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.

The Smigiel 2A townhall

February 9, 2016 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2016, Cathy Keim, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The Smigiel 2A townhall 

By Cathy Keim

Editor’s note: While I was off on my honeymoon, Cathy Keim took the lead and attended Congressional challenger Mike Smigiel’s Second Amendment townhall meeting Saturday. She filed this report on the proceedings.

I dropped by the 2A Townhall on Saturday, February 6, at Headquarters Live here in Salisbury. Former Delegate Mike Smigiel, who is running for Congress as a Republican in the First Congressional district, is holding 2A Townhall meetings around the district to address the ex post facto confiscation of guns for old offenses prior to the passage of the Firearm Safety Act of 2013 (SB 281).

First to speak at the Smigiel event, though, was Justin Trader, a former Marine who now runs D. I. Strategic, LLC, here in Salisbury. “The Second Amendment is the ultimate safeguard to protect our rights,” said Trader, adding that it is not just about hunting or collecting guns; instead the amendment’s main purpose is to safeguard us from tyranny amongst us. He quoted Abraham Lincoln that the enemy which destroys America would not be from far away, but from amongst us. Justin also believed that today we are under the government that our founders warned us about.

Next up was retired Maryland State Police (MSP) Captain Jack McCauley, who was the former commander of their Licensing Division. That agency is the one which oversees background checks for firearms in the state. McCauley spoke about being asked to testify before the House Judiciary Committee about SB281 back when it was being debated in 2013. Smigiel, who was a Delegate at the time, asked him if the ban of certain guns would have an effect on crime. But when McCauley tried to answer the question, Governor O’Malley’s lawyer advised him not to. McCauley was shocked because he thought the whole purpose of his appearance was to answer questions.

The hearing erupted in arguments, but Captain McCauley did not answer the question in order to obey the direct order of an agent of the governor’s office. Later, after the hearing, the agent told him that she directed him not to answer because the bill was “not about policy – it is just votes.”

This served as the wakeup call for McCauley, who realized the Firearm Safety Act was all politics and had nothing to do with the safety of the citizens. The Governor’s office was only interested in the number of guns seized, so it really didn’t matter whether manpower was wasted doing work that would not increase safety or decrease crime.

Had McCauley answered Smigiel’s question at the committee hearing, McCauley would have answered that the law would not decrease crime at all. For one thing, the banned weapons were rarely used in crimes. Secondly, the restriction on the magazines to only ten rounds would not stop people from buying larger magazines from out of state, but would only restrict which guns and magazines could be bought in Maryland by law-abiding citizens.

The O’Malley administration was only concerned with the political capital to be gained by passing the law, continued McCauley, and not whether it was a good law or whether it would actually achieve any reduction in crime. McCauley contends that by forcing the MSP to do three background checks on every citizen that wants to buy a handgun, valuable manpower is being wasted doing paperwork instead of being out on the streets.

McCauley concluded by noting that he resigned so that he could tell the truth. It was his belief that there was only one legislator working for the people and that legislator was Mike Smigiel.

Once those two speakers set the stage, Smigiel came up to present his concerns about Maryland’s treatment of the Second Amendment. Smigiel revealed that he had come to Headquarters Live at the request of Jeremy Norton, the man who runs both that venue and Roadie Joe’s, the location of the fundraiser that followed the townhall meeting.

Mike explained that Jeremy had contacted him in response to an event which had occurred to Norton, but one which was occurring all across Maryland. As a businessman and a gun owner, Norton was given clearance to own his guns. But after SB281 was passed the MSP began checking the records for prior offenses that would not have precluded legal ownership prior to SB281’s passage, but now would affect their legal right to own a gun. Smigiel alleged that the MSP was showing up at gunowners’ homes, without warrants, and asking for their registered guns.

In Norton’s case, a juvenile conviction for selling a small amount of marijuana was enough to give the MSP reason to confiscate his guns, alleging that under SB281 he was now disqualified. However, since it was a juvenile offense, he will be eligible to reclaim his guns when he turns 30. (Isn’t that just charitable of the state of Maryland?)

