Announcing: the 2016 monoblogue Accountability Project

June 6, 2016 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Announcing: the 2016 monoblogue Accountability Project 

For the tenth year in a row, I have graded all 188 legislators in the Maryland General Assembly based on their voting patterns on a number of key issues. Beginning with sine die back in April, I started looking into both floor and committee votes trying to find those which reflected conservative principles, with an eye on civil liberties as well. The final product, all 27 pages, can be found right here or in its usual sidebar location.

You’ll notice the look is a little different this year, as I decided to scrap the old two-column format and just give it more of a standard form that’s easier to read. I also changed the font to something a little more stylistic. On the charts themselves, I decided to eliminate the committee votes from the main chart and instead added two new pages for those votes so that all of the legislators on the committee can be more directly compared.

As for the votes themselves, the overriding theme to me was fiscal. Democrats don’t like not being in the governor’s chair to spend money, so they are trying to use their legislative majority to force Governor Hogan to spend more. To the majority, there are two advantages to this approach: not only can they give handouts to favored constituencies, but they can prevent Hogan from finding the savings he can use to cut taxes and fees. Their goal seems to be putting our governor in a position where he has to raise taxes, which is music to the ears of people like Mike Miller and Michael Busch.

So you’ll notice quite a few floor votes deal with these sort of mandates. There are also quite a few intended to strip power from the Executive Branch (which wasn’t an issue just two short years ago) and tie the hands of businesses because government needs something to justify its existence.

I note in the conclusion that there were far fewer correct votes this year, and a large part of that was the mix of bills I selected. Last year I had an average House score of 39.82 and Senate count of 41.15. This was because a lot of Democrats got scores in the 20s, and that was based on their support for marijuana and civil liberties legislation I favored. This year, not so much as the averages plummeted to 27.1 in the House and 23.26 in the Senate. Being a more hardline fiscal conservative this year (because they addressed the issues they were with me on last year) changed a lot of Democratic scores from 24 to a big fat zero. On the other hand, I had only seen two perfect scores in nine previous years but got two in one session this year for the first time.

I’ve been warned that the third year of the cycle is always the most ambitious for policy, although liberals are dangerous any year. There are a few things that were stopped this year that we will surely see in 2017, such as paid sick leave. I also expect a bid to extend the fracking moratorium as part of a broad environmental package – the wackos were strangely quiet this year but I think 2017 brings some interim deadlines and reports on Bay cleanup. Add in the trend to mandate more spending and 2017 will be an interesting time.

One final change comes in the sidebar. I’m leaving the 2015 report available as part of a long-term process to show trends for the 2015-18 term. As one example, I think the candidacies of Kathy Szeliga and David Vogt affected their voting patterns – you’ll be able to judge for yourself now.

Feel free to print yourself a copy for your use, just don’t forget where it came from.

A passionate endorsement of Szeliga

March 30, 2016 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2016, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on A passionate endorsement of Szeliga 

In the opening days of her campaign, Kathy Szeliga announced she had the support of practically every Republican member of the Maryland General Assembly. So I wasn’t surprised to see a more recent message from Delegate Mary Beth Carozza backing her, but the content of that endorsement was more interesting and compelling than most boilerplate endorsements I hear about.

I’m going to quote Carozza at some length here, so be ready:

I am excited to share the news that I am endorsing my friend and colleague, Kathy Szeliga, as our next United States Senator.

Kathy is a true friend and a real team player. When I first made the decision with my family to be a candidate for State Delegate in new District 38C,  Kathy was the among the first Republican leaders to call me, thank me for running, and ask how she could help my campaign.

Actions always speak louder than words, and Kathy was my special guest for my first reception at The Atlantic Hotel, hosted by Michelle and John Fager, back in July of 2013.  For the past three years, Kathy has continued to take time from her summer vacations in Ocean City to spend time with my supporters throughout the district.

(snip)

Kathy knows and loves the Shore.  She understands the challenges we face in protecting our key industries of tourism, agriculture, and small business.  She appreciates the value of our beaches, bay, and boardwalk as well as our commercial and recreational fishing and boating industry.  (Plus, Kathy met her husband years ago in Ocean City!)

I’m also proud to say that Kathy Szeliga has been right there from the very beginning with her strong support for Governor Larry Hogan.  We both knocked on plenty of doors and campaigned hard for Larry Hogan in the last election because we so strongly believe in the Governor’s leadership in changing Maryland for the better. Now during the legislative session, we’ve both been in the trenches working hard to put Maryland’s fiscal house in order and bring common sense tax and regulatory relief to Maryland small businesses and families.

Now we need Kathy Szeliga to bring that same change to Washington, DC.!  Join Kathy’s team and learn more about her commitment to all of Maryland by visiting (her website. I link to it in the sidebar.)

Even if you factor in the obvious fact that Mary Beth and Kathy are both elected officials in the same body, you should give Szeliga credit for trying to build the Maryland GOP – granted, Carozza’s district was sort of a gimme for the GOP because Democrats were trying to pack Norm Conway’s district with as many District 38 Democrats as they could. But Mary Beth worked hard for all of the 70-plus percent of the vote she received and Kathy was a significant part of that early effort.

