Splitting the vote

As I work on my CPAC recap for this evening, here’s some news on the Maryland GOP front.

Yesterday the odds-on favorite, Diana Waterman, received a huge break when Collins Bailey of Charles County decided to enter the fray. As Bailey states on his website:

I am running for this position because I want to grow and strengthen the Republican Party in Maryland. I want to elect more local, state, and national Republican candidates.

My campaign platform revolves around one number: 2014. We need to pick up Republican seats around the state of Maryland at every level in 2014.

As your Chairman, it is my job to immediately prepare the way for big Republican victories in 2014. I am ready and excited to do that.

If the name Collins Bailey sounds familiar, it’s because he’s been on a regional ballot twice. Collins has run for Congress in the Fifth District, losing to Charles Lollar in the 2010 primary but securing the 2008 nomination and losing to Steny Hoyer in the general with just 24% of the vote.

Yet the reason I applied the title to this post is that, if you consider Diana Waterman the “establishment” candidate since she’s running as the incumbent First Vice-Chair and has allegedly secured the blessing of most of her peers on the Executive Committee, the remaining vote will now be split into two smaller factions: the more libertarian pro-liberty movement, which would seem to coalesce around Bailey as their champion, and the reformer movement, typified by the cast of Red Maryland which Chair candidate Greg Kline represents, and having their own subset of voters. (Kline has also made his own unsuccessful bid for office, running for Delegate some years back.)

If neither budges from the race, or if more participants decide to enter, the odds of Waterman winning become even greater. If I were into conspiracy theories, I would think that it was almost as if someone was worried about Kline winning enough to convince Bailey to enter the race, perhaps with the promise of support for being First Vice-Chair – insofar as I’m aware, no one has officially thrown their hat into that ring because the First Vice-Chair vacancy only occurs if Waterman wins. Obviously Facebook campaign page ‘likes’ are a poor proxy for regular votes, but I find it interesting that Waterman only has 110 as of this writing, Kline right behind with 102, and Bailey 58 in less than 24 hours – surely some (like myself) ‘like’ all the pages since they want to hear from all three.

The last time the party had a similar situation in 2009, there was the consensus establishment candidate in Audrey Scott and just one alternate choice in the offbeat but earnest Daniel Vovak – Scott won in a landslide and carried all but one county (ours.) Perhaps it’s a sign that the party is more diverse after the TEA Party-influenced 2010 election, but the fact there are now three people interested in what will be more than a full term henceforth – in 2010 we changed our bylaws to allow state party Chairs only two-year terms beginning in 2014, to match the national party – may be a sign that the winner will have to herd cats as best he or she can before the 2014 campaign gets much farther along.

Mooney officially resigns MDGOP post

It was announced a couple weeks ago, but the notice of resignation from being Chair of the Maryland Republican Party was officially given by Alex Mooney to the state party yesterday. First Vice-Chair Diana Waterman will run the party as the interim Chair until the next state convention April 20 in Timonium. By delaying his official resignation to Thursday, Mooney eliminated the possibility of having a second meeting simply to elect a chair, as party bylaws stipulate a new permanent Chair must be selected within 60 days of a vacancy in the post.

In a brief statement released by the party, Mooney stated he was “humbled and honored” to have served as Chair for the past 26 months; meanwhile Waterman vowed to “work hard to ensure a smooth transition process…we look forward to continuing our aggressive approach and challenging the Democrats at every turn.”

With Mooney’s resignation, the party finds itself in a somewhat similar position as it did in 2009 when then-Chair Jim Pelura opted to leave after he lost the support of his Executive Committee over personnel issues and a lack of fundraising prowess. However, one big difference is that Mooney’s successor will have a longer time period remaining in the unexpired term, which will run just beyond the 2014 election. The 2009 Chair election only featured two candidates – eventual winner Audrey Scott and the late Daniel “The Wig Man” Vovak – in a race which had practically no suspense once Scott announced her intentions and interim Chair Chris Cavey (who was then First Vice-Chair) decided not to seek the remainder of Pelura’s term.

Scott’s brief tenure was a mixed bag of financial success but opportunities left on the table in some statewide races; it also featured the Rule 11 controversy.

At this early juncture, it’s not been made clear who will step forward to attempt to win the vacant Chair position, although Diana Waterman is – according to blogger Joe Steffen – the establishment choice. Steffen provides a laundry list of other possibilities, but for now Waterman is the only game in town, bruised feelings aside. While the interview was intended to serve as her platform for First Vice-Chair, readers may find this Red Maryland piece by Mark Newgent instructive on Diana’s intentions.

