Coattails tucked into his pants

So let’s talk about Larry Hogan, shall we?

I’m going to start way back in 2009. People tend to forget Larry actually had his eye on running for Governor back then and was briefly in the running until he deferred to his old boss and allowed him to get his doors blown off by Martin O’Malley. (Of course, I chose better in that primary, too.)

After the 2010 Ehrlich debacle – an election where the TEA Party wave somehow missed all of Maryland except for the Eastern Shore – you just had to know that Hogan, a vocal critic of Martin O’Malley during his brief time in the race, would figure out some way to stay in the headlines; thus, Change Maryland was born. I thought it was a great idea.

But when Hogan actually completed the fait accompli of getting into the 2014 open seat Governor’s race, I found he was great at articulating what he was against but not so much what he was for. Given a good field to choose from and one where all the contenders (save Hogan) spelled out their agenda, I supported someone else in the Republican primary but we got Larry. Of course, the rest is history.

I’m going to talk about two memories of Hogan from the campaign and how those issues were resolved.

As the O’Malley administration was heading out of town, one last-minute priority of theirs was an attempt to saddle our farmers with new phosphorus management rules that were basically written by the environmentalist wackos of the state. Hours after being sworn in, Hogan beat a deadline and pulled the regs – much to the chagrin of Radical Green.

But barely a month later, Hogan basically put the same thing into effect with a little bit of window dressing. I will grant that it was in the face of a bill with those same regulations in them but it also put the General Assembly on notice that Hogan could be rolled. And boy, was he ever when he reneged on a promise to eliminate the MOM-imposed moratorium on fracking in Maryland and sold the panhandle of the state down the river by endorsing a ban.

Aside from eliminating some tolls and reallocating money that could have been needlessly wasted on a light-rail boondoggle in Baltimore known as the Red Line, it’s really hard to compile a list of quantifiable, significant Hogan accomplishments but easy to find where he capitulated. We still have to pay for the Purple Line (not to mention a huge subsidy for the D.C. Metro), the “rain tax” repeal really wasn’t one, we got stuck with competing versions of paid sick leave (from a supposedly “business-friendly” governor) and on and on. Even at the end of this term, when he was free to use his veto pen because the terms of legislators were ending and there would be no override votes, he still let a lot of bad stuff through.

But I was still planning on holding my nose really, really tight and voting for Hogan, until he sold Tony Campbell out. That was the last straw. So I looked into Shawn Quinn. Lord knows there is a lot of his platform I didn’t agree with, but there is one key philosophy where Quinn and I are in complete agreement: when it comes to education, money should follow the child.

So thanks to all the betrayals and broken promises, Larry Hogan managed to lose my vote and Shawn Quinn received it – a little bit of unexpected help. No doubt Larry doesn’t really care because he won and now he’s a lame duck until he decides to run for something else (U.S. Senate in 2022?) but look at what he lost. He may blame Donald Trump, but I think Hogan’s reliance on Democrat votes bit him in the behind when it came to downballot races like the ballyhooed “Drive for Five” with state senators. Cases in point:

In District 3B, Bill Folden won with 7,522 votes in 2014 but lost with 8,775 votes this time.

In District 9B, Bob Flanagan won with 8,202 votes in 2014 but lost with 8,311 votes this time.

District 29B’s Deb Rey won last time with 5,334 votes but this time had 6,281 and still lost. That one sucked because Deb was always in the running to be one of my monoblogue Accountability Project Legislative All-Stars and achieved that goal twice, 2016 and 2017.

Glen Glass led all of District 34A with 10,779 votes in 2014 and may lose as the third-place finisher with 11.564 this time. He’s 19 votes out of second.

Glass was a Legislative All-Star way back in 2012 but was more comfortably average of late – still, a significant loss. Senate seat loser Gail Bates was also an All-Star as a Delegate in 2011 – I lost a total of three. One piece of great news, though: two-time mAP Legislator of the Year Joseph Boteler is back in the fold as he was one of three winners in District 8 (and the lone Republican, a net loss of one from the three-seat district), squeezing out Cluster.

Meanwhile, Hogan ran ahead of his 2014 pace in every county. Ironically, Anthony Brown would have killed for the 917,484 votes received by Ben Jealous, as that total would have won it for him four years ago – instead Jealous lost by over 300,000 votes.

But if you do a top 6/bottom 6 list of Hogan gains, it’s rather telling about the electorate.

Top 6 gainers:

  1. Prince George’s – up 13.3 percentage points
  2. Baltimore City – up 10.0 percentage points
  3. Kent – up 9.1 percentage points
  4. Talbot – up 8.0 percentage points
  5. Allegany – up 7.9 percentage points
  6. Montgomery – up 7.9 percentage points

Out of all those counties, though, there was not one Republican gain in the General Assembly because among these are the three most dominant Democrat counties in Maryland – only Allegany, Kent, and Talbot had GOP representatives prior to 2018 and all were re-elected.

Bottom 6 gainers:

  1. Cecil – up 0.4 percentage points
  2. Harford – up 0.9 percentage points
  3. Carroll – up 1.4 percentage points
  4. Baltimore – up 2.7 percentage points
  5. Charles – up 2.9 percentage points
  6. Anne Arundel – up 3.0 percentage points

In those six counties, the GOP lost Delegate seats in several districts: 8 (appointee Joe Cluster lost his election bid), 30A (Herb McMillan retired), 34A (Glen Glass lost his re-election), and 42B (Susan Aumann retired). St. Mary’s County (Delegate Deb Rey, District 29B) fell just outside this bottom 6 list and she paid the price, too. Also losing: Frederick County’s Bill Folden (District 3B) and Bob Flanagan from Howard County (District 9B) – epitomes of suburbia.

The GOP did grab Jim Brochin’s old Senate District 42 seat in Baltimore County as Delegate Chris West vacated a District 42B seat to move up, but that was tempered by the loss of the Senate District 9 seat held by Gail Bates, who was defeated in Howard County. That seat also has a small portion of Carroll County, one of my bottom 6. And of course everyone knows that MBC won in District 38, which I will get to in due course.

As more proof that Larry Hogan was the most popular Democrat in the race, let’s compare federal offices from 2014 to 2018:

  • Andy Harris (District 1, Maryland’s only GOP representative) fell from 70.4% of the vote in 2014 to just 60.3% this year. On the other hand:
  • Dutch Ruppersberger (District 2) gained from 61.3% to 65.7%, a 4.4 point increase.
  • John Sarbanes (District 3) gained from 59.5% to 68.6%, a 9.1 point increase.
  • Steny Hoyer (District 5) gained from 64% to 69.9%, a 5.9 point increase.
  • Elijah Cummings (District 7) gained from 69.9% to 76.1%, a 6.2 point increase.

In the apples to oranges category as there was a change in the office between 2014 and 2018:

  • District 4: Donna Edwards had 70.2% four years ago, Anthony Brown (running for re-election) got 77.6%.
  • District 6: John Delaney had 49.7% four years ago, but this time David Trone was elected with 57.6%. Republican Amie Hoeber lost to Delaney with 40.1% in the Presidential year of 2016 (typically high turnout) and only had 39.4% for an open seat this time.
  • District 8: Chris Van Hollen had 60.7% in 2014, Jamie Raskin (running for re-election) got 66.8%.

We always knew a Republican needed Democrat votes to survive statewide in Maryland, but the lack of coattails Larry Hogan had for his titular party was more than ridiculous. Their only two wins were in districts that were already primed for the GOP – District 42 had 2 of 3 GOP Delegates and a moderate Democrat Senator, while District 38 was all Republican aside from the Democrat Jim Mathias, who succeeded a longtime Republican Senator. I’m sure local Democrats are kicking themselves for not challenging Carl Anderton because they may well have won the seat back in this climate.

Indeed, the victory of MBC and the fact our other state legislative incumbents were unopposed or drew token, underfunded opposition was perhaps the only thing local Wicomico County Republicans could cheer about. Out of all the Delegate races locally, the only semi-constant was District 38A’s Charles Otto. While he had more votes this time around, he lost 1 percentage point and fell below 60 percent. Despite the fact his district no longer includes Wicomico, he is often present at local party events.

Looking at District 38, Jim Mathias actually drew more votes than he had in 2014 overall, although it appears he will be right about even in Somerset County. (As of this writing, Jim is 71 votes shy of his 2014 total there.) MBC playing Mathias nearly even (six votes’ difference) there in Somerset was one key, and her domination in Worcester County was the other. Compared to his 2014 race against former Delegate Mike McDermott, Mathias lost 1.6 percentage points in Wicomico, but plummeted 6.3 points in Worcester and 5.8 points in Somerset.

Locally, perhaps the biggest mistake Democrats made was not convincing Jack Heath to run in their primary. For all the angst about his independent bid, you have to call it a failure when Heath outspent his Democrat opponent by a margin of $20,556.63 to $1,266.66. (Bob Culver spent $21,616.99 through the final reporting cycle so financially the race was even between Heath and Culver.) Yet the race wasn’t even close between Culver and Democrat John Hamilton, as Bob won by 19 points with Heath barely breaking into the twenties with 21% – 28 points behind Culver. In other words, Democrats were so determined to elect their own they didn’t inform themselves about qualifications or readiness for office – they just saw the word “Democrat” and filled in the oval. Had he run as a Democrat, Jack could have won (or come much closer) since I suspect he split the Democrat vote.

