Making the intentions known

June 15, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on Making the intentions known 

I don’t think I have ever heard of someone making their intentions known for a local office three years before the filing deadline, but today I received word from 2014 gubernatorial candidate Ron George that he’s running again…for Maryland Senate.

But in a way this move makes sense. Let’s hear what he had to say in a release today:

(George) was drawn out of the district during redistricting after receiving more votes than either Speaker Michael Busch or Senator John Astle. He was in the process of moving closer to his Main Street business when he was approached by former constituents and elected officials who urged him to run.

Mr. George says, “I intend to build on my record of strong constituent service, fiscal responsibility, and constructive solutions to the problems of the district and state. I look forward to bringing fiscal conservative-solution oriented government to the State Senate.”

As for the early start, George said, “I know the district and its citizens well, but I want to knock on every door and hear from each person. The early start will also help in meeting our fundraising goals.”

Fair enough. I’m sure some Republicans were disappointed that they did not oust Senator John Astle from his seat, as Don Quinn lost by fewer than 1,200 votes out of nearly 44,000 cast. It’s a winnable seat, and George correctly noted he outpolled both Astle and Speaker Busch in 2010 as the leading vote-getter in that former configuration of District 30.

This move may also tend to push people out of the Senate race; however, the current District 30 already has two Republican delegates (Herb McMillan in District 30A and Seth Howard in District 30B. It also has Speaker Busch, who actually had fewer votes than McMillan but still finished comfortably in second place.

It also gives George an opportunity to dust off some of his old campaign rhetoric that didn’t play as well with a conservative statewide electorate:

While serving in the General Assembly, Mr. George was nicknamed the Green Elephant for solutions for the environment that did not raise taxes or hurt farmers, watermen, local businesses, or residents along the bay. These solutions included energy net metering and wind energy that supplemented the grid and other energy sources while lowering energy bills.

That tends to play better in Anne Arundel County than on places like the lower Eastern Shore.

So our friends in the Anne Arundel County GOP have one less seat to worry about as far as finding a fairly strong candidate goes. While a lot can happen in three years, it should make for an interesting race should this come to pass.

Pessimistic part of the state

I said the other day that I wanted to look more deeply at a poll done by the Washington Post last week, and my focus is on how the outstate areas that overwhelmingly supported Governor Larry Hogan compare with the rest of the state on these issues.

For example, the right direction/wrong track polling showed statewide respondents had a 48-40 opinion that the state was on the right path, but those who answered from outstate were the most pessimistic by a 36-55 margin. It was eight points down from any other group.

Yet those who voted for him from the hinterlands were still not sold on Hogan’s efforts. Their 43-24 approval of Hogan’s performance was almost identical to the 42-24 statewide numbers. On the other hand, they were slightly more confident in his ability to turn things around, believing he would by a 61-30 margin compared to the statewide average of 58-33.

Tellingly, the number of outstate repliers who believed the state should be governed more conservatively was several notches above the average, with 44% agreeing we need a more conservative direction as opposed to 36% overall. Only 22% favored more liberalism among outstaters compared to 28% as a whole.

And when the polling turned to the performance of General Assembly Democrats, the 49-43 favorable margin among all voters melted down to a 36-58 disapproval outside the I-95 corridor. The strong disapproval of 35% from those polled outstate was by far the highest. Outstate voters also differed from the norm as they believed the hot issue the General Assembly needs to work on was the state economy (21%) followed closely by public education and taxes at 20% each. Overall, Maryland picked public education at 26%, with taxes at 18% and the state economy at 16%.

We on the geographic fringes also didn’t fondly recall Martin O’Malley, giving him a 37-57 approval-disapproval number compared to 49-43 for the state at large.

There was also a tendency to see particular issues in a more conservative way, which is to be expected from the regions of the state which aren’t urban or suburban. In general, the Post lays out its geographic regions to specifically cover Prince George’s, Montgomery, Anne Arundel, and Howard counties, along with Baltimore City and its suburbs. The rest of us are lumped into the “rest of state” category, which covers a wide swath of the state from border to border in both directions.

One thing the Post did not poll on was the Phosphorous Management Tool, the enactment of which Hogan delayed within hours of taking office last month. Naturally, counties where this was sold as another tactic to clean up Chesapeake Bay would likely be against this change, which the rest of the state (particularly the Eastern Shore) may be solidly behind Hogan’s action.

If you ever wanted real proof that there is more than one Maryland, this poll is a pretty good indicator of the differences.

Taking the detour

As more proof that Democrats in Maryland are bereft of good ideas – or, for that matter, any clue on how to turn this state around – I bring you the continuing Michael Peroutka saga.

Fresh off his screed about the Maryland GOP and illegal immigration, onetime columnist Barry Rascovar has unearthed a new bogeyman in the person of Peroutka, devoting an entire column to rehashed opinions about how frightening Peroutka’s Christian Reconstructionist views are – a “bizarre view of government,” as Rascovar writes. Peroutka “could be the nail in the coffin for the Republican Party’s hopes of winning over independents and conservative-leaning Democrats,” writes Rascovar. Like he honestly cares about the fate of the GOP? Truthfully, I think the people are smart enough to see through this ploy for what it is, the last refuge of scoundrels.

Naturally, a group of Democrats has put together their own anti-Peroutka website, emblazoned with the Confederate flag. As Len Lazarick writes at Maryland Reporter:

Anne Arundel County Council member Jamie Benoit and a prominent Democratic lawyer have launched a political action committee and website called StopPeroutka.com “dedicated to educating voters on the theocratic policies and bigoted national network of Michael Peroutka,” a Republican running for Anne Arundel County Council in District 5.

