The “poor Kathy” campaign

As a Republican in Maryland, there are two things you have to account for in a statewide race: you have a smaller pool of party regulars in the voting bank when compared to the Democrat in the race and you will have less money and free media than the Democrat has at his or her disposal. These have been givens throughout the modern political era, and it’s a rare Republican who can overcome them.

But I think the idea of playing up just how low-budget a campaign is (against a well-funded Washington insider) doesn’t work well as a serious campaign ad. I’m going to share Kathy Szeliga’s ad so you can judge whether she plays this shtick (as well as the motorcycle riding angle) too much.

In truth, when I looked up the latest FEC reports (as of June 30), Van Hollen only had about a 2-to-1 cash on hand advantage on Szeliga, with $566,795 on hand. Admittedly, Van Hollen had definitely churned through a lot more money than Szeliga over the previous 15 months covered in his report, but he was also trying to fend off a well-known challenger for the Democratic nomination in Fourth District Congressman Donna Edwards.

And Kathy was determined to squeeze her nickels:

Our fundraising has been going well, but we didn’t want to waste a dime, so we shot the ad on an iPhone – saving the campaign thousands of dollars. And TV ads are expensive, so we decided to buy cable and focus on a strong social media push.

She would need more than a strong social media push, though: her 17,126 Facebook likes trail Van Hollen’s 21,333, while the margin is even worse on Twitter: Szeliga has just 2,349 followers compared to 28,780 Twitter followers for Van Hollen. (Of course, Chris has more of a national profile as a Congressman so that should be expected. As evidence, current Senator Barb Mikulski has 48,683 followers while Andy Harris has 6,281.)

But since the Democrat is afraid to debate in the hinterlands of the state (or include the third candidate in the race, Green Party candidate Margaret Flowers), perhaps the ante needs to be increased. This is what you really need to know about Chris Van Hollen: a description from his campaign website but edited for more truthfulness by this writer. Normally this would be a blockquote but I have it in normal text to make the edits (deletions struck through, additions in italics) more clear.


Chris Van Hollen has been described as “one of those rare leaders who runs for office because he wants to DO something, not because he wants to BE something.” Yet it’s what he has done that should trouble the hardworking Marylanders he’s trying to win over.

This sentiment captures Chris’s approach to public service, an approach that he will bring to the U.S. Senate to fight – and win – for Marylanders who depend on the ever-expanding federal government to deal with on the challenges we face today.

Government-dependent Maryland families can count on Chris to be their champion – because that’s what he has been doing for over two decades. As for the rest of you, well, you are correctly described by our Presidential nominee as the “basket of deplorables“ because you don’t share my ‘progressive’ vision.

Chris was first elected to public office in 1990, when he campaigned for the Maryland House of Delegates as part of the ‘Choice Team,’ which unseated an a pro-life incumbent opposed to women’s reproductive rights. So I have spent 26 of my 57 years on this planet in public office, and as you will see later on I was groomed for this practically from birth.

In Annapolis, Chris quickly earned a reputation as a champion for progressive causes and a talented legislator who was not afraid to take on blame powerful special interests for problems we in government created – like the NRA, Big Oil, and Big Tobacco – on behalf of hardworking families. I just didn’t let on that the NRA never pulled the trigger on a murder victim in Baltimore, Big Oil makes a fraction of the profit for putting in all the work compared to the ever-increasing bonanza we take in with every gallon, and we don’t have the guts to actually ban tobacco because we need their tax (and settlement) money.

He led successful fights to make Maryland the first state to require infringe with built-in safety trigger locks on handguns, ban the prospective job creation of oil drilling around the Chesapeake Bay, and prevent tobacco companies from peddling cigarettes to our kids, taking credit even though sales to minors have been illegal for decades. Chris also negotiated an historic tax increase in funding for all Maryland schools. Just don’t ask me to increase the choices you have to educate your children by allowing that money to follow your child.

Time Magazine said Chris was “a hero to environmentalists, education groups and gun control advocates.” The Baltimore Sun called him “effective” and “tenacious” and the Washington Post dubbed him “one of the most accomplished members of the General Assembly.” If you were a special interest that depended on a continual government gravy train, I was definitely your “fair-haired boy.”

In 2002 Chris was elected to Congress on a wave of grassroots special interest support, ousting a 16-year Republican incumbent thanks in large part to some creative redistricting. There he brought the same brand of can-do activism socialist failure with him. He led the successful effort to stop big banks from reaping outrageous profits from having student loans as part of their loan portfolio - instead, we made sure Uncle Sam got that piece of the action and rigged the game so that even bankruptcy cannot save most graduates who can’t find a job to pay their loans from - and was also credited with helping Democrats win back control of the House in 2006, just in time to steer the national economy into the rocks.  He became a Democratic leader and played a key role in the passage of the Affordable Care Act perpetual annual increase in health insurance rates and deductibles, the Wall Street Reform protection law, and the Economic Recovery Act that helped rebuild our shattered economy has helped saddle us with the worst recovery from recession in the last century.

When the Republicans took over the House in 2010, Chris’s colleagues elected him to lead the battle against the Tea Party budget sanity. In that role he has been leading the fight to protect Medicare and Social Security from GOP budget attacks necessary reforms and protect vital investments in education, transportation, medical research and programs for the most needy. We have to buy those votes somehow and grease the right palms – debt is only a number anyway, right?

Chris has also unveiled a comprehensive plan to address one of the greatest challenges of our time – growing inequality in America.  His ‘Action Plan to Grow the Paychecks of All, Not Just the Wealth of a Few’  Redistribute Even More Wealth and Create More Government Dependency’ has been called a forward-looking blueprint for building an economy a government behemoth that works for everyone the ruling class inside the Beltway.

In the Senate Chris will continue to fight for against bold measures to revive the promise that every individual has the chance to climb the ladder of opportunity and lead a successful and fulfilling life. We Democrats can’t let an individual be successful on his or her own, particularly if he or she is a minority.

