Mooney rising

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harris draws a GOP challenger

For the first time since he won a contested Republican primary in 2010 over Rob Fisher, Andy Harris will have a GOP challenger in the primary. Jonathan Goff, Jr. is a Fallston resident whose nascent campaign features the key issues of foreign policy and immigration, with the sentiment that:

I have never seen this Government so bad. I have been sending emails and calling Washington just about every week. There are lights on, but there is nobody home. They just don’t listen to “we the people” and there is no common sense.

All that is fine and to a great extent I agree. But there are some questions I have about the wisdom of his political philosophy, as well as proofreading skills. This is taken verbatim from his website’s home page:

80% of America’s energey comes from America, leaving 20% outsourced. The remaining 20% is manipulating out fuel prices. If our Government can allow private oil companies to extract oil on America’s lands and waterways, refine it and reach record profits, then why can’t we have our Government extract and refine American owned oil and sell it only to American owned businesses and citizens with no loop holes.

As I often say, proofreading is your friend. But more importantly, the question I have is: when the federal government can’t seem to handle the health care industry, why would we trust them with the energy industry? Goff doesn’t seem to understand that the oil company profits – large as they may be – pale in comparison to the tax burden government places on each and every gallon of gasoline. Interestingly, his header graphic depicts a gasoline nozzle sucking up dollar bills.

But it’s not like Andy Harris is on top of his game, either. It appears his campaign site hasn’t been updated since the 2012 election, although the issues page should still be relevant. Obviously the two Democratic challengers are keeping their sites more current, particularly first-time candidate Bill Tilghman.

In effect, the Republican primary will serve as a referendum on how Andy Harris is doing with Republicans. Despite a few unpopular votes, it’s likely he’ll have little trouble making it through the primary unless Goff vastly steps up his game.

The perfect as the enemy of the good

I didn’t realize it at the time – although I had an inkling it may happen – but stepping into the question of how people should have reacted at the Friday townhall meeting up in Bel Air sponsored by Andy Harris provoked yet another war of words between factions in what is arguably Maryland’s hotbed county of political intrigue despite its relatively small size. Yes, it’s a battle between the Cecil Campaign for Liberty and the Cecil County Patriots.

But there’s a political reality I want to share with a wider audience which may not follow every comment made on Facebook. I wrote this under the post I made promoting my piece from yesterday, after one respondent advised me to rethink my guiding philosophical principles:

And if (Andy Harris) repeats the behavior – even if he doesn’t – you find a primary opponent. See McConnell, Mitch. I don’t need to rethink guiding principles, you need the dose of reality. If you can find the primary opponent for Andy Harris in a month and he/she can get enough support to win, more power to you. If this person is in line with my values, I’ll vote that way. I’ve always said incumbents don’t deserve a free ride, which runs counter to most political thinking in the party because they tend to want to dictate how the offices are parceled out and whose “turn” it is.

But here is the situation on the ground: Harris has no primary opppnent. There will probably be a Libertarian in the race but he/she will be lucky to sniff 5% of the vote. We live in an R+13 district so Harris will probably win easily just based on rank-and-file Rs. Look how he did in 2012 with an Obama-infused turnout (admittedly, also with a scandal-crippled D opponent.)

I said in the piece I didn’t agree with the vote, and obviously there are a number who do not. But he picked a pretty good time to make a mistake – too late to get a very viable primary opponent and early enough that this one vote will likely be forgotten.

The original intent of the two pieces I cited was to promote attendance at a particular town hall meeting.

Now I don’t know if anyone asked about the vote at the townhall, nor did he allude to it on his Facebook page. Apparently he put out a statement, quoted by Gannett’s Nicole Gaudiano, that the deal “preserved many of the conservative fiscal policy goals of the last three years, while restoring full pension benefits to our disabled veterans and military family survivors.”  But there are already a number of groups who put the black mark next to his name because he voted for it (such as Heritage Action or the Club for Growth) and it’s likely they will have it in their back pocket if needed. I’m sure it’s a little bit galling to the Club For Growth since they backed his initial 2008 campaign so heavily.

If people are going to get mad at Harris, they should also be mad at the bulk of the Republican caucus in the House because the bill passed with just 64 Republicans (and three Democrats) objecting. 166 Republicans, including Harris, said yes. Obviously that doesn’t excuse his vote, but in the true art of compromise there were things both sides absolutely hated about the bill.

