A lack of interest?

There are still a few days to the primary, but I’m using the occasion of Greg Holmes’s entry to the Republican U.S. Senate race and check how the field is shaping up. (And if you say “who?” you’re not alone – Holmes was one of the also-rans in 2014′s Fourth Congressional District primary.)

Having done this political thing for a few years, I know that there are usually 10 or so Republicans who run for U.S. Senate in any given cycle. My first election here was 2006, the year Michael Steele was the overwhelming choice of the state party (and accordingly won 87 percent of the vote.) Despite that, there were 10 people on the GOP primary ballot, nine of whom split the other 13 percent of the vote. (With an open seat, that was a scrum on the Democratic side – they had 18 running.)

As of this writing, though, we are only at eight running on the GOP side and Holmes would be nine – so we should be in the ballpark for an average election. On the other hand, the open seat on the Democratic side isn’t bringing out nearly as many – just nine have signed up for the Democrats, with at least four being the perennial candidates who rarely get more than 1% of the vote.

Of those nine Republicans, most have some sort of electoral history: Holmes and John Graziani both ran for the same Congressional seat in 2014, while Dave Wallace was the Republican nominee against Democrat Chris Van Hollen that same year. Richard Douglas was a Senate candidate in 2012 and Richard Shawver was in 2006, but Kathy Szeliga is the only one who’s won a legislative position as a Delegate in the Maryland General Assembly. It appears Chrys Kefalas, Lynn Richardson, and Anthony Seda are first-time candidates.

So while Szeliga probably has the greatest name recognition, followed by Douglas, it is a relatively wide open race. If someone were to do favorability numbers on the GOP side right now, I doubt any one of the candidates would be over 20% favorable, with the vast majority saying “never heard of them.” I myself didn’t know many of these people were in the race until I looked tonight.

Meanwhile, in looking at our First District, it’s still a four-person race on the GOP side where incumbent Andy Harris is joined by 2014 challenger Jonathan Goff, first-time candidate Sean Jackson, and former Delegate Mike Smigiel. Jim Ireton hasn’t filed yet, so Joe Werner (who ran for the seat in 2008) is the only candidate so far on the Democratic side.

I think there will be between one and three more in each of the aforementioned races by the time Wednesday’s filing deadline expires. But I am sort of surprised that we’re not seeing as many candidates up and down the ballot this year.

Ireton makes a splash

 

Photo credit: Ireton for Congress via Twitter

A comparatively modest gathering stood by Salisbury City Councilman (and former mayor) Jim Ireton as he embarked on his quest to unseat current Congressman Andy Harris in Maryland’s First Congressional District. And his opening salvo naturally was critical of the incumbent:

I’m here (in Crisfield) today because the 1st District needs a Congressman who won’t just say no and vote no. In just 6 years in Washington, Andy Harris has done nothing for the people of the 1st District.

Crisfield, the southernmost city in Maryland, was chosen by Ireton because it was hit hard in 2012 by Hurricane Sandy, with Ireton contending it has not recovered. Jim chastised the incumbent because “he voted against $9.7 billion in hurricane relief.”

So I did a little research. It turns out the $9.7 billion bill Harris voted against was a measure to extend the borrowing authority for FEMA. Harris later voted against the overall supplemental appropriations bill but supported a substitute which would have offset $17 billion in approved aid by making other cuts (making it budget-neutral.) He ended up voting for a different appropriations bill that improved the original but did not clear the Senate. You may recall many were concerned about the budgetary impact in that era of sequestration.

Ireton went on about how Harris doesn’t support farmers and voted multiple times to repeal Obamacare before stepping boldly into Jim Crow territory.

He wants to return us to the days of insurance companies legally discriminating against Americans. Just like landlords in the 1950s could tell a black family no, and do so legally, Andy Harris wants to give insurance companies the legal right to say no to people with pre-existing medical conditions.

I think Jim forgets that insurance companies are like any other business as they need to be profitable to survive. Then again, that can be expected of a mayor who enacted the “rain tax” in Salisbury and decided landlords shouldn’t charge what he considered excessive rent.