The son of a Baltimore native, Chris’s involvement in social justice and political action began at an early age. Chris’s mom and dad were both dedicated public servants, and growing up he saw their strong commitment to making the world a better place.  As a student, he joined efforts to end Apartheid in South Africa and stop the nuclear arms race. And while Chris put himself through law school at night, he worked as a Congressional aide and then as an advisor to Maryland Governor William Donald Schaefer. So in my adult life I have never held a private-sector job or signed a paycheck. But I’m fighting for you because I am down with your struggle to balance a household budget when both parents are working multiple jobs!

Chris and his wife, Katherine, live in Kensington where they have raised their three children.


The above is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but along the line in this campaign I am very tempted to look at some of the local races on a more issue-by-issue basis, a “compare and contrast” if you will. I have no doubt that Chris Van Hollen is well to the left of most hardworking Maryland families.

But if Kathy Szeliga is as conservative as she says, perhaps we should downplay the “Washington insider” angle a bit because that’s not going to play inside the Beltway. The latest voter registration numbers tell the tale: just between the two counties directly bordering Washington, D.C. we find 31% of all state voters. Add in the close-by counties of Charles and Howard and the number edges close to 40%. Put another way, 2 in 5 Maryland voters have some degree of connection to the seat of federal government – even if they don’t work directly for Uncle Sam, their area was built on the economic impact of the government bureaucrat.

So the real question has to be about real solutions. Van Hollen cites a lot of things he has worked on, but one has to ask if the work he has done has actually solved the problem. Intentions might be grand for putting together a political webpage, but they don’t fly in the real world.

Even if you go back to his earliest days, consider these checklist items: as a youth, Van Hollen worked to stop apartheid in South Africa and against nuclear arms proliferation. Unfortunately, the transition away from apartheid also led to the decline of South Africa as a nation – just like a number of American inner cities in the 1950s and 1960s the nation was a victim of white flight because among those who were liberated were too many who used the occasion to settle scores instead of living peacefully as may have occurred with a slower transition. And that youthful resistance against nuclear proliferation yielded to political partisanship when Van Hollen supported the Iranian nuclear agreement. Perhaps the proliferation he sought to end was only our own.

Or ponder the effects of the policies Van Hollen backed in the General Assembly. Trigger locks became required for all guns sold in Maryland, so there’s already an extra expense. And I seriously doubt the bad guys have one on their guns, so if some citizen is shot and killed because they couldn’t disengage a trigger lock in order to defend themselves, will Van Hollen apologize or believe more legislation is needed?

And like many liberal policies, Chris took the first step and his cohorts have walked them a mile. We went from banning oil drilling in the Chesapeake (which may not be economically viable anyway, but we have no way of finding out) to thwarting the state’s efforts to drill for its proven natural gas reserves in the Marcellus Shale region (as well as other prospective areas including Annapolis and parts of the Eastern Shore.) That cost the state hundreds of possible jobs. Meanwhile, the state of Maryland perpetuates the hypocrisy of encouraging people to stop smoking with a small portion of the taxes they rake in with every pack – a sum that “progressives” annually want to increase as one of the state’s most regressive taxes.

Nor should we forget the policies Van Hollen has supported over the last eight years. Just ask around whether your friend in conversation feels they are better off with their health coverage, or if the economy is really doing well for them. If they have student loans, ask them what they think of the price of college. In all these areas, government that considers meddling as its task has made things worse for the rest of us in Maryland.

These are the questions Kathy Szeliga should be asking, rather than joking about her low-budget campaign. The aggressor sets the rules, and to win over the voters the candidate has to define the opponent for them. My definition of Chris Van Hollen is that he’s part of the problem, so the task is to make sure voters know that before explaining the solution.

Explaining the partisan difference

Reader Joe Ollinger forwarded to me a recent Washington Times summary by Anjali Shastry of a Democratic counter-proposal to Governor Hogan’s redistricting reforms.  On the heels of our latest Wicomico County Republican Club meeting that featured Walter Olson, co-chair of the state’s Redistricting Reform Committee, the timing is fabulous.

There are a couple great tacit admissions that we should take away from the Maryland majority’s plan. In essence they were conceding that, indeed, these districts were put together for partisan advantage. But rather than be contrite, they whine that they can’t “disarm” unless some other Republican state somewhere does the same. That condition may already be met: North Carolina had to postpone its Congressional primary elections in order to redraw two districts deemed to be inappropriate, and that is a state with a Republican-controlled General Assembly.

Of course, even that won’t satisfy Maryland Democrats who have thrived on the ability to redraw the maps to suit their purposes. For example, what are the odds that random chance would dictate 44 of the 50 Republicans in the Maryland House represent districts that are larger than the state average? And did the voting tastes of the state change so much that in two years (2000 to 2002) the state’s Congressional delegation went from a 4-4 split to 6-2 Democrat at a time when then-President George W. Bush’s popularity in the aftermath of 9/11 was at a peak?

People are fed up with the crap. While I question their wisdom in believing Donald Trump is the appropriate candidate to convey the point, there are millions who are tired of the political gamesmanship. Here in Maryland Larry Hogan rode into office as a centrist Republican, has arguably become the state’s most popular politician with the impending retirement of Senator Barbara Mikulski, and has decided one of his priorities is to make the redistricting process more equitable between not just the two parties, but voters all over the spectrum who may not like the two party options. I can’t argue with that. (It’s not like he asked to go back to the old system where each Maryland county had its own Senator, which times two is the method I would favor to restore balance to our state’s government by making sure counties have their interests protected. Instead of direct elections, it would be the county’s legislative body making the selections.)

And then we have Jamie Raskin’s “ranked choice” idea. This video probably explains it better than I can:

270ponents claim that RCV encourages turnout and discourages negative campaigning, insofar as it’s been applied on a local level. However, there’s an argument that voters won’t take the time to familiarize themselves with the multiple choices and that RCV can still be manipulated by the formation of slates.

Yet Raskin’s idea of multiple-candidate Congressional districts is already being implemented here in Maryland, a state which has a variance of House districts based on their overlaying Senate districts: some are three single-member divisions, some are divided into a two-member district and a single-member district, and others are completely at-large. In most of those at-large cases a single party wins and oftentimes the opposition doesn’t even fill out the ballot.

