The story on early voting

From its institution (against my better judgment) for the 2010 election, early voting has become more and more of a portion of total turnout here in Maryland.

In 2010, when it was first adopted, only 11.77% of those who actually voted used the option, with 13.07% of Democrats and 10.13% of Republicans partaking, That number increased to 15.75% of voters in 2012 (18.44% of Democrats, 11.98% Republicans), and – once early voting was expanded from six to eight days – to 17.66% of those who voted in 2014, with 19.86% of Democrats and 15.61% of Republicans using the option.

In the last go-round in 2016, however, early voting came into its own: a full 36.02% of Democrat turnout came during early voting, while 24.76% of Republicans who voted used the option. All told, an astounding 31.23% of those who voted did so early.

So it was no shock that Democrats “won” early voting once again: according to the Maryland Board of Elections, 16.72% of eligible voters came out for the eight days of early voting. (19.08% were Democrats, 15.44% were from the GOP.) While this is less than the 22.48% that came out in 2016, bear in mind turnout isn’t nearly as good in a midterm election. The all-important question, though, is what percentage of overall turnout is represented by early voting. In 2014 just under 50% of Republicans waited until Election Day to vote (49.6% to be exact) but only 37.5% of Democrats voted on Election Day.

If the 2014 numbers hold true, though, turnout for Democrats will be over 10% better than the last gubernatorial election, which was for an open seat, as former Governor Martin O’Malley was term-limited, but the GOP will counter much of that increase with a stratospheric 65% turnout of their own. The question, therefore, is whether those extra 10% of Democrats are going to be loyal to Democrat gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous or not – he basically needs them all to be to drive incumbent Larry Hogan’s numbers among Democrats down to the 20% or so he needs in order to defeat Hogan – despite polls that have had Jealous down double-digits all summer.

As evidence of just how early voting may affect the races, I put together a series of charts. The first one is a straight comparison of raw vote totals from the 2016 early voting and the 2018 version, divided by county and by party. It wasn’t worth comparing to 2014 because its totals were blown away just a few days into early voting and the 2016 election provides a better guide for both turnout and proportion of early voters.

D 2016 D 2018 R 2016 R 2018 Un 2016 Un 2018
Allegany 1435 1013 1815 1361 468 263
Anne Arundel 38527 35630 25550 22849 12314 10779
Baltimore City 59562 42176 3054 2055 4983 3129
Baltimore 83525 66160 28522 24597 14654 11071
Calvert 5457 3950 5147 3660 1861 1216
Caroline 1434 1142 1796 1637 465 339
Carroll 6374 5715 10313 8947 2866 2267
Cecil 4058 2996 5062 3738 1707 1105
Charles 17749 11849 5261 3284 2882 1701
Dorchester 1922 1529 1424 1243 355 248
Frederick 14338 11688 10550 8328 5446 3818
Garrett 812 710 2310 1903 309 216
Harford 18221 14926 19496 15994 6647 5025
Howard 35295 28421 12996 10450 10863 8261
Kent 1806 1612 1101 987 461 380
Montgomery 111432 81388 21972 14518 27588 17418
Prince George’s 138257 90120 7974 4933 12681 7551
Queen Anne’s 3648 3103 5546 4710 1517 1188
Saint Mary’s 5120 3907 5829 4388 2065 1406
Somerset 1262 1001 1006 999 253 195
Talbot 3848 3623 4096 3790 1284 1118
Washington 4726 3457 5366 4108 1704 1182
Wicomico 5433 4794 4264 4001 1544 1182
Worcester 2950 2652 3376 3205 1017 870
26.37% 19.48% 19.11% 15.44% 15.76% 10.63%
0.7387 0.808 0.6745

The number at the bottom is a comparison of percentages of voters – Democrats were 26.13% off their 2016 totals, while Republicans were only 19.2% off and all the others were 32.55% off. In no instance did the 2018 total surpass a 2016 total, as can be expected – however, Somerset County Republicans finished just 7 voters short of matching 2016 turnout. That’s most likely good news for incumbent Delegate Charles Otto.

So then I broke it down by county. Rather than do all the counties, I’m just doing top and bottom 6 in terms of how they matched up 2018 vs. 2016. The higher the number (the proportion of turnout in 2018 vs. that of 2016), the more excited the electorate is.

Top 6 Democrat counties Top 6 Republican counties
Talbot 0.9415 Somerset 0.993
Anne Arundel 0.9248 Worcester 0.9493
Worcester 0.899 Wicomico 0.9383
Carroll 0.8966 Talbot 0.9253
Kent 0.8926 Caroline 0.9115
Wicomico 0.8824 Anne Arundel 0.8943
Bottom 6 Democrat counties Bottom 6 Republican counties
Prince George’s 0.6518 Prince George’s 0.6186
Charles 0.6676 Charles 0.6242
Allegany 0.7059 Montgomery 0.6608
Baltimore City 0.7081 Baltimore City 0.6729
Calvert 0.7238 Calvert 0.7111
Montgomery 0.7304 Cecil 0.7384
Statewide average 0.7387 Statewide average 0.808

As you can see, there are some counties where turnout looks to be really, really good and others where it may be so-so – in particular, the Capital Region seems to be taking a beating while the Eastern Shore looked like they were ready from the word go. It’s telling to me, though, that traditionally Republican counties are leading the way for the Democrats while their strongholds lag behind – perhaps it’s the way for the minority to express a message?

But in those same Democratic strongholds Republicans aren’t coming out, either. Could they be believing the re-election of Hogan is a fait accompli  and don’t see the purpose of voting in down-ticket races, or are they simply being traditional Republicans who wait until Election Day?

You may notice some counties have more on the Democrat side and others are looking good for the GOP. I tabulated these differences as well as the decline when it came to independents and unaffiliated voters, which have the steepest dropoff from 2016. The color on the right-hand chart is that of the party which led the county in percentage, as shown in the left-hand chart. So on blue counties it’s the difference between Republicans and the “others” and on red ones it’s Democrats vs. the unaffiliated and minor parties voters.

Intensity difference (R vs. D) Intensity difference (lower of D/R vs. Ind)
Somerset 0.1998 Anne Arundel 0.019
Caroline 0.1151 Somerset 0.0224
Dorchester 0.0774 Prince George’s 0.0231
Baltimore 0.0703 Montgomery 0.0294
Wicomico 0.0559 Charles 0.034
Worcester 0.0503 Baltimore 0.0366
Allegany 0.044 Washington 0.0378
Washington 0.0341 Worcester 0.0435
Kent 0.0039 Howard 0.0436
Harford 0.0012 Baltimore City 0.045
Cecil 0.0002 Talbot 0.0546
Howard -0.0011 Calvert 0.0577
Queen Anne’s -0.0013 Harford 0.0632
Saint Mary’s -0.0103 Statewide average 0.0658
Calvert -0.0127 Queen Anne’s 0.0662
Talbot -0.0162 Caroline 0.0674
Frederick -0.0258 Kent 0.0683
Carroll -0.0291 Saint Mary’s 0.0719
Anne Arundel -0.0305 Carroll 0.0765
Prince George’s -0.0332 Frederick 0.0883
Baltimore City -0.0352 Cecil 0.0897
Charles -0.0434 Dorchester 0.0969
Garrett -0.0506 Wicomico 0.1169
Montgomery -0.0696 Garrett 0.1248
Allegany 0.144

Independent and unaffiliated voters were mixed in turnout: those representing “other” parties (holdovers from the previously-recognized Reform and Constitution parties, for example) led with 12.25% of 32,885 voters, but only 9.06% of the 9,164 Greens and 7.73% of the 21,713 Libertarians made it out. There were 10.66% of the 708,012 voters who list as unaffiliated at early voting, and they make up the bulk of the statistics.

I know it’s a lot of charts, but we can read a couple things into these, anyway.

For one thing, it does not appear that the feared malaise from constant chatter about a “blue wave” worked to dissuade overall GOP turnout. Granted, the Democrats might come fairly close on numbers, but the GOP should maintain its turnout lead they’ve had almost every election in the last 12 years, the lone exception being the Obama wave of 2008. This should enable Larry Hogan to stay in office, but it makes me question whether he will have coattails enough to get Craig Wolf – the GOP candidate for Attorney General – and the five new GOP State Senators he’s seeking into office. (High GOP intensity, though, is a good sign for the District 38 race – especially when two of the three GOP Delegates or primary winners for the post are unchallenged, save for a “sore loser” write-in effort in District 38C by perennial candidate Ed Tinus, a primary loser on the GOP side despite running for other offices as a Democrat.)

The other key point is that Republican voters outside the scope of the state’s two largest media markets (Baltimore and Washington, D.C.) seem to see this election as once again “the most important of their lives” and they are coming out accordingly. They are also reacting to downballot races – note the top three GOP counties (and two of the Democrats’ top six) are embroiled in perhaps the most heated State Senate race in Maryland, as I have frequently documented. On the other hand, lower turnout and enthusiasm in Democrat areas has to be worrisome to the state party, which has essentially abandoned its nominee Ben Jealous and appears to be concentrating on maintaining its hold on a State Senate majority that can override Larry Hogan’s vetoes. Their advantage in their regard is that none of their targeted State Senators are in traditional Democratic areas – in fact, ten of their number received free rides this year so they need only win half of the others plus one to maintain their vetoproof hold. Republicans also have a couple vulnerable seats they have to work hard to keep thanks to unaffiliated challengers and primary upsets.

But the real fun begins Tuesday. Those who voted early may be pleased to know that the forecast is for rain for most of the state, with the potential for severe weather. (Locally we are looking at just warm but cloudy.) Regardless, grab your umbrella and head out to the polls if you haven’t already.

The giant stack of stuff

October 30, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The giant stack of stuff 

Last night I took a picture of my dining room table. In this photo – with the exception of the Campbell and Wolf items that I picked up – are all the mailings and dropoffs I’ve had so far this campaign.

Over the last five weeks I have collected a blizzard of stuff. On the left is the pile for Jim Mathias and on the right the stack for GOP candidates. mainly Mary Beth Carozza.

One thing I have found out is that the Maryland Democrats really care about me voting. There are 15 mailings in that left-hand stack, all but one from the Maryland Democratic Senate caucus. Twelve of them have been from the caucus on behalf of Jim Mathias, and they have followed an interesting, perhaps focus-grouped pattern.

Mailings 1 and 2, back in late September, told us how much Mathias fights for the Eastern Shore and even tries to convince readers he’s being helpful to Governor Hogan. But that soon changed: mailings 3 and 4 tried to tell us how Mary Beth Carozza (and frankly, as much as I have to type that all out, I’m going to start calling her MBC) hates education because she voted against certain bills (with good reason, in my opinion.) But number 4 also introduced a main thread that has since permeated most of the remaining mailings: MBC as Washington insider. Mailings 5 and 6 tried to tie MBC to increasing health care costs, then mailings 7 through 10 returned to the Washington insider theme, even invoking the “Swamp.” Numbers 11 and 12 go back to the insider theme, but talk about a Big Pharma-sponsored trip MBC made to Belgium – presumably as a Congressional staffer. (The citation is from a website called Legistorm, which is a subscription-based database covering Congressional staff. Hence, most of its information is behind a paywall.)

So here is the pot calling the kettle black, at least in terms of special interest money. While MBC took travel with a value described as “nearly $7,000” in mailing number 8, a look at Maryland campaign finance records shows that Mathias has easily exceeded that figure from Big Pharma over the last four years – something I noted here. I might add this was before his most recent report that pushed him into five figures.

(As an aside, that most recent report also shows Jim has spent just shy of a jaw-dropping $170,000 on TV in this brief portion of the cycle – a modest $2,500 to Comcast but the real money went in payments of $70,400 and $97,000 to a group called Screen Strategies Media – its client list includes Martin O’Malley and Planned Parenthood. Great company, huh?)

As I mentioned, there were 15 mailings on Jim’s behalf. Two of them came from the Senate Democrats with the intended purpose of boosting turnout – the first urged me to have a voting plan (I already did) and the second listed my “public voting record.” (Which, by the way, is spotless over the last four cycles.) As they warn, “Your voting record will be updated publicly after November, 2018.” Go right ahead and be my guest, folks. But for the average low-information voter that may have an unchecked space or two, nothing like a little intimidation from the “mobs” side of the ledger, eh?

The remaining pro-Mathias mailing came from a group that already “owns” him to the tune of $1,350 this cycle, the Maryland Citizens Health Initiative (MCHI). Regarding the mailing, the MCHI site republished this post from the Maryland Matters website that trumpeted their release and notes:

(MCHI president Vincent) DeMarco said the nonprofit organization spent about $40,000 on the mailings, which were reported as independent expenditures to the Maryland State Board of Elections.

Divided by three endangered Senators, that’s over $13,000 more in help for Mathias. It also puts into perspective how much the Senate Democrats are throwing into this race – figuring $40,000 for every three mailings means they are closing in on a $200,000 investment and given the amount of taxing power at stake that $200,000 is probably chump change in their eyes. All told I wouldn’t be surprised there’s over a half-million dollars spent trying to prop up Jim Mathias and save his Senate seat for the special interests.

