Regarding the First District Congressional race

This is the first of a few overview posts I plan on writing for local Maryland and Delaware races of importance. The reason I selected this race first is that there are only three candidates in the running – no write-in candidates have entered this race. Makes for an easy start.

So without further ado, here are the three men running for this office, listed in alphabetical order. Information is gleaned in large part from the respective websites.

Matt Beers (Libertarian Party)

Key facts: Beers is from Cecil County, making him the closest to a native Eastern Shoreman in the race. He is 26 years old, a Navy veteran and current reservist, and works for Cecil County Public Schools. This is his first run for federal office, and his run marks the return of the Libertarians to the District 1 ballot after none ran in 2014. (Current Salisbury City Council Vice-President Muir Boda was the last Libertarian to run for the seat in 2012.)

Key issues: Economy, National Security, National Debt, Taxes, Two-Party System

Thoughts: Matt seems to be running a very orthodox Libertarian campaign with regard to smaller government and a relatively isolationist foreign policy. He seems to be staying away from the social issues, which is probably a good idea in a conservative district if he remains on that part of the Libertarian line that favors a more liberal view on abortion, same-sex marriage, marijuana legalization, and so forth.

It would be interesting to see what Michael Smigiel has to say about Matt’s campaign since they seemed to have relatively similar philosophies. (Beers was a guest on Mike’s internet radio show back in July so I guess I can find out.) And while Smigiel only received 10.7% of the vote in the GOP primary, if all those votes transferred over to Beers it would get him most of the way to the vote total Boda received in 2012. It likely won’t affect the result, but getting 5% of the vote isn’t out of the question for Matt.

Andy Harris (Republican Party, incumbent)

Key facts: Harris is seeking his fourth term in Congress, where he has designs of becoming the leader of the Republican Study Committee. He also serves on the House Appropriations Committee. Harris is 59 years old and served as a State Senator for 12 years in the Baltimore area before winning the seat in 2010. After losing in his first Congressional bid in 2008 to Democrat Frank Kratovil by less than 3,000 votes, he avenged that defeat with a 12-point win in the 2010 midterms. Harris is an anesthesiologist by trade and served in the Navy Medical Corps.

Andy was perhaps the most prominent elected official to endorse Ben Carson in the GOP primary; after Carson withdrew Harris eventually followed him in backing nominee Donald Trump.

Key issues: Health Care, Economy and Jobs, Energy, Debt and Government Spending, Taxes, Education, Immigration, Social Security, Medicare, Financial Security

Thoughts: While it’s not too difficult to be the most conservative member of the Maryland delegation when you are the lone Republican, Andy is among the top 10 percent in many of the conservative rating systems that are out there. But in reading his stance on issues, it seems to me he’s moved back a little bit into “tinker around the edges” territory on several, entitlements, energy, and education being among them. Perhaps that’s simply from knowing how the system operates and what we can realistically get, but I wouldn’t mind a little more leadership on actual rightsizing of government. Maybe getting the RSC gig will help in that regard, but it also may make him a little more “establishment” as well.

As evidenced by the primary results, there is a percentage of Republicans who aren’t happy with Andy. It won’t be enough to tip the race, but it could keep him in the 60s for his share of the vote.

Joe Werner (Democrat Party)

Key facts: Werner is an attorney who lives in Harford County but practices in Washington, D.C. After a lengthy political hiatus, Werner jumped into the 2016 Democratic primary and upset former Salisbury mayor Jim Ireton for the nomination. In two previous runs for federal office, Werner finished 17th of 18 candidates running for the Democratic nomination to the U.S. Senate in 2006 (behind winner Ben Cardin) and was fourth of four who sought the 2008 District 1 bid that Frank Kratovil received. Werner is 56 years old, and has spent much of his legal career concentrating on the areas of family and children.

Key issues: Taxes, Halting Corruption, Trade Policies, National Safety

Thoughts: Werner exhibits a mixed bag of philosophies, with moderately conservative lip service to term limits, gun rights, the military, and certain areas of taxation contrasted by the usual progressive screeds about campaign finance reform, the $15 minimum wage, adoption of a value-added tax (“a tax most other nations have”), and the effects of free trade. And while none of these candidates have a website that will knock your socks off, Werner’s reads like it was written by someone with no understanding of the political system or even the office he is running for. (My guess is that the copy was written overseas.) The small percentage of leftists in the district will back him, but it’s a much less interesting race than it would have been with Ireton involved.

Personally, I’m leaning toward Andy but would be interested in knowing a little more about where the Libertarian Beers stands on other issues. Now that I’m off the Central Committee I can admit I voted for my friend Muir Boda in 2012 and maybe – just maybe – I may go Libertarian again. With the nature of the First District, it’s a similar free vote to that for President in Maryland. Honestly I’ll be curious to see whether Harris outpolls Donald Trump or not in this district.

So until I do a little more vetting of Matt Beers, I will withhold an endorsement in this race.

2016 Maryland GOP Spring Convention in pictures and text (part 2)

When I last left you, I was commenting on having to get up at 6:45 for breakfast. Given that this was our election day and the polls were yet to open, this was the scene around the hotel on available spaces.

Aside from the Coke can (which, as an aside, is a drawback to this hotel because Pepsi products are difficult to come by), I often wonder what non-political guests think about all this. I’m sure they are amused.

On the way back to breakfast from putting my stuff in the car (on a glorious morning) I snapped this shot of the convention hall.

One tangible improvement was our county signs, which have finally been upgraded after a decade.

Our breakfast speaker was introduced by the recovering MDGOP Chair Diana Waterman, who was thrilled to report her hair was growing back after the chemo and surgery she has endured for her fight against breast cancer.

She called Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh “a great Republican.” Schuh began his remarks by noting this was the “most unusual election in at least 100 years.”

But Schuh went on to praise Donald Trump for tapping into several “electoral undercurrents,” particularly when he brought up the issues of immigration and national security. Yet while he said the “misgivings were understandable,” Schuh has “come to peace with a Trump candidacy.” Steve then outlined a number of stark differences between Democrats and Republicans: the role of government, immigration, Second Amendment, free speech (where the Left uses “shoutdowns as a weapon of choice”), taxation, private property, and life itself. It was a “belief in limited government and personal responsibility” that set the two major parties apart, Schuh added.