Yet given the length of the term, it’s not unexpected that others may jump into the fray, if only to benefit from the shuffling of the leadership deck atop the state party as a leadership post opens up. (For the record, the other two Vice-Chairs are Larry Helminiak of Carroll County and Eric Grannon of Anne Arundel County.)

Still, I think the timing on this is rather unfortunate – while the House of Delegates leadership was able to iron out its differences long enough to get through the session, Mooney’s resignation comes at a critical juncture. We would have been better served if Alex had held on for another couple months, while making his resignation effective the same date. It wouldn’t have appreciably changed his future plans but would have insured leadership through the General Assembly session. Otherwise, those who called for his head prior to the last convention may have had a point.

Once again, though, this race will make the upcoming convention a focal point in a way the Democrats rarely have to endure.

Should Alex Mooney resign?

Let me note straight away that the guys at Red Maryland think so, and for some very valid reasons.

Something the Maryland GOP has seemed to lack in the time I’ve been involved is forward-looking leadership. I don’t really remember much about John Kane since his tenure was ending as mine was beginning, but there were two facets I gleaned in second-hand conversations: he was Bob Ehrlich’s handpicked candidate and he spent money like a drunken sailor – so much so that another supposed Ehrlich crony, Jim Pelura, had to take drastic action to save the MDGOP from insolvency. But when Pelura departed from the Ehrlich party line and took the party in a more conservative direction, contributor wallets snapped shut and Jim was soon the recipient of a no-confidence vote. (Losing one of two Congressional seats probably didn’t help Pelura’s cause either.)

Enter Audrey Scott, and while the MDGOP’s finances improved (albeit not to the extent she claimed they did) we still only caught a small piece of the TEA Party wave – while overall the GOP gained 63 seats in the House we only got one, and made just modest gains in the Maryland General Assembly. (Local races were fairly successful, but the state party rarely gets involved that deeply in county or municipal races.)

Scott’s year as a caretaker passed and the baton was handed to Alex Mooney after a five-person contest in the fall of 2010. Mooney came in promising to make fundraising a priority, but one convention in admitted he had a tougher time than expected filling the MDGOP coffers.

And while Alex is elected to a four-year term, in the spring of 2011 we passed a bylaws change changing the term of the Chair and executive officers to a two-year cycle, to agree more with the national party. (It becomes effective with officers elected in 2014.)

With that precedent, though, one of three things may happen: through December 1, Mooney could resign either immediately or effective as of the first of December (the date of the state convention) because the party bylaws state a vacancy in the Chair position must be filled within 60 days. In that case, First Vice Chair Diana Waterman of Queen Anne’s County takes over on an interim basis.

If not, Mooney would either have to wait until early next year or create the need for a special meeting specifically for filling the vacancy. That wouldn’t be popular among the rank-and-file and would cost the party several thousand dollars. We’d also fret about reaching a quorum.

Or he could attempt to weather the storm and stay on, but now that Roscoe Bartlett has been ousted from Congress after debating in the first place whether to run again (and leaving a lot of people twisting in the wind, including Mooney) that challenger’s seat is open. If Alex wants to campaign for it, he can’t be party chair once he files.

If Mooney decides to resign, the field for Chair would be wide open:

  • Would Audrey Scott accept a second caretaker term, and could she win anyway after the scorched-earth campaign between her and Nicolee Ambrose for National Committeewoman this spring?
  • Mary Kane was runner-up in 2010, but perhaps has the “establishment” tag that’s the kiss of death among a growing proportion of Central Committee members.
  • On the other hand, those who have been in the party a long time would probably not look twice at another Sam Hale candidacy; besides, he’s busy with the Maryland Society of Patriots.
  • William Campbell is planning a second run for Comptroller, so he would be ineligible to finish out the term.
  • Mike Esteve is another couple years older, but given his support of gay marriage, may not play well with the conservative base.
  • A couple other intriguing candidates who considered a 2010 Chair race and backed out: 2010 U.S. Senate candidate Eric Wargotz and Institute for Liberty head Andrew Langer.
  • Wild cards among the elected Vice-Chairs: Waterman, Larry Helminiak, and Eric Grannon.
  • And, of course, someone from among the hundreds in the state who might be interested. Sad to say, Daniel “The Wig Man” Vovak is no longer available.

And I thought we would have a dull, boring wake of a convention. It’s not the Maryland GOP without the long knives coming out from time to time.

Update: Fellow bloggers Richard Cross and Joe Steffen weigh in.

A sad passing

In the back of one’s mind it was certain his prognosis was grim, but the word is now out that the man best known as “the Wig Man,” Daniel Vovak, has passed away from cancer at the age of 39. I guess I’m sensitive to this having experienced the same with my own family almost a year ago.

