WCRC meeting – April 2014

We didn’t have our president, who got struck in traffic returning from across the Bay, and our slated speaker had a conflict and sent his regrets. Even the treasurer had to take a rain check on the meeting. Yet the remainder of us persevered and we had our last meeting until the day before the June 24 primary hearing from a number of candidates who may well reach the end of the electoral road that day.

But Shawn Jester did a fine enough job running the meeting – with a little help from his right-hand man – that we learned a few things along the way and made a couple decisions.

With no speaker, once the formalities of doing the Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and welcoming of guests were out of the way, we immediately cut to Dave Parker’s Central Committee report.

Parker told us that one of our own received an award from the state party, and as if on cue our Charles Carroll Award winner strode in the door. For a half-century of service, the state GOP honored Wicomico County’s “Mr. Republican” Blan Harcum. It was the “highlight of the convention,” said Parker. Harcum later added that it was “invigorating” to see so many new people in Bethesda.

But a lot of other things went on as well: the resolution condemning HB1513 was approved by unanimous consent, which was a rare time the procedure was done correctly, said Dave. He added that Diana Waterman helped play a part in the bill’s demise. Dave also assessed the bid for regional chairs as “not ready for prime time,” although it had been tried on a couple prior occasions. All in all, Parker called it “a good convention.”

Dave then passed out the flyer for the Allen West event in September, and explained how things would work that day – at least tentatively. We don’t know the sequence of West’s events before and after ours, so those details need to be firmed up.

Although it was not as well attended as we would have liked, Parker also called our Lincoln Day Dinner “successful.” It highlighted the “best crop I’ve ever seen” running for office.

I interrupted the flow a little bit by asking a question whether we should try to schedule a Super Saturday based on the West visit, figuring it would be a draw for other counties. The reason I brought it up at this meeting was that I knew we wouldn’t have a WCRC meeting for almost two months, so they should be aware if it comes up as a Central Committee issue.

Yet there were a number of events on the horizon for the post-primary summer, said Dave: the Tawes Crab and Clam Bake and our Farm and Home Show topped the list, with the WCRC Crab Feast coming in the weekend after Labor Day (as we were reminded later.) We also needed to set up our headquarters with some new volunteers. Before the primary, the MDGOP is sponsoring a forum on May 31, to be televised by WMDT-TV, Channel 47.

One other missing ingredient we needed to begin work on, concluded Parker, was a “get people to the polls” plan. Woody Willing pointed out early voting was June 12-18 at the Civic Center.

From there, we heard from all the candidates in the room regarding their campaigns. Among the door-knocking, fundraisers, and events, there were a few highlights.

Dr. Mark Edney, who is running for Central Committee and was one of our proxy carriers, remarked about his “great weekend at the convention” and the “ton of energy” there. He also raved about Sunday’s event for Mary Beth Carozza that he attended.

Delegate Charles Otto, who serves with scheduled speaker Mike McDermott in the House of Delegates, asked us to remember he still represents Wicomico County until the second Wednesday in January. He noted that at least 56 of the 141 Delegates next year will be new, as the others either retired or sought new positions, also assessing the state faced “challenging times” because they were increasing spending 4.8% while revenues were only increased 1.8%.

Dr. Rene Desmarais, a candidate for Delegate in District 37B, remarked on his interesting weekend as well. He was at the convention Friday night before departing to a medical conference on Saturday where he heard from four gubernatorial candidates, plus Jeannie Haddaway representing David Craig. While he said the Republicans all did a very good job, Desmarais called Doug Gansler “incoherent” and noted Anthony Brown made promises for the next 8 years he couldn’t keep over the last 8 – Brown also refused to answer questions, added Rene.

Circuit Court candidate M.J. Caldwell was late – he had come from a First Baptist Christian Church meeting with over 600 people on police concerns. He pointed out the vast gulf of experience between himself and his recently-appointed opponent, and stated he was “highly recommended” by the state bar – a distinction his opponent did not share.

(Personally I think if the guy’s last name were Jones he wouldn’t have sniffed a judgeship.)

Introducing himself to the group, District 37B hopeful Allen Nelson made the case that Martin O’Malley was a “scary individual” who was painting industries as villains. He brought up what he thought was a better idea – in Delaware, farmers have significant input in creating regulations.

Two events brought up by candidates will be held the same day, May 10: District 38B candidate Carl Anderton, Jr. is hosting a meet-and-greet at Main Roots Coffee and County Council District 2’s Marc Kilmer will have his event later at the residence of Bob Laun. Anderton also touted the new balanced budget for Delmar, which came with no tax or fee increases.

Carl also believed his leadership of the Maryland Municipal League was a “great experience.” And when challenged later about what to tell a Republican Norm Conway supporter, Carl pledged to speak with this gentleman himself.

Speaking for the David Craig campaign, Ann Suthowski said that the gubernatorial candidate will kick off a day in Salisbury Thursday at the annual Prayer Breakfast before meeting with public safety officials and granting a pair of media interviews.

With the candidates covered, we reviewed some past events.

Shawn Jester believed the Salisbury Festival was “a fantastic event” but it brought up the need for a new party banner to replace one that’s several years old and looks it. We voted to do just that.