And in the department of “it takes two to tango”:

From here on, it’s going to get ugly – Andy Harris will make sure of that. He will attack me as a person, and attack the issues you care about. He will issue dire warnings about taxes, even though I have a record of cutting fees as the mayor of Salisbury. He will issue dire warnings about crime, even though Salisbury’s Part I Violent Crimes dropped every year I was in office, and dropped almost 50% over my 6 years as mayor. He will try and scare farmers, even though the Wicomico River is now healthier than it’s been in decades due to the work of the city while I was in office.  And I can only imagine what he will make up to say about me personally. (Emphasis mine.)

I noted back in October when the rent stabilization program was bounced out of City Council that Ireton is in a catbird seat of sorts. During the next 9 1/2 months, assuming he wins the primary – and he is the prohibitive favorite given the field – Ireton can take credit for all of the city’s successes by saying that he initiated them as mayor, yet any failures will see Jake Day thrust in front of the nearest Shore Transit vehicle. I figured that Jim was simply using the office to cool his heels for a later political run, but my error was in assuming that he’d have the decency to at least wait until the results became official before jumping into his next campaign, not spill the beans on election night. (Had he upset just 33 of his prospective voters enough to make them change their minds. he would have had a lot more time to run.)

Harris now has a challenge from both the Democrat and Republican sides, with both being uncommonly well-known entities. It’s the first time he’s had elected officials against him since he took office in 2011. And it already is ugly with push polls and charges of not doing his job, so we’re already on the glide path to a nasty campaign.

WCRC meeting – January 2016

If not for Jonas, this post probably would have had at least one photo of our former Republican governor Bob Ehrlich. But since our friend Jonas left him stuck across the bridge, in lieu of the book signing fundraiser we instead had a hastily arranged meeting to go over a handful of announcements, with the first one being prospective dates for rescheduling the event are March 7 or 14. Of course, that’s subject to change and as I brought up the former date would conflict with our Central Committee meeting. Jackie Wellfonder added that the event was nearly sold out, but there were still a few spots available.

(Historically there seems to be an issue with wintertime events featuring Bob Ehrlich here in Wicomico County.)

But anyway, the meeting announcement caught me by surprise since I hadn’t even gone through and compiled the minutes from the last one. Nor did we have a copy of the Treasurer’s Report, but interim treasurer Muir Boda had the excuse of having a meeting prior to this one. We were informed, though, that there were some changes to our accounts made necessary by the abrupt resignation of our previous treasurer and integration with the WCRC Paypal account.

Julie Brewington and I tag-teamed on the Central Committee report, which didn’t feature a whole lot. As a body we had done our post-mortem on the Lincoln Day Dinner and discussed having another “retreat” as we did last year.

Jackie Wellfonder informed us that the Governor’s Ball would be February 18. That brought up another question regarding how successful a couple local events turned out to be, with Jackie and Julie replying that Mary Beth Carozza’s fundraising event was “hugely successful.” Shawn Jester added that Andy Harris’s Fruitland town hall meeting was well-attended, without the drama of the subsequent Bel Air townhall.

Julie Brewington then noted the Republican Women of Wicomico group was growing, and its next meeting would be February 3 at Brew River. Muir Boda is the slated speaker for the 11:30 lunch meeting, with Mitzi Perdue set for the March meeting. She was “very optimistic” about the direction the group was taking. Julie also took a moment to announce she was the Ted Cruz campaign coordinator locally.

Marc Kilmer gave us an impromptu update on County Council, with the biggest issues right now being the capital budget and proposed mega-chicken house. The bulk of the capital budget borrowing would be going toward updating and upgrading the county’s radio communication system, to the tune of $11 million. As for the chicken house, which would be the largest in the county, Kilmer explained that the county really had no say on its construction and operation beyond the planning and zoning aspect – it would be an agricultural use in an area zoned for agriculture. Most of the scrutiny of its operation would come from the state, Kilmer added.

Kilmer also expressed his concern with negotiations with the county’s law enforcement officers regarding a proposed pension program, noting other counties have had issues with the costs.

There were a couple legislative updates given. I updated the progress of the school board bill (SB145), which has a hearing on Wednesday, while we also were alerted to the possibility the sprinkler bill (HB19) wouldn’t make it out of committee. (I checked on the latter, and found its scheduled hearing has been cancelled.)

In more mundane club news, we’ll have to look for a new Crab Feast chair and we discussed some planning items for the coming year.