Alan Brody at the Gazette does a good job of summarizing Daniel’s life, but I wanted to share some of my experiences with him as well.

I last saw him at the Spring GOP convention, where he indeed pleaded for unity as Brody alluded to. For most (including myself) it would be the last time we saw him alive. The last time I spoke with Daniel (briefly) was in Corrogan Vaughn’s hospitality suite the night before, and it was clear that his illness had taken its toll. It was a very sudden and jarring change considering that he looked the picture of health during our previous fall’s convention; a time when we compared our picks for state party chairman.

But I prefer to recall the healthy and humorous Daniel Vovak, and the lengthier conversations we occasionally had. Every so often Dan would call me up and pick my brain regarding state politics based on the respect he had for my writing; meanwhile I’d ask him about that business since he had some experience there as a ghostwriter and published author in his own right. It wasn’t all that long ago, but seems like a lifetime because this happened before he fell ill late last year. He was always good for an interesting press release, and sometimes I would use them as fodder for my own thoughts on political subjects.

Most, though, will remember the wig and the many quixotic runs for elected office Vovak conducted – and almost invariably lost. (Seventh out of nine was good enough to put him on the Montgomery County Republican Central Committee, though.) But he was humble enough to thank our county for supporting him for party chair. Maybe he wasn’t the most qualified officeseeker, but he was the most earnest. To me he was the better candidate of the two presented.

Still, it wasn’t in the cards for Daniel Vovak to be a political success. For those who knew him and admired his work, his success was measured in the quality of his friendship. Daniel may be gone, but it’s doubtful he or his wig will be forgotten anytime soon.

The aftermath

Tying up loose ends from the last few weeks…

As luck would have it, fellow blogger Daniel Vovak spent some of his convention seated directly in front of me so let’s see how he did in picking every state party leadership race. To refresh your memory, here are his picks in order of selection – the number in (parentheses) is the actual finish:

  • Chair: Mary Kane (2), Alex Mooney (1), Sam Hale (4), William Campbell (3), Milke Esteve (5)
  • 1st Vice-Chair: Diana Waterman (1), Moshe Starkman (2), Debbie Rey (3)
  • 2nd Vice-Chair: Larry Helminiak (1), Brandon Butler (2), Debbie Rey (3)
  • 3rd Vice-Chair: Collins Bailey (6), Patt Parker (2), Brian Griffiths (3), Matt Teffeau (-), Debbie Rey (5), Adol Owen-Williams (4), Meyer Marks (-)
  • Treasurer: Chris Rosenthal (1), Mark Uncapher (-)
  • Secretary: Nora Keenan (2), Alfred Griffin (3), John Wafer (1)

(To address the naysayers who point out the weighted results are slightly different, I’m going by the rule I favored – the ‘one man, one vote’ system. Otherwise, the four from Anne Arundel County who supported Mary Kane have more of a say than my seven Wicomico cohorts who supported Alex Mooney did – how fair is that? In the grand scheme of things, coming in third or fourth really doesn’t matter.)

Overall, if he were picking ponies Daniel would have a pretty good day at the track. He certainly nailed the trifecta in some of the undercard races.

As Daniel wrote this on Wednesday he wasn’t aware that Mark Uncapher would withdraw, and apparently Meyer Marks didn’t follow through on his stated intentions to run. Matt Teffeau suggested that he wasn’t sure where the report he was running came from. Conversely, nobody expected Eric Grannon to be entered into the 3rd Vice-Chair race; perhaps had Alex Mooney been more of a stickler Patt Parker would have won.

Of course, my personal forecast had the order of Mary Kane first and eventually Alex Mooney second – however, it’s worthy of noting that each of my updates gave Alex tighter and tighter odds. I could sense he was closing on Mary, and I was correct that she didn’t have enough support – despite her favorite status – to close the deal on the first ballot. In all candor, though, I thought Mary would lead the first ballot but perhaps she counted on Montgomery County a little too much. Alex probably sealed her fate by getting 23 of 45 first-ballot votes from there.

I also thought we would possibly have a third ballot, but when the bottom three all dropped out the die was cast. The top two combined for over 200 of the 265 first-ballot votes, though, and that left little hope for anyone in the bottom three. Mooney was familiar enough to the establishment Republicans (who didn’t want to leave the party to an unknown quantity like the three who trailed) but conservative enough to be agreeable to the TEA Party movement. He became the compromise choice I originally envisioned William Campbell being, and in about two fewer ballots.

