The price to pay

August 14, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2016, Campaign 2016 - President, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The price to pay 

It really wasn’t my intention to write about this election very much, as I would rather try to shape post-Trump conservatism, but there is an occasion here for a lesson to be taught.

Late last week we began hearing the rumbles about a letter to the RNC, signed by a number of concerned party members, urging them to stop financially supporting the flailing Trump campaign and concentrate their declining finances on saving the House and Senate from a Democratic takeover. The latter was already a strong possibility thanks to the sheer number of Republican seats in play – the TEA Party wave election of 2010 comes home to roost this year in the Senate. Among those signing are onetime Maryland YR chair Brian Griffiths and my “partner in crime” Heather Olsen, who resigned earlier this summer as county chair in Prince George’s County because she, too, could not support Donald Trump as the GOP nominee.

While I have had my differences with Griffiths over the years, it’s more rare that I disagree with my friend Heather. Yet I believe there are two good arguments for keeping Trump in the GOP financial loop, despite their (likely correct) contention that it’s “throwing good money after bad.”

First of all, those who climbed aboard the Trump Train early on were completely and utterly convinced that he would absolutely steamroller Hillary Clinton just as he has built up his business empire. But now that the polls being reported on a near-daily basis continue to find Trump not only losing nationally but putting several “safe” GOP states in play, these backers not only claim the polls are “fake” but also point to other (non-scientific) polls showing Trump has a “YUGE” lead and analysis saying he’ll win in a “landslide.” So apparently this money is going to a good cause, right? These militant Trumpkins are going to be covered regardless – either he wins and then the purge of the #NeverTrump group from the GOP begins, or he loses because he said early on “I’m afraid the election going to be rigged.”

So if you withhold the GOP money from Donald Trump, it’s just going to be another thing to blame his loss on. “We had these huge rallies and we knew we had this election in the bag,” they will wail, “but Reince Priebus and the GOP establishment wouldn’t give us any support – they must have been in cahoots with Hillary.” Don’t you dare give them that excuse.

As for the second reason, the Republican Party simply needs to be taught a lesson on its own and sometimes the only way to get the point across is letting them utterly fail. They had the chance, several times, to do something to avoid this situation – closed primaries, penalties for skipping debates and insistence on participation to the end, or allowing convention delegates to vote their conscience, as examples – but they did none of these things, allowing a candidate with far less than 50% of the Republican vote to skate off with the nomination. (This doesn’t count the policy failures of Republicans in Congress.) As I have said before: you break it, you bought it. Give Trump the money he’s due, and when the election is lost all of those involved will hopefully resign in disgrace for what they have done to a great party and a great country.

So when I get my appeals for donations to the national Republican party (and even the state version) I’m not giving them a dime. This is actually nothing new for me, since I would rather give to the individual candidate I believe in than a party organization that will be as likely to support a candidate edging left of center as it would a conservative (and perhaps more.) And too often they place their thumb on the scale in a primary even though it’s against their policy to do so. (Heather surely recalls Rule 11 being used for Maryland in 2010.)

It looks more and more likely that a bitterly divided Republican Party will endure electoral disaster unseen in a decade this November. (Maybe it’s years ending in 6, since the last several of those have been horrible for national Republicans – they lost all of Congress in 2006, Bob Dole lost in 1996, they lost the Senate in 1986, and Gerald Ford was defeated in 1976. 1966 was the last successful one.) But just as the Democrats are now split between the radical progressives that backed Bernie Sanders and the establishment which went for Clinton, the GOP is rent asunder by the schism between conservatism and the alt-right populism best expressed by Donald Trump (and, to a certain extent prior to that, Sarah Palin.)

Once we get to 2017, the question will be that of who blinks first. After the new Congress and administration is sworn in, it will be time for the GOP to get together and select new leadership. If things go as expected in November, the January RNC meeting will be must-see TV for political junkies as the fate of the resistance is determined.

But if the right people are placed in charge, the few million dollars wasted on Trump at the expense of Congress will be a memory because many may be willing to open their wallets again. In that respect, perhaps the Trump candidacy will be the catharsis the GOP needed to begin on a path to a post-Trump conservatism. We can only hope.

Falling on hard times

For the last month (and some time beyond) there has been a war of words between supporters of the former Chair of the Maryland Young Republicans, Brian Griffiths, and backers of the current Chair Kory Boone. It’s a situation which brings back thoughts of the Ws being missing on the computer keyboards when George W. Bush came into office in 2001 – in fact, Boone’s reaction is reminiscent of Bush’s as he is being rather silent about the whole thing.

On the other hand Griffiths continues to speak out, admonishing the new leadership by saying on his Red Maryland website that “(i)t’s a shame that they are wasting their time in office with minutiae and nonsense instead of being the ‘competent’ slate that they promised everybody they would be. Maybe it’s time to drop the vendettas, stop focusing on national YR politics, and see the big picture.”

Let me preface this by saying I was once in a smaller pair of shoes in my life – for a year (2000) I was president of the Toledo Metro Area Young Republican Club. And I’ll cheerfully admit that it was a learning experience for me and they probably would have done better if someone else had stepped up to the plate. But I was asked, so I accepted – maybe if my life at the time had been more settled it would have gone better.

One thing I learned, though – and the same thing is holding true in Maryland – is that Young Republican clubs tend to be cyclical. A crop of interested people start the club and they become the core group which runs it for a half-dozen years. But then that group ages out, moves away, or actually succeeds in winning elective office and suddenly no one is there to take over. About 6 to 8 years ago we had a Lower Shore YR chapter but it eventually became inactive. As it stood, dwindling interest meant the time was right for new leadership, and Maryland will get it.

But the change isn’t coming easily, and Griffiths doesn’t seem to be embracing it. Despite his promise that “I intend to make this (recent MDYR convention) my last Maryland YR event,” he’s since spoken out about proposed bylaw changes and fretted about losing the opportunity for Annapolis to host the 2017 national YR convention, an event which Griffiths admitted he was skeptical about in the beginning.

Meanwhile, questions have arisen about the financial state Boone inherited when he took over the leadership of the MDYRs. In a recent audit made available online, MDYR treasurer Eric Beasley essentially threw up his hands:

Given the lack of information (about the recent financial past), the MDYR Treasurer cannot establish a historical trend and create realistic goals for the organization to prosper in 2016 and 2018.

These issues highlighted above can be directly linked to a lack of efficient record keeping and management within the organization. Due to the severity of the issues, The MDYR Treasurer will be requesting all bank statements which are not available online and sending the entirety of financial information to a 3rd party auditor for review. The auditor will not be an active official within the Republican Party or any Republican-affiliated organization, elected or appointed. The individual will also have extensive experience with maintaining financial information.

Even if you chalk this up to sloppy record-keeping, the fact that the group is down to one chartered local group and a dearth of members (a paid membership which allegedly excluded Griffiths) is enough to make one believe that, first of all, the group really can’t be damaged anymore by the actions of its current leadership – if that were indeed the goal, which I doubt – and secondly, at least someone gave enough of a damn to want to steer the group in a new direction. Perhaps their fundraiser was a failure, as Griffiths charges, but they at least tried to have an event and spread the word that the YRs are active in the state.

When he came to our Central Committee meeting last month, Kory noted his goals for his tenure were to “establish local chapters (and) get local people elected.” First of all, the fact that he came to our local meeting to introduce himself was an improvement over the previous chair, who only seemed to show for events where he could somehow promote the Red Maryland brand, and secondly, Boone expressed goals that seem rather attainable with some field work and promotion.

The last crop of Lower Shore Young Republicans had among them a current staffer for Congressman Andy Harris (who also serves as president of the Wicomico County Republican Club), a former WCRC president who is now a County Councilman, and another who attempted to secure a Delegate seat in a difficult district but put up a good race. With Salisbury University being the logical feeder group of College Republicans (their incoming President went to WiHi here), there’s no reason a YR group can’t make it here if the state leadership shows some support – and it will eventually accrue dividends for the local GOP.

Brian Griffiths had his time in the sun, so it’s time for him to let someone else lead.

Oh, and by the way, those who harp on reaching out to the minority community may wish to know Kory is a member of same, from the desolate frontier (at least in GOP terms) of Prince George’s County. It’s not important as to how he does the job, but to those for whom perception is reality that’s a bonus.

So I look forward to seeing what Kory Boone can do.

Radio days volume 19

It was a whirlwind week for me in terms of radio appearances. First I was invited to do a segment on “Watchdog Wire Radio” which aired on Friday night regarding my recent release of the monoblogue Accountability Project. I was thrilled to give my baby a little more exposure, as I think it should be required reading for all Marylanders considering going to the polls.

So on Tuesday morning I was invited to record my segment, which we finally got to do Thursday night. (“Watchdog Wire Radio” is apparently one of at least two shows taped beforehand for later broadcast.)

Oddly enough, by that point I had already done an interview with Brian Griffiths, who conducted a number of interviews at the Tawes event. Mine was one of a number that happened to air on the Red Maryland Network’s Saturday “Election Focus” hour, joining the likes of gubernatorial candidates David Craig and Ron George, among others. I believe mine was the first one Brian did, since he was using me to check his levels and such. No biggie, someone has to do it.

