MDGOP 2011 Fall Convention in pictures and text

At the risk of a slow-loading post, there are 30 photos on this one. But I took a lot more, and you know every picture tells a story with me. And this is the story of the Maryland GOP Fall Convention, brought to you by…

I’ll begin with Friday night, the usual social time for the convention. Even though I’d never been to the Sheraton in Annapolis, once I saw these I knew I was in the right place.

(Of course, I took that snapshot yesterday morning.)

But first I sat through the first portion of the Executive Committee meeting. We got as far as a brief budget discussion and Chair’s Report before being tossed out when the meeting transitioned to a closed session. Perhaps the most interesting pieces of news were the search for a new Executive Director had attracted 40 applicants and the “several options” for a new home, where the goal is to choose the “place that’s most fiscally responsible.”

So it was time to find a hospitality suite and schmooze for votes. Because I’m a Cain supporter, that’s where I started out.

They had lots of balloons both inside and out. Naturally they had pretty substantial food too.

No, it’s not Godfather’s Pizza. Unfortunately, to be authentic we would have to endure cold pizza, considering the closest Godfather’s location is in Lancaster, PA – 72 miles from Annapolis. (Yes, I verified that.) It’s the thought that counts, right?

But I didn’t get the one thing I wanted from there because they didn’t have this swag on Saturday.

My car doesn’t have the Cain sticker on it yet. Maybe later.

But they also had the most witty signage by far, like this example.

Compare this to the quite understated Mitt Romney suite.

Many of those present there would be what one considers party brass. I see a former Chair and a current Committeeman in this picture.

Actually, I had an interesting conversation there with Audrey Scott there regarding a post I made awhile back. (I think it may be this one where I quoted something I wrote from 2006, before I was on the Central Committee.) I’m glad Audrey appreciates my passion but if that’s what she’s referring to she’s barking up the wrong tree.

Returning to the present day, I can’t ignore the other Presidential candidate with a presence there – although it wasn’t a hospitality suite.

I think that was the only Gadsden flag I saw there, despite the perceived influence of the TEA Party on GOP politics. I’m sure there is a segment of the TEA Party which prefers Ron Paul, but I wouldn’t go so far as saying he’s the most popular in that group.

It was a Senate candidate, though, who had the sweetest suite. Check out this spread, practically guaranteed to induce a diabetic coma.

It belonged to Senate hopeful Rich Douglas, who was holding court there with sponsor and former Ambassador Roger Noriega.

Notice the lapel poppy for Veteran’s Day; a nice touch.

Not to be outdone in the sweets department, fellow Senate candidate Dan Bongino had plenty of Smith Island cake, thanks to a friend. He also had the biggest space.

And, at the risk of making this look like a Weekend of local rock post, he’s the first candidate I’ve seen at these affairs with a band. These guys were pretty good classic rockers – I’m told the singer bassist is one of Dan’s county coordinators.

The signage was a little wordy but touted his endorsements. Dan revealed he has a few more before he’s done.

Besides the Bongino suite, which had decent traffic, I found the host county’s suite the most popular.

Maybe it’s all the elected official sponsors.

Speaking of supporters, it’s also worth further exploring something I touched upon with the Ron Paul table. A number of political organizations and businesses catering to that field had secured spaces. Here’s some of the examples.

The fairly new Maryland GOP Hispanic Coalition promoted an upcoming event – a forum on illegal immigration next week in Ellicott City.

As we were informed during the convention, the fight over Congressional redistricting is not over yet. This group is looking to install a much cleaner and fairer apportionment.

We had no shortage of social issue discussion there either.

Perhaps this group knew PMM was coming, and attempted a little bit of point/counterpoint.

Senator Nancy Jacobs, the former Minority Leader in the Senate, had her own backdrop. But it doesn’t reflect yet her probable run for the Second Congressional District seat held by Dutch Ruppersberger.

She also took a few minutes to appear on Red Maryland Radio, which was on location with co-hosts Greg Kline and Jimmy Braswell.

This looks pretty simple, doesn’t it? Here’s Kline getting set up earlier on.

And if you want true radio gold, give this a listen just after the 60 minute mark. Yes, it’s my RMR debut – long overdue, I must say.