Back to DeMarco and the MCHI. In case you were wondering where they stand, these are among the “accomplishments” DeMarco cites:

He played a key role in the enactment of Maryland’s life-saving tobacco tax increase of 2007, alcohol tax increase of 2011, and Firearm Safety Act of 2013, and anti-price gouging law for prescription drug prices of 2017 and is working to guarantee health care for all Marylanders.

It’s not session in Annapolis without seeing DeMarco lobbying for a higher tax on tobacco. Yes, MCHI is all for higher taxes, O’Malley gun restrictions, and more tax money thrown down the rathole of socialized medicine. As for the price-gouging law, it was one of those that was close to making my 2017 mAP but ended up on the cutting room floor. It was watered down to some extent going through the MGA, but if that’s your chosen featured bill you should know both Mathias and MBC favored it – they just chose to reward Jim with more campaign cash.

What MCHI is really after, though, is a bill that would force pharmaceutical companies to justify price increases deemed too steep. It may sound good, but taken from their business standpoint it would place a lot of their trade secrets at risk. MCHI’s justification for a previous version of their bill conceded that, “While the bill does not directly decrease the price of drugs, it is a first step on the path to lower, fair, and justifiable drug pricing.” No, it’s a first step to further clearing the market of small, innovative companies that may need to increase prices to cover development costs. Perhaps that’s why Big Pharma likes Jim so much – they just don’t seem to have the juice for MBC anymore. Maybe she wasn’t useful to them?

It should be noted that the Maryland Republican Party has done the heavy lifting to back MBC, and while they are (rightly) critical of Jim’s tax-and-spend voting record, they are really trying to pin a particular bill sponsorship on him – the infamous “Overdose and Infectious Disease Prevention Supervised Drug Consumption Facility Program” known as Senate Bill 288. Jim must have known it was bad news because he was for it before he was against it. This bill, though, was an extension of a 2016 needle exchange bill (SB97) that Mathias voted for and MBC opposed. Even earlier, Mathias voted for a measure eliminating a “one for one” restriction on a long-standing Baltimore City needle exchange program.

Moreso than the record, though, the MDGOP is using the endorsements of three noted individuals and a photo Mathias probably wishes he never stood for. Then again, Jim’s voting record would make Ben Jealous proud.

The MDGOP keeps touting the Hogan endorsement of MBC, but has more recently sent out letters of recommendation from First District Congressman Andy Harris, who called MBC “an authentic, dependable leader who shares our values and will do what’s best for our community,” and Mathias’s predecessor, former Senator Lowell Stoltzfus from Somerset County. Wrote Stoltzfus in part:

I’ve stayed out of State elections since my retirement in 2011 but I feel obligated to make an exception because of a recent negative mailing by the Senate Democrat Caucus in support of Jim Mathias.

The mailing ridiculed Mary Beth Carozza as a “Washington insider” and labeled her negatively because she has worked for the federal government.

Here’s what they didn’t tell you.

Stoltzfus goes on to relate that MBC was on the job at the Pentagon on 9/11, and conducted herself in such an exemplary manner after American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the building that she received the Secretary of Defense’s Medal for Outstanding Public Service.

Out of the five mailers I’ve received on MBC’s behalf, 2 1/2 were positive toward her and 2 1/2 negative toward Jim Mathias – well, more specifically, his voting record and/or tying him to locally unpopular Democrats like Ben Jealous or Martin O’Malley.

That’s a stark contrast to the Mathias side having 10 out of 12 mailers be negative toward his opponent, with only a few referring to specific votes. They’re obviously hoping voters fail to understand there’s a bit of a difference between being a Congressional staffer and an Executive branch appointee, the latter of which is much of what comprises the Swamp. MBC did a little of both, but more of the time was spent working in Congress and not being a holdover of the previous administration causing headaches for the new boss.

To be so negative at this late juncture most likely means the incumbent (or, to be more candid, his special-interest backers) are worried. They have only one more recourse, and it’s going to be interesting to see if they fire that last bullet in the chamber before it’s all said and done. I know one thing, if nothing else: Annapolis Democrats are all about maintaining power by whatever means necessary, principles be damned. So I won’t be surprised if there’s one more special mailing from the Mike Miller swamp in Annapolis.

Hogan seeks a legislative hero

October 20, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Hogan seeks a legislative hero 

On Thursday evening the GOP faithful rallied around their general as he came to lend a hand to a local campaign.

The Black Diamond was happy to welcome Larry Hogan and the local police were ready for whatever.

I was actually rather early for an event that I thought started at 6:00 but was slated for a half-hour later. But I wasn’t too early to check out these superb organizational skills.

All the Hogan stuff was neatly placed on this side of the table.

Andy Harris was on the ball, too, with the Carozza items in the middle. Hogan on the left, Harris on the right – seems appropriate to me.

I wondered if the police officers present had anything to do with this placement.

Does this extend to his 2A stance?

So 6:30 came and we had an empty stage.

Even as the event was supposed to begin, no one was on this end of the room yet.

Most of the people were in two places: over closer to the bar, or in the lobby as was the case with our Congressman.

Congressman Andy Harris was in discussion with his supporters most of the evening. He did not take the stage, but was introduced.

Like everyone else, Harris eventually wandered over to the main room.

At quarter to 7, the crowd was exuberant as they awaited Governor Hogan’s remarks.

It took several minutes for the Governor to cross the room where he would speak. My former Central Committee cohort John Palmer (left) had his ear at the time.

There were only three speakers at the rally, which is a pleasant change from having every single local yokel speak. Delegate Carl Anderton led off.

The unusually dapper Delegate Carl Anderton praised Governor Hogan for being very cooperative with requests.

In his remarks, which served as the introduction for Delegate Carozza – who Anderton described as a smart, hard-working Delegate – Anderton asserted that any time he needed anything, Governor Hogan was right there.

But since Carl’s seat is secure, the rally was placed here in Fruitland to get out the vote for the GOP candidate for our State Senator.

Mary Beth Carozza said that Hogan’s visit was momentous: “Only for Governor Hogan would I cut my door-to-door short.”

Mary Beth has a definite rally voice and manner of speaking. She made it clear that “Governor Hogan, day in and day out, fights for Maryland.” And while she had given up a relatively safe seat to assist him in the Senate, she confidently stated that “we are on track” to win in November. After all, while her opponent Jim Mathias liked to talk about how much he’s assisted Larry in getting his agenda passed, the key questions on Mary Beth’s mind were whether Jim was going to endorse or even vote for Hogan, seeing that he’s hung out with opponent Ben Jealous in Ocean City.

But one thing she can’t do: carry a tune in a bucket. But Mary Beth was creative enough to write a new song based on the theme to “The Brady Bunch” called, naturally enough, “The Hogan Bunch.” Wonder who would inhabit the nine squares?

Governor Hogan finally reaches the stage for brief remarks.

Larry began by telling us Mary Beth is “doing an amazing job in the state legislature,” and that “the Shore needs another new State Senator.”

The crowd was enjoying what our governor had to say.

Yet he reserved the meat of his remarks for himself, relating how he ran because he was “really getting frustrated with what was happening in our state.” And once Gallup released a poll that claimed half of Maryland wanted to leave during the final term of Martin O’Malley, “that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.” Change Maryland turned from a vehicle to criticize O’Malley into the groundswell of support from all parties Larry needed to pull “the biggest surprise upset in the United States of America.”

Once he got into office, Hogan set out to improve the state’s economy as well as provide the state’s first balanced budget in a decade. After 43 consecutive tax increases during the O’Malley era, Hogan’s claims of no tax increases over the last four years, $1.2 billion in tax cuts, $317 million in reduced tolls, 250 fewer fees, and 850 regulations have been enough to goose the state from a 49th place rank in economic performance in 2013 to a top-ten finish now. It’s worked so well, added Hogan, that lifelong Democrats are now supporting him. “That means a lot to me,” said the governor.

He finished by alluding to the polls that have him as much as 22 points ahead of Democrat Ben Jealous. “Just forget about those polls,” said Hogan.

Larry’s little stump speech only lasted about 10 minutes, which meant the meat of the program only lasted about a half-hour, if that. Of course, Hogan (and many other local GOP candidates) had gladhanded their way through the room so most of the people were satisfied with getting their photo or saying their piece with the governor, their local representatives, or Andy Harris.

What I thought was missing, though – and definitely sorely lacking – was any mention of two other key Republicans on the statewide ballot. One thing Larry doesn’t seem to be doing as much as I think he should is backing his GOP team, or at least the Senate and Attorney General candidates. (I think the Comptroller is a lost cause this time around because current Democrat Comptroller Peter Franchot gets along well with Hogan.) But a mention of the importance of getting Tony Campbell in the Senate and Craig Wolf in as Attorney General cannot be understated. Unfortunately, Hogan has done more for Neal Simon’s campaign than he ever did for his fellow GOP primary victor.

Certainly there’s a great amount of importance being placed on Carozza’s race as the governor tries to secure a Republican State Senate minority that will uphold his vetoes and force the Democrats to at least play ball. But economics aren’t enough to convince some voters – only a turn to the right after the election will satisfy them, and why shouldn’t I expect one as well?

Fun with numbers, part two

October 12, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, Polling · Comments Off on Fun with numbers, part two 

A few days ago I put up a post with some possible Election 2018 scenarios based on turnout and the results of some recent polls. Well, armed with a couple of very recent polls and fresh voter registration numbers from September, here are a couple more shots at an alternative universe for a patented Friday afternoon data dump:

2014 2010 2008
Gonzales 10-10 Hogan 1,100,393 58.7% 1,233,450 57.6% 1,748,905 56.4%
Jealous 722,161 38.5% 847,923 39.6% 1,258,739 40.6%
Quinn 35,151 1.9% 40,243 1.9% 62,202 2.0%
Schlakman 17,948 1.0% 20,815 1.0% 33,136 1.1%
Wash. Post 10-09 Hogan 1,127,428 60.1% 1,254,747 59.0% 1,801,299 58.1%
Jealous 701,675 37.4% 819,119 38.5% 1,225,116 39.5%
Quinn 28,532 1.5% 31,586 1.5% 45,383 1.5%
Schlakman 17,712 0.9% 20,408 1.0% 30,664 1.0%

 

2006 worst case
Gonzales 10-10 Hogan 1,299,198 56.8% 1,377,472 52.8%
Jealous 919,731 40.2% 1,158,084 44.4%
Quinn 43,831 1.9% 46,381 1.8%
Schlakman 23,216 1.0% 26,325 1.0%
Wash. Post 10-09 Hogan 1,322,971 58.3% 1,392,322 53.7%
Jealous 888,970 39.2% 1,142,257 44.0%
Quinn 33,299 1.5% 32,111 1.2%
Schlakman 22,367 1.0% 26,879 1.0%

 

Because Larry Hogan is in the mid-30’s insofar as percentage of Democrat support is concerned, there is no possible turnout scenario among those depicted that places Ben Jealous within 8.4 points of Larry Hogan. Even if you had the most optimistic Democrat scenario of a presidential election turnout with the lowest recent GOP turnout as depicted in “worst case” above plus the Gonzales results for the GOP and independents – which are slightly friendlier to Jealous – Jealous still has to drive Hogan down to 31% among Democrats. But in a more likely scenario Jealous needs to get Hogan down to 23% to win with the 2006 or 2008 models, to 21% to win with a 2010 model, and to 19% to win in a 2014 universe – one where neither candidate draws a million votes.

I did some quick and dirty math: in order to drive Hogan down to 31% support among Democrats in an instance such as a 2008-style election (assuming that the number of Hogan-supporting Democrats stays static) Ben Jealous has to find about 375,000 more Democrat voters that support him. Sorry, but Larry Hogan is not going to underachieve that much nor are there enough rocks in Maryland to look under.

It basically leaves Ben Jealous with no path to victory. And the Kavanaugh saga really didn’t do Ben any favors because it will probably goose GOP turnout up enough to keep things relatively even insofar as turnout percentage is concerned. The closest parallel to that sort of an election would be a 2006 turnout, where Democrats ran just three points shy of Republicans (as opposed to 7.61% in 2010 and a whopping 11.9% in 2014.) In 2008, the Democrats, buoyed by Barack Obama, actually had better turnout by 0.54%, which for all intents and purposes is even.

One other tidbit from this information – armed with more exact Gonzales numbers, this election also becomes a race to maintain ballot access for both the Libertarian and Green parties. The Greens are cutting it close in some scenarios, and the Libertarians don’t have a lot of room for error either. With such a high margin, the temptation may be there for people on both sides to help out the minor parties – “lost cause” progressives vote for the Green Party, disaffected conservatives vote for the Libertarian. There’s a lot that can happen.

I may have to rework my chart in a couple days with polling info on the Senate and AG races. Stay tuned.

Fun with numbers

I love it when I get to foreshadow – even if it’s not in this particular venue. The other day, on a social media post about voter turnout, I noted:

But I’ve been looking at turnout lately too. Might be a little sumthin’ sumthin’ on that subject from monoblogue in the next few days.