Yet the GOP has to take some blame locally, too. I’m not sure their candidate recruitment was up to par this time around: two of their primary candidates had scrapes with the law, and while one of them was defeated in the primary the other was unopposed. I know that party preference is to avoid primaries, but I don’t think voters were served well when Julie Brewington didn’t withdraw prior to the primary, allowing the Central Committee to select a candidate with less baggage. She was one I withheld my vote from; instead I wrote in my friend Cathy Keim – who should have been on County Council in 2011 to succeed the late Bob Caldwell because all of us on the Central Committee except the one also running for the job, who recused herself, voted for Cathy. That was a County Council seat needlessly lost, and they were already looking at a tough district race in a heavily D district that, predictably, went for the Democrat. (And a loony-tunes lefty he is, too – grab a hold tight to your wallet and private property rights.) So the previous 6-1 margin for Republicans is now a scant 4-3, with one less-than-trustworthy vote on the R side and a Board of Education lackey there to boot, too. The only two R’s I can trust to generally look out for my interests now are Marc Kilmer and Joe Holloway. (Funny, but things never change.)

Then we had another candidate who refused to knock on doors, and I told him that’s how you win votes. (Ask Carl Anderton or MBC.) Great guy, very qualified for what is essentially an administrative post, but lost by about 2,300 votes (or doors he didn’t knock on.) Now that his opponent is in, good luck winning that office until he retires, just like Mike Lewis or Karen Lemon are lifers where they are at.

And for all that work we did to have an elected school board, I can’t say I’m pleased with the results. Out of seven spots, the two at-large winners were the ones on the teacher union’s “apple ballot” – an automatic vote for their opponents in my book – and we also got a longtime board member when the Republican who was on that ballot could no longer campaign because she took a county job. So right there are three votes for the status quo – or worse. I believe, however, that Gene Malone was the last Republican BoE appointee and, having served with both John Palmer and Ann Suthowski on the Central Committee I think they will be relatively conservative (although Ann may be a squish on the wasteful mandatory pre-K idea.)

The fate of the school board, then, is coming down to District 3. David Goslee, Sr. (who I also know from serving with him on the WCRCC) is literally hanging on by the skin of his teeth – 9 votes separate him and his opponent, who is another mandatory pre-K supporter. I’m putting out the bat-signal to my friend and cohort Cathy Keim – watch that race like a hawk, I don’t want them to “find” another box of provisional votes someplace.

That pretty much covers my ballot. It wasn’t a straight R ticket, since there were a couple Democrats who were unopposed that were worth my vote to retain. (Same for the unopposed Republicans, by the way.) I just wish the person at the top would not have broken the little trust I had in him.

Two more quick thoughts: for all we heard about the “progressive” movement locally, they mainly got spanked at the ballot box. But it could be worse: they could be Republicans in Delaware – who now have literally no statewide offices after the lost the couple they had and saw their deficit in both House and Senate increase by one seat, a casualty list that included both their Minority Whips. Hey, maybe Larry Hogan can move there in time for 2020 and that election.

Is it really that hard to file paperwork?

October 1, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off on Is it really that hard to file paperwork? 

As I promised in last night’s post, I looked up some of the many campaign finance accounts that were opened for this year’s election, including older accounts that have been around for years. My focus was on those who are on the November ballot in Wicomico County, although I also looked at candidates who failed to advance beyond the June 26 primary.

This post was inspired by the long-standing deficiency of Kirkland Hall, who went several months overdue without filing the required campaign finance paperwork with the state Board of Elections. However, as I found out in looking at the 64 candidates who are/were on the Wicomico County ballot, it must be a mean feat for some people to do this.

(Hall and opponent Delegate Charles Otto are not actually on the Wicomico County ballot, but they are part of our District 38 nonetheless. Otto was first elected in part with Wicomico County votes in 2010, before District 38A was gerrymandered to place Otto and former Delegate Mike McDermott in the same district by shifting it eastward into the southern end of Worcester County.)

I’m going to reach back into my memory bank for this, because one needed change for 2018 was a revision to campaign finance laws to make them easier on party office candidates (as I was.) Prior to that, I ran for office three times in 2006, 2010, and 2014.

The first time I had a treasurer who took care of the modest amount of paperwork for what they called a Personal Treasurer Account (PTA), with the biggest (only) contribution I had being the $100 I donated to my campaign, the in-kind donation that I was advised to consider my website as, and the two expenditures my filing fee and the $58 or so I used to buy palm cards to distribute among my close neighborhoods. At that time, you could have a non-continuing account so after that campaign it went away, with the proceeds donated to our Central Committee.

But the second time in 2010, they eliminated the PTA option so I had to keep my account open for the four years between the 2010 and 2014 elections, which meant I had to file all the 2010 reports, the annuals for 2011-14, and all the 2014 reports until after my primary when I formally closed the account since I didn’t intend to run again. During that time, my treasurer/(then) fiance and I missed the 2013 Annual Report by five days, so we had to pay a $20 fine. Honestly, I don’t remember seeing the little green reminder card so I think it went to our previous address – the 2012 one came right at the end of our forwarding order. But I should have known it was time.

So I have some empathy for those who miss the deadline by a few days, especially in a small-scale campaign like most of those at the county level. However, it turns out that group was the minority as out of 64 candidates I checked – the majority were in complete compliance:

  • 36 of 64 had no violations.
  • 15 of the remaining 28 had just one violation, with fines ranging from $10 to $250 – these two gentlemen on the extremes both missed the 2012 Annual Report, but Senator Jim Mathias was a day late and County Executive Bob Culver was almost a year late. Neither have missed another deadline in the last six years, though.
  • 4 of the remaining 13 had two violations: County Council at-large candidates Julie Brewington and Jamaad Gould, Senator (but at the time of the violations, Delegate) Addie Eckardt, and perennial primary and write-in candidate Ed Tinus. All have racked up over $200 apiece in fines.

And then you have the serious scofflaws. All of these nine have three or more violations; however, since Christopher Adams has only generated $40 in fines for three offenses, his reports are only a day or two late at most. It’s the rest who seem to have some issues. This is done in order of fine, smallest to largest:

  1. Delegate Christopher Adams, District 37B: 2014 Pre-General 1, 2017 Annual, 2018 Annual – $40 in fines
  2. William Turner, candidate, Wicomico County BOE District 3: 2018 Spring, 2018 Pre-Primary 2, 2018 Pre-General 1 – $90 in fines
  3. Michelle Bradley, candidate, Wicomico County BOE District 1: 2018 Spring, 2018 Pre-Primary 2, 2018 Pre-General 1 – $220 in fines
  4. Larry Dodd, Wicomico County Councilman (District 3): 2016 Annual, 2018 Annual, 2018 Pre-Primary 2, 2018 Pre-General 1 – $490 in fines
  5. Kirkland Hall, candidate, District 38A Delegate: 2018 Annual, 2018 Pre-Primary 2, 2018 Pre-General 1 – $1,340 in fines
  6. Mimi Gedamu, candidate, District 37B Delegate: 2018 Pre-Primary 1, 2018 Pre-Primary 2, 2018 Pre-General 1 – $1,390 in fines
  7. Ernest Davis, Wicomico County Councilman (District 1): 4 in 2010, 2011 Annual, 2015 Annual – $1,530 in fines
  8. Marvin Ames, candidate, Wicomico County Council (District 1): no filings since inception in February 2018 – $1,890 in fines
  9. Jim Shaffer, candidate, District 38C Delegate: no filings since inception in February 2018 – $1,890 in fines

Yes, Ames and Shaffer have never filed a single report. Since both lost in the primary, their campaigns are finished but they cannot close their accounts until the fines are waived or (more likely) paid. Honestly, I think they have more in fines than they raised for the campaigns!

In case you wanted to use this as evidence that one party or the other is worse about the situation, be advised that of the highest nine there are two in a non-partisan race, four Republicans, and three Democrats. Ironically, none of the top 4 face a November race as Ames, Shaffer, and Gedamu lost in the primary and Davis (who, admittedly, seems to have put these issues in the past since he’s been “clean” for almost three years) is unopposed.

I may take a look at the situation again when the last pre-general reports come out later this month but I suspect most of the campaigns will be careful to file coming into the election. No need for an October surprise on that front.

Wicomico County races: a closer look at finances

September 30, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on Wicomico County races: a closer look at finances 

Earlier this month I took a look at the financial situation of the various state candidates in Districts 37 and 38, so now I’m going to narrow the focus down to Wicomico County, which has a number of interesting contested races going on – although only a few have much money involved to speak of. No six-figure war chests here.

