A different sort of accountability

The other day I received a reminder that Heritage Action had updated its Congressional scorecard. And for those who believe that our Congressman Andy Harris isn’t as conservative as he makes himself out to be, it should be noted that his 90% rating puts him in the top 20 on Congress overall, or the 95th percentile if you will.  It’s a score that Harris currently shares with some of the more libertarian heroes of Congress, such as Justin Amash and Thomas Massie, as well as Presidential candidate Marco Rubio. (Ted Cruz was among the top 3 at 100%, along with Mike Lee and Ken Buck of Colorado.)

But one weakness I’m finding with the Heritage Action scorecard is just what issues they consider important – there’s no easy way to determine what bills and votes they deemed important enough to include. Certainly I trust the Heritage Foundation to be a conservative watchdog as they have been for many years, but it would be nice to have their scorecard reflect what the scores are based upon.

On the other hand, I present no such problem with my monoblogue Accountability Project because I explain just why I vote as I would. (By and large, it’s opposition to the lunacy Democrats put out on an annual basis, although I am also far more of a budget hawk than most as well.) In this year’s roster of legislation, there were anywhere from five to fifty-odd votes per bill on my side in the House and two to twenty per bill in the Senate. None of those I sided with this year became law, unlike last year where I won a couple.

If you follow monoblogue on social media (and you should) you’ll notice I’m making steady progress on this year’s edition, which I am slating to release June 6. Actually, what pushes this into June is a fairly recent phenomenon.

Back when Martin O’Malley was governor, I never had to worry about vetoed bills and pretty much everything that was placed in front of him by the Democratic-controlled Maryland General Assembly was signed in short order. But with Larry Hogan in office, I have to pay attention to what’s called the “date of presentment.” This tripped me up last year in discussing the post-session because I thought Hogan had 30 days after session to sign/veto bills, not realizing there was a date of presentment involved. (O’Malley always seemed to sign things as quickly as possible.) This year the date of presentment was May 1 (20 days after session) so the drop-dead date for a Hogan veto is May 31, or 30 days after presentment.

Where this affects me is what I call the “disposition” of each bill. Not only do I tally the votes, but I make sure readers know the fate of each bill. It was easy (if depressing) when MOM was in office because I could simply write something along the lines of “Governor O’Malley signed this bill May 5.” Now I have bills that are allowed to become law without Hogan’s signature and actual vetoes to deal with, so it makes me wait until the coast is clear June 1 to figure out final disposition. Hence, I have to wait to put it out. In truth, the compiling is easier than ever because I’ve done it so long and can fill out the spreadsheet I use rather quickly.

So you are two weeks away from getting your hands on this hot little item, which so far has been a great horse race as I compile votes and find multiple members still have a chance at a perfect score. Now if we could only get that number of perfect scorers up to 188, or at least a good working majority in each chamber, this state may be getting somewhere.

2016 Maryland GOP Spring Convention in pictures and text (part 2)

When I last left you, I was commenting on having to get up at 6:45 for breakfast. Given that this was our election day and the polls were yet to open, this was the scene around the hotel on available spaces.

Aside from the Coke can (which, as an aside, is a drawback to this hotel because Pepsi products are difficult to come by), I often wonder what non-political guests think about all this. I’m sure they are amused.

On the way back to breakfast from putting my stuff in the car (on a glorious morning) I snapped this shot of the convention hall.

One tangible improvement was our county signs, which have finally been upgraded after a decade.

Our breakfast speaker was introduced by the recovering MDGOP Chair Diana Waterman, who was thrilled to report her hair was growing back after the chemo and surgery she has endured for her fight against breast cancer.

She called Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh “a great Republican.” Schuh began his remarks by noting this was the “most unusual election in at least 100 years.”

But Schuh went on to praise Donald Trump for tapping into several “electoral undercurrents,” particularly when he brought up the issues of immigration and national security. Yet while he said the “misgivings were understandable,” Schuh has “come to peace with a Trump candidacy.” Steve then outlined a number of stark differences between Democrats and Republicans: the role of government, immigration, Second Amendment, free speech (where the Left uses “shoutdowns as a weapon of choice”), taxation, private property, and life itself. It was a “belief in limited government and personal responsibility” that set the two major parties apart, Schuh added.

Schuh’s rather brief remarks allowed me to grab a good seat for the convention itself, which featured a number of reports in the morning. I wasn’t satisfied with how most of my photos came out inside the hall, so you will have to read about most of what was said inside without the visual aids.

Annapolis Mayor Mike Pantelides welcomed us to his city, noting that the Maryland GOP “got involved in my race in a very big way” and allowed him to win by a narrow 59-vote margin. Encouraging us to note on social media that the event was being held in Annapolis, Pantelides also called both County Executive Schuh and Governor Hogan “mentors to me.” His was the one city in Maryland with Republican leadership across the board: mayor, County Executive, and Governor, Mike added. Solid Republican principles and leadership could provide solutions, concluded Pantelides.

This photo of Congressman Andy Harris came out all right, and so did his message. He warned us that the Democrats have “a lot of assets” to throw at Governor Hogan in two years, so we needed to raise millions of dollars to assist him. But there were some advantages we had, too: for example, the sign denoting the reduced toll rates at the Bay Bridge is “like a Republican ad.”

Turning to the national scene, Harris noted we could not have another four years of liberal policy. And even though he endorsed Ben Carson in the GOP race, he came out to say, “I’m a Donald Trump guy 101% now.” He also told us there was no fight between Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, despite what the media would lead you to believe.

We had two legislative reports, one from Delegate Nic Kipke and the other from Senator J.B. Jennings.

Kipke believed that we were “at the precipice of…another surge of Republicans” added to the House ranks. “There are a lot of seats in play for us,” he assessed, particularly when Larry Hogan won in 21 more House districts than the Republican House candidates did. And the Democrats “are losing their minds” about it: Kipke gave the example of the bill allowing felons to vote before completing their sentences. Despite the fact 80% of Marylanders disagreed with this, and many of the General Assembly Democrats agreed with the veto, “the Democrats require compliance,” said Kipke – so the veto was overridden.

There were Republican-backed items we should be proud of, though, said Nic – another budget with no new taxes, the elimination of preschool testing, and the adoption of P-TECH schools, beginning in Baltimore City. Republicans are “leading on issues, big and small, that make sense,” said Kipke. He also awarded their Republican of the Year award to state Executive Director Joe Cluster.

Regarding the felon vote, Jennings later added that it actually failed 28-18 the first time, but was allowed to be reconsidered and passed 29-18.

One thing Senator Jennings stressed was the devious ways Democrats tried to flout the rules; in one example they tried to put one Senator on two committees, which is a no-no. They also worked hard to fix bad bills to make them more palatable.

But the problem Senate Republicans have is that “we are short five votes.” Getting to 19 votes would allow Republicans to sustain filibusters and kill the worst legislation. And there may be a lot of it next year: Jennings remarked that year 3 of an administration is where major pieces of legislation come out.

In between the legislative reports, MDGOP Chair Diana Waterman gave her report. She opened by welcoming new members but also remembering members who had recently passed, including my late cohort Blan Harcum who passed away earlier this year. She also announced the traditional June Red, White, and Blue Dinner would be pushed back to a date in early September because of the convention.

Diana also had a comment about the so-called “Republican war on women” when she asked “where is the ‘war on women’ when the Republicans have two (federal candidates) running and the Democrats have none?”

Waterman also gave the newly created Chairman’s Elephant Award to Dwight Patel, but the key remark to me was an offhand one where Diana referred to chairing “my last convention” in November. If so, Diana would conclude a remarkable four-year run where she took over a party in crisis and guided it to electoral success.

We then heard from our National Committeewoman and National Committeeman, respectively Nicolee Ambrose and Louis Pope.

Much of what they said was a rehash of what they told the Executive Committee on Friday night, although this time Nicolee came equipped with a slideshow. Here are the party’s goals for the new Precinct Captain recruitment program.

She also had a lot of these handy flyers to distribute.

I’m only giving you the top five – for the rest, come see us when we are out and about in the community.

