Rumor has it…

Certain quarters of the Maryland blogosphere are reporting that one prospective participant in the governor’s race is going off in another direction. A website called The Red White Blue as well as Jeff Quinton at RedState have both made the assertion that something I heard when speaking with a representative of another politician was true – Dan Bongino will be announcing his intention to reclaim the Sixth Congressional District seat for the GOP. Shades of Alex Mooney!

This is particularly interesting to me when you consider that just last week Bongino put out a release purportedly critical of Martin O’Malley:

Sadly, the plague of bureaucratic, government corruption is not limited to the IRS and DOJ. It appears that the O’Malley administration is attempting to rival the Obama administration in bureaucratic ineptitude with its newest scandal. The lavish, inappropriate spending of federal “stimulus” funds by Baltimore City school staff on fancy dinners and expensive watches is another sad example of the very real penalty of an increasingly unaccountable and growing government. The growth of both federal and local bureaucracy has created a ‘soft tyranny’ of diffuse responsibility. When government grows large enough to diffuse responsibility among many than the responsibility for managing it effectively belongs to no one.

But that O’Malley criticism was absent in a statement Dan made yesterday on Facebook. Instead, it leaned more in a direction critical of Washington:

The recent spate of scandals is indicative of a trend line moving painfully in the direction of a “Members-Only” government.

In over a decade within the ranks of the Secret Service, and many years in the White House, I was unfortunate enough to have been a witness to this system, which has become strictly insider-driven.

Those who are appropriately “connected” live by a completely different set of rules & government means something completely different to them. The tax code, healthcare policy, election law, environmental regulation and many other areas have been corrupted and are being used as tools to both punish and reward.

There are solutions out there but you must push your Representatives. A simplified tax code, patient-centered healthcare reform, a reduction in the burgeoning administrative state and the rolling back of many administrative functions to the states would reverse this destructive trend and help restore us to vibrant growth and give our children hope that this is not the best it is ever going to be.

Interesting choice of words: “you must push your Representatives.”

Yet the obvious question I first had when I heard this assertion was: Bongino lives nowhere near the Sixth District. There’s nothing stopping Dan from moving to that area prior to the 2014 election, though, nor does the law preclude a “carpetbagger” from representing a district because Congressmen need only live within the state they represent. Perhaps it’s still the second-best Maryland option for a Republican despite Roscoe Bartlett’s 20-point loss last year. (Andy Harris isn’t going anywhere.)

But if you look at election results, the numbers indicate an uphill battle for Bongino: he ran seven points behind Bartlett’s pace in Montgomery County – albeit these are countywide numbers for Dan and his was a three-way race.

On the other hand, Bongino carried Frederick County over Ben Cardin (although not necessarily the Sixth District portion, which Bartlett lost by 20 points.) Bongino was 400 votes behind Bartlett in Washington County, just over 1,000 votes behind in Allegany, and a little over 200 behind in Garrett. In the latter three counties, though, Rob Sobhani drew 19 percent, 13 percent, and 4 percent respectively. These counties also lie completely within the Sixth District, permitting a more direct comparison.

So I’m sure Dan Bongino has the same information I do, and probably more since he has the time and staff to delve into precinct-by-precinct results. The obvious question is whether he can make up twenty points.

One thing Democrat John Delaney has now that he didn’t have in 2012, though: a voting record. But John will have plenty of money, and perhaps the one advantage Bongino would have over would-be challengers like Delegate LeRoy Myers – who decided earlier this month not to seek another term as Delegate – is the success he had nationalizing his Senate campaign.

Of course, all this speculation could be for naught, just as the phony Bongino/Keyes ticket was last month. This is doubly true considering the source, who would likely benefit from Bongino skipping the governor’s race. But if anything it proves that Dan Bongino has some mojo as a prospective candidate for something, whether he stays home or becomes a proverbial carpetbagger.

Maybe Andy Harris should watch his back.

David Craig setting up announcement tour

Updated below.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joining a crowded field

Honestly, this one came out of left field for me, but several published reports indicate Anne Arundel County Delegate Ron George will formally announce his intent in June to run for governor in 2014, abandoning re-election to his House of Delegates seat in the effort.

It’s interesting to me that, in a state where I’m continually told by conventional wisdom that the Democratic primary will determine the next governor, so many Republicans are considering the race. Most of my readers already know the field by heart, but just as a reminder it most likely includes (in alphabetical order) 2012 U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino, Harford County Executive David Craig, 2010 Congressional candidate and AFP Maryland leader Charles Lollar, and Frederick County Commission president Blaine Young. I’m becoming less and less convinced that early 2010 gubernatorial hopeful and Change Maryland leader Larry Hogan will make a run; in fact it wouldn’t shock me if at least two others of those mentioned above begged off the race.

There’s no question that George will be trying to make history as just the second governor in modern times to ascend from the House of Delegates to Government House, and the first to be elected – Gov. Marvin Mandel came into office in 1969 as the successor to Gov. Spiro Agnew, who became Vice-President under Richard Nixon. Mandel was elected by the legislature, as the office of Lieutenant Governor wasn’t created until 1970 in the wake of Agnew’s departure.

George hinted that his focus would be on economic issues, being quoted in the Capital as promising:

My plan is to really build a new Maryland – one that has true economic growth, not government-created jobs that don’t last long.

But is that the whole package? From a conservative’s standpoint, George is great on certain issues. But on the monoblogue Accountability Project, George only has a lifetime score of 73 and that puts him in the bottom third of Republican Delegates – one caveat being Republicans from that area tend to score a little lower as they cater to a more moderate district.

