On running the state

One concern I see and hear after the surprise Larry Hogan victory is that we don’t want all of the Ehrlich retreads running the state government now that the GOP is back in charge. As it turns out, Hogan – the Secretary of Appointments for Ehrlich – selected another Ehrlich official, Secretary of General Services Boyd Rutherford, as his lieutenant governor and has tabbed James T. Brady and Robert Neill as integral parts of the transition team. Brady worked as a member of the Parris Glendenning administration and Neill is a Republican-turned-Democrat who served in the Maryland General Assembly for 18 years, sandwiching a term as Anne Arundel County Executive. Reports are that outgoing Harford County Executive David Craig, who also sought the GOP nomination for governor, is also being considered for a role.

This is all well and good, I suppose, since a stated goal of the incoming Hogan administration seems to be one of bipartisanship. But my question is how much it will build the Maryland Republican party if we tab Democrats for positions they’ve already had over the last 8 and 40 of the last 44 years? Building a farm team doesn’t just come from elected officials and I’m sure that fresh eyes in a lot of positions will do a lot of good.

The Democrats lost, so let’s act like winners and put good conservatives in charge of state departments, To do otherwise leaves the potential that we will have another opportunity to build on success slip away in 2018, dooming ourselves to more years in the wilderness. In short, let’s use the electoral broom we just received to sweep these offices clean like Martin O’Malley did. It’s the least we can do to push this state in the right direction.

A doable goal?

Yesterday we received word that the unemployment rate dropped again, with another month of job growth in the 200,000 range. It’s not the Reagan recovery of the 1980s – when we had 15 straight months of job growth in 1983-84 that would put this latest number to shame, including a whopping 1,115,000 jobs created in September 1983 – but it is a reasonably decent run.

Yet just as manufacturing didn’t share in the Reagan-era gains as much as other sectors did (in fact, it lost some ground), the second Obama term has also fallen well short of manufacturing growth goals. I’ve discussed this group and its job tally before both here and on my former American Certified site, but the Alliance for American Manufacturing tracks progress toward the one million manufacturing jobs Barack Obama promised in his second term.

AAM’s president Scott Paul isn’t all that pleased about it, either.

The good news is that manufacturing jobs have grown over the past few months. The bad news is that they haven’t grown fast enough. I’m very concerned that a surge of imports from China and a paucity of public investment in infrastructure will continue to hamper the great potential of the productive sector of our economy.

Hopes of achieving the White House goal of 1 million new jobs in the Administration’s final term are fading fast. Without some progress on the trade deficit and a long-term infrastructure plan, I don’t see that changing. No doubt the economic anxiety that many Americans still feel is compounded by stagnant wage growth and diminished opportunities for middle class careers.

Two of the key issues AAM harps on are, indeed, currency manipulation and infrastructure investment, although they also took time recently to praise Obama’s manufacturing initiatives and chastise Walmart for their ‘buy American’ effort because much of it comes in the form of produce and groceries. Around these parts, we don’t really mind that emphasis because we produce a lot of American-grown poultry so if Walmart is willing to invest in us we’re happy to provide. (Then again, that promised distribution center would be nice too.) Of course, AAM is backed in part by the steelworkers’ union so one can reasonably assume their view is the center-left’s perspective.

Even so, the group is useful because it makes some valid points. And I think we should have some focus on creating manufacturing jobs in Maryland, as the defunct gubernatorial campaign of outgoing Delegate Ron George tried to do.

Thus, I think the incoming Hogan/Rutherford administration should make it a goal to create 50,000 new manufacturing jobs in Maryland over his first four-year term – if he succeeds, you better believe he deserves a second. According to BLS figures, as of September an estimated 103,000 people are employed in manufacturing in Maryland. But if you look at past data, it’s not unprecedented to have 150,000 (as late as November 2002) or even 200,000 (as late as June 1990) working in the field. And when you take the confluence of a state that is supposedly #1 in education and combine it with the proximity to both major markets and inexpensive energy sources, there’s no reason we should have lost 30,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector under Martin O’Malley – or 16,000 under Bob Ehrlich, for that matter.

But how do you turn things around in four years? Maryland has to make people notice they are open for business, and there are some radical proposals I have to help with that turnaround.

First of all, rather than tweak around the edges with lowering the corporate tax rate, why not just eliminate it altogether? The revenue to the state from that toll is $1.011 billion in FY2015, which is far less than the annual budgetary increase has been. Would that not send a message that we are serious about job growth and immediately improve our status as a business-friendly state?

