What a party should be looking for

June 20, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on What a party should be looking for 

The other day I ran across a social media post from a friend of mine remarking how it was strange to see her name on the election ballot. Conversely. for the first time in 12 years, my name isn’t on a gubernatorial primary ballot in Wicomico County – so I retire with a record of 4-2. Granted, three of the four wins were situations where I could not lose, but a W is a W. (I won twice in three tries in Ohio, too.)

Anyway, since there are several former colleagues of mine who are running this time around, I didn’t want to make endorsements so much as give you an idea of what I think a good Central Committee member would be like.

In Maryland, Central Committee members for the GOP run on either a county level at-large or as part of a district within a county. In those instances where aspirants run for an entire county, there are normally seven to nine seats available and the race basically comes down to having enough name recognition to place in the top portion. For a district, it’s harder because there is generally just one seat to be had – so those seeking the seats often need to spend money or go knock on doors, or both.

One drawback in either case is being forced to compete with someone who’s already in elected office. For example, here in Wicomico County we have County Councilman Larry Dodd running both for County Council and the Central Committee. Obviously there’s no regulation against it (several elected officials around the state also sit on their county’s Central Committee) but one has to wonder whether they are doing it to boost their party or simply enhance their chances at re-election.

So we eliminate the self-servers. What that leaves is a collection of some people who know the ropes and a number of prospective newcomers. Using the slate I face as an example, 5 of the 13 on the ballot are already on the Central Committee, with four elected in 2014 and one appointee who happened to be my replacement when I left. One of the four remaining is running for a fourth term (coming in the same time I did), two are running for a third, and one is seeking re-election for the first time.

Obviously I know these people well because I worked with most of them, so that clouds my judgement a little bit. But if you’re on the outside, the operative question to ask is whether the party you’re a member of is better off than when they started. For instance, one longtime goal of our Central Committee was to get an elected school board – it took 12 years and removing a number of elected officials who were standing in the way, but this year we finally get a choice. (Well, some of us do: my district happens to have just one person running. But there are options for the at-large seats.)

As far as elected officials go, over the last twelve years my county has gone from having a 4-3 Democrat majority on a County Council that handled both legislative and executive duties to a 6-1 GOP majority with a Democrat county executive that became a Republican in 2014. Republicans gained the Sheriff and State’s Attorney positions but lost a spot on the Orphan’s Court. The local GOP also lost one State Senate seat but picked up one Delegate seat at the same time. (In theory, the GOP lost a seat but that was because one Delegate was redistricted out of the county.) In 12 years, though, the Republicans have gone from trailing Democrats in registration by 4,145 at the end of 2006 (a D+8 county) to trailing by 3,703 as of April (a D+6 county.)

The gains have been incremental: the Sheriff came in with the 2006 election (along with one County Council seat), the State’s Attorney in 2010 (with 2 more Council seats), and County Executive in 2014. In 2010 we gained one GOP Delegate but that was because the Democrat moved up to Senator, replacing a Republican stalwart. So there’s been a pretty good record of success for the Central Committee incumbents in my county, but your mileage may vary. (It was also a very stable group: for one term – 2010 to 2014 – we had no turnover at all. The nine elected in 2010 all served their full term, although some did not wish to return.)

The final qualification, though, is pretty subjective and requires some thought on your part.

There are some people out there who believe in their party, wrong or right. They’re the ones who complained about everything Barack Obama and Bill Clinton did but defend Donald Trump and the legacy of George W. Bush simply based on the letter behind their name. In honor of onetime Maryland GOP Chair Audrey Scott, I call them the “party over everything” group.

Eight years ago when I was first standing for re-election down here I wrote a post called “Party uber alles?” In it, I said this:

Yes, I’m proud to be a Republican but the “R” next to the name doesn’t guarantee a vote when I think they fall short on principles. That’s why I am unabashedly a (2010 GOP gubernatorial challenger Brian) Murphy supporter – on the other hand, Wayne Gilchrest was one of those types who wasn’t what I considered a good Republican to be.

(…)

It’s what makes your local Central Committee elections almost as important as choosing the best Republican candidates to follow the party’s conservative, limited-government philosophy through to a seat in the General Assembly.