Louis reiterated that this year’s convention “will be about unity,” for it’s the RNC’s “#1 job” to elect the President. And while Pope believed the GOP has “an amazing array of tools to make sure we win this year” and has “tremendously expanded minority outreach” over the last four years, it all comes down to our candidate. Pope conceded that “Trump changes our plans quite a bit,” and added it may “take a little bit of sculpting of (Trump’s) policies” to have effective minority outreach. But Louis also contended the “Trump effect (on downticket races) is not going to materialize.”

Pope’s remarks concluded the morning session. I went out to eat my lunch (with Andy Harris, no less) and saw this nice display from someone who would like to join him on Congress.

I was less interested in this swag, although I could have picked up a Cruz hat, too.

I also spied the potential National Committeeman making last-minute preparations.

One other task I had to perform was voting for Delegate and Alternate Delegate. Because I refused to add to the Trump slate I only voted for four winners, including the guy voting immediately after me.

At these conventions it seems like Don Murphy is my shadow. But he and Gloria should enjoy Cleveland, since they were two of my four that won.

The system was neat and easy – we knew the winners five minutes after we voted, as I will explain shortly.

Up first was the National Committeewoman election. Since that was a walkover for Nicolee Ambrose, I can simply comment that she had one of youngest members of the General Assembly, Delegate Robin Grammer (a member of the “Dundalk Revolution”) nominate her and Senator Steve Waugh second her. Both were results of the hard work Nicolee has done to elect more Republicans as both flipped Democratic districts. And I really liked Waugh’s line about how Republicans “focus on putting air conditioning in the classrooms and not transgenders in the bathrooms.”

We then had the National Committeeman election. Because the nominating and seconding speeches came in alphabetical order of the candidates, Bossie’s went first. Nominating Bossie was the highest elected federal official in the state, Andy Harris, who said David represented “a new way of thinking” that we need.

But the jaws hit the floor for the seconding speech, as Joe Steffen notes on his site in more depth. None other than Nicolee Ambrose delivered the dagger to her associate’s heart. “This is serious, serious business,” said Nicolee, and “we need a fighter.”

Despite that blow, Pope could counter with some firepower of his own. Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford nominated Pope, recalling how he had worked with Louis for years in the Howard County party and that he’s been fighting for the GOP. His seconding speech, delivered by Martha Schaerr of Montgomery County, added that Pope was “a tireless, trustworthy leader.”

The focus shifted back to Bossie for his remarks, and he closed the sale by saying “I believe I can bring a lot…to the Maryland Republicans.” It was “critical to have new blood in leadership,” David went on, and while he promised to raise Maryland’s profile, he also said “we must not cede ground to liberal Democrats, anytime.”

Pope could only appeal to the masses with his experience and passion, countering, “I’ve spent a lifetime working for the Republican Party…I stand on my record of accomplishment.”

But Pope’s defense was to no avail. It was clear when the first four jurisdictions to report (Allegany, Anne Arundel, and Baltimore City and County) picked Bossie by a combined 56-8 margin that the rout was on. In terms of our voting system the count was 365-188, but in actual bodies it was 182 to 91 – a perfect 2-to-1 margin. Pope only carried eight counties (Caroline, Cecil, Frederick, Garrett, Howard, Prince George’s, St. Mary’s, and Talbot) and in four of the eight it was a 5-4 verdict. Only Garrett (6-0), Caroline (7-2), and St. Mary’s (7-2) were big wins for Pope. (Wicomico County was 7-2 for Bossie.)

This was an emotional moment as the baton was figuratively passed, but we still had work to do.

There was a resolution that would allow the Bylaws Committee to perform what I would call a curative function, making minor changes to the bylaws in places where references were incorrect, misspellings, and so forth. They would report and we would review changes at the Fall Convention. That passed by a voice vote with one objection.

The first Bylaw amendment was an effort to both restore voting rights to the various ancillary organizations (Maryland Federation of Republican Women, College Republicans, Young Republicans, etc.) and set standards for their inclusion. But after some discussion and debate, it failed by a 188-361 vote (105-167 in terms of voters,) falling far short of the 2/3 majority needed.

The second one was less controversial, although there was enough of an objection to a lengthy lame duck period for party officers to transition after our organizing conventions (such as will occur this fall) that the date of takeover was amended back to January 3 rather than based on the day after the Governor or President of the United States is inaugurated. As amended it passed 438-99, although the amendment barely passed 283-258. (It was behind until Montgomery County sealed the deal.)

All this concluded just in time for the Delegate and Alternate Delegate results to be revealed.

As I said above, I only ended up voting for four winners: the two Murphys, Christina Trotta, and Alirio Martinez, Jr.

We then got to hear from our candidate for U.S. Senate, Delegate Kathy Szeliga.

Kathy thanked us for her support, then added that Bossie and Ambrose are “going to do a great job for us.” She also added that the fourteen U.S. Senate candidates are “unified and together.”

And while she gave something of a standard stump speech recalling her middle-class background, she noted that the business they created was “struggling like many small businesses in the country.” Repeating her message that Washington is broken, she chastised the Democrats for electing their “golden boy” Chris Van Hollen, pointing out that since he’s been in office the national debt has tripled and calling Van Hollen an “attack dog” for Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, and Harry Reid.

“Together we can change Washington,” the candidate, who Nic Kipke had earlier called “relentless,” concluded.

Our final task was to select electors, which necessitated us gathering in groups by Congressional district. Our district has the largest number of Central Committee members so we all crammed into one corner of the hall to hear several nominations. For the second time in a row, I nominated the First District winner: Diana Waterman, who prevailed over five others. The others will be Tony Campbell, Jane Roger, Faith Loudon, Cathryn Grasso, Dick Jurgena, Loretta Shields, and Alan McMahon.

Once Diana Waterman announced her choices for the at-large electors would be Ellen Sauerbrey and Michael Steele, we could finally adjourn. Next time is slated for Frederick this November – the question is whether it will be a wake, a celebration, or some combination thereof?

The battle now turns on fundraising

(Update: I was surprised to find Bossie read this piece and sent along pages of additional Presidential Coalition donations since 2006, to the tune of almost $140,000.)

Do you think Louis Pope is feeling the heat? I got a second letter from him Monday; this was the letter I alluded to Monday evening and was hoping to get to yesterday.

There were one passage in it that I found interesting. It talks about his opponent’s lack of party experience and Pope’s fundraising ability:

I now have competition in my race for re-election. My opponent has not yet served in any of the (party-related) jobs listed above, nor on a Central Committee or any party office. I wholeheartedly invite him to become more involved on the local & state level over the next few years. Experience pays in politics and I am one of the most experienced members of the Maryland Republican Party as well as the RNC. My seniority on the committee is important as I am able to direct RNC resources and funds back to Maryland.

The final piece of the puzzle needed for success at both the MDGOP and RNC is the ability to continually fundraise. Virtually ALL of our money comes through donations and you can only get those by making thousands of phone calls along with e-mails and letters to my personal donor base. Over the last two decades I have helped raise millions of dollars for MDGOP and our local & statewide candidates in Maryland, as well as Presidential candidates. (Emphasis in original.)

As we have seen in the last several months, GOP voters are perfectly comfortable with eschewing experienced politicians for someone who has done practically squat for the Republican Party until the day he decided to run for President representing it. And perhaps this is the problem with Pope’s experience: those who have stayed in an office too long tend to lose touch with their electorate, and become immersed in a world divorced from reality. Pope moved up the Republican ranks over a couple of decades, making it to state party chair in a good year to do so (2002.) And it seems the glide path for a former party chair involves serving in a different capacity with the RNC, since both Pope and former National Committeewoman Joyce Lyons Terhes were state party chairs at one time – Audrey Scott thought she could get in on that, too, but the Central Committee voters thought differently four years ago.

But I have to question whether that much in “resources and funds” accrued to the state party before Larry Hogan became governor. When I first became a Central Committee member in 2006, the Maryland Republican Party was worse than bankrupt financially – for years we were saddled with debt and things really didn’t come around until Hogan was elected. (And note that he used public financing to do so.) Perhaps Pope escaped Audrey Scott territory by being less than specific about dates and fundraising totals, but there were a lot of lean years while Pope was in office.

