Leaving the resistance: a case study

This article was actually going to be about one piece of information I received, but then I got another which I can tie in. I do that every now and then.

The TEA Party movement, depending on how you determine its beginning, is somewhere between five and seven years old now. Thousands upon thousands of activists have participated in it, but in reality conditions have generally become worse in terms of its main fiscal goals.

It’s a well-documented lack of success, and perhaps that lack of reward is frustrating those who want real positive change. Take this piece I received an e-mail the other day from an area TEA Party group lamenting the writer’s Independence Day plans.

This year for the July 4th Holiday I spent it doing laundry or something mundane like that. No family gathering, no special commemoration or meditation on my part to mark this critically important day. I cannot let this happen again.

When I think of the miracle of the founding of this nation and the sacrifice made by millions to preserve it I am ashamed that it passed like another day, a long weekend. I’m sure most of you reading this didn’t abuse this important day to the extent that I did – hopefully. I serve in a position of leadership in this organization; I know better. God forgive me but God help me to do better not just next year but every day from this point on.

This organization didn’t participate in (a local) event due to lack of interest from the membership. We didn’t walk in the July 4th Parade, also due to lack of interest. The Summer BBQ will most likely be pushed out again due to lack of interest. These are perhaps less important than what we do daily to mark the miracle that is this precious nation BUT they are outward expressions of our commitment to each other, to this nation, to our God in front of others. If we don’t stand up in front of an unschooled community every chance we have, how can we hope to shift this paradigm?

I know we are all tired, exhausted, hardly able to pay our bills and take care of our families. Perhaps we are in our senior years and feel that we have paid a hefty price already. Many of us are weary from trying to inform a willingly uninformed public, legislature, clergy, education system, healthcare system, etc. I get it; I’m part of that tired and huddled mass.

If you go back on my website you’ll find numerous references to TEA Party gatherings, local meetings of an Americans for Prosperity chapter, or the Wicomico Society of Patriots – these are all groups which flourished for a brief time but then died due to lack of interest, leadership issues, or both. Some of those organizers have moved into the mainstream of politics, but many others found that activism too difficult to keep up when their family’s financial survival was at stake.

But then we have the diehards, among them the purists who will accept no compromise. That’s one lament of Sara Marie Brenner, a conservative activist who announced on her Brenner Brief website yesterday that she was taking a hiatus from her news aggregation website and radio show.

I bring this up as I’ve interviewed her for my now-dormant TQT feature as well as talked about a venture she launched late last year. While I definitely haven’t agreed with her on everything and incurred her wrath by pointing out the lack of viability of her many past and present enterprises in the new media world, I think she makes some very good points in her lengthy piece.

For one, I nearly laughed out loud when she wrote about the Ohio PAC where $7,000 or the $7,400 raised went to the leader’s own company knowing that the Maryland Liberty PAC has a similar history – the majority ($14,826.03) of the nearly $26,000 MDLPAC spent last year went to Stable Revolution Consulting. It’s one thing to collect money for a cause, but the same people who question the Larry Hogan connection with Change Maryland may want to ask about that arrangement as well.

As a whole it seems that some in the TEA Party movement can’t be happy unless they either amass power and wealth for themselves – making them little better than the big-government flunkies they decry – or refuse to compromise on one particular issue, forgetting that they may need their conservative opponent for some other pressing issue tomorrow. Brenner brings up two hot-button items of interest – Common Core and Glenn Beck’s charity effort to assist the unaccompanied minors streaming over our southern border from Central America. On these I only agree with her 50% but as I said she makes other good points.

I don’t blame Sara Marie for backing away from the fray; that’s her decision just as it was to get involved in the first place – and I wish her nothing but the best in her ventures as she follows her other passions. But we have to remember that the other side wins when we stop fighting.

It was a more hopeful tone from the other side of the TEA Party:

I hope that we will always remember that no matter what the political ideology, we must find commonalities if we are going to make any progress. I hope that we make a concerted effort to reach out in peace to at least one person over the summer that we have heretofore had disagreements. We know that the truth is on our side as long as we deliver it in peace and love.

Now if anyone would have sour grapes and wish to take their ball and go home, it might be me given recent election results. Believe it or not, though, after nearly two decades in the political game I am still learning and listening, so losing an election won’t crush or define me – it just means I retire with a .500 record. But I’m still going to participate because it’s important, if not necessarily lucrative.

The trick is getting new people into the fray to replace those who can’t go on for whatever reason. Because I have a talent for writing – or so I’ve been told – I have soldiered on with this website for going on nine years. It may not be the most useful or unique contribution, but it’s what I have.

So those who have departed will be missed. However, they are always invited back once they recharge and reload because we can always use the help.

For Governor

Every two years we hear the shopworn sentiment that “this is the most important election of our lives.” Okay, I wouldn’t go quite that far for Maryland in 2014, but the choice we have is clear: we can continue on a path where our fair state continues to become lock, stock, and barrel a ward of the federal government, conducted for the benefit of those who exist solely to suckle from the government teat, or we can turn our state around by diversifying the economy, restoring agriculture to a prominent position instead of favored environmentalist whipping boy, and making ourselves more prosperous by having government reach its grubby hands into our collective pockets less often.

I think any of the four Republicans can take steps in the right direction, but there are a large number of issues I care about and this is where Larry Hogan fails my test. His single-minded devotion to staying on an economic message is one thing, but it leaves me scratching my head about how he would govern when it came to other important issues. Even in its endorsement of Hogan for the GOP nod, the Washington Post noted that:

Given the time he’s had to plan his run, his campaign is glaringly short on policy specifics, and his views on education, health care and the environment are gauzy at best.

In other words, we just know that he wants to change Maryland. Well, so do I, and I have the little oval sticker on my car to prove it. But I’m just a writer and I’m not in charge of much of anything – he wants to run the state. Yet I’ll bet I’ve proposed more policy specifics than he has.

Another troubling aspect of a potential Hogan administration is that it would be the long-lost second term of Bob Ehrlich. Yes, Bob was a Republican governor, but he took pride in his bipartisanship, and Larry Hogan was instrumental in that because he helped to appoint all the Democrats who helped to undermine the Ehrlich term. Why is it only our side is called upon to be bipartisan?

There’s no doubt that Hogan has the best financial situation of any GOP challenger, but it came at a steep price. And why do I sense there’s a smoking gun someplace in the transition between Change Maryland – which was an outstanding foil to Martin O’Malley, bringing a lot of valuable economic data to public scrutiny – and the Hogan for Governor campaign? Obviously there was the wink and a nod from early on that Change Maryland was the vehicle for the eventual Hogan campaign but it really seems more and more like his organization was just a Potemkin village, bought and paid for out of Hogan’s back pocket.

I don’t want to elect the governor before we know what’s in him – we tried that once on a national scale and see how successful that was.

And then we have Charles Lollar, whose stance on many issues is quite appealing to me. I like the idea of eliminating the income tax in particular, but I notice in the interim he’s backed off his onetime priority of cutting out all federal grants – $10.557 billion worth in FY2015 – into Maryland’s budget.

But that’s not all he’s backed away from. On the NRA front, he blamed a lot of factors before throwing an unnamed campaign staffer under the bus. Listen, I understand Charles is for the Second Amendment and this seems fair enough to me, but some of the conspiracies I’ve heard on this issue from his staunch supporters boggle my mind.

Yet on the campaign trail he’s revealed a populist (as opposed to conservative) strain and tendency to pander to the audience in front of him. Take these two examples:

In an interview in September 2013 with Real Clear Markets, it was said about Charles that:

Lollar is opposed to the Purple Line, a $2.2 billion 16-mile rail project that even the richest Maryland residents are not prepared to pay for. It can only be built with substantial federal and state subsidies, as yet unappropriated: $900 million from Uncle Sam, $400 million from Maryland, and the rest from who knows where. The Purple Line is disliked by some residents because it would displace a popular walking and bike trail, but supported by developers because they think it would enhance the value of commercial property. Instead, Lollar favors small buses, which have high per-person pick-up rates.

Yet just a few months later at a Montgomery County transportation forum:

Of course we want better opportunities, better modes of transportation – a diverse collection of different ways to get back and forth to work. Livable, workable, playable communities where you can actually live, work, and play in the same place and have a legitimate conversation with yourself in the morning whether to walk or drive your bike to work and get there on time.

I think (the Purple Line) is absolutely doable. The question is – is it affordable? If it is, let’s push forward.

So which is it?

Now I definitely commend Charles for making the effort to go where Republicans fear to tread – even though he’s also been quoted as saying:

He said he is frustrated with “the Republican brand,” but chose to run as a Republican because his character and ideals most align with that party, he said.

As a whole, while he’s eliminated most of the missteps from his early campaign, I’m not sold on the hype that Lollar is the “only candidate who can win.” He has strong grassroots support in some areas, but very little money to get out his message, On Friday I received an e-mail from the Lollar campaign which claimed that:

We already have pledges from the Republican Governors’ Association and other outside groups to throw millions more into the race.

