In the department of “okay, so…”

The other day I mentioned that I was so far out of the political loop that I didn’t even know who was running for state party chair – in elections past my e-mail box would be chock full of appeals from candidates, but not this time. So it took me to see something on Red Maryland to know who was in the running for the various positions. (I notice none of the RM brain trust is running to have their doors blown off once again, but I digress.)

At this point it looks like only two incumbents are running. We knew Chair Diana Waterman was not interested in another term, but it appears 1st Vice-Chair Mary Burke-Russell won’t be back, either, nor will 3rd Vice-Chair Eugene Craig III or Secretary John Wafer. (No more vanilla wafers when he’s running for something. Pity.) The only one assured of returning is Treasurer Chris Rosenthal, who’s been at it for at least a decade. (Maybe no one else wants the job.) Larry Helminiak is up once again for Second Vice-Chair, but this time he has opposition: Lee Havis (who ran the Cruz campaign in Maryland but became a strong Trump backer; he also heads the Maryland Grassroots Republicans group) and Tim Kingston, who I believe chairs the Queen Anne’s County party.

On the other hand, there are two other walkovers besides Rosenthal’s: Mark Uncapher is the lone candidate for Secretary and Michael Higgs is all by himself for First Vice-Chair.

This leaves two contested races: Maria Pycha vs. Shannon Wright for Third Vice-Chair and a four-way contest for Chair I’ll get to momentarily. Pycha is probably best known recently for managing Dan Bongino’s unsuccessful run for Congress, while Wright had a similar lack of success running for president of Baltimore City Council.

As has often been the case, the biggest race is for the Chair, and it has generally gone more than one ballot. But something tells me Dirk Haire is going to win on the first try, despite having three opponents. William Newton has been a political fighter in a thankless area, but that serves to his disadvantage because he won’t have a support base. Meanwhile, no one has ever heard of Sajid Tarar and Red Maryland already dug dirt up on him.

The race, then, basically comes down to two-time former Comptroller candidate William Campbell (who also unsuccessfully ran for Chair in 2010) and Haire. But if you recall my post about slates in the last convention I attended, you may recall they were a hit:

Having done this before and not been on any sort of slate, my advice to those of you wishing to try in 2020 is to get on one. Unless you have stratospheric name recognition in the party, it’s highly doubtful you’ll advance to the national convention based on past results. It’s a sad state of affairs that this process generally benefits the “establishment” but it is what it is, and the best way to combat it seems to be putting together a slate. Remember, the bottom half of this field was littered with non-slate hopefuls, distasteful as that may seem.

Insofar as I know, there is only one slate and that is the Conservative Club slate that found success in the spring. Haire is on that slate along with Higgs, Kingston, Pycha, Uncapher, and Rosenthal. It will be tough to defeat this sort of saturation bombing (although it can be done) but I think what actually hurts Campbell is the split vote among those who may not prefer Haire because he is a party insider (he has served as General Counsel to the MDGOP.)

Obviously I have no say in the matter, and what will drive the MDGOP through 2018 is the popularity of Governor Hogan to a point where it almost matters not who is Chair. Just smile and look pretty. But I think at this stage of knowing the players a little bit as I do my ballot would go Campbell, withhold, Helminiak (in the sense of leaning that way, with reservations), Pycha, Uncapher, Rosenthal.

But there was a reason why this is in the department of “okay, so…” – this and $5 might get you something at Starbucks. Hope you all have fun at the convention; luckily I have far better plans for the weekend.

2016 Maryland GOP Spring Convention in pictures and text (part 1)

It had been awhile since I had been to the DoubleTree in Annapolis, but seeing the place was like old home day. While the MDGOP often holds its conventions there, it hadn’t hosted one in some time – in fact, Fall 2013 was the last one. But this time instead of the big news being the impending candidacy of Larry Hogan, it was the presumptive nomination of this guy.

(No, not Don Murphy sitting on the bench – I’m referring to the guy who supposedly will make America great again.)

Also different than our last visit was the number of sponsors.

It sure doesn’t hurt to have a governor from your party. But the story of this convention was all the electioneering going on. As I pointed out earlier this week, 98 people were seeking office and some were on this “unity slate.”