So the page is turned and the Mooney era of the Maryland Republican Party begins. We can’t have the complaint that it’s a bastion of white males, either, since we selected a female for 1st Vice-Chair and a black man for the 3rd Vice-Chair position. I didn’t vote for everyone who won, but I think we have a solid team with which to move forward.

A couple weeks ago I wrote a line that Mark Newgent told me Friday evening he really liked: “Hunting season on Democrats and their loony liberal ideas has just begun, and there’s no bag limit.” If Alex Mooney can indeed achieve his lofty fundraising goals and keep the party united in a post-Ehrlich era, we may just have the guns at the top to start picking off targets two years hence.

Maryland Republicans, are you ready for the hunt? I’m not going to stop hunting, but now I can turn my focus to other topics like national issues and a hotly-contested local election before the General Assembly session kicks into gear. So all you fans who have come to monoblogue as a result of my coverage of this race – don’t stray too far or you might miss something good!

Braver than I

Another of the Maryland pundits who actually gets a vote on the upcoming state GOP leadership elections, Daniel Vovak takes my oddsmaking a little farther and predicts the order of finish in each race on his Montgomery County Daily website.

I’m not going to sit and argue with his forecasts, but I will say there’s precious few of his winners on my personal voting list. (Of course if it were up to me I’d go 6-for-6 so anything less is sort of unsatisfactory. Yes, I can live with most of these people.)

The first thing which jumps out at me is the number of people running from Montgomery County – in theory four of the six officers could come from one county. Anne Arundel County has three hopefuls and Howard County two, but one notable omission is that Baltimore County has no one running for party office. How long has it been since that happened? Of course, the lower Shore isn’t represented, although Matt Teffeau of Caroline County (running for 3rd Vice-Chair) has a local connection as he’s the head of the SU College Republicans.

Another interesting facet of Vovak’s piece is his division of labor between the three vice-chairs. While under Alex Mooney vice-chairs would have specific fundraising targets he didn’t spell out any other duties, nor has any other candidate. Certainly part of this may be holding cards close to the chest to see who he or she works with, but I would presume the Chairs have an agenda and duties for the vice-chairs to follow. Perhaps Vovak’s plan is a template but as he points out the by-laws are silent on specifics.

So I give kudos to Daniel for adding his expertise and perspective to the race.

At this moment my plan is to run the questions and answers I solicited from each hopeful tomorrow – my delay is waiting for William Campbell to follow through on his promise to send me his. (As if on cue, lo and behold they just showed up in my e-mail!) On Friday I’ll post my penultimate odds, although I am planning on bringing my trusty laptop for necessary updates. (I would assume a hotel such as the Doubletree has wifi, otherwise I’ll be sorely disappointed.)

In any event, this should be a newsworthy weekend.

Not the last earthquake

Leave it to perhaps the most whimsical candidate on the Maryland ballot to find humor in this morning’s minor earthquake, which was centered in the Rockville area.

Poking a little bit of fun at his electoral chances, Republican Daniel “the Whig Man” Vovak declared on his Montgomery County Daily website that,

“…a similar earthquake is inevitable if Montgomery County Democrats and Republicans join together to oust tax-loving Ike Leggett in November.”

(continued on my Examiner.com page…)

Making the point of favortism

While he’s not been a proven vote-getter, Montgomery County Executive candidate (and former U.S. Senate aspirant) Daniel ‘The Whig Man’ Vovak surely has a flair for the dramatic in his campaigns – after all, what other candidate would fight the state Board of Elections over a nickname on the ballot line?

However, I like to use the outspoken Vovak to make my own points. In a release earlier this week, Vovak complained about a lack of support from party officials apparently seeking to find a primary opponent to take him on in September:

(continued on my Examiner.com page…)

Friday night videos – episode 31

Back to politics again after my foray into local music. Let’s see what I can dig up here, all right?

The other day it was Earth Day and needless to say I don’t go in for the hype – neither does Mario Lewis of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Three guys who were too much into Earth Day are Senators John Kerry, Lindsey Graham, and Joe Lieberman. They are a creative bunch, though, as they spin cap and tax. Again, from CEI:

Speaking of big government, the Environmental Protection Agency has a video contest going to explain why government regulations are a good thing. Needless to say, someone had to poke fun at it – why not the gang at Americans for Prosperity?

This spotlight is on a group which wants government regulation (in the form of higher taxes) to fatten their coffers.

Perhaps the Maryland GOP can borrow this from their California brethren?

Instead, our state is faced with too many voters like this group Bob McCarty found at an Illinois rally.

This is the same rally where TEA Partiers were greeted by a riot squad.

A protest of a different sort occurred right here in Maryland. Disaffected workers in the film industry aren’t too happy with our present governor – WBAL reports.

