2015 Maryland GOP Fall Convention in pictures and text (part 2)

A new day dawned yesterday after a night of partying I described in part 1. Too bad it was about the last time we got to see the sun.

Instead, I went down to grab breakfast and remarks fron three U.S. Senate candidates. It should be noted that a fourth, Anthony Seda, “has never reached out” to the MDGOP, according to Diana Waterman.

After an opening prayer where Delegate Deb Rey prayed that we “cruise to victory,” we did the speeches in alphabetical order. This meant Richard Douglas spoke first.

Richard noted the news was still filled with images from Paris, Belgium, and Mali, saying it underscores that “terrorism…remains a concern.” He added that the authorization to use military force passed after 9/11 remains in effect today.

He added that growing up abroad made incidents like the building of the Berlin Wall and Cuban missile crisis “indelibly etched in my mind.” But he assured us we are stronger than Russia – we just have a leadership problem. No one is pushing back on Russia, China, or Iran, he continued.

Douglas pivoted to domestic issues with a mention of the Bladensburg Cross, a court case he’s assisting on and one for which he predicted “we’ll take the wood to the humanists.” It led into his thought that the job of a Senator was not to pontificate, but to act. In Maryland, it meant not just doing what he could at the federal level to eliminate the rain tax and entice industry. One example of the latter was the Howard Street Tunnel, which is too shallow to accommodate double-decker rail cars. It’s a problem the current Senator has had 30 years to address.

“People who have three squares a day…don’t riot,” Douglas noted. With foreign policy experience and what could be described as a populist agenda, Douglas vowed “I intend to go to the Senate to make that place better.”

The son of Greek immigrants, Chrys Kefalas opened by saying, “I’m a story that’s brought to you courtesy of the American Dream.” He then detailed a life of precocious entrepreneurship as a teenage business owner who parlayed that success into law school and eventually jobs with Bob Ehrlich, both as Congressman and as governor. One of his accomplishments with the Ehrlich administration was pioneering criminal justice reform.

After a stint at the Eric Holder Justice Department working on a “smart on crime” initiative, Kefalas is now a vice-president at the National Association of Manufacturers. “Manufacturing is coming back,” said Chrys. America has the advantages of innovative and productive workers as well as affordable energy. Taxes and regulations were holding us back, he explained.

Yet he was quick to recognize “you are the ones who are going to make the party strong…the campaign is about you.”

Kefalas added that the task of the nominee is to win, and he would do so with his positive vision. In this “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to win the seat, Kefalas believed “I can get more Democratic crossover support than anyone else in the primary.”

“We need to expand the map in Maryland,” he continued. Through him “we have a path to victory.”

Kefalas concluded by noting his recent engagement, stating “I am a gay Republican.” But “we move our country in a better direction when we are together.”

Kathy Szeliga emphasized her working-class background and that she and her husband Mark “believed in the American Dream.” For most of her life she’d played the various roles working moms did.

But Kathy stressed her more recent past, talking about how she and fellow Delegate Nic Kipke “brought some new ideas to Annapolis.” She also learned how to work across the aisle there.

With a new governor, Szeliga added, things were moving in the right direction – for example, we “repealed that darn rain tax.” (Actually, we only eliminated the ‘shall’ but kept the onus on counties to pay for the improvements.)

As for her Senate run, Kathy believed “there was a time that Congress worked,” but now government is too big, too gridlocked, and too distant. Indeed, “now is the time to turn Washington around…the American Dream is fading.”

Her pet issues if elected would be quality of life, security, and schools. Most of her remaining time was spent discussing the security aspect, noting that “terrorism is real…we must remain vigilant.” She vowed to support law enforcement as well.

Addressing her prospective opponents Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards, Szeliga opined they don’t understand the dangers we face from “radical Islam terrorists.”

In closing, Kathy pointed out her initial run of 61 endorsements and stated, “together we’re gonna get this done in 2016.”

So after Diana Waterman thanked her “three amazing candidates,” I had some time to spend in the exhibit hall before the morning session.

There I ran into Tanya Tiffany from MDCAN.

It’s a good moment to remind readers about the upcoming Turning the Tides Conference coming up January 8-9, 2016. I asked her if they would have a Blogger’s Row as in past editions and she said they were looking for a sponsor. They’re also changing the format a little bit to be more like previous editions, so it should be informative and more like “Maryland’s version of CPAC.”

With the convention opening, we were welcomed by Senator Steve Waugh.

In his remarks, Waugh focused on the fact this part of Maryland “gave freedom of religion to the world” with the passage of the Tolerance Act in 1649. In the here and now, Waugh believed Governor Hogan “made the perfect call” regarding Syrian refugees, noting “you must ensure our safety.”

In another bit of history, Waugh pointed out that 15 years ago Calvert and St. Mary’s counties were about 2-1 Democrat but now both have a GOP majority.

Since Larry Hogan was at the RGA meeting and Boyd Rutherford had a previous personal engagement, it fell to Secretaty of Human Resources Sam Malhotra to extend the governor’s greetings. He went through a laundry list of accomplishments by the administration over its first year, but concluded with the remark “I can’t wait for the next seven years.” He believed we were in the process of changing Maryland from deep blue to “baby blue” to purple to red.

Congressman Andy Harris supplemented Malhotra’s remarks by saying he’d work hard to get five more Senators in Larry’s second term. “What a difference a year makes,” he added, also maintaining “this is not a deep blue state.”

As far as Congressional leadership, Harris believed it was the right time to change leadership. Paul Ryan can deliver our message, as opposed to John Boehner. “I don’t believe he communicated well,” said Harris. Andy also believed Speaker Ryan had his priorities in order, putting family first. “It doesn’t take a village, it takes a family,” said Harris.

Turning to the economy, the Congressman was waiting for the “last shoe to drop,” meaning an inevitable interest rate hike. If rates rise to their historical rate of 2 1/2% it would mean $500 billion a year in interest payments alone – more than we spend on defense. “The economy is not going to get better” under Barack Obama, he added.

Obama’s administration is also promoting the message that law enforcement “is our enemy.” Yet this is a time where we had a real enemy. “What Paris showed us is that 9/11 is not over,” said Andy. Add in the Russian airliner and the Mali attack, and it was no wonder France took action. Hollande “figured it out” that Obama wouldn’t take charge. “This is a setback to him,” explained Harris.

The narrative that ISIS is contained falls flat to Harris as well. “ISIS is here in the United States,” said Harris. “We have to declare war on ISIS.” Moreover, “we have to fight the war on ISIS as a war to win.”

Looking back to the state party, Harris believed we were on a roll and the Democrats were worried. Now we have to recognize the importance of local elections and raise money for the local Central Committees. “Only 350 days until Election Day,” Harris concluded.

We then heard from Steve Waugh again, who gave the Senate portion of the legislative update. “The magic number today is 19,” he said, referring to the number of Senators required to sustain a veto.

He predicted the next session “will be all about Baltimore,” adding that the budget will also come through the Senate this year. Other items to watch out for: paid sick leave, body cameras for police, K-12 education funding, a bottle tax, and “death with dignity.” We also have to figure out how to come up with over $1 billion to service O’Malley’s debt, Waugh added.

While the Democrats would try to sandbag Governor Hogan by laying traps for him to spring in 2018, Waugh advised us to “stay focused on the message.”

Wearing her Delegate hat, Kathy Szeliga urged us to join the Governor’s press list so we could spread the word about his successes. She harped on the $17,000 per pupil Baltimore City Schools spends, saying we were committed to education but also to accountability. How much is enough?, asked Szeliga.

She added there were some successes from the House on the Second Amendment as we ended ballistic fingerprinting, made it easier for armored car personnel to get permits, and removed some accessories from the SB281 ban list.

Finally, Kathy urged us to “answer back” to Democratic fundraising.