As is often the case, when Maryland Democrats don’t get their way they point the finger of blame at outside entities. Sorry, this one is on you guys.

Odds and ends number 81

It’s Leap Day, so why not use the occasion to put up the odds and ends cluttering up the mailbox? After sifting through the stuff I thought might be useful but is now pretty much irrelevant, I’ve still come up with a post’s worth of things that take a sentence to a couple paragraphs to deal with.

As you may know, here in Maryland we have passed the halfway point of the “90 days of terror” I call the General Assembly session. While several of the items I cite aren’t on the agenda, I think you can file them under the “bright idea” category, as in “don’t give them any bright ideas.”

While the first idea (one of many Daily Signal items that caught my eye) isn’t really on the table in the state, locally they are kicking around the thought of assisting local students who want to attend Wor-Wic Community College. But Louisiana’s program is breaking the state, so it may be a cautionary tale for the county.

Look, you begin with one college campus and recent high school graduates but then the folks at Salisbury University will want in, then there will be a clamor to include other groups and schools. With any government program, mission creep is a concern and this is no exception. It’s a natural lead-in to an excellent piece by James Bovard at Mises Daily (for this the hat tip goes to my friends at Americans for Limited Government.) Once we set the precedent of free tuition, will the county ever get off the hook?

“(Politicians) realize that addicting citizens to government handouts is the easiest way to breed mass docility and stretch their power,” writes Bovard, and he is absolutely correct. Why do you think I advocate so much for starving the beast? It’s the only way out of this mess we have created.

But as the Daily Signal adds in another great piece, Republicans who want limited government find it a tough sell in minority communities despite the evidence that shoveling money into the welfare system isn’t helping. Perhaps this is because conservatives are losing the battle for debunking the lies being sold to the minorities and youth, despite Dan Bongino’s best efforts to change the narrative at the Conservative Review.

Then again, when you have the dissent-free atmosphere of college campuses these days (again from the Daily Signal), it’s easier to see why the “skulls full of mush” remain in their state.

Something that is on the docket in Maryland once again is a “death with dignity” bill. But my final piece from the Daily Signal points out that if you took Oregon’s assisted suicide rate and extrapolated the numbers nationwide, 10,529 people annually would take their own lives. By comparison, in 2013 just over 33,000 people died as a result of vehicle accidents and roughly the same number perished in firearm-related deaths. But the majority of those firearm deaths were suicides, with 11,208 being homicides. (Table 18 way back in this government report.)

So what we would be doing is likely reducing the firearm death figure by a little bit, but increasing the suicide rate by giving it less of a stigma. I’m not sure I agree with this because in this day and age it’s easy for the greedy grandkids to convince their rich grandma she is bound any day to catch Alzheimer’s and struggle on for years afterward. Why not save us, uh, we mean yourself the trouble, they would ask.

I wanted to bring up one more seeming juxtaposition in Maryland politics before I switch gears. A couple weeks back there was a candidates’ debate for the Republicans seeking the U.S. Senate seat (way too) long held by Barbara Mikulski. I believe there were five candidates present of the fourteen who filed, but the most notable absentee was Delegate Kathy Szeliga. As she noted, there was a Maryland GOP event held that same night. Under the heading of “An Amazing Event!” she wrote:

Thursday night, I was able to attend an event with three great governors… Bob Ehrlich, Charlie Baker (Mass. GOP Gov.), and Larry Hogan even stopped by! These men know how to win and govern in blue states.

We will win our U.S. Senate campaign the same way – by being authentic and showing voters that we truly care about our state and nation. Our ideas work and empower people over big government.

It’s interesting she points this out since we didn’t get to hear her ideas in the debate. On the other hand, fellow candidate Richard Douglas chided Szeliga indirectly by stating:

I am delighted to be participating in the Goucher College Republican candidate’s debate for the U.S. Senate on February 18, 2016. Only a serious family emergency could keep me away. Over many weeks, College Republicans and some of Maryland’s most devoted grassroots Republican activists have devoted enormous effort to this useful event. I warmly commend them for this effort, and from the beginning, my participation was never in doubt. Service in the armed forces and with two U.S. Senate committees teaches a vital lesson: people come first. I took that lesson to heart in Iraq, on a Navy submarine, and in the U.S. Senate as it reacted to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. If elected to the U.S. Senate, I will never make party or President higher priorities than the people of Maryland.

As you recall, there were a series of questions I sent out to 12 of the 14 candidates (two had bad e-mail addresses so their mail bounced.) I mention this because I received Douglas’s answers yesterday as the second response to come in – haven’t heard from Szeliga yet.

Finally, if there were a third person I would like to add to monoblogue (at least on a weekly basis) it’s this lady. Each time I read Marita Noon’s posts on the political aspects of energy I nod my head in agreement, and this one was no exception – it even ties in to the lunacy on college campuses these days because this is what some of these crackpots do after college. I give you the movement to “keep it in the ground”:

“Keep it in the ground” is the new face of environmental activism. If those who understand the role energy plays in America and our freedoms don’t engage, don’t attend meetings and send statements, and don’t vote, the policy makers have almost no choice but to think these vocal few represent the many.

For example, there’s the case of Sandoval County, New Mexico, which has potential to be a wealthier county but can’t even give permission to drill an exploratory well without angst:

In the past few years, when oil prices were higher, Encana and WPX drilled some 200 wells in the same geology, 70 of them in Sandoval County. Not one single instance of any interference, damage, or invasion of fresh water aquifers has occurred. For that matter, over the past 50 years of production in Sandoval County, even with technology and safety standards that were not as advanced or rigorous as todays, there has not been one instance of aquifer harm.


One “small drilling well” outside of a community on the edge of Albuquerque that could create jobs and help the local and state economy could be blocked because of a few dozen agitators who could cause the county to “keep it in the ground.”