Evidence of that is easy to find, since his 2010 election website is still up. It includes accolades from well-known state Republicans Bob Ehrlich and Ellen Sauerbrey and praise from Reagan Attorney General Ed Meese, but also has a section devoted to “Democrats and Independents for Ron George,” including this from member Gil Renaut:

In the current “hyperpartisan” climate, he stands out as a delegate who can and does work across party lines for the public good.

But this site also poses a question which should give those up in arms about Agenda 21 and other environmental opportunism pause:

Did you know that Ron also supported and voted for The Clean Air Act, The Clean Cars Bill, The Chesapeake Bay Trust Fund, The Living Shoreline Protection Act, the Green and Growing Task Force, Performance Standards and Accountability that help Smart Growth, the Smart Green and Growing Commission, the Standing Bill and many, many more?

(snip)

That is how Ron George was nicknamed the Green Elephant.

Aside from the nickname, I can pretty much guarantee I knew this, hence his fairly low score on the monoblogue Accountability Project. I recall, however, that this bid to curtail illegal immigration was one of his bills I wrote testimony on some years back.

So while he has some appeal to the center of the political spectrum and those people who equate “it’s for the Bay” with “it’s for the children”, is that enough to propel him to the GOP nomination? After all, in a statewide election the question generally is why vote for Democrat-lite when you can get the real thing?

And on a more political level, why not announce before the state Republican convention when all the activists are there to be catered to? Yes, we had a messy race for Chair but the distraction may have been helpful.

George is staking out a position alongside David Craig, as both are apparently trying to portray the pragmatic centrists as opposed to the more fiscally conservative Blaine Young, the brash outsider in Dan Bongino, and the more socially conservative Charles Lollar. The latter three seem to be seeking the hearts and minds of the pro-liberty wing of the Maryland GOP, so maybe George’s entrance is good news for them.

Much, however, depends on what other surprises await as the 2014 campaign slowly comes into focus.

An early – and interesting – endorsement

I’ve actually sat on this piece of news for a few days, as it didn’t seem to attract a lot of notice anywhere else and I think I know why.

On Tuesday I received a message in my e-mail from the “Draft Charles Lollar” campaign telling me that:

I am honored and deeply humbled to be endorsed by Dr. Ben Carson regarding my consideration to run in the upcoming election to become the next Governor of Maryland.  Dr. Carson is a great leader who exemplifies the American spirit.  This is the same spirit that I intend to bring with me as we begin to share our message with Maryland’s voters now and all the way to Annapolis. – Charles

Great, outstanding, a nice “get” – but what did Dr. Carson actually say? You see, in most endorsements the person promoting the candidate will have a few words to say but in this case we only have the statement that Dr. Carson endorsed Charles. I don’t say this to call Charles Lollar or those working on his nascent and still unofficial campaign liars – don’t misunderstand – but perhaps they need to learn a little more basic technique in writing press releases. And maybe that’s why what would ordinarily draw attention didn’t do a whole lot for the campaign.

On the other hand, given Carson’s comments about gay marriage which led to him withdrawing as Johns Hopkins commencement speaker, the lack of attention may be good. Unfortunately, these comments on political correctness in general have detracted from the good work Carson does in his community and could reflect poorly on Lollar if we don’t seize the narrative.

Still, this is the clearest indication yet that the race for Governor may be between at least four major candidates. All four of these men had presences of various sizes at the recent Maryland GOP state convention, but of that quartet only Frederick County Commission President Blaine Young has used the words “for Governor” in his campaign. 2012 U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino, Harford County Executive David Craig, and Lollar, who made an abortive try for the state’s top job in 2010 before withdrawing and running for Congress instead, have been non-committal beyond an exploratory stage of sorts, although Craig’s campaign is planning a three-day tour of the state in June, according to his local “county point person.” I would presume this would serve as Craig’s official launch to the race.

On the other side of the fence, it’s worth pointing out that Larry Hogan and Change Maryland sat out this convention with the exception of providing a program sponsorship. With four strongly hinting at running for governor, the field may be a little crowded for Larry to jump into. The same goes for Michael Steele – yes, some would like him to run, but would anyone step aside for Steele after eight years away?

Yet with four reasonably strong potential candidates, it looks like the race for the state’s top job could be a scrap on both sides. For the first time in nearly two decades, the GOP has no odds-on choice for governor such as they had with Bob Ehrlich from 2002-10 and Ellen Sauerbrey in 1998. Even the 1994 GOP race only featured two strong candidates, meaning that unless things change between now and the filing deadline the nominee could win with far less than 50% of the GOP vote, leaving himself just weeks to form a united front among disappointed supporters of the other contestants. (Obviously this also depends on the tenor of the primary race, with the hope we don’t relive a situation like the 2008 First District or 2012 Sixth District Republican Congressional primaries, for example.)

It’s an interesting field, one where at this early stage I could see Young, Lollar, and Bongino going after the same conservative wing of the party and allowing the more moderate Craig to slip through. Unfortunately for Lollar, the Carson endorsement wasn’t as well-handled as it probably should have been, particularly since Charles isn’t officially in the race yet. Perhaps this was a misstep by an inexperienced state campaign, but Carson’s was one endorsement which should have been held back for a few weeks.

2013 Maryland GOP Spring Convention in pictures and text (part 1)

As I have done in the past, part 1 will deal with my observations on Friday night and part 2 will deal with Saturday’s events.

When I finally arrived in Timonium, a good 45 minutes or so after beginning the stop-and-go battle with I-695 traffic that made me thankful I toil in the Salisbury environs, I knew I was at the right place almost immediately.