Yet the concern I have with Szeliga (not necessarily Mary Beth, but her endorsement gives me the chance to speak about this) is the utter lack of specifics I find on issues. Her website doesn’t have an issues page and, to be quite honest, I haven’t sat down and listened to the handful of debates she’s been featured in. My fear with any GOP candidate is that they will go up against the Democrat (likely either Chris Van Hollen or Donna Edwards) and they will try to out-concern the other side, speaking in platitudes and soundbites rather than solutions.

Nor do I see Kathy as a particularly pro-liberty candidate: one example is a recent post she put up regarding speed camera repeal and why she voted to kill the bill – it covered work zone cameras in addition to red-light and speed cameras. In my monoblogue Accountability Project from last year I also found she voted against a repeal bill in committee. If it was that important, I have to ask why she didn’t attempt to amend either bill?

We also have the bill she co-sponsored in 2014 (as part of the county delegation) regarding the Harford County Republican Central Committee in an attempt to create a committee more to her liking.

While I’m certainly not going to go all #NeverKathy on the race, suffice to say I’m not sure I share Mary Beth’s enthusiasm regarding Szeliga for Senate.

On the other hand, I really want to give props to Delegate David Vogt for this website, which is still making me chuckle. Nothing like a little pre-emptive strike, particularly since it all rings so true.

A race for 2018?

March 8, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on A race for 2018? 

Bloggers love it when they can tie multiple points together in one cohesive post, and here I have the opportunity to do so thanks to a press release from Delegate David Vogt, who is moonlighting as a candidate for Congress from the Sixth Congressional District. Here’s what Vogt had to say about likely opponent John Delaney and his insistence that Larry Hogan should denounce GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump:

John Delaney should just go ahead and declare his candidacy for Governor so he can stop pretending to represent the 6th District.  Congressman Delaney would rather support an avowed socialist or a career criminal over an accomplished businessman who is tackling the issues that matter.

The Congressman’s time in office has been spent as a rubber-stamp for the failed Obama/Pelosi liberal agenda, and it is no surprise that he is calling on one popular, successful Republican to denounce another.

The people of the 6th District need a Congressman, not a political pundit, and Delaney’s incompetent handling of the Iran nuclear deal, the Syrian refugee crisis, and Obamacare shows that he isn’t qualified to be either.

It’s intriguing to me that Vogt feels that way because I have those same suspicions about Delaney’s plans for 2018. In a lot of respects, Delaney is the Democratic mirror image of Hogan with a business background and, aside from the two terms in Congress, a similar political record. (Had Hogan had a specially-gerrymandered district created for him, perhaps he would have gone in another direction after winning his 1992 Congressional campaign. It was a trajectory his old boss, Bob Ehrlich, employed in 2002.)

Obviously Democrats are trying to throw the kitchen sink at Hogan legislatively but try as they might Hogan’s approval numbers continue to rise, reaching a stratospheric 70 percent in the most recent Maryland Poll released today. (H/T: Maryland Reporter.) Yes, that is 7 out of 10. I have no doubt they may chip away at the approval rating as a strategy but Maryland Democrats also have to find a candidate willing to take on a popular Republican governor running for re-election. Will anyone have the same ambitious streak as Martin O’Malley?

There’s one thing missing from the Maryland Poll that would serve as a counterpoint to Hogan’s numbers, and that is an approval rating for the General Assembly. We know Congress is unpopular (although the “throw the bastards out” mentality stops with their own representative) but no one polls regarding our body politic either during or after the “90 days of terror.” With the number of veto overrides and the blockage of some of Hogan’s legislation, it would be intriguing to see how popular the Maryland legislature is.

But returning to 2018: the Democrats have a relatively short bench of willing candidates with name recognition, and it’s unclear just how well Delaney is known outside the Capital region. The only other statewide candidate being mentioned is Peter Franchot, and right now he has a rather sweet gig as Comptroller – maybe not quite to the extent of Louis Goldstein, but if he wants another term or two it’s doubtful Maryland voters would object. At the age of 70 by the time the 2018 election comes around, Franchot would be the oldest governor to win election in at least a century. (AG Brian Frosh is reputedly not interested in being Governor.)

As for Hogan and Trump, that’s a matchup which seems like oil and water. While I’m sure Hogan respects the business acumen of Trump, the bombast The Donald brings is a polarizing feature among both parties that Hogan is likely to avoid. Hogan was indebted to Chris Christie for campaigning on his behalf, but if I were to pick a remaining hopeful Hogan would back he probably lines up best with fellow Governor John Kasich. But Hogan may just steer clear of an endorsement until mid-April, seeing who is still in the race.

Shifting out of PARCC

As I noted yesterday, there was an item brought to my attention by the Worcester County TEA Party. Fortunately, their version is slightly inaccurate in a good way.

