Under the radar

After he lost the 2012 Senatorial primary to Dan Bongino, Richard Douglas has kept a somewhat low profile. Eschewing a possible run for Attorney General this year, Douglas has instead focused on particular issues such as the Bladensburg Peace Cross earlier this year and his latest, a criticism of Maryland’s two sitting Senators for a lack of action on freeing Marylander Alan Gross from a Cuban prison.

In today’s Daily Record (11/19), I was astonished to read the Capital News Service whitewash of the Maryland U.S. congressional delegation’s record of failure on Alan Gross.

Marylander Gross remains in a Cuban jail because Maryland’s weak, irresolute U.S. Senators have done precisely nothing to force our weak, irresolute President to make Cuba howl. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski have used none of the tools available to majority-party senators, or in Mikulski’s case, to the chair of the Senate’s most powerful standing committee, to bludgeon the Obama White House into meaningful action to free their fellow Marylander.

To try to force presidential action, Cardin and Mikulski could easily have blocked Obama legislative priorities, Obama executive nominations, treaties, senior bureaucratic promotion lists, and spending bills. But they didn’t, and these are glaring omissions in the Capitol Hill playbook. They confirm that Cardin and Mikulski have pulled their punches with their ideological teammate in the White House.

Whitewash can’t conceal the truth. Maryland’s U.S. Senators and the White House have shown weakness and a lack of resolve on Mr. Gross. That same brand of weakness and lack of resolve helped put Russian troops in Ukraine, and allows Islamist terrorists to murder Americans almost at will.

In January, the new Republican majority in the Senate could finally force President Obama to break a sweat over Alan Gross, five long years into his imprisonment. We’ll see. But what a pity that Maryland’s U.S. Senators, clucking furiously on the sidelines, have utterly failed to use the tools which the Framers gave them to force Obama to do his job.

Douglas was quite critical of Cardin in his 2012 run, but hadn’t really had much need to be critical of Maryland’s senior Senator. It’s Mikulski’s seat which will be at stake in 2016, though, and Douglas’s statewide experience may lead some to ask whether he’s thinking of challenging Mikulski. With the Senate political landscape being almost exactly the opposite of 2014′s (where Republicans will have at least 24 seats to defend against just 10 for Democrats) the chance to pull an upset in Maryland is intriguing in the wake of Larry Hogan’s win.

Naturally, the prospect of a rematch of the two top GOP contenders from 2012 means Dan Bongino will be in the conversation as a possible contender. But will Bongino want to undergo yet another campaign, the third one in five years?

With the experience Douglas boasts as a former Chief Counsel of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and former General Counsel of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in an election where cleaning up Barack Obama’s foreign policy messes may be a key issue, the prospect of someone with Richard’s expertise going up against Mikulski – or a new Democrat should Barb decide to retire – is quite interesting. Surely we will see in the coming months if it’s a race Richard wants to run.

The most popular Republican in Maryland

I don’t have a poll to show you, but I do have a website.

Today I was alerted to the existence of a new political website which makes the case that the next Congressman from the First District should be a woman: Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio. Gleaned in large part from her recent run for lieutenant governor on the David Craig ticket and set up to resemble an actual campaign site, the website is the brainchild of political activist Phil Tran. Tran points out that current Congressman Andy Harris is voluntarily term-limiting himself and believes Haddaway-Riccio would be the best logical successor.

I decided to start a movement. In the event that Congressman Andy Harris decides to voluntarily limit his terms, we need to have a formidable successor ready to go. That successor is Delegate Jeannie Haddaway!

Jeannie Haddaway is a great role model for young women (and men alike!). She will serve Maryland’s Eastern Shore and the Baltimore suburbs with grace and dignity in a Congress that desperately needs such qualities.

Plan ahead or plan to fail. Please sign the petition to draft Jeannie Haddaway for Congress! We are also selling shirts to support the movement!

(I know David Craig didn’t use the full name, but I prefer to refer to her with the married professional variation she used for the House of Delegates, Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio.)

It’s fun to note that Tran has both 2016 and 2022 listed as the prospective dates for the campaign, and each presents different opportunities – as do other points on the calendar, as I’ll illustrate.

First, though, it’s my understanding that Andy Harris would stay in Congress twelve years – under his proposed Constitutional amendment, Congressional members would be limited to twelve consecutive years. I think the three terms statement is a misunderstanding since I was told twelve years at the time Andy ran the first time for Congress, and had personally asked him for clarification since. Twelve years was always the answer I received. But there are a lot of other ways Jeannie could go in the interim.

Let’s look at 2016 for a second. It’s a Presidential year, so there won’t be a lot on the ballot. While I hope Andy Harris gets some Congressional help this year, it’s likely he will either remain the lone Maryland Republican federal elected official or perhaps have Dan Bongino as second fiddle if the Sixth District votes in its best interest. (Obviously, if Maryland voted in its best interest they would have a full GOP delegation, but I’m talking in real terms.) In any case, I don’t think Harris is leaving after just three terms.

But there is an intriguing race which could develop. Remember in early 2010 when the rumor that Barbara Mikulski was passing on re-election caught fire? Well, with the increasingly likely prospect of Republicans taking over the Senate, and the fact Mikulski’s not getting any younger (she will turn 80 a few months before the 2016 election) it could lead to an open Senate seat for the first time since 2006. Needless to say, every Democrat in the state and their brother (and sister) will be salivating at the chance for the brass ring, but who else is on the GOP bench that has run statewide? You could say Bob Ehrlich, but he’s been rejected twice by statewide voters.

Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio as the Republican Senate nominee in an open-seat scenario, particularly if the Democrats have a bloody primary because most are running from cover? Maybe she’s not as conservative a candidate as I’d prefer, but I think she’s electable in Maryland and it’s a move that would make sense if she wanted another statewide bid. She would also have the advantage of needing less time to ramp up a campaign since it’s likely Mikulski would wait until the last minute to announce her intentions to the world.

If Jeannie wanted to wait until 2018, she would have even more options. One would hope that she doesn’t have to worry about a run for governor because Larry Hogan is the incumbent, but the possibility of a match against Anthony Brown is there. Unfortunately, no Democrat governor has lost a re-election bid in Maryland in about forever (okay, actually 1950 – and ironically, William Preston Lane lost over tax increases) so that may not be the best play.