It’s not so much the RGA, which I would expect to remain neutral in a primary, but if those outside groups are so enamored with Charles, why aren’t they donating to get him through the primary? In a nutshell, it’s the story of the Lollar campaign: over-promise and under-deliver.

Early on, it seemed to me the choice was going to come down to David Craig or Ron George. So let’s run down an issue-by-issue comparison.

  • On election reform, Ron George has done more to work out issues with LLC contributions and increased the allowable individual contribution limit to a particular campaign for the next cycle. David Craig will look into voter fraud.
  • Both are willing to fight to overturn the law allowing illegal immigrants to have Maryland driver licenses, and Craig added his support of E-Verify.
  • While Craig would tweak around the edges of Obamacare, George has promised to join other GOP governors in fighting it.
  • Both candidates support opening up the western end of the state to fracking, but George also wants to build a single demonstration wind turbine off Ocean City as Virginia has proposed. I would let Virginia have its boondoggle.
  • With his background in education and opposition to Common Core, that area is perhaps Craig’s strongest. Originally Ron George was against Common Core; he still is but concedes “a repeal ain’t going to happen” in Maryland. I say that’s why we need a leader who concedes nothing. On the other hand, Ron has some good proposals to help private school students and I love his emphasis on vocational education.
  • Both would work to repeal 2013′s Senate Bill 281, although Craig is more vocal about supporting concealed carry.
  • Personally I would love to see David Craig repeal the Critical Areas Act and other overly restrictive environmental measures – as far as I’m concerned the Chesapeake Bay Foundation needs to be put in its place. I sincerely hope this is not a case of running right for the primary and tacking back to the center, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if this wasn’t a hit piece from the Sun that quoted him out of context. (This is especially true when Harford County was in ICLEI for a time.) Unfortunately, Ron George assisted in putting a lot of bad law in place during his first legislative term, but he’s also correctly noted much of the Bay’s problem lies in the silt stuck behind Conowingo Dam. He’s also refrained from supporting more recent O’Malley bills.
  • Craig would lean heavily on the Republican Governors Association in terms of initiative to limit government, but he would prefer to bring more of it back to the county level. George agrees, but would lean heavily on independent audits to better define government spending (and its role). Then again, David Craig would get rid of speed cameras.
  • Craig would center his job creation strategy on the state’s economic development office, but would also prefer each county set its own minimum wage. George’s strategy employs tax cuts on business, but also would employ regional-level planning with a focus on Baltimore City and additional incentives for manufacturing jobs in smaller cities such as Salisbury.
  • The two candidates differ on their taxation strategy, though. While Craig wants to eliminate the income tax (along with reducing the corporate tax), George doesn’t take it as far.

In both cases, there’s a lot to like although the strengths and weaknesses are slightly different. To be perfectly honest, it’s too bad we can’t have these two rolled into one super-candidate with the good ideas and aptitudes from both. But we each only get one vote, so I have to look at two other factors.

It’s truly unfortunate that state law prohibited Ron George from raising money during the legislative session, because it’s a law which has crippled him to this day. I’m sure he went into this with eyes open and was hoping to do better on fundraising last year before the session began, but it is what it is. With just a low five-figure amount in the bank at this juncture it’s going to be exceedingly hard for him to get a message out, although hopefully the other three losing candidates will assist the winner financially as much as possible. While he’s not in the catbird seat financially, David Craig should be in a good enough position to be competitive.

But perhaps the decision which sealed it for the man I’m endorsing was made early on. As we have seen with the current administration, the office of lieutenant governor can be useful – or it can be a hindrance. The rollout of the state health exchange proved Anthony Brown was a hindrance, and that’s why I think the early decision by David Craig to secure Jeannie Haddaway as a running mate makes the difference. Shelley Aloi is a very nice and gracious lady, but I didn’t get the sense of confidence she could handle the job when voters in Frederick rejected her mayoral bid. I just got the feeling she wasn’t Ron’s first choice, but he made the best decision he could at such a late juncture.

This campaign has been one of attrition – I’ve been a fan of Larry Hogan’s Change Maryland since its inception, and love the passion Charles Lollar brings to the stump. But in examining them over the course of the campaign, I’ve been left wanting. And if Ron George had made one or two decisions during the campaign a little differently, I may have been writing his name a few sentences from now. The overall decision was really that close, and if things work out that way I could enthusiastically support Ron as well. It reminds me of the 2012 GOP Senate race between Dan Bongino and Richard Douglas as, despite my eventual support for Bongino, I would have been quite comfortable if either had won because they both brought great assets to the table.

Two years ago, I saw David Craig as a moderate, establishment choice. Sure, in many respects he still is, but when it comes down to where he stands on the issues and the position he’s currently in, I think he could be the first of two great leaders for Maryland. 2014 is a good time to start the ball rolling on a new, improved Free State.

David Craig for Governor.

Hogan: coordination allegations “absurd and false”

This was a pretty quick response to an accusation over three years in the making. I’ll begin with fellow candidate Ron George’s perspective, which is reflected in statements within from David Craig’s campaign:

Today, the Ron George & Shelley Aloi for Maryland campaign joined the Craig-Haddaway for Maryland campaign in filling a complaint with the Maryland Board of Elections alleging illegal coordination between between Change Maryland, LLC and Larry Hogan’s various campaign committees.

“These actions by Change Maryland, LLC and Larry’s campaign committees represent an egregious breach of the public trust and utter disrespect for the law. We expect candidates for public office to hold themselves to a higher standard. These laws are designed to promote transparency,” said David Craig.

“The public should know where contributions are coming from and where they are going; It’s a matter of public trust. Furthermore, they should expect those who want to make more laws follow the laws we already have,” said Delegate Ron George.

On January 31, 2014, Change Maryland, LLC filed its most recent contributions and expense report for the period of January 1, 2013 through December 31, 2013 listing total contributions received of $145,995 while expending $213,040.

“We believe that all current and prior activities of Change Maryland, LLC appear to be directed by Larry’s campaigns and those activities should be considered part of his gubernatorial campaign for reporting purposes. With this complaint, we are asking the State Board of Elections to investigate. If the Board of Elections doesn’t, we can expect organizations in the future to skirt campaign finance laws to hide where their money comes from and where it goes. I hope the Board of Election agrees with us that the process should be transparent and uphold the integrity of law,” said Paul Ellington, campaign manager for Craig-Haddaway for Maryland.

Hogan responded, almost immediately:

“The entire premise of these allegations by two desperate campaigns is utterly absurd and patently false.  Had David Craig and Ron George bothered to do even a cursory check, they would have seen that the “about” page at Change Maryland’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ChangeMaryland/info) and website (www.changemaryland.org), clearly states Paid for By Hogan-Rutherford to Change Maryland.   In short, Larry Hogan for Governor owns Change Maryland and has since he became a candidate.

Unlike David Craig’s campaign which has already been found guilty and fined for violating campaign laws, our campaign has worked closely with the Maryland Board of Elections to ensure from day one that we comply fully with all state laws.”

Background:

Before starting his campaign for governor, Larry Hogan’s team sought guidance from the State Board of Elections on whether or how Change Maryland, a 527 political organization, could interface with a campaign for governor, also a 527 political organization.  The guidance received was that Hogan for Governor could purchase the assets of Change Maryland much like campaigns purchase mailing or contact lists from any other organization.  Immediately upon registering as a campaign for governor, with the SBE, the campaign entered into a purchase agreement for all of Change Maryland’s assets at fair market value.

Obviously there’s the question of how they determined what “fair market value” was, but we’ve known for three years that Change Maryland could be a handy vehicle to keep Hogan’s name in circulation after his abortive 2010 campaign. The question came up on one of his first interviews  as Change Maryland leader, with Maryland Reporter‘s Len Lazarick.

As far as the market value, if you look at the first Hogan financial statement the apparent “fair market value” for Change Maryland is $18,164.05, which is listed as an “asset purchase” made April 7. It was about 2 1/2 months after the campaign was formed, and the “contact list” pales in comparison to what the campaign had paid to date for mailings – for that purpose, the Hogan-Rutherford campaign spent nearly $121,000 employing a New York-based firm called SCM Associates during the initial months of its campaign. It was almost as if someone thought at the last minute, “hey, we better cover ourselves on this one.”

I’ll admit I’ve had campaign finance questions about my unusual situation of being a blogger and candidate for which I’ve sought advice from the Board of Elections, but $18,000 seems to be a lowball estimate for an organization whose 527 clearly states it churned through over $350,000 last year, raising over $140,000 by itself in a year when only one of the opposing candidates did as well.

So we have found out that the “perpetual campaign” is not just a Barack Obama phenomenon. Obviously he wasn’t going to admit it publicly, but all along many have suspected that Change Maryland was simply the lead-in to the 2014 Larry Hogan for Governor campaign – after all, why bring up a past campaign if you’re not running, as this archived Change Maryland page shows – just as any number of PACs created by particular failed candidates were formed as a way to keep their name in the limelight and (more importantly) create a donor database.