But Bossie’s organization has been no slouch, either. As part of the Citizens United umbrella, their Political Victory Fund has donated $119,000 so far this cycle to 40 different candidates, including a $5,000 shot in the arm to Kathy Szeliga’s Senate campaign (as well as a radio ad) and $3,500 to Andy Harris. In addition, this 2014 release shows the Presidential Coalition (another offshoot of Citizens United) donated over $33,000 to state candidates during that cycle.

I don’t doubt the Republican establishment likes Pope, as he’s been one of their loyal footsoldiers for many years. But perhaps it’s time for a new chapter, some fresh ideas, and a different style. One thing that struck me about Pope’s letter was how much it looked back at accomplishments rather than forward at goals. While there’s the idea of supporting the GOP nominee for President, the fact that Donald Trump begins with a “yuuuge” 325,000 vote deficit here in Maryland to Hillary Clinton (in a state which only has 677,000 unaffiliated voters compared to almost exactly 1 million Republicans) means that a more realistic goal is to concentrate on keeping a Republican governor and chipping away at the Democratic majority in the General Assembly – if the GOP succeeds there, they can finally control redistricting for the first time in decades and perhaps have districts more fairly drawn based on geography and not politics.

As I said a couple weeks ago, twelve years is enough. Looking back into the past is nice, but I prefer to look forward when I can.

The noble ninety-eight

If you want to talk about an absolute scrum, look no further than the list of candidates for Delegate and Alternate Delegate to be presented to us at next Saturday’s Maryland Republican Party Spring Convention. Between the two races there are a total of 98 people vying for the 22 positions that will be available for Central Committee members and/or proxies to vote upon.

A lot of them are well-known names: 16 are current state or federal elected officials – Andy Harris is one of those trying for a spot – in addition, all of the party officers are on the ballot as well as a host of other elected officials, candidates, and familiar faces such as Anne Arundel County Executive (and former Delegate) Steve Schuh, two-time Comptroller candidate William Campbell, unsuccessful Congressional aspirants Faith Loudon and former Delegate Mike Smigiel, and even the onetime First Lady of Maryland Kendel Ehrlich. But there are several dozen activists and people who ran for the positions in the primary but failed to be successful. The insurgent campaign of Donald Trump vaulted a lot of unfamiliar names to the Cleveland convention because many of Maryland’s elected officials backed other candidates.

With so many in the race it’s only natural to see slates formed. Here’s one from the “Conservative Club” of Maryland:

I have no idea who runs the Conservative Club, where their meetings are, and whether I owe them any dues, but I can tell you a little about their slate:

  • I have previously endorsed their top two candidates for National Committeewoman and National Committeeman.
  • Six of their ten At-Large Delegates previously ran as Cruz delegates or alternates: Boone, Brewington, Loudon, McConkey, Pycha, and Rey. Two of the others were Rubio delegates (Cluster, Patel) and the other two did not run. Bossie is a natural pick as he’s trying to be National Committeeman.
  • Three of their At-Large Alternate Delegates previously ran as Cruz alternates: Alzona, Lathrop, and Trotta. O’Keefe was a Rubio delegate, while the others either did not run or were unaffiliated.

So this seems to be a combination of Cruz and Rubio supporters under the conservative banner. Fair enough, although I can question Patel’s conservative bonafides when I see a photo like this:

Silent majority of what? It’s not a majority of Republicans in the country, since Trump still has only a plurality. And to me, backing someone who’s not going to advance many conservative principles is not worthy of being in a Conservative Club. So I think I’ll skip that name on the ballot.

Obviously there are not any Trump delegates from April running in this election since the voters of Maryland blindly sent them to Cleveland. But out of the field who ran for the seats in April there are a number who are trying again, and it will be interesting to see how they fare in round 2. In my case, I’m looking to send as many Cruz delegates as possible to hopefully bring some sanity to the Maryland delegation – however, it is likely there will be a Trump slate as well and that group is to be avoided. I may have to bring my own list and check names off as I figure out their allegiances.

One other aspect of the race that fascinates me is the sheer volume of people and ballots that need to be created. When I ran in 2008 for a at-large post, there were only about 25 of us and I think the voting and tallying took about 45 minutes. One problem is that our voting system is a somewhat proportional one based on the county you represent and its relative voting strength – as I recall, the bulk of the modest amount of support I received came from Eastern Shore counties and their votes weren’t much in the scheme of things. It’s better now, but thanks to variances in the voting strength and number of members on a Central Committee, a member from Anne Arundel County has about four times the power as a Montgomery County member – or, for that matter, my vote from Wicomico County. Because their strength is diluted so much by having 48 members (the maximum allowed by law) each of the nine of us on the Wicomico County Central Committee are roughly at par with each member of Montgomery County’s CC – they just have a lot more bodies. Anne Arundel only has 13 members, so they each have a lot of say.

Long story short, I’m told they will have an electronic system in place for this so I hope it goes smoothly. I would like to be home before church on Sunday.

It’s just another aspect of what could be the most contentious convention in the ten years I have attended them.

Twelve years is enough

It’s not the most glamorous pair of positions, but every four years the Maryland Republican Party elects two of its three representatives to the Republican National Committee. The positions of National Committeeman (NCM) and National Committeewoman (NCW) are the two most powerful in the state when it comes to the nuts-and-bolts of national GOP politics.

Too often, states have used these positions to reward veteran movers and shakers in the party, and there was a drive four years ago to do just that as former MDGOP Chair Audrey Scott thought she could waltz right into the NCW post to succeed longtime activist (and a former MDGOP Chair herself) Joyce Lyons Terhes – fortunately, there was a good candidate opposing her in Nicolee Ambrose and the resulting breath of fresh air from her election breathed new life into a moribund and stale state party organization.

As it turns out, Ambrose and another party veteran, NCM Louis Pope, tag team in their reports during our semi-annual state conventions. Ambrose tends to talk about voter registration, campaigning, and GOTV efforts on a state and local level while Pope generally looks at the national GOP perspective and their fundraising. Pope has spent three terms in the NCM position, and while I wasn’t here for his initial election he did have opposition for re-election last time around. But the crush of endorsements from other party leaders as well as a somewhat lackluster campaign from his opponent meant Pope was re-elected handily.

I first became suspicious about the prospects of there once again being an opponent for Louis when the letters began arriving a couple months ago. The first one came from Pope, but other party leaders have typed out snail mail and sent it to me beseeching me to stay the course and once again elect Louis Pope as NCM. I didn’t know who the opponent would be, but these forces appeared to be quite worried. (Conversely, aside from Nicolee’s letter to me, I have not seen a single thing pleading for her re-election – so she could well be unopposed, or the state establishment has another candidate in mind.)

So a week or so ago I was checking my junk mail when I saw an e-mail note from the leader of the group whose name liberals spit out as an epithet because of a famous Supreme Court case, Citizens United. In this note from David Bossie I found out he was the NCM opponent in question, and immediately this turned Maryland’s NCM race from a standard-grade party election to something with a more national profile. In the introductory letter, Bossie noted:

The Maryland Republican Party needs new blood. I bring to the table the ability to raise Maryland’s profile by bringing in high-level GOP leaders from across the country to raise money for the Maryland GOP’s efforts. Just in the past year, I secured Donald Trump for the party’s “Red, White, and Blue” dinner, and also helped bring into Maryland Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Tom Cotton (R-AR), as well as former Speaker Newt Gingrich to headline events for Republican candidates and elected officials.

Say what you will about Trump as a presidential candidate, but he provided a profitable RWB Dinner from the accounts I have seen.

Through our experience trying to secure Lt. Col. Allen West to do a dinner and fundraiser here for our local party, we have found out it’s hard work to get the caliber of speaker we feel is worthy of a county of 100,000 residents. Certainly we could get Louis Pope to attend the affair - he’s been to our LDD a few times over twelve years, and in looking at his giving history I believe he has made it at least once to each county’s LDD over his tenure. Attending the county’s dinner is a nice gesture of support.

