More impressions about the Maryland U.S. Senate GOP primary

Since the first round did so well and there’s more to write about anyway I think I’ll revise and extend my earlier remarks. I suppose I will begin with the front-runner according to the Washington Post poll from earlier this week.

So we know now that Kathy Szeliga has indeed debuted her television spot, at least online. (I haven’t seen it on broadcast yet.) More on that in a moment, but if you weren’t already sure she was the “establishment” candidate, the fact the Maryland GOP’s executive director made a “small donation” to the tune of $250 to her campaign might just change your mind. (For someone like me, that’s not “small.”)

Now about that commercial, which continues Kathy’s narrative that she would bring change to Washington. It’s basically an introduction piece that I think will have one lasting impact: “oh yeah, she’s the candidate that rides the motorcycle.” To each his or her own, I guess. Since this race is still a lot about name recognition, every little bit helps.

I do want to bring one other voice into the discussion on Szeliga, although it can extend to other candidates as well. Richard Falknor at Blue Ridge Forum (who was kind enough to link the last Senate piece) states:

Maryland Republicans should insist on clear answers from whoever is their standard bearer for United States Senator. The optimistic tone of delegate Szeliga’s campaign message is praiseworthy, but she must support it by articulating thoughtful positions on vital matters. Many Maryland voters of all flavors will respect blunt answers in these times of grave peril to our land.

Unfortunately, as I pointed out in my original treatise, Szeliga is one of two top candidates who don’t have an “issues” page on their website. (Chrys Kefalas, who is second at the moment, is the other.) A quick check of their websites reveals both Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen have relatively extensive issues pages, so one could ask what our frontrunners are hiding. I suppose they remember that it more or less worked for Larry Hogan, who frustrated me by having a skimpy issues page as well. Perhaps many of us now know why.

So it’s interesting that Chrys Kefalas is now trying to corner the market on the tagline “Larry Hogan Republican,” as he plays up his experience in Maryland’s previous GOP administration. Of course, the perspective is somewhat different as Larry is an executive while Chrys would be a legislator, but you can’t argue with a 70% approval rating, can you? It seems the top two candidates are trying to out-Hogan the other as far as invoking the name (and perhaps political philosophy.)

It’s been more quiet on the Richard Douglas front, although he is chiming in on several Obama administration foreign policy decisions. His latest is his “hunch” that a lame-duck Barack Obama will pardon American criminals hiding out in Cuba. But if I can clear my docket I may see Richard tomorrow morning at the Somerset County GOP breakfast – he sent an e-mail to me today inviting me to come. It will be interesting to see how much of his presentation (if he makes one) will be devoted to foreign policy and how much goes to pocketbook issues.

Recently I completed the Facebook five-pack as I “liked” Joe Hooe‘s campaign page there. Not much new under the sun there, but it did pique my curiosity. I don’t think Hooe’s page has been around very long, but it got me thinking about social media. All five top contenders have a Senate campaign page – so how many followers do they have? Here you go:

  1. Kathy Szeliga – 7,126
  2. Chrys Kefalas – 5,553
  3. Dave Wallace – 2,895
  4. Richard Douglas – 2,039
  5. Joe Hooe – 439

Granted, Dave Wallace could have carried his page over from his 2014 campaign and renamed it, but still that’s very good for a guy who’s not even polled. It’s a very tenuous connection based on this possibility, but if you assume from Szeliga’s number of Facebook followers that one polling point is equal to 475 followers (a formula which works fairly close for Kefalas as well) then Wallace should be at about 6 or 7 percent. I have noticed he engages his Facebook followers more than most, and I’ve been setting some of the doubters straight on energy issues there. He’s not hurt his position regarding the horserace as little has changed for me over the week; however, I’m hoping I make it down to Princess Anne in time to speak with Douglas tomorrow.

So that’s where I stand for now as I work on making a final endorsement on April 17.

The radical proposal, expanded

The other night on Facebook I wrote a statement, which was somewhat off the cuff and just a little tongue-in-cheek, but to my surprise and delight a number of people took it more seriously than I thought they would. This is what I wrote:

Thinking about Jackie Wellfonder and her poll about salaries…I think certain members should get an increase. But how about this radical proposal?

In year one after election, you receive $80,000 in salary. It may seem like a lot, but surely there are expenses a freshman legislator has to pay.