It’s no secret I am to the right of the GOP’s center – I’m only half-joking when I say I’m “barely left of militia.” I left my Central Committee when my party left me and supported Donald Trump, who I considered to be too far left. (As a President, he’s often been a pleasant surprise in his manner of governing but isn’t the Reaganesque leader I was seeking.)

On most local Republican Party websites they will have a list of principles, often called “Why I Am A Republican.” The problem is that party leaders and elected officials too often talk a good game, but fail when it comes to principle. Above all, a good Central Committee member has to have principles more or less in line with their party’s – but a great Central Committee member has principles in line with the Constitution and its original intent.

So next Tuesday I’m going to fill out my ballot with some of those running, although I’m not going to vote for the full nine. (Not that I ever have: no disrespect to my erstwhile colleagues, but I always bullet voted just for myself. I didn’t care so much about who I served with so long as I served.) But as long as you’re not on the ballot, feel free to vote for the candidates you believe will fulfill the Constitutional principles that made our nation great. That’s how I’m going to do it.

The battle now turns on fundraising

May 11, 2016 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2016, Campaign 2016 - President, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on The battle now turns on fundraising 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twelve years is enough

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some Maryland GOP inside baseball that could lead to an interesting race

April 2, 2016 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2016, Campaign 2016 - President, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Some Maryland GOP inside baseball that could lead to an interesting race 

We’re still six weeks away from the Maryland Republican Party Spring Convention, to be held May 14 in Annapolis, and much of the interest in the event will be driven by the selection of eleven at-large Delegates and Alternate Delegates to the national convention in Cleveland. Since Maryland’s primary will be completed, not only will we know which aspirants advanced from each of the state’s eight Congressional districts, but we will also have a clearer picture of whether a first-ballot victory is still mathematically possible for Ted Cruz or Donald Trump. By then, just 375 delegates will remain to be determined (from primaries in Oregon, Washington, California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota) with the lion’s share awarded by the June 7 primaries.

Yet those who become Delegate at the state primary will be bound to vote for the statewide winner. Polling has been scarce in Maryland for the GOP, as the last major poll came out a month ago and included Marco Rubio and his 14% of the vote. At that point, Trump led Cruz 34-25, with Kasich at 18. Following the trend, Maryland may be a state where Trump wins with only about 40% of the vote but Cruz picks off a Congressional district or two to gain a few delegates. But The Donald will get the lion’s share as it stands now, meaning some of the alternate delegates could come into play. (If I’m a Cruz backer I’m refusing to vote for Trump.)

So a lot of the interest will come from that demolition derby of a race, which normally draws 20 to 25 names for each. (In 2008, I was one of about 23 who ran and I was second or third from the bottom. Name recognition goes a long, long way in the race.)

But at the Spring Convention we will also be selecting our next National Committeeman and National Committeewoman, who will take office after the November election and help to select the next RNC Chair in January 2017. As a Central Committee member, I have already received a handful of appeals on the races where both incumbents, Louis Pope for the men and Nicolee Ambrose for the women, are running again. Several weeks ago I got the letter from Nicolee that she was running, and I’m unaware of any challengers. Aside from her letter announcing her bid for re-election, my mailboxes have been empty on the race – and that may be a good thing, since Nicolee has been out front with her party-building efforts. Here in Salisbury I’m sure Muir Boda would be in agreement that she deserves support for another term.

On the other hand, today I got my third letter from one of the party’s old guard beseeching me to vote for Louis Pope, who has also sent me a letter asking for support. Apparently he will have an opponent come May 14 so I suspect my mailbox will be full of these appeals from names I know.

Back in 2012 we had that same kind of race for National Committeewoman, with the exception that it was an open seat as incumbent NCW Joyce Terhes decided to retire. The party leadership and “establishment” was backing Audrey Scott, who had ridden in to “rescue” a bankrupt Maryland GOP as Chair in 2009 after former Chair Jim Pelura resigned. Ambrose appealed to a different sector of the party, and the clash between the two came down to a close, emotional vote at the Spring 2012 convention. (Worth noting: Pope was re-elected handily at that same convention over Anne Arundel County Republican Scott Shaffer.) Incumbency seems to have its advantages, but I haven’t received the same outpouring of support from party regulars for Ambrose.