This provision of the law also traps those who may have committed a crime decades ago; when the penalty changed to require a longer sentence some were suddenly retroactively determined to be unfit to possess a gun according to the state of Maryland. Needless to say, Mike is concerned that this law will lead to an unnecessary tragedy because the MSP sends plainclothes police to confiscate guns. Smigiel has spoken to Governor Hogan’s office and asked him to intervene before a tragedy occurs.

Mike has also written an article in the Maryland Bar Journal that covers the issue, where he concludes:

In light of the Doe court’s position prohibiting the ex post facto application of the law against convicted sex offenders, it is unconscionable that the Maryland State Police could continue applying gun laws, ex post facto, against citizens who are merely wishing to continue exercising their Second Amendment rights.

Jack McCauley stated in the Q&A that followed that gun confiscation schemes are ineffective in reducing crime, so why waste time harassing law abiding citizens?

Yet the whole mindset of the progressives in their battle to disarm America seems to be their pure-hearted conviction that the only way to make us safe is to disarm everybody. Facts to the contrary do not impinge upon their plans.

Once again we see that the battle for our country is waged in the hearts and minds of citizens that have opposing views of reality. The progressive supporters have embraced the propaganda that is being churned out daily by the media, the leadership, the schools, and Hollywood. Just as they will believe in global warming despite the lack of evidence, they will confiscate guns in spite of the abundance of evidence saying it will not make us safer.

While he’s actively trying to win a Congressional seat, Smigiel really didn’t speak about his campaign at the townhall meeting. But his determination to follow his principles and to fight for our Constitutional rights came through loud and clear. From his record as a Delegate, one can see that he will stand his ground if elected to Congress. Personally I have no doubt that he would continue to be a Constitutionalist despite the pressures of the lobbyists and donor class.

A change in the First?

In the First Congressional District, winning the Republican primary is tantamount to winning the race: the latest round of gerrymandering by Maryland Democrats made sure it would be by creating an R+13 district in a state that’s nominally D+26. So what do I make of an announcement by upstart former Delegate Michael Smigiel that he has a 2-to-1 lead over incumbent Andy Harris in a pre-primary poll?

If you read between the lines, you’ll see a few interesting tidbits. And my readers may recall that my co-writer Cathy Keim talked about a survey she took a few days ago. Chances are this was the same Gravis Marketing survey Smigiel is referring to in his work, which leads me to believe this was a push poll Smigiel did to build up his support. If you’re a relative unknown in much of the district, a tactic often used is that of driving up the negatives of the established politician.

Ironically, it’s much the same tactic Harris used to win the nomination in 2008 against a well-known incumbent, Wayne Gilchrest. Wayne’s biggest issue was the leftward drift of his philosophy and voting record, so much so that a clearly upset Gilchrest later rejected his party’s nominee and endorsed the Democrat challenger, Frank Kratovil. That and the Obama wave election led to Kratovil being a one-term Congressman before Harris defeated him in the TEA Party wave election of 2010.

As Cathy described it – a manner which isn’t reflected in Smigiel’s narrative – the issue questions came first:

Calls were made to over 20,000 voters with over 600 individuals answering the poll, and results indicate that when voters were informed that Rep. Harris had voted to fully fund Obamacare, 82 percent (82%) of the Republican primary voters surveyed would not vote for Harris.

When voters were aware that Rep. Harris had voted to fully fund President Barrack (sic) Obama’s unconstitutional use of executive power to grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens, 85 percent (85%) of Republican voters said they would not vote to re-elect Harris.

Likewise, 80 percent (80%) of those surveyed reported that they would not vote to re-elect Rep. Andy Harris if they knew he had made the statement that it was “just fine” for Planned Parenthood to sell baby parts as long as they did not use federal money to do so.

Nationally, Rep. Harris is known as the most outspoken critic of D.C. and states which have chosen to allow medical marijuana, decriminalization or legalization. In the 1st District, fifty-nine percent (59%) of the Republican voters surveyed reported they would be less likely to vote for Harris because of his anti-marijuana, anti-state’s rights stance.

In that context, it’s hard to believe Harris got 29% when over 80% of Republicans disagreed with him on one or more issues.