Schuh’s rather brief remarks allowed me to grab a good seat for the convention itself, which featured a number of reports in the morning. I wasn’t satisfied with how most of my photos came out inside the hall, so you will have to read about most of what was said inside without the visual aids.

Annapolis Mayor Mike Pantelides welcomed us to his city, noting that the Maryland GOP “got involved in my race in a very big way” and allowed him to win by a narrow 59-vote margin. Encouraging us to note on social media that the event was being held in Annapolis, Pantelides also called both County Executive Schuh and Governor Hogan “mentors to me.” His was the one city in Maryland with Republican leadership across the board: mayor, County Executive, and Governor, Mike added. Solid Republican principles and leadership could provide solutions, concluded Pantelides.

This photo of Congressman Andy Harris came out all right, and so did his message. He warned us that the Democrats have “a lot of assets” to throw at Governor Hogan in two years, so we needed to raise millions of dollars to assist him. But there were some advantages we had, too: for example, the sign denoting the reduced toll rates at the Bay Bridge is “like a Republican ad.”

Turning to the national scene, Harris noted we could not have another four years of liberal policy. And even though he endorsed Ben Carson in the GOP race, he came out to say, “I’m a Donald Trump guy 101% now.” He also told us there was no fight between Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, despite what the media would lead you to believe.

We had two legislative reports, one from Delegate Nic Kipke and the other from Senator J.B. Jennings.

Kipke believed that we were “at the precipice of…another surge of Republicans” added to the House ranks. “There are a lot of seats in play for us,” he assessed, particularly when Larry Hogan won in 21 more House districts than the Republican House candidates did. And the Democrats “are losing their minds” about it: Kipke gave the example of the bill allowing felons to vote before completing their sentences. Despite the fact 80% of Marylanders disagreed with this, and many of the General Assembly Democrats agreed with the veto, “the Democrats require compliance,” said Kipke – so the veto was overridden.

There were Republican-backed items we should be proud of, though, said Nic – another budget with no new taxes, the elimination of preschool testing, and the adoption of P-TECH schools, beginning in Baltimore City. Republicans are “leading on issues, big and small, that make sense,” said Kipke. He also awarded their Republican of the Year award to state Executive Director Joe Cluster.

Regarding the felon vote, Jennings later added that it actually failed 28-18 the first time, but was allowed to be reconsidered and passed 29-18.

One thing Senator Jennings stressed was the devious ways Democrats tried to flout the rules; in one example they tried to put one Senator on two committees, which is a no-no. They also worked hard to fix bad bills to make them more palatable.

But the problem Senate Republicans have is that “we are short five votes.” Getting to 19 votes would allow Republicans to sustain filibusters and kill the worst legislation. And there may be a lot of it next year: Jennings remarked that year 3 of an administration is where major pieces of legislation come out.

In between the legislative reports, MDGOP Chair Diana Waterman gave her report. She opened by welcoming new members but also remembering members who had recently passed, including my late cohort Blan Harcum who passed away earlier this year. She also announced the traditional June Red, White, and Blue Dinner would be pushed back to a date in early September because of the convention.

Diana also had a comment about the so-called “Republican war on women” when she asked “where is the ‘war on women’ when the Republicans have two (federal candidates) running and the Democrats have none?”

Waterman also gave the newly created Chairman’s Elephant Award to Dwight Patel, but the key remark to me was an offhand one where Diana referred to chairing “my last convention” in November. If so, Diana would conclude a remarkable four-year run where she took over a party in crisis and guided it to electoral success.

We then heard from our National Committeewoman and National Committeeman, respectively Nicolee Ambrose and Louis Pope.

Much of what they said was a rehash of what they told the Executive Committee on Friday night, although this time Nicolee came equipped with a slideshow. Here are the party’s goals for the new Precinct Captain recruitment program.

She also had a lot of these handy flyers to distribute.

I’m only giving you the top five – for the rest, come see us when we are out and about in the community.

Louis reiterated that this year’s convention “will be about unity,” for it’s the RNC’s “#1 job” to elect the President. And while Pope believed the GOP has “an amazing array of tools to make sure we win this year” and has “tremendously expanded minority outreach” over the last four years, it all comes down to our candidate. Pope conceded that “Trump changes our plans quite a bit,” and added it may “take a little bit of sculpting of (Trump’s) policies” to have effective minority outreach. But Louis also contended the “Trump effect (on downticket races) is not going to materialize.”

Pope’s remarks concluded the morning session. I went out to eat my lunch (with Andy Harris, no less) and saw this nice display from someone who would like to join him on Congress.

I was less interested in this swag, although I could have picked up a Cruz hat, too.

I also spied the potential National Committeeman making last-minute preparations.

One other task I had to perform was voting for Delegate and Alternate Delegate. Because I refused to add to the Trump slate I only voted for four winners, including the guy voting immediately after me.

At these conventions it seems like Don Murphy is my shadow. But he and Gloria should enjoy Cleveland, since they were two of my four that won.

The system was neat and easy – we knew the winners five minutes after we voted, as I will explain shortly.

Up first was the National Committeewoman election. Since that was a walkover for Nicolee Ambrose, I can simply comment that she had one of youngest members of the General Assembly, Delegate Robin Grammer (a member of the “Dundalk Revolution”) nominate her and Senator Steve Waugh second her. Both were results of the hard work Nicolee has done to elect more Republicans as both flipped Democratic districts. And I really liked Waugh’s line about how Republicans “focus on putting air conditioning in the classrooms and not transgenders in the bathrooms.”

We then had the National Committeeman election. Because the nominating and seconding speeches came in alphabetical order of the candidates, Bossie’s went first. Nominating Bossie was the highest elected federal official in the state, Andy Harris, who said David represented “a new way of thinking” that we need.

But the jaws hit the floor for the seconding speech, as Joe Steffen notes on his site in more depth. None other than Nicolee Ambrose delivered the dagger to her associate’s heart. “This is serious, serious business,” said Nicolee, and “we need a fighter.”