The beauty of Change Maryland, though, was that contributions to it didn’t count against a contribution limit to Hogan for Governor, and there’s little doubt that list is being mined again. In one respect, it’s a stroke of genius and perhaps there’s some sour grapes from the others about not coming up with the idea themselves. After all, we could speculate back in 2011 when Change Maryland was formed that David Craig and Charles Lollar were probably going to run in 2014, along with perhaps Brian Murphy and maybe even Michael Steele. (The entry of Ron George was a little bit more out of left field.)

These accusations, however, served to blunt the news that Hogan had reached the seed money threshold required to qualify for matching funds.

By qualifying for matching funds, the Hogan campaign is guaranteed $2.6 million immediately after the primary.  The Hogan campaign has received contributions totaling over $600,000 from more than 3,000 contributors since formally entering the race in late January. By reaching the matching funds threshold, will also receive over $260,000 in Fair Campaign Finance Act matching money.  In all, by qualifying for the match, the campaign says it will spend over $4 million “taking on the political establishment.”

Obviously Hogan has to win the primary to cash in, and that’s by no means certain when “undecided” has such a big share of the electorate. Classifying his opponents as desperate seems a little premature, and it may be a pretty tense couple days before the party’s unity rally slated for June 26.

I don’t think anything will come of this, but there is the potential for an October surprise if Hogan wins the primary and the Board of Elections indeed decides there’s some fire among all the smoke. I trust the other side about as far as I can throw them.

Change Maryland, or pack up and go?

It seems to be the question on the minds of many people, including gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan. His campaign noted on Wednesday that:

Gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan this evening said the following of today’s Gallop (sic) poll that half of all Maryland residents would leave if they could, worse sentiment than all but two states.

“We know from Change Maryland’s Taxpayer Migration Study that under Martin O’Malley and Anthony Brown, more than 6,500 businesses and 31,000 residents fled Maryland’s crushing taxes, fees, tolls and regulations.  Now, we learn that nearly half of Maryland residents would leave our state if they could.

 This tragic situation is the direct result of the failed policies of Martin O’Malley, Anthony Brown and Doug Gansler and one-party control in Annapolis.  The only way to make Maryland a state where people not only want to live but can afford to live again is to end the reckless fiscal policies of the past eight years.”

The two states cited as being ahead of Maryland in this Gallup Poll were Illinois at 50% and Connecticut with 49% – Maryland was third at 47%. None of our neighboring states made the top or bottom 10 in the survey release.

So the logical next question I had was whether people are acting on this desire to vacate our premises, and in a number of areas they are. For the most part, what they have in common is that the nine counties where I found slow to nonexistent growth – or even a decline – is that they are among Maryland’s most rural. (Baltimore City also makes this list, and it shares many of the same economic problems as its rural brethren.) This data is gleaned from Census Bureau estimates of population in both 2012 and 2013, compared with the official 2010 count.

Out of 23 counties and Baltimore City, the state’s population grew at a modest 2.7% clip between 2010 and 2013. But five counties lost population overall: Allegany and Garrett in western Maryland, and Caroline, Kent, and Somerset on the Eastern Shore. Others which lost population between 2012 and 2013, according to Census estimates, were Baltimore City and Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties on the Eastern Shore.

There was very slow growth (less than 1% between 2010 and 2013) in Carroll, Dorchester, and Worcester counties, the latter two also representing the Eastern Shore. While no county on the Eastern Shore matched Maryland’s overall growth, Wicomico came the closest at 2.2% and is now barely 1,000 citizens smaller than Cecil County, the largest of the nine Eastern Shore counties.

Perhaps it’s a little easier to see the reason if you compare unemployment data over the last several years with the growth (or loss) in population. All five counties which lost population overall have an unemployment rate persistently above state average, with most of the rest experiencing slow growth or a loss between 2012 and 2013 also suffering from above-average rates. (Carroll and Queen Anne’s counties are the two exceptions; however, other bedroom suburb counties such as Charles, Howard, and Harford counties are still growing.)

It all presents a sort of vicious cycle: people leave because they perceive a lack of opportunity, which leads to other employers closing up shop and people leaving as the economic pie shrinks yet again. It’s been my contention that the state’s onerous policies on growth and the environment, particularly in more or less undeveloped areas like the Eastern Shore, are retarding the potential of these areas to grow on their own so people look for greener pastures. Those who are raised in rural areas are either heading to the more developed areas of the state or abandoning it entirely.

One thing I haven’t heard a lot of discussion about during this gubernatorial campaign is the concept of local control. Maybe they haven’t expanded on this yet, but the range of solutions I hear from all of the candidates is one of a top-down nature. Certainly there is a place for action from the state, particularly on tax and fiscal policies. But where is the passion for restoring local control? I hear a lot about this on the educational front thanks to Common Core, but what about other areas like planning and zoning? Where is the push to let the counties be their own tiny laboratories of policy experiment such as the states were meant to be before the federal government decided to run the whole ball of wax over the last 20 to 25 years?

I know better than to expect such rhetoric from the Democratic side of the aisle, because their sole intention seems to be consolidating government at the expense of the common man, creating in average Joes the serf-like dependence on those for whom power is the ultimate aphrodisiac. So it’s up to the conservatives in the race to explain how they would have the state step aside and allow those rural counties which seem to be the biggest victims of state policy to flourish like some of their more urban counterparts.

Meanwhile, Richard Falknor at Blue Ridge Forum suggests his own bottoms-up approach.

2014 Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner in pictures and text

It wouldn’t be a Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner without the guest of honor, now would it?

But it was that and much more as about 100 people enjoyed the festivities last night in Salisbury. I was a little disappointed in the attendance, but those who missed the affair missed some stirring words from both our four featured speakers – the GOP gubernatorial candidates – save Jeannie Haddaway pinch-hitting for David Craig, who was in Frederick tonight – and Delegate Mike McDermott.

Our event is set up so guests have an opportunity to talk to candidates before and after the proceedings. So before dinner was underway, acquaintances were made and renewed, such as Delegate Ron George speaking with the newly-goateed Delegate Charles Otto.

I like that look on Charles. Meanwhile, Larry Hogan and wife Yumi spoke to Wicomico County Council member Joe Holloway. I believe fellow Council member Bob Culver is back to camera.

As I noted earlier, Jeannie Haddaway was taking the place of David Craig and visiting her alma mater. In the background is Larry Hogan’s LG pick, Boyd Rutherford.

Candidates were also taking advantage of the space provided for literature and signs.

Things began to get going when the Union troops and band arrived in the room.

This heralded the arrival of our sixteenth president, who is a popular subject. In this case, it was with Senator Rich Colburn (left) and John and Gail Bartkovich. Gail is the outgoing Council member from District 3, while the good doctor John was our county chair for several years.

One new wrinkle we added this year was a Union band, described by Lincoln as “the Eastern Shore detachment of the 3rd Maryland Irregular Regimental Band,” which played traditional music during the prelude to the ceremonies.

The troops sat behind Lincoln as he made his remarks, with a little banjo accompaniment toward the end.

As he always does, Lincoln made remarks which tried to use the words of yesterday to relate to today’s world, leading off with a tale about General George McClellan, one which he concluded by stating the case “the lunatics are running the asylum.”

“Our greatest enemy is voter apathy,” he continued. “It cheats honest citizens.”

And just as the British Empire sparked a revolution by resorting to tyranny, Lincoln called the modern situation “mental torture.” Now, “A lying tyrant is in control,” Lincoln added, “We need to be a stumbling block to tyrants.” But he ended on a hopeful note, believing “America shall not pass away.”

Our county Chair Dave Parker then secured the floor for a number of announcements as well as praise for one outgoing member of our Central Committee.

First of all, we learned that there will be a gubernatorial debate among the GOP candidates here on May 31, at Salisbury University. Once the June 24 primary is history, we will convene for the Wicomico County Republican Club Crab Feast on September 6.

But the huge event was the one slated for September 27. After twice being unsuccessful at getting a Lincoln Day date, we got the next best thing: Lt. Col. Allen West will be appearing in Salisbury for a series of events September 27. Those who attend Central Committee or Wicomico County Republican Club functions already know this, but we put out the formal word tonight at Lincoln Day.

Before we heard from the gubernatorial candidates, we also took a few moments to honor one of the few Republicans in Maryland whose Presidential vote has truly counted – this man served on the Electoral College from Maryland in 1972 for Nixon and 1984 for Reagan. For the better part of five decades Blan Harcum has been a fixture in Wicomico County GOP politics, but after this election he will take a well-deserved retirement from the Central Committee. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” said Blan about his tenure.