The idea was to take some folks from each of the campaigns and send them off to Cleveland to represent us. But after I had the chance to freshen up and get registered, those who represent us in the Maryland Senate made for my first stop of the evening. I could freshen up with some light snacks and an adult beverage.

(Note that Donald Trump is adding to that $2 billion in free media coverage on the adjacent TV. I didn’t say it was flattering.)

Speaking of media coverage, these two erstwhile associates of mine were doing their semi-annual Friday night internet radio show from the convention lobby.

I wasn’t listening so I have no idea who they dragged on as guests, aside from me not being one of them. I was downstairs at the Executive Committee meeting, where I found out the MDGOP had “a great fundraising quarter…our best since 2006,” according to party treasurer Chris Rosenthal.

But Diana Waterman had a message. “We must get behind Mr. Trump,” she said, “Trump is a helluva lot better than Mrs. Clinton.” Yet she also urged us to be respectful to those who can’t support our nominee.

She also pointed out that there’s no Republican “war on women” in Maryland given the fact two of our Congressional nominees are women versus none for the Democrats.

After National Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose updated us on some of the upcoming goals and events for the GOP, National Committeeman Louis Pope discussed the national scene, stating regarding this year’s primaries, “the goal was to have as fair of a nominating process as possible.” He added that the debate control “worked very well.”

Pope was looking forward to Cleveland, saying he was “preparing for a unified convention” and predicting Donald Trump “will be a pretty cool nominee.” As he saw it, the convention will be a “four-day infomercial for the Republican Party.”

Yet the Presidential election was to the benefit of local parties as well, added Pope, because they could use the national race as a tool for local fundraising, allowing them to build up their war chests.

We also learned about two proposed bylaw amendments and a resolution, which I will simply foreshadow because they will be covered more in-depth in part 2.

The Executive Committee was done in remarkable time, meaning that shortly after 8 I could go see what was going on. This was my initial stop.

It wasn’t a place I stayed long, for obvious reasons. But it appeared they were having a good time celebrating their presumptive nominee status.

My second stop was nearly as uncomfortable, but I did see Louis Pope there and wished him luck.

If you look closely in front of his sign, you can see Louis behind the other gentleman. He apparently held court in his suite for most of the evening, as I didn’t see him circulating. Nor did I see his opponent David Bossie, who co-sponsored the suite I stopped at later.

First, though, the prize for most appetizing spread went to the host County Executive Steve Schuh.

This doesn’t show the vegetable tray and chicken on the other table. Oftentimes there’s not enough good stuff to eat at these hospitality suites but between the spring rolls at the Maryland Senate pre-party and Schuh’s suite, my appetite was satisfied. I was there quite awhile, eating and talking to Senator Justin Ready.

Next, I went upstairs to the Conservative Club suite. But since I didn’t see Bossie, I didn’t hang out too long there.

As it turned out – at least judging by the times on my photos – the Harris/Szeliga suite was where I stayed the longest. It was a happening place.

It’s where I ran into an old friend of mine, Maria Ialacci of PG County, and my partner in crime Heather Olsen. So I was there awhile, although I retreated to the hall so I could hear and cool off – it was hot in there, and when I say it’s hot it’s downright uncomfortable to most people.

So I got to see the co-star of that show as she happened by.

I still haven’t spoken with Kathy Szeliga, but at least I have seen her so that’s a start.

My penultimate stop was a suite that wasn’t on the “official” list but somewhat underground – both literally and in spirit.

The only one down on the first floor, the combined suite of Don Murphy and John Fiastro was the famous grilled cheese suite, with Fiastro doing most of the flipping.

Let’s see what they can do with this.

I did not take a picture at my last stop, which was definitely a shame because Delegate Tony McConkey and his wife Susan did an after-hours (after 10 p.m.) ice cream suite. (They also had it during our lunch break today, but I didn’t go.) Now I was a little worried since it was situated just 2 doors from my room, but it must have died down by the time I talked to my sweetie and finally went to bed because I pretty much slept like a log. The hard part was getting up at 6:45 to get ready for breakfast, which is where I will pick things up tomorrow in part 2.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

Tomorrow, unless some last-second nomination is made from the floor and somehow gathers enough support to prevail, Diana Waterman will be elected to a full two-year term as Maryland Republican Party Chair. It would be the first re-election of a Chair in my eight years of involvement, and proves that hard work and success is its own reward. Her tenure has been successful enough to scare off any opposition, so she joins party Treasurer Chris Rosenthal as Executive Board members who presumably have an unopposed re-election.

