Campaign 2014: a (second) look at finance

If this post looks fairly familiar to you, I’ll explain why.

Back on January 22, I did the original post which bears the “look at finance” title above. Because I wanted to keep the same format while adding the newest information from Larry Hogan as a compare and contrast, I’m essentially reprising the earlier post with the additional information. If Larry Hogan can do apples-to-oranges comparisons of campaign finance, I can too. Everyone will be even with the pre-primary report due at the end of next month, but for now this will have to suffice.

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For each category, I’m going to do a rank order among the seven gubernatorial contenders who have filed a campaign finance report. Six of these were filed in January covering 2013, with the seventh being Larry Hogan – he announced his campaign in late January so his first report was due last week and covered the period through April 8. For the purpose of this exercise, I’m ignoring the minor candidates who did not file a campaign finance report as they are generally perennial candidates who raise little money.

To begin this comparison, it helps to know how much was raised during the 2013 period, which is about a week off the actual calendar since it ended January 8, 2014. For Hogan this runs from February 3 to April 8 – it’s a much shorter timeframe but has the advantage of being much closer to the primary.

  1. Anthony Brown (D) – $4,019,803.13
  2. Doug Gansler (D) – $1,487,704.79
  3. Heather Mizeur (D) – $493,173.55
  4. Larry Hogan (R) – $487.073.56
  5. David Craig (R) – $249,808.75
  6. Ron George (R) – $130,159.00
  7. Charles Lollar (R) – $65,329.67

Another piece of this puzzle which interests me is trying to figure out an average contribution. But rather than count the actual number of line items, I decided it was easier and far faster to assume there would be a certain number of contributions per page. This is the number of pages of contributors each report had.

  1. Anthony Brown (D) – 358
  2. Heather Mizeur (D) – 202
  3. Larry Hogan (R) – 197
  4. Doug Gansler (D) – 125
  5. David Craig (R) – 58
  6. Ron George (R) – 46
  7. Charles Lollar (R) – 36

So if you assumed 17 contributors per page, the average donation per contribution would comes out like this for the 2013 reports. In Hogan’s case, there are two provisos: his report is formatted a little bit differently so there are only about 12 per page; in addition, he loaned his campaign $100,000. So his average will be based on those revised numbers.

  1. Doug Gansler (D) – $700.10
  2. Anthony Brown (D) – $660.50
  3. David Craig (R) – $253.36
  4. Larry Hogan (R) – $206.04
  5. Ron George (R) – $166.44
  6. Heather Mizeur (D) – $143.91
  7. Charles Lollar (R) – $106.75

Something I found intriguing, particularly in Lollar’s case, was the fact that several contributors were serial repeaters. Some campaigns seem to have a feature where a donor can use an automatic monthly withdrawal, but in Lollar’s case it appears to be through PayPal and a large share of his backers tended to use that feature. That made for dozens of pages of expenditures on individual PayPal fees, which doesn’t seem to be a very efficient use of what turns out to be hundreds of campaign dollars a few pennies at a time, particularly on a $10 monthly donation.

Now let’s look at where the overall take came from. In all cases, the overwhelming majority of funds came from individual donations. But Charles Lollar took the cake there.

  1. Charles Lollar (R) – 100%
  2. Heather Mizeur (D) – 99.53%
  3. Ron George (R) – 98.12%
  4. Doug Gansler (D) – 97.5%
  5. David Craig (R) – 93.19%
  6. Anthony Brown (D) – 91.65%
  7. Larry Hogan (R) – 78.51%

I think there is a glaring mistake in Lollar’s totals, though, as I think the $6,000 transferred in from Blaine Young’s shuttered gubernatorial campaign probably should count as being from what the Board of Elections calls “Maryland candidates or slates” and not as an individual contribution. Based on overall 2013 totals, that would actually put Lollar near the bottom of the list. But he’s not the only one who made mistakes, as I found PAC money interspersed with individual contributions on a number of reports, along with missing addresses and the like.

In Hogan’s case, the $100,000 loan figures into the sum. While it doesn’t reflect in these totals, for interest of disclosure it should be noted that Hogan made another $5,000 in direct donations, $25,000 more came from LLCs affiliated with Hogan’s business interests (more on that later), and another $18,838.64 was made in in-kind donations. In all, 30.6% of Hogan’s money came from his own pocket.

Without changing the Lollar numbers, here’s the percentage of contribution some of these six received from other candidates or slates.

  1. Anthony Brown (D) – 3.27%
  2. David Craig (R) – 0.64%
  3. Doug Gansler (D) – 0.52%
  4. Larry Hogan (R) – 0.08%

The others received none.

But how about state PACs? I would have thought they comprised a much larger share of the pie, but none of the candidates received more than a tiny percentage of PAC money.

  1. Anthony Brown (D) – 3.13%
  2. David Craig (R) – 2.8%
  3. Larry Hogan (R) – 0.88%
  4. Heather Mizeur (D) – 0.44%
  5. Doug Gansler (D) – 0.42%

Neither Ron George nor Charles Lollar were beneficiaries of PAC money. Obviously in terms of actual dollars there’s a huge difference between Brown and Craig, but percentage-wise they are fairly even.

Oddly enough, though, Ron George leads in the percentage coming from political clubs. I think it’s based on one contribution.

  1. Ron George (R) – 1.88%
  2. Anthony Brown (D) – 0.21%
  3. Heather Mizeur (D) – 0.04%

Again, it’s a matter of scale – Brown’s largess from political clubs is nearly fourfold more in actual dollars. The lieutenant governor is also the sole beneficiary of federal committee money, to the tune of $69,000.

Since individual contributions are such a large part of the game, though, I wanted to take a closer look at where they came from. To that end, I decided to categorize appropriate donations into one of five categories, if they fit – most did not, while some fit more than one.

  • percentage from LLCs, LLPs, trusts, and other similar financial arrangements
  • percentage from law firms, as I could reasonably ascertain same (inexact, to be sure)
  • percentage from unions, although most give as PACs and I didn’t track those this time
  • percentage from businesses
  • percentage from out-of-state – in contrast to a federal race where out-of-state money is to be expected, it struck me that some campaigns leaned heavily on donors outside Maryland

I’ll start with the LLC category, which is being addressed for the next election cycle. Some believe it’s too easy to skirt contribution limits by maxing out a donation as an individual then shelling out more under the guise of an LLC. Each candidate got some LLC money, but some more than others.

  1. David Craig (R) – 25.16% of individual contribution money
  2. Larry Hogan (R) – 24.5%
  3. Anthony Brown (D) – 17.58%
  4. Doug Gansler (D) – 14.2%
  5. Ron George (R) – 4.69%
  6. Heather Mizeur (D) – 3.56%
  7. Charles Lollar (R) – 0.58%

Heather Mizeur is low on some of these categories because individual contributions from certain entities, like LLCs and businesses, could not be counted toward her matching funds for public campaign financing. Larry Hogan received a lot of individual contributions, but many of them exceeded the $250 allowed to be counted toward the match.

I sort of expected this result from law firms, although percentages were lower than I figured on.

  1. Doug Gansler (D) – 3.6%
  2. Anthony Brown (D) – 0.73%
  3.  David Craig (R) – 0.6%
  4. Larry Hogan (R) – 0.27%

They were the only four receiving contributions from what I reckoned were law firms. Even if I were wrong on a few, Gansler took that category with ease.

The same was true of unions, where Democrats Anthony Brown (0.59%) and Doug Gansler (0.07%) were unsurprisingly the leaders.