Our representatives on the RNC are just a small part of a 168-member body (three from each state and certain territories) but they also represent us in regional matters as well. Over the last term, Ambrose has taken charge of grassroots organization and GOTV efforts while Pope has portrayed himself as a fundraising expert. Granted, the state GOP (which includes Chair Diana Waterman) has been successful insofar as electing Governor Hogan and increasing the number of Republican elected officials, but perhaps not so much on moving the needle on key issues. (Just as an aside, Waterman’s term will come to an end this fall, meaning we will have a Chair election then. A few years ago we adopted two-year terms for the Chair to match the national Republican Party.) With the national mood registering against establishment candidates of all parties, one has to ask how far the “throw the bums out” mentality will go when it comes to state party affairs.

It should be a fun convention; that is, if fun is defined by being on pins and needles the whole time like I was four years ago when I strongly backed Ambrose. We’ll see what the next few weeks brings.

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.

The same direction

It’s been a great month for Maryland Republicans, and after a few weeks to finish the counting of both our votes and our blessings on Thanksgiving, the party will meet early next month to elect its new leadership.

Unlike the last few times we have done this (I say “we” because I was a part of the process for eight years) the convention mood should be pretty joyous. Consider the situations where we’ve had this election in recent years I’ve been involved:

  • In 2006 we elected Jim Pelura in the wake of losing the governor’s race and taking a step backward nationally.
  • In 2009 Audrey Scott was picked to finish Pelura’s four-year term at a time when the party was broke, desperate, and suffered from infighting over Jim’s activist role while he was Chair.
  • In 2010 we lost the governor’s race again after a contested primary, missing out on the TEA Party wave which otherwise swept the country with the exception of getting back the First District Congressional seat. Alex Mooney won based on a platform of improving the party’s fiscal situation.
  • In early 2013, Diana Waterman ascended to the position as the previous First Vice-Chair, taking over a party riven by discord between TEA Party conservatives and more moderate members. Mooney’s promise of financial health had not come true, so the party was forced to downsize its headquarters in an effort to maintain solvency.

I did a little reading of my archives over the last few minutes in order to rehash the 2010 race (which was decided a week later than this year’s convention will be) and it’s interesting to note I spent the better part of a month talking about the race and its various players last time. Granted, we were talking about an open seat since Audrey Scott didn’t want another term, but the success of 2014 means a lot of people should be happy with the current leadership.

Moreover, there is a slightly different dynamic at play this time around – by-law changes a few years back mean the recently-concluded term of Mooney/Waterman was the final four-year term for a party Chair. As of this election, the new Chair will be in office for just two years, through the Fall Convention in 2016.

This gives the party an opportunity to split the four-year cycle into two logical halves. The first half should be devoted to something which was done fairly well in this cycle with a few exceptions – candidate recruitment and growing the party. Once we see the 2016 results and know the health of the national party, we can go to more of a re-elect Hogan mode with fundraising being the main idea. Personally, I think Diana deserves the opportunity to lead over the next two years, while the Hogan administration can have its selection for years 3 and 4. The 2018 election will be important to our side as the winner controls redistricting, so egregious gerrymanders such as the Third and Sixth Congressional Districts can be addressed once the 2020 census is complete.

Unless I hold a proxy for the convention I won’t have a direct say in the matter but I think the Maryland GOP would be well-served to avoid a divisive fight in this convention and work toward making inroads into more Democratic-controlled areas by identifying and recruiting good candidates, volunteers, and financial supporters for the 2018 cycle. I see no need to make a change if Diana Waterman wants the job for another two years.

Update: Going by her reply to my Facebook post promoting this piece, she’s in.

The age-old argument

In the drive to unify a party after a contentious primary in certain quarters, state party Chair Diana Waterman put out a message at once congratulatory to the primary winners and conciliatory to the losers. It was the standard boilerplate stuff until I ran across this passage:

There has been much said and debated in social gatherings and on Facebook about “Party over Principle or Principle over Party.” I do not believe that supporting the elected nominees of our Party and following your principles are mutually exclusive. While a candidate may not agree with you on 100% of the issues, they will always be more in line with your beliefs than the liberal Democrat will ever be. We must elect more Republicans if we want to have any hope of challenging the stranglehold of the Liberals in Annapolis!

Our only hope to be victorious on November 4th is TO UNITE. Not voting for the Republican in the General is the same as casting a vote for their Democrat opponent. Do not give the Democrats one iota more of an advantage over our candidates. (Emphasis in original.)