Shifting gears, we heard from Lucas Boyce of the RNC regarding their new philosophy to “engage, embrace, entrust” and the Republican Leadership Institute. Diana Waterman was working to bring some RLI graduates to work here in Maryland.

Boyce wrapped up the morning session, so we adjourned for two seminars and lunch. The first seminar I went to featured Nicolee Ambrose.

There we discussed two somewhat disparate but vital topics: grassroots organizing and public speaking. On the latter, we did a pair of “American Idol” style auditions where “contestants” were judged and advised on a two-minute speech. It’s really hard to talk for two minutes.

I didn’t take a photo at the second one, but Justin Ready spoke on some of these same topics and more.

Not taking Justin’s photo means I have a cleaner lead into the National Committeewoman’s report Nicolee delivered to start the afternoon.

Nicolee pointed out some of our engagement events featuring Alveda King and J.C. Watts in Baltimore City, adding that getting Republican totals to 25% there makes us a red state. She also announced the winners of our voter registration contest for various-sized counties.

Ambrose was happy about going “2 for 2″ with her Super Saturdays, winning with both Michael Esteve in Bowie and Muir Boda right here in Salisbury. “This man was an animal” when it came to door-knocking, said Ambrose of Boda. She also praised Patrick McGrady for winning for mayor in Aberdeen.

A man who hosted a “phenomenal” house party, according to Diana Waterman, Louis Pope gave the National Committeeman’s report.

He focused more on the national scene, saying the RNC was “far more viable” than at any other point in history. And although this success wasn’t being picked up by the mainstream media, the ground game was “going exceedingly well…our turnout machine is working.” Now we had 32 GOP governors, added Pope.

Noting the CNBC debate showed “how unbelievably biased” the media is, Pope opined the primary season would be over by April 30. After that, it was “absolutely essential” that we come together. “Next year’s election will be a battle royal,” said Pope. The RNC has “a very deep playbook” on Hillary, Louis added.

On a local level, Pope urged the Central Committee members to raise money this year for the 2018 elections, since there’s not much competition for funding. This year’s campaign, though, will require “sweat equity,” said Pope.

We heard a quick report from College Republican Chair Christine McElroy, detailing their successes – including the Salisbury University CRs co-sponsoring our Lincoln Day Dinner. But she also revealed the sad fact that 77% of millennials could not identify even one of their home state Senators.

Party Executive Director Joe Cluster went over voter registration, pointing out the five counties (including Wicomico) where the GOP is closest to overtaking Democrats. “The numbers are moving in our direction,” said Cluster. He also touched on goals for precinct captains, opportunities to help Governor Hogan on boards and commissions, and the Baltimore city elections.

In her Chair’s report, Diana Waterman paid tribute to the late Frank McCabe, for whom the party would have a dinner later that evening. But she stressed the need to pass the first bylaws amendment, believing if we fail to adopt this the General Assembly will take the right away. “It is for your protection,” said Diana.

First we had to deal with one resolution in support of a Constitutional amendment to reform redistricting. It passed by a voice vote, with just one or two objections.

In introducing the first bylaw amendment, Mark Edney of Wicomico County stressed that “we have a problem with the process.” The proposal provides a process but is not specific.

While there was spirited debate on both sides, in the end the measure had enough votes to pass. On the weighted voting scale it was 369-170, which exceeded the 2/3 majority required. (In terms of actual people, the vote was 182-85. Only Baltimore City, Frederick, Queen Anne’s, and Washington counties had a majority objecting.) All nine in Wicomico County voted in favor, although I believe we will create our own specific guidelines.

On the “loser pays” amendment, an attempt to change it to cover both sides was proposed but was superseded by a motion to table the amendment, which passed with a resounding voice vote.

And then we had bylaw amendment #3. I thought it would pass with little objection, but the fireworks began right away. Most of the argument centered on whether the Black Republican group was established enough – those arguing against the amendment frequently referred to the Young Republicans, which reached a low point in chapters and membership shortly after getting an Executive Committee vote.

At first we voted on a motion to recommit to the Bylaws Committee, which drew the argument that it came from that committee. But Heather Olsen explained that the committee got this at the last minute and only checks for conformance, not on merits. In the end, the motion to recommit failed 217-324, or 114-156 in bodies. Wicomico was split 5-4 against recommitting.

Then we tried to table it, but that motion was rejected by voice vote.

The next move was to amend the bylaw to strip the voting rights from every one of the auxiliary organizations. That started new debarte, including a motion to continue debate that lost soundly in a voice vote.

The final motion to amend passed 359-178, with the amended bylaw change passing 408-83. (Body counts were 178-91 and 206-41.) Only Calvert, St. Mary’s, Wicomico, and Worcester voted against both.

Once that vote was in, the bylaws committee report was done “after 2 hours and 3 minutes.” Before we adjourned, Diana Waterman told us it should never be said we don’t allow enough debate.

But I suspect the debate will go on. I’ll have more thoughts later this week.

Oh, and another thing. We did a straw poll, with Ted Cruz the winner.

  • Ted Cruz – 62 votes (24%)
  • Marco Rubio – 52 (20%)
  • Donald Trump – 49 (19%)
  • Ben Carson – 26 (10%)
  • Carly Fiorina – 18 (7%)
  • Rand Paul – 15 (6%)
  • Chris Christie – 14 (5%)
  • John Kasich – 12 (5%)
  • Jeb Bush – 11 (4%)
  • Mike Huckabee – 2 (1%)
  • Rick Santorum – 2 (1%)

A MDGOP Fall Convention preview

It’s been awhile since I was entitled to go to the state convention, but what a few hundred Wicomico County voters tried to do was undone by a much smaller number last month, so I have returned like the prodigal son.

My first convention back will be in Solomons, which as I recall was the home of my favorite convention, the spring 2012 one where we elected Nicolee Ambrose as National Committeewoman in a contentious vote over Audrey Scott. This one will probably not have the same amount of angst, although we may see issues with the three bylaw amendments on the docket.

The first is a lengthy proposal to create a process for Central Committees to fill legislative vacancies. After the debacles we saw last year as Governor Hogan picked members of the General Assembly to fill out his cabinet and lead departments, it became a priority to come up with a way of doing so lest the General Assembly take our power away (which still could happen.)

In a nutshell, the amendment allows a county to create its own process but leaves as a default the state-prescribed method. In looking it over briefly, the fight may be over the call to submit “name(s)” to the Governor, as some would prefer the Central Committee submit just one name as was custom until the most recent round of appointments.

That controversy led to the second bylaws amendment, which a perverse sort of “loser pays” arrangement for entities taking legal action against the state party, just like Carroll County did last year. I think this one will create the loudest arguments, to be honest.

Third is a proposal to give the Maryland Black Republican Council full voting status on the Executive Committee. If so, they would join the Maryland Federation of Republican Women, the Maryland Federation of Young Republicans, and the Maryland Federation of College Republicans as voting members of that committee. (Conversely, the Teenage Republicans and Heritage Council are non-voting members.) As I recall, we had a lot of rancor about giving the YRs and CRs an Executive Committee vote a couple years ago, in a voice vote that was literally cast as we were being ushered out the door. So we’ll see.

The one resolution that I’m aware of (barring others introduced from the floor for our consideration) deals with the redistricting commission, so that should be no issue. I don’t think there’s 10 percent of the party that likes the way we do it now.

But all work and no play makes Republicans a cranky bunch. Fortunately, unlike the last couple conventions I attended, we will have no shortage of hospitality suites to check out.

A list sent out by the state party shows no less than a dozen different suites. While the host counties of Calvert and St. Mary’s and Montgomery County have their parties, the headlining parties will be competing affairs between supporters of Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Not to be left out, all three major U.S. Senate hopefuls – Richard Douglas, Chrys Kefalas, and Kathy Szeliga, who is piggybacking with Congressman Andy Harris – will have suites on separate floors. Add in local Congressional candidate Charles “Sam” Faddis and the aforementioned Black Republican Council, throw in a couple wild card suites, and it should be a fun evening tonight.