Newt Gingrich always has something to say as well. Here he talks about President Obama’s “secular socialist machine.”

I wrote about Daniel “The Whig Man” Vovak earlier this week as he proposed to legalize pot. Nick Gillespie of the Reason Foundation agrees.

But I didn’t forget local music! Here’s the hard-rocking Christian group Not My Own recorded live (not by me) at Circles in Milford, Delaware.

Until next time, that’s a wrap.

Republicans united?

As the Church Lady would say, isn’t this conveeeeeeenient? I talk about Republicans divided in an op-ed then talk about uniting hours later. But Daniel Vovak makes a good point at a time when unity would be necessary.

The Republican Primary on September 14, 2010 has produced a spirited contest for the office of U.S. Senator, facing the probable Democratic primary winner, Barbara Mikulski. According to official reports and announcements, on the Republican ballot will be seven candidates, including: Carmen Amedori, John F. Curran, John B. Kimble, Daniel W. McAndrew, Jim Rutledge, Corrogan R. Vaughn, and Eric Wargotz.

Daniel “The Whig Man” Vovak has proposed a “Statement of Unity” for the Republican candidates to sign, and has pledged $250 to the primary winner, should that person sign his form. Vovak says, “Although I will not be a candidate for U.S. Senate in 2010, I was a candidate in 2006 and I remember perfectly well how Michael Steele treated the primary as a mere formality, never reaching out to any of his nine primary opponents, which hurt our Party in November 2006. In 2010, it’s a different situation because the Republican primary is a wide-open contest. It’s not that Maryland Democrats have been successful, it’s Maryland Republicans who lose statewide seats through internal division. Once these candidates unify behind the primary winner, any Democrat can be defeated.”

Vovak says that following last week’s U.S. Senate candidates’ debate in Montgomery County, every Republican candidate sought his support.


In spite of losing statewide (among Central Committee members who selected a new party chairman in the wake of Jim Pelura’s resignation last year), Vovak sincerely congratulated (current MDGOP Chair Audrey) Scott following her decisive win and offered his help. Vovak says this “Statement of Unity” is something he practices and believes. He says, “If I had won the chairman vote, I would have proposed this same Statement to position Republicans for winning, long before Election Day. I have no doubt Audrey Scott shares the same goal.”

Currently, three of the seven candidates have indicated they will sign the Statement. Because Vovak has not been able to speak directly with all of them, he said he will wait until all have been given ample time to respond before releasing their names, though those candidates can speak freely at any time with their supporters and the media, should they desire to do so.

Within the Maryland Republican Party Constitution, under Article 11, Section 2, d(2), Maryland’s Republican Chairman must show no “partiality or prejudice” towards any Republican candidate before a primary. Article 2, Section 2 states that the Party “works towards the election of Republican nominees.”

It’s an admirable goal, and perhaps we will see all of the contenders sign this agreement before all is said and done September 14.

But this election is somewhat different than Steele’s 2006 campaign as there is no de facto favorite. A couple have run previous bids for the Senate that drew little support (Kimble and Vaughn, both also-rans in the ’06 race with Vovak) and a couple others are perhaps dark horses due to lack of name recognition or fundraising prowess – I’d put Curran and McAndrew in that category. The other three (Amedori, Rutledge, and Wargotz) to me are the leading contenders, with Amedori perhaps being the “establishment” candidate based on her tenure in the House of Delegates.

I happen to agree that the Maryland GOP shouldn’t take a stand to support any candidate pre-primary. I know some disagree with me because they fear the voters may select some David Duke-esque radical as the party’s representative but I place a lot more faith in the party electorate than apparently these officials do. I already lived in one state which tried to bribe and cajole good Republican candidates like Ken Blackwell out of the race to avoid primary fights and I don’t want a repeat in Maryland.

Since the reports of Barbara Mikulski retiring were apparently premature, it looks like whoever survives the primary has the uphill fight of knocking out the entrenched, reliably liberal incumbent who may be keeping the seat warm for Martin O’Malley once he’s through being governor.

I believe there is a scenario possible where, if Mikulski wins and O’Malley loses in November, Barbara could retire in early January and Martin O’Malley could name himself  successor (or a placeholder to keep the seat warm) just before his term were to expire – leaving the possibility of two new Senators from the state in 2013 as Ben Cardin also runs for re-election in 2012 and the seat held by Mikulski is opened up for a special election by current state law. I think Martin O’Malley has aspirations beyond being Governor and this would be an opportunity for him to go national.

All that has yet to be seen but in any case it’s good for Republicans to put up a united front as they campaign to upend the Democrats’ apple cart this November.