Too clever by half?

It’s unfortunate the press conference wasn’t a couple weeks earlier, because the announcement had all the makings of a great April Fool’s joke. Unfortunately, the joke has been on Maryland taxpayers so earlier today Congressional candidate Dan Bongino and gubernatorial candidates David Craig and Ron George made their endorsement of Anthony Brown for governor of the Nutmeg State, Connecticut.

Having it on April Fool’s Day may have helped with media coverage, though. The main rags of the Baltimore Sun and Washington Post didn’t give the rally any coverage aside (at least not yet) with the only mention a three-day old piece in the Sun.

Be that as it may, I get the point that the tongues were firmly in cheek this morning. Then again, people like me only represent maybe one percent of the electorate and aside from perhaps a slight thought about the monetary aspect of the money blown on the initial iteration of the Maryland Health Connection website, those who have maintained their health insurance throughout may just shrug their shoulders. We’re all used to government boondoggles. The joke may be lost on them.

In an effort to make news out of this, Ron George put out a release noting “Ron George joins Dan Bongino to Endorse Brown/Ulman for Connecticut.” The first paragraph packs most of the punch:

When Obamacare was rammed through a partisan Democratic Congress, no one was happier than Maryland Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown. He leapt at the opportunity to get out from behind his boss’ shadow and prove why he was the most capable candidate for the next Governor of Maryland. Two years and $260 million taxpayer dollars later, Anthony Brown is dodging any and all responsibility for the failed Maryland Health Exchange and is part of an administration that is actively covering up this massive scandal. Anthony Brown’s solution to the mess he created is simply to spend hundreds of millions more in taxpayer dollars to adopt the “Connecticut” model of government-run health insurance.

Naturally, Ron didn’t mention David Craig, who was also there – as shown on his Facebook page.

Jeannie Haddaway, David Craig, and Ron George attend a rally endorsing Anthony Brown for governor of Connecticut, April 14, 2014. Photo from Craig campaign.

Honestly, I’m not sure this is more than a blip on the radar. But as time goes on, the question which really should be asked is whether the Connecticut system, which was designed for a state roughly half Maryland’s size, will fit out of the box. More importantly, where will the extra millions needed to make this work come from? We’re already a long way in the hole just to buy the original pig in the poke, so what will give? Will it be insurance rates, reimbursements to providers, or the old standby of sticking it to future generations by raiding other funds and bonding to backfill the hole?

It’s almost too bad Doug Gansler didn’t stop by to make it a bipartisan backing of Brown for governor of Connecticut. Instead, he’s choosing to spend a little money on a simple website which asks the question “did Anthony Brown come clean today?’ (It’s also handy for gathering contact information via the attached “petition.”)

If we really wanted to improve the prospects for those who rely on health insurance coverage in Maryland, how about talking about measures which could open the market up more? After all, Barack Obama allowed some to keep their “substandard” plan that they liked, so what are the standards now? Make everything available, from bare-bones catastrophic coverage on the one side to something that pays for two hangnails a month among the other elements of a “Cadillac plan” on the other, and the market will find its level. I’ll bet it doesn’t waste millions of our tax dollars, either.

Update: Added David Craig:

Today’s announcement was an opportunity to highlight the failed policies of the last seven years and Anthony Brown’s inability to successfully lead Maryland’s healthcare exchange.

Jeannie and I believe the best solution to this disaster is for Anthony Brown to resign like Kathleen Sebelius, the former HHS Secretary.

2014 Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner in pictures and text

It wouldn’t be a Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner without the guest of honor, now would it?

But it was that and much more as about 100 people enjoyed the festivities last night in Salisbury. I was a little disappointed in the attendance, but those who missed the affair missed some stirring words from both our four featured speakers – the GOP gubernatorial candidates – save Jeannie Haddaway pinch-hitting for David Craig, who was in Frederick tonight – and Delegate Mike McDermott.

Our event is set up so guests have an opportunity to talk to candidates before and after the proceedings. So before dinner was underway, acquaintances were made and renewed, such as Delegate Ron George speaking with the newly-goateed Delegate Charles Otto.

I like that look on Charles. Meanwhile, Larry Hogan and wife Yumi spoke to Wicomico County Council member Joe Holloway. I believe fellow Council member Bob Culver is back to camera.

As I noted earlier, Jeannie Haddaway was taking the place of David Craig and visiting her alma mater. In the background is Larry Hogan’s LG pick, Boyd Rutherford.

Candidates were also taking advantage of the space provided for literature and signs.

Things began to get going when the Union troops and band arrived in the room.

This heralded the arrival of our sixteenth president, who is a popular subject. In this case, it was with Senator Rich Colburn (left) and John and Gail Bartkovich. Gail is the outgoing Council member from District 3, while the good doctor John was our county chair for several years.

One new wrinkle we added this year was a Union band, described by Lincoln as “the Eastern Shore detachment of the 3rd Maryland Irregular Regimental Band,” which played traditional music during the prelude to the ceremonies.

The troops sat behind Lincoln as he made his remarks, with a little banjo accompaniment toward the end.

As he always does, Lincoln made remarks which tried to use the words of yesterday to relate to today’s world, leading off with a tale about General George McClellan, one which he concluded by stating the case “the lunatics are running the asylum.”

“Our greatest enemy is voter apathy,” he continued. “It cheats honest citizens.”

And just as the British Empire sparked a revolution by resorting to tyranny, Lincoln called the modern situation “mental torture.” Now, “A lying tyrant is in control,” Lincoln added, “We need to be a stumbling block to tyrants.” But he ended on a hopeful note, believing “America shall not pass away.”