It’s worth noting that Third Vice-Chair Eric Grannon is the only incumbent taking a pass on another term, and his seat has the most competition with three contenders: Eugene Craig III, Tommy Rodriguez, and Rob Willoughby are all trying for that position.

Each of the three comes at the position with different perspectives. Craig and Rodriguez were most active in the 2014 campaign, as Craig ran for Baltimore County Clerk of the Court and Rodriguez was the campaign manager for the Ron George for Governor bid. Willoughby, on the other hand, comes from a more traditional route as he is the Chair of the Caroline County Republican Central Committee and as such has the longest list of endorsements.

All three are active in social media, with Rodriguez stating his priorities as:

We have an unprecedented opportunity as Maryland Republicans to restore prosperity, accountability and personal liberty to the Free State. As your Vice Chair, I will commit my time and talent towards recruiting the next generation of conservative leaders and building a statewide network of donors and grassroots volunteers who will help them towards victory. Together, we can build a Republican Party committed to growing the middle class, reining in big government and providing the best array of education opportunities in the nation.

Craig has the biggest endorsement in Dan Bongino, a blog post by Jason Boisvert explaining Eugene’s thoughts on priorities, and may have the largest brush with fame of the three candidates. Craig was the first one in the race but both he and Rodriguez may have a difficult time against Willoughby as he is familiar to many more potential voters.

Another intriguing race is the one for Secretary, where incumbent John Wafer has a challenge from Joe Fleckenstein.

While it’s not quite as simple as a description as I’ll give it, basically the job of a secretary is to take notes. (It’s why I do a similar function in two organizations because I also have that mindset as an outgrowth of this gig.) But it also has a vote on the Executive Committee because we changed the bylaws in 2013 to allow this. (I recall it was my former Chair Dave Parker who introduced this as an amendment to a bylaws proposal to also grant the YRs and College Republicans an Executive Committee vote.) Fleckenstein is a steering committee member in the Harford County Campaign for Liberty, reflecting a push by the pro-liberty forces in Maryland to have more of a say in the state party.

In the race for Second Vice-Chair, incumbent Larry Helminiak faces a challenge from Greg Holmes, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress from the Fourth Congressional District this year, losing in the primary. Of the three Vice-Chair races this seems to the the most low-key one.

On the other hand, I am being bombarded by e-mails in support of re-electing Collins Bailey to the First Vice-Chair position, So far here is a list of e-mailers from whom I’ve received Bailey endorsements:

  • Christina Trotta, Harford County (and a Campaign for Liberty member)
  • Larry Helminiak (current Second Vice-Chair)
  • Gordon Bull, Baltimore County (ran for Delegate in District 12)
  • Tyler Harwood, Wicomico County (a Republican activist)
  • Mark Crawford, Charles County
  • Grant Helvey, Worcester County Chair
  • Gary Clark, Howard County
  • Carol Frazier, Worcester County Vice-Chair
  • Richard Rothschild, Carroll County Commissioner
  • Kellee Kennett, Worcester County Tea Party
  • Republican Liberty Caucus of Maryland

The list of endorsements for Mary Burke-Russell isn’t as long, but it does include former gubernatorial candidate Charles Lollar. She also has the backhanded support of Red Maryland‘s Brian Griffiths, who wrote a scathing piece on Collins Bailey yesterday. Griffiths’ piece comes off as remaining sour grapes from the ill-fated Chair campaign of Greg Kline, but Burke-Russell already appears to be one of the “establishment” choices against the pro-liberty insurgency which you can put Bailey, Fleckenstein, and arguably Eugene Craig into. If all three win the MDGOP may be a more activist vehicle during the General Assembly sessions – perhaps they should be.

Without speaking to any of the candidates personally – and not having a vote in the matter since I chose not to take a proxy offered to me – I’m not going to make any official endorsements in the race. I’m on record as supporting Diana now although at the time I preferred Collins Bailey be the Chair. Larry Helminiak has also done a fine job.

I will say, though, that I believe those who have been in office by and large deserve re-election but the voters would still be served well by the challengers. And given certain winners the Maryland GOP would be far more diverse in all respects than its Democratic counterpart, which seems to try and balance based on external characteristics and not diversity of thought.