Naturally some of the conservative blogosphere will be there, so we’ll see what sort of coverage we can drum up. Whether the era of good feelings brought on by Larry Hogan’s election will subside this time or wait until spring when we elect a new National Committeeman and National Committeewoman along with slates of convention delegates and alternates remains to be seen.

For now I’m just going to enjoy the moment because, I hate to admit, I sort of missed these gatherings during my hiatus. Glad to be back.

Szeliga makes Salisbury announcement

By Cathy Keim and Michael Swartz

This afternoon about fifty people gathered at Headquarters Live in Salisbury for the Kathy Szeliga for U.S. Senate announcement tour. It was a political who’s who for the Eastern Shore with Delegates Carozza, Otto, Anderton, and Adams there to support their fellow delegate, Kathy Szeliga, as she formally jumped into the U.S. Senate race. Also present were State Senator Addie Eckardt, County Executive Bob Culver, County Councilman Marc Kilmer, Sheriff Mike Lewis, and State’s Attorney Matt Maciarello.

Congressman Andy Harris started off the introductions for Delegate Szeliga, who once served as his chief-of-staff. He was enthusiastic in his support for her Senate bid.

Businesswoman Michelle Fager was next on the podium proclaiming Kathy Szeliga as the poster girl for the American Dream. Fager related the story about how Szeliga started with very little, but began building a construction company with her husband while raising two sons and going to college.

College Republican Elizabeth Swan followed saying that Delegate Szeliga’s life story inspires college students to believe that the American Dream is still alive.

Finally we reached the main speaker. Delegate Szeliga gave a stump speech emphasizing her common man background. She met her husband in Ocean City thirty-six years ago when he was a Bonfire busboy and she made subs. They eloped a few months later when she was only 18. They believed in the American Dream and worked hard to achieve it.

Once they had a construction company, she realized the amount of regulation and paperwork that inundates small businesses. She is for reining in government because of this experience.

She went on to work as Andy Harris’ Chief of Staff when he was a State Senator and then was elected to the House of Delegates in 2010.

In her remarks, Szeliga noted things are finally moving in the right direction in Maryland with the election of Governor Hogan, so now it is time to switch to Washington. As a grandmother, she added, you look at your grandchildren and wonder if they will have the opportunities that you had or will they just have a pile of debts? Is the American Dream fading?, asked Szeliga.

It is not too late to turn it around, she said. Szeliga is running with three goals: to improve the quality of life, improve security, and improve the schools. As she described it, the federal government is too big, too distant, and too gridlocked. The paralyzed federal government can’t meet our basic needs in the areas of health care or fighting terrorism.

America is exceptional, Szeliga continued. Americans are motivated by love of life, love of family, and love of country, and she will work for these goals. She asked for our votes so that she can go to Washington.

Given yesterday was Veterans Day, Szeliga also pointed out she is an Army brat. Her father served 20 years in the Army, and she didn’t meet him until she was one year old because he was deployed when she was born. Moreover, her grandfather signed up on the day after Pearl Harbor and fought in North Africa during WWII. With that in mind, she believed we needed to fix the VA.

Szeliga made a point that Michael has brought up on occasion regarding vocational education. We need kids to consider honorable jobs like plumbing rather than just assuming all the good jobs require a four year degree – after all, you can’t outsource your plumbing to China. Every child is unique.

I asked her about a bill she sponsored last year, HB 1513, better known for being the effort to change the composition of the Harford County Republican Central Committee.

Kathy seemed quite perplexed why I would bring up old stuff. I said I was asked to inquire about that. She said that bills often get proposed to start a conversation, but once they get discussed and unintended consequences become evident, then they are dropped. That bill never went anywhere when it was realized that it was not worth pursuing. This is good that many bills never make it out of committee because many of them do not deserve to move forward, but they do allow conversations to occur.

I also asked her about this quote:

GOP lawmakers in Washington currently are divided over an effort to tie government funding to cuts for Planned Parenthood. Asked about the debate, Szeliga said she would support legislation to keep the government open even if the measure did not address funding for the organization, which performs abortions and other medical procedures.

“I think it is unwise to shut down the government,” Kathy said. She said that when government is shut down the taxpayers are just giving the government workers a paid vacation, but the contractors and small businesses don’t get paid and it is hard on them.

She would be willing to shut down the government in exceptional cases, though.

I should add there were no questions from the floor, so I asked my questions privately later. It was a love fest, not a serious PR time, although the Daily Times had a reporter there and WBOC and WMDT had cameras there.

The Salisbury stop was the last on a three-day announcement tour. And while he wasn’t there to make the announcement in person, it should be recorded that City Councilman-elect Muir Boda made his first endorsement as an elected official:

Kathy has served diligently in (the) Maryland House of Delegates and earned her right as a leader in the House of Delegates serving as the Minority Whip. She is an extraordinary legislator and I believe her experience and her abilities will serve her well in the United States Senate.

With all of that said, I wholeheartedly endorse Delegate Kathy Szeliga for the United States Senate. Kathy stands out above all others in the field who are running for the Senate and I firmly believe she is the best choice for Maryland to represent us in the United States Senate.

So her campaign is coming together, although polling would suggest she’s slightly behind another (undeclared) candidate for the nomination. With fundraising reportedly off to a strong start, though, Szeliga should be considered among the top tier of challengers for now.

Szeliga makes Senate bid official

Beginning a three-day announcement tour in Annapolis yesterday, Delegate Kathy Szeliga made what many considered the worst-kept secret in Maryland politics official: she’s tossing her hat into the ring for a seat in the United States Senate. But it’s not just any seat: if you believe the Washington Post, it’s the Mikulski seat.

Regardless, she becomes the first elected Republican to seek the seat, which will probably draw a crowd: ten years ago, the last time an open Senate seat came up, nearly thirty hopefuls – elected officials and perennial candidates alike – took their shot at the brass ring. Eventually surviving the primaries were Rep. Ben Cardin and Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, with Cardin prevailing by ten points on Election Day.

The 2016 version of this scrum may bring three Democratic House members together, as Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen are already in and Elijah Cummings is thinking about it. (In turn, this will make next year’s General Assembly session interesting as several state legislative members consider the vacated seats.) On the other hand, the GOP side is currently occupied by Richard Douglas, who ran in 2012 but finished second in the primary behind Dan Bongino, onetime Ehrlich administration lawyer Chrys Kefalas, disabled Navy veteran Anthony Seda, and Szeliga. There is also the possibility Harford County Executive (and former State Senator) Barry Glassman may get in, according to this piece at Maryland Reporter.

Some suspected Maryland’s lone Republican member of Congress, Andy Harris, would make a bid but it appears he’s backing his onetime chief of staff. “I know her to be a tough, smart woman from Baltimore who’s not afraid to take on the political establishment to get real results for Maryland families,” said Harris in a statement.

Meanwhile, it didn’t take long for the candidate to fire up the e-mail appeals. If this is her basic message, she seems to riding the populist wave (as opposed to full-throated conservatism.) Here’s a sample.

We have a paralyzed government incapable of solving even our most basic needs. I for one can no longer standby (sic) waiting for those we’ve sent to Washington to solve our problems, because they haven’t. And I’m not naïve enough to think I can just ride into the Senate on a white horse and do it all by myself. It’s going to take a lot of new people who aren’t professional politicians to step up – average citizens with college degrees and others without. Goodness knows, they can’t be any worse than the gang running things now!

Deep in our hearts, most of us – regardless of political preferences – believe in the promise of America and the power of the American Dream. We are agents of change motivated by our love of God, family, state and country. We want to rediscover a way of life as it used to be; when things really did work.

