A look at our federal races

Finishing my book draft has opened up my calendar just in time for the local political races to begin heating up. If you consider the June 26 primary as the “November” of this particular campaign, that means we are at about the mid-August of the race. But I’m already seeing the yard signs pop up for some of the local contests, so I decided over the last couple days to take a pretty comprehensive look at our two federal races: the battle for Maryland’s U.S. Senate seat and our local First District Congressional contest.

On the Senate side, thus far most of the news has come from the entry of the former PFC Bradley Manning, who has transitioned in identity to the female Chelsea Manning. (Never mind he was convicted of espionage and released just a few years into a 35-year sentence, much of it spent in the process of indulging a case of gender dysphoria.) Aside from he/she/it, there are the usual complement of perennial candidates and those who decided their first try for office would be for a statewide post. There are a total of eight Democrats on the ballot, but the prohibitive favorite among them is incumbent Senator Ben Cardin. The primary field looks similar to that in 2012 when Cardin last ran, with Manning probably getting about the same share (15%) as the doomed Senatorial campaign of current State Senator C. Anthony Muse while Cardin should retain his 75% or so. (Because it’s a state election year, you don’t have the opportunity for some officeholders to “run from cover” for a higher office – they forfeit the one they have to run. However, in the Sixth Congressional District, which is an open seat due to the departure of John Delaney for a quixotic Presidential bid, there are a couple of current state officeholders vying for the opening.)

Since I’m not voting on the Democrat side, though, my interest in this case is the GOP battle. As usual, there are a number of prospective candidates on the ballot: 2018 brought 11 aspirants to the fore, many of whom have played this game multiple times. For example, in 2016 Chris Chaffee was the (distant) runner-up to GOP Senate nominee Kathy Szeliga, John Graziani was 8th in the 14-person field, and Blaine Taylor was 9th – out of 10 Democrats. (Maybe he’s a Trump Republican now?) Brian Vaeth previously ran for Senate in 2012 as well. (It’s possible he may have suspended his 2018 run, anyway.) Chaffee was a definite surprise given that he was never polled into the 2016 Senate race, but he beat more established candidates such as Richard Douglas and Chrys Kefalas.

Considering the incumbent Senator is well-funded, I thought the best place to begin culling the field was to see who had actually set up an FEC account, which is a must for candidates who want to fundraise beyond a certain point. (Despite the fantasy some have of running a completely grassroots effort to win a statewide office, that’s not happening.) It turns out the only one to actually have a report is Charles “Sam” Faddis, who decided not to follow through and file this time around. (Faddis was an unsuccessful Congressional challenger to Steny Hoyer a few years ago.) But four in the field have established FEC accounts earlier this year so their first quarterly report just came due: Chaffee, Tony Campbell, Christina Grigorian, and Albert Binyahmin Howard.

Out of that quartet, I’ve already discounted the chances of Chaffee and Howard. Why?

Well, if you look at Chaffee’s website, you’ll see that it’s a poorly-written one. Granted, we have a President who mangles the English language on a regular basis, but one thing that I’ve come to believe is that a good-looking website conveys a good impression. And it’s difficult to get past the generalities and platitudes that stand in for his issue positions. He would really have to sell me in a debate to have a chance at getting my vote, which is discouraging because I suspect he is rather conservative. Honestly, I think his second-place finish last time was by virtue of being first on the ballot since few people knew the players aside from Kathy Szeliga. Chaffee won’t have that leg up this time because Tony Campbell is listed first.

Even worse is the website for Howard, whose chief claim to fame seems to be that of being the founder of Hebrews for Trump. Okay, then.

So I’m down as of now to Campbell and Grigorian. Ladies first.

Christina has started off on the wrong foot with me in two respects: number one, her website is nice but insofar as issues go I see nothing but general platitudes of being an advocate for the state and assisting Governor Hogan in his efforts. Yet to be a Senator from Maryland in this current political reality is to be (hopefully) fortunate enough to take office as Hogan begins his second term because in order to save America the state of Maryland has to endure a world of hurt for a few years, and the GOP is going to take the blame to a point where 2022 local elections would be a bloodbath. This is because the state has foolishly put most of its economic and job creation eggs in the basket of an ever-expanding federal government when the real solution is rightsizing our federal bureaucracy to the extent it’s allowed to be by the Constitution. Hogan is best-equipped to solve that problem as a more or less business-friendly governor, albeit one who gets it seriously wrong on some good job-creation issues like fracking in Western Maryland.