Movement down-ticket

On Sunday I marveled at how calm the race for Maryland GOP Chair was, but there is some movement in the races below the one which, to my knowledge, has heretofore left Diana Waterman unopposed for another term.

An interesting race is developing for First Vice-Chair, one which pits incumbent Collins Bailey, a favorite of the pro-liberty crowd, against Mary Burke-Russell, who until recently headed a very successful St. Mary’s County Republican Party. You may recall Bailey was a last-minute nominee for the job in the spring of 2013 after he lost a tight battle with Waterman for party Chair, and Burke-Russell was one of those he defeated for the job in a five-way race.

Besides the pro-liberty endorsements, though, Bailey has the backing of current Second Vice-Chair Larry Helminiak, who noted that:

Though I often have the exact opposite point of view as Mr. Bailey, I have learned that the final decisions arrived at by a board of directors is more acceptable to the membership after both sides of an issue are presented and discussed.

If re-elected to the position of 2nd Vice Chair, I would look forward to spending the next couple of years having open discussions with Collins Bailey.

At this point, no one has stepped forth to challenge Helminiak for his position but that’s likely to change.

Meanwhile, the Third Vice-Chair position has one announced candidate in Eugene Craig III, who last ran for Clerk of the Court in Baltimore County this year. I’m not aware if incumbent Eric Grannon is running for re-election, with the same being true for Secretary John Wafer. However, Treasurer Chris Rosenthal is seeking another term.

If the two who haven’t made their plans known decide to stay on, it would create a powerful argument to maintain the status quo which led the party to some unprecedented successes in 2014. It’s likely more challengers will surface in coming days – I’ll have a better idea when our Central Committee meets Monday night – but as it stands right now the acrimony which has rended the party after previous conventions may not surface. The pro-liberty wing will have representation in Bailey while the so-called “establishment” can point to Waterman as their choice.

It was a formula which held the party together for the 2014 campaign, and it can serve to grow the party over the next two years.

All quiet on the western front

They say success has many fathers while failure is an orphan. In the case of the Maryland Republican Party, the inverse seems to be true: thanks to the outstanding election results, people seem to be satisfied with the status quo. I may be out of the loop insofar as voting, but I’m still on the list distributed to the state party because I remain an officer on our local central committee.

Just in case the candidates were really checking their e-mail lists and omitting me because I don’t have a vote (although I would probably be first in line for a proxy) I asked a few of my cohorts if they were getting any campaign-related items and aside from knowing Diana Waterman and party treasurer Chris Rosenthal were seeking new terms the answer was no. Considering the state of the race in 2010, it appears the convention will be fairly innocuous compared to organizing conventions in the past; perhaps victory is the balm which heals old wounds. As one of my respondents noted, “Frankly I don’t see anyone having an easy time of defeating (Diana) – unless s/he can sell the Party on the idea that cleaning out the officers is the right thing to do after the most devastating victory in memory.”

So in terms of party unity this may be the best convention since 2002, which is before my time in this state. It doesn’t appear Larry Hogan will want “his” chairman put in place at this point, although in two years it may be a different story.

Perhaps the one interesting point of view to be presented will be the now semi-annual Friday night gathering of the Maryland Liberty Action group, a get-together which will feature some good speakers: Delegate-elect Robin Grammer, Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothschild, and MLA director of operations Christina Trotta (a fan of this site, by the way.) It’s a good representation of the libertarian side of the GOP, and it’s a crowd which tends to skew younger than the average Central Committee member.

With a focus on what we can expect during the upcoming 2015 General Assembly session it will certainly be worth it to stop by if you’re at the convention. They start a little earlier than most of the other hospitality suites (a 6:00 start) so you can check them out before heading over to the other suites sponsored by the various candidates. (Pro tip: as I recall – and unlike a lot of our other venues over the years – Turf Valley had suites in two very separate areas of the complex, so check your local listings.)

Victory has been a rare experience for Maryland Republicans, so if the convention has the same joyous mood as our local election night party, Turf Valley should be rocking on December 5.

MDGOP 2012 Spring Convention in pictures and text (part 1)

A fountain at the Solomons Island Holiday Inn, where the convention was held.