After running for office statewide, it would perhaps be seen as a demotion to run locally, but there’s the chance Addie Eckardt may only want one Senate term as she will be in her mid-70s by that point. Granted, we will hopefully have two new GOP Delegates who could move up if Eckardt wants just one bite of the apple, but my suspicion is that 2018 was always eyed as the time Jeannie would make the jump. A win there could keep her in the limelight for 2022, when Harris would be through his twelve years, the 2014 gubernatorial winner would be term-limited out of office, and – if Mikulski finally decided to retire at the age of 86 – that Senate seat would be again up for grabs.

Another possibility for 2018 would be to take on Ben Cardin in a Senate race, but assuming Ben wants to stay on he would be tough to beat – although, at 75 years of age and perhaps in the minority he may decide to ride off into the sunset as well.

It’s clear that Jeannie’s selection as David Craig’s running mate opened a lot of eyes around the state (and brought out a few long knives) so it’s no wonder Phil Tran is promoting her as a possibility for higher office. She isn’t the longest-tenured or most conservative Republican candidate in the state, but she has the right experience and didn’t hurt the Craig ticket, which simply didn’t have the resources to compete against a deep-pocketed opponent who made no critical mistakes.

Running for lieutenant governor didn’t turn out to be a success short-term, but it’s obvious a lot of people now think highly of her long-term prospects.

38th annual Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in pictures and text

Once again, thousands came to Crisfield and heeded this advice.

Somers Cove Marina was set up a little differently this year, but the real difference was that the attendees didn’t soak through their clothes this year – instead, the day was cloudy but relatively comfortable, with only a small touch of humidity. Most years this setup – by a local engineering firm, naturally – would be oh so handy. But not so much this year.

One key difference in the arrangement this year was the prominence of this tent.

Annapolis lobbyist Bruce Bereano always has a crowded party, and it’s a bipartisan affair.

The GOP tent this time was set up behind Bruce’s, and it was a hub of activity for the Republican side. A lot of local and state hopefuls were there at some point.

GOP gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan decided to have his own space, which ended up by the side entrance.

On the other side of the Republican tent and just around the corner, the Democrats were set up close to their usual rear location along the waterfront. Salisbury mayor Jim Ireton was holding court there. (He’s in the white at the center, in shades.)

By and large, though, most of those in attendance were interested in one thing. See the light blue lean-to to the left of the Sysco trailers in the photo below? That’s where the crabs were being served, and the line indeed stretched that far back 15 minutes before the announced noon opening – they really start serving about 11:30 or so.

I think the longest wait I had was about 10 minutes for the Boardwalk fries. As it turns out, I’m not a crab eater – but I like the fried clams and the fish sandwiches. Oh, and there’s a few politicians there too, but I’ll get to that in due course because I can find the political in a lot of things – except perhaps this.

The hosts of a locally-produced show called “Outdoors Delmarva” always seem to find time to tape a segment here.

Another local business I always find at Tawes made a very classy, and apolitical, gesture this year.

But I do find the irony in some things. For example, those of you familiar with the Hudson case may appreciate some here.

It seems to me the UM law school was on the other side of the fence before, as opposed to this group, part of the Clean Chesapeake Coalition, which tends to take agriculture’s side as well as that of local government.

One other thing worth pointing out is the media frenzy this event creates. Here’s Delegate (and Senate candidate) Mike McDermott being interviewed. Wonder how much they actually used?

Most of the excitement occurs when the top members of the respective tickets arrive. Hogan had the tent but didn’t come until the event was well underway. His entrance was rather modest.

Oh, did I tell you pretty much everyone in the tent was waiting for him?

Naturally, everyone wanted to get their quote from him – perhaps even the tracker from the Brown campaign. I’m told Hogan has one.

While I’ve been critical of the Hogan campaign throughout, the way their team handled today was outstanding. This was the first stop I noticed him making after all the interviews were through.

In case you can’t read the sign above, it’s the tent of the Somerset County Economic Development Commission. To me, that was the perfect place to be seen.

They took a little time to meet and greet; they being both Hogan and running mate Boyd Rutherford. But the point was that I didn’t see them walking around much – instead they were engaging voters.

As I noted earlier, there were a number of other politicos there, but the statewide Democrats were not well-represented. I did see their AG nominee Brian Frosh. He’s the small guy in the center, violating the Don Murphy rule about not wearing white.

Notably absent, though, was the top of their ticket, Anthony Brown. It’s odd because he’s been here a few times.

One guy who wouldn’t dare miss this is local Delegate Charles Otto (center.) His Democratic opponent is the just-replaced former mayor of Crisfield, which certainly made for interesting retail politics for them.

A guy who lost his primary, Muir Boda (left) was out supporting those who won – and yes, Johnny Mautz was in the house. Muir’s with Democratic Wicomico County Council candidate Josh Hastings (right.)

All told, there were a lot of people there. I took this panoramic shot about quarter to three, which is just before those who had their fill begin to trickle out.

One other difference was not seeing all the Red Maryland crew there, although I did speak to Duane Keenan, who does a radio show on their network. Another media guy trying to drum up business was Phil Tran, who you couldn’t help but notice.

The other new media people I saw there were Jackie Wellfonder – although she hasn’t blogged about her experiences yet, she did burn up Twitter – and Jonathan Taylor of Lower Eastern Shore News, who has his own photo spread.

But as the event came to an end, we know that by week’s end Somers Cove will be back to normal.

In 2015 the Tawes event should be good for sizing up the lone statewide race in 2016. While Barbara Mikulski has given no indication on whether she will retire, the soon-to-be 78-year-old senior Maryland Senator may not like being in the minority come next year and could decide to call it a career. We should know by next July.

A radical proposal (or two)

I got to thinking the other day – yes, I know that can be a dangerous thing – about the 2014 electoral map for Maryland and an intriguing possibility.

Since State Senator E.J. Pipkin resigned a few months back, a sidebar to the story of his succession – as well as that of selecting a replacement for former Delegate Steve Hershey, who was elevated to replace Pipkin – is the fact that Caroline County is the lone county in the state without resident representation. However, with the gerrymandering done by the O’Malley administration to protect Democrats and punish opponents, it’s now possible the 2015 session could dawn with four – yes, four – counties unrepresented in that body based on the 2012 lines. Three of those four would be on the Eastern Shore, and would be a combination of two mid-Shore counties and Worcester County, with the fourth being Garrett County at the state’s far western end.

Granted, that scenario is highly unlikely and there is probably a better chance all 23 counties and Baltimore City will have at least one resident member of the General Assembly. But what if I had an idea which could eliminate that potential problem while bolstering the hands of the counties representing themselves in Annapolis?