Here is that sumthin’ sumthin’.

Most of what you hear about polls are the topline results: i.e. “Larry Hogan leads the latest Mason-Dixon Poll by fifteen points.” Yet that may or may not reflect the reality of what is really going on because, in order to have the most accurate poll, you need the most accurate sample. The reason Larry Hogan more or less snuck up on us to become governor was that Democrat turnout in 2014 was abysmal to a point where no one predicted it would be that bad – and many of those Democrats who showed up voted for Hogan. Pollsters didn’t have that sort of turnout model in their realm of possibility, although that year’s last Gonzales Poll was closest (and closest to the result among “non-partisan” pollsters.)

As a warning up front, this post will have a LOT of numbers. But what I did was take all three recent major polls (Gonzales, Goucher College, and Mason-Dixon) and, based on their interpolated selections by party, came up with numbers that equaled 100 percent, with a small percentage added for Libertarian and Green Party candidates based on best guess of mine since they’re not polled. (That’s why their numbers don’t change much despite the varying scenarios – I used the same mix for both minor-party candidates.)

Then I came up with several alternate voter turnout universes based on the latest voter registration numbers and turnout figures provided by the state Board of Elections. The voter turnout universes I came up with were a 2014 universe (which is probably a best-case scenario for the GOP), a 2010 universe (this was the TEA Party wave), a 2006 universe (bad year for the GOP, both nationally and in Maryland), and a 2008 universe that applies the more Democrat-friendly Presidential numbers to a state election.

The fifth and final scenario was the absolute worst-case one I could think of for Larry Hogan – massive Democrat turnout on the order of 2008 combined with soft GOP and independent turnout. It’s an Indivisible dream – but does the #bluewave pan out?

This is the first time I have tried to drop a table into a post, so hopefully it’s legible. This is direct from the spreadsheet I figured out the calculations on.

2014 2010 2008
Gonzales Hogan 1,076,589 57.7% 1,205,595 56.5% 1,709,578 55.4%
Jealous 744,174 39.9% 874,778 41.0% 1,302,241 42.2%
Quinn 28,362 1.5% 31,395 1.5% 45,089 1.5%
Schlakman 17,625 0.9% 20,307 1.0% 30,508 1.0%
Goucher Hogan 1,175,708 62.8% 1,312,495 61.8% 1,880,884 60.8%
Jealous 650,997 34.8% 758,190 35.7% 1,138,942 36.8%
Quinn 28,362 1.5% 31,395 1.5% 45,089 1.5%
Schlakman 17,625 0.9% 20,307 1.0% 30,508 1.0%
Mason Dixon Hogan 1,083,769 58.1% 1,205,688 57.0% 1,708,522 55.8%
Jealous 736,994 39.5% 858,675 40.6% 1,276,753 41.7%
Quinn 28,362 1.5% 31,395 1.5% 45,089 1.5%
Schlakman 17,625 0.9% 20,307 1.0% 30,508 1.0%

 

2006 worst case
Gonzales Hogan 1,269,353 55.8% 1,336,851 51.5%
Jealous 950,092 41.8% 1,200,296 46.2%
Quinn 33,093 1.5% 31,924 1.2%
Schlakman 22,257 1.0% 26,751 1.0%
Goucher Hogan 1,385,124 61.2% 1,488,953 57.5%
Jealous 822,919 36.4% 1,040,141 40.2%
Quinn 33,093 1.5% 31,924 1.2%
Schlakman 22,257 1.0% 26,751 1.0%
Mason Dixon Hogan 1,269,456 56.2% 1,343,601 52.0%
Jealous 932,234 41.3% 1,179,552 45.7%
Quinn 33,093 1.5% 31,924 1.2%
Schlakman 22,257 1.0% 26,751 1.0%

 

Obviously the various scenarios are all there, with the worst-case being the far right-hand in the bottom page – try as I might I couldn’t get all five sets to fit in one line. In order from top to bottom, the numbers come from the Gonzales Poll (topline: Hogan +16), the Goucher College Poll (Hogan +22) and Mason-Dixon (Hogan +15).

Given these turnout scenarios, the lone path to victory for Jealous would be getting only hardcore D’s out to the polls that aren’t accounted for in these turnout models because he has to bring his numbers among Democrats to the point where they were in 2014 (Anthony Brown was in the low- to mid-70’s among D’s.) In the three polls, extrapolating numbers on a 50-50 basis from a 100% total, Hogan’s Democrat support ranges from 35 to nearly 45 percent. Unless Jealous can pull off a turnout that’s the absolute nightmare scenario (to the GOP), he’s a loser if Hogan gets even 25 percent of the Democrat vote – and Hogan’s polling beyond that even with taking away the currently undecideds. Moreover, the Kavanaugh scandal is primed to drive GOP turnout and there’s almost zero split among GOP loyalists so a nightmare scenario becomes less likely.

But more Republicans to the polls can assist in downticket races, such as the uphill battles being faced statewide by U.S. Senate hopeful Tony Campbell and Attorney General aspirant Craig Wolf as well as the “drive for five” new GOP State Senators to allow Hogan vetoes to be sustained. We’ll have to see how that goes as time goes on, but this was a fun exercise and it’s a pretty handy spreadsheet for me to keep around.

How much will it cost? (Part four of a multi-part series)

September 3, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on How much will it cost? (Part four of a multi-part series) 

Since I was talking about the minimum wage in part three and the focus on the Ben Jealous “Make It In Maryland” plan was getting long in the tooth, I decided to split the piece in two and focus on the remaining items as a series of bullet points in this portion. While I wasn’t truly intending to space it that far, it does make for a good Labor Day post.

So these are the remaining topics in his MIIM plan, listed as a series of points I’ll respond to one at a time.

  • Creating a Governor’s Office of Tech Transfer
  • Better Retaining and Supporting Maryland’s Entrepreneurs
  • Reclaiming Maryland’s Position in Biotech and Life Sciences
  • Ensuring Prosperity Reaches Everyone By Tackling Chronic Unemployment
  • A Job Boosting Program For Every Marylander Who Wants To Work
  • Ending Youth Unemployment And Underemployment
  • Boosting Employment For The Formerly Incarcerated
  • Reviving Maryland’s Rural Communities
  • Making Maryland A Center Of Global Commerce
  • Connecting Workers To Jobs With A 21st Century Transportation Plan

Office of Tech Transfer: Jealous begins this section by citing a number of vague, subjective statistics, including this howler straight from the Joe Biden School of Spelling:

The top five states for cybersecurity deals in quarter 1 of 2018 were California, Massachusetts, New York, and Texas.

These states are also bigger than Maryland, and have various industries and factors which may give them a natural advantage. Regardless, while it’s unknown just how large this OTT will be or where it’s placed on the pecking order, the biggest cost might be the freedom to elude red tape, to wit:

Help to coordinate infrastructure and development policy, including multimodal and active transportation infrastructure, smart growth land use planning, mixed-use development, and gigabit internet to create the urban fabric and connections that give rise to an innovation ecosystem.

I truly have issues with that sort of mission creep and interference with both local government and the private sector. As envisioned it seems to be more than just a clearinghouse that could be useful in coordinating a limited area of policy.

Maryland’s entrepreneurs:

While Jealous paints a picture of a state that’s not inclusive enough…

Ben Jealous will create the innovation environment that will enable more locally grown companies to grow and stay in Maryland. Ben Jealous will also consider whether rules related to bonding for contractors can be eased to enable more entrepreneurs to access contract work and remove  unnecessary barriers. He will also work to make entrepreneurship more inclusive in Maryland. For example, black women are the most likely of any population group to become entrepreneurs, but they are the least likely to receive funding.

Ben Jealous will create a more level playing field to ensure this changes. As governor, Ben Jealous has also committed to raising women and minority business targets in the state to levels that better reflect equal representation. 29% is just far too low when 50% of our population are women and nearly 50% identify as minority. In order to support creation of these businesses, Ben Jealous has pledged to work with lenders who have a history of inclusive lending to support their models, identify additional strategies to capitalize businesses, and review bonding requirements for contractors that may pose unnecessary barriers.

…if you ask actual entrepreneurs they may say the problem is a little different.

For several years I was the recipient of a steady diet of updates from a company called Thumbtack.com – it’s actually a listing of entrepreneurs who provide various services. Over that period they have done a survey of business friendliness, which – even though I haven’t noticed the updates – has continued to this day and shows Maryland has been on an upward trajectory. But while Maryland has rebounded from failing grades to a B+ in Thumbtack’s 2018 survey, the one category they still receive a big fat F in is the tax code. That’s not on the Jealous agenda.

I don’t look at who owns a business, I look at the job they do – and so do most others. All affirmative action does is plant a seed in the mind of people who ask: did they get the job on their merits or because they checked a box of government approval someplace?

Oh, and one more thing:

Another critical part of changing our business culture in Maryland also is support new and emerging types of business ownership, including employee-owned businesses, worker co-ops, and other democratically-owned and operated businesses. These organization types are critical for challenging the notion that ownership of a business must concentrate profits in the hands of a few, and these organization types can open up the benefits of business ownership to many more individuals.

Whether a business is employee-owned or not – one good reasonably local example of employee ownership is the Redner’s grocery chain, which has very nice stores based on my experiences working in them a few years back in a previous career – doesn’t matter to me. But the fact Jealous opposes the “notion that ownership of a business must concentrate profits in the hands of a few” when it’s truly none of the state’s damn business is troubling.

Biotech and Life Sciences: This is mostly a series of platitudes whining about how Maryland has fallen from the top position, particularly behind Massachusetts which “made large investments in biotechnology through tax breaks, grants, and funding infrastructure.” That’s their taxpayers on the hook, so whatever.

If I were to make a suggestion for state encouragement, why not promote the area of biotech that deals with the agriculture industry? People tend to think of this as an urban phenomenon, including those at the state Department of Commerce as agribusiness is last among its “key industries.”

But maybe Jealous should read the state’s website because there’s already a program in place.

Chronic Unemployment: Aside from a vague pledge to “engage stakeholders” and conduct yet another useless study, Ben wants to throw more money at EARN Maryland (reversed as “Maryland EARN” in the Jealous plan), Operation HIRE (aimed at veterans), and the Maryland Apprenticeship and Training Program. While none would be large expenses, one has to wonder if having these disparate programs is very efficient and effective.

Job Boosting Program: To make a long story short, it’s a hiring program to create more state and state-dependent workers. Jealous cites a study done by the Department of Legislative Services that cites a chronic shortage of workers necessitated by budgetary reality. But the source material for the study makes me question its sincerity:

Research for the study consisted of data gathered from various documents; workload trend data; agency site visits; and meetings with the representatives of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and AFSCME employees. (My emphasis.)

It’s also worth noting that the number of employees the executive branch has been “shorted” is nearly matched by the number of additional positions at higher education, where staffing has increased 23% from 2002-18 (Executive Branch staffing is down 9.6% in that period.) Honestly, I don’t think we have a neutral referee doing this study. Needless to say, many of these new workers will be quickly absorbed into the public-sector union, which is, I’m sure, their quid pro quo for AFSCME support.

Youth Unemployment: Jealous would expand the YouthWorks program in Baltimore City to a statewide program and make internships or part-time jobs part of the public school curriculum. It seems to me the YouthWorks would be better tailored to a county or city level (one reason being: the city of Salisbury has a similar program in conjunction with the local Junior Achievement branch.) So the opportunities are already there.

As for the school curriculum, this is a matter where public schools could compete when it comes to school choice.

Formerly incarcerated: I believe Jealous is going to work along these lines by “banning the box” in private-sector employment (meaning applications cannot inquire about criminal record) and adding incentives to hire formerly incarcerated – however, there are private-sector employers already doing so. I believe this should be on a case-by-case basis and not a mandate.

Rural communities: The message from Ben Jealous: you can grow, but only a little bit and only on our terms. Developed areas can retain their advantage because we won’t let you compete.

Smart growth and conservation policies that Ben Jealous will promote will help Maryland to restore its reputation as a one that protects its most valuable natural resources, from farmland, to the Chesapeake Bay, to mountains, forests, and beaches. When our natural resources in land, water, and air are cared for, rural places are able to thrive as producers of agricultural products, thriving tourism centers, and choice places to live. In a 21st century economy, rural economies are also transitioning into being producers of clean energy, like solar and wind farms. Land in rural areas near existing development and infrastructure can be repurposed or ethically developed to host clean tech manufacturing, data centers, and other 21st century economic engines. Finally, rural economies are powered by small businesses, and, with proper support for early stage businesses throughout rural Maryland, these small businesses will continue to multiply and grow.

Basically, this is an extension of the MOM era where most agricultural land would be placed off-limits to development (except for solar panels and wind turbines, which are neither reliable nor desirable sources of energy). And say what you will about “low-impact tourism” – I will show you the difference between the economic base that is Ocean City in the summer season against whatever is drawn by Blackwater being a wildlife refuge. That’s not to say that I’m not glad we have the industry we do here, but we shouldn’t say no to more traditional development even if it’s placed in a more rural area.