We descended on the lovely village of Solomons Island this weekend to hold our Spring Convention. Because it was such an action-packed two days I’m breaking this post into two parts: one dealing with the events of Friday night and the other (for tomorrow) describing Saturday’s action. (Always leave them wanting more.)

The Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary's County welcoming reception.

First on the agenda was a Welcome Reception sponsored by the three Southern Maryland county Republican parties. In the photo on the right (in the light blue) is retiring National Committeewoman Joyce Lyons Terhes, whose retirement was the impetus in placing the convention there. Although it’s a long haul around the Chesapeake Bay for us on the Lower Shore, I suppose that’s payback for making them come to Ocean City two years in a row.

Larry Hogan with his Change Maryland cake.

Also getting an early start on the proceedings was Larry Hogan, who was celebrating the first year of his group Change Maryland. Funny story: if you look at the cake Larry is pointing at, you’ll notice that there’s a mistake as the cake came with an extra zero. I call it optimism on the part of the baker, and while Change Maryland now has 12,000 members 120,000 is an admirable goal for next year.

David Craig's table.

Hogan has often been mentioned as a 2014 gubernatorial candidate because he made an abortive run in 2010 until Bob Ehrlich made up his mind. But the “unofficially officially in” David Craig had his own table as well, and was also a sponsor of the entire convention. No doubt he’s been laying the groundwork of a run for quite a long time.

Another key element of the convention was the two petition drives, both same-sex marriage and redistricting. I didn’t manage to get a photo of him, but rest assured Robert Broadus of Protect Marriage Maryland was among those collecting signatures in favor of that referendum. Yet it seemed there was more of an “official” push to have the redistricting referendum signed. (I will have an interesting backstory on this involving one candidate later on this week.) So I added my name to the redistricting petition.

A map of Maryland gerrymandering.

Of course, there were other vendors as well. The rear guard effort continues.

But it wasn’t apparent in that evening’s Executive Committee meeting. And while party treasurer Chris Rosenthal opened up the meat of the business portion of the meeting by conceding 2011 “wasn’t that great of a year” for fundraising, he brightened up the room by announcing we were “back on the right track” for 2012.

Included in that optimism was a newly created endowment in honor of the retiring Joyce Lyons Terhes, a fund that Audrey Scott announced the creation of and initial funding for during the meeting.

In his report, Party Chair Alex Mooney expressed disappointment in the 2011 financial statement as well, stating “I accept responsibility…we didn’t do as well as I’d like.” But he’s “working hard” on getting the party out of debt and brought up the fiscal importance of this year’s Red, White, and Blue Dinner which will feature GOP political guru Karl Rove. “We need this to be a successful event,” said Mooney.

He also said there’s “no room for dissent” now that the primary is over.

A better financial tale was told by National Committeeman Louis Pope, who said the Republican National Committee is in “great shape” financially for the fall campaign, well on their way to their fundraising goals.

Those of us among the spectators – which included nearly all the Wicomico County delegation, unique among counties – also heard a number of other reports. Perhaps the most important among them was the Maryland GOP Hispanic Coalition report, where Linda Hernandez made the case that the Latino vote is “essential” to turn Maryland around.

Our County Chair, Dave Parker, was also head of the Credentials Committee, and he gave a fairly lengthy and detailed explanation of the balloting which would take place the next day for Delegate and Alternate Delegate candidates for the national convention. With nearly 80 hopefuls vying for the 20 spots, it was a complex process to gather all the information.

The final report was given by MDGOP Executive Director David Ferguson, who said we were “moving in the right direction” and need to “run the party like a business.” Fair enough, but he also had five priorities for the state party: an effective message, recruiting candidates, a permanent professional infrastructure, utilizing the referendum process as a check on Democratic power, and providing good customer service for local party units. He also had unkind words for Martin O’Malley and noted “Maryland is a GOP state at the local level.” (Apparently this is true, as we have a majority of local seats.)

We also learned during the meeting that the next convention will be held in Western Maryland – it would have been their turn this time had Joyce Lyons Terhes not announced her retirement.

But the Executive Committee meeting isn’t what those who come to the event a day early generally seek out. They come to be social, and those who have a political agenda know this. For example, three of the four National Committee candidates had hospitality suites – Committeeman hopeful Scott Shaffer was the exception.

Louis Pope's suite sign.