Yet in a political sense, the Republicans probably feel like they scored a victory because the government is funded through the remainder of the fiscal year, which should all but eliminate the politically unpopular possibility of a government shutdown. Now the key will be working on the budget in regular order as opposed to dropping another omnibus bomb on an unsuspecting American public. Once the House does its job, the onus will be on the Senate to pass a budget rather than perpetuate this never-ending cycle of continuing resolutions. Believe it or not, that’s how our nation did things until 2009.

Campaign for…Republicans?

Sometimes politics makes strange bedfellows. Take, for instance, the Cecil County Campaign for Liberty and the Cecil County Republican Party.

On Friday I received separate e-mail messages from Bob Willick of the C4L and the county’s Republican Chair Chris Zeauskas imploring me to attend a town hall meeting in Bel Air featuring our Congressman, Andy Harris. In no uncertain terms, though, the two political leaders were upset that Harris voted for the omnibus budget bill. (I’m not thrilled about it, either.)

But what I noticed about the dueling e-mails was their reliance on a single set of themes. Notice that both used the examples of Rep. Barbara Lee and Paul Riechoff of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America to make their case, and they share a lot of similar bullet points.

Of course, I didn’t get to the townhall meeting last night to find out what was said – perhaps some of my readers from in and around Bel Air can clue me in because this coverage was rather tepid – but one point Harrishad previously made in his defense was a provision for the Eastern Shore’s seafood industry.

Even one of Andy’s Democratic opponents was skeptical. Bill Tilghman posted on his Facebook page:

Tonight the House of Representatives passed a bipartisan Omnibus appropriations bill that funds the government through September. This is a good thing, but it will be only temporary if partisanship reigns supreme in the future. A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.

Yet, while these e-mails use a lot of the same rhetoric, there is a point made in both which bears repeating. Willick lamented the changes Washington seems to make:

Andy Harris pledged to us that he would change Washington. Instead – it changed him.

Zeauskas, though, was far more lengthy in his criticism:

The last thing this Country and the State of Maryland needs is another politician that will place their political aspirations over principle.

And it doesn’t matter whether it’s a Republican or Democrat.

If our Republican Party stands for nothing, that’s bad.

But what’s worse?

A Republican Party that stands for exactly the same thing as the Democrats.

The greatest lie ever told in politics is that good people are obligated to support the lesser of two evils.

I joined our Republican Party because I was inspired by our principles and ideas.

Freedom is an inspirational idea.

When we don’t fight for our principles we drive people away from our Party.

Think about it.

After this vote for Obamacare, how many people are motivated to put everything on the line to help Andy Harris next election?

How many Tea Party activists will be motivated to donate and volunteer for Rep. Harris?

As an elected Republican official, how am I going to rally the troops to fight for a Big Government Republican?

Voting for Obamacare and spending hikes isn’t the way to grow the Republican Party.

(snip)

I can’t look someone from Cecil County in the eyes and explain away Andy Harris’s vote.

How could any elected official, especially a Republican, vote to fund a bungled roll out of Obamacare, to continue the destruction of the American healthcare system?

I’m embarrassed today for our Party.

As an elected Republican Party official, it’s my job to promote our Republican Party, but I won’t promote Obamacare or give cover to a Republican who votes for this.

Too many families are being hurt by this radical government action.

We deserve better.

And we expect better from our only Republican Congressman here in Maryland.

Now this point I can completely see, since there are times our elected Republican officials in our county seem to lose their way. But unless and until they draw a primary opponent, we are pretty much stuck with them. In the case of Harris, do you honestly think Tilghman or fellow Democrat John LaFerla would vote no to this?

I think a big part of the problem with the Republicans in Washington is that they are scared of the wrong thing. I can almost guarantee you that, in the back of Andy’s mind, there’s that memory of how much Republicans were blamed for the government shutdown last October and all the supposed ill effects of the sequester before that. So when the deal was made, his calculation (with the inclusion of the seafood worker provision) was that it was the best deal we could get and the country would not have to go through this whole nightmare for a second time next month.

Now I’m sure the political junkies are yelling at their computer that I’m wrong, but I also realize that 90-plus percent of voters aren’t that much into politics and they get their news from sources who are quick to blame Republicans for all the nation’s ills. In that respect, I think Andy has gone Washington but he’s still a long way from Wayne Gilchrest territory – as the de facto leader of Maryland Republicans, I believe the thinking was he’s going to have to appeal to the center a little bit to help his fellows out come November.