But not 15 seconds after I grabbed my bags and headed over to check in, I was greeted by these fine folks doing an old-fashioned sign wave.

So the battle was somewhat joined. And the Bailey forces weren’t deterred by the rain which began just after I arrived – they just moved inside, to the spacious Crowne Plaza lobby.

In the meantime, the people putting Blaine Young’s party together were in the middle of their setup, which included this “can’t miss” signage.

Having checked in and after immediately running into old friends in the lobby, I went to my room to freshen up and prepare for the Executive Committee meeting. I was told the Baltimore County suite would be opening first, so I was hoping to grab a bite to eat and say hello to those I knew therein.

But they weren’t quite open yet, and by the time I got back they were closing (more on that later.)

However, there was another suite with plenty of food available, perhaps the best selection. This was the Draft Charles Lollar suite, and although I didn’t get to say hello to the man himself, I will show that he had a nice spread of giveaway items, including several pocket Constitutions.

Alas, I did not get to add this bad boy to my collection. Instead, I retained the useless collection of losing raffle tickets I have paid for over the years.

On my way down to the Executive Committee meeting, I happened by the setting up of the Maryland Liberty PAC suite. As they did last fall, they had a lot of books for sale. Not sure about the flags, though.

They also were on the Bailey bandwagon, showing their support.

To me, it didn’t seem like there were nearly as many vendor tables as there were at past events. There was one with bundles and bundles of the red convention tote bags, but the only other one I noticed was the Stratgeic Victory Consulting table sitting there all forlorn.

One piece of advice for the nice ladies who run SVC – you need fresher peanuts.

We may need a fresher approach to the Executive Committee meeting, which began several minutes late.

It began well enough: Chair Diana Waterman asked for a moment of silence for the Boston bombing victims. But her report didn’t shed a lot of new light, as she recalled the “wonderful event” of the Reagan gala back in February and noted her predecessor resigned, “moving on to other endeavors.”

Looking at current events, Diana noted our Red, White, and Blue Dinner will be held June 20 with Paul Ryan as featured speaker, and proclaimed the Pathfinders program was “going strong.”

Nicolee Ambrose, in her National Committeewoman report, spoke about efforts on both the state and national levels to engage voters and train volunteers. On the state level, the Super Saturday program would return in an effort to register new voters. Saturday morning, she continued, would give activists an opportunity to learn about the new voter registration rules in the state.

On the national front, Nicolee spoke briefly about “another incremental step” in reworking the RNC rules but conceded “there is much to be done.”

Diana Waterman chimed in during Nicolee’s remarks regarding the voter registration efforts to point out that we were working on data services for our counties.

In his National Committeewoman report, Louis Pope gushed that he was “excited about our prospects…(after this weekend) we will go back to unity.” He spoke about the recent RNC meeting in Hollywood, joking that “we decided to invade their territory.” Included among those who addressed the event, Louis continued, were Michael Reagan, Dick Chaney, and Allen West. The party also discussed outreach with Asian and Hispanic leaders as well as CPAC speaker Mia Love. “Republicans need to get into their sphere,” warned Pope. The party was embracing ideas for change, but also was in the process of “internal soul-searching.”

Louis also talked briefly about the RNC rules, noting it was “pretty cool” that people were reading them. He also commented on being named to the leadership of the party’s Northeast region, an area where “Republican prospects are certainly improving.”

The main thrust of Brian Griffiths’ YR report was to stress how we should “put our best foot forward” in two key municipal races: Annapolis and Frederick. He was “really excited” about prospects in Frederick, where a number of young Republicans are seeking alderman posts.

Fiona Moodie, representing the College Republicans, made the case for giving her body and the Young Republicans a vote on the Executive Committee. Those adjunct organizations would join the Maryland Federation of Republican Women, who already have their vote.

Amidst the various county reports, one point which was brought up was the concept of regional gatherings or conventions similar to the one Montgomery County has. Obviously the smaller counties could team up to have enough of a critical mass to make them worthwhile.

On my way back from the Executive Committee meeting, which went into a quick closed session to discuss the budget, I stopped to check out David Craig’s room.

Surprisingly to me, there was plenty of room to move around.

By contrast, I walked next door to the Maryland Liberty PAC room and found a large group of passionate activists.

Arguably, it was the most lively of any hospitality suite although I will concede I didn’t stop by all of them.

At the time I walked in, Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothschild was speaking on the idea of nullification.

“I don’t think Martin O’Malley wants a dozen counties not following his orders,” Rothschild exclaimed. He is working on a blueprint ordinance for counties to resist the gun ordinance.

Outside of the Liberty PAC gathering, gubernatorial hopeful Blaine Young was wooing supporters with a fancy setup.

(Yes, the photo is dark. Not much light in there.)

For a second, though, I thought I ended up on the set of “The Bachelor.”

As it turns out, these roses were for the women who came in. As an added touch, each table was named after a leading female activist in the party. This one I know very well.

Yes, that would be my “partner in crime” Heather Olsen of Prince George’s County. We didn’t have much mischief cooked up for this rendition of the convention, but you never know what’s in the future…

My immediate future at that point was comprised of a lot of choices.

Even though I wasn’t supporting his bid for state Chair, I decided to pay a visit to Greg Kline’s combined suites, since those non-credentialed members of the new media were welcome there.

They were doing an episode of Red Maryland Radio (or Purple Elephant Politics, or both) as I came by.

As it turned out, I got a little guest role when Jimmy Braswell asked me a question about this post on Greg Kline. I spoke my piece, he spoke his, and we basically agreed to disagree. I also found out my fellow Central Committee member Joe Collins is a radio natural.