I want to serve in the US Senate to champion those forgotten Americans who are decent, responsible citizens yearning for the opportunity to work hard, pay the bills, raise a family, live a full life and yes, dream again what we seem to be losing – the American dream.

Unfortunately, when she comes to Salisbury tomorrow I can’t be there, so I’m doing the next best thing and sending my cub reporter. I think Cathy will give me the coverage I need as a vital race begins to take better shape.

2015 Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner in pictures and text

Last night about 120 people enjoyed hearing from both Sheriff Mike Lewis and Congressman Andy Harris, as well as words of wisdom from our sixteenth President. Here he waits his cue to walk into the gathering.

For me, this year was a little different as I subbed for our treasurer, who usually checks people in at the door. So I saw pretty much everyone who came in – actually, on my arrival I stopped Salisbury City Councilman-elect Muir Boda and his wife from going to the wrong floor. We were literally the first three there.

So by the time Lincoln and his band of Union irregulars arrived, we had a pretty full house.

It should be noted that most of those present were from Wicomico County, but we also had contingents from surrounding counties as well as a table from Montgomery County. We also had state leaders from the Maryland Federation of Republican Women and state GOP Chair Diana Waterman.

Now because I was wrapping up my duties with a couple stragglers, I didn’t catch all Lincoln had to say. But I recall he spoke about the press of the day, how candidates were vetted in an age when communication was becoming faster but still could be measured in months, and compared how voters were informed and educated then to now.

I finally got to relax, eat, and enjoy what Sheriff Mike Lewis had to say.

Lewis praised the Salisbury University College Republicans for their involvement, saying they “have to speak up” as representatives of their generation. Next year’s election will be “the most important day of our lives.”

Reflecting on his fairly recent fame – he just returned from a speaking engagement in Fresno, California – he noted they were trying to recruit him to run the Fresno Police Department but he had no desire to leave Wicomico County. “I’m extremely humbled” to be sheriff, said Lewis.

Mike pointed out that gun violence in Maryland was on the increase despite the passage of Senate Bill 281 in 2013, which he added was promoted by the sheriffs in both Baltimore City and County. So far in 2015, though, shootings have increased in Maryland from 725 to 1,161 while homicides have risen from 314 to 459. “Thank you, Governor Martin O’Malley,” said Lewis, tongue firmly in cheek. The sentiment of “thank God for Larry Hogan” was much more sincere.

Lewis blamed “failed Denocrat leadership” for the woes in urban areas like Baltimore, Chicago, and Detroit. On the other hand, Lewis believed America needed statesmen in order to return our liberty and restore us to being the land of the free.

Turning to the drug issue, Lewis called State’s Attorney Matt Maciarello “a tremendous partner” in the drug fight. It’s a fight which has struck home for many in the area – Lewis has a 38-year-old niece who he had to lock up again for possession. “She doesn’t want our help,” said Lewis. He also related the story of the grandson of a terminally ill man who removed the elderly man’s morphine drip and stuck it into his arm.

Politically, Lewis believed we needed to identify key people to represent “Eastern Shore values” in our government. “I’m so concerned about the lack of patriotism” in this country, said Lewis, calling on us to “make sure you vote right.”

Lewis yielded the stage to Congressman Andy Harris, who was praised for being “incredibly optimistic” by Wicomico County GOP chair Mark McIver, who served as the emcee for the event.

Harris picked up Lewis’s baton on the drug issue, saying we needed to “do all you can” to keep drug legalization from the Lower Shore. The District of Columbia “made a big mistake” on marijuana, added Harris. While the merits of medical marijuana were up for debate – Harris seeming to be on the skeptical side – his fear was having a workforce too stoned to be productive.

Changing gears, Harris noted that the “true blue” states of Massachusetts and Maryland now had Republican governors. He chalked it up to a situation, more specific to Maryland, where “government has failed them entirely.” Electing GOP leaders was “no accident,” he added.

Showing his optimism for 2016, Harris said, “I think things look good, actually.” He also believed our late April, winner-take-all primary was key in an election where he noted Karl Rove thought there was the possibility of no candidate having enough delegates to win on the first ballot.

Andy went on to speak about the Republican field’s diversity, pointing out Ben Carson was “the most serious African-American candidate” in history. This was intriguing because Carson, who Harris said he’d known since the early 1980s, was the “farthest person from a politician you could ever get.” Moreover, with two Hispanic candidates the possibility was there to secure 40% of the Hispanic vote, which was the fastest-growing minority bloc.

As for the U.S. Senate race here in Maryland, on the Democcratic side Harris described Chris Van Hollen as “the consummate insider,” while Donna Edwards was “to the left of Bernie Sanders.” Elijah Cummings could get in the race, but there was the issue of his reaction to the Baltimore riots. “You own it, Mr. Cummings,” said Andy.

Harris then revealed that Delegate Kathy Szeliga would be here in Salisbury Thursday afternoon as part of a statewide tour to promote her U.S. Senate bid. If she wins, said Andy, “Maryland is no longer a blue state.” He called Szeliga “the Joni Ernst of Maryland,” referring to the Senator from Iowa elected last year. “We can’t keep doing business as usual in Washington,” concluded Harris.

Despite the previous admonition by McIver that neither Lewis nor Harris would take questions, Harris took them anyway. First out of the chute was how Paul Ryan won him over.

Ryan was an “excellent” choice for Speaker, with Harris arguing he’s “not a moderate.”

But this led to a more philosophical answer, with Harris believing Ryan could unite the House and re-establish the “natural tension” between the legislative and executive branches, rather than the artificial battle between parties that Barack Obama and Harry Reid took advantage of to amass power for the executive branch. He opined that legislation from the House will be conservative, even with some Democratic amendments, but this was a way to make the House united.

The way John Boehner did things, contended Harris, was “not the way to do business.” He used that example to answer the next question about government shutdowns, saying that you can’t embararass the Senate into action with just a few hours to act. Ryan would work to do things in regular order, which puts the onus on the Senate to act.

Harris then answered a question about why Congress is held in such high disregard by the rest of government by claiming “bureaucracy has become the fourth branch of government.” He called on the next GOP president to be “merciless” in cutting bureaucracy.

Finally, in answering a question about VA treatment, Harris made the case that a veteran from Princess Anne shouldn’t have to drive by a care facility in Salisbury to go to a VA clinic up in Baltimore. When an average VA visit costs $250 compared to $65 to $85 in the private sector, “it is time we privatize” VA health care.

(Funny, some guy I know wrote a book three years ago with that same idea, among others. But I wasn’t standing behind this podium.)

One other aspect of the LDD worth mentioning is the silent auction, where we had a table full of items from books and gift baskets to experiences such as lunch at the Capitol Hill Club or shooting with Harris or a State House tour and lunch with Delegate Carl Anderton, among many others. That turned out to be a success, too. I thought I had a photo of that spread but turns out I didn’t. Oh well.

The SU College Republicans also did some fundraising, doing a pay-per-vote poll for President and selling T-shirts.

We may stay with this fall date next year, although it may wait until after the election – meanwhile, we may do a second fundraiser in the spring/summer. It turned out to be a good event to continue building on, so we shall see how we ended up doing when the bills are paid.

Speaker Paul Ryan: Hero or Bane?

By Cathy Keim

I have been out of action due to travel and a crashed computer. Now that I am home and my computer has been revived, I would like to offer some thoughts about last week’s disheartening and cowardly betrayal of the base by our overlords in D.C.

Speaker Boehner used his last opportunity to either support President Obama’s agenda again or to clear the path for the 2016 Presidential election so that the GOP candidate can win by removing the controversial budget battle and potential government shutdown. I suppose that the GOP leadership thinks that it was the second option, but the effect on the base was to demoralize and depress them to the point where one might say we are not a two party system anymore. Instead, they contend we are a one party system with two names!

