A pair of Easton events

Our friends on the mid-Shore will get to be a hotbed of conservative political activity next week.

First off, on Thursday evening the fine folks of Heritage Action will host a training session on “How to be an Effective Activist Through Social Media.” It will run from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Comfort Inn in Easton so you should be back home well before the witching hour.

The topics will include:

Online Training: Blogs, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube
Twitter Training: Build and deploy a Twitter Army
Legislative Training: Learn how to use the Heritage Action Dashboard to Hold Congress Accountable

All they ask is that you register at this site, show up a little early (they prefer 5:00), and bring their iPad or smart phone. A hankering for Chik-fil-A wouldn’t be a bad idea, either. And say hi to Melody Clarke for me, since she alerted me to this.

Then comes Saturday. Because Easton has a centrally-located Planned Parenthood facility, it will be the Eastern Shore site of “one of over 150 events coast-coast on August 22, in cooperation with a coalition of more than 40 pro-life groups.” This according to the organizers of the local event. I spoke to the folks with the Maryland Pro-Life group at the Wicomico County Fair tonight and they were anxious to be at the protest. (It should be noted that Planned Parenthood is closed on Saturdays. With any luck they will soon be closed more permanently.)

Dubbed the Easton #PPSellsBabyParts Protest, it will run from 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, August 22 at the Easton Planned Parenthood location, 8579 Commerce Drive #102 in Easton. As my notice says:

We may never have a better opportunity to strip Planned Parenthood of their massive $500 million taxpayer subsidy and expose the truth about this corrupt organization.

They may claim “doctored video” and “we provide needed health services” but the fact Planned Parenthood had to hire a Democrat hired gun PR firm means we have them on the ropes – even the PR firm is ashamed to admit it. Pressure from caring Americans can finish this fight.

I can’t make the Thursday event but I will strive for the Saturday one. It will be interesting to see who covers it.

2014 Maryland GOP Spring Convention in pictures and text (part 2)

In case you missed part 1, which dealt with Friday night, you can catch up here.

I was in bed reasonably early for a convention, in part because there weren’t a whole lot of hospitality suites to be found and in part because I wanted to cover breakfast with this immediately recognizable guy.

The former GOP national chair is always a welcome guest at MDGOP proceedings, and as a breakfast speaker he set a good mood for the day by predicting “we’re going to be back in our winning ways this year.”

But his message went back a few years, to when Michael took over the national party, which had become too “comfortable and cozy.” He saw his mission as one “to rebrand a party which had become moribund,” one where the gap between rhetoric and principles had become so large it snapped. “I’m so sick and tired of people blaming our principles for their failure to lead,” said Michael. “What we believe in is time-honored and true.”

Similarly, Steele noted that the state party had gone through its share of “definitional moments” and was ready to do so again. We needed to avoid being a party defined by what we are against and not what we are for, as we’ve “often found ourselves at odds with the very people that we want to represent.” We need to “talk about freedom but connect it to life.”

Taking that to a more local level, he noted that people are expecting leadership from the Central Committee members in the effort to “turn the elephant.”

“We’re not looking back, we’re looking forward,” said Michael. “Revolutionizing the (Maryland Republican) Party is our number one priority.” People are hungry for authenticity, leadership, and vision, he added. He got a token of our appreciation, too.

The wine is a Maryland red wine from Linganore called Black Raven. Diana thought it was a “providence” that she was thinking about how to thank our speakers as she drove by the winery. I had a shot of the bottle but, alas, I was too close and it came out way too bleached out. After breakfast, I had to gather my things and check out as well as make one other stop.

Instead of having a Friday evening suite, Larry chose to host a breakfast suite with Chick-fil-A items. Of course, all I was hungry for was information, so I spoke to Hogan about his experience on the Eastern Shore with our farmers. I found he has a fairly good idea about what they stand to lose should phosphorus regulations go through, so that was a plus. And I added to my weekend collection, a shot which included Larry’s wife Yumi.

It’s a bit askew because I was looking at two cameras at once. So I grabbed a Hogan-labeled bottle of water as I walked out and headed back down. With the stops, I missed much of what – from the part I did hear – was an interesting panel discussion by conservative black Maryland Republicans.