So allow me to discuss the actual shows, “Watchdog Wire” first. The thing which sticks out at me about doing “Watchdog Wire Radio” is that I need to either sit closer to my computer or play around with the recording volume a little bit. Mark does his interviews via Skype, and while I’ve worked with it before I’d always done it on my desktop computer. It’s a little different on my laptop, which has a built-in camera and microphone (although I didn’t need the camera.) So maybe I need to lean into it.

As for the content, I was pretty pleased with how it went initially, although I think I bogged down a little bit talking about the accolades and admonishments. It shocked me, though, that I had the entire first half of the 50-minute show. Obviously host Mark Newgent came prepared with a lot of questions for me, but I didn’t think I had that lengthy of a segment. This is particularly true when I was one of four pieces.

There were a couple of things I could have kicked myself for. One is that I didn’t explain the point system and the reason 25 votes is easy math – each correct vote is four points. I also have deductions of 1 to 6 points for absences, not voting while present, and changing a vote to incorrect (which is possible in the House, as is the half-credit I give for switching to the correct side.)

The second is not being able to navigate through it as quickly as I should have. I knew exactly the bill I was referring to for Delegate Norman, but couldn’t locate the title. Obviously there’s much more to the mAP than just the votes and accolades, as I try to give a reason why I would or wouldn’t support a bill. We also didn’t get into the committee votes, which I suppose is just as well because you should always leave an audience wanting more.

Well, they got more on Saturday night, right off the bat. The first ten minutes or so of “Election Focus” was my interview at Tawes. This made sense because, as I noted above, I was first out of the chute. Given the roster of guests I don’t mind being an opening act.

Once I got used to Brian Griffiths’ rapid-fire delivery and got into the flow of things, I think I did all right (except for not recalling Laura Neuman’s name.) Listening to the rest of the interviews, I noticed Brian is that way with most of them. On the other hand, you can tell I’m from the Midwest because I speak more slowly.

And because I was sort of the “home team” for this effort – and they knew I’d done several recaps of Tawes – I enjoyed giving the lowdown on the local scene around the lower Eastern Shore. Perhaps I was a little tongue-tied speaking about the second bananas on the Republican ticket, but I think I have a pretty good idea of what’s going on around here.

Overall, “Election Focus” seems to be an interesting show for Marylanders to get to hear from a number of candidates from top to bottom on the ballot. (It will be better when it’s not “300 degrees,” apparently.) With about 48 weeks or so until the primary, there’s a lot of airtime to fill. I was happy to do my little part.

The declaration of (courting) independents

It doesn’t seem like this issue will ever die.

You might recall that after our Maryland GOP Spring Convention earlier this year I posted a piece critiquing the thoughts of Don Murphy, a former Delegate and longtime party activist who has been fighting a crusade for many years to open up the Republican primary to unaffiliated voters, perhaps with the idea of welcoming them to the party eventually. His reasoning seemed sound: a number of like-minded Northeastern states open their primaries because they have a plurality of unaffiliated voters.

But the MDGOP appears to be interested in revisiting the process, as Erin Cox writes in the Baltimore Sun, and it may set us up for yet another contentious convention this fall in Annapolis. And while Brian Griffiths uses the evidence of past election results in his post on Red Maryland today, I honestly believe that’s a little bit of a red herring argument.

In Maryland today, the registration numbers lay out as follows (from the June report):

  • Democrats: 2,073,619 (55.6%)
  • Republicans: 959,120 (25.7%)
  • minor parties – Libertarian, Green, Americans Elect, and other unrecognized: 59,644 (1.6%)
  • unaffiliated: 636,716 (17.1%)

Four years ago at the same point in the cycle, the percentages weren’t a lot different. There are now 300,000 more voters in Maryland, but numerically they line up similarly:

  • Democrats: 1,942,336 (56.9%)
  • Republicans: 909,848 (26.7%)
  • minor parties and other unrecognized: 80,034 (2.3%)
  • unaffiliated: 478,817 (14.0%)

A number of the unaffiliated are likely former Independents, which is no longer a separate category.

And I’m sure some fret that eventually the unaffiliated will catch up to the Republicans – a 3% gain every four years coupled with a 1% loss in Republicans would put that date sometime early next decade. My contention, however, is that there are a significant proportion of Democrats who are so because their primary is the only race they can vote on.

But opening up the GOP primary to unaffiliated voters isn’t going to be enough of a draw for voters who have no local Republican candidates on the ballot for whom to vote. For example, in Prince George’s County’s 2010 primary – perhaps the most unbalanced in the state – once you departed the federal and statewide races there were exactly zero contested GOP races at the legislative level and just two local races (both for Central Committee seats) where the GOP had more contenders than winners. I admire the Prince George’s GOP for their efforts (my “partner in crime” Heather Olsen hails from there) but what would help them more than anything are candidates willing to stand up and hoist the GOP banner. Allowing unaffiliated voters into the GOP primary wouldn’t change the game.

Now I’m sure those who favor the idea will argue I used the most extreme example. Yet even if every single voter not connected with the Democratic Party decided to become a Republican, AND we could attract the 10 percent or so of Democrats statewide who are affiliated that way because their daddy was a Democrat but vote straight-ticket Republican – we’re still a minority. Barely, but still looking at a deficit and up against the hardcore elements of a power-drunk party.

Personally, though, I think the idea seems to come up when the Republicans are threatening to run conservative candidates for office. When I was living in Ohio, their Republican Party always seemed to anoint the most moderate candidate and overtly try and eliminate any more conservative primary competition for that person. And what did we get? Sixteen years of ruining the Republican brand with tax-and-spend governors, particularly Bob Taft. (Unfortunately, John Kasich isn’t doing much better now that he’s been spooked by the unions.)

Here in Maryland, the talk of opening up the primary died down when Bob Ehrlich won and through the three cycles where he was the all-but-endorsed choice of the Maryland GOP apparatus there was no chatter about adding unaffiliated voters to the mix. But now that we have a more spirited competition between several good candidates, the powers-that-be are presumably trying to make sure the most moderate, “electable” candidate prevails. As a conservative, pro-liberty Marylander who would like to see a governor tell the Democrats it’s his way or the highway, I would like a leader and not someone who sticks his finger up to see which way the wind is blowing. Mitt Romney and John McCain were supposed to be “electable” in a way that Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, et. al. were not.

If unaffiliated voters want to vote in a primary, it’s very easy to change your registration to Republican. Get good candidates worth voting for and they will come.

Update: A non-scientific poll by Jackie Wellfonder at Raging Against the Rhetoric found that support was perfectly mixed: 44% for, 44% against, and 12% undecided out of 75 who responded.

Quotable tax quotes

July 2, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Quotable tax quotes 

Yesterday Maryland wallets got a little bit lighter as travelers over most of Maryland’s tollways had to dig a little deeper into their wallets, and those motorists unfortunate enough to need to fill up their gas tanks chipped in another forty cents or so to the state’s coffers. (My travels take me to Delaware today – guess where I’ll fill up?) And those with property in nine of Maryland’s counties? They just saw a significant property tax increase. (The exceptions are the fourteen rural counties not yet covered by the state’s new “impervious surface fee” derisively known as the “rain tax” and those property owners in Frederick County who will pay exactly one penny per piece of property.)

Needless to say, a number of state Republicans weighed in on the topic:

State GOP Chair Diana Waterman: “This irresponsible taxation and the reckless spending it supports offers an opportunity for those of us who believe in good government. As Republicans, we are in a great position to remind our fellow Maryland residents why 2014 must be the year we send a loud message to the Democrats that it’s time to put people first.”

Maryland Young Republican Chair Brian Griffiths: “These taxes will hurt all Marylanders and huge sections of our economy as businesses are forced to raise prices to cover the costs of these new taxes, the costs of which will invariably be passed on to the consumers. At the end of the day, just these three tax increases will likely cost each Marylander over $1,000 a year that could be better spent to stimulate our economy and create job growth.”

Several other state Republican leaders were quoted on the Maryland Politics blog, part of the Baltimore Sun. Writer Michael Dresser quoted the group as calling this a “virtual downpour” of tax increases.

Candidates for Governor weren’t missing the opportunity, either.

David Craig: “(W)e are witnessing yet another example of how the one-party monopoly in Annapolis is working for itself and not for you. With the increase in tolls and the first of multiple increases in the gas tax, Maryland families are being forced to give more of their hard earned dollars to a failing and ineffective government.”

Craig also put together a brief video with a similar message. (Shouldn’t it have an authority line, though?)

On the rain tax, David added, “Stormwater-related costs necessary to comply with EPA mandates are projected to cost county taxpayers a staggering $6.3 billion through 2025. If you wanted to open a business with a parking lot, would you want to come to Maryland and figure out this new tax?”

Ron George: “O’Malley/Brown now are stealing from your summer vacation funds. Since they robbed and misspent what was needed for transportation, they are now grabbing your money through tolls, rain and gas. As you look at the bay bridge behind me, it is an example of what is happening around Maryland. More and more people on the Eastern Shore, which has lost manufacturing jobs, have to drive to Washington and Virginia for a job, if they have a job. Less and less people on the Western shore will drive to doctors and businesses on the Eastern Shore.”