The backroom bargaining that led to the passage of the budget bill was a slap in the face to all the grassroots supporters of the GOP. The leadership may think that they have cleared the path for the new Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, to work collegially with the various factions in the House, but this seems unlikely.

Speaker Boehner passed his budget through with Democrat votes again! The majority of the Republicans voted against the budget, but not Paul Ryan. “I think this process stinks,” the speaker-in-waiting reportedly harrumphed as he walked into a meeting where Republicans were briefed about the 11th-hour agreement. “Under new management, we are not going to run the House this way.”

Speaker Boehner cleaned the barn before turning the reins over to Paul Ryan, who despite his complaint about how the budget deal came to be, did not disagree so strongly as to vote against it.

Congressman Andy Harris voted against the budget and even tweeted this plea to the senate to save us from this deal.

But in similar fashion to Ryan, he got over his angst quickly enough to vote the next day to approve Ryan as Speaker.

Where does this leave us now? Will Speaker Ryan be an improvement over John Boehner? Will it make any difference?

Our first inkling of whether Paul Ryan will try to re-establish Congressional prerogatives to check this administration will be whether he will allow riders on the next CRomnibus bill. If he allows the conservative members to attach riders, this will lead to a fight with the President. Will Ryan permit this or will he roll over for the President?

We will know soon enough since the CR has to be dealt with in December.

Another major issue to watch is immigration. Paul Ryan has been soft on immigration for years. In a bargain to be elected Speaker, he agreed to not bring up immigration reform under this President. Depending on who the next President is, this promise may not amount to much. Several of the GOP candidates are open border types as is Hillary Clinton, so this promise is a weak reed for the conservatives in Congress to lean on.

Interestingly, the House Freedom Caucus is not conservative on immigration. This makes logical sense if one realizes that many of the Freedom Caucus members are more libertarian than conservative and libertarians tend to advocate for immigration.

From Breitbart:

A recent PBS documentary exposed how Ryan and Rubio were nearly successful in their effort to pass amnesty in 2014. Ryan had crafted a bill and had the Republican votes necessary to pass it. Ryan’s amnesty effort was aided by many of the members of the House Freedom Caucus, including Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) and Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID). Mulvaney has since become one of the biggest boosters in the House Freedom Caucus of a Paul Ryan Speakership. According to the documentary, the Ryan-Rubio amnesty plan was foiled when Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA)scored a historic primary victory to oust then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

Sessions explained in the interview, “There’s a great danger to elect a Speaker of the House who is a leading advocate for two major issues today — trade and immigration — and advocating against the wishes of the Republican voter.”

No matter what Speaker Ryan does, I doubt if any of us will wish to have John Boehner back. But we may not find Ryan much of an improvement if he follows through on his previous positions. If he does allow for more open debate without punishing those that disagree with him and if he will return to the Hastert Rule which says the Speaker will not bring up issues for a vote which cannot be passed by a majority vote of the majority party (no more bills passed by a minority of Republicans aided by Democrats), then we may find that Paul Ryan is an improvement over John Boehner.

Another betrayal of the loyal base

By Cathy Keim

On Friday, October 23, 2015, the House is set to vote on H.R. 3762, a reconciliation bill that repeals parts of Obamacare and stops federal funding of Planned Parenthood for one year. This sounds pretty good since most of the base wants to stop Obamacare and Planned Parenthood. So, why is this a poison pill once again?

According to Lifenews:

H.R. 3762 is a special once-a-year measure called the “reconciliation bill.” Unlike almost every other kind of bill, the “reconciliation bill” cannot be filibustered in the U.S. Senate — so it can pass with only 51 votes, rather than 60 (of 100 senators). Republicans currently hold a narrow majority in the U.S. Senate, 54-46.

But before the bill can be considered by the Senate, it first must pass the House on October 23.

The bill contains two major sections:

* The bill would block, for one year, most federal payments to Planned Parenthood. At least 89% of federal funding of Planned Parenthood would be blocked by this bill.

* The bill would repeal a number of major components of the Obamacare health law, including two of the major provisions that will lead to rationing of lifesaving care — the “Independent Payment Advisory Board” and the “excess benefits tax.”

My first concern is that the defunding of Planned Parenthood is being added onto this bill to placate the base that was angered by Speaker Boehner pushing through a clean CR instead of fighting for defunding Planned Parenthood then. As he has done too many times before, the Speaker gave the President what he wanted without a fight. Apparently no hill is worth fighting for including a hill of tiny babies’ broken bodies being sold for profit.

In a déjà vu moment, the base was promised that the defund movement would get their moment by using the reconciliation process instead of attaching it to the CR. This bait and switch tactic has been used frequently to get something past the base.

I could have even perhaps been pacified except that now the House attaches the defund provision to a bill that only partially repeals Obamacare. We have been promised for years that our leaders would repeal Obamacare: not parts of it, but the whole sorry mess. The strongest argument for standing strong for repealing the entire Obamacare fiasco is that if it is divided into parts and the worst parts are repealed, then the others may be left to fester. It is best to root out all of the beast at one time.

Senators Mike Lee (R. Utah), Ted Cruz (R. Texas), and Marco Rubio (R. Florida) issued a joint statement today:

On Friday the House of Representatives is set to vote on a reconciliation bill that repeals only parts of Obamacare. This simply isn’t good enough. Each of us campaigned on a promise to fully repeal Obamacare and a reconciliation bill is the best way to send such legislation to President Obama’s desk. If this bill cannot be amended so that it fully repeals Obamacare pursuant to Senate rules, we cannot support this bill. With millions of Americans now getting health premium increase notices in the mail, we owe our constituents nothing less.

Why am I bothering to even care about any of this when we all know that the President will veto the bill when it reaches his desk and we do not have the votes to override the veto?

The two reasons that stand out are to make the President, Congressmen, and Senators go on record with their position on both issues and to prepare for the real vote to repeal Obamacare once a new president is in office.

The original Obamacare Bill was foisted upon us by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid with the reconciliation process, so it is only fitting that Obamacare should be repealed using the same reconciliation process. All we need is a president that won’t veto the bill.

This current effort only repeals part of Obamacare. I join with Cruz, Lee, and Rubio in demanding that our representatives make good on their promise to repeal Obamacare in its entirety. This is an excellent time to make an issue of it since we are all getting our new quotes on insurance. Multiple exchanges are shuttering their doors because they are losing so much money. A lot of us are facing 40% increases this year on our premiums on top of increases last year and the year before. And don’t forget that the benefits are not as good as our previous coverage, even though we are paying more.

So, by all means, use this opportunity to force the Democrats to own Obamacare. Why is the House only trying to repeal part of it? This should be a trial run for the real effort under the new President. Please, please show us some leadership and some effort. Make the case to the American people that none of this has turned out as promised. Showcase the fiascos of increased premiums, decreased coverage, broken exchanges, lack of portability, and push a bill through. Then stand strong in front of the American people and explain how the Democrats are forcing this mess upon us once again. Finally promise that you will use the same process after a new President is elected to repeal it. Line up the candidates and have them promise to sign the bill as soon as it reaches their desk. Put them on record that they will repeal Obamacare the minute that you can get the bill to them.

The base would stand up and cheer. They would be motivated to turn out in droves. The base would feel like somebody was listening to them. Instead, we have the House pushing through a partial repeal and it looks increasingly likely that we will be getting Paul Ryan as the new Speaker. Did I mention that the base feels betrayed?

We were all delighted when Mark Meadows (R-NC) made the courageous motion to replace Speaker Boehner. There seemed to be real momentum to coalesce around Daniel Webster (R-FL) so that he could reprise his role as a leader as he had done in the Florida state government, but then the rug was pulled out from under our feet and Paul Ryan is now proclaimed as the man to save us. Andy Harris has thrown his support to Ryan. Please prove me wrong, but I am expecting this to turn out poorly.