But there are two advantages Andy still enjoys in this race. While the FEC data is still from back in September, Harris had over a half-million dollars in cash on hand while Smigiel barely registered. Certainly Harris has been fundraising since then, and incumbents often enjoy the largest share of PAC money. In the 2015-16 cycle Harris had already amassed over $166,000 from various committees, a large portion of them in the medical field.

The second advantage is the IOUs Andy has built up through donating to local candidates. Here’s just a few that I noticed on his 2013-14 FEC report:

  • Bob Cassilly (Senator, Harford County) – $4,000
  • Matt Morgan (Delegate, St. Mary’s County) – $1,000
  • Theresa Reilly (Delegate, Harford County) – $1,000
  • Mike McDermott (former Delegate, Worcester County) – $4,000
  • Bob Culver (Wicomico County Executive) – $4,000
  • Carl Anderton (Delegate, Wicomico County) – $4,000
  • Christopher Adams (Delegate, Wicomico County) – $1,000
  • Jay Jacobs (Delegate, Kent County) – $1,000
  • Jeff Ghrist (Delegate, Caroline County) – $1,000
  • John Cluster (Delegate, Baltimore County) – $1,000
  • Johnny Mautz (Delegate, Talbot County) – $1,000
  • Justin Ready (Delegate and now Senator, Carroll County) – $4,000
  • Kathy Szeliga (Delegate, Baltimore County) – $4,000
  • Kevin Hornberger (Delegate, Cecil County) – $4,000
  • Mary Beth Carozza (Delegate, Worcester County) – $4,000
  • Nic Kipke (Delegate, Anne Arundel County) – $4,000
  • Rick Impallaria (Delegate, Baltimore County) – $2,000
  • Robin Grammer (Delegate, Baltimore County) – $1,000
  • Steve Arentz (Delegate, Queen Anne’s County) – $1,000
  • Susan Krebs (Delegate, Carroll County) – $4,000
  • Addie Eckardt (Senator, Dorchester County) – $1,000
  • Michael Hough (Senator, Frederick County) – $4,000
  • Herb McMillan (Delegate, Anne Arundel County) – $4,000
  • Ric Metzgar (Delegate, Baltimore County) – $1,000
  • Johnny Salling (Senator, Baltimore County) – $4,000
  • Maryland Republican Party – $49,500

Well over $100,000 went from Andy’s campaign coffers to help build the GOP state bench with several new legislators being the result. I don’t look for a lot of those folks jumping ship to support (in several but not all cases) a more recent former colleague. That’s a significant part of the state GOP delegation, including all three who defeated Smigiel in the 2014 Republican primary. And electability is a legitimate question mark for Smigiel.

In the 2014 Republican primary, Smigiel was fourth among seven candidates, four of whom hailed from Smigiel’s Cecil County portion of the district – those four finished fourth through seventh. (Mike finished third in Cecil behind fellow resident Alan McCarthy, who finished a distant fifth overall, and Jay Jacobs of Kent County, who was second overall.) Smigiel was third among five candidates in 2010 (all three winners were Republican) and while he kept the seat in 2006 based on the overall district vote he actually lost in his home Cecil County to Democrat Mark Guns. Smigiel was barely second out of five when he won his first term in 2002, so he’s never been overwhelmingly popular at the ballot box – just good enough to win three terms in a very safe GOP district. The fact that three other people challenged Smigiel from Cecil County – knowing only one of them could win due to an election law stating only one person could advance from any particular county – indicates there was some dissatisfaction with him, just as many are now displeased with Harris.

That anger toward Harris attracted Smigiel to the race and produced a poll result like this. Since he won the election in 2010, Harris has had little in the way of a challenge from either party until now. It’s a race perhaps reminiscent of the 2004 primary between Wayne Gilchrest and then-Maryland Senator Rich Colburn – the fact Colburn got 38% against a sitting Congressman may have opened the race up four years later when state officials could run from cover again without having to risk their own seats.

If I were to handicap the election today I would put it around that 60-40 range with Harris prevailing. A lot can occur in 3 1/2 months, though, and it’s probably good for Harris that there are a couple of other lesser known hopefuls in the race to split the protest vote.