I don’t think this justifies the poor vote, but since we have no other options our best course is to give him the courage to return to the form he had in the Maryland Senate, where he would occasionally stand alone on the side of right. Perhaps giving him some Republican company from Maryland next year will be of assistance.

And if Andy wants my space to explain himself, I can always use guest opinion.

Harris continues with high AFP marks

It should come as no surprise that a grassroots group which has over the years strongly backed our Congressman, Andy Harris, would give him high marks for his overall voting pattern. But Americans for Prosperity and their Federal Affairs Manager Chrissy Hanson wanted to make sure I got the word.

Now that the first year of the 113th Congress has come to an end, it seems like a good time to look back and take notice of how our Representatives and Senators voted. Americans for Prosperity ranks members of Congress based on their votes in favor of economic freedom, and thus, a better, brighter, more prosperous future.

Interestingly enough, though, while Andy’s 2013 score was solid, his rating for 2014 probably went down yesterday when he voted for the omibus spending bill which funds a large part of the government for the remainder of this fiscal year, through September 30. It did on the continuing Heritage Action scorecard, where Harris only rates an 83% score. In either case, though, Harris has tended to land on the edge of the top 50 rated members of Congress, both House and Senate.

In this day and age of instant gratification and accountability, it’s notable that many organizations take the time to track these Congressional votes and rate representatives. But these can be deceptive as well – for example, Harris actually has a worse rating than Sen. Marco Rubio (who’s best known for working with Democrats in trying to reform immigration into an amnesty program) and is only a few points ahead of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who’s been painted as an ineffective leader of the resistance and faces a strong primary challenge from Matt Bevin – so much so that McConnell has an attack website against his Republican opponent.

The point is that any scoring system can make for a flawed look at a politico, because sometimes actions are more important than votes and not every issue is of equal importance. To use Rubio as an example, he may be voting the correct way on economic issues but most have still not forgiven him for working with the pro-amnesty portion of the party on immigration.

In general I’m satisfied with how Andy Harris votes – when he served in the Maryland Senate he was one of only two legislators who have ever achieved a perfect monoblogue Accountability Project score of 100 in a particular session. I’m a very difficult taskmaster. So it goes without saying I was an early Harris Congressional supporter and remain so, given the lack of credible and better opposition in our district, at least until 2022. (This is because he set a 12-year term limit on himself.)

If I could wave a magic wand and get hundreds more members of Congress like Andy Harris, I’d take it in a second. We would be so much better off, regardless of the scores he’s assigned.

A novel fundraising approach

Because the General Assembly session begins next Wednesday, a number of local and statewide politicians who cannot legally raise money during the session are cramming fundraisers into the last few days before the session begins. Originally I was going to focus on a luncheon fundraiser being held in Ocean City by Delegate (and Senate candidate) Mike McDermott on Monday which will feature Congressman Andy Harris.

But at the same time at the BWI Marriott, Delegate (and gubernatorial candidate) Ron George will host what he calls a “Pre-Session Business Legislative Luncheon” with Anirban Basu of the Sage Policy Group. As is the case for McDermott, Ron’s hosting a fundraiser, and an important one. While others in the gubernatorial race on both sides can still raise funds through various means, Ron would be stymied for 90 days – unless he went through an unusual route, one which fellow Delegate Heather Mizeur is already taking.

A loophole in state campaign finance laws allows guberatorial candidates who accept public financing to raise their “seed money” during the legislative session, and Ron is reportedly considering the idea. It would place a spending cap on his campaign (as it would Mizeur’s) but where Mizeur would be dwarfed in spending by her Democratic primary counterparts who already have millions to spend, George wouldn’t be overwhelmed by the amounts his competitors are expected to raise in the primary.

Campaign finance of a different sort has grabbed the headlines of late, but while Ron George is within his legal right to do so why does he feel like he’s perhaps forced to dip into taxpayer funds to run a campaign? The flip side of pay-to-play – besides limiting the government in an effort to starve the beast – is that I think there should be no restrictions on political giving except one, that being rapid disclosure. This would eliminate the artificial wall of separation between a politician in session and fundraising – do you honestly think a large donor isn’t going to expect his back scratched whether he gives on September 1 when the legislature is off or on March 1 during session?