Our county Chair Dave Parker then secured the floor for a number of announcements as well as praise for one outgoing member of our Central Committee.

First of all, we learned that there will be a gubernatorial debate among the GOP candidates here on May 31, at Salisbury University. Once the June 24 primary is history, we will convene for the Wicomico County Republican Club Crab Feast on September 6.

But the huge event was the one slated for September 27. After twice being unsuccessful at getting a Lincoln Day date, we got the next best thing: Lt. Col. Allen West will be appearing in Salisbury for a series of events September 27. Those who attend Central Committee or Wicomico County Republican Club functions already know this, but we put out the formal word tonight at Lincoln Day.

Before we heard from the gubernatorial candidates, we also took a few moments to honor one of the few Republicans in Maryland whose Presidential vote has truly counted – this man served on the Electoral College from Maryland in 1972 for Nixon and 1984 for Reagan. For the better part of five decades Blan Harcum has been a fixture in Wicomico County GOP politics, but after this election he will take a well-deserved retirement from the Central Committee. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” said Blan about his tenure.

And as it turns out, Larry Hogan has known Blan “for a long, long time.” He drew the opening slot among our four, and in doing so decided to play up his experience in both the private sector and executive branch under former governor Bob Ehrlich. “I’ve spent a lifetime challenging the status quo,” Hogan said, accusing our current leaders of “actually causing the problems.” Rather than “be something,” he wanted to do something about them and that was why he decided to run.

Naturally, Hogan spoke about Change Maryland, noting that it “successfully changed the dialogue in this state.” He could sense the frustration with the “huge disconnect” between the people and their government as well as the belief the state was heading in the wrong direction. Regarding the “arrogant, out of touch monopoly” in Annapolis, he believed it was “about time the politicians in Annapolis listened to the rest of us.”

As he has often done in his stump speeches, Hogan returned to three main points: creating jobs, helping out the middle class, and getting government off our backs. He related his day in Salisbury, with stops in several area businesses as well as a Little League opening day and the downtown Easter Egg hunt.

Charles Lollar also told us about his day, one spent taking the fight to Democratic strongholds and crossing paths with Democrat Anthony Brown on three occasions, debating him once. He was inducted into the 100 Black Men of Prince George’s County, heard Brown say at a Howard County forum that “Maryland is doing fine” – while 1 out of 3 in portions of Baltimore are jobless – and went to a Veterans for Democracy meeting back in Charles County where he was “disinvited” to speak because of “political pressure” his name has brought. On top of that, his second daughter is going to her first prom tonight. “I’m not doing this for me…we’re doing this for you,” said Charles.

But his message to the Republicans was that whoever the nominee for governor may be, he has to have the “intestinal fortitude and integrity” to speak our convictions. His basic agenda would be one of economic solvency, installing a Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights to slow budget growth, and eventually eliminating the personal income tax – a proposal which got him the support of economist Arthur Laffer.

He knew it would be difficult, but concluded that “I don’t play politics very well, but I do enjoy a good fight every once in awhile.” Whoever wins the primary has to care about the ideals of the minority community to earn their votes, Charles stated in closing.

Representing David Craig, who couldn’t be here tonight but was instead over in Frederick County, was his lieutenant governor candidate Jeannie Haddaway. We’re out “covering the state as much as we could,” she explained. Reflecting on the recent General Assembly session, Haddaway remarked that “there are people in Annapolis fighting for you.” Some of the more controversial bills only passed by slim majorities, added Jeannie, because Democrats are reluctant to vote for them but have to contend with their “top-down agenda.” Thanks to what’s gone on the last few years, “our state is in really bad shape,” said Jeannie.

She corrected Larry Hogan’s remark about private sector experience, noting David Craig worked in a factory when not teaching and her own work as a small business owner. Their priority would be to straighten out the budget then “put money back in your pocket” through elimination of the income tax.

Haddaway pointed out 40 percent of Democrats were undecided, perhaps because they didn’t like the options and may consider a Republican who would “try something different.” And even in heavily Democratic districts, Craig had won. “We have won collectively 14 general elections,” she said. “Whoever turns out is going to win this election.” She promised that if Craig won and she became the state’s first Eastern Shore lieutenant governor, “the Eastern Shore will be forgotten no more.”

While he was holding up the flyer for an upcoming event in Ocean City in the photo above, Ron George opened up by discussing running mate Shelley Aloi – like many of us, I met her for the first time tonight. (She and Ron happened to sit at our table, along with our next speaker and his wife and the Parkers.)

Ron spent much of his time talking about the General Assembly: “I felt like I needed Rolaids constantly,” remarked George – but considered it an “honor” to serve with our Republican “warriors.” His pitch was combining his business experience with time served at the “front line” of issues as a member of the General Assembly – one who formed the Doctor’s Caucus “to build consensus” and a related group called the Physician’s Advisory. That group had uncovered waste within the exchange and the failures of health care contractor Maximus early on.

Ron also spoke about his work on the electoral process, closing a loophole for the next cycle so a donor couldn’t form multiple LLCs just to circumvent campaign finance limits. Audits, too, were another major part of his platform since he’d found where Prince George’s County “totally misused” $400 million. “That kind of waste has got to stop.”

George went over a couple parts of his ten-point promise, one which “will fix the drain that Baltimore is” and strive to rebuild the state’s manufacturing base in small communities like ours. “I cannot cut welfare payments unless I have those entry-level, mid-level jobs,” said Ron.

He also made an announcement about a Monday event to be held in conjunction with Dan Bongino and David Craig, endorsing Anthony Brown for governor…of Connecticut. “How’s that (health care) working out for us?” added Jeannie Haddaway.