My other issue with Grigorian is making her first issue-oriented video one of celebrating International Women’s Day as well as making the point Maryland has no female representation in Congress. Okay, I’m going to admit I’m a little biased on this, but making a case about being a female candidate is a little Hillary-esque. Maryland had a female Senator for three decades and all it did was set the country back a little bit. Certainly I know of a good share of women who would make great Senators or members of Congress, but the reason they would be so is because they don’t base their politics on their gender.

Grigorian is so far to me coming off as a moderate, based on her bland answers to key issues. We really don’t need a woman in the Senate if she’s a clone of Lisa Murkowski or Susan Collins, the bottom two Republicans as graded by Heritage Action. (A third woman, Shelley Capito, is in the bottom 5 – none of the five female GOP Senators are in their top ten.) She has a lot to sell me on, too.

What I will say about Tony Campbell is that he has manned up and apologized for a couple past mistakes, the chief one being part of Republicans for Obama. Tony’s not going to make me jump up and down in supporting him, but based on what I’ve learned about his positions I’m leaning his way. I think with a little bit of work he could be an effective, relatively conservative Senator. But he has to win first.

Now I’ll sharpen the focus a little bit to the First District race. You know, they keep talking on the Left about “flipping the First” but to do so would take the right candidate and electorate. Unfortunately for the Democrats, the right candidate for the job is the only one who hasn’t filed FEC paperwork and that would be “conservative Democrat” Erik Lane. (Even so, the “right electorate” went away when Martin O’Malley submitted his Congressional plan in 2011. That made the First a highly Republican district that even Donald Trump – he of the 34% statewide vote – won handily.) As for the rest, I tend to believe the “establishment” Democrats and media (but I repeat myself) would prefer to see Jesse Colvin win because that would immediately be portrayed as our version of the Conor Lamb race in Pennsylvania. (He has the most campaign cash to spend, too.) Perhaps their second choice would be Allison Galbraith, who is a single mom and rather spunky both in person and online – I know because I’ve sparred with her on several occasions.

But you also have the Eastern Shore factor, and two candidates hail from our side of the Bay – Michael Brown and Michael Pullen. So parochial voters may opt to elect them, too.

And then you have Andy Harris, who hasn’t had a primary where he’s unopposed since 2012. Then again, since first being nominated in 2008 in a surprise upset of longtime erstwhile moderate GOP Congressman Wayne Gilchrest (who will likely continue his semi-annual biennial tradition of endorsing the Democrat in the race) Harris has dispatched primary foes like King Kong swatting away airplanes while perched on a skyscraper: 68% against Rob Fisher in 2010, 78% against Jonathan Goff, Jr. in 2014, and the same 78% against a tag team of Goff, Sean Jackson, and former Delegate Michael Smigiel in 2016. Martin Elborn and Lamont Taylor may be nice guys, but they probably won’t do any better – nor should they. It would be the Democrats’ dream if one of these two somehow won the primary because they aren’t coming across to me as very serious candidates. That would be about the only way the Democrats could level the field in this district.

I’ve liked Andy Harris as a legislator since his days in the Maryland General Assembly – Andy was, for several years until 2016, the only Maryland legislator to achieve a perfect session score on the monoblogue Accountability Project., Admittedly, there have been a couple times I didn’t vote for him: come on, when your Libertarian friend is running for Congress, how can you not vote for him when you know the district is safely Republican? And I liked the last guy the LP had (Matt Beers), too – he was ready to shrink government more than Andy would, and that’s saying something.

But this year’s Libertarian model seems to be the left-libertarian type, so there’s no excuse for me not to vote to retain Andy Harris for another term in both the primary and general elections. It makes the town hall meetings that much more entertaining.