After that finished, I checked out some of the displays in the lobby. This one was new that morning.

As I understood it, my Worcester County cohort was selling “Benghazi bracelets,” which will be gray and black. Obviously that’s still on the minds of many people to whom it does make a difference. I also spied a more modest display that morning from the Lollar team.

I was remiss in not getting a photo of Ron George’s table, although I think it’s visible in the lobby photo in part 1. Of the four candidates, though, Ron had the least presence with just the table. Craig had a table and suite, as did Lollar, while Hogan had his breakfast suite, a folder at each table place, and hallways festooned with these.

In due course, you’ll understand why I thought it was important to make that comparison. Once that mini-tour was complete and I was checked out, it was time to begin the convention proper.

The first report was a legislative report from Delegate Gail Bates, who’s now running to become a Senator. She pointed out we don’t get our way much, but did achieve some good things: recoupling the estate tax to federal law, pieces of election reform – particularly on voter rolls – and straightening out the pit bull mess to place responsibility on dog owners regardless of breed. These, however, were outweighed by a litany of bad: a budget which continues a pattern of overspending revenues, increasing the minimum wage despite outcry from small business, decriminalization of marijuana, the “bathroom bill”, and the health exchange, said Bates.

We next received the bad news of the treasurer’s report from Executive Director Joe Cluster. The one positive note was that we were “right on course to meet our goals this year” after a slow start. This wasn’t her convention podium, but I wanted to show a shot of Party Chair Diana Waterman to signify her Chairman’s report.

She had one key announcement:

She also recounted recent events like the Reagan Ball and Johns Hopkins gubernatorial forum, but her message stressed the needs for turnout on Election Day and unity after the primary.

In an extension of the forum he moderated, Tony Campbell decried the lack of credibility the party had built in the 16 years he had been involved, and stressed that we needed to find issues that people connected with. This election was the combination of time and opportunity we had been waiting for, though.

Brian Griffiths gave a brief Young Republican report mainly focused on upcoming events, while the College Republicans gave no report because their incoming president, Christine McEvoy of Johns Hopkins, was studying for exams. Thus, the morning continued with National Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose and her visual aids.

While Ambrose talked briefly about what the national party is doing, her focus has been on grassroots work in Maryland, particularly the Super Saturday program. Next Saturday, May 3rd, that program comes to Ocean City just in time for Springfest. A second one is in the works for June 21 in Montgomery County. Further ones for the fall will be determined over the summer, as there is an application process. She also stressed that every county should be looking into an absentee ballot program, particularly the larger ones.

But I thought this slide of upcoming events was cool.

It’s not just on the Eastern Shore, though, it’s right here in Salisbury. Do we need a better excuse to have a Super Saturday for Wicomico County? After all, the good Lt. Col. West shouldn’t arrive until the afternoon.

Louis Pope piled on to what Ambrose said as he gave his National Committeeman report, but also believed the June primary was an advantage to Central Committee members – those who win have a four-month period to learn the ropes, while the returning/retiring members could mentor the newbies.

Turning to the 2014 election, Pope quipped, “if you liked 2010, you’ll really like 2014.” The national GOP’s goal was to take the Senate, and with the recent Florida special election showing “it’s all about turnout,” coupled with the McCutcheon decision by the Supreme Court, the potential was there for a great year.

On a state level, Pope believed Wisconsin is a “model” for us – similar size, and a state controlled by Democrats until the last cycle. It all comes down to turning out Republicans.

Finally, we were through most of the reports, and we found out we had a quorum of 236 of 303 members present. But it was troubling that several counties were well short of their allocation. We’re used to this from Baltimore City, which, try as they might, has a hard time getting people to serve. But there were over half the members absent from Allegany, Calvert, Caroline, Dorchester, and Talbot counties as well. Granted, it was the last convention of the term and not much was on the docket but that’s still a concern to me.

The last item we dealt with before lunch was a resolution condemning the introduction of House Bill 1513, sponsored by both the Harford and Baltimore County Central Committees. Thanks to a parliamentary maneuver, the resolution passed by unanimous consent in a voice vote.

