He was mentioned for political posts ranging from Congress to head of the state police to perhaps even governor, but like many Maryland families Dan Bongino’s is heading for the sunny climes of Florida. As he noted on social media:
My family and I will be relocating to Martin County, Florida within the next few months. The reasons are beyond the scope of this platform and, for that reason, I explain a bit more in this week’s podcast show. I will speak more about it over the coming weeks as I see many of you individually and during the radio fill-ins, but I felt that you deserved to know as soon as I did. You have allowed me into your lives in this small way and I feel like you are a part of my extended family.
(In case you are wondering, Martin County is along the Atlantic coast, north of Miami and Palm Beach. Its western border is Lake Okeechobee.)
Whatever the reason, Dan will be missed in Maryland politics as an effective, articulate spokesman for conservative values. His departure from the scene leaves a void which, quite frankly, is begging to be filled by someone – but there’s no one on the state’s political scene who can bring that combination of conservatism and charisma.
Naturally, naysayers will say that he never won a general election in either of his two tries, and this is true. Yet he was successful at one thing: nationalizing races that otherwise would have escaped the attention of political observers. I think that it can be argued that his success in that regard in 2012 helped a little in getting Larry Hogan elected two years later, as he made people believe races could be won here by a Republican.
The withdrawal of Dan Bongino may have effects on the Democratic side as well. I think it cements John Delaney as the contender to beat for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018 because now he has an easier path to re-election in 2016. (If Bongino were to have entered a 2016 contest, my thought is that he would have made a second try at a Congressional seat rather than another statewide race.)
I have a couple reasons for this line of thought. If you look at the U.S. Senate race for next year, you have two sitting Congressmen already eyeing the seat: Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards. It wouldn’t surprise me if another one or two get in, particularly John Sarbanes as his family name is still associated with the United States Senate. While Delaney is not hurting for money and could compete on the level required for such a high-powered field, I’m sure the state Democratic leadership is having a collective heart attack as more Senatorial aspirants come from the ranks of relatively safe Congressional seats. So his staying put may be rewarded down the road as far as the party goes.
On the other hand, Delaney is trying to make a name for himself as being a bipartisan player, and Democrats in the know realize that part of Larry Hogan’s appeal was the promise to work on both sides of the aisle. Those Democrats who crossed over to back Hogan probably don’t budge for a Doug Gansler, Heather Mizeur, or one of the also-rans in the 2016 Senate race, but they just night for Delaney as he is the Democratic mirror image of Hogan as a business owner. The biggest difference is that Delaney won his bid for Congress while Hogan lost his.
Now I don’t think Dan is going to fall off the face of the earth, as I’m sure he will maintain his thriving broadcast career. I’m sure he’s looking at this as a different door opening rather than one being closed.
But for someone who, four years ago, was known to hardly anyone as he commenced what I’m sure most people thought was the crazy notion that he could be a U.S. Senator, Dan’s done well for himself. Yet don’t forget that his career is rooted in that of another upstart who also made a political splash for a short while before returning to private business – Brian Murphy. It was the onetime gubernatorial candidate who chaired Dan’s campaign at the start.
I guess that’s the problem with conservatives. They’re too busy being productive to play politics, and Dan Bongino is a pretty productive guy. I hope he finds success and happiness for his family in Florida, but as a force in Maryland politics he will be missed.
There are occasions in life where everything goes full circle, bringing you back to where you began – just older and (hopefully) wiser.
So it is with the political journey of Carmen Amedori, who’s been quiet on these pages for some time as she tried to build a real estate business in Ocean City. It was a well-deserved respite after a tumultous few years which took her from the House of Delegates seat she won in Carroll County in 1998 to an appointment by then-Governor Bob Ehrlich to the Maryland Parole Commission in 2004, where she served five years.
But 2010 was Amedori’s year of chaos, pinballing between an abortive run for the U.S. Senate, a 10-day stint as gubernatorial challenger Brian Murphy’s running mate – a move she later regretted – then, after winning a seat on the Worcester County Republican Central Committee in September 2010 she considered a run for state Republican Party chair before later backing out.
So imagine my surprise when I saw this linked on my Facebook page:
Former state Delegate and Maryland Parole Commissioner Carmen Amedori has filed her candidacy for the Maryland House of Delegates Legislative District 5 Carroll County. Amedori represented Carroll County in the House from 1999 to 2004. In 2004, she was appointed to the Maryland Parole Commission where she served five and a half years as a Parole Commissioner.
“It would be an honor, once again, to work for the citizens of Carroll County and serve as their voice on issues such as no tax increases, protections for the unborn child, and the Second Amendment for gun owners, and defeating Common Core curriculum in our schools,” Amedori said. “Under the eight years of O’Malley-Brown administration citizens have been overburdened with more taxes and fees which the current House delegation did not fight hard enough against. As a knee-jerk reaction to rogue school shootings one of the most restrictive anti-gun legislation packages was passed hindering law-abiding citizens from exercising their right to purchase and own a firearm. We need to do more and do it better. We need a stronger voice in Annapolis from our House delegation.”
“Our House delegation has had problems getting legislation passed in Annapolis such as the non-profit Casino bill. This is a revenue issue and our non-profit volunteer fire companies will benefit by it. I would work to eliminate the current gridlock on local legislation and would enjoy working with our Senate delegation as a unified voice for Carroll County. I am excited to begin my campaign to put Carroll County first.”
“I have been encouraged by many of Carroll’s constituents and friends to run,” Amedori said. “They are looking for conservative representation in the House from a person they can trust, and who will uphold their oath to honor the Constitution and vote accordingly.”
At this moment, Amedori joins a field with three incumbent legislators, two of whom were redistricted into the revamped District 5. Donald Elliott was elected in District 4B, which covered both Carroll and Frederick counties, while Susan Krebs hails from the Carroll side of District 9B, which also covered a portion of Howard County. Justin Ready already represents Carroll in the former District 5A. The new map somewhat resembles the district Amedori was originally elected in, a time when she served with both Elliott and (later) Krebs in the General Assembly. Ready was first elected in 2010.
Of course, the obvious question for voters in Carroll County will be whether Carmen’s heart is in this, given her recent tendencies. Then again, she won two elections in Carroll County so she had some appeal to voters back then. Will everything old become new again, and if so, at who’s expense?
Honestly, it didn’t surprise me when I saw this “media advisory” from Change Maryland:
Larry Hogan & Change Maryland will host a Fall Harvest Party to celebrate the success of Change Maryland in 2013, including building the largest and fastest growing grassroots army in the state – 65,000 people. Hogan will be speaking at the event and will discuss his plans for 2014 in front of a sold out capacity crowd.
So at about 8:35 Friday night, give or take, we will likely hear the confirmation that the pining and wishing has paid off and Larry Hogan will be the newest candidate for governor. In reality, it will be the end of a long path I foreshadowed when I wrote about the formation of Change Maryland 2 1/2 years ago.
In looking back at that post, I find it interesting that I brought up two names within: Charles Lollar and Brian Murphy. Both were candidates for the state’s top post in the 2010 cycle, although Charles dropped out fairly early once it was learned he was ineligible for the post – at the time he could not prove he was a resident of Maryland for the requisite five years. Murphy, on the other hand, persevered through the primary and become the conservative alternative to Bob Ehrlich, including the endorsement from Sarah Palin which gave him credibility among the TEA Party faithful.
Indeed, both have resurfaced for the 2014 campaign – Lollar coyly subjected himself to a “draft” campaign for several months before formally announcing in early September; meanwhile, Murphy wrote this on his Facebook page in early October:
The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated. Joy and I are well, and we are enjoying life on the Eastern Shore. We welcomed our fifth child into the world this summer, and our business is growing, but we’re concerned about the country we’re leaving for our children and yours. Been out of the political world, but I have thoroughly enjoyed living vicariously through Dan Bongino. Dan and I were in the phone tonight and he finally convinced me to come off the sidelines. Stay tuned…
Of course this could mean many different things since there’s no shortage of posts on the political field. But there’s been an intriguing rumor going around about a Hogan/Murphy ticket. No question the timing of Murphy’s announcement could be simply coincidence, but this would indeed create a formidable team if it came to pass, perhaps as a melding of the fiscal savvy of both candidates with Murphy’s TEA Party appeal.
We may find out more on Friday night.
Well, folks, I have to admit my wheel wasn’t the one which squeaked last on the matter since the crap I described last Wednesday continues apace. So hopefully someone with a little law enforcement experience can get this din to a dull roar:
As Republican candidates in a deep-blue state, we have a responsibility to provide you with a quality message and a quality campaign.
The likely nominees for office on the Democratic side will be flush with campaign cash, aided by an accommodating media and, in the case of Democratic candidate for Governor Anthony Brown, operatives from the Obama campaign. These campaigns are not playing games and this is not a joke, they are running to install a permanent tax and spend super-majority which will bankrupt our beautiful state and drive thousands more to flee across our borders.
I write this out of a deep and genuine concern for our state’s future. Some of the parochial spats developing amongst a limited number of campaign staffs are causing unnecessary and damaging rifts within our Party while we struggle for relevancy and the support of the people of Maryland.
It’s time for us to put the games and the nonsense aside and focus on the real fight. As the head of my campaign team I promise you a relentless effort and a quality team and if either I or my team fail to produce, email me immediately at email@example.com. I respectfully request that the remaining candidates on our Party team do the same and start to prune their campaign trees of people who alienate rather than unite.