Things to add to the calendar: The RWOW group is doing a paint night at Brew River on February 11 from 6 to 8, said Julie, while Jackie added that Bob Ehrlich is scheduled for another book signing event at SU, but there you don’t have to buy the book to attend (at a reduced cost.) She suggested we could support their February 15 event without buying the book then doing the WCRC fundraiser to get a copy.

Next month’s meeting will be a double dip: Walter Olson of the Cato Institute will discuss Maryland’s gerrymandering, while Anthony Gutierrez of the Wicomico Board of Elections will demonstrate the new voting machines. That meeting will be February 22. Sounds like a good one!

A change in the First?

In the First Congressional District, winning the Republican primary is tantamount to winning the race: the latest round of gerrymandering by Maryland Democrats made sure it would be by creating an R+13 district in a state that’s nominally D+26. So what do I make of an announcement by upstart former Delegate Michael Smigiel that he has a 2-to-1 lead over incumbent Andy Harris in a pre-primary poll?

If you read between the lines, you’ll see a few interesting tidbits. And my readers may recall that my co-writer Cathy Keim talked about a survey she took a few days ago. Chances are this was the same Gravis Marketing survey Smigiel is referring to in his work, which leads me to believe this was a push poll Smigiel did to build up his support. If you’re a relative unknown in much of the district, a tactic often used is that of driving up the negatives of the established politician.

Ironically, it’s much the same tactic Harris used to win the nomination in 2008 against a well-known incumbent, Wayne Gilchrest. Wayne’s biggest issue was the leftward drift of his philosophy and voting record, so much so that a clearly upset Gilchrest later rejected his party’s nominee and endorsed the Democrat challenger, Frank Kratovil. That and the Obama wave election led to Kratovil being a one-term Congressman before Harris defeated him in the TEA Party wave election of 2010.

As Cathy described it – a manner which isn’t reflected in Smigiel’s narrative – the issue questions came first:

Calls were made to over 20,000 voters with over 600 individuals answering the poll, and results indicate that when voters were informed that Rep. Harris had voted to fully fund Obamacare, 82 percent (82%) of the Republican primary voters surveyed would not vote for Harris.

When voters were aware that Rep. Harris had voted to fully fund President Barrack (sic) Obama’s unconstitutional use of executive power to grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens, 85 percent (85%) of Republican voters said they would not vote to re-elect Harris.

Likewise, 80 percent (80%) of those surveyed reported that they would not vote to re-elect Rep. Andy Harris if they knew he had made the statement that it was “just fine” for Planned Parenthood to sell baby parts as long as they did not use federal money to do so.

Nationally, Rep. Harris is known as the most outspoken critic of D.C. and states which have chosen to allow medical marijuana, decriminalization or legalization. In the 1st District, fifty-nine percent (59%) of the Republican voters surveyed reported they would be less likely to vote for Harris because of his anti-marijuana, anti-state’s rights stance.

In that context, it’s hard to believe Harris got 29% when over 80% of Republicans disagreed with him on one or more issues.

But there are two advantages Andy still enjoys in this race. While the FEC data is still from back in September, Harris had over a half-million dollars in cash on hand while Smigiel barely registered. Certainly Harris has been fundraising since then, and incumbents often enjoy the largest share of PAC money. In the 2015-16 cycle Harris had already amassed over $166,000 from various committees, a large portion of them in the medical field.

The second advantage is the IOUs Andy has built up through donating to local candidates. Here’s just a few that I noticed on his 2013-14 FEC report:

  • Bob Cassilly (Senator, Harford County) – $4,000
  • Matt Morgan (Delegate, St. Mary’s County) – $1,000
  • Theresa Reilly (Delegate, Harford County) – $1,000
  • Mike McDermott (former Delegate, Worcester County) – $4,000
  • Bob Culver (Wicomico County Executive) – $4,000
  • Carl Anderton (Delegate, Wicomico County) – $4,000
  • Christopher Adams (Delegate, Wicomico County) – $1,000
  • Jay Jacobs (Delegate, Kent County) – $1,000
  • Jeff Ghrist (Delegate, Caroline County) – $1,000
  • John Cluster (Delegate, Baltimore County) – $1,000
  • Johnny Mautz (Delegate, Talbot County) – $1,000
  • Justin Ready (Delegate and now Senator, Carroll County) – $4,000
  • Kathy Szeliga (Delegate, Baltimore County) – $4,000
  • Kevin Hornberger (Delegate, Cecil County) – $4,000
  • Mary Beth Carozza (Delegate, Worcester County) – $4,000
  • Nic Kipke (Delegate, Anne Arundel County) – $4,000
  • Rick Impallaria (Delegate, Baltimore County) – $2,000
  • Robin Grammer (Delegate, Baltimore County) – $1,000
  • Steve Arentz (Delegate, Queen Anne’s County) – $1,000
  • Susan Krebs (Delegate, Carroll County) – $4,000
  • Addie Eckardt (Senator, Dorchester County) – $1,000
  • Michael Hough (Senator, Frederick County) – $4,000
  • Herb McMillan (Delegate, Anne Arundel County) – $4,000
  • Ric Metzgar (Delegate, Baltimore County) – $1,000
  • Johnny Salling (Senator, Baltimore County) – $4,000
  • Maryland Republican Party – $49,500