This also ignores the transportation needs of this region, such as a second (southern) Chesapeake Bay crossing and, in cooperation with Delaware, an interstate-grade highway connection north to I-95.

As governor, Ben Jealous would provide additional funding to the state’s cooperative extension programs to develop technical assistance programs providing support to farmers transitioning into the 21st century marketplace. This would include linking urban agriculture and food production businesses with rural agricultural businesses, so Maryland families, restaurants, and commercial producers can conveniently access an abundance fresh agricultural products grown right here in Maryland.

If you were a savvy farmer, wouldn’t you already be doing this? Why is it a state concern?

We also have the talk of expanding broadband, the means of which is already in place here in Maryland as a non-profit cooperative. It will be interesting to compare their process and progress with Delaware, which is using more of a PPP approach for rural portions of Kent and Sussex counties.

Global commerce: Mainly deals with expanding Foreign Trade Zones around the Port of Baltimore. As the center of the local poultry industry that sends chicken products around the globe, I wonder why Salisbury couldn’t have one? Perhaps because it’s a federal designation. Jealous exhibits his Baltimore-centric view (and a little bit of ignorance) with this one.

A 21st Century transportation plan: The first page of this is devoted to Jealous whining about the cancellation of Baltimore’s Red Line boondoggle and Larry Hogan’s changes to Baltimore’s bus service. I think it’s hilarious how a 21st century transport plan uses the strategy and limitations of 19th century technology by advocating for more usage of the light rail service money pit.

And then we get to this:

Complete streets policies build thriving and prosperous communities by ensuring that the design of roads and other facilities is safe and convenient for pedestrians, business patrons, cyclists, and all other road users. As governor, Ben Jealous will make Maryland a complete streets leader by ensuring that ample funding is directed to local communities through the complete streets and other programs like Maryland Bikeways, and by ensuring that the Maryland adopts the most progressive complete streets policy possible.

So we cater to the 2% of travelers who use alternate means of transportation – ones that aren’t nearly as convenient and useful at a time such as this moment with a thunderstorm overhead – at the expense of the 98% who would like to get where they wish to go as quickly and conveniently as possible. This also works hand-in-hand with the effort to pack people into the urban areas, leaving vast wildlife corridors for critters to traverse.

Aside from a means of taxation in some states, those who crave control hate cars because they equate to freedom of movement and less restriction on behavior. If it’s 6:30 and I want to be at a 7:05 ballgame, I’m not going to ride my bike or walk – and sure as heck ain’t going to consult the Shore Transit routes to see if any run and stop close by. I have a car and I’m going to drive it.

Most of us do not want to be at the mercy of someone else’s schedule, which is why driving is the predominant means of personal transport in the nation. People like Jealous don’t like that, so rather than make driving easier they would rather discourage it.

If you really want a 21st century transportation plan, make it easier to use that freedom of movement by improving the roads. Promote entrepreneurship by giving less of a hassle to services like Lyft, Uber, or whatever competes with them rather than try and regulate them like taxicabs, making an artificial market the locality can use to create revenue. And rather than create the incentives for employers to encourage their employees to commute, perhaps they should instead encourage the use of remote work where possible. Given the proper broadband connection to my work server and to my boss, I could reasonably do much of my job at home.

So for this segment I can’t tell you just what the Jealous agenda will cost in monetary terms, but it’s going to cost the taxpayer a lot to wander down some pathways better trod by private initiative.

I think I’m going to put this series on hiatus for a little while, since I have a couple other projects I’d like to concentrate on. Thus, I may not get to everything on the Jealous agenda but I think you probably get the picture anyway. So I’ll see if I’m ready to resume by month’s end or not.

How much will it cost? (Part three of a multi-part series)

August 25, 2018 · Posted in Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off on How much will it cost? (Part three of a multi-part series) 

Despite the fact he’s trailing by sixteen points in the latest poll, I still think it’s worth the time to dissect the policy proposals of Democrat gubernatorial hopeful Ben Jealous. In recent days, he’s reshuffled his priority list, displacing his previous #1 priority of education and replacing it with a jobs agenda he calls “Make It In Maryland.” As always, though, the devil is in the details.

Jealous begins by complaining that we have fallen behind Virginia in something called the New Economy Index. It turns out, interestingly enough, that Maryland is the bottom of the three states comprising the Delmarva region – although being on the bottom is still sixth-ranked in the nation. Here’s what the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation said about our three states:

Virginia comes in fourth with some of the fastest-growing companies in the country, and its proximity to the nation’s capital attracts high-skilled workers for the numerous R&D-focused firms in the region. Fifth-place Delaware is perhaps the most globalized of states, with business-friendly corporate law that attracts both domestic and foreign companies and supports a high-wage traded service sector…Sixth-ranked Maryland holds its place among the leaders primarily because it has a high concentration of knowledge workers, many employed with the federal government or with federal contractors in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.

In theory, then, a downturn in federal government employment would hit both Maryland and Virginia hard, displacing them from the top tier of the rankings. But the bulk of his “Make It In Maryland” outline speaks to something federal workers seldom have to endure: working for minimum wage. Over the next five years, Jealous would increase the minimum wage in Maryland to $15 an hour for regular workers, with tipped employees reaching the plateau three years afterward.

While Jealous claims that a $15 per hour minimum wage would increase the pay for 573,000 Maryland workers, such a raise would place those just over that threshold at risk for a significant decrease in their standard of living. After all, the extra expense businesses would have to shoulder would have to come from someplace, and that someplace generally lies in two regions: increasing prices or decreasing labor costs by lopping off the least productive or lowest-skilled employees. As I often say, the true minimum wage is zero, from being jobless.

In a properly functioning marketplace, the wage one makes is just a shade less than the amount of value that employee creates – the small difference keeps the business profitable and viable. Obviously this is a relatively subjective category, best expressed by those who work on a straight commission and/or own their own business. And it doesn’t always take a lot of skill: for example, not to pick on landscapers but doing yard work isn’t the most highly skilled job – however, it is time-consuming so there’s a market of people who don’t want to take the time and effort to maintain their lawns that’s being met by entrepreneurs of all sizes who make it their job to take care of yards.

In fact, my first job was helping my brother take care of an older lady’s lawn – for 2 to 3 hours of work after school once a week I was paid the princely sum of $5. Luckily we could ride our bikes there – about 2 miles – and we used her lawnmowers and gas can filled with $1 a gallon gas. So it was not a high-skill job but it was one she was too old and frail to do, so she found two teenage boys willing to do it. That was the value to her, since she wasn’t able to perform it herself. And as it turned out, if we were efficient I would come close to making the minimum wage, which at the time hovered around $3 an hour. (Since my brother got $10 for riding the tractor to do a maybe 3/4 acre yard while I did the trimming with the push mower, he was already making minimum and then some.)

My second job was somewhat similar, but there was a catch. For most of three academic years I made minimum wage working in the dining halls at college. If we were busy, I was creating value by ensuring the cafeteria maintained a stock of clean dishes. On the other hand, if it was early in the shift all of us standing around were a money pit. The same was true at my first job out of college, working in a department store – again, for minimum wage. If there was a customer I could assist in some way and that customer made a purchase, well, I was creating value for Hudson’s. If not, I was a money pit. Luckily, I had acquired a good education so my time there was short – just weeks later I had my first architectural job, one that I spent four years at college learning the ropes to secure. In turn, I got quite the education learning in the workplace. In the next half-decade through on-the-job training I went from being a ink-on-mylar draftsman to a CAD operator (way back with AutoCAD version 11) which made me more valuable to them. Increasing skills and knowledge to maximize production: that’s the way it’s supposed to work.

Conversely, if you artificially raise the wage without getting a corresponding increase in value, do you know what you get? Kiosks at McDonalds or self-service checkouts at Walmart. Unfortunately, those were among the jobs that people in my generation got to grasp as the first rung on the ladder, but increasing the minimum wage is going to leave those people behind – particularly in areas where the wage support isn’t already present. (There are places in the state where $15 an hour is pretty much a de facto minimum, particularly in the DC area.) In any case, increasing the minimum wage isn’t going to help very much in areas with persistent unemployment because there’s little there with which to create value.

But one place increasing the minimum wage will help? State coffers. While some will lose their jobs, I’m sure the Jealous campaign is banking on enough income being created out of whole cloth to help grease the wheels on some of their other pipe dreams. So I honestly don’t know what it will cost, but I’m sure we will all pay the price nonetheless.

Now, there’s actually more to this section than just the minimum wage. But I liked this here piece so much that I decided to split “Make It In Maryland” in two and cover the rest next time.

How much will it cost? (Part two of a multi-part series)

July 30, 2018 · Posted in Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on How much will it cost? (Part two of a multi-part series) 

I really didn’t mean to take so long between part one of this series and part two, but because the second item on the Ben Jealous for Governor issue list is health care – and there’s a claim out there that his plan will cost Maryland a staggering $24 billion a year, according to analysts at the state’s Department of Legislative Services – I was hoping to see the actual evidence before I wrote the next part. But my trips to the DLS website have been fruitless, leading me to believe that there were a couple cowboys at the DLS who chose to leak this to the Sun.

So before I say this will cost $24 billion a year, I suppose the best thing to know is how we would pay for this program called “Medicare-for-All.” Here’s how Jealous explains the key benefit for the majority of us who are under employer-sponsored plans:

This system will end premiums for participants, reducing costs to most employees and employers. It will be important to create a system that ensures covered employees also see the benefit of this change. MD-Care will explore creating safeguards to ensure that employer savings are passed down to the workers in increased wages, and guarantee that workers see real savings instead of having all of the gains captured by employers no longer paying premiums. (Emphasis mine.)

It’s worth pointing out that health insurance as a employer fringe benefit is a relatively new phenomenon, one that began when wages were frozen during World War II. Since workers (generally those belonging to unions) could not receive wage increases, the measure to circumvent this prohibition was the inclusion of health insurance – with the added bonus of employer-paid premiums being non-taxable income.

Basically what Jealous wants to do is enforce a raise to workers who currently receive these benefits, whether deserved or not. That seems to me a good way to kill jobs in the state.

And stop me if you’ve heard this one before:

Those who want to keep their existing Medicare program will be able to.

Bear in mind, of course, that Medicare is not free. Those of us who work for a living see that little category on our pay stubs – mine actually calls this “Medicare Employee” – and every couple weeks a few dozen dollars added to that total. I guess that’s the down payment on what we have to pay when we get to the age where we can presumably sign up and collect on Medicare, which isn’t really free but has a bewildering array of premiums, deductibles, and co-insurance payments. So to say Medicare-for-All is “free health care” or “single-payer” is clearly a misnomer because there are three payment sources: your pocket, the generosity of those who pay the taxes but don’t use the service, and (in the case of the federal government) a massive amount of IOUs.

Jealous then cites a Kaiser Family Foundation estimate that health care in Maryland costs $51 billion a year (at least it did in 2014) and proclaims:

This is simply unsustainable, and MD-Care offers an opportunity to finally get costs under control. Administrative savings could quickly add up to billions of dollars in Maryland and fully expanding the All-Payer model would finally allow us to bend the “cost curve” in medical spending. In addition, by ensuring the plan is designed properly to reduce costs and maximize federal dollars, we can further reduce the healthcare burden on Maryland taxpayers.

So wait a second: this is Maryland’s plan, but we’re expecting everyone else to pony up and pay more for it? Yeah, that will fly like a lead balloon.

And I’m not sure where “administrative savings” (if administration is 8% of health care cost, that’s $4 billion for Maryland) comes from when people who work for those eeeeeevil insurance companies (mainly paid for with private-sector dollars) are repurposed as government employees who are paid from the public till, to wit:

This plan and the Maryland All-Payer Model Progression Plan call for widespread use of emerging new titles in healthcare such as coordinators and community health workers to ensure that high risk populations are being treated properly (and at lower cost). This offers an opportunity to minimize the net disruption to employment by ensuring job retraining and preferences for those who previously worked at private insurance companies. Instead of thousands of workers in Maryland being paid to deny access to care, they can now be paid to provide healthcare.

In addition, there is going to be a need for administrative employees to ensure that Maryland is complying with all federal law so we can continue to draw down dollars for Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, and the ACA.

So much for saving on administration; in fact, given the lavish government payroll that seems to be a cost increase.

Speaking of cost increases, here’s where it gets important:

There is no question that any plan will have significant cost savings compared to current healthcare spending, while also moving most healthcare dollars away from the insurance companies and into the plan. These variables will determine the final cost of the plan and the revenue requirements. Among other revenue options the advisory panel will consider:

  • Income Based Premium Paid by Employers

This premium would be a deductible business expense, meaning this plan will have the same tax advantage status as employer provided healthcare. However, it is unknown how businesses will react to this, and significant input from the Maryland business community will be needed. Businesses would have predictable health insurance costs instead of double-digit increases with no end in sight.