According to their communication, Governor Hogan only had until June 1 to act. That date is problematic because he will be in the opening stages of a 12-day trip to Asia to drum up business for Maryland. I’m definitely not crazy about this trip – considering many on our side chastised Martin O’Malley for doing the same thing – but it is what it is, and that’s really not the subject of the post.

Let me refer to the actual authors to set things straight. This is from the Stop PARCC in Maryland group:

In June 2010, Governor Martin O’Malley and former State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick signed a Memorandum of Understanding that committed Maryland to the various guidelines, by-laws, and responsibilities of membership in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) consortium.  (The complete Memorandum of Understanding can be found by clicking here.)

Section VII, Subsection B of the Memorandum of Understanding states:

“In the event that the governor or chief state school officer is replaced in a Consortium state, the successor in that office shall affirm in writing to the Governing Board Chair the State’s continued commitment to participation in the Consortium and to the binding commitments made by that official’s predecessor within five (5) months of taking office.”

On January 21, 2015, Governor Larry Hogan was inaugurated and took office as Maryland’s 62nd Governor. According to the Memorandum of Understanding, Governor Hogan has until June 21, 2015 to recommit Maryland to the PARCC consortium.

We believe that the “shall affirm” provision, in this case, is directory (non-binding) and not mandatory due to the nature of the agreement as well as legal precedent.

We believe that the Governor has the authority to nullify Maryland’s agreement with the PARCC consortium simply by declining to reaffirm the state’s commitment within this five month window.

We believe that Governor Hogan is in a unique position to reclaim, remodel, and rediscover Maryland education.

In looking through the Stop PARCC website, I also found a letter from Delegate David Vogt in which he implores Hogan to withdraw, citing Florida as one example of a state which has done so. In fact, there are over a dozen states (including neighboring Virginia and Pennsylvania) which have already withdrawn from PARCC or a similar testing regimen called SBAC or joined neither in the first place – Virginia is one of four that never adopted either idea.

The objection to each of these is simple: they were adopted as a one-size-fits-all scheme in which hundreds of millions of federal dollars were shoveled to states to bribe them into compliance. The concept of local control is being usurped more and more by these standards; meanwhile, we are finding more and more that Johnny not only can’t read, but he has trouble with math and knows little about basic science, history, and geography – however, he is programmed to regurgitate whatever topical talking points are popular with the teachers’ unions.

Maryland is supposed to be one of the best states for education – so why are we lowering ourselves to “average” standards? We can be a leader by encouraging innovation and letting local districts work to educate students in the basics, with the emphasis on teaching in time-tested methods proven successful rather than catering to a testing regimen that takes up valuable classroom time.

When three should be one

Last month I wrote about the controversy some Central Committees around the state faced when it came to filling vacancies for Senator and Delegate positions. It boiled down to the preference of Governor Hogan to have a selection of names to choose from when it came to these positions clashing with both the desire of local Central Committees to make the choice and the language of Section 13 of the Maryland Constitution.

If you look at those who have been appointed so far to the various positions, there is a level of familiarity involved: Barrie Ciliberti is a former Delegate returning to the House of Delegates, while Andrew Serafini and Justin Ready have moved up from the House to the Senate to fill vacancies there. The seats formerly held by Ready and Serafini are among the three current vacancies in the House of Delegates, with the other being the seat formerly belonging to Delegate Cathy Vitale, who was tapped by the outgoing O’Malley administration to fill an Anne Arundel County judgeship.

In the cases of Ciliberti, Ready, and now Vitale, there has been no shortage of controversy in filling the seats. Supporters of Wendi Peters, who finished fourth in the District 4 primary for Delegate, fumed that a member of the slate also consisting of Delegates Kathy Afzali and David Vogt and Senator Michael Hough leapfrogged Peters in the selection process – Barrie Ciliberti was fifth in that primary, but a Frederick County Republican Central Committee consisting of Hough supporters made the decision with Carroll County’s body tabbing Ciliberti as one of their three finalists as well.

Carroll County’s Republican Central Committee has its own stain, replacing its original choice of Robin Bartlett Frazier for District 5 Senate at the behest of the Hogan Administration, which insisted that they amend the process to permit the elevation of then-Delegate Justin Ready to the Senate.

With Anne Arundel County now under the gun to replace Vitale, the three vs. one controversy is back. According to an article in the Capital Gazette by Chase Cook and Sarah Haynesworth, Anne Arundel County’s Central Committee is planning to send just one name to Governor Hogan – at least until there’s a formal request to do otherwise. Apparently such a request is on its way.

If it were my Central Committee, though, that formal request would be crumpled up and thrown into the circular file. The Gazette piece quotes current Delegate Tony McConkey at length, noting that he’s advising the AARCC to send just one name.

As I stated in January, the selection of a state officer should be done closest to the district involved, meaning it would be the Central Committee’s task to select the recipient and not the Governor’s. It’s a similar argument to the one we as a Central Committee have made regarding the wisdom of an elected Board of Education for Wicomico County as opposed to the current system of appointees from the governor’s office in Annapolis. Assuming we get the school board as currently envisioned, even the appointees for the hybrid portion of the board and for any vacancies would be done locally.