And if you thought pay-to-play was the rule in Maryland, well, you may be correct. The individual share from businesses went like this.

  1. Anthony Brown (D) – 17.38%
  2. David Craig (R) – 15.33%
  3. Doug Gansler (D) – 12.6%
  4. Larry Hogan (R) – 7.43%
  5. Ron George (R) – 5.09%
  6. Charles Lollar (R) – 2.85%
  7. Heather Mizeur (D) – 0.17%

Maryland may have one of the worst business climates in the country, but the big, established players must like the way competition is curtailed in the state. Some of the largest businesses in the country gave big checks to Brown and Gansler, with health care businesses propping up Brown and some large technology firms backing Gansler.

Finally, I thought it was telling who got support from out-of-state. This may be controversial because I counted Washington, D.C. addresses as out of state and surely some business people who are Maryland residents wrote checks based on their place of business. But I had to draw a line somewhere and the results are telling to me. These figures represent the percentage of individual contribution money drawn from out of state.

  1. Heather Mizeur (D) – 36.63%
  2. Doug Gansler (D) – 32.67%
  3. Anthony Brown (D) – 25.55%
  4. Charles Lollar (R) – 7.09%
  5. Larry Hogan (R) – 5.65%
  6. Ron George (R) – 4.11%
  7. David Craig (R) – 3.87%

In the cases of Brown and Gansler, it seemed like much of their out-of-state take came from the District of Columbia, while Mizeur’s came from all over the country. Yet if you considered Takoma Park and Silver Spring as part of another state (sometimes we here on the Shore consider them another country) I believe Mizeur would have been over 50 percent. Does everyone in Takoma Park have an extra Benjamin to spend on her race? Seems like it.

This final category shows that Maryland Republicans can’t seem to nationalize this statewide race as they could recent federal races with Dan Bongino and Andy Harris, for example. This is a pity because what better encouraging message to conservatives than a Republican winning in Maryland?

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Now to the present day.

In going through the Hogan report, I noticed a few interesting items regarding the LLCs which contributed to his campaign: a number of them shared the same address. The worst offender: a group of LLCs which list as their address the domicile of St. John Properties. Combined, these LLCs gave $30,000 to the Hogan campaign as well as $5,500 to David Craig. And they’re bipartisan, since Anthony Brown and Doug Gansler also have contributions from that same address – it may be the nerve center of political donations in the state. In Hogan’s case, he even rents his office space from St. John.

While he has a dog in this fight as one of those who’s running for the state’s highest office, I’ve found Ron George is a good go-to expert on campaign finance laws since he helped write many of the reforms taking effect next year. So I asked him about this situation as it relates to those in the race. Replied George:

The LLC loophole allowed Brown to get around $68,000 from one guy that created many LLC’s. That will stop after January 2015, but even though we increased the aggregate total limit, there will not be one because of the recent Supreme Court ruling. The limits to each candidate will still be law but we increased the $4,000 amount.

I also wanted some clarification on how the $250 matching funds worked, and Ron had that answer as well:

All “individual” donations (in Maryland law that means those from private individuals) can only be matched “up to” the first $250. So, yes, an aggregate amount of $500 can only have the first $250 matched.

The reporting periods became law this year, thus a couple more were added. The BOE software is keeping track of the matching fund qualifying money in a separate spread sheet.

Based on the numbers I found, and even deducting for the overage on many contributions – which ranged up to the maximum $4,000 allowed and then some in one case – it appears Hogan has, or shortly will have, enough seed money to fully qualify for matching funds in the primary.

But a glaring figure stuck out at me. As of the close of the reporting period, Larry Hogan had $167,748.15 on hand. I’ll grant Larry’s spent a lot on media already, but just as a reminder this is what the others had back in January:

  1. David Craig – $154,577.02
  2. Ron George – $15,449.89
  3. Charles Lollar – $5,731.35

If David Craig simply held serve and raised enough to cover his expenses for the first three months of the year, the two are basically even going forward. Obviously Ron George and Charles Lollar lag well behind, but since he had the chance to respond to my question George added this assessment of the situation:

Hogan is still playing the perception game. Many started to think he had a lot of money so they began to back him, but even his numbers are not so good. If he did not donate to his own campaign, he would be at my levels. That puts it in perspective. My three months of not fundraising did hold me back. But people should not count me out. It is still wide open and Hogan sent many fundraising letters out when I could not. I had a responsibility to serve my oath of office to which I was elected. Many felt I should have resigned like Palin did so I could raise money, but I felt I owed my constituents that voted me in.

As a gentle correction to Ron, Sarah Palin didn’t resign as governor until after she and John McCain lost in 2008. I think he was thinking of Bob Dole in 1996.

But Ron’s assessment of Hogan’s situation isn’t all that far off if you back out the nearly $150,000 Hogan has provided directly or indirectly to his campaign. Unfortunately for George, money is fungible and right now that cash is sitting in Larry’s campaign account ready to use, along with the possible volunteers that spending nearly $6,500 on Facebook advertising can whip up. It’s also why Hogan has a fairly significant lead in the polls despite the fact he’s not been queried much (if at all) on key issues like education, the environment, the Second Amendment, and agriculture.

The campaign playing field should be leveled May 27 when all of them have to file the first pre-primary report. For all contenders save Hogan, it will cover the time period since the 2014 Annual Report was due; in Hogan’s case we can combine this recent report with the next one to show an apples-to-apples compare and contrast with all the candidates on both sides. It’s about time.

(Some of) the numbers are in

If you were wondering how the various gubernatorial campaigns fared in 2013, today several filed their campaign finance reports. As I write this, I have not been able to access the reports for either Anthony Brown or Doug Gansler on the Democratic side; however, the close of business for today was extended to one minute before midnight so they may be waiting until the last minute. Of course, there’s no shortage of special interest money out there to prop up their campaigns, and even the longshot Democratic gubernatorial bid of Heather Mizeur is sitting on over $215,000 after raising nearly a half-million in the last four months of 2013.

But I’m interested in the GOP side, and although their numbers were classified as “weak” by the Baltimore Sun, they should be noted in context with each other. Having a June primary means more opportunity to gain ground, as opposed to the former September primary which was just eight weeks before the general election.

I’ll begin with the all-important cash on hand number. As of the reporting deadline, here’s how the contenders stacked up:

  1. David Craig – $154,577.02
  2. Ron George – $15,449.89
  3. Charles Lollar – $5,731.35

There is no doubt that, if the GOP had to run a campaign based on those numbers, it would be exhausted inside a week – or maybe even a day. More importantly, Larry Hogan now can determine that lending himself over $300,000 – as he did in his abortive 2010 run – would be more than sufficient seed money to jumpstart a campaign and put him at a financial advantage.

Yet there’s also the question of fundraising prowess. How much did each of these men raise in 2013?

  1. David Craig – $249,808.75
  2. Ron George – $130,159.00
  3. Charles Lollar – $65,329.67

In essence, Craig raised twice as much as George, who raised twice as much as Lollar. Granted, Charles officially announced three months later than the other two but raised funds throughout the year during his “draft” stage.

Over the coming days I’ll begin to dig deeper into these reports, but several initial conclusions can be drawn.

In strict financial terms, this is a two-horse race at the moment: Larry Hogan vs. David Craig. If either Ron George or Charles Lollar goes the public financing route, it may assist them in the primary but it will likely be meaningless in a general election. Ron George may be able to draw the seed money required for public financing, but I’m not sure Charles Lollar would either participate in the idea or raise enough to qualify. For Lollar’s part, I understand money is fungible, but if not for the $6,000 the shuttered Blaine Young campaign gave him there would be nothing on hand.

