Help for the next Senator

Maryland has not had a Republican United States Senator since the final of three terms of Charles “Mac” Mathias came to a close in 1987. He was succeeded by Barbara Mikulski, who held office for thirty long years before finally retiring before the 2016 election won by Chris Van Hollen. Mathias, who previously represented portions of western Maryland in both the House of Delegates and Congress before taking his success statewide in the 1968 election, was known for being a staunch member of the now practically-defunct liberal wing of the GOP.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Class 1 seat that’s now occupied by Ben Cardin, who succeeded another thirty-year veteran in Paul Sarbanes back in 2006. With his Senate election, Sarbanes had ended something one would think to be impossible in Maryland – a Republican monopoly on U.S. Senate seats thanks to the single term of John Glenn Beall, who parlayed his spectacular failure at re-election (losing to Sarbanes by 18 points in, admittedly, a bad post-Watergate election cycle for the GOP in 1976) into an even worse 40-point plus shellacking at the hands of Harry Hughes in the 1978 gubernatorial race.

However, since that fateful 1976 election Maryland Republicans who have gone up against Mikulski, Sarbanes, and Cardin have mostly pined to be as close as 18 points in a Senatorial election. (They were even swamped in the open seat election in 2016.) In all but one instance, the Democrats have come away with victories in the 20- to 40-point range. The one exception? Ben Cardin’s 10-point win over Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele for the open seat in 2006 – another bad year for the GOP.

I believe it’s in that Mathias vein that Christina Grigorian entered the 2018 Republican Senate race as a first-time statewide candidate. And I say that because of statements like this from her social media:

In my opinion, women are not voting in greater numbers now than they used to – rather, they are giving a great deal more thought to the candidate who deserves their vote. Women want SAFE SCHOOLS AND NEIGHBORHOODS, GOOD JOBS for themselves and their family members, and HEALTHCARE for all those entrusted to their care, from their newborn child to their elderly parent. In Maryland, we have the opportunity to make sure this voice is heard in the 2018 election – given that our ENTIRE FEDERAL DELEGATION is male (8 male Congressmen and 2 male senators), it is time for the 52% of us in Maryland who are WOMEN to VOTE GRIGORIAN on June 26 and then again on November 6!

Setting aside both the Caps Lock and the fact that the last GOP nominee for Senator was a woman, and there were a number of female candidates who ran for Congress in the last cycle representing all four on-ballot parties here in the state of Maryland, I wonder why she so often chooses to play the gender card. Obviously I’ve voted for women in the past and surely I will do so again if the right ones come along. But I don’t think she’s the right one.

This is particularly true in the light of how Tony Campbell is running his campaign. I have not heard Tony say that someone needs to vote for him because he’s a minority candidate – granted, this could be a function of more than one being in the race, but he’s not come across as the affirmative action candidate.

Rather, in the last few days I’ve noticed Tony has received a couple important ratings and endorsements that check off important boxes with me.

First, I got wind of his AQ rating from the NRA’s Political Victory Fund, which is basically the best rating a non-elected candidate can get. The Second Amendment is a hot-button issue right now, and Tony added that he “believes our 2nd Amendment liberty protects all of the other rights, our families and our property.” On the other hand, his opponent Grigorian seems to have the more tepid support, saying “I support the US Supreme Court’s decision in the Heller opinion which ensured that the 2nd amendment’s right to bear arms extends to individuals.”

(You’ll notice I only talk at length about two of the many Senate candidates in this piece, but there are reasons for this I outlined here.)

Then today I read that Tony was also endorsed by Maryland Right to Life, which is a good omen for turnout. While it’s most likely that MRTL will endorse a Republican candidate in a particular race, with this many hopefuls a pro-life endorsement is a good one to get.

On the flip side, Campbell has touted his winning the Red Maryland poll for several months in a row. Now I caution readers to take their results with a grain of salt because it’s not a scientific poll, nor is Red Maryland much use for the more moderate Republicans who would likely be attracted by Grigorian. Just as unscientific, but important to make a point, is the social media presence of each candidate – oddly enough, the largest in raw numbers comes from the otherwise obscure GOP hopeful Nnamu Eze, who ran for Congress as a member of the Green Party in 2016. He has over 1,300 Twitter followers but has followed over 3,000 others to get them. (Eze has no Facebook page.) Another longshot candidate, Bill Krehnbrink, who also ran as a primary candidate decades ago in another GOP bloodbath, has 223 Twitter followers without a campaign Facebook page, while Chris Chaffee is at 120 Twitter followers with no other campaign social media. The Twitter-only social media campaign of Albert Howard stands at 11 followers.

Only four candidates have active campaign Facebook pages, with Evan Cronhardt holding 158 followers (plus 10 on Twitter), Grigorian 606 followers (all but 12 on Facebook), John Graziani 673 Facebook followers (his page has been active for well over a year), and Campbell a total of 756, with 85 on Twitter.

It may seem like a small drop in the bucket, and it is: Ben Cardin has almost 31,000 Facebook followers and nearly a quarter-million on Twitter. Even the otherwise unknown Democratic challenger Eric Jetmir is more popular on social media than the Republican leaders, and this doesn’t count Bradley “Chelsea” Manning’s following. Granted, many of those followers aren’t there for the Senate campaign.

Yet social media prowess doesn’t erase a fact: too many in Maryland are held back by the system as it currently exists.

On Election Day, Ben Cardin will be 75 years old. He won his first election at the age of 23, taking his uncle’s seat in the Maryland House of Delegates and winning re-election four times afterward until he decided to run for Congress in 1986 (the seat Barb Mikulski was vacating.) That victory was the first of 10 for him in what was admittedly a heavily Democratic district, and now he’s running for a third term in the Senate.