Yet there’s now another element being thrown into the mix. On her way out the door Delegate Vitale introduced HB1070, which would change the Maryland Constitution to allow for a special election in Presidential years once a vacancy is created. As an example, if the law were in effect today those who were recently appointed would face re-election in 2016 to a two-year term rather than serving all the way until 2018. In its description of the proposal the Gazette is incorrect because the earliest we could see such an election would be 2020 – even if passed this year it would be on the 2016 statewide ballot as a question (most likely Question 1.)

In some respects this is a good idea, but I think this would be very confusing to voters. In certain time frames, it could also be difficult to get a person to serve unless it was understood they would be a caretaker member until the election was over – sort of like the situation we faced in replacing Page Elmore in 2010 during the midst of a primary campaign for his successor. The consensus we reached with Somerset County was to put his widow in the seat until the new Delegate was elected (which turned out to be Charles Otto.)

Nor should we forget that, when the shoe was on the other foot and a Democrat was appointing for a Democratic seat, only one name was turned in by the local party organizations.

If appointments are going to be done in Annapolis from a list of three names, it begs the question: just what function do Central Committees have, anyway? At that point the Appointments Secretary just might as well handle the whole thing. I hope that’s not the overall intent of the Hogan administration, but right now they seem to want to cut the locals out of the process where they can and it’s disappointing.

Back to normalcy

It’s not quite as momentous as the 1920 election, where Warren G. Harding made my title part of his post-World War sloganeering, but today the holidays are now behind us, we return to the five-day workweek, and the political world awakens from its slumber later this week as Congress returns to session. (Maryland politicians will wait another week, as the second Wednesday in January falls at its latest possible date, the 14th.) Soon we will begin to see if the solutions that were promised to the voters will be the agenda for the new sessions.

But there are other aspects of “normalcy” we are beginning to see as well, as the power brokers jockey for position in the Republican Party. Case in point: the hue and cry put up by supporters of the next-highest primary vote-getter in the process of selecting a replacement for Delegate Kelly Schulz, who was tapped by Governor-elect Hogan to be his Secretary of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation. It was up to the Frederick County Republican Central Committee to select three people for a final interview process out of the sixteen applicants, and the three they selected were Barrie Ciliberti, a former delegate from Montgomery County who finished fifth in the primary (the top three advanced); Paul Stull, a former delegate who lost to Schulz in the 2010 Republican primary, closing a 16-year run in the House, and Chris Glass, Sr.

Wendi Peters, who finished fourth in the primary, did not get the nod to move on. Her sin? Not being on a slate with Senator-elect Michael Hough, Delegate Kathy Afzali, Delegate-elect David Vogt, and Ciliberti. Instead, she was a supporter of losing Senator David Brinkley – yet she had the backing of Schulz for the seat. A Central Committee chaired by JoeyLynn Hough made the selections.

I’ve been around this block a time or two. As a member of a Central Committee, our focus in selecting replacements was on whether the new person would be relatively conservative and also electable for the next term. Admittedly, we’ve had at least one swing and miss in this regard but the County Council chose not to select our committee’s top vote-getter for a 2011 vacancy. In the instance of picking a Delegate – which we had to help Somerset County do when Page Elmore passed away in 2010 – it occurred at a time when we didn’t want to influence a primary campaign in progress, so we agreed to select his wife Carolyn to finish the term.

In Frederick County’s case, an argument could be made for the former Delegates but personally I would have preferred someone younger than their late seventies, which is the case for both Ciliberti and Stull. But ignoring the voters who picked Peters as the highest vote-getter that didn’t advance – as well as the choice of the Delegate who is leaving the seat to replace her – seems to me a slap in the face to those voters over petty politics and a disservice to the Republicans they purport to represent. It’s a battle which reminds me of the entirety of the District 36 fiasco back in 2013 when Senator E.J. Pipkin resigned.

On a national level, this is reflected in the grassroots movement to dump John Boehner as Speaker of the House. Take as an example an e-mail I received from the Wicomico Patriots:

Now it is time to engage again as Congress returns on Tuesday to swear in the members and to vote for Speaker of the House. Please call or write an email to Andy Harris encouraging him to vote for a new speaker. It only takes 29 congressmen to block Boehner’s re-election as speaker. Once he is blocked, the opportunity is there for a new person to step up.

I am aware that it is potentially politically dangerous for Andy Harris to vote against Boehner. If Boehner were to win anyway, then he can retaliate by removing people from their prestigious positions. Andy Harris is on the appropriations committee, one of the most powerful committees. However, we did not vote for Andy Harris so that he could protect his political power in DC. We voted for Andy Harris to stop the Obama agenda. Boehner has been completely ineffectual in stopping Obama.

So, Andy Harris, will you listen to the people who got you elected and take the difficult step of voting against Boehner or will you continue to follow him?