Ron George has the added disadvantage of lagging in fundraising at a time when he can’t legally raise funds (unless he chooses the public financing route.) But his other problem is that he’s a businessman hailing from Anne Arundel County who doesn’t have the personal wherewithal to match another businessman from Anne Arundel County. While the backgrounds of Hogan and George are not exactly alike, they’re not as completely dissimilar as the profiles of the others in the race.

Yet there is another complication as well, which probably affects Lollar the most. By February 25 George, Hogan, and Lollar all need to select running mates in order to file. The question is: who would agree to take a chance on a race which seems unwinnable on a primary level, meanwhile forfeiting their opportunity for election – or re-election? Obviously the plum spot for a Republican is already taken by Jeannie Haddaway. who wouldn’t be hurt by missing an election cycle because she’s relatively young and has served capably in the House of Delegates. If Jeannie’s LG bid is unsuccessful, she still would be the natural successor in 2018 to her State Senator, Richard Colburn, who’s already filed for another term but is approaching retirement age. Because of this, I would look for the others to choose a running mate who is either a local elected official or perhaps comes from a non-political background.

Now we know the financial situation of most involved, and based on prior history I can take an educated guess on where the other contender would stand. More than ever, the Maryland GOP needs to elect a candidate we can all unite behind because it’s almost certain the other side will have plenty of special interest money to spend.

Update: Thought I added this but I guess not. For context, here are the Democrats’ COH numbers:

  • Anthony Brown: $4,079,502.76
  • Doug Gansler: $6,106,763.78
  • Heather Mizeur: $215,629.92

 

2014 Maryland dossier: part 11 (intangibles)

Finally we have arrived at the end – well, sort of, as I’ll explain.

Basically what this part is about are those other issues which don’t rise to the level of a full portion of this vetting, but I think are worth mentioning. Unique among the sub-portions of my evaluation is that I can add or subtract up to three points in this section, so it makes a pretty good difference. Another difference is in format, as I will respond to each point in turn.

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David Craig:  I will fully fund Program Open Space, stop raiding the funds and stop spending the money on pork barrel projects like artificial turf fields for high school sports stadiums. (campaign website)

Sorry, David, I can’t support this. Program Open Space is a great way for the state to take up more land it doesn’t need at a loss to both the local entity the parcel is part of (via lowered taxable area) and remaining taxpayers who take up the slack. If anything, Program Open Space should be defunded and excess state property returned to the private sector. Bob Ehrlich tried this and was pilloried, but the concept was sound.

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When queried about social issues, particularly being pro-life, Craig related that he didn’t push the issue with his children, but was pleased that they turned out as pro-life as they did. David also pointed out that he voted in a pro-life fashion during his time in the General Assembly. But he would rather have 5 million Marylanders decide than 188 in the General Assembly. Jeannie echoed the overall stance, adding for her part she was “conservative, Christian, pro-life.” (WCRC meeting, July 22, 2013)

Being pro-life isn’t as much of a litmus test for me as it is some others, but I brought it up because I thought it was important.

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While on Steiner’s show, Craig sidestepped a question about whether he would have vetoed a bill passed last year legalizing same-sex marriage.

He noted that as county executive, he has rarely used his veto powers and said that he thought it was good for Marylanders to have a chance to vote on the measure.

The marriage law was petitioned to the ballot by opponents after O’Malley signed it last year.

“I think it’s important that the people of Maryland spoke on that,” Craig said.

He also took issue with the state’s repeal of the death penalty, which he said prosecutors see as important tool. (Washington Post, May 31, 2013)

Here is a place where I disagree with the philosophy of Craig.

If you’re going to make a stand on an issue, it’s entirely appropriate to use the veto pen. If he wouldn’t have vetoed the bill, I’m led to assume he supports it. By the same token, where was he in supporting the death penalty when something could have been done? This could have gone to referendum but the effort died.

I’m fine with civil unions, but not gay marriage. Yes, it’s more or less a question of semantics but to me marriage between opposite genders is an apple and a union between those of the same gender is an orange. They shouldn’t share the same term. Just because the slim majority of voters supported it on a day when disillusioned conservatives stayed home because they didn’t care for their presidential nominee doesn’t mean it’s really settled. What if there had been a special election on the matter – would conservatives have been the ones to show up and vote it down?

Furthermore. I pointed out when the bill passed committee that legislators may not have wanted it on the ballot with them in 2014.

There’s a reason we have 188 legislators to represent 5 (actually 6) million Marylanders. If they do their job wrong, it’s up to you to correct it, not leaving it to the whims of 5 million Marylanders. That referendum backstop is for the times when the General Assembly gets it egregiously wrong with the governor’s approval, such as gay marriage.

Ron George: Demanding the highest standards of ethics and conduct creating a government that is more responsive to individuals regardless of income or party affiliation.

Require the automatic forfeiture of retirement benefits for any elected official that is convicted of abusing their office for political gain.

Reforming our prisons to make them true rehabilitation facilities with drug and alcohol rehab, education and financial literacy courses.

Create and enforce drug free zones around community recreation centers, schools and public housing with stiffer penalties. (campaign site)

I can live with points one and two, but the third and fourth points seem to work at cross purposes with each other. Not only will it cost a lot more to run our prison system if the additional features are included, the additional drug penalties will create more inmates. The more I see the effect of the so-called War on Drugs, the more I tend to favor decriminalization, if not legalization.

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“Don’t believe a Republican can’t get anything done,” George said. “People think the enemy is the Democratic Party. It’s not. It’s apathy.”

He added that in a legislature controlled by Democrats, it is important for Republicans to not be ambitious. George said Democratic lawmakers will kill Republican legislation that they like, only to then introduce and pass a near-identical version with their own names on it. He added that it’s happened to him several times, and said he still would testify in favor of the bills if he supported them.

“It doesn’t matter if your name is on the bill or not. I don’t care,” George said. (SoMdNews, June 26, 2013)

To me, that doesn’t exactly scream Reaganesque leadership. If something is a good idea, we should be ambitious about it; after all – to use a recent news headline – if a small fraction of the population can get a television show cancelled, a tireless minority can turn this state around as well with the proper inspired leadership.

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“I bristle at how much partisanship gets in the way of getting things done,” George said. “I have no problem working with people.” (Washington Post, June 5, 2013)

Then you should be ambitious about attaining your goals. Seize the bully pulpit and make the public demand the opposition fall in behind you.

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“I never ran to the middle,” Ron reminded us, “I spoke to the middle.” (WCRC meeting, September 23, 2013)

In other words, you brought the other side to you. Now I definitely disagree with some of the ways you accomplished this – particularly the “Green Elephant” phase of your first term – but at least you have some street cred to use for better purposes.

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And the outcry for Dwyer’s resignation is strong – particularly from fellow Anne Arundel County Delegate and gubernatorial candidate Ron George, who advised, “out of concern for others who could be harmed and for Don Dwyer himself, I call on him to resign and get help. His constituents deserve good representation.”  (monoblogue, August 21, 2013)

Since Dwyer wasn’t convicted of a crime which requires his dismissal from the General Assembly, I have to disagree. The voters of his district will probably speak just as loudly and have a more final decision.