That’s what Dan wrote on his Facebook page earlier this Tuesday evening, and I (almost) couldn’t agree more. (I think we will get the Obama operatives regardless of who wins that Democratic primary because we have one of the state-run exchange states.)
But we’ve had “unnecessary and damaging rifts” for a long time, well before this campaign began. I’m going to go beyond the whole Lollar aspect for the moment because plenty enough has been said about that over the last week; in fact, the controversy over that has enabled the argument over open primaries to be swept way under the rug. People may need to be reminded we have a convention next week.
In essence, it seems to me the party lost its unity when Bob Ehrlich lost. That so happens to be the time I was elected to my Central Committee – I swear, though, this is not cause and effect – and these are just some of the political slugfests we have endured since:
- The argument over convention voting, which got so bad for a time some small counties boycotted the whole thing
- The vote of no confidence on party Chair Jim Pelura
- The return of Bob Ehrlich, which begat the Rule 11 controversy because Brian Murphy was also in the race (as was a challenger for Andy Harris, who also benefitted)
- Audrey Scott and “party over everything” – her tenure neatly coincided with the rise of the TEA Party and pro-liberty movement
- Speaking of Scott, her battle with Nicolee Ambrose for National Committeewoman
- The ongoing question about whether Delegate Don Dwyer should resign, which one of the current gubernatorial candidates used to score political points
- The referendum battles, including the times we chose not to use it
- Alex Mooney’s resignation and the bitter subsequent election for party Chair
- And now the open primary question
It’s been a constant routine of renegades, rule changes, and rancor for the last eight years – all we’ve been missing is the string of victories we need to make ourselves relevant in Maryland. The math is simple: one governor + one comptroller + 19 Senators + 57 Delegates = relevance. Anything less and we may as well not be there at all. Get that or more and maybe this state can be saved.
Now I will cheerfully admit I’ve had a hand in a couple of these issues I alluded to above; surely I’m not on Audrey Scott’s Christmas card list. But my goal is to help drag the Maryland Republican Party (insofar as it relates to the idea of enhanced liberty and freedom) over the finish line and make this more of a truly “free state.” (I’d like to do the same for all the other states as well.)
So this is why it bugs me that we have this whole power struggle between campaigns, between individuals – and even between websites. I like a good argument as much as anyone, but after awhile it gets pretty pointless. (Although I should take this moment to thank those who have supported me and my efforts – never hurts to acknowledge them! I have a support base I’d stack up to anyone’s.)
Certainly the average person, who may only now be starting to pay attention peripherally to the race (we’re months away from it being foremost in mind to probably 90% or more of Marylanders; this won’t occur until after the primary) would be unaware of what has transpired so far but right now we’re doing a damn fine job of both providing the opposition research Democrats can use in the general election and probably cheap entertainment for them as well. Doug Gansler has to be thanking his lucky stars that word of these shenanigans on our side is starting to get out because people will forget his transgressions long enough for him to rehabilitate his image.
I can surely guarantee, though, that Dan Bongino’s got enough of a struggle on his hands without having to worry about being tarred with these same broad brushstrokes. His is advice which should be heeded.
In 52 weeks from Tuesday, Marylanders will go to the polls to decide the fate of their state government for the next four years. How long that four years will seem to Maryland Republicans will hinge on the results.
But there are a lot of people already pondering the message the party should put across, or even whether they can. Take Richard Falknor at Blue Ridge Forum for example, who wrote today:
Our take: there is a broad culturally conservative base in the Old Line State, as well as a deep reservoir of those who quite rightly believe they are vastly overtaxed and overregulated. Understandably, many of these citizens have found the state Republican Party ineffective. How congenial is the G.O.P. to Blue Collar Maryland of all ethnicities when its chair here and the sole Republican U.S. Representative here flirt with amnesty? And why run the business risks of joining the opposition party in a one-dominant-party state if that opposition party has few fixed principles and won’t make serious trouble for the dominant party anyway?
The Maryland GOP and its politicians fell far short last year on two unusual outreach opportunities: they failed to put full energy and resources behind the referenda against gay marriage and against in-state tuition for illegals. Both these referenda did better here than governor Mitt Romney in 2012 in Maryland.
The state needs an energetic, organized conservative-grass-roots organization drawn from all parties. But the problem is like the one school reformers face: deciding whether to shut down a failing high school and start a new one with a new team, or to try to rehabilitate the failing school.
Whether to rebuild or replace the Beltway-Establishment-linked Maryland GOP is an open question.
Unfortunately, the question is already answered by the rules written for electioneering, as the two principal parties have distinct advantages over attempting to get on the ballot via a third party or as an independent. Few independents make it to the ballot in a statewide race, with failed onetime Republican Rob Sobhani the most recent example.
So the Maryland GOP it is. But which one?
Is it the group which seems content to be the perpetual opposition party, playing the game as best they can hoping for approval from the dominant side so that the state can move forward in a bipartisan manner? Damn, I hope not.
No, I’m more into the bomb throwers; the type who assumes that in order to make an omelet you have to scramble some eggs. Once the TEA Party came into being I hoped it was the impetus which would shake up a moribund state party which saw its lone Republican incumbent governor in two generations shellacked at the polls, losing one of its two Congressional seats two years later when the national elections gave the other party a stranglehold on the federal government. That was the situation we encountered at the dawn of 2009.
Once the TEA Party got rolling, I was hoping the Maryland Republican Party would embrace it. Instead, they decided the retread who had been pounded four years before was good enough to run again. But the upstart campaign of Brian Murphy brought a new element into the MDGOP - particularly once Sarah Palin endorsed him – and the 2010 primary results showed just how significant a portion it was. To get 1/4 of the vote against a candidate the state party all but endorsed was an accomplishment.
But the race for party Chair that fall still showed we had a long way to go, with the most overt TEA Party participant receiving only a smattering of votes. It’s funny, though, how turnover in the state party erodes that which most people thought was conventional wisdom because the TEA Party favorite just missed winning the special election for Chair this spring and ended up as First Vice-Chair. Still, observers like Falknor saw it as a Pyrrhic victory at best, choosing to advocate for a different path.
I bring all that history to the fore because 2014 will be the first state election where the TEA Party is more integrated into the political process. We gained experience with the 2010 campaign, but now the hard work begins. And the question we must answer: how can we make sure those in the political middle receive the conservative message? We know the other side tries to smear and obfuscate it as much as possible.
A lot of people say the way to accomplish this is to focus strictly on pocketbook issues. But to me that misses the point – if we’re going to be painted as extremists, why not explain why we feel the way we do instead of being defensive? For example, I’m pro-life and believe life begins at conception because how else would you define when life begins? How is it logical that a child one centimeter away from exiting the birth canal can be murder but once outside is considered human?
On the other hand, though, I feel that those who commit premeditated murder forfeit the right to life through their action, and in so doing deserve the ultimate punishment of the death penalty.
Life is about far more than money and the size of government. It is also up to us to construct the guard rails for our progeny so they stay on a relatively straight and narrow path. Yes, they will have their period of rumspringa but the idea is not to allow them enough rope to hang themselves with.
Liberals will tell us that delving into social issues will keep us from winning elections, but since when do we solicit counsel from an enemy? It would be like John Harbaugh taking play-calling advice from Troy Polamalu. You know, for as far-left a state as Maryland supposedly is, it took a Presidential election against a weak Republican candidate to get more than 50% of the voters to support gay marriage. As I said at the time, that was their best chance because no one wanted it on the 2014 ballot with them,
So I don’t think all discussion of social issues should be off-limits if we use them as a teachable moment. In order to change Maryland to a “purple” state we need to educate the public on the benefits of conservative thought.
Sometimes the best of candidates are derailed by bad management, bad preparation, or just plain bad luck. I’m not sure how much any of those three apply to a campaign which initially held promise, but it’s sad to see Charles Lollar get such bad press. Some, like blogger Jeff Quinton, are comparing Lollar to Doug Gansler – to me that’s way out of bounds. On the other hand, this push against Lollar has been greeted by a somewhat shrill retort by Julie Brewington, who is my local Lollar campaign coordinator. That light you see on the horizon is all those bridges she’s torching.
Still, both have some valid points. I’m going to focus on three which are holding him back.
At this stage in the game, the most valuable introduction to a campaign is their website, which is supposed to serve as a one-stop shop for getting to know the candidate, soliciting donations and volunteers, and keeping abreast of their comings and goings. Certainly there’s a place for Facebook, Twitter, and other social media as well, but I prefer to have all of this information in a single point source and I’m sure others do too.
So I have to question why the Lollar team has had three separate URLs, including a .co which made little sense as a political website. While the other campaigns have registered a fairly simple, straightforward .com address, these guys can’t settle on a site.
On the other hand, I disagree with Quinton in that the new Lollar site (assuming its layout and design remains as he’s pictured) looks to me very clean and easy-to-use. It would be a contrast to the photo-heavy splash pages of all three Democrats; more businesslike. The other two GOP contenders have intro pages which seem just a bit too busy to me, but it’s all a personal preference. I’m sure my layout isn’t for everyone either.