This may be a good time to point out that Andy has a couple of townhall meetings slated for the Eastern Shore. On Monday night the 18th he will be at the Black Diamond Lodge in Fruitland for a 6 p.m. meeting. (Right next door is the site of Andy’s chicken suit affair of a few years back.) Then Tuesday at noon he will be the host at the Easton Volunteer Fire Department headquarters on Aurora Park Drive.

Unfortunately, I already have a commitment for Monday night so I will have to hear second-hand about what the Congressman has to say. It will be interesting to hear how all that goes down.

Border security, VA among chief concerns at Harris Salisbury townhall

It was a fairly packed house at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 194 in Salisbury as Congressman Andy Harris held the second of four proposed town hall meetings in the district. After speaking in Easton on Wednesday, many of those same topics came up last night.

But the first order of business was recognition. After pointing out that unemployment among veterans was higher than the average – “I can’t figure that out,” Harris said – Andy presented a Congressional Citation to Chris Eccleston, who operates Delmarva Veteran Builders, a local construction firm which specializes in giving veterans job opportunities upon return to civilian life.

Once that presentation was out of the way, Harris introduced his “three things of great concern.”

As opposed to past negativity about the situation, Andy considered the declining deficit as a piece of good news, noting that federal spending had been fairly level for the last three years. The annual deficit is down $550 billion from its peak, although the aim of the House is to eventually bring the budget back to balance. Andy, however, conceded that the “House’s goal is to balance the budget in ten years.” So while it was still important, Andy wasn’t as concerned about this as he was the following three.

He also said there was “good news on the energy side,” pointing out we now produce more oil than we import and should be the leading world producer of both oil and natural gas by year’s end. The oil production was helped by technology which allowed what he called secondary and tertiary production from existing wells, as opposed to the primary production from new drilling.

On the other hand, Harris believed that, “in terms of immigration, the system is broken.”

“The border is just not being enforced,” he added, noting that Texas Governor Rick Perry has called out his state’s National Guard to assist with border security. In legislation recently passed by the House, added Harris, funding was included for governors who, like Perry, decide to call up their National Guard to address the situation.

“We can’t afford to have a border that’s not secure,” explained Harris.

The news was equally troubling on the foreign policy front. “The world is more dangerous now than it was six years ago (before Obama took office),” said Harris. It wasn’t just the Middle East, either – Andy touched upon the Chinese carriers now patrolling the South China Sea, well outside their territorial waters.

And while we were reaping the effects of our decrease in defense spending, Andy continued, we were also suffering from a lack of trust. Our allies could now doubt our sincerity based on recent actions.

After expressing his main concerns, Andy took questions from the audience. As my editorial license, I’m going to cluster them into areas of concern – on top of the list was our most recent crisis.

Immigration. Many of the questions dealt with various aspects and concerns from those attending about the situation on our southern border and the resettlement of “unaccompanied children.”

Much of the problem could be traced to the passage of a 2008 bill intended to counter human trafficking. Andy noted that the law as written provided the assumption that children from certain Central American countries were being brought for the sex trade, which was a problem at the time. It was estimated that perhaps 2,000 children a year would be affected, with the idea being that these children would get a hearing to ascertain their status.

Unfortunately, the crush of those claiming status under this law and the DACA order signed by Barack Obama in 2012 means that the waiting period for these hearings is anywhere from 18-60 months – and only 46% of those called show up, Andy said. One third of them are “granted status,” he added.

“We should close the loophole,” said Harris. “I don’t see how you get out of the problem without changing the law.” We also needed more judges on a temporary basis to expedite the hearing schedule.

A solution the House could offer to rescind Obama’s order would be that of defunding the executive action, for which there was a bill. And while some were pessimistic about such action given the Senate, Harris stated that the Senate could agree to “a compromise deal over a much larger package.” My concern would be what we would have to trade away.

Andy also pointed out that the resettlement of these children was more or less being done without telling local officials, noting when the Westminster facility was being considered the word came down late on a Thursday afternoon in a week the House wasn’t in session on Friday. It eventually led to the question about those being placed in Maryland.