“This is not how you build an economy.”

Charles Lollar: “To think that just a few weeks ago, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown stated that Maryland had a ‘great session’ makes me wonder what great accomplishment they had. Was it the Rain Tax that punishes citizens when it rains because of how much ‘impervious surface’ they have on their property? Was it the fee increase for tolls up to $6? Or was it the gas tax increase that pretty much goes up year after year?”

Even though he’s not a candidate, it’s no surprise that Change Maryland had some reaction as well.

Larry Hogan: “Your family trip to the beach just got a lot more expensive. Today, the second round of O’Malley toll increases took effect and the gas tax increase kicked in at the same time. While you are sitting in traffic at the Bay Bridge for the 4th of July weekend you can thank Governor O’Malley and the monopoly in Annapolis for the 140% increase in tolls, and for giving us the most expensive gas in the region.”

“Governor O’Malley says he’s ‘Moving Maryland Forward’. But if that’s moving Maryland forward, I say maybe next year, we’ll just have to take Maryland back!”

Needless to say, our governor didn’t look at it this way, placing a splashy graphic on his Facebook page:

These, of course, are numbers coming from the same guy who has “cut” billions in state spending yet whose budget has increased by 30% since taking office in 2007. At 9,500 jobs a year, he’s barely making a dent in Maryland’s chronic unemployment, nor is he accounting for the potential of job losses in various industries dependent on people having extra money, such as tourism. Just as a real-world example, it would take just over 22 years for O’Malley to get to full employment gaining 9,500 jobs a year (based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment estimate of 210,800 unemployed Maryland workers in May.) Obviously that doesn’t account for population growth, either.

But what slays me is the concept of building a “21st century transportation network” using the 19th century technology of the railroad. Granted, rail transport has its place in commerce and trade, but as currently practiced it is woefully inefficient for the needs of most commuters. (If it weren’t inefficient on an overall scale, why are such a small percentage of Maryland workers using it?) I think my concept of an improved transportation network – which could also include a widening of I-70 beyond Frederick, to avoid the usual bottleneck of merging I-270 traffic and allow smoother flow westward – is far more practical than the O’Malley/Brown vision.

The idea of a good transportation network is to get people and goods to where they need to go, not pretend that a light rail boondoggle which will cost billions is the panacea. I don’t think people would mind the additional transportation taxes and tolls as much if they were confident the money would be used to repair and improve our highways and bridges – instead, most of it seems to be earmarked for two rail lines and one toll road few will use.

Similarly, we all want a cleaner Chesapeake Bay, but the idea of a mandate from on high which affects some more than others and is to be used for a concept where fruition is a constantly-shifting set of goalposts (because it’s in the best interest for those who created the benchmarks to continue as a political entity if the problem is never solved) simply seems unfair to those saddled with paying this fee on top of their remaining tax burden.

That’s why we’re angry. But Democrats are wagering that all this will be forgotten in 17 months’ time, particularly as some of these transportation projects reach the groundbreaking stage, with its requisite photo-op.

But consider the relative lightness of your wallet when you see your local Democrat gladhanding at this photo-op. If we simply used proper prioritization for transportation funding, we wouldn’t have needed to raise the gas tax every year from here to eternity.

That’s the common sense woefully missing from state government.

2013 Maryland GOP Spring Convention in pictures and text (part 1)

As I have done in the past, part 1 will deal with my observations on Friday night and part 2 will deal with Saturday’s events.

When I finally arrived in Timonium, a good 45 minutes or so after beginning the stop-and-go battle with I-695 traffic that made me thankful I toil in the Salisbury environs, I knew I was at the right place almost immediately.

But not 15 seconds after I grabbed my bags and headed over to check in, I was greeted by these fine folks doing an old-fashioned sign wave.

So the battle was somewhat joined. And the Bailey forces weren’t deterred by the rain which began just after I arrived – they just moved inside, to the spacious Crowne Plaza lobby.

In the meantime, the people putting Blaine Young’s party together were in the middle of their setup, which included this “can’t miss” signage.

Having checked in and after immediately running into old friends in the lobby, I went to my room to freshen up and prepare for the Executive Committee meeting. I was told the Baltimore County suite would be opening first, so I was hoping to grab a bite to eat and say hello to those I knew therein.

But they weren’t quite open yet, and by the time I got back they were closing (more on that later.)

However, there was another suite with plenty of food available, perhaps the best selection. This was the Draft Charles Lollar suite, and although I didn’t get to say hello to the man himself, I will show that he had a nice spread of giveaway items, including several pocket Constitutions.

Alas, I did not get to add this bad boy to my collection. Instead, I retained the useless collection of losing raffle tickets I have paid for over the years.

On my way down to the Executive Committee meeting, I happened by the setting up of the Maryland Liberty PAC suite. As they did last fall, they had a lot of books for sale. Not sure about the flags, though.

They also were on the Bailey bandwagon, showing their support.

To me, it didn’t seem like there were nearly as many vendor tables as there were at past events. There was one with bundles and bundles of the red convention tote bags, but the only other one I noticed was the Stratgeic Victory Consulting table sitting there all forlorn.

One piece of advice for the nice ladies who run SVC – you need fresher peanuts.

We may need a fresher approach to the Executive Committee meeting, which began several minutes late.

It began well enough: Chair Diana Waterman asked for a moment of silence for the Boston bombing victims. But her report didn’t shed a lot of new light, as she recalled the “wonderful event” of the Reagan gala back in February and noted her predecessor resigned, “moving on to other endeavors.”

Looking at current events, Diana noted our Red, White, and Blue Dinner will be held June 20 with Paul Ryan as featured speaker, and proclaimed the Pathfinders program was “going strong.”

Nicolee Ambrose, in her National Committeewoman report, spoke about efforts on both the state and national levels to engage voters and train volunteers. On the state level, the Super Saturday program would return in an effort to register new voters. Saturday morning, she continued, would give activists an opportunity to learn about the new voter registration rules in the state.

On the national front, Nicolee spoke briefly about “another incremental step” in reworking the RNC rules but conceded “there is much to be done.”

Diana Waterman chimed in during Nicolee’s remarks regarding the voter registration efforts to point out that we were working on data services for our counties.

In his National Committeewoman report, Louis Pope gushed that he was “excited about our prospects…(after this weekend) we will go back to unity.” He spoke about the recent RNC meeting in Hollywood, joking that “we decided to invade their territory.” Included among those who addressed the event, Louis continued, were Michael Reagan, Dick Chaney, and Allen West. The party also discussed outreach with Asian and Hispanic leaders as well as CPAC speaker Mia Love. “Republicans need to get into their sphere,” warned Pope. The party was embracing ideas for change, but also was in the process of “internal soul-searching.”

Louis also talked briefly about the RNC rules, noting it was “pretty cool” that people were reading them. He also commented on being named to the leadership of the party’s Northeast region, an area where “Republican prospects are certainly improving.”

The main thrust of Brian Griffiths’ YR report was to stress how we should “put our best foot forward” in two key municipal races: Annapolis and Frederick. He was “really excited” about prospects in Frederick, where a number of young Republicans are seeking alderman posts.

Fiona Moodie, representing the College Republicans, made the case for giving her body and the Young Republicans a vote on the Executive Committee. Those adjunct organizations would join the Maryland Federation of Republican Women, who already have their vote.

Amidst the various county reports, one point which was brought up was the concept of regional gatherings or conventions similar to the one Montgomery County has. Obviously the smaller counties could team up to have enough of a critical mass to make them worthwhile.

On my way back from the Executive Committee meeting, which went into a quick closed session to discuss the budget, I stopped to check out David Craig’s room.

Surprisingly to me, there was plenty of room to move around.

By contrast, I walked next door to the Maryland Liberty PAC room and found a large group of passionate activists.

Arguably, it was the most lively of any hospitality suite although I will concede I didn’t stop by all of them.

At the time I walked in, Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothschild was speaking on the idea of nullification.

“I don’t think Martin O’Malley wants a dozen counties not following his orders,” Rothschild exclaimed. He is working on a blueprint ordinance for counties to resist the gun ordinance.

Outside of the Liberty PAC gathering, gubernatorial hopeful Blaine Young was wooing supporters with a fancy setup.

(Yes, the photo is dark. Not much light in there.)

For a second, though, I thought I ended up on the set of “The Bachelor.”

As it turns out, these roses were for the women who came in. As an added touch, each table was named after a leading female activist in the party. This one I know very well.

Yes, that would be my “partner in crime” Heather Olsen of Prince George’s County. We didn’t have much mischief cooked up for this rendition of the convention, but you never know what’s in the future…

My immediate future at that point was comprised of a lot of choices.

Even though I wasn’t supporting his bid for state Chair, I decided to pay a visit to Greg Kline’s combined suites, since those non-credentialed members of the new media were welcome there.

They were doing an episode of Red Maryland Radio (or Purple Elephant Politics, or both) as I came by.

As it turned out, I got a little guest role when Jimmy Braswell asked me a question about this post on Greg Kline. I spoke my piece, he spoke his, and we basically agreed to disagree. I also found out my fellow Central Committee member Joe Collins is a radio natural.