Interestingly, the campaign finance reform George sponsored last year will allow counties to have their own public campaign financing (see page 39 here). So we may be dealing with more taxpayer financing of campaigns in the future, and not less. Yet we’ll still be stuck with the slow campaign finance reporting process where, for example, a contribution made January 1, 2012 isn’t reported until mid-January the next year. Granted, the reporting pace is faster during election years but still runs weeks to months behind.

We have an internet – why not use it and put campaign treasurers to work supplying us information we can use in a timely fashion?

A deal which doesn’t shock me

Given how its scumbag previous owner sold an entire city and rabid fanbase out for a proverbial thirty pieces of (taxpayer-provided) silver, it really doesn’t surprise me that the Baltimore Ravens accepted $130,000 to promote the Maryland Health Connection, our state’s version of an Obamacare exchange.

What surprises me, though, is the disappointment expressed by a number of people who should know the state has its dirty little fingers all over the Ravens’ pie.

Take our Congressman, Andy Harris, for example. On Facebook he wrote:

Today it came to light that the Baltimore Ravens have received $130,000 in taxpayer money to promote Obamacare. I love the Ravens but I think this is ridiculous. What do you think? Should the Ravens be promoting Obamacare? Should they receive taxpayer money to do it?

Honestly I don’t think so but that ship sailed a long time ago with all the professional Maryland sports teams. Even when I go to Shorebird games I’m bombarded by state-sponsored messages about smoking and seat belt use and promotions from the Maryland Lottery. It’s simply regurgitating all the taxpayer dollars they confiscate from items like the cigarette tax or lottery proceeds back to the teams to promote their message to a captive audience ranging from a few hundred to tens of thousands per night.

Nor is it just sponsorship. Since I’m discussing state influence in sports, let’s also talk about facilities.

Now I understand the government also chipped in to build Perdue Stadium in 1994, just about the time the Browns deal came down. (However, it was not a Maryland Stadium Authority project, unlike newer facilities in Aberdeen and Waldorf.) In our case, the loss of Albany, Georgia was our gain because the onetime Albany Polecats became the Shorebirds after a brief four-season run in south Georgia. On the other hand, two decades on Hagerstown didn’t get a stadium deal together for their Suns and will be losing its minor-league team after one final season next year.

One big difference between the Shorebirds move and the Browns relocation, though, is that the Georgia franchise was purchased outright from its previous owner. Oftentimes a change of scenery will follow such a transaction.

In the end, given all that government involvement, I can’t say I’m shocked the Ravens sold out – only that it was so cheaply. To me, the state health exchange is just another sponsor, and it’s fairly likely I’ll hear their claptrap sometime during Shorebird games next year as well. The shrewd marketing is about the only thing the Maryland Health Connection seems to have going for it right now.

Ran out of time…

Well, the Republicans caved again. Afraid of what they thought would be dire consequences if they bumped against the debt ceiling, John Boehner violated the Hastert Rule and allowed the Senate deal on the Obama/Reid shutdown to be brought to the floor and passed. All the House Democrats who voted (198 of 200) favored the bill, while Republicans made up all 144 of those who voted no.

Among those voting no was our own Andy Harris, who put out a three-part Tweet explaining his reasoning.

Fairly compelling reasons. Unfortunately, the 87 Republicans who voted in the affirmative were more than enough to pass the bill, once again hanging the TEA Party out to dry and probably assuring themselves primary opponents next year. But Mitch McConnell got his earmark.

But let’s not forget that we were placed in this situation back in 2009, when Congress began what seems like a never-ending series of continuing resolutions to keep the government going, racking up enough red ink that we would eventually run into our debt limit. (Didn’t we cave on that a couple times before?) Even in that year, at a time when Democrats held both houses of government and could pass anything they wanted, including Obamacare, Congress failed to do its Constitutionally-appointed job of holding the power of the purse.

Yet one has to wonder if this was the plan all along. Does anyone really have any idea what the government spends money on? Consider how many millions it took just to get the failing health exchange websites operational – it sure doesn’t seem like we got much bang for the buck, yet someone has pocketed a crapload of federal cash.

All along, the story with this regime is that its friends made out like bandits but future generations will be left holding the IOUs. Last night’s votes just enriched the bandits a little more.