While I admire Julie’s tenacity in sticking up for her chosen candidate, the question she doesn’t answer is why Charles has missed a number of key events, including the opportunity for free media on Pat McDonough’s radio show last week (for which he ran a few minutes late.) Far be it for me – of all people – to be a subscriber to conventional wisdom, but there are times to play the outsider and times where it doesn’t pay to. I’ll grant that perhaps Charles was out meeting voters and working on retail campaigning rather than hang around with people who would almost certainly at least vote for him if he garnered the nomination (in the same grudging respect that many Brian Murphy supporters like myself bit the bullet and backed Bob Ehrlich in the general election) but there are places where your face needs to show once in awhile to be considered serious. Out of the three contenders, Charles is the only one who’s not won a general election. (The same can be said, though, for Larry Hogan if he gets into the GOP race.)
Whether Karen Winterling has to go, or whether former jailbird Jason Boisvert is a help or hindrance to the Lollar effort – that’s really only relevant to some political junkies and others looking for blog fodder. (I think Jason’s a halfway decent writer, though, at least insofar as education is concerned.) Most of that does weigh into my decision on the race as intangibles, but to me what really matters are issues.
So at this particular moment in time the piece which irks me most is the website being down because I’m working on dossiers of the GOP candidates for use in future posts about the race. An issues page is quite useful in that regard – heck, if the Lollar campaign is reading this (I’ll bet they are) can you shoot me an .html of the issues page of the website? Or just get it up and running?
I think Charles is learning that being a statewide candidate is an entirely different animal than working around a Congressional district. Let’s hope the road from here on out becomes a lot less bumpy.
First the bad news: the Pathfinders program scheduled by the Maryland Republican Party for Wicomico County for Saturday, March 23 has been rescheduled for two Saturdays later, April 6. Conservatives who would like to learn more about the process of running for office will have to wait two more weeks for this valuable training.
This news, however, came as a minor annoyance on a day when the Maryland GOP was embarking on a new initiative. This from interim Chair Diana Waterman:
As Interim Chair of the Maryland Republican Party, it’s no question that Maryland matters to me, and if you’re reading this note it matters to you too. That doesn’t mean Maryland has been at its best lately. Between 2007 and 2010, 31,000 Marylanders have left the Free State thanks to the burdensome taxes–which get worse every year. These tax increases have gone hand-in-hand with a 30% increase in spending and growth in state debt payments of 50%.
In short, to make the Free State free again, we must get off this unsustainable path.
To make sure we play a critical role in Maryland’s turnaround, we are proud to launch our “Maryland Matters” campaign.
The initiative is a survey, which greeted me with the message that my input was “critical to the future of the Maryland Republican Party.” Well, I certainly hope so, since I went through a contested election to secure my position for the next 18 months or so.
So I filled my copy out, which took a few minutes and definitely gave them my two cents; in fact, I think I approached a quarter.
I can tell you what I thought the number one priority was in my eyes: candidate recruitment. Let me give you an example from 2010.
In that year, we had two Republican candidates for Governor, three for Comptroller, eleven for United States Senator, and 28 would-be Congressman (the actual number for each district varied from one to five.) But we didn’t manage to have an Attorney General candidate and we left nearly 50 General Assembly seats unopposed.
Now I understand there are people out there who believe they would be the perfect person to move from citizen to Congress or to the governor’s chair. I’ll grant it’s somewhat possible, and God bless people like Brian Murphy, Dan Bongino and Jim Rutledge for making their first try for elective office a statewide bid.
But there is something to be said about building a farm team, which is how the Democrats have managed to corner the market in this state. It really doesn’t matter if three or four of their local officeholders are defeated in a primary for a higher position, such as the situation which may develop in their primary for Governor between a sitting Lieutenant Governor, sitting Attorney General, sitting County Executive, and sitting Delegate – there are several more than willing to move up from local and small-district positions to take their place. In turn, there are those local campaign workers and volunteers being groomed to take the positions vacated at the bottom.
While I disagree with the words of some who think we have no shot in a statewide race, I do agree with the aspect of working on local races. In Wicomico County we have the majority of officeholders, but we allowed too many Democrats to slide by without a contest last time. Granted, here in Wicomico we had very few primaries for Republican nominations – while we had to run a primary in 2010, it was only necessary to eliminate one would-be aspirant in Council District 3 and one for the at-large Council seats. On the other hand, 13 of us ran for 9 Central Committee seats.
If we can get some good young candidates to run in seats where we need people willing to be the state leaders of the future after getting some valuable experience in the trenches, we can build up our own farm team. That’s not to say we don’t want those who have reached a certain age to run for positions where experience is desired (such as Orphans’ Court, Register of Wills, Clerk of the Court, and the like) but generally political futures are built on the legislative end of the spectrum.
Just to use myself as an example, the fact is I’m 48 years old and the second-youngest on my Central Committee – all of us have seen 40 come and go. I realize where my political future is and it’s not in the legislative arena – win or lose, I’ve decided the 2014 election is my last as an officeseeker. (I figure 12 to 16 years on Central Committees between two states is plenty, since I served four years in Ohio before moving here and was elected to my current post in 2006.) But those who would like to build up a political resume may be well-served by serving a term on the Central Committee.
So when Pathfinders training comes around, I encourage you to take advantage. Nearly 60 years ago President Dwight Eisenhower said:
Politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage.
For most of the past two decades, politics has been my part-time profession and I think it’s made me a better person. Conservatives and pro-liberty freedom fighters: if you’ve been on the sidelines, it’s time to step out onto the field.
I covered the events of Saturday morning in part 1, so if you enjoyed the “lunch break” I pick up the events with one of the most popular conservative politicians in Maryland.
Yes, on the far right of the picture is Dan Bongino. He was the star attraction of a panel discussion called “Changing the Ground Game in Maryland.” Moderated by Kari Snyder, the other participants were 2012 Congressional candidate and author Ken Timmerman and Delegate Neil Parrott.
As he stated in his interview here, Bongino had some definite criticism of the MDGOP’s efforts and suggestions for improvements. For example, “if you’re not registering voters at the gun shows in Maryland in the next two months, you should be arrested for political malpractice.”
Obviously Dan harped on the voter registration aspect – “they’re kicking our butts” – and how badly we were trounced there, although not to the extent he did in our conversation. But he also spent a lot of his time on the concept of message vs. marketing, rhetorically asking “do you know what the most dangerous branch of government is right now? The media!” Dan also restated the point that “(Barack Obama) ran on our message.”
“We’ve never had a message problem,” continued Dan. “We’ve always had a marketing problem.”
Meanwhile, the effects of economic neglect are apparent in Baltimore. ”Baltimore City is in a catastrophic economy. There is no economy in Baltimore City,” added Bongino.
Another facet lost in this recent campaign was the school choice issue. He called on us to “isolate and humiliate every one of our opponents” who don’t support the issue. “It is the civil rights issue of our day,” Dan stressed. Yet he had the awareness to realize “we’re in the echo chamber now…action matters.”
After Bongino received a standing ovation both at the introduction and the close, Ken Timmerman had the unenviable task of following Dan. He chose to focus on his race with Chris Van Hollen, noting that opposition research is very important. Van Hollen “did not know what hit him” when portions of his record were released, so much so that he stopped doing joint appearances.
Other observations made by Timmerman were somewhat obvious to us: first, “Democrats will not vote Democrat lite,” and second, “the media is not our friend….don’t let them get away with anything.” (The easily ascertained evidence of that was the camera crews showing up for the protest outside.)
Ken also spoke on the role of the Maryland (and national) GOP, stating that “They didn’t give me any assistance to speak of.” It would have been helpful to get good, reliable voter data, for example. Timmerman also warned that “it’s easy to introduce malicious software into these electronic voting machines.” The technology simply isn’t secure.
Timmerman also made the statement that “we have to start with trench warfare” in the Maryland General Assembly and “hit their core beliefs.” Ken then went through a list of proposed bills, many of which I noted to myself have been tried. “It doesn’t matter if they fail,” he went on to say, because “we force them to engage.” It provided a nice transition to Neil Parrott’s remarks.
However, Neil began by rehashing the previous ballot initiative campaign, saying “we won by getting (them) on the ballot.” He went over the several steps to get a referendum on the ballot: approval of the ballot language by the Board of Elections, gathering of signatures, the inevitable defense in court, and finally the writing of the language by the Secretary of State – often that can require another trip to the judicial system to clean up misleading statements, like 2012′s Question 5 on gerrymandering which alluded to the Constitution, making it sound like the ballot issue had that imprimatur.
The one thing missing was any sort of campaigning. One obvious problem was a lack of funding; for example on Question 4 we were outspent $1.7 million to $60,000. All that money allowed the proponents of Question 4 to successfully shift the narrative from one of illegality to one of “fairness.” “We need to reinvent MDPetitions.com,” Parrott explained.
One other well-taken point by Parrott was that Question 7 “sucked the oxygen out of the room.” More money was spent on that than the 2010 governor’s race.
Activists were well-aware of most of these facts, though. The next session turned our focus to energy issues.
Moderator Andrew Langer of the Institute for Liberty was joined on this panel by journalist Mark Newgent, blogger of Junkscience.com Steve Milloy, and Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute – a source which regularly appears on this page.