The current composition of the Maryland Senate dates from 1972, a change which occurred in response to a 1964 Supreme Court decision holding that Maryland’s system of electing Senators from each county violated the Fourteenth Amendment. Furthermore, Marylanders had directly elected their state Senators long before the Seventeenth Amendment was passed in 1913. Over time, with these changes, the Senate has become just another extension of the House of Delegates, just with only a third of the membership.

So my question is: why not go back to the future and restore our national founders’ intent at the same time?

What if Maryland adopted a system where each county and Baltimore City were allotted two Senators, but those Senators weren’t selected directly by the voters? Instead, these Senators would be picked by the legislative body of each county or Baltimore City, which would give the state 48 Senators instead of 47. Any tie would be broken by the lieutenant governor similar to the way our national vice-president does now for the United States Senate.

Naturally the Democrats would scream bloody murder because it would eliminate their advantage in the state Senate; based on current county government and assuming each selects two members of their own party the Senate would be Republican-controlled. But that would also encourage more voting on local elections and isn’t that what Democrats want? It’s probably a better way to boost turnout than the dismal failure of “early and often” voting, which was supposed to cure the so-called ailment of poor participation.

If someone would argue to me that my proposal violates “one man, one vote” then they should stand behind the repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment. How is it fair that I’m one of 2,942,241 people (poorly) represented by Ben Cardin or Barbara Mikulski while 283,206 people in Wyoming are far more capably represented by John Barasso or Mike Enzi? We have counties in Maryland more populous than Wyoming.

No one questions the function or Constitutionality of the U.S. Senate as a body, knowing it was part of a compromise between larger and smaller states in the era of our founding. It’s why we have a bicameral legislature which all states save one copied as a model. (Before you ask, Nebraska is the holdout.) What I’ve done is restored the intent of those who conceived the nation as a Constitutional republic with several balances of power.

But I’m not through yet. If the Senate idea doesn’t grab you, another thought I had was to rework the House of Delegates to assure each county has a representative by creating seats for a ratio of one per 20,000 residents. (This essentially equals the population of Maryland’s least-populated county, Kent County. Their county could be one single House district.) In future years, the divisor could reflect the population of the county with the least population.

The corollary to this proposal is setting up a system of districts which do not overlap county lines, meaning counties would subdivide themselves to attain one seat per every 20,000 of population, give or take. For my home county of Wicomico, this would translate into five districts and – very conveniently as it turns out – we already have five ready-drawn County Council districts which we could use for legislative districts. Obviously, other counties would have anywhere from 1 to 50 seats in the newly expanded House of Delegates. Even better, because the counties would have the self-contained districts, who better to draw them? They know best which communities have commonality.

Obviously in smaller counties, the task of drawing 2 or 3 districts would be relatively simple and straightforward. It may be a little more difficult in a municipality like Baltimore or a highly-populated area like Montgomery County, but certainly they could come up with tightly-drawn, contiguous districts.

And if you think a body of around 300 seats is unwieldy, consider the state of New Hampshire has 400 members in their lower house. Certainly there would be changes necessary in the physical plant because the number of Delegates and their attendant staff would be far larger, but on the whole this would restore more power to the people and restrict the edicts from on high in Annapolis.

Tonight I was listening to Jackie Wellfonder launch into a brief discussion of whether the Maryland Republican Party should adopt open primaries, an idea she’s leaning toward adopting – on the other hand, I think it’s nuts. In my estimation, though, these sorts of proposals are nothing more than tinkering around the edges – these ideas I’ve dropped onto the table like a load of bricks represent real change. I think they should be discussed as sincere proposals to truly make this a more Free State by restoring the balance of power between the people, their local government, and the state government in Annapolis.

David Craig setting up announcement tour

Updated below.

It’s been perhaps the worst-kept secret in Maryland politics for over a year, but it appears as though David Craig will make his 2014 plans official on June 3 as he embarks on a real statewide tour, or at least one more geographically encompassing than Democrat Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown’s puny effort last week when he announced his gubernatorial plans.

Within the last couple hours, the first day of the Craig tour was laid out on Facebook: a 9 a.m. announcement from his front yard in Havre de Grace, followed by an 11:30 a.m. appearance at the Dundalk American Legion Post 38 and a 7 p.m. happy hour reception at Bulls and Bears in Hagerstown. I have it on good authority there will be a Salisbury stop on day 2 of the Craig tour, June 4, although details are probably still being finalized. On that front, I was also told by that same local Craig volunteer this would be a three-day tour, so it’s possible the local Eastern Shore event could instead be June 5.

Craig would officially enter a fairly crowded field as the Republican nomination is opened up for the first time since 2002, the year Bob Ehrlich first won his nomination over two perennial candidates. Arguably this could be the strongest gubernatorial field ever for the Maryland GOP, as the shadow of Bob Ehrlich and his three-election run as the established Republican standard-bearer allowed a number of good candidates to establish a solid local foothold while clamoring to get their chance at the brass ring.

At this point only one GOP candidate has officially filed, and Brian Vaeth – who finished dead last out of 10 would-be U.S. Senate candidates last year with 1.9% of the primary vote – probably won’t present much of a challenge to the remainder of the eventual field. While Blaine Young has been campaigning mainly to party insiders for the last several months and Ron George formally announced his plans last month, we are still awaiting official word from Charles Lollar and Dan Bongino. With the caveat that both are internet-based surveys and are not scientific, Craig has held his own in two recent preference polls on conservative websites with Bongino and Lollar, while Young lags behind. Meanwhile, Ron George performed respectably in the latest Red Maryland poll cited.

Obviously this will be a developing story, and Craig’s entry may break the dam for others to make their intentions clear. It’s likely June will also be the month Charles Lollar makes his draft campaign official while Dan Bongino has no set deadline in mind.

In Dan’s case, though, there is also the chance he could choose to bypass 2014 to concentrate on a 2016 Senate run for what could be an open seat given Barbara Mikulski’s advancing age (she would turn 80 in the summer of 2016) and declining health. In that case, much would depend on whether the GOP wrests control of the Senate (and their Appropriations Committee. which she chairs) from the Democrats. Obviously this is true of the others as well, but Bongino is the only one of the five with statewide campaign experience.

Then again, the other four will catch up on that front should they go through the primary of 2014. Look for more on the Craig front in the coming days.

Update 5/14: It appears the Eastern Shore will be served either in the evening on June 4 or on the 5th, as thus far June 4 sends Craig to an 8 a.m. breakfast in Silver Spring, the Calvert County Courthouse at noon, and the Annapolis City Dock at 3 p.m.

