Impressions on Maryland’s U.S. Senate GOP primary

Over the last couple weeks I have been trying to get a reading on who I would like to be my Senator from the great state of Maryland. (Spoiler alert: Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen ain’t going to cut it.) It’s been a process of trying to get questions answered, checking websites, and watching some of the debates in order to figure out who the best candidate for me would be.

There are 14 Republicans running for the Senate seat, a number which is unusually high. (In previous cycles, it was closer to 10 candidates.) Of course, with that many candidates in a statewide race it becomes apparent early on who has the most legitimate shot at winning. Granted, this has been helped somewhat by media perception, such as which hopefuls are invited to debates, but realistically only about half of those 14 candidates have any real shot – the rest are just ballot filler. In fact, when I asked the questions of candidates only 12 of the 14 had good e-mails, and two of those 12 have no website insofar as I can tell. (Another has a website with just a front page and no functionality). Sadly, the pair without websites are two of those who answered my questions – but the larger question is how you can beat someone who has $3.6 million in the bank like Chris Van Hollen does? You need money to get your message out.

By the time you separate the wheat from the chaff you get about a half-dozen somewhat serious candidates, with a couple on a lower tier that are running campaigns more suited to a Congressional level. Greg Holmes is one, with another being Anthony Seda, who has pointed out he’s not accepting contributions. Noble, but suicidal in the real world of politics. Let me repeat: you need money to get your message out.

So in my estimation, the race comes down to five: Richard Douglas, Joe Hooe, Chrys Kefalas, Kathy Szeliga, and Dave Wallace. In the last debate I watched there were only three participants as Hooe and Wallace were not invited. Another debate featured all but Wallace, while the Goucher College debate had Holmes, Hooe, and Wallace along with Douglas and Kefalas (Szeliga skipped this debate for a Maryland GOP event.)

So here is how I would categorize the contenders, in alphabetical order.

Richard Douglas is the only one of the five to have run a statewide campaign before, but I’m not seeing that pointed out as an advantage. He also has the benefit of experience working in the Senate, but in this topsy-turvy electoral year he’s forced to run more as an outsider because that’s the political mood. His campaign to me has been an intriguing concoction of a hawkish foreign policy combined with a populist economic outlook. He’s one of only two of the five who has answered my list of questions, and as one would expect I found his answers to be strongest on foreign policy, immigration, and to some extent the role of government. (I also know Richard has religious freedom bona fides.)

In 2012 when Richard ran for Senate and lost to Dan Bongino, I noted he would have been my 1A candidate after Bongino, who I endorsed. I would have been as comfortable with him winning as the eventual nominee, and at this point he’s done nothing to change that assessment given this field. Still, he speaks the language of an insider and that may hurt him.

Joe Hooe has made his key issue that of immigration, advocating for a paid guest worker program he claims will raise $80 billion. He claims it will make taxpayers out of illegal aliens, but my question is whether we could track such a program when we have no clue how many people are in the country illegally because they crossed the border and how many are illegal because they overstayed their visa. And if they refuse to pay to work, how will we enforce this new fee? If they are here illegally, then I doubt they’re suddenly going to have a “come to Jesus” moment and decide to follow a law that will cost them $1,000.

One thing I do like about Hooe is his advocacy for apprenticeship programs, but to me that is more of a state concern than a federal concern. Perhaps it’s the aspect of having to be elected by the people (which was not the original intent of the Founding Fathers) but I think all of these candidates conflate the roles of the federal and state governments to some degree. Education is one of many areas where there should be no government role.

Chrys Kefalas has a background that I think would serve him well, particularly since he’s involved with the manufacturing field. He does well on trade and job creation, but my question is whether he would be anything different than what we have now concerning the social issues leg of the Reaganesque three-legged conservative stool. Surely he (and some others) argue that Maryland has settled on its position regarding social issues such as abortion and gay marriage, but that doesn’t mean we should stop working toward Judeo-Christian values where life begins at conception and marriage is between one man and one woman. It’s not quite enough to keep me from voting for Chrys on a general election ballot but many thousands of voters realize a two-legged stool doesn’t work.

Maryland Republicans run into trouble when they try to out-liberal the Democrats on certain issues: if you’re a voter who’s going to vote based on the belief that the unborn is just a blob of tissue and no harm comes to society when anyone can marry anyone else they want – and why stop at one, right? – it’s not likely they’re going to be conservative everywhere else. Meanwhile, you just dispirit the percentage of GOP voters who have that passion for Judeo-Christian values. “I’m only voting for President,” they’ll say. It can be argued that Larry Hogan’s victory was an example of putting social issues on the back burner, but aside from Hogan getting the benefit of a depressed liberal Democrat turnout in 2014, ignoring social issues doesn’t play as well on a national race.

Kathy Szeliga is the “establishment” candidate trying desperately to portray herself as an everyday outsider. With the vast majority of Maryland’s General Assembly Republicans favoring her – mainly because she’s served as a Delegate for six years – she also has received the most attention and support in the race. Using my monoblogue Accountability Project as a guide, her lifetime score of 83 would put her in the upper third of those who have served with her over the years, although her score was more mediocre in 2015 (a 72 rating.) She’s also served as one of the faces of General Assembly Republicans – witness this video, one of a string she has done with fellow Delegate Susan Aumann:

Having said all that, there are two main things that disturb me about Szeliga’s campaign. For one, she has no “issues” page on her website, and I always subscribe to the theory that if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. (The same is true for Kefalas.) However, she is reasonably good about answering questions and participating in debates.

But on that point you can tell she is a professional politician. Most of Kathy’s answers seem to be empty platitudes about her life and experiences being a mom, business owner, etc. rather than substantive discussions of the issue at hand. (On the other hand, Richard Douglas has a tendency to talk over the level of the average voter.) Not to be patronizing, but I suspect someone is telling Kathy women voters who would normally be afraid to vote Republican need to be addressed in a non-threatening way – never mind the Democrat who survives the primary will try and paint Szeliga (or any of the others, including the more socially moderate Kefalas) as a stereotypical Republican anyhow.

Dave Wallace, out of the five candidates, seems to be the most conservative. Having read a lengthy treatise of his, most of what he has to say makes sense on a policy level and for that reason I’m leaning his way at this point.

Yet having said that, we also know that Dave lost to a likely opponent by 22 points in a district which is, admittedly based on registration, a D+23 district as it currently stands. In that respect, though, it’s not as bad as the state at large (which is D+32.) We have seen this movie before: Dan Bongino lost by 30 in a 3-way race in 2012, Eric Wargotz by 26 in 2010, Michael Steele by 10 in 2006, E.J. Pipkin by 31 points in 2004, and so forth. I really don’t want a 30-point loss again; unfortunately, too many Maryland voters are stubborn like a mule in voting against their self-interest. (If they “got it,” the most conservative candidate would always win.)