  • Sales Tax

Having some portion of the plan paid for by a sales tax would have several advantages, including capturing revenue from non-Marylanders. It would also reduce the amount of revenue needed on the payroll side, thus reducing the taxation burden on new employment. At the same time, a sales tax is regressive by nature, so any tax increase on working Marylanders would have to be measured against the net benefits received from this plan.

  • Non-Payroll Income Premium

A non-payroll income premium would ensure that the most financially successful in Maryland pay their fair share of taxes. The advisory panel will need to study the tax sensitivity of these higher earners to ensure that any increase doesn’t result in significant population shifts in the region to avoid any changes to the Maryland income tax system.

I can tell you exactly how business will react to the first one, Ben: they will close their doors and/or leave. Those that have to stay will be hiring fewer people, and they have the perfect incentive:

We will also look at ways to ensure that small businesses and new companies succeed under this plan. This could mean exempting small businesses and start-ups from additional taxes associated with MDCare depending on revenue or firm age. The advisory panel will work with the small business community to design an exemption that makes the most sense.

One surefire way to cut revenue to fit under the limit: close a few locations, let go a few workers, and fold the business into a newly-formed holding company.

Because of that possibility, my thinking on this is that Jealous would go with a blending of options two and three: perhaps an increase in the sales tax from 6% to 8% and a reprisal of the infamous “millionaire’s tax” that will cause capital to flow out of the state.

Assuming that the roughly $4.6 billion collected by the state in sales taxes in FY2017 is a valid figure, a sales tax increase to 8% would cost taxpayers roughly $1.1 billion a year, and $5.5 billion over five years. A millionaire’s tax would be perhaps a $500 million cost to taxpayers over 5 years.

But that won’t begin to cover this program – not when spending is $51 billion a year now, and probably $70 billion when it’s “free.” (That is if you can find a provider – only 7 of 10 providers accept new Medicare patients.)

The most truthful statement made from Ben on the subject is this one, a throwaway line on his “Path to Medicare for All“:

When the ACA was written, Democrats were overly concerned with the optics and not enough with the actual mechanics of the bill.

Yes, we had to pass it to know what was in it. Likewise, we have no idea if that $24 billion cost is anywhere close to reality but it is likely that state revenues will take a significant hit as private-sector businesses throw in the towel.

Next up in this series will be Criminal Justice, a platform that likely has more holes in it than Swiss cheese.

42nd annual Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in pictures and text

And away we go…

Thanks to the much better interface of photo captioning I’ve adopted since my WordPress update awhile back, this one can literally be handled with photos, captions, and text. You get all three in one gooey, chewy, oh-so-sweet and ooo-ey mishmash of photos that will basically take you through my day – except for the tired feet.

This was the scene when I arrived about 10:45.

Local supporters of Jom Mathias were coordinating their efforts at the gate, Quite a few of those shirts found their way onto people at the event.

I Tweeted this next photo the day of, as I recall.

I wonder who pulled the strings to get Jim Mathias the plum spot up front. If you were coming this way to a corporate tent or the Crab Trap, you had to walk by.

Inside, people were getting set for the show to begin.

This is almost like a class photo. I’m sure 20 years from now, these runners will be looking at this, laughing, and wondering whatever happened to some of these nice folks.

Runners assigned here had a LONG way to travel.

The Crab Trap is a relatively new idea. It’s sort of a cross between a corporate tent and an after-party, and for a $20 premium you could enjoy the day from there.

Before I get too much farther, I could kick myself for not getting a photo of those doing the cooking. They are the heroes of the day and don’t get thanked enough for a hot, nearly thankless task for which they still willingly volunteer.

Speaking of thankless, volunteer roles…

You know, it’s a good thing this truly isn’t up for election. Could you imagine a split ticket winning that one?

I didn’t see Yumi at Tawes (not that I would necessarily be able to pick her out in the crowd) but I saw her husband make the rounds. More on that in a bit.

Luckily it was still before 11 when I took this – whoever was in charge of slapping up signs had a lot to do!

As the 11:00 hour rolled in, people were still busy getting ready for the crowds.

The Somerset County GOP was getting their tent space set up with plenty of signs and stickers.

It was at that point I realized that even 13-year veterans can make rookie mistakes: I left my box bottom in the car. A box bottom is a key component for Tawes because it serves as your food tray and (for some) a place to festoon with campaign stickers.

So on my way out I got a shirt. First time ever.

They had a good selection of shirts this year. I picked out a nice blue one.

By the time I trudged my way back in after a good half-mile round trip, I saw that food was already being served.

These seem like long lines, but most of them went fast and I have seen longer. I think having the runners has cut down on wait time.

So I found my way to the Somerset GOP tent and crashed their party. While I was there, Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford was already making the rounds. I took a few photos but with a bright background from a tent in the shadows they didn’t work well.

After I finished eating, I spied these two guys – part of a modest contingent backing unaffiliated U.S. Senate hopeful Neal Simon. They were circulating petitions at Tawes to get Simon on the ballot.

Backers of U.S. Senate hopeful Neal Simon fish for petition signatures.

Now this photo is nowhere near as important as a photo Neal put out Wednesday with the aforementioned Governor Hogan. And I’ll get to that in a little bit, too.

But first I ran into a guy who’s in the catbird seat – my Delegate, Carl Anderton.

With no election opposition, Delegate Carl Anderton can afford to give the thumbs-up.

He was just the first of a whole host of political and semi-political folks I got to chat with over the next 3 hours or so as I wandered around. There are some people who take “all you can eat crabs” as a challenge, but I’m to a point where I can barely make it through what I’m given in one trip to four lines, none of which are crabs.

Yes, it is campaign season. And since Wicomico County (and its media) are prominent there, you see a lot from our candidates.

In an indication of what was to come, Boyd Rutherford was rather popular.

The crowd of supporters surrounds Boyd Rutherford. I wonder if he will be here in 2021 as a candidate, and whether it will be to succeed his boss or upend the socialist?

Smaller groups chatted with the more local and regional politicians.

While Delegate Chris Adams (on the left in white) has one general election opponent for the two seats of District 37B, even that guy admits Adams and Johnny Mautz (who was also there) are prohibitive favorites to return to Annapolis.

Because State Senator Jim Mathias had his own tent, the group at the main Democrat tent was smaller. It wasn’t exactly a blue wave.

Regarding the Democrat tent: I did get to meet and say hello to Jesse Colvin, who is the Democrat opposing Andy Harris. He had his wife and baby boy with him (he was the holder) so I opted to skip the photo of Colvin. I will say he doesn’t seem to have the spunk and gift of gab that Allison Galbraith – who I met at Tawes 2017 – does, but perhaps that’s a military trait. Still, I would be interested to see debates between Harris, Colvin, and Libertarian candidate Jenica Martin. (I’m not sure if she was there – I know Andy was a little busy, as were federal counterparts Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin.)

There were a number of business tents as usual, but they didn’t seem to draw a lot of interest. It seems anymore that the Tawes event is used as a company picnic of sorts.

I’m going to return to the subject of business tents later as I wrap up, but in taking the photo I saw a person I wanted to meet. In fact, in speaking to him I found out he’s visited this site a time or two.

This is one of the few times you’ll see someone to the right of me, if only in a visual sense. Actually, Neal Simon and I had a nice conversation.

In speaking to Neil I found out he had gotten the Hogan signature I alluded to above at the event and that he was going to make the announcement about having the sufficient number of petition signatures the next day, which was yesterday. He just told me to keep it under my hat until the time came, which wasn’t a problem since I had other things to write on and it was pretty much a fait accompli anyway.

Next up, though, is my favorite picture.

You just gotta like Carol Frazier. That’s all there is to it.

It gives me a chance to say thanks to one of my biggest fans and supporters. And speaking of such, I had the opportunity to see someone I hadn’t seen since Turning the Tides five years ago. It’s just a shame I neglected to get a picture of Cecil County Council member Jackie Gregory, a longtime friend and supporter of monoblogue. Even Delegate Kathy Szeliga saw me and gave me a greeting hug.

But when it comes to big fans and supporters of Tawes, I’m not sure anyone beats Bruce Bereano.

If this guy ever stops coming, I suspect they could have Tawes in the Food Lion parking lot.

For those politicians whose district doesn’t include the region, this is the place to hang out and eat. I think the Crab Trap idea was inspired by Bruce’s tent since people could see the political in-crowd live it up and wanted a version for their own.

That guy in the center with his hands up – he’s the governor. Larry Hogan always draws a crowd.

He may have pissed off various swaths of the Maryland electorate for various reasons, but the people don’t seem too upset at Governor Hogan here. Maybe a little bit of a smaller group circling him, but still significant.

Even the host city welcomed him.

The City of Crisfield tent. Since everyone in town who could afford a ticket was down here anyway.

I shouldn’t pick on Crisfield, since our former County Executive Rick Pollitt is their city manager. He stopped and said hello with a warm handshake.

This is one of the strangest sights, although I’m sure it’s the way of the news business these days: talking to a camera on a tripod.

It didn’t seem like the media was all over like before, but I saw all three local stations: WBOC channel 16 (and their associated FM radio station) and WMDT channel 47 out of Salisbury as well as WRDE channel 31 from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware – now that was a trip from one side of the peninsula to the other. I also saw channel 7, which I think is out of Washington, D.C. I know there were print and radio reporters as well, but they did their jobs in places I wasn’t, aside from WRDE who wanted to speak with Simon as I was talking to him.

I took this photo a little after 2:00.

The tall guy in black in the center, that’s Ben Jealous. He’s trying to take Hogan’s job.

In the last three Democrat campaigns for governor (2006, 2010, 2014) I witnessed their favored or chosen gubernatorial candidate walk into Tawes surrounded by a posse of supporters clad in campaign shirts to help rouse support. However, Anthony Brown skipped Tawes in 2014 since it was by then post-primary – his blue shirts came the year before.

Regardless, the lack of campaign savvy on the Jealous team was very apparent – few supporters and not much engagement. It was almost like Ben used the event as a photo-op but the optics weren’t nearly as good as they should be in an area that’s heavily minority and majority Democrat. Even I quickly worked my way up to say hello and express a concern I had, as I did later to Governor Hogan.

Finally, I’m glad I helped convince this guy into coming – or maybe he already made up his mind and likes to humor his supporters.

Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford on the left, U.S. Senate candidate Tony Campbell on the right. Wait a minute, I thought the GOP was exclusively for white people.

Hopefully Tony followed a little bit of my advice: I told him to not just concentrate on the circle of tents in the back but go and speak to the people in the pavilions up front. And this is where my commentary on Tawes begins.

Earlier I alluded to the business tents, and in the last few years I’ve noticed it’s been pretty much the same businesses and entities are present at Tawes, and they bring a particular group of people to the event. Needless to say, the political entities also bring their own supporters and hangers-on as well. All of them stay pretty much within an area that’s bounded by the tents and the food lines up front. Of course, with the Crab Trap and addition of food runners over the last few years, Tawes has gotten to a point where one doesn’t have to come out from under the tent to partake in the event.

On the other side, behind the AFSCME local that always camps out by the restroom building and the City of Crisfield tent, is the portion of the main pavilion where those who are there simply to eat and socialize with their friends go and sit. They have their own DJ, they’re not far from the bathrooms, and in my travels I notice it’s more of a minority gathering – it’s almost like that’s where the locals stay and they let the out-of-towners have the other side. That’s where I advised Tony to go, and it’s not a bad idea for any candidate. (Toward the end I found Mary Beth Carozza over there doing a radio spot so I presume she had been through there, too.)

In my years doing the Tawes event, one of the benefits I enjoyed about it was the opportunity to speak with people from the other side. For the ten years I sat on the Central Committee and was active in the local Republican club, I obviously saw the local Republicans once or twice a month and my GOP friends from around the state twice a year at the convention. On the other hand, if you were a Democrat and a friend of mine (or a candidate with whom I wanted to place a face with the name, such as Jesse Colvin or Ben Jealous), just about the only time I got to see you was at Tawes. And even though I haven’t been nearly as active on the GOP side of late, the same still holds true on the Democrats’ side. For the most part I have no animus with them aside from their short-sighted political views.

Unfortunately, there isn’t the mixing of people on a political level like there used to be and a similar phenomenon is beginning to take place at Tawes as groups become more insular. Surely there are people who never set foot outside the Crab Trap or Bereano tent from the time they arrived to the time they went home, and that’s sort of a shame. I have no idea on the attendance figure, but I think it may have been lower than in past years – on the other hand, there may have been people I never saw hiding in their safe spaces.

Unfortunately for a person like me, 2019 looks to be a year dull as dishwater politically. Sure, we may have some Presidential campaigns underway on the Democrat side but you don’t see a lot of them represented at Tawes and it would be a shock to see a Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, et. al. walk through those gates. It’s not a statewide office election year, and in 2020 Maryland will have no Senate race. All that leaves is Congress, and whatever Democrat opts to step up. It’s pretty thin gruel.

I don’t want to say the event is past its prime, but I suspect there are diminishing returns for a politician who isn’t statewide or represents an area outside the 37th or 38th District. To make things a little better there, we need to recall what we have in common, not what divides us.