Update 2 5/14: Salisbury’s stop will be at the Government Center at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, June 5th.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Odds and ends number 70

More and more items pique my interest as the General Assembly session wears on, so you might find these continue to pop up on a regular basis. As always, these are items to which I devote anywhere from a sentence to a few paragraphs, so here goes.

I’ll begin with this pre-emptive strike by Delegate Justin Ready I learned about a few days ago. He’s planning to introduce a bill which will prohibit the state of Maryland from enacting user fees based on mileage driven to replace or supplement the existing per-gallon gasoline tax. The state of Oregon has, for several years, been exploring ways of doing this and the latest ties into existing onboard and smart phone technologies. But the Luddites out there should take this under advisement; this comes from the Council of State Governments piece Ready links to:

Importantly, the use of GPS also will not be a requirement. For those who reject all the private sector technology options despite being able to choose between them and despite their information not being transmitted to a government entity, another option would allow drivers to pre-pay for the miles they expect to drive at a rate based on 35,000 miles minimum annually. Those drivers will pay a substantially higher flat fee than what most drivers whose mileage is more closely tracked will likely average. Instead of paying at the pump as participants in the initial pilot program did, motorists will pay at the end of the three-month demonstration. State transportation officials foresee monthly or quarterly charges if the system were to be adopted on a statewide basis. (Emphasis mine.)

So the options are, in my case, either “voluntarily” allow the government into my personal car to see that I drive roughly 20,000 miles per year or pay a significantly higher penalty to keep my freedom. Some choice. It almost makes raising the gas tax more attractive, which may be the overall aim of Annapolis liberals. They constantly harp on the fact we haven’t raised the tax in 20 years or so – well, if you would spend it on what it’s meant for instead of wasting it on mass transit no one rides, we may accomplish the road repairs and construction for which the gas tax was intended.

Another pro-freedom push to free Maryland’s roads comes from HB251, a bill introduced by Delegate Michael Smigiel to repeal Maryland’s speed camera laws – a bill which has my full support and should have yours, too. (Locally, Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio is a co-sponsor as well, and should be thanked for that support.) Meanwhile, the Maryland Liberty PAC correctly notes that these devices comprise a large portion of “O’Malley’s War On Driving”:

Speed cameras are nothing more than the privatization of our due process rights and the contracting-out of law enforcement duties.

The Maryland Liberty PAC has an ongoing petition drive to dismantle the speed cameras once and for all; they also stress that pressure should be brought to bear on Environmental Matters Committee Chair Maggie McIntosh to give the bill a hearing (none has been scheduled yet.)

If speed cameras were truly about safety, the violation wouldn’t be a civil offense but a criminal one. Yet they know that, with a criminal offense, one has to be able to face their accuser and the evidence wouldn’t be admissible (because the speed camera can’t be a witness like a patrol officer can.) So they made it a civil offense based on the much lower standard of “preponderance of the evidence.” My judgment is that speed cameras should be banned.

There are also local steps which need to be undertaken, says Sam Hale of the Maryland Society of Patriots. Among them are:

  • Asking Wicomico and Worcester counties to nullify the “Septic Bill” and refuse to draw the counties into tiers,
  • Contacting Salisbury’s City Council and asking them to withdraw their membership in ICLEI, a group promoting anti-liberty incursions on rights such as PlanMaryland and the septic bill as an extension of the United Nations,
  • Asking Worcester County to join the Maryland Rural Counties Coalition.

So the liberty movement is well-represented here, but how about Washington, D.C.? Maybe not so much.

For example, take the debt ceiling. It was panned by both Americans for Limited Government and the Coalition to Reduce Spending. Bill Wilson of ALG reacted:

This is a partial repeal of representative government. Through the elimination of the debt ceiling, even just until May 19, the American people now have no say in the amount of debt the government contracts. The only say whatsoever representatives had on the some 60 percent of the $3.7 trillion budget that operates on autopilot, which includes Social Security, Medicare, and other forms of so-called ‘mandatory’ spending, was the periodic vote on increasing the debt ceiling.

“Now that it has been suspended, the debt ceiling may never be reinstated. All the Senate needs to do now come May 19 is again threaten default should the debt ceiling suspension not be indefinitely extended. Under those circumstances, House Republican leadership is likely to fold under even the slightest pressure.

Added Jonathan Bydlak of the Coalition to Reduce Spending:

Congress today again avoided its duty to be a responsible steward of the public trust. Stalling is not a serious solution to federal debt created by habitual deficit spending.

By delaying a vote on whether and at what cost the federal government should be allowed to borrow more money, House members chose to deny accountability to the public.

This move goes against the clear wishes of American voters. As a recent Rasmussen poll showed, 73% nationwide believe the federal government should cut spending in order to deal with the nation’s current economic problems.

The Coalition to Reduce Spending recognizes that choosing to increase the public debt is ultimately one of the most important decisions a legislator can make. It’s for that reason that this decision should never be pushed into the future haphazardly.

The only thing to like about the bill is that it holds Senators’ salaries hostage until they pass a budget, although our Senator Barbara Mikulski whined and cried poverty about the prospect. Well, all you need to do is your job.

Perhaps they can act on this measure which failed to get through the last Congress, something which could give the legislative branch a little control over regulators run amok. Ryan Young of the Competitive Enterprise Institute sums things up brilliantly:

There is too much regulation without representation in this country. In an average year, Congress will pass a little over 100 bills into law, while regulatory agencies will pass more than 3,500 new regulations.

It’s easy to see why members of Congress like agencies to do their job for them. If a regulation turns out to be unpopular, or more costly than expected, they can just shift the blame to, say, the EPA or FCC. It’s well past time for Congress to take its lawmaking responsibility seriously again. REINS is the first step in that process.

In general, there are those who favor a more militant approach, even with the belief we should learn from our opponents. I look at it this way: if conservative principles are as popular as we believe them to be, we should stick out our necks for their adoption on a daily basis. If not, it proves my point from yesterday about the need to educate, although we should be doing that regardless.

This lesson isn’t lost on professional golfer Phil Mickelson, who, as my friend Jim Pettit points out, is simply doing what’s best for his personal situation by contemplating a move out of high-tax California. I don’t think he’ll be looking to move to Maryland; instead states like Florida and Texas – which combine a more temperate climate with non-existent state income taxes – may be attractive. (Thousands of professional athletes live in Florida for that very reason.)