But because I was having so many other interesting conversations there, I never made it to a number of suites. Granted, there were extenuating circumstances, such as the fact Baltimore County was packing up theirs as I arrived – apparently at the behest of the hotel.

You see, I was actually pretty surprised to find that several hospitality suites were along the same corridor as my room. Since the hotel hadn’t hosted an event such as ours, they apparently had a number of noise complaints – as one consequence, the Red Maryland radio crew had to turn off their speakers.

Anyway, I never made it back to the MoCo, Bongino, or Diana Waterman suites to see how their action was. But I did see Dan since he was a Red Maryland guest after I was.

And the Red Maryland crew had a special surprise for Jackie Wellfonder as the dubbed her the Maryland Blogger of the Year. (Jackie thought they were going to give it to me, I knew she would get it for her hard work.) As I tweeted:

 

After several hours of conversation and a couple adult beverages, I realized it was well after 1:00 in the morning, so it was time to put myself (and this part) to bed. Part 2 will be tomorrow morning.

The Pope perspective

In this continuing saga of he said-she said regarding the status of who represents us on the Rules Committee of the Republican National Committee, one person had remained silent – until now. Yesterday a copy of a letter from Louis Pope was acquired by the folks at Red Maryland and posted on their site. (Update: I finally received my copy today, April 8. My mail is apparently slow out in the hinterlands.)

While Brian Griffiths, who wrote the Red Maryland piece and is an avowed supporter of Chair candidate Greg Kline, makes the case that Pope’s objection stems in part from a supposed quid pro quo between Virginia RNC member Morton Blackwell and former Maryland chair Alex Mooney regarding a book Mooney is writing, I’m more appalled that Pope believes “a great deal of misinformation has been flying around the Maryland Republican Party through various blogs, e-mail chains, letters, etc.” about the affair. If this has been so, the (undated) letter to “set the record straight” should have come out some time ago in order to clear the air.

Also intriguing is the implication that Waterman indeed did not make the decision on her own, but spoke to “senior leadership at the RNC who encouraged her to have me remain on the Rules Committee.”

To me, that says the RNC is really not serious about revisiting the rules adopted in Tampa. Sure, they will pay lip service to the concept of listening to the grassroots but in the end they’re really going to listen to the cadre of inside-the-Beltway consultants who are already sizing up the 2016 field and trying to determine who is both most malleable and “electable.” My guess would be Marco Rubio, who remains popular among activists despite his pro-amnesty immigration stance.

As one would also expect, Louis states his support for Diana Waterman, saying “I feel terrible to have put Diana in such an awkward position…she deserves our thanks and admiration, not our criticism.”

While I agree that Diana has performed a number of valuable services to the MDGOP over the last two years as First Vice-Chair, I cannot place her above criticism for the way she has handled this particular duty. Central Committee members are assured over and over again that communication is paramount, only to be bowled over by incidents such as this Rules Committee dustup. Having seen this before with the Rule 11 controversy in 2010 I really don’t like how this movie ends.

Pope goes on to talk about the Tampa rules changes, which he conveniently did not vote on because of his leadership position. At the time, of course, our National Committeewoman was Joyce Terhes, who was not going to rock the boat on her way out the door to a well-deserved retirement from party affairs. Nor is it apparent that Alex Mooney strenuously objected.

The only person who has stood up for the grassroots and voiced her objection was our newly-elected National Committeewoman, Nicolee Ambrose. Since she was the squeaky wheel who got the grease, it’s no surprise that Diana Waterman was “encouraged” to keep Louis Pope in the Rules Committee position.

Lastly, it should be noted that not all Central Committee members have received this message from Pope yet; to be fair, it may have been mailed to all the 300-plus membership and perhaps my copy hasn’t hit my mailbox yet.

But once again it seems to me the party insiders are trying to play their games and, as the aforementioned Griffiths has pointed out, be “the tallest midget in the room.” I’d rather stand tall on my principles, thank you.

Ten Question Tuesday – April 2, 2013

The other day I had the chance to chat with a fixture of the pro-liberty movement, Andrew Langer. He’s probably best known locally as an activist and internet radio personality, but he also serves as president of the Institute for Liberty. We touched on a lot of these subjects during a fairly lengthy, in-depth conversation.

**********

monoblogue: Let me get my readers up to speed here. You’ve actually been on my blog a few times in various capacities, I’ve noticed that your name has come up quite a few times. But, really the first time I really got to talk to you a great deal was when the TEA Party all got started.

Langer: Sure.

monoblogue: Now, the question I have – and I know you were there at the beginning  – you’re actually the president of Institute for Liberty, which was actually around before the TEA Party…

Langer: Yes.

monoblogue: …but was kind of carried along with the TEA Party, but where do you think, in the four years or so the TEA Party has been in existence, where do you think it’s gone and where do you think it’s going to go. Is it dead like some people say?

Langer: Well, no, I mean insofar as the – the movement existed before the TEA Party, and will continue to exist after the TEA Party. Movements are always changing fundamentally; that’s the nature of them. They go a certain distance, and then they stop, and they transform, that’s what happens. So, before the TEA Party movement was the Don’t Go movement, you had the property rights movement, you had the various taxpayers’ movements that have been out there…the TEA Party movement has just been an outpouring of discontent in which things got jelled together very, very easily and lots of different factors came together.

What killed the TEA Party brand was the media itself, which never really understood what the movement was. It never fit into any of their particular boxes, and what the media doesn’t understand the media will work to destroy – especially if that thing they don’t understand is actively working against the things they have advocated for in the past.

So it’s a brand that has been damaged, but the movement goes on – and the movement, as all movements change as I said – different parts of it will focus on different things. (Part of it) will continue to focus on health care and health care reform. You have folks who focus on electoral issues and will continue to focus on electoral issues; a lot of them will focus on state and local races, some focused on Congressional races, some focused on Presidential races.

A lot of – and probably the most positive thing to come out of the movement – was the proliferation of new media, and the raising of the blogosphere as a legitimate force to be reckoned with. That’s certainly going to continue to go on, and obviously there’s been a certain degree of institutionalization of that in things like the Franklin Center and the various Watchdog Wires, and that cannot help but be a good thing.

Between that and the re-connection of people with their government, there is no going back from that, and that’s why, while the movement itself may not be the same thing as it was before, the forces that were at work will continue to be forces that are at work.

monoblogue: Let me back up one second here. You’re President of the Institute for Liberty, and I guess – I guess it would be good to explain what their role is insofar as the entire movement.

Langer: Sure. Well, I mean, and keep in mind I inherited the Institute for Liberty from a friend of mine who has gone off and become a successful author.  IFL had been focused on a lot of defense and tech issues – and we still do a little bit of each – we are a nonprofit advocacy organization, which means that we take issues and we advocate on behalf of a particular side from a free-market, limited government perspective.

As it happens, I’ve got a background in mass movement organization. That’s something that I’ve spent a lot of time studying, something that I’ve had some efforts in growing up, and so when the TEA Party movement itself began to form I found I had an expertise that I could lend to that movement, both in themes, organizational structures, and merely offering, as I saw, logistics – you know, how do you organize a rally? What are the elements of a rally? What goes into putting something together? And so, for me, the Institute for Liberty never had the resources of a FreedomWorks or Americans for Prosperity – we didn’t sort of jump on the moniker in a way that TEA Party Patriots or TEA Party Express were able to, but what we could offer was logistical advice and support to people.

In the very real sense in D.C. where we organized – we were part of the first TEA Party rally in February of ’09, to organizing the D.C. Taxpayer TEA Party, to offering our resources for the 9/12 D.C. march…

monoblogue: Which I was at.

Langer: What?

monoblogue: I was there. I was at 9/12.

Langer: Yeah, and I spoke, and it was great. And then at the state level offering up advice to various TEA Party events and also speaking at various TEA Party events in the state, so – it’s one of those things where for us, it’s never been about credit, it’s never been about glory, it’s never about making us center stage. When the Annapolis TEA Party was being put together, we were there at the start, sort of offering up our advice, but it was very clear that guys like Aaron Jones and his brother, they were wanting to head it up and they were wanting to put it together. We’re not interested in turf fights so we said whatever you need from the Institute for Liberty that we can give to you to help you put this together, we’ll do that. Whether it was financial support, or whether it was saying, hey, you need to get these permits or you need to get that, here’s how you want to do a press release, or here’s how you ought to put together the program…but beyond that, we were not folks who needed to be at the top of anyone’s list – that’s just not what we’re about. So we were happy to act in a supporting capacity.

monoblogue: That’s all right; the movement needs that, too. But another thing…

Langer: Michael, let me just say – and this is very, very key – I’m a firm believer in the philosophy that’s it not all about me, and it’s not all about IFL. And I think we need more folks to recognize that it’s not about their own personal glory, this is about getting stuff done and making change. And making change means making not about you.

monoblogue: I was going to ask about something else, but the way you answered that question, I’m going to slide into something else here…

Langer: Sure.

monoblogue: …about the Maryland Republican Party. (laughs) And the game of personalities we seem to have in that party right now.

Langer: Yeah.

monoblogue: I know you had considered running for the (party Chair) post and you had to back out.