But in all candor it was enjoyable to be part of that remote. Yet the show which was even more interesting came once the sun rose over Annapolis again.

Our breakfast speaker was Frank Kelly III. Now Frank isn’t an elected official, just an interested citizen and business owner who was tapped to speak to us about the marriage issue – something the GOP was “a little bit involved” in.

But I learned a couple things from Frank on the pro-life front. At the time of the adoption of Roe v. Wade in 1973, Maryland only permitted abortion in cases of rape, incest, or threat to mother’s life. That changed in 1990 when abortion on demand was passed through the Maryland legislature. And the chief Democratic opponent? A Senator named Frank Kelly.

The younger Kelly got emotional as he recounted how his dad’s eight day filibuster against the bill ended up costing him a pretty safe seat in the Maryland Senate, where he served three terms from 1978-90. “People were spitting on us” at the polls that year, but “my dad stood for life.”

Returning to the marriage front, Kelly also mentioned how the “language of discrimination has been artificially inserted” into the same-sex marriage issue. Gays want approval for their lifestyle, and thus anything said in disapproval is automatically labeled “hate speech.”

Frank yielded a portion of his time to Maryland Family Alliance president Derek McCoy.

McCoy echoed Kelly’s remarks, but also warned “there’s a culture war being waged” in Maryland and nationally. “We’re fighting for a signpost of morality” for future generations on the marriage issue, noting that North Carolina and Minnesota will have that issue on the ballot in 2012, and Maryland might, too, if a same-sex marriage bill succeeds this time in the General Assembly. Last time pro-homosexual advocacy group Equality Maryland “rigged the system” and threatened business which didn’t support their bill, McCoy claimed, but “we kept coming from so many sides” that a bill guaranteed to pass didn’t.

After breakfast, I sat in on an interesting training session on the media while others talked about candidate recruitment, fundraising, and other intriguing topics.

At lunch, Chair Alex Mooney went over some upcoming events before introducing our speaker, Delegate Neil Parrott.

Parrott was blunt in his assessment: “We see this great country under attack today.” He pointed out that the TEA Party delayed Obamacare by a year, which pushed back other noxious legislation like cap-and-trade. We had won victories on national issues thanks to the influence of the TEA Party.

In Maryland, though, Neil still believed “the arrogance of the liberal leadership is appalling.” Still, the petition drive he spearheaded against in-state tuition for illegal aliens was a model which could be used elsewhere. And since only 1/3 of the signatures gathered for the drive were under contention due to the collection system, there should be more than enough to place the bill on the ballot despite a pending lawsuit. The internet-based system “worked like a charm” in driving down the error rate, and was “a new tool” we could use – provided there’s follow-through and the issue wins at the ballot box, too.

Parrott also brought up redistricting, saying the Congressional map was “ridiculous” and that “we can’t allow O’Malley to get away with this” on either the Congressional or state redistricting.

In closing, Parrott brought up the real-life examples of Wisconsin, Maine, and New Jersey to conclude change is possible if we work hard enough to make it happen.

Finally, it was time for the main event.

I already detailed the fate of our bylaws amendment, but there was a lot more said in the session. I’m going to focus on the reports of the Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin and House Minority Leader Tony O’Donnell.

The newly elected Pipkin called it “humbling” to be selected as Minority Leader, but spent much of his time contending that Martin O’Malley wants to drive people back to Baltimore City through the War on Rural Maryland and its 1.6 million residents. Included in that assessment were the proposed septic ban, the “dangerous” PlanMaryland, Watershed Improvement Plans” which would cost 65,000 Maryland jobs, and the refusal to progress on extracting energy from the Marcellus Shale formation under Maryland’s panhandle. “O’Malley’s policies will kill jobs in rural areas,” Pipkin countered.

O’Donnell began his remarks by pointing out the GOP success in Virginia. “I sense it’s coming” to Maryland, he said, as Free State residents react to the prospects of higher gas taxes, Congressional redistricting which “insults the people of Maryland,” and a $28 billion time bomb of unfunded pensions and retiree benefits. He also had a message for the Fifth Congressional District: we “must hold Steny Hoyer accountable.”