When asked how many were in the First District, Harris conceded he had “no idea…nobody’s telling us.”  But he continued by saying, “your school system will be affected,” adding that many of these children can’t read or write in Spanish, let alone English.

And the fact that these children aren’t necessarily being screened, vaccinated, or quarantined if necessary was also troubling to Harris. “The CDC is cognizant of it,” said Harris, who had spoken himself with the CDC head. Of course, the children are but a small portion of those crossing – perhaps 10 percent, said Harris.

“The real solution is you have to secure the American border,” concluded Harris. Rapid hearing and swift repatriation would send the message to parents in the host countries that it’s not worth the expense and risk to send children northward to America.

The VA situation. Given that the town hall meeting was being held in a VFW hall, there were concerns aplenty about the state of the Veterans Administration and its health care.

As part of a VA reform bill which recently passed and the VA has 90 days to implement, veterans who live over 40 miles from a VA facility are supposed to have the option of a private physician to address their needs. But Harris pointed out there was some interpretation involved based on whether the VA would extend that standard to an appropriate facility for the type of care needed – for example, something only handled in Baltimore. Harris hoped the interpretation would allow veterans on the Lower Shore to use closer local facilities, for which our local regional medical center could be a substitute provider, rather than make them travel to Baltimore because there was a VA clinic inside the 40-mile range but it couldn’t address the need. “They regulate, and we have to watch them,” said Andy.

The ultimate goal was “to make the VA system compete,” said Harris.

Entitlements. On a related note, one questioner asked about protecting Social Security and Medicare.

Andy believed that “you can’t change the law retroactively,” meaning that the status quo should prevail for those 55 and older. On the other hand, those in the younger generation “don’t expect all of it,” so the time was now to begin the discussion on preserving what benefits we can. The question was no longer if we got to zero in Social Security and Medicare, but when – Social Security tax receipts peaked two years ago and were now slowly declining . “We know the figures,” added Andy.

The system is “not sustainable…shame on us” in Congress for not addressing it.

Foreign policy. There were a couple questions which dealt with this topic, one on Ukraine and one on defunding Hamas.

Regarding Ukraine, one piece of “bad news” which could affect us locally was Russia’s decision to halt chicken imports from America. Their preference for dark meat nicely complemented our love of white meat, so while it wasn’t a large market it was an important one.

But in the geopolitical sense, Harris was relatively blunt. “We let it all go too far (and) should have put a stop to this in Crimea.” Andy pointed out that Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons in the Budapest Memorandum, which we were a party to along with Great Britain, Russia, and Ukraine. As expected, Russia violated its end of the deal, but Harris noted “I don’t know where it ends.”

As for defunding Hamas, the House did so in its FY2015 budget. In it is a provision that states if Hamas is included in a Palestinian Authority government, we would withhold funding from them.

Andy added that he was “disappointed” in the administration’s lack of Israel support, and blasted Hamas for “purposefully aiming (their rockets) into civilian areas – that’s terrorism.” He added, “The war was started by Hamas…Israel has to end it.”

Impeachment/lawsuit vs. Obama. It actually started as a comment from the audience while Harris was explaining his answer to the immigration issue and Westminster situation.

“I think Obama is an enemy of the country,” it was said. And when Andy pointed out he was duly elected as President, stating, “nobody is claiming (Obama) wasn’t elected fair and square,” the audible murmur in the audience indicated otherwise.

But Andy believed suing Obama over his lack of adherence to the Constitution was the best choice. “Let the Supreme Court decide,” he said, as the proper procedure for changing law was supposed to lead through Congress. He would not vote for impeachment, but would rather the lawsuit run its course. I don’t think that was the popular sentiment of those assembled.

Term limits. This was actually the first question out of the chute, and Andy was clear about the questioner’s desire to see them enacted: “I couldn’t agree with you more,” said Harris. He bemoaned the lack of co-sponsors to a Joint Resolution he introduced last year holding both Senators and members of Congress to 12-year limits. “Part of the problem is that people view it as a lifetime job,” said Andy. Most agree term limits are necessary, so Andy held out hope that the 2014 campaign will bring out a new “Contract With America” promising a vote on the issue.