Benoit is term-limited and this is not his district.

Dan Clements, an Annapolis resident who is former president of the Maryland Trial Lawyers Association and active in many Democratic political campaigns, is the treasurer of StopPertoutka.com, which filed its paperwork 10 days ago.

So it’s an outgoing Anne Arundel County council member and a trial lawyer who are worried about a county council race while Rome is burning – from February through July this year, Maryland has shed 16,600 jobs, 14,500 more people are unemployed, and the largest employment sector remains government. All this is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, yet Democrats from Anthony Brown on down are completely concerned about one candidate’s views.

If Michael Peroutka wins, he will be just one of seven members on Anne Arundel County Council. He’s already become one of 13 members of the Republican Central Committee in Anne Arundel County, but will be a minor cog in the 300 or so who make up the state Central Committee. It’s not exactly great odds if you’re looking to build up a theocracy, now is it?

So I’m going to restate what I think should have been made clear a month ago when the subject first came up:

While I don’t personally agree with the League of the South’s views on secession, the fact that Democrats are using this national issue in a local race speaks volumes about what they’re worried about come November. As a local Council member, Peroutka will have little influence on broad cultural and spiritual context nationally, although one has to ask why our opponents would disagree about reminding our people that we were “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.”

Rather, the focus should be on the important issues where the opposition regularly falls short: addressing a “rain tax” which is unfairly penalizing certain counties of the one state which has rolled over to federal demands rather than standing up and asserting a shared solution proportionate to the cause of the problem, rightsizing a local government which can be more efficient in its services while minimizing its reach into people’s pockets, and, above all, listening to the people and not the siren song of a state government too powerful for its own good, one where the opposition has fiddled while this great state burned under a stalled economy and terrible business climate.

As long as Peroutka can be a trusted public servant who devotes his time and effort to the people of his district while advocating for the causes he’s placed on his platform, his affiliations are his business. It is a local matter and I trust the voters of his district will judge the candidates accordingly.

So when the other side asks about Michael Peroutka’s views, ask them if they’re as important as the desire of any of the 14,500 recently unemployed people in the state to get a job. Either that retort shuts them up, or if they continue you know they have nothing.

Running for the tall grass

Over the last several days, it’s become clear that Democrats believe they own this state lock, stock, and barrel. Why else would they raise a stink about an otherwise obscure local county council race?

On June 24, Michael Peroutka won the Anne Arundel County District 5 County Council primary on the Republican side by just 38 votes out of 7,181 cast in a five-way race – meanwhile, the Democratic candidate won with a majority out of the 4,062 votes Democrats in the district tallied. Presumably, then, this is a majority-Republican district; however, Peroutka won with just 32.5% of the vote but defeated incumbent Council member Dick Ladd in the process. Ladd’s downfall, according to Peroutka, was his vote in favor of Anne Arundel County’s “rain tax.” Peroutka also noted his belief that the rain tax was “an end run around the (county’s) tax cap.”

This is the platform Peroutka ran on:

I have an American View of government. I believe, like many others across America and my home state of Maryland believe, that there is a God, the God of the Bible, and that our Rights come from Him, and that the purpose of civil government is to secure our rights. I am the only candidate who pledges:

  • To NEVER increase taxes for any reason, period!
  • To work for the repeal of the rain tax which Dick Ladd voted for “with pleasure.”
  • To be guided in all things by the original, true view of American law and government which is: There is a God; our rights come from Him; and it is the purpose of government to protect God-given rights.
  • To work tirelessly to make government smaller with less debt.
  • To courteously pay attention to what our citizens say when they come before the County Council.

I am strongly for:

  • Traditional, man-woman only marriage;
  • 2nd Amendment right to self-defense;
  • Legal protection for innocent, unborn human life.

And strongly against:

  • Obamacare;
  • Common Core;
  • And any programs or proposals not authorized by the US Constitution or the County Charter.

I will admit that few of these are applicable to the Anne Arundel County Council but the idea of smaller, more limited government is appealing – or at least it was to the plurality of voters. So what was the issue?

Peroutka is “affiliated” with the League of the South, a group which claims to stand for “Servant Leadership, State Sovereignty, and Southern Independence.” In addition, their statement of purpose is to:

“We seek to advance the cultural, social, economic, and political well-being and independence of the Southern people by all honourable means.”

I say “affiliated” because Peroutka is currently listed as neither a state or national leader of the group, but was previously appointed to its board.

Regardless, the group has attracted the attention of the left-wingers of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which classified the League of the South as a “neo-Confederate” group:

The League of the South is a neo-Confederate group that advocates for a second Southern secession and a society dominated by “European Americans.” The league believes the “godly” nation it wants to form should be run by an “Anglo-Celtic” (read: white) elite.

The SPLC also considers the American Family Association, Family Research Council, Federation for American Immigration Reform, and WorldNetDaily among its targeted “extremist” groups, although it also considers the Nation of Islam and New Black Panther Party in that vein as well. Perhaps there are some groups too far to the left for them.

It was the SPLC involvement which got a couple prominent Republicans to run for the tall grass. Larry Hogan quickly disavowed the “secessionist” Peroutka, while Anne Arundel County Executive hopeful Steve Schuh called on Peroutka to resign from that group. Others took a wait-and-see approach.

While most people reading this have probably never heard of the League of the South, I actually wrote about one of their Eastern Shore events in 2012. The “Take Back Maryland Rally” featured onetime Congressional candidate Robert Broadus, State Senator Richard Colburn (speaking on Eastern Shore secession) and David Whitney of the Institute on the Constitution, which Michael Peroutka co-founded. I did not attend the event, but noted at the time that a number of their ideas (short of secession, since we already had that war) were worthy of discussion in a cultural and societal context.