In year two, though, the salary drops to $70,000…then $60,000 in year 3 and $50,000 in year 4. Still want another term? Well, the salary will go down in $5,000 annual increments from there to a stipend of $10,000 a year for veteran legislators.

My hope is that this would encourage the average person to run for political office, serve their term, and then return to private life – just as our Founders intended.

Bear in mind the Maryland General Assembly members get just over $40,000 in salary, plus a stipend for living expenses during the session. I don’t think the latter part is completely unfair considering a large portion of them don’t live that close to Annapolis and the hours during session are irregular.

But to me there’s something wrong with the system where members (of both parties, although Democrats tend to be the worse offenders) feel they should serve twenty or thirty years – or even longer. The current Maryland poster child for this phenomenon is State Senator Norman Stone. At the age of 78, he has spent almost 2/3 of his life in the General Assembly – elected to the House of Delegates in 1962, he moved up to the Senate in 1966 and has served there since. (Stone decided in July to forgo yet another term.)

There’s something to be said for institutional knowledge, but a half-century is way too long in public office.

So I came up with my idea, for which I really didn’t do any math. But I think the ideal legislator for me would be someone who has spent a little bit of time in local political office (perhaps 4 to 8 years) but much more time building a business, raising a family, and being active in the community outside the political arena. He or she would spend 4 years in Annapolis, or perhaps 8 on the outside, and then return home.

Or I can use a personal example. I have spent almost 12 years overall as a member of a local Republican Central Committee – about four years in Ohio and I’m into my eighth year here. I am planning on running one more time next year – win or lose, it’s my last election because I promised myself I would not run again for office after I turn 50. To me, being on the Central Committee is a good place to get a political start and I’d like to see some younger people occupy that office after I’m through. I’m not going to be a Central Committee member in my nineties, as we have now. (Out of nine in our local group, the three youngest among us are all in our forties, with the average somewhere around retirement age.) Once I win, I will be set up for a total of about 16 years of political service and four wins on the ballot. (I also lost once, but I was shortly thereafter appointed to serve an adjacent precinct.)

Simply put, the idea was not to stay in office forever – it seems like we tried to set ourselves up NOT to have elected royalty. So I figured if the financial incentive gets smaller, perhaps people would think twice about making politics a career. Of course they still could since my state restriction wouldn’t apply to federal office. Then again, we only have ten such posts available.

Obviously there’s another method of achieving this goal, and that’s term limits. Like the federal government, our state’s chief executive is limited to two consecutive terms but legislators have no such restriction. While I understand the libertarian argument that people should get to elect whoever they want – even if it’s for a tenth or twelfth term – the abuse of this system led me to change my mind about this issue, for I was once opposed to term limits on those grounds.

Once we take care of the political side, the next step is to shrink the size and role of government so that career bureaucrats can’t run the show, either. That’s a more difficult path to take, but it’s the item we have to explore in order to rightsize government.

Looking at new friends

December 29, 2012 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Delmarva items, Personal stuff · Comments Off on Looking at new friends 

Last night I did something I’ve been doing quite often over the last few months – adding conservative links to my website.

Now I have no idea just how many blogs link to mine (Alexa says 158, but those could be article links and not just static links like I’m referring to) but I thought it would be interesting to compare what I have links to now vs. what I did 18 months ago. I actually wanted to do a year-to-year but couldn’t find a cached snapshot from last January. It’s close enough for government work, and, come on, it’s the Saturday of the last week of the year. You know as well as I do that the news cycle ain’t exactly peaking at the moment, and today I’m actually working on an exciting new project for 2013.

Anyway, in July 2011 I linked to blogs in the following categories:

  • Commentary and News (24)
  • Delaware (12)
  • Eastern Shore (28)
  • Free State Bloggers (24)
  • Friends of monoblogue (7)

By my public school math, that’s 95 blogs. In the 18 months since, I’ve changed the categories a little but there’s a big difference in the totals:

  • Daily News and Commentary (35)
  • Delaware (9)
  • Eastern Shore (13)
  • Maryland (26)
  • Other Great Blogs (23)

I’ve only gained a net of 11 blogs in that time, but the precipitous drop in Delmarva blogs I link to (from 40 to 22) has been made up for in a national sense, with representatives from across the country now on my “other great blogs” list. For the longest time it seemed like Delmarva had more blogs than the average area but I think the boom has passed. Now it’s difficult to find good blogs which deal with the area in a strictly political sense. (Some may argue that it’s difficult to find good blogs on Delmarva, period.) The days of BlogNetNews and their ranking system are long gone and practically forgotten, as are a lot of the sites once listed there.