But the rhetorical storm was brewing.

You knew Delegate Mike McDermott was working on a stemwinder when he noted, “the problem with Democrat math is that they follow Common Core logic.” This after he noted losing the two GOP Senators in 2010, including the seat he seeks, “opened up the floodgates of hell on the social side.” This didn’t count the pilfering of various trust funds or the “blank check” to uncovered patients for the budget.

But once he got going on the “outrage” on the bathroom bill, it was on. “It should be unacceptable to all Marylanders,” he said. We gave each gubernatorial candidate ten minutes – Mike was still going strong after fifteen.

“The tragedy of Maryland politics can be turned around,” he said. “Don’t send a governor to the governor’s mansion without sending them reinforcements” of five Senators.” His voice rising, McDermott made the case that North Carolina “worked on making government work for the people” after the GOP took over and raised its business friendliness rating from 46th to 17th in two years. “They’ve brought that state back! It can happen here.”

“If we can’t make the case for change this year,” Mike thundered, “the Republican Party can never make it.”

“We can take Wicomico County by storm! If there was ever a county which needed good leadership and change, it’s this one. I’m tired of being up there, and being in a welfare county…I challenge you to take it back,” an emotional McDermott concluded. He had to dial it back some for the benediction that he delivered.

Our friends in Worcester County have the chance to have a great team in Annapolis: Mike McDermott in the Senate, and Mary Beth Carozza and Charles Otto in the House.

So ended another Lincoln Day Dinner. It wasn’t quite what we bargained for when we started planning it last year, but those who were there were treated to a good event nonetheless.

A qualified success

He may not be much for participating in debates, but by the standard I set a few days ago Larry Hogan is a more-than-successful fundraiser. Today his campaign released a press statement claiming that the Hogan juggernaut raised $422,000 from over 1,800 individuals in just 68 days. (The official numbers are due next week, so this is a preliminary tally.)

Speaking on this, Hogan was thankful for the generosity:

Thanks to our supporters, volunteers and staff we’ve surpassed our outreach and fundraising goals.  The incredible outpouring of support from middle class voters across our state shows that Marylanders want a governor who’ll put working families and small businesses ahead of Annapolis elites.

Yet a quick look behind the numbers reveals a few interesting things.

First of all, it appears that many of the donations are maxing out the $250 allowed for matching contributions, as the average works out to about $234 per. So you’re getting your share of smaller numbers, but it’s likely the report will show a high number who pitched in the most allowed. Moreover, it bears pointing out that Hogan only promised to use matching funds in the primary, so there’s a lot of room for these donors to come back and upgrade to the maximum $4,000 allowed should Hogan win in June. This may be a shrewd strategy to compete in the general election.

But I found the comparisons to other campaigns at the 68-day stage a little disingenuous, because they’re apples and oranges. Eighteen months out from an election is generally not prime fundraising time, and no contender makes a whole lot in the summer before a campaign year – for example, David Craig raised about $250,000 in each of the last two years but it was clear he wouldn’t rest on those laurels and fundraising wasn’t a big push at the time. As long as candidates have enough to keep the lights on a year out, they’re happy, so saying that his campaign is more popular than the others based on that fact alone is a little misleading.

We also don’t know how much cash on hand any of the campaigns have, and going forward at this stage that’s a far more important number. With Hogan making a television ad buy, some part of that $422,000 is already spent.

Yet as time goes on, it’s becoming more clear we may be looking at a two-person race, unless the campaign finance reports of Ron George or Charles Lollar show they’ve cut into the significant fundraising advantages David Craig already enjoyed and Larry Hogan has appeared to establish. Grassroots support is great, and taking the message to underserved areas helps build the Maryland GOP for the future. Reaching nearly a million Maryland GOP voters, however, isn’t free, and there’s a reason it’s called broadcasting – media reaches a huge number of people other methods do not.

These warm and fuzzy commercials Democratic contenders are putting out are simply to build a brand association, because very few of those voters are going to look at the issues until the end, if at all. The more discerning group on the GOP side is fine with questioning the record of the incumbents, but they’ll want a little more depth when all is said and done.

As a closing aside, David Craig is going to try and raise a little money on Sunday as he hosts a fundraiser of his own:

Please join the Eastern Shore’s own Jeannie Haddaway and me on Sunday, April 13th at Sailwinds Park in Cambridge.

Our friends from all over the Eastern Shore and across Maryland will be gathering for fresh seafood, cold drinks, and good times. The event will be held from 12pm-4pm. Tickets are $60 in advance and $70 at the door. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here.

I will say that based on the forecast he is going to luck out in that respect. Next thing you know we’ll be sweating in Crisfield, but only one GOP gubernatorial candidate will be there as a nominee.

An overstatement by Sauerbrey?

Writing recently about the concept of “prevailing wage,” two-time gubernatorial candidate Ellen Sauerbrey used the letter to the editor to praise her apparent choice for governor, David Craig. Here’s the letter in its entirety, as posted on Southern Maryland News Net. I received it as an e-mail under Craig’s campaign letterhead.

I want to point out a specific passage for comment, in particular the one where Sauerbrey speaks about Craig himself and attributes statements to him.

The 2014 General Assembly has passed legislation to apply the prevailing wage to additional local government projects that receive partial state funding. The prevailing wage which is essentially the union wage, artificially inflates labor costs by ab (sic) estimated 30% to 50%.