Moreover, Pope has regularly conducted seminars at our state conventions on fundraising, and has been ready with helpful suggestions on how to write fundraising letters and other tricks of the fundraising trade. He’s also a regular host of party events at his Howard County home.

But in speaking to David this morning with some questions about how the smaller counties such as ours could benefit from his tenure, I brought up the LDD as a fundraising standby most counties employ. It got me to imagine: what sort of attendance could you get for a Lincoln Day Dinner here with a Mike Lee or Tom Cotton? These two men, and many other heroes of the conservative movement, are on Bossie’s Rolodex. As he noted, there’s a big difference between just buying the ticket and helping secure the person drawing the ticket buyers.

More importantly, I think the NCM position needs the same kick in the pants that Ambrose has given on her side of the equation. She’s not been afraid to lead or speak out if circumstances dictate, such as her stance on changing party rules almost immediately after taking office. It’s notable that Pope was on the side of the status quo in that case, and while the NCM and NCW positions have served to become de facto party leadership in the state alongside the Chair position, at their heart they are legislative positions. The NCW and NCM are supposed to do the bidding of Maryland Republicans at the national level just as Andy Harris is supposed to in Congress. Admittedly, I have less information to go on regarding that aspect of the job but my instinct tells me Bossie would be a little bit less “establishment” and a little more “grassroots.” We know where Pope has stood as he’s worked his way up the party hierarchy, maintaining the status quo.

Louis Pope has given us twelve years as National Committeeman, and it’s a tenure he can look back on as a net positive for the Maryland Republican Party. But given the successful change in direction that was made through the election of Nicolee Ambrose as NCW in 2012, I think lightning can strike twice at a point where we will need to focus on the twin tasks of re-electing Larry Hogan and (more importantly) getting more conservatives and Republicans in the Maryland General Assembly. If two people can be the ones to bring these races to the attention of the national party, I believe it will be the two I vote for two weeks hence.

So I’m urging my fellow Central Committee members around the state to re-elect Nicolee Ambrose as our National Committeewoman and, more importantly, bring some new blood to the state leadership by electing David Bossie as National Committeeman. I appreciate Louis Pope and what he’s done for us as a state party, but twelve years is enough.

The Primary 2016 postmortem, part 2

Now that I have had a couple of days to gather my thoughts and see other reaction on some of the races, here goes.

Beginning at the top: I think the choice of Carly Fiorina by Ted Cruz is relatively shrewd, as it accomplished several objectives – first of all, it blew the $2 billion man off the 24/7 news cycle the day after he won five primaries. (Worth noting: it’s fortunate we didn’t have “jungle” primaries in those states where the top two regardless of party advance because Trump would have been second in just two of the states. In all five he trailed Hillary Clinton, in three he was also behind Bernie Sanders.) Second, it positions him to do better in California, where Carly was the GOP nominee for Senate in 2010. With 172 delegates at stake, it’s the best chance for Trump to get over the top. Fiorina wasn’t near the top of my list for president, but step one of the #NeverTrump process is to get The Donald off the news, step two is throttling him in Indiana, and step three is defeating him in California – hopefully Trump will be eliminated from getting to the 1,237 delegate mark before we reach June.

Looking at the state level and the results, it seems to me that Kathy Szeliga won with the exact same kind of campaign Larry Hogan ran in his gubernatorial primary – very light on specifics. It worked out for Hogan in the 2014 gubernatorial election because he had the advantage of drawing a Democratic opponent he could tie to his predecessor’s record and he avoided being dragged into discussions on social issues and the Second Amendment, try as the Democrats did to bring these up during the campaign. In an executive election it’s easier to make it about economic philosophy, particularly when you’ve spent three years hammering the Democrats with a social media juggernaut called Change Maryland – that and $100,000 in his own money was where he gained his primary advantage.

But Szeliga will have a harder time prevailing on a message of change, especially because she has a voting record the Democrats will surely comb over (just as Republicans can – and should – do with Chris Van Hollen.) Certainly Chris is a Washington insider, but the secondary idea Republicans are hoping to exploit is that the party which screams constantly about a “Republican war on women” has exactly zero female nominees in its delegation. Wouldn’t the words of Donna Edwards be an interesting piece of a 30-second spot?

“The state of Maryland is on the verge of having an all-male delegation,” (Edwards) said. “When will our voices be effective, legitimate, equal leaders in a big-tent party?”

Well, if it’s that big of a deal to the women of Maryland they know what to do. There’s no doubt the Democrats will try to brush aside that little tidbit, and the job gets a lot easier if Donald Trump is the nominee because it negates that advantage.

It should be a lot easier for Andy Harris to succeed. He now has an opponent without a great deal of name recognition in the district, and all the advantages incumbency provides. As I said before, the election for the district was really held Tuesday and the margin of victory was tremendous. Going into the election, it seemed that Mike Smigiel would be a rather formidable opponent – a former Delegate who was very popular with the portion of the district’s electorate which values liberty and the Second Amendment, as he made his name defending both. But the fact Smigiel had three opponents from Cecil County when he ran for re-election in 2014 suggests that maybe he had developed a reputation as all talk and no action, and the campaign he ran didn’t seem to draw a great deal of interest. As I pointed out earlier this month, having a campaign event which draws no local voters doesn’t lend itself to success. In Somerset (as well as Wicomico and Worcester) Smigiel actually ran third behind Harris and Jonathan Goff, and Smigiel only got 21.8% in his home county. So much for his push polls.

It may have been a doomed cause to begin with, but the decision to attend an event outside the district on the weekend before the election may have been the campaign in a microcosm – many times the perfect was the enemy of the good. Sure, Andy Harris leaves something to be desired in terms of conservative/libertarian leadership and initiative, but in my opinion Smigiel tried the same campaign Harris did to Wayne Gilchrest in 2008 – problem was Andy is nowhere near the center and isn’t moving to the left at the rapid pace Wayne was. So the tactic wouldn’t work, and in the end the difference in voting patterns and campaign tactics cost Smigiel my support.

Now that I have some of these thoughts and observations out of the way, it’s time for me to move on to the next election. Tomorrow I’ll be looking at an interesting GOP race that will be decided at our upcoming state convention.

The Primary 2016 postmortem, part 1

I knew Maryland wasn’t a typical conservative state, but I didn’t think that many Republicans would be fooled by Donald Trump’s act.

Late last night I wrote down some “gut instinct” predictions for the state, Congressional district, and county:

Pre-primary wild guesses:

Maryland for President: Trump 42.7, Kasich 27.4, Cruz 24.6, others 5.3 (mostly protests for Carson and Rubio.)

Wicomico for President: Trump 51.2, Cruz 30.7, Kasich 16.3, others (mostly Carson) 1.8.

Trump wins all 8 districts, although 1 or 2 are less than 5 points over Kasich.

For Senate overall: Szeliga 32.3, Kefalas 22.7, Douglas 19.3, Wallace 11.2, Hooe 8.7, the field 5.8.

Wicomico for Senate: Szeliga 41, Douglas 23.3, Wallace 14.7, Kefalas 12.6, Hooe 4.2, field 4.2.

First District overall: Harris 51.3, Smigiel 35.2, Jackson 6.8, Goff 6.7.

Wicomico First District: Harris 41.9, Smigiel 40.7, Goff 9, Jackson 8.4.

So let’s see how I did.

Well, first and foremost I underestimated Trump’s support. Looks like those rallies paid off in news coverage and creating the illusion he really cared about Maryland. John Kasich did some half-hearted stops here as well, and Ted Cruz made just one early on.

Trump is running about 12 points better than I thought statewide. Five of those points came out of my Kasich totals and six from Cruz. The rest come out of the “other” category that Carson (who was the only other candidate over 1%) and Rubio indeed led.

Here in Wicomico County, Trump outpaced me by fourteen points, and I blame the Berlin rally. I was actually not far off on Kasich (16.3 vs. 15.1 actual) but I am deeply disappointed with my fellow Wicomico voters for not supporting the real conservative left in the race, underperforming my expectation on Ted Cruz by almost 14 points – about the same as Trump overperformed. Ben Carson led the stragglers that exceeded my expectations by half again with 2.7%. And let me find a Volkswagen to house the three Santorum voters here in Wicomico.