I really don’t need to go over the state races in much detail because all three GOP nominees are set; meanwhile, the only suspense on the Democrat side is whether Tweedledum x 5 or Tweedledee x 4 will win the nod for Governor. The early polling favorite is PG County Executive Rushern Baker. In fact, my ballot on the GOP side is very boring – I have no State Senator, Delegate, or county race to vote in except for the downballot Clerk of the Court and Central Committee races. So this is probably all the analysis you get.

But I’ll keep an eye on it nonetheless in case I’m moved to say more.

Hearing all the voices

I’m probably going to drive my Republican friends nuts here, but I think this guy has a point.

Last night I saw this among the posts on my Facebook feed:

What do you think you will hear Saturday from Brown and Hogan?

Brown will tell you about his folks and the one year he served. He will replay everything that O’Malley has done has if he had something to do with it.

Hogan will simply bash Brown for every problem in the state.

If Quinn had been allowed to speak you would hear about term limits, lower taxes, better schools, reformed tax codes and regulations, restored rights and power being given back to the people. Do you see why they can not let Quinn to be heard? November you decide, a self serving governor or an open, honest and people caring governor. They can’t stop you from voting for the best possible governor.

Of course, the author of this piece was Libertarian candidate for governor Shawn Quinn, who wasn’t invited to the MACO forum to speak and will lead a small protest to that fact Saturday morning.

Come out on Saturday in Ocean City and help me protest this apparent anti-citizen group. We will get pictures of who is supporting this government-controlled Association and let you see who is abusing their office.

Obviously I come from a Republican perspective, but I have given the Libertarians a little ink in the past (like this when the 2010 campaign began.) So it’s nothing necessarily new, even though I do believe they take more votes away from Republicans than Democrats. (Conversely, the Green Party takes mainly from the Democrats, which may be why they haven’t put up a 2014 candidate.)

I can understand that there are candidates who will be on the ballot but get a tiny percentage of the vote, but it’s interesting how they’re treated by the media. Until he was tossed off the ballot, Brian Vaeth and his likely 1-2 percent of the vote was often included in Republican debates; on the other hand, only the three main Democratic candidates got the spotlight while the other three (Ralph Jaffe, Charles Smith, and Cindy Walsh) were ignored. It begs the question of whether their combined 2.8% was a factor of not having popular viewpoints or being ignored by most media. (Jaffe and Smith, however, fall into the perennial candidate category. On the other hand, Walsh ran to the left of Heather Mizeur, who she called “a nice person (who) will serve as an establishment neo-liberal.” I think Walsh would have been great in the debates, and she got half that 2.8%.)

There’s no question that Quinn will fall far short of being the next governor. Susan Gaztanaga got 0.8% of the vote in 2010, which set the high-water mark for the Libertarians in Maryland. They didn’t field a 2006 candidate, and Spear Lancaster scored 0.68% of the electorate in 2002. Getting to 1% would be enough of an achievement.

But even though there’s little chance Quinn will win, I think he should be included in debates. I think it would be educational for the others to respond to some of the points the Libertarian brings up on his issue page, like this one:

The largest percentage of welfare tax dollars goes to pay the salaries of welfare workers and government overhead expenses, only a fraction of these monies actually make it into the hands of the needy. Throughout history private charities and groups do a better and more efficient job of helping the truly needy get back on their feet. A priority for our administration will be working to transfer these much needed services to the private sector and assist them in creating programs to put people back in the work force instead of continuing to perpetuate the meager handouts which force the needy into government dependency.

In turn, there needs to be some questioning of Quinn as to how he would perform some of these policy changes with a General Assembly practically (if not physically) devoid of his party.

But that’s the great thing about a debate of ideas – too bad we won’t get one anytime soon.

Ducking the question

In certain quarters of the Maryland GOP, a video is being shared – one that’s less than flattering to candidate Larry Hogan. It was done by a gentleman named John Lofton.

Biographically, John Lofton is a journalist of some repute, including a stint as editor of an RNC newsletter during the Nixon era and jobs as a syndicated columnist as well as op-ed writer for the Washington Times in its infancy. He’s now Communications Director of the Institute on the Constitution (IOTC), and perhaps one of the quirkier, if God-fearing, people in the state. This video illustrates the point. As for the state of the GOP these days, Lofton writes that “(b)eing a Republican is not a disease; it is a choice – a very bad choice, but a choice nonetheless.” His other working title is the director of the God and Government Project, billed as “an outreach mission” of the IOTC.