Another angle those who love liberty are pursuing is finding the right Presidential candidate for 2016. Those who favor Judge Andrew Napolitano, a group I wrote about late last year, are still actively seeking petition signers. But they updated their totals to say they have over 10,000 signers now, and the Facebook page now boasts 3,319 fans. Napolitano may well say no, but the backing behind him is slowly growing.

Finally, this story has a little local interest as well as a tie-in to a group I’ve supported. Move America Forward is holding their “Super Bowl Rally for the Troops”:

The Ravens fans have taken an early lead, but there’s still plenty of time for Niners fans to come back! Vote for which team you think will win by sponsoring a package full of goodies for the troops!

SUPERBOWL XLVII is only ten days away so time is running out to participate in our Super Bowl challenge to all of our pro-troops supporters out there. Whether you happen to be a 49ers fan, Ravens fan, or just a football fan, the whole mission at the end of the day is to support our TROOPS serving overseas. They are the real winners in this competition and they deserve our thanks and gratitude. (Emphasis in original.)

If the Ravens win this particular competition, additional items will be included for a fortunate group of troops from Maryland.

Ironically, MAF ran a similar competition last year in which Giants fans outpaced the Patriots faithful. It’s sort of a sad commentary that fans of a team named after our colonial forefathers couldn’t win this competition, and maybe that karma got them this season.

That’s plenty for now, but it probably won’t be long until my mailbox is full of interesting items once again.

The call for term limits

As you may or may not know, I am an advocate for term limits. I didn’t always think this way, as there was a period I subscribed to the libertarian view that voters should have the fullest possible choice of representation and if that meant sending some senile old bat to Congress for the twentieth straight term, well, that’s what the people wanted.

Unfortunately, like many other things, the bad apples ruin things for the rest of us and occasionally limits have to be placed. Since the 22nd Amendment was ratified in 1951, there is precedent for federal term limits so I came around to the notion of a 24-year lifetime limit in Congress (six terms in the House, two in the Senate.) I expound on this further in my book.

So I was pleased the other day to see this release from U.S. Term Limits:

This afternoon, Senator David Vitter (R-LA) introduced an amendment to the U.S. Constitution which would limit the number of terms that a Congress member may serve to three in the House of Representatives and two in the Senate.

Term limits for members of Congress has been spotlighted in recent weeks as former Senator and Vice Presidential nominee Joe Lieberman announced that after reflection on his 24 years in office that he now supported term limits.

The Lieberman statement was followed by a polls conducted by the Gallup Organization released last week showing that the American people would vote for congressional term limits by a 75 – 21 margin.

Phil Blumel, president of U.S. Term Limits, the nation’s largest term limits advocacy group, called on Congress to send the Constitutional Amendment to the states for them to decide saying, “The public clearly wants term limits, and it is the ultimate conflict of interest for federal elected officials to prevent the states from making the decision on whether their own terms should be limited.”

Senator Vitter is introducing the amendment on a tide of public dissatisfaction with Congress, and Blumel believes this public outcry may break the log jam that has prevented consideration.

“Many members of Congress are hearing from their constituents that they want the tough issues in D.C. to be acted upon rather than a continual kicking of the can down the road.  In this context, they are realizing that a constitutional amendment limiting terms for members of Congress may be the only way to make our political system work again.”

It is anticipated that a term limits amendment will be introduced in the House of Representatives in the weeks ahead. In the interim, Vitter is reaching out to his fellow Senators seeking co-sponsors of the amendment.

In a letter sent to members of the Senate prior to the introduction, Blumel urged others to join Vitter as co-sponsors writing, “Now, Congress faces a crisis. The people hold the legislative branch of our federal government in such low regard largely because they believe that they are no longer represented by fellow citizens but instead by professional politicians. It is time to change this. It is time to put citizens back in charge. It is time to pass congressional term limits.

To become part of the U.S. Constitution, the amendment requires a two-thirds vote in each house of Congress and ratification by three quarters or 38 out of 50 states. (Emphasis mine.)

The reason I emphasized the part of the U.S. Term Limits statement – and the addition which upgraded this from being an “odds and ends” item to one deserving a post all its own – is the sponsor of the companion House legislation. Dated the same day (January 22):

Today, Representative Andy Harris M.D. introduced a Joint Resolution (H.J. Res. 22 – editor) that would limit the number of consecutive terms that a person could serve in the U.S. Congress. It would limit persons to two consecutive terms in the U.S. Senate and six consecutive terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Representative Harris released the following statement on the bill:

“Limiting Congressional terms is a common sense way to change Washington and make sure our elected leaders work for the people instead of the special interests. We need more citizen leaders who are willing to address our challenges instead of coming to Washington to become career politicians. Far too many of our leaders are more worried about the next election than addressing out of control spending or preserving our entitlement programs. We need to break the gridlock in Washington caused in part by career politicians.”

The only difference between what Harris proposes and what I advocated is that there’s no lifetime limit, just a one-year exemption. I’d rather the lifetime limit be amended onto this because it is a Constitutional amendment being proposed. It’s also somewhat weaker than Vitter’s proposal, which may be why U.S. Term Limits didn’t mention it.

Honestly, though, I don’t see either bill getting very far UNLESS we put a lot of pressure on Democrats to vote for it. And considering half of Maryland’s delegation is either approaching or beyond that six-term/two-term threshold I don’t see a lot of support coming its way. (They wouldn’t be affected as current officeholders but most have made a lifetime of political office; I’m looking at you, Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski.)

The same should hold true for Maryland state legislators, but to date I’m not aware of any bill which would limit their terms. If one were to pass – doubtful for the same reasons a federal law would pass – it would have to go to the voters and, if the Gallup numbers are anywhere near correct it would pass.

But a phenomenon present in national elections would also probably work to our detriment in a state election. While many people have a “throw the bums out” mentality, that doesn’t extend to their particular bum. How else can a body which collectively has approval ratings in the teens or below otherwise retain over 80 to 90 percent of those members who choose to run for re-election? If they enforced their own term limits there would be no need for a Constitutional amendment; sadly we are at the point we are because voters don’t have the will or desire to do so.

Data usage (a follow up to yesterday’s post)

As if on cue from yesterday, it’s more and more apparent the campaign never ends for Barack Obama. This morning I received an e-mail, which I will reprint in its entirety (except for killing the links.) It comes from Stephanie Cutter, Deputy Campaign Manager, and entitled “Help the President with one phone call.”

Again I have to ask: wasn’t the election over a month ago?