Langer: Yes.

monoblogue: Because of…

Langer: Well, I mean, I make no secret about this, it’s one of those things where I almost ran in ’10, and had actually come very close to pulling the trigger. But at that point it was simply one of my donors said that they couldn’t fund IFL, and one of the great problems with the MDGOP Chairman’s position is that it’s an unpaid, full-time volunteer job – and it really would be the equivalent of a full-time job. And with two kids at home – my wife and I have a very equal partnership in child care – I couldn’t take on a full-time volunteer gig and sacrifice the Institute for Liberty at that point; it just couldn’t happen.

In ’12 the circumstances had changed somewhat. But the real problem is that my wife is an active-duty officer in the Air Force and either there’s a strong likelihood we will get transferred this year, and if we don’t get transferred this year there is 100% certainty that we will be transferred by July of 2014. I am not someone who takes on a job like chairman of the Maryland Republican Party without setting some clear goals and working toward those goals – I certainly couldn’t complete any of those goals in the next five months and there was great question in my mind whether I could complete my goals to my satisfaction in seventeen months and at that point we’d be back where we were before.

monoblogue: With an election to run.

Langer: Which is essentially the chaos of a party chairman’s race in which people confuse criticism with infighting, and all the things that go on with that. I’m not talking about the certain specifics of this race right now, but the reasons why I didn’t run are those very clearly. I’m someone who is incredibly optimistic about the Maryland Republican Party; I do not think that all hope is lost. With the amount of disarray and infighting that we have in our state party – I have seen disarray and infighting in other state parties as well, so Maryland is unfortunately not unique, but certainly there are challenges. And as if there are people who are – who want to work toward overcoming those challenges and there are people who are actively working against overcoming those challenges, and there are people who don’t know how to overcome those challenges. But those challenges can be overcome.

I think it starts with that proposition that the Chairman’s job is too big for one person to do, and anybody who thinks that it is a job that can be done by one person – they are either deluding themselves or they’re simply not capable of handling the job.

monoblogue: Well then that actually brings up a little bit of a different question – this will be more effective in a couple years when we select all new officers – should they run as a slate? Should we have a – instead of doing separate elections for each of the (Vice-) Chairs, would it be better to have a particular slate go up and vote for an entire slate rather…

Langer; No, I firmly believe in the freedom of choice, I believe in building coalitions, in the fact that people ought to try to work together. I think part and parcel of that is having individual elections for the different officers. I do, however, believe that more people ought to be involved in the running of the state party. I do believe that we ought to – we might ought to consider looking at – especially if the state party is going to continue to run with having the Chair being an unpaid volunteer position. I think we ought to consider dividing up that Chair’s responsibilities, maybe among co-chairs, I think there ought to be – and this is a conversation that I’ve had with Greg Kline – is that there ought to be more people involved in that operation. Certainly I think if more folks stepped up and were willing to take on more of the chairman’s responsibilities and work with the chairman to take on those responsibilities, I think that you would find more people willing to run for Chair.

A group of my friends and colleagues, we talked to a lot of folks about running for Chair, about who was going to run for Chair, who might run for chair? And by and large, the number one complaint that people has was it is too big of a job for one person to do as a volunteer gig only. In the near term the state party simply does not have the resources to pay someone to be Chairman, especially if they pay an Executive Director, and they shouldn’t. But the point is, so long as it is this haunting huge responsibility for one person, unpaid, the more discouraging it becomes for somebody to run for Chair. Good, qualified people to run for Chair.

And so I had pledged to Greg (Kline) that if he ran I would help him for as long as I could and as much as I could, as long as I’m in Maryland and probably after I leave Maryland I’ll still continue to help Greg because I have every intention of returning to Maryland down the road. Other folks around Greg have pledged to help him and to make sure that his chairmanship is a success. It’s not just voting for Greg, but voting for folks around Greg who are good people and who want to work – and there are a lot of folks who sort of stepped up there and said, yeah, I’ll help out.

It gets to another of my big themes of this Chairman’s race, which is inclusivity vs. exclusivity. And this idea that, in order to build a party, you need to be solicitous of outside opinion and outside help. One of my great criticisms of Diana Waterman – and this is a criticism, it’s not a knock on Diana Waterman’s personality, I think Diana Waterman is a lovely person, she’s a pleasant person. She is someone who avails herself of opportunities to get active. But I will not say that Diana Waterman is someone who’s incredibly solicitous of inclusivity. Case in point is the job that she’s handled, she has demonstrated a record of someone who has not been someone to bring people into the office to work, or bring people into an organization to work. Diana steps in, and she becomes chairman of something, and people are shut out of the process.

You can talk to folks about the Eastern Shore Republican Alliance, which Diana stepped in there and became Chair, and she had a few folks around her who were regional vice-chairs, and the operation went nowhere quickly because it became bureaucracy. It became another thing for Diana Waterman to become chairman of, and it was very clear that she didn’t want any outside help, and that doesn’t build the party.

monoblogue: But it built her resume.

Langer: Well, it built her resume. And that is something I’ve also talked about, which is an issue of confusing promotion with accomplishment. Which I think is something fundamental – confusing the resume with competence. This gets into the two things that happened last week, which calls into question, and I’ve said this before – anyway, I’m getting too far afield here.

It’s this issue of inclusivity, and I’ll give you a prime example: folks who believe this Chairman’s race is only of interest to Central Committee members, and I’ve heard this from a few people that only Central Committee members ought to be briefed as to what’s going on with the state party and why the Chairman’s race is important. That sends a message to your rank-and-file Republicans, who elect Central Committee members, that their opinions are not needed, that they have no place in advocating who should be Chairman because they’re not Central Committee members, they haven’t been involved to the degree that Central Committee members are. That’s fundamentally the wrong message.

Not only is the Chairman’s race of import to every Republican in Maryland who is trying to vote to bring a different vision of government to the state of Maryland, but it’s important on a national scale, too. Because the Chairman, and what the Chairman can do, has an impact on this rules fight that is going on and is going to happen in the next couple of weeks as the RNC Rules Committee meets. And as you can see by what happened (two weeks ago), the Chairman has an incredible amount of influence as to what happens at that Rules Committee, either by appointing someone who is dedicated to undoing the damage that happened in Tampa over the summer, or by someone who is by all accounts part and parcel of the damage that happened over the summer.

monoblogue: Well, let me – I will say this: in refuting the idea that the race is just of interest to Central Committee members, my readership has just surged as this whole thing has developed. A lot more people come to my website to read about the situation than the 300 Central Committee people.

I am curious about one other thing – this is where I’m going to wrap up. The Red Maryland network and the radio show that you did, how did that all come together? I’ve been kind of curious how that all started.

Langer: I had been wanting to do a podcast for awhile – I experimented with a podcast through a thing called HipCast because a buddy of mine, Phil Kerpen, had said something about doing a HipCast, you could do it by phone. But I didn’t like the audio quality there. And so at CPAC in 2011 I launched LibertyLine, which was an actual semi-slick podcast where I was upping the production values, I got a good microphone, I was doing interviews by phone – and remember, Mark Newgent was, at the time, a neighbor of mine. So Mark came in and sat in with me a couple of times.

(Meanwhile) Greg (Kline) and Brian (Griffiths) had done their Red Maryland show by BlogTalk, and they decided they were going to do – they wanted to create an actual network and they apparently talked to Mark and Mark said, hey neighbor, I know you’re doing this, would you like to instead do a weekly show with me instead of, you’re doing your thing one interview or two interviews three times a week why don’t you change schedules and come on and do this with me? And so that’s how it was born.

Greg and I started doing it, and then he and I started shopping it around – we both had contacts up at (W)BAL, so we’d done some fill-in work on BAL’s ‘1090 At Night’, you know, made inroads to the Mike O’Meara Show, helping out, doing some stuff with those guys – so that’s how it is. Greg and Brian wanted to develop an actual sort of podcast political network, understanding how the whole industry is changing, and that’s what they did. They’ve got programming five out of seven nights now.

monoblogue: Yeah, I really think that’s interesting – now I am not a person that does a lot of radio per se, but I can tell you from just checking around that it’s almost like people are getting into multimedia moreso – I mean I started my blog in 2005 and nobody had ever heard of blogging, let alone internet radio. Now you have people that do video, radio – we’re our own little subculture of media here, and it’s kind of interesting to see where it’s going to go in the future.

Langer: Well, this is what I’m saying – this is one of the great things that’s come out of the TEA Party movement. It is that there’s this proliferation of new media – Mark and I, when we were together before Mark moved back to the Western Shore, when he and I would do our show weekly we would do a radio component and a video component. We would get set up over here because Mark’s house was chaos at night and mine was a little more subdued, and so all the folks that broadcast together on the Red Maryland network, they do a video component so they’re on both BlogTalkRadio and UStream, you could watch or listen. It’s a little bit harder now that Mark and I aren’t in the same place, although I’d like to do that – there’s something that’s lost when we’re not able to give each other visual cues about things, but that’s the nature – the nature of media in the future is going to be narrowcasting, which means you go to a subset of the population, so for us it’s Marylanders and conservative Marylanders that we’ve been wanting to branch out a little bit into a little more pop culture so we can bring in a wider audience, and it is all on demand.