Common Core: It was actually asked as an awareness question regarding the new AP history framework, to which Harris could only promise to “look into this.” But there was language being considered for the appropriations bills which stated the federal government couldn’t provide incentives to adopt Common Core, as they did for Race to the Top federal funding.

Transportation/energy. Answering a question about bringing light rail to this area, Harris opined it was “some of the least efficient ways to transport people.”  He preferred a surface transportation system, such as busses, because they’re more flexible – if the development doesn’t follow the rail system, there’s no chance of adjusting it to suit.

On the related subject of energy, Harris believed it was easier to produce fossil fuels while researching the next generation of energy harnessing, such as fusion or hydrogen cells. At this point, “fossil fuels are the coin of the realm,” Harris said.

Maximizing our resources also provides us an opportunity to counter Russia’s “ability to use energy for bad ends.” He also warned that Canada would either send its crude to us through the Keystone XL pipeline or ship it to China.

Manufacturing. Finally, we’ll get to the question I asked about making things in Maryland and America.

Andy began his answer by referring to the practice of tax inversion, which has made news lately. He blamed our “horrendous” corporate tax rates for being an incentive for companies to stray offshore, or even just across the border to Canada (which has a 15% corporate tax rate compared to our 35%.) “We live in a global environment,” said Andy, so the obvious solution was to cut our corporate tax rates.

Rather, Washington was thinking about trying to make the practice more difficult. Harris feared it would encourage more inversions.

Other steps to getting things made in America were to continue promoting cheap energy – as methane is the basis for many plastic products, having an abundant supply would be crucial in that area of production. We could also work on scrapping some of the over-regulation plaguing our job creators.

After the hourlong forum, Andy stayed around for more questions and answers. I thought the give-and-take was excellent, and it’s a shame more local media wasn’t there.

2013 First District Bull Roast in pictures and text

September 21, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on 2013 First District Bull Roast in pictures and text 

For many years, local Republicans in Wicomico County had to make a choice: support the local Republican Club by attending their annual Crab Feast or show their backing of our Republican Congressman – at the time, Wayne Gilchrest – by making it up to the Upper Shore for the annual Bull Roast. Now that Wicomico Republicans have settled on a date closer to Labor Day, though, it opens the field up for us and several of us from our local Republican party attended the annual First District Bull Roast. If one more Central Committee member had shown, we would have had a quorum.

The venue was impressive, so I made sure to follow the rules.

This sign was actually in a side building which, I was told by volunteer E. Dee Monnen, serves as a dorm for inner-city kids who spend time on this working Schuster farm – on this day, though, it served as the venue for a VIP gathering. This mini-tour was one advantage of our timing: because Kim and I did an event with her side of the family earlier in the morning, we arrived somewhat early.

Not two minutes later my fellow blogger and radio host Jackie Wellfonder arrived for her stint as Red Maryland Radio co-host for the day, with Andrew Langer as her sidekick.

But the real stars of the show were those elected officials and longtime Republican fixtures who came to speak to us. (Best Supporting Actor, though, has to go to whoever made the beef, which was flavorful and nicely seasoned for my sandwiches. If I were more of a foodie you’d have had the pic, horseradish and all. But I’m not.)

After he renewed acquaintances with friends and volunteers, Andy Harris pointed out he couldn’t initially answer questions for the day because of his boss, who served as the opening speaker.

Ellen Sauerbrey served to introduce the large number of elected officials and candidates who attended the event. The room was set up for about 150 and as you’ll see later it was pretty full. As she spoke, the next two in line waited in the wings.

I have to give an assist to my fiance Kim for the great photo. Most of my readership recognizes Congressman Andy Harris, but the gentleman on the left would be far more familiar if you heard his voice – our featured speaker was WCBM morning radio co-host Sean Casey.

First up to speak was the host himself.

The key point of Andy’s message was that our side was beating back the Obama agenda and had done so for the last three years, since the election of 2010. He predicted the next three weeks would be “a wild ride” for the House majority as pressure will be brought to bear from the White House and Senate Democrats to cave on defunding Obamacare and not risking a government shutdown.