Audrey Scott's suite sign.

Nice use of a lapel sticker by the Pope campaign, by the way. I did go to his suite but didn’t think I’d be too welcome in Audrey’s so I skipped it.

I made it a point to stop by this young lady’s space, though. Nicolee Ambrose had one of the more exuberant parties I attended.

Nicolee Ambrose talks to a possible supporter.

Inside the suite, of course, you had signage for Nicolee’s bid. But there were a lot of other items there as well, as this table demonstrates.

A table full of items in the Ambrose suite.

And there’s a larger point as well. If you go back to Audrey’s sign two photos above, you’ll notice Nancy Jacobs is among those endorsing Scott. But Ambrose had plenty of space to put her items out in the interest of helping the Jacobs campaign.

I also found this guy there.

U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino.

As I’ll detail tomorrow, Dan Bongino gave a great accounting for himself at our luncheon. But he was holding court in Nicolee’s suite when I arrived.

This was just a great picture someone taped up in Nicolee’s suite bathroom.

Ben Cardin - a closet Bongino supporter?

Next up was one of the more interesting conversations I had, with Eighth District Congressional candidate Ken Timmerman.

Ken Timmerman for Congress sign.

I confessed to him that his was one of the races I predicted incorrectly, believing that having three Montgomery County residents in the primary would split the vote enough to have him finish second. But he advised me to follow the money – since his MoCo opponents had very little – and noted the political geography of his district was more neutral toward opponent Dave Wallace than I thought.

It was a good give-and-take with the accomplished author, who posed with some of the books he was selling. Bet you could have had one autographed!

U.S. Congress candidate Ken Timmerman.

And sometimes it’s not about having the suite, but being seen. Two of these ladies are attempting to build a political name for themselves in the consulting field, so they were circulating among the rooms.

Two of the three behind Purple Elephant Politics - Kristin Shields (center) and Hillary Pennington (right).

With Norma Secoura on the left, Kristin Shields (center) and Hillary Pennington (right) are two of the three behind Purple Elephant Politics, an “exclusive political networking group” which is attempting to stomp its way into the political fray through a number of outlets. They were among Nicolee Ambrose’s biggest backers.

And while I’m not exactly old, I agree that it’s time for a new generation of leaders to begin to emerge so it was good to see their involvement and interest. (They really were doing more than drinking margaritas.) As you’ll see in tomorrow’s installment, though, youth had a tough time being served.

2010 MDGOP Fall Convention in pictures and text (part 2)

And now we resume coverage (Part 1 is here) with a cold, crisp Saturday morning. Actually, the cold felt sort of good since I needed to wake up a bit after just a few hours of sleep.

If I turned around 180 degrees I’d see something like this, as candidates greeted Saturday arrivals with their pitch.

We didn’t have a breakfast speaker this time, but during breakfast I did have the pleasure of finally getting to meet Ann Corcoran of Potomac TEA Party Report. She was there as a proxy for another in her county and to help man the table for the Conservative Action Network, which has an upcoming event.

I also ran into Chair candidate Mike Esteve, who was the lone hopeful I didn’t catch with my camera Friday night.

After breakfast we crowded into the main ballroom.

I must say whoever decided on this setup needs to return to Seat Arrangement 101. The worst part was not having a center row, although being placed in the back wasn’t all that great either. Guess it was our turn.

We had a very popular guest speaker, however. (Being in the back did no wonders for my photography.)

Congressman-elect Andy Harris praised Audrey Scott for being the “key to victories around the state” and reminded us of where we were just two years ago and how far we’ve come. We’re not a regional party as some predicted nor is Reagan conservatism dead. “87 freshmen are living proof that American conservatism is alive and well,” Andy said.

Yet we have to win back Americans’ trust by being innovative, efficient, and willing to listen, added Harris. “Government must first do no harm.”

He vowed to support across-the-board budget cuts, a total earmark ban, and no new taxes as his agenda. “We don’t want the government to put a limit on our hopes and dreams,” Andy concluded to a standing ovation.

While Delegate Tony O’Donnell named the names of all 16 new Republican members of the House of Delegates and applauded our six seat gain in his report, he set his sights higher. “It’s possible to get 28 seats in 2014,” O’Donnell opined. We have to start recruiting now to reach that magic 71 number for the first time since at least Reconstruction, Tony noted.