When I read this it makes me think of the short-sightedness of several regional governmental bodies that have expressed their opposition to the simple act of seismic surveying of the waters off the coast, citing harm to marine life. (This didn’t seem to be a problem in 2013 when it was done to place wind turbines, though.)

I suppose they would rather wreak havoc on the migratory bird population with wind turbines, but I think both oil platforms and wind turbines can co-exist – an “all of the above” strategy if you will. It’s just that one will prove to be a boondoggle without subsidies and one won’t.

So as we wrap up this Leap Day, here’s hoping Donald Trump is the first to take a flying leap – to where I don’t care.

A look ahead: 2016 in Maryland

Now that I made my thoughts on the fate of Wicomico County next year known, it’s time to expand the focus to the state as a whole. After the runup to the 2014 campaign and the transition of last year occupied the state over the last two years, it seems that the political class has settled in as we enter the second year of Larry Hogan’s term. His honeymoon was extended to some degree by his cancer diagnosis, but with a clean bill of health I suspect the gloves will be coming off as far as statewide Democrats are concerned. They need to position themselves for both the 2018 state election and, in some cases, the 2016 election as well. The surprise retirement announcement from Senator Barb Mikulski placed several Congressional Democrats into the race to succeed her, with House members Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen leading the charge. Elijah Cummings is also considering the race as well.

Of course, having these vacancies means ambitious state politicians are eyeing a move from Annapolis to Washington. So far five Democrats are considering the move, which in turn could create some vacancies by year’s end as it’s likely some of them emerge victorious. But on a policy note, these Democrats aren’t going to run from the political center so look for a serious turn to the left from the General Assembly this year – particularly if they succeed at overturning some of Larry Hogan’s 2015 vetoes in the opening days of this year’s session.

One place where Hogan can make a difference, though, is on the regulatory front. He doesn’t always need the General Assembly to make progress toward his goal of a more business-competitive Maryland, so look for him to try and do some pruning through his department heads.

With the economy recovering ever-so-slightly and the state addressing the structural deficit to the degree that it ran a small surplus this fiscal year, another bone of contention will be how the state’s budget is set up when it comes out next month. Having reached $40 billion last year, even the $500 million reportedly in surplus only allows the state to increase spending by a little over 1 percent – of course, the Democrats have a wish list twice that large and then some. Being used to the 4 to 5 percent annual budget increases common during the O’Malley era, Democrats consider Hogan’s smaller increases as cuts and that attitude is already in effect as we get ready to see the FY2017 budget.

Conservatives, though, probably aren’t going to see a lot of progress toward cutting the O’Malley excess on other issues. Short of a rejection to Maryland’s 2013 gun law in federal court (not likely), Hogan isn’t going to push very hard to restore Second Amendment rights or bring more school choice to the state. In year one, Hogan hasn’t really used his bully pulpit very much – granted, he was ill and undergoing cancer treatment for a large portion of the year but if you’re expecting Hogan to be another Ronald Reagan you may be disappointed. Besides the toll and fee decreases we were given last year, there’s not been much of a push for overall tax relief either thanks to the continuing structural deficit that Hogan’s predecessors have granted to him.

To the extent that Maryland has a large majority of Democratic voters, perhaps the best a conservative can expect is to slow down the leftward slide into the abyss. Bringing real change to the state is perhaps a multiple-term effort – not just the two Hogan may be fortunate enough to receive, but also with the hope that he paves the way for a more conservative successor. With the exception of one Bob Ehrlich term, the state has shifted leftward more or less continuously for decades so it will take time to undo the damage.

With the national election and the real prospect of conservative change in mind, the Maryland Republican agenda should be one of working the state away from its reliability on Uncle Sam as both employer and provider of funding. Since the Democrats are going to make 2016 about laying some ticking time bombs to go off just in time for them to come save the day in 2018, the GOP needs a plan to defuse them.

Maryland probably won’t make the same kind of news in 2016 as it did in 2015 – given the Baltimore riots and tremendous murder rate, we sure hope not. But the year has a lot of potential for this state, in my opinion more so than we’ve had in a decade. Leadership will be the key: if Larry Hogan emerges as the leader, we should be all right. But Heaven help us if it’s one of those on the loony left.

Immigration: The SEASON Act and its effects

By Cathy Keim

Second in an ongoing series.

I am using my prerogative to switch to a different immigration topic because a friend sent this Breitbart article and pointed out that Rep. Andy Harris is on the list, as is Senator Barbara Mikulski. As I mentioned before, immigration is such a broad subject that one cannot cover all the angles in just an article or two.

I actually wrote to Andy Harris about the Strengthen Employment and Seasonal Opportunities Now (SEASON) Act (H.R. 3918) back on November 12. I saw him later that day at the Kathy Szeliga event and I asked him about his support for this bill.

He stated that the Obama administration had changed the regulations about the H2B visa program and HR 3918 was merely to return things to the way they were done previously, adding that employers needed the foreign workers to do these jobs that Americans will not do. I asked about the families of H2B workers and he said that they were not allowed to bring their families with them.

But I checked on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) website and it clearly states that:

Any H-2B worker’s spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age may seek admission in H-4 nonimmigrant classification. Family members are not eligible for employment in the United States while in H-4 status.

So I must disagree with the Congressman’s assertion. My concern was that if the families enter with the worker, then they will most certainly have an impact on the local economy as the children enroll in school and utilize other social services.

The H2B visa worker may be a boon for the employer, but the rest of the community is underwriting the social service costs for the cheap labor. In addition, we are paying the welfare costs of our unemployed citizens who could be working instead of a foreign worker. The taxpayer is picking up the tab in every direction while the employer is improving his profits.

The employers complain that Americans won’t do these jobs, but it is likely that they would do them if they were paid a fair wage. The employers utilize the H2B visa program to bring in foreign workers to keep the wages depressed.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management:

In a separate final rule, the departments unveiled the methodology for determining the prevailing wage that must be paid to H-2B workers.