And as it turns out, Larry Hogan has known Blan “for a long, long time.” He drew the opening slot among our four, and in doing so decided to play up his experience in both the private sector and executive branch under former governor Bob Ehrlich. “I’ve spent a lifetime challenging the status quo,” Hogan said, accusing our current leaders of “actually causing the problems.” Rather than “be something,” he wanted to do something about them and that was why he decided to run.

Naturally, Hogan spoke about Change Maryland, noting that it “successfully changed the dialogue in this state.” He could sense the frustration with the “huge disconnect” between the people and their government as well as the belief the state was heading in the wrong direction. Regarding the “arrogant, out of touch monopoly” in Annapolis, he believed it was “about time the politicians in Annapolis listened to the rest of us.”

As he has often done in his stump speeches, Hogan returned to three main points: creating jobs, helping out the middle class, and getting government off our backs. He related his day in Salisbury, with stops in several area businesses as well as a Little League opening day and the downtown Easter Egg hunt.

Charles Lollar also told us about his day, one spent taking the fight to Democratic strongholds and crossing paths with Democrat Anthony Brown on three occasions, debating him once. He was inducted into the 100 Black Men of Prince George’s County, heard Brown say at a Howard County forum that “Maryland is doing fine” – while 1 out of 3 in portions of Baltimore are jobless – and went to a Veterans for Democracy meeting back in Charles County where he was “disinvited” to speak because of “political pressure” his name has brought. On top of that, his second daughter is going to her first prom tonight. “I’m not doing this for me…we’re doing this for you,” said Charles.

But his message to the Republicans was that whoever the nominee for governor may be, he has to have the “intestinal fortitude and integrity” to speak our convictions. His basic agenda would be one of economic solvency, installing a Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights to slow budget growth, and eventually eliminating the personal income tax – a proposal which got him the support of economist Arthur Laffer.

He knew it would be difficult, but concluded that “I don’t play politics very well, but I do enjoy a good fight every once in awhile.” Whoever wins the primary has to care about the ideals of the minority community to earn their votes, Charles stated in closing.

Representing David Craig, who couldn’t be here tonight but was instead over in Frederick County, was his lieutenant governor candidate Jeannie Haddaway. We’re out “covering the state as much as we could,” she explained. Reflecting on the recent General Assembly session, Haddaway remarked that “there are people in Annapolis fighting for you.” Some of the more controversial bills only passed by slim majorities, added Jeannie, because Democrats are reluctant to vote for them but have to contend with their “top-down agenda.” Thanks to what’s gone on the last few years, “our state is in really bad shape,” said Jeannie.

She corrected Larry Hogan’s remark about private sector experience, noting David Craig worked in a factory when not teaching and her own work as a small business owner. Their priority would be to straighten out the budget then “put money back in your pocket” through elimination of the income tax.

Haddaway pointed out 40 percent of Democrats were undecided, perhaps because they didn’t like the options and may consider a Republican who would “try something different.” And even in heavily Democratic districts, Craig had won. “We have won collectively 14 general elections,” she said. “Whoever turns out is going to win this election.” She promised that if Craig won and she became the state’s first Eastern Shore lieutenant governor, “the Eastern Shore will be forgotten no more.”

While he was holding up the flyer for an upcoming event in Ocean City in the photo above, Ron George opened up by discussing running mate Shelley Aloi – like many of us, I met her for the first time tonight. (She and Ron happened to sit at our table, along with our next speaker and his wife and the Parkers.)

Ron spent much of his time talking about the General Assembly: “I felt like I needed Rolaids constantly,” remarked George – but considered it an “honor” to serve with our Republican “warriors.” His pitch was combining his business experience with time served at the “front line” of issues as a member of the General Assembly – one who formed the Doctor’s Caucus “to build consensus” and a related group called the Physician’s Advisory. That group had uncovered waste within the exchange and the failures of health care contractor Maximus early on.

Ron also spoke about his work on the electoral process, closing a loophole for the next cycle so a donor couldn’t form multiple LLCs just to circumvent campaign finance limits. Audits, too, were another major part of his platform since he’d found where Prince George’s County “totally misused” $400 million. “That kind of waste has got to stop.”

George went over a couple parts of his ten-point promise, one which “will fix the drain that Baltimore is” and strive to rebuild the state’s manufacturing base in small communities like ours. “I cannot cut welfare payments unless I have those entry-level, mid-level jobs,” said Ron.

He also made an announcement about a Monday event to be held in conjunction with Dan Bongino and David Craig, endorsing Anthony Brown for governor…of Connecticut. “How’s that (health care) working out for us?” added Jeannie Haddaway.

But the rhetorical storm was brewing.

You knew Delegate Mike McDermott was working on a stemwinder when he noted, “the problem with Democrat math is that they follow Common Core logic.” This after he noted losing the two GOP Senators in 2010, including the seat he seeks, “opened up the floodgates of hell on the social side.” This didn’t count the pilfering of various trust funds or the “blank check” to uncovered patients for the budget.

But once he got going on the “outrage” on the bathroom bill, it was on. “It should be unacceptable to all Marylanders,” he said. We gave each gubernatorial candidate ten minutes – Mike was still going strong after fifteen.

“The tragedy of Maryland politics can be turned around,” he said. “Don’t send a governor to the governor’s mansion without sending them reinforcements” of five Senators. His voice rising, McDermott made the case that North Carolina “worked on making government work for the people” after the GOP took over and raised its business friendliness rating from 46th to 17th in two years. “They’ve brought that state back! It can happen here.”

“If we can’t make the case for change this year,” Mike thundered, “the Republican Party can never make it.”

“We can take Wicomico County by storm! If there was ever a county which needed good leadership and change, it’s this one. I’m tired of being up there, and being in a welfare county…I challenge you to take it back,” an emotional McDermott concluded. He had to dial it back some for the benediction that he delivered.

Our friends in Worcester County have the chance to have a great team in Annapolis: Mike McDermott in the Senate, and Mary Beth Carozza and Charles Otto in the House.

So ended another Lincoln Day Dinner. It wasn’t quite what we bargained for when we started planning it last year, but those who were there were treated to a good event nonetheless.

A qualified success

He may not be much for participating in debates, but by the standard I set a few days ago Larry Hogan is a more-than-successful fundraiser. Today his campaign released a press statement claiming that the Hogan juggernaut raised $422,000 from over 1,800 individuals in just 68 days. (The official numbers are due next week, so this is a preliminary tally.)

Speaking on this, Hogan was thankful for the generosity:

Thanks to our supporters, volunteers and staff we’ve surpassed our outreach and fundraising goals.  The incredible outpouring of support from middle class voters across our state shows that Marylanders want a governor who’ll put working families and small businesses ahead of Annapolis elites.

Yet a quick look behind the numbers reveals a few interesting things.

First of all, it appears that many of the donations are maxing out the $250 allowed for matching contributions, as the average works out to about $234 per. So you’re getting your share of smaller numbers, but it’s likely the report will show a high number who pitched in the most allowed. Moreover, it bears pointing out that Hogan only promised to use matching funds in the primary, so there’s a lot of room for these donors to come back and upgrade to the maximum $4,000 allowed should Hogan win in June. This may be a shrewd strategy to compete in the general election.

But I found the comparisons to other campaigns at the 68-day stage a little disingenuous, because they’re apples and oranges. Eighteen months out from an election is generally not prime fundraising time, and no contender makes a whole lot in the summer before a campaign year – for example, David Craig raised about $250,000 in each of the last two years but it was clear he wouldn’t rest on those laurels and fundraising wasn’t a big push at the time. As long as candidates have enough to keep the lights on a year out, they’re happy, so saying that his campaign is more popular than the others based on that fact alone is a little misleading.

We also don’t know how much cash on hand any of the campaigns have, and going forward at this stage that’s a far more important number. With Hogan making a television ad buy, some part of that $422,000 is already spent.

Yet as time goes on, it’s becoming more clear we may be looking at a two-person race, unless the campaign finance reports of Ron George or Charles Lollar show they’ve cut into the significant fundraising advantages David Craig already enjoyed and Larry Hogan has appeared to establish. Grassroots support is great, and taking the message to underserved areas helps build the Maryland GOP for the future. Reaching nearly a million Maryland GOP voters, however, isn’t free, and there’s a reason it’s called broadcasting – media reaches a huge number of people other methods do not.

These warm and fuzzy commercials Democratic contenders are putting out are simply to build a brand association, because very few of those voters are going to look at the issues until the end, if at all. The more discerning group on the GOP side is fine with questioning the record of the incumbents, but they’ll want a little more depth when all is said and done.

As a closing aside, David Craig is going to try and raise a little money on Sunday as he hosts a fundraiser of his own:

Please join the Eastern Shore’s own Jeannie Haddaway and me on Sunday, April 13th at Sailwinds Park in Cambridge.

Our friends from all over the Eastern Shore and across Maryland will be gathering for fresh seafood, cold drinks, and good times. The event will be held from 12pm-4pm. Tickets are $60 in advance and $70 at the door. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here.