The next proposals are somewhat more controversial. To the extent we are allowed by the federal government and its environmental regulations, those who choose to invest in the state and create jobs should have an easier path to getting environmental permits and zoning approvals. Even if a moratorium is temporary, making it easier to deal with MDE regulations would encourage job creation. Most of Maryland’s towns and cities already have industrial sites available, but we shouldn’t discourage construction in rural areas if a job creator needs more space.

We’ve also heard about the construction of the Purple Line in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and the Red Line in Baltimore - combined, the two are expected to fetch a price tag of $5.33 billion. For that sum, it seems to me we could build a lot of interstate highway – even if this $4 million per mile figure is low (and it would be 1,267 miles of highway based on the combined cost of the Red Line and Purple Line) we could do a lot to assist in moving goods through and from Maryland, whether by finishing the originally envisioned I-97 through to the Potomac (and with Virginia’s assistance, to I-95 near Richmond) or enlisting Virginia and Delaware’s help in improving the U.S. 13/58 corridor to interstate standards to provide a secondary route around Richmond, Washington, and Baltimore.

Once we eliminate the onerous restrictions proposed for fracking and begin to open up the western end of the state for exploration, and (dare I say it?) work on making Maryland a right-to-work state like Virginia – or even creating right-to-work zones in certain rural counties like the Eastern Shore and Maryland’s western panhandle – the potential is there to indeed create those 50,000 manufacturing jobs – and a lot more! It just takes a leader with foresight and the cajones to appeal to the Democrats in the General Assembly as well as a Republican Party unafraid to take it to the streets in the districts of recalcitrant members of Maryland’s obstructionist majority party.

But even if we only create 40,000 or 25,000 manufacturing jobs through these policies, the state would be better-positioned to compete for a lot of other jobs as well, and the need is great. For too long this state has put its economic eggs in the federal government’s basket and there’s a changing mood about the need for an expansive presence inside the Beltway. Rightsizing the federal government means Maryland has to come up with another plan, and this one has proven to be a success time and time again across the nation.

Too good to be true? Internal poll: Hogan up by 5

While it can be dismissed as an internal push poll, given its conclusion that Larry Hogan “is well positioned heading into the final week,” or the final add of, “Having the resources to go toe-to-toe with Brown on TV will be crucial in turning his current lead into a victory on Election Day,” a survey by pollster Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research has buoyed the Hogan camp and led to another upcoming visit from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie this coming Sunday evening at Patapsco Arena in Baltimore.

Yet other polls suggest a significant Brown lead, most particularly a YouGov poll which has stubbornly put Brown up by double-digits every month (and is computed in the RCP average.) Not added to the RCP total, though, is a survey by Gonzales Research which showed the race was far closer and as an added benefit gives the breakdown of expected turnout.

One could even argue that the “calibration error” problems with voting machines – which only seem to be turning Republican votes to Democratic ones, and not vice versa – is the sign of a party desperate to hold on to the governor’s chair. (A source tells me here in Wicomico County, at least one early voting machine was put out of service after the error was replicated on it. The personnel at the early voting center were reluctant to get involved, according to my insider.) Add to that the allegation of non-citizen voting and it’s no wonder Republicans are sweating out the prospect of the same fishiness which plagued the 1994 gubernatorial election some swear was stolen from Ellen Sauerbrey.

Yet as the old adage says, you just have to beat them by more than they can cheat.

There’s no question that Democrats are less enthused about this election than they have been in the past. But let’s go back and look at some key numbers from 2010, the second Ehrlich-O’Malley rumble.

As I said, I really like Gonzales polling because they give an honest breakdown and analysis. In October 2010 their poll had Martin O’Malley with a 47-42 advantage over Bob Ehrlich – a race that O’Malley eventually ran away with. In fact, out of the last several polls this was the one which gave the last fading hope of an Ehrlich upset.

But there were some warning signs – for example, Ehrlich’s 17% support among Democrats “won’t do it,” said Gonzales, nor would the 8-point advantage in the Baltimore suburbs. In the recent Gonzales survey, Hogan doesn’t do a whole lot better among Democrats than Ehrlich (19-73 for Hogan vs. 17-72 for Ehrlich) but is significantly stronger in the Baltimore suburbs (55-37 Hogan vs. 49-41 Ehrlich.) On the other hand, Brown does a little better in the Washington suburbs at 70-25 (vs. O’Malley’s 65-25) but Hogan counteracts this with a strong showing among the growing unaffiliated ranks (46-32 Hogan vs. 42-36 Ehrlich.)

To me, the truth is somewhere in between the five-point Hogan lead in the WPA poll and the 2 points Gonzales has him down, probably closer to the latter. All I know is I think it will be close and every vote will have to be carefully scrutinized by the person casting it. (My source also told me there may be a robocall put out to remind Republicans to check their ballot before leaving.)