Yet on the way to a Republican coronation, in a race where at least one supporter feels the other candidates should drop out, Larry Hogan stumbled over what was a simple philosophical question posed by Lofton: what is the purpose of government? Admittedly, I might have, too, although when asked a second time about the role of government the change in terms may have helped me understand what he was driving at. Instead, the Lofton-Hogan conversation came to an end and has not been restarted despite what Lofton calls repeated efforts to conclude what John calls “possibly the shortest interview of my career.”

So while blogger Jeff Quinton saw Larry’s supporters as perhaps a little thin-skinned, and Richard Cross took time to note that Lofton, indeed, has some views which could charitably be considered as somewhat outside the mainstream of thought, it fell on some of the strongest Hogan backers to shoot the messenger and blame the spread of the video on Charles Lollar supporters, a group which Red Maryland Radio called “Facebook warriors.” On Thursday’s show co-host Greg Kline assessed it this way, part of a conversation during the show’s first segment:

(John Lofton) is one of these guys who’s, you know, Christian nation – his answer to the question, by the way, is the purpose of the government is to serve God, that’s the answer he was looking for. And because this interview got cut off, and Larry Hogan – I think you can hear, even in that clip, I think he realized ‘what am I doing here’…

…he gets interviewed all the time and doesn’t get that question very often.

That may be true, but the question has validity – regardless of its source or the answer the questioner was looking for – because voters aren’t as familiar with Larry’s stand on all the issues. One weakness of a candidate who comes from a non-political background is that we can’t tell political philosophy based on voting records or how he or she has governed in smaller jurisdictions, which on the GOP side covers Ron George and David Craig, respectively. This is tempered somewhat in the cases of Charles Lollar and even Brian Vaeth by their recent unsuccessful runs for office, but aside from an abortive 2010 run for governor, Larry Hogan last completed a campaign 22 years ago – in politics, that’s a lifetime. (To put this in context, that was the election cycle just before the Contract With America.) That’s not to say political experience is a requirement, but without it a candidate should take pains to reveal to voters where he stands.

Yet there’s a second aspect to this. If the situation were reversed, and Anthony Brown similarly blew off an interviewer asking a “crazy” question, most on our side would be caterwauling (and rightfully so) about ducking the tough questions in order to maintain spin control. On the other hand, Larry Hogan has thus far run one of the most non-specific campaigns in recent memory. I want to believe that Larry will be different, but we all see what happened the last time someone ran on a “change” platform – millions have been disappointed with the changes which were made. And when he’s been given the forum to expand on his plans, he’s taken a pass or simply refused to answer the question.

I’ll leave aside my opinion that Larry should have gotten into the race sooner as well as the strange itinerary which has had him miss certain key events. But let’s look at how other candidates have addressed key issues.

Both David Craig and Charles Lollar made whistle-stop tours, engaging voters at several stops along the way. (This is from Craig’s stop in Salisbury last June. Unfortunately my outside job precluded seeing Lollar on his September tour here.) Meanwhile, Ron George eschewed the bus tour but released a multi-point agenda of proposals shortly after he announced.

Some may say that gives the other side ammunition to pick apart certain pieces of the candidate’s platform, but in looking at the Democratic contenders I see no shortage of specific proposals from them. We certainly don’t agree with most of them because they’re not going to be in the best interest of Maryland voters, but at least we have somthing concrete to debate on a philosophical basis. This is lacking from Larry Hogan thus far, and it bothers me because I like to know where those seeking office stand. Ducking a legitimate question and calling it “crazy” didn’t help because I’d also like to know how candidates feel about the role of government.

Finally, I have one statement about all this fallout, charges, and countercharges.

On June 25th someone will emerge from the chaos of our Republican primary with the nomination for governor. And unless a candidate or two drops out before the primary, the chances are pretty good that the victor will only have a plurality of the vote. If Bob Ehrlich suffered in 2010 from the disinterest of the 1/4 of GOP primary voters who backed Brian Murphy, can you imagine the headwinds our candidate will have when 60% or so supported someone else?