I’ll begin at the top with the County Executive race, where Bob Culver has an interesting split going on:

  • 49 donations from individuals in county for $5,910
  • 9 donations from individuals outside of county for $1,175
  • 13 donations from businesses in area for $2,300
  • 4 donations from businesses outside of area for $6,700
  • 2 donations from PACs and other committees for $600
  • Average donation: $216.69
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $15,398.33

Because of the 2 large donations from Comcast (considered a business outside the area) totaling $4,000, Bob’s numbers are skewed: 49.2% of his money came from inside the area, with a hefty 47.2% coming from outside the area and just 3.6% from PACs and other committees. Out of the 96.4% coming from individuals and businesses, 42.5% was out of individual pockets and 53.9% was from businesses – again, the Comcast donations make up almost 1/4 of Bob’s total take.

Now let’s look at the “independent” challenger Jack Heath:

  • 68 donations from individuals in county for $14,825.05
  • 10 donations from individuals outside of county for $1,950
  • 8 donations from businesses in area for $1,771.76
  • No donations from businesses outside of area
  • No donations from PACs and other committees
  • Average donation: $215.66
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $8,897.41

For Jack, 89.5% of his money came from inside the area and 10.5% from outside. Similarly, the heavy preponderance of contributions are from individuals: 90.4% compared to 9.6% from businesses. Heath has raised more money than Culver but his burn rate is faster, too.

Democratic County Executive candidate John Hamilton has filed only ALCEs since opening his campaign, meaning he has raised and/or spent less than $1,000. He’s the first of many candidates who can claim that route, as you’ll see moving forward.

Regarding the quotes around “independent” for Heath: that lack of movement from the elected Democrat has prompted at least one recently-elected member of their Central Committee (who’s also the president of the Wicomico Democratic Club) to resign from the DCC so he and the club could back Heath, while others on the Wicomico DCC (who presumably are club members, too) are more tacit in their support for Jack.

It’s much simpler when it comes to other county-wide races. I’ll hold off on the County Council and school board for the moment to look at the two single-victor races for State’s Attorney and Clerk of the Circuit Court. The two other countywide positions (Register of Wills Karen Lemon and Sheriff Mike Lewis) feature unopposed candidates who have regularly filed ALCEs – Lemon’s streak goes back to 2010.

The State’s Attorney race has the current appointee, Republican Jamie Dykes, running for a full term. Her campaign so far:

  • 80 donations from individuals in county for $13,388.25
  • 6 donations from an individual outside of county for $1,000
  • 11 donations from businesses in area for $4,065.47
  • No donations from businesses outside of area
  • No donations from PACs and other committees
  • Average donation: $189.63
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $6,087.33

Jamie received 94.6% of her money from inside the county and 5.4% from outside. Individuals also chipped in the most by far: 77.9% compared to 22.1% from businesses.

Conversely. Democrat Seth Mitchell, who previously ran for the post in 2010, has ceded the financial field to Dykes thus far: Mitchell has filed nothing but ALCEs in his run to date.

The fight has been joined on both sides for the Clerk of Court race, an open seat thanks to the retirement of longtime Clerk Mark Bowen.

For Republican Chris Welch:

  • 47 donations from individuals in county for $4,255
  • 10 donations from individuals outside of county for $1,030
  • 7 donations from businesses in area for $1,566
  • 2 donations from businesses outside of area for $408
  • No donations from PACs and other committees
  • Average donation: $109.98
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $4,643.05 – with a $40 loan outstanding.

For Welch, 80.2% of his money came from within Wicomico County and 19.8% from outside; meanwhile, 72.8% of donations came from individuals and 27.2% from businesses – much of that business income was in-kind donations for a raffle Welch must have had.

Turning to Democrat James “Bo” McAllister, he has a very unusual setup:

  • 25 donations from individuals in county for $2,865
  • 48 donations from individuals outside of county for $7,367.11
  • 4 donations from businesses in area for $600
  • 1 donations from a business outside of area for $500
  • No donations from PACs and other committees
  • Average donation: $100.86
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $3,268.97, but with loans for $10,190.07 outstanding.

Not only is McAllister heavily in debt, he really has one major benefactor: the Robins family in Ocean City. (Chris Robins is his treasurer.) Between standard donations and in-kind offering, the Robinses have contributed $6,333.91, or nearly 56% of everything taken in. It appears that most of Bo’s early campaigning came out of their pocket, but with a family member as treasurer that seems to be a little cozy.

Now that I have those countywide races out of the way, I’ll shift gears to County Council and begin with the two at-large seats.

As the lone incumbent Republican John Cannon is first up, but he hasn’t been very busy:

  • 2 donations from individuals in county for $350
  • No donations from individuals outside of county
  • 3 donations from businesses in area for $251.68 ($1.68 is interest on the bank account.)
  • No donations from a business outside of area
  • 1 donation from a PAC for $2,000
  • Average donation: $433.61
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $10,961.34

The huge Realtor PAC donation completely skewed Cannon’s take: 23.1% of his money came from within Wicomico County and 76.9% from the PAC; because of that bump just 13.5% of donations came from individuals and 9.7% from businesses. (The rounding doesn’t allow it to add up.)

Fellow Republican Julie Brewington is less well off:

  • 8 donations from individuals in county for $1,920.49
  • 1 donation from an individual outside of county for $300
  • No donations from businesses in area
  • No donations from businesses outside of area
  • No donation from PACs
  • Average donation: $246.72
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $809.30, with a $1,000 loan outstanding.

For Julie, 86.5% of her donations came from individuals inside the county and 13.5% from outside, with all of it from individuals.

On the Democrat side, former County Council member Bill McCain has the financial advantage to return:

  • 43 donations from individuals in county for $5,850
  • 1 donation from an individual outside of county for $100
  • No donations from businesses in area
  • No donations from businesses outside of area
  • 1 donation from a PAC for $2,000
  • Average donation: $176.67
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $4,828.89

McCain has had 73.6% of the 74.8% of his take from individuals come from within Wicomico County – the other 25.2% is the donation from the Realtor PAC (the same group that gave to Cannon.)

Lastly is the second Democrat for the at-large County Council position, Jamaad Gould:

  • 16 donations from individuals in county for $952
  • 2 donations from individuals outside of county for $110
  • 1 donation from a business in area for $10
  • No donations from businesses outside of area
  • No donation from a PAC
  • Average donation: $56.42
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $325.85

Jamaad is the first of two sub-$100 average donation candidates, but the only countywide one. Percentage-wise, 89.7% of Gould’s donations come from inside Wicomico County and 99.1% come from individuals. It’s a very local-source campaign.

District races are rather low-key as well. In District 1, Ernest Davis had to survive a primary so he raised money earlier in the cycle.

  • 27 donations from individuals in county for $1,085
  • 1 donation from an individual outside of county for $20
  • 1 donation from a business in area for $250
  • No donations from businesses outside of area
  • No donations from a PAC
  • Average donation: $46.72
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $828.00

District 2 is contested: incumbent Republican Marc Kilmer is running for a second term. His totals were very simple:

  • 2 donations from individuals in county for $450
  • No donations from individuals outside of county
  • No donations from a business in area
  • No donations from businesses outside of area
  • No donations from a PAC
  • Average donation: $225.00
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $2,198.39

That’s one of the healthier on-hand totals around; however, Marc does have a Democrat opponent who is also fundraising in Alexander Scott:

  • 3 donations from individuals in county for $550
  • No donations from individuals outside of county
  • 2 donations from businesses in area for $800
  • No donations from businesses outside of area
  • No donations from a PAC
  • Average donation: $270.00
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $550.00

Both donations from businesses were in-kind, which explains the even $550 balance on Scott’s first report – previously he had filed ALCEs and has reported no spending. (So where did the filing fee come from?) But it works out to 40.7% from individuals and 59.3% from businesses.

The District 3 race features incumbent Republican Larry Dodd, who reported just one donation of $1,000 (from the Realtors PAC) and has an outstanding loan of $100 against a balance of $1,784.91. Some of that will be eaten up by a pending fine to be paid to the state Board of Elections of $160 for late filing – the fourth time this cycle (and third this year) that his campaign has been late. After my experience with Kirkland Hall last time (see updated post here) this is a subject I’m going to get back to for a later post.

However, his Democratic opponent Michele Gregory has filed nothing but ALCEs.

Moving to District 4, which is one of the two open seats on County Council (one at-large is also open) we find Republican Suzanah Cain has these statistics:

  • 24 donations from individuals in county for $1,496.16
  • 11 donations from individuals outside of county for $625
  • No donations from businesses in area
  • 1 donation from a business outside of area for $0.28 (a setup fee for an account)
  • 2 donations from a PAC for $4,000
  • Average donation: $161.09
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $703.01

Like her fellow Republican John Cannon, the huge Realtor PAC donation completely skews Cain’s take: 24.4% of her money came from within Wicomico County, 10.2% from outside the county, and 65.3% from the PAC. All but less that 0.1% of that non-PAC cash is from individuals.

For Democrat Josh Hastings, the story is a lot different:

  • 68 donations from individuals in county for $4,940
  • 27 donations from individuals outside of county for $2,425
  • 1 donations from a business in area for $50
  • No donations from a business outside of area
  • 1 donations from a PAC or other committee for $100
  • Average donation: $77.47
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $1,512.38

Hastings had 66.4% of his donations come from within the county, 32.3% from outside, and 1.3% from the other committee. 98% was offered from individuals, with 1.3% from the one business.