Dave seems like a nice guy and a policy wonk, which I like. But the question is whether he can be a bulldog and attack the Democratic candidate for the failure of the last seven years.

This may not necessarily apply to Dave, although I’m using his space, but I don’t like talk about bipartisanship from any Republican hopeful because Democrats at a national level will nearly always take the hand you reach out to them with, twist your arm off, and proceed to beat you with it. Anyone remember “read my lips?” One of the reasons the bulk of Republicans are fed up with the political system is the lack of intestinal fortitude they see from the politicians they sent to Washington with the message “it’s always been done this way” is not cutting it anymore.

When the TEA Party wave in 2010 put the GOP back in charge of the House, the excuse was “we only control one half of one-third of the government.” Indeed, a do-nothing Senate was a problem. But when the do-nothing Senate was flipped to Republican control in 2014, we still heard excuses about why we couldn’t get anything done. If you want a reason for the rise of Donald Trump, you don’t need to look much further. (Never mind Trump’s not conservative and the bulk of his policy statements have the depth of a cookie sheet. He talks tough.)

If I were to rank my choices in this horserace at the moment, it would go Wallace and Douglas fairly close going into the final turn, with Kefalas a neck ahead of Szeliga for third on the outside and Hooe bringing up the rear. (The rest are chewing hay in the infield.) As it stands now, I will make my endorsement the second Sunday before the primary (April 17.)

In the coming days I will rank the three contenders for the First District Congressional seat. [Yes, there are four Republicans on the ballot but Jonathan Goff is such a strong Trump supporter that he is disqualified. (#NeverTrump strikes again.)] That race is a little different because the incumbent is a Republican so the question becomes whether we want a more straight-ahead conservative or someone who has the reputation of being more liberty-minded? I’ll do some research and hear from one of the three candidates in person in the coming days to help me decide.

Update: Want more? Here you go.

Creating his own outlet

February 15, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Creating his own outlet 

To be perfectly honest and up front about it, I have not listened to the subject of this post, as my life and items are still in some disarray after our recent move. (This includes my headphones, which are in some box somewhere.)

But last week Dan Bongino released the second of what is now a weekly series of podcasts. And given the fact he’s used the political world and running for office twice in the last two federal cycles to make a name for himself in the media world, I wanted to use this post to ponder whether if we would see Bongino go three-for-three with the 2016 U.S. Senate race or a rematch with John Delaney in Maryland’s Sixth District.

Let’s look at a little history first. At this time four years ago, no one outside of the world of the Secret Service and law enforcement knew who Dan Bongino was. But in the spring of 2011 he made the decision to begin his political career with a run for the U.S. Senate seat in Maryland, and with an engaging personality and conservative stands on many issues, Bongino made enough of a name for himself to win a crowded primary and the right to face incumbent Ben Cardin.  While Bongino had some good fortune in the fact no former candidate like Eric Wargotz or Michael Steele, regionally known officeholder like Pat McDonough, or former governor Bob Ehrlich decided to jump into the race, it’s likely he weighed all these possibilities and had an idea they would skip the race before he got in.

Something Bongino succeeded in doing with his 2012 Senate race, though, was nationalizing his effort. In most northeastern states, a Republican running for a statewide office against long odds would attract little notice outside the state, but Bongino made waves with his race once he received a Sarah Palin endorsement. His 2014 Congressional effort continued on the same path.

But something else we learned about Bongino was that he was a natural at broadcasting. Over the last few years he’s graduated from occasional guest to guest host, taking over for both Sean Hannity and Mark Levin on occasion. If he ever lands a spot sitting in for Rush Limbaugh we’ll know he’s in the big leagues.

So it brings up the question for a multimedia player like Bongino: what’s in it for him to make a 2016 run?

Bongino is in a spot in Maryland similar to the one which Sarah Palin occupies nationally. Dan’s support for a candidate is looked upon with approval from a large number of conservative voters in Maryland, just like a Palin endorsement appeals to a particular subset of voters nationwide. Both, however, are becoming more well-known in media circles than for accomplishments in office (which is a shame on Palin’s part, since she has been elected several times.)

If Bongino runs again and loses again, will that tarnish his standing among conservatives who can’t point to electoral success on his part? On the other hand, will he feel that the media exposure he’s gaining is going to put him over the top? With just a few hundred plays on his Soundcloud (I cannot discern how his iTunes podcasts are doing) it’s a nice outlet but not one which gets him a lot of exposure like a guest-hosting slot would give.

Over the next few months, the 2016 races will begin to take shape. I would expect at least a couple members of the Maryland General Assembly to run from cover for federal positions but not to announce their intentions until later this summer. Those who have less name recognition will probably start in the next month or so since the primary is less than 14 months away – depending on how the Presidential race shakes out, we may see more attention paid to the downticket races like U.S. Senate.

If I were to take my educated guess, I think Dan is going to pass on 2016 unless the Senate seat becomes open through the retirement of Barb Mikulski. With 2016 being a Presidential year, turnout will be more like the 2012 turnout and that tends to favor Democrats in this state.

On the other hand, 2018 creates a host of possibilities on both a state and federal level, giving Dan more options should he decide to jump in a race.

Once I get my stuff together I will take about 45 minutes and listen to what Dan has to say – chances are I will enjoy it. But my thoughts always work to the next cycle and all the possibilities within. If the question is whether Dan Bongino will be in the mix, I think the answer is yes. I’m just not sure where one of the many young guns the Maryland GOP has will fit in.

Hogan’s million

I wasn’t surprised to see a splashy press release last night from the Larry Hogan campaign talking about their fundraising prowess. At this point it appears he has the most money of any Republican candidate, with $389,206.92 cash on hand and $275,000 in matching funds on the way. In fact, the release states that:

The grassroots gubernatorial campaign of Anne Arundel business executive Larry Hogan continued to surge according to his latest campaign finance report. For the year, Hogan has collected $1.1 million and ends the filing period with $390,000 in cash on hand. Because Hogan declared his candidacy in late January, his campaign’s fundraising figures cover just the past six weeks. The figures reported by the other candidates for the state’s highest office began on January 9, a five and half month period.

Hogan said, “Our grassroots campaign to change Maryland continues to gain traction and unite voters who are fed up with one-party rule, runaway spending, massive tax hikes and incompetent leadership.

“While career politicians focus on winning over Annapolis elites, Boyd and I have been travelling throughout Maryland to win the support of each and every voter who is tired of politics as usual. We are humbled by the outpouring of support from average Marylanders; clearly our message of change is resonating, our election strategy is sound, and we’ll have the resources to win the GOP primary and go the distance in the general election.