Senator Allan Kittleman was a little less optimistic about GOP hopes, but did state the case that, “there’s not a whole lot of trust in the (state) government.” In a veiled reference to a former chair, Allan added “we had a hard few years there (in the General Assembly.)”

Giving the county report, Harford County Executive David Craig compared our fate to that of a familiar team.

“Being a Republican in Maryland is a lot like being an Orioles fan,” he noted wistfully, but we were developing the farm team to win. We have a base to start from with all the local successes, even though they occurred in smaller counties. At this time (and Wicomico reflects this as I said the other day) there are more Republican elected officials at the county level than Democratic ones. Still, “we need to help those people out” in areas like Prince George’s County and other Democratic strongholds.

As seems to often happen, we had to do some shuffling around of the itinerary because the Credentials Committee had its hands full with latecomers and proxies. So we next heard the Chair’s Report.

While being Chair “wasn’t on her radar” about 16 months ago, Audrey Scott called the post the “experience of a lifetime” and a “labor of love.”

“We have come a long way” in her tenure, she said, but also believed that our message was sound. It was embodied in a recent experience she had with Newt Gingrich, who expounded on the theme of jobs vs. foodstamps. O’Malley and Obama “just don’t get it.” Speaking of O’Malley, she praised MDGOP’s Ryan Mahoney as being “solely responsible” for uncovering his jobs coverup last August.

And while she claimed to inherit a party a quarter-million dollars in debt and staff unpaid for months, she said the party raised $1.15 million this year, including ‘Victory’ money from the national GOP. (Later Chris Rosenthal said the non-Victory total was about $893,000.) It was fortunate we had Michael Steele as the RNC chair, she continued, saying “Steele deserves to be re-elected.”

While she later joked, “I have lots of critics,” she asked that we “never, ever again…begin an election year in debt” because “the enemy is the Democrats.” (And, if I may add again, there is no bag limit.)

Later, we got other reports which basically repeated what was said Friday night to the Executive Committee from National Committeewoman Joyce Terhes, National Committeeman Louis Pope, and Treasurer Chris Rosenthal.

One issue I had was with the Rules Committee. Why some counties continue to slit their own throat is beyond me, but we retained the ‘compromise’ voting system which has plagued us over the last two years on a 196-69 vote, exceeding the 2/3 majority needed. Wicomico went 4 in favor, 5 against and was joined by Allegany County, Baltimore City, and Montgomery County as counties in opposition. I’ve got an idea to end that mess once and for all!

Thus, my counts (which are based strictly on ‘one man, one vote’) aren’t exactly correct, but should be reasonably close.

Which brings us to the Chair election.

It was a LONG process, as nominees and seconders had several minutes to speak before the candidates did. Notable quotes from each contender:

  • William Campbell believed that “all Republicans have the same values…we are conservative.” He also told us, “if we don’t unify we will be irrelevant” and alluded to his fiscal conservatism by alluding, “when I squeeze a nickel Jefferson ends up in the library in Monticello.”
  • Mike Esteve noted as a Prince George’s County Republican “I want my vote to count.” The Baltimore TEA Party he helped to organize was an “indication that things had changed forever.” He also suggested adopting charitable efforts in impoverished neighborhoods as they would pay dividends down the road as far as minority voting goes and chided the infighting among Republicans – “if you could measure infighting in blood the state would be red from end to end.”
  • Asking “are you proud to be a Republican?” Sam Hale stressed his grassroots background, but also had a good idea for subscription-based fundraising. If just 1/3 of 1% of the party’s registered voters pledged $25 per month the party could raise $75,000 per month – enough to cover expenses and salt some aside for candidates.
  • Mary Kane pointed out things we’re doing better than the Democrats and vowed, “I plan to be honest and transparent for each and every one of you.” Our “opinion diversity” defined the word and she would welcome all opinions. Moreover, no longer could the MDGOP be a “one-man show” and, if she was successful, “we will show up in places we’re not expected.”
  • Alex Mooney was raised to fight for freedom as the son of a Cuban refugee. He was frustrated by not only his close Senate race loss, but three other races where the GOP losers received 49% of the vote (including Michael James in District 38.) We can’t ask our candidates to devote a year or more of their lives to a race and not back them financially, Mooney said.