One would hope that Andy would not support Ryan unless Ryan gave up his demand that the motion to Vacate the Chair be removed, but I could not verify that it had been as of tonight.

The base is watching.

The truth, the spin, and the battlefield

By Cathy Keim

John Boehner hit the Sunday morning TV circuit to explain why he is resigning and to spin his past performances. In addition, the various media are adding their spin and giving advice as to how to proceed. After reading through a variety of reports, it seems pretty well decided that:

  • John Boehner did the best he could under the circumstances.
  • Congress never really had the ability to stop the Obama agenda.
  • The conservatives/Tea Party types that caused this ruckus should go away.
  • House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy will be the next speaker.

One can go farther and depending on the source conclude that:

  • Our nation has grown too large to govern as a republic.
  • Christians should withdraw to enclaves because it is all going to the dogs.
  • There is no turning back from the path of destruction that we are on.

Before you give up hope and head for the hills with your guns, ammo, Bibles, and food, let us take a quick review of the comment sections of the same articles.

I do not read the comments on some sites because they are merely vile epithets interspersed with poor spelling, but other sites actually have rousing comment sections. There are many Americans that are still interested in the American Experiment and in their Christian faith. They are not giving up. Nor should we.

We need to think about the battlefield before we proceed. Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) says:

If we launch headfirst into leadership elections like this is a typical succession, without ever taking the time to diagnose our current ailments, we won’t heal the fractures in a Conference that has thus far proved unleadable. Simply reshuffling the deck won’t serve our members, and it especially won’t help our next slate of leaders who will be tasked with producing better results than our leaders have so far been able to achieve.

Kudos to Rep. Roskam for identifying the need to come up with a coherent strategy to unite the GOP. The current fracture between the leadership and the base is not going to disappear, especially if Boehner uses his last 30 days as Speaker to push through a clean CR as is rumored. (He did.) If the House replaces Boehner with McCarthy it will be viewed as the leadership ignoring the base once again. It is possible that McCarthy would acknowledge the desires of the base more than Boehner did, but it would be a long road to prove this and to gain the trust of the base.

We have entered into a dangerous time for the country with an expanded imperial presidency unfettered by the legislative branch and supported by the judicial branch. This president rules by executive order, regulations, and selective enforcing of the laws.

Congress has allowed this because under Pelosi and Reid they agreed with Obama’s agenda. The citizens expressed their strong disapproval by dismissing first Pelosi and then Reid by decisive victories in the House and the Senate. Those victories at the elections have never translated into victories in rolling back the president’s fundamental changes. This has led to extreme disappointment and anger amongst the base. The passage of the CRomnibus bill is a recent example of this outrage. Rep. Harris said we needed to just pass the CRomnibus so that we could focus on this year’s budget. We didn’t have time to fight over the previous budget, because we needed to look ahead. Fast forward. Now we are looking at another CR. Hmmm, we didn’t fight last time so that we could work on doing it right this time, so now let’s just pass another clean CR so we can focus on the next one?

We have been handed that line just a few too many times. They say we will hold the line on that debt ceiling; no, at the budget; no, back to the debt ceiling. The bait and switch doesn’t work once people realize that it is happening.

Congress under its present failed leadership has tried one too many times to blame everything on anything except themselves. Like a drug addict in rehab, they need to get clean, and face their inner demons. They were elected to serve their country, not to become rich, powerful men and women addicted to their status and in need of the next cash transfusion from their donors/masters.

The GOP leadership really cannot afford to kick this can down the road now. In the progressive movement, they are facing a ruthless, effective opposition that will stop at nothing to achieve total control of every aspect of our lives.

  • Housing and transportation zoning codes: Agenda 21 takes care of that.
  • Education: Common Core destroys that.
  • Family: Changes to marriage and social mores finishes that off.
  • Freedom of Religion: Reduced to a personal faith only to be expressed inside the church building, and only as long as they don’t get political.
  • Government medical care: We have you covered, but that doesn’t ensure access to care.

We are well on our way to a totalitarian state and the progressives will not stop until they get there or are decisively defeated, not just pushed back for an election cycle or two.

Now, GOP leadership, do I have your attention? Your base understands and is extremely motivated to stop the fundamental transformation that is taking place in this country. We are no longer deceived by your show votes.

I suggest that instead of sneering at your base, the leadership of the GOP should take a brief time to reflect on the course of the nation and come to a plan of action that will encourage its base and present the proper explanations which can be ably defended by many of the presidential candidates as to why we need to defund Planned Parenthood, stop the flood of immigrants that we are not assimilating, and change our foreign policies, particularly our policy towards Iran.

Carly Fiorina is not backing down on the evil that is Planned Parenthood as revealed by the Center for Medical Progress’s videos. Congress should join her by forcing a vote on defunding PP and making the President veto it. Show the videos so that the President and his followers are exposed for supporting selling butchered baby organs.

Ted Cruz is standing alone on the floor of the Senate calling out the failed leadership on their collusion in funding Planned Parenthood and the Iran deal.

Ben Carson is not retreating from his statements about a Muslim president.

Many of our candidates are showing themselves to be fearless in presenting their ideas. This should be a lesson to our present failed leadership.

Do not go onto the battlefield without a strategy to win. Once you start, stand by your principles, and go for victory.

The only flaw in this advice is that it assumes that our current leadership is operating on principles when it sadly seems that they are doing the bidding of the highest donors. This is the most plausible theory to explain why the GOP keeps siding with the progressive agenda when it coalesces around the goals of crony capitalism rather than their base. If so, they need to reform or find themselves cast aside like Boehner. Revolutions can pick up momentum. The outsiders may just lead the base to true victory.

Pastors and politicians punctuate Planned Parenthood protest

This morning I got up with the sun to help cover one of around 300 coordinated local rallies aimed at defunding Planned Parenthood in the wake of their sale of baby parts exposed in a series of investigative videos from the Center for Medical Progress.

The Easton site was selected because Salisbury’s office had closed last spring. And while detractors claim the facility, which is located in a nondescript office complex with several other tenants, doesn’t do any abortions, they still support the overall brand.

As you will hear in a bit, the facility is not the only one which provides its services. Plenty of care is available and accessible. (It’s ironic the facility was closed today, but the protests were intentionally scheduled for off-hours.)

The rally began at 9 a.m. with about 50 people lined along the street in front of the facility.

In all, there were a dozen speakers, mainly representing the pastoral community. We had clergy representing churches from Berlin to Centreville and several points in between. First up was Keith Myer, from Harvest Baptist in Salisbury.

As he spoke, the gathering was growing, spilling into the front yard of the facility and later across the street.

Another Wicomico County minister who spoke was Shawn Seldon, who represents a church in the small hamlet of Tyaskin.

He lamented Planned Parenthood as “the largest morgue in the country.” But when it came to those on the other side, it was not our job to cast stones but instead “love the hell right out of it,” he said.

If the Seldon name rings a bell, it should because his wife Jackie runs the Eastern Shore Pregnancy Center here in Salisbury. Both she and her counterpart from the Choices Pregnancy Center in Easton were there.

Jackie noted that when women come to her center and take advantage of their services, “things change in the ultrasound room.” They see that their baby is not a tissue mass, but a living human being developed in the womb.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get photos of all of the pastors but I did get a number of quotes. For example, John Abbott of Faith Baptist in Berlin reminded us that “thou shall not kill” means you don’t kill innocent life. Chris Williams of Covenant Family Church in Centreville added that, “our hearts should be broken as a nation,” and called abortion “the antithesis of the good news of the gospel.”