So one of the big debates that we have at Red Maryland radio is BlogTalkRadio the platform to use, is live radio – see, for me, live broadcast is overrated because the bulk of our listenership comes from the downloads. I look at podcasts like the Mike O’Meara Show – I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, but Mike was on the radio for almost 25 years. They moved to a podcast format – they get maybe 150-200 listeners who listen or watch live on their live feed, but they get 35,000 downloads a day, because folks like to be able to pick and choose when they will listen to their podcasts. That’s the nature of the future.

And so that is another area where I think Greg has a much superior track record is this embracing of the new media, is this embracing of the blogosphere, in a way that the party simply, for whatever reason, has not done so – not only because they just don’t get it, but also because they confuse criticism with disloyalty. I think Greg knows in the end that some of his biggest critics are going to be his “buddies” at Red Maryland. And we know that guys like Joe Steffen are going to ream him a new one. I don’t think he minds it so much, I think he recognizes – he’s adult enough to recognize that there comes a time when you have to be open to criticism. That maybe one of the other big barriers this party has faced. Dissent is inherently patriotic, and certainly in Maryland it’s a cherished right.

monoblogue: (laughs) Yeah…

Langer: Folks who lead the party have to be more adult about that criticism, and recognize it’s going to come with the territory. And if you’re not taking flak, you’re not over the target.

monoblogue: There you go. I mean, I… (laughs) I’m sitting here chuckling because I’m kind of the rabblerouser on that front for several years.

Langer: Yeah!

monoblogue: I know just how – my blog and my political career on the Central Committee started almost the same time, so (laughs) they’re well aware…

Langer: For me, it’s one of those things where I had to step down from my Central Committee for my mental health. I was in a situation in which I had four people on my Central Committee who, if I said the sky was blue, they would swear the sky was pink.

It’s one of those things where at some point you have to make that calculus “is my time going to be better spent doing other things?” For me, it’s my show, obviously, with Mark, and the stuff I do with IFL.

But this Chairman’s race is of import, which is why I’ve gotten involved, and why Greg has my support. I make no bones about that fact.

monoblogue: Well, we appreciate it. That’s going to be a lot to write about.

**********

Indeed it was, as I spent part of my Saturday afternoon and most of Sunday evening transcribing this lengthy interview. Maybe I should look into a podcast.

But I thank Andrew for his time, and look forward to speaking with next week’s guest.

A cast of followers

Originally my plans for this Saturday were pretty much set: get up early (by my standards) and go to the Pathfinders seminar here in Salisbury, then scoot on over to Salisbury University for the Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner. Both of these have changed over the last few days, though.

I was surprised to find out last Wednesday that the Pathfinders seminar in Salisbury had been postponed to April 6, with the Maryland GOP not giving us a specific reason for the postponement. I understand things happen and plans can change, but the reason for the delay that I’m hearing now has me scratching my head. This is from Brian Griffiths at Red Maryland:

I had to do a doubletake when I read about this totally insane plan coming from the Maryland Republican Party today:

David Ferguson, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, vowed Tuesday that he or someone else affiliated with the state GOP will show up each time O’Malley attends an out-of-state event, starting this weekend in South Carolina.

O’Malley, frequently mentioned as a potential 2016 presidential contender, is planning to make an appearance Saturday at an “issues conference” in Charleston at the invitation of South Carolina state Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D), a 2014 gubernatorial hopeful.

Ferguson said he will counter with a press conference with GOP leaders in Columbia on Friday and be at the event site Saturday in Charleston.

“Anytime O’Malley goes and makes a stop on his presidential parade, we’re going to follow him and let people know who the real Martin O’Malley is,” said Ferguson.

Ferguson said the effort — dubbed the “No Left Turn Tour” — is an outgrowth of previous work to arm Republicans in other states with background material on O’Malley, the former chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, when he visits.

This is really nothing new; in fact the lunch speaker at our Fall Convention last year was Brent Littlefield, who helped to orchestrate a Twitter takeover of a Maine Democratic Party event O’Malley was attending. But that was done by local people who didn’t follow Martin O’Malley wherever he went, and the reason Wicomico’s Pathfinders session was bumped is because O’Malley’s trip is on Saturday.

Griffiths makes a good argument: instead of building up the state party, we’re chasing Martin O’Malley around. He can’t run for office in Maryland anymore anyway and if South Carolina has a conservative new media worth its salt they will take care of making sure the right people get access to a video of Martin O’Malley’s appearance there.

In turn, this brings up another sound point, one which was brought up during a conference call I participated in tonight featuring MDGOP Chair hopeful Greg Kline. In that call, Kline stressed that there’s been no systemic effort to coordinate with the new media in Maryland. He sensed a “lack of trust” from the state party toward an outlet which is growing in both reach and influence.

Blogger Hillary Pennington brought up the South Carolina affair, and Kline agreed with Griffiths’ assessment in Red Maryland that the excursion to track O’Malley was “disappointing” and “sends the wrong message.”

Obviously one can take this whole line of inquiry as a campaign stunt by Kline and his allies at Red Maryland; Griffiths concludes in his piece that:

At the end of the day, this is Diana Waterman’s plan. She gave the go to execute it, and I believe Republicans across Maryland are owed an explanation as to why money is being spent on a plan that won’t help elect a single Republican next year.

Personally I’m not so sure Diana had all that much to do with it aside from saying yes; it’s unclear who came up with the idea in the first place. In my dealings with Diana, she impresses me as a leader only in the sense of doing things within a certain comfort zone and this would be a little bit outside of that range. To put it in another way, I see her as closer to a Bob Michel than a Newt Gingrich – that may be fine for some, but I’m not sure this situation dictates that laid-back style of leadership.

I noted at the top there was a change in both March 23 events. While our Lincoln Day Dinner goes on, we learned a few days ago that Dan Bongino regretfully had to withdraw. In his place we’d like to welcome another dynamic speaker in former Congressional candidate, possible 2014 gubernatorial hopeful, and AFP Maryland head Charles Lollar. He may not be as well known locally as Bongino is, but I can assure you he will be a fine Lincoln Day speaker when combined with Sheriff Mike Lewis.

Our focus will remain squarely on the Second Amendment issue, and there’s still a short window to secure reservations by contacting Bob Laun at (410) 543-2116. We’d like to have a count for the venue as soon as possible, so time is of the essence.

Update: Maybe Legal Insurrection is subconsciously in the Kline camp after blasting the RNC 2012 postmortem. There’s something missing there…

Odds and ends number 69

It’s not meant to be a weekly Saturday fixture, but thus far in 2013 it was worked out that I’ve done an O&E post each Saturday. (I have to look the prior one up to see what number I am on – can’t duplicate the series, you know.) So once again I have a boatload of items which deserve anything from a sentence to a few paragraphs, but not enough for a full post by themselves.

First of all, the news is full of angst over the Sandy Hook massacre, mainly because the knee-jerk reaction has been: we need more gun laws. But MDYR president Brian Griffiths called Governor Martin O’ Malley’s new gun provisions just simple posturing:

Instead of introducing supporting meaningful proposals that would actively reduce gun crime, O’Malley has decided to sign on to proposals that will have only one meaningful impact: to inhibit the ability of law-abiding Marylanders to purchase and possess firearms.

Yet I suspect one proposed Maryland gun law will go nowhere. Delegate Pat McDonough is slated to introduce “The Criminal Gun Control Act,” which, as he terms, will:

…prohibit any offender convicted of a criminal act involving a gun from receiving any form of early release.  This proposal would include parole, probation, or good time early release credits.  The bill would also disallow a plea bargain.

After claiming 40% of all Baltimore City gun murders were perpetrated by felons with previous gun law violations, Pat added:

The solution to gun violence is not to destroy the Constitution and law abiding citizens’ rights to bear arms.  Politicians are hypocrits (sic) when they attack good citizens and pass laws that benefit criminals like early release.

I thought, though, there was already an extra five years tacked on to a sentence for committing a crime with a gun. Perhaps someone in the judicial system can clue me in on why that’s not effective.

Meanwhile, Maryland Shall Issue is more succinct and to the point:

Respectfully tell those you speak with that you are against Gun Control in all its forms. You do not need to pick the magazine limits, or discuss the definition of so-called “Assault Weapons.” You must make your representatives understand that all Gun Control must be off the table.

Compromise is not possible when it comes to fundamental rights. Our lawmakers must be told that we will not willingly give up any of our rights. They will need to take them from us.

Maryland faces elections in 2014. Make sure they know we will remember who stood for our rights, and who wanted to deny your fundamental right.

Of course, when the chips are down and government has overstepped their bounds, there is the option of non-compliance, a route that Patriot Post editor (and one of my few bosses) Mark Alexander is vowing to take.

I hereby make this public declaration: In keeping with the oath I have taken in the service of my country, I will “support and defend” Liberty as “endowed by our Creator” and enshrined in our Constitution, “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Accordingly, I will NOT comply with any defensive weapons ban instituted by executive order, legislative action or judicial diktat, which violates the innate human right to defend self and Liberty, as empowered by “the right of the People to keep and bear arms.”