I commend Harford County Executive and Gubernatorial candidate David Craig for speaking out on the impact of the new law on his county, as well as the impact of prevailing wages on the state budget. Every local elected official concerned about getting the most value on public projects should want to let the market determine employee wages as is done in the private sector. County Executive Craig points out that the prevailing wage adds an additional $30 million cost to his county’s $300 million capital budget for school construction.

It may not surprise you that I have some familiarity with school construction. In the 1990s, thanks to a court decision, the state of Ohio went on a multi-billion dollar spending binge to construct new schools in practically every one of Ohio’s 600-plus school districts. (I spent seven years working for an architectural firm which specialized in schools, although I had left that company before the boom in school construction began.) In 1997 the state created an exemption to prevailing wage regulations for schools, and in that debate numbers similar to the 30 to 50 percent savings were bandied about by proponents of the measure eliminating prevailing wage.

Also mandated at the time, however, was a report to be delivered five years later, in 2002. In this report, the research indicated savings were more in the ten percent range. While that is a great savings to the taxpayer, it’s not the panacea proponents were anticipating when the bill was passed. Granted, with the vast volume of work going on at the time there was less incentive for low bids – perhaps an economic climate such as today’s would yield more significant savings.

While Sauerbrey uses the hyperbole of the 50 percent savings in her letter, it should be pointed out that David Craig’s statement within seems to ring true – out of $300 million, the $30 million addition seems to line up with the data from Ohio’s study.

But regardless of the actual savings, there is a philosophical argument to be made against the concept of an artificially-created “prevailing” wage, simply because it doesn’t necessarily reflect the true conditions of the actual labor market. I can completely understand the contention that projects completed under prevailing wage (more often than not by union shops) have a better quality to them, as one advantage of using union tradesmen borne out in my experience is that they are better trained, so the question is one of whether they are worth the premium. In some cases I would say yes, but I’m not sure schools are structures complex enough to justify the extra cost – certainly not to the extent of a health care facility or technology-heavy factory where fit and finish can be most important.

I also find it interesting that on the one hand Democrats tend to be for cherished union giveaways like prevailing wage, but do nothing on the other but encourage illegal aliens to come in and undercut the market for construction labor. I haven’t seen them yet this spring, but sooner or later somewhere on Delmarva there will be three or four union carpenters holding up the “shame on” banner because someone hired non-union labor most likely mainly made up of illegal aliens. And what else do those hapless guys have to do?

In a perfect world, many advocacy groups agree that the Davis-Bacon Act which spawned the concept of prevailing wage would be repealed. (At one time even the General Accounting Office argued for repeal.) There is even a bill in the House of Representatives to do the same, although no action has been taken on it since introduction. (And why not?) Eliminating the federal law may well trigger some states to do away with their own versions, although if you assume Maryland politics will remain as they’re currently composed for the next couple decades you won’t find us on that list. (As I pointed out yesterday, we threaten liberals’ existence on the government teat and they know it.)

But it should be a job for General Assembly Republicans to try and roll back this year’s changes in the next session. In the meantime, while 10 percent may not seem like a lot, imagine a ten percent cut in the state budget – it would roll our expenditures back to FY2013 levels and just about negate the need for our sales tax, which is 11% of revenue according to our most recent budget. That wouldn’t be a rollback to 5%, it would be eliminating the whole enchilada to match Delaware. Or we could cut our income taxes in half.

Ten percent is a lot, even in the limited realm of state construction, and to me it’s better that the people have it than the government. In the case of the capital budget, it’s less bonding we have to pass along to our children. So let’s hope a Governor Craig would have the stiff spine to fight for such a change to prevailing wage, even if Ellen Sauerbrey was a little overly optimistic on its effects.

Let the campaigning begin

Now that the General Assembly has made it to sine die, the transition to regular campaigning can begin. Certainly there will be posturing over one issue or another, and there are rumblings that the “bathroom bill” and perhaps even marijuana decriminalization could be placed on the ballot. But for better or worse, the General Assembly has completed its work for the year, and at least 37 members out of the 188 will not be back – many are retiring, but some are seeking other local or statewide offices.

So for those who are looking for greener pastures, as well as the 150-odd who are willing to serve another term – with many among them trying to move up from the House to the Senate – the campaigning can begin in earnest. Only seven Senators (three Republican, four Democrat) have a free ride to re-election, barring a late write-in entry. Two Democrats running for the House of Delegates will enjoy the same freedom, and both will be newcomers – Will Campos in District 47A (Prince George’s County) and Sheree Sample-Hughes from right here in Salisbury. Both had opposition, but the one filer against Campos was disqualified and incumbent Delegate Rudy Cane from District 37A withdrew from his race, leaving it for Sample-Hughes.

Some in difficult races have been chomping at the bit to go out there and press the flesh, along with once again having the chance to raise funds. An e-mail from Delegate Neil Parrott greeted me this afternoon in my e-mail box, and certainly many others were making plans to raise some dough.

While he didn’t serve in the General Assembly, Larry Hogan is making a push to look good on his initial campaign finance report. Messages like this have been appearing on his Change Maryland Facebook feed:

Thanks to the generous support of engaged and informed Marylanders like you, we are EVEN CLOSER to hitting our fundraising goal before tonight’s finance report deadline! We have less than TWELVE HOURS to hit our goal – Can we count on you to help us get there? Any contribution you can afford, whether it’s $5, $50, or $500, will make a big impact on our campaign and could be enough to put us over the edge to reach our goal!