While Trump won all eight Congressional districts by double-digit margins, it’s worth pointing out that Montgomery County (which is split among several Congressional districts) indeed only gave Trump a five-point win over John Kasich.

Yet if you thought I was shocked by the Trump margin, imagine the surprise when I saw how easily Kathy Szeliga decimated the U.S. Senate field. Getting on TV obviously made all the difference because the polling suggested a much closer race. And Chris Chaffee, who came in second, wasn’t even polled! But I was only about three points off on her.

I think what happened was the inevitability factor - Kathy had a lot more money and (dare I say) tacit MDGOP support. And it may have been a weakness in polling that the 40 to 50 percent undecided were really supporting someone who wasn’t named in the poll. If you look at the three or four who were polled (Szeliga, Kefalas, Douglas, Hooe) combined they only pulled 55% of the total vote statewide. Perhaps those “undecided” were really decided, with the various party factions splitting several ways. Obviously everyone except Szeliga horribly underperformed my expectations – well, except the “field.” Yet Kathy did worse than I expected here in Wicomico.

Now for Congress. There is so much complaining I hear about Andy Harris, but apparently this is a very loud, tiny minority I should have ignored. 10.8% overall for Mike Smigiel and just two votes more for him than Jonathan Goff in Wicomico? Get real. It turns out that the 22% who didn’t like Harris in the 2014 primary didn’t like him this time either, but split their vote three ways.

So my gut instinct wasn’t as good as it should have been – then again, the pollsters didn’t do very well here either and people pay them.

I also speculated Donna Edwards might pull off the upset over Chris Van Hollen, so it will be interesting to see what the minority turnout was for a primary that didn’t have a lot of suspense at the top. Apparently the coalition of Millennials who I thought would help Kefalas a little on the GOP side didn’t show up for Bernie Sanders or the more progressive Edwards, either.

Guess it might be time to clean off my radar since it seems to be broken. Lord knows my little endorsements didn’t help, either, but someone has to hold up the tattered and torn conservative banner in this state – may as well be me.

The one piece of good news I got tonight was that a great friend of monoblogue won her primary in Cecil County. Jackie Gregory took 55% of the vote in winning the District 5 primary, and unless there’s a write-in or independent campaign she will win in a walkover come November (no Democrat ran for the seat.) So congratulations to her!

For First District Congress

My final primary endorsement comes in a race that, for me, has come down to the wire: do I go for the known conservative quantity that’s part of one of the most unpopular institutions in the country or do I go for one of the upstarts in a hope to bring about change or a more libertarian direction?

Well, the answer became a little easier as I looked into two of the four GOP candidates. Both Jonathan Goff, who challenged Andy Harris in 2014 and got the 22% of the anti-Harris vote in that primary, and Sean Jackson have expressed their support for Donald Trump so that eliminates them automatically as not conservative.

Yet despite the entry of Goff and Jackson, the Congressional race has been figured all along as a two-man contest between Harris and former Delegate Mike Smigiel.

We pretty much know the backstory on Andy Harris: he served in the Maryland State Senate for a decade before challenging incumbent Republican Congressman Wayne Gilchrest in 2008. The problem with Wayne, as Harris and many others saw in the district, was that Gilchrest was too centrist for a conservative district. Harris ended up winning a contentious primary, alienating enough Gilchrest supporters in the process that Democrat Frank Kratovil (who Gilchrest eventually endorsed) won by a narrow plurality in the Obama wave election of 2008. (A Libertarian candidate took 2.5% of the vote, denying Kratovil a majority.)

Harris finished out his term in the State Senate as he plotted to challenge Kratovil, who served as a “blue dog” Democrat (case in point: he voted against Obamacare.) Winning a far less acrimonious GOP primary in 2010 over businessman Rob Fisher, Harris went on to defeat Kratovil by 12 points in the first TEA Party wave election of 2010. Since then Harris hasn’t been seriously challenged in either the primary or general elections, winning with 63.4% of the vote in 2012 and 70.4% in 2014 after Goff challenged him in the primary.

While Democrat Jim Ireton may think he has a shot against Harris, it’s very likely that Tuesday’s election is the deciding factor in who will be our representative to the 115th Congress. But Mike Smigiel is the first serious candidate with a pedigree to challenge for the First District seat since Harris and State Senator E.J. Pipkin, among others, both took on Wayne Gilchrest in 2008.

Like Harris, Smigiel served for 12 years in the Maryland General Assembly but he served in the House of Delegates, representing the upper Eastern Shore. This factor is an important one in determining who will be the better candidate, as their terms of service overlapped from 2003-2010. Smigiel ran for re-election in the 2014 primary, but finished fourth in a seven-person field. It’s worth noting that four of the District 36 contenders were from Smigiel’s Cecil County, which may have sapped his electoral strength – or reflected a dissatisfaction with Mike’s approach. Only one of them could have advanced, so in effect they cannibalized the primary vote.

Mike’s case for unseating Harris has evolved from an undertone of dissatisfaction from those who supported Harris for the seat. They say that Andy is not a fighter or a leader in the conservative movement, and long for a more libertarian Congressman perhaps in the mold of Justin Amash or Thomas Massie. To that end, Smigiel has advocated his case for a Constitutional, limited government, often waving his copy of the Constitution in a debate or forum session. His campaign has focused to a great extent on a number of Congressional votes that Harris has cast, particularly the 2014 CRomnibus bill.

In looking at this race, it should be pointed out that I saw Smigiel’s libertarian approach as an asset; however, I felt the strong emphasis on Harris’s voting record masked some of the real truth.

A key difference between the legislative process in Maryland and the federal sausage-grinding we find in Washington is that Congressional legislation is not limited to a single issue as Maryland’s is. You can take the CRomnibus bill as an example, as it was a compromise hammered out between the various factions of Congress. That’s not to say Harris made the correct vote, but Smigiel is counting on a bit of ignorance in how the system works. I could say the same thing about Smigiel since he voted for the first O’Malley budget while Harris voted no.

So let’s talk about voting records, shall we? Because voting in a federal legislature is not the same as voting on state matters, we have an apples-to-oranges comparison between Harris and Smigiel. But over the eight years both men served in the General Assembly, a more apples-to-apples approach is possible.

Since 2007, I have done the monoblogue Accountability Project, so it covers the last four years that Harris and Smigiel served together. As an aggregate, I found that Smigiel voted as I would have 77.7% of the time, or 101 times out of 130. On the other hand, Harris was “correct” 89.1% of the time, or 122 times out of 137.

I even went back and found three years’ worth of data on the old Maryland Accountability Project that mine continued. While the author perhaps had a different standard of what he considered “conservative,” in each of those three years (2003-2005) Harris had a higher score: 84%-60% in 2003, 80%-75% in 2004, and 84%-83% in 2005. (The 2006 results were not available for the House, but Harris only scored 65% in the Senate – so Smigiel may have prevailed that year.)

Yet these are not “clean” comparisons, either, because in my case I hadn’t streamlined the process of doing the mAP yet. (Since 2011, both House and Senate ratings are based on the same bills.) So I went back and tried to locate the cases in my work where Harris and Smigiel voted the opposite way. There were a handful that over time have mattered less, but I would like to point out a few items that Harris favored and Smigiel opposed, since Mike has attacked Andy’s record:

  • Smart, Green, and Growing – Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission (2010) – replaced a task force with the MSGC, an O’Malley-sponsored bill.
  • Higher Education Investment Fund – Tuition Stabilization and Funding (2010) – a spending mandate O’Malley also sought.
  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act of 2009 – this was a horrible bill that established and codified carbon reductions into state law.

One can definitely argue that Harris was trying to soften his image with these votes, since they came after his unsuccessful 2008 run.