I will say that based on the forecast he is going to luck out in that respect. Next thing you know we’ll be sweating in Crisfield, but only one GOP gubernatorial candidate will be there as a nominee.

Martin O’Malley’s (not-so) greatest hits – how about a new song?

Returning once again to a familiar role of thorn in the side and burr under the saddle, Change Maryland and Larry Hogan took the occasion of the final legislative session under Martin O’Malley to remind us of his underwhelming record of “accomplishments” over the last long eight years, wrapped up in one release. All we needed was the bow, as Change Maryland remarked that:

  • They broke promises to state workers by diverting $200,000,000 from pension funds to plug their budget gap.
  • They’ve eviscerated local arts funding to hike the film tax credit for Hollywood millionaires.
  • They raided the Transportation Trust Fund then raised gas taxes to pay for mass transit.
  • They hiked income taxes on families, small business and large employers.
  • They blew $125,000,000 of our tax dollars on a health exchange website that still doesn’t work and was never needed in the first place; today, more Marylanders lack health insurance than when O’Malley-Brown took office.
  • More than 73,000 residents have had their health insurance policies cancelled and tens of thousands more have seen massive increases in their premiums and deductibles.
  • They put the teacher union bosses that bankroll their political machine ahead of students, parents and classroom teachers.
  • They’ve badly mismanaged the education budget, as a result inner city schools are falling farther behind, state SAT scores are down and elementary school reading aptitude is flat. And, even the teacher union said their rollout of Common Core was a mismanaged “train wreck.”
  • Their job-destroying tax hikes on the so-called rich and small businesses – those individuals earning $100k or more – backfired, missing revenue projections.
  • Some entry level jobs will pay a little more but there will be fewer of them.
  • There’s a federal investigation into the Anthony Brown Health Exchange but state lawmakers aren’t issuing their findings until well after the primaries.
  • Thousands of employers are now “paying their fair share” in taxes albeit to Virginia and the Carolinas; about 6,500 companies have left Maryland taking with them more than 100,000 jobs.
  • Likewise, more than 31,000 Maryland residents left for more affordable states, taking $1.7 billion each year out of our economy; among these were thousands of seniors on fixed incomes who can no longer afford to retire near their families.
  • It costs you more when it rains and more again when you drive to the beach.

Describing the O’Malley era as one where, “(i)n nearly every quality of life measurement our state is worse off than it was seven years ago… even areas that showed modest improvement came at a horrendous financial cost due (to) Martin O’Malley and Anthony Brown’s mismanagement and one-party rule in Annapolis,” it’s clear that Hogan isn’t too enamored with the last seven years.

But while Hogan strives to “get the government off our backs and out of our pockets so we can grow the private sector, put people back to work and turn our economy around,” we’re more or less supposed to take his word for it. Obviously some of these items he complains about from the outside will be ones he may well find useful when he takes over the governor’s chair. For example, he (or anyone else for that matter) will have to figure out how to backfill the pension funds, live with the increasing minimum wage (which, for all his charms, he won’t be able to get the General Assembly Democrats to rescind), and roll back taxes and fees to previous levels yet keep the budget in balance. That aspect may actually be the easiest because he would set the budget. Unfortunately, we’re stuck with Obamacare for at least the first two years of anyone’s term, and probably longer.

However, I have a prediction for you. If the budget gets smaller – or even if it’s level-funded – you will hear a howling like you’ve never heard before from the special interests, press, and Democrats (but I repeat myself) who will be out marching in the streets against the heartless Republicans. Remember why we had a Special Session a couple years ago? It was because we passed a “doomsday budget” that was “only” $700 million higher than the previous one, and despite GOP objection we ended up raising spending another $500 million. Again, that was with a budget increase! Heaven help us if we actually proposed spending less money!

So those we elect in 2014 need to be ready and be stiff of spine because those Annapolis fat cats are going to come after us. We threaten their existence on the government teat and they know it. Having a $125 million boondoggle of a health exchange isn’t helping, which is why that scandal is being swept under the rug just as fast as the broom can collect the dirt.

In this part of the state we have some opportunities to chip away at the Democrats’ overall advantage. We’ll have to wait until 2018 to win back the District 37A seat – which will be held for the time being by a woman who I predict will have the same reliably far-left voting record as her predecessor – but aside from that we can speak our piece by ejecting two members of the General Assembly who will occasionally vote the right way when they get the hall pass to do so, but can be replaced by two members who we know will stand up for our interests. We can confound the Democrats’ cynical redistricting ploys by elevating Mike McDermott to the Senate and getting the fresh new ideas of Maryland Municipal League president Carl Anderton, Jr. into the House of Delegates.

Changing the state means pulling our weight, and the Eastern Shore can do most of its part by leaving just one Democrat east of the Chesapeake for the next four years.

Let the campaigning begin

Now that the General Assembly has made it to sine die, the transition to regular campaigning can begin. Certainly there will be posturing over one issue or another, and there are rumblings that the “bathroom bill” and perhaps even marijuana decriminalization could be placed on the ballot. But for better or worse, the General Assembly has completed its work for the year, and at least 37 members out of the 188 will not be back – many are retiring, but some are seeking other local or statewide offices.

So for those who are looking for greener pastures, as well as the 150-odd who are willing to serve another term – with many among them trying to move up from the House to the Senate – the campaigning can begin in earnest. Only seven Senators (three Republican, four Democrat) have a free ride to re-election, barring a late write-in entry. Two Democrats running for the House of Delegates will enjoy the same freedom, and both will be newcomers – Will Campos in District 47A (Prince George’s County) and Sheree Sample-Hughes from right here in Salisbury. Both had opposition, but the one filer against Campos was disqualified and incumbent Delegate Rudy Cane from District 37A withdrew from his race, leaving it for Sample-Hughes.

Some in difficult races have been chomping at the bit to go out there and press the flesh, along with once again having the chance to raise funds. An e-mail from Delegate Neil Parrott greeted me this afternoon in my e-mail box, and certainly many others were making plans to raise some dough.

While he didn’t serve in the General Assembly, Larry Hogan is making a push to look good on his initial campaign finance report. Messages like this have been appearing on his Change Maryland Facebook feed:

Thanks to the generous support of engaged and informed Marylanders like you, we are EVEN CLOSER to hitting our fundraising goal before tonight’s finance report deadline! We have less than TWELVE HOURS to hit our goal – Can we count on you to help us get there? Any contribution you can afford, whether it’s $5, $50, or $500, will make a big impact on our campaign and could be enough to put us over the edge to reach our goal!

Of course, since they’re not letting on exactly what the goal is, I highly doubt they’ll actually fall short. Yet what would be success in fundraising? Back in January, it was revealed that David Craig raised just under $250,000 in 2013 after a similar performance in 2012. Since we’re closer to the election, I would have to assess success as whether Hogan raised the amount required to qualify for matching funds, which would come pretty close to matching Craig’s total 2013 take. Since Hogan has media up already with a cable television buy, it’s likely he’s raised at least $200,000.

(It’s worth pointing out as well that Hogan is slated to appear at our Lincoln Day Dinner on Saturday, as are Ron George and Charles Lollar. Jeannie Haddaway will pinch-hit for David Craig, who has another engagement. So if you’re coming you can ask the tough questions, although we don’t plan this as a debate.)

For us, the event will serve as a kickoff to the serious campaigning to come since it’s likely we’ll hear from a number of Republicans who are running, even if we have to drag out the egg timer to make sure they keep things short for our featured guests. If we let all of the District 37B aspirants go, we’ll be there all night! (Yes, that was supposed to be funny. You are allowed to laugh.)

After all, not that I’m trying to hurry it along by any stretch of the imagination, we’re just 30 weeks away from the November election (and 11 weeks from the primary, which I have a vested interest in.) Lots of time for good things to happen.

Media matters

David Craig is claiming to be the first to launch a series of radio ads touting his “glide path” tax plan, in which he exhorts Marylanders to “vote yourself a raise.” Give a listen to the one-minute version.

In the release which accompanies this video rendition of Craig’s ad, though, it notes that the spots are 30 seconds long. I’m not sure what portion of the long-form version they kept, but the ads are now supposedly running on two Baltimore radio stations, WBAL-AM and WCBM-AM. Obviously I don’t know what sort of buy they made, or how much they paid, but my guess is that they spent a little more than the $5 a spot Red Maryland Radio is charging – and presumably have a far larger audience, depending on placement. If they are on during Rush Limbaugh, yeah, that’s a big audience.

I like the touch of the female narrator, which will contrast with the mainly male hosts and attempt to soften Craig’s image. He already comes across as the grandfatherly type given his age and demeanor – that may compare favorably with the rock-star image our current governor has.

As Craig’s campaign points out:

This is the first, paid-media buy by any of the gubernatorial candidates and begins a month-long radio campaign that promotes a bold plan to lower taxes burden on hard-working families, and finally does something to keep Maryland citizens and businesses from moving out of state.