Charles Lollar: Charles Lollar believes in human dignity and recognizes the importance of religious freedom to the people of Maryland.  The State of Maryland was founded to enable its settlers to practice their religion free of government interference.  It is our heritage and Maryland’s gift to the nation. (campaign website)

I have a little trouble reconciling that statement with the one in the second part below about not running to be a priest.

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“It’s a tragedy what partisan politics is doing to this country.” (appearance at Mike Blizzard fundraiser, September 16, 2013)

This is a favorite straw man to burn. There’s a distinction between partisan politics based on principles and partisanship based on power. The debates of old between Republicans and Democrats centered on the former, but Maryland as a one-party state for so many decades is an example of the latter, where politicians join the Democratic machime to help themselves and not their fellow man.

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“I’m not running to be your priest. I’m running to be your governor.”

“I think that every Marylander should have the right to be with whomever they want to be with….I don’t think government should be involved in marriage at all – that’s not government’s business.”

“I’m not going to propose any legislation centered around marriage; that’s not my job…nor would I lead a charge to change what the people have already done.”

“The people of the state have already voted to pass the law.”

“I am an advocate of helping organizations that help women sustain their lives…What I would not fund is money to provide an abortion.” (blogger interview, June 24, 2013)

I guess I have a problem with this picking and choosing which laws to advocate, unless the idea is to disengage entirely from all these personal decisions, which is a very libertarian approach. If government shouldn’t be in the arena of marriage, then I suppose we can bring back common law marriage. Moreover, there is also the aspect of taxation based in large part on deductions married couples are allowed to take, child custody, and many other issues where government has involvement in marriage. Do those go away as well?

I also have an issue with the lame excuse “the people of the state have already voted to pass the law.” That doesn’t stop activist courts from overturning a vote, which was done in California. Nor did it stop Obamacare, which the people didn’t want but Congress passed anyway. If you want the people to pass laws, then there should be a push to have citizen initiatives like other states do. Unfortunately, the masses aren’t always proven to be correct and we may rue the votes we took in 2012 a decade or two down the line.

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“It’s very important that I’m non-partisan. We’re not going to win with Republican bully politics in this state. You’ve got some folks that want to win that way. We can’t win that way, we won’t win that way.”  (interview, Raging Against the Rhetoric, July 2013)

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He said he is frustrated with “the Republican brand,” but chose to run as a Republican because his character and ideals most align with that party, he said. (SoMdNews, November 1, 2013)

These two actually go well together, so I will comment on both at the same time.

The first step in winning any election in Maryland is to win your party’s nomination, and in Lollar’s case that is the GOP. We saw what happened the last time an unaffiliated candidate tried to win statewide – he spent a lot of money to get 15% of the vote, and 15 percent isn’t going to cut it.

So maybe this is reality according to Charles Lollar, but that’s not the way to get party activists on your side. Granted, there are many who are fed up with the GOP brand but that’s because they look for conservative principles while many among the party regulars believe the MDGOP should be a pale pink pastel in a deep blue state, so as not to offend anyone in the middle. All that does is disillusion the base, which is why we don’t always get better turnout than Democrats – something which we must have to succeed.

I don’t think Republican principles equate to “bully politics.”

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In looking at these various factors, I end up deducting a little bit of score from two of the three candidates. Ron George is pretty much a wash as far as I’m concerned.

David Craig ends up losing one point because he’s just not willing to lead on social issues, even a little. They’re not the most important issues, but damn it, take a stand.

I deducted the full three points from Charles Lollar; not only for the unwillingness to run as a Republican and falling into the “non-partisan politics” trap, but also for running an abysmal campaign which has squandered the good will of a lot of potential activists, made a lot of unforced errors (the lack of a website for over a week was fairly glaring), and exhibited a terrible lack of discipline among staffers and supporters. Some of these have been straightened out, but tremendous damage is done. It’s a shame because the presentation by the candidate is generally good, which is why I initially supported him.

But when I added up all of the totals, even without the three-point deduction, Lollar was trailing badly. At this point, the totals are as follows:

  • Ron George, 61.5 points
  • David Craig, 58 points
  • Charles Lollar, 49.5 points
  • Larry Hogan, 0 points

Frankly, none of these totals are all that great. I realize I’m a difficult taskmaster, but I would have hoped for at least a couple scores in the 70s. But as more and more is learned about the candidates and their positions – particularly on some of the more esoteric issues I used, like the impact of Obamacare – perhaps one or more will reach the 70 to 80 point range and I can get behind him. At this time, I can’t be like the folks at Red Maryland and do the Larry Hogan pig in a poke. I tried that once already and was disappointed.

What I think I will do instead is make this an ongoing process. I really didn’t mean for this to be a one-shot deal as I have done before because I suspect the race will be in flux for awhile yet. Moreover, I’m not convinced I’ll see four main contenders on the June ballot, just like Blaine Young’s exit from the race after Charles Lollar got in. Sooner or later, once Larry Hogan gets in someone probably has to get out because there’s only so much money out there.

So I want to revisit the process around the first of February, the first of April, and the beginning of June. This way I can review what the candidates have said over the preceding 60 days or so and adjust accordingly. I might like a lot of what Larry Hogan says and it may vault him into the lead, or Lollar could stage a comeback with some subtle policy changes. It seems fair to all, and there’s no real rush for a monoblogue endorsement.

Put me down as still undecided.

Can Hogan be a Maryland hero in 2014?

I’m going to give Jackie Wellfonder and her Raging Against the Rhetoric radio show full credit for planting this seed in my mind.

(Spoiler alert: if you want to hear the podcast and be surprised, skip the next sentence.)

Since Jackie essentially threw in her endorsement of Larry Hogan, bemoaning the fact that there’s a missing element among the current contenders which could be added with his entry into the race, I decided to take you back.

Back to early 2010, that is. You may recall that, in the summer of 2009, everyone in the Maryland Republican Party was breathlessly awaiting the decision by Bob Ehrlich whether to try for a rematch of the 2006 election he lost to Martin O’Malley. Yes, there was a candidate in the race by the name of Mike Pappas – a likeable guy to be sure, but not exactly a household name in Maryland.

But since we weren’t sure whether Bob Ehrlich would give up his comfortable semi-retirement from the public arena, someone with a little name recognition had to step in and that someone was Larry Hogan. In the summer of 2009 he began his campaign on a somewhat low-key note, but it picked up steam once Pappas ceded the field to him in November of that year. At that year’s MDGOP Fall Convention Larry was the “it” guy.

So I did a little research, and it turns out Hogan has never relinquished his 2010 campaign website page (http://www.hoganformaryland.com/), his campaign Facebook site (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hogan-for-Maryland/140191322375), and his YouTube site (http://www.youtube.com/user/HoganforMaryland). (The reason I link this way is to memorialize the specific web addresses for archival purposes, such as on the internet’s Wayback Machine, in case he uses the same URLs for 2014.)

With these, we get a little glimpse at where Larry was coming from, and you could see the seeds of what eventually became Change Maryland in some of the statements and videos he put out at the time. It’s clear that Larry would be focusing on the economic aspects of the race.

So we know that, to Larry, pocketbook issues are where it’s at. But there was an interesting sidebar I brought up several months ago which I originally thought precluded a 2014 race from Hogan. We won’t know for awhile how the financial picture is for several of the candidates until their first report is required in January of 2014, but the chances are pretty good that none of them currently have the $325,000 in the coffers that Hogan lent to himself for the last cycle.

