely among the nearly half of Central Committee members who are new and may be new to politics.
  • Mike Esteve (20-1): Consider the problem of age and experience that Hale faces and you get the reason Mike faces the longest odds, since he’s even younger. Granted, Esteve has some ability in convincing a voting population that he’s leadership material as the head of Maryland’s College Republicans, but the perception is that the CRs are minor-league while the game that’s being played at this level is the big leagues. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s nominated for a Vice-Chair position from the floor.
  • The field (75-1): As always, we could have the darkest of horses being nominated from the floor. Daniel Vovak has written me (no, he’s not running) that there may be another candidate – Mike Phillips of Montgomery County – but Phillips may decide to run for one of the lesser positions as well. At this point, I would put Phillips among the ‘field.’

For reference, here were the previous odds so you can see how candidates have moved over the last week:

Original odds 11/30/10: Kane 5-1, Wargotz 8-1, Campbell 10-1, Andrew Langer 12-1 (withdrew), Hale 15-1, Amedori 18-1, Mooney 20-1, Esteve 25-1, field 50-1.

First revision 12/2/10: Kane 5-1, Eric Wargotz 7-1 (withdrew), Campbell 10-1, Hale 12-1, Amedori 15-1, Mooney 15-1, Esteve 20-1, field 75-1.

Second revision 12/3/10: Kane 4-1, Mooney 10-1, Campbell 12-1, Hale 12-1, Carmen Amedori (withdrew) 15-1, Esteve 20-1, field 75-1.

Of course, any new developments will be brought to you as I’m able to bring them to you. Watch for my questions and answers provided back to me to be posted around mid-week.

Wargotz: ‘I will forgo this unique opportunity’

Certainly, some movement conservatives and GOP purists will rejoice at this news but this also helps pave the way for the favorite in the MDGOP Chair race. Eric Wargotz had this to say yesterday:

“I am both humbled and honored to have many central committee members, and supporters rallying me to run for the Chairman position.  The past couple of weeks have been spent carefully considering this opportunity to lead our State party.

The upcoming term presents much opportunity for the Maryland Republican Party to focus its message and thus make substantive gains. Hopefully, a sharpened one carefully crafted based on traditional Conservative values with a goal towards truly achieving a two-party system in our great State. 

In conjunction with family, friends, supporters and trusted advisors I have reached the conclusion that although I am up for the challenge of leading this effort as Chairman, I will forgo this unique opportunity at this time as I continue to strongly consider a run for elected office in the near future.

Thus, I offer my sincere congratulations to all nominees for Chairman of the Maryland Republican Party.  I pledge my support, time and energy in assisting the new Chairman and the incoming Officers and Executive Board. Furthermore, I will continue to work with the Republican Party and others to promote core Conservative values in Maryland and throughout the Nation.”

In the short term, this probably helps the chances of Mary Kane more than anyone since my suspicion is that much of Eric’s support will gravitate toward her. But I think this will also give Alex Mooney the excuse to make his final decision whether to go for Chair or 1st Vice Chair. I’ll certainly be reviewing the odds later today.

Yet there is a longer-term implication to this. The MDGOP bylaws clearly state “(n)o individual may either hold or seek elected public office while serving as an officer of the party.” While Eric has more statewide name recognition and theoretically wouldn’t need to spend time introducing himself to voters, the 2012 campaign beckons and again there’s an U.S. Senate seat up for election, held by Ben Cardin. (In theory, he could also run for Congress if he wants to take on a GOP incumbent, but I doubt he would do that.) With the primary held somewhere in February or March, Eric would probably only be Chair for a matter of months before resigning to seek office.

To me, it’s the clearest indication yet that he’s going to try again, and perhaps it’s a shot across the bow at competition – remember, members of the General Assembly can run ‘from cover’ in 2012, not risking their seats should they be unsuccessful.

In any event, I can scratch another name off the list.

In other news, I just got off the phone with Sam Hale and he told me I’ll have his answers to my questions for the new Chair later today. What sayeth the rest of you in the race – are you chicken? Afraid to answer queries from a voter?