We were actually well ahead of schedule, even with lunch, so Diana Waterman added two speakers to the agenda: Attorney General candidate Jeffrey Pritzker and Comptroller hopeful Bill Campbell.

Pritzker was blunt: “Maryland is in trouble.” He reminded us he was the first to call for a special prosecutor in the health exchange debacle – a position Doug Gansler would prefer to do away with. “The people need a lawyer,” Jeff said. He promised to create a task force to address the laws, seeking to prune away the unnecessary and redundant.

Campbell made the case that we needed to go to places where we were uncomfortable in order to win. For example, he addressed the Maryland State Education Association – not expecting their endorsement, but to make his case nonetheless. Reportedly he got 40% of the teachers’ votes, which Bill considered to be very good impact.

We also had the Executive Director’s report from Joe Cluster, who told us to focus on four numbers: 6, 19, 48, and 16. These weren’t for Powerball, they were 6 of 10 County Executive seats, 19 of 24 county councils or commissions, 48 Delegates, and 16 Senators. “It would make us relevant in this state” if we achieved all these milestones, said Cluster. Joe continued by pointing out both Barack Obama and Martin O’Malley had approval numbers under 50 percent. “People are tired of what they’ve done to taxpayers,” Cluster said. “I don’t see any incumbent Republican losing.”

He also announced there were plans for Victory Centers in Towson for District 42, and in the District 38 area – Salisbury is in District 38, as is Ocean City. We then got to new business.

The Tweet tells you the result, but how we got there was interesting. I was one of perhaps four who spoke in favor of moving it to the floor, but by the crowd reaction to myself and other speakers I knew the effort was doomed. By the time the roll call got to Baltimore County (only fourth in) the result was obvious: just Caroline County (and its one representative), Dorchester, Howard, Kent, and Queen Anne’s favored it (Wicomico was 6-3 against) and the motion died by a weighted vote of 385-91. (In terms of bodies, it was 192-42, with one abstention.) Ten counties were unanimously against it. I thought it would get between 1/3 and 1/2 of the vote, so less than 20% was shockingly low.

But it is typical of the party’s “we’ve always done it this way” mindset.

Before adjourning, we heard yet another plea for unity and turnout from Diana Waterman, who was stalling a little bit because there was a full hour before the afternoon seminars were scheduled. But we finally received the results of the straw poll conducted at the convention.

Brian Griffiths, a confirmed Hogan supporter, came over to Jackie Wellfonder and I and huffily said, “that’s the last thing (Lollar’s) going to win.” He chalked up the loss to proxies who were in the Lollar camp.

Here are the actual vote numbers:

  • Lollar – 68 votes (29.8%)
  • Hogan – 62 votes (27.2%)
  • Craig – 60 votes (26.3%)
  • George – 29 votes (12.7%)
  • undecided – 9 votes (3.9%)

I remember looking quickly at Wicomico’s ballots before I handed them over and we split among the four candidates. I think it was 3 Hogan, 3 Craig, 2 Lollar, and 1 George.

But look at what was put into the convention by the candidates. Granted, Charles Lollar had a large and very visible party and David Craig had a lively suite of his own. All but Larry Hogan had lobby tables, with Ron George having very little other presence. I didn’t even see him there, although I did see Shelley Aloi frequently making the rounds.

Yet Larry Hogan spent a lot of money for sponsoring the programs, the folders at each seat, the breakfast suite, and the multitude of signs only to come in second by just two votes. (I have it on good authority that one Hogan supporter I know may be switching to Craig – had that person came to that conclusion a little sooner, there would have been a second-place tie.) I would have expected Hogan to get 35 or 40 percent based on the hype.

Unfortunately, my traveling companion needed to get back to Salisbury so I couldn’t stay for the seminars. It never fails – had we started at lunchtime, we would have argued the bylaws change clear through dinner. But out of the seventeen conventions I’ve now attended, this was one of the more quiet and non-controversial. I guess we’re fairly united despite the straw poll vote.

It was definitely time to go home and get to work.

More restaurant business

Seeing how successful the original was – at least in making for a good story – a political activist is trying to recreate the grassroots magic which punctuated the Chick-fil-A business surge in 2012.