Your CRomnibus vote was very discouraging to your conservative base. Do we really think that you and Boehner will suddenly get the courage to block the funding of Homeland Security in February? Do you think that blocking funding for that is easier than refusing the whole 1000 page monstrosity called cromnibus?

No, the excuses keep coming as the can is kicked down the road over and over again. Now is the time for you to stand up and fight for us.

Please do contact Andy Harris at: (202) 225-5311. (Emphasis mine.)

And here’s my own message to the Congressman:

For too long we have heard excuse after excuse from your leadership, accompanied by the promise to fight at the next critical juncture. If the Republicans want to be the opposition party they were elected by We the People to be, then they need to show some opposition on Obamacare, on securing the border and addressing executive actions further encouraging the torrent of illegal immigration, and on spending beyond our means. Collectively, you will be painted as a “do-nothing Congress” by the President, Democrats, and media (but I repeat myself) anyway so just pass those common-sense measures and dare Obama to veto them.

In short, we want a Speaker of the House with the backbone to stand up to Barack Obama so we demand you withhold your vote from John Boehner. It’s worth pointing out that a 2016 Congressional run from a conservative member of the Maryland General Assembly is possible and doable – just as you did against a sitting Wayne Gilchrest when you were first nominated in 2008. Certainly there would be a monetary disadvantage for the challenger, but in my opinion no one should be immune from a serious primary challenge – particularly if he or she isn’t listening to the wishes of the district being represented. A poll cited by Jim Geraghty of National Review Online shows 60% of Republicans would “probably” or “definitely” replace Boehner as Speaker. Even as an Ohio native, count me as a “definite.”

These are two stories to keep your eye on in the coming days. Why do I get a sinking feeling they won’t end well for the good guys?

Who will vote for Vogt now?

January 28, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Who will vote for Vogt now? 

The uphill battle is over.

This morning I received the following release in my e-mail:

David Vogt, a Marine combat veteran and former Military Times’ Marine of the Year, announced on Tuesday morning that he will not continue to seek the Republican nomination for United States Congress in Maryland’s 6th Congressional District. The seat is currently held by Democrat John Delaney. Vogt has been very critical of Congressman Delaney’s continued support for the Affordable Care Act and his partisan voting record. “His voting record and lack of presence within our district are exactly why he needs to be replaced during the 2014 election cycle,” Vogt said.

Vogt launched his campaign for Congress in June of last year and was the first Republican to officially file with the Maryland State Board of Elections.

“After spending much time discussing with friends, family, and supporters, I have decided to withdraw from the Republican primary in the Sixth District,” Vogt announced. “I have traveled all over this district in the past several months, and I have spoken with countless Marylanders who have been adversely affected by a failed Big Government agenda. I will continue to offer my fervent support of returning statesmanship to our district, state and country regardless of candidacy. In direct regard to our 6th Congressional District, I wish Dan Bongino the best of luck in his fight to restore conservative principles to Western Maryland.”

“Although I am withdrawing from this race, I remain committed to our community, our state, and our nation. I will continue my work in assisting our military veterans and their families as I have with the Major General Boyd Cook Memorial Foundation, Toys-for-Tots and Operation Second Chance and I look forward to continue being involved in our futures together as neighbors and friends. The fight for liberty and the advancement of the American Dream is never finished, and it must be fought for on every level: municipal, county, state and national. If we forfeit the fight on any battlefield, then we have forfeited the rights given by God alone,” Vogt exclaimed.

Vogt is considering entering a more local race during the 2014 cycle.

So Vogt just ceded ground to Dan Bongino in the Sixth District Congressional race, although there was little doubt Bongino had the campaign funding and name recognition to prevail in the primary anyway. What interested me, though, was the last line.

In looking up the district where Vogt’s hometown of Brunswick lies, it appears Vogt now resides in District 4. In the former configuration, however, Brunswick was in District 3B, represented by Delegate Michael Hough. If Vogt were to run for a state seat, he’s now in the same district as Senate Minority Leader David Brinkley, along with Hough and fellow Delegates Kathy Afzali and Kelly Schulz, who represent the current District 4A. All of them are Republicans, but at this point, Schulz is the only one who has filed for a House seat. Interestingly enough, though, today the lone person who had filed for State Senate, Jason Miller, withdrew from the race – seems to be coincidental timing there, doesn’t it?

On the other hand, if Vogt were to aspire to a County Council position, he would be in the newly-created Frederick County Council District 1, where no Republican has filed.

Of course, I don’t believe in “turns” nor do I think anyone is entitled to a legislative seat. But the chances are pretty good that Vogt may step out of the frying pan into the fire. We’ll see how his political moxie is built in a local race, should he choose to go that route.

One extra seat

October 9, 2013 · Posted in Campaign 2014, Inside the Beltway, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, Polling, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on One extra seat 

I received an amusing pictorial e-mail today from the Democratic National Committee. I guess when you’re targeting low-information voters you need plenty of pictures.