Finally for County Council, you have the unopposed District 5 Republican Joe Holloway. He loaned his campaign $5,000 and still has $4,975 left after the $25 filing fee.

The other partisan office on the ballot is the Orphan’s Court. Not one of the four candidates have filed anything but an ALCE – as expected in a bottom-ballot race for which the Republicans have seldom filled the slots. (All three incumbents are Democrats; however, one lost in the primary.)

Now for the Board of Education. These non-partisan slots are being filled as follows:

  • At-large candidates: 2 from a group including Tyrone Cooper, Don Fitzgerald, Michael Murray, and Talana Watson
  • District 1: Michelle Bradley or Allen Brown
  • District 2: Gene Malone
  • District 3: David Goslee, Sr. or William Turner
  • District 4: David Plotts or Ann Suthowski
  • District 5: John Palmer

Out of that group Cooper, Murray, Malone, Turner, and Palmer reported no contributions. Malone loaned himself $100 so that’s his balance.

Fitzgerald reported $1,400 in contributions (all from the candidate and his treasurer) and has $212.12 on hand.

Watson reported $1,000 in contributions from 2 local businesses and loaned her campaign $1,000 with $909.51 available.

Bradley reported $150 in contributions, one $100 from an individual in the county and $50 from one outside. She still has the $150 left.

Brown reported $860 in contributions, all but 2 of the 13 from individuals within the county and accounting for $660 of the take. He has a balance of $25.

Goslee had the biggest stake among the district aspirants, receiving $1,650 from 4 local individuals – however, $1,100 was from his own personal funds. $586.80 is the largest war chest among the remaining district candidates.

Twelve people have given $706.96 to the Plotts campaign, which includes in-kind donations. (One who donated $25 was from outside the county.) His balance is $187.45.

Suthowski was the second-biggest beneficiary with $1,500 from 13 local individuals (including $400 of her own.) She has $376.46 to play with.

I sort of suspect the real money in the school board race is going to be revealed on the post-election report since the Wicomico County Education Association has yet to be heard from and they’ll certainly have a preferred slate.

That brings this look at finance to a close. But I have a little more research to do after seeing the Kirkland Hall and Larry Dodd debacles. Is it really that hard to do campaign finance reports on a timely basis?

The sidebar sidestory

January 25, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Bloggers and blogging, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on The sidebar sidestory 

While I haven’t been hanging around here as much as I used to with this book I’m writing and all, a service I’ve always provided here is being a one-stop shop to link to political candidates in season. And seeing that the season is fast-approaching – the filing deadline is barely a month away – I suppose it’s time to build out the 2018 version of my widget.

One change I think I’m going to make from previous years is to not just link their websites, but their social media as well. It seems now that most of the action on the political position front comes from those sites because they are interactive by nature. So I’ll figure out a way to integrate them into the links.

In looking at some of the local races, the most statewide attention seems to be on the State Senate race between incumbent Jim Mathias and current Delegate Mary Beth Carozza, who’s trying to move up after just one term in the House. If that seems opportunistic, bear in mind that Mathias also moved up after one term and about six months of change (he was appointed Delegate after the incumbent died in office.) However, at the time Mathias ran for an open seat thanks to the retirement of longtime GOP State Senator Lowell Stoltzfus. And while Mathias is best known for being the popular mayor of Ocean City, it’s also the area Carozza represents in the House. Her task will be to catch up name recognition in Somerset County, although it’s likely she’ll get the backing from Stoltzfus and current Delegate Charles Otto to help her along there.

With Carozza moving up, the opening for Delegate in District 38C is shaping up to be an interesting GOP primary. (With the political composition of the district, frankly that is the race.) Four contenders are in the running so far, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see one or two more crowd the ballot. While Ed Tinus, a perennial candidate, moved down from the Senate race when Carozza made it official, the others waited to jump in and made it a race. Wayne Hartman is an Ocean City Council member trying to advance, while Joe Schanno is making a second run eight years after his first in what was then a two-Delegate district. (He finished fourth of the four in the GOP primary.)

There’s not nearly as much suspense in the other local districts. The only other one really worth mentioning at this point is District 37B, where a third business person has thrown his hat into the ring in a district already boasting two in Chris Adams and Johnny Mautz. Keith Graffius is running in large part because Dorchester County doesn’t have a native Delegate – an unfortunate reality in that part of the Eastern Shore where two three-person districts span seven of the nine counties of the Eastern Shore – so someone will be left holding the bag and after the last election Dorchester County replaced Caroline County as the state’s red-headed stepchild. (The District 37 Senator, Addie Eckardt, lives in Dorchester County so they are not shut out entirely.)

Here in Wicomico County, the key races are the County Executive race, which thus far pits incumbent Bob Culver against independent Jack Heath, who has to petition his way onto the ballot, and the new school board elections that will fire up for the first time in 2018. So far only three incumbents on County Council have filed (Democrat Ernie Davis and Republicans Larry Dodd and Joe Holloway) and one challenger had popped up for an open seat – Josh Hastings makes his second try after moving from District 3 to District 4.

Something I’ve found interesting is how many people have already filed for Central Committee races. In the three times I ran, I was not one who waited around – I filed several weeks before the deadline and was normally among the first to do so. (The only election I was a dawdler was my first, but I was still 5th of 7 to file. The other two I was 4th of 13.) These candidates are notorious for waiting until the last minute, but this year there are already enough Central Committee hopefuls on the male side of the Democrat Party and they’re only one short among females. On the GOP side we already have five of nine so they may exceed their previous high-water marks of thirteen in the last two elections. I suspect the same may be true for school board as well. And because of school board, for the first time every voter in Wicomico County may have a ballot to vote on come June since school board is a non-partisan race.

So anyway I will have some work to do over the coming days. Fortunately I have an old widget extant so it’s not much of a chore to do.

41st annual Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in pictures and text

July 19, 2017 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Culture and Politics, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on 41st annual Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in pictures and text 

For some reason the vibe seemed a little different to me this time around – maybe it’s because this is the first one I’ve attended as an erstwhile political participant. But at 10:00 I rolled into town and got my ticket (this was a first, too – more on that in a bit) so I started looking around while I was there. Immediately I found there was still one constant.

Bruce Bereano probably brings half the people down there, and I’m not kidding. If you consider that the political people are a significant draw to this festival, and his massive tent is annually chock-full of Annapolis movers and shakers, one has to wonder just what would be left if he ever pulled up stakes. Would they have a crowd like this?

But the Crisfield Chamber of Commerce (as event sponsor) has its own ideas on VIP treatment.

For an additional $15 fee on top of the ticket price, you could get access to this tent with its amenities. It was an answer to some of the corporate tents that were doing this anyway. Many of those were still doing their thing.

Most of the people were already in line at 11:30 waiting on lunch. While the ticket says 12, if you wait until then you’re waiting for food.

But let’s face it: the media doesn’t really come here to see food lines, although that’s where I found this crew from Channel 47, WMDT-TV.

No, the real draw for this edition was the potential 2018 candidates. Until the last couple cycles, odd-numbered years were somewhat sleepy because the campaigns weren’t really underway yet, while the even-numbered years saw Tawes fall on a date less than two months before the primary. That’s now flipped on its head because the primary was moved up to June, so this is the last Tawes before the 2018 primary. So several contenders were out scouring for votes – none, I would say, moreso than this guy.

State Senator Jim Mathias (standing, in the gray shirt) has a huge target on his back that’s far larger than the logo on the front. He is the one Democrat Senator on the Eastern Shore, and the GOP sees his seat as a prime candidate for taking over next year as they need to flip five Senate seats to assure themselves the numbers to sustain Larry Hogan’s vetoes.

To that end, Mathias was the one candidate who had his own supporter tent. To me, that was interesting because most of the local Democrats that I know spent their time milling around the Mathias tent (wearing their own gray shirts) and didn’t hang out at the “regular” Democrat party tent.

Just a couple spots over from Mathias was the Somerset GOP tent.

Now you’ll notice I said Somerset. For whatever reason, Wicomico’s Republicans chose not to participate this year and there were few of my former cohorts to be found. Since that’s how I used to get my tickets, I had to make alternate arrangements this time. That’s not to say there weren’t Wicomico County Republicans there such as County Executive Bob Culver, Judge Matt Maciarello, Salisbury City Councilman Muir Boda, and many others – just not the Central Committee.

Closer to their usual back corner spot were the Democrats.

Their focus seemed to be more on the larger races, as even their state chair Kathleen Matthews was there. Here she’s speaking with Crisfield mayor Kim Lawson.

(Lawson has a smart-aleck sense of humor I can appreciate. When a photographer introduced herself as being from the Sun, he thanked her for making it a little cooler here than back home. I got it right away, she looked befuddled.)

The small posse you may have noticed in the original photo of the Democrats’ tent belonged to gubernatorial candidate Alec Ross, who eventually caught up to them at the tent.

I asked Ross what he would do differently than the current governor, and he said he would focus more on education. One thing I agreed with him on was something he called a Democratic “failure” – focusing too much on preparing kids for college when some aren’t college material and would be better suited for vocational training. But he limits himself in the palette of school improvement and choice to public and charter schools, whereas I believe money should follow the child regardless. Ross also has this pie-in-the-sky scheme about government credit to working moms for child care which I may not quite be grasping, but one assumes that all moms want to work. I think some may feel they have to work but would rather be stay-at-home moms.