But because I was having so many other interesting conversations there, I never made it to a number of suites. Granted, there were extenuating circumstances, such as the fact Baltimore County was packing up theirs as I arrived – apparently at the behest of the hotel.

You see, I was actually pretty surprised to find that several hospitality suites were along the same corridor as my room. Since the hotel hadn’t hosted an event such as ours, they apparently had a number of noise complaints – as one consequence, the Red Maryland radio crew had to turn off their speakers.

Anyway, I never made it back to the MoCo, Bongino, or Diana Waterman suites to see how their action was. But I did see Dan since he was a Red Maryland guest after I was.

And the Red Maryland crew had a special surprise for Jackie Wellfonder as the dubbed her the Maryland Blogger of the Year. (Jackie thought they were going to give it to me, I knew she would get it for her hard work.) As I tweeted:

 

After several hours of conversation and a couple adult beverages, I realized it was well after 1:00 in the morning, so it was time to put myself (and this part) to bed. Part 2 will be tomorrow morning.

Can this work in Maryland?

I touched on this a little bit the other day when I plugged the event, but fellow patriot O.P. Ditch recorded Dan Bongino at Monday’s New Fair Deal rally in Washington D.C. His speech ran around 15 minutes.

In his look at the ideas behind the New Fair Deal – ending corporate handouts, taxing fairly, stopping overspending, and empowering individuals. Bongino opted to treat the latter two as one item, and I think this is fair for the purpose of my discussion. This post is going to be an exercise in thought about the next two years.

I’ve seen MDGOP Chair candidate Collins Bailey talk about a “Contract with Maryland” but what would happen if we had a “New Fair Deal” for Maryland?

You might think that Maryland doesn’t have corporate handouts but I can assure you they do. I saw the other day where the InvestMaryland scam selected three companies to give a grant to – why is our state government selecting these winners and losers? And why is it that the same contractors always seem to get state work? Can you give me the reason that renewable energy has to have its own carveout in state law? Let the market work, as new, better ideas will naturally come to the fore.

Meanwhile, our governor rammed through a tax increase last year on the state’s producers – not only do they pay higher rates, but their deductions decrease once they reach a certain income threshold. We can flatten the tax rates out; in fact I would willingly pay a percent or two more in sales tax if they reduced the income tax rate down to 3% for all filers, regardless of income. And the state could easily afford that change if they just spent the median amount per capita, rather than an amount 10-15% more than the average. We could wipe out every last one of Martin O’Malley’s 37 tax increases and still have a little left over because the budgetary difference is about $4 billion.

But how do you empower individuals? Unlike the federal NFD, the state doesn’t really run any entitlement programs on its own. However, there is a lot which could be done to empower the counties and municipalities, particularly in the areas where they used to be much more autonomous until the nanny state stepped in.

There’s no doubt that these proposals would need to be fleshed out, but I think much of the basic principle could work. And while things can always change, Dan has seemed to place himself in the unique position of being able to make these changes in one of the “laboratories of democracy” we always hear about because he’s going to run for governor. Of course, I have no official announcement of this fact but I would lay the odds of him running for the state’s top job at about 80/20. I simply don’t see Dan going through the motions of forming an exploratory committee to run for a Congressional seat, wait until 2016 to run again for Senate, or fight a sitting Republican for Anne Arundel County Executive, not after he nationalized his first campaign and become a media darling. Obviously the Bongino/Keyes rumor was believable because one has to ask where else Dan would go? (Now if Bongino decides to make a trip to Iowa or New Hampshire people hereabouts will absolutely freak.)

So I wrote this post under the assumption that Dan might just borrow elements of the New Fair Deal and apply them to his own platform.  There would be nothing like presenting Marylanders a clear choice between the tired old tax-and-spend mentality of cronyism which the state has labored under for decades, presumably with just a different face in Anthony Brown, and a different approach which relieves the Free State and frees it from the dependence on government at all levels.

So what is the New Fair Deal?

If you are one of those who follows conservative grassroots activism, it’s likely you may have heard about the New Fair Deal rally being held in Washington tomorrow afternoon to coincide with tax day. While it will certainly be a modest event by the standards of other TEA Party rallies such as the 9/12 rally in 2009 or various Glenn Beck-led gatherings since, organizers believe a few thousand will attend with many staying around after the speeches to buttonhole various members of Congress about this new legislative program aimed at reining in government.

But the better question is: what is the legislative program? The four planks can be summarized as follows:

  • No corporate handouts
  • A fair tax code
  • Stop overspending
  • Empower individuals

The eight Congressmen who will be authoring the legislation in question, some of whom are among the most libertarian Republican conservatives in Congress, are Reps. Jeff Duncan and Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Doug Lamborn of Colorado, Tom McClintock of California, Mike Pompeo of Kansas, Dr. Tom Price of Georgia, and Reid Ribble of Wisconsin. Mulvaney, Pompeo, and Price are among the speakers tomorrow at the event, which will also feature Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, Senator Mike Lee of Utah, activists Rev. C.L. Bryant, Deneen Borelli, Julie Borowski, Ana Puig, and Maryland’s own Dan Bongino. Borelli is featured in this video decribing some of the features of the New Fair Deal.

“The New Fair Deal is a four-part legislative package that ends corporate handouts, closes loopholes in a simple tax code, balances the budget, and empowers Americans with the choice to opt-out of Medicare and Social Security,” explained FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe. “Individual freedom, economic empowerment and equal opportunity are the ultimate fair deal for Americans. No more pitting us against each other while politicians and big business pick winners and losers in the marketplace at the expense of everyday individuals,” he added.