I really wasn’t looking to make this a discussion of the Delmarva blogging scene, but we pretty much know who is serious about writing these things now, don’t we?

Meanwhile, there are others who have branched out into doing radio shows and other activities which don’t involve as much writing. That’s all well and good for them, but I suppose I have a face for radio and a voice for print. Being a radio show guest is fine and something I enjoy doing on a far-too-infrequent basis, but I’m not convinced I could commit to a radio show and frankly don’t have the desire to make the time. Several of these new blogging friends of mine are radio show hosts, though, so if you care to give them a listen I encourage you to do so. I found a lot of them through this useful Facebook page.

It’s worth noting that one of my biggest fans branched out into her own website and now writes commentary for a larger website; meanwhile, I now seem to have a financial patron who has hit my tip jar four times this year, plus other monetary support from friends and advertisers.  So maybe I have more influence than ever. As always, I’m grateful for the assistance and feel blessed to have such passionate fans as well as those who have bought my book.

Yet if I’m missing a link feel free to let me know. The only parameters I have are that it’s updated regularly and isn’t simply a link generator. Other than that, I’ll figure out the category and it will be good to go.

Maryland activists hit 20k

Let me start right here and congratulate Change Maryland and its head Larry Hogan for cracking the 20,000 supporter mark on Facebook. Considering they were at the 12,000 mark just over three months ago, that’s pretty good for a nonpartisan political group. When you consider the lone statewide race this year pits Ben Cardin and his 3,833 Facebook ‘likes’ against Dan Bongino and his 3,335 Facebook ‘likes,’ having a total which far exceeds their sum is a pretty good accomplishment. If I sold a book to each of the Change Maryland supporters I’d be a happy (and modestly wealthy) man!

They also had their piece to say about it, but I’m not done yet so stick with me.

Change Maryland announced today that it surpassed 20,000 members as it emerges as the leading organization raising questions about Governor Martin O’Malley’s record.  The spike in growth coincided with Change Maryland’s research into the metrics by which state economies are judged – tax payer migration, employment statistics and retaining small businesses.

Since Governor Martin O’Malley’s term began in 2007, Maryland has dramatically lagged the region in all three indicators according to federal government data from the Internal Revenue Service, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau. These findings follow a report in which Change Maryland quantified the number of tax and fee increases since 2007 which total 24 separate revenue-raising measures that remove an additional $2.4 billion out of the economy annually. Such reports have caused the O’Malley Administration to lash out at the organization with ill-conceived attacks that have only assisted in gaining new followers.

“We’ve pulled back the curtain on the dismal results of this Administration, and Governor O’Malley doesn’t like it,” said Change Maryland Chairman Larry Hogan. “Losing 40,000 jobs, 31,000 residents of tax paying households and 6500 businesses coincides with the largest tax hikes in Maryland’s history.”

(snip)

Change Maryland has more than twice as many Facebook followers as the state Democratic and Republican parties combined. It is the largest and fastest growing, non-partisan, grassroots organization advocating for government accountability and fiscal responsibility.

While I believe Hogan is correct about the Facebook numbers, I suspect that’s only in social media. Trust me, if either state party wanted to reach 20,000 people in a hurry they could. But support for a political party isn’t all that common for social media, which, by its very nature, caters more to the 90 percent who don’t care about politics much until Election Day is nigh than to the 3 of 100 who are junkies like me. If you want some idea of the political role in social media, take Change Maryland’s 20,000 and consider that the Baltimore Orioles have 389,621 – but they’re dwarfed by the Baltimore Ravens, who have 1,118,429 ‘likes.’

So as it turns out Change Maryland has a little room to grow. I’m not saying they’ll ever get to the level of the Ravens because if that were true Larry Hogan would be a shoo-in for Governor. He’s not.

But the political world is far more than social media. If Change Maryland is smart – and I suspect they’re pretty sharp – they are getting more contact information from these 20,000 Facebook friends and seeing how well particular messages respond. Change Maryland knows just where its bread is buttered, and it’s patently obvious that the narrative about Martin O’Malley being a tax-and-spend governor who’s driving businesses out of Maryland is a potential gold mine for any Republican candidate and pitfall for a Democrat – particularly Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, who O’Malley seems to be grooming as a heir apparent.