We also heard briefly from Prince George’s County Chair Mykel Harris about the redistricting lawsuit he’s a plaintiff to. The Maryland GOP isn’t on defense anymore, he said, but instead “went on offense.” It’s fitting from a party that “passed civil rights and…will enforce it.”

Before we got to the bylaws amendment, we also received quick reports from our National Committeewoman Joyce Terhes, National Committeeman Louis Pope, Chair Alex Mooney, and Linda Hernandez of the aforementioned Hispanic Coalition. One item I gleaned from Mooney’s remarks was his claim that PlanMaryland is indeed subject to referendum. Very interesting.

So there you have it, the sights and words from our biannual get-together. Our Spring Convention should present a united front as the Presidential race will be pretty much decided, but we will have additional national convention delegates and alternates to select. In the meantime, Heather and I will likely redraft the Rule 11 amendment to reflect feedback we received, so look for that as well.

WCRC meeting – October 2011

I suppose we were lucky he didn’t have a lot more to say.

The idea behind having Delegate Charles Otto of District 38A as this month’s guest speaker was for him to give us a rundown of the recently-completed Special Session, and once we went through the regular business of the Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, welcoming of guests, Treasurer’s Report, and a moment of silence for departed County Council members Ken Matthews and Bob Caldwell, it was time for Otto to speak.

After noting that one year ago we were in the midst of a heated campaign and thanking us for the opportunity to serve, Otto termed the Special Session a “success” – if only because they stuck solely to redistricting questions and didn’t make any attempts to raise taxes.

He then showed those assembled a number of the new maps, drawing snickers from some but getting the obvious comparison of District 3 to a Rorschach inkblot test. Yet that configuration received more than the requisite 85 votes (a 3/5 majority) for passage as an emergency bill, so pending any court action these are now Maryland’s Congressional districts. One piece of good news: “Andy Harris can stay in office as long as he wants to,” Otto said.

Continue reading “WCRC meeting – October 2011”

Fresh maps, rancid gerrymandering

Or maybe it’s O’Malleymandering?

This actually came out late Friday night, but I wasn’t made aware of it until last night. Annie Linskey and John Fritze of the Baltimore Sun posted two maps they claimed were the top choices among Democrat redistricters. Neither is an improvement on the jigsaw puzzle we have now, particularly in the central part of the state – in fact, both of these solutions try extremely hard to ignore any semblance of honoring geographic boundaries. But it’s obvious the 10-0 project is in full effect with one option.

In comparison with a previous incarnation leaked to the Maryland Reporter website, there’s little change in the Democrats’ strategy of placing D.C. suburbanites with residents of the Maryland panhandle in the Sixth District. However, Option 1 brings in more rural voters by corkscrewing the district eastward from the Pennsylvania border in Frederick County around through the western reaches of MoCo back to the city of Frederick.

The question for Democrats seems to be whether to go for broke and try to oust Andy Harris or not. Their revised Option 1  tends to maintain the district as relatively Republican, but extends it west right along the Pennsylvania line to include portions of Carroll County for the first time. In return, much of Baltimore County is chopped away, with most of it going to the Seventh Congressional District of Rep. Elijah Cummings.

It’s Option 2 where they sell out to wipe out all the Republicans. While it’s a somewhat cleaner map geographically, for the first time in memory the Eastern Shore would be split among two Congressional districts – Salisbury would be the linchpin.

From Salisbury northward, the Eastern Shore would remain in District 1, with the Lower Shore population replaced by a bloc of voters accessed by a narrow strip through Anne Arundel County. Andy Harris, meet your new constituents in Prince George’s and Howard counties. Andy’s current residence would be a county removed from the new district, which would end at the Susquehanna River.

On the south and east sides of Salisbury, we would be introduced to our new Congressman – one Steny Hoyer. Yes, the Democrats would place all of Somerset and Worcester counties along with about 2/3 of Wicomico into the Fifth Congressional District. Good luck for us trying to outvote the swath of PG County left in Steny’s district to keep it a majority Democratic district. (In fact, adding Somerset might well make it a majority-minority district.)

It’s also interesting to look at the map and see the lengths Democrats went to in maintaining that each of their existing Congressional delegation remain in their districts, as pathways were created just long enough to keep  Chris Van Hollen in District 8 (which would either run westward along the Potomac or north into Carroll County) and Elijah Cummings in District 7.