It goes without saying, though, that the devil is in the details. For example, ending corporate subsidies is great for avoiding the next Solyndra or Ener1, but my friends at the American Petroleum Institute would argue that the tax package for oil exploration is vital to the industry’s success. They may have a point, so perhaps the best solution is to prioritize which subsidies would be axed first and which ones would have more of a transition. Being a fairly mature industry, it may take somewhat longer for the oil and natural gas companies to deal with these changes, as well as the sugar farmers who were targeted in the video. I could see a time window of three to five years for these industries, but green energy? Cut them off yesterday.

As far as a “fair tax code” I honestly don’t think there is such a thing, particularly with the proposal of a two-rate system as specified. I like the idea of a “skin in the game” tax where everyone has to pay at least 1 percent (for someone making $20,000 a year that’s $200 – not a back-breaker if you know it’s coming) but I disagree with the progressive rate change from 12% to 24% at $100,000. If we are to have a flat tax, it should be one rate regardless of income. Why would I take the overtime which would push me from a salary of $98,000 (and an $11,760 tax bill) to $101.000 only to have that and much more – since the tax bill would steeply jump to $24,240 – entirely eaten up by taxes? I understand the populist idea of the secretary paying less than the billionaire, but the solution proposed would be ripe for complication because of situations like the above. I’d rather work on repealing the Sixteenth Amendment and creating a consumption tax, which would be the most fair of all because one can control their level of consumption to the greatest extent.

Another area which suffers from being too broad is the concept of “overspending.”  Even if you cut off all discretionary spending tomorrow we would still have a deficit. Yes, we do need to eliminate the concept of baseline budgeting posthaste but we also have to lose the mindset which makes people fear their budget will be cut if they don’t spend their full allocation. While thousands and thousands of federal workers are superfluous to the task of good government, we have to educate the public as to why they need to be let go – you know the media will be portraying them as victims just like they tried to make a huge case that sequestration would be devastating.

Of the four planks presented, though, I really like the idea of the last one as expressed – the power of determining your own retirement and health care needs. In just 14 years I will be eligible for Social Security, but to be quite honest I don’t expect a dime from it because the system will be bankrupt by then in my estimation. (My writing was intended to be my “retirement” but real life intruded a little more quickly than I imagined it would.) The same goes for Medicare. If I had the choice, I would tell the government to give me back the money I paid into Social Security and Medicare – let me decide how to invest it best. This legislation may well allow me that option, although I suspect it will be tailored more to those under 40 who still have plenty of time to weigh all their retirement choices.

(Remember, though, I am on record as saying “Social Security should be sunsetted.” Nothing they can propose would eliminate that stance.)

The key to any and all of these changes taking place, though, is to remember none of this happens overnight. As it stands right now, the earliest we can make lasting national change in the right direction is January of 2017. Moreover, these Congressional visionaries and any other allies we may pick up along the way will be standing for election twice before a new President is inaugurated – and if the Republicans nominate another milquetoast “go along to get along” Beltway moderate who doesn’t buy into this agenda, the timetable becomes even longer.

But there is an opportunity in the interim, though. What statement would it make if Maryland – one of the most liberal states in the country according to the conventional wisdom – suddenly elected a conservative governor and confounded the intent of the heretofore powerful liberals in charge by electing enough members of the General Assembly to foil their overt gerrymandering attempts? No doubt it’s the longest of long shots, but let the liberals think they have this state in the bag. Wouldn’t it be nice to watch them fume as a Governor Charles Lollar, Larry Hogan, Blaine Young, or Dan Bongino is inaugurated – this after the stunning ascension of Speaker of the House Neil Parrott and President of the Senate E.J. Pipkin? Those who survived the collective hara-kiri and cranial explosions throughout the liberal Annapolis community would probably be reduced to bickering among themselves and pointing fingers of blame.

Our side often points to Virginia as a well-run state, but I think there are even better examples to choose from. Certainly there would be a transition period, but why not adopt some of these ideas as well as other “best and brightest” practices to improve Maryland and create a destination state for the producers as opposed to the takers?

If this sort of transformation can occur in Maryland, I have no doubt Washington D.C. would be next in line.

The state of the race

With just over a week to go, the race for Maryland Republican Party Chair is beginning to look like one which will disappoint about half or more of the party, depending on how it comes out.

I was inspired to think about this when I received dueling endorsements via e-mail and snail mail over the last couple days from several party leaders – key among them was 2012 Senate candidate Dan Bongino’s endorsement of Greg Kline for the MDGOP’s leadership position. In a statement released by Kline’s campaign, Bongino is quoted as saying:

We have an important decision to make. During next Saturday’s MDGOP Spring Convention, the Party will be selecting a new Chairman. I believe the best choice to turn this Party around and put us on a path to future electoral successes is Greg Kline.

Greg’s plan for Maryland is detailed, visionary, strategic and avoids repeating the mistakes of the past. Greg will not forfeit any election, will cede no ground and will create an environment where all candidates and potential candidates will find a welcome home in our state GOP.

But while the Bongino endorsement will be valuable, in looking at the race thus far in terms of confirmed supporters – particularly ones with a vote in the matter – Kline is bringing up the rear. While it’s not an exhaustive list by any means (and certainly feel free to add your name to the list as a comment I can verify) these are the endorsements I’m aware of. (Minutes after I posted I had to make an update, so this will change I’m sure.)