The thing that stuck out at me was his saying that when two people disagree, at least one of them is thinking. You be the judge of who ponders more.

But the Democrats’ field for the top spot is getting so crowded that I got about five steps from talking to Ross and saw State Senator Richard Madaleno, another candidate.

Having done the monoblogue Accountability Project for a decade now, I pretty much know where Madaleno stands on issues – but I was handed a palm card anyway. Indeed, he’s running as a “progressive.”

And then there’s this guy. I didn’t realize he was talking to the state chair Matthews at the time, but I wonder if she was begging him to get in the governor’s race or stay out of it. I suspect state Comptroller Peter Franchot is probably happy where he is.

Franchot is probably happy because he works so well with this guy, the undisputed star of the show.

This turned out to be a pretty cool photo because I was standing in just the right spot to see his car swoop around the corner, come to a halt, and watch the trooper open the door for Governor Hogan to emerge.

If you follow me on social media you already saw this one.

Say what you will, and Lord knows I don’t agree with him on everything: but Governor Larry Hogan was treated like a rock star at this gathering, to a point where he could barely make it 50 yards in a half-hour.

This would have been of no use.

I said my quick hello to Larry moments before WBOC grabbed him for an interview, and that’s fine with me.

Here are two ladies who were probably glad he was there, too.

In her usual pink was State Senator Addie Eckardt, while Delegate Mary Beth Carozza was in her campaign blue. And since Carozza told me she treasures my observations, here are a couple.

First of all, it’s obvious that Jim Mathias is running scared because why else would he spend the big money on a tent and dozens of shirts for the volunteers that showed up (plus others who may have asked)? Not that he doesn’t have a lot of money – the special interests across the bridge make sure of that – but Mathias has to realize there is some disconnect between his rhetoric and his voting record. And he’s not prepping for a major challenge from Ed Tinus.

A second observation is that most of the Mathias signs I saw driving down there were flanked by signs for Sheree Sample-Hughes, and you don’t do that for a Delegate seat you were unopposed for the first time you ran. Something tells me Sheree has a higher goal in mind, but it may not one worth pursuing unless the circumstances were right.

One thing I found out from the Democrat chair Matthews is that at least two people are in the running against Andy Harris and were there. I didn’t get to speak with Michael Pullen, but I did get to chat for a bit with Allison Galbraith.

So when I asked her what she would do differently than Andy Harris, the basic response was what wouldn’t she do differently? We talked a little bit about defense, entitlements, and health care. Now she is against government waste (as am I) but I think my idea of waste is somewhat different. She also claimed to have saved some sum of money based on her previous work, but I reminded her she would be one of 435 and there seems to be a “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” mentality in Congress. (I should have asked her who she would pattern herself after as a Congresswoman.)

But in the end, I was hot, sweaty, sunburned, and dog tired. I will say, though, that despite the rancor that seems to be pervasive in our world these days when it comes to politics most of the people in Crisfield got along just fine. I think I was very bipartisan in speaking since I talked to many GOP friends and met some of these Democrat candidates I didn’t know so I had an idea who they were. And who knows? I haven’t checked yet, but I may be on the Sun‘s website – that same photographer Lawson joked with took my photo later while I was asking Ross questions and got my info.

By the time we do this next year, we will know who’s running for office and the campaigning will be more serious. So will the eating for the 50% that don’t care about politics and never wander by Bereano’s massive setup. As long as the Tawes event can cater to both they should be okay.

A potential power grab?

In 2004, Wicomico County voters adopted a system of government that would be led by a county executive, scrapping the former system where County Council had both legislative and executive powers. One reaction from this: all four of the incumbent Democratic members of County Council opted not to run for re-election in 2006; however, the first County Executive elected was Democrat Rick Pollitt.

In 2014, we had the first transfer of power between parties as GOP standard-bearer Bob Culver ousted Pollitt, who was running for a third term. At the same time, County Council maintained the 6-1 GOP edge it had received in 2010 – that was an increase from the 4-3 control they won in 2006 with only two members from the previous Council surviving the election.

So you can perhaps chalk it up to management style, or maybe the turnover on County Council over the last eight years has placed a crop of people on there who long for the old system, but Wicomico County voters are facing a bewildering array of issues on their ballot. So let’s start with the no-brainers.

Question 1 is a statewide issue that compels the Governor to appoint a new Comptroller or Attorney General from the same party as the one most recently elected and provides for a special election in a Presidential year if the vacancy occurs soon enough.

You’ll notice that this was never a problem until a Republican was elected to the governor’s chair. In fact, the last time the state had a Republican AG was in the term of Republican Governor Theodore McKeldin (1951-1959), who appointed Edward Rollins to the post to finish out the term of Hall Hammond, a Democrat elected in 1950 and promoted to the state Court of Appeals. As for Comptroller, it has exclusively been a Democrat’s position for well over a century. But maybe we could use a Libertarian as Comptroller or a Constitution Party member as Attorney General – until either can break the two-party duopoly, though, we would likely be stuck with liberal Democrats.

So because of the cynicism in addressing a problem (that really wasn’t) for strictly partisan reasons, I urge a vote AGAINST Question 1.

Question A, for Wicomico County voters, addresses the composition of the Wicomico County Board of Education. For years I have advocated for an elected school board, and after eliminating the political obstacles in the 2014 election, the path was cleared for voters to address the issue in the first three-way referendum in recent memory. Option 1 is to maintain the current appointed system, Option 2 is for a fully elected board, one each representing the five County Council districts and two at-large elected by all county residents (the same makeup as our current County Council), and Option 3 is for a hybrid board of five elected (one from each Council district) and two appointed by a locally-created board with confirmation from County Council.

Once again the cynical local Democrats have cast their lot with the fully-appointed Option 1, which provides no shortage of irony considering it’s the least democratic process. It seemed more logical that they would be for Option 3, which was the fallback position many preferred in the hearings conducted in the summer of 2015, before the enabling legislation passed earlier this year. But to maximize accountability, the best choice by far is Option 2 – a Wicomico County Board of Education with five members elected by district and two members elected at-large.

Now it gets very confusing. There are nine county charter amendments on the ballot, and to me their net effect seems to be that of reducing the power of the county executive and shifting it to County Council. I wasn’t here for the 2004 vote, but it seems obvious to me that the county wanted a strong leader and a legislative County Council.

Let’s begin with Question B and its related cousin, Question D. Both would require a special election: Question B to fill a vacancy in the County Council, and Question D for the County Executive. However, either vacancy would only be filled in this manner if it occurred within the first year or so of the term, which seems to me a rather pointless change. Having gone through this process as a Central Committee member back in 2011 (to fill the vacancy created by the passing of Bob Caldwell) I can tell you that a special election would do no better and cost the taxpayers money to boot. Thus, the proper vote is AGAINST both Question B and Question D. (Editor’s note: Councilman Marc Kilmer clarifies the intent of these questions in comments below, but I still think the ballot language is misleading. Their idea of a “special election” coincides with the scheduled primary and general elections, which is not made completely clear in the ballot summary.)

Question C deals with vacancies as well, but it’s a common-sense measure to extend the time allotted for filling positions from 30 to 45 days and have them submitted at a legislative session. This extension makes sense as County Council only meets twice a month, and having gone through the Caldwell vacancy the extra time is good for getting things right. Vote FOR Question C.

Question E removes the authority of the County Executive to select a temporary successor and assigns the task automatically to the Director of Administration. While it’s likely he or she would do so anyway, the option should remain open for the head of our government to choose. We do not have a vice-executive here, so why create one? Vote AGAINST Question E.

Question F deals with the idea of “acting” appointments, and limits their term to 90 days unless Council chooses to re-appoint them. Since the idea of “acting” is that of being temporary, this proposal makes more sense than most of the others. Three months is generally suitable to find a permanent replacement, or determine that the “acting” head can handle the job, so go ahead and vote FOR Question F.

The final four questions seem to me very nit-picky, and obviously County Council’s reaction to not getting their way on various issues.

For example, Question G gives a specific definition to “reorganization” which is much more restrictive toward the County Executive. As I see it, this is a separation of powers issue and it’s strange that we went nearly ten years without ever having to deal with this problem. So I call on voters to say they are AGAINST Question G.

Questions H and I most likely are a reaction to the County Council’s desire to have its own lawyer. Currently the County Attorney represents both the County Council and County Executive, but Council wanted to change that. I see no reason to do so, nor do I see the logic behind forcing the County Executive to recognize a personnel system established by Council as authorized by this change. Thus, we should vote AGAINST Questions H and I. (Editor’s note: Again, see Kilmer’s comments below. By charter my assertion is correct in who the County Attorney represents; but in the county today there is an “acting” County Attorney while Council retains its own, which they are entitled to do. I see no reason to change the system if Question F is passed.)

Finally, we have Question J, and that’s the one I was most on the fence about. But what weighed my decision in the end was that the County Executive is responsible for the budget, so if County Council decides to cut something out it should be the County Executive’s call as to where the money goes rather than simply placed in a particular account. For that reason, a vote AGAINST Question J is the appropriate one.