Clearing the air and getting back to basics

Over the last couple days, a segment of the Maryland Republican Party is scratching its head over the absence of gubernatorial candidate Charles Lollar from several high-profile events: last month’s Andy Harris First District Bull Roast, the Conservative Victory PAC Ken Cuccinelli fundraiser (which was sponsored by several Maryland politicians), the Prince George’s County Lincoln Day Dinner with Lt. Col. Allen West, and most recently the state party’s Oktoberfest gathering in Timonium Saturday night. The conventional wisdom argument is that these were lost opportunities to impress the party brass.

But this may also presuppose Lollar wasn’t out meeting with “regular Joe” voters, and some say a lot of these gatherings would be time better spent knocking on doors or making phone calls. So which is it? I don’t know, but my feeling is that we all need to get back to basics and begin to compare just where each of the three major declared candidates stand on important issues facing the state.

A year and a half before the 2012 Presidential election, I began a process of grading the candidates in the race at the time on a number of issues. I think it’s time to repeat the process, with some different parameters because the issues aren’t always congruent between state and national elections – for example, I don’t have to worry about trade or the Long War but I do have concerns about agricultural issues and necessary changes to the state political system, meanwhile, some issues grow or contract in importance because of recent state developments. But I like the 100-point system so I will adapt it to suit.

So the 2014 monoblogue endorsement will be based on the following formula:

  • Election/campaign finance reform (3 points)
  • Illegal immigration (5 points)
  • Dealing with Obamacare (7 points)
  • Energy policy (8 points)
  • Education (9 points)
  • Second Amendment (11 points)
  • War on Rural Maryland (12 points)
  • Role of government (13 points)
  • Job creation and transportation (14 points)
  • Fiscal conservatism/taxation (15 points)

Once I add or subtract three points for various intangibles of my choosing, I’ll come up with the candidate who I think will best serve Maryland. Granted, my endorsement will only be worth the pixels they’re darkening but at least some thought will be put into why this candidate is the best one for Maryland. (Keep in mind that any of these three would be vastly superior to Anthony Brown, Doug Gansler, Heather Mizeur, or anyone else Democrats put up.) Otherwise, I come in with no preconceived notions with the exception that the other declared GOP candidates in the race don’t have the campaign or the presence to achieve any more than a tiny percentage of the vote so they’re not included; also, this is subject to update if/when Larry Hogan enters the race.

So now that you have the basic concepts, how about some specifics of what I’m getting at for each point? These are questions I may be able to find answers for within the candidates’ own websites, but it’s more likely I need further guidance. I have had the chance to hear all three declared candidates speak on at least two occasions apiece so I might have a decent idea where they’ll go, but it never hurts to ask. With that, here goes:

  • Election/campaign finance reform: Will you aggressively pursue the redistricting revision case in court; if we succeed can we have 141 single-member districts? Where do you stand on current reporting requirements: too tight, too loose, or just right? What about getting after local boards of elections and telling them to clean up their voter rolls?
  • Illegal immigration: Will you take the 287 (g) program used in Frederick County statewide? How about rescinding recent changes to drivers’ license laws in Maryland? And what about in-state tuition – do you revisit this issue? What about withholding a portion of state funds from sanctuary cities? Cooperation with the federal E-Verify program? What about policies allowing status checks such as those in Arizona?
  • Dealing with Obamacare: Do we eliminate the state exchange? Would you pursue a waiver for the state if one becomes available? Are you in favor of defunding or letting the law go into effect and watching it collapse? What steps would you take to encourage more insurance competition in the state? What about returning Medicaid limits to minimum levels?
  • Energy policy: When can we expect fracking to begin in Western Maryland? And what will you do with the renewable portfolio standard? Will you move to re-regulate Maryland’s electrical utilities? Can Martin O’Malley’s offshore wind scheme work? What about offshore oil drilling – is that an option for you? Will you maintain Maryland’s membership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative?
  • Education: Will Common Core be the law of the land in Maryland, or will you eschew Race to the Top funding? How about school choice, or money following the child regardless of school? How will you protect homeschooling? Instill more local control? What about promoting elected school boards in those counties still without them? Emphasis on vocational education? How do you message against the certain opposition of the teachers’ unions?
  • Second Amendment: Will you work to repeal the so-called Firearms Safety Act? What about concealed carry, and making licenses easier to get? If the federal government gets too onerous, will you fight them? What’s your interpretation of the Second Amendment?
  • War on Rural Maryland: Can we count on you to repeal the Septic Bill and tier mapping? Will nitrogen-removal systems still be required? Will the Hudson family be made whole by the state, since it was with the state’s assistance they were legally harassed? How will you assist the poultry industry in the state and keep them here? What about cleaning up behind the Conowingo Dam and fighting the mandated burden on rural counties, as well as the rain tax on urban ones?
  • Role of Government: Where do you stand on a regulation moratorium, and would you veto new mandates passed through the General Assembly? Are there any agencies you’d work to abolish? What about divestiture of surplus state land? Is a consolidation of primary state government functions in Annapolis on your agenda? Can we count on you to repeal as many laws as you create? Where do you stand on public-private partnerships? Do you support citizen-based petition to referendum for new laws (as opposed to those passed by the General Assembly)? What about the right to recall elected officials?
  • Job creation and transportation: We know you’ll lower the corporate tax rate – what about eliminating it entirely? What about reform of unemployment insurance? What other steps will you take to make it easier to do business in Maryland? As far as infrastructure goes, will you kill the Red Line and Purple Line in favor of more useful means for transporting goods, such as expanding the interstate network in Maryland and surrounding states? Will you hold the line on tolls? What about another Bay crossing – where would you put it? What non-tax code incentives would you offer for rural area job creation? What policies would you adopt from other states?
  • Fiscal conservatism/taxation: Can Marylanders expect a flatter income tax system? How about eliminating it entirely as some states have done? Or would you prefer a sales tax decrease or elimination? Would you agree to a TABOR, or at least a budget utilizing those principles? Can we get per-capita spending closer to the national norm? And how will you deal with the outcry of the press, such as the old “tax cuts for the rich” saw?
  • Intangibles: Positions on abortion, expansion of gambling and/or return to legislative control (as opposed to Constitutional amendment), protection for religious objections to gay marriage, your perception of the TEA Party and pro-liberty movement, and so forth. Mainly social issues.

Yes, that’s a hell of a lot. But somewhere, someone else is asking some of the same questions and if I’m going to make a decision I want it to be informed. And while I’d like to make these issue posts on about a weekly basis, that’s probably a quite aggressive timetable.

But I’m sure that a) people from the respective campaigns read my website, and b) they will bend over backwards for new media. (At least that’s what I’m counting on.) And it’s likely they haven’t even pondered some of these queries, so I don’t expect miracles – but I’ll take them anyhow.

Yet I’m sure that some high-dollar Beltway Republican consultant will tell their candidate that he’d be nuts to get into specifics this far out because all it would provide is fodder for the Democrats and the press (but I repeat myself) to harp upon as the campaign heats up. News flash: they will do that anyway, even if they have to make stuff up (e.g. “a fee is a tax.”) So get it out now and I’ll take those clowns on myself, even as I point out that it’s not like I don’t have a few allies in this fight.

Just let me know you have the balls to stand for something, okay?

Case dismissed

In a spectacular flameout, the allegations of wrongdoing in the controversy over Cecil County Executive Tari Moore’s sudden affiliation change and subsequent appointment of a candidate not on the list submitted by the county’s Republican Central Committee were dismissed in the county’s Circuit Court via a seven-page decision by visiting Judge Thomas E. Marshall, a retired Harford County Circuit Court judge.

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Also dismissed in the suit due to a lack of standing was a claim that the county’s Tier Map was unlawfully submitted to the state.

The controversy closes another chapter in the ongoing war between supporters and opponents of former State Senator E.J. Pipkin and current Delegate Michael Smigiel. (Opponents have generally had the backing of former State Senator and now-Congressman Andy Harris, who defeated Pipkin as well as former Congressman Wayne Gilchrest in a bitter 2008 GOP Congressional primary.) Those allied with Smigiel control the county’s Republican Central Committee, and it was Chair Chris Zeauskas who filed the complaint. On the other hand, Tari Moore was backed by Harris in her quest to be Cecil County’s first executive.

Just before assuming office as the incoming County Executive last December, Moore suddenly changed her party affiliation from Republican to unaffiliated, making the switch because she wanted to bypass the county’s GOP Central Committee in selecting her successor. By becoming unaffiliated, she retained the right to pick once County Council became deadlocked in a 2-2 tie between Smigiel supporters and Harris allies. Eventually Moore picked Joyce Bowlsbey, a Republican. (The Republicans control all five seats on Cecil County Council, so this was an intraparty fight.) Judge Marshall agreed that, despite the GOP’s backing in the 2012 election, Moore’s status as unaffiliated at the moment of her resignation from County Council complied with the method of selection prescribed in the county’s Charter and eventually followed.