But it shows just what’s at stake in 2014.

Never mind that the poll the Democrats cite (from the left-leaning Public Policy Polling) pits these Republicans against a “generic” Democrat – once an actual candidate is selected the numbers generally go down. It’s also a simple registered voter poll, and may not accurately reflect the electorate in the region. (No one’s ever oversampled Democrats to get a desired result before. </sarc>)

The PPP survey is sort of like the generic ballot polling an outfit like Rasmussen does, where they pit the broad base of Republicans vs. the broad base of Democrats. At this time the numbers are even, which suggests not much will change. (This is particularly surprising given the negative coverage House Republicans have endured throughout the Obama temper tantrum shutdown slowdown.) Bear in mind as well the PPP survey was conducted in the first few days of the Obama/Reid shutdown, before many major developments in the story.

So it’s important to cede no ground to the Democrats. And history isn’t on their side – with the exception of 1998, where Democrats picked up 5 seats, the opposition party to the President has added seats in Congress in every second-term midterm election since 1952. The range was from 5 seats in 1986 (Reagan) to 49 seats in 1958 (Eisenhower) and 1974, the post-Watergate Ford election. 1966 was another watershed year, with incumbent Democrats under Lyndon Johnson losing 47 seats. So Barack Obama would have to buck a historical trend to gain seats, let alone recapture the majority.

Nor has it been considered that the Republicans might pick up some vulnerable Democrat seats as well. Certainly the opponents of Sixth District Congressman John Delaney aren’t taking this lying down. They’re either playing up the trustworthiness angle, like Dan Bongino does in this video:

(By the way, if you look closely you’ll see my cohort Jackie Wellfonder in the video in a couple spots.)

Or they’re hammering the incumbent for turning his back on veterans, like Marine David Vogt:

A conversation about the Affordable Care Act and the harmful effects it is having on the American people is one we need to have. But we can’t have that conversation while our leaders are engaged in a partisan, political playground feud. Each side is guilty, and neither side is leading. Leadership means getting in the conference room and hammering out a solution, not holding a press conference just to call the opposition a new name and to repeat the same talking points that have obviously gotten us nowhere.

Our leaders have forgotten who they are in Washington to represent. Last week, I watched in amazement and disgust as my opponent voted to block funding for veterans’ benefits because he decided politics and standing by his party’s leadership came before service to his constituents and the American people. This is inexcusable.

Washington is supposed to work for us, not against us. These days it often seems that our elected officials do more to work against the American people than they do to help us. We don’t have time for political bickering. We have more pressing issues than each side’s attempt to save face. We need leadership, but it doesn’t appear we are going to get it anytime soon.

Obviously we won’t get new leadership until after the 2014 elections. And while I wouldn’t mind replacing John Boehner as Speaker, I’m hoping we do so with a much more conservative bulldog with TEA Party roots, not the shrill uber-liberal shill Nancy Pelosi. She had her time and set the stage for Barack Obama ruining the country, so let’s send a message to the Democrats and seize the narrative.

Allen West: Dan’s the man

September 16, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Allen West: Dan’s the man 

Once again taking what would normally be a fairly localized race and nationalizing it, Sixth District Congressional candidate Dan Bongino announced his first major national endorsement today: former Congressman and conservative darling Lt. Col. Allen West.

In a statement released today, Bongino simply noted:

I am both proud and honored to receive the endorsement of Lt. Col. West, a man who has developed a large national following due to his reliance on principles and not cheap party politics.

There will be a formal event October 10 in Washington, D.C. to officially make the endorsement, in which Dan is joined by three other officeseekers.

But this is important in nationalizing the race because West’s Guardian Fund has plenty of support nationwide, despite the fact West was a one-term Congressman from Florida. Needless to say, I don’t think Dan is going to honor opponent David Vogt’s call for a campaign finance limit in the race, perhaps because incumbent Congressman John Delaney has plenty of money himself.

Meanwhile, Dan continues to rack up support from potential TEA Party peers in Washington and beyond – but it brings a point to mind. Obviously. since we are nowhere near the Sixth District, I have no idea how the grassroots in that region are taking to Bongino since he’s an outsider to the district. I know he had plenty of support in his statewide race from a plethora of volunteers, but I need to be convinced that the same passion is there this time around. While some had fun at Vogt’s handling of the Richard Douglas endorsement, having someone familiar with the lay of the land like Bud Otis can be an advantage as well. It means Vogt might be showing up at the right events and meeting the correct people therein.

But can that compete with the influence and power of Allen West? Only time will tell.

Some Syria reaction

September 10, 2013 · Posted in National politics, Politics · Comments Off on Some Syria reaction 

Among those who have weighed in on the Syrian issue are our Congressman and two would-be Congressmen from the Sixth District.

First District representative Andy Harris, who has a vote in the matter, put out this statement today:

After much consideration, including attending a classified intelligence briefing, I do not believe using military force against Syria is in the national security interest of the United States. At this point, I won’t be supporting any authorization to use military force if it is brought to a vote in Congress. The use of chemical weapons is a very serious matter for the international community that should not be tolerated, but this Administration has failed to lay out a coherent strategy for why using American military force in this situation is in the best interest of the country.