The question I have with this statement is just how “grassroots” is a campaign where roughly half of the funding comes from one Larry Hogan?

According to the preliminary report I found last night on the BOE website, Hogan has loaned his campaign $500,000 – $50,000 increments apiece on February 3 and February 12, $150,000 on May 6, and $250,000 on May 19, the day before reports were due. If you consider all the in-kind contributions from Hogan and donations from Hogan-related LLC entities, the total from Larry’s pocket creeps closer to $600,000.

In essence, the difference between the other campaigns and Larry’s is that he has the bankroll to fall back upon while the others don’t. Unfortunately, as we found out with Eric Wargotz in 2010 and E.J. Pipkin in 2004, spending your way to the nomination isn’t a pathway to overall success – obviously that’s why Hogan opted for the public financing route. But his won’t be the only one to qualify for public financing, as one other campaign should reach the threshold in early June.

So we have something of an irony here – Larry Hogan is spending his own dollars to leverage a fund which was supposed to make politics accessible for a concerned middle-class citizen by leveling the playing field between them and the moneyed interests. By spending $500,000 of his own money he’s getting others to fork over $250,000 to get $2.6 million. If this doesn’t make a mockery of the idea, I don’t know what does. Maybe he should have ran for Comptroller instead, because with that magic we could eliminate all the new taxes and some old ones, too.

We’ll be hearing the name Larry Hogan a lot over the next four weeks. Now if we could only get a better idea of why we should vote for him – having a Washington Post endorsement which talks about a “conciliatory tone and reluctance to declare war on the Democratic establishment” doesn’t exactly scream bold colors over pale pastels. Even the Post concedes that “(g)iven the time (Hogan)’s had to plan his run, his campaign is glaringly short on policy specifics, and his views on education, health care and the environment are gauzy at best.” Welcome to my complaint – I like the message of changing Maryland, but cautiously recall the last time someone ran on a “hope and change” platform. Too many people bought the pig in a poke and regretted it later.

Perhaps Hogan can change my mind in Saturday’s debate, and there’s no question he’s still preferable to any of the Democrats out there because the state can’t afford yet another lost four to eight years trying to perfect the unperfectable socialist paradise. But there are a lot of questions about both his platform and how his campaign has evolved, and it’s preferable that he answer the questions rather than have them be October surprises.

Hershey appointed to District 36 Senate seat

The word came down last night from the victor himself:

I just received a call from the Governor’s office appointing me as the new Senator for District 36 – I am both thrilled and humbled by all the support I received during this appointment process. I am looking forward to serving the 36th District in this new role. Thank you again to all those that offered support, prayers and well wishes this was truly a humbling experience.

Steve Hershey wasn’t the longest shot, but going in he may not have been the favorite, either. Yet he secured the votes of two Central Committees in the four-county district and that was enough to forge a tie with fellow Delegate Michael Smigiel and throw the fate of the seat into the hands of Governor Martin O’Malley. Given Smigiel’s forceful opposition of O’Malley’s onerous gun law package this spring, you knew he would be punished by not getting the appointment he sought.

So Hershey gets the seat vacated by the resignation of former Minority Leader Senator E. J. Pipkin, who followed Rick Perry’s advice before the commercials even came out and moved to Texas. Now the scene shifts to the battle over Hershey’s vacated Delegate seat. As I recall, it cannot be filled by a resident of a county already represented in the district, so residents of Cecil County (Smigiel) and Kent County (Delegate Jay Jacobs, who did not seek the Senate post) would be excluded – but their Central Committees would have a vote.

Out of the original field of 14, all but three hailed from either Queen Anne’s County or Caroline County, which is the lone Maryland county without a resident Delegate. Not all of the remaining ten would seek the Delegate seat, but several probably would and they may be joined by a few others – one being Caroline County commissioner Jeff Ghrist, who made a lengthy plea on Facebook which I excerpt here:

Governor O’Malley will soon be selecting our new District 36 Senator and subsequently one of two House of Delegate seats will become available. This will require someone to fill a Delegate seat. Caroline County has been without a resident of our county representing us in Annapolis for nearly two decades. While I sincerely enjoy being a Commissioner in Caroline County…I would love to take my passion and experience for limited and efficient government to Annapolis.

(snip)

The first goal is to build a concensus (sic) throughout the district that I am the best appointment for Delegate. Not only do I have a strong legislative and executive track record but Caroline County deserves resident representation.

Ghrist has been seeking higher office for awhile; he briefly campaigned for Congress in 2009 before withdrawing and endorsing Andy Harris.

So we will probably have much the same circus we did for the Senate seat, with the real possibility of another split vote and Martin O’Malley breaking the tie.

Meanwhile, Hershey’s tenure may be short-lived. Former Delegate Richard Sossi is actively planning a run for the seat, as is 2010 U.S. Senate nominee Eric Wargotz. The same sort of situation may occur in the District 36 Delegate race next year, with several jockeying for position to be the top vote-getter in a particular county.

Long-term, the solution to that issue may be to enact 141 separate House of Delegate districts, instead of the confusing mishmash of having some three-person districts as well as a handful which are split in a 2-1 configuration. But in the meantime, the political races on the Eastern Shore may be some of the most interesting in the state with the District 36 openings, a primary challenge to the incumbent in District 37A, the opening in District 37B thanks to the selection of Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio to the David Craig gubernatorial ticket, the forced move of Delegate Mike McDermott to a challenge for the District 38 Senate seat due to redistricting, and a brand new District 38C with no incumbent.

One seat, fourteen applicants

Monday evening the list of applicants for E.J. Pipkin’s District 36 Maryland Senate seat came out, and there were several surprises on the list. We knew some of the names which would be on there, but there is no lack of aspirants for the job. In alphabetical order, they are:

  • Steven Arentz, a Queen Anne’s County Commissioner elected in 2010
  • R. Scott Bramble, of Cecil County
  • Frank Frohn, a former member of the Queen Anne’s County Planning Commission and unsuccessful 2010 Commission candidate
  • John Graham, of Queen Anne’s County
  • Stephen Hershey, current District 36 Delegate from Queen Anne’s County (elected in 2010)
  • Andrew Langer, president of the Institute for Liberty and Red Maryland radio host
  • Tim McCluskey, a town councilman from Centreville since 2009
  • Audrey Scott, onetime mayor of Bowie, Secretary of Planning, and more recently Maryland GOP Chair 2009-10
  • Michael Smigiel, current District 36 Delegate from Cecil County (first elected in 2002)
  • Richard Sossi, former District 36 Delegate from 2002-10
  • Robert Thornton, Jr., former Delegate from Caroline County (1990-94) – elected as a Democrat
  • John Leo Walter, who ran for Congress in 2008, from Queen Anne’s County
  • John Walton, Jr., of Caroline County
  • Eric Wargotz, GOP Senate nominee in 2010 and former Queen Anne’s County Commissioner

So as far as I can tell, most of these officeseekers have already served in some capacity, while many others have run for office. I would imagine that most, if not all, of them would try once again if one of the two current Delegates in the mix (Hershey or Smigiel) is elevated to the Senate (and if they are eligible, based on my recollection of state law – see below.)