How much will it cost? (Part one of a multi-part series)

July 18, 2018 · Posted in Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on How much will it cost? (Part one of a multi-part series) 

I know, I know, you want Tawes coverage. Look for it tomorrow or Friday.

Since Ben Jealous won the Democrat Party nomination for Maryland’s top job, the progressives who have already seen his campaign as a chance to put their dreams into action on the state level are beside themselves with giddiness about the prospect of a state that borders Washington, D.C. being set up as a contrast to the relative austerity of one President Donald J. Trump.

But skittish voters may have been turned off by a Department of Legislative Services report (as reported by the Baltimore Sun) that claimed Ben’s single-payer health scheme could cost the state as much as $24 billion a year – astounding when you consider Maryland’s annual state operating budget runs about $44 billion. It would become the single largest line-item on the budget overnight and (of course) necessitate significant tax increases.

The story, however, neatly coincides with the question I’m sure I’m not alone in asking: how much is the Jealous agenda going to cost?

Well, I can’t give you an exact answer. But what I can do is study his platform, point by point, and give as good of an estimate as possible. And when you say, “Michael, all politicians promise to spend taxpayer money when they pledge to ‘invest’ in whatever item they think will get them the most votes,” I would say yes, you are correct – but Ben Jealous pledges to do it in spades.

If you go to his issues page, you will find Jealous has laid out a wide-ranging agenda of several issues:

  • Education
  • Medicare-For-All
  • Criminal Justice
  • Ending The Student Debt Crisis
  • Police Reform
  • Great Cities: A Vision For Maryland’s Future
  • Opioid Crisis
  • Make It In Maryland: Building A More Inclusive, Thriving Economy
  • Civil Rights
  • Immigration
  • Environment
  • Seniors

On many of these, Ben goes beyond the standard one-paragraph blurb and lays out fairly detailed plans – although they are often lacking in financial estimates. So today I’m going to start laying out my thoughts on what this agenda may cost taxpayers, and I’m going to begin with Education and the related subject Ending the Student Debt Crisis.

As a baseline figure, bear in mind that the most recent budget adopted by the state (for FY2019, which began at the start of this month) has the state of Maryland spending $14.72 billion between education and higher education, for a total of 33% of the budget. K-12 gets $8.099 billion and $6.621 billion goes to higher education. (The total budget, by the way, is $44.416 billion, compared to $42.142 billion just two years ago.)

Here’s the first concrete proposal in the Jealous education plan, increasing teacher salaries:

In the Kirwan Commission’s preliminary report, there’s a recommendation to bring Maryland’s average teacher salary to the average of Massachusetts and New Jersey’s – two of the country’s top performing states – by the 2024-2025 school year. Ben Jealous is committed to raising teacher pay by 29% between now and the 2024-2025 school year – the exact same percent increase as was accomplished in the seven years following the Thornton Commission.

To determine the cost of this salary increase plan, we need to find the difference between the natural cost of increasing salaries under the current Thornton funding formula and a new salary plan.

In an attached chart, Jealous details the cost over the five year period from FY2020 – FY2024. Total cost to taxpayers: $1.8953 billion over five years, with FY2024 alone contributing a $658.5 million increase. This is above and beyond raises already baked into the budget totaling $2.1845 billion.

Jealous, however, says he has a way to pay for this – but it depends on Maryland voters.

Late in this year’s session, a Senate bill was passed that placed an amendment to the Maryland Constitution on this year’s ballot. The “Fix The Fund” Act mandates that gambling revenue become a supplement to educational spending rather than a component of it. The Fiscal Note for the bill notes that revenues for education are expected to increase by $1.2678 billion from FY2020 – FY 2023. Unfortunately, that money doesn’t replace what would have gone into the General Fund: as the Fiscal Note continues, “Designating the use of a portion of (Education Trust Fund) monies for supplemental funding requires general fund expenditures to increase by an equal amount.” However, this money is folded into the expenditure from above, yet Jealous admits to being short in year 5. His solution? Enacting a combined reporting tax on Maryland businesses.

On this particular point of combined reporting, Jealous references an unsuccessful bill from 2017 that would have enacted this, with the carrot to business of eliminating filing fees for a business or entity with 10 or fewer employees. That may not necessarily be in Ben’s plan, so I am going to make two assumptions here: one. that the revenue for a five year period of FY2020-24 is similar to that which would have occurred FY2018-22 as covered by that particular Fiscal Note and that the filing fee waiver would be eliminated. Given those two items (and the fact business taxes aren’t paid by businesses but by consumers) I will say this adds $150.8 million over five years – but that still leaves Jealous short, and WAY short if “Fix The Fund” doesn’t pass – however, you can bet your bottom dollar the teacher’s unions will be out in full force to pass that one come November. (The odds of the Fix The Fund Act passing are very good, though, as Maryland voters seldom turn down a referendum. But it won’t be a fix, just more tax on the poor.)

And the fun is just beginning…next up is this gem:

In the 2018 legislative session, two former educators in the General Assembly proposed legislation to guarantee all education support professionals a living wage: at least $31,500 a year in lower cost of living counties and at least $36,000 a year in higher cost of living counties. It would be phased in starting in FY2020 and fully funded from FY2024 onward.

Based on the Fiscal Note for this bill, over three years (FY2022-24) the total cost to taxpayers will be $527 million.

Another biggie comes up a page or so later:

As governor, Ben Jealous will provide the funding necessary for full-day, universal pre-kindergarten and he will pay for it through the tax revenue generated by legalizing and taxing marijuana for adult use.

In a report entitled A Comprehensive Analysis of Prekindergarten in Maryland, the authors noted that at the time (early 2016) the state spent $132.9 million to educate the 35.58% of 4-year-olds who are already enrolled. Doing the math for 100% of 4-year-olds means an annual expenditure for pre-K on a state level would be a total annual cost to taxpayers of $375.3 million, and over a five-year period the cost would edge close to $2 billion.

Yet again, it’s likely that revenues will not keep pace. Obviously laws vary from state to state, but a good fit for projecting Maryland’s success might be Colorado because of its similar population. In 2017 Colorado generated $223 million in revenue from the sale of marijuana, while Washington state (which is somewhat larger) added $314 million. It’s not likely that Maryland would be able to sustain its revenue stream to the extent needed, meaning money would need to come from the general fund.

Next up is an unknown amount of money to address this seeming disparity:

We need to reimagine what schools provide in our low-income neighborhoods by making the school building the central hub for community services – counseling, job training, meals, mentoring programs, and health clinics. As part of the new funding formula, the state should add a concentrated wealth factor that drives more funding to schools with 40% or more of their student population coming from low-income families.

To me, this is akin to the current Geographic Cost of Education Index that cost taxpayers $141.6 million this fiscal year (page 47 here). But that money is a starting point because, in order for schools to take on all these functions, there is an unknown capital improvement cost involved. I suspect when all is said and done this could easily exceed $2 billion in additional spending after five years.

Lastly on the K-12 education front, there is this idea:

Providing children with a critical mass of mental health services requires an investment in personnel like inschool social workers and psychologists, but it also requires fully incorporating these service providers into the broader academic ecosystem, and providing other key members of that ecosystem with the training they need to help our mental health service providers.

So let’s begin with this:

By providing the child with case-management, the social worker can ensure a student is connected with an in-school counselor (and) has up-to-date treatment from an inschool psychologist.

(…)

… it is important that enough counselors be hired to maintain a low student-to-counselor ratio…

(…)

Every school should have at least one on-site psychologist, who is focused fully on addressing the mental health needs of the student body.

(…)

As governor, Ben Jealous will work with key stakeholders like the MSEA to increase staffing levels for service providers like social workers and school psychologists…

Yes, because we know the MSEA teacher’s union is oh-so-careful with taxpayer dollars.

The information is a little out-of-date, so I’m extrapolating the 1.449 schools that Maryland was claimed to have a half-decade ago to 1,500 for ease of math. So let’s make some more assumptions: three new social workers, one new psychologist, and three counselors (to maintain the low ratio) are added per school – that is a total of 10,500 staff statewide. And they’re not going to come cheap: on average a school psychologist makes almost $60,000 per year, a school counselor checks in at almost $49,000 a year, and school social workers earn just over $48,000 a year. Therefore, the additional per-school staffing expenditure (just for salary, mind you, and not including benefits) would be $351,000 a year. Multiply that by 1,500 public schools in the state and the total annual cost to taxpayers is $216.2 million.

Once you’ve paid for K-12, you still have the aspect of “free” college.

As governor, Jealous will make community college free for every Marylander… The guarantee of free tuition will be extended to every Maryland high school graduate. This program will be paid for by increasing the state income tax for the top 1% of earners ($500,000+ annually) by 1%, and savings from significantly reducing Maryland’s levels of incarceration.

Now this is a little bit confusing because I thought we already had that, based on a bill passed last year. And the question is whether Ben means every dollar of the average $4,324 (see here) for tuition and fees or whether it’s an expansion of the “last-dollar” program where prospective students have to exhaust other avenues of aid first (although, in all honesty, the taxpayer pays most of it anyway.) Now multiply that by a projected 46,592 full-time students and just a high-end estimate of Ben’s scheme comes out to be $201.5 million every year. And since it’s “free” we should probably assume a total annual cost to taxpayers of $300 million because more will take advantage and (naturally) colleges will increase their tuition and fees to get in on this largess.

Yet as they say on the home shopping networks…but wait, there’s more.

As governor, Jealous will create a MD Careers program that partners with industry experts to determine growing job sectors, and incentivize education and training in these sectors by covering any education costs associated with entering the fields. Special priority will be given to service professionals like first responders, organized labor sectors like educators, and healthcare workers who can help drive down the cost of quality treatment for our population in the years ahead. The guarantee of free tuition will be extended to every Maryland high school graduate who commits to staying in Maryland for five years after they receive their degree.

This program will be paid for with a percentage of the savings generated by significant reductions to Maryland’s incarceration levels. This funding stream will stretch even further when one considers that training for in-demand sectors like construction rely on apprenticeships and technical training that are less cost intensive than traditional 4-year degrees.

As governor, Jealous will extend this guarantee to students pursuing graduate degrees at Maryland’s public institutions. This will be paid for by increasing Maryland’s cigarette tax, which is currently less than the cigarette tax charged by regional competitors such as D.C., Pennsylvania, and New York.

I love how he pointed out “organized labor sectors.” Like we need more of that.

So we come to the “savings” part. Jealous proposes to save our dollars by emptying out the jails.

Ben Jealous will reduce Maryland’s prison population by 30%. He will do so by ending returns to prison for technical violations, downgrading drug possession, expanding opportunities to earn parole, and investing in reentry programs. Doing so will create savings of up to $660 million.

Obviously the amount spent on free tuition is going to depend on the shape of the program, but more predictable is the increase in the cigarette tax. Maryland currently has a $2 per pack cigarette tax, which indeed is less than D.C. ($2.50), Pennsylvania ($2.60) and New York (tops in the nation at $4.35.) It’s even a dime less than Delaware’s and New Jersey comes in at $2.70 as well. (And then you have Virginia, second lowest in the country at 30 cents a pack.) Nor should we forget about the millionaire’s tax I cited above.

So let’s speculate that the cigarette tax of $2 a pack increases to $3, which would peg us just above the surrounding jurisdictions aside from Virginia and West Virginia. For FY2017 (the latest figures available) the cigarette tax raised $348.8 million. So a 50% increase in the tax brings a 50% increase in revenue, right?

Well, not quite. For taxes, there is almost always a lag between the rate of increase and the revenue increase. I’m thinking the difference in this case will be about 30%, although your mileage may vary. Total cost to taxpayers (particularly the poor and working class): $244.2 million a year.

On the other side of the scale is the tax on the “top 1%.” It’s harder to judge the impact based on a lack of parameters, but the “millionaire’s tax” of a decade ago reportedly brought in $120 million. I think with inflation, and the fact income taxes bring in $9 billion a year, that a 2% increase in revenue is a realistic estimate because there aren’t that many who would qualify. Total cost to taxpayers: roughly $180 million a year.

After that, there is another highly variable promise:

The guarantee of debt-free tuition will be extended to every Maryland high school graduate.

Jealous will offer this debt free path to graduation in the form of a state-financed work study program that pays students the cost of their tuition each year, including for public graduate schools. A significant part of this restructuring will also come from driving down the overhead costs associated with higher education: expensive book purchases, inflated rents, and non-essentials like luxurious gyms.

The obvious question is how many students would be eligible and how much of the tuition they will pay. Pennsylvania has a similar program where students are allowed to make $10,000 a year toward their college funding. If this is the case, for every 100 students that are accepted there’s a million dollars that has to come from somewhere, oftentimes from the college itself.

Jealous also desires the state get into the student loan refinancing business:

10 states currently offer refinancing programs for student loans. It is long past time that Maryland embrace its role as a national leader, and join these states in easing the often onerous financial burden that student loans pose for Marylanders.