Democrats have become good at painting Republicans in a negative light for casual encounters with unpopular causes – for example, in 2010, an Ohio Congressional candidate was targeted by liberal media because he played a Nazi soldier in various World War II re-enactments as a hobby. (Never mind that Rich Iott was a successful businessman and film producer.)

To me, the proper response would have been along these lines:

While I don’t personally agree with the League of the South’s views on secession, the fact that Democrats are using this national issue in a local race speaks volumes about what they’re worried about come November. As a local Council member, Peroutka will have little influence on broad cultural and spiritual context nationally, although one has to ask why our opponents would disagree about reminding our people that we were “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.”

Rather, the focus should be on the important issues where the opposition regularly falls short: addressing a “rain tax” which is unfairly penalizing certain counties of the one state which has rolled over to federal demands rather than standing up and asserting a shared solution proportionate to the cause of the problem, rightsizing a local government which can be more efficient in its services while minimizing its reach into people’s pockets, and, above all, listening to the people and not the siren song of a state government too powerful for its own good, one where the opposition has fiddled while this great state burned under a stalled economy and terrible business climate.

As long as Peroutka can be a trusted public servant who devotes his time and effort to the people of his district while advocating for the causes he’s placed on his platform, his affiliations are his business. It is a local matter and I trust the voters of his district will judge the candidates accordingly.

At the same time, perhaps we need to look a little bit closer into who the other side affiliates with. Chances are there are skeletons in their closets which really will negatively influence how they operate.

Team players

I’ve heard a lot of talk about nominees who are RINOs and sitting out the election because so-and-so won the primary and they don’t want to vote for the “lesser of two evils,” and it always amazes me because this doesn’t happen on the other side. Here’s a case in point from a fawning AP story by Steve LeBlanc about Senator (and potential Presidential candidate) Elizabeth Warren.

Now, Warren is continuing her fundraising efforts, with a planned Monday event with West Virginia Democratic Senate hopeful Natalie Tennant. Tennant, West Virginia’s secretary of state, is vying with U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito for the seat held by retiring Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller. Capito is favored and holds a hefty cash advantage.

Capito’s campaign has also been quick to target Warren, calling her “one of the staunchest opponents of coal and West Virginia’s way of life.”

Warren has conceded that she and Tennant — who, like (Kentucky Democrat Senate nominee Alison Lundergan) Grimes, has criticized Obama’s plans to limit carbon emissions from the coal industry — don’t agree on everything, but can come together on economic issues facing struggling families.

So it’s obvious that the Democrats have their own 80/20 rule, but unlike some on our side they don’t take their ball and go home based on the non-conformance of the 20.

We had our primary, and at the top of the ticket there were 57% who voted for someone else besides our nominee – many of those live here on the Eastern Shore, where David Craig received 49.6% of the vote and carried seven of the nine counties. There can be a case made that Craig’s running mate, Eastern Shore native and resident Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, was a huge factor in his success here, but the fact remains that this area I live in was one of the two areas Hogan was weakest (the other being southern Maryland, where Charles Lollar resides.) These are votes Hogan will need, and surely many will migrate his way because he’s the Republican nominee.

On the other hand, Anthony Brown got a majority of the Democratic vote and carried all but a few counties. Those three on the Eastern Shore, plus Carroll County, aren’t places Brown would expect to win in November anyway – except perhaps Kent County, which was the lone county Heather Mizeur won and which only backed Mitt Romney by a scant 28 votes in 2012.

The path to victory for any statewide Republican candidate is simple, because Bob Ehrlich did this in 2002 – roll up huge margins in the rural areas and hold your own in the I-95 corridor. Ehrlich won several rural counties with over 70% of the vote in 2002, and got 24%, 38%, and 23% in Baltimore City, Montgomery County, and Prince George’s County, respectively. When that formula didn’t happen in 2006, he lost.

Granted, demographic changes and other factors may not allow Larry Hogan to pick up 65% of the vote in Anne Arundel County, 61% in Baltimore County, or 56% in Charles County, but it’s possible he does slightly better in Prince George’s and may hold some of those other areas. Turnout is key, and we know the media will do its utmost to paint Anthony Brown as anything other than an incompetent administrator and uninspiring candidate – as the natural successor to Martin O’Malley, who has done a wonderful job further transforming this state into a liberal’s Utopian dream at the expense of working Maryland families, one would have expected Brown to have picked up at least 60% of the Democratic primary vote.

Yet you can bet your bottom dollar that even the most diehard Mizeur and Gansler supporters may hold their nose but will still push that spot on the screen next to Anthony Brown’s name. They may have several points of contention with Brown on key issues, but the other side will push those aside to maintain power.

Perhaps Natalie Tennant over in West Virginia had misgivings for a moment about inviting Elizabeth Warren for a fundraiser, but she realized that there is a segment of her would-be supporters who would gladly contribute more to her campaign to meet Senator Warren, despite the fact they are on opposite sides of a particular issue. To Warren, the end goal of holding that seat in her party’s hands and maintaining a Democrat-controlled Senate was more important than conformity with the one place where Tennant may go against leftist orthodoxy.

If we’re to upset the apple cart here in Maryland, we have to deal with the obvious flaws in Larry Hogan’s philosophy and platform at the most opportune time – when he takes office.

2013 Maryland GOP Fall Convention in pictures and text

I think I can get all this in one part. To be quite honest, this convention didn’t match the buildup.

It was sort of strange. I noted earlier in the week that the whole Lollar controversy in the blogosphere overshadowed the months-long debate over the open primary question, and then the prospect of a Larry Hogan gubernatorial announcement upstaged several other events.