Well over $100,000 went from Andy’s campaign coffers to help build the GOP state bench with several new legislators being the result. I don’t look for a lot of those folks jumping ship to support (in several but not all cases) a more recent former colleague. That’s a significant part of the state GOP delegation, including all three who defeated Smigiel in the 2014 Republican primary. And electability is a legitimate question mark for Smigiel.

In the 2014 Republican primary, Smigiel was fourth among seven candidates, four of whom hailed from Smigiel’s Cecil County portion of the district – those four finished fourth through seventh. (Mike finished third in Cecil behind fellow resident Alan McCarthy, who finished a distant fifth overall, and Jay Jacobs of Kent County, who was second overall.) Smigiel was third among five candidates in 2010 (all three winners were Republican) and while he kept the seat in 2006 based on the overall district vote he actually lost in his home Cecil County to Democrat Mark Guns. Smigiel was barely second out of five when he won his first term in 2002, so he’s never been overwhelmingly popular at the ballot box – just good enough to win three terms in a very safe GOP district. The fact that three other people challenged Smigiel from Cecil County – knowing only one of them could win due to an election law stating only one person could advance from any particular county – indicates there was some dissatisfaction with him, just as many are now displeased with Harris.

That anger toward Harris attracted Smigiel to the race and produced a poll result like this. Since he won the election in 2010, Harris has had little in the way of a challenge from either party until now. It’s a race perhaps reminiscent of the 2004 primary between Wayne Gilchrest and then-Maryland Senator Rich Colburn – the fact Colburn got 38% against a sitting Congressman may have opened the race up four years later when state officials could run from cover again without having to risk their own seats.

If I were to handicap the election today I would put it around that 60-40 range with Harris prevailing. A lot can occur in 3 1/2 months, though, and it’s probably good for Harris that there are a couple of other lesser known hopefuls in the race to split the protest vote.

This may be a good time to point out that Andy has a couple of townhall meetings slated for the Eastern Shore. On Monday night the 18th he will be at the Black Diamond Lodge in Fruitland for a 6 p.m. meeting. (Right next door is the site of Andy’s chicken suit affair of a few years back.) Then Tuesday at noon he will be the host at the Easton Volunteer Fire Department headquarters on Aurora Park Drive.

Unfortunately, I already have a commitment for Monday night so I will have to hear second-hand about what the Congressman has to say. It will be interesting to hear how all that goes down.

Odds and ends number 78

Here I go again, producing those little dribs and drabs of information that I need a sentence to a couple paragraphs to discuss.

For example, I don’t need to give much more than an “attaboy” to Ted Cruz for continuing to stand against ethanol subsidies yet succeed in Iowa, as Leon Wolf pointed out recently at RedState. Such a stance may not make me a lot of friends among the corn farmers locally, but I’ll bet the chicken producers would love to see a decrease in the price for a bushel and I suspect once the Renewable Fuel Standard is pulled it will give them a break. Let’s hope Cruz (or some other GOP candidate) follows through on this common sense. After all, according to my friend Rick Manning at Americans for Limited Government, the deficit last year was $677 billion so putting ethanol subsidies on the chopping block would make fiscal sense as well.