Of course, since they’re not letting on exactly what the goal is, I highly doubt they’ll actually fall short. Yet what would be success in fundraising? Back in January, it was revealed that David Craig raised just under $250,000 in 2013 after a similar performance in 2012. Since we’re closer to the election, I would have to assess success as whether Hogan raised the amount required to qualify for matching funds, which would come pretty close to matching Craig’s total 2013 take. Since Hogan has media up already with a cable television buy, it’s likely he’s raised at least $200,000.

(It’s worth pointing out as well that Hogan is slated to appear at our Lincoln Day Dinner on Saturday, as are Ron George and Charles Lollar. Jeannie Haddaway will pinch-hit for David Craig, who has another engagement. So if you’re coming you can ask the tough questions, although we don’t plan this as a debate.)

For us, the event will serve as a kickoff to the serious campaigning to come since it’s likely we’ll hear from a number of Republicans who are running, even if we have to drag out the egg timer to make sure they keep things short for our featured guests. If we let all of the District 37B aspirants go, we’ll be there all night! (Yes, that was supposed to be funny. You are allowed to laugh.)

After all, not that I’m trying to hurry it along by any stretch of the imagination, we’re just 30 weeks away from the November election (and 11 weeks from the primary, which I have a vested interest in.) Lots of time for good things to happen.

Hogan first Republican gubernatorial hopeful to buy television time

While David Craig got the jump on Larry Hogan for radio campaign ads, the Change Maryland founder has struck back with a 30-second TV ad called ‘Dedicated’:

I found it a very good ad, simple as an introduction to the candidate and his main campaign philosophy. Perhaps my only knock on it would be the fact it was shot in black and white, a technique usually reserved for the target of negative ads. The usage of black and white in an introductory commercial, therefore, seems a little stark.

While promising an “aggressive media effort” Hogan stated about the introduction:

Just two months ago I announced my candidacy, and since that time we have focused on building a campaign that will compete head-to-head with the Democratic nominee. The incredible outpouring of support from Marylanders we have received enables us to begin our TV and radio campaign earlier than we ever anticipated. This next phase of our campaign will help take our message of fiscal restraint and common sense government to every corner of the state.

Naturally, there is a lack of specifics about exactly where the ad is being placed, although John Wagner of the Washington Post notes it’s in the “Baltimore market.” Whether it’s a cable buy or over-the-air I cannot ascertain.

But with the two leading contenders on the air, it means Ron George and Charles Lollar will have to scramble to raise the money required for their own ad buys. George will be able to restart his campaign, which has been stuck in low gear because of the General Assembly session that wraps up its work tomorrow night; meanwhile, Lollar and running mate Ken Timmerman recently wrapped up their “Economic Recovery Tour” which bypassed an area much in need of an economic recovery – the Eastern Shore. (Lollar is slated to appear at our Lincoln Day Dinner Saturday night, though.)

At this point neither George nor Lollar seem to have the kind of juice which can buy media advertising, although we should have a better idea of the financial picture of all the candidates in the coming weeks.

Update: I’m told Fox News is one of the outlets for the Hogan spot, so presumably it’s a cable buy.

Spreading the wealth around

April 4, 2014 · Posted in Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comment 

I had to do a double-take at my e-mail last night, and perhaps John Wagner at the Washington Post did as well. I thought I was seeing double, with Bob Ehrlich at two separate fundraising events for two different candidates for his old job. Only about an hour separated the two announcements, with David Craig’s April 14 event in Bel Air hitting my mailbox just before Ron George let me know about his April 22 affair in Glen Burnie. It got me to thinking: didn’t Larry Hogan have an Ehrlich event, too? Indeed he did back in February.

Ehrlich may only have a 1-2 record in gubernatorial contests, but he remains a popular fundraiser for a number of state and local Republican candidates. However, the common denominator seems to be the interest for Ehrlich in promoting his 2013 book, America: Hope for Change. Since it’s languishing at #800,039 on the Amazon best-seller list, obviously Bob may have a few dozen copies laying around, and each of these events features (or featured, in Hogan’s case) a book signing from Bob. At this point, the only Republican gubernatorial candidate who hasn’t solicited Bob’s help is Charles Lollar – then again, Lollar doesn’t have the same political connection to Ehrlich as the others do.

It’s also interesting that the maximum amount for each fundraiser is $250. Some may well pay more to see and be seen with Bob Ehrlich, but it also neatly matches the maximum donation allowed for a match from public campaign financing. Giving $251 would do no good in that regard.

But I also have to wonder if writing this book was part of a larger Ehrlich plan. If you look at the Republican party and the prospective 2016 presidential candidates, there are a number of governors who could play a role. Yet a guy like Chris Christie who hangs his hat on being able to appeal to the middle because he was elected (and re-elected) in a deeply Democratic state has the baggage of Bridgegate to deal with in contending for a 2016 run, not to mention he still has to run his state for another three years. Ehrlich could argue he’s cut from the same cloth, but happened to run for re-election at a time when the overall GOP brand was at its nadir due to the press-created unpopularity of President George W. Bush. (By the way, look who some in the party and punditry are trying to foist on us – yet another member of the Bush family.)

At 56 years of age, Ehrlich should be in the prime of his political career, and he has a reasonable resume at the state and federal levels. Bob would be the darkest of horses for a 2016 run, but is it possible he may be angling for a Cabinet post in a future GOP administration? To me, it would be another reason why Bob hasn’t endorsed anyone in this Maryland race – why alienate possible supporters for a favorite son bid to pump up a national profile?

I guess it would have helped, though, if America: Hope for Change was number 39 on Amazon’s list rather than 800,039. Nevertheless, if supporters of Craig, George, or Hogan are willing to shell out a couple Benjamins for a picture and signed book from our last GOP governor, more power to them. Heck, somewhere I have a photo of Bob and I from 2006 at a Perdue Stadium event so it’s not like I’ve never done the same (although it cost me much less.)