But there is another side: those bills that Smigiel favored and Harris opposed:

  • Other Tobacco Products Licenses (2010) – required separate licenses for those who sell cigars, snuff, or pipe tobacco. Harris was one of just 7 in the MGA to oppose this.
  • High Performance Buildings Act – Applicable to Community College Capital Projects (2010) – required LEED Silver or above ratings.
  • Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – Maryland Strategic Energy Investment Program (2008) – an O’Malley bill to spend RGGI money.
  • Environment – Water Management Administration – Wetlands and Waterways Program Fees (2008) – established a fee of up to $7,500 an acre for certain developments.
  • Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Critical Area Protection Program – Administrative and Enforcement Provisions (2008) – additional mandates on local government.
  • High Performance Buildings Act (2008) – the precursor to the 2010 act above.
  • Maryland Clean Cars Act of 2007 – an O’Malley bill requiring California emissions for Maryland cars, which added cost to new cars.
  • Higher Education – Tuition Affordability Act of 2007 – another O’Malley bill that extended an artificial tuition freeze.
  • Electricity – Net Energy Metering – Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard – Solar Energy (2007) - a good old-fashioned carveout, picking a winner.

It seems to me there’s a major difference on environmental issues between Smigiel and Harris, and while that may not matter so much at a federal level my belief that “green is the new red” leads me to think that Smigiel’s pro-liberty case isn’t as airtight as we are led to believe.

I can go all night looking at voting records, but there is one other thing I’d like to point out.

Last week I criticized Smigiel for spending part of the weekend before the primary at a cannabis convention, a stance he took exception to in a private message to me. Without divulging the full conversation, which I assumed was just for my private use, the upshot was that he argued there were going to be fundraising benefits for him as well as possible job creation in the 1st District. I can buy that argument, but if it hinges on him winning the primary Job One has to be getting the votes.

So it was interesting that a friend of mine shared a card her daughter received, which looks like the one below.

420 USA PAC Smigiel postcard

My friend speculated the card was targeted to a certain age group of Millennials since her daughter was the only one in the house to receive it. Yet the card isn’t from Mike’s campaign but instead an organization called 420 USA PAC, which advocates for cannabis legalization.

Of course, my personal stance is not all that far from Mike’s, but we also have two laboratories of democracy in Colorado and Washington state to see how the legalization of marijuana plays out. Smigiel argues the District of Columbia cannabis initiative is a state’s rights issue but should know that in the Constitution Congress is responsible to “exercise exclusive Legislation in all cases whatsoever” over the District per Article I, Section 8. So Harris performed some oversight.

On the other hand I can vouch for Andy being in the district over the weekend. Perhaps this is a classic conservative vs. libertarian matchup, although both men are well-accepted in the pro-life community.

This has been an endorsement I have had to think long and hard about; luckily it’s a case where I could easily work for the other gentleman if he will have me.

But I have decided that Andy Harris deserves another term in Congress. Saying that, though, it’s obvious people will be watching and if I were Mike Smigiel I wouldn’t dismiss trying again in 2018 because we could use his kind of voice in Congress as well. Think of the next two years as a probationary period for Harris.

So allow me to review my three endorsements for the major races.

For President, I urge you to vote for the remaining true conservative in the race, Ted Cruz. He has six people running for Delegate and Alternate Delegate who need your votes as well (although my friend Muir Boda is on the ballot, too.)

For U.S. Senate, I had a hard time deciding between Dave Wallace and Richard Douglas, but the backbone Richard Douglas has shown earned him my endorsement and vote.

And finally, retain Andy Harris as our Congressman.

Just don’t forget to vote Tuesday. It’s up to us to begin turning Maryland into a more conservative state – not just trying to teach the benefits of conservatism to an audience charitably described as skeptical but making sure we vote in the right manner as well.

Beginning a pro-life tradition

Over the last several months the news media has moved on from last year’s hot story about Planned Parenthood selling body parts and otherwise profiting off the misery of women who abort their pregnancies in the name of “choice.” It was the reason we gathered last August and October.

But in order to stand aside the annual tradition of mourning the miscarriage of justice otherwise known as Roe v. Wade each January on the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision, the advocacy group ProtestPP decided the fourth Saturday in April would be a good time to hold an annual protest.

So our little gathering in Easton was one of 200 scheduled around the nation today.

As opposed to the August rally, not only was the Planned Parenthood office closed but so were all the other businesses in the small office complex. So it was a very quiet gathering – even the police car only drove by a couple of times.

Yet we also had a very distinguished guest, one familiar to the Maryland pro-life community.

Three days before his primary, Congressman Andy Harris took over an hour out of his day to spend it with our merry little pro-life band. In informal remarks Harris revealed that, in relation to the Planned Parenthood scandal, “the stuff we are finding (in their investigation) is unbelievable.” He added that, “Clearly, Planned Parenthood made a profit.” There was also interest in bringing David Daleiden before Congress to hear his testimony on the issue, said Harris.

Most of Andy’s time, though, was spent in private conversation answering questions and concerns from the twenty people who attended the Easton protest. Indeed, the number paled in comparison to August’s turnout or even October’s, according to Cathy Keim, who I accompanied to the event. Yet even though the number of those wishing to put an end to abortion on demand was small, the reaction was generally positive from the people driving by on the side street: most who gave any indication of paying attention gave us the thumbs-up or honked their horns. Of course, there was the Volvo driver who gave us the thumbs-down and the young college-age girl who flipped us the bird, but that’s to be expected. There was no organized opposition.

Think of the group above as a beginning, the alumni, if you will, of the Easton branch of the pro-life movement. It’s realistic to think that we could double or triple the number next year as word begins to spread that the fourth Saturday in April is a day to celebrate life.

Postscript: I neglected to add in the original rendition that we also heard a closing prayer from Pastor Jason Shelton of Providence Presbyterian Church of Salisbury. Reading from the Book of Matthew, Shelton noted that “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” He commented on the “hard, callous world” that we in the pro-life movement are up against, but prayed that we would soon not have to make this trek to Easton.

How to lose a Congressional race in one speech

If any post I’ve ever done deserved to be put up on 4/20, it’s this one. But suffice to say there are times when the perfect becomes the enemy of the good, and for Congressional candidate Mike Smigiel that point may have been reached.

On Monday I received a press release from the Smigiel campaign promoting his appearance as a featured speaker at the National Cannabis Festival, an event to be held Saturday in Washington, D.C. Held for the first time this year, the Cannabis Festival promotes itself as:

More than just a festival, NCF is a chance to connect with members of the cannabis community and industry from across the country while enjoying a full day of music, games, delicious food and drink.

In the release, there was a rationale provided for Smigiel’s remarks:

The Maryland 1st District Congressional Race is of national importance and serves as a barometer to gauge the mood of the country regarding removal of barriers for the cannabis industry. (Andy) Harris is seeking re-election in a tough primary that Marylanders will be voting in on April 26th, and Del. Smigiel has released polling that suggests that when voters know of Harris’ votes, including his actions with cannabis prohibition, residents will not vote for Harris at an overwhelming majority.  Industry supporters are upset because Congress renewed the prohibition on the District’s government from spending any funds to set up a legal market for marijuana distribution and taxation, a move lead by Congressman Harris. There is a deep seeded negative sentiment against Rep. Harris as he is seen as an exemplification of the worst of big government overreach when he interfered with District voters’ attempt to follow Colorado, Washington State and others in exercising political autonomy with Initiative 71. The initiative appeared on the ballot and was approved by voters, only to have Rep. Harris successfully lead the effort to block the District government’s implementation efforts. Since that time, several unintended consequences have resulted from Rep. Harris’ paternalism.

The District is still unable to tax and or otherwise control the manufacturing and distribution of marijuana thus is losing out on tens of millions of dollars of new tax revenue.

Harris’ vote against the District not only exemplifies the overreach of big government it is also indicative of an arrogance where elected servants of our government presume to have a better understanding of our needs than we, the electorate do. The ramifications are far reaching throughout Maryland’s 1st District as well, affecting opportunities for the development of agricultural crops, business, and also resulted in a boycott of Ocean City, Maryland.