Those who have followed Maryland politics for awhile know why the subject comes up; if not, it came from a video put out some years back when Audrey Scott was running the show.

In general I agree with Diana on this one because she’s exactly correct. In a universe where there are a finite number of votes out there and one entity already has a numerical advantage, all other entities do themselves a disservice by not participating because their decision makes it even easier for the majority to prevail. If I have a classroom with 20 votes and 11 support Jack, six support Jill, and the other three blow with the wind, but find only about 10 of those members actually participate, it’s a reasonable assumption that if those six supporting Jill hold together – and vote – they have a fighting chance to win.

Excluding the Central Committee race, I had three contested races and I didn’t vote for a single winner; in fact, those who voted for all winners in all races are probably few and far between. So unless you’re one of those fortunate souls – and that number was immediately trimmed by 57% in the gubernatorial race because that many voted for someone other than winner Larry Hogan – you will have to make some compromises in order to vote Republican. (David Craig handily carried Wicomico County, though, so in that sense I voted for one winner.)

But something I’ve studied over the years is the big, big difference between Republicans and Democrats in this state. As I noted Monday, the fiscal difference between a guy who believes there is $1.75 billion in fraud and waste to be had in the state budget and a guy who wants to spend additional millions and could grow the budget as much as $16 billion over four years is stark. I understand the whole “lesser of two evils” argument, but there are only two people with a realistic chance of winning and the stand has to be made sooner or later. Larry Hogan wasn’t my dream candidate, and I suspect we would have to watch him like a hawk to make sure he doesn’t drift over the political center line, but given the choice between him and Anthony Brown it’s a no-brainer. Those who backed Martin O’Malley because they didn’t like how centrist Bob Ehrlich was and thought we needed to be taught a lesson – well, class was dismissed.

I repeat again: this is an “all hands on deck” election. Even adding up the totals for all four GOP gubernatorial candidates, the sum doesn’t match the vote total Anthony Brown got in a contested Democratic primary, so it’s obvious there’s work to be done. You know it and I know it, but the labor needs to be put in.

Yet I’m going to encourage you to take an evening off on July 17 and spend it with a Congressman who knows a little something about agriculture. The Dorchester County Lincoln Day Dinner features Rep. Frank Lucas, who is the Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. He will be speaking to the gathering, which will be held at the East New Market Fire Hall in that community east of Cambridge. Tickets are $70, but the menu promises to be outstanding.

A tale of several reports

It’s interesting how the blogosphere works.

At 3:19 p.m. yesterday I received the e-mail about Richard Douglas deciding not to run for Attorney General, presumably at the same time several others got it because we were all “providing coverage of his potential run during the exploratory phase,” as the e-mail said. I say I received it, but I actually didn’t read it until maybe 3:45 or so because I was out when it hit my e-mail box.

As it turned out, there were six media sources which received the e-mail, although it went to a total of eight people excluding the common practice of self-addressing to make sure the e-mail went out. (Three of them represented Red Maryland, although Brian Griffiths wrote their coverage.)

Now I’m not sure who had it out first between Michael Dresser of the Baltimore Sun, The Quinton Report and Red Maryland, but the latter two outlets more or less reprised the press release in full with a line or two of comment. Dresser’s piece was even more brief, and shows why he’s a professional – assuming he got the e-mail at about the same time the rest of us did, it was written in a matter of minutes. As a summary it was well done. All three did the quick and dirty thing, getting the news out to their readers.

Jackie Wellfonder and I took a little longer to write our coverage, but both of us added more summary to the news release, which she printed in full and I excerpted from. Jackie brought out the idea of a task force, which I will speak to shortly. For my part, I was hoping to be first out with the news (I wasn’t) but I also wanted to add some opinion and context, which I did. As it turns out I wasn’t at my outside job so I had my piece set to go about 4:30 yesterday.

The other person who received the e-mail has chosen thus far not to write on it. So there’s my compare and contrast of the coverage, for what it’s worth. I thought the situation made for an interesting case study.

Now here’s some more context and information. In looking at the election calendar, we all know the filing deadline is February 25, so any candidate for Attorney General (or other office) has to have his or her affairs in order by then. But it’s not the actual “drop-dead” date for the Maryland GOP.