So let’s do the count backwards: 2012, 2006, 2004, 2002, 2000, 1998, 1996, 1994, 1992, 1990, 1988, 1986, 1982, 1978, 1974, 1970, 1966.

Fifty-two years.

Seventeen elections without a loss for Ben Cardin.

But what has the state won? An unhealthy dependence on government at all levels.

So I think it’s time for a change. I think it’s time the rest of Maryland – the hard-working, productive people of the state who just want to live their lives and not have to worry about Uncle Sam intruding therein – gets a voice in the United States Senate. Let’s put an “and one” on Ben Cardin’s final record.

Let’s help Tony Campbell become our next Senator.

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.

The state of the ballot

March 24, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Personal stuff, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The state of the ballot 

Is it just me or is the 2018 primary season just not that exciting?

The reasons it could be just me are both an accident of geography and the fact that something is missing. Since we moved again last year, I’ve returned to County Council District 5. If you are a voter there of either principal party, you have very little to choose from on a district level: we have one Republican running for County Council (incumbent Joe Holloway, seeking a fourth term) and one person for school board (incumbent John Palmer, who we Republicans appointed a few years back. Bear in mind school board is non-partisan.) The poor Democrats in my district don’t even have a candidate.

In fact, unless you live in County Council District 1 and are a Democrat, there’s no need for a primary to whittle the field for County Council. Both parties found the requisite two candidates for the at-large seats, and all district incumbents who chose to run (John Hall of District 4 did not) except Ernie Davis in District 1 are unopposed for their spots. The Democrat primary in District 1 decides the seat, since no Republicans ran there.

That District 1 race will be interesting as it features three familiar names. Marvin Ames ran for the seat last time around and was third in a three-person field. More than likely that will be his fate yet again as he takes on the incumbent Davis and the former Salisbury City Council member Shanie Shields, whose district there overlaps to a great extent with the County Council District 1 boundaries.

Council Districts 1 and 4 have the best school board races as well, as there are three contenders for that position. To be perfectly honest, I don’t know if there’s a primary runoff for the position to whittle three candidates down to two or if it’s left to voters in November. I think the latter course of action is more prudent, particularly since more unaffiliated voters would be involved in a non-partisan race. There are four vying for the two at-large spots, which would reflect the County Council at-large race – so it’s likely that’s how a primary would proceed. Having an elected school board is a new process, so there’s no experience to back it up.

I mentioned earlier that something’s missing: well, that would be me. The ballot looks strange without my name on it for the first time in twelve years. But they found – for the third cycle in a row – thirteen Republicans to run for nine spots on their Central Committee, and the Democrats (who are showing their segregationist roots) feature the same number but split among five women and eight men for four spots apiece. (If you are keeping score, Republicans have four women in their thirteen-candidate field, the most in recent history. When I was first elected in 2006, we had none.)

I can’t speak for the Democrats, but the GOP Central Committee is assured of some significant turnover. Only four of the nine elected four years ago are seeking another term, as is appointed incumbent Nate Sansom – a.k.a. the guy who I recommended for the job when I left. If just one of them loses the WCRCC will be a majority of “new” people, although most have been involved with the party for several years beforehand. It also means I’ll cast multiple votes for the position for the first time – nothing against my peers, but in a race such as that you better believe I bullet-voted just for myself. This time I may cast a half-dozen or more as a sort of referendum on job performance.

Now I haven’t even discussed some of the bigger, statewide races. That boring primary in my County Council district extends to those who happen to reside in the state District 38B end of it, where Carl Anderton will be elected by acclamation. Those Democrats still have nothing to do in the adjacent District 38C (which overlaps into that Council district) because none ran there – my Republican fellows, on the other hand, have a great four-person race to attend to. On the other side of the county, District 37B Republican voters have a four-person race they get to whittle down to two, and Democrats in District 37A pit the incumbent Sheree Sample-Hughes against fellow Democrat Charles Cephas. (There’s also a Republican in the race for the first time in eight years.) Meanwhile, on a State Senate level, the fields are already set.

For all their bluster, Republicans who were upset with Larry Hogan as governor couldn’t put their money where their mouth was and find a primary opponent (like Brian Murphy in 2010 against Bob Ehrlich.) At least there are GOP candidates for the other two statewide slots, so neither Peter Franchot nor Brian Frosh get a free pass.

As for Democrats in the governor’s race, having a governor who governs from the center means they are positioning themselves just as far-Bernie Sanders-left as they can go. I don’t think there’s a conservative atom in their collective bodies, although to be fair I don’t know all of their positions. If they have any conservative ideas, they hide them well.

It’s also interesting how many Democrats signed up for the “I’m the insurance policy in case Ben Cardin crumples over from a coronary” part of the ballot. (Based on name recognition, the winner in that case could be Chelsea Manning, the artist formerly known as Bradley.) There are eleven Republicans in that race as well although none of them have thrilled me yet to put my support behind them like a Jim Rutledge, Dan Bongino, or Richard Douglas did. And considering none of these eleven had a current FEC account, voting for one may be an exercise in futility – in their defense, though, the FEC only reports quarterly so this doesn’t yet reflect 2018 results.

So pardon me if I have to suppress a collective yawn for this election, particularly given the tendency for both parties to govern in a manner that’s reminiscent of two teenagers fighting over who’s going to go out and wreck Dad’s car. They may not know the result at the time, but that’s what’s going to happen if they win.

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