Yet there is one other piece of business on the table, notwithstanding the possibility of an appeal by Zeauskas. At last fall’s state GOP convention, a motion was made to censure Tari Moore for her “corrupt and reprehensible decision“; a motion which had support from some quarters but was tabled via a fairly close vote. Because of the abrupt cutoff of our Spring Convention this year, we did not revisit the Moore controversy but it may return next month at this year’s Fall Convention in Annapolis.

But now that the court case is settled, the question will be whether Moore rejoins the GOP fold. Those calling for her censure had a point in that Republicans backed her election in the primary; had she gone the independent route in 2012 she would have likely lost badly. Yet I’ve been assured by Moore’s backers that the decision to be unaffiliated was just temporary and would be rectified once the court case was settled. Obviously it would be to her benefit in 2016 to run as a Republican, although this episode has probably assured her of a primary opponent. She would have a hard time in a three-way general election race if the county GOP stays loyal to its nominee and the Democrats run someone, too.

So the clock is ticking. If she changes back before the state convention, the question of censure may be moot in a “no harm, no foul” sense. But if not, even the assurances of Andy Harris may not spare her the state party’s wrath.

2013 First District Bull Roast in pictures and text

For many years, local Republicans in Wicomico County had to make a choice: support the local Republican Club by attending their annual Crab Feast or show their backing of our Republican Congressman – at the time, Wayne Gilchrest – by making it up to the Upper Shore for the annual Bull Roast. Now that Wicomico Republicans have settled on a date closer to Labor Day, though, it opens the field up for us and several of us from our local Republican party attended the annual First District Bull Roast. If one more Central Committee member had shown, we would have had a quorum.

The venue was impressive, so I made sure to follow the rules.

This sign was actually in a side building which, I was told by volunteer E. Dee Monnen, serves as a dorm for inner-city kids who spend time on this working Schuster farm – on this day, though, it served as the venue for a VIP gathering. This mini-tour was one advantage of our timing: because Kim and I did an event with her side of the family earlier in the morning, we arrived somewhat early.

Not two minutes later my fellow blogger and radio host Jackie Wellfonder arrived for her stint as Red Maryland Radio co-host for the day, with Andrew Langer as her sidekick.

But the real stars of the show were those elected officials and longtime Republican fixtures who came to speak to us. (Best Supporting Actor, though, has to go to whoever made the beef, which was flavorful and nicely seasoned for my sandwiches. If I were more of a foodie you’d have had the pic, horseradish and all. But I’m not.)

After he renewed acquaintances with friends and volunteers, Andy Harris pointed out he couldn’t initially answer questions for the day because of his boss, who served as the opening speaker.

Ellen Sauerbrey served to introduce the large number of elected officials and candidates who attended the event. The room was set up for about 150 and as you’ll see later it was pretty full. As she spoke, the next two in line waited in the wings.

I have to give an assist to my fiance Kim for the great photo. Most of my readership recognizes Congressman Andy Harris, but the gentleman on the left would be far more familiar if you heard his voice – our featured speaker was WCBM morning radio co-host Sean Casey.

First up to speak was the host himself.

The key point of Andy’s message was that our side was beating back the Obama agenda and had done so for the last three years, since the election of 2010. He predicted the next three weeks would be “a wild ride” for the House majority as pressure will be brought to bear from the White House and Senate Democrats to cave on defunding Obamacare and not risking a government shutdown.

It will be interesting to see what this reporter has to say about what Andy said. I believe she’s from the local Easton Star-Democrat newspaper.

The next speaker was less kind to the media, particularly the “Maryland Democratic Party house organ” known as the Baltimore Sun. Yet we were told that Sean Casey arises each morning by 3:15 to review items for use on the Sean and Frank morning show. He had the attention of those who came to the event.

Casey spoke on a number of current events – the Navy Yard shooting, Benghazi hearings, the incident in Baltimore at a Common Core townhall meeting – but the most intriguing part of the program was his moderation of a mini-debate between two of the contenders for governor, David Craig and Ron George. Casey came up with the questions and the candidates gave their answers.