Newgent opened by making a salient point: despite the push by the O’Malley administration and the adoption of ill-advised renewable portfolio standard goals, the 1.6% of electricity provided by renewable sources at the turn of the century was now a punier 1.3% as of 2010. Mark also explained that the purchase of a “renewable energy credit” was a purchase of “absolutely nothing,” but it was a fine excuse for crony capitalism. Sometimes it even had a negative effect, like a (now-expired) federal tax credit for the usage of the “black liquor” by-product of the wood pulping process; one which produces more carbon dioxide than burning coal or natural gas because they mix black liquor with diesel fuel to burn it.
Newgent followed the money to the Town Creek Foundation, an Easton-based environmental organization. “We’re up against some stiff competition,’ he added.
“This is the game that’s going on,” Mark concluded.
Milloy derided the concept of global warming as an excuse to advance policy. “They don’t want to know anything about science,” he opined. But the small number of people on our side concerned with environmental issues had to deal with a swarm of so-called experts on the Left. “Their fondest dream is to saddle the country with some sort of climate legislation that enables them to have control of the economy,” said Steve. “Climate is the best scam they’ve ever worked.”
One statement I enjoyed was Milloy’s call to rip your ‘Save the Bay’ plates off your car. The point was that there’s nothing we can do about carbon dioxide emissions, or to fix the Bay, so save your $20.
CEI’s Ebell bluntly assessed that “the (energy) myths are winning; in particular, they’re winning in states like Maryland.” But there was some good news: unlike other states, there was very little potential for vastly more expensive wind or solar power here in Maryland. Other states had much more ambitious schedules for renewable standards; for example, California’s goal is 33 percent renewables by 2020. As a result, “they’ve already driven out most of the manufacturing in their state,” said Ebell.
“This is the level of intelligence you’re dealing with…you should be shocked, but you should also be really angry,” he added.
But the problem with any renewable source of power, explained Myron, was that they weren’t terribly reliable. Wind costs more because you also had to build a natural gas plant for the 3/4 of the time the wind didn’t blow, particularly in the summer when demand was higher but winds were generally calmer.
Even on the oil front, Myron noted that the 3% of the proven reserves it’s claimed we have is a number so low simply because we can’t explore many other areas which could potentially have large reserves, such as the North Slope of Alaska.
Speaking of energy, my friend Jackie Wellfonder happened to return with some goodies about this time.
These were handed out at the CC4MD table, an organization for which Jackie serves as treasurer. She must have sensed that I like my chocolate.
As opposed to me not being cheated out of some goodies, the next group was dubbed “The Cheated Generation.”
Blogger and radio host Jimmie Bise was the moderator for this group, which included Gabby Hoffman of the Leadership Institute, Baltimore Area Young Republican president Trae Lewis, Brandon Cooper, a campaign coordinator for Dan Bongino, and businessman Brian Meshkin.
Bise opened his segment a little differently, urging people to turn on their cellphones and spread the word on social media using the #TTT13 hashtag for Twitter. (I did, quite a bit.) He added that entitlements are shifting the cost burden from older Americans to the youth, from a group which can’t afford this because, among other things, there’s $1 trillion in college debt.
Cooper opened up the remarks by remarking on a handout he passed around, one which explained the economic realities younger people face. These mainly stem from student loans, which hamper the average student to the tune of $23,300. “Government spent $500 million on student loans in 1978; $115.6 billion in 2012,” the handout revealed. Brandon went on to add that, because the federal government was now the sole distributor of student loans, there were no more price control incentives.
Brian Meshkin chastised the government’s tendency from our kids to pay for “selfish excesses.” As the only elected Republican in Howard County (a member of the school board) he told us that “education was a huge, huge winning issue.”
“No child should be held back by the street they live on,” said Meshkin to raucous applause.
There was more cheering as Gabby Hoffman revealed her story as the daughter of Lithuanian immigrants, parents who were now seeing “too many parallels” to the situation they grew up under in the former Soviet Union. And she saved severe criticism for Sandra Fluke, who she called a “repugnant human being…no young woman should look up to that trash.” Obviously it followed that Hoffman also believed that giving up on social conservatism was “a completely BS move.”
But her message overall was blunt: if you don’t learn from communism’s failures, we will have it in America. We have to scare young people with the truth, Hoffman concluded.
Trae Lewis began by giving us some bad news: if Martin O’Malley is the Democratic nominee in 2016, we are likely spotting him 215 electoral votes. (Actually, we are doing so regardless of the nominee.) The reason: “he’s hitting us where we ain’t,” meaning the urban centers of America. “The American city is the epitome of what liberal leadership will do for this country,” warned Lewis, and there’s no reason not to harp on wedge issues like school choice.
“You can’t turn a tide from the middle of the ocean,” Trae pointed out, “you have to start at the shore and work your way out.”
That wrapped up the “cheated youth” segment, but there were several other “cheated” groups. With so many speakers and panels and only a one-day timeframe, there were bound to be some issues which received less coverage so we had what was called the “coalition round-up.” This had representatives of groups focusing on immigration, election integrity, the General Assembly, school choice, pro-life issues, and the Second Amendment.
While much of his ground was covered by previous presenters, Paul Mendez of Help Save Maryland repeated the fact that 90,000 more people in Maryland voted against Question 4 than voted for Mitt Romney. And there was an economic benefit even in failure: not only did they delay the implementation of the bill by over a year – saving Maryland taxpayers thousands – over $1 million was pumped in from out of state to pass Question 4.
Cathy Kelleher of Election Integrity Maryland gave a short history of the group, which was inspired to begin after activist Anita MonCrief appeared at the first Turning the Tides conference in 2011. It “started with four people at a kitchen table,” but after pointing out thousands of voter roll irregularities over the last year EIM could claim the success of removing
15,000 1,500 dead people from Maryland voter rolls. (Thanks to Cathy for pointing out my overexuberant typo.)
On the flip side of the electoral process was the legislative process, and Elizabeth Meyers introduced her Maryland Legislative Watch group to the audience. This group of volunteers (of which I’m one) reviews every bill introduced to the General Assembly to determine if it’s an anti-liberty bill.
While activist and writer Doug Mainwaring wasn’t affiliated with a particular pro-traditional marriage group, he worked closely with them in an effort to defeat Question 6. And when asked how an openly gay man can possibly be against same-sex marriage, he quipped “You’re an adult. You have children. How can you possibly be a liberal?” Needless to say, Doug brought down the house with that remark.
But Doug was concerned that Republicans and conservatives “are crumbling on this issue.” Some examples were National Review, the Washington Times, and Newt Gingrich.
David Spielman, the outreach coordinator for National School Choice Week, told us he was “giddy” about all the school choice talk at this forum. But the problem we had was deeper than just one issue, for Spielman assessed that “Obama was talking to everyone; we were talking to ourselves…we were outmatched, we were beaten.”
School choice will take outreach, he continued, but so far over 3500 events had been held over the period School Choice Week had been celebrated. (The 2013 edition begins January 27, but there are no events on Delmarva.)
Jack Ames of Defend Life, who was wearing a shirt emblazoned with the pro-life message he said was free for the asking, but with the promise it would be worn in public regularly, claimed that most people are philosophically pro-life, they’re just not actively pro-life. Still, “we’re literally killing God’s creation.” The Defend Life organization, he went on to say, works in three main areas: a lecture tour with several speakers which is available for groups, a magazine, and the “Face the Truth” tours, which feature photos of aborted fetuses. He urged pro-life activists to “be fearless” and do what we can to embarrass Martin O’Malley. (Isn’t he Catholic? Wonder how he reconciles his pro-abortion stance in his church?)
Finally, decorated Vietnam veteran and retired NRA attorney Jim Warner gave a roundup of the Second Amendment. He also gave us some sage advice: the only way to stop a bad person with a gun is to have a good person with a gun. Finally, we should “tell the Marxists to go to hell!,” Warner shouted.
The “words of encouragement” to wrap up this long day were delivered by 2010 U.S. Senate candidate Jim Rutledge, who took the stage to the chant of “A-G, A-G!” Many (myself included) would like to see Rutledge make a run for Attorney General in 2014.
Rutledge pointed out that “a storm…cannot be avoided. We’re getting ready to learn some very profound, painful lessons. And that lesson is this: unlimited, centralized power cannot coexist with liberty.” Jim blasted the concept of machine politics, one which Maryland had lived under “for far too long.” Baltimore City was “a great example” of this; a philosophy where Jim postulated that the machine asks “what you’ve done to serve the machine?”
On the other hand, liberty asks what your rulers have done for you, Jim thundered in his distinctive, appealing style. Yet too many in Washington, D.C. are “uncomfortable promoting liberty.” To that he strongly asserted, “Washington, D.C. cannot fix Washington, D.C.”
Meanwhile, Maryland is no better: “We’re on our own in this state,” said Jim.
There’s no doubt that Rutledge was a good choice to motivate the crowd and renew their spirit. It’s too bad he’s not utilized by the Republican party here in Maryland, but his may be a case of alienating the wrong insiders.
Finally, the day was done. Well, there was a Happy Hour sponsored by the Conservative Action Network, Conservative Victory PAC, Constitutional Conservatives for Maryland PAC, and the Montgomery County Federation of Republican Women. I was also cheered to see some of the Maryland GOP leadership dropped by, as First Vice Chair Diana Waterman and National Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose were present for at least part of an event where the party wasn’t always shown in the best light.