Michael –

Who will decide if your taxes increase in just 22 days? A few dozen members of the House of Representatives, that’s who.

Cutting taxes for the middle class shouldn’t be difficult, especially when Republicans claim they agree with the President on the issue. But some Republicans are still holding middle-class tax cuts hostage simply because they want to cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires.

Here’s what’s going on right now: President Obama is asking Congress to move forward on a plan that would prevent 98 percent of American families from paying higher taxes next year. The Senate has passed that bill, and the President is ready to sign it — but the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives won’t even bring the bill to the floor for a vote. House Democrats have filed a petition that would force a vote if it attracts 218 signatures.

If a bill has enough votes to pass, Congress should vote on it and pass it. It’s a pretty simple proposition. And every Member of Congress who hasn’t signed on to keep taxes low for the middle class needs to hear from you.

Call your representative today and ask them to sign the petition in support of a vote. According to our records, here’s who you should call:

Representative Andy Harris
(202) 225-5311

Not your representative? Call the switchboard operator at 202-224-3121. Not sure who your representative is? Click here to look it up.

Here’s a suggestion on what to say — feel free to improvise and let your representative’s office know why you’re personally supporting the President’s plan:

“Hi, I’m Michael. As a voter from your district, I support the President’s plan to extend tax cuts for 98 percent of American families — $2,000 a year means a lot to me and to middle-class families here in Maryland. I urge Representative Harris to sign the petition forcing the House to vote on the Senate-passed bill, and to vote “yes” if it reaches the floor.”

Once you’ve called your representative’s office, please report back and let us know how it went:

http://my.barackobama.com/Report-Your-Call

Let’s get one thing straight: If your taxes go up, Republicans will have made a conscious choice to let that happen. They’ll have missed the opportunity to prevent it, just to cut taxes for the wealthy.

Republicans need to stop using the middle class as a bargaining chip. If they fail to act, a typical middle-class family of four will see a $2,200 tax hike starting in a few short weeks. Middle-class families could face some tough financial decisions simply because Republicans didn’t want to ask the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans to pay their fair share.

That’s not what President Obama and you campaigned on, and that’s not what millions of Americans voted for just one month ago.

We know we can affect change in Washington when we raise our voices together. So pick up the phone and make a call — your representative needs to hear from you.

Here’s who to call, one more time:

Representative Andy Harris
(202) 225-5311

Thanks,

Stephanie

Stephanie Cutter
Deputy Campaign Manager
Obama for America

P.S. — Don’t forget to tell us you made your voice heard. Report back here.

Now I know just enough about HTML to be dangerous, but there are a number of strings enclosed in the “Report Your Call” links: a keycode, e-mail address, zip code, medium (e-mail), a date code to report which e-mail was effective in motivating the respondent to call their Congressman, and a long series of code for the landing page. My bet is that this particular e-mail only went to supporters in Republican House districts.  And by the way, they’re also lying: there is no tax cut for millionaires, billionaires, or anyone else being proposed by the Republicans – they would just like to keep the rates exactly where they currently are. So stop lying to us, Stephanie.

Yet look at the data they gain from this e-mail response. By gathering the e-mail back they know that a) the respondent is receptive to the class warfare message, b) they cared enough to take action, which perhaps means they would be interested in further actions, and c) may have gotten a report on what was said by the Congressman in question for future opposition research background. And that’s nothing compared to the information gleaned from social media, according to this CNN report from October, 2011. Yes, Obama was perfecting his game a year before the election while Republicans were flailing about trying to find a candidate. It’s an advantage of incumbency, of course, but the GOP could have done the same.

Unfortunately, Republicans aren’t nearly as effective in putting out a similar message telling their stalwarts to call their Democratic senators and advocate for a fair approach to balancing the budget like the rest of us do – when income is tapped out, you cut the items which aren’t necessary, like so-called “stimulus” spending. Don’t threaten a nascent recovery by raising taxes on job creators – just extend the current rates for everyone like you have before.

In case you’re wondering, Senator Barbara Mikulski’s number is (202) 224-4654 and Senator Ben Cardin’s is (202) 224-4524. You can make two calls and tell them to maintain the tax rates in place and exhibit some fiscal responsibility for once – hell, tell them while you’re at it to stop bottling up the budget process and pass one for the first time in three-plus years. Try this message on for size:

“Hi, I’m Michael. As a Maryland voter, I support the common-sense plan to extend tax cuts for all American families and job creators — $2,000 a year means a lot to me and the job creation would mean a lot to Maryland. I urge my Senators to move the tax package passed by the House as well as a reasonable budget with prudent spending so all of us can continue to enjoy our current tax rates and have a measure of stability those who create jobs can count on. Don’t fall into the class envy trap Barack Obama is trying to set.”

But I didn’t get that from a Republican source; I had to make up the riff from the other side’s creation. Nor are we doing the same data mining from other organizations. For example, my AFP e-mails link back to a site called Kintera, which is probably gathering its own information for commercial purposes but not for political advocacy. Mitt Romney’s mail went back to sites like targetedvictory.com, theromneyplan.com, theromneyryanplan.com, or takeaction.wta015.com. Zac Moffatt was the digital director for the Romney campaign, so the question is: what’s he going to do with all the data he received? (It didn’t appear as if the Romney campaign collected as much information from their e-mail appeals, though, despite hiring experts in the retail field according to this NBC story.)

Somewhere there is a load of good data we can use – along with a pot of money and the usage of the alternative conservative media more and more people are gaining trust in – to push the needle back in the right direction after four-plus years of losing ground.

So let’s not just go to the same old consultants next time. We need a new approach to hopefully produce better results because 2014 and 2016 will be here before we know it and we’ve lost a lot since the middle of the last decade. It’s been 24 years since a Republican presidential candidate exceeded 51% of the vote nationwide; then again, only one Democrat (Obama in 2008) has done the same. The era of the Reaganesque landslide is over as we have a bitterly divided country in two camps: one voting for its self-interest and the other voting selfishly. To push people from one side to the other is my goal, and it should be the same for everyone else who loves liberty.

Conservative Victory PAC picks Bongino

This isn’t the most surprising item to come down the pike, but after selecting Ken Timmerman and Faith Loudon as Congressional choices for support, the Conservative Victory PAC went statewide by backing dynamic U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino. And they spoke about him glowingly:

Before a crowd of Bongino supporters at the home of Karl and Carolin Schumaker, CVPAC Treasurer Ruth Melson presented the endorsement to everyone’s delight.