The brainchild of Eric Odom, who is the Managing Director of a media site called the Liberty News Network and also acts as the Director of Interactive Media for Grassfire Lab, the intent of Chick-Phil-A Day seems to be recreating the same atmosphere as the 2012 protests in the same locale, desptite the fact Chick-fil-A has nothing to do with the Robertson family and isn’t an active participant in the protest. Odom notes this on the Facebook page announcing the effort, which is scheduled for Tuesday, January 21.

Obviously this comes in the wake of the entire ‘Duck Dynasty’ controversy, and participants are urged to “Stand For Free Speech. Sit For Good Food.” They’re also asked to arrive in Duck Commander or camoflauge clothing. As of this writing, over 55,000 have signed up with earlier press reports claiming a number in the 45,000 range. So it’s growing rapidly.

But there are a number of differences between the Odom effort and the 2012 protest, which was led by onetime Presidential candidate and media personality Mike Huckabee. For one, Huckabee’s call had a very short lead time of about a week, so the idea was fresh on people’s minds; moreover, it was in the middle of the summer of a presidential election year, when activists are most rabid.  This effort is being put together far more slowly at a time when news is slow and people are still in holiday mode.

So I’m not sure just what to expect considering how quickly the Phil Robertson story blew up, and maybe the question is why not support Cracker Barrel since they readjusted their stance on the Duck Dynasty items after consumer blowback. Obviously the effect is more noticeable at a Chick-Fil-A, though, and the restaurants are far more common. (In this area, the closest Cracker Barrel is about 75 miles away. One was rumored to be planned for Salisbury but it apparently fell through.)

I sort of suspect that people may have moved on to other diversions once the holidays are over because reruns of ‘Duck Dynasty’ are still being aired and the newest Season 5 episodes – all but one of which were already taped with Phil Robertson – premiere January 15. There may be a small bump in the traffic for Chick-fil-A but I don’t think it will be anywhere near as large as the August 2012 protests were.

And that’s a good thing, because the innocent lady who happens to have a very similar Twitter handle to the event name (as I found out when I did the Google search for the term) will probably like not to have tons of traffic.

54-40 – so fight!

Those who favor the redefinition of marriage to include those nuptials involving same-sex couples are crowing once again about a poll showing their side in the lead. (h/t: Old Line Elephant.) The poll, done by Hart Associates, shows that the 504 likely voters split 54-40 in favor of keeping the new law, while 515 likely black voters are almost evenly divided on the issue, falling 45-44 against the bill. Moreover, Hart claims their numbers are improved from a previous March poll, where the measure would pass by a 51-43 margin with black voters opposed 49-40.

But if you read further into the Hart polling and compare it to another poll done recently by a pro-gay marriage group, Public Policy Polling, it can be argued that support for the measure is receding. The PPP figures went from 52-44 in favor in March to 57-37 in May – and 55-36 support in the black community.

Perhaps the Obama flip-flop on gay marriage moved the needle in the black community for a time, but that wave may have crested. If you look at the Hart and PPP results on a timeline, gay marriage has lost 19 points in two months among blacks and 6 points among all voters. And remember, it was just a year ago – before the well-funded propaganda blitz by those who believe same-sex marriage is a measure of “equality” rather than an attempt to legitimize what some consider a deviant lifestyle came to pass – that the issue trailed by two points among Maryland voters. A similar margin was found as recently as this past January in the Gonzales Research Maryland Poll.

And lost among these numbers as well is that both PPP and Hart are reliably Democratic pollsters, so since Democrats favor gay marriage enough to make it part of their 2012 platform these pollsters would naturally favor a position to make that side look good and discourage the opposition. The game is revealed in the Hart summary, where they write:

The bottom line is that a November win for marriage equality at the ballot box in Maryland is well within our grasp.

On the other hand, other pollsters which are more open about who they sample can be a little more trustworthy.

Also worthy of mention was that the Hart polling occurred before we saw the reaction on “Chick-fil-A” day – presumably the huge crowd we had in the local stores would be strongly against adopting gay marriage in Maryland, and they turned out to show that support for traditional values. Certainly a few who may have been neutral on the subject could have changed their minds upon seeing the tactics used against Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy for his pro-family stance.