Well, Democrats, you outdid yourselves. See you in court, because I would imagine either of these monstrosities will end up there.

Update: If Red Maryland is to be believed, the Eastern Shore will dodge a bullet with Option 1.

Elected officials discussion a highlight of convention

On Saturday morning some of us who attended the MDGOP Spring Convention got to hear a quartet of our state’s elected GOP officials review some of the maelstrom that is Maryland politics; in order of appearance it was Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold (pictured at podium,) Harford County Executive David Craig (right at table,) Senate Minority Leader Nancy Jacobs (center at table,) and Minority Leader in the House of Delegates, Tony O’Donnell (left at table.)

John Leopold began his remarks by commending President Obama for his role in Osama bin Laden’s untimely demise, but noted President Bush had a “key role” as well. And, even though Obama’s fortunes will be buoyed by the killing of bin Laden, the “lingering flu” of the economy will be the number one issue in 2012. “The Republcan nomination is worth having,” contended Leopold.

John is well-known for his hardline stance against illegal immigration in Anne Arundel County, and he believed the fight over in-state tuition for illegals could be “an enormously helpful issue” for the party. “Democrats don’t understand illegal means illegal,” Leopold stated.

But, in looking at another issue near and dear to Marylanders’ hearts, Leopold stated his belief that the economy and environment “are not mutually exclusive” as issues. There was a balance to be found.

In the case of David Craig, his remarks looked at items on the county level, as they dealt heavily with the Maryland Association of Counties (MACO for short.) While MACO is “supposed to be a nonpartisan organization,” the reality is it will be run by Democrats for the foreseeable future and will be a cheerleader for Martin O’Malley and his bigspending ways.

David saw the struggle as one of daring Republicans to make tough choices at the county level. “They want to make local Republicans raise your taxes” by shifting the cost of items previously paid for by the state to the local level. And even state revenue proposals stack the deck in favor of certain parts of the state – for example, Craig told us the proposed 10 cent per gallon gasoline tax would be distributed 7 cents to the state, 1.5 cents to Baltimore City, and 1.5 cents to the 23 counties.

Nor is it just monetary, as David described the new PlanMaryland initiative as a “takeover of local planning issues.”

Senator Nancy Jacobs is part of what she kiddingly termed “the dirty dozen” – one of just 12 Republican Senators in Maryland. Still, she commended the close relationship between the Senate and House caucuses in fighting Democratic initiatives. “We voted together this year,” said Nancy. Even Mike Miller “has been extremely nice to me.”

One key fight will be redistricting, which is a “major concern.” We need to attend the public meetings on the issue and attempt to rectify a situation where 31% of the legislators are Republican but represent about 46 to 48 percent of the electorate which votes Republican at the top of the ticket. It will be part of a Special Session which will likely see bids to raise the gas tax and expand the sales tax to services.

As for the recent session, Jacobs assessed it as “a pretty good year,” although they spent “too much time on social issues.” Instead, “we need to get much more involved to attract business” to the state.

Finally, Tony O’Donnell assessed his political career in Latin. I’m no Latin scholar, so I’ll give the English translation: “I came, I saw…time flies.”

O’Donnell had one key message to party leaders: stop conceding 30 to 40 seats to the Democrats each election by not contesting them. He was already recruiting for 2014; we should “engage (potential candidates) now.” Tony vowed, “we’re no longer going to concede seats to the Democrats.” And although he was a bit confounded by the party’s convention infighting, saying we needed to minimize wasting energy, O’Donnell was optimistic. “We have great opportunities,” considering we gained 6 House seats in a year where the top of the ticket lost by 14 points.

His final thought: “we have to govern effectively at the local level.” If the state’s Republican House leaders can construct a budget plan with $621 million in cuts, it can be done at the appropriate local level as well.

Overall, I thought it was a great discussion. Afterward I handed Senator Jacobs back her camera (she recruited me to take pictures for her) and asked whether only Congressional seats would be handled in this redistricting session, or if all seats were up. (All seats are under discussion, she advised me.)