So if reading is your thing, you have another reason to attend. (Or you can read mine and save about 240-odd dollars.) Say what you might about his four years at Maryland’s helm, but Bob Ehrlich is still somewhat of a draw and he’ll take advantage of it.

WCRC meeting – March 2014

While tonight’s meeting was pretty much standing room only, the oddity was (by my count) there were in the room more candidates and those who are helping out campaigns than what one termed ‘regular people.” Of course, with 13 running for Central Committee (including yours truly) that was going to increase the odds a little bit as 9 of those 13 hopefuls were present, as were many seeking other positions. Once we did our usual club business of reciting the Lord’s Prayer (yes, we still do that and not one person is offended by it), Pledge of Allegiance, and treasurer’s report, we got a number of campaign updates.

But amongst all those who spent a couple minutes relating their stories about doing door-to-door or announcing their upcoming fundraisers as we went around the room for campaign updates, there were two candidates who we asked to speak. Both are seeking the District 3 Wicomico County Council seat currently held by Gail Bartkovich, who chose not to seek another term.

Larry Dodd was familiar to all of us because he had served as the president of the WCRC from 2011 to 2013, immediately before our current president Jackie Wellfonder. (Dodd is still a club officer.) He pointed out that he was the father of 12-year-old twins that were in public school, which he stated “aren’t all bad.” Larry may share a little of those plaudits because he’s been on the Wicomico County Board of Education since 2009, and was reappointed for a five-year term in 2013. Prior to that he served as a County Council member from 2002-06, in the district now represented by Joe Holloway. Redistricting shifted him to District 3, which was good because “I was going to run anyway.” He conceded, though, it would be tough to follow “one of the best” in Gail Bartkovich.

Before a serious injury sidelined him, Larry was an active firefighter and EMT, acquiring “all the certifications I could get” and earning a master’s degree in the field. He is planning to resume teaching in the EMT field in the next few months.

Larry took a somehat different approach to his presentation, though. While he pointed out a couple of his key issues, stating that “crime is the biggest issue” in the county and calling for “more cohesion” between city and county. he also stated the case that living in Salisbury “has its issues.”  Other bullet points for Larry were – naturally – education and agriculture, where he felt “we need to protect farmers.”

But he also asked what we felt were significant issues, and brought up a few possibilities: a countywide water and sewer district, teacher’s pensions, hughway user funds, and reducing overall spending.

Larry also beseeched us, saying “everybody needs to work together” and that we need to hit the streets and work for candidates. “You can’t vote for third party candidates” in this election, he concluded.

Tom Taylor is no stranger to running for office, either. In 2006 and 2010 he ran for County Executive on the Democratic ticket, making his appeal to the most conservative part of the Democratic party – as a result, he only got a small percentage of the vote. Now as a Republican, he’s running for the Council seat despite the fact “I feel like the County Council is becoming irrelevant” due to the influence Annapolis policies have on the county. But he also warned that he’s “not afraid of shaming anyone to do what’s right.” Our County Council has to stand up to Annapolis and needs to draw “a firm line in the sand” at times, Tom added.

One of his key issues was crime, but he made it plain that “we need a way to protect ourselves” and that the right to carry is “a proven deterrent.” He also advocated zero-based budgeting, which would force us to make the “hard decision” to ask ourselves whether we could afford something rather than the easy choice of raising taxes yet again. Taylor wrapped up his remarks by saying “admitting there’s a problem is the first step to recovery.”

Dave Parker gave the Central Committee report, which mainly focused on the Lincoln Day Dinner but also touched upon a September event we are planning as well. Our plan to invite all four remaining gubernatorial candidates to the LDD was coming together nicely, with all but David Craig confirming their attendance. (To me that’s a surprise.)

As I mentioned earlier, we had a lot of candidates in the room, but one newcomer who got to say a few words was Karen Tolley, who is running for the District 37B seat. Once Johnny Mautz, Jr. arrived we had four of the five would-be Delegates in the room – Allen Nelson was the lone exception. She briefly got to introduce herself, saying “this really is grassroots,” and plugged her campaign site.

Some of the key upcoming events mentioned:

  • Circuit Court judge candidate M.J. Caldwell will have a fundraiser on Wednesday, March 26 at La Tolteca in Salisbury. (I can tell you the food will be good.)
  • The NAACP candidate forum will be held this Thursday, March 27 at the Chipman Center in Salisbury.
  • On Friday, March 28 District 38B hopeful Carl Anderton, Jr. will host a fundraiser at the Evo Public House in Salisbury. (Thumbs up to the Primal Pale Ale there.)
  • District 37B candidate Dr. Rene Desmarais will be holding a Talbot County event on April 3.
  • Gubernatorial candidate David Craig will be hosting an event on April 13 at Sailwinds Park in Cambridge.
  • And of course, our annual Crab Feast will be September 6, so save the date.

We will also have a presence at the Salisbury Festival, although I won’t be there this year because I’ll be at our state convention. Immediately after that weekend will be our next meeting, which will be April 28 with a speaker to be announced.

Political gamesmanship

I was inspired to write this by a recent Facebook post I came across, which initially touted an upcoming debate between Republican candidates for governor. One of those sharing the post was making the statement that Larry Hogan would be a no-show, and further discussion centered on why he would miss it.

But one commenter asked the following:

Why should (Larry Hogan) debate? Please someone provide me some legitimate reason.