These were the scenes around the main ballroom on Friday night after arrival.

There was no doubt that they were proud of their achievements.

And something tells me that most of these stickers were gone by the end of the night.

The Change Maryland party even had a live band, called the Great Escape Band. I noted on Facebook that may be something subliminal if Larry doesn’t win.

Aside from one song they sort of butchered up in my line of thinking, the band was really pretty good. They also reinforced my belief that there’s not a band which doesn’t know ‘Mustang Sally.’ Although he actually didn’t write the song Wilson Pickett must be proud, wherever he is.

But when they took their break, the real rock star came into the room.

What I have found interesting in looking back and listening again to what Larry said is that my interpretation is much different than what Larry presented to other outlets.

This, which I transcribed from the remarks he presented, is part of what Larry Hogan said last night:

Now everyone who knows me knows that I love this state, I hate to let people down, and that I’ve never walked away from a tough fight.

I’m not a professional politician – I’m just a businessman – but I don’t think that you need to be campaigning all throughout 2013 for an election that takes place at the end of 2014. But, you know, we are getting pretty close to the end of the year.

I promised my wife and family that I would spend a little quality time with them over the holidays, and I’m looking forward to that.

And as you may know I founded and run a group of companies that has brought hundreds of businesses and thousands of jobs to Maryland, and I promised the employees and my colleagues that I would stay at the helm and continue to work hard with them to try to have a strong finish to the calendar year.

So there won’t be a formal announcement or an official launch until January, but tonight – tonight I wanted to be very clear about our intentions.

I happen to believe very strongly that the people of Maryland simply cannot afford another four years of O’Malley/Brown/Gansler tax and spend policies.

Hogan went on to say, “This isn’t a fight between right and left, it’s a fight between right and wrong.

I honestly believe people went in there expecting Larry to make the formal announcement last night, so once he made his remarks a good percentage of the people left his party.

Of course, Hogan’s wasn’t the only party. Before I stopped by the Change Maryland event, I dropped in to Ron George’s suite which featured this.

I had one other photo which, alas, didn’t come out. Ron actually had a pretty lively thing going early on.

Just downstairs from Ron was David Craig’s suite. The candidate wasn’t there because he was at the RGA meeting in Arizona, but David had a lovely second-in-command to take his place.

LG hopeful Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio held down the fort. It’s worth noting they had pretty good traffic.

They also have a slew of printed material. I suppose you can cut out the Craig part if you really share the sentiment.

Instead of a suite, fellow candidate Charles Lollar (who was also in Arizona at the RGA) had a lobby table.

On the table, among the other handouts, was a letter explaining his absence, which read in part:

Unfortunately, this means I will miss the opportunity on Friday evening to meet with you, answer your questions, and tour the hospitality suites, but I look forward to joining everyone on Saturday to share my plans for returning prosperity to Maryland.

One place Charles may have found himself welcome was the Maryland Liberty PAC suite, which was all by itself on the other end of the building. Despite that, they had a lively group.

Alas, I think I missed this presentation.

The other suites were county suites from Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties. This photo was of the Anne Arundel suite, which by the way had the best food.

But it seemed like a lot of the air was sucked out of the celebrations early, with most of the parties finished before the clock struck 12. That’s when I took to Facebook and wrote:

So my thoughts on day 1 as I head to bed:

I’m sure I’m not the only one scratching my head over Larry Hogan and his decision to wait to announce his intentions until January. The chatter around the convention seemed, well, less than positive. He had 1,000 supporters in a festive mood and plenty of press only to cite family and business as reason to wait.

There were a number of good parties about, though, and I renewed acquaintances with a number of friends and fans. But pardon me if tomorrow seems a little less exciting.

I think I’ll have some more thoughts on all this tomorrow, but allow me to move on. They probably won’t be in line with the thoughts of these gentlemen: from left to right, Jeff Quinton of The Quinton Report and Greg Kline, Mark Newgent, and Andrew Langer of the Red Maryland Network.

And no, I was not on their show last night. Wasn’t sought out and didn’t seek them out – gave some others a chance.

This is what I saw looking out the window this morning.

So when I woke up, I was at least expecting to deal with this lengthy issue regarding open primaries – finally, a chance to decide. Wrong!

I suppose I should back up and point out that I did not cover the Friday evening Executive Committee meeting as I usually do. There were a couple reasons for this, but the primary one is that I was the escort for a good friend of mine who was the lucky recipient of my second Change Maryland ticket. But had I done so I may have found out that open primaries wouldn’t be discussed. Nor did I do breakfast this time, because the speaker didn’t appeal to me.

So the first (and only) Saturday event I attended was our combination lunch and session.

Let me say that I thought having the lunch and session as we did was a splendid idea, with the key reasons being we didn’t have to get settled in after lunch in a different venue and the fact we could sit at tables – no more balancing my note pad on my lap.

First we heard welcoming remarks by Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman.

Yes, the photo is dark. But Laura had an intriguing story of being an MBA without being a high school graduate. Her remarks reflected a philosophy which said “over and over, if I worked hard, opportunity would be available to me.”

“My story could only happen in this country,” she added. “That’s why I’m a Republican.” She expressed the belief that hard work should equal opportunity.

Our luncheon speakers both came from the RNC.

Kristal Quarker-Hartsfield is the director of African-American Initiatives whose family “has been Republican since Reconstruction.” Her task was to spread the Republican message to areas not typically reached by the party, including black churches, historically black colleges and universities, and so forth. She added that Reince Priebus was “serious about going into these communities and doing things the right way.”