But the question is one of continuing the effort beyond the walls of the Doubletree Hotel. There were perhaps 300 of us who attended the event, but, for example, in 2010 1,044,961 voters were foolish enough to re-elect Martin O’Malley. On the other hand, only 67,364 Republicans voted for the more conservative Brian Murphy in the primary election and just 74,404 voted for the aforementioned Rutledge in his Senate bid. Indeed, we have a problem with our message insofar as not enough people are making the educated, real world proven choice of conservatism.
Yet if 300 people can both reach one voter a month and, in turn, convince that voter to reach one other voter a month, the force multiplier will get us to the 1.2 million votes we will need in 2014. But we have to step beyond preaching to the choir and get in the faces of the opposition. Stop being afraid.
Several people at the conference, both speakers and in general conversation, suggested reading and studying how the Democrats succeeded in several areas, with the closest parallel being the state of Colorado. Obviously they had the weaker message, but the better techniques of making people believe in voting against their interests. So it’s our job to remind Maryland voters that the government which is large enough to give you everything is also powerful enough to take it away – don’t say we didn’t warn you when the excrement hits the fan.
Welcome to the debut of my newest feature, Ten Question Tuesday. This interview segment may or may not feature exactly ten questions, but the intent is to learn a little more about those personalities who help shape local and national politics.
Today’s guest needs no introduction to Maryland Republicans. Dan Bongino survived a ten-man Republican primary to easily win the U.S. Senate nomination last April and ran a spirited race against incumbent U.S. Senator Ben Cardin. The entry of independent candidate Rob Sobhani altered the race and blunted Bongino’s momentum; still, as we discuss here there were a lot of lessons to learn and useful information to be gathered for future GOP efforts in Maryland.
monoblogue: The first thing I want to know is: have you even rested since the election?
Bongino: (laughs) For about four hours or so. The day after the election there’s always that feeling of, ah, you lost. There are no silver medals in politics – although there are different degrees of success and failure, of course – there is only one Senate seat and only one person sitting in it. It wasn’t me, and I felt like we worked really hard. But I didn’t take any time off…I had a workout the next day, which was something I wasn’t able to do on a regular schedule during the campaign which kind of cleared my head. My wife begged me at that point to take some time (yet) I don’t think there’s any time to take. This isn’t the time for pity, this is the time to find out what went wrong and fix it. So I haven’t taken any time – I’ve got a number of different things I’m working on right now; it’s a pretty extensive list.
monoblogue: I noticed you have a consulting business; in fact, when I arranged the interview I went through Karla (Graham) and she’s one of your (consulting firm’s) employees.
Bongino: Yeah, I think the consulting business…it was obviously slow, intentionally, during the campaign, because I just didn’t have any time to take it on. So there were things I could do and things I couldn’t do; I immersed myself completely in the campaign. That’s now picked up pretty well for me, we jumped right back in on that.
But we have a PAC we’re starting. Contrary to some rumors spread by some within the party who I think are more aligned with political positioning rather than political philosophy, my campaign didn’t finish anywhere close to in the red. We were actually cash-positive by a significant margin – well over $60,000 and it’s coming in more by the day. You don’t want to finish a campaign cash-positive – or cash-negative – but with us, we were relying on donations. I wasn’t Rob Sobhani, who funded it with my own money, or Ben Cardin, who had a steady stream of donations due to 45 years in politics. I had to rely on the money as it came in, and toward the end, the last four months we were out-raising Sobhani and Cardin combined by really heavy margins. We did not want to run a fiscally irresponsible campaign like our government, so we budgeted our money to be responsible – to ensure we had enough to pay our salaries at the end, to pay off the printing company, the internet management company…it’s like running a business. It came in so heavy in the last week that I think we would up with roughly $70,000 left over, which we’re going to use to fund Republican causes. It’s one of those initiatives now as well.
monoblogue: So basically you’ve become the Bongino PAC.
Bongino: Yeah, you can call it the pro-growth alliance, because it’s going to be a very targeted PAC. Everybody understands I’m a conservative – I don’t think that’s a mystery to anyone – but I want the PAC to focus exclusively on job growth and the economy. I’ve said all along the Republican Party, in my opinion, we don’t have a messaging problem – we have a marketing problem. I could not be clearer on that.
Our message, when you think about it, the President of the United States ran on our message. “I want to cut the deficit and control spending…I’m only going to raise taxes on people who won’t get hurt by it.” These are all messages that the Republican Party uses, that the President stole. Of course, he was disingenuous about it, but it just accentuates my point further that our message won a long time ago. We have a very serious marketing problem, and we have what I perceive in Maryland to be a lack of a short- and long-term plan politically.
When you ask some in the party “what’s the plan going forward?” like you would ask in a business “how will you launch this new product line?”…a business runs on three simple principles: how do you find new products for your markets, new markets for your products, and how do you shut down inefficiencies in your business. You can apply those principles to any business on the planet, including politics. Now we have to find out how we get our message to new markets, because we’re not reaching black voters, we’re not reaching Hispanic voters…I would debate we’re not reaching Montgomery County or Baltimore City voters at all, and we have to do that.
monoblogue: Well, here’s the one thing that I’ve noticed, and this has been true of almost any race statewide since I moved here, and I’ve been here since 2004. We seem to have a barrier of 40% we just can’t break, and the question is: if you have a message that sells, how come we can’t break the 40% barrier? What is the deal where you can’t swing the extra 10 percent plus one over to our side?
Bongino: I see it strategically, there’s a number of problems…it’s a big question. I’ll be talking about this at the MDCAN as well. There is no plan…let me give you an example because it’s easy to say that… Here’s some things we’ve been doing wrong with the swing voters.
The Democratic Party, despite literally a decade with Governor O’Malley – we’re closing in on the end of his term (and) ten years of really consistent monopolized Democratic rule – and I would debate even in the Ehrlich administration as well, and that’s not a knock on Ehrlich; I’ll explain that in a second – that’s nothing to do with him. (Despite the) monopolistic Democratic rule, the Democratic Party in Maryland has managed to out-register voters in contrast to the Republican Party, 400,000 to 100,000. How is that? How is that with BRAC, people moving into the state, frustration with the bag tax in Montgomery County, frustration with the income tax just about all over the state, frustration with the bottle tax in Baltimore City, that we as a Republican Party have had no consolidated effort to register voters at all?
And if you dispute that, I ask you where you saw the plan? Where did you read the blueprint on how to register voters? Now, there are counties out there that are doing a fantastic job, but there is no statewide…St. Mary’s County as an example. Carroll County registered five times as many Republicans than the Democrats have registered Democrats. Harford County, three times. I use St. Mary’s as the blueprint; they doubled the number of registrations compared to Democrats because it was a very consolidated, targeted, guided effort by the Central Committee and the clubs to get a mission done, which they accomplished. So that’s problem number one, registration.
The second problem: we’ve absolutely forfeited the black and Hispanic vote. I’ll give you an example from my campaign: I had actual donors – very few, but some donors – they asked me to not attempt to spend a lot of time in those places, deeming it a “lost cause.” Now they’d been beaten up there before with candidates who’ve gone down there to communities we should be in, and the results just haven’t been there. But that’s not an excuse to give up; because we haven’t found the right formula doesn’t mean we stop searching for the potion. Forfeiting the black and Hispanic vote is political suicide.
monoblogue: I completely agree. And that’s one thing that I know, we’ve paid lip service to that for years and I’ve been in the Republican Party here since 2006. Now there’s one other aspect I wanted to get into, and maybe it kind of goes in with your role as an outsider, but I want to back my readers up to the first time you and I met.
We first met when you came to our Republican club meeting down here in Wicomico County in the summer of 2011, and you brought (2010 gubernatorial candidate) Brian Murphy with you, which immediately piqued my interest because I was a Brian Murphy supporter in that primary.
monoblogue: So given that as a starting point, the other portion of the question is: did that help you…how did it help you raise a national profile? I know Sarah Palin came into Brian Murphy’s campaign at a late date and endorsed him and that probably at least put him on the map – and I noticed she did the same thing with you. There seems to be a linkage between you and Palin because I just happened to hear a little podcast you did on a very Palin-friendly website. Obviously you’ve used Sarah Palin and people like that to build more of a national profile than any other Republican candidate in Maryland…I would say that even Bob Ehrlich doesn’t have nearly the national profile that you do. So how do we leverage that?
Bongino: Money, media, and volunteers are a campaign, so the question is how do you leverage a national profile, which is really just name recognition nationally. How do you leverage that to getting media, to getting extra money into the campaign, into getting volunteers? I think we did that quite well. A lot of…some insiders on both sides took shots at us afterward…saying we’d lost by a good and healthy margin. But I don’t think anybody took into account was the successful operation we’d put together considering we were only funded, really for the last four months, to finish second out of three candidates despite being outspent by a factor of almost 20:1.
Now we did that by using the national profile, and what I think is important and is an operation that has largely been lost on some of us – quite a few Republicans in the state – is a mastery of the media message. I think what our campaign did – and this isn’t me trumpeting my campaign on any kind of pedestal, I’m just speaking to the fact we got a lot of national media – we were very careful to manage the message. We understood the ideas that had punch, and Karla and I had what we called the “hook” – what was an angle to put Maryland on the map, to put this Senate race on the map? In some cases it was my Secret Service experience as a federal agent commenting on “Fast and Furious.” There were other cases, there were scandals, and unfortunately those scandals, I thought, took on a life of their own – Colombia scandal of course – but there was an opportunity there to defend an agency that I loved being a part of. I thought they were getting a bum rap – there were a few bad eggs and I didn’t appreciate that, so we took an opportunity there to defend the Service, that certainly helped.