I get all that argument (aside from the state’s rights argument, since the District of Columbia is not a state), but perhaps the weekend before the election is not the best time to be hanging out with a crowd that few in the First District would identify with. Even worse is the idea of promoting recreational drug use (and let’s get real, most of the support for the “cannabis industry” isn’t so we can produce more industrial hemp) at a time when the local headlines often shout about yet another death by drug overdose. Simply put, the optics are really bad on this one. What may grab you another handful of votes among those who are passionate about the issue will turn off a lot of people who are already concerned about the impact of drugs on crime and on society at large.

And in what may be the sharpest 180 degree turn ever in politics, the chances are pretty good (since he appeared at last August’s rendition) that Smigiel will spent at least some of his morning protesting Planned Parenthood in Easton since that event is also Saturday. (Harris may also make an appearance for that same reason.) I don’t think the devout pro-life crowd would much approve of the National Cannabis Festival, and in the case of abortion Harris can claim pro-life groups’ support despite the objections Smigiel puts up.

There is definitely a libertarian streak in me that likes how Smigiel looks at certain issues, and he’s made his campaign into one that is a near-constant diatribe about what he feels is the hypocrisy between Andy Harris the campaigner and speaker and Andy Harris the Washington insider Congressman. A lot of that is legitimate, but the question is just how much of that comes with the territory. Unfortunately, purists seldom make it far in politics, especially on the conservative side.

Yet in making his point about how Harris is not a Tenth Amendment kind of guy, Smigiel is taking the time that I feel would be better served in the district trying to win votes in what’s already an uphill battle. I know Mike’s been working hard for nearly a year to make his case to the people of the First District, but unless there’s a fundraising element involved in his Washington trip (and I highly doubt this) in my opinion it’s an unforced error to spend valuable time just before the primary to tell the cannabis industry how bad Andy Harris is.

Despite what Jim Ireton might believe, the election for the First District seat occurs April 26. If Mike Smgiel loses a close election, I suppose he will have the cold comfort of losing on a particular principle.

WCRC meeting – March 2016

It was double-barreled action at last night’s Wicomico County Republican Club meeting, perhaps appropriate because one of the speakers was Second Amendment advocate and Congressional hopeful Mike Smigiel. He was joined by a fellow challenger seeking the open United States Senate seat from Maryland, Dave Wallace.

Because we had out-of-town speakers, we quickly went through the usual business of reciting the Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and introducing the elected officials and distinguished guests among us. I noted the February minutes were online, and treasurer-elect Muir Boda gave us a financial update.

Because Wallace was the first to arrive, he spoke first.

As an opening statement, Wallace vowed to represent all of Maryland “for the first time in 30 years.” He pointed out that “we’ve been going (in) the wrong direction,” so it was time to “alter our course until you get it just right.” Instead of the government’s favored cure of increasing taxes and regulations, Wallace advocated for what he termed a “maximum wage” that government can’t supply.

Wallace spoke at length about the Reagan years in his remarks, adding that he knew a number of his associates and opining in response to a question that we “needed a Jack Kemp model” for a Senator. He contrasted himself with prospective opponent Chris Van Hollen, who Wallace challenged for Congress in 2014, calling Van Hollen the “superfailure” of the supercommittee that, among other things, cut the defense budget. Echoing Reagan on the topic, Dave noted he believed in peace through strength.

Yet one topic Wallace expounded more at length on was a subject where I think Reagan erred, immigration. Dave stated his belief that the situation at the border now contributed to the drug problem; moreover, Wallace stated that up to 15% of the Syrian refugees were embedded by ISIS, and added that on his website was a petition calling on Congress to confront the refugee problem. If immigration wasn’t dealt with, said Wallace, we’ll end up with an America where we won’t want to raise our kids – this was a problem of culture and values.

On topics brought up by the audience, Wallace established his limited-government argument with a call to reduce the federal involvement in education, vowing to eliminate the Department of Education and saying “Common Core has got to go.” He thought that it’s not the role of the federal government to enforce the rules of education, but rightfully was that of the states. Additionally, rather than the “apple” that represents the preferred politicians of the teachers’ unions, Wallace believed candidates on the conservative side should use a school bus as their logo.

Shifting gears to the oversight responsibility of Congress, Wallace chided the body for not doing that job. He called for the heads of all 180 welfare programs to be brought before Congress to justify their programs’ existence.

Wallace concluded that Maryland needs someone in the Senate who will partner with Larry Hogan, and rather than the supply-side economics associated with Reagan conservatism Wallace envisioned a model based on production and ability to work that would lift our economy.

Later, when the conversation turned to a bill regarding forced unionization in Maryland, Dave added that he supported a federal right-to-work bill and would sponsor it in the next Congress. Dave believed that in right-to-work states, “unions were more concerned and responsive.”

The winner of an award for “upholding the Constitution,” Mike Smigiel spent 12 years in the Maryland House of Delegates, including the creation of the TEA Party Caucus. In his last four, Smigiel remarked, he shared office space and a desk in the chamber with local Delegate Mike McDermott, with whom he made “a pretty strong team.”

Yet the reason Smigiel sought the Congressional seat was his disgust with the voting record of the incumbent. Calling it a vote for funding Obamacare, executive amnesty, and abortion, Mike blasted the Republican leadership and Andy Harris for supporting the CRomnibus bill in 2014. He remarked that Democrats don’t settle or think they can’t accomplish their goals, but Republicans in Congress give up their principles far too easily.

Other bills that Smigiel hammered Harris about were an in-state tuition for illegal immigrants bill both voted on in the Maryland General Assembly as well as a bill regarding country of origin labeling – Harris backed a bill that allowed companies to not label for country of origin, about which Smigiel asked if you wouldn’t like to know if your chicken you thought was locally produced was instead imported from China.

(While the bill seems to be anti-consumer, it is worth noting that it is a response to a WTO complaint from Canada.)

Other Harris measures that angered Smigiel was a bill which he alleged became part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, and Harris’s support of a bill opposed by state regulators who want Exelon Energy to meet certain conditions before their permit to operate the Conowingo Dam is renewed for over 40 years.

On the other hand, during the eight years of the O’Malley administration Mike sued them three times for actions he considered unconstitutional. In one case regarding a $1.5 billion budget item, the state court ruled against him quickly but took five years to render their formal opinion because the “question is too political.” When it comes to matters such as these, “you stand on principle and you fight,” said Smigiel.

Those principles are embodied in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, copies of which Smigiel passed out before he began speaking. But Congress was seeing its authority usurped by “a potentate President,” added Mike, who said he would be the guy to shout out “you lie!” His principle was that of “the Constitution first, always.” We needed to have the government run in accordance with the Constitution; to that end, Smigiel advocated for single-subject bills that would make legislating easier to understand.

I asked him a question which addressed a tactic the presumptive Democratic nominee for the seat, Jim Ireton, was using of painting Harris as a do-nothing Congressman. Smigiel reminded us that he had worked across the aisle with Heather Mizeur on a pre-natal care bill that got mothers care they needed while saving thousands of abortions, as well as decriminalization of marijuana legislation.

That ended the speaking portion of the program, although both Wallace and Smigiel stuck around to talk with the voters once we finished our business.

In his Central Committee report, Mark McIver announced we were still seeking applicants for the Board of Education seats opening up later this summer. He also distributed a proof copy of a mailing to be sent out to unaffiliated and certain Democrat voters reminding them that they can still change their voter registration until April 5th. The mailing is a joint effort between the Central Committee and Republican Club.

Updating us on the Ted Cruz campaign, Julie Brewington assessed that “things are going pretty well.” They are looking for volunteers to make phone calls as well as some local sign locations. Dave Wallace chimed in to say he was also looking for the same thing locally. He had brought a few yard signs and shirts as well.

(Unfortunately, the ones on the bottom left didn’t end up in the garbage. #NeverTrump.)

Shelli Neal, who was speaking for Jackie Wellfonder on behalf of Senate candidate Kathy Szeliga, announced they would be knocking on doors soon.

In club news, Woody Willing announced our scholarship winners had been selected and would be introduced next month. Jim Jester told us that he would be coordinating this year’s Crab Feast, for which we needed to nail down the date and location.