Yet the idea isn’t just to be satisfied with a Republican governor – we need to give him plenty of help and local voters can oust a number of thorns in the conservative side next week. Let’s paint the Eastern Shore red from Cecil to Somerset, from the Bay Bridge to Ocean City.

A question of semantics

I’ve written and researched a lot this week (and already laid some groundwork for next week) so this will be short, sweet, and to the point.

Yesterday I got an e-mail announcing a local event:

Michael –

Please join us Sunday (9/7/14) at 4:00pm for the Grand Opening of our Lower Shore HQ!

HOGAN FOR GOVERNOR HQ
4:00PM
1801 North Salisbury Blvd
Salisbury, MD 21801

Stop by and see Larry and pick up your Hogan supplies!

As a member of the Central Committee, I’ve been referring to this building as the Lower Shore Victory Center, or just “headquarters” or “Mister Paul’s” (the former occupant.) The Wicomico County Republican Club calls it the “Eastern Shore Victory Headquarters.” Did I miss something?

Do Republicans want Larry Hogan to win? Well, all but three percent of them did in a recent poll. But the last time we had a Republican governor, there was something missing: party development. All of the effort and money went toward getting Bob Ehrlich re-elected and not so much in candidate grooming and local campaigns which could have used the help. So we ended up with a debt-ridden party without a bench, and I’m not interested in a repeat of that mistake.

So I have a problem with being invited to the “Hogan for Governor” headquarters, even though that will be one of its primary functions. To a lot of local people, it’s more important to elect Addie Eckardt and Mike McDermott to the State Senate, Carl Anderton, Jr., Christopher Adams, and Johnny Mautz to become our newest Delegates, and Bob Culver as our County Executive. Many of my friends are pounding the pavement for those races, figuring Hogan can take care of himself – so why is he looking for all the credit? (It also just dawned on me that it would be a complete turnover in those particular positions, something sorely needed.)

Maybe it’s just bad optics to me. But it’s worth remembering that Hogan didn’t win this county, David Craig did.

So I’m hoping that when Larry comes down, he will refer to it properly as an Eastern Shore Victory Headquarters and not “his” headquarters. When you need 65-70% of the local vote to have a chance, a little respect goes a long way.

And while I’m thinking about Hogan, a few words about his fundraiser with Chris Christie. Do I agree with Chris Christie on a lot of issues? In a Presidential sense, not really. Does it bother me that Larry Hogan is bringing him to Maryland to fundraise? Absolutely not. Christie isn’t my cup of tea, but if it raises a lot of money that’s good for everyone.

On the other hand, Allen West is more my cup of tea and he’ll be here later this month. So save the date of September 27 and your pennies because these events will be helping three different entities: West’s Guardian PAC (which is supporting, among others, Dan Bongino), the state GOP, and the local party units.

District 38C House: Davis vs. Carozza

It’s a lot like yesterday’s report on Senate District 37: the Republican has a wide fundraising lead on a Democrat. But in this case, we’re looking at an open District 38C seat with no incumbent. And while the Democrat in the race, Judy Davis, had a primary opponent in Mike Hindi, the little money she raised was enough to get her through the primary to face Mary Beth Carozza, who was unopposed for the GOP bid.

You can see just how wide of a gap there is by looking at the comparison chart below. Again, be patient with Google Docs as I’m using .pdf files for these inserts.

Download (PDF, 5KB)

What also jumped out at me in this comparison was the amount of money coming from outside the district, which for the sake of simplicity I define as the 218xx zip code area. Both Davis and Carozza received over 40% of their contributions from outside the region, with Carozza just a few dollars shy of 50 percent. Yet it’s interesting where this out-of-district money came from.

In Mary Beth Carozza’s case, a lot of her money comes from connections she made in Washington during her tenure there as a legislative assistant and George W. Bush administration appointee. Her work for the Ohio Congressional delegation was rewarded by a number of contributions from the state, where she hosted a fundraiser last year. In her first report that covered the inception of her campaign to the initial days of 2014, over 70% of her funding came from out-of-state, mainly from the Washington, D.C. area and Ohio. Those Ohio connections, as well as work for Maine Sen. Susan Collins, proved valuable in the category of federal committees, as Mary Beth received money from the Buckeye Patriot PAC, Dirigo PAC, and Promoting Our Republican Team PAC, as well as the campaigns of Mike DeWine, Steve Stivers, and Pat Tiberi. DeWine is a former Senator from Ohio who is now the state’s Attorney General, while Stivers and Tiberi currently serve in Congress representing parts of the state.