The Economic Policy Institute’s (vice-president Ross) Eisenbrey expressed disappointment that the rule allows alternative wage surveys to set the prevailing wage. “Employers only use these alternative surveys to ensure that they can pay their workers the least possible amount, rather than using credible and reliable survey data compiled by DOL,” he said, pointing to the seafood industry as an example as having used private wage surveys to justify “paying their H-2B workers wages near the federal minimum wage for grueling work like crab-picking, rather than the higher average wages paid across Virginia and Maryland for similar work.”

Here is a link to information about the changes to the H2B visa program that were put into effect in April of this year.

I also asked Mike Smigiel, who is running against Andy Harris for the First Congressional District seat, for a statement about HR 3918. Smigiel said:

With our real unemployment numbers over 11% and the workforce participation at one of its lowest levels in years we clearly have a workforce that is hard pressed to find employment. The most vulnerable sector of the workforce are youth, legal immigrants, and those with a high school education or less. Record numbers of Americans are living in poverty and surviving on food stamps, it is hard to fathom that Congress would expand the H2-B program to an all time high.

What Congressman Harris failed to address is the fact that those here on the H2-B program can bring their spouses and families in under the H-4 visas. Do you think that the spouses and children of those coming in under the H-4 visa program are not going to be working, going to school, getting sick? These associated costs will be additional burdens upon our already strained economy.

Our first obligation should be to helping our unemployed and underemployed citizens by providing this most vulnerable sector of the workforce work training and providing incentives to employers to hire citizens for the jobs.

It is disingenuous of Congressman Harris to sponsor this legislation since just a few months ago he voted to prohibit American poultry, beef or pork producers from listing the country of origin on their products. This does not benefit the consumer or farm workers but makes it easier for large farming corporations to take their operations overseas where labor is cheaper and there are fewer regulations placed upon their farming operations. Their products can then be sold in the US without any notice that they were not raised here. So thanks to Congressman Harris we may be eating Chinese chickens with American companies’ names on the product.

Once again, I would encourage you to pick up your phone and call Congressman Andy Harris and Senator Barbara Mikulski and ask them to not support HR 3918. Let’s put our own citizens back to work.

Szeliga makes Senate bid official

Beginning a three-day announcement tour in Annapolis yesterday, Delegate Kathy Szeliga made what many considered the worst-kept secret in Maryland politics official: she’s tossing her hat into the ring for a seat in the United States Senate. But it’s not just any seat: if you believe the Washington Post, it’s the Mikulski seat.

Regardless, she becomes the first elected Republican to seek the seat, which will probably draw a crowd: ten years ago, the last time an open Senate seat came up, nearly thirty hopefuls – elected officials and perennial candidates alike – took their shot at the brass ring. Eventually surviving the primaries were Rep. Ben Cardin and Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, with Cardin prevailing by ten points on Election Day.

The 2016 version of this scrum may bring three Democratic House members together, as Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen are already in and Elijah Cummings is thinking about it. (In turn, this will make next year’s General Assembly session interesting as several state legislative members consider the vacated seats.) On the other hand, the GOP side is currently occupied by Richard Douglas, who ran in 2012 but finished second in the primary behind Dan Bongino, onetime Ehrlich administration lawyer Chrys Kefalas, disabled Navy veteran Anthony Seda, and Szeliga. There is also the possibility Harford County Executive (and former State Senator) Barry Glassman may get in, according to this piece at Maryland Reporter.

Some suspected Maryland’s lone Republican member of Congress, Andy Harris, would make a bid but it appears he’s backing his onetime chief of staff. “I know her to be a tough, smart woman from Baltimore who’s not afraid to take on the political establishment to get real results for Maryland families,” said Harris in a statement.

Meanwhile, it didn’t take long for the candidate to fire up the e-mail appeals. If this is her basic message, she seems to riding the populist wave (as opposed to full-throated conservatism.) Here’s a sample.

We have a paralyzed government incapable of solving even our most basic needs. I for one can no longer standby (sic) waiting for those we’ve sent to Washington to solve our problems, because they haven’t. And I’m not naïve enough to think I can just ride into the Senate on a white horse and do it all by myself. It’s going to take a lot of new people who aren’t professional politicians to step up – average citizens with college degrees and others without. Goodness knows, they can’t be any worse than the gang running things now!

Deep in our hearts, most of us – regardless of political preferences – believe in the promise of America and the power of the American Dream. We are agents of change motivated by our love of God, family, state and country. We want to rediscover a way of life as it used to be; when things really did work.

I want to serve in the US Senate to champion those forgotten Americans who are decent, responsible citizens yearning for the opportunity to work hard, pay the bills, raise a family, live a full life and yes, dream again what we seem to be losing – the American dream.

Unfortunately, when she comes to Salisbury tomorrow I can’t be there, so I’m doing the next best thing and sending my cub reporter. I think Cathy will give me the coverage I need as a vital race begins to take better shape.

Utopian school bill passes House and heads to Senate

By Cathy Keim

On July 8, 2015, the House passed HR 5, the Student Success Act, which is the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). This behemoth of a bill weighing in at 800 pages will guarantee that every child that graduates from high school is ready to attend college or start in the workforce without remediation. Yes, you read that correctly.

The hubris of our Washington elite putting into law that every child that graduates from high school will need no remediation is amazing. Just that one statement alone assures me that the 800 pages are filled with bureaucratic overreach.

What kind of measures must be in place to assure that grandiose statement? This is the same government that cannot get patients seen at the VA hospitals in a timely fashion, yet they are proclaiming that every child that graduates from high school in these United States will be stamped proficient to advance to the next step of their lives by the Department of Education.

I can think of only one way that they might even pretend that this could be true and that would be by dumbing down the system so that more children could meet the criteria, but even that is not going to convince me that the government can achieve their goal.

Just try to think of anything in real life that can be achieved 100% of the time. You can’t come up with much, can you? (Remember that NCLB declared that there would be 100% proficiency in reading and math in the entire US school system by 2014.) You can check out American Principles in Action’s 24 points for plenty of details on why this is a terrible bill.

HR 5 was brought up in February 2015, but was pulled because the Republican leadership could not get the votes to pass it. They have used the time tested ruse of bringing it back in the summer when parents are not paying attention to school issues.