Ending the personal income tax is only one part of our plan to turn back the onslaught of insane new taxes and tax increases created over the past eight years by the O’Malley-Brown administration.

Obviously they also add:

And as always, to keep these radio ads running and ultimately change the ultra-liberal, one-party culture of Annapolis we will need your financial support.

All of the candidates are far short of the social media juggernaut which is Change Maryland – in comparison, David Craig is by far the piker with just 4,620 “likes.” But Craig used that Facebook platform today to talk finance:

It comes as no surprise that Maryland will see a decrease in projected revenues in FY15. The O’Malley/Brown administration through their failed economic policies have once again opted to kick the can down the road. Maryland’s working and middle-class have been asked to bear the burden of their mistakes for the last 7 years; as a result, many have fled the state because life in Maryland has become unaffordable.

Under our administration, Jeannie and I will provide real substantive tax relief for all Marylanders and balance our budget by ending uncontrolled spending. We will make Maryland affordable once again.

I suppose the key question which occurs to me is whether placing the state on a “glide path” will be enough relief for those beaten and battered Marylanders who are ready to throw in the towel and head for greener pastures. Craig’s idea isn’t quite as aggressive as the competing tax plan by Charles Lollar, who believes the additional sales tax and economic activity will make up the difference. So while they are waiting for a second term of David Craig, how many will go to those places which already feature all these tax advantages?

Whether it’s the competition or just getting more familiar with the levers of state government, it is encouraging to see David getting more bold with many of his ideas. Perhaps he can shake that moderate image enough to get through the GOP primary, and I’m sure that’s where the radio ads are aimed.

I love form letters!

The other day I got an interesting note from onetime Maryland Senate candidate turned campaign director Chris Cavey. I’ll just start with it and comment later.

Michael,

Just wanted to write you a quick note of congratulations as an officially filled Wicomico Central Committee candidate! I think you have made a wonderful choice. Building our party has long been a personal cause of mine and I am proud to say my name is on the ballot for Central Committee in Baltimore County – so, perhaps we will be working together building a stronger MDGOP during the next four years.

You should know Larry Hogan has also been very committed to our party for many, many years. Not only did he run several of his father’s campaigns and serve for many years on the Prince George’s Central Committee; but he has been to several national conventions including 1976 where he Chaired Youth for Reagan! Over the past several years Larry has been a major sponsor of MDGOP including hosting numerous events for the party – and many convention hospitality suites. We were proud to have our Change Maryland Fall Harvest Party in conjunction with MDGOP at this past Winter Convention in Annapolis. It was quite a success with over 1100 people in attendance.

Campaigns are exciting and addictive for people like me who are political junkies. I halted my Senate Campaign in District 42 to work fulltime for Larry – and I am very committed and pumped about the Hogan for Governor Campaign. Since our announcement, just five short weeks ago, we have hit the road at a sprint. The on-line presence with over 80,000 Facebook friends creating new volunteers every day has actually shocked me and I believe it will be a wonderful outreach for our party.

It is very rewarding, for a long time Central Committee member like me, to see so many new and excited people wanting to volunteer. In these few short weeks we have had three major fundraisers each exceeding expectations. Our mail program and on-line donations have been outstanding. Internal polling has us in very good position and we were very pleased to see similar reflections in outside public polling. Long story short – all is well.

Please feel free to call or contact me anytime should you wish to coordinate or work with the Hogan Campaign. My job as Campaign Director includes working with you as a candidate, all Central Committees and MDGOP. Our campaign has made the decision that we are open to helping all GOP candidates, working directly with each County Committee and MDGOP as we each work hard to change Maryland.

See you on the campaign trail!

Chris Cavey
Campaign Director

I guess what made it funny for me is that certainly Chris knows who I am since I’ve been on our Central Committee for eight years – he was first vice-chair under Jim Pelura. I’m sure someone from Larry’s campaign just went through the hundreds of Central Committee candidate files, pulled out their e-mail addresses, and blasted out this form letter regardless if they were running for the first time or the tenth. The only fields they had to rearrange were the first name and the county.

Well, first things first: I’ve been trying in my own special way to build this party for eight-plus years, so I wish your boss wouldn’t be so coy about how he will reach out to people who care about a number of issues: education, the environment, Second Amendment rights, and agriculture being chief among them. We are well aware of all the tax increases we’ve been forced to endure – if we didn’t vote with our feet and leave the state, as Change Maryland has so often pointed out – and we know economic conditions here are lacking. But those aren’t the only issues and all I hear from your boss is the same message of how Change Maryland appeals to independents and how bad the situation is right now. Remember, I was at the Change Maryland party in November, in part because I figured he’d actually make it official that night.

Yet there’s a line I find interesting in your e-mail:

 The on-line presence with over 80,000 Facebook friends creating new volunteers every day has actually shocked me and I believe it will be a wonderful outreach for our party.

So it leads me to a question: what if Larry either isn’t the nominee or doesn’t win in November? Does Change Maryland go on, and will you share resources with the Maryland GOP? One criticism I heard in the years following Bob Ehrlich’s defeat was that the party was still overly oriented to Bob’s success rather than trying to be there for everyone. I’m sure there were some who were relieved when Bob lost in 2010, taking the short-term pain in looking at the long road because the party could finally move on from the Ehrlich legacy – let’s face it, we’re not exactly talking about Ronald Reagan here.

So Chris, if Larry wins, this will not be the Maryland Larry Hogan Party, it will be the Maryland Republican Party. We will work appropriately for his re-election but not exclusively as it seemed, by many accounts, like the MDGOP did from 2002-06 (and even during O’Malley’s first term, when Larry ran the first time before ceding the field to “my friend” Bob.)

Finally, you may want to make sure April 12 is clear on your calendar because it looks like that will be the date of our Lincoln Day Dinner. I understand Larry is in demand for fundraisers but we would kinda like him to show up at our LDD since no candidate has a home-field advantage here and we just might want him to say a few words.

Listen, I really would like to back Larry but so far I don’t know where he stands on a lot of important issues. He has a good overall message but one thing I’ve found about certain candidates is that once you look deeper into what they have to say, they tend to either contradict themselves over time or they pander to the crowd they’re speaking in front of. I suppose Larry’s keeping it simple to stay on message but sooner or later people like me have to ask and there has to be more than one dimension. We know it’s easy to be the opposition party and stand on the sidelines, so – aside from the three-point test Larry touts – how will he govern and lead?

There you have my response, Chris. Color me skeptical – and still undecided – for now.

Dossier update number 1

Back in December, once I finished the original dossier series, I noted this would be an ongoing process. To that end, here are further statements made by the three contenders at the time, with the addition of items from Larry Hogan.

Each of these subcategories will be revisited, with changes in score noted.

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The 2014 monoblogue endorsement will be based on the following formula:

Election/campaign finance reform (3 points)

Larry Hogan: As a practical matter, seeking public financing made sense for Mr. Hogan, who entered the Republican primary race relatively late and was unlikely to raise as much privately as he may qualify for publicly. But he also noted that his decision ‘sends a great message’ about his grass-roots efforts. (Baltimore Sun, February 4, 2014)

Ron George has also talked about taking public financing, although he’s made no formal decision on the matter. He had no points anyway, nor will Hogan receive any.

Illegal immigration (5 points)

No candidates have made significant public pronouncements on the subject, so no changes and no points for Larry Hogan.

Dealing with Obamacare (7 points)

David Craig: Craig has previously called on O’Malley and Brown to stop wasting money and hindering access to health care and to promote direct enrollment options through insurance carriers and brokers. The Administration then took a modest step in that direction by working with insurance industry leaders to develop a telephone help line. (press release, February 10, 2014)

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Craig, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, said the O’Malley administration should instead be helping people get coverage directly through the insurers. He wants to reallocate $150 million, originally earmarked in part to market the problematic exchange, toward promoting alternative enrollment options.  (Fox News, January 7, 2014)

*

Craig’s proposal would seek an HHS waiver to re-program funds to launch a public awareness campaign informing consumers of their right to obtain health insurance directly through carriers. A complimentary awareness campaign would inform people of their rights to utilize Maryland insurance brokers who are licensed and experienced in helping individuals with health insurance. Utilizing call centers for those needing assistance with the website would remain in place. Craig, however, would re-examine the navigator model in which people having problems with the website must set appointments with temporary workers disbursed among several organizations.

As for the vexing issue of low-income individuals seeking subsidies, Craig supports U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski’s proposal to HHS to enable a direct data hub allowing people to obtain financial assistance without going through an exchange. (citybizlist, January 7, 2014)

Charles Lollar: Lollar advocates making hospital costs “much more transparent” by posting the prices. “Until we control the costs we’re not going to get our arms around the health care issue.”