It will be interesting to see what this reporter has to say about what Andy said. I believe she’s from the local Easton Star-Democrat newspaper.

The next speaker was less kind to the media, particularly the “Maryland Democratic Party house organ” known as the Baltimore Sun. Yet we were told that Sean Casey arises each morning by 3:15 to review items for use on the Sean and Frank morning show. He had the attention of those who came to the event.

Casey spoke on a number of current events – the Navy Yard shooting, Benghazi hearings, the incident in Baltimore at a Common Core townhall meeting – but the most intriguing part of the program was his moderation of a mini-debate between two of the contenders for governor, David Craig and Ron George. Casey came up with the questions and the candidates gave their answers.

I actually caught up to both of them before the impromptu debate began, as they were preparing to work the crowd.

David Craig wasn’t by himself, but was assisted by a member of his team clad in the same familiar blue Craig color. Meanwhile, Ron George was chatting up old General Assembly friends – he’s pictured here with former Delegate and 2014 State Senate candidate Richard Sossi, who is on the right.

In general, David Craig leaned heavily on his experience as mayor and Harford County Executive in spelling out his vision for Maryland, while Ron George referred a lot to his newly-expanded ten-point plan for the state should he win election to the governor’s seat.

Worth noting as well was that the third gubernatorial candidate, Charles Lollar, also planned on attending but had a scheduling conflict and couldn’t arrive from Harford County in time. He was speaking before a women’s group there, according to Julie Brewington, a Lollar campaign coordinator from Wicomico County.

So my first Bull Roast is in the books. Not bad for leaving the camera and notebook at home, eh?

The battle for August recess

August 3, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The battle for August recess 

At the end of each summer, official Washington winds down and Congress beats it out of town for their annual August recess. (I think in the official parlance of Congress, I think this is known as a “District Work Period.”) This is the time when many members schedule town hall meetings, and I think Barack Obama is concerned about being outworked by the TEA Partiers who rightly oppose his big-government schemes.

That’s why I got this message in my mailbox the other day from Organizing Against America For Action:

Michael —

There is only so much I can do on my own.

The special interests know it, and they’re counting on you to be silent on gun violence and climate change. They hope you’re not paying attention to creating jobs or fixing our broken immigration system.

And they plan to make the loudest noise when your members of Congress come home for August recess.

I’m counting on you to be just as vocal — to make sure the agenda that Americans voted for last year is front and center.

Say you’ll do at least one thing as part of OFA’s Action August in your community, no matter where you live.

I know it’s easy to get frustrated by the pace of progress.

But it’s not a reason to sit back and do nothing — our system only works if you play your part.

If you don’t let your representatives know where you stand in August, we risk losing an important battle on your home turf.

So I’m asking you to speak up — commit to do at least one thing in your community during Action August:

(link redacted)

Thanks,

Barack

Isn’t it nice to be on a first-name basis with the President?

So allow me to let my representative (and anyone else reading this) know just where I stand during “Action August”:

  • Barack Obama has done plenty of harm on his own. It’s up to Congress to restore sanity; unfortunately only a small portion of those in Congress are willing to do so. So don’t give me this “only so much I can do on my own” crap.
  • I’m not silent on gun violence and I certainly don’t support it. But allow all those who wish to be armed the opportunity to carry in a concealed manner and you’ll find there’s less gun violence. Taking away guns only benefits two groups: the government and the predator criminal class. (Actually, that may be one group.)
  • Climate change: I wouldn’t mind warmer winters myself. But until we find an on-off switch for the sun, there’s really nothing we can do about the climate, except use it as an excuse for more overbearing, job-killing regulation.
  • Here’s my question about “the agenda Americans voted for last year.” Do you think they’re having second thoughts about now? I do. Otherwise you wouldn’t need to contact me with your note.

But the most important line is this one:

…we risk losing an important battle on your home turf.