But as the campaign has evolved, the percentage of money raised locally has increased. In her last report, Mary Beth raised about 80% of her money locally.

On the other hand, there was a spike in out-of-district collections for Judy Davis when her son hosted a fundraiser for her in New York City, as well as another one in the most recent reporting period from a variety of sources. In all, however, it’s obvious that Carozza has a more broad and deep base of support from private individuals, although Carozza can boast a smattering of support from business and LLCs that Davis hasn’t had. Carozza has also collected the one Maryland PAC donation, from the Maryland Farm Bureau PAC.

Both Davis and Carozza have had modest contributions from local political clubs, but it’s worth noting that three campaigns have transferred money to Mary Beth’s account: former Wicomico County Council candidate Muir Boda transferred $40, Worcester County Commissioner Judy Boggs added $100, and Delegate Kathy Szeliga pitched in a total of $350 in two separate donations.

Something I found interesting among the expenditures is that Mary Beth apparently has a campaign office to work from, as she pays rent for it monthly. She’s also a big Staples customer, as she bought equipment there to set up the office.

But the more important line item was the over $35,000 she spent getting the word out on her campaign – everything from printing up all manner of signage to newspaper ads to social media. (And yes, in the interest of full disclosure, there’s a little something for me in there as well because she’s advertised here.) Carozza’s burned a lot of gasoline, too. Judy Davis has gone along a similar path, but to a lesser extent.

Carozza seems to be using a few outside consultants: of note, she’s spent $395 a month on Morton Herbert, LLC of Towson for, among other things, website design and maintenance, and used Campaign On for the direct mailing ($4,593.27.) And while it’s not a large expense, she paid $480 to Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice LLP. Maryland political insiders know that better as Bob Ehrlich’s law firm.

One other interesting disparity: Carozza paid Edward Blakely of Annapolis a total of $706 for two campaign videos, while Davis had one done by Chase Whiteside of Cincinnati as a $3,000 in-kind donation.

But on the whole, these aren’t the most exciting of campaign finance reports. It’s interesting that Carozza had a number of fairly well-known Republican names donate to her campaign at the start, but that’s been mainly replaced by a local grassroots effort over the last few months. Unlike some of the others profiled, in the case of both Davis and Carozza there doesn’t seem to be a vested interest in all that outside money aside from getting someone they know and have dealt with over the years elected.

Next week I’ll shift westward to look at Districts 38A and 38B.

The pleasing poll

It was just about this time in 2010 that Bob Ehrlich had his last positive poll – a Rasmussen Poll had the Maryland race tied at 47-47. Granted, the former election calendar dictated a primary was still to come but it was presumed early on (particularly as the state party had its thumb on the scale) that Ehrlich would be the nominee.

But as time wore on and people began to pay attention, the thought of returning to the era of Ehrlich seemed to turn voters off, as the race which was single-digits until mid-October turned suddenly and forcefully Martin O’Malley’s way in the end, as he won going away by 14 points. This blowout for O’Malley had a few coattails as well, as the GOP lost two Maryland Senate seats (but gained six House of Delegates seats, solace in an otherwise contrarian election here in Maryland given the 2010 national TEA Party wave.)

We have no idea if the same will hold true with different players in 2014, but the Maryland GOP was pleased to release a poll which showed the race between Larry Hogan and Anthony Brown was within the margin of error. Granted, it was from a Republican pollster and perhaps slightly oversampled Republicans but the results still have some merit.

As the OnMessage, Inc. pollsters write:

The ballot currently stands at 45% for Brown, 42% for Hogan, 4% for Libertarian Shawn Quinn and 9% undecided. In deep blue Maryland, that signals real trouble for Governor O’Malley’s right hand man. More importantly, Independents favor Hogan by 8 points with a quarter still undecided. That’s remarkable considering that Hogan is still unknown to most Independents with an image of 27% favorable and 14% unfavorable. But Independents know Brown better and don’t particularly like what they see. Brown’s image among Independents currently stands at 32% favorable to 39% unfavorable.

I can easily gather two things about this race: one is that Shawn Quinn will get 1% if he’s lucky, and the other three percent will likely break toward Hogan by a 2:1 margin. It’s also an axiom that undecideds tend to break for the challenger; despite the fact the seat is an open seat Brown as LG has to be considered the incumbent. It’s a scenario which could be a repeat of the 1994 gubernatorial race.

Insofar as the numbers go, the sample used by OnMessage is a 51-32 D-R split, which oversamples registered Republicans by about five points. However, if Republicans are motivated to turn out and Democrats are dispirited, that turnout model may not be bad. And when just 51% of Democrats feel the state is on the right track (while 64% of independents and 88% of Republicans think things are going the wrong way) the motivation should be on the GOP side.