Say what you will about Democrats – once the primaries are over, they seem to quickly get on board with their winner. It’s likely we will have the situation I described above, so the underlying thought all candidates should have is how to get those who supported the opposition behind them in a state of unity. Having Lollarites at war with the Hoganistas in a show of junior-high style personal attacks on supporters’ weight and brushes with the law, with the Craigsters and Bygeorges looking on hoping to gain advantage, is no way to run a party.

You may not like the supporters of the other guy, but just remember who the real enemy is. Hint: it’s the guys on the other team making this a less Free State.

Campaign 2014: a look at finance

January 22, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Campaign 2014: a look at finance 

This is the piece I promised you the other day. Originally I was going to lay this out one candidate at a time, but then decided it may be more to the point to compare and contrast all of the gubernatorial candidates in one place. It’s a lot of numbers, but I’ll try and make it interesting.

For each category, I’m going to do a rank order among the six gubernatorial contenders who have filed a campaign finance report covering 2013. There are a few other candidates who have filed or seem to be raising money – on the GOP side they are Brian Vaeth and Meyer Marks, while the Democrats have perennial candidates Ralph Jaffe and Charles Ulysses Smith. Except for Marks, all have turned in an Affidavit of Limited Contributions and Expenses, better known in our game as ALCEs. Marks has an active account but no report, which is a no-no.

To begin this comparison, it helps to know how much was raised during the 2013 period, which is about a week off the actual calendar since it ended January 8, 2014.

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

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

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

So, assuming 17 contributors per page, the average donation per contribution comes out like this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The others received none.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heather Mizeur is low on some of these categories because individual contributions from certain entities, like LLCs and businesses, could not be counted toward her matching funds for public campaign financing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be a Republican in this state, though, it almost always means being outraised and outspent. But I find it interesting that Democrats have to pull so much money in from other states or corporate entities to produce these war chests. Sure, in Maryland we have our share of those who would dream of purchasing access via political contribution but it is encouraging that four of the six in the race still rely heavily on the grassroots. Sadly, though, they are the four who don’t have seven-figure bank balances.

So when you see the inevitable campaign commercials building up one candidate or tearing down another, consider where the money came from. The reports are somewhat dry reading, but you might find out the business you patronize donates to the wrong side.

Over the next few weeks I’ll look at some other races, including a couple local ones. Bet I find a few surprises.

Update: It’s probably been priced into the market anyway, but Brian Sears reports that Second District Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger is, as most have come to expect, skipping the 2014 gubernatorial race to make another Congressional run. So the fields will probably not get any larger, although I wouldn’t be shocked to see a dropout on the GOP side.

David Craig setting up announcement tour

May 13, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on David Craig setting up announcement tour 

Updated below.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Primary crystal ball predictions

Just for the heck of it, I’m going to do my set of predictions on some key races locally and around the state. In the past we did this among ourselves at the Central Committee meetings but we didn’t discuss it last night. So tell me what you think, and if I turn out to be wrong – well, don’t laugh too much. Most of this is a (somewhat) educated guess.

I’m going to begin with the Presidential race, on a statewide level. There have already been several polls on this, so there’s a little bit of cheating involved; then again, the polls actually pretty much mirrored my gut instinct all along.

In Maryland, I see the race like this:

  1. Mitt Romney – 41%
  2. Rick Santorum – 28%
  3. Newt Gingrich – 16%
  4. Ron Paul – 11%
  5. Fred Karger – 2%
  6. Rick Perry – <1%
  7. Buddy Roemer – <1%
  8. Jon Huntsman – <1%

The polls seem to have Romney winning bigger (Rasmussen has it 45-28) but I think Mitt’s people will tend to figure he’s got it in the bag and turnout will be better in certain areas where Gingrich and Paul may run a little stronger.

How about Wicomico County? This is more of a crapshoot but I think the top 4 results will be a little different:

  1. Rick Santorum – 35%
  2. Mitt Romney – 33%
  3. Newt Gingrich – 18%
  4. Ron Paul – 13%

The voters here tend to be more conservative than the state at large.