As a comparison of sorts, I looked up Bob Ehrlich’s 2001 report – roughly the same timeframe we’re at in this cycle – and he went from a cash balance of $97,008.71 in November, 2000 to $425,147.20 in November, 2001, a year out. For the 2014 campaign, Blaine Young had about $350,000 in the bank at the beginning of this year while David Craig had just a shade over $200,000 on hand. There probably hasn’t been a great deal of movement on these numbers; moreover, the field is now split in four ways. While Blaine Young dropped out and announced his backing of Charles Lollar, I wouldn’t think all Young’s money will be automatically ceded to Charles, since Blaine may have his own personal political plans locally.

So Hogan has some definite advantages. But, beyond the aspect of economics, I’m certain that some will ask – given Hogan’s close ties to Bob Ehrlich – whether Maryland is being set up for the second term Bob Ehrlich never received.

One complaint about our last GOP governor was that, while he was a Republican, he wasn’t conservative. For example, the state’s budget surged 30.8% from FY2003 to FY2007, which is actually a somewhat higher rate than the 25.9% it’s increased since. (Much of Ehrlich’s increase, however, was in his final FY2007 budget, a whopping 12% higher than the FY2006 model.) And while Martin O’Malley rightly is panned for the “rain tax” Bob Ehrlich was the originator of the “flush tax.”

A second argument among Hogan backers is the bipartisan nature of Change Maryland, which they point to as evidence that Larry can gather support from the state’s political majority. I have no doubt that many Democrats would support Hogan on the economic front, but what of the Democrats who cross over on a number of other conservative issues such as Maryland’s onerous new gun laws, our growing reputation as a sanctuary state for illegal aliens based on items like in-state tuition for the children of these scofflaws, the adoption of gay marriage in Maryland, or the extreme tilt of our state on abortion? There are pockets of Democrats and unaffiliated voters who are looking for the right Republican to back on those issues; one with a conservative message Bob Ehrlich didn’t send out.

These are issues which Larry can weigh in on if and when he decides to jump into the race. But once the field got to four the last time, Blaine Young took an early exit – so the question is who would be most likely to fold if Hogan got in?

My guess is that Larry would take more support from Ron George and David Craig than he would Charles Lollar, so with a smaller support base George could be the one knocked out. This is based on two factors: I don’t think we will have four contenders all the way to the primary, and since Larry Hogan deferred once in seeking the office I don’t think he would do so again. And I think two business owners from Anne Arundel County are too many for the race, so if Hogan is in I think Ron George becomes the one out.

They may surprise me, I don’t know. But, unlike Jackie, I had no problem with the field as it was, and I think if Larry Hogan was going to get in he should have already started. Change Maryland and its social media presence is one thing, but social media is no substitute for running an actual campaign, knocking on real doors, and pressing the flesh.

WCRC meeting – August 2013

In what turns out to be the second of three consecutive club meetings featuring a gubernatorial candidate, a packed room enjoyed the presentation from Charles Lollar. While Lollar hasn’t formally announced – one item he mentioned was that this area will be part of his bus tour on September 5 – it’s clear he’s intending to run for the GOP nomination.

So, as is our usual custom with visiting dignitaries who travel from afar, once we got through the Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and introduced our other distinguished guests we turned the meeting over to Charles, who brought his wife Rosha along.

Lollar started right out by telling those gathered it was “awesome” we began with the Lord’s Prayer. (It’s actually something I believe our late former president George Ossman started. We later paid tribute to George, who passed away last week and was remembered as “a great Republican and club member,” with a moment of silence.) Charles continued on that point, saying that religion was the fabric of our nation, He also contended that the political process of late was one of deciding between whether our rights derived from God or were passed along by mankind, “If you think our rights are from men, don’t vote for me,” said Lollar. “Rights and liberties…come from the Creator of our universe.”

Charles pondered what could happen next year given three items: the new majority of local elected officials statewide who belong to the Republican Party, the impact of fights over state Constitutional amendments such as the one permitting gay marriage, and the influence of conservative Democrats in rural areas upset about the current administration’s efforts to instill draconian gun control measures.

But Lollar urged those attending to gather as much information as they could before making a decision on the gubernatorial race. For his part, Charles claimed “we will represent you well…when you run your campaign from here,” pointing to his heart.

In going over some of his qualifications, LtCol Select Lollar pointed to his service in the Marines as a leader of men as well as the turnaround he worked at Cintas, taking a division lagging in the bottom 15% of the company and transforming it into a top five percent outfit. “I’m a completely boring person (in my personal life)…but I understand money (and) leadership,” Lollar said. He repeated the case later: “I have more leadership experience than all of them.” referring to all those running for the state’s top office.

Regarding social issues, Charles made the point that he would be “elected as governor, not priest.” That’s not to say he’s not a social conservative, but his focus would be on the fiscal side. “We’re in it until the budget is balanced,” promised Lollar.

Charles brought up a fantastic point, stating that a significant portion of the state’s budget came from the federal government and because of that Washington controls much of what our state government does. He gave the example of a western state which enacted an 80 MPH speed limit until they were threatened with the loss of federal highway funds, at which time they reverted back to the standard 65 MPH. (Pity.) The states lose their ability to govern themselves when federal funding becomes a significant part of their budget, he added.

One solution he advocated was a taxpayer’s bill of rights (or TABOR law) like Colorado adopted some years ago. Simply put, a TABOR law means annual spending can only be increased by the sum of percentage of population growth plus the rate of inflation. For example, in FY2012 Maryland’s population grew by 0.8% while inflation was measured in 2012 at 1.7 percent. Thus, the maximum budget increase allowed by law would be 2.5 percent. (In reality, Maryland’s budget grew just over 4 percent. Had the TABOR been in effect, Maryland taxpayers would have saved roughly $650 million this year.)

In answering questions, Charles explained how he could run despite the Hatch Act (he is now a reservist, not on active duty), deferred on a lieutenant governor choice by stating “we are strongly considering and praying” about who the person would be, but wishing to get the campaign off the ground first, and noted his “concern” about cancelling out loyal Republican votes in an open primary.

But one questioner seemed to catch Charles off guard a little bit, if only because he may not be familiar with Mark Levin’s recent book. Once explained briefly, Lollar opined it “sounds like something I would agree with.”

And there was the obvious ask: how do you win in minority areas? Charles noted he didn’t need to win outright, and victory was possible with just 35% in those areas (knowing he’ll roll up sizable majorities in places like Wicomico County.) But he’s been active there, and while there are some who he knows won’t be receptive to his message, he’s going at these communities with the statement that “the best entitlement program is a job.”

Finally, it was noted that with the recent endorsement from Blaine Young, the Frederick County Commission president would be an honorary chairman of Lollar’s campaign.

With that, we returned to the usual order of business, with the minutes being read, treasurer’s report given, and Jackie Wellfonder introducing another former WCRC leader who would promote her event later.

Giving his Central Committee report, county chair Dave Parker conceded, “it’s been a hard week.” Parker pointed out the “assault” on State Senator Rich Colburn by the Daily Timesan article which aroused one supporter to warn “we can’t let them get away with this” and call on the group to burn up the editor’s phone lines starting at 8:30 the next morning – and the circus surrounding the District 36 seat. He said he had personally spoken to Diana Waterman, who denied any allegations of impropriety, but still believed the “state level was doing its best to self-destruct.”

And after bringing up the upcoming events of the WCRC Crab Feast on September 7 (contact me for tickets, by the way – I still have a few left to sell) and our next Central Committee meeting on September 9th, he urged those in attendance to consider joining the Central Committee next year. There will likely be turnover, and “we need some troublemakers” on the Central Committee, said Dave.