So this is the monoblogue-approved ballot for Wicomico County voters. We all face the same questions and issues.

  • For Presidentwrite in Darrell Castle/Scott Bradley
  • For U.S. SenatorKathy Szeliga
  • For Congress – I did not make a formal endorsement. If you like Andy Harris, vote for him; if not, vote for the Libertarian Matt Beers.
  • Judge – Based on the fact Dan Friedman was an O’Malley appointee, vote AGAINST his continuance in office.
  • Question 1 – AGAINST
  • Question A – Option 2, the fully elected school board
  • Question B – AGAINST
  • Question C – FOR
  • Question D – AGAINST
  • Question E – AGAINST
  • Question F – FOR
  • Question G – AGAINST
  • Question H – AGAINST
  • Question I – AGAINST
  • Question J – AGAINST

For those of you across the line in Delaware, I weighed in on your state races as well.

Before I wrap up, I just ask that you all pray we make the best choices. We all have to live with what we decide, so choose wisely. After the election, it will be time to create the understanding many among us lack when it comes to making these selections because, in a lot of cases, we all have botched the process badly.

A nation divided against itself cannot stand.

The seduction of good intentions

In yesterday’s Salisbury Independent, County Councilman Marc Kilmer discussed his concerns about a tuition assistance program proposed by community leaders and supported by County Executive Bob Culver. The aim of this Wor-Wic College proposal would be to assist Wicomico County high school students by supplementing their available financial aid, with an estimated cost once the program is underway of $665,000 annually.

One of the examples cited by the backers of the Wor-Wic Economic Impact Scholarship is that of Garrett County at the far western end of Maryland, which has a similar program. I’m sure those on County Council have seen this document, but the Garrett County Commissioners have produced a (somewhat dated) report on the Garrett County Scholarship Program, which they began way back in 2006 – so the 2014 report had several years’ worth of data to evaluate its success.

A couple things to bear in mind are that Garrett County is not one of the wealthier counties in Maryland, and in terms of its economic strength it would fit in well with the rural counties of the Eastern Shore. As the report authors note, the county is in a transition “from an economy traditionally based on agriculture, forest products, and mining to a more diversified economy based on tourism, commerce, light industry, and construction.” But it is also far smaller than Wicomico County in terms of population, with just over 30,000 people – imagine the city of Salisbury (but not the outskirts and densely populated nearby incorporated and unincorporated areas) spread out in a far larger geographic area, as Garrett is the second-largest county in the state when it comes to land area. It doesn’t have a large populated area, either, as the largest towns of Mountain Lake Park and Oakland (the county seat) hover around 2,000 residents apiece.

According to the commissioners’ report, between 1/3 and 2/5 of the eligible students in the county took advantage of the program, but in raw numbers the total was less impressive: from a fall 2008 peak of 138 recipients, the number declined over the next several years to a low of 79 in the fall of 2013 (the last year detailed by the report.) Yet the program comes with a significant cost due to some of its qualities: for FY2013 the price tag was $427,365 and for FY2017 the county has budgeted $500,000. However, the county also assists students who are dual-enrolled in one of its two high schools and Garrett College as well as a handful who are enrolled in non-degree certificate programs, as well as encouraging students to take more than the minimum 12 credit hours to maintain eligibility. They pick up that tab.

While the programs as envisioned here in Wicomico County and the Garrett County program have somewhat of an apples-to-oranges comparison to them, I think it’s fair to say that the local proposal is probably going to cost more than envisioned. Expanding the Garrett scholarship to non-degree certificate programs, while a sound idea, is an example of the mission creep that often occurs with the government getting involved. It’s also worth pointing out a spike in costs came when Garrett College tuition increased significantly in 2009.

Unfortunately, the one relevant piece of data we don’t have is whether these scholarship recipients remained to take (or create) jobs in the Garrett County region. According to state records, though, the workforce in Garrett has actually declined from 15,666 to 14,475 over the last decade (April 2006 – April 2016) for a drop of 7.6%. Conversely, Wicomico County declined from 49,566 to 47,504 in that same period, for a decrease of 4.2% – so by that measure the Garrett County program may not be very successful. (Yet the Garrett unemployment rate has only risen from 4.7% to 5.7% in comparison to a jump from 3.7% to 6% in Wicomico.)

One way of expressing the cost of this program is to equate it to property taxes. For each penny of property tax, Wicomico County collects about $570,000 (this is assuming I am reading the budget correctly, of course. But it sounds about right based on my experience.) So this would be a little over a penny out of the 95 cents or so the county collects out of every $100 of property valuation. The owner of a house assessed at $200,000 would pay about $20 a year toward this goal. If that seems worth it to give students a break, then support the scholarship program.

But if I may make a couple suggestions: I think the total expenditure should be capped and given out on a first come, first served basis. I understand not everyone makes snap decisions well, but in order to be fiscally responsible we can’t let this mushroom beyond its small percentage of the county budget. I would also reserve a number of slots for certificate programs Wor-Wic offers, similar to that element of Garrett’s program. Since a P-TECH school is not yet in the cards for Wicomico County, this can be the next best thing if done correctly.

It’s not likely any member of my family will take advantage of the program, but Kilmer is right to be a little skeptical of it at this stage. The county did set aside the money to begin the program once the questions are answered, though, so it’s possible an upcoming high school class will be the first to have this option.

Playing chicken with local industry

After controversy about the prospect of large poultry operations with multiple chicken houses (up to a baker’s dozen in one case) as well as concern over the paleochannel that runs near the Salisbury area, County Executive Bob Culver organized a public meeting held earlier this evening to discuss some of these concerns with a number of state officials. Ten representatives, mainly from the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) but also representing the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), were made available to answer questions from a large audience of onlookers.

Culver assured the audience that there were “no predetermined outcomes from this forum,” stressing that the idea was to explore the impact these operations would have on groundwater and the paleochannel, along with the possibility of airborne toxins. Culver noted that a Daily Times editorial penned by local activist Judith Stribling called on us to be “determined to avoid polarization,” and the crowd inside complied.

Outside? Well, that was a different story.

I shared this on social media, noting the anti-poultry zealots had arrived. Yet that band of perhaps three dozen was no more than a fraction of those inside. And it’s a sure bet that many thousands more will be alerted to the results of this meeting on local media.

Needless to say, once moderator Greg Bassett of the Salisbury Independent opened up the questions, which were written by audience members and passed to the front of the room, we had a lot of queries about how the operations would affect the water supply as well as the disposition of the natural by-products of the poultry.

In fact, the first question out of the chute was on how the PMT regulations were affecting the capacity of the land to handle manure. Dave Mister of the Department of Agriculture told those gathered that “we feel there will be adequate land to apply manure.” One thing he didn’t add was that much of the lower Shore has reached its saturation point for phosphorus, so that waste would need to be transported.

But the main thrust of the questioners regarding the waste itself was the effects it would have on peoples’ health. There were no “cancer clusters” being caused by these operations, said Dr. Clifford Mitchell of DHMH. Asthma from airborne particulates could be an issue, but that depended more on the individual and poultry operations couldn’t be blamed as a blanket cause.

The only possible issue could be nitrates in the water supply, which is regulated by the federal EPA to prevent what’s called “blue baby syndrome.” There is no regulation for phosphorus, added John Grace of MDE.

Moreover, the panel agreed health or environmental issues shouldn’t be a problem as long as the operation is run according to permit requirements. The idea is “zero discharge,” said Gary Kelman of the MDE. “No discharge will occur…if the permit is adhered to,” Kelman added. We also learned that they inspect based on complaints, and “we have lots of eyes out there,” said Kelman. Operations are inspected every five years at the minimum, but more often if there are complaints.

This to me may be an Achilles heel for the industry, since those who want to stir up trouble can make it difficult for CAFOs (short for concentrated animal feeding operations) to survive a week without some inspection. (To be considered a CAFO, a grower has to deal with 37,500 or more birds.)

And while they couldn’t answer a question dealing with the carrying capacity of our local industry, Mister admitted the number of chickens being grown was probably increasing. “The industry is growing, and that’s a good thing,” said Mister. The industry has to expand to be successful.

It was interesting to me that one of the more asinine questions was what they would do to protect smaller farmers; a question that received a smattering of applause. Mister simply said that was “best answered by the industry.” But on a compliance basis, he noted that all farmers have issues yet they get “phenomenal” cooperation from growers when there are problems.

We went almost the first hour without getting a question about the paleochannel, but one finally came. And the consensus was that there was “little chance” the paleochannel would be affected by these operations because they were all under roof – even the mortality composters were protected from the elements. In the event of a catastrophic loss, there was also the option of using the manure storage shed. There seems to be a lot of redundancy in the operation as well as in the permitting process.

That process also was a concern of some questioners, who worried that there was an effort to “fast-track” approvals. But the idea was to process them as efficiently as possible, protested Hussein Alhija of MDE, who noted “my job is to improve the process.” Several different state entities have to work in conjunction to get these permits in order. It’s a “very complex process.” noted Mister, who added that education on permitting was important. Kelman chimed in by pointing out lenders need the permits in order to fund the operations.