The other statewide race is for U.S. Senate. Now I’m really going to go out on a limb here, because there aren’t any polls I’m aware of (aside from the sure fact campaigns have internal polling I’m not privy to) but my gut is telling me we may have a barnburner on our hands:

  1. Dan Bongino – 36%
  2. Richard Douglas – 34%
  3. Robert Broadus – 8%
  4. Corrogan Vaughn – 5%
  5. Joseph Alexander – 4%
  6. David Jones – 4%
  7. William Capps – 3%
  8. Rick Hoover – 3%
  9. John Kimble – 2%
  10. Brian Vaeth – 1%

In Wicomico County, I suspect the top three will be Bongino (42%), Douglas (36%), and Broadus (8%). None of the others will be over 3 percent. Incumbent Ben Cardin will be the opponent, with the over-under line for me being 70% of the statewide vote.

And how about the Sixth District race? It’s the most talked-about Congressional primary since the 2008 First District primary, with the added benefit of mud flying on both sides.

On the Republican side, I think Roscoe Bartlett will hold on to his seat with 33% of the vote, with David Brinkley gathering 29%, Joseph Krysztforski 14%, Robin Ficker 10%, and Kathy Afzali 7%. The other three will split the remaining 7%.

What saves Bartlett’s bacon is the fact that there are so many in the race that people may just throw up their hands and go with the name they know. If there were just four or five in the race I think Brinkley has a shot, although the last-minute release of 9-1-1 tapes featuring his ex-wife may knock a point or two away from Brinkley and provide Roscoe’s margin of victory. It’s the voters on the extreme western end of the district who are likely most swayed by that because they don’t really know David that well.

On the Democratic side, I’m sensing a bit of an upset. We figured that this seat was drawn for Rob Garagiola, but I suspect the charges laid against him by John Delaney have done enough damage that Delaney will squeak out a close win, something on the order of 31-30. Milad Pooran will likely run a respectable third with 21%, while Ron Little grabs 10% and Charles Bailey the last 8%.

The Second District GOP race is also interesting, but I think Nancy Jacobs will win it with relative ease, probably with 40% or so of the vote. Larry Smith comes in around 28%, Rick Impallaria with 19%, and the other two with single digits apiece.

Meanwhile, I think John LaFerla will be the First District Democratic nominee against Andy Harris and he’ll end up just short of a majority – 49% district-wide against Wendy Rosen’s 43%. Kim Letke will get the last 8%. What puts LaFerla over the top in the primary is the endorsement of Wayne Gilchrest. What keeps him from winning in November is being endorsed by NARAL and Planned Parenthood.

GOP winners in other districts will be Eric Knowles (3rd), Faith Loudon (4th), Tony O’Donnell (5th), Frank Mirabile (7th), and Dave Wallace (8th). Wallace gets the nod because the other three candidates will likely split the Montgomery County vote just enough for him to win over Ken Timmerman. Of course, there will not be any upsets among the incumbent Democrats – all of them will get over 75% in their respective primaries.

So what do you think? Am I all wet or do I have a good chance of being correct – and why? As opposed to yesterday, I’m going to leave this up all day until results come in.

For U.S. Senate

I was actually going to wait until the Sunday before the primary to do this, but realized with early voting I probably should put this out at a time when I can maximize the effect.

When the filing deadline came and went in January, we ended up with ten people on the ballot seeking to challenge incumbent Senator Ben Cardin on the Republican side. (There are also eight Democratic challengers who, with the exception of State Senator C. Anthony Muse, will be lucky to see 20 percent of the vote as a collection.)

But if you look at the ten on our side as a group, you can start to pick out those who have a legitimate chance pretty early. Some have been on the ballot before, but have never come close to grabbing the brass ring. You know, one would think guys like Corrogan Vaughn or John Kimble might get the hint at some point but they soldier on nonetheless, appearing on ballot after ballot every two years for some office. This is Vaughn’s fourth Senate try (counting an abortive 2010 run) and Kimble’s third, although he’s been on a ballot every two years for some federal office since 1996. Another 2012 candidate, Joseph Alexander, ran in the 2010 Senate primary and finished a distant third with 5.9% of the vote.