A loss in the Obama column is a win for America as far as I’m concerned. Richard Falknor has this figured out on Blue Ridge Forum, and it’s a call to action for the side of good:

For this month we will see how effective are Tea Partiers and the conservative base in bringing many GOP members to a much stronger mind when they return to their districts.

I’m not so much concerned about this First Congressional District – aside from those who grouse about Andy Harris’s votes on issues where Constitutional guarantees meet national security concerns, the district is pretty much set up to be reflective of his voting record. Once the man in the chicken suit failed in his task, we were pretty much assured of a decade or so of Andy Harris, because no liberal will beat him fair and square.

But there are seven other Congressional districts in Maryland (as well as the one comprising the entire state of Delaware, for my friends up that way) where the officeholders will only be under pressure for supporting the failed Obama agenda if people speak out against it. Don’t cede the field to those OAA/OFA special interest Astroturfers, make yourself heard!

Taking another shot

No, this post isn’t about Dan Bongino, whose non-announcement announcement was much less interesting than the fake press release from yesterday announcing the ersatz Bongino/Alan Keyes gubernatorial ticket.

Instead, we learned yesterday that in 2014 we have the potential for yet another rematch in Congressional District 1.

After losing the 2012 primary by a scant 57 votes only to watch the Democratic nominee, Wendy Rosen, withdraw in disgrace after allegations of voting fraud, John LaFerla announced he would file Wednesday to try again in 2014. LaFerla waged an eleventh-hour write-in campaign last fall but only received about 4% of the overall vote – Rosen picked up 27.5% despite dropping out in September, which leads me to believe that most of the people who voted Democrat just reflexively looked for the (D) behind the name on the ballot and did no other homework – the prototypical “low-information voter.”

While LaFerla hasn’t established his own issue page on his reborn Congressional campaign website, he has posted a letter in which the writer claims Andy Harris is from the “Timothy McVeigh” wing of the Republican party. It appears that he will reprise his oh-so-successful portrayal of Harris as “Doctor No”; unfortunately for him most voters in this district are looking for someone to say that exact two-letter word.

But it looks like the mainstream Democrats are lining up behind John, given that Kim Kratovil (Frank’s wife) is listed as the person in charge of “special event planning”, former state candidates Chris Robinson and Arthur Hock are in charge of signage, and former GOP Congressman Wayne Gilchrest is listed as the “Republicans for LaFerla” head. (Which means they’re still looking for a Republican.) While the renewed Gilchrest endorsement isn’t a surprise considering how far left the ex-Congressman has gone in his personal jihad against all things Andy Harris, it’s worth remembering that last time around LaFerla was also endorsed by Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America. If you’re into killing babies, I guess John is your guy. (Ironically enough, Andy Harris’s wife Cookie is Director of Special Events for Maryland Right to Life, so the choice there is crystal clear.)

Locally, the LaFerla effort will be spearheaded by the feisty Ron Pagano, who stated recently that Andy Harris “endorsed the violent overthrow of the government.” There’s a mainstream, thoughtful Democrat for you.

So the battle line would seem to be drawn, as a far-left wing partisan who promises (like they all do) to put “people above politics” will do the opposite in a bid to get elected. The First District is a conservative district, so it may be time for a real conservative Democrat (and I know we have a lot around here) to try and get on the ballot in the race. There may as well be a choice for local Democrats – hopefully their winner only remembered to vote once this time.

Harris withdraws from 1st CD debates

September 15, 2012 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2012, Delaware politics, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, Radical Green, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Harris withdraws from 1st CD debates 

While Andy Harris was given the hugest of electoral breaks by the withdrawal of Democrat challenger Wendy Rosen – who, unless Maryland Democrats can pull a Robert Torricelli via the courts, will remain on the ballot despite dropping out – I believe he shouldn’t have pulled out of the various candidate debates.

My view is shared by Libertarian Muir Boda, who probably stood the most to gain by having yet another empty chair on the Democratic side. In a release, Boda noted:

After observing the withdrawal of Democrat Wendy Rosen from the race amid voter fraud allegations, I had not anticipated another action of disrespect to the voters in the 1st District. Congressman Harris’ actions are simply arrogant cowardice as he is obviously afraid to debate me.

Congressman Harris’