It would also be very interesting to find out what kind of crossover appeal the Change Maryland group has. They claim to be bipartisan, which anyone who wants to win elections wants to do, but the question which lingers with me is just how much Democratic support are they receiving? I’m not sure even Change Maryland knows the answer, since a lot of social media consists of anecdotal evidence about the impact of events and messages.

But when you consider that it took a group born in the spring of 2011 a year to reach 12,000 Facebook members but just three months more to add on another 8,000, you see there’s something brewing. Particularly for the perpetual underdogs in the Maryland Republican Party, grassroots are important. We haven’t heard Hogan make any 2014 announcement yet, but he may well have some boots on the ground already.

Those things which divide us

The other day I began a Facebook group based on political belief. This nascent group isn’t large and it may sound controversial, but hear me out before you condemn.

The group is called “Answer just ONE question on the Census.” My contention is that the only question which should be answered on the upcoming Census form is the one where you state how many people live in your dwelling because the only mandated purpose for the census – according to the Constitution at any rate – is to determine numbers for proportional representation to Congress. If America has 300 million people and 435 representatives to Congress, then the only thing truly necessary to know is how much of a multiple of 690,000 or so live in each state so we know the proper number of Congressmen a state should have. For Maryland that will likely remain eight and for Delaware one.

The important question on the standard Census form is Question #1: “How many people were living in this house, apartment, or mobile home on April 1, 2010?” It’s the population snapshot which determines the count they need.

But Question 2 asks about additional people (related or unrelated) not included so they can “contact respondents whose forms have incomplete or missing information.” Since there is no need for additional information, it seems to me this can be used to hound nonresponders. Perhaps this question is innocent enough, but it leads to more divisive questions.

The third question asks about the status of your living arrangements, whether you own or rent. The answers are “used to administer housing programs and to inform planning decisions.”

This is where the Census starts to creep well beyond its appointed scope. Then Question 4 asks for your phone number “so they can contact respondents whose forms have incomplete or missing information.” No, the government does not need my telephone number because who knows where that data may end up. Same with Question 5, which asks for the name of each person living in the home.

Question 6 asks about gender, in part because “many federal programs must differentiate between males and females for funding, implementing, and evaluating their programs.” Now back in 1790 when this was first asked this might have made sense because the voting franchise was unavailable to women, but we took care of that with the Nineteenth Amendment.

The next question (#7) asks for age and date of birth, in part for “forecasting the number of people eligible for Social Security or Medicare services.” It’s a handy way to continue the transfer of wealth of working-age folks to those seniors who rely on entitlements. That gravy train is soon coming to an end because the Ponzi schemes are unsustainable.

But the two truly dividing questions begin with Question 8: “Is Person (x) of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin?” As the Census people explain, “state and local governments may use the data to help plan and administer bilingual programs for people of Hispanic origin.” Aren’t we supposed to speak English in America? Similarly, Question 9 asks about race in order to cover any other minorities.

More troubling is the data on Question 9 goes to the purpose Question 1 is supposed to: “State governments use the data to determine congressional, state, and local voting districts.”

YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO DIVIDE BY POPULATION! NOT BY RACE, NOT BY GENDER, NOT BY WHETHER WE OWN OUR HOME OR WE DON’T – NOT BY ANYTHING EXCEPT “AMERICAN!” This is the one situation where the old Bob Seger song “Feel Like A Number” should apply.

Question 10 just asks about whether the people in Question 1 stay somewhere else. Compared to the other ones, it’s fairly innocuous.

The Census is sold as an innocent method to get what a community deserves – radio commercials pit it as a method to assure we have the classrooms we need or the traffic signals a growing area has to have. But there are other ways of getting that information – school systems annually count their enrollment and traffic counts are easy to obtain.

Perhaps the biggest problem I have with the Census is that “each question helps to determine how more than $400 billion will be allocated to communities across the country.” It’s a signal of just how far the nation has gotten from Constitutional government and become addicted to the spoils of Fedzilla largesse.

But if you answer just one question on the Census, it confounds the process and hopefully sends a message to Washington that we as a nation refuse to be divided. As it is, the system pits black against white, man against woman, poor against wealthy, and old against young in a never-ending battle for taxpayer funding.

I thought the idea was “united we stand”, so why should we assist the overly mammoth federal government in dividing us? Just answer Question 1 and send the form back. Let them call; that’s all the info they’re getting out of me.

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