The aforementioned WCRC president, E. Dee Monnen (who I referred to last week) was promoting the upcoming First District Bull Roast on September 21 in Queen Anne’s County. Unfortunately, she could not secure a local bus for the event but still urged us to attend and show support for our GOP candidates, including Andy Harris.

Also speaking on behalf of Harris, Shawn Jester added that he was pleased with the Fruitland town hall turnout of over 100 people.

We also heard from District 38C candidate Mary Beth Carozza, who gave kudos to those running the Wicomico Farm and Home Show. (I credited my volunteers; they did most of the hard work. All I did was badger them a few times and bring the big red bin of Central Committee stuff I now need to go through.) She was planning to attend a now-scrubbed legislative hearing on onerous state regulations on the poultry industry as well as visit with the Rural Maryland Council.

And while the Colburn supporter was stating her case against the Daily Times, one observer believed the Senator indeed exhibited “poor judgment” with these expenditures. Personally, I’m hoping they check into the campaign finances of some on the other side of the aisle just as closely.

Our next meeting will be September 23, and as I noted at the top we complete our gubernatorial trifecta with Delegate Ron George introducing himself to the club.

I would like to make one final comment. In many instances, we allow the visiting speakers to speak early figuring they have a long drive back home or to where they are staying. Few stay for the whole meeting, but Charles indeed stuck it out and spoke to several members afterward individually. That sort of gesture is not forgotten.

The first dropout

I wasn’t really surprised at a portion of this news, except for one thing:

I thought the idea was Blaine would drop out if Michael Steele got in.

So what this tells me is one of two things: either Charles made a better offer (because the polling data is really that good for Charles) or Michael Steele is taking a pass on the race. According to the Maryland Politics blog (part of the Baltimore Sun, so take for what it’s worth) Young called Lollar the “best choice.” I wouldn’t call that the strongest endorsement, and it’s interesting that Lollar’s nascent campaign hasn’t made as much of a deal out of it as it did Ben Carson’s backing, which was fairly soft-sold in and of itself.

I’m not sure how much help Blaine will be on the campaign trail since he’ll likely be doing his own fundraising and politicking for county office in Frederick County. Having a radio show to talk up Charles may be a help for Blaine, although my guess is that the show would come to a halt if and when Young files again for office.

And so ends our first effort for governor, one which had quite a bit of promise to begin with but really went downhill after the Patrick Allen allegations brought out by Mark Newgent at Red Maryland. These came out days after David Craig and Ron George officially entered the race, making the run a three-way battle. Blaine couldn’t take advantage of early momentum and events which were calculated to make a splash with certain groups, such as the one I covered at MACo last year.

We’ll see if Charles can make a better push than Young did.

The real polls are yet to come

Because there isn’t a whole lot of interest yet in the race, polling from reliable sources doesn’t exist yet in the Maryland gubernatorial primaries. Since none of us are privy to internal polling done by the campaigns – if someone is, he or she’s not talking – two state websites have attempted to step into the breach: the old reliable Red Maryland and the upstart Red White and Blue.

In both cases, their polls show a spirited three-way race, with David Craig holding a 7.5 point edge over Ron George on the Red Maryland poll. But on the RWB poll, Charles Lollar leads by 4 points over Craig.

Having done polls myself, I know the results are rife with manipulation, as the campaigns exhort their supporters to vote in the respective polls to make their cause look better. A victory in these polls can prove to be a little lift in the real polls, as success tends to breed success.

However, I approach these with the theory that the more passionate supporters who would vote in these internet ballots exist in rough proportion to those found in real life, so I accept the idea that it’s a three-way race. A simple averaging of the polls in question would put David Craig at 33%, Charles Lollar at 30%, and Ron George at 23%, with the rest supporting one of the other candidates. As it turns out, the numbers for Craig and George are fairly consistent on both sites, but Lollar’s fluctuates by 16 points between the two.

Yet if you do a little digging into the actual numbers as I have, you may find that these polls are perhaps propping up one of the contenders to an outsized extent. The RWB poll is better for calculating this because the numbers are broken down not just by county in percentages, but the actual number of votes cast for each county. Unfortunately, the Red Maryland poll doesn’t provide the same crosstabs, but it does break down responses by county enough so I can make an educated guess as to how things really are.

Let’s begin with the obvious: there are three counties which are ridiculously oversampled in both polls, and all of them directly benefit two of the candidates. Both Harford and Talbot counties favor David Craig in an outsized manner, which is natural because Craig is Harford County Executive and running mate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio comes from Talbot. The other county is Anne Arundel, which benefits Ron George as he represents a portion of that county.

As it turns out, Anne Arundel (and to a lesser extent, Harford) are so oversampled that they suck the oxygen out of a number of counties – many of which tend to favor Charles Lollar. Out of nine counties significantly undersampled on the two polls, Lollar carries six of them, Craig two, and George one.

So when I adjusted the data to fit a more realistic turnout model (based on the RWB poll results, which featured the necessary raw data) I found that Lollar picked up four points, Craig lost four, and George (somewhat surprisingly) gained one. If you made that adjustment to the Red Maryland poll, you literally have a three-way battle which is anyone’s to win: Craig 28%, Lollar 26%, and George 25%. On the RWB poll, Lollar would have a commanding 42%-30% lead over Craig, with George lagging behind at 23%.

Truthfully, I don’t think Charles Lollar has 42% of the vote right now, but I don’t see him as third place either. At this stage in the game, it’s all about getting activists and volunteers, and I can give you an example from the Farm and Home Show this past weekend.

You may recall these pictures from my Facebook page:

I can tell you that the David Craig signs in the top photo and the literature on the upper right edge of the bottom photo all came courtesy of Craig’s county coordinator, who was my second volunteer of the weekend Thursday night and already there with bells on when I came by to check after work; she was an hour early for her shift.

The Ron George signs came courtesy of the candidate himself, as he stopped by sometime Friday to drop them off. I had some Ron George literature sent to me prior to the event, but it appears to be supplemented by the inserts; moreover, I had no bumper stickers or palm cards when I started. I do now.

Meanwhile, the yellow Charles Lollar palm cards and business cards in the middle of the second photo came via a volunteer who took time out of her trip to the beach to drop them off on Friday. (She would have also brought a big sign, but I advised her against it.) Now that’s dedication, and that’s why it’s important to get an early start on a campaign so the word can be spread.

So perhaps these are the polls of activists, but if Ron George only has support in Anne Arundel County and David Craig rests on his laurels assuming the Baltimore area is his, they may not even make it to the primary when there’s the possibility of Larry Hogan and Michael Steele to consider. I don’t see both of them entering the race, but one of the two may make the field too large to support. Worth noting, though, is even if Michael Steele took his 6% support in the Red Maryland poll, added the entirety of the undecided, and got the Blaine Young supporters to back him, he would still be fourth.

That would be the penalty of getting into the race late, banking on name recognition but not having the grassroots support needed for victory at the polls. Money can do a lot, but it can’t always win – otherwise we’d have a new Senator named Rob Sobhani.

**********

On a completely unrelated note, you are reading post number 3,500 in the series I call monoblogue, Not bad for nearly eight years of work, you think?

37th annual Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in pictures and text

As is often the case, it was exceedingly hot, quite humid, and a sprinkle of rain fell on the Somers Cove Marina. But thousands braved all that for crabs, clams, and hot and cold running politicians. This is my story.

On any other summer Wednesday afternoon, one can stand near the Somers Cove Marina and see that sight. But yesterday it looked more like this.