But there was one thing missing from this discussion, and I noticed it Friday night as well. Even though the House Republican delegation sponsored a hospitality suite (obviously I saw many from the state delegation there, including local Delegates Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, Addie Eckardt, and Charles Otto) there was one key delegate absent from the weekend’s events: the host delegate, Mike McDermott. Obviously he may have had work or family business to attend to, but I think it was a clear missed opportunity to introduce a powerful voice (literally) for conservatism to state rank-and-file Republicans.

Another missed chance was that of introducing order to the bylaws. Because a time limit was insisted upon, we definitely tried to bite off more than we could chew by attempting to revamp something years in the making. Sure, the voting method debate was messy and acrimonious, but we can move beyond that fight now. (More on that below.)

The trouble now is that we left the process only partly done, and installed no easy fix to patch the holes. (Luckily, the existing bylaws allow the Chair to create ad hoc committees. Guess what? We need one!) Had I been more on my game Saturday, I would have realized that as I stood at the microphone waiting on all the motion business that I thought had been previously taken care off to be resolved before I introduced mine. Oh well, opportunity lost.

But as I flip through my handy-dandy steno pad to see the pages of notes I took (much of which will be shared privately with the remainder of my Central Committee as they deal with the contents of the seminars I attended) I have some other observations worth noting.

  • We spoke a lot about volunteers. Well, we have a ready-made cadre – it’s called the TEA Party! I was glad to see a number of MDCAN participants but we could always use more.
  • It wasn’t as gray as previous conventions; lots of young folks were there. Maybe someday I’ll be the old man of my own delegation, but that’s up to how things shake out in 2014.
  • I was glad to see Kent County well-represented; they’ve often missed out entirely on previous conventions. Maybe it’s because their votes count now?
  • Speaking of our upper Eastern Shore friends, Kent County had a very successful Lincoln Day dinner. Their speaker? Brian Murphy. Sometimes going ‘off the board’ and taking a chance pays off. They also seemed to be a delegation full of ‘new blood.’
  • One final quote from Nancy Jacobs: “If you are a business, you are the cash cow for Maryland.”
  • Ahead of the curve: one of the training seminars used the same video I highlighted last week. It is a useful training tool, and proves political strategy isn’t exactly secret. The hard part is execution and winning the battle of ideas.
  • You know, I thought I was at least a little hip to new technology but the New Media seminar I attended scared me because I had never heard of half the tools they discussed!

Finally, let’s talk about what we accomplished.

I am quite aware that there is a small group among Maryland Republicans who aren’t pleased with the results of this convention. Obviously I had a vested interest in something of mine coming to fruitition as well, but once the party was over and my quest had failed (since it never came up for discussion) my life went on because I still have a lot of dragons to slay whether we reform the Rule 11 procedures or not.

Maybe I was a little harsh in making the “big boy pants” statement, but let’s face this fact: Montgomery County is still a key player in the state party. Coming from a smaller county I’m well aware that we need to make a decent showing in MoCo to win statewide – or win about 70-75% of the vote in the rural areas; it’s an either/or proposition.  For example, Bob Ehrlich got 38% of the MoCo tally in 2002 when he won – but he got a shade under 37% in 2006 before falling to 31% last year. While it’s a valuable area, MoCo wasn’t the be-all and end-all of GOP success. It was the rest of the state where Ehrlich won and lost.

So let’s put the voting method behind us for awhile, as we on the Eastern Shore were encouraged to place the regional chair concept a few conventions back after we’d worked hard for it. Unfortunately, those changes we managed to make to the bylaws will mean we have a lot more work to do on them – it’s a hole we dug for ourselves regardless of the voting results.

As Republicans, we have a lot of work to do. Yes, once I figure out how the procedure will be to submit it I’ll bring back the Rule 11 issue for a vote because I think we need the discussion and I don’t want to waste all the effort on attracting TEA Party interest by making decisions like these up to a powerful few. Those who advocate other bylaw changes are encouraged to do the same if there’s demand. (As far as I’m concerned you can skip the “star chamber,” though.)

In fact, as far as goals for the convention went, all I got was this lovely tote bag.

But I won’t go sulk in a corner or threaten to take my ball and go home. Rest assured I will continue to fight for what I believe in, and revel in the fact that any coalition of like-minded counties now have the opportunity to enact needed changes.