Assuming the state can find the cash reserves, this is actually very inexpensive in comparison. A state study found other states run these programs for less than one million dollars a year, Total cost to taxpayers over five years: $5 million.

Lastly, Jealous wants to correct the supposed shortchanging of HBCUs in the state:

As governor, Jealous will reallocate future state-based funding streams for higher education to provide restorative funding that equals the historic underfunding of HBCUs in Maryland. Moreover, ongoing funding will be fixed to prevent this disparity in the years ahead. Jealous will also end the practice of allowing other public institutions to offer duplicative programs to those traditionally offered by HBCUs.

(…)

Under Jealous’ leadership, the state will begin to fund immediate infrastructure improvements at HBCUs using a percentage of the over $1 billion in general obligation bonds that it issues each year. Beyond improving the physical infrastructure of HBCU facilities, it will allow HBCUs to reallocate existing infrastructure spending to other programmatic investments.

It’s been claimed (by a minority member of the Maryland Senate) that HBCUs have been shortchanged by $2 billion over the years. I don’t think Jealous would try to eradicate that in four years, but over eight it would be a doable thing, simply increasing the $1 billion the state annually puts on its capital funding credit card by 25%. Over four years, this would be $1 billion in additional debt which needs to be paid eventually.

So, to total all this up: just for education at all levels, Ben is looking to ladle on at least $6.743 billion to the budget. In order to fill this gap, we will have to endure the adoption of an ill-considered amendment to the Maryland Constitution, the legalization and taxation of marijuana, increases in business taxes, cigarette taxes and income taxes for certain brackets, the emptying of our jails (with no telling how that will affect the crime rate), and squeezing people out of a legitimate business, refinancing student loans.

And that, my friends, is just for starters.

Now allow me to say that Ben seems like a nice, personable guy. I spoke to him a little bit at Tawes about a concern I had unrelated to this series, and he seemed receptive to help out. But in order to be informed, it should be known that his “free stuff” is going to come at a cost people may not be willing to pay.

The first piece of advice

July 3, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Culture and Politics, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on The first piece of advice 

If you haven’t figured this out in the 12 years, 7 months, and a bit of change since I began this here website, I have an agenda I want to share with you, and sometimes that intrudes onto other parts of my life. I also have gained in my 53-plus years on this planet a little bit of institutional memory and sometimes that dictates my actions.

One case in point occurred a few weeks back and it was because I knew several things would be true and coincide with things I was already planning to do anyway.

  • First of all (and again, in case you didn’t notice over the last 13 seasons) I am a regular devotee of Delmarva Shorebirds games. One season (before I met my wife) I think I made it to about 60 home games out of 70 scheduled. Since I’ve been married I’ve toned it down somewhat, but I will be somewhere in the high 20s this year I believe. Anyway, my favorite days to attend are Sundays and Thursdays, so I got my half-season package in order for me to attend most of those games. Thus, I knew I would be there for the game on Sunday, June 10.
  • Secondly, I had found out a few weeks earlier that Larry Hogan would be in attendance for a game against the Hagerstown Suns, with the reason being that of inaugurating an annual competition between the two called the Governor’s Cup. It turns out we are the only two pro teams in a major sport that are Maryland-based and play each other annually in the regular season in the same league. The date: June 10.
  • Now this is something I didn’t plan for many years ago when I secured the seat, but it so happens that most of those who participate in on-field ceremonies walk up the aisle right by me. So I have had the pleasure of meeting many of those who sing the National Anthem, throw out the first pitch, and so on.
  • Knowing all that, I decided it was time to do a little promotion for a cause I held dear, and create a message at the same time. And thank goodness I lent my cell phone out because the “official” photo from the staff photographer was nowhere near this good.

The big guy on the left is big because he runs a state. The big guy on the right is at least losing a few pounds.

So what message do I want to impart to the reader? First of all, if you’re looking for a good Christian school in the Salisbury area you should consider Faith Baptist School, which is the educational ministry of my church.

But it also gives me an “in” to talk about an issue that I think needs to be brought into the gubernatorial race. Why do you think I picked that shirt?

Back in April, the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) endorsed the primary campaign of eventual Democrat nominee Ben Jealous. Echoing the teacher’s union, Jealous has this as a priority for his campaign:

Before Governor Hogan took office, Maryland’s public schools were ranked first in the country for five years running. Now, under his leadership, we’ve slipped to sixth. As governor, I will reverse this trend by making sure we raise teacher pay by 29%, fund full-day universal Pre-K by legalizing and taxing marijuana for adult use, and force Annapolis to finally keep its promise to use all of the casino and lottery revenue to increase education spending, not replace money they’ve shifted to other priorities.

In addition, Ben has this plan in mind: “Jealous proposes implementing recommendations from the Kirwan Commission and expanding vocational training in Maryland’s high schools so that every child graduates career and college ready.”

While I don’t mind some additional love to vocational education, here’s the rub: his agenda won’t significantly increase our ranking, which is based on a number of factors as defined by Education Week. That publication, in turn, has its own sponsors and trustees who cheerlead for public education. But Maryland being in sixth place is really as meaningless as Maryland in first place if Johnny can’t read and Suzie can’t do simple math or point out Maryland on a map.

So let’s first talk about the Kirwan Commission: if there ever was a group who was ready and willing to raid the pockets of taxpayers, this would be it. This one was doomed from the word go just based on who appointed people to it. (The sad thing was that not one Delegate or Senator objected to its creation.)

And it’s interesting to me that, when you look at the numbers, the Jealous plan can’t even support the teacher raises, let alone the rest of the wish list:

The first four years can be paid for with the phase-in of the Fix the Fund Act that ensures $125 million in FY2020, $250 million in FY2021, $375 million in FY2022, and $500 million in FY2023 will be added to school funding through casino gaming revenues. The fifth year can be covered by $500 million from the Fix the Fund Act and revenue generated by requiring combined reporting for Maryland taxable income. (Emphasis mine.)

Welcome to tax increase number 1, slamming multistate employers who do business in Maryland. (I’m not even counting the pot tax because that’s simply a new tax that’s going to hit the poor hardest – just like the casino tax will, come to think of it. How many rich people go to casinos?)

And the funny thing is: we spend more on education than ever before – just not as much as the teacher’s union wants. (Aside to teachers out there: do you really want sin taxes to fund your schools – more importantly, do you really want your dues supporting this agenda? Now you can take advantage of Janus rights and I encourage it.)

But I don’t want to get into the weeds of taxes because it goes without saying a Democrat will raise them: it’s what they do.

I believe there is a solution that obviates the need for tax increases and produces better results for all Maryland children and parents: school choice. (Or as I like to call it, money follows the child.) Democrats HATE this issue because it’s broadly supported by one of their key constituency groups (inner-city minority voters) yet feared and despised by one of their main financial contributors (unions in general, teachers’ unions in particular.) And who’s winning? Follow the money.

If Larry Hogan wants to drive a wedge into a core constituency of his opponent and peel off a few voters in Baltimore City, he could travel into some downtrodden neighborhood to find a rare success of a school, then make the following statement:

My opponent wants you to gamble more and smoke marijuana just to raise the money to plug into the schools you know aren’t doing the job. I believe we can do better by giving you the power to send your children to whichever school will take them – public, charter, private, it does not matter. If you wanted to send your child to this school (points back at said successful school) we could give you the opportunity. You can decide which option is best for your child.

So let’s talk about private school – in my case, Faith Baptist School.

Right off the top of my head I don’t have the number for tuition for next year but it’s certainly nowhere near the $12,249 a year the local, state, and federal government spends per pupil for our public schools. I’ll bet it’s not more than half of that, but let’s say the state adopts such a program.

First of all, this could allow FBS to increase tuition and better compensate their teachers and staff. Just picking a number, we’ll say tuition and fees come in at $8,000 a year, which would certainly be enough to provide raises and hire more teachers for the need – perhaps from the ranks of former public school teachers fed up with the eradication of God from the public school classroom. (FBS has one such refugee on staff.)

But Michael, you say, that wouldn’t be a benefit to us because you are encouraging these non-market forces to artificially raise the school’s tuition. Again, please read the Jealous plan and his goal to raise teacher (and staff) salaries significantly, and ask yourself: which teachers would you rather reward? And it’s not like I didn’t think about this aspect.

The kicker would be that, for parents who choose to send their child to a school that costs less than the state-allotted sum for the county (the $12,249 a year) the program would allow a portion of the savings to be passed on to the parents. Now I’m not saying they stroke a check directly to the parents, but instead a share of the savings (perhaps 20%) would be given to an account for the child created within the existing 529 program the state has to encourage college savings. They could maintain the same stipulations on use that already exist.

So here are the benefits:

  • Parents are free to send their child to any school which would accept them. This is key because it makes parents accountable for a child’s behavior – perhaps they will encourage good, respectful behavior from the children so as not to be expelled from a school that promotes good teaching.
  • Those parents would accrue money toward their child’s higher education – using my difference of $4,249 as an example, a 20% credit to their 529 plan would be almost $850, simply for shopping for a good deal and having a child accepted.
  • It would also create an incentive for public schools to both cut their costs (to help negate the advantage private schools have on cost) and improve themselves to be more attractive because, remember, having the child in the public school does not add to the college fund. But not all private schools have vocational programs, extracurricular activities, or athletics at a high level. For example, the large public schools locally are able to have robotics clubs that competes regionally and nationally whereas a small school like FBS just can’t.

And don’t think I forgot homeschoolers, who in theory cost the state nothing. They could be eligible for a small stipend from the state – perhaps $1,000 for an academic year and the 529 benefits the other parents get based on the larger savings – it would be over $2,000 a year added to that account.

And because these 529 funds are generally only allowed to be used at Maryland schools, it would create a boost to enrollment for those institutions as well as incentive to broaden their offerings.

The big loser in all this: a moribund public school system that’s been resistant to grassroots change and local control. They would remain as the backstop provider of education as they always have been. Yes, they will have the problem children but remember these children are problems because they weren’t brought up to behave properly and in a manner conducive for learning for those around them. Yet there could be a private school created to give these children the support they need, whether it’s just encouragement for slow learners or tough love for those who refuse to behave.

So this is some free advice I can give to a governor who has let me down in myriad ways since taking office: ignore the naysayers who tell you school choice is a bad thing. I’m not going to tell you the writer makes all invalid points, but I believe the bad seeds would be weeded out in short order because the public schools would be the first to tattle. After all, school choice is a winning issue because people get it.

Those who fret about school choice bringing on “the destruction of public schools” obviously sell themselves short. Sometimes we all need a kick in the behind to motivate us and two things are clear: the status quo isn’t working and simply throwing money at it isn’t changing that fact.

Given this will appear just before Independence Day, maybe it’s time to free those parents that care from the shackles of poor-performing public schools.

Democrat gubernatorial hopefuls invade Salisbury

April 15, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, Radical Green · Comments Off on Democrat gubernatorial hopefuls invade Salisbury 

There are eight candidates on the Democrat side of the ballot hoping to be the challenger to current GOP Governor Larry Hogan. On a gorgeous, almost summer-like day on the Eastern Shore, only four of them could be bothered to come to Salisbury University to address their would-be primary electorate.

Originally that was supposed to be five of the eight, though.

An empty table...sort of like their bag of new ideas.

The lineup as originally intended: Alec Ross, Krish Vignarajah, Rushern Baker, Jim Shea, and Richard Madaleno.

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker was slated to be there, but informed the event organizers 15 minutes beforehand that he had an “emergency” and could not appear. According to his Twitter feed, he had begun the day campaigning in Baltimore City but the trail grows cold afterward. Yesterday evening there were Tweets and social media posts touting his previous endorsement by Congressman Steny Hoyer (who represents a portion of his county) and a piece touting his partnership for STEM training, but no mention of the forum or an apology for missing it. A Democrat friend of mine remarked afterward that “I know quite a few people who were definitely upset and said they wouldn’t vote for him now even if they had considered him before.” Unfortunately, that left us with a group of what would be defined as “second-tier” candidates who are polling in low single digits – combined they’re not Baker’s equal polling-wise.

On top of that, State Senator Richard Madaleno was a few minutes late, missing the opening statement but being allowed to make up for it when he answered his first question. Apparently there was an accident on the Bay Bridge, which was the topic of a subsequent question.

So the order was set, and placeholders were rearranged. This photo was taken once Madaleno arrived.

State Senator Richard Madaleno (right) answers a question as moderator Don Rush of Delmarva Public Radio (far left), Alec Ross (second from left), Krish Vignarajah (center), and Jim Shea (second from right) look on.

The Wicomico County Democratic Central Committee co-sponsored the event with the Salisbury University College Democrats, and aside from the horribly uncomfortable chairs we were forced to sit in for two hours the event was well-conducted for the 100 or so in attendance on this beautiful afternoon. I learned that a group of liberal Democrats can sit and listen attentively, so now I expect that same behavior at the next Andy Harris town hall that I attend. Moderator Don Rush instructed the audience early on to keep their reactions to themselves, and they complied.