If you remember the 2010 election – the one where Republicans ended up with no AG candidate – there was a controversy which came to a head two years later when Audrey Scott, who was the Chair of the Maryland GOP during the 2010 election, made an unsuccessful bid for National Committeewoman. Jim Shalleck, who had volunteered to place his name on the ballot for the AG post, claimed in a letter sent out during Scott’s 2012 NCW campaign that his would-be candidacy was scuttled because of inaction by the state party. At the time, state parties had a full fifteen days to fill any ballot vacancies which occurred during the filing period – here in Wicomico County, that’s how current State’s Attorney Matt Maciarello made it onto the 2010 ballot because no Republican filed for the office during the prescribed time frame. Fortunately, it worked out for us as a local party and for the county as a whole. On a state level, we failed.

This year, however, the time frame is much shorter as the “drop-dead” date is Monday, March 3. (Note to state Executive Committee: pencil in a Saturday, March 1 meeting now for a task force or however you wish to handle this.) I have no idea if Shalleck is still willing to run, since he seems to have the qualifications to do so if not the fire in the belly, but this is actually a pretty good shot for a Republican because there’s no incumbent, a four-way primary on the other side, and perhaps a wave year for the GOP. That confluence of factors rarely comes along in the downballot races where there are no term limits – before Doug Gansler won the office in 2006, his immediate predecessor Joe Curran served 20 years.

Many of those who came before Curran served until a judgeship came open, which is how the last Republican AG got into office – his elected Democratic predecessor moved to the Maryland Court of Appeals and Edward D.E. Rollins of Cecil County was appointed to the post in 1952 by the last Republican governor to win re-election, Theodore McKeldin. It’s been 96 years since a Republican won the AG job via election, and that streak’s not in jeopardy until someone steps up on the Republican side.

Bongino echoes “high road” sentiment

Well, folks, I have to admit my wheel wasn’t the one which squeaked last on the matter since the crap I described last Wednesday continues apace. So hopefully someone with a little law enforcement experience can get this din to a dull roar:

As Republican candidates in a deep-blue state, we have a responsibility to provide you with a quality message and a quality campaign.

The likely nominees for office on the Democratic side will be flush with campaign cash, aided by an accommodating media and, in the case of Democratic candidate for Governor Anthony Brown, operatives from the Obama campaign. These campaigns are not playing games and this is not a joke, they are running to install a permanent tax and spend super-majority which will bankrupt our beautiful state and drive thousands more to flee across our borders.

I write this out of a deep and genuine concern for our state’s future. Some of the parochial spats developing amongst a limited number of campaign staffs are causing unnecessary and damaging rifts within our Party while we struggle for relevancy and the support of the people of Maryland.

It’s time for us to put the games and the nonsense aside and focus on the real fight. As the head of my campaign team I promise you a relentless effort and a quality team and if either I or my team fail to produce, email me immediately at campaign@bongino.com. I respectfully request that the remaining candidates on our Party team do the same and start to prune their campaign trees of people who alienate rather than unite.

That’s what Dan wrote on his Facebook page earlier this Tuesday evening, and I (almost) couldn’t agree more. (I think we will get the Obama operatives regardless of who wins that Democratic primary because we have one of the state-run exchange states.)

But we’ve had “unnecessary and damaging rifts” for a long time, well before this campaign began. I’m going to go beyond the whole Lollar aspect for the moment because plenty enough has been said about that over the last week; in fact, the controversy over that has enabled the argument over open primaries to be swept way under the rug. People may need to be reminded we have a convention next week.

In essence, it seems to me the party lost its unity when Bob Ehrlich lost. That so happens to be the time I was elected to my Central Committee – I swear, though, this is not cause and effect – and these are just some of the political slugfests we have endured since:

  • The argument over convention voting, which got so bad for a time some small counties boycotted the whole thing
  • The vote of no confidence on party Chair Jim Pelura
  • The return of Bob Ehrlich, which begat the Rule 11 controversy because Brian Murphy was also in the race (as was a challenger for Andy Harris, who also benefitted)
  • Audrey Scott and “party over everything” – her tenure neatly coincided with the rise of the TEA Party and pro-liberty movement
  • Speaking of Scott, her battle with Nicolee Ambrose for National Committeewoman
  • The ongoing question about whether Delegate Don Dwyer should resign, which one of the current gubernatorial candidates used to score political points
  • The referendum battles, including the times we chose not to use it
  • Alex Mooney’s resignation and the bitter subsequent election for party Chair
  • And now the open primary question

It’s been a constant routine of renegades, rule changes, and rancor for the last eight years – all we’ve been missing is the string of victories we need to make ourselves relevant in Maryland. The math is simple: one governor + one comptroller + 19 Senators + 57 Delegates = relevance. Anything less and we may as well not be there at all. Get that or more and maybe this state can be saved.