Nor is the paleochannel in danger from the water usage required by these operations. Poultry growing uses “several orders of magnitude” less water than cropland operations, said Grace. In fact, there is “no declining water level” in the aquafers. “We’re okay as far as the water supply goes,” Grace assessed.

Yet while the answers seemed to be satisfactory regarding water quality and permitting, those who thought CAFOs could be eliminated from being adjacent to residential areas were likely disappointed. The only standard that applies as far as the state is concerned is that operations must be 1oo feet away from “waters of the state.” Otherwise, Kelman conceded that it “seems to be a local zoning issue.” Given that residential development is oftentimes adjacent to land zoned agricultural, that will be something the county would need to address.

And there will still be people who are aggravated, even with all the assurances from the state group.

Perhaps the creator of this sign is related to the late William Donald Schaefer, the onetime governor who called the Eastern Shore the “shithouse” of Maryland.

In about an hour and a half, though, we all got a little understanding about the permitting process prospective growers have to go through, and perhaps it’s the idea that dealing with one big farm and one permit rather than several operations that is making the large-scale farms the better business model.

In his introduction, Culver noted there are 2,300 employees of local poultry companies. That’s a decent percentage of the local workforce, and it doesn’t count the ancillary jobs created by the need for these employees to live their lives. If the supply chain of chicken dries up, there will be a significant impact to our local economy that low-impact tourism can’t replace.

Given the evidence that the state of Maryland is trying to be of assistance to growers in maintaining a clean environment, the only explanation for the opposition is that it’s being whipped up by Radical Green, with the paleochannel just an excuse to stop vital development. With the steps being taken to treat stormwater and precautions being taken to keep farm operations as environmentally friendly as possible, I think that chicken growers are trying to be the best neighbors they can – it’s the outside extremists who are trying to foul our economic nest.

A look ahead: 2016 in Wicomico County

After doing this the last two years one would think I would be an expert at dissecting what will go on over the course of a year, but in this case my crystal ball is a little bit cloudy. Perhaps that’s because things are looking up for a change.

I went to the state Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation website and downloaded some figures which reflect great job creation news – particularly in the latter half of this year. Since June, Wicomico County employment figures are running between 1,300 and 1,800 jobs higher than the corresponding month of 2014. Conversely, in 2014 we never ran more than 753 jobs ahead of 2013 and by the end of last year we actually had fewer employed than the year prior. That downturn carried into this calendar year but by March we had turned the corner.

The growth in the latter half of the year was reminiscent of the boom period of 2004-06, when Wicomico County routinely gained 1,000 or more jobs in every month year-over-year.

So the question will be whether county revenues begin to increase. Unlike the boom of a decade ago, which was fueled by a rapid increase in property values that later translated into increased tax collections, this upturn doesn’t come with rapidly appreciating property values. And there are plenty of bills for the county to pay – two new schools with a third one now placed into the pipeline as well as new facilities for the Board of Elections, increased mandates for education spending and environmental cleanup from the state and federal governments, respectively, and a call from the city of Salisbury to assist them more with fire protection expenses through a more equitable revenue sharing. Certainly it appears that any new money has a number of hands reaching out for it.

Another question regards how well two relatively new leaders will work with each other. It’s fortunate that both County Executive Bob Culver and Salisbury Mayor Jake Day spent a little bit of time on the legislative side of things because it will help them understand the process the other has to go through to get things done. If there’s one thing we have learned from Culver, though, it’s that he’s a man of action who always seems to have a to-do list of improvements he’d like to see. It’s more autocratic than bureaucratic on the county side of the Government Office Building these days. Initial impressions of Day seem to be similar, although he’s made much less of an impact on taking office than Culver did insofar as personnel decisions are concerned.

But there are two key issues regarding education that will be out of Culver’s hands. One is the fate of the elected school board, which is now up to the Maryland General Assembly. The other is the new superintendent that will take over the county schools sometime in 2016. The Board of Education begins the selection process after the holidays – by the way, the county Republican Central Committee will be called upon to retain or replace two GOP members of that body this summer.

Getting around may become a little more difficult next fall as well, as the state will begin replacing 11 bridge decks on the U.S. 13 bypass. It’s a project that’s not supposed to impact summer traffic in 2017 but won’t be complete until 2018.

In comparison to previous years there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly contentious on the horizon – with the possible exception of the proposed large-scale chicken farms Radical Green is already up in arms against – which probably means we’re going to have an interesting year. If we can keep up the pace of job creation, though, eventually the local economy will get back to where it was a decade ago and prosperity takes care of a lot of problems.

Tomorrow I shift my focus to the state as a whole.

In the giving spirit

December 23, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2015 - Salisbury, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on In the giving spirit 

One nice thing about Salisbury elections is that money unspent in the campaigns is not carried over to the next election but is required to either be returned to contributors or given to another entity, normally a charity. (There are exceptions, though – stick with me, it’s called foreshadowing.) With the release of the final financial statements earlier this week, I was curious to see where all the money went.

I’ll begin with the City Council races and District 1, where defeated incumbent Shanie Shields distributed $959.48 to a number of organizations around her neighborhood. $500 went to the Chipman Foundation while smaller amounts were received by the Wesley Temple, Operation We Care, and two local elementary schools, West Salisbury and Pemberton. Meanwhile, the winner April Jackson donated her modest leftover sum of $26.82 to the Salisbury Advisory Council while Sarah Halcott closed out her books by donating $96.13 to the Art Institute and Gallery. That made sense given Halcott’s line of business as an artisan.

There wasn’t a lot of money left in District 2, as the only candidate to file a final statement was victor Muir Boda. Boda gave $39.61 to Salisbury Neighborhood Housing Services.

District 3 winner Jack Heath had much more unspent, as he distributed $1,495.80 among four recipients: Lower Shore Enterprises, Operation We Care, the Salisbury Zoo, and the Joseph House. Amounts ranged from $325 to $500 for each. Neither of the other candidates had leftover funds at the end of the campaign.

Lots of money flowed into District 4, but not all of it was spent campaigning. Jim Ireton split the $399.96 remaining balance equally between the Wicomico High softball team, Tri-Community Mediation, and the Wicomico Public Library Homework Help Center. On the other hand, Roger Mazzullo had no money remaining.

Finally among the Council members, Laura Mitchell did not need to file a report. She was the lone unopposed Council candidate, as was Mayor Jake Day for his post. And that’s where the story gets interesting.

First of all, Day was two days late in filing his report because he has a discrepancy between his records and accounts of $764.85. I make no accusations as to funny business; most likely someone put a number in the wrong column or the bank messed up. There are any number of logical reasons for the error.

More importantly, though, Day had over $10,000 to distribute – getting contributions when running unopposed will tend to do that – and he chose to make two disbursements. Instead of charitable contributions, though, as of this week we have two brand new state political entities:

  • Jake Day for Maryland had an initial contribution of $6,000. Day serves as the chairman and his campaign treasurer Jordan Gilmore retains that role for the new entity.
  • The New Day for Maryland PAC got the remaining $4,075.89, with Day’s campaign manager Alison Pulcher serving as chair and Gilmore as treasurer.

Note that the PAC is not to be confused with the New Day MD PAC that former gubernatorial candidate Charles Lollar began in 2009. Lollar’s PAC, as of its 2015 report filed in January, has less than $250 to its name.

Naturally these new campaign finance entities make me wonder if Day is going to serve a full term unhindered by political aspirations or perhaps challenge Bob Culver in 2018. Heck, even Jim Ireton – who has strongly hinted about a Congressional run – didn’t move his city money to create a federal account. (Ireton’s had a state account for a few years, with just over $1,000 in it at last report back in January.) But the campaign entity can also serve as a warchest to stave off challengers in the next city election, too.

In the meantime, we should be proud that much of the leftover campaign cash will be doing good in the community. With the elections now set for November, the contributions came as a nice Christmas gift to several local entities. It will have to tide them over through 2019, though.

Update: Day responds:

Odds and ends number 75

It’s been almost three years since this was a regular feature on my site, but it appears I may have to bring this back to deal with all the stuff that I receive and deem to be somewhat newsworthy – just not enough to devote an entire post to. Ideally I can use it to clean out an e-mail box that gets too full of stuff that otherwise sits for awhile. As always, we’ll see how it goes but it’s been long enough that I had to go look up where I was in the series.

If you recall when I discussed the state convention last week, Maryland National Committeeman Louis Pope was pleased with the national GOP’s fiscal situation and it was also announced that the state party was finally out of debt. So it’s interesting to find out our national Democratic counterparts are doing what they do best: spending money they don’t have. Even with Martin O’Malley still in the race, they can’t just raise taxes to cover the difference.

It’s doubtful that Hillary’s campaign will be hurt, but Democrats are also salivating over retaking the Senate as the seats won by the GOP in the first TEA Party wave of 2010 come up for re-election in a Presidential year. That’s where a shortfall could come into play.

Speaking of the state convention, the sponsor of the amendment which actually stripped the voting rights of three auxiliary organizations now questions his own standing in introducing the amendment in the first place. It’s the ultimate in do-overs, but we have to ask whether he would have been as honest had the proposal passed.