Our delegation split 7-1-1, with the seven being Mooney and one each for Kane and Hale (me.) Alex carried 12 counties (Allegany, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Charles, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, Montgomery, Washington, Wicomico, and Worcester) while Mary Kane won majority support in six (Calvert, Caroline, Howard, Kent, Queen Anne’s, and Talbot.) Meanwhile, Campbell won three (Dorchester, Prince George’s, and St. Mary’s) and Hale carried Cecil County. Baltimore City and Somerset ended up split between Mooney and Kane.

The ‘one man, one vote’ totals: Mooney 116, Kane 87, Campbell 25, Hale 24, and Esteve 13. Mooney was closest to a majority but couldn’t receive it through either tabulation.

Obviously, having won no counties and just a handful of votes, Mike Esteve dropped out after the first round and endorsed Mary Kane. Then William Campbell decided enough was enough and bowed out.

Despite impasssioned pleas of “no!!” from supporters, just before the second ballot Sam Hale also gave in and endorsed Alex Mooney.

With so few more votes needed the second ballot was relatively anticlimactic, with Mooney winning the actual count 164-97. Sixteen counties went for Mooney (Allegany, Baltimore, Carroll, Charles, Dorchester, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Somerset, St. Mary’s, Talbot, Washington, Wicomico, and Worcester.) We were a 7-2 group as I switched to Mooney but someone else switched from Mooney to Kane.

The next two races were relative walkovers: Diana Waterman was elected 1st Vice Chair with 160 votes, easily outdistancing Moshe Starkman with 57 and Debbie Rey with 47. (We all supported Diana in Wicomico.)

In the 2nd Vice-Chair contest, Larry Helminiak emerged victorious with 151 votes while Brandon Butler (the incumbent) had 78 and Debbie Rey finished with 30. (Wicomico split 5-3 for Helminiak over Butler, I voted for Larry – who I nominated.)

A controversy erupted in the already-crowded 3rd Vice-Chair race when a supporter of Eric Grannon claimed his paperwork was in order aside from a minor error. Chair Alex Mooney allowed him to be on the ballot, making it a six-way race.

Grannon was the leader after the first ballot, gathering 109 votes. Patt Parker was second with 55, followed by Brian Griffiths with 34, Adol Owen-Williams with 32, Debbie Rey with 21, and Collins Bailey with 11. The bottom three finishers all decided to withdraw after that ballot, leaving three for the second ballot. (We in Wicomico split four ways, with five votes for Grannon, two for Owen-Williams, and one each for Parker and Griffiths (mine.)

Eric easily won the second ballot with 191 votes to Parker’s 47 and Griffiths’ 19. We had seven Grannon votes with the Parker and Griffiths tallies.

But the addition of Grannon left a bad taste with at least one competitor, who fumed that the victor should have been left off the ballot. “It’s a story for you,” he said.

We had an easy ballot next since Chris Rosenthal was unopposed for treasurer – Mark Uncapher of Montgomery County announced he was dropping out Friday.

Almost as easy was John Wafer’s win for secretary, where he overwhelmed the field with 210 votes to 35 for Nora Keenan and 13 for Alfred Griffin. (We all went for Wafer.)

But we weren’t done voting yet – there were four resolutions on the table.

  • Somerset County was allowed to expand its Central Committee to nine by unanimous voice vote.
  • The most controversial resolution was to “highly encourage” the RNC to “highly recommend” that early primary states New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina close their Republican primaries or caucuses to registered Republicans only. Since the Chair couldn’t determine the intent of a voice vote, it passed a roll call 116-87, with Wicomico 6-1 in favor (I voted yes.)
  • We asked Chairman Mooney to appoint an ad hoc bylaws committee by almost unanimous voice vote. Our county chair Dave Parker submitted this resolution.
  • We honored Richard Taylor, former National Commiteeman from 1983-2004, by unanimous voice vote.

Finally, just after 3:00, we ate the lunch scheduled for 12:30. Louis Pope gave the edited presentation familiarizing the new Central Committee members with their duties – I caught up with an old friend while I ate.

So there you have it, the wildest and wooliest convention I’ve ever attended. Next spring we do it again in a time and place to be determined. Congratulations to Chairman Mooney and the other winners – feel free to stop by our county anytime!

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