Here’s a thing a lot of folks forget as well, and it’s one of the most important points here; the most salient that I can take out of this – when you get an opportunity to get in front of a national audience, whether it’s on Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity multiple times – you have to be interesting. Not sensational, not scandalous – interesting. You have to say things that give people a reason to listen, or else you’re just another voice coming out of their car radio. And I was very careful to come in there very prepared about what I wanted to say and what I wanted to speak, so that then led to more media. Media begats more media, it is a virtuous cycle. When we did Hannity, then we went to Beck. When we did Beck, we went to Levin. When we did Levin, we would get on Fox.
monoblogue: It established credibility.
Bongino: Yes, and you get into a cycle, and then the contacts start to see you as a reliable, exciting guest that brings energy to the show and I think we did twelve or thirteen different appearances on Hannity. If you’re interesting, not only does that begat more media but that begats donors. Those donors…the way I would leverage that is if you donated $25 after I did an appearance on Hannity, I’d call you. Sometimes I’d spent half an hour on the phone with people, talking about issues that mattered to them – they weren’t even Maryland citizens. But those $25 donors became $250 donors, who became $1,000 donors, who despite the poll numbers continued to support me. Someone sent me an e-mail, as a matter of fact – I don’t think he wants me to give up his name, but he’s an out-of-state donor – who started very small and wound up donating a substantial amount of money to my campaign. He said, “I’m not investing in the Maryland Senate race, I’m investing in you.” And that’s how we built a database of over 20,000 donors. That’s a substantial list, a very credible list – nationally speaking, not just in Maryland.
And finally, volunteers. When you’re on television and radio it’s an obvious force multiplier. In the case of the Hannity show during drive time you’re speaking to 14 million people. I would always get out the website and we would get people on the mailing list, which grew into 10,000-plus names and 3,000 volunteers. And I would make sure with the volunteers – and I encourage other candidates to do this as well – your volunteers don’t work for you, they work with you. That’s not a soundbite; you have to act that way and portray that on your campaign.
When I would ask volunteers to show up for a sign wave, which a lot of people didn’t like the approach, they have no idea what went on in the back end. We would sign wave, and I had consultants who had never won anything telling me, yeah, that’s a waste of time. What they didn’t understand was, on the back end of our website I could analyze how many people went to our website after we’d go to a neighborhood and sign wave with twenty or thirty people – the exponential growth in volume in donors, volunteers, and traffic to our website was usually singularly located to that area I was the day before sign waving. But the genius consultants didn’t know any of that. I’m glad they don’t because they recommend other people don’t do it.
…I would show up with the volunteers, this was a really hot summer. We had something like a month straight of 90-degree weather; I’d show up there in my suit and I would stand out there an hour and a half, breathing in smog in Montgomery County, waving at cars as they came by with the volunteers who understood that it wasn’t just talk. I would talk, I would ask them about their families and how things were going, and it became a family atmosphere where it wasn’t just banter…that’s how we did that, leverage that whole model into something I think very special.
monoblogue: I think you would be a very good speaker on just getting media attention, and how to be interesting in front of the media. That’s something a lot of our candidates could use because we’re trying to get elected here. We have a message, but we need – that is the missing link. It’s hard to be interesting to people sometimes – it’s not always my strong point either.
Bongino: I’ve been watching a lot of our locals; some are very good and some of them I’ve watched, I think there’s a tendency to speak to a canned soundbite with the fear that, if you get off this script, you’re going to say something you don’t want to say. I would say if that’s the case you shouldn’t do media – you shouldn’t. You can win without it, you can do print interviews, but – not to knock him now – Rob Sobhani was the perfect example. I mean, Rob Sobhani essentially stopped doing serious live interviews at the end because every time he got on the air he would say something ridiculous – you know, the famous “I hit the jackpot” quote…the DREAM Act, he would say four or five different things, sometimes not realizing that obviously these interviews were going to be broadcast and cataloged and people would catch him on it – you have to go out there and be confident you’ve done your homework and you’re ready to go.
monoblogue: Here’s one thing… I’m curious about this, and I know I’ve seen media about this since the election. (Regarding) 2014, and I know – I’ve been in politics long enough to know you don’t want to rule anything out or commit to anything at this point. But is there something that you would not necessarily rule out, but you would favor as far as an office to run for?
Bongino: I’ve got a list together that a couple of trusted confidantes on the campaign and I are going through – best options, worst options, me being a business mind and a rational maximizer like any good economist would be – do a cost/benefit on each and a cost/benefit’s not just for me, but it’s for the party. I’ve said over and over that I don’t want to run for something that I think would be good for me but bad for the party; I think that would be hypocritical. But, yeah, there’s a number of things I’m looking at – I mean, I don’t think it’s any secret that the Governor’s race, the (Anne Arundel) County Executive race, there’s some other options out there as well that I’ve been considering. And there’s also the option of not doing anything electorally but staying involved in the process through the PAC. I’m writing now for Watchdog Wire, and I do pieces on RedState that are getting some really good traction, so there’s that possibility as well.
I really don’t know, but I’m going through the numbers and at the presentation at MDCAN I’m doing I’m going to be very deliberate, too, about what needs to get done numbers-wise because I don’t know if some of the candidates running now for some of these positions understand how difficult a statewide race is going to be. Not unwinnable – I ain’t never believed in that, and I believe in fighting the fight – but a statewide race in Maryland right now is going to be very, very tough, and it’s going to require a lot of money, a significant media profile that can bypass our local media, and a number of volunteers that is just going to be absolutely unprecedented.
monoblogue: Well, that makes sense because there is not a big, broad base of experience in the Maryland Republican Party on how to win a statewide race. The only person that’s done it in the last 40 years is Bob Ehrlich, and he lost two of them after he won one. So he’s not exactly got a great track record, either.
Bongino: Right. And one of the more disturbing aspects – and I’m not talking to the candidates we have now for governor, I’m talking about some others…you look at the Rumsfeld book, the “known knowns,” “known unknowns,” and “unknown unknowns” – the unknown unknowns are always the most dangerous thing because you don’t even know what you don’t know. I was very aware of that when I ran, I had no political resume and was very careful to start slowly. That’s why I got in so early, because I knew there were intra-county dynamics, there were party dynamics, and I wanted to be careful to avoid any significant controversies that would derail a campaign.
I’ve spoken to some who just don’t seem to understand that there are things going on in the state that they’re just completely not aware of…I’ll give you an example: I was at an event, one of them, it was in Montgomery County, and a woman walked in who was a very prominent, active Montgomery County Republican – donor, hosts events, is a terrific person – and he looked at me and said, “who’s that?” And I thought to myself, “wow, that’s not a good sign.” (laughs) It was one person, and I’m certainly not going to extrapolate too much from it, but that’s not the first time that happened.
I’ll bring up some specific county dynamics – the compressor in Myersville, that was a big deal. Water contamination on the Eastern Shore; I didn’t know about that, (it’s a) big deal. SB236 hurting the farmers: (another) big deal. The fact (some candidates aren’t aware) that there are farms in southern Maryland: a big deal…The fact in Calvert County, we have some struggles getting votes in Waldorf. These are things that a statewide candidate – you’re not going to have time anymore to learn this. I mean, I was two years out and I didn’t have a primary. These are things I’m more than happy – even if I decide to run, it’s not in my interest for any of my primary opponents to do poorly at all. I would be more than happy to share this information, and I mean that. I’m looking to do what’s best…if I did decide to run I know I can win on my merits and I don’t need to win by hoarding information. There’s just so much going on around the state and it’s not like Oklahoma (where) there’s just really a breadbasket of issues and that’s about it. Maryland is not like that; there are very regional problems; natural gas in western Maryland. These are all very important things and they need to know it all.
monoblogue: It’s not exactly “one Maryland” like our governor likes to claim.
Bongino: No, it’s not.
monoblogue: That’s a good place to wrap this up. I appreciate the time!
Honestly, I could have spent another hour on the phone and there were other items I didn’t check off my list. But this lengthy read will have to do for now. Perhaps when Dan makes up his mind about 2014, I can arrange a return visit.
Next week’s guest will be Jonathan Bydlak, who heads the Coalition to Reduce Spending. It’s a recent addition to the advocacy groups which inhabit Washington, but professes a more unique angle and focus on their pet issue. Look for it next Tuesday.
Fellow blogger Judy Warner, who now contributes to the Potomac Tea Party Report, tipped me off to an article on the Atlantic website; an article which provided a glimpse at perhaps the most important part of Barack Obama’s electoral victory. Obviously it’s packed with effusive praise for Obama’s campaign in general, for the Atlantic is at heart a highbrow liberal magazine.
But there’s an important point to be considered: say all you want about Obama’s wretched foreign and domestic policies, but he knew how to get re-elected despite being arguably the worst president since Jimmy Carter when it came to bungling both sides of the equation. Oh sure, we on the conservative side know that the mainstream media ran interference for him like the Chicago Bears of another era blocked for Walter Payton but in the end it was Payton who made the defense miss tackles and not easily bring him down.