Finally. John Palmer from the Board of Education revealed that Dr. Donna Hanlon would be the new Wicomico County superintendent of schools. and one of her first challenges would be redistricting.

So the candidates said their piece, the audience got their questions in, and we will roll along up to next month’s meeting on April 25 with a speaker to be determined. Chances are this will be our legislative wrapup meeting.

Odds and ends number 82

It’s time once again to go through my e-mailbox and share some of the more interesting things I saved for just such a purpose.

There wasn’t much play from this in the national media, but recently the Americans for Limited Government group released a poll they commissioned from pollster Pat Caddell that showed wide opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement:

Republicans are even more likely to oppose bad trade deals than Independents or Democrats. Once they find out what’s in it, Republican voters overwhelmingly oppose TPP, 66 percent to 15 percent. Democrats only oppose it 44 percent to 30 percent, and Independents oppose it 52 percent to 19 percent.

TPP does sound like a bad deal, but the key words are “once they find out what’s in it.” To me, it’s a little bit of a push poll but in reading some of the other findings we can deduce that Americans are a little pissed off about the state of their affairs, blaming the politics of Washington for their plight. I’ll come back to that in a bit, but as for the TPP and its opposition the ALG group has put together a website with their thoughts on the deal.

While as I noted the national media didn’t make much of it, the question did make it into the Miami GOP debate.

I noted that the voters Caddell surveyed were upset with inside the Beltway politics, and in a recent column at Conservative Review Dan Bongino discusses why.

Whenever government tries to pick economic winners and losers, it usually picks the losers, while the political winners continue to get re-elected because their campaign coffers are filled with business lobbyists eager to get their snouts in the taxpayer-funded trough.

In so many ways this explains the rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump to the left of center and Ted Cruz (who Bongino has endorsed) to the right. For years I’ve known that the object of government is not to solve a problem but to perpetuate the solution to make the agency tasked to deal with it indispensable, yet those whose livelihood depends on big government continue to stay close to the seat of power. In Maryland it’s no surprise that the wealthiest areas are those right outside Washington, D.C. I’ve contended for about as many years that if not for the nation’s capital Maryland would be in the same boat as West Virginia.

Speaking of Trump, I suppose I’ll add my couple pennies to the nearly $2 billion of free media he’s received. But staying on the subject of Bongino, he discusses the protests Trump is enduring, most famously in Chicago but after Dan went to press with his column Trump had more strife in Arizona yesterday.

What these far-left mobs are seeking is known as the “heckler’s veto.” The heckler’s veto occurs when an organized group of far-left protestors actively cause unrest and violence at an event, and then use the threat of violence at the event to call for future events to be shut down and the speaker to be silenced. This scam has been going on for a long time. I’ve seen it again and again. As a supporter of Senator Cruz for the presidency, I’m asking all conservatives, libertarians, Republicans, and fed-up Democrats to do the right thing and stand against these tyrannical tactics, regardless of who you are supporting for the presidency.

Trump isn’t the only one who has endured the heckler’s veto. Just ask speakers like Ben Shapiro – who, by the way, is slated to be at Salisbury University Monday, March 28.

But Trump supporters and Ben Shapiro may not be on speaking terms considering Shapiro’s recent resignation from the Breitbart website. In fact, the #NeverTrump forces seem to be coalescing behind Erick Erickson and his Resurgent website. There we find the “Conservatives Against Trump” statement, which reads in part:

We are a group of grassroots conservative activists from all over the country and from various backgrounds, including supporters of many of the other campaigns. We are committed to ensuring a real conservative candidate is elected. We believe that neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump, a Hillary Clinton donor, is that person.

We believe that the issue of Donald Trump is greater than an issue of party. It is an issue of morals and character that all Americans, not just those of us in the conservative movement, must confront.

We call for a unity ticket that unites the Republican Party.  If that unity ticket is unable to get 1,237 delegates prior to the convention, we recognize that it took Abraham Lincoln three ballots at the Republican convention in 1860 to become the party’s nominee and if it is good enough for Lincoln, that process should be good enough for all the candidates without threats of riots.

We encourage all former Republican candidates not currently supporting Trump to unite against him and encourage all candidates to hold their delegates on the first ballot.

Lastly, we intend to keep our options open as to other avenues to oppose Donald Trump.  Our multiple decades of work in the conservative movement for free markets, limited government, national defense, religious liberty, life, and marriage are about ideas, not necessarily parties.

Right now the Republicans have a leader who hasn’t cracked the 50% barrier in any state (and only has done so among the few dozen voters in the territory of the Northern Mariana Islands.) In fact, Trump has received about 35% of the Republican primary and caucus vote, with some of his broadest support coming in open primary states. Is it not conceivable that there’s a reverse Operation Chaos going on from Democrats to elect the weakest possible GOP nominee, one that regularly gets thumped in head-to-head polling against Hillary Clinton and has negatives over 60%?

It’s obvious Erickson and his group realizes people are fed up, but they realize the answer is not Trumped-up populism but the bold colors of conservatism. Of the remaining candidates, Ted Cruz is the best example.

There’s also the question of whether people are ticked off enough to remove their Congressman. I haven’t heard about any major primary upsets so far this campaign (most states have only done Presidential preference) but Maryland First District voters will have their chance to hear from the most serious challenger to Congressman Andy Harris several times over the primary campaign’s last month. Former Delegate Mike Smigiel is in the midst of a series of townhall meetings around the district: he had his Salisbury meeting while I was on my honeymoon and was in Easton yesterday, but there are several remaining dates. Next Saturday Smigiel will be in Carroll County for a 1:30 meeting at the Taneytown Library, but more important to local readers are upcoming gatherings in Cambridge at the Dorchester Library on Friday, April 1 and two meetings on Saturday, April 9: 11 a.m. at the Somerset County Library in Princess Anne and 2 p.m. at the Kent County branch library in Chestertown. (That may involve some fast driving.)

Finally, the rancor even extends to the local level. Smigiel and Harris have had bad blood over the years in Cecil County (which Smigiel represented in the House of Delegates) but that county – which is almost the same size as Wicomico County, so it’s not a greatly populous county compared to others in Maryland – seems to have an outsized share of political infighting. The most recent instance came to my attention a few days ago when their Campaign for Liberty chapter attacked local County Council candidate Jackie Gregory in an e-mail I received. Her cardinal sin? Supporting what the C4L considers “establishment politicians.” On their Facebook page C4L sneers, “Gregory’s desire to become part of the Cecil County political establishment apparently outweighs the tea party principles she claims to adhere to.” (Gregory is a founding member of the Cecil County Patriots TEA Party group.)

Well, let me tell you about this “establishment” candidate: she is a supporter of mine and has been for some time. The time C4L should have acted was finding a candidate to oppose Gregory in the primary – at least one who has more than the 2.9% support he received when running for County Executive there in 2012. (Note that Paul Trapani may not be the Campaign for Liberty’s choice, either – but they are the only two on the ballot. Unless an independent bid crops up over the summer, the winner of the GOP primary will become the County Council member after the November election since no Democrat ran.) So I have made a modest donation to Jackie’s campaign and encourage more people do so.

Perhaps what is annoying to the C4L crew is Jackie’s stance on the County Executive race:

I am supportive of all of the candidates having a good, positive race which highlights the issues important to the county and their vision regarding how to deal with those issues. Each of them has a history, a record, and a voice. It is up to each of them to convince the voters that he is the best person to lead Cecil County for the next four years. I am confident that the voters will choose wisely.

Seems fair to me, since there are four running on the GOP side.

Here’s the thing about groups like the Campaign for Liberty: they’re great at bringing up issue advocacy but not so good at getting people elected. Sure, they will say that the establishment stacks the deck against them but at least Gregory has made the step of putting her beliefs into action by stepping forward to run for office rather than use her candidacy to create a hit piece to beg for money.

So ends this cauldron of trouble I have now stirred up. The other day I was called an “ass” by a Trump supporter, but as I told him I have been called far worse by much better people. Then again, I still sleep well at night so I must be doing something right. On that note, have a great week.

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