Meanwhile, Stephen Fong noted there’s “a good mix of people” here, and talked about the GOP’s renewed emphasis on minority communities. He made the case that many blacks would “consider” voting Republican if we were “just showing up.”

There was a buzz about the next speaker as well.

Described by Chair Diana Waterman as the future of the party, Annapolis Mayor-elect Mike Pantelides briefly outlined some of his secrets to success, particularly in social media. (The Twitter debate seems like a good way to promote brevity of remarks.)

With that out of the way, we rolled through some convention business so routine I snapped this on the Allegany County sign.

I guess the one interesting part was the complaint that the minutes didn’t reflect a resolution which was on the spring agenda but not brought up – the Tari Moore resolution tabled a year ago. But parliamentary procedure showed it was dead once the gavel fell in April.

So we moved on to State Senator David Brinkley’s report on the Senate, where we have a “tremendous field of candidates.” He made sure to mention that if Anthony Brown thought he’d have a coronation, he should have a cup of coffee with Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

Brinkley bemoaned the economic state of the state, making the case that job creators are “voting with their feet” and “anyplace south of the Potomac is friendlier (to business) than Maryland.” If we want more manufacturing jobs, Brinkley added, “right-to-work has to be one of the conversations.”

Overall, David believed that “even the Democrats are disgusted with the games and gamesmanship.” All we need are candidates who are conversant with the issues.

On the House side, Delegate Kathy Szeliga was kind enough to pass out her report, which highlighted many of the measures to be considered in next year’s session. It’s a list which includes tax cuts, a repeal of the “rain tax” and Common Core, protecting charter schools and creating a voucher system, and modifications to the gun bill.

Moving into the Chair’s Report, Diana Waterman exhorted us to “take advantage of all the opportunities our liberal Democrats gave us.” She also pushed an initiative called the Old Line Club, which was a monthly fundraising of $8 or more a month, automatically deducted.

But I found the Executive Director’s Report from Joe Cluster made me sit up and take notice: county-by-county goals. Even the Republican strongholds of Carroll and Garrett counties had marching orders: hold what you have and help other counties out.

Nicolee Ambrose, in her National Committeewoman’s Report, touted the successes of the Super Saturday program in Annapolis and Frederick. It also served as a good test market for issue advocacy, and next year the program will be expanded and divided into pre-primary and post-primary positions.

She also related the success of 3-part fundraisers like the Allen West event in Prince George’s County as a model for others to follow.

On a national scale, Nicolee spoke on IT improvements the party was undertaking as well as the winter RNC meeting in Virginia.

As is often the case, National Committeeman Louis Pope was optimistic: “We’re going to have a phenomenal year in 2014,” he predicted. He shared good news on the financial front and on how the party was working on regaining its technological advantage. Moreover, Obama’s “Teflon-coated presidency is coming to an end,” said Louis.

Pope also spoke on Maryland, calling the state one with a “very angry electorate” and “very energized (GOP) base.”

Finally we made it to resolutions. Two of them made it out of committee and two didn’t.

The ones which were presented to the floor came from John Fiastro, Jr. and Dave Myers.

You could call Fiastro’s resolution the Don Dwyer resolution, since it seemed tailored with his situation in mind. But Delegate Michael Smigiel, who was carrying a proxy, spoke up and called it “too broad.” An amendment to allow for acts of civil disobedience to address Smigiel’s concerns failed on a voice vote when Smigiel noted “there’s not enough lipstick to put on this pig.”

Once the question was called, the Fiastro motion failed by a large margin, over 75 percent voting against.

The other resolution was one which called on the party to stop sending “mixed messages” and integrate the pro-liberty community. It lost on a voice vote, even after the “mixed message” portion was excised. But Diana Waterman promised to create an advisory committee to hear the diverse portions of the party after the first of the year. So we’ll see.

Certainly the Maryland Liberty PAC and other groups will be watching.

There was an attempt to get one other resolution to the floor concerning the Frederick robocall, which had some support. But more people wanted to adjourn, which was the motion presented by Nick Panuzio of Talbot County. He’s good at that. (Update: I’m told by Denise Lovelady of Talbot that it actually was Josh Horner who motioned to adjourn, but I heard the motion credited to Nick by the Chair. So let’s say Talbot County is good at that.)

Upon driving home, though, the four of us who traveled together saw perhaps the prettiest sunset we’d seen in quite some time, so I’m going to take it as a divine sign we did something right even if it wasn’t expected.

Not to be forgotten

In recent weeks, 2012 U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino has created a lot of buzz regarding his future plans, rumors which included everything from being appointed to the recently vacated Anne Arundel County Executive post or being elected Maryland Republican Party Chair to a potential run for Governor. While the two former options were eliminated in a statement from Dan, many still speculate about his possible pursuit of the Governor’s chair.

Apparently the proverbial “last year’s model” didn’t want people to forget about him and his own run from not-so-long ago, so I received an e-mail on Saturday which explained the following:

Dear Friend,

Eric Wargotz believes that the economic health and well-being of all Americans must come first. That is precisely why we are working with Eric to determine what his next move should be. As the 2014 elections approach, we are examining opportunities at both the State and Federal levels as well as locally.

Eric Wargotz is a rare blend of individual who truly understands what it is to serve. As a physician, caring family man, business owner, former County Commissioner and U.S. Senate Nominee, Eric Wargotz understands that you come first, that together we hold the power and that he works for all of us. Conservative and compassionate, Eric Wargotz understands the complex issues facing us and believes in working towards common-sense solutions and not through oppressive government policies which threaten our liberties and our private enterprise. Eric Wargotz has a proven record of fiscal conservatism including reducing taxes and job creation.