Despite that blow, Pope could counter with some firepower of his own. Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford nominated Pope, recalling how he had worked with Louis for years in the Howard County party and that he’s been fighting for the GOP. His seconding speech, delivered by Martha Schaerr of Montgomery County, added that Pope was “a tireless, trustworthy leader.”

The focus shifted back to Bossie for his remarks, and he closed the sale by saying “I believe I can bring a lot…to the Maryland Republicans.” It was “critical to have new blood in leadership,” David went on, and while he promised to raise Maryland’s profile, he also said “we must not cede ground to liberal Democrats, anytime.”

Pope could only appeal to the masses with his experience and passion, countering, “I’ve spent a lifetime working for the Republican Party…I stand on my record of accomplishment.”

But Pope’s defense was to no avail. It was clear when the first four jurisdictions to report (Allegany, Anne Arundel, and Baltimore City and County) picked Bossie by a combined 56-8 margin that the rout was on. In terms of our voting system the count was 365-188, but in actual bodies it was 182 to 91 – a perfect 2-to-1 margin. Pope only carried eight counties (Caroline, Cecil, Frederick, Garrett, Howard, Prince George’s, St. Mary’s, and Talbot) and in four of the eight it was a 5-4 verdict. Only Garrett (6-0), Caroline (7-2), and St. Mary’s (7-2) were big wins for Pope. (Wicomico County was 7-2 for Bossie.)

This was an emotional moment as the baton was figuratively passed, but we still had work to do.

There was a resolution that would allow the Bylaws Committee to perform what I would call a curative function, making minor changes to the bylaws in places where references were incorrect, misspellings, and so forth. They would report and we would review changes at the Fall Convention. That passed by a voice vote with one objection.

The first Bylaw amendment was an effort to both restore voting rights to the various ancillary organizations (Maryland Federation of Republican Women, College Republicans, Young Republicans, etc.) and set standards for their inclusion. But after some discussion and debate, it failed by a 188-361 vote (105-167 in terms of voters,) falling far short of the 2/3 majority needed.

The second one was less controversial, although there was enough of an objection to a lengthy lame duck period for party officers to transition after our organizing conventions (such as will occur this fall) that the date of takeover was amended back to January 3 rather than based on the day after the Governor or President of the United States is inaugurated. As amended it passed 438-99, although the amendment barely passed 283-258. (It was behind until Montgomery County sealed the deal.)

All this concluded just in time for the Delegate and Alternate Delegate results to be revealed.

As I said above, I only ended up voting for four winners: the two Murphys, Christina Trotta, and Alirio Martinez, Jr.

We then got to hear from our candidate for U.S. Senate, Delegate Kathy Szeliga.

Kathy thanked us for her support, then added that Bossie and Ambrose are “going to do a great job for us.” She also added that the fourteen U.S. Senate candidates are “unified and together.”

And while she gave something of a standard stump speech recalling her middle-class background, she noted that the business they created was “struggling like many small businesses in the country.” Repeating her message that Washington is broken, she chastised the Democrats for electing their “golden boy” Chris Van Hollen, pointing out that since he’s been in office the national debt has tripled and calling Van Hollen an “attack dog” for Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, and Harry Reid.

“Together we can change Washington,” the candidate, who Nic Kipke had earlier called “relentless,” concluded.

Our final task was to select electors, which necessitated us gathering in groups by Congressional district. Our district has the largest number of Central Committee members so we all crammed into one corner of the hall to hear several nominations. For the second time in a row, I nominated the First District winner: Diana Waterman, who prevailed over five others. The others will be Tony Campbell, Jane Roger, Faith Loudon, Cathryn Grasso, Dick Jurgena, Loretta Shields, and Alan McMahon.

Once Diana Waterman announced her choices for the at-large electors would be Ellen Sauerbrey and Michael Steele, we could finally adjourn. Next time is slated for Frederick this November – the question is whether it will be a wake, a celebration, or some combination thereof?

The road forward

Well, we are on from Wisconsin and Ted Cruz’s smashing victory over John Kasich and some other guy, you know, the orange-toned one with the bad hair and little hands.

Yet those who back Donald Trump point to states like New York and Pennsylvania as just the tonic to make Trump the comeback kid. You may have to take them with a grain of salt two to three weeks out, but polls suggest Trump should win his home state handily, perhaps finally cracking the elusive 50% barrier. They are obviously hoping New York gives them momentum to spring into the Northeast primary the next week, in which Maryland and Delaware are included. (The other states: Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Pennsylvania is currently polling with Trump ahead, but by a smaller margin than New York.)

The interesting factor in all of these races is John Kasich. The Ohio governor soldiers on with his 20 to 25 percent of the vote in the polls, but based on current RNC rules and delegate math has no shot whatsoever to win the nomination. His one-in-a-million shot is a hopelessly deadlocked convention much like the 1924 Democratic Convention that went to 103 ballots before selecting John W. Davis, who would go on to be routed by President Calvin Coolidge.

So the question for Kasich supporters becomes one of picking your poison. Although Kasich polls reasonably well in many of the remaining states, in no state does he have the lead. Those Kasich supporters who can stomach Donald Trump as the nominee will likely stick with their guy, since the general effect of a Kasich vote is to assist Trump and his normal 35 to 45 percent plurality. On the other hand, Kasich backers who are #NeverTrump would be much better off shifting their allegiance to Ted Cruz – in fact, Kasich underperformed his polling in Wisconsin by about five points, leading me to believe that about 1/4 to 1/3 of Kasich backers saw the writing on the wall and many shifted to Cruz, who outperformed as he often has. (Meanwhile, Trump was right there at 35 percent, which is around his average throughout the primary season.)

It’s been about a month since Maryland was polled on their preference, so long in fact that Marco Rubio was still in the race and polling fourth. Back then Donald Trump was at his usual 35% share (actually 34%) with Ted Cruz at 25% and John Kasich at 18%. It bears pointing out that at roughly the same juncture before the Wisconsin election a statewide poll had Trump leading by 10 over Rubio, 30-20, with Cruz a point back at 19 and Kasich at 8 with Ben Carson. In about 5 1/2 weeks after that, Carson and Rubio withdrew, Cruz gained 30 points while Kasich gained just 6 percentage points and Trump only 5. I wouldn’t expect the same results in Maryland, frankly, but I don’t think the state will be a runaway for Trump, either.

Yet while the state of Maryland divvies out its delegates mainly by whoever wins the Congressional district, making eight different races very important, the final 14 delegates go to the statewide winner. If you get a 4-4 split in Congressional districts – very possible in a close race – it’s the difference between winning the delegate count 26-12 or losing it by the same.

Thus, it may be a long night come April 26.

Some thoughts on tomorrow’s election

March 14, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Delmarva items, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Some thoughts on tomorrow’s election 

For Maryland’s election six weeks hence to have any national significance, it’s very likely that Donald Trump would have to lose Ohio and at least one other state. We’re now getting to the point where more delegates have been awarded than remain at stake, with the RCP count now showing we’ve just passed the halfway point. Tomorrow a total of 367 delegates are at stake in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and the Northern Mariana Islands, with all but North Carolina “winner-take-all” states. With four candidates in the running, it’s possible over 300 delegates can be attained by getting just 30% of the vote (if all five WTA states fell the same way with slim victories for the winner.) Donald Trump is doing a little better than 30% in four of the five states, with John Kasich leading in his home state of Ohio.

After this week the race will get something of a breather. Next week the remaining contenders will do battle for Arizona, Utah, and American Samoa, then we skip to Wisconsin on April 5. New York will have its week on April 19, and then its our turn on April 26 (along with Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island.) At this point, even if Trump won everything he could not clinch the requisite number of delegates before Maryland votes. (Let’s hope he doesn’t ever get to that point.)

It’s been sort of lost in the maelstrom surrounding the cancellation of Trump’s Chicago rally, but there were two other endorsements in the race recently. I can’t say I was surprised by Ben Carson’s selection of Donald Trump since the bridge between him and Ted Cruz was burned back in Iowa, but I was surprised by Carly Fiorina backing Cruz. She never impressed me as that conservative when I was doing my dossiers.

Now I can update the tier map. I suspect after tomorrow it will be down to three and possibly two remaining.

  • Bottom tier: George Pataki (Marco Rubio), Donald Trump
  • Fourth tier: Chris Christie (Donald Trump), John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina (Ted Cruz)
  • Third tier: Rick Santorum (Rubio), Jim Gilmore, Ben Carson (Donald Trump)
  • Second tier: Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Lindsey Graham (Jeb Bush)
  • Top tier: Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal (Rubio)

The endorsement poll stands at Marco Rubio 3, Ted Cruz 2, and Donald Trump 2. John Kasich has none.

I should take a few moments to update you on where I stand with my Senatorial questions. So far I have heard back from five of the fourteen, with three responses (Richard Douglas, Mark McNicholas, and Dave Wallace.) Each of the three has put together thoughtful responses.

But I also have just a few weeks to decide, so I am going to look at other sources as well. These won’t get the dossier treatment, but it’s likely that someone who responds will get my vote and endorsement, just so you know.

Carson runs out of path

March 2, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Carson runs out of path 

After a disappointing Super Tuesday round of fourth- and fifth-place finishes, Ben Carson saw the writing on the wall and, while not officially suspending his campaign, promised a different way forward. In a statement released by the campaign, Carson said that new direction would be established later this week at CPAC:

I have decided not to attend the Fox News GOP Presidential Debate tomorrow night in Detroit.  Even though I will not be in my hometown of Detroit on Thursday, I remain deeply committed to my home nation, America.  I do not see a political path forward in light of last evening’s Super Tuesday primary results. However, this grassroots movement on behalf of “We the People” will continue. Along with millions of patriots who have supported my campaign for President, I remain committed to Saving America for Future Generations. We must not depart from our goals to restore what God and our Founders intended for this exceptional nation.

I appreciate the support, financial and otherwise, from all corners of America.  Gratefully, my campaign decisions are not constrained by finances; rather by what is in the best interests of the American people.

I will discuss more about the future of this movement during my speech on Friday at CPAC in Washington, D.C.

So what began as a groundswell of support for over three years – an odyssey which began with his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013 that aroused the interest of God-fearing conservatives around the nation – comes to an apparent end today. But I don’t think Carson is done contributing to the campaign.

There is a segment of the electorate that needed a person like Carson in the race as the moral backstop. While his positions were not conservative in a classical sense and could be construed as being all over the map in some cases, we have a front-runner who exhibits even more that same tendency to pander to an audience. In Carson’s case, once the conversation got outside the realm of certain issues he hasn’t studied or thought a lot about he ran into trouble – of course, being anti-Christian the media was always there to make a big deal out of it.

I’m sure Dr. Carson is a very intelligent man, and given his line of work I also reckon he’s a quick study. Yet in this year of the outsider candidate, it seemed like Carson didn’t get the pass that Donald Trump did when it came to speaking about the issues given neither have a great deal of political experience. (However, Trump briefly ran for President when he sought the Reform Party nomination in 2000. So he has a little bit of practice, but not much. Since Carly Fiorina ran for the Senate from California in 2010, she doesn’t count in this category.)

So I will be interested to see when Carson’s new path leads, and how many of his supporters will follow.

Updating my tier map – the middle tier is now empty:

  • Bottom tier: George Pataki (Marco Rubio), Donald Trump
  • Fourth tier: Chris Christie (Donald Trump), John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina
  • Third tier: Rick Santorum (Rubio), Jim Gilmore, Ben Carson
  • Second tier: Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Lindsey Graham (Jeb Bush)
  • Top tier: Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal (Rubio)

Andy Harris endorses Ben Carson: too little too late?

February 17, 2016 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2016 - President, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on Andy Harris endorses Ben Carson: too little too late? 

Multiple reports today revealed that our Congressman, Andy Harris, became the first member of Congress to endorse Dr. Ben Carson for President, taking time to join Carson on the campaign trail in South Carolina today. Said Harris, in part:

(Carson) will restore America to greatness – not as a punch line in a campaign, but as a belief in returning America to its Constitutional roots. What we saw in the debate last Saturday reminds us just how much we need someone thoughtful like Dr. Carson in the White House.

Given the position in the polls the good doctor (Carson, not Harris) has fallen to in the Presidential race, one has to wonder if this will stop the bleeding in Ben’s foundering campaign. Despite protestations to the contrary from Carson loyalists, there’s no question that he has lost his luster since being one of the frontrunners last fall. Currently on a national level Carson polls fifth with 6% of the vote, according to the RCP average. (To be fair, the most recent poll cited has Carson at a much more healthy 10 percent.) In the Palmetto State, Carson is also right around 6 percent, but that put him (on average) in last place among the six remaining GOP contenders, with one poll placing him in fifth.

So to say Carson has an uphill battle is to put it mildly. On a national political basis, one has to wonder if an endorsement by a Congressman, regardless of how well-known he is around the country, would have made more impact back in November when Carson was near the top.

But if you take this to a more local scale and consider the race Harris has at home, an endorsement of Carson could make more sense. If you polled the First Congressional District, I suspect Carson would at least double his national total and 10 percent is a significant chunk in the Congressional primary. If Carson is still in the race come April, there’s a pretty good chance he would do some campaigning in the region because it would be one of his stronger areas. (Maryland shares an April 26 date with four other states: Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.) A stop or two in the First District with the popular Carson could drive the pro-life constituency over to Harris, since his opponent Mike Smigiel has made hay over remarks Harris made at a Planned Parenthood protest in August.

And even if Carson is out of the running, I would say the chances are pretty good he’ll be assisting the Harris re-election bid to some extent, particularly in the primary. (I would think that prohibitive Democratic nomination favorite Jim Ireton will have a contrasting position to Harris’s on the subject, so there’s no real need for Carson to buttress Harris on social issues in the general election.) If you want a popular draw locally, you probably can’t go wrong with Carson.

So I’m going to count this as an endorsement more for the sake of the Congressman than the Presidential candidate. After all, besides being the leading voice against decriminalizing marijuana in Washington, D.C. there isn’t a whole lot Andy Harris is known for on a national scale. In certain areas of the GOP, this is an endorsement well worth making.

Senate candidate Wallace speaks before Somerset audience

February 16, 2016 · Posted in Business and industry, Campaign 2016, Cathy Keim, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Senate candidate Wallace speaks before Somerset audience 

By Cathy Keim

Editor’s note: While inclement weather kept U.S. Senate hopeful Dave Wallace from making his formal announcement in Salisbury, nicer weather on Saturday allowed him to make an appearance before the Somerset County GOP in Princess Anne. Apprentice reporter Cathy made the trip down there to hear what the candidate had to say.

I was all set to attend the Dave Wallace Announcement Tour event at Salisbury University last Wednesday, but it was cancelled due to bad weather. Instead, I was invited to the Somerset Republican Club breakfast last Saturday morning in Princess Anne where Wallace was one of the guest speakers.

With fourteen Republican candidates for the open Senate seat, ten Democrats running, and the six Green/Libertarian/unaffiliated candidates, there are plenty of choices for every voter. Without the state board’s list I certainly could not name all the candidates and few of them will run a credible campaign putting them in any position to survive their respective primaries.

Since I had not heard of Dave Wallace and there are only ten weeks until the primary election, I was a bit skeptical about whether he was running a serious campaign. In fact, I challenged him on this when we chatted after the event. He noted that he has been working hard on the campaign even though he was just making the public announcement. It was unfortunate that the weather interfered with the announcement tour, he continued, but he didn’t want any campaign workers injured due to the weather as happened to the Ben Carson campaign in Iowa.

Wallace is an enthusiastic speaker and was happy to share his views on many topics. Since the first guests were Sheriff Ronnie Howard and Lt. Patrick Metzger, the Maryland State Police Commander for the Princess Anne Barracks, Wallace began his talk with a nod to law enforcement, in particular the loss of two Harford County Sheriff’s deputies last Wednesday. He quickly moved to the horrific murder rate in Baltimore and to the war that Congressman Chris Van Hollen and President Obama are reputedly waging on law enforcement.

Wallace repeatedly attacked Congressman Van Hollen’s record, which perplexed me at first since he must survive the primary to earn the privilege of facing off against Van Hollen – assuming he wins on the Democratic side. However, this was cleared up when he told me that he had run against Van Hollen for the Eighth Congressional District in the last election. Despite the gerrymandered district, Wallace was able to garner 39% of the votes against the incumbent. (Editor’s note: Wallace carried Carroll and Frederick counties handily but lost by nearly 3 to 1 in Montgomery County, where the majority of the voters reside. Prior to 2010, the Eighth District was almost exclusively in Montgomery County with the Carroll and Frederick portions in the Sixth District, then represented by Republican Roscoe Bartlett.)

As a business owner, Wallace appreciates the burdens that are placed on businesses in Maryland. He is for reducing the regulations that are strangling businesses, for cutting taxes, and reducing government.

He believes in God, family, and the Second Amendment right to defend oneself. He is pro-life and would defund Planned Parenthood. Speaking on immigration, he supports Governor Hogan’s request to not bring any refugees to Maryland that cannot be vetted, backs building a border fence, and would support stopping the practice of granting birthright citizenship to anchor babies.

If you are hoping for a Republican to take the White House and turn back our country from the transformational changes that President Obama is ramming down our throats, then you must also consider which Congressmen and Senators you want to send to Washington to have that new President’s back. If a strong Constitutionalist like Ted Cruz were to win the Oval Office, the question is whether he will be stymied by the incumbent GOP members pf Congress who hate Cruz passionately and would rather maintain the status quo.

The desire for change that is roiling GOP primaries must also extend to the House and Senate races if there is any chance for success in turning our country back from the brink.

Iowa and New Hampshire have already handed first place to Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, respectively, both of whom are loathed by the Republican establishment. This same establishment seems oblivious to the fury that is boiling over in many of their constituents. Just remember that not only do conservatives need a change in the White House, but there must be a change in the “go along to get along” incumbents – or in the case of the Senate race, the open seat cries out for someone who is Constitutionally solid.

Dave Wallace seemed to be a sincere, well-informed Senate candidate with experience in campaigning. Many of his positions are laid out at his website for you to decide for yourself.

(Editor’s note: no endorsement is given or implied by Cathy. That’s my job.)

Odds and ends number 80

For awhile I wasn’t sure I would ever make it to the 80th edition of this longtime monoblogue series but I have finally arrived with more tidbits that require only a few dozen words to deal with.

Since this category has the item I’ve been sitting on the longest, I’m going to talk energy first. Some of my readers in the northern part of the state may yet have a little bit of remaining snow from the recent blizzard, snow that may be supplemented by a new blast today. But the fine folks at Energy Tomorrow worry about a regulatory blizzard, and with good reason: Barack Obama has already killed the coal industry, states are suing for relief from the EPA,  and a proposed $10 a barrel oil tax may further hinder the domestic oil industry already straining under a price war with OPEC. So much for that $550 annual raise we received, as Rick Manning notes in the latter story I link – for the rest of us, that’s like a 25-cent per hour raise without the increased taxation that normally comes with a pay increase. Yet that quarter would be lost to taxation under the Obama scheme.

It’s interesting as well that the Iowa caucus results favored Ted Cruz over Donald Trump despite their competing stances on ethanol, as Marita Noon wrote, but Cruz’s Iowa win also emboldened others to speak more freely about rescinding the ban.

Speaking of Cruz and Iowa, over the last week we’ve heard more about third-place Iowa finisher Marco Rubio in New Hampshire, as Erick Erickson predicted we would. It’s obvious to me that the media is trying to pick a Republican candidate for us, so they have been pushing either Donald Trump (who is far from conservative on many issues) or Marco Rubio (who has been squishy on immigration and perhaps can be rolled more easily on the subject again.) Or, as Dan Bongino writes, it could be the left’s divide-and-conquer strategy at work once again.

It seems to me that today’s New Hampshire primary should bring the race down to about five participants on the GOP side. The herd will almost certainly be culled of Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Jim Gilmore based on results, polling, and financial situation, and that would cut it down to six. The loser between Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and John Kasich should whittle the field to five in time for South Carolina and we will begin to see if Donald Trump’s ceiling is really about 25 percent.

Trump’s popularity has been defined by a hardline approach to border security, but once again I turn to Rick Manning who asks what Trump would do about Obamacare, He also shrewdly invokes Bobby Jindal’s name, since the policy wonk had a conservative approach:

Jindal understood that the Obamacare system has put down some roots, and tearing it out was not going to be an easy task that could be glibly done with the wave of a wand or a pronouncement from a podium. He understood that whatever health care system replaced Obamacare would set the tone for whether or not the federal government continued its expansion in scope and power. He understood that what we do about Obamacare is likely to be one of the most important domestic policy decisions that any president will make. So, he laid out his vision for what health care should look like in America. (Link added.)

Yet on another domestic issue New Hampshire’s neighbor Maine is making some serious steps in cleaning up their food stamp rolls. It’s a little scary to think that the Millennials and Generation X decided keeping the “free” stuff wasn’t worth actually getting a job (or taking alternate steps to improve themselves or their community.) Perhaps it is fortunate that these are childless adults.

Turning to our own state, Maryland Right to Life was kind enough to inform me that a rebadged “death with dignity” assisted suicide bill was introduced to the Maryland House of Delegates and Senate (HB404 and SB418, respectively.) The 2015 rendition never received a committee vote, but it also had a late hearing – this year the setup is a little bit more advantageous to committee passage and the number of sponsors (all Democrats) has increased. They thought they had enough votes to get it out of committee last year, and chances are they are correct.

I have postulated on previous occasions that this General Assembly session is the opportunity to plant the seeds of distrust Democrats desperately need to get back that which they consider theirs in 2018 – the Maryland governor’s chair. It will likely be a close, party-line vote but I suspect this bill will pass in order to make Governor Hogan either veto it (which, of course, will allow the press to make him look less than compassionate to cancer sufferers such as he was) or sign it into law – a course for which he will accrue absolutely zero credit from Democrats for reaching across the aisle but will alienate the pro-life community that is a vital part of the GOP.

Try as they might, the Democrats could not bait Hogan into addressing social issues during his 2014 campaign but that doesn’t mean they will stop trying.

On a much more somber note insofar as good government is concerned, the advocacy group Election Integrity Maryland announced they were winding up their affairs at the end of this month. As EIM president Cathy Kelleher stated:

The difficulty of maintaining a small non profit was a full time job and the responsibility fell on the same few individuals for far too long.

We can proudly say that in our 4+ years of operations, we made a difference in the way citizens view the record maintenance of the State Board of Elections and had an impact in the legislative process.

The problem EIM had was twofold: first, a lack of citizens interested enough to address the issues our state has with keeping voter rolls not just up to date, but insuring they are limited to citizens who are eligible to vote; and secondly just an overwhelming task considering there are over 3 million voters registered in Maryland. And for some of the counties that are more populous, the powers that be didn’t much mind having inaccurate voter rolls that may have had a few ineligible voters among them just in case they needed a few extra on election night.

And it’s that prospect of fraud which is among the reasons not to adopt National Popular Vote, as Natalie Johnson notes at the Daily Signal. It’s a good counter to an argument presented in the comments to one of Cathy Keim’s recent posts. After the angst of Bush vs. Gore in 2000, could you imagine the need for a national recount with states hanging in the balance?

I think the system can be improved, but there’s a time and place for that proposal and it’s not here yet. There’s also a time and a place to wrap up odds and ends, and we have arrived.

So long to MOM and Huck

February 2, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on So long to MOM and Huck 

The lack of results in the Iowa caucuses have seen two candidates for President exit the race.

On the Democratic side, the rest of America found out what Marylanders already knew: in a race of any significance without Bob Ehrlich to beat up on, Martin O’Malley is a terrible candidate. Now the audition for being a running mate begins for O’Malley, who never had traction in the polls – the question is just who does he audition to?

So the good people of Iowa did the job Marylanders wouldn’t do and eliminated O’Malley from contention, just in time for him to strap the guitar back on for “O’Malley’s March” or whatever he calls that band.

Oddly enough, maybe bass player Mike Huckabee can call MOM up for a jam session since he no longer has a race to run either. While Huckabee had a great campaign in 2008, his “sell by” date obviously passed and the religious Right decided Ted Cruz and Ben Carson were more their style.

I said a few days ago that the bottom five in Iowa as polled were Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie, Huckabee, and John Kasich. The polls pegged them as the also-rans correctly, but I didn’t count Jim Gilmore, who “won” bigtime by getting 12 votes in a state he didn’t campaign in. As of the time I’m writing this, Rick Santorum is staying in by placing his hopes on South Carolina while Fiorina will doggedly continue in New Hampshire – a state where Christie and Kasich are expected to do far better than they did in Iowa.

So we will re-convene in New Hampshire next Tuesday and see how the field reacts. The question is whether Cruz or Marco Rubio can dent Donald Trump’s lead there now that we know The Donald is no longer invincible.

The box we could be stuck in

After re-reading last night’s post, I think the time has come to explore a couple “what-if” scenarios. But first let’s consider the scene that is being set over the next couple weeks.

First, the prospect of severe winter weather may dampen turnout at the Iowa caucuses. The conventional wisdom is that this will hurt the Trump campaign the most and help Ted Cruz pad his margin of victory. Yet this assumption is based on the theories that Trump doesn’t have a significant “ground game” in Iowa; moreover, many of his supporters would be first-time caucus goers who could be intimidated by the lengthy process. The most recent samples of likely voters keep Trump in the 30-33% range (with Ted Cruz second at 23-27%) but if Trump turnout is soft Cruz can pull off the win.

However, if the polls stay valid in Iowa then Trump can win the first three contests as he holds 31% of the New Hampshire vote and 36% in South Carolina. It’s a demolition derby among the rest, but presumably half of the field will be gone by the time voters finish with South Carolina. The bottom five in Iowa are Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, and John Kasich, but in New Hampshire it’s Santorum, Huckabee, Rand Paul, Fiorina, and Ben Carson. Bottom-feeders in South Carolina are Santorum, Fiorina, Paul, Kasich, and Huckabee. Yet deducting just the three common names in the bottom five (Santorum, Huckabee, and Fiorina) only frees up 5.6% in Iowa, 4.9% in New Hampshire, and 4% in South Carolina, leading us into Super Tuesday (also known as the “SEC primary” since it’s mainly Southern states) on March 1. All these primaries are proportional, but come the middle of March we will begin to see the “winner-take-all” states come into play.

Bottom line: the longer some of these bottom-tier candidates hang on, the better chance we may see a candidate get the entire delegation with only 30 or 40 percent of the vote. It’s a scenario that favors a polarizing candidate like Donald Trump.

And if Trump gets the nomination, the Republicans will have quite the dilemma. Now I realize a number of people reading this are going to say the GOP deserves what they are getting, and to a great extent they are right. A little courage and leadership among more of our elected officials in Washington would have gone a long way in not upsetting the base voters who now support The Donald because they see him as a man of action, particularly on immigration and trade. These were both subjects the GOP chose to punt on, not wanting to risk alienating their most important constituency: the ruling class in Washington, D.C. So Donald Trump is a Frankenstein of the Republicans’ creation, they argue.

However, millions of Republicans may argue that Donald Trump would be the guy whose principles (or lack thereof) do not reflect the party’s brand to such an extent that they may decide to stay home from voting. And even if they begrudgingly hold their nose and select Trump, their dearth of enthusiasm will show up in a lack of willingness to take a yard sign, make phone calls, or otherwise do the little things that help a campaign win. While this situation is not good for the top of the ticket, it could spell the end of the GOP-controlled Senate we worked hard to gain in 2010 and 2014 – the former TEA Party wave is coming up for re-election in a Presidential year where turnout is higher. Despite their failings as a Senate, losing GOP control of it would be an unmitigated disaster for those who support liberty and limited government.

In 1992 I made the mistake of getting so mad at a Republican president for not sticking to his word that I voted for Ross Perot. Surely many of the millions who breathed life into the Reform Party for a time regretted it when Bill Clinton enacted his liberal agenda. (As proof: that coalition came back with a vengeance two years later in 1994 when Republicans took the House for the first time in four decades.)

But I may have a different reason for not voting for the GOP nominee in 2016. I have always deferred to the voters as far as their wisdom goes, and hopefully many thousands come to their senses before April 26 in Maryland. However, if they don’t, I have to admit that Trump is not the automatic selection that Dole, Bush 43, McCain, and Romney were despite the fact I supported none of them when I had a choice in the primary.

This may sound a little like hyperbole but I think a conservative direction beginning with this election is the only shot we have for survival as a nation – otherwise, we just tumble into the abyss Europe seems to be tottering into, just a decade or so behind them. I don’t like being a pessimist, but in doing this read option I see opposing defenders closing in all around me if I can’t make it to the daylight and open field of conservative governance. (A clunky football metaphor, but appropriate.)

Those who can’t stomach the thought of President Trump now hope against hope the game may soon be up; this elaborate ruse to attract attention eventually turns out to be reality TV fodder. But these people have said for the better part of a year that the bloom would soon be off the rose, yet we sit here days away from the Iowa caucuses and this political chameleon Donald J. Trump is leading the field both in the initial primary states and nationwide.

Perhaps the scariest thought to me, though, is that I’m used to Presidential candidates running right in the primary and tacking toward the center for the general election. Since Donald Trump is already left-of-center on a number of issues, do you seriously think he will move rightward after the convention? We will be stuck with the same situation we faced with President Bush: for his more liberal “compassionate conservative” ideas, Republicans had to bite the bullet and support them anyway because who crosses the titular head of the party?

It may come down to where President Trump = President Hillary = President Sanders. The philosophies may be closer than you think.

The end of Graham’s road

December 21, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The end of Graham’s road 

It was a campaign that experts didn’t give much of a chance and in the end they were proven correct. But on the last day he could withdraw from his home state Presidential ballot, Lindsey Graham decided to throw in the towel on his Presidential bid. Graham could never get over 2% in the polls or off the 6:00 debate, so the impact on the race won’t be much for the remaining candidates.

But out of a group that occupied the middle of my personal pack, Graham was actually on top for a couple reasons: a well-thought out foreign policy and some good ideas when it came to trade and job creation. Yet the fact he would probably be embarrassed with his showing in his home state, coupled with the likelihood his money was running out, probably were the factors that led Graham to withdraw.

Granted, 1% (if that) isn’t much in the race. But the question still remains about where Graham’s supporters may turn and I suspect the answer is Marco Rubio – a guy who could use a little shot in the arm. Rubio seems to be fading to the back of the top four contenders – a group that includes Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Ben Carson with Rubio. Rubio seems to be holding his position on the ladder as Ben Carson slides down the polling chute, but support isn’t growing at the pace that Cruz and Trump are enjoying. Nor can Rubio get out of third in any state except New Hampshire, and there his hold on his distant second behind Trump is more and more tenuous.

So Graham can go back to being a full-time Senator, while the other two who are under 1 percent in the polls – Rick Santorum and George Pataki – will be on the South Carolina ballot. Each of them, though, really has a one-state strategy, with Santorum trying to reclaim his magic in Iowa and Pataki circling New Hampshire. They probably don’t have the money to compete for another month, though.

Counting Jim Gilmore, we are now down to 13 contenders from the original 17, although Graham is the first of the four sitting United States Senators to bow out. Among that quartet, decision time looms for Rand Paul, who is up for re-election to his Senate seat, while Marco Rubio has already announced he will not return and Ted Cruz isn’t up until 2018. (The same goes for Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side.)

I suspect by the time the next debate occurs we may only have nine or ten remaining on the GOP side. There’s just not enough money to support more candidates.

Debating the need

December 16, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Debating the need 

Apparently they had a debate last night.

I think I watched the first main event (since I didn’t get back home in time for the now-infamous “kiddie table” debate) but since then I have chosen to spend my time on other, more useful pursuits like doing my website. Unfortunately, until you get down to a manageable number of people (about five to six at the most) it’s not worth the effort. (Granted, the more recent warmup debates should have been quite good with only four people participating.)

But I wonder how the race would have gone had they used my original idea of randomly selecting six participants per debate and doing three in one evening. It’s probable that the general order may have stayed fairly close, but when you are depending on a poll to determine debate placement that has a margin of error larger than the amount of support some in the bottom tier were getting, there could have been people taken off the main stage who may have deserved a place. Who knows: if the Donald would have had the bad luck of the draw to be outside prime time in the first couple of debates he may be closer to the pack or even out of the race. Just food for thought.

It seems to me that the debates are now sort of like an NFL Sunday. In the 1:00 games you have the teams without a great fanbase or that are doing so-so…sort of like the early debate. It’s the 4:25 national game and the 8:15 primetime game that people care about – in fact, NBC gets to pick the game it wants in the last few weeks of the season, with some exceptions. So the prime-time game the other night would have been the Cruz Cowboys taking on the Trump Generals. (Yes, I had to borrow from the old USFL but Trump owned the New Jersey Generals so it fit. In fact, the ill-fated idea to move the USFL to a fall schedule was his.) Anyway, supporters of every candidate watch and keep score like a fantasy football game, and everyone is confident of victory. My social media was filled with commentary.

One thing that the debates were supposed to provide, though, was some winnowing of the field – so far it hasn’t changed a whole lot. With several governors in the race originally but the general political mood being that of seeking an outsider, 2016 wasn’t the year for Rick Perry in his second try or Scott Walker or Bobby Jindal in their first. Notably, Walker was the only main-stage debater to withdraw, although had he not he would likely have been relegated to the second-tier thanks to his polling support evaporating rapidly. Perry just missed the cut for the first debate to John Kasich and never really recovered, while Jindal never caught on (unfortunately.) On the other hand, people seem to hate how John Kasich and Jeb Bush perform in debates but they continue to qualify – meanwhile, the rules were bent a little bit to put Carly Fiorina in the second debate and Rand Paul in the most recent one.

But if you go back to the first of October (and I’m looking at the RCP universe of polls) you’ll find the following movement:

  • Trump +11 (27 to 38, with a range 22-41)
  • Cruz +8 (7 to 15, with a range 4-22)
  • Rubio -1 (13 to 12, with a range 8-17)
  • Carson -5 (17 to 12, with a range 9-29)
  • Bush -5 (10 to 5, with a range 3-10)
  • Christie +2 (2 to 4, with a range 1-4)
  • Kasich -2 (4 to 2, with a range 1-4)
  • Fiorina -5 (6 to 1, with a range 1-7)
  • Paul 0 (2 to 2, with a range 1-5)
  • Huckabee -3 (4 to 1, with a range 1-5)
  • Graham 0 (1 to 1, with a range 0-2)
  • Pataki -1 (1 to 0, with that being his range)
  • Santorum -2 (2 to 0, with that being his range)
  • They don’t poll for Jim Gilmore. I think he’s still in it.

We actually have 3% more undecided than we did before. But you can see that after the top four, picking the next tier can be tricky because several are polling under the margin or error. Even with these debates, the sheer amount of headlines Donald Trump creates have done more to pad his lead than the formal gatherings.

I imagine the bottom-feeders are putting their eggs into one basket at this point. Jeb Bush still has quite a bit of money, while Chris Christie, John Kasich, and George Pataki are playing to do well in New Hampshire. On the other hand, candidates with evangelical or populist appeal like Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum are counting on Iowa. I guess Carly Fiorina is basing her appeal on her gender, Rand Paul is trying to light a fire under his dad’s supporters in the libertarian part of the GOP, and Lindsay Graham is likely hoping to use his home state as a springboard.

But even with Bobby Jindal withdrawing – granted, he was only getting 1 to 2 percent – the only gainers since October are Trump and Cruz. Ben Carson’s meteoric rise is now a free fall; however, he’s still in the top four that command nearly 3 out of 4 GOP voters. The other 10 are fighting over that last quarter.

We will know by year’s end who will go on, as the fundraising totals have to be in. I suspect there may be fewer chairs needed for that debate.

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