As Richard Falknor at Blue Ridge Forum points out, though, we have a large number of gutless wonders in our House of Representatives who don’t care that the latest omnibus was a budget-buster. Maybe they just need to read some advice from my Patriot Post cohort Mark Alexander, who reminded us of what our Founding Fathers said 240 years ago. We really do need a revival of the Spirit of ’76. (I’m old enough to remember the Bicentennial, by the way.) As Alexander writes about the current GOP crop:

Patriots, in this presidential election year, I invoke this timeless wisdom from George Washington’s farewell address (1796): “Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.” Indeed, there are among even the ranks of Republican presidential contenders some pretenders. Caveat Emptor! The future of Liberty hinges on the ability and willingness of grassroots Patriots to distinguish between the genuine article and the false prophets.

Yet while Ted Cruz seems to be one of the few who is standing up for conservative principles in Congress, as Erick Erickson adds at his new website, The Resurgent, the Establishment has decided to throw its lot in with Donald Trump to stop Cruz’s polling advances. Yes, politics makes strange bedfellows.

None may be stranger than those in the state of South Dakota where the drive for non-partisan elections I told you about a few weeks ago made the ballot. Local talk radio host Rick Knobe is spearheading the effort:

For too long, both political parties have been shouting over each other at the expense of the voters, and now have an opportunity to do something about it. Just look at the growing number of registered Independents, which now numbers over 100,000 in South Dakota. That number is growing here and across the country. When this measure passes, those 100,000 South Dakotans will have the opportunity to fully participate in the election process.

The state as a whole had 521,017 registered voters as of the 2014 elections so it appears about 20-25% are not affiliated. If it is adopted in this election, the state will move to a non-partisan primary for 2018. I suspect the two major parties will lose a significant amount of their support should this happen, so this is something to watch as it develops.

Immigration is one of the issues that has thoroughly disgusted a number of former Republicans who bolted the party when the elites adopted a pro-amnesty stance. Recently many Republicans (including the aforementioned Ted Cruz and our Congressman Andy Harris) supported a major expansion of H-1B visas despite a claim from the Center for Immigration Studies that found no evidence of a labor shortage in those occupations. One has to question how many semi-skilled workers are idle in this area due to the H-1B visa.

Finally, I’m going to circle back to Erick Erickson. I’ve been impressed with his new website, one which I can read without being overrun by annoying pop-up ads and false story breaks that only serve to increase page view count (in order to extort more money from would-be advertisers.) On Thursday he had a candid assessment of how his website was doing and so far he seems to be successful. Good news for those of us who value content over clickbait.

So ends another (hopefully) clickbait-free edition of odds and ends. Now my mailboxes are empty once again.

Phone polls, show votes, and truth

By Cathy Keim

I was just thinking the other day that now that the holidays were over, the Congressional races in Maryland should start heating up. Before the thought disappeared, my home phone rang – and I was asked to take a survey. I usually enjoy these surveys, as I try to see behind the questions and guess who is paying for the poll. If they have a live person, then I will ask questions to see if they will give out any information.

This automated poll asked questions about Congressman Andy Harris, the incumbent, and former Delegate Mike Smigiel in the Maryland First Congressional District race. The questions were worded in this format: “If you knew such-and-such about Andy Harris, would you be more likely to vote for him, less likely to vote for him, or no difference?” After several questions the questioning switched to Mike Smigiel, repeating the process but with different questions. The phone poll closed by asking who you would vote for if the election were today and gave three choices: Andy Harris, Mike Smigiel, and Sean Jackson. This surprised me, as I was not even aware of the third candidate.

I went to the Maryland Board of Elections website and found that candidates can file a Certificate of Candidacy until February 3, meaning we still have several weeks for additional candidates to file. So far one Democrat (Joe Werner of Harford County) and three Republicans (Jonathan Marvin Goff, Jr. and Sean M. Jackson, both of Harford County, and Smigiel from Cecil County) are listed. I am assuming that Andy Harris will file before the deadline.

(Editor’s note:  Since Cathy wrote this, Matt Beers, a Libertarian candidate from Cecil County, has filed for the First District seat with the state Board of Elections. Meanwhile, federal campaign finance filings are not completed for the last quarter of 2015, but only Harris and Smigiel are listed with FEC campaign finance accounts.)

The primary is not until April 26, so we still have plenty of time for these candidates to present their positions.

But what are their positions? At least with Congressman Harris we have a current track record that can be poked and prodded, thus enabling the prospective voter to review the information and make a decision. But is it really that easy to know how any politician voted?

And even more to the crux of the matter: which vote do you look at?