“I’m all for a moratorium on the Affordable Care Act.” (Fox 45 debate, January 16, 2014)

I had previously chided Craig for not offering up solutions (although he had done a nice job identifying the problems) but I’m not sure I like much of the approach he’s taking besides the idea about promoting alternative enrollment options. I’ll give him 1.5 points, up from none.

Lollar seems to have a better idea as far as approach, although it’s still very vague. The moratorium alone, though, is worth 2 points (he had none as well.)

Larry Hogan hasn’t addressed this, so no points.

Energy policy (8 points)

No candidates have made significant public pronouncements on the subject, so no changes and no points for Larry Hogan.

Education (9 points)

Ron George: He acknowledged that a repeal of Common Core “ain’t going to happen in the state” of Maryland. But he argues for putting the educational focus back on what he calls a “local locus of control” rather than a one size fits all federal mandate. George also believes it is important to teach entrepreneurship and financial literacy in schools in an effort to help minorities and low-income Marylanders understand how to be successful in a free enterprise system. (In The Capital, January 15, 2014)

Charles Lollar: Lollar wants to stress internships for high schoolers, with the help of corporations. (Fox 45 debate, January 16, 2014)

Let me talk about Ron George first. It’s interesting that he has gone from “I intend to fight it with all my energy” in September to “(repeal) ain’t going to happen” just four months later. I have a problem with that change of heart because if you’re elected as governor you have an automatic bully pulpit.

Look at how we were saddled with gay marriage. It didn’t happen until Martin O’Malley decided to burnish his 2016 credentials and made it an issue in 2012 (with an assist from Barack Obama, who needed the gay vote.) If you want to get rid of Common Core, you browbeat the legislators who oppose you until you get your way. So I took him down from 4 points to 3.

On the other hand, I think Lollar’s idea is pretty good so I bumped him from six points to seven.

Second Amendment (11 points)

David Craig on Rodricks show tells Dan Yes I SUPPORT concealed carry! (Facebook page, February 10, 2014)

Larry Hogan is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and is opposed to SB 281. He will work to keep guns away from criminals and the mentally ill. Hogan supports tougher mandatory sentencing for criminals who commit crimes with a gun, but he is against taking away the rights of law abiding citizens. (Facebook page)

I added a half-point to David Craig (from 8 to 8.5) for the clarification. Conversely, I think Hogan’s canned response is somewhat wishy-washy and political. He may be opposed to SB281, but will he repeal it? The time for opposition is over – the word is “repeal.” So he gets 4 points of 11.

War on Rural Maryland (12 points)

Charles Lollar: Leadership in Annapolis needs to craft a regional solution to this problem that requires all states that pollute the Bay to “pay their fair share” to keep it clean. We must not allow legislators in Annapolis to “hurt Maryland first” by bankrupting hard-working farmers with a “Chicken Tax” and putting the future of Maryland’s number one economic industry at risk. (press release, February 5, 2014)

Lollar picks up a half-point for this, from 5 points to 5.5 points. It’s pretty easy to oppose the chicken tax but Lollar did it quite forcefully.

Role of government (13 points)

Larry Hogan: Job one will be to get the government off our backs and out of our pockets so we can grow the private sector, put people back to work and turn our economy around.

Every decision Larry Hogan makes as governor will be put to a simple test – Will this law or action make it easier for families and small businesses to stay in Maryland and will it make more families and businesses want to come to Maryland?

If something comes across Hogan’s desk as governor that doesn’t pass this test, he’ll veto it. (campaign website)

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We’ve got to be able to run the government, provide the services that are important and necessary to people as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible, so it’s not like let’s lop off this department or stop providing these services – I think it’s just looking at zero-based budgeting and doing outside audits of every state agency and saying how do we use those tax dollars more effectively.

I think we need to focus on – these aren’t Republican problems or Democrat problems, these are serious problems that our state has. We’ve got to reach across the aisle and work together between the parties to come up with common-sense solutions to solve these things. (NewsTalk with Bruce DePuyt, January 21, 2014)

Charles Lollar: A government should serve its citizens, not burden them. It must also provide for citizens truly in need without trapping them in an endless cycle of dependency on government programs that erode their self confidence, human dignity, and a chance to live the American dream.

The answer is not to grow bigger government.

The answer is to empower people with the skills and opportunity to grow a better future for themselves, and not allow government to stand in the way of these goals. (Facebook page, January 12, 2014)

Okay, as far as Larry Hogan is concerned, I get it. You want to work with Democrats. Good luck with that, because we will likely have four years of gridlock unless the voters of Maryland come to their collective senses and elect a Republican majority in the General Assembly. You will have a LOT of vetoes otherwise.

I have yet to be convinced there is such a thing as a broad centrist coalition, since to me all it means is we walk further away from truly being a Free State rather than sprint headlong as we are now. But I will allow 4 of 13 points for the smell test and the zero-based budgeting.

Lollar loses one point for that answer, from 6 to 5. Where is it government’s role to provide for those truly in need? Shouldn’t that be more of a function of the faith-based community? The very definition of government standing in the way is to have government programs one can become dependent on – to me the continuing spiral of unemployment benefit extensions is a perfect example.

Job creation and transportation (14 points)

David Craig: I think that each individual county should establish its own minimum wage. It just makes sense that local officials make laws and the State doesn’t simply dictate what should be done. (Facebook page, February 11, 2014)

Ron George: We must focus on expanding opportunities for entrepreneurs and technical training for our unemployed to protect and grow our middle class for generations to come. (Press release, January 23, 2014)

Charles Lollar: Of course we want better opportunities, better modes of transportation – a diverse collection of different ways to get back and forth to work. Liveable, workable, playable communities where you can actually live, work, and play in the same place and have a legitimate conversation with yourself in the morning whether to walk or drive your bike to work and get there on time.

I think (the Purple Line) is absolutely doable. The question is – is it affordable? If it is, let’s push forward. (2014 gubernatorial candidate transportation forum, February 18, 2014)

The idea David Craig has is a good one, and would have raised him a full point if he had allowed counties to do away with the minimum wage altogether. Yes, this would be a fight with the federal government but it’s a Tenth Amendment fight worth having. I’ll give him a half-point so he goes from 9 to 9.5 points.

Ron George already had a very solid approach, so there wasn’t a lot of room for imporovement there. The statement is a little bit generic.

Suddenly, though, I think Charles Lollar caught his populist, pandering disease at an inopportune time. I know Red Maryland nailed him for one statement (which brought this gem to my attention) but I remembered that Lollar was opposed to the Purple Line last September – now he says it’s “absolutely doable”? He wasn’t pushing the bus alternative in front of that crowd.

And the phrase he was looking for insofar as “livable…communities” is (so-called) Smart Growth. Don’t encourage the idiots, Charles. I took off three points, from 7 to 4.

Hogan misses out on this category so far.

Fiscal conservatism/taxation (15 points)

David Craig: Under Craig’s plan, tax brackets would be lowered across the board to 4.25 percent as of 2016. Couples now pay a basic rate of 4.75 percent on most of their income. Wealthier Marylanders pay a higher percentage on a sliding scale that tops out at 5.5 percent on income above $300,000.

Craig said he would couple that with an increase in the personal exemption from $3,200 to $5,000. He said that will provide relief to middle-class that would help offset the face that the greatest benefits under his plan would go to the higher income brackets, which would see the highest percentage drop.

In the second phase, Craig said he will call for a further reduction to a maximum rate of 3 percent — with a bump in the exemption to $6,000.

Craig said a third phase in his plan, which would come sometime in what he hopes will be his second term, would eliminate the tax entirely. He said his proposal would not affect county piggyback income taxes, which the state would continue to collect.

According to Craig, elimination of the income tax would put Maryland in the company of nine states that have no income tax, including Texas, Florida and Tennessee. (Baltimore Sun, February 18, 2014)

Ron George: When asked what policies he will put in place to foster job creation, George said lowering the corporate tax rate is a necessary first step. “We have to lower the corporate tax rate,” he said. “I would like to get it down to 5.75 percent and I think that sends a strong message out there that we’re open for business.” This, he argues, will help bring businesses back to Maryland thereby expanding the tax base and creating more revenue for the state. (In The Capital, January 15, 2014)

*

In addition to the expansion of jobs, George is planning on cutting income tax by 10 percent, building a tax base in Baltimore, and putting in place what he is calling the “Buy Maryland Program.”

In this program, if Maryland residents itemize purchases over $100 on their tax returns, then they will receive 20 percent back. That way, George said, people will have a lump sum in the spring that they can then use for a down payment on a house or car. (Easton Star-Democrat, January 9. 2014)

Larry Hogan: When Hogan is governor, we’ll repeal the rain tax. That’s one change you can count on.

Charles Lollar: Our plan is to take a look at every regulation out there – all 74 of them. We want to peel this thing back. People are tired, here in Maryland, with this bait-and-switch tax scheme. So we’re going to compose independent audits annually. We’ll determine how the monies are collected, how they’re being spent, and whether this spending demonstrates an efficiency of how we use taxpayer money. And this audit will be published online…In addition, I am not going to sign any tax bill that’s void of an enforceable lockbox provision. (Bill Bennett Show, January 23, 2014)

*

In addition, Lollar pointed out on the Fox45 debate that this would be all taxes, not just the ones passed under Martin O’Malley.