I debated whether I wanted to handle this by candidate or by question, and decided that keeping the candidates’ answers together for each question would present a better, more comparative format. But first I wanted to mention something that was said by WCDCC chair Mark L. Bowen. (Just to be clear, this Mark Bowen is not Mark S. Bowen, the current Democrat Clerk of the Court for Wicomico County.) Bowen assured the gathering that “our work is being done for us…all we have to do is close the deal.” He was also the one who informed us that Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and former NAACP head Ben Jealous were absent due to “previous commitments.” (That would be their personally lobbying the state’s teacher’s union, which endorsed Jealous yesterday at their meeting. Perhaps endorsing Kamemetz or Baker would have been problematic for the teachers given educational scandals in their respective counties.)

So after an opening statement, the four remaining candidates answered questions on these topics:

  • New “economic engines” for the Eastern Shore
  • Balancing the interests of agriculture and environmentalists
  • Offshore wind energy development
  • How they would assist watermen and the Bay
  • Transportation priorities for our area
  • A new Bay Bridge
  • Their focus on education
  • Health care – a single-payer system?
  • Redistricting

But I want to begin with separate categorizations of their opening statements, and I’ll proceed in the order that they spoke. This means Alec Ross goes first and Richard Madaleno goes not at all because he was tardy.

You may recall that I spent a few minutes speaking to Alec at the Tawes event last year, when he informed me that he had a rather unique view on education for a Democrat, since he focused more on vocational education than college readiness. Obviously coming over here is something he cherishes, as he recalled childhood vacations spent in Ocean City and told the crowd his blood pressure comes down when he crosses the Bay Bridge as part of his opening statement.

His main point, though, was that “talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not.” And while “we are bringing new faces and new ideas to the Democratic Party,” Ross noted their voter registration numbers are trending downward.

I could have spent a couple minutes speaking to Krish Vignarajah, but I didn’t realize she was one of those waiting with me on the elevator to arrive. With her husband in tow and a young child, she could have been an interested observer. (She was also somewhat casually dressed.)

Krish came to America as a infant, emigrating from Sri Lanka with her parents. (A few years later, Sri Lanka would be embroiled in a civil war, so tensions were rising at the time.) She also painted a gloomy picture of Maryland, telling the audience that “opportunities are declining” but she would be “Larry Hogan’s worst nightmare” as a candidate. “We need to give people a reason to vote,” she exhorted.

Jim Shea used the Bay Bridge as an example of how infrastructure could help the economy. He was running to “invest in Maryland,” with a focus on three areas: education, transportation, and infrastructure.

Leading off the questioning was one about new economic engines for the Eastern Shore. All of them agreed agriculture was going to remain the primary driver, but they also wanted to add green energy to the mix in various ways.

For Vignarajah, the object wasn’t to attack “Big Chicken” but to address its environmental issues through research. She also touted the idea of tourism, both as part of an “outdoor economy” and “heritage tourism.” Shea stressed his belief that we need to bring the two sides of farmer and environmentalist together. Corporations want a good environment, too, he said, but “we need clarity on the regulations.” Jim also believed that we needed to grow our own businesses and not work as much at attracting those from other states.

Madaleno, after giving a brief introduction, talked about keeping agriculture sustainable, both environmentally and economically, but also brought up the idea of “eds and beds” – our educational institutions and tourism industry. Richard also pointed out the impact from Wallops Island and its space industry. He had one other point, but he joked that “I feel like the Secretary of Energy” because he couldn’t recall it. Later, he said Shea reminded him it was offshore wind – it was a byproduct of seeing each other so much and knowing their talking points, as Shea mentioned later: “(Madaleno) did the same thing for me at another forum.”

Perhaps Alec’s drop in blood pressure stemmed from the produce he’s purchased at an Eastern Shore roadside market. As the produce was bigger and better than ever at his last stop, Ross asked how they did it. “Precision agriculture,” the stand owner beamed. Agriculture in the state needs to continue to evolve, he added, the combination of analytics and agriculture would allow that to happen. And to help small farmers, Ross was proposing a billion-dollar investment in a “green bank” model – a model already in place in New York and Massachusetts. (In looking this up, perhaps Ross misspoke: I found programs in place in New York and Connecticut as a way to promote “clean energy.” What Ross proposes may have a slightly different focus.)

So how do you balance agriculture and the environment? Would you add restrictions to the poultry industry?

Madaleno, Shea, and Vignarajah all touted the Community Healthy Air Act, a measure Madaleno sponsored during the last General Assembly session, and one that Shea said “made sense.” (It did not get beyond the hearing stage.) Alec and Krish also brought up the Phosphorus Management Tool, with Krish calling it a “win-win.” She also proposed to “empower” farmers with a Farmers Rights Act.

Ross wanted all sides to play by the same rules as well, saying that neither side thinks they are lying when it comes to the facts.

Needless to say, all of them were supportive of wind energy development. Madaleno said they “will make a lot of sense,” believing the won’t impact the viewshed and be the basis for job growth. They can “drive the economy ahead,” added Shea; however, he was concerned that there was no way to store their energy. We need to invest in that technology, he added.

Ross and Vignarajah were just as aggressive, with Alec comparing areas that don’t “embrace the future” through wind to the coal country he grew up in and assuring us that windmills would not keep them from the beaches. Vignarajah promised 2,000 megawatts of wind power in her first term and chided Larry Hogan for not being proactive. We are exporting our dollars and importing their pollution, she said regarding the current situation.

This question also provided a couple of shout outs: Madaleno praised fellow Senator Jim Mathias: “No one fights harder for the Eastern Shore – I have some of the scars.” Alec Ross said of Salisbury mayor Jake Day. “I like the work (he) is doing as mayor.”

When it comes to watermen and the Bay, the answers were again rather similar because they focused more on the Bay, with some expressing the recovery of the oyster population as one positive development. It’s a “win-win” to support the oyster industry, said Vignarajah, but don’t forget the tributaries to the Bay like the Choptank, Potomac, and so forth. Shea warned that it’s “too soon” to harvest oysters as watermen are pleading with Governor Hogan to allow.

Madaleno, though, expressed the opinion that the Bay’s recovery was evidence that “government can do and does good things.” And while he joked that being a member of the General Assembly meant he had to become an expert in crabs, oysters, and chicken, he added that cleaning the Bay has to be a multi-state effort. Richard also pledged to give waterman “a voice at the table.”

And while Ross would do “whatever it takes” to accomplish this difficult and expensive work, he spent part of his time noting that “when you drive into Maryland, you should be entering The Resistance.” Chiding the “abhorrent” leadership at the EPA, he wanted a set-aside to sustain watermen. Shea temed a similar concept as an “investment” in the needed vocational training for the “social costs of our advancement.” On the other hand, Vignarajah expressed the “unpopular” view of crediting Larry Hogan with trying to protect Chesapeake Bay funding.

As far as transportation priorities for our rural areas are concerned, there was no real shock in their answers. Krish led off by saying “let us try to be innovative,” making the investment in our economy of extending the MARC system to Salisbury and Ocean City as “an attraction” to provide “more mobility.” Jim Shea agreed that the Eastern Shore has a lack of mass transit.

Madaleno and Ross blasted Larry Hogan’s transportation plan, with Ross calling it “a press release” and “not realistic” because it mainly focuses on DC and Baltimore. Hogan was “one of the luckiest politicians around,” said Madaleno, who noted that the Purple Line was “placed on a credit card” while the gas tax Hogan criticized was now being used for highway widening. Richard would invest in “smart mass transit,” meaning on demand.

Shea was more realistic, calling transportation “anathema” for career politicians because projects take so long. He termed the high-speed rail project backed by Hogan “pie in the sky” and would vet his plan with citizens around the state.

Most telling to me was part of Alec’s answer, where he called widening U.S. 50 “looking backward” and mass transit “looking forward.” So I wasn’t shocked by their answers to the next question, about a third Bay Bridge.

At least Jim Shea was honest enough to answer “I don’t know what the correct answer is.” (Hint: look at how close Dorchester and Calvert counties are.) His bigger issue was funding education. Madaleno was more worried about whether the current bridges survive, as the Hogan toll reductions “restrict the decision” on these bridges, which Madaleno would replace there.

Alec and Krish were even more blunt. “People need investments in them,” said Ross. High-speed connectivity and schools were a higher priority in his eyes, with another Bay span “way down the queue.” Vignarajah echoed the sentiment: “A lot of priorities are ahead in the queue” over the Bay Bridge, adding “we have a 1950s budget in many respects.” She would spend money on universal broadband, too, noting 1 in 12 Maryland residents don’t have high-speed internet access.

Since it had been hinted around at, the focus shifted to education. Education “will be the centerpiece of (a Madaleno) administration,” said Rich, and “this is why (Ross) is running for governor,” he said, but all of them were ready to give free stuff out: universal pre-K and community college were most mentioned.

Madaleno touted his membership on the Kirwan Commission, while Krish advocated for a “cradle to career” educational policy, including “hot and healthy meals.” Shea’s “bold and comprehensive” plan (which he mentioned was there in full on his website) included as well what he called “wrap-around services” and “funding solutions.”

One thing I did like about Alec was his advocacy for vocational education, rather than the “terribly elitist” idea all kids have to go to college. He promoted an online academy to assist rural students in receiving services not otherwise available to them and advocates for universal computer science education.

We also waited until nearly the end to learn about their proposals for health care, and whether it included single-payer?

Of course it does, but not everyone is as honest as Jim Shea, who, while he told the audience that “a single-payer system is something we will eventually move to,” it wasn’t practical for a single state to adopt. That push had to be at a federal level, but we could control costs locally through a collaborative approach.

Otherwise, it seemed the consensus was that Obamacare was just a start, or a “strong start” in the words of Vignarajah. For her, “health care is a basic human right” and she advocated for a public option to lead to single-payer. Madaleno insisted that Obamacare “has worked to reduce costs” and brought Maryland down to 6% uninsured. He warned the gathering to not fall for the “trumped-up theory” that the ACA has failed. The fight was against insurers and Big Pharma to cut costs. (This also gave Madaleno a chance for a second Mathias shout-out: he was a “hero” as a voice for rural health care.)

Alec called on us to “resist the evil that is coming out of Donald Trump’s Washington.” While he admitted that “we have to continue to play defense,” he gave an example of something he would do differently: because of the waiver system Maryland was benefiting from, Medicare for All wasn’t possible – but Medicaid for All as a public option was.

I was honestly surprised by the final question, which had to do with redistricting. Had there been five participants, the health care question would have likely been last.

Only the American system allows for politicians to pick their voters, said Krish, but it was a “problematic” issue that had to be addressed at a national level. Shea disagreed, saying that while gerrymandering had polarized us, it wasn’t a federal problem – but the solution wasn’t (as he called it) “unilateral disarmament” here in Maryland. It needs to be “fair and smart,” Jim added, but he warned there’s no such thing as a non-partisan group.

Madaleno admitted that the gerrymandering “got out of hand” during the O’Malley administration (but failed to mention his lack of objection at the time.) Going with the theme that “the Koch brothers have bought the Congress they wanted,” Rich wanted to reform as part of a multi-state compact.

Alec saw the issue as part of the “damage to democracy,” which has led to both far-right and far-left factions in Congress. “We need representatives to engage with everyone in the district,” he said.

It should be noted that Vignarajah used part of her answer time to express her disappointment that no question was asked on opioids. “We need action” on both the over-prescription and treatment aspects of that problem.

In conclusion, Jim Shea said Democrats needed to unite as a party. “We’re going to pull together because we are a great party and take the governor’s seat back.”

Richard Madaleno contended that the GOP of Donald Trump is “in the process of imploding.” Yet since there will be gridlock in Washington, it make the governors more important, and Maryland has one of the most powerful chief executives in the nation. “It matters who the governor of Maryland is,” he continued, and “this is the time to have serious experience in office.” That was a nod to his years in the General Assembly, but his goal was to “move the state in a progressive way.”

Alec Ross told the local Democrats that it’s “more about ‘we’ than ‘me,’ but disagreed with Madeleno on one point: the GOP is not coming apart. “We’ve got to work for it,” he said. He also promised “no one will be more anti-Trump than me,” but warned the group they “can’t just resist,” they have to have an “aspirational agenda.” It was time for new faces and new ideas to come forward., Ross concluded.

“How do we beat Larry Hogan?” asked Krish Vignarajah. “No man can beat Larry Hogan, they say. Well…?” While Hogan “fakes left and moves right,” Vignarajah pointed out that 61% of those who toppled incumbent Republicans in this cycle were women. She pledged a “fiscally responsible. socially progressive” administration.

I’ve noted above that Jim Mathias was in the building, but there were a handful of other Democrats seeking local and state office there: Michael Pullen for Congress (who sat two seats away from me and never said a word), Holly Wright for Senate District 37 (who did introduce herself to me), Delegate 38A candidate Kirkland Hall, and county-level candidates Bill McCain (County Council) and Bo McAllister, who I had spoken to at last fall’s Good Beer Festival. (You would have known that had my old cell phone not crapped out the next day, before I could write the post.)

They did their thing and I did mine, but mine is done.

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