Fairly straightforward and boilerplate; I could probably find similar statements coming from six dozen other Republicans in Congress.

On the other hand, those who are running in District 6 had more of a rhetorical flourish. Since he was first to the post, let me present what candidate David Vogt had to say:

The Congressional vote on Syrian military intervention will most likely occur this week. While there is heated debate from many sides arguing for various actions, I am calling on Congressman John Delaney to consider the overwhelming opinion of the American people and to side with reason, not emotion, in this debate.

I suffer no illusions about Bashar al-Assad or the vile act of a leader murdering his own people. The suffering and death of the Syrian people are very real. My thoughts and prayers are with them.

However, the difficulty, as an outside nation, is in determining not only if we should intervene, but how? What is our objective, and what is our exit strategy? Are we accomplishing a goal, fighting for a stalemate, or further destabilizing the conflict? Would we be removing chemical weapons from the hands of a tyrant, yet creating the risk that they fall under the control of an unknown opposition force with their own agenda? After all, the lesser of two evils is still evil.

Faced with more questions than answers and such little international support, we must balance our desire to police the world with our obligation to act rationally. This particular situation is one with no defined goal, and American interests are not threatened by a lack of action. Diplomatic options have not been exhausted, and it is not even clear that they have been fully explored.

The world should take a stand against the use of chemical weapons in any country, but the time to have made a direct impact on Syria has passed. This situation has devolved from a humanitarian mission to a political game in which the American people want no part.

In a case of the people versus the establishment, the people’s voice must always be heard. This Marine is saying no to the establishment and no to military intervention.

I would vote “No” on this resolution, and I am calling on Congressman Delaney to do the same. The Congressman should not vote to authorize military conflict, but should instead push the President and his peers to pursue a solution that places the chemical weapons under secure, international control.

This was actually quite perceptive because I think this is the solution currently being favored as the answer to avoid direct American military involvement. Vogt makes the great point that if action were to occur, it should have already commenced.

Meanwhile, fellow Republican candidate Dan Bongino had his own thoughts:

Last week during a Senate hearing on the use of force in Syria, Sen. Bob Corker asked what the United States is “seeking” in Syria. Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had no answer. “I can’t answer that, what we’re seeking,” he said.

This is indicative of the Obama administration’s lack of a discernible foreign policy strategy towards Syria. A limited strike in Syria is nothing more than a face-saving measure for President Obama which could potentially draw America into yet another full-scale war in the Middle East.

After a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan where billions of dollars were spent and thousands of lives were lost, a military intervention in a Syrian civil war that is not connected to the national security interest of the United States is the wrong course of action for our nation.

Dan makes the case, by tying this situation into that in Iraq and Afghanistan, that Americans are tired of war – and he’s right. I’m not as sure this situation is equal because we have no al-Qaeda or Taliban to use as an enemy; in fact, the solution advocated assumes that only the Syrian government has chemical weapons, not the rebel groups. If the rebels have secured their own supply we just barked up the wrong tree.

For his part, District 6 Congressman John Delaney was coy on his Syria stance in a September 1 interview with WTTG-TV in Washington. He hasn’t made a public declaration on Syria since that point.

If there will be a vote of Syria – after President Obama’s remarks this evening, it’s anyone’s guess whether one will occur – it’s plain that Andy Harris will be a “no” vote, siding with the American people unconvinced our national interest would be at stake from events there and having no desire to lob a few cruise missiles into the beleaguered nation. I suspect that will meet with the approval of his district.

Finally, as an aside: shouldn’t we be hearing from Republican candidates from the other six districts on this?

Bongino: I won’t be a lifer

August 24, 2013 · Posted in Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on Bongino: I won’t be a lifer 

Expanding on a possible “outsider vs. establishment” theme to get him through a Sixth District primary against at least two challengers (David Vogt and, more recently, 2012 aspirant Brandon Rippeon) Dan Bongino promised “I will always be one of you. I will never be one of them.”

At this time, the front of his campaign website has four promises he’s vowing to keep: in brief, they are donating half his salary to charity, not voting for anything which “exempts the political class”, no free vacations (or as he calls them, foreign junkets), and most importantly to me, a six-year term limit. On that point Dan says:

I will serve no more than 6 years or three terms in the House of Representatives. One cannot speak of term limits within a specific office while insulated within that office from the very people they are elected to serve.

That’s only half of what Andy Harris promised informally when he took office in 2010. But what’s most intriguing to me is that Dan will only be 46 when that time is up, in a year where nothing will be on the ballot except a Presidential election and his seat. I know the 2020 election seems a long way off, but if Dan holds true to his word he would be on the ballot in 2014, 2016, and 2018.