Eric Wargotz was Maryland’s Republican U.S. Senate Nominee in 2010 and continues to be an active community leader throughout the State. Dr. Wargotz garnered the largest percentage of the vote in the history of challenges to this entrenched incumbent Senator and Washington Insider. Eric Wargotz is a respected physician, small-business owner, and former elected President of the Queen Anne’s County, MD Board of County Commissioners who while in office:

  • KEPT his promises.
  • LOWERED taxes.
  • INCREASED government transparency and accountability.
  • Made PRIVATE SECTOR JOB CREATION a top priority.

“Like you, I am outraged by career politicians who care more about their political lives than the people who elected them. Politics as usual has gotten us into this mess, and both parties share the blame for where we are today. It’s time we returned to our core roots of fiscal discipline and job creation to dig America out of this hole and secure our nation’s future. Please support me and my team in our effort to raise necessary funds to pursue the path to victory as we survey the landscape to explore how best I may serve you.

Thank you in advance for your support and generosity.”‘

In the 2010 election, Wargotz had a higher percentage of the overall vote than Dan Bongino received in 2012, but only received 655,666 votes compared to 693,291 for Bongino two years later – bear in mind also that Dan had an independent candidate drawing perhaps 3/5 of his vote away from Dan’s column.

And just like Dan, Eric’s options are limited by the small number of statewide offices on the ballot this time around; however, Wargotz does have a track record of winning in Queen Anne’s County which he alluded to in his letter. Shrewdly, he did not preclude starting over politically with a local office (and obviously, smaller budget required.)

However, Eric has limited 2014 options for higher office unless he wants to challenge Maryland’s lone Republican federal elected official in Andy Harris for a Congressional seat or incumbent Republicans in a race for the General Assembly. In essence, his only option for a statewide office is a run for governor – but is it a winnable race for him? Given the bullet points he outlined in his missive, it seems to me that’s the direction Eric is pointing in. (Moreover, for a local run Eric could probably launch his campaign later this fall given his name recognition in Queen Anne’s County. So why else would he start talking up his options now?)

Therefore, it would not surprise me to see this message as a precursor and feeler for a run for Governor. (Revising his website with this message is also a clue.) Obviously, except for Bongino, Eric is the only one among the current presumed contenders who has previously run statewide, although Charles Lollar has run the statewide Americans for Prosperity organization for some time. (The same can be said for Larry Hogan and Change Maryland.) But money may be an issue, as Eric wasn’t a prolific fundraiser in his U.S. Senate bid and instead relied a lot on out-of-pocket funding. While Wargotz has an outstanding state account, as of January 2012 he only had $3,435 in it (with a loan balance of $11,000.) Last month Wargotz filed a Affidavit of Limited Contributions and Expenditures on that account for the period since January, 2012 – an ALCE affirms a campaign has not spent or received over $1,000 in the previous filing period. As always, though, the ALCE is not binding for a future period.

But if Wargotz wants to be included in the conversation of potential 2014 gubernatorial candidates, sure, I’ll start that ball rolling. Since most other areas of the state have a candidate hailing from their section, why not one from the Eastern Shore?

I’m still trying to figure out who “we” is, though. I know he reads this space, so perhaps Eric can enlighten me and the rest of us.

Bongino: thanks, but no thanks to Anne Arundel, MDGOP posts

In a statement released on his Facebook page and Twitter, Maryland’s conservative wunderkind Dan Bongino revealed this afternoon that his next course of action will be conducted away from Annapolis, either as Anne Arundel County Executive or Chair of the Maryland Republican Party.

I would like to update you on rumors you may have heard about my interest in the Anne Arundel County Executive position and the MDGOP Chairman position. I will not be seeking either position at this time, although I am extremely grateful to all of those who emailed and called in their support to a number of elected officials.

Regarding the decision making process for the vacant Anne Arundel County Executive position, I have chosen to disengage from a process that has become weighted towards insider politics. This County needs a reformer, not an insider, and any illusions otherwise are driven by a political agenda and not the sentiments of actual voters on the ground.

Regarding the MDGOP Chairmanship, although I respect the MDGOP Party infrastructure for their recent outreach initiatives and I feel the Party is headed in a better direction, I have chosen to take my platform and my commitment to a Maryland government that is citizen-centric, rather than insider-driven, to the people via a continued, robust grassroots effort.

I tried not to spread any rumors, but there was a huge buzz about both possibilities.

Yet I think Bongino is making the right moves, for several reasons. One is the tremendous electoral headwind which will be facing John Leopold’s successor as Anne Arundel County Executive. While I’m trying my best to follow Dan’s admonition to “cede no ground,” the circumstances which led to the opening may mean the Anne Arundel race isn’t right for Dan, while it may be a better fit for others being considered. Obviously whoever takes over the position – Kendel Ehrlich and Delegate Steve Schuh are among the names being mentioned – will need to come in as a reformer and rehabilitate the image of the GOP in Anne Arundel County. Had John Leopold not resigned, the prospects may have been better for Dan to come in for 2014 as a new voice. But because voters don’t decide this time, the decision will be one of political gamesmanship.

And as for the party chairmanship: while I think Dan could have done a fine job as the party chair, I noted yesterday that he would have to sacrifice his 2014 chances to take the position, or else leave the party leaderless in the midst of a pivotal election cycle.

So now that he’s eliminated these two possibilities, the question becomes: what will he do? It’s doubtful that Dan would run in a contested primary for Anne Arundel County Executive unless the person selected to take John Leopold’s place by their County Council decides not to run for election in 2014 – an unlikely proposition.