After all, wasn’t it Hillary Clinton who said “we have the right to debate and disagree with any administration?” Last time I checked, inalienable rights endowed by our Creator trumped laws which violate same.

Now it’s time to turn to another issue where our state government is failing us: economic growth and opportunity. I talked about one aspect of this the other day, but Change Maryland and Chairman Larry Hogan also had some suggestions for Martin O’Malley on rebuilding Maryland manufacturing:

Since 2007, Maryland lost 20% of its manufacturing employment base, the 10th worst decline in the country.  Over 26,000 manufacturing jobs vanished during that time.

“It is unacceptable that the state’s most powerful elected officials do nothing with numbers as clear and convincing as these,” said Hogan.”These are the results you get when economic development is nothing more than cherry-picked pie charts and bar graphs in the Governor’s power point demonstrations.”

Just over a year ago, (New York’s) Governor Cuomo forged a three-way agreement with the senate majority leader and assembly speaker on executive proposals to cut taxes and create jobs in advance of the 2012 legislative session.  The corporate income tax rate for Empire State manufacturers was cut to 6.25%.  Maryland’s rate is 8.25%. New York’s decline of year-over-year manufacturing jobs is 1.4%, less than half of Maryland’s decline during the same period.

Hogan urged that, like so many other areas where O’Malley has followed Cuomo’s lead, a tax cut for businesses should be considered. Yet the advocacy group stayed on O’Malley this week like white on rice, also condemning his bloated budget:

This budget increases spending 4% over last year, to a record $37.3 billion, and does nothing more than continue the spend-and-tax governing that Martin O’Malley feels will further his political objectives.

Nowhere in this budget document is any mention made to helping Maryland’s blue collar workers and other regular working people. However, we’re all told to wait for some undefined sales and gas tax increase later on that will hit poor people the hardest.

Missing is any understanding whatsoever on how to bring jobs and businesses back to Maryland.

Hogan had more criticism for the Governor:

Martin O’Malley also showed again today in the budget briefing slide show for reporters why he is the most partisan governor in America, lauding the President for wanting to raise the debt ceiling and blaming in advance the U.S. House of Representatives for any largess that may not come Maryland’s way.

Martin O’Malley only wishes he had a debt ceiling, but unfortunately for hard-working Maryland families he has to raise taxes and fees on an almost annual basis to maintain the wish list he calls a budget. The $37.3 billion docket proposed for FY2014 is the largest in Maryland’s history and is a far cry from Bob Ehrlich’s last budget in FY2007 that totaled $29.6 billion. (Ehrlich’s last budget, by the way, was 12% higher than the $26.4 billion tab the previous year, in FY2006.) Up 4 percent from last year, O’Malley speaks of “cuts” but those cuts are only in his fantasies because the budget is 26% higher than it was seven years ago and up 41% from FY2006 levels. For most of the rest of us, we’ve not seen a 41% increase in our salaries since 2006.

It’s worth pointing out on the whole job creation issue that small businesses across the country fret about the impact of government, with the results of a new survey by the advocacy group Job Creators Alliance pointing this out.  Taxes were the number one issue, with fully one-quarter of the 600 small businesses survey placing it atop the list. Add in the effects of Obamacare and government regulations, and the response swells to nearly half of those surveyed.

The group was pessimistic in its assessment, stating:

As America’s small business owners look forward at 2013 they do so with a great deal of concern about the obstacles Washington is placing in their path. As the engine of job creation, pessimism among small business owners does not bode well for job growth this year.

Lest we forget, 7 to 8 percent unemployment seems to be the “new norm.” Of course, if they untied the hands of the energy industry we could do a lot better. (That includes Marcellus Shale, Governor O”Malley, but not your pipe dream of offshore wind.)

But to get jobs, we need a better educational system and that means giving parents a choice in where to send their child for their education. National School Choice Week begins next Sunday, but no local organization on Delmarva has yet stepped up to participate in an event. (There are 22 in Maryland, but all of them are on the Western Shore. No events are planned in Delaware or on the eastern shore of Virginia.)

As it turns out, my fiance made the choice to send her child to a private, faith-based school. It’s good for her, but it would be even better if money from the state was made available to cover her tuition and fees. Years ago I volunteered for a political candidate whose key platform plank was “money follows the child” and I think it makes just as much sense today.

So that’s yet another wrapup and cleaning out of the e-mail box. We’ll see if I go four Saturdays in a row next week.

Odds and ends number 68

January 12, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Odds and ends number 68 

First, the bad news. I’m not liveblogging the Turning the Tides 2013 conference today. I’ve found in my experience that I do better coverage of events by taking notes by hand and putting it all together in summary form after the fact. I’m certain that some other quarters will have live coverage but I didn’t even bring my laptop.  (Yes, I did but I’m not liveblogging.) Just look for the scoop here tomorrow.

But I am there, so this is something I wrote up earlier this week in order to cover this space while I’m away speaking with the conservative movers and shakers from around the state and country. It’s going to be a little shorter than the average O&E but I don’t think you’ll mind too much. You can consider this the General Assembly edition.

Most of you know the Maryland General Assembly session (known here as the ’90 Days of Terror”) began on Wednesday. Pundits (along with some of the Eastern Shore delegation) predict the same depressing mix of tax increase proposals, refusals to cut spending, and infringements on liberty which have punctuated sessions for the last several years. But an alternative agenda was proposed by Maryland YR president (and Red Maryland blogger) Brian Griffiths:

During this General Assembly session we urge the Maryland General Assembly to:

  • A 3% across the Board reduction in state spending;
  • Reduce the State Sales tax to 5% on all items;
  • Establish an across the board flat tax for all residents;
  • Streamline the Executive Branch to eliminate redundancies;
  • Reject any and all additional tax hikes, including the proposed gas tax increase and the proposed $1 increase on tobacco products;
  • Reject legislative proposals to curb the citizen participation through the referendum process;
  • Remove barriers to start of hydraulic fracking in Western Maryland;
  • Reject legislative proposals to provide onerous restrictions on property rights;
  • Reject pie-in-the-sky renewable energy proposals that are of limited to no benefit to providing clean energy, such as the O’Malley Offshore Windfarm proposal that will serve to benefit O’Malley donors.

It’s an agenda I find relatively appealing. Chances of passage with the current makeup of the General Assembly: near zero, unless perhaps people camp out at the Delegates’ and Senators’ homes and offices. Unfortunately, the vast majority of us who care about the issue are also forced to work for a living. Talk about throwing a wrench into the political process!

It also doesn’t help when state leaders don’t do their job and appoint department heads to conduct the business at hand. Maryland has labored without a Transportation Secretary since July and Change Maryland’s Larry Hogan has had enough:

For six months, there has been a leadership vacuum in addressing massive structural problems with the transportation grid itself and the financing mechanisms needed to pay for it. Addressing transportation challenges is a key priority of this general assembly session, yet the governor inexplicably dithers on naming a cabinet secretary and defaults to raising gas taxes as a panacea.

Perhaps the Governor wants to find another female who was a state employee for a quarter-century as former Transportation Secretary Beverley Swaim-Staley was. Could it be he’s looking for brownie points by seeking a lesbian minority female? Whatever the case, Change Maryland is rightfully blasting him for not making this a priority. It’s not like he didn’t get notice since Swaim-Staley announced she was leaving two months beforehand.

Whoever gets the nod at MDOT will have to put up with crazy ideas like this one, a proposal Matthew Newman blasts at Old Line Elephant. Next thing you know, they’ll try to make Maryland Route 90 into Ocean City a toll road. (While it is a useful route into the northern part of Ocean City, I’ve often wondered why it’s not a four-lane highway like U.S. 50.)

Another crazy idea would be raising the cigarette tax. I have to give a hat tip to Virginia-based political consultant and blogger Liz Mair, who noted this piece in a message to me. It’s more about Michigan than Maryland, but a related Mackinac Center for Public Policy post by the same authors (Michael D. LaFaive and Todd Nesbit, Ph.D.) states the following:

We also modeled for Maryland the impact of a recently proposed 50 percent hike in its excise tax, from $2 per pack to $3. If such an increase were enacted in Maryland, the proportion of smuggled cigarettes consumed by its smokers would leap from 26 percent of the total market to 52 percent, and would actually result in a net decline in tobacco tax revenues.

These findings are troubling enough, but even more disturbing is what appears to be an increase in criminal activity related to illicit tobacco smuggling. In just one egregious example from last summer, a Maryland police officer in Prince George’s County was sentenced for running illicit cigarettes while using his duty firearm, uniform and patrol vehicle.

Now I’ll be interested to see what the fiscal note for the cigarette tax bill says about revenue once it is introduced (as of this writing it had not been.) But there was a bill pre-filed to increase penalties on those who “smuggle” over $50 worth of cigarettes into the state without paying Maryland tax. (In theory, the law as it is right now states 2 packs or $5 worth of other tobacco products. Needless to say, it’s not strictly enforced.) The same duo posited that about one of every four cigarettes in Maryland is smuggled in, compared to roughly one in ten back in 2006. In that time frame, the state went from ranking 24th in the country to 13th. If LaFaive and Nesbit are correct, Maryland would surge to fourth in the country if they adopted a $3 per pack tax and over half the cigarettes in the state would be considered bootleg.