It narrowly passed, 218 to 213, with every Democrat voting no, and 27 courageous Republicans joining them. This is similar to the TPA battle where a few Republicans joined the Democrats in opposing another awful bill.

Of course, their reasons for opposing were completely different, just like the TPA fight. Once again it gives me pause when I find myself on the same side as the Democrats.

One of the reasons given for conservatives voting for HR 5 was that the Senate version, SB 1177, the Every Child Achieves Act, (ECAA) is even worse. The reasoning goes that by voting for HR 5 it preempts the Senate version, so that even if the Senate passes their bill, it will be forced into conference rather than the Senate bill coming directly to the House.

From past experience we all know that what comes out of the conference back room will very likely be worse than what went in.

Andy Harris voted yes on HR 5. I called his office to inquire what his reasons were for voting yes, but I have not received an answer yet.

I called Senators Cardin and Mikulski’s offices to inquire if they had any statements out about this bill. Senator Cardin’s office said that he supports the bill in general, but is concerned about the Title I funding following the child since it might allow money to go to schools that don’t need it rather than to the schools originally intended.

(Editor’s note: one selling point given for the SSA is that it would allow certain parents who have children in failing schools a choice in where to send their children for their education, although the choices are limited to just public and public charter schools. This is the meaning between the lines of Cardin’s remarks.)

Senator Mikulski’s office said she did not have a statement out yet, but that she is against No Child Left Behind. Since ECAA is a reauthorization for NCLB, which actually expands it, we will just have to see how she decides to vote.

Generally speaking the Democrats seem to be against this bill due to the Title I funding shift potential and also because they fear it could lead to universal vouchers.

The Republican leadership crows that HR 5 is returning education issues back to state control. If so, why do they need 800 pages to do this?

The Senate should take this bill up in the coming weeks, so please call your senators and explain to them why they should vote no. Their offices need to be bombarded with parents telling them to not expand on No Child Left Behind.

However, the best reason is the one given by former Delegate Michael Smigiel, who is running for Congress in the First Congressional District. When I asked him whether he would support HR 5 he replied, “I would do away with the Federal involvement in education as it is not authorized by the Constitution. The individual States should determine educational standards for their own States. I led the fight against Common Core and argue and voted against No Child Left Behind.”

While that is the correct reason for opposing ECAA, our current leadership is not impressed by the concept. Until we can elect sufficient Constitutionalists to represent us, we will have to rely on a massive phone campaign to get the attention of the DC crowd.

Fast track bill bounces back to Senate

By Cathy Keim

Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) is alive and well due to political shenanigans to keep it going. When the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) bill was voted down by Democrats hoping to block TPA, the game was supposed to end. However, Speaker Boehner is determined to work with Majority Leader McConnell in the Senate to present fast track to the president.

Part of what makes this so confusing is that the Republican-controlled House and Senate are working overtime to present the Democratic president the gift that he has been longing for: more authority to pursue multiple trade bills with Congress only able to vote the deal up or down. Why would the Republicans be feverishly pursuing this goal?

The obvious answer is that free trade is so important that any way of achieving it is worth making any sacrifice. That may be what they are telling you, but it just isn’t true. There are plenty of ways that this deal could lock the US into untenable trade agreements. Currency manipulation, immigration, patent and copyright issues are just a few of the areas that could turn against American workers.

Even when you look at the Maryland delegation’s votes, you will see strange bedfellows. First, take our two senators who split on the issue. I cannot find a statement by Senator Mikulski about her vote, but she voted no. Since she is not running for office again, she does not have to worry about offending the president.

Senator Cardin voted yes after he introduced an AIPAC backed amendment. AIPAC states:

On April 22, the Senate Finance Committee voted unanimously to include an amendment targeting harmful anti-Israel trade and commercial practices in the “Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority bill. The amendment, authored by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH), addresses efforts by foreign governments to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel. It also directs that one of the principal American objectives in upcoming trade negotiations will be to discourage trading partners from taking actions that would limit U.S.-Israel commerce.

I can understand why Senator Cardin would want to defend Israel when the current administration has shown real hostility towards them, but one has to ask if this is shortsighted on the Senator’s part. Giving the same administration fast track authority when the president has shown little interest in adhering to any restraints put upon him, may in the long run turn out worse for Israel. Perhaps Senator Cardin would do better to vote no and stop the whole fast track process.

Only one other representative from Maryland voted yes on TPA and that was Congressman John Delaney of the 6th Congressional District. He stated in a press release that:

Right now, two things are happening: 1) Congress is considering a bipartisan agreement that instructs the President on trade negotiations and begins the deliberation process for a new accord and 2) China is working on their own regional trade agreement. I support giving President Obama Trade Promotion Authority because it will give the President the tools he needs to negotiate the best trade deal for America and our workers. For the first time, the bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority package includes groundbreaking environmental and labor standards and provides unprecedented human rights protections. The Trade Promotion Authority Package gives President Obama new ways to enforce these standards to make sure we’re not having a race to the bottom that drags American workers down. So it’s either going to be our country setting the terms for trade or it’s going to be China. I want our country, our government and this President setting the terms of international trade, not China.

Congressman Harris of the 1st Congressional District voted no. His Facebook page states:

Thousands of citizens in Maryland’s First District contacted my office regarding bills on trade that were recently considered in the House. Today, I voted against the Trade Promotional Authority (TPA) bill for a second time. Representing your views are of the utmost importance to me and it is truly an honor to serve the people in the First District.

He did not listen to his constituents about CRomnibus or voting out Boehner as Speaker of the House, but this time he heard us loud and clear and responded as we asked. I wonder if that is because former Delegate Mike Smigiel has announced that he is opposing Andy in the primary next April?

Representatives Donna Edwards (4th District) and Chris Van Hollen Jr. (8th District) are both running for the Senate seat being vacated by Barbara Mikulski. Edwards is running to the left and Van Hollen is obliged to move left too. Van Hollen explains his reasons in a letter to Rep. Levin.

He lists multiple concerns such as currency manipulation, increased investor lawsuits, workers’ rights, environmental issues and more as his reasons for voting no.