And on a question which was brought up by membership, we decided not to take a formal position on city redistricting, although a few members who spoke up (including me) supported the five-district idea. It brought up a brief discussion about candidate recruitment, with Larry Dodd conceding “we fell asleep at the wheel” for a couple cycles. Our next chance will be the fall of 2015.

First, however, we have to get through this cycle. Because our usual fourth Monday falls on Memorial Day next month, as is common, we will not meet again until primary eve June 23. Attendance may be back to normal as candidates will be working the streets hard for last-minute votes.

WCRC meeting – March 2014

While tonight’s meeting was pretty much standing room only, the oddity was (by my count) there were in the room more candidates and those who are helping out campaigns than what one termed ‘regular people.” Of course, with 13 running for Central Committee (including yours truly) that was going to increase the odds a little bit as 9 of those 13 hopefuls were present, as were many seeking other positions. Once we did our usual club business of reciting the Lord’s Prayer (yes, we still do that and not one person is offended by it), Pledge of Allegiance, and treasurer’s report, we got a number of campaign updates.

But amongst all those who spent a couple minutes relating their stories about doing door-to-door or announcing their upcoming fundraisers as we went around the room for campaign updates, there were two candidates who we asked to speak. Both are seeking the District 3 Wicomico County Council seat currently held by Gail Bartkovich, who chose not to seek another term.

Larry Dodd was familiar to all of us because he had served as the president of the WCRC from 2011 to 2013, immediately before our current president Jackie Wellfonder. (Dodd is still a club officer.) He pointed out that he was the father of 12-year-old twins that were in public school, which he stated “aren’t all bad.” Larry may share a little of those plaudits because he’s been on the Wicomico County Board of Education since 2009, and was reappointed for a five-year term in 2013. Prior to that he served as a County Council member from 2002-06, in the district now represented by Joe Holloway. Redistricting shifted him to District 3, which was good because “I was going to run anyway.” He conceded, though, it would be tough to follow “one of the best” in Gail Bartkovich.

Before a serious injury sidelined him, Larry was an active firefighter and EMT, acquiring “all the certifications I could get” and earning a master’s degree in the field. He is planning to resume teaching in the EMT field in the next few months.

Larry took a somehat different approach to his presentation, though. While he pointed out a couple of his key issues, stating that “crime is the biggest issue” in the county and calling for “more cohesion” between city and county. he also stated the case that living in Salisbury “has its issues.” ¬†Other bullet points for Larry were – naturally – education and agriculture, where he felt “we need to protect farmers.”

But he also asked what we felt were significant issues, and brought up a few possibilities: a countywide water and sewer district, teacher’s pensions, hughway user funds, and reducing overall spending.

Larry also beseeched us, saying “everybody needs to work together” and that we need to hit the streets and work for candidates. “You can’t vote for third party candidates” in this election, he concluded.

Tom Taylor is no stranger to running for office, either. In 2006 and 2010 he ran for County Executive on the Democratic ticket, making his appeal to the most conservative part of the Democratic party – as a result, he only got a small percentage of the vote. Now as a Republican, he’s running for the Council seat despite the fact “I feel like the County Council is becoming irrelevant” due to the influence Annapolis policies have on the county. But he also warned that he’s “not afraid of shaming anyone to do what’s right.” Our County Council has to stand up to Annapolis and needs to draw “a firm line in the sand” at times, Tom added.

One of his key issues was crime, but he made it plain that “we need a way to protect ourselves” and that the right to carry is “a proven deterrent.” He also advocated zero-based budgeting, which would force us to make the “hard decision” to ask ourselves whether we could afford something rather than the easy choice of raising taxes yet again. Taylor wrapped up his remarks by saying “admitting there’s a problem is the first step to recovery.”

Dave Parker gave the Central Committee report, which mainly focused on the Lincoln Day Dinner but also touched upon a September event we are planning as well. Our plan to invite all four remaining gubernatorial candidates to the LDD was coming together nicely, with all but David Craig confirming their attendance. (To me that’s a surprise.)

As I mentioned earlier, we had a lot of candidates in the room, but one newcomer who got to say a few words was Karen Tolley, who is running for the District 37B seat. Once Johnny Mautz, Jr. arrived we had four of the five would-be Delegates in the room – Allen Nelson was the lone exception. She briefly got to introduce herself, saying “this really is grassroots,” and plugged her campaign site.

Some of the key upcoming events mentioned:

  • Circuit Court judge candidate M.J. Caldwell will have a fundraiser on Wednesday, March 26 at La Tolteca in Salisbury. (I can tell you the food will be good.)
  • The NAACP candidate forum will be held this Thursday, March 27 at the Chipman Center in Salisbury.
  • On Friday, March 28 District 38B hopeful Carl Anderton, Jr. will host a fundraiser at the Evo Public House in Salisbury. (Thumbs up to the Primal Pale Ale there.)
  • District 37B candidate Dr. Rene Desmarais will be holding a Talbot County event on April 3.
  • Gubernatorial candidate David Craig will be hosting an event on April 13 at Sailwinds Park in Cambridge.
  • And of course, our annual Crab Feast will be September 6, so save the date.

We will also have a presence at the Salisbury Festival, although I won’t be there this year because I’ll be at our state convention. Immediately after that weekend will be our next meeting, which will be April 28 with a speaker to be announced.