It’s also worth mentioning that Brown is already leaking 15% of Democratic votes to Hogan while just 3% of Republicans back Brown. The only reliable constituency Anthony Brown has is the black vote, which is at an 87-5 margin – hence the Michael Peroutka scare tactics being used as a dog whistle to minority voters.

Even though it’s a Republican poll, the trend has to be a little disturbing to Democrats. Earlier in the summer, Brown had a massive lead over Hogan – up 18 in a June Washington Post poll, and up 13 in separate July CBS News and Rasmussen polls – so to see that melt away to no worse than single digits has to shake up the Brown campaign. It explains why they’re throwing the kitchen sink at Hogan on social issues, trying to distract attention from Brown’s pitiful and puny record of political accomplishments.

Obviously the fight in this election will be how well Hogan can stick to his message of fiscal responsibility. Now that the primary is over, we don’t have to fight on degrees of difference so when the Democrats try and change the subject I’m not going to allow it. It’s time for fiscal responsibility and competence, and Maryland Democrats over the last eight years have shown little of either.

The most popular Republican in Maryland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climbing rather than digging

I saw Delegate and Senate candidate Mike McDermott at a tri-county Republican Central Committee meeting the other evening, and he updated us on his campaign – in a nutshell, he said turnout would be key. Pretty basic stuff.

Unfortunately, that basic stuff seems to elude Maryland Democrats when it comes to the economy, as McDermott explained in a separate statement I received Wednesday:

As Americans, we understand that people can make mistakes. As we grow up, we learn from our mistakes so that we do not stumble a second time. Wise people do not often make the same mistake twice.

There is an old proverb which states, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Governor O’Malley and Senator Mathias are not exceptions to this rule.

Eight years ago when these two men took office together, Maryland enjoyed a billion dollar surplus at the end of Republican Bob Ehrlich’s first term as governor. Our state played host to 11 Fortune 500 companies. We were #25 on the list of “Business Friendly States,” poultry operations were expanding, and the future of agriculture in Maryland looked bright. Our people were happy to live here and most had no thoughts of moving away.

Eight years with O’Malley and Mathias have shown the devastating effects of their big government economic policies and made it clear that they do not learn from their past or their mistakes. Their shared philosophy promoting government as the answer to any problem has turned our surplus into deficits. While every state experienced the recession, Maryland has struggled to regain its footing, and some of our counties are simply not recovering. It is a failure of policy, not our people.

Of those 11 Fortune 500 companies…only 1 remains in Maryland and that is McCormick Inc. Based on recent news accounts, even the folks who gave us “Old Bay” seasoning are soon to relocate to Pennsylvania. These companies have not gone out of business, they just cannot afford to operate in a state run by folks who do not know how to be “business friendly.”

Being known as a “Business Friendly” state should be our goal. O’Malley, and his apologists like Mathias, have moved us from #25 all the way down to #42. We are surrounded by businesses that have closed shop, companies that simply do not exist anymore, and large retailers that have boarded up and moved away. Business has a thin bottom line that liberal lawmakers have never understood. Every increase to the cost of doing business must be passed on to consumers who have less money to spend. Liberals apparently skipped their Economics 101 class to attend Advanced Hole Digging 301.

It’s obvious that Maryland’s not doing it right. Just look at the survey of small business people I cited yesterday and compare us to Texas or even Virginia. We could do far worse than to replicate the business climate of Virginia or Texas – although every aspect may not be a perfect fit, the overall change would likely steer us in the right direction. Just look at North Carolina as another example – while they ranked 44th in State Business Tax Climate (Maryland was 41st in the same survey) the Tax Foundation study authors noted:

While not reflected in this year’s edition, a great testament to the Index’s value is its use as a success metric for comprehensive reforms passed this year in North Carolina. While the state remains ranked 44th for this edition, it will move to as high as 17th as these reforms take effect in coming years.

A leap like that would take North Carolina from a ranking which lags behind all its adjacent states and vault them into second behind Tennessee.

And while McDermott doesn’t get into policy specifics, let me whisper something into his ear: a complete elimination of corporate taxes would only “cost” the state $1.011 billion, or less than 3% of its budget. The year-over-year increase was larger than that! If Larry Hogan has that $1.75 billion of waste in his pocket, someone should get that corporate tax elimination proposal on his desk before February is out. It would be nice to have the first session after an election be devoted to major tax cuts rather than big hikes like 2007 and (to a lesser extent) 2011 were. (See update below.)