Representatives Ruppersberger, Sarbanes, Edwards, and Cummings all signed a letter to President Obama explaining why they were voting no on TPA.

For some time, members of Congress have urged your administration to engage in broader and deeper consultations with members of the full range of committees of Congress whose jurisdiction touches on the numerous issues being negotiated.


Beyond traditional tariff issues, these include policies related to labor, patent and copyright, land use, food, agriculture and product standards, natural resources, the environment, professional licensing, competition, state-owned enterprises and government procurement policies, as well as financial, healthcare, energy, e-commerce, telecommunications and other service sector regulations.


Congress, not the Executive Branch, must determine when an agreement meets the objectives Congress sets in the exercise of its Article I-8 exclusive constitutional authority to set the terms of trade.

Representative Steny Hoyer is the Minority Whip. He voted against TPA because:

Trade Promotion Authority legislation lays the foundation for how we approach trade policy as part of our overall economic strategy, and we cannot look at trade simply on its own. We must consider all the elements that affect American workers and jobs.


Our workers deserve policies that boost our competitiveness and place us at an advantage in global markets, making it easier for them to get ahead.

He then lists a whole smorgasbord of expensive programs that he wants for the workers.

The reasons for the votes cast vary from constituent demands, to fear of China, to wanting more spending, to defending Israel and to pursuing a Senate seat. Some of the reasons I can agree with while others, like wanting the Export-Import Bank renewed, are not acceptable. However, on this important vote I am happy to have the Democrats join with as many Republicans as will stand against TPA.

Keep on calling and prodding your senators to vote against TPA. The cloture vote is expected today, with the final vote coming tomorrow. If the bill survives cloture, it will likely pass, so the ball is now in the Senate’s court.

Carson, Carly, and Huckabee – oh my…

By this time tomorrow, the GOP presidential field will be three aspirants larger than it was over the weekend.

Dr. Ben Carson and former HP head Carly Fiorina formally made it official today, while 2008 candidate and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee is expected to throw his hat back in the ring tomorrow. So what does that mean for the field at large?

We’ve known Carson was going to run for several months, and though there’s some local sentiment which wishes he would instead pursue the Republican nomination for Maryland’s open U.S. Senate seat currently held by the retiring Barb Mikulski, a run for the Oval Office has been on Carson’s radar ever since he first attracted notice at the National Prayer Breakfast a couple years ago. Anyway, his run is already priced into the market, so to speak, so the Carson cadre will continue supporting their candidate as he holds the “outsider” position in the race.

In 2008 and 2012, those who believed a businessman should be the one to run the country needed to look no further than Mitt Romney. While he’s not running in 2016, there is another business executive who is (and at this point, his name is not Donald Trump.) Carly Fiorina also makes the case that the best way to combat Hillary Clinton is to nominate a female to run against her.

This is a legitimate argument, but the question is whether it’s compelling enough to give her any traction in the race. Fiorina’s lone political experience was losing a Senate race in California, and while losing a race in a tough state doesn’t disqualify her, it brings up whether she can win.

And then we have Mike Huckabee, who I actually voted for in 2008 as the last somewhat conservative alternative standing to John McCain. Yet there must be a sense out there that the world has passed him by, and the conventional wisdom is that he fights for the same social conservative voters that gravitate to Ted Cruz. Granted, the one thing he has that Cruz does not is executive experience but I suspect more than a few people think of Huckabee more as a huckster than a politician, given his seven years away from the active political stage.

As it stands, I think the second tier is filling out nicely. But like American Pharaoh needed seventeen other horses to run against to earn the roses at the Kentucky Derby, the front-runners Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Cruz, and Marco Rubio need a field to sharpen their campaigns. Then again, one in awhile the longshot wins and several Presidential nominees were thought to have no shot at victory in the early stages of their campaign. That description fits this guy named Obama in 2007, but let’s hope the 2016 version can undo all his damage and then some.

Further humiliation?

March 12, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off 

When Barbara Mikulski announced she wouldn’t seek another term the other day, one thing I pointed out was the effect on downticket races for Congress. Sure enough, we already have two members of Maryland’s Congressional delegation signaling their intent to run – Eighth District Congressman Chris Van Hollen and Fourth District Congresswoman Donna Edwards have indicated they are in, although in Edwards’ case she’s looking to expand her reach as a Senator.

Edwards’ gaffe-tastic logo error may be a sign of how things will go in the race to succeed her, particularly as the man who “ran” the weakest statewide Democratic race in recent memory decided he wants in on the race. Yes, Anthony Brown has his sights set on a Congressional seat to replace Edwards.

I will grant that running in a Congressional race in one’s home county is a much easier push than running a statewide race with no real political record to speak of save eight years in the House of Delegates and eight years riding on the coattails of Martin O’Malley. But Brown took a race that was all but conceded to him at the beginning of 2014 (and even after the primary in June) and imploded thanks to a poor campaign and woeful lack of accomplishment. In Democratic circles, though, that’s a resume enhancement so one would have to make Brown an odds-on favorite.

Yet there is also the matter of a $500,000 loan to his unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign by the Laborers’ Political League Educational Fund as well as over $30,000 in other unpaid bills Brown owed as of his last financial report. I’m definitely not an expert on campaign finance, but ask yourself: would you give a campaign contribution to a guy who’s racked up so much debt needing to be repaid?

Fortunately for Brown, for all intents and purposes the Democratic primary is the election in that district - Edwards won both general elections in the current Fourth District with over 70 percent of the vote. But he will certainly have to fend off a number of challengers to make it through the primary and job one for the other challengers will be to remind voters how Brown gacked up a shoo-in gubernatorial race by running an incompetent campaign.

It would be a lot harder for Brown to lose the Fourth District race to a Republican, but losing to the GOP is something with which he has familiarity. I would be very surprised if establishment Democrats in that district back Brown.