Now Tony Campbell wants a special convention to right what was made wrong.

In discussing this with a former Chair, one thing that I learned is that seldom does an individual vote matter on the Executive Committee – there is rarely a time when a vote is close enough to make a difference. The only instance he could think of where a vote was close like that was the vote of no confidence in former Chair Jim Pelura back in 2009. That was still a relatively lopsided vote, 20 to 10, but the county chairs only voted 14 to 10. It was the six leadership and auxiliary votes that padded the margin.

(It’s also a rare time of late that I cite the balky and ad-bloated Red Maryland site, but you’ll notice the reason for the exception.)

So I think we should deal with this in due course. Perhaps we can do like we do for government “shutdowns” and give the auxiliary organizations their votes later as back votes once we rectify the situation, as I know we will.

Staying with the Maryland GOP, a few days back I received a list of 61 Republican leaders throughout the state who are backing Delegate Kathy Szeliga in her U.S. Senate bid. As you may expect, there are a lot of General Assembly members on the list: locally it includes Delegates Christopher Adams, Carl Anderton, Mary Beth Carozza, and Charles Otto as well as Senator Addie Eckardt and County Executive Bob Culver. 42 of 50 Republican Delegates and 13 of 14 GOP Senators are on the list. (George Edwards of western Maryland is the recalcitrant Senator.)

But I noticed one name among the local delegation was missing: it looks like Delegate Johnny Mautz has kept his powder dry for the moment. I can’t figure out if he just didn’t want to sign or if he’s backing someone else – with his Congressional staffer connections, he would be a logical backer of Richard Douglas. Just grist for the mill.

I haven’t even started to make my mind up on the race, but I will say Kathy has a long way to go to get my support – if only because her campaign website is still bare-bones a couple weeks after she jumped into the fray. That’s the type of lack of attention to detail that can sink a campaign.

Ethanol hasn’t been in the news much lately, but I thought it was worth pointing out that one of my favorite energy writers, Marita Noon, recently detailed how Ben Carson has moved to the right side of the issue. API’s Linda Rozett adds her two cents as well, making the case that dairy subsidies didn’t work out well so neither are ethanol carveouts creating the desired effects. Look, when we have plenty of oil there’s no real need to use food for fuel, despite what the corn growers who are enjoying the artificial price support may say.

Of course, people like me who believe food shouldn’t be used as fuel tend to fall into the category of climate change “deniers.” The folks at Organizing Against America For Action are excited about events in Paris. (Not the Friday the 13th ones, although this could be just as detrimental to millions.) In an e-mail exhorting supporters to “call out” skeptics, they say:

Remember when getting an elected official to even mention carbon pollution or climate change was a big deal? We’ve come a long way.

Today, the momentum for action has never been greater. Climate change denial in America is at an all-time low, and hundreds of companies have come out to support rules on power plant pollution. As if that wasn’t enough, religious leaders like Pope Francis are insisting that there is a moral obligation to address climate change.

In just two weeks, more than 160 nations, representing more than 90 percent of the world’s carbon pollution, are joining together for an international conference to tackle climate change, while we still can.

I dare them to call me out. YOU ARE A FRAUD. We’ve been holding steady on global temperature since the turn of the millennium, and if anything the indications are we are getting colder, not warmer. Throttling back the economies of the developed world will only weaken the rest of the planet.

Yet there are people talking common sense:

Climate change deniers are trying to spoil this big moment by undermining America’s commitment to act on climate change.

Some senators, like James Inhofe and Mitch McConnell, are going out of their way to undermine American commitments. Senator Inhofe, famous for bringing a snowball onto the Senate floor as proof that climate change doesn’t exist, has committed to crash the talks and be a “one-man truth squad,” telling the international negotiators how little he believes in climate science.

Senator Inhofe isn’t alone. Back at home, climate change deniers in both chambers of Congress are working to overturn the carbon pollution standards for power plants.

Good. I hope they succeed in overturning the job-killing restrictions. Just call me the Republican uncle, except I can do more than recite talking points.

Killing – not of jobs, but of fellow public housing residents – may not be out of the realm of the 6,000 drug convicts the Obama administration is releasing, and thanks to Judicial Watch we also know that they will be welcomed into public housing. I will grant that probably 99% of them will be more or less model citizens, but that still leaves a few dozen miscreants to cause trouble. I think Judicial Watch has reason to be concerned, as do those residents who get them as neighbors. Perhaps the same sort of notice granted when sex offenders move nearby is in order, at least to start. Call it a probationary period.

Finally, let’s end on a happier note. I wrote about a similar event last year, but over the weekend we were encouraged to participate in the Made in the USA Christmas Challenge by the Patriot Voices advocacy group. While most of the electronics we use are made overseas, it is possible to purchase gifts made in America. (One familiar group has some suggestions.)

It’s worth noting, though – as of this writing, just 116 have signed up at Patriot Voices. That’s not very many patriots, so hopefully more people than that are conscious of the advantages of supporting our businesses.

So there you have it – you are more informed and I have a clean inbox. I love it when a plan comes together.

WCRC meeting – October 2015

October 26, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2015 - Salisbury, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on WCRC meeting – October 2015 

After a delay of a month caused by a trial that resulted in a conviction, we got to hear from Matt Maciarello tonight as our featured speaker. So we did the usual Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and roster of distinguished guests before received the treasurer’s report.

Matt went over the two key issues we’re having – juvenile crime and the opioid epidemic. Most of his time was spent talking about the latter, although he noted specific information on overdoses was hard to come by due to HIPAA restrictions. It was possible to deduce this information from other factors, though.

Noting that “you can’t arrest your way out of the problem,”  Maciarello pointed out that the county had what he described as an “opioid reduction officer,” who was tasked with, among other things, figuring out what other states were doing. One example Matt used was the TROSA program in North Carolina, where rehabbing addicts were both treated and taught one of five trades.

Closer to home Matt wanted to see a 24-hour call center established so those in need could be connected to resources like available treatment beds. He also wanted to differentiate the legal approach to those who sold heroin for profit as opposed to those who sold it to feed their habits, although the idea was to get both off the streets. He also advocated for better coordination of treatment, explaining that support shouldn’t end when a patient leaves the center. Many people need methadone treatment for months or even years afterward, he added.

Yet there was a compassionate side to the approach. Matt believed we needed to “take away the shame from opioid addiction” because it’s touched a lot of lives and people shouldn’t be discouraged from getting help. Many times the problem began with over-prescription of legal drugs or kids accessing their parents’ medication, Eventually this can lead to heroin addiction, which is dangerous because of how the drug is “cut” with other compounds.

Juveniles were also a concern for Maciarello, who noted we have “a critical mass of anti-social teens.”  Matt seemed a little frustrated with the current juvenile system, which he had “broad philosophical issues” with. A different path he spent some time encouraging was that of mentoring, for which there is a critical need based on a lengthy waiting list of youth looking for one. Even an hour a week can make a difference, said Matt! and he encouraged the club to be a leader in that regard. We were pleased to learn County Executive Bob Culver was on board with this idea, as Culver revealed some employee policy changes to accommodate the need were in the works.

Opioids accounted for about 70 percent of the crime problem, but overall Matt’s goal was “to set the model for the state” on reversing the problem.

All that was a tough act for City Council candidate Roger Mazzullo to follow, so he stuck more to his pro-business agenda. He wanted to work with the new mayor on bringing jobs and industry to the city through incentives; however, he also mentioned the desire to address youth crime through more activities for the youth. As a neophyte politician, Roger was “impressed” with the cooperation between law enforcement and the community; in turn, Maciarello praised Mazzullo for being the one candidate to meet with him and raise “thoughtful questions.”

One thing I asked, based on the marketing experience he touted, was what strengths he could use to sell Salisbury. He emphasized the rural feel of the area, but the subject somehow came atound to specific stores like Harris Teeter or Redner’s, specifically to fill the old Giant/Super Fresh location near the north Walmart. (Personally I think Redner’s would be the better fit there but I could envision either.) And you can count Mazzullo among those who want a Cracker Barrel. Still, he added “I believe in local (business),” adding he was less than impressed with his opponent’s business record as mayor.

After all that, the reports were fairly anti-climactic. On behalf of the Central Committee, Mark McIver reminded us the Lincoln Day Dinner was in less than two weeks, and we were looking for silent auction items. Thus, we secured a one-hour tennis lesson courtesy of Delegate Mary Beth Carozza (who as I recall played collegiately) and a surfing lesson from Matt Maciarello. Delegate Carl Anderton didn’t have a lesson to give, but a guided tour of the State House was a good substitute.

Alison Pulcher spoke on behalf of HERO Day, which will also occur on November 7. The main events are a 5k run and dog walk, but other events and speakers would also liven up the festivities.

I gave a brief synopsis of the fall festivals, taking the time to thank my volunteers, and also reminded the group we will need to establish a Nominations Committee by next month to select possible officers for next year. Finally, Joe Ollingrr asked if we could resume getting registration reports from the Board of Elections.

Truly, it was one of our more informative meetings of the year. The next one is slated for November 23, the Monday before Thanksgiving. It will be the final WCRC meeting of 2015.

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