But does he dare run for Governor and jump into a GOP field with several known quantities who have leadership experience? One knock on Dan’s record in 2012 was his lack of a political resume, and while he tended to make light of that for a Senatorial run it’s much less likely most Maryland voters would be comfortable with a political outsider running to be the state’s chief executive.

I suspect Dan is planning to run for something in 2014; unfortunately there aren’t a lot of races which would fit his ambition. Could Dan shift his political desires into a lower gear and run for the General Assembly or Congress? Obviously he could bring a lot of firepower to such a race, but there’s also the aspect of whether he would make another run in 2016 for a Senate seat which may be vacated if things go well for Republicans in 2014 and Barbara Mikulski loses her committee chairmanship.

It’s safe to say that, for the arguably most popular Republican in Maryland, there are a lot of options awaiting his future decisions.

Mooney resigning as MDGOP Chair

In a letter set to Central Committee members, Maryland GOP Chair Alex Mooney announced his resignation effective March 1 to “pursue other ventures.”

Mooney outlined a number of accomplishments in his tenure:

First, the MDGOP is in a strong financial position. According to Treasurer Chris Rosenthal’s report distributed today at the executive committee meeting, the MDGOP raised $1.1 million in 2012, far exceeding our budgeted plan.

Second, we have experienced staff focused on grassroots, party building and supporting candidates. Your executive board team remains in place… Therefore, the party will be in good hands.

Finally, grassroots activism is at an all-time high. Over 300,000 people signed a petition to stop three of liberal Martin O’Malley’s agenda items. While the vote was not successful on Election Day, we must not overlook the fact we conservatives working together have the power to put the final vote to the people. MDGOP was a partner in this effort with MdPetitions.com, the church community and other activists.

Our new office offers a convenient downtown Annapolis location walking distance from the Capitol for legislators and Republican clubs to use. And we cut rent expenses in more than half compared to our previous location.

With the resignation of Mooney, it will automatically elevate First Vice-Chair Diana Waterman to the leadership post on an interim basis until the next state convention April 20. Waterman drew fire from conservative activists after comments last month at a Wicomico County Republican Club meeting, so it is unclear whether she would want the post on a more permanent basis.

Naturally the talk around the MDGOP will be who takes over for Mooney, and this places yet another opportunity for rising star Dan Bongino to cast his footprint on state politics – assuming he doesn’t instead secure the newly-created vacancy in the Anne Arundel County Executive post. Conversely, appointing Bongino would also either eliminate him from seeking an office in the 2014 cycle, or create another Chair vacancy in the spring of 2014, once the filing deadline for the 2014 election arrives. (Party rules stipulate a Chair cannot be a filed candidate for an elected post.)

Yet the decision will also be fraught with peril as yet another tug-of-war between the “establishment” and TEA Party activists – one obvious choice for the former group would be a second go-round as Chair for Audrey Scott, who took over the state party in 2009 after Jim Pelura’s resignation and, more recently, lost a bitterly-contested battle for National Committeewoman to Nicolee Ambrose.

The Mooney departure comes at an interesting time for the state party, which is fighting tooth-and-nail against a number of measures in the General Assembly like expanded gun control and an additional sales tax on gasoline. It will put Waterman in charge during a time when many of these bills come to a vote, meaning grassroots activists and groups may have to take more of a lead than usual.

It also leads to speculation on what Mooney is planning for 2014, whether it’s another run for Congress as he began to in the 2012 campaign before withdrawing just before the filing deadline, or a bid to retake his seat in the Maryland Senate. It’s not likely he will try for statewide office with an already-crowded field in the governor’s race and lack of qualifications for any other statewide contest (Attorney General or Comptroller.) Barring an unexpected vacancy, there will be no U.S. Senate election in Maryland in 2014.

And while Mooney leaves with a number of accomplishments under his belt, it’s worth noting that his grandiose plans for financial help for the state party failed to pan out. Yes, the state party has made a number of moves in the name of efficiency, but monetary numbers are still insufficient for the party to offer much in the way of help to 2014 candidates. Mooney’s successor will have a lot on his or her plate and a short time to put the pieces together before the 2014 campaign really gets underway.

Over the line

The latest figures are in, and the redistricting petition has enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

It didn’t appear they received a whole lot of help from the Eastern Shore, however. Here’s the totals for the nine counties so far, although they probably won’t change much as the final couple thousand signers are validated:

  • Cecil – 500
  • Queen Anne’s – 430
  • Worcester – 255
  • Talbot – 251
  • Kent – 215
  • Wicomico – 143
  • Dorchester – 128
  • Caroline – 125
  • Somerset – 20

By my quick addition that’s 2,067 signatures delivered from an area which is about 1/10 of the state’s population. So we weren’t exactly proportional here.

I think part of the reason we trailed behind the rest of the state is the fact the Eastern Shore will almost certainly stay as the most significant geographic part of the First District. But had one proposed map been adopted, a rendition which actually split the lower end of the Eastern Shore south of Salisbury off and placed it into the Fifth Congressional District with southern Maryland, I believe we would have contributed thousands more signatures. Counties most affected (Anne Arundel and Baltimore) combined for about 2/5 of the total signatures, with another third coming from counties which were (or still are) in the Sixth Congressional District. With the radical changes caused by gerrymandering, that’s understandable.

Of course, we can count on the Maryland Democrat Party to try and thwart the will of the people. Upon the announcement that enough signatures were turned in to give the referendum a chance to make it to the ballot, they sniveled that the petition drive was only a “desperate partisan power grab.” Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! Anyway, here’s their money quote from ten days ago:

Pending the State Board of Elections’ determination that the validated petition signatures satisfy constitutional requirements, the Maryland Democratic Party will weigh all options to protect the integrity of the referendum process and ensure that every petition was completed and collected in line with Maryland laws and regulations.