Now as far as I’m concerned a “win for marriage equality” is a loss for the values which made this country great. I’ve said before that I have no problem with civil unions, but gay marriage to me is just another step toward rendering the term meaningless through eventually allowing polyamory and perhaps even adult-child partnerships. Give it a couple decades.

But the timing of conducting and releasing what amounts to a “push poll” (since we don’t have any indication about the sample composition, meaning it was probably weighted to areas and groups more likely to favor gay marriage) is interesting given the vast hordes who joined me in descending upon Chick-fil-A Wednesday. Since the so-called “equality” side certainly knew this outpouring of support for traditional values was coming – although perhaps they underestimated the amount – this poll release had to be designed to deflate whatever good news came out of the Chick-fil-A protests. I’m not buying it as a legitimate expression of support.

As Matt Newman points out at Old Line Elephant, support for same-sex marriage has generally been overstated at pre-election polls. A similar flaw in this instance puts the ballot within the margin of error, so it will be up to both sides to turn out their voters – historically this has been an advantage for conservatives despite their inferior numbers to date in Maryland. And with the plethora of issues on the ballot so far (six statewide issues, plus dozens of local initiatives) there will be a lot to attract conservatives in 2012.

A show of support

Normally the time around 2:30 is a slack one for the restaurant business, and certainly Chick-Fil-A is no exception on a normal day. But this was the scene outside the Salisbury restaurant this afternoon.

Yes, cars were literally lined up around the restaurant and inside you could barely find a table. This was the scene while I was waiting on my food.

Actually, the wait to order food wasn’t bad at all – it was the wait to get the food that was about 20 minutes. I asked the friendly young man who waited on me about how the day was and he said “crazy.” He was expecting a busy day, he said, but not quite like this. In listening to other people talk I heard at least one person had come from Millsboro, Delaware just to eat at the restaurant. Inside, employees were offering to refill drinks and handing out mints to those who were waiting.

Now I don’t know how the location at the Centre of Salisbury fared, but my guess is they had the same sort of business.

How was the food? I’ve always liked their waffle fries but this time I tried one of their cool wraps. Probably should have stuck with the sandwich, but next time I’ll know better. It wasn’t bad, just wasn’t all that great.

From what I’ve been able to gather, I’m not the only local person who’s provided an eyewitness report of his experience at Chick-fil-A today. But one thing about this show of support which makes it far more obvious than a boycott is the number of people who packed the parking lot and restaurant. And there wasn’t a lick of trouble or complaint from those who had to wait.

Naturally there will be some who call me a “hater” and spew nasty comments because I joined in this one-day movement, and of course this will be the sort of day which may create record business for Chick-fil-A at the expense of other restaurants. But it seems like the idea behind those who condemn the Cathy family for having Christian values and standing up for the traditional family was to shame them into conforming with their idea of “inclusion” – a idea which seems to welcome everyone but the group who still believes in the values that made our nation a “shining city on a hill.”

Unfortunately for the truly intolerant people, the show of support expressed today will likely give Chick-fil-A greater resolve than ever. Don’t back down now.

A statement of Christian support

I saw this in my e-mail today and I’m now indirectly a part of it in two respects.

The Patriot Post has opened up a petition to show support for Chick-fil-A and over 6,000 have signed up. That’s all well and good, and I added my name to the list.

But the other interesting part is the “read more” afterward. Once I read the first sentence I said to myself, “that looks familiar.” Indeed, it was part of their Digest last week, and the article in question just so happens to be one of my contributions (although slightly edited from the original as the PP editor added the part about Louis Farrakhan and tweaked some wording here and there. He also changed the title, but that’s okay.)

It’s one of those jobs I do each week that doesn’t get noticed because I don’t get a byline there; however, that’s really not the point. I truly enjoy being part of a team of a couple dozen from around the country who work on that publication every week. But I thought you folks here might be interested to know that little tidbit and connection.

Now sign the petition and perhaps I’ll see you on Wednesday at Chick-fil-A.