Now I will cheerfully admit I’ve had a hand in a couple of these issues I alluded to above; surely I’m not on Audrey Scott’s Christmas card list. But my goal is to help drag the Maryland Republican Party (insofar as it relates to the idea of enhanced liberty and freedom) over the finish line and make this more of a truly “free state.” (I’d like to do the same for all the other states as well.)

So this is why it bugs me that we have this whole power struggle between campaigns, between individuals – and even between websites. I like a good argument as much as anyone, but after awhile it gets pretty pointless. (Although I should take this moment to thank those who have supported me and my efforts – never hurts to acknowledge them! I have a support base I’d stack up to anyone’s.)

Certainly the average person, who may only now be starting to pay attention peripherally to the race (we’re months away from it being foremost in mind to probably 90% or more of Marylanders; this won’t occur until after the primary) would be unaware of what has transpired so far but right now we’re doing a damn fine job of both providing the opposition research Democrats can use in the general election and probably cheap entertainment for them as well. Doug Gansler has to be thanking his lucky stars that word of these shenanigans on our side is starting to get out because people will forget his transgressions long enough for him to rehabilitate his image.

I can surely guarantee, though, that Dan Bongino’s got enough of a struggle on his hands without having to worry about being tarred with these same broad brushstrokes. His is advice which should be heeded.

Example across the fence

August 28, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on Example across the fence 

With all the controversy over the battle to succeed former State Senator E.J. Pipkin and take over the District 36 State Senate seat, it’s been forgotten that Democrats have a similar controversy on their side of the aisle as well in District 15.

Of course, there are some obvious differences. Because soon-to-be-former State Senator Rob Garagiola announced his resignation well in advance (almost 90 days, in fact) there’s been plenty of time for various candidates to be vetted. As well, District 15 lies entirely within Montgomery County – it comprises much of the western half of the county – meaning only one central committee is involved.

Yet don’t believe politics wasn’t at play there, and it was covered well by the Maryland Juice blog (by my left-leaning counterpart and perhaps House of Delegates hopeful David Moon.) In particular, those who represented minority communities saw this as a way to achieve something they couldn’t at the ballot box. Bilal Ayyub had submitted his name for consideration on that community’s behalf, and noted in his withdrawal letter:

The members of the Committee have been heavily lobbied from the time Senator Rob Garagiola announced his intention to step down from his seat before the end of his term. The above activism as well as my own communications forced me to acknowledge that commitments were made prior to concluding the official vetting process.

Ayyub goes on to complain:

The leaders of underrepresented communities in Montgomery County are painfully aware that never in the history of Montgomery County has even one of the county’s eight state senate seats been held by a senator representing an underrepresented community. This historic inequity was highlighted by the 2010 census, which confirmed what many had suspected for a long time: most residents of the county are racial minorities. However, relative to their numbers, underrepresented communities have remained marginalized in Montgomery County’s political life.

This was a chance to “level the playing field,” continued Ayyub.

Instead, it appears that Montgomery County Democrats will elevate Delegate Brian Feldman to the Senate seat; this after he received endorsements from some of the real powers in that county party (as evidenced by the same Maryland Juice post): Delegate Kumar Barve, who serves as Majority Leader in the Maryland House of Delegates, County Executive Ike Leggett, and – most importantly – SEIU Local 500. He also got backing from his fellow District 15 delegates Aruna Miller and Kathleen Dumais, so you would think it’s fairly cut and dried. In fact, aside from the coverage of Moon and a couple brief Washington Post pieces, you might not know the little bit of conflict on this vacancy existed because the process has been long and dissent kept private.

So the question is why the Republicans’ process has been so controversial? Perhaps because we didn’t grease the skids for one person behind closed doors?

And while I don’t know the racial composition of all of the fourteen aspirants to the District 36 seat – I presume all are white, with one woman in Audrey Scott – it’s worth pointing out that no one has made a stink about that locally. Moreover, while Montgomery County is majority-minority according to the census, I don’t believe District 15 falls in that category. So why the presumed entitlement and reparation?