The part about the Atlantic‘s piece by Alexis Madrigal which stuck out to me the most, though, was the Obama campaign’s willingness to go outside the political arena and find people who simply knew how to make the best use of the technology out there. (If only he would do the same for economics and Constitutional scholarship.) Of course, there was a symbiotic relationship between the two since I’m certain the vast majority of those who signed on were in Obama’s philosophical corner, but this is the technology edge that the Republicans swore up and down they would negate this time around. Instead, we had the well-documented and discussed crash of the ORCA system on Election Day which cemented the demise of Mitt Romney’s Presidential bid.
The orphan of Romney’s technology failure could be traced back to the fact that those who were by trade political consultants – and hence “knew how the system worked” – really didn’t know squat about the technological side of things. Ten years ago e-mail lists were golden because that was going to be the new way to reach voters. In fact, as I recall, the first rendition of Obama
For Against America had a massive list of somewhere around 13 million e-mail addresses to start from (including mine.) But their technology team built up from there and integrated all sorts of data collection and outputs tailored from it.
As an example, remember the post where I related the fact they knew I hadn’t donated to the Obama campaign? The fact that they could tie together the database which had my e-mail address and the one where they had the records of who donated was seemingly beyond the capability of the Romney camp. Instead, the Romney side would send me the EXACT SAME e-mail several times – once from their campaign and then through three or four different “sponsored content” sites to whom I’m sure the Romney people paid handsomely for their list. Unfortunately, I happened to be at the very center of that Venn diagram and I’m betting that most of you reading this were too. But does a generic e-mail motivate someone to go to the polls or donate?
Once again, the key difference came down to data. Maybe I wasn’t high up on the sophistication level of the Obama people because they knew I was sort of a lurker on their e-mail list. I’d bet a dollar to a donut they knew I was a XXX Republican voter and therefore gave me the minimum of e-mail efforts; meanwhile, the uncommitted or newly registered voter (or one who bothered to fill out more information at the Obama site, unlike me) had a variety of messages tailored for him or her. You don’t honestly think the “Julia” advertising campaign or the Lena Dunham “First Time” commercial weren’t calculated to arouse a group they knew they had a maximum of potential voters within? It’s also why they promoted the false “war on women” narrative, with plenty of media help to play up unfortunate statements by U.S. Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock.
Since the Romney campaign all but ignored Maryland, let’s look at one statewide Republican campaign we contested, that of Dan Bongino. Just as a recap, Bongino began running for the U.S. Senate as a first-time candidate in the spring of 2011. He had no political experience and his main initial backing was from someone who had ran and lost badly in his first run for political office at the statewide level a year earlier in Brian Murphy. It wasn’t exactly a broad platform to begin from, and the key question in the race early on was whether 2010 GOP U.S. Senate nominee Eric Wargotz would try again. He didn’t.
But Bongino worked hard to overcome many of his disadvantages, and had the attribute of a compelling, man-bites-dog sort of story: a former Secret Service agent quits to make a seemingly quixotic U.S. Senate run in a liberal bastion of a state. Moreover, he’s young, well-spoken, and telegenic, with a rags-to-riches life story that unfortunately too few got to hear outside of the conservative echo chamber. Dan did well at nationalizing his campaign thanks to that story, and managed to win the Republican primary in April over the game but underfunded Richard Douglas and several other less qualified candidates.
Perhaps the Bongino campaign hit its peak just before Labor Day, because just as people decided to start paying attention a newcomer jumped into the race with a populist promise and millions of dollars at his disposal. Obviously this threw the Bongino campaign out of balance and too much time was spent trying to fight off the challenger on the ladder below while the guy above him had little to do but watch the other two battle it out. It was almost as if Dan had to run a second primary campaign in the midst of a general election, this time against an opponent who was much better-funded and inundated the airwaves with slick 30-second commercials beseeching people to “declare your independence.” Like it or not, the “independence” pitch was a message that worked with those who were sick of party infighting but didn’t want to bother enough to go into the details of Rob Sobhani’s pledges.
But imagine what could have been had Dan had the same sort of database and expertise used by the Obama campaign? He could have targeted his message in such a manner to counter the incumbent’s record to certain voters, rebuke the so-called “independent” to wavering supporters, and kept the money stream flowing from the die-hard element. There was no question in my mind that Dan’s message had broad appeal, and perhaps had the roles been reversed between Bongino and Sobhani to where Rob was the GOP nominee and Bongino the unaffiliated candidate, the results would have been about the same. The only difference would be that the Maryland GOP would have been embarrassed about losing to an independent candidate as well as a Democrat.
That’s not to say that there aren’t potential databases at our disposal. We have an idea of those who are most worried about illegal immigration (Question 4), and are pro-family (Question 6). Those who came out against Question 5 and Question 7 can also be construed as sympathetic to at least part of our message. Then add in all the AFP people, TEA Party participants, and fiscal conservatives we know and one can build up a little bit of a knowledge base. Of course, the key is keeping it up to date and determining relevant messaging for the situations which crop up.
A new era is dawning in politics. The old scattershot standby of sign waving doesn’t seem to be very effective anymore, even as well as Dan did it in one memorable afternoon. There were a lot of cars going by on Rockville Pike that day to be sure, but there was no way of knowing whether these were even registered voters. Maybe it’s because I don’t get a lot of Democratic campaign e-mail, or maybe there’s just not enough of a base around here to make it worthwhile, but I never hear about a Democratic sign waving unless it’s in the form of a larger protest. What few Democratic tactical e-mails I received (from the Obama campaign, naturally) had to do with person-to-person events – making phone calls from the local headquarters or having “watch parties” for various campaign events at people’s homes. The former was probably more effective for reaching out to undecided voters while the latter kept the zealots motivated to keep giving of their time and talents. And it came down to having the database to know where I lived and what events were being planned by supporters via solid communications between volunteer and campaign. Those functions were handled on a local level on the Romney side, not always well.
It has been said to me on many occasions that conservatives win on issues and that we are a center-right nation. Obviously I believe that and if anything I think we need a stronger dose of limited government.
But data is king. It’s not enough to have the registration lists and do the door-to-door and phone calls, both of which seemed to be sadly lacking in Maryland thanks to a self-defeating prophecy which states Republicans can’t win statewide elections so why bother trying? That’s a good start, but we also need to invest in the electronic end of things and, more importantly, look outside the incestuous web of political consultants who talk a good game about political IT and find those who do these things for a living. Not all of the Web and social media gurus are liberal Democrats – admittedly, most are but we have to build up a farm team there as well.
I believe we can overcome all those “demography is destiny” and “you can’t convince the minorities to vote GOP” naysayers by using the right data to send them the conservative message. We can win, but it will take hard work, a lot of prudent investment outside of the good-old-boy, inside-the-Beltway system which continues to insure us defeat after defeat, and less of a reliance on things we always thought worked before but have outlived their usefulness.
All of us movement conservatives have some sort of talent, and there are a growing number who believe mine is in analyzing information and providing it to readers in a coherent fashion. As I said in my book. I believe there’s a place for someone of my talents in a conservative, limited-government movement. Years ago I read a self-help book which said I should manage around my weaknesses so I took that to heart and play to my strengths, and mine is in gathering my thoughts and turning them into pixels on a computer screen or words on a page.
But there’s a far bigger place for those who know how to corral data and put it to use so people like me can communicate to the largest number of relevant people possible, while others who have that gift of gab and outgoing personality needed for the task are sent to knock on the right doors and dial the right phone numbers with the right message for the listener. It’s never going to be foolproof, but we have a long way to go just to be adequate.
Finally, we have to treat this like a war. Of course I don’t mean that in the sense of carnage and mayhem, but the idea of taking time off or letting someone else do the job is no more. A soldier has to be ready for anything at any time, and we have to be ready to mobilize at a moment’s notice, keeping an eye out for future elections. On that front, I’m very disappointed I’ve seen no action in my hometown and no credible candidate file to either run against our mayor or the two City Council members whose seats are up in this cycle. Nor do we have a good idea yet of who will be running locally in 2014. (In that case, though, we happen to have a number of incumbents but there are seats we’d love to contest and fill as well.)
Not all campaigns will be successful, but I think we can take a step toward eventual success in learning from our tormentors, and the Atlantic profile provides a quick case study.
Those of you who have been following Maryland politics for awhile may recall that in 2010, before Bob Ehrlich finally made up his mind whether to give it another go and even prior to the upstart Brian Murphy upsetting the state GOP apple cart, there was another likable, passionate young politician who was being drafted to run for governor.
Former Charles County Republican head Charles Lollar was tripped up by a residency issue, falling just short of the five-year timeline decreed by state law based on his voter registration date. But prior to that he had made the rounds, attracting notice on RedState and appearing at the summertime Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in Crisfield. Lollar also gained fame when former GOP chair Jim Pelura asked him to head a “Maryland GOP Anti-Tax Plan Commission” in 2008.
But after Lollar withdrew from the governor’s race, he turned his sights on the difficult task of unseating entrenched Fifth District Congressman Steny Hoyer. He got 35% of the vote, but a few months later landed on his feet by being named head of the Maryland chapter of Americans for Prosperity.
It was on the “New Day Maryland” advocacy group’s website, though, that Lollar wrote he would make a decision soon:
As some of you may know by I now I have been asked to consider a run for governor in 2014. In fact, there has been a “Draft” campaign started along with a FACEBOOK site advertising such. May I say that this has humbled me to say the least and I am honored to have such friends and patriots that think so highly of me and my family.