For Greg Kline:

  • Dan Bongino, 2012 U.S Senate candidate
  • Brian Griffiths, Chair, Maryland Young Republicans
  • Andrew Langer, Insitiute for Liberty
  • Eugene Craig, Baltimore County CC
  • Maria Pycha, Baltimore County CC
  • Kathleen Smero, Baltimore County CC
  • Jim Braswell, Anne Arundel County CC

For Collins Bailey:

  • Republican Liberty Caucus of Maryland
  • Patrick McGrady, Harford County CC and Maryland Liberty PAC
  • Scott DeLong. Harford County CC
  • David Tritt, Harford County CC
  • Chris Zeauskas, Chair, Cecil County CC
  • Mike Dawson, Cecil County CC
  • Phil Parenti, Chair, Prince George’s County CC
  • Tom Slezak, Prince George’s County CC
  • Joe Crawford, Charles County CC
  • Gary Rumsey. St. Mary’s County CC
  • Michael Belan, Montgomery County CC

Diana Waterman has the longest list – but not all have a vote:

  • Louis Pope, RNC National Committeeman
  • John Wafer, MRP Secretary
  • Chris Rosenthal, MRP Treasurer
  • Marcia Jicka. longtime MRP employee
  • Ellen Sauerbrey, two-time gubernatorial candidate
  • Patt Parker, Maryland Federation of Republican Women
  • Ruth Umbel, Maryland Federation of Republican Women
  • Lance Richardson, Queen Anne’s County State’s Attorney
  • Earl Beville, Queen Anne’s County Republican Club president
  • Mark Uncapher, Chair, Montgomery County CC
  • Mohamed Ali, Montgomery County CC
  • Sylvia Darrow, Montgomery County CC
  • Jerry Cave, Montgomery County CC
  • Josephine Wang, Montgomery County CC
  • Katja Bullock, Montgomery County CC
  • Larry Lauer, Montgomery County CC
  • Loretta Shields, Chair, Howard County CC
  • Diane Butler, Howard County CC
  • Frank Smith, Howard County CC
  • Dave Myers, Howard County CC
  • Nick Panuzio, Chair, Talbot County CC
  • Josh Horner, Talbot County CC
  • Dale Coldren, Chair, Dorchester County CC
  • Wayne Foote, Chair, Allegany County CC
  • Mary Burke-Russell, St. Mary’s County CC
  • Laura Knickman, Queen Anne’s County CC
  • Matthew Adams, Somerset County CC

While there are a lot of endorsements in Waterman’s corner, it’s worth noting that those who have made a stand only represent around 15% of the vote. Surely a few counties will have a unanimous vote, but I think most will be split two or three ways.

The question, though, might be more of whether a second ballot is needed rather than who will win. We will find out on April 20.

Update: The list has already changed – two three people listed as Waterman supporters have requested removal and I’ve made additions to the Kline camp.

How close is close enough?

Updated below with a response from Kevin Waterman, who replied on behalf of his mother.

It was President Warren Harding who remarked when asked about the scandal surrounding his tenure, “I have no trouble with my enemies. I can take care of my enemies in a fight. But my friends, my goddamned friends, they’re the ones who keep me walking the floor at nights!” At times I wonder how much sleep Diana Waterman is getting, knowing that her supporters are the ones who seem to be laying the land mines on her path to coronation as elected Maryland Republican Party chair.

Just a few days after Louis Pope fumbled around with his side of the RNC Rules Committee story, another supporter of Diana’s – the venerable two-time gubernatorial candidate Ellen Sauerbrey – perhaps took a little liberty of her own with her insight on Diana’s work with the state’s Campaign for Liberty effort. Jackie Wellfonder took this and ran with this unforced error yesterday, but there was one important part of the story Jackie did not get to.

In my possession I have a letter from Diana dated March 8 and addressed to me as a Central Committee member. (Actually, the “Central Committee Member” is crossed out and replaced with Michael, a old personalization trick. But I digress.)

In the fifth paragraph of the latter Diana writes:

I am also forming an advisory committee composed of individuals from every corner of the State, many of varied groups within our Party like Campaign for Liberty and the Tea Party groups, and hard-working activists. If we aren’t talking to each other, we can’t work together to realize our goals of getting Republicans elected.

In her campaign appeal, Sauerbrey added:

I share the concern that our party has failed to fully embrace groups like the Tea Party and Campaign for Liberty,  that are a source of highly motivated, dedicated, and often young volunteers.  Diana has committed to me her intent to establish an Advisory Committee that will welcome  and involve the vital  energy and ideas of these groups.

So here we are a month later, and Ted Patterson of Campaign for Liberty wrote in his remarks yesterday that:

In an email, it was stated that Waterman is forming a Republican Party advisory committee that will include grassroots organizations such as ours. It is implied that Diana Waterman is welcoming the grassroots and Tea Party groups into the Maryland Republican Party.

No outreach to our groups has been reported to me, and I have received no messages to this effect.

If Ms. Waterman would like to set a future goal of engaging the grassroots that is admirable, but to date no such engagement has occurred.

Okay, I understand that running for Chair – or any other statewide party position, for that matter – is pretty hard work and there are a lot of details involved. But that “interim” tag didn’t stop Waterman from placing Louis Pope on the RNC Rules Committee; moreover, it’s worth pointing out that Diana will be on the Executive Committee regardless of what happens – either as Chair or as First Vice-Chair under Collins Bailey or Greg Kline.

Despite the fact Diana’s continued involvement is all but assured, I’d be willing to bet that this outreach has not yet occurred to any of the many conservative groups out there, whether it be Campaign for Liberty, Conservative Victory PAC, Constitutional Conservatives for Maryland. the Maryland Conservative Action Network, various Society of Patriots groups, or any others. (However, I will note that Waterman was in attendance for at least part of the day at Turning the Tides in January, so one could construe that as a little bit of outreach prior to her ascension to Chair.)