In short: don’t believe the Democrats aren’t having their own catfights about their process. It’s just that the media doesn’t pay as much attention to their infighting and the process isn’t nearly as transparent as ours.

Scott drops bid for District 36 Senate seat

After coming from nowhere and arousing a great deal of controversy in a quixotic bid to replace E.J. Pipkin in the Maryland Senate, the surprise choice of Queen Anne’s County’s Central Committee suddenly withdrew from the race late Friday afternoon, according to a story broken by Mark Newgent at the Red Maryland blog. In a communication to the committees in question and the state party, Scott told them that:

It is my hope that my withdrawal from consideration will permit Queen Anne’s County to revote for another candidate of their choosing.

(snip)

Now, with both Delegate (Michael) Smigiel and Delegate (Steve) Hershey each receiving a vote from a Central Committee, putting them each in a position to be the next State Senator, I do not wish for my presence in the race to interfere with either person being selected.

Had it remained a three- or possibly even a four-way race – Caroline County apparently hasn’t finalized its selection process – it would have been very likely Governor O’Malley would have selected Scott in order not to elevate a Delegate from the district. So unless Caroline stays home and picks a third name and/or Queen Anne’s makes a different choice, it’s likely O’Malley would be stuck with his preference of either Hershey or Smigiel. My guess would be Hershey.

Of course, there is still the possibility that no candidate could get a majority of the counties – four could win one county apiece, or Hershey and Smigiel could each take two counties. It’s brought up the thought of having special elections when these situations occur, but with 188 legislative districts in the state, filling each vacancy in this fashion could be very expensive, time-consuming, and confusing. So far this year, for example, we’ve had one death and two resignations, including Pipkin’s. It would make more sense to have such a law if the vacancy occurred in the first 18 months of the term, before the Presidential election (there would still have to be a special primary in many cases.) Having gone through an instance where our Central Committee had to select a “caretaker” delegate when Page Elmore passed away barely two months before a primary to replace him, it seems to me the system as is works sufficiently.

There’s no question I disagree with Audrey Scott on a number of issues, and I’m not convinced she would have been a good State Senator anyway. But I’m curious about who the “numerous Central Committee members” are who asked her to run in the first place. If they’re aware in any way how the political system works in Maryland, they would have had to know that at least one Delegate would seek the seat and would be a natural successor. So what purpose would there be in having Scott try for the position in the first place? Drumming up business for her son?

Anyway – at least until a seat for Delegate opens up – it looks like the Audrey Scott saga may end as quickly as it blew in earlier this week. All it seems to have accomplished is allowing some of us a little more fodder for the internet archives.

It also makes the Maryland Liberty PAC look a little foolish, as they got all worked up over the possibility of Scott moving up. Think they’ll take credit for her withdrawal?

Update 10:45 p.m.: You betcha. This just hit my e-mail box:

I could not be more proud to be a part of the Maryland Liberty Movement tonight.

We just received word that Audrey Scott has now officially dropped out of the State Senate race in District 36.

Our objective was to get this RINO out of the race and tonight we did just that.

Multiple sources are telling us that a huge number of emails and phone calls were flowing into Central Committee members.

This ultimately gave them the support they needed to stand up to the Establishment.

The question, though, is just how much influence they had since it was Scott’s decision. But regardless they got what they wanted this time.

One seat, fourteen applicants

Monday evening the list of applicants for E.J. Pipkin’s District 36 Maryland Senate seat came out, and there were several surprises on the list. We knew some of the names which would be on there, but there is no lack of aspirants for the job. In alphabetical order, they are:

  • Steven Arentz, a Queen Anne’s County Commissioner elected in 2010
  • R. Scott Bramble, of Cecil County
  • Frank Frohn, a former member of the Queen Anne’s County Planning Commission and unsuccessful 2010 Commission candidate
  • John Graham, of Queen Anne’s County
  • Stephen Hershey, current District 36 Delegate from Queen Anne’s County (elected in 2010)
  • Andrew Langer, president of the Institute for Liberty and Red Maryland radio host
  • Tim McCluskey, a town councilman from Centreville since 2009
  • Audrey Scott, onetime mayor of Bowie, Secretary of Planning, and more recently Maryland GOP Chair 2009-10
  • Michael Smigiel, current District 36 Delegate from Cecil County (first elected in 2002)
  • Richard Sossi, former District 36 Delegate from 2002-10
  • Robert Thornton, Jr., former Delegate from Caroline County (1990-94) – elected as a Democrat
  • John Leo Walter, who ran for Congress in 2008, from Queen Anne’s County
  • John Walton, Jr., of Caroline County
  • Eric Wargotz, GOP Senate nominee in 2010 and former Queen Anne’s County Commissioner