Also representing his congregation was Eric Olson of the Oasis Covenant Fellowship in Easton, who spoke early as I was taking photos. We also heard from Barbara Kelly, a post-abortion counselor who told us “abortion doesn’t have to happen.” She added that women come to her decades after their procedures, a “trauma” that happens as they grow old and wistfully think about the child they never had.

The only minor bit of controversy came when the lone tenant who was open at the time, a pediatrician’s office, asked us to move back onto the sidewalk. As you’ll see in the videos, we were larger than the right-of-way.

I think their issue was twofold: supposedly people were cancelling appointments this morning and “the children are upset.” I suspect it was parents who simply didn’t want to face the facts.

So our last speakers, pastor Jason Shelton of Providence Presbyterian Church in Salisbury and the lady representing Talbot Right to Life (who secured the permit for the event) did their speaking from the street.

Sheldon cited heavily from 2 Timothy 3, adding that we have become “a bloody and callous people.”

I noted above that we had politicians as well. One who spoke was local Delegate Christopher Adams.

Citing his own experience with his kids, Delegate Adams opined that “parenthood means life” and described the connection between abortion and profit as “disgusting and immoral.” He continued that we weren’t on the slippery slope here in Maryland, but “the bottom of the chasm.”

There were two other political speakers of note, who both happen to seek the same office. Congressman Andy Harris spoke early on, followed a few turns later by challenger and former Delegate Mike Smigiel. I fired up my moribund Youtube page to share the videos of their remarks, Harris first.

To his credit, Smigiel and his aide Cody Leach stayed for the whole thing.

As with a rally such as this, there were a number of good signs. You’ll see a number of pink ones which remind us Planned Parenthood sells baby parts, but there were other descriptive ones too.

The fine folks from Worcester County opted to take a group photo.

Fortunately, there was some media there to spread the word (besides me.)

Nicole Edenedo of WBOC-TV filed this report, which managed to avoid me until the very end when it showed my good side. It was interesting observing her work – I guess reporters don’t bring cameramen anymore, and she did well memorizing her wrap at the end that she repeated to herself a couple times.

From what I was told, yet another CMP video was released today. With 300 protests scheduled nationwide today, even if they only averaged the 125 or so we had that’s 37,500 people who came out on a summer weekend to make their displeasure known.

You may have noticed a police car in the background of my videos. Despite the fact we were on a quiet street and had a rally Myer described as one where we were “calm, peaceful, left no trash, respected the police, stayed consistent with the time allotted for the protest, stayed out of the street, and didn’t damage any property,” we had an officer spend his morning watching us. I suppose it was SOP given the chance of a counter-protest, but none was to be found.

As I noted, the only issue was that we were too many for the sidewalk. My colleague Cathy Keim took the lead in getting this together, with a lot of help and maybe a dash or two of divine providence, and as such deserves kudos.

This is the first step along a road that leads first to the defunding of Planned Parenthood by the federal government but ends when abortions are no longer commonly accepted as the law of the land. Remember, even Hillary Clinton said abortions should be “rare.” I just disagree that they are “safe” – especially for the unborn – and their legality should be at the very most a state matter.

The best time to be pro-choice is making the choice not to create kids if you’re not ready or willing to take the responsibility. As a method of birth control, it’s worth remembering that, unless you are destined to carry the son of God, abstinence works every time.

Utopian school bill passes House and heads to Senate

By Cathy Keim

On July 8, 2015, the House passed HR 5, the Student Success Act, which is the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). This behemoth of a bill weighing in at 800 pages will guarantee that every child that graduates from high school is ready to attend college or start in the workforce without remediation. Yes, you read that correctly.

The hubris of our Washington elite putting into law that every child that graduates from high school will need no remediation is amazing. Just that one statement alone assures me that the 800 pages are filled with bureaucratic overreach.

What kind of measures must be in place to assure that grandiose statement? This is the same government that cannot get patients seen at the VA hospitals in a timely fashion, yet they are proclaiming that every child that graduates from high school in these United States will be stamped proficient to advance to the next step of their lives by the Department of Education.

I can think of only one way that they might even pretend that this could be true and that would be by dumbing down the system so that more children could meet the criteria, but even that is not going to convince me that the government can achieve their goal.

Just try to think of anything in real life that can be achieved 100% of the time. You can’t come up with much, can you? (Remember that NCLB declared that there would be 100% proficiency in reading and math in the entire US school system by 2014.) You can check out American Principles in Action’s 24 points for plenty of details on why this is a terrible bill.

HR 5 was brought up in February 2015, but was pulled because the Republican leadership could not get the votes to pass it. They have used the time tested ruse of bringing it back in the summer when parents are not paying attention to school issues.

It narrowly passed, 218 to 213, with every Democrat voting no, and 27 courageous Republicans joining them. This is similar to the TPA battle where a few Republicans joined the Democrats in opposing another awful bill.

Of course, their reasons for opposing were completely different, just like the TPA fight. Once again it gives me pause when I find myself on the same side as the Democrats.

One of the reasons given for conservatives voting for HR 5 was that the Senate version, SB 1177, the Every Child Achieves Act, (ECAA) is even worse. The reasoning goes that by voting for HR 5 it preempts the Senate version, so that even if the Senate passes their bill, it will be forced into conference rather than the Senate bill coming directly to the House.

From past experience we all know that what comes out of the conference back room will very likely be worse than what went in.

Andy Harris voted yes on HR 5. I called his office to inquire what his reasons were for voting yes, but I have not received an answer yet.

I called Senators Cardin and Mikulski’s offices to inquire if they had any statements out about this bill. Senator Cardin’s office said that he supports the bill in general, but is concerned about the Title I funding following the child since it might allow money to go to schools that don’t need it rather than to the schools originally intended.

(Editor’s note: one selling point given for the SSA is that it would allow certain parents who have children in failing schools a choice in where to send their children for their education, although the choices are limited to just public and public charter schools. This is the meaning between the lines of Cardin’s remarks.)

Senator Mikulski’s office said she did not have a statement out yet, but that she is against No Child Left Behind. Since ECAA is a reauthorization for NCLB, which actually expands it, we will just have to see how she decides to vote.

Generally speaking the Democrats seem to be against this bill due to the Title I funding shift potential and also because they fear it could lead to universal vouchers.

The Republican leadership crows that HR 5 is returning education issues back to state control. If so, why do they need 800 pages to do this?

The Senate should take this bill up in the coming weeks, so please call your senators and explain to them why they should vote no. Their offices need to be bombarded with parents telling them to not expand on No Child Left Behind.

However, the best reason is the one given by former Delegate Michael Smigiel, who is running for Congress in the First Congressional District. When I asked him whether he would support HR 5 he replied, “I would do away with the Federal involvement in education as it is not authorized by the Constitution. The individual States should determine educational standards for their own States. I led the fight against Common Core and argue and voted against No Child Left Behind.”

While that is the correct reason for opposing ECAA, our current leadership is not impressed by the concept. Until we can elect sufficient Constitutionalists to represent us, we will have to rely on a massive phone campaign to get the attention of the DC crowd.

Not too late for change

It was 2009, and Americans were still captivated by a shiny and new (or articulate, bright, and clean, if you prefer) President. Yet deep in the nether lands of liberalism there were people already thinking about how to maximize the political gains they could make. In November of that year I wrote about a scheme dubbed the “10-0 project” where Maryland Democrats would gerrymander their way to having all eight Congressional seats by pairing up the few Republican strongholds in the state with large Democratic enclaves, such as wrapping the First District into Baltimore City. The person who developed that plan bragged how it split the McCain voters out so that no district had more than 40 percent McCain support.

While the redistricting plan developed after the 2010 census wasn’t quite that extreme, there were still some of the shenanigans of rerouting the Sixth District toward Washington, D.C. to pave the way for that district to turn Democrat (canceling out the GOP strongholds west of Frederick) and dissecting other heavily GOP areas in Carroll and Anne Arundel counties into multiple districts. They also made the First District a nearly impenetrable Republican fortress, an R+13 district in a state which is nominally D+26.