The brand new Craig/Haddaway signs were in evidence, as were a handful of shirts.

However, the pair in question didn’t show up until the event was somewhat underway. Their entrance was rather understated compared to some others, as I’ll show later. I caught them just as they entered the gate.

Fellow GOP contender Delegate Ron George had long been set up by then, with his own tent.

He may have had the best giveaway item as well – ice cold bottles of water stashed in a cooler behind the palm cards and brochures.

Ron proved himself to be a man of many hats. Okay, at least just a woven straw one.

A more modest presence was shown by draft candidate Charles Lollar, who brought his wife Rosha along. Here they pose with Wicomico County Republican Club president Jackie Wellfonder.

Later I caught Charles chatting with host Delegate Charles Otto (left, in hat), who represents Somerset County in the House of Delegates.

Another would-be Delegate making her Tawes debut as a candidate was Mary Beth Carozza, who’s seeking the District 38C seat. She had a few assistants in tow as well as an attractive sign.

She was one of many local Republicans and activists who were well-represented in their tent.

We even had the infamous “pin the tax” sign. Too bad we didn’t have it out where more could see it, but it would have been soaked by the misters thoughtfully added by the Somerset County folks. Did I say it was hot?

Observing all this was state Republican Party Chair Diana Waterman, who indeed was carrying a bottle of water.

Also making a presence was Larry Hogan (right), whose Change Maryland group now boasts a 50,000-strong Facebook following. He was making no indication of a possible political run today, but it’s intriguing that he took the time and came down to Tawes.

Hogan has made the point that his group is not restricted to Republicans; a significant portion are independents and Democrats. And the latter group was well-represented at Tawes, too.

Front-runner and Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown was also casually late, but had a gaggle of young supporters trailing him. He’s sort of obscured in the center of the photo.

Brown’s first stop upon entering the gate?

There were more modest presences from Attorney General (and gubernatorial hopeful) Doug Gansler and Comptroller Peter Franchot, who considered the race for the top spot but opted to seek re-election. (My photo of Gansler didn’t come out well.)

One other Democratic gubernatorial hopeful whose presence surprised me was Heather Mizeur, pictured here with Salisbury City Councilwoman Laura Mitchell.

Her formal announcement must have been a brief affair, as she and a small band of supporters made the trek down to Crisfield. Mizeur told me it was about her tenth time attending – obviously first as a statewide hopeful.

Also carrying the Democratic banner was the State Senator from District 38, Jim Mathias. He had a decent-sized group of supporters who must have been busy putting up a half-dozen 4×8 signs along Maryland Route 413 leading into Crisfield.

Salisbury mayor Jim Ireton (right) was sporting a “‘bury” sticker to represent his town.

I found Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt enjoying his lunch early on.

Pollitt explained that it’s easier to eat on the pavilion side because he would be greeted by more people in the party’s tent. Makes sense to me – same reason I eat a little at a time.

In fact, a large percentage of those enjoying the food were well away from the political. They were being entertained by the DJs on the left of the photo.

A number of other businesses were represented at Tawes as well, although to me the number seemed down from previous years.

Still, lobbyist Bruce Bereano had his corner. Bruce Bereano ALWAYS has his corner, and it’s always full of Annapolis politicians from both sides of the aisle.

It also always has this nice touch and tribute to the late Somerset County Delegate Page Elmore.

And of course, there was the media. Tawes was crawling with them.

In WBOC’s case, not only did they have the remote truck and the flyover by Chopper 16, the ‘Outdoors Delmarva’ crew was there too. Also covering the event was competitor WMDT-TV channel 47, WBAL radio, and reporters from the Salisbury Daily Times and Baltimore Sun, among others I probably missed.

That doesn’t count the alternative media. The Red Maryland crew was interviewing a number of Republicans – here it was Ron George’s head fundraiser Hillary Pennington of Stratgic Victory Consulting.

Brian was also kind enough to query me, so we’ll see if mine made the cut this evening.

Eventually the crowd began to trickle out and another year’s Tawes event was in the books. There was actually a light shower as I was leaving, which didn’t bother me in the least. A lot of fellowship and fun was had by all.

The vibe of the event promises to be different next year. An earlier primary now means that the Tawes event will occur once the major party nominees are known, so it’s uncertain how much time and expense they will invest in the gathering.

One other note of interest: while I did see Blaine Young there this year, the presence he had was minimal. This leads me to believe he may be stepping aside from the gubernatorial race to concentrate on a local run; otherwise he would have had a tent space as he did last year.

Speculation aside, the Crisfield Chamber of Commerce put on another wonderful event – kudos to the volunteers who make the event one the late Governor can indeed be proud of.

Getting into motion

First off, I want to wish all those dads out there a happy Father’s Day. I spoke to my dad in Florida this morning, and got a call this evening from my daughter in Ohio.

And because it’s Father’s Day, the news is sort of slow – unless you want to count sniping at Barack Obama’s Father’s Day picture with his super soaker squirtgun. Yet those who would be the Republican candidate for governor in Maryland have been busy laying out their campaigns, preparing for the grunt work of getting the word out to voters.

As one example, I got these in the mail Friday from the Ron George campaign.

These are actually fairly slick palm cards, with one flap highlighting Ron’s bio and record while the other two serve as an information collector and return envelope to the campaign. Very nice and efficient.

Meanwhile, last week David Craig put out a highlight video of his June 3-5 campaign tour, although most of it focused on day 1.

But more importantly, Craig used his connection with the advocacy group Change Maryland to highlight the fact that Maryland’s spending is out of control, projected to rise at twice the national average. It allowed Craig to assess the situation: “This government taxes too much, takes too much, regulates too much and is expanding at the expense of job creators and taxpayers.”

In comparison to several other states in our region, the data suggests Maryland looks even more like a drunken sailor.

With the possible exception of the gas tax that takes effect next month, there is no tax reviled more by Maryland conservatives than the EPA-mandated “rain tax.” (In reality, it’s an impervious surface fee, but the effect is the same: money out of property owners’ pockets.)

And even though he’s not officially in the race yet, Charles Lollar had some pointed comments about this fee, with a little praise for Frederick County Commission president Blaine Young:

(T)here is a much deeper story that is not being covered and that many folks haven’t considered.

If you all remember, last year to “balance” the state’s budget, the administration pushed much of the teacher pension costs back to the counties. This move has severely hurt county budgets as they’ve had to move appropriations from certain capital projects to cover these new pension costs. The governments across our state that are the closest to the people are often our counties. Don’t worry, our counties will figure out how to make it work, but it makes it much harder for them.

So what is this rain tax really about? In my estimation, this is just the state paying the counties back for pushing pensions down to them, using the EPA mandate as an excuse. I applaud Frederick County Executive Blaine Young for only charging the residents of Frederick one penny per ERU. The law forced him to comply but he made the right choice by mocking a laughable law.

This bill is hurting non-profits like churches and could drive them out of service. It’s going to drive up costs for malls, grocery stores, and just about everything else with a large, “impervious surface.” In the end it will drive up the costs for consumers to buy products and make it even harder for people to find jobs.

I don’t know if Charles knows something we don’t or is trying to make a subliminal suggestion, but Blaine Young isn’t Frederick County Executive. There’s a chance he may be after the election as that newly-created office will be filled for the first time, but for now he’s simply their commission president.