John Kerry, former Senator and current Secretary of State, famously uttered the words, “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it,” cementing his reputation as a flip-flopper. But knowing which vote you are looking at and the context in which it was cast is particularly crucial in an election year. Voters’ memories are short, so a candidate usually only needs to vote as his constituents desire in the last few months before an election.

Congress just voted to pass the omnibus spending bill which provides funding for Obamacare, Planned Parenthood, refugee resettlement, and oodles of other awful programs. If your Congressman voted no on it, then he should be in the clear, correct? Well, maybe not. You need to step back and examine the background behind the bill. Why was it allowed to be brought to a vote so it could be passed with Democrat votes? The Speaker of the House controls what comes up for a vote so Speaker Ryan did not have to bring the omnibus bill up for a vote where he knew it would pass with mainly Democrat votes. But he did.

Paul Ryan was elected Speaker of the House after John Boehner was forced out for not leading the fight against President Obama. Only nine Republicans opposed his nomination as Speaker. If a Republican Congressman voted for Paul Ryan to be Speaker but then voted against the omnibus bill, did he or she vote correctly?

Let’s go further back. How do last year’s votes count? What if a Republican Congressman voted for the CRomnibus bill in December 2014? Should that be held against them if they voted against the omnibus bill in December 2015? It takes a bit of interest and time to dig through the old votes to get the whole picture. And that is why politicians can dissemble so well. Who can keep up with the constantly changing stream of votes?

Remember: as Election Day draws closer and closer, we are going to see votes on one politicized project or issue after another — none of which will significantly change anything because the Omnibus bill, funding the Federal Government through next October, was passed in December. Congress, under the GOP leadership of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave up all power of the purse and the only restraint that was possible on an out-of-control President in his final year.

Do not be impressed by these showcase votes! The deed is done and all we can do is hang on for the increasingly bumpy ride until the new President is elected — and it may get bumpier yet depending on who is elected.

So how did Andy Harris vote in the last two Speaker of the House elections? He voted for Speaker Boehner last January, even after the CRomnibus horror was pushed through (which he also voted for). He voted for Paul Ryan to replace Boehner as Speaker this fall. Despite these votes, however, he “bravely” voted against the Omnibus Bill this December.

So, to paraphrase John Kerry, Congressman Harris voted for Speaker Ryan, Speaker Boehner, and CRomnibus before Harris voted against the Omnibus Bill.

Those are the facts. What is the truth?

Out of order

It’s become almost as much a Christmas tradition as hanging stockings or decorating the tree – our national government gets another stopgap spending measure in lieu of a regular budget in order to avoid a Christmas government shutdown. We’ve done this practically every year since Barack Obama became President, and this year is no exception.

You can read any number of opinions about how bad this deal will be, such as this one from my friend Rick Manning at Americans for Limited Government or the fine folks at Heritage Action. It’s not a done deal yet, for the vote is expected to come tomorrow, but there will be a lot of pressure to vote this out and beat it out of town before Christmas. We already have the tax package that was a series of tradeoffs.

Yet I want to focus on one representative, and he happens to be ours. You may recall Andy Harris voted on an equally controversial bill last year that he explained away, as well as the same thing earlier in 2014. There’s obviously some who also still hold a grudge against him for voting for John Boehner to stay on as Speaker of the House. Somewhere in the back of my mind I seem to recall him saying something along the lines that this year’s budget process should be smooth because we could do it in regular order. So much for that.

If anything deserves explanation, the reason all this couldn’t be done in regular order would be the first thing on my mind. In November 2014 we gave Republicans a majority in Congress – they have the “power of the purse” that was the excuse as to why things couldn’t get done in the previous four years. No longer did we have only 1/2 of 1/3 of the government. So why is this still a problem?

As I see it, if Congress does its job and passes a budget that does what conservatives want to do such as defund Obamacare, rein in the regulators, and make other prudent spending cuts, the onus is on Barack Obama to sign it or deal with the consequences of a government shutdown. It’s on him. After all, if people are still blaming George W. Bush for a government shutdown 4 1/2 years after leaving office, it must be the president’s fault.

So I think tomorrow we will see another long social media post from Andy Harris explaining away another vote for bloated government. We already have the narrative that these were the cards dealt by John Boehner to Paul Ryan and next year things will be different.