So I responded:

Because to not do so gives the impression he has something to hide. Remember, perception is reality despite the fact we’re dealing with primary voters (who tend to be more attuned to the situation.)

I wanted to add a little more context to what I was saying, so here is the history of Hogan’s campaign.

I would argue Larry made the decision to jump into the race several months prior to his actual January announcement. One thing which convinced me of the inevitability was his farm tour of the Eastern Shore as the debate over phosphorus regulations was raging. That tour was conducted in October, so we can start the timeline then.

After the holidays came and went, the first joint appearance by the candidates was the Fox45 debate in Baltimore January 16 – an event Hogan was invited to but decided to skip. (At the time he had not formally announced, though.) It’s set up a pattern where pre-scheduled events have precluded Hogan’s participation in joint appearances such as the Charles County Lincoln-Douglass Dinner and a radio debate hosted by WCBM’s Pat McDonough.

The only joint appearance Larry has made was with fellow candidate David Craig at an event where no press was allowed – not even cell phones. While it wasn’t billed as a debate, fellow candidate Ron George was upset at not being  invited. And perhaps this is a sign that Hogan will begin making more joint appearances.

It’s understandable that candidates can’t be everywhere at once, but the reasons I think Hogan needs to debate are twofold: first, to explain his position on issues which are off his economic message, such as education, the environment, and so forth, and secondly to prepare himself for the joint appearances he will have to make in the general election to get his message out. There will be several debates between the candidates leading up to the November election, so Larry needs to be ready.

Obviously the political experts would have you believe that, as the frontrunner, you avoid debates because you have more to lose than the other person. For years I lived in a Congressional district where the Democrat incumbent would follow that strategy to the letter and never debate her Republican opponent, yet be rewarded with re-election time after time. But what may be politically successful isn’t always right, and that’s why I’m speaking out on this. People should be informed without having to pull teeth to get the facts.

We are hoping all of the GOP gubernatorial candidates show up for our April 12 Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner. It won’t be a formal debate, but at least we may have a chance to compare and contrast the candidates in one place.

Spreading the message

March 21, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off 

A couple weeks ago I noted that David Craig was first on the radio with advertising buys in the Baltimore market. Apparently the ad buys have now gone pretty much statewide, but with a focus on rural areas like the Eastern Shore and western Maryland.

To me, it’s surprising that more candidates haven’t done the same, well, unless they don’t have the money. Since most of them are taking public financing (except for Charles Lollar) they’re probably still amassing the seed money required for the matching funds – we will know more in coming weeks when campaign finance reports come out.

From what I recall about looking into this for our party and GOTV messages, radio done right can go a long way and be cost-effective, although some would argue that television time on certain cable networks is also a good way to go. But I daresay that Craig is probably paying half of what he was paying in Baltimore down here, and in the case of WCBM’s programming, could be on many of the same shows since they do the familiar Limbaugh/Hannity/Levin lineup from noon to 9 p.m. If you want to reach likely conservative voters, it’s probably the place to start.

That outlet may be the only one available to Republican candidates come June. Something tells me that Anthony Brown and Doug Gansler will be filling the airwaves with 30-second TV spots so conservatives may not want to watch the television news beginning about Memorial Day unless you want to see back-to-back televised debates via the 30-second spot. This will be particularly true in the Baltimore and Washington markets, although they will probably have some TV spots on the stations in Salisbury and Hagerstown, too. With radio you may hear a couple statewide candidates in one commercial segment, then hear the others plus a local one or two at the next one.

But Craig seems to have the lead in media three months out from the primary. Elections may not be won at this point, but they can be lost and not being able to spread the message is generally crippling to a statewide campaign.

The uninvited

For the last two CPACs, Bretbart News has hosted a gathering called “The Uninvited”, a meeting where those who speak to subjects taboo to the main conference meet. In 2013, they met in a side conference area well away from many of the main events and this year they left the Gaylord National Resort and Conference Center entirely, choosing the nearby Westin Hotel instead.

I bring this up not because I want to extend CPAC coverage, but it was the immediate thought I had after reading a piece by Jeff Quinton last night about a Larry Hogan-sponsored Maryland blogger gathering. Indeed, when asked by Quinton a few days ago I said I hadn’t heard about such a meeting so presumably I wasn’t invited – not that 4:30 on a Wednesday afternoon in Annapolis generally works for me anyway.

But I thought a little compare and contrast was in order, perhaps to help make Quinton’s overall point.

About 2 1/2 years ago, well before he officially announced but at a time when the wheels for a 2014 run were already in motion, David Craig gathered a number of prominent bloggers at the time (including a couple of the Red Maryland guys) for an informal Friday evening meeting in Annapolis.

But it didn’t stop there. Craig also made sure I was aware of the announcement tour stop in Salisbury and his staff arranged for me to have some time for an interview before they left. Insofar as I know, David has been fair to most of the bloggers – no complaints.

And while I haven’t had similar face time with either Ron George or Charles Lollar, Ron has taken care to call me or provide comment for my site on several occasions. I’ve also heard from members of Lollar’s staff regarding things going on in the new media world. On the other hand, it’s been a long time since I’ve spoken to Larry Hogan, but then I don’t initiate the conversation either. There was a point where I was trying to get him for the most recent Ten Questions series of interviews I did last year, but we couldn’t get a time coordinated and I eventually abandoned the effort.

Now I’m presuming the Hogan event would be patterned on the initial Craig soiree, and since there were about 10 or 11 total people there perhaps only six to eight bloggers were invited – figure four from Red Maryland, Jackie Wellfonder, and perhaps the folks from the Sun and Post and pretty soon you have a crowded table. But if a candidate really wanted to do it right, he or she would have 3 or 4 similar events around the state.