It truly is Economics 101: if you take a smaller slice from business, their profitability grows and they can be larger players in supporting the regional economy by investing in new workers and equipment. Those new workers and equipment provide more value, which builds the tax base and allows government to cut rates just a little bit more.

At one time, Maryland was booming – a condition I can attest to because that’s why I came here in the first place. Let’s see what we can do to get back to those conditions.

Update: In a subsequent release, McDermott gave me half a loaf, advocating for a 50% reduction in corporate taxes. Not bad. On the economic front he also calls for cutting income taxes, streamlining bureaucracy and relieving the regulatory burden to give Maryland ”an attitude as a state that our job is to ‘permit’ not ‘deny’,” and allow the first $50,000 of retirement income to be tax free.

Head south, everyone!

July 15, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off 

Crisfield is the southernmost town in Maryland, but one day per summer it becomes the state’s political capital. Anyone familiar with Maryland politics knows that a summer tradition is standing around on the blacktop at Somers Cove Marina waiting for crabs and watching politicians try to create a show of support. But this year’s affair promises to be somewhat different than ones in years past, perhaps getting the feel of one held the year after the previous gubernatorial election.

This is because, for the first time, we already know for sure who the nominees will be. In years past we had a primary just weeks away but that’s no more. So Anthony Brown will be there, presumably with a cadre of blue-shirted volunteers who will head straight to the AFSCME tent. Larry Hogan’s posse will arrive at some point and the question will be how much smaller will his be, as it always seems Republican groups are smaller.

If things hold as they have over the past few years, there will be a steady stream of traffic going by the GOP tent, if only because Bruce Bereano’s bipartisan party is generally right across the walkway; meanwhile, the Democrats will hole up in the opposite corner by the cove, near a place I generally go to get some shade as I walk around. The only difference is that shade may not be such a requirement – the forecast for Crisfield tomorrow is for temperatures only in the upper 70s but a chance of rain throughout the afternoon after a stormy early morning. It could affect the business portion of the event, as a number of local businesses use this as a party for their employees and clients. (It’s not just politicians having a good time – I have some beer pong photos from a few years back. I was not a participant.)

I have no insight as to how ticket sales are doing, aside from knowing we sold most of our allotment. I do know this will be the ninth straight one I’ve gone to (beginning in 2006) and a lot of things have stayed pretty constant. Something worth noting from 2006 is that then-Governor Ehrlich skipped the event – and lost. Martin O’Malley didn’t skip the event in 2006 and 2010, and won.

But instead of blast-furnace hot as is usual, we may be drowned rat wet. Fortunately, there are tents but those cardboard box halves may come in handy as makeshift umbrellas. (Pro tip: don’t forget the box half, although occasionally campaigns will be one step ahead and bring a bunch. It’s a good place to use old bumper stickers.)

In any event, be looking for me. I got my ticket last week and will be there with my little camera taking pictures as I have for most of the last several years. I have a lot of good memories of Tawes and met some fine people, so there’s no reason to stop going now.

Team players

I’ve heard a lot of talk about nominees who are RINOs and sitting out the election because so-and-so won the primary and they don’t want to vote for the “lesser of two evils,” and it always amazes me because this doesn’t happen on the other side. Here’s a case in point from a fawning AP story by Steve LeBlanc about Senator (and potential Presidential candidate) Elizabeth Warren.

Now, Warren is continuing her fundraising efforts, with a planned Monday event with West Virginia Democratic Senate hopeful Natalie Tennant. Tennant, West Virginia’s secretary of state, is vying with U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito for the seat held by retiring Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller. Capito is favored and holds a hefty cash advantage.

Capito’s campaign has also been quick to target Warren, calling her “one of the staunchest opponents of coal and West Virginia’s way of life.”

Warren has conceded that she and Tennant — who, like (Kentucky Democrat Senate nominee Alison Lundergan) Grimes, has criticized Obama’s plans to limit carbon emissions from the coal industry — don’t agree on everything, but can come together on economic issues facing struggling families.

So it’s obvious that the Democrats have their own 80/20 rule, but unlike some on our side they don’t take their ball and go home based on the non-conformance of the 20.

We had our primary, and at the top of the ticket there were 57% who voted for someone else besides our nominee – many of those live here on the Eastern Shore, where David Craig received 49.6% of the vote and carried seven of the nine counties. There can be a case made that Craig’s running mate, Eastern Shore native and resident Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, was a huge factor in his success here, but the fact remains that this area I live in was one of the two areas Hogan was weakest (the other being southern Maryland, where Charles Lollar resides.) These are votes Hogan will need, and surely many will migrate his way because he’s the Republican nominee.