Maryland’s top prize

I have to admit I was shocked as anyone else to hear Barbara Mikulski was not seeking re-election. Although I figured she was closer to the end of her tenure than the beginning, I would have thought she would privately anoint a successor. In that respect it would have been a good landing spot for Martin O’Malley if Anthony Brown won the governorship, giving O’Malley a leg up on the 2016 Senate race once it became clear his Presidential bid was going nowhere fast. Sadly for the former governor, Larry Hogan won.

But among the blizzard of reaction from mainstream state news outlets and other political commentators, there are several things to keep in mind. First of all, this opening in a statewide race would favor those with plenty of money and a team in place. It doesn’t have to be a person who has run statewide, and because this election allows members of the Maryland General Assembly to “run from cover” because their seats aren’t involved in the election, it’s very possible a few may take a shot.

Secondly – and perhaps more importantly from a “bench” standpoint – if you assume that at least three or four sitting Congressmen decide to make a run for the seat, the same rules apply. Consider, if you will, an Andy Harris run on the Republican side – how many local elected officials would be interested in that seat as it suddenly opens? You could imagine Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio taking a shot, along with politicians from the other side of the Bay in Harris’s district. Multiply that by three or four Congressional districts and the prospect for several changes in the General Assembly for the second half of Larry Hogan’s term is significantly higher.

Yet in any of these cases, the decisions will have to be made early, probably no later than June. And that’s not just for the Senate seat, but those who may see themselves on the lower rung of the ladder in the House. Once those dominoes begin to fall, there’s no telling how far the stack could reach because it will all depend on who wins the respective primaries.

But just as the 2014 election proved to create a tremendous shakeup in the House of Delegates, the 2016 election may be cataclysmic for the state’s Congressional delegation. Even if just three or four run for office, the effect would be huge given that no more than two seats of the ten have changed hands in any recent election. The effect may be similar to 1986, when Mikulski first won office and several other Congressional seats picked up new faces (however, that was also a state election year, unlike 2016.)

So rather than try and predict the parlor game of who will run, the point of this piece is to remind people of the importance of a strong political bench. You have one seat that is a six-year term with no term limits and (quite honestly) not a lot of responsibility when you compare it to the governor’s chair. The last time this opportunity came up was 2006, but that was a year when state office holders had to weigh the odds of emerging from a crowded field against the certainty of re-election – not so a decade later.

The question isn’t so much who, but how many. It wouldn’t surprise me if the 2006 total of 28 aspirants isn’t surpassed in 2016. Most of them will be no-names or perennial candidates with no shot, but there will be some turnover in our Congressional delegation because of this sudden opening.

Creating his own outlet

February 15, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

To be perfectly honest and up front about it, I have not listened to the subject of this post, as my life and items are still in some disarray after our recent move. (This includes my headphones, which are in some box somewhere.)

But last week Dan Bongino released the second of what is now a weekly series of podcasts. And given the fact he’s used the political world and running for office twice in the last two federal cycles to make a name for himself in the media world, I wanted to use this post to ponder whether if we would see Bongino go three-for-three with the 2016 U.S. Senate race or a rematch with John Delaney in Maryland’s Sixth District.

Let’s look at a little history first. At this time four years ago, no one outside of the world of the Secret Service and law enforcement knew who Dan Bongino was. But in the spring of 2011 he made the decision to begin his political career with a run for the U.S. Senate seat in Maryland, and with an engaging personality and conservative stands on many issues, Bongino made enough of a name for himself to win a crowded primary and the right to face incumbent Ben Cardin.  While Bongino had some good fortune in the fact no former candidate like Eric Wargotz or Michael Steele, regionally known officeholder like Pat McDonough, or former governor Bob Ehrlich decided to jump into the race, it’s likely he weighed all these possibilities and had an idea they would skip the race before he got in.

Something Bongino succeeded in doing with his 2012 Senate race, though, was nationalizing his effort. In most northeastern states, a Republican running for a statewide office against long odds would attract little notice outside the state, but Bongino made waves with his race once he received a Sarah Palin endorsement. His 2014 Congressional effort continued on the same path.

But something else we learned about Bongino was that he was a natural at broadcasting. Over the last few years he’s graduated from occasional guest to guest host, taking over for both Sean Hannity and Mark Levin on occasion. If he ever lands a spot sitting in for Rush Limbaugh we’ll know he’s in the big leagues.

So it brings up the question for a multimedia player like Bongino: what’s in it for him to make a 2016 run?

Bongino is in a spot in Maryland similar to the one which Sarah Palin occupies nationally. Dan’s support for a candidate is looked upon with approval from a large number of conservative voters in Maryland, just like a Palin endorsement appeals to a particular subset of voters nationwide. Both, however, are becoming more well-known in media circles than for accomplishments in office (which is a shame on Palin’s part, since she has been elected several times.)

If Bongino runs again and loses again, will that tarnish his standing among conservatives who can’t point to electoral success on his part? On the other hand, will he feel that the media exposure he’s gaining is going to put him over the top? With just a few hundred plays on his Soundcloud (I cannot discern how his iTunes podcasts are doing) it’s a nice outlet but not one which gets him a lot of exposure like a guest-hosting slot would give.

Over the next few months, the 2016 races will begin to take shape. I would expect at least a couple members of the Maryland General Assembly to run from cover for federal positions but not to announce their intentions until later this summer. Those who have less name recognition will probably start in the next month or so since the primary is less than 14 months away – depending on how the Presidential race shakes out, we may see more attention paid to the downticket races like U.S. Senate.

If I were to take my educated guess, I think Dan is going to pass on 2016 unless the Senate seat becomes open through the retirement of Barb Mikulski. With 2016 being a Presidential year, turnout will be more like the 2012 turnout and that tends to favor Democrats in this state.

On the other hand, 2018 creates a host of possibilities on both a state and federal level, giving Dan more options should he decide to jump in a race.

Once I get my stuff together I will take about 45 minutes and listen to what Dan has to say – chances are I will enjoy it. But my thoughts always work to the next cycle and all the possibilities within. If the question is whether Dan Bongino will be in the mix, I think the answer is yes. I’m just not sure where one of the many young guns the Maryland GOP has will fit in.

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