Personally, I think it’s going to be Smigiel’s seat to lose, but he probably has to get the backing of all four counties to be selected. If more than one name is sent to Governor O’Malley, it won’t be Smigiel who’s picked, not after his strident opposition to the cherished O’Malley gun law. If Caroline County stays home and picks Thornton as one of several names submitted he may be the choice as a former Democrat and current attorney. Martin O’Malley can also then say he addressed the unfairness of having one county not represented in Annapolis.

To me, the most intriguing names in the running are Langer, Scott, Sossi, Walter, and Wargotz.

Obviously Andrew Langer is a political activist and could be an interesting bomb thrower in the Maryland Senate as a TEA Party stalwart. I think he has a slightly better chance of being selected as a Delegate should a seat open up thanks to the elevation of Hershey – I believe if Smigiel is selected his successor would have to come from a county not already represented in the district, which would leave only Caroline and Cecil counties as possibilities because Hershey is from Queen Anne’s and Delegate Jay Jacobs, who is not seeking the Senate seat, comes from Kent County.

I see Audrey Scott, meanwhile, as a possible compromise, caretaker candidate who probably wouldn’t run again in 2014. It’s not like she hasn’t come in to finish someone else’s term and opted not to run again, although she may then assume some position will be handed to her. Also worth mentioning: she’s the only woman in the field.

From what I gather, Sossi is running for the poetic justice of succeeding the guy who allegedly helped orchestrate his defeat in 2010 by Hershey. I suppose he could then run in 2014 as being the tan, rested, and ready candidate.

Most may not have heard of John Leo Walter, but I remember him. Lost in the bloodbath that was the 2008 First District Congressional primary was Walter’s principled, conservative campaign. Maybe this is his time, although he is probably the darkest of horses in this race.

And after passing up the 2012 Senate campaign and thoughts of climbing into the gubernatorial ring, it’s worth pointing out that Eric Wargotz has trimmed his aspirations back to where some probably thought they should have been all along.

It’s interesting to me that, when I did the research into one of the candidates, I came across this Free Republic thread from 2003 when Jeannie Haddaway (pre-Riccio) was selected for the then-vacant District 37B Delegate seat in a similar situation – four counties were involved there, too. At that time, both Caroline and Wicomico selected Jim Newcomb of Dorchester County but Haddaway was Bob Ehrlich’s choice as her name was submitted by Talbot County, which at the time was the largest jurisdiction in the district. But there were only six shooting for the seat back then as opposed to the fourteen-person scrum we have this time.

(As an aside, there was a fascinating mention of then-officeseeker Stevie Prettyman, who remains on Wicomico County Council to this day:

Stevie Prettyman, current Wicomico County Council member, supports conservative spending and agreed with the other candidate that Maryland citizens are over-taxed. Prettyman said building bonds with Democrats would be a key strategy if selected.

“You have to cross the aisle,” Prettyman said. “You have to be able to hold hands for a common goal – and that common goal is the best for the people you serve.”

To some, it seems to still hold true even when there’s only one Democrat on County Council because we’ve not managed to elect a GOP County Executive.)

I would imagine that the timetable has been set so that there’s plenty of breathing room before counties are required to submit nominees. Will the four counties go with the conventional wisdom, or will they break ranks and allow Martin O’Malley to select a centrist Republican who would bend to his will as he did when former Delegate Richard Weldon resigned in 2009? At that time, Frederick and Washington counties split and Charles Jenkins was picked over Michael Hough, who then ran against Jenkins and won the seat in 2010.

No one can be certain at this time. While Smigiel has claimed he has the votes, that’s not necessarily true.

Everything in its time

June 17, 2013 · Posted in Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on Everything in its time 

You may recall the dustup last fall when the Maryland Republican Party decided to take its show on the road, assisting Mitt Romney’s campaign in Virginia and Pennsylvania at the expense of candidates who maybe could have used the assistance here. Obviously the 2012 election didn’t work out the way the party had wanted, but hope springs eternal and there’s always another election.

This brings me to make this point: since we’re not busy trying to win ten races at the top of the ticket (along with a handful of local races) it seems like NOW would be a good time to lend ourselves to other states’ races, and the Maryland Young Republicans are doing just that.

Our friends in the Massachusetts Young Republicans need your help to send another Republican to Washington next Tuesday.

We are asking all Young Republicans who are able to set aside some time in the next week to make phone calls for Republican U.S. Senate Candidate Gabriel Gomez.

Gabriel Gomez is a Navy SEAL and businessman who is challenging long-term incumbent Ed Markey. Ed Markey is a product of the out-of-touch liberal establishment in Washington; he’s been in in Congress since 1976 and been a key Democrat on virtually every liberal policy that has impacted your way of life. He is not deserving of a promotion.

Gabriel Gomez can help us fix what insiders like Ed Markey has broken. And you can help.

The site to sign up is here if you’re interested.

It’s interesting that three years ago, when Scott Brown pulled the upset and won the U.S. Senate seat from Massachusetts, there was a Maryland politician who helped out then, too. It didn’t work out for him later on, but I’m sure Eric Wargotz learned something from the experience.

But my point is that this IS a race where Marylanders can help out, particularly since the race will have national attention. The same will be true for the New Jersey Senate race in October, since it will be two weeks before their off-year state elections, as well as Virginia’s gubernatorial election this fall. We can learn a little bit from those races, get some volunteering done, and hopefully next year when it’s our turn take advantage of the lessons learned. In this case, the Maryland YRs get it.

Not to be forgotten

In recent weeks, 2012 U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino has created a lot of buzz regarding his future plans, rumors which included everything from being appointed to the recently vacated Anne Arundel County Executive post or being elected Maryland Republican Party Chair to a potential run for Governor. While the two former options were eliminated in a statement from Dan, many still speculate about his possible pursuit of the Governor’s chair.

Apparently the proverbial “last year’s model” didn’t want people to forget about him and his own run from not-so-long ago, so I received an e-mail on Saturday which explained the following:

Dear Friend,

Eric Wargotz believes that the economic health and well-being of all Americans must come first. That is precisely why we are working with Eric to determine what his next move should be. As the 2014 elections approach, we are examining opportunities at both the State and Federal levels as well as locally.