So as far as I can tell, most of these officeseekers have already served in some capacity, while many others have run for office. I would imagine that most, if not all, of them would try once again if one of the two current Delegates in the mix (Hershey or Smigiel) is elevated to the Senate (and if they are eligible, based on my recollection of state law – see below.)

Personally, I think it’s going to be Smigiel’s seat to lose, but he probably has to get the backing of all four counties to be selected. If more than one name is sent to Governor O’Malley, it won’t be Smigiel who’s picked, not after his strident opposition to the cherished O’Malley gun law. If Caroline County stays home and picks Thornton as one of several names submitted he may be the choice as a former Democrat and current attorney. Martin O’Malley can also then say he addressed the unfairness of having one county not represented in Annapolis.

To me, the most intriguing names in the running are Langer, Scott, Sossi, Walter, and Wargotz.

Obviously Andrew Langer is a political activist and could be an interesting bomb thrower in the Maryland Senate as a TEA Party stalwart. I think he has a slightly better chance of being selected as a Delegate should a seat open up thanks to the elevation of Hershey – I believe if Smigiel is selected his successor would have to come from a county not already represented in the district, which would leave only Caroline and Cecil counties as possibilities because Hershey is from Queen Anne’s and Delegate Jay Jacobs, who is not seeking the Senate seat, comes from Kent County.

I see Audrey Scott, meanwhile, as a possible compromise, caretaker candidate who probably wouldn’t run again in 2014. It’s not like she hasn’t come in to finish someone else’s term and opted not to run again, although she may then assume some position will be handed to her. Also worth mentioning: she’s the only woman in the field.

From what I gather, Sossi is running for the poetic justice of succeeding the guy who allegedly helped orchestrate his defeat in 2010 by Hershey. I suppose he could then run in 2014 as being the tan, rested, and ready candidate.

Most may not have heard of John Leo Walter, but I remember him. Lost in the bloodbath that was the 2008 First District Congressional primary was Walter’s principled, conservative campaign. Maybe this is his time, although he is probably the darkest of horses in this race.

And after passing up the 2012 Senate campaign and thoughts of climbing into the gubernatorial ring, it’s worth pointing out that Eric Wargotz has trimmed his aspirations back to where some probably thought they should have been all along.

It’s interesting to me that, when I did the research into one of the candidates, I came across this Free Republic thread from 2003 when Jeannie Haddaway (pre-Riccio) was selected for the then-vacant District 37B Delegate seat in a similar situation – four counties were involved there, too. At that time, both Caroline and Wicomico selected Jim Newcomb of Dorchester County but Haddaway was Bob Ehrlich’s choice as her name was submitted by Talbot County, which at the time was the largest jurisdiction in the district. But there were only six shooting for the seat back then as opposed to the fourteen-person scrum we have this time.

(As an aside, there was a fascinating mention of then-officeseeker Stevie Prettyman, who remains on Wicomico County Council to this day:

Stevie Prettyman, current Wicomico County Council member, supports conservative spending and agreed with the other candidate that Maryland citizens are over-taxed. Prettyman said building bonds with Democrats would be a key strategy if selected.

“You have to cross the aisle,” Prettyman said. “You have to be able to hold hands for a common goal – and that common goal is the best for the people you serve.”

To some, it seems to still hold true even when there’s only one Democrat on County Council because we’ve not managed to elect a GOP County Executive.)

I would imagine that the timetable has been set so that there’s plenty of breathing room before counties are required to submit nominees. Will the four counties go with the conventional wisdom, or will they break ranks and allow Martin O’Malley to select a centrist Republican who would bend to his will as he did when former Delegate Richard Weldon resigned in 2009? At that time, Frederick and Washington counties split and Charles Jenkins was picked over Michael Hough, who then ran against Jenkins and won the seat in 2010.

No one can be certain at this time. While Smigiel has claimed he has the votes, that’s not necessarily true.

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