Be aware I meet with a pretty significant voting bloc in the race tomorrow. I know one other contender will be at this meeting in person, so you might wish to take some time today to gather your thoughts. Just saying.

The MDGOP horserace

(This post has been entirely updated here.)

I’ve had enough people ask me who I think is going to be chair that I’ve decided to lay odds on what I think would happen. (Odds are for amusement only, no wagering please.)

Here is the race as I see it and why. I’ll update this in a week or so before the race; by then we should have a pretty good idea of the field. (Now updated to reflect two withdrawals – Andrew Langer and Eric Wargotz.)

  • Mary Kane (4-1): The early favorite based on name recognition and the number of Ehrlich loyalists still in the state party. But this probably won’t be a two- or three-horse race in the beginning, and the question is just how much support she can muster beyond this core constituency. Will she have enough in the tank if the race turns out to be a marathon? And are party regulars ready to give the Republicans back to the Kane family? However, her odds improved once Eric Wargotz withdrew since they seemed to me to be drawing from the same voter bloc.
  • Alex Mooney (10-1): The longer he waits to decide whether to get into the race (as of 12-2 he’s still oscillating between Chair and 1st Vice-Chair), the less chance he has of winning it. He has two strikes against him: a perception that he’s simply doing this to keep his 2012-2014 options open and the similar geographical disparity which also would have hurt Eric Wargotz. However, his odds can vastly improve if he decides to get in and pledges to use the position as a conservative bully pulpit – I think the withdrawal of Wargotz will push him into the Chair race, thus his odds got much better. And with the withdrawals of the other ‘outstate’ candidates he can now play the ‘us vs. them’ angle.
  • William Campbell (12-1): Probably the most low-key among those in the field, Campbell could be the compromise candidate the party turns to in an otherwise deadlocked race. While he has run for statewide office, he’s a political outsider who may get the nod based on the perception he’s not taking the position to climb a career political ladder. In terms of fiscal expertise, though, Campbell is hard to top.
  • Sam Hale (12-1): Hale represents the Brian Murphy wing of the party, and will likely have a lot of support among the most conservative in the party. Yet the questions which will nag him will be those of his young age and his fundraising ability, particularly since he’s likely the most unknown quantity among the contenders. They may not wish to take a flyer on this unproven rookie unless he can press the flesh and impress. He’s unafraid of questions, though, and that could help.
  • Carmen Amedori (15-1): Another candidate who wouldn’t win on the first ballot, but could emerge as a compromise choice. However, she has to overcome the perception of flakiness based on her behavior during the 2010 campaign – her explanation made sense to some but left other supporters of both Brian Murphy and Bob Ehrlich fuming. She will need to mend fences quickly to have a chance.
  • Mike Esteve (20-1): He’s already in charge of a state operation, but the Maryland College Republicans are a far cry from their parent organization. Like Sam Hale, there’s going to be the question of youth used against him, except that Mike is even younger. While the group as a whole needs to get younger, I can’t see how he succeeds – on the other hand, he only needs to convince about 150 people.
  • The field (75-1): Since nominations can be made from the floor (if a 2/3 majority chooses to do so) any number of names could surface at the convention, including past chairmen or other GOP luminaries. Highly unlikely but possible nonetheless.

On Sunday I submitted a list of questions to the contenders whom I know of; as of the time I wrote this last night no one had replied. (As of 12-3 Sam Hale is the lone reply.) Obviously I’m taking a dim view of those who won’t answer simple but direct questions about how they’ll change the party.

Original odds 11/30/10: Kane 5-1, Wargotz 8-1, Campbell 10-1, Andrew Langer 12-1 (withdrew), Hale 15-1, Amedori 18-1, Mooney 20-1, Esteve 25-1, field 50-1.

First revision 12/2/10: Kane 5-1, Eric Wargotz 7-1 (withdrew), Campbell 10-1, Hale 12-1, Amedori 15-1, Mooney 15-1, Esteve 20-1, field 75-1.