Eric Wargotz is a rare blend of individual who truly understands what it is to serve. As a physician, caring family man, business owner, former County Commissioner and U.S. Senate Nominee, Eric Wargotz understands that you come first, that together we hold the power and that he works for all of us. Conservative and compassionate, Eric Wargotz understands the complex issues facing us and believes in working towards common-sense solutions and not through oppressive government policies which threaten our liberties and our private enterprise. Eric Wargotz has a proven record of fiscal conservatism including reducing taxes and job creation.

Eric Wargotz was Maryland’s Republican U.S. Senate Nominee in 2010 and continues to be an active community leader throughout the State. Dr. Wargotz garnered the largest percentage of the vote in the history of challenges to this entrenched incumbent Senator and Washington Insider. Eric Wargotz is a respected physician, small-business owner, and former elected President of the Queen Anne’s County, MD Board of County Commissioners who while in office:

  • KEPT his promises.
  • LOWERED taxes.
  • INCREASED government transparency and accountability.
  • Made PRIVATE SECTOR JOB CREATION a top priority.

“Like you, I am outraged by career politicians who care more about their political lives than the people who elected them. Politics as usual has gotten us into this mess, and both parties share the blame for where we are today. It’s time we returned to our core roots of fiscal discipline and job creation to dig America out of this hole and secure our nation’s future. Please support me and my team in our effort to raise necessary funds to pursue the path to victory as we survey the landscape to explore how best I may serve you.

Thank you in advance for your support and generosity.”‘

In the 2010 election, Wargotz had a higher percentage of the overall vote than Dan Bongino received in 2012, but only received 655,666 votes compared to 693,291 for Bongino two years later – bear in mind also that Dan had an independent candidate drawing perhaps 3/5 of his vote away from Dan’s column.

And just like Dan, Eric’s options are limited by the small number of statewide offices on the ballot this time around; however, Wargotz does have a track record of winning in Queen Anne’s County which he alluded to in his letter. Shrewdly, he did not preclude starting over politically with a local office (and obviously, smaller budget required.)

However, Eric has limited 2014 options for higher office unless he wants to challenge Maryland’s lone Republican federal elected official in Andy Harris for a Congressional seat or incumbent Republicans in a race for the General Assembly. In essence, his only option for a statewide office is a run for governor – but is it a winnable race for him? Given the bullet points he outlined in his missive, it seems to me that’s the direction Eric is pointing in. (Moreover, for a local run Eric could probably launch his campaign later this fall given his name recognition in Queen Anne’s County. So why else would he start talking up his options now?)

Therefore, it would not surprise me to see this message as a precursor and feeler for a run for Governor. (Revising his website with this message is also a clue.) Obviously, except for Bongino, Eric is the only one among the current presumed contenders who has previously run statewide, although Charles Lollar has run the statewide Americans for Prosperity organization for some time. (The same can be said for Larry Hogan and Change Maryland.) But money may be an issue, as Eric wasn’t a prolific fundraiser in his U.S. Senate bid and instead relied a lot on out-of-pocket funding. While Wargotz has an outstanding state account, as of January 2012 he only had $3,435 in it (with a loan balance of $11,000.) Last month Wargotz filed a Affidavit of Limited Contributions and Expenditures on that account for the period since January, 2012 – an ALCE affirms a campaign has not spent or received over $1,000 in the previous filing period. As always, though, the ALCE is not binding for a future period.

But if Wargotz wants to be included in the conversation of potential 2014 gubernatorial candidates, sure, I’ll start that ball rolling. Since most other areas of the state have a candidate hailing from their section, why not one from the Eastern Shore?

I’m still trying to figure out who “we” is, though. I know he reads this space, so perhaps Eric can enlighten me and the rest of us.

The importance of data

Fellow blogger Judy Warner, who now contributes to the Potomac Tea Party Report, tipped me off to an article on the Atlantic website; an article which provided a glimpse at perhaps the most important part of Barack Obama’s electoral victory. Obviously it’s packed with effusive praise for Obama’s campaign in general, for the Atlantic is at heart a highbrow liberal magazine.

But there’s an important point to be considered: say all you want about Obama’s wretched foreign and domestic policies, but he knew how to get re-elected despite being arguably the worst president since Jimmy Carter when it came to bungling both sides of the equation. Oh sure, we on the conservative side know that the mainstream media ran interference for him like the Chicago Bears of another era blocked for Walter Payton but in the end it was Payton who made the defense miss tackles and not easily bring him down.

The part about the Atlantic‘s piece by Alexis Madrigal which stuck out to me the most, though, was the Obama campaign’s willingness to go outside the political arena and find people who simply knew how to make the best use of the technology out there. (If only he would do the same for economics and Constitutional scholarship.) Of course, there was a symbiotic relationship between the two since I’m certain the vast majority of those who signed on were in Obama’s philosophical corner, but this is the technology edge that the Republicans swore up and down they would negate this time around. Instead, we had the well-documented and discussed crash of the ORCA system on Election Day which cemented the demise of Mitt Romney’s Presidential bid.

The orphan of Romney’s technology failure could be traced back to the fact that those who were by trade political consultants – and hence “knew how the system worked” – really didn’t know squat about the technological side of things. Ten years ago e-mail lists were golden because that was going to be the new way to reach voters. In fact, as I recall, the first rendition of Obama For Against America had a massive list of somewhere around 13 million e-mail addresses to start from (including mine.) But their technology team built up from there and integrated all sorts of data collection and outputs tailored from it.

As an example, remember the post where I related the fact they knew I hadn’t donated to the Obama campaign? The fact that they could tie together the database which had my e-mail address and the one where they had the records of who donated was seemingly beyond the capability of the Romney camp. Instead, the Romney side would send me the EXACT SAME e-mail several times – once from their campaign and then through three or four different “sponsored content” sites to whom I’m sure the Romney people paid handsomely for their list. Unfortunately, I happened to be at the very center of that Venn diagram and I’m betting that most of you reading this were too. But does a generic e-mail motivate someone to go to the polls or donate?

Once again, the key difference came down to data. Maybe I wasn’t high up on the sophistication level of the Obama people because they knew I was sort of a lurker on their e-mail list. I’d bet a dollar to a donut they knew I was a XXX Republican voter and therefore gave me the minimum of e-mail efforts; meanwhile, the uncommitted or newly registered voter (or one who bothered to fill out more information at the Obama site, unlike me) had a variety of messages tailored for him or her. You don’t honestly think the “Julia” advertising campaign or the Lena Dunham “First Time” commercial weren’t calculated to arouse a group they knew they had a maximum of potential voters within? It’s also why they promoted the false “war on women” narrative, with plenty of media help to play up unfortunate statements by U.S. Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock.

