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.