Melson complimented Bongino’s inspiring campaign trail message that has gained him admirers throughout the State of Maryland. Melson remarked: “Dan Bongino has run a campaign with one of the strongest grassroots outreach and volunteer recruitment efforts in recent memory. I can tell you that they are all charged up by his exceptional articulation of Conservative principles, which recently got a shout-out from Sarah Palin herself. Dan’s message is simple - our liberties are under attack, and it is we the people who know best, not big government. Dan warns us not to get lost in the granular details. This is a far bigger battle against a dangerous political ideology and indeed they are playing for keeps. Yes folks, the stakes are high.”

The person who wrote this release, however, was thoughtful enough to quote liberally from what Dan said previously at the event.

In an earlier speech Bongino – a former Secret Service Agent – clarified what is at stake: “I spent my entire life studying macro-economics. The writing is on the wall. It is all there, and again I don’t want to sound apocalyptic, because God, I love this country…but we are in a lot of trouble, and I don’t want to be the prognosticator here. We are printing our way into a debt apocalypse and inflating away the value of our money and all of our assets. We can’t build anything here, because our corporate tax rate is the highest in the world. Our real estate market is collapsing. The very core of what this country was built on is collapsing, and the time to turn around, right the ship, make a U-turn is right now. It’s not tomorrow….all of you listeners, you have to do. Don’t talk. Talk is cheap….Action changes the world. If you’re not volunteering for a campaign and just sitting on your butt, you’re part of the problem, and you are whistling past the graveyard…. An entire generation will be left holding the bag if we don’t come through in November.”

It’s understandable that some would simply dismiss those statements as partisan red meat. But has Ben Cardin been part of the solution, or has he stood by mutely while the debt meter spun wildly, ratcheting upward at a pace of $1 trillion-plus per year? If you believe Dan Bongino – and the guy has an MBA, so perhaps he has some inkling about what he’s talking about – this is a serious problem. Come on, my degree is in environmental design and I’m smart enough to know that going into debt means it’s likely the creditor will be paid back in money that’s not worth as much because of inflation, particularly when the money supply is greater but intrinsic value doesn’t keep up.

But let’s talk about the Conservative Victory PAC. They’ve now endorsed three candidates I’m aware of, and the question has to become: how much help can they give?

Obviously, endorsements aren’t just about the candidate – they’re about the endorser as well, particularly if it’s a PAC. A group which backs an appealing slate of candidates isn’t just thinking about the election at hand but also one or two cycles ahead. Certainly they want to back at least a few winners as well.

Even Loudon herself has admitted she has an uphill struggle with a 4:1 registration disadvantage in her district, so the CVPAC’s two best chances for victory are with Timmerman and Bongino. Timmerman is hanging his hat on a district which is now more Republican than it was two years ago thanks to Maryland Democrats’ greed in wanting to create a friendly district for State Senator Rob Garagiola to run for Congress from; instead the Sixth District will feature upstart John Delaney, who trounced Garagiola in the primary, trying to upend incumbent Roscoe Bartlett. The addition of thousands of Montgomery County voters to the Sixth from the Eighth meant new voters had to come from somewhere and that somewhere was the eastern end of the former Sixth District, which is a much more pronounced GOP area. Timmerman was one of the few who was fine with redistricting.

But don’t count Dan Bongino out either. If Ben Cardin were 25 points ahead like Barb Mikulski ended up against Eric Wargotz in the 2010 U.S. Senate election, I don’t think he would have agreed to a series of debates with Bongino. Of course, the devil is in the details and Cardin can always welch on the commitment if he believes that doing so would hurt his opponent – I think Cardin is overconfident at this point that he can mop up the floor with this political neophyte – but that’s a sign the race is closer than many might believe. Most political handicappers still rate Maryland as a lock for Ben but there are a lot of other factors at play in this election that I’m not sure they are considering here.

Meanwhile, the Conservative Victory PAC is certainly trying to build its coffers up for this race but it will probably have a limited impact on these federal races. I think their goal is to use this election cycle to build up for a set of races they can have a larger impact on in 2014. As we’ve heard before, a number of close local races went to the Democrats in 2010 – races where a few dollars more could have made a difference. After all, I was bombarded by nearly  dozen mailers claiming then-Delegate Jim Mathias was all but the second coming of Ronald Reagan in his Senate run, but a few more dollars to cut through the clutter in Worcester County (the only one of the three Mathias won) may have turned the tide in Michael James’s favor. I only got a couple pro-James mailers.

Listen, I’m as much about conservative victory as anyone. But I hope the people who run the PAC don’t spread themselves too thin in this cycle when the chance to make a bigger impact comes in 2014.

The end of a bad O’Malley month

Updated below, at end of post.

Before everyone goes on vacation and tunes out until Labor Day, Martin O’Malley’s worst Presidential campaign nightmare fired yet another salvo at the good ship S.S. O’Malley 2016. The 18,000-strong Change Maryland group found more interesting data to back up a new claim that 6,500 businesses have pulled up stakes and left the Free State in the 2007-2010 time period.

And I like this Change Maryland release because they added the context I’ve had to provide with their numbers over the last month. Someone has been doing his homework!

Here you go:

Change Maryland announced today that nearly 6,500 small businesses vanished or left the state since 2007 – more evidence of a sharp decline in the productive components of the economy.  As with other reports Change Maryland has produced, this publicly available data comes from government sources, namely the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Governor O’Malley says repeatedly the most important priority is ‘jobs, jobs, jobs,” said Change Maryland Chairman Larry Hogan.  ”If we are to hold the Governor accountable to the standard he set, then by every objective measure he has failed miserably.”

This latest Change Maryland report draws on census bureau economic research that quantifies the number of firms from one to 99 employees during 2007 to 2010, the latest year for which numbers are available.  Confirming earlier Change Maryland findings, government data shows the state’s ability to support business, produce jobs and maintain its tax base is eroding. This report comes on the heels of Maryland leading the region in job loss this year and in out-migration of tax payers from 2007 to 2010.

Since 2007, in addition to losing 6,494 small businesses, Maryland has lost 31,000 residents of tax-paying households and 40,000 jobs. “The pattern here is unmistakable,” said Hogan. “In record numbers, taxpayers, jobs and small businesses are fleeing state government’s big-spending, over-taxed, over-regulated, anti-jobs agenda.”