On the other hand, Anthony Brown got a majority of the Democratic vote and carried all but a few counties. Those three on the Eastern Shore, plus Carroll County, aren’t places Brown would expect to win in November anyway – except perhaps Kent County, which was the lone county Heather Mizeur won and which only backed Mitt Romney by a scant 28 votes in 2012.

The path to victory for any statewide Republican candidate is simple, because Bob Ehrlich did this in 2002 – roll up huge margins in the rural areas and hold your own in the I-95 corridor. Ehrlich won several rural counties with over 70% of the vote in 2002, and got 24%, 38%, and 23% in Baltimore City, Montgomery County, and Prince George’s County, respectively. When that formula didn’t happen in 2006, he lost.

Granted, demographic changes and other factors may not allow Larry Hogan to pick up 65% of the vote in Anne Arundel County, 61% in Baltimore County, or 56% in Charles County, but it’s possible he does slightly better in Prince George’s and may hold some of those other areas. Turnout is key, and we know the media will do its utmost to paint Anthony Brown as anything other than an incompetent administrator and uninspiring candidate – as the natural successor to Martin O’Malley, who has done a wonderful job further transforming this state into a liberal’s Utopian dream at the expense of working Maryland families, one would have expected Brown to have picked up at least 60% of the Democratic primary vote.

Yet you can bet your bottom dollar that even the most diehard Mizeur and Gansler supporters may hold their nose but will still push that spot on the screen next to Anthony Brown’s name. They may have several points of contention with Brown on key issues, but the other side will push those aside to maintain power.

Perhaps Natalie Tennant over in West Virginia had misgivings for a moment about inviting Elizabeth Warren for a fundraiser, but she realized that there is a segment of her would-be supporters who would gladly contribute more to her campaign to meet Senator Warren, despite the fact they are on opposite sides of a particular issue. To Warren, the end goal of holding that seat in her party’s hands and maintaining a Democrat-controlled Senate was more important than conformity with the one place where Tennant may go against leftist orthodoxy.

If we’re to upset the apple cart here in Maryland, we have to deal with the obvious flaws in Larry Hogan’s philosophy and platform at the most opportune time – when he takes office.

Debating the coverage

It’s a political tradition stretching back decades, but the debate over how executive debates will be conducted is generally as interesting as the debates themselves.

In a Thursday news dump before the Independence Day holiday, the Anthony Brown – Ken Ulman campaign proposed three debates “maintaining the tradition set from previous gubernatorial elections… this schedule will reach more Marylanders by ensuring that all of the debates are broadcast statewide.” Basically, one would be on WJZ out of Baltimore (co-sponsored by the Baltimore Sun), one would be on WRC in Washington (co-sponsored by the Washington Post), and the last would be on Larry Young’s WOLB-AM morning show in Baltimore, “partnered” with the Kojo Nnamdi show on WAMU-FM. All three would be broadcast statewide on either Maryland Public Television or NPR. A lieutenant governor debate would be added, at an unspecified location in western Maryland.

Larry Hogan blasted the Brown-Ulman proposal:

We think that the voters of Maryland deserve the opportunity to know the differences between us. We have accepted every invitation received to date without any restrictions whatsoever as to the format and have also called for debates in all regions of the state.

We have said we would be pleased to participate in debates on all the Baltimore, Washington, Salisbury and Hagerstown television stations and before any important organization anywhere in Maryland.

We believe the people of Maryland deserve a real clear choice for a change and we plan to give it to them. They deserve to hear from both of us and we hope Anthony Brown will agree to frequent, substantive and real debates on the serious issues facing our state.

Interestingly enough, Hogan has agreed to three forums so far, sponsored by the Maryland Municipal League, Maryland Association of Counties, and WBFF-TV, which is Baltimore’s Fox affiliate. Personally I think it’s a good start. As there are over two dozen television stations in the Maryland and Washington, D.C. markets, it’s not realistic to think that each can sponsor its own debate but I think the idea of one each for Baltimore, Washington, Hagerstown, and Salisbury covers the state very well.

But the devil is in the details and in the political reality: Brown is about 15 points ahead – or so polls suggest – and has far more money to spend than Hogan does. So it’s in Brown’s best interest to let the air out of the ball and limit debate. He can afford to bombard the airwaves with commercials which define the message as he wishes to – look for a reworking of his record and lies about how bad things were under Bob Ehrlich, and the fewer debates and appearances where he can misspeak or make a gaffe, the better for him.