*

In a fundraiser with economist and advisor Arthur Laffer, he supported the Lollar idea for eliminating the state’s income tax but gave no details. (Press release, January 28, 2014)

David Craig followed the lead of another with his tax plan, but the timing is a little more specific. I think it’s a great idea, though, and he seems to have the understanding that, because he controls the budget, that the idea is doable. He gained three points from 11 to 14 with one (somewhat) bold move.

Ron George is restating previously noted material, so there’s no bold moves there.

Larry Hogan will repeal the rain tax. That’s a start, but really it’s only an entry-level gambit in this race so he gets just 5 points.

Charles Lollar was first to the post with the idea to eliminate the income tax, but hasn’t elaborated on the details. But because he was so close to the maximum point total already with 14, I could only bump him up to 14.5 because I think eliminating the income tax is a splendid idea.

Intangibles:

Larry Hogan: Phony political spin, questionable donations, cronyism, and backroom deals pervade the current culture in Annapolis. We need more transparency in our government, more truthfulness and tougher ethics and disclosure laws that will begin to clean up the mess in Annapolis and restore integrity to our state capital. (campaign website)

*

It’s time to engage every citizen who wants to get involved in the policy process. Policymaking should not be left exclusively in the hands of an oligarchy of anointed Annapolis lobbyists and lawmakers. (Capital Gazette, January 17, 2014)

Charles Lollar: First and foremost, I would do all I can to get rid of comments like the one I just heard. It’s unfortunate, but I do take a bit of offense to that because the idea that all Republicans think the same way is probably about as similar as all blacks thinking the same way – it’s not true – or all whites thinking the same way, it’s not true. I want to be the best governor of Maryland I can be – not the best Republican governor I can be, and not the best Democrat governor I can be, I want to be the best Maryland governor I can be.

And I’m sick and tired – no matter where I go or who says it, I attack it the same – of people using partisan politics, skin color and gender, to separate us from real solutions that are at hand. (Purple Line Forum, February 18, 2014)

I’m not quoting him on anything here, but because he’s been the most open and responsive candidate to me I added one point to Ron George’s intangibles.

For Hogan’s part, I agree with the sentiments for the most part. But they are belied by the way his campaign is conducted – missing opportunities to discuss issues with fellow candidates and instead uttering many of the same campaign mantras in one-on-one interviews with generally friendly questioners. It’s not enough of a change from the current culture he decries, and until I start seeing and hearing answers on issues above and beyond the Change Maryland mantra, I have to deduct two points for intangibles.

Charles Lollar, though, has really cleaned up his campaign, and the statement I included is apt because he was responding to Democrat criticism. So he went from a -3 score to a wash – his campaign isn’t firing on all cylinders yet but it is improving.

If you’ve been keeping track, well, more power to you. But unlike other bloggers, I’m not ready to make a choice yet because there’s still a lot of information I’d like to have before making my choice.

What I can tell you is that David Craig and Ron George seem to have an edge over Charles Lollar, with Larry Hogan far behind simply because he’s not addressed many of my key issues yet. His is a one-note samba so far. It turns out that the Craig tax plan has now vaulted him slightly ahead of Ron George – very surprising because my initial perception was that David was the most moderate of the four candidates.

But above all, my main complaint is with the Larry Hogan campaign. Stop skipping debates where everyone else shows up! You may have 40,000 Democrats and unaffiliateds in Change Maryland, but there’s one problem with that: they get no Republican primary vote and you probably won’t win with 40,000 votes (assuming all Change Maryland ‘likes’ = Hogan supporters, a very dubious assumption.)

So my plan is to revisit this sometime in April, with perhaps a final decision in early June. I don’t think an early endorsement will do me a lot of good here because no candidate is standing out in this race.

More payola intrigue

Do you remember a guy named Ron George? You know, he’s this guy who actually jumped into the gubernatorial race back in June and had steadily plodded through the campaign, in part because he’s serving in the House of Delegates as is Democratic hopeful Heather Mizeur. In the straw poll I wrote about yesterday, George was second to Charles Lollar with 24% of the vote, beating both Larry Hogan and David Craig, but in the internecine sniping over the last couple days between supporters of two of those aforementioned camps you’d have thought Ron had dropped out of the running.

But on the heels of his call for a special counsel to investigate the Maryland Health Exchange Board, George today revealed more information through his research. The statement (below) is accusatory, but George backs it up by putting the pieces of the puzzle together.

The Maryland Health Exchange Board should never have been granted special procurement powers which resulted in the rewarding of political allies. The administration continued to favor a vendor who has a flawed history with Maryland and deep fundraising relationships to both Governor O’Malley and Lt. Governor Brown. We need a special counsel with the authority to investigate the procurement practices of the Health Exchange Board.

It appears the administration was in favor of rewarding their political supporters despite serious legal concerns relating to this same vendor’s work with state foster children and a troubling history collecting child support payments in Baltimore. The problem with one-party control is the people in power get to make the rules even when they are inappropriate and can lead to waste, fraud and corruption. I demand a full and thorough investigation into the contracts approved by the Health Exchange Board and their adherence to transparent and impartial government.

This is the same vein that Larry Hogan’s Change Maryland mined with his own accusations of pay-to-play which came out last month. Seems like we have a pretty corrupt set of people running Annapolis.

One thing which needs to be addressed when the Republicans take over state government is the procurement procedure. It’s certainly the conservative ideal that as many government functions as possible be transferred to the private sector, and generally this is accomplished through a bidding process with the lowest and best bid which meets the specifications prevailing. Most people associate the process with construction projects, but much of government –  including the contract for customer service call centers George refers to – is done this way. On the surface, it’s a good idea to allow a private company with some expertise in the field to replicate their service for government rather than hire a group of workers to duplicate efforts needlessly.

Yet there are flaws in this approach which make it exploitable, and I believe what George wants investigated is how the process of selecting Maximus came to be. For example, were the specifications written in such a way to make Maximus into the only company capable of doing the contracted work? Much as the 2005 Fair Share Health Care Act was written to punish just one company – Walmart – the rules and specifications for awarding a job can be tailored to make it so just one bidder can feasibly secure the work. (If you forgot about what Fair Share was, it was an early topic of conversation in my blogging career. Check out this blast from the past.)

Perhaps more sinister yet would be the idea of getting insider information as the process was going along. In my architectural days, we had to be scrupulously careful that any changes made – whether clarifications of questions asked by bidders, revisions by the client, or the occasional error or omission on our end – were transmitted to all bidders to make sure no one received an unfair advantage. But if someone has a thumb on the scale, they may get a little bit of advance notice on changes or otherwise gain a leg up on the competition.

As it stands, though, it appears that $325,000 investment by Maximus paid off with a $36.5 million return. Of course, there’s nothing illegal about donating money to a political candidate and many companies play the field by donating to both Republicans and Democrats. (There was an anecdote I heard about the Maryland GOP accidentally getting both checks from a corporate donor, noting the GOP amount was far smaller than the Democratic one.) Just a look at a website like Open Secrets or Follow the Money will show most corporations embrace the practice.

So Republicans will have to walk a fine line when they take over in Annapolis. It’s almost impossible not to benefit a business which made a political donation, particularly if they shower both sides with campaign cash, but there needs to be some transparency in the process and a way to write specifications to maximize participation rather than funnel business to one or two well-connected bidders. Reducing the size and scope of government should be the primary goal of conservatives, but levelling the playing field for those who wish to provide needed services from the private sector should be a close second priority.

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    First District - Congress

    Andy Harris (R)
    Bill Tilghman (D)

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    Maryland General Assembly (local)

    Senate District 37

    Addie Eckardt (R)
    Christopher Robinson (D)

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    House District 37B

    Republican

    Christopher Adams (R)
    Johnny Mautz (R)
    Rodney Benjamin (D)
    Keasha Haythe (D)

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    Senate District 38

    Mike McDermott (R)

    Jim Mathias (D)

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    House District 38A

    Charles Otto (R)
    Percy Purnell, Jr. (D)

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    House District 38B

    Carl Anderton, Jr. (R)

    Norm Conway (D)

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    House District 38C

    Mary Beth Carozza. (R)

    Judy Davis (D)

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    Wicomico County

    County Executive

    Bob Culver (R)
    Rick Pollitt (D)

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    County Council at-large

    John Cannon (R)
    Matt Holloway (R)
    Laura Mitchell (D)

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    Council District 2

    Marc Kilmer (R)
    Kirby Travers (D)

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    Council District 3

    Larry Dodd (R)
    Josh Hastings (D)

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    Council District 5

    Joe Holloway (R)

    Ron Pagano (D)