Regardless, Lollar brings up an interesting sidebar – one for which I have a mild rebuttal. If this were true, why didn’t all 24 counties have to pay this fee? If my memory serves me correctly, my home county of Wicomico is getting a disparity grant from the state to help with assuming the cost of the teacher pensions because we’re one of the less well off counties (and state policy seems to be that of keeping us that way by choking off development.) But at some point we will have to figure out how to pay on that mandate to the tune of $1.2 billion over 10 years – bear in mind our county budget runs in the $120-130 million range.

My hope is that whoever becomes governor will stand up to the EPA – in court if necessary – and tell them to go pound sand. Certainly a clean Chesapeake Bay is desirable, but the state budget also has to address higher-priority items like public safety, infrastructure, and education. It would be great to see a Maryland governor tell the federal government “no thanks” to unfunded mandates because, even if they chip in for a year or three to defray the state’s short-term costs, we end up being stuck with the tab.

Democrats have it easy, since all they seem to know how to do is turn the screws on hard-working taxpayers as a method of amassing money and power to redistribute, showering favored group with undeserved goodies. Unfortunately, other peoples’ money always runs out so new solutions are needed.

I look forward to a spirited debate about a new paradigm.

The exit strategy

I wasn’t going to crack the whip again on the rapidly expiring horse known as a week of furious activity in the 2014 governor’s race until I followed a link at Maryland Reporter and found this Daniel Leaderman piece in the Gazette on Michael Steele. The most interesting sentence to me was this one:

“I’ve stated several times that I think Michael Steele’s our best shot,” (gubernatorial candidate and Frederick County Commission President Blaine) Young said, adding that he will not run if Steele does. (Emphasis mine.)

It’s interesting to note that Young first alluded to this possibility of Steele entering the race in my presence back in February, when he was here speaking with the Wicomico County Republican Club.

Unlike the 2010 race where everyone was waiting to see what Bob Ehrlich would do – even in July of 2009 at the Tawes event we only had two gubernatorial contenders, Mike Pappas and Charles Lollar – this time around no one waited for Michael Steele. Yet if Michael gets into the race, he’s probably the leading contender as most rank-and-file Republicans (the ones who only pay attention every couple years as opposed to junkies like me who write about these races on a constant basis) probably have fond memories of the Lieutenant Governor; moreover, Steele can take some credit for the electoral successes for Republicans in 2010 – and probably will on the campaign trail.

Blaine’s admission that he would withdraw if Steele gets into the race sort of sets the tone for other contenders as well. We found out late last month that Dan Bongino would take a pass on a statewide race next year in favor of a Congressional run – perhaps he knew something not yet cleared for public consumption? – and Blaine could comfortably slot himself into a bid for the newly-created Frederick County Executive post, albeit not without GOP opposition. At just 41 years of age, there’s certainly time for Young to work on a future run for statewide office in 2018 or 2022.

Other contenders find themselves in different positions, though. Because of a residency requirement snafu, Charles Lollar had to downgrade his 2010 campaign to one for a Fifth District Congressional seat. Unlike some of his cohorts, though, Lollar doesn’t have a long resume of elective office to fall back on so it may be logical that, if Charles can’t build on his base of support within the TEA Party community for a statewide race, he could go for a local Delegate or State Senate race – his home county is fertile ground for GOP challengers because the incumbents are Democrats and Lollar only needs a top-three finish for a House seat.

Ron George could obviously run again for Delegate if he decides to abort his statewide plans early enough, but as a guy who’s turning 60 later this year, his prime days of grabbing the brass ring may soon be behind him. In the last 50 years, only one governor (William Donald Schaefer) has been initially elected beyond the age of 60, so this may be Ron’s one shot at glory.

That being said, history is definitely not on the side of David Craig, who is term-limited out his current job as Harford County Executive and has been essentially running for governor over the last two years. Of all those mentioned, I think he’s most likely to stick the race out and challenge Steele should Michael get into the race. Craig really has the most to lose in terms of time invested in the race to just roll over for Steele.

I don’t see this as a four-way race (Craig, George, Lollar, Steele) all the way to the primary, but I don’t see this as a Steele walkover either. In fact, given certain circumstances we could see this split the party into several different factions, not unlike the recent Chair race.

Yet if Michael Steele is planning to jump into the race, it would be best to not keep everyone hanging until just a few months before the primary like Bob Ehrlich did in 2010. That sense of entitlement exhibited by getting in at a late date – and particularly this time, when several have stated their desire for the race and amassed funds and volunteers hoping to dismantle the Democratic status quo – would probably do more to harm the Maryland Republican Party’s chances for downticket success than the 2010 Ehrlich debacle did. That was a year when success was created in spite of the state party, not because of it.

Once upon a time Michael Steele was Chair of the Maryland Republican Party. The best thing he can do for it now is make his intentions known sooner rather than later, so other pieces can fall into place.

Craig event first in post-Bongino gubernatorial landscape

I told you about this several days ago, but the details look nice in the flyer:

[gview file="http://monoblogue.us/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Craig-Salisbury-Flyer.pdf"]

I also found out in the interim that another June 5 stop was scheduled at the Tidewater Inn in Easton beginning at 1 p.m. But there’s no Facebook event for the Easton stop, which conflicts with the information put out in Wednesday’s media advisory. That listed a three-day tour with stops in Havre de Grace, Baltimore, Hagerstown, Silver Spring, Prince Frederick, Annapolis, Salisbury, and Easton, along with a newly-added evening reception in Annapolis June 5.

Over the last year Craig, along with Blaine Young of Frederick County, have quietly been making plans to run for the state’s top spot; however, David has probably made the most public of scenes about it with this three-day announcement tour while Young has mainly appealed to party activists and other officials behind the scenes.

On the other hand, Charles Lollar – who has had a “draft” campaign over the last several months – is also expected to make his plans formal in the next few weeks. We may get more of a clue when he stops in Dorchester County next week; this comes from their party treasurer Bill Lee:

I am very excited to announce that gubernatorial candidate Charles Lollar will be speaking at our 2nd Saturday event here in Cambridge. Charles is a very dynamic speaker that speaks from the heart and unscripted. If you have never heard Charles speak, do yourself a favor and make plans to attend our next 2nd Saturday “Peoples Voice” event on June 8th.

As they note on their webpage:

The meetings will be held at the High Spot Gastropub in downtown Cambridge on the second Saturday of each month starting at 10 a.m.

So I’ve covered three of the four prospective major candidates at this time. Ron George will be holding his kickoff event June 5th from 6 to 8 p.m. in Annapolis, which actually means that his event will overlap the planned Craig event. Perhaps a bit of one-up-manship there?

Over the weekend I plan on beginning to add the 2014 links – I know, yikes! But we are less than 13 months away from the primary and a scant nine months from the filing deadline, since the General Assembly unwisely moved it to February.

Update: Interesting reports from Anne Arundel County, where they held a straw poll at their Lincoln Day Dinner. Local Delegate Ron George won, which wasn’t necessarily a surprise. But Dan Bongino had his name crossed off the straw poll ballot and indicated he was backing Ron George. The obvious question is whether Dan’s supporters helped George gain the victory, and when – or if – Bongino will issue a formal endorsement.

While party leaders and the establishment tend to pooh-pooh the prospect of a Bongino endorsement – pointing to his 27% showing last year – he tends to have some of the most passionate followers and ran a campaign into the headwinds of a third candidate and without a great deal of state party support, as many worked with the Romney campaign in adjacent “battleground” states. So Dan’s endorsement may make Ron George competitive with David Craig IF he can keep his backers interested.

David Craig setting up announcement tour

Updated below.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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