In the upcoming months, I will be spending a tremendous amount of time considering this endeavor as I want to ensure this the right direction for me and my family. Additionally, I am meeting with business leaders throughout the state of Maryland discussing my solutions for the economic struggles of our great state to include our rising unemployment as I outlined in the “RedPrint” for Maryland that can be found on my site www.newdaymd.com.
I humbly ask each and every one of you to pray with me considering this all impressing matter. Whether you are within or without the borders of Maryland, I will need your support and prayers if in fact my family and I continue down this road. Please feel free to go on the “Draft Charles Lollar for Governor” Face Book and leave a message, I guarantee you it will encourage those who have authored this Draft as well as myself.
You all have my commitment that after considerable contemplation and prayer I will let you all know of my decision by the first of the New Year.
So what would a Lollar candidacy bring to the table?
Obviously, he’s a minority Republican, but any advantage from that with those voters would be negated if one leaked Garin-Hart-Yang internal Democratic poll from September is correct and Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown is the Democrats’ frontrunner. Furthermore, Michael Steele (among many others) proved that blacks vote for ideology before race. Yet Lollar has a compelling message which still needs to be put out in the hopes of changing hearts and minds in both that specific community and (more importantly) the state at large. Truly, prosperity and freedom aren’t (and shouldn’t be) limited by the color of one’s skin – those of us on our side take that to heart.
A second effect, though, is one of splitting the TEA Party vote a little further. Certainly the tough-talking fiscal conservative Blaine Young is a leading candidate among conservatives, but TEA Parties will have another choice if Lollar jumps in. Of course, the “establishment” Republicans also have a conundrum when they consider the choice of David Craig vs. Larry Hogan, both of whom are more known quantities in GOP circles. Hogan may also negate what advantage Lollar has in southern Maryland based on the fact his father represented the area in Congress for a few years back in the 1970s.
Lollar would also have to play catch-up in fundraising, but Lollar’s media-friendly approach could catch on nationally like Dan Bongino’s did. (Of course, if Rob Sobhani decides to run for governor all bets are off.)
Depending on the audience he seeks, though, Lollar may want to embrace (or have to live down) a statement he made in this BET profile on minority convention delegates. Of course, context is key and it’s doubtful the “not overly impressed with either party” part of the interview came without plenty of context, knowing Charles.
If I were a betting man, I’d place my money on Charles getting into the race – it’s not like he wasn’t interested before. The only thing which may hold him back would be lack of support from his family and I’m certainly not in the position to speculate on how they would feel about such a decision. From what Lollar says, we’ll know soon enough anyway.
Maybe sometime I’ll do one of these without the obligatory reference to Dan Bongino (who, even in this post-election hangover is being promoted as a 2014 candidate for governor) but for now I’m content to continue trading on a popular name among conservatives in the state. Call this edition of my occasional digest of quick little takes on news items a version of Murphy’s law – not the familiar old adage, but applicable if you recall that 2010 gubernatorial candidate Brian Murphy was one of Dan’s initial backers. Maybe those of us who supported Murphy realized the guy knew what he was talking about?
Anyway, there was an item I wanted to quote stemming from the immediate reaction to the Great Wipeout of 2012, and it came from Delegate Justin Ready:
In particular, whether we won or lost, I have come to believe that our party and the conservative movement must make some adjustments in the way we communicate with certain voters - particularly those who do not follow the political give-and-take year-round. Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh each have around 20 million listeners, but there are more than twice that number of voters that don’t get their information from talk radio. It shouldn’t be a surprise that voters did not know or care about some of the things we all cared about.
Let me be clear - we should absolutely not retreat from our principles of limited government, lower taxes, and respect for life. But we do need to find a better way to present those values in a way that cuts through the soundbite wars and the demonizing we see from the national media. Even FOX News is not much of an ally in getting a clear, coherent message across. It’s something that every Republican elected official and activist must take seriously. (All emphasis in original.)
Well, that’s the goal I’ve had for going on seven years. I’d love to have 20 million readers for my website, too. (Selling a million copies of my book would be a definite plus as well.)
Yet there’s an underlying theme to election coverage which otherwise has the depth of a cookie sheet: the horserace aspect of polling. Certainly I like to use polling as an occasional newsmaker, but we have made the names Rasmussen, Gallup, and Zogby almost as famous as Obama and Romney. But how many people could have stated where (or if) Romney stood for “limited government, lower taxes, and respect for life?” Perhaps aside from the Hannity/Limbaugh axis, most people saw Romney as the one taking away their government check, slashing taxes on just the wealthy, and perpetuating the so-called “war on women.” It was a perception popularized by the dominant media and not countered enough in a world where neighbors don’t talk to neighbors anymore.
We’ll soon see what’s said in the state party echo chamber at the end of this month. But I’m curious to know if the cake will have the correct number, since Change Maryland has grown to 25,000 members. You may recall back in April they celebrated 12,000 with the infamous cake, so this time at Turf Valley they have twice as much to party about.
In the release celebrating the milestone, Change Maryland notes:
The only way to bring about real change in Maryland is to build a coalition of Republicans, Independents, and fiscally conservative and moderate Democrats. That is exactly what Change Maryland has been doing so effectively. It unites people of all parties to work together to bring reform, fiscal responsibility and common sense to Annapolis.
The group now has more than twice as many Facebook followers than the Maryland Democratic and Republican parties combined and more than all the potential statewide candidates added together.
I haven’t asked Larry Hogan this question, but since I know many among his group are fans it’s worth pondering why Change Maryland didn’t take a leadership role in the state’s Congressional races? While the results don’t initially appear to be all that close, would their involvement have moved the needle even a little bit?
In 2010, a simple averaging of the eight Congressional candidates’ share of the vote gives a figure of 35.46%. This time around, we declined to 33.35%. Granted, thanks to redistricting and the turnout of a presidential election vs. a gubernatorial election this is something of an apples vs. oranges comparison but the trend is in the wrong direction. It’s worth noting that the GOP share went up in four districts: the First, where the largest percentage of the state’s Republicans were packed, the Fourth and Seventh, which are majority-minority districts in which Democrats could afford to dilute their vote somewhat, and the Eighth, which along with the First gained a lot of former Sixth District voters which were drawn out of that formerly Republican district. Yet there still wasn’t enough there to unseat the Democratic incumbent.
If Change Maryland is the home of this grand coalition, one would think taking a little more of a leadership role would start tipping some of these districts. Obviously we’ll have the same issue in 2014, with the added complication of a gerrymandered state map as well.
Yet while the conservative cause is licking its wounds, there is a parting on the left as well. Maryland Juice blogger David Moon sent out an e-mail on behalf of the Demand Progress group demanding President Obama not replace Hillary Clinton at the State Department with former Congressman Howard Berman. Why?
…Internet freedom activist group Demand Progress is rallying its members to oppose Berman’s potential appointment: Berman was a leading supporter and architect of the infamous Stop Online Piracy Act — which was decried and defeated because of its Internet censorship implications — and would have great influence over global Internet policy if named Secretary of State.
According to Demand Progress executive director David Segal, “It’s outrageous that Berman’s name is even being floated for Secretary of State, where he’d play a key role in developing global Internet policy. He’s made a career of shilling for Hollywood, and Hollywood’s been leading the charge for Internet censorship here at home and abroad — backing SOPA, compelling the government to block access to scores of sites, and even having website owners extradited for posting links to Hollywood movies. It’s clear that other Internet freedom groups and tens of thousands of Internet users would mobilize to oppose his appointment.”
Of course, this group is looking at the problem as one of not being able to see the latest Hollywood movie for free – ironic when Hollywood supplied millions for the Obama campaign – but my perspective is one of maintaining Internet freedom and access for all usages and viewpoints, even ones which aren’t politically correct. However, Demand Progress stops with the civil libertarian side of the equation and doesn’t stop to consider the equally chilling effect internet taxation would have on the World Wide Web. We all know it’s a cash cow that progressives just haven’t quite figured out how to milk for their purposes yet – but that’s not going to stop them from trying.
Speaking of cash cows, now that Obama’s re-elected we’re going to hear more and more about the adoption of a carbon tax. The Competitive Enterprise Institute is suing under the Freedom of Information Act to have over 7,000 e-mails released regarding behind-the-scenes lobbying efforts to make a carbon tax palatable to conservative opposition.
While there’s some aspect of a fishing expedition here, the time it would take to search the e-mail database for the word “carbon” and place the files on disk is rather negligible. But the impact of knowing how the current and future regime is attempting to place their thumb on the scale is significant. The only carbon tax I would support is when the FairTax is paid as part of a purchase of carbon or carbon-based products, and only after the income tax is repealed.
The group also put out a five-minute treatise on economics:
The short film is based on a 1958 essay by Leonard Reed and outlines the complexities of creating a simple product. Imagine this process multiplied to create complex machinery like your car or this laptop I write on, replicated countless times a day. Certainly not all of us manufacture things, but a pencil is also a metaphor for and tool of creativity. Now I create on a laptop, but all that represents is a pencil and eraser in a more technologically advanced form. Imagine if this process came to a halt – would we stop advancing as a global society as well? Just like our certain extinction if the sun ever ceased shining, I suspect our progress would terminate as well.
I think I’ve created enough to bring this treatise to an end, so I’m going to focus my talents on another job and place a wrap on this one. Hope you enjoyed reading.