Others have been in local races and lost. Rick Hoover ran twice for the Third District Congressional nod in 2004 and 2006 and didn’t distinguish himself enough to not be an also-ran. William Capps took on an incumbent State Senator and lost in 2010, while Robert Broadus had the unenviable task of attempting to win as a Republican in the Fourth Congressional District. While Broadus only gathered 16% of the vote, it was a better showing than the Republican winner had in 2008 against Edwards. But even Broadus lost in the 2008 primary – he was unopposed in 2010.

There are four others who are making their first run for statewide office, with Brian Vaeth and David Jones the lesser-known duo of the group. I haven’t heard anything from Vaeth, but David Jones is a candidate who, with some polish and a more appropriate race for a single dad to get into (on the scale of a countywide or House of Delegates district contest) could have a future in the political arena. He had a message which was trying to come out, but a statewide campaign presents an awfully steep learning curve.

Out of the eight I have cited so far, the battle for third place shapes up between Broadus, based on his performance in a difficult district and the ready-made issue he has with his position as head of Protect Marriage Maryland, Alexander (simply based on 2010 results), and Jones (as a hard worker who’s quite likable.) One of the others might surprise me, but these are the guys who seem to me as the aspirants for Miss Congeniality.

Yet the race is really coming down to two men. Each brings something unique to the table.

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Senate candidates in person or on video (or online)

March 5, 2012 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2012, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, Senator Watch · Comments Off on Senate candidates in person or on video (or online) 

The two leading Republican candidates for U.S. Senate are making their play for votes in various ways.

If you want to see one up close and in person, you may simply attend the Republican Women of Wicomico’s Membership Lunch this Wednesday at noon at Brew River Restaurant, when Richard Douglas will be their featured speaker. Perhaps he’ll talk about the Israeli situation, where Douglas blasted the incumbent Senator for discussing postal closures and not making any statement on Iran in nearly six months. Or Douglas may tout his latest endorsement from Baltimore County Delegate Bill Frank, who called Douglas “the right candidate at the right time.” Certainly he’ll update those attending on his campaign to date.

The cost is $12, and reservations are available from Brew River. But call tomorrow (Tuesday) to assure a place.

Right now you can sit in the comfort of your easy chair – or wherever you access this site – and see a 90-second video put together on Dan Bongino’s behalf.

Interestingly enough, I saw my first Bongino yard sign today locally so the word is beginning to get out on him. “Government is not the answer. We are the answer.” It’s a good message. And who knows, perhaps I can get that video to 1,000 views by placing it here.

We have two good candidates for Senate who have a reasonable shot. That’s not to dismiss the other eight who are running, as all of them who I’ve met seem to be men of character and honor. But the realist in me sees this as now a two-man race for a number of reasons, particularly money and visibility.

Consider these social media facts. If you take the  footprint of their respective websites based on Alexa ratings and the reach of their Facebook and Twitter pages, this is what you would find among the U.S. Senate candidates. Granted, Alexa is sort of a weak indicator of readership but it’s a decent indicator of relative popularity between sites – I would be confident that a site with a rating of 3 million is more widely read than one at 7 million.

Alexa ranking (lower is better):

  1. Dan Bongino – 2,652,827
  2. Ben Cardin – 3,543,017
  3. Richard Douglas – 3,609,731
  4. David Jones – 6,604,886
  5. Robert Broadus – 7,137,723
  6. William Capps – 8,325,982
  7. John Kimble – 10,628,905
  8. Brian Vaeth – 11,095,766
  9. Rick Hoover – 11,786,645
  10. Corrogan Vaughn – no data (I think his site is new at the address.)

Not every candidate has a Facebook or Twitter page devoted to their campaign, but for those who do here are likes and follows, respectively:

Facebook:

  1. Ben Cardin – 3,500
  2. Dan Bongino – 1,680
  3. Corrogan Vaughn – 157
  4. Rich Douglas – 81
  5. Brian Vaeth – 25
  6. Robert Broadus – 17
  7. Rick Hoover – 4

Twitter:

  1. Dan Bongino – 1,317
  2. David Jones – 819
  3. Corrogan Vaughn – 149
  4. Rich Douglas – 108
  5. Rick Hoover -27

(Apparently, Ben Cardin’s campaign isn’t on Twitter.)