This from the party who wanted to have all circulator signatures notarized in an effort to disenfranchise petition signers, yet wails that any attempt at sensible photo voter identification requirements at the polls represents “voter suppression.” Yeah, they’re hypocrites. But most thinking people knew that, and they know their message is “see you in court.”

So today was a good day as perhaps yet another reason for good, conservative Marylanders to cast their ballot this November took shape. Resounding votes against in-state tuition for illegal aliens, gay marriage, and overly partisan gerrymandering which paid no attention to preserving the integrity of political subdivisions might convince the party in power that, hey, we need to listen to the voice of reason once in awhile.  (Victories for Dan Bongino and 5 or 6 Congressional nominees might also pound home a message too. Listening to Democrats and the state’s primary media outlets – but I repeat myself – spin that one would be a riot.)

But just remember we have to win these fights to set ourselves up for more success in 2014.

McDermott urges elected school board action

As do I…

On March 15th, 2012, the House Ways and Means Committee heard HB 966 – Wicomico County – Board of Education – Selection of Members – Straw Ballot. This bill, sponsored by Delegate Michael A. McDermott (Worcester and Wicomico Counties), would simply allow the people of Wicomico County to voice their opinions about the selection method of the members on the Wicomico County Board of Education. It proposes a non-binding referendum that would ask whether voters favor changing the selection method of school board members from being appointed by the Governor to a direct election by county voters.

What has happened since the hearing on March 15th? Absolutely nothing. In response to this, Delegate McDermott is asking the citizens of Wicomico County to urge the Ways and Means Committee Members to vote on this bill. In particular, please contact the Ways and Means Committee Chairwoman:

Delegate Sheila E. Hixson

Phone Number: 410-841-3469 or 301-858-3469 or 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3469

Address: Room 131, House Office Building, Annapolis, MD 21401-1912

E-mail: sheila.hixson.annapolis@house.state.md.us

Fax: (410) 841-3777, (301) 858-3777

Delegate McDermott is also asking the citizens of Wicomico County to contact the members of the Wicomico County Delegation who did not support this bill:

Delegate Norman Conway

Phone Number: 410-841-3407 or 301-858-3407 or 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3407

Address: Room 121, House Office Building, 6 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD 21401

E-mail: norman.conway@house.state.md.us

Fax: (410) 841-3416, (301) 858-3416

Delegate Rudolph Cane

Phone Number: 410- 841-3427 or 301-858-3427 or 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3427

Address: Room 364, House Office Building, 6 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD 21401

E-mail: rudolph.cane@house.state.md.us

Fax: (410) 841-3780 or (301) 858-3780

If the people of Wicomico County want the right to simply ask a question at the ballot box, they must act now!

Unfortunately, this hasn’t been a very successful year for those in the four counties who are still saddled with appointed school boards to make headway on the problem. While some of these bills are looking for more than a straw ballot, neither the one bill regarding the Baltimore City Schools nor a plethora of seven bills which would affect the composition of the Anne Arundel County board have gained anymore traction than the Wicomico County effort. In fact, two of the Senate bills for Anne Arundel County were killed in committee. Moreover, it’s also worth pointing out that the latest successes have been only to secure a partially-appointed, partially-elected “hybrid” board, which means the state still has their fingers in the local pie in those counties.

But there is one bill which has cleared the House, a bill which would change Baltimore County’s school board from a 12-person board appointed by the Governor to a 10-person board elected by district. So it can be done.

There are key differences between the Baltimore County effort and ours, though. One key distinction is that the sponsorship is bipartisan, under the Baltimore County delegation. This is why the lack of local Democratic support this year is hurting us – bear in mind all of our delegation was on board last year, but Rudy Cane and Norm Conway instead decided to listen to a tiny minority who was worried their outsized power would be eroded. (Interestingly, Cane was for the Baltimore County bill while Conway did not vote in a 124-8 tally.)

In essence, there are three (perhaps four) people holding up the opportunity to allow our voices to be heard. One is County Executive Rick Pollitt, who insists on ridiculous demands that we pony up thousands of signatures to express our support when it could be done much more easily through a straw ballot.

The second pair are Delegates Cane and Conway, who refused to get behind this bill and perhaps are convincing the fourth (Delegate Sheila Hixson) to not pull it out of her desk drawer so her committee can vote on it. Most likely it would pass the committee (and for that matter, the General Assembly) without a problem.

We have talked about this issue for at least a decade, and it’s time to get it resolved. And it may be worthwhile to impress on our local recalcitrant delegation that this could appear now, when they are not on the ballot, or it can appear on the ballot on 2014 when they’re presumably running for re-election. It’s their call, because we won’t forget who is holding up this process.

A possible rethinking

March 19, 2012 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Campaign 2012, Campaign 2012 - President, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on A possible rethinking 

A little over a month ago I wrote a post which challenged Ron Paul to prove there was caucus fraud or get out of the race. Well, at first I was criticized by rabid Paul supporters who questioned my assertions, stating it wasn’t the candidate himself making them, well, until he actually made that suggestion. Of course they ignored me then.

But after the debacle on Saturday in St. Charles County, Missouri (or as blogger Bob McCarty termed it, the “St. Patrick’s Day Massacre“) I’m reminded of another incident in the recent past. And I’ll get to that in a moment.

First, though, I want you to read a couple other accounts (The Other McCain and All-American Blogger) of the incidents, including the comments, and learn that Ron Paul supporters sometimes leave a lot to be desired in manners. All done? Good.

Now you can continue past the jump.

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