Stop me if you’ve heard that one before. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Immigration: The SEASON Act and its effects

By Cathy Keim

Second in an ongoing series.

I am using my prerogative to switch to a different immigration topic because a friend sent this Breitbart article and pointed out that Rep. Andy Harris is on the list, as is Senator Barbara Mikulski. As I mentioned before, immigration is such a broad subject that one cannot cover all the angles in just an article or two.

I actually wrote to Andy Harris about the Strengthen Employment and Seasonal Opportunities Now (SEASON) Act (H.R. 3918) back on November 12. I saw him later that day at the Kathy Szeliga event and I asked him about his support for this bill.

He stated that the Obama administration had changed the regulations about the H2B visa program and HR 3918 was merely to return things to the way they were done previously, adding that employers needed the foreign workers to do these jobs that Americans will not do. I asked about the families of H2B workers and he said that they were not allowed to bring their families with them.

But I checked on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) website and it clearly states that:

Any H-2B worker’s spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age may seek admission in H-4 nonimmigrant classification. Family members are not eligible for employment in the United States while in H-4 status.

So I must disagree with the Congressman’s assertion. My concern was that if the families enter with the worker, then they will most certainly have an impact on the local economy as the children enroll in school and utilize other social services.

The H2B visa worker may be a boon for the employer, but the rest of the community is underwriting the social service costs for the cheap labor. In addition, we are paying the welfare costs of our unemployed citizens who could be working instead of a foreign worker. The taxpayer is picking up the tab in every direction while the employer is improving his profits.

The employers complain that Americans won’t do these jobs, but it is likely that they would do them if they were paid a fair wage. The employers utilize the H2B visa program to bring in foreign workers to keep the wages depressed.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management:

In a separate final rule, the departments unveiled the methodology for determining the prevailing wage that must be paid to H-2B workers.

(snip)

The Economic Policy Institute’s (vice-president Ross) Eisenbrey expressed disappointment that the rule allows alternative wage surveys to set the prevailing wage. “Employers only use these alternative surveys to ensure that they can pay their workers the least possible amount, rather than using credible and reliable survey data compiled by DOL,” he said, pointing to the seafood industry as an example as having used private wage surveys to justify “paying their H-2B workers wages near the federal minimum wage for grueling work like crab-picking, rather than the higher average wages paid across Virginia and Maryland for similar work.”

Here is a link to information about the changes to the H2B visa program that were put into effect in April of this year.

I also asked Mike Smigiel, who is running against Andy Harris for the First Congressional District seat, for a statement about HR 3918. Smigiel said:

With our real unemployment numbers over 11% and the workforce participation at one of its lowest levels in years we clearly have a workforce that is hard pressed to find employment. The most vulnerable sector of the workforce are youth, legal immigrants, and those with a high school education or less. Record numbers of Americans are living in poverty and surviving on food stamps, it is hard to fathom that Congress would expand the H2-B program to an all time high.

What Congressman Harris failed to address is the fact that those here on the H2-B program can bring their spouses and families in under the H-4 visas. Do you think that the spouses and children of those coming in under the H-4 visa program are not going to be working, going to school, getting sick? These associated costs will be additional burdens upon our already strained economy.

Our first obligation should be to helping our unemployed and underemployed citizens by providing this most vulnerable sector of the workforce work training and providing incentives to employers to hire citizens for the jobs.

It is disingenuous of Congressman Harris to sponsor this legislation since just a few months ago he voted to prohibit American poultry, beef or pork producers from listing the country of origin on their products. This does not benefit the consumer or farm workers but makes it easier for large farming corporations to take their operations overseas where labor is cheaper and there are fewer regulations placed upon their farming operations. Their products can then be sold in the US without any notice that they were not raised here. So thanks to Congressman Harris we may be eating Chinese chickens with American companies’ names on the product.

Once again, I would encourage you to pick up your phone and call Congressman Andy Harris and Senator Barbara Mikulski and ask them to not support HR 3918. Let’s put our own citizens back to work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There I ran into Tanya Tiffany from MDCAN.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A MDGOP Fall Convention preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Szeliga makes Salisbury announcement

By Cathy Keim and Michael Swartz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I also asked her about this quote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Szeliga makes Senate bid official

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Maryland Primary Election will be April 26, 2016.

    President:

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    U.S. Senate - Maryland

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    Chris Chaffee
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