I actually caught up to both of them before the impromptu debate began, as they were preparing to work the crowd.

David Craig wasn’t by himself, but was assisted by a member of his team clad in the same familiar blue Craig color. Meanwhile, Ron George was chatting up old General Assembly friends – he’s pictured here with former Delegate and 2014 State Senate candidate Richard Sossi, who is on the right.

In general, David Craig leaned heavily on his experience as mayor and Harford County Executive in spelling out his vision for Maryland, while Ron George referred a lot to his newly-expanded ten-point plan for the state should he win election to the governor’s seat.

Worth noting as well was that the third gubernatorial candidate, Charles Lollar, also planned on attending but had a scheduling conflict and couldn’t arrive from Harford County in time. He was speaking before a women’s group there, according to Julie Brewington, a Lollar campaign coordinator from Wicomico County.

So my first Bull Roast is in the books. Not bad for leaving the camera and notebook at home, eh?

Hershey appointed to District 36 Senate seat

The word came down last night from the victor himself:

I just received a call from the Governor’s office appointing me as the new Senator for District 36 – I am both thrilled and humbled by all the support I received during this appointment process. I am looking forward to serving the 36th District in this new role. Thank you again to all those that offered support, prayers and well wishes this was truly a humbling experience.

Steve Hershey wasn’t the longest shot, but going in he may not have been the favorite, either. Yet he secured the votes of two Central Committees in the four-county district and that was enough to forge a tie with fellow Delegate Michael Smigiel and throw the fate of the seat into the hands of Governor Martin O’Malley. Given Smigiel’s forceful opposition of O’Malley’s onerous gun law package this spring, you knew he would be punished by not getting the appointment he sought.

So Hershey gets the seat vacated by the resignation of former Minority Leader Senator E. J. Pipkin, who followed Rick Perry’s advice before the commercials even came out and moved to Texas. Now the scene shifts to the battle over Hershey’s vacated Delegate seat. As I recall, it cannot be filled by a resident of a county already represented in the district, so residents of Cecil County (Smigiel) and Kent County (Delegate Jay Jacobs, who did not seek the Senate post) would be excluded – but their Central Committees would have a vote.

Out of the original field of 14, all but three hailed from either Queen Anne’s County or Caroline County, which is the lone Maryland county without a resident Delegate. Not all of the remaining ten would seek the Delegate seat, but several probably would and they may be joined by a few others – one being Caroline County commissioner Jeff Ghrist, who made a lengthy plea on Facebook which I excerpt here:

Governor O’Malley will soon be selecting our new District 36 Senator and subsequently one of two House of Delegate seats will become available. This will require someone to fill a Delegate seat. Caroline County has been without a resident of our county representing us in Annapolis for nearly two decades. While I sincerely enjoy being a Commissioner in Caroline County…I would love to take my passion and experience for limited and efficient government to Annapolis.

(snip)

The first goal is to build a concensus (sic) throughout the district that I am the best appointment for Delegate. Not only do I have a strong legislative and executive track record but Caroline County deserves resident representation.

Ghrist has been seeking higher office for awhile; he briefly campaigned for Congress in 2009 before withdrawing and endorsing Andy Harris.

So we will probably have much the same circus we did for the Senate seat, with the real possibility of another split vote and Martin O’Malley breaking the tie.

Meanwhile, Hershey’s tenure may be short-lived. Former Delegate Richard Sossi is actively planning a run for the seat, as is 2010 U.S. Senate nominee Eric Wargotz. The same sort of situation may occur in the District 36 Delegate race next year, with several jockeying for position to be the top vote-getter in a particular county.

Long-term, the solution to that issue may be to enact 141 separate House of Delegate districts, instead of the confusing mishmash of having some three-person districts as well as a handful which are split in a 2-1 configuration. But in the meantime, the political races on the Eastern Shore may be some of the most interesting in the state with the District 36 openings, a primary challenge to the incumbent in District 37A, the opening in District 37B thanks to the selection of Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio to the David Craig gubernatorial ticket, the forced move of Delegate Mike McDermott to a challenge for the District 38 Senate seat due to redistricting, and a brand new District 38C with no incumbent.

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    First District - Congress

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    Maryland General Assembly (local)

    Senate District 37

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    House District 37A

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    Rene Desmarais
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    February 10, 2014