My first instinct in writing this piece was to suggest the MDGOP put its money where its mouth is and make a few seats on its Executive Committee available to various groups which apply and can prove sufficient membership and means to show they will be in it for the long haul. (This is in the wake of a proposed bylaws change to give College Republicans and Young Republicans voting status on the Executive Committee.) But I thought better of it because of coordination questions which may come up when the groups spend money on behalf of Republican candidates. So an informal gathering is probably best, along with a sensitive ear to the ground. For example, I haven’t heard in this Chair campaign about overtures we are making to Second Amendment groups – a body of interest to whom insurgent Republicans like Dan Bongino suggested we promote our message heavily.

I think it would have served Diana well to give examples of this outreach rather than just imply it’s going to occur at some unspecified future date in a manner to be named later. The term we tend to give to that is “lip service.” If Maryland Republicans want to motivate their base to victory in 2014, bearing in mind that in gubernatorial years turnout tends to be lower so this effort would be magnified, then we might want to see more outreach done on the state level as opposed to local county efforts.

Update: On behalf of his mother, who is attending the RNC meeting in California, Kevin Waterman “took the liberty” of sharing the following:

Just read your recent blog post about the Campaign for Liberty email.

Just so you know, I’ve actually been working with my mother to connect her to and set up meetings and conversations with organizations and individuals who would be good fits for the proposed advisory committee. Just to cover a few who she’s already reached out to and spoken with there’s been Patrick McGrady as well as Dave Nalle and Dave Kahn (the leaders of the Republican Liberty Caucus at the National and Maryland levels respectively).

She has also reached out to Ted Patterson to clarify and try to rectify the situation. As she noted to him, she had talked to Patrick, who has a lengthy history with C4L and been a leader in it in Harford County, and didn’t mean to imply she’d spoken with all the C4L groups or the national or statewide leader. She also used the opportunity to officially reach out on working together. Ted has responded to that, appreciating the response and the recognition of the group by the state party and that they very much like the idea of working together, they just would have preferred that the statewide leadership have been spoken to before the organization’s name was used in anything.

Just to wanted to clarify that there is work being done on this and it’s not just lip service, real outreach is being done.

Fair enough. Obviously Kevin is well-attuned to state liberty-minded groups given his work with the Gary Johnson campaign (when Johnson was seeking the GOP Presidential nomination.)

Taking another shot

No, this post isn’t about Dan Bongino, whose non-announcement announcement was much less interesting than the fake press release from yesterday announcing the ersatz Bongino/Alan Keyes gubernatorial ticket.

Instead, we learned yesterday that in 2014 we have the potential for yet another rematch in Congressional District 1.

After losing the 2012 primary by a scant 57 votes only to watch the Democratic nominee, Wendy Rosen, withdraw in disgrace after allegations of voting fraud, John LaFerla announced he would file Wednesday to try again in 2014. LaFerla waged an eleventh-hour write-in campaign last fall but only received about 4% of the overall vote – Rosen picked up 27.5% despite dropping out in September, which leads me to believe that most of the people who voted Democrat just reflexively looked for the (D) behind the name on the ballot and did no other homework – the prototypical “low-information voter.”

While LaFerla hasn’t established his own issue page on his reborn Congressional campaign website, he has posted a letter in which the writer claims Andy Harris is from the “Timothy McVeigh” wing of the Republican party. It appears that he will reprise his oh-so-successful portrayal of Harris as “Doctor No”; unfortunately for him most voters in this district are looking for someone to say that exact two-letter word.

But it looks like the mainstream Democrats are lining up behind John, given that Kim Kratovil (Frank’s wife) is listed as the person in charge of “special event planning”, former state candidates Chris Robinson and Arthur Hock are in charge of signage, and former GOP Congressman Wayne Gilchrest is listed as the “Republicans for LaFerla” head. (Which means they’re still looking for a Republican.) While the renewed Gilchrest endorsement isn’t a surprise considering how far left the ex-Congressman has gone in his personal jihad against all things Andy Harris, it’s worth remembering that last time around LaFerla was also endorsed by Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America. If you’re into killing babies, I guess John is your guy. (Ironically enough, Andy Harris’s wife Cookie is Director of Special Events for Maryland Right to Life, so the choice there is crystal clear.)

Locally, the LaFerla effort will be spearheaded by the feisty Ron Pagano, who stated recently that Andy Harris “endorsed the violent overthrow of the government.” There’s a mainstream, thoughtful Democrat for you.

So the battle line would seem to be drawn, as a far-left wing partisan who promises (like they all do) to put “people above politics” will do the opposite in a bid to get elected. The First District is a conservative district, so it may be time for a real conservative Democrat (and I know we have a lot around here) to try and get on the ballot in the race. There may as well be a choice for local Democrats – hopefully their winner only remembered to vote once this time.

Stuff getting serious

As the General Assembly session – that annual event I have dubbed the “90 Days of Terror” – winds down, it’s looking more and more certain that a day of reckoning is coming. For Delegate Don Dwyer, the straw which broke the camel’s back was the House passage of a draconian new gun law by 78 Democrats, mainly those hailing from the I-95 corridor. In an unusual move, even reliable local Democratic stalwarts Rudy Cane and Norm Conway couldn’t bring themselves to vote for the bill, saving them from an act of pure political suicide in this part of the state. None of the nine Eastern Shore delegates voted for the measure.