And there’s also the question of opening up the debate to other candidates. At this point there’s only a Libertarian candidate in the race besides Hogan and Brown, but it’s possible we could get a Green Party candidate or independent run. Do the minor party aspirants get a place at the table? Depending on who else decides to run, the answer from Brown may be “yes” – not only does it splinter the opposition to have a Libertarian in the race, it also leaves less airtime for Hogan to make good points or Brown to mess up. If a Green Party candidate comes in, though, the answer may become “no” because they tend to take from Democrats.

I suspect that Larry Hogan may be talking to some empty chairs at some of the venues where he’s accepted invitations. But even if he does have to accept Brown’s terms, the key will be in the moderation and questioning. Someone from the Washington Post or Baltimore Sun will be sure to pitch items in Brown’s wheelhouse, so there should be voices from other media outlets as well. I can think of a good conservative member of the “new media” who might have a question or two to ask.

The Mississippi mud

Here’s the problem with being a conservative Republican. It’s a little bit like an adage we heard during the Long War against terrorism – we have to be successful 100% of the time or else there is no success.

This brings me to the situation in Mississippi, where Chris McDaniel had an apparent victory snatched from him because those who would nominally be Democrats decided to vote for the establishment Republican incumbent, 76-year-old Thad Cochran. Cochran has spent nearly half his life in the United States Senate, but lost the initial primary by 0.5% to McDaniel. In many states (including Maryland) that would have been the end, but Mississippi election rules demand a runoff when no candidate attains a majority and Cochran won the rematch with thousands of black voters switching allegiance to support Cochran. One member of the Congressional Black Caucus has already said “we have expectations” for Cochran – but promised to campaign for his Democratic opponent.

A friend and supporter of mine sent this e-mail, saying it made her “angry and confused,” and asked me for comment. First of all, it’s another reason why I’ve stopped giving to party organizations and simply give to individual candidates.

But it’s also another illustration of what Angelo Codevilla calls the “ruling class” spending thousands to maintain its grip on power – perhaps it’s the one bipartisan effort in our nation’s capital right now. He wrote a fine piece on this very situation, and thanks to the folks at Blue Ridge Forum for pointing it out.

Now I will cheerfully tell you I’m not the be-all and end-all of political experts – after all, if I were I think I may have been able to pull off the most recent election. But it seems to me that the overall lack of growth in the Republican Party on a national scale isn’t because they’re too conservative, but because they aren’t conservative enough. Most people who leave the party don’t switch to the Democratic column but to independent or unaffiliated status.

So there was an election in Mississippi where the chances were really good the Republicans would retain the seat. If you asked conservatives around the country who they thought would be the better Senator, I would guess the vast majority would say Chris McDaniel – if for no other reason than to oust a 36-year Washington incumbent. You would probably get the same response in Mississippi, which is why the Cochran side had to appeal to Democrats to maintain their hold on the seat, smearing the TEA Party along the way. (Never mind that the TEA Party is one key reason Senate Republicans are even sniffing the chance for a majority this year.)

More than ever, after this McDaniel debacle the clamor will rise for a third party. Obviously Democrats would love this because it would guarantee perpetual power for them, even if they’re not a majority of the voting public. As we see time and time again, Democrats stick together regardless of who wins their primaries. Here in Maryland, the Doug Gansler and Heather Mizeur supporters won’t take their ball and go home like disaffected Republicans do – they will pull the “D” lever right down the line beginning with Anthony Brown. He may not be their preferred candidate, but as long as the goodies keep flowing they really don’t care.

Having said all that, though, I think the rumors of the TEA Party’s demise are a little overblown; however, it is developing its own ruling class. That’s the problem, because when it was just about activism we were at our most effective.

One thing I’m not hearing much about in the Mississippi race – granted, I’m not on the ground there so take from it what you will – is any GOTV effort on McDaniel’s part. There was a lot of money spent on political ads, but perhaps the most effective spending was that done on the robocalls and flyers which whipped up the black vote. That spending gave the most benefit to Cochran – yet no one wants to take credit for it! Wonder why?

Some years ago, Republicans were pilloried for an ill-advised robocall here in Maryland to benefit one of their own, despite the fact it was the doing of a former Democratic chief of staff and rough-and-tumble operative. Hopefully the Mississippi media will be as curious about the origins of that Cochran robocall as Maryland’s was about the Ehrlich one, and justice will be served as it was with the Ehrlich robocall.

I suppose the lesson our side has to learn is that you can never take anything for granted except for one fact: those in power will stop at nothing to keep it. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Update: And now we get the prospect of vote buying – by Republicans. We can joke all we want about Democrats securing votes from the graveyard, but thanks to the lust for power by the Beltway establishment, our hands are forever sullied as well.

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