It’s fairly evident that Bongino has a good lead in the social networking area, but that doesn’t always translate into votes. I was told that Bob Ehrlich had more Facebook followers than Martin O’Malley did and we see how that turned out.

And if you compare these numbers to a well-read website like Red Maryland, which perhaps has the best social media presence of any statewide political website, you’ll see all of them fall short on at least one count: Alexa for RM is 859,533 and they have 616 Facebook followers along with 761 on Twitter. Of course, a blog has far longer to build an audience so the Alexa should be expected; on the other hand, creating buzz should work in the favor of the campaigns yet only a few do better than the website.

But regardless of who wins this race on April 3rd, we need to close ranks behind them so that Ben Cardin is retired from public life come next January.

Worcester County has some TEA

In days of old there was a superstition that a voyage should not begin on Friday and beginning it on Friday the 13th was a complete no-no. But the Worcester County TEA Party decided to buck tradition and have its inaugural meeting last week – it was an opportunity to have a good keynote speaker that they couldn’t pass up.

(All photos on this post are courtesy of Donald Stifler.)

Andy Harris speaks at the Worcester County TEA Party.

One source, a supposedly reliable one, stated that Harris made the statement at the TEA Party that he would vote for any of the Republican presidential candidates except Ron Paul – then again, the person relating this is a Ron Paul supporter. I’m seeing if there was any video of the event to corroborate this charge, but this wouldn’t necessarily be a surprise. Harris is one of the co-chairs of the Gingrich campaign in Maryland despite the fact that Newt endorsed Wayne Gilchrest in 2008 – as did Ron Paul. (Harris denies saying such a thing.)

According to a more legitimate news report, Harris held the audience of about 120 in the palm of his hand by answering a number of audience questions but he wasn’t the only speaker or even politician there. Three members of the Worcester County Commission were in attendance along with four of their Republican Central Committee – pictured below is Derrick Smith of the WCRCC along with U.S. Senate hopeful Corrogan Vaughn (right), who also spoke at the event.

Stifler noted that he was “pleased to see that Vaughn had to wait a couple of times during his speech due to the applause from the crowd when he compared the Civil Rights Movement to that of the Tea Party, speaking for his family that worked directly with Dr. King.” (Vaughn is a godchild of Dr. Ralph Abernathy, who worked with the slain civil rights leader and was with him when he was assassinated.)

“Corrogan attests to the fact that both were Republicans and if alive today these men would be active in the Tea Party,” Stifler continued.

That’s sort of an interesting flip side when compared to the other groups who have adopted the mantle of the civil rights struggle, such as the gay rights movement. Moreover, the TEA Party isn’t necessarily about adopting new rights but re-establishing the God-given ones we are granted in our Constitution.

This meeting won’t be the last for the Worcester County group. Based on the interest from the first go-round, their next meeting will be Friday, February 17, once again at the Ocean Pines Community Center.

I can’t close, however, without at least quickly addressing the snide remark in the newspaper about the lack of younger people at the event. It isn’t surprising coming from the media, but to be perfectly honest an older crowd is rather typical of the composition of the average TEA Party meeting. But as long as there is at least some interest from a small group of younger people it’s progress, given the vast majority of those under 30 who voted for Barack Obama. Perhaps the economy and dread of a future where they can’t succeed as their parents did is beginning to bring them around to the right way of thinking.

Another upcoming event on the opposite end of the Shore which doesn’t yet feature Vaughn but already has six of his opponents as confirmed speakers will be sponsored by the Cecil County Patriots and Americans for Prosperity on Thursday, January 26 beginning at 7 p.m. It will be held at the American Legion Hall located at 300 Cherry Street in Perryville, and the public is invited to attend.

All ten GOP Senate candidates have been invited, and confirmed as participants are Dan Bongino, Robert Broadus, William Capps, Rich Douglas, Rick Hoover, and David Jones. (No word yet on Joesph Alexander, John Kimble, Brian Vaeth, or Vaughn.)

Questions for the forum can be submitted to info@cecilcountypatriots.com. For more information, please visit the Cecil County Patriots website or call Jackie Gregory at (410) 620-7667.

Update: According to Gregory, Vaughn will be participating in the event.

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