But in Dwyer’s case, the result meant one thing: it’s time to unite in an act of non-compliance:

Dear Maryland Patriots, I was certain that the time would come when there would be a need to organize the “Voluntary Militia.” That time has come. The voluntary militia is recognized in the Maryland Constitution under Article 9, Section 1, and the Declaration of Rights under Article 28 that notes “a well regulated Militia is the proper and natural defense of a FREE Government.”

Please know that I am NOT calling for insurrection of any kind, I am simply calling for you to join me in establishing an organized effort to establish a Voluntary Militia in every county of the State.

MISSION STATEMENT

It is the intent of the Maryland Voluntary Militia to protect the law abiding Citizens of Maryland from any form of confiscation of firearms from April 3, 2013 forward. The Maryland Voluntary Militia members will not participate in any form of insurrection unless forced to do so to by the tyrannical acts of the Legislature, the Governor and of the federal government upon the Citizens of Maryland.

(Emphasis in original, although I took a small bit of editorial license with formatting.)

And when you add to that the declaration by our Sheriff Mike Lewis that, “I will not allow any deputies to go into any law-abiding citizens’ houses (to confiscate guns),” it’s clear the battle lines are starting to be drawn. Maryland was spared much of the fighting in the initial War Between the States, but seems to be ground zero in a battle over guns.

The worst thing, though, is how they determined the ends justified the means. Not enough people have seen this video of the joint Judiciary and Health and Government Operations committee meeting last week, where an amendment went from being passed to killed in just a few short minutes (and twisted arms.) It was almost criminal.

In fact, former U.S. Senate candidate and rising conservative media star Dan Bongino charged Delegate Joseph Vallario, who chaired the proceedings, with “thuggery and bullying tactics” in getting two Delegates to change their orginal votes to set up a scenario where he could vote to kill the amendment with the tie vote, as the video showed. As Dan explained:

First, political cowards in the Maryland Legislature scheduled a gun bill hearing on Good Friday to avoid media attention after a massive public outcry against this overreaching legislative firearm grab. Then, they crossed a line that should never be crossed in a civil society, and forfeited any semblance of dignity, ethics, or respect for their oaths of office by brazenly violating their own parliamentary procedures in order to punish legal firearm owners and protect criminals.

(snip)

We are moving into a dangerous place in both Maryland and national politics. One where a political end justifies an unethical and undemocratic means. Marylanders of all political stripes should be outraged at this naked display of political cowardice and legislative malpractice.

Unfortunately, too many of them either don’t know about these tactics or will shrug their shoulders because it doesn’t affect them because they don’t own a gun. These people forget that perhaps the next act of chicanery may affect them more directly, and that some of us are going to look out for their liberty whether they’re deserving of it or not. Yes, you are free to be an idiot and I would assess 78 members of the General Assembly qualify under that banner at the moment.

Go to West, young man

I’m not sure this is the most overly newsworthy item out there, but those many readers I have in the Dan Bongino fan club may enjoy this Next Generation TV appearance he had with Lt. Col. Allen West. (I don’t subscribe to Next Generation, and I’m not sure they allow embedding anyway. So follow the link.)

I did watch it, though, and what impressed me most is how well Dan seems to be handling the constant media demands on his time. He seems to have become the go-to expert on all things Secret Service, too.

But this continues to provide me with the thought that Dan Bongino may be Maryland’s answer to Sarah Palin. At times, I think he seems to be evolving into a figure which is too big for state politics – think of it this way: could you see Sarah Palin running again for an office in Alaska? Granted, there’s a big difference between serving in a political office as Sarah did for several years before becoming a governor and vice-presidential nominee versus running one time for U.S. Senate and getting only a little over 1/4 of the vote, but you would have to admit that Dan is perhaps the most famous failed one-time Senate candidate in the country right now, at least in casual conservative circles.

That’s not to say that Dan hasn’t worked for this limelight; he is certainly a gifted speaker and very articulate in presenting his political platform. Unlike any other Maryland politician with the possible exception of Martin O’Malley – who is an elected official and head of the Democratic Governors’ Association – Dan is perhaps the most well-known politician from the state of Maryland. Granted, we don’t have a lot of statewide officers to begin with and our two United States Senators don’t seem to be the type that naturally gravitate toward the camera, so Maryland is essentially not regarded for its politicians. Dan fills that vacuum well.

Another parallel to Bongino could be that presented by his interviewer, Lt. Col. Allen West. While West did serve a single term in Congress, his political impact would seem to be greater as a media celebrity; one for whom a fledgling internet television network was created. With as many media appearances as Dan makes, the possibility of that being his outlet exists as well.

So when the discussion for 2014 begins, Dan is obviously portrayed as one of the first dominoes which needs to fall. Given that there are already several good candidates in the quest for the governor’s chair and no Senate seat is up for grabs next year, it seems like the coming three years will present themselves as an opportunity to build the Bongino brand as a spokesperson for conservatism across the country. Unlike the situation in 2010, where most Republicans waited on pins and needles to see whether Bob Ehrlich would make a second run at O’Malley, no one is going to step aside for Dan should he opt to run for governor.

Could Dan win in that situation? It’s hard to tell – certainly he’ll have to do well in the minority community to have any shot, but the remainder of the state may well be fed up with the O”Malley tax-and-spend regime.

But I think this decision has to be made sooner than later. As we learned in 2010, being coy and not allowing the political process to sort itself out leads to disappointing results in November. The 2014 primary will be in late June, which gives both parties ample time to heal their wounds and fight for control of the state, but there’s a lot of work to do between now and then. I have all the respect in the world for Dan, but if he wants to do something in terms of running for office in 2014 it’s getting time to let us know. Otherwise, I’ll be interested to see who his Cede No Ground PAC focuses on.

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