Since the Romney campaign all but ignored Maryland, let’s look at one statewide Republican campaign we contested, that of Dan Bongino. Just as a recap, Bongino began running for the U.S. Senate as a first-time candidate in the spring of 2011. He had no political experience and his main initial backing was from someone who had ran and lost badly in his first run for political office at the statewide level a year earlier in Brian Murphy. It wasn’t exactly a broad platform to begin from, and the key question in the race early on was whether 2010 GOP U.S. Senate nominee Eric Wargotz would try again. He didn’t.

But Bongino worked hard to overcome many of his disadvantages, and had the attribute of a compelling, man-bites-dog sort of story: a former Secret Service agent quits to make a seemingly quixotic U.S. Senate run in a liberal bastion of a state. Moreover, he’s young, well-spoken, and telegenic, with a rags-to-riches life story that unfortunately too few got to hear outside of the conservative echo chamber. Dan did well at nationalizing his campaign thanks to that story, and managed to win the Republican primary in April over the game but underfunded Richard Douglas and several other less qualified candidates.

Perhaps the Bongino campaign hit its peak just before Labor Day, because just as people decided to start paying attention a newcomer jumped into the race with a populist promise and millions of dollars at his disposal. Obviously this threw the Bongino campaign out of balance and too much time was spent trying to fight off the challenger on the ladder below while the guy above him had little to do but watch the other two battle it out. It was almost as if Dan had to run a second primary campaign in the midst of a general election, this time against an opponent who was much better-funded and inundated the airwaves with slick 30-second commercials beseeching people to “declare your independence.” Like it or not, the “independence” pitch was a message that worked with those who were sick of party infighting but didn’t want to bother enough to go into the details of Rob Sobhani’s pledges.

But imagine what could have been had Dan had the same sort of database and expertise used by the Obama campaign? He could have targeted his message in such a manner to counter the incumbent’s record to certain voters, rebuke the so-called “independent” to wavering supporters, and kept the money stream flowing from the die-hard element. There was no question in my mind that Dan’s message had broad appeal, and perhaps had the roles been reversed between Bongino and Sobhani to where Rob was the GOP nominee and Bongino the unaffiliated candidate, the results would have been about the same. The only difference would be that the Maryland GOP would have been embarrassed about losing to an independent candidate as well as a Democrat.

That’s not to say that there aren’t potential databases at our disposal. We have an idea of those who are most worried about illegal immigration (Question 4), and are pro-family (Question 6). Those who came out against Question 5 and Question 7 can also be construed as sympathetic to at least part of our message. Then add in all the AFP people, TEA Party participants, and fiscal conservatives we know and one can build up a little bit of a knowledge base. Of course, the key is keeping it up to date and determining relevant messaging for the situations which crop up.

A new era is dawning in politics. The old scattershot standby of sign waving doesn’t seem to be very effective anymore, even as well as Dan did it in one memorable afternoon. There were a lot of cars going by on Rockville Pike that day to be sure, but there was no way of knowing whether these were even registered voters. Maybe it’s because I don’t get a lot of Democratic campaign e-mail, or maybe there’s just not enough of a base around here to make it worthwhile, but I never hear about a Democratic sign waving unless it’s in the form of a larger protest. What few Democratic tactical e-mails I received (from the Obama campaign, naturally) had to do with person-to-person events – making phone calls from the local headquarters or having “watch parties” for various campaign events at people’s homes. The former was probably more effective for reaching out to undecided voters while the latter kept the zealots motivated to keep giving of their time and talents. And it came down to having the database to know where I lived and what events were being planned by supporters via solid communications between volunteer and campaign. Those functions were handled on a local level on the Romney side, not always well.

It has been said to me on many occasions that conservatives win on issues and that we are a center-right nation. Obviously I believe that and if anything I think we need a stronger dose of limited government.

But data is king. It’s not enough to have the registration lists and do the door-to-door and phone calls, both of which seemed to be sadly lacking in Maryland thanks to a self-defeating prophecy which states Republicans can’t win statewide elections so why bother trying? That’s a good start, but we also need to invest in the electronic end of things and, more importantly, look outside the incestuous web of political consultants who talk a good game about political IT and find those who do these things for a living. Not all of the Web and social media gurus are liberal Democrats – admittedly, most are but we have to build up a farm team there as well.

I believe we can overcome all those “demography is destiny” and “you can’t convince the minorities to vote GOP” naysayers by using the right data to send them the conservative message. We can win, but it will take hard work, a lot of prudent investment outside of the good-old-boy, inside-the-Beltway system which continues to insure us defeat after defeat, and less of a reliance on things we always thought worked before but have outlived their usefulness.

All of us movement conservatives have some sort of talent, and there are a growing number who believe mine is in analyzing information and providing it to readers in a coherent fashion. As I said in my book. I believe there’s a place for someone of my talents in a conservative, limited-government movement. Years ago I read a self-help book which said I should manage around my weaknesses so I took that to heart and play to my strengths, and mine is in gathering my thoughts and turning them into pixels on a computer screen or words on a page.

But there’s a far bigger place for those who know how to corral data and put it to use so people like me can communicate to the largest number of relevant people possible, while others who have that gift of gab and outgoing personality needed for the task are sent to knock on the right doors and dial the right phone numbers with the right message for the listener. It’s never going to be foolproof, but we have a long way to go just to be adequate.

Finally, we have to treat this like a war. Of course I don’t mean that in the sense of carnage and mayhem, but the idea of taking time off or letting someone else do the job is no more. A soldier has to be ready for anything at any time, and we have to be ready to mobilize at a moment’s notice, keeping an eye out for future elections. On that front, I’m very disappointed I’ve seen no action in my hometown and no credible candidate file to either run against our mayor or the two City Council members whose seats are up in this cycle. Nor do we have a good idea yet of who will be running locally in 2014. (In that case, though, we happen to have a number of incumbents but there are seats we’d love to contest and fill as well.)

Not all campaigns will be successful, but I think we can take a step toward eventual success in learning from our tormentors, and the Atlantic profile provides a quick case study.

Conservative Victory PAC picks Bongino

August 7, 2012 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2012, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, Senator Watch · Comments Off on Conservative Victory PAC picks Bongino 

This isn’t the most surprising item to come down the pike, but after selecting Ken Timmerman and Faith Loudon as Congressional choices for support, the Conservative Victory PAC went statewide by backing dynamic U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino. And they spoke about him glowingly:

Before a crowd of Bongino supporters at the home of Karl and Carolin Schumaker, CVPAC Treasurer Ruth Melson presented the endorsement to everyone’s delight.