So if a cigarette tax increase is passed, I can guarantee you retailers along the first few miles of U.S. 13 into Virginia will see plenty of Maryland license plates in their parking lots. And why not, when the tax savings would be an astounding $27 a carton? Even putting a price point of about $15-20 a carton under Maryland prices would be incentive aplenty (and additional profit for the retailer.) That’s well worth the quarter-tank it might take to run 35 miles back and forth to the Virginia line – that Royal Farms right on the border will likely become the leader chainwide in cigarette sales, and the Dixieland convenience store with “The South Starts Here” emblazoned on its sign right across the road will also prosper if Maryland succeeds in raising its tax rate to just outside the top five in the country. (Virginia, on the other hand, has the second-lowest at 30 cents a pack.) Will Maryland law enforcement resort to tobacco-sniffing dogs on traffic stops in Worcester County? Even Delaware may become attractive given a potential $14 a carton savings.

Sometimes I believe the General Assembly loses all common sense when they come together – how else can you explain such bad law and lack of thinking? On that note, I wrap up another edition of odds and ends.

2012 Maryland GOP Fall Convention in pictures and text (part 1)

Yes, this puppy is going to need to be a two-parter because I have photos a-plenty.

I can start with the first thing I did after checking in and getting a little freshened up: the host county had their reception for arrivals.

There were also advertisements for the evening to come.

I’ve often wondered what guests who happen to be here for other purposes think about all of these advertisements – and how many of them drop in for the free food and drink, sort of like wedding crashers.

Previously I have characterized the conventions after an electoral loss (which have happened all too frequently in Maryland) as wakes. But this one had a little less bitterness and a little more of a hopeful tone to it after we admitted our side indeed took a shellacking. After all, as Andy Harris noted during a surprise appearance at the Executive Committee meeting Friday evening, “we have to remember where we were three years ago.”

Of course, when Harris said that “we’re going to expose the President for what he is…he doesn’t get it,” I had the thought those of us who already knew that couldn’t get the message through the thick skulls (or entitlement-addled psyches) of the voting public. But we carried on and Harris stated unequivocally, “I’m going to hold firm – no new taxes,” adding that “Democrats are the ones who tax the middle class.”

Andy’s closing message was that we needed to lay the groundwork for 2014.

On the other hand, MDGOP Chair Alex Mooney knew we had a lot of grievances to go around. “Be prepared for a long meeting,” he warned Executive Committee attendees. “These things need to be aired out.” As it turned out, I’m told their affair lasted almost three hours.

Yet Mooney echoed what we all knew: “It was a disappointing year top to bottom.” For example, he “never thought in a million years” Question 6 would pass, but it did. We have to “look hard to ballot questions” in the future, Mooney continued.

But Alex also looked ahead to 2014 opportunities.

Both National Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose and National Committeeman Louis Pope spoke before the group. While Ambrose chose to defer most of her report, which was to assess the success of the “Super Saturday” program this fall, to the general meeting Saturday afternoon, Pope bluntly called the time since the election “a tough 3 1/2 weeks.” Yet he also snapped back at critics who questioned his role at the national convention, saying there are “some factions (that) continually want to divide us.” Fighting among ourselves throws us off track, said Louis.

He also reminded us about an upcoming event at this very facility: the Reagan Presidential Ball on February 9, 2013. “One thing this party needs is fundraisers to be solvent,” Pope concluded.

It was then time for committee reports, and the unrest began from the youth.

Brian Griffiths of the Maryland Young Republicans gave us a rundown of what the MDYRs had done within the state during this election cycle before tartly noting, “I wish the officers and others would make that effort.” That was in reference to several MDGOP-sponsored bus trips to Ohio and Virginia. I happen to agree with Brian, particularly in hindsight.

Equally critical was the College Republicans’ Fiona Moodie, who saw a “vast disconnect” between the College Republicans and the main party message.

A few county Chairs were also more critical of the 2012 effort than others. In announcing he was stepping down on December 31, John McCullough of Dorchester County told us that we have one of two choices: either we target (and change) the media, Hollywood, and the schools or “we let everything collapse and we rebuild on the other side.” Preparing his young family for whatever hits the fan was more important than being part of the MDGOP at this time, said John.

Sandy Terpeluk of Kent County was impressed by the effort to get the ballot initiatives to the voters via petition, but agreed with Brian Griffiths that we should have stayed home and made more of an effort to defeat O’Malley’s laws. Her message was that we need more of an organization for these types of ballot issues.

After the county chairs gave their reports, the meeting moved into closed session and I went to see just what was going on. Turf Valley has perhaps the best room ever for an Executive Committee meeting, since it was set up like a college classroom and I could have easily liveblogged it had I known, but it had perhaps the worst setup for hospitality suites since they were in two different parts of the facility. To get from one side to the other, you had to return to the lobby and get to the other elevator.

Since I had to go back to my room to drop off a few items, I started on my side of the facility and dropped in on Maryland’s leading elected Republican.

Andy looked very relaxed, don’t you think? I stopped by his first because he wasn’t staying too late. But he had some scrumptious desserts as always.

Another guy with dessert was Delegate Tony McConkey, whose suite had plenty of Hostess products. On this I’m going to use a photo taken by my good friend Maria Ialacci since for some reason mine didn’t come out – camera issues.

But perhaps the liveliest pair of suites on that side of the facility were the ones hosted by Strategic Victory Consulting and the Montgomery County GOP. Since I ended up returning there to wrap up my long evening, my narrative will work back to those because, in the meantime, on the other side of the Turf Valley hotel, there were also dueling rooms let by two candidates for Governor.

Blaine Young had an entire ballroom, complete with finger food and open bar. At last I had something good and substantial to eat.

I thanked Blaine for my time on his show, but the room was crowded with a number of people who believed his more conservative message was the right way to go in 2014.

On the other hand, David Craig’s hospitality suite was more modest and featured…hotdogs.

I actually don’t recall speaking to David while there. Someone else there was trying to ply me with spiked snowballs, which with a liberal dosage of vodka and cherry flavoring were actually not too bad.

The nascent Charles Lollar draft effort seemed to have an insignificant presence at Turf Valley and, as Joe Steffen of Global Rhetoric writes, Larry Hogan’s Change Maryland group was conspicuous in its absence this time.

In his assessment Steffen also relays his dealings with 2012 U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino, who I ran into going between sides of the building. He was nice enough to pose with my fellow blogger (and Bongino worker) Jackie Wellfonder.

Once I got upstairs I came across a group trying to flex its political muscles at Turf Valley. This was the dual suite of the Maryland Liberty PAC.

Their message and fundraising choices were obvious: pro-liberty is the way to go.

You may have noticed the podium in the first picture. The idea behind the suite was to feature a number of pro-liberty speakers (including Dr. Greg Belcher from here in Wicomico County); alas, I arrived too late to hear any of the speakers. In fact, I would have to say their party was dying out as I tardily showed up.

But two things I noticed about the hangers-on: they weren’t all familiar faces I was used to seeing at MDGOP conventions and most of them were rather young. I’m not a great judge of age but I would peg the average age of those I saw at about 25 to 30. These were the activists who were energized by the message of Ron Paul and may have felt betrayed by the actions of the national Republican Party. While they returned this time, I would be wary about losing their support once again.

Whether that was the “disconnect” Fiona Moodie of the College Republicans spoke out on or not, the fact I heard a few people disparagingly speak about the “Ron Paul people” as I was going from place to place shows that there’s still a clique mentality in our party rather than the “big tent” philosophy we try to sell.

As I talked about earlier, there were a different group of younger Republicans working their best efforts at political capitalism. One lively suite belonged to Strategic Victory Consulting, and the hook was an addictive purple drink they called the SVC. They also had elephant-shaped food.

The SVC suite had some interesting people and props; in the background of this picture you can see the professional photography setup.

In my first go-round through the suite the online Red Maryland Radio Network was doing a live broadcast. From behind the bed and clockwise were Andrew Langer, Greg Kline, guest Hillary Pennington, and Brian Griffiths (standing.) Hillary Pennington and fellow SVC leader Kristen Shields also do their own online radio show called Purple Elephant Politics, so I’m thinking Hillary knows the drill.

Those photography props made for interesting pictures later on.

From left to right in this one are Julianne Grim, Ryan Miner, Kristen Shields, and aforementioned blogger Joe Steffen (aka the ‘Prince of Darkness’ during the Ehrlich era. Thanks to him and Hillary Pennington for setting me straight on names and faces – definitely not my strong suit in most cases and really bad after a couple concoctions.)

The other rocking suite was the Montgomery County Republicans’ one next door.

They had karaoke going on, and we found out Anne Arundel County Councilman Jerry Walker and National Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose can sing – in this case, the duet ‘Summer Nights’ from ‘Grease.’

Me? I can’t carry a tune in a bucket. And by the time I had ate, drank, been merry, collected a few business cards, found a few of my fans, and spoken to a whole host of people at and around the various convention suites and lobbies, it was getting past 2 in the morning. So I was finally off to bed in order to try and be up for breakfast and what promised to be an interesting convention proper.

You’ll find out my observations about Saturday in Part 2 tomorrow.

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