Maryland’s loss of small businesses is statistically tied with Delaware as the worst in the region, as a percentage of such firms that existed in 2007.  Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia saw relatively smaller declines in a period of economic activity marked by pre-recession, recession and feeble recovery.   On a percentage basis of firms lost, Delaware lost 4.72%, Maryland 4.71%, West Virginia 4.51%, Virginia 3.66%, and Pennsylvania 2.64%, Washington D.C., on the other hand, experienced a 2.59% gain in small businesses.

That also seems to echo my findings regarding the most recent report done by Change Maryland in relation to the number of overall jobs and overall capital lost in each state over the time period.

So it’s obvious that an argument can be made that Martin O’Malley’s job creation policies aren’t working. Furthermore, because we happen to be so close to Washington D.C. we can gather that their modest successes come at the expense of the rest of the country – hey, pencil-pushers have to eat, shop for groceries, get haircuts, and conduct all the other economic activities of life, too. It’s just that their elite lives high off the hog while the rest of us struggle with the burdens of supersized government. Therein lies the true 1% vs. 99% argument.

Yet there are a couple legitimate questions asked by those who ponder Maryland politics. One is why the effort to hammer a politician who has nowhere else to go politically in Maryland politics? Unless he wants to return to office in 2018 after sitting out his mandated one term away, Martin O’Malley isn’t going to run again on a statewide basis unless he decides either he wants to be a United States Senator – and there has been a gut feeling from some who think he’s lining himself up to be appointed to the unexpired term of Barbara Mikulski should she decide to retire early – or, he’ll be on the Maryland primary ballot for President in 2016. While his record as Governor is a legitimate campaign issue in that case, there’s a statewide vote for many offices in between now and then.

The second is why only pick on O’Malley? Certainly he has more discretion than most state executives in the country, but Martin O’Malley has never voted on a tax or fee increase. That task has been left to the Maryland General Assembly, and because there’s a wide enough Democratic majority there to pass anything O’Malley wants – even without the need for some of the center-left members of the dominant party who come from more conservative areas of the state to participate – perhaps the blame needs to be shifted away from the governor’s office. However, my guess is that there is a risk of alienating the portion of Change Maryland which is registered Democratic and may happen to agree with some of their party philosophy.

But there is one thing to be said about the Change Maryland group. At the GOP convention in late April, they celebrated attaining the 12,000 member mark (although the cake originally reflected a much higher number.)

Three months later, thanks to some outstanding marketing and usage of free media, that number is 50 percent higher. At this pace of exponential growth, come 2014 they might well be at 120,000.

Yet there is context to be had here, too. In 2010 the upstart conservative Brian Murphy picked up just under 1/4 of the GOP primary vote in losing to Bob Ehrlich. But his actual vote total was 67,364. Furthermore, even Michael James, my local GOP candidate for State Senator who lost a close race to Jim Mathias, received just under 23,000 votes in a single State Senate district. When you look at things that way 18,000 is nice but there’s a long way to go to become a powerful movement.

In my heart of hearts, I think Larry Hogan has an eye on Government House in January, 2015, and he’s laying out some of the parameters of his campaign via the Change Maryland vehicle. There’s nothing wrong with that, just as there’s no problem with David Craig getting cozy with the conservative blogosphere or Blaine Young looking to meet local conservative leaders at a Ocean City meet-and-greet next month during MACO. (I just received that note.) And certainly there’s no shortage of schadenfreude in watching O’Malley flail about trying to combat the slings and arrows launched by Change Maryland.

In the end, though, the key to really changing Maryland will be in supporting good, conservative candidates at all levels. Unfortunately, the other side is smart as well and they know that some of these ticking time bombs will go off at the county level, particularly in counties otherwise ably run by the GOP. Once we get everyone pulling in the same direction, it’s only then my adopted home state can deliver on its promise.

Update: Jim Pettit of Change Maryland responds:

Governor O’Malley is pursuing the Presidency – the last thing we want to see is a continuation of the same irresponsible fiscal policies pursued on the state level that would only cause further damage to our entire nation in the years ahead.

In the meantime, Change Maryland is focused on stopping more bad things from happening within our state, and we’re too busy leading the fight against the anti-jobs agenda of the incumbent governor to worry about who the next governor might be in 2015.

He’s number 22: Harris tops Maryland delegation on Club for Growth scorecard

While the group can learn a thing or two about how to organize a legislative scorecard from someone who knows about it, the Club for Growth recently released its 2011 legislative scorecards for the House and Senate. And for all those who believe the Club for Growth backed Harris for a reason, well, I guess you have your proof. Too bad thoughtful people agree with most of the Club’s positions.

I’ll cut to the chase: here is the percentage score and rank among Maryland’s House delegation, by district. Bear in mind there are 435 House members:

  1. Andy Harris, 95% (22)
  2. Dutch Ruppersberger, 1% (419)
  3. John Sarbanes, 8% (365)
  4. Donna Edwards, 11% (335)
  5. Steny Hoyer, 8% (372)
  6. Roscoe Bartlett, 89% (42)
  7. Elijah Cummings, 9% (353)
  8. Chris Van Hollen, 12% (315)

On the Senate side, Barbara Mikulski scored 11% and ranked 72nd, while Ben Cardin attained a miserable 3% rating and finished 94th.

It’s obvious that Maryland can do its part to help enact pro-growth policies by helping to get rid of the anti-growth president we have now, but more importantly in this election ousting Ben Cardin and some of the low-performing House members we have. That’s not to say one of Bartlett’s GOP primary opponents wouldn’t have a similar score, though, so don’t consider this an endorsement of Roscoe Bartlett. (Harris is unopposed in the GOP primary.)

Is eliminating Ben Cardin a long shot? Yes, a prudent observer would have to admit it is. Cardin is a likable guy who reminds people of a kindly grandfather, and it’s obvious he has plenty of political instinct since he’s made a long career out of being elected every two to four years. (By my count, he’s won in 1966, 1970, 1974, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006. That’s sixteen elections, folks.)

But it can be done, and we have to state our case to Maryland voters. The same goes for several House seats where I think we have a fighting chance: the Second, Fifth, and Eighth districts are probably the most in play. Imagine holding our two we have now and winning those three – Democrats would be self-immolating themselves if their heads didn’t explode first.

There’s no question conservatives have the right ideas, it’s just that we have to get together and put them into practice. Of course, the Club for Growth isn’t perfect but I would argue it’s pretty damn conservative and this is a useful gauge on who needs to go in our current Congressional setup.

Tomorrow I have a sort of companion piece on one Senate candidate, although I could have probably written it regarding several others as well. He points out a truism about Maryland politics that I expand on.

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