Then again, what do I know? In the scheme of things I’m just a blogger whose main complaint about the Hogan campaign isn’t lack of access but lack of detail, as in his plans for governance should he be fortunate enough to win. Maybe I’m just one voter but I have a lot of pet issues, so that’s why I want to know.

So I hope my cohorts have a good time this afternoon. I won’t be there, particularly since I’ll probably still be hard at work doing my outside job in the real world. But I’m sure I’ll hear about it from someone.

Pointing out and planning solutions

In life there is a difference between saying and doing. In this case neither protagonist, unfortunately, is in a position where they can do much more than talk and advocate but it is interesting to see what the two men in question have to say about a paticular situation.

First I’ll point out the talker:

More and more of our friends and neighbors are unemployed and our state economy remains stalled. Clearly, the economic policies of Martin O’Malley and Anthony Brown have failed, and it’s time for new leadership and a new direction in Annapolis.

The O’Malley/Brown Administration continues to drive taxpayers and job creators from Maryland and into the arms of better run, lower cost states.

Those were the words of gubernatiorial candidate Larry Hogan, whose campaign went on to point out that 9,800 Marylanders were furloughed in January and the state endured its worst year of job creation since the recession ended in 2009. (At least for some parts of the state, the question of whether we are back in one is open for debate.)

I will give some credit to Larry for beginning to round out a platform which doesn’t simply bash the incumbent and his heir apparent for tax increases or cite his group’s social media prowess:

Hogan, a business leader and former Maryland state cabinet secretary, favors a pro-growth agenda that combines reigning (sic) in Annapolis spending, jump starting the economy by cutting taxes on workers and their employers, and aggressively courting larger employers which in recent years have left Maryland for Virginia and other states.

We’re still a little vague as to specifics, but the ideas are mostly right out of the conservative playbook and certainly won’t hurt. I’m ever-so-slightly leery of the “cutting taxes on workers and their employers” line because that suggests only a targeted tax cut rather than the flattening (or complete elimination) of rates we need, but we’ll see where Larry goes with this one.

On the other hand – and I really wish he had said it a month ago, because it would have went perfectly with this post – David Craig has a grand idea:

Harford County Executive and Maryland Governor Candidate David Craig called on incumbent Governor Martin O’Malley to push the Obama Administration to complete a final regulatory review to enable a facility in southern Maryland to export liquefied natural gas. The issue takes on greater urgency as the Ukraine and several European countries seek long-term solutions to reduce dependence on Russian energy exports.

“Now is not the time for dithering and red tape,” said Craig. “Maryland is on the verge of being only the second state in the country to export liquefied natural gas and our proximity to the Marcellus Shale, and the Atlantic Ocean and existing infrastructure gives us a competitive advantage that nobody else has. Maryland can attract thousands of energy sector jobs and help assert U.S. influence in the crisis in the Ukraine. But we must act now.”

Ambassadors to the U.S. from Hungary, Poland and the Czech and Slovak republics wrote House Speaker John Boehner last week that U.S. “natural gas would be much welcome in Central and Eastern Europe, and Congressional action to expedite [liquefied natural gas] exports to America’s allies would come at a critically important time for the region.”

The U.S. Department of Energy has approved just six export licenses for LNG projects, including Cove Point, since 2011. Dominion Resources-owned Cove Point, in Lusby, MD, is one of about 20 U.S. projects that want to export LNG. Of those, only one, in Louisiana, has full federal permitting.

Delays in Maryland are coming on multiple fronts. Political support among the O’Malley-Brown Administration is non-existent. Gubernatorial candidate and legislator Heather Mizeur is leading the charge in outright opposition to the project, while Lt. Gov. and front-runner candidate Anthony Brown promotes “environmental justice,” a left-wing social movement that attempts to stifle energy exploration wherever politically-favored constituencies may object. The other democratic gubernatorial candidate, the current Attorney General, is opposed to timely approval of the project. Apart from general statements about the importance of developing jobs and traditional forms of energy, GOP primary candidates for Governor have heretofore not yet articulated positions on the issue. (Links added.)

Given my interest in energy-related issues, I can’t believe I missed that originally – the release has been out about a week – but I’m glad David Craig is coming out on the right side of this issue. As I pointed out last month, Dominion Resources, the operator of the Cove Point facility, estimated that 4,000 construction jobs and 14,600 permanent positions could be created through this $3.5 billion investment. Those could be 14,600 people paying taxes and investing in our communities rather than wondering what comes next after the unemployment runs out or making plans to escape Maryland for greener pastures like Virginia, the Carolinas, Florida, or Texas. Democrats often talk about making “investments” with our tax dollars, well, here’s an investment that the private sector is willing to make and government is mad because they can’t control who receives it. Let’s throw them a pity party: awwwwwwww….

Running mate Jeannie Haddaway made another good point in that statement:

Instead of picking winners and losers and subsidizing the most expensive options such as wind energy, we should be taking advantage of our existing resources and diversifying in a way that is meaningful to our economy and to job creation.

The choice is clear, the opportunity is now.

I look at it this way: if there were a market for wind energy, we would already have plenty of infrastructure out there. But the fact we have to subsidize its meager presence and carve out market share for it tells me wind is an economic loser overall. Just like solar energy, it’s only as reliable as atmospheric conditions allow it to be. And while solar and wind are considered “green” energy, the birds being cooked or bats being exterminated might beg to differ.

So we can exacerbate the unemployment problem or we can put the people in place to help create jobs. It’s your choice, Maryland.

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