Now that doesn’t mean, of course, that Dan couldn’t serve just two terms in Washington and then decide to run for governor, presumably in this case against a Democratic incumbent. Another option would be what one could call the Martin O’Malley option: spend the two years between the end of the term and the election stumping for higher office. That would mean a 2022 run for governor, when the seat would be open unless a new governor is elected in 2018.

Needless to say there’s a whole lot of speculation in all this, but one has to ask: when Bob Ehrlich won a Congressional seat in 1994, did anyone foresee it as a springboard to the governorship eight years later? Maybe lightning could strike twice in Maryland.

Another vote for Vogt

It’s beginning to look like a race out in the Sixth District, but the question is now becoming one of whether the establishment Republican is really Dan Bongino, who earned his stripes by garnering the Maryland GOP’s senatorial nomination last April. Consider that Dan’s closest opponent in that race, Richard Douglas, is now backing Vogt:

Service in the armed forces is not the only quality required of a conscientious member of Congress. But it is an enormous asset. For this reason, I believe that former Marine rifleman and Afghanistan veteran David Vogt is the best choice to represent Maryland District 6 in the U.S House of Representatives.

During the last twelve years, our nation’s most important national security enterprises have been combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. After September 11, 2001, Americans like Mr. Vogt enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and other branches of the armed forces to perform our nation’s dangerous and demanding work. They volunteered without fanfare, fully aware that they would be deployed to combat theaters, rifle in hand. Their willingness to go in harm’s way is the essence of service and sacrifice.

Even Americans who opposed U.S. operations in Iraq or Afghanistan can appreciate the worth of such badly-needed qualities, today, in every walk of our often-troubled national life. These qualities are important because the interests of Maryland and our nation often demand that elected representatives in Congress, regardless of party, cross swords with the people who govern us from the White House, the Pentagon and other Executive branch departments and independent agencies.

Staring down the President, the Pentagon, a massive bureaucracy, or your own party leadership to serve the people takes genuine courage. But that is a House member’s duty, regardless of the political consequences. Armed forces veterans — particularly those with combat experience in the ranks — understand and have lived the duties of self-sacrifice and courage. They are less likely to become the star-struck cheerleaders for bad military, foreign, and domestic policy which, sadly, populate Congress today.

Service, seasoning and wisdom matter. Marylanders have had a bellyful of tough-talking lightweights in public life. Mr. Vogt is a step forward. He is the Republican primary candidate who has demonstrated the courage, seasoning and experience required to represent Marylanders well.

Mr. Vogt’s Afghanistan service in the U.S. Marine Corps did not make him a better American than his electoral opponents. But it will make him a better member of the U.S. Congress.

I’ll leave aside the question of Douglas’s backing vis-a-vis the question of establishment vs. conservative for the moment, because it’s worth pointing out that Bongino and Douglas were rivals for the same job last year, and the backbone of Richard’s campaign was his foreign policy experience as well as his tenure as a Senate staffer. At the same time, the question of Afghanistan was still in the air and Dan made a compelling case for pulling out, which automatically and immediately puts him at loggerheads with the Afghan campaign veteran Vogt. For that reason alone, I’m not surprised at this endorsement, which could help Vogt most in the extreme western part of the district where Douglas prevailed in the 2012 primary.

But this is also shaping up to be yet another establishment vs. outsider proxy battle, with Bongino again playing the role of outsider against Douglas in an election with few established names. It’s true that Vogt has no elected political experience, but the same could be said for Douglas – yet he was embraced by a number of MDGOP insiders as well as those inside the Beltway.

I find it interesting, though, that Bongino hasn’t chosen to begin rolling out endorsements yet. Maybe he feels less need to since it’s implied that many of those who backed his Senate run will do the same for a Congressional bid, but if Vogt’s ball keeps rolling he could make it a race. While it’s very unscientific, the most recent Red Maryland poll gives Bongino a solid – but not convincing – 17-point edge. Considering his name recognition from being on the ballot last year, that’s got to be too close for comfort.

So how will Dan Bongino play this? I can only speculate, but I suspect the big push will begin after Labor Day and it will center on pocketbook issues.

Meanwhile, there are some in the online media who are questioning the way the Vogt campaign is being run, particularly staffing decisions. There’s no question that Dan Bongino has rubbed some in the Maryland GOP the wrong way, but one name in particular continues to pop up on the radar screen of Jeff Quinton and his Quinton Report, and apparently that person is now involved in Vogt’s campaign as well.

Leaving aside the personality aspect, Jeff makes a valid point – why would a story like this be buried on a weekend? (I received this word before this evening, but it was embargoed to today and I respected the campaign’s wishes.) One might posit that a release on Saturday assures more attention during a slow news period and perhaps placement in the Sunday paper, but having done this gig for awhile I know the ebb and flow of readership and when certain material works best and Saturday is an unusual day for political activity like this. And having noticed a similar line on a Facebook posting from Monday, arguably that would have been the time to lead with it if the endorsement were in the can.

So far we have proven that first-time campaigners make mistakes. The question is whether the unforced errors will doom the Vogt campaign.

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