But while we are past the halfway mark to the 2020 census, there are still those out there who believe the state’s Congressional lines were drawn for partisan advantage rather than true representation. Last week a number of plaintiffs – one from each Congressional district – utilizing the assistance of Judicial Watch filed a federal lawsuit alleging the current setup “harms all Maryland voters, regardless of their party preferences or how they would vote in a particular election, by giving State legislators the power to make choices regarding the State’s congressional delegation that only the voters should make.”

As relief, the suit seeks to have the current districts tossed out and a new district plan drawn which better conforms to the Polsby-Popper compactness test. As it stands currently, Maryland has the worst score of any state, but the plaintiffs allege (through a map they created) that significant improvements can be made. (Unfortunately their map is somewhat confusing because the district numbers assigned on it are quite different than the ones in use now. As an aside, if this map were adopted we would likely be placed in the equivalent of the Fifth Congressional District while both Andy Harris and GOP challenger Michael Smigiel would land in what’s basically our Second Congressional District shifted more to the north and east.) Regardless, the plan appears to keep more counties and areas together rather than the Rorschach test we have now.

While Judicial Watch has stepped in, though, it’s obvious that the battle will be an uphill one. As the suit notes, this is not the first time there has been an objection to the Congressional redistricting plan, and the current scheme was maintained through a misleading referendum in 2012. Thus, the chances for success aren’t very good.

But this should come with a parallel effort to change the system once and for all by putting it into the hands of an independent commission comprised of citizens from each district or even each county. As an example of this, Wicomico County had a commission to redraw County Council districts and its end product had few complaints regarding compactness or gerrymandering. (The most unusually-shaped district here is the one mandated to be majority-minority.) Let them come up with the maps away from the General Assembly and have our legislature give them a simple up-or-down vote. The same goes for state legislative districts, which also should become exclusively single-member districts – no more jungle elections where the top two or three get in.

In our case, unless it sees significant growth, the Eastern Shore will likely always have to share its Congressman with someone else. But that someone else should be close and accessible neighbors – surely the folks in Carroll County are nice people but they really don’t belong in our Congressional district. If we have to take some of Harford and Baltimore counties to make up the population that’s understandable.

Maybe in the next Census I’ll draw a real map that shows the way it should be done. But if Judicial Watch somehow gets its way I can always move that timetable a little closer.

Fast track bill bounces back to Senate

By Cathy Keim

Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) is alive and well due to political shenanigans to keep it going. When the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) bill was voted down by Democrats hoping to block TPA, the game was supposed to end. However, Speaker Boehner is determined to work with Majority Leader McConnell in the Senate to present fast track to the president.

Part of what makes this so confusing is that the Republican-controlled House and Senate are working overtime to present the Democratic president the gift that he has been longing for: more authority to pursue multiple trade bills with Congress only able to vote the deal up or down. Why would the Republicans be feverishly pursuing this goal?

The obvious answer is that free trade is so important that any way of achieving it is worth making any sacrifice. That may be what they are telling you, but it just isn’t true. There are plenty of ways that this deal could lock the US into untenable trade agreements. Currency manipulation, immigration, patent and copyright issues are just a few of the areas that could turn against American workers.

Even when you look at the Maryland delegation’s votes, you will see strange bedfellows. First, take our two senators who split on the issue. I cannot find a statement by Senator Mikulski about her vote, but she voted no. Since she is not running for office again, she does not have to worry about offending the president.

Senator Cardin voted yes after he introduced an AIPAC backed amendment. AIPAC states:

On April 22, the Senate Finance Committee voted unanimously to include an amendment targeting harmful anti-Israel trade and commercial practices in the “Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority bill. The amendment, authored by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH), addresses efforts by foreign governments to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel. It also directs that one of the principal American objectives in upcoming trade negotiations will be to discourage trading partners from taking actions that would limit U.S.-Israel commerce.

I can understand why Senator Cardin would want to defend Israel when the current administration has shown real hostility towards them, but one has to ask if this is shortsighted on the Senator’s part. Giving the same administration fast track authority when the president has shown little interest in adhering to any restraints put upon him, may in the long run turn out worse for Israel. Perhaps Senator Cardin would do better to vote no and stop the whole fast track process.

Only one other representative from Maryland voted yes on TPA and that was Congressman John Delaney of the 6th Congressional District. He stated in a press release that:

Right now, two things are happening: 1) Congress is considering a bipartisan agreement that instructs the President on trade negotiations and begins the deliberation process for a new accord and 2) China is working on their own regional trade agreement. I support giving President Obama Trade Promotion Authority because it will give the President the tools he needs to negotiate the best trade deal for America and our workers. For the first time, the bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority package includes groundbreaking environmental and labor standards and provides unprecedented human rights protections. The Trade Promotion Authority Package gives President Obama new ways to enforce these standards to make sure we’re not having a race to the bottom that drags American workers down. So it’s either going to be our country setting the terms for trade or it’s going to be China. I want our country, our government and this President setting the terms of international trade, not China.

Congressman Harris of the 1st Congressional District voted no. His Facebook page states:

Thousands of citizens in Maryland’s First District contacted my office regarding bills on trade that were recently considered in the House. Today, I voted against the Trade Promotional Authority (TPA) bill for a second time. Representing your views are of the utmost importance to me and it is truly an honor to serve the people in the First District.

He did not listen to his constituents about CRomnibus or voting out Boehner as Speaker of the House, but this time he heard us loud and clear and responded as we asked. I wonder if that is because former Delegate Mike Smigiel has announced that he is opposing Andy in the primary next April?

Representatives Donna Edwards (4th District) and Chris Van Hollen Jr. (8th District) are both running for the Senate seat being vacated by Barbara Mikulski. Edwards is running to the left and Van Hollen is obliged to move left too. Van Hollen explains his reasons in a letter to Rep. Levin.

He lists multiple concerns such as currency manipulation, increased investor lawsuits, workers’ rights, environmental issues and more as his reasons for voting no.

Representatives Ruppersberger, Sarbanes, Edwards, and Cummings all signed a letter to President Obama explaining why they were voting no on TPA.

For some time, members of Congress have urged your administration to engage in broader and deeper consultations with members of the full range of committees of Congress whose jurisdiction touches on the numerous issues being negotiated.


Beyond traditional tariff issues, these include policies related to labor, patent and copyright, land use, food, agriculture and product standards, natural resources, the environment, professional licensing, competition, state-owned enterprises and government procurement policies, as well as financial, healthcare, energy, e-commerce, telecommunications and other service sector regulations.


Congress, not the Executive Branch, must determine when an agreement meets the objectives Congress sets in the exercise of its Article I-8 exclusive constitutional authority to set the terms of trade.

Representative Steny Hoyer is the Minority Whip. He voted against TPA because:

Trade Promotion Authority legislation lays the foundation for how we approach trade policy as part of our overall economic strategy, and we cannot look at trade simply on its own. We must consider all the elements that affect American workers and jobs.


Our workers deserve policies that boost our competitiveness and place us at an advantage in global markets, making it easier for them to get ahead.

He then lists a whole smorgasbord of expensive programs that he wants for the workers.

The reasons for the votes cast vary from constituent demands, to fear of China, to wanting more spending, to defending Israel and to pursuing a Senate seat. Some of the reasons I can agree with while others, like wanting the Export-Import Bank renewed, are not acceptable. However, on this important vote I am happy to have the Democrats join with as many Republicans as will stand against TPA.

Keep on calling and prodding your senators to vote against TPA. The cloture vote is expected today, with the final vote coming tomorrow. If the bill survives cloture, it will likely pass, so the ball is now in the Senate’s court.

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