Melson complimented Bongino’s inspiring campaign trail message that has gained him admirers throughout the State of Maryland. Melson remarked: “Dan Bongino has run a campaign with one of the strongest grassroots outreach and volunteer recruitment efforts in recent memory. I can tell you that they are all charged up by his exceptional articulation of Conservative principles, which recently got a shout-out from Sarah Palin herself. Dan’s message is simple – our liberties are under attack, and it is we the people who know best, not big government. Dan warns us not to get lost in the granular details. This is a far bigger battle against a dangerous political ideology and indeed they are playing for keeps. Yes folks, the stakes are high.”

The person who wrote this release, however, was thoughtful enough to quote liberally from what Dan said previously at the event.

In an earlier speech Bongino – a former Secret Service Agent – clarified what is at stake: “I spent my entire life studying macro-economics. The writing is on the wall. It is all there, and again I don’t want to sound apocalyptic, because God, I love this country…but we are in a lot of trouble, and I don’t want to be the prognosticator here. We are printing our way into a debt apocalypse and inflating away the value of our money and all of our assets. We can’t build anything here, because our corporate tax rate is the highest in the world. Our real estate market is collapsing. The very core of what this country was built on is collapsing, and the time to turn around, right the ship, make a U-turn is right now. It’s not tomorrow….all of you listeners, you have to do. Don’t talk. Talk is cheap….Action changes the world. If you’re not volunteering for a campaign and just sitting on your butt, you’re part of the problem, and you are whistling past the graveyard…. An entire generation will be left holding the bag if we don’t come through in November.”

It’s understandable that some would simply dismiss those statements as partisan red meat. But has Ben Cardin been part of the solution, or has he stood by mutely while the debt meter spun wildly, ratcheting upward at a pace of $1 trillion-plus per year? If you believe Dan Bongino – and the guy has an MBA, so perhaps he has some inkling about what he’s talking about – this is a serious problem. Come on, my degree is in environmental design and I’m smart enough to know that going into debt means it’s likely the creditor will be paid back in money that’s not worth as much because of inflation, particularly when the money supply is greater but intrinsic value doesn’t keep up.

But let’s talk about the Conservative Victory PAC. They’ve now endorsed three candidates I’m aware of, and the question has to become: how much help can they give?

Obviously, endorsements aren’t just about the candidate – they’re about the endorser as well, particularly if it’s a PAC. A group which backs an appealing slate of candidates isn’t just thinking about the election at hand but also one or two cycles ahead. Certainly they want to back at least a few winners as well.

Even Loudon herself has admitted she has an uphill struggle with a 4:1 registration disadvantage in her district, so the CVPAC’s two best chances for victory are with Timmerman and Bongino. Timmerman is hanging his hat on a district which is now more Republican than it was two years ago thanks to Maryland Democrats’ greed in wanting to create a friendly district for State Senator Rob Garagiola to run for Congress from; instead the Sixth District will feature upstart John Delaney, who trounced Garagiola in the primary, trying to upend incumbent Roscoe Bartlett. The addition of thousands of Montgomery County voters to the Sixth from the Eighth meant new voters had to come from somewhere and that somewhere was the eastern end of the former Sixth District, which is a much more pronounced GOP area. Timmerman was one of the few who was fine with redistricting.

But don’t count Dan Bongino out either. If Ben Cardin were 25 points ahead like Barb Mikulski ended up against Eric Wargotz in the 2010 U.S. Senate election, I don’t think he would have agreed to a series of debates with Bongino. Of course, the devil is in the details and Cardin can always welch on the commitment if he believes that doing so would hurt his opponent – I think Cardin is overconfident at this point that he can mop up the floor with this political neophyte – but that’s a sign the race is closer than many might believe. Most political handicappers still rate Maryland as a lock for Ben but there are a lot of other factors at play in this election that I’m not sure they are considering here.

Meanwhile, the Conservative Victory PAC is certainly trying to build its coffers up for this race but it will probably have a limited impact on these federal races. I think their goal is to use this election cycle to build up for a set of races they can have a larger impact on in 2014. As we’ve heard before, a number of close local races went to the Democrats in 2010 – races where a few dollars more could have made a difference. After all, I was bombarded by nearly  dozen mailers claiming then-Delegate Jim Mathias was all but the second coming of Ronald Reagan in his Senate run, but a few more dollars to cut through the clutter in Worcester County (the only one of the three Mathias won) may have turned the tide in Michael James’s favor. I only got a couple pro-James mailers.

Listen, I’m as much about conservative victory as anyone. But I hope the people who run the PAC don’t spread themselves too thin in this cycle when the chance to make a bigger impact comes in 2014.

Senate and early voting updates

In the last week of the campaign Richard Douglas is making a charge down the stretch to grab the GOP nod for U.S. Senate. Witness this commercial, which is actually a pretty well-done 30-second spot:

But I can’t help noticing parallels between the 2010 and 2012 GOP Senate races. The two things which got eventual 2010 nominee Eric Wargotz through the primary and into a general election shellacking by Barbara Mikulski were the tacit backing of the state party establishment (as opposed to Jim Rutledge, who was perceived as more of a TEA Party candidate) and a lot of the candidate’s money. Fast forward to 2012 and you find that, on the first point, Richard Douglas has retained the services of Lawrence Scott’s political consulting firm. Lawrence Scott is the son of former MDGOP Chair and National Committeewoman candidate Audrey Scott, who has also endorsed Douglas.

I don’t doubt that Scott Strategies has had its share of successes over the years, but FEC records show his firm has received over $27,000 from Douglas. By comparison, the campaign has raised just over $26,000 in individual contributions.

So where is the money for what the Douglas campaign describes as a “six figure advertising buy focused on statewide radio, direct mail and voter turnout phone calls as the April 3 primary nears” coming from? Richard has secured over $100,000 in candidate loans, meaning his campaign is (as of the March 14 filing date) nearly $111,000 in debt with just over $20,000 cash on hand.

This is similar to 2010, where Eric Wargotz had over $500,000 cash on hand before his September primary but was $575,000 in debt based on campaign loans (he ended up raising just over $250,000 from outside contributors for the 2010 campaign but spent $1.24 million overall.)

By comparison, Dan Bongino raised over $187,000 in individual contributions by March 14, and had only loaned $3,000 to his campaign. A significant portion of his expenditures went to several paid members of his campaign rather than to an outside consultant. But maybe he needed a better audio feed for this spot, because it doesn’t compare well with his radio ads.

Of course, financially neither holds a candle to the nearly $1.9 million Ben Cardin had on hand. Ben obviously didn’t sleep through the class on how to shake down unions, PACs, and other special interests for campaign cash.

I also wanted to add a few words about early voting in Maryland. So far, according to the latest figures which now include five days of the six-day process, not even 2% of voters have come out. Even if the final day is as busy as Saturday was, fewer than one out of 40 registered voters will partake in the process. So I must ask: why are we bothering?

The only counties which may have significant early turnout (that being on the order of seven to eight percent) are Talbot and Kent counties; on the other hand some of the largest counties will likely lag under 2%. (Wicomico is at 2.37% with 1,063 voting at the Civic Center so far.)

As far as party affiliation, the GOP is ahead in terms of percentage with 2.17% turnout compared to 1.97% for Democrats. That’s a little ironic given the fact the GOP didn’t care for early voting when it was presented to the General Assembly, but  both parties have encouraged its use since.

As for me, I’m going to the polls Tuesday like we should.

Pulling the polls

March 8, 2012 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2012, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Pulling the polls 

I had a couple interesting polls up which ended today.

For one, I found out that there’s a LOT of Dan Bongino fans who read my site. It’s either that or the others don’t take much stock in internet polls. But each time I’ve had a poll in the last few months Bongino has won, with the one exception being a poll I took last June when Eric Wargotz was still considering the race (Bongino was a close second in that one.)

But I can tell you right now that Dan won’t win 90-plus percent of the vote as he does in my poll. In fact, I would be surprised if any candidate came up with 50 percent – the dynamics of the GOP U.S. Senate race remind me of the 2010 nomination battle to face Barb Mikulski. Eric Wargotz won the race but didn’t even break 40 percent, and the top two got just 70 percent of the vote. This will not be a coronation like 2006 with Michael Steele by any means.

On the other hand, the poll I did regarding the ballot issues had some wild swings in it, and it definitely shows the passion behind both sides of the issue. My poll would suggest that the same-sex marriage referendum would have a more difficult time overturning that law than the referendum regarding in-state tuition for illegal aliens.

As you likely recall, there were four possible choices, which ranged from overturning both to keeping both, with the additional possibilities of voting for one but not the other. If you look at the possible outcomes, this is how they shook out:

  • Overturn both: 212 votes
  • Keep both: 209 votes
  • Overturn only in-state tuition: 106 votes
  • Overturn only gay marriage: 1 vote

So in theory the votes would turn out this way:

  • Overturning in-state tuition: 318 yes, 210 no (60.2% yes, 39.8% no)
  • Overturning gay marriage: 213 yes, 315 no (40.3% yes, 59.7% no)

Somehow I don’t quite think the margin will be that great in either case, as recent polling has both issues almost evenly split.

But I wouldn’t be surprised to see an October Surprise poll, conducted by one of the leading media outlets in the state, that suggests both of these ballot initiatives will go down to defeat by a significant margin. Of course, that poll will only come after attempts to soften up opposition by presenting the stories of committed gay couples who are pillars of the community, and all they want is to get married so they can enjoy matrimonial bliss like the regular couples do. They’ll also likely find an interracial straight couple who supports the gay marriage bill to carry forth the narrative that opposition to gay marriage is just like the opposition to interracial marriage decades ago.

And don’t think the other referendum will be spared: they’ll certainly have the obligatory portrayal of little Maria, the valedictorian of her class, who’s going to be denied her opportunity at the American Dream because her poor parents are illegal aliens and those mean old Republicans and conservatives only want white people to succeed. Will they play the race card? You betcha!

Nor should we be surprised if these polls show Barack Obama, Ben Cardin, and every other Democrat in the state with insurmountable leads; the overriding message will be that conservatives have a lost cause and may as well stay home on Election Day. That’s how they play the game, and our job is going to be one of shocking the world come November. (Oh, and watching the vote counters like a hawk.)

As Brian Griffiths pointed out at Red Maryland earlier this week, Democrats (and their allies who drink deeply of the public trough) are scared because, if these petition-based initiatives succeed, their grip on power will be significantly loosened and no longer could they rule the state by fiat simply because they can spend their way to an omnipresent majority in the General Assembly. So they’re trying to throw every obstacle they can in front of those who are fighting them, including intimidation at petition sites, needless appeals to Maryland courts, and now the bill Griffiths cites which would made it exceedingly difficult to collect signatures in the short time frame prescribed by law.

This was probably the last poll I’ll do on the Senate race, as the more important one begins just a couple weeks from now with early voting.

A second look before he leaps?

January 7, 2012 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2012, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on A second look before he leaps? 

Well, we can’t count Eric Wargotz out can we?

In a move which both piques interest and certainly cheers a certain segment of the Maryland Republican Party, the aforenentioned 2010 GOP Senate candidate is reportedly taking a “second look” at the race, according to the Baltimore Sun and other blog reports. As examples, David Moon at Maryland Juice has the port side view on this while Richard Cross, who briefly worked with the 2010 Wargotz effort, also weighs in at Cross Purposes.

Obviously, this could be much ado about nothing. For one thing, there are only four days before the filing deadline, and while Eric likely has a portion of his team in place and certainly hasn’t closed out his campaign accounts from 2010 he’s already facing a field with some established frontrunners and an uphill battle to secure the same proportion of the primary vote he received two years ago.

But it appears Eric’s logic regarding a primary battle is sound to a certain extent – obviously Ben Cardin has a serious opponent. Yet on the other hand, it appears the Maryland Democratic Party is going all in for Cardin despite their own bylaws prohibiting the practice. While our state is perceived as a safely Democratic state, anything is possible and Democrats have to protect the seats they have in the Senate, bylaws be damned.

And there’s always the “testing the waters” theory: perhaps this trial balloon has been launched to see what sort of buzz is generated by the possibility of a late Wargotz entry. Obviously it’s enough to make me write something during an NFL playoff game, and perhaps there is a chance that disillusioned minority Democrats here in Maryland – who will surely turn out to vote for Barack Obama – make that vote and then cast a ballot for the Republican to punish Ben Cardin for running against one of their own. But I only see that as adding 2 to 5 percent to the total of the eventual GOP nominee, and whoever runs needs to make up the 10-point deficit Michael Steele had in the 2006 race.

Certainly Eric is free to toss his hat into the ring, as I always think the more primary choices I have the better. But no one is going to hand him the GOP nomination and many of the factors which led him to initially skip the 2012 contest will remain in place regardless of how the Democratic race goes. My thinking at the moment is that C. Anthony Muse has a steep climb in order to beat Ben Cardin, even without the state and national Democrats putting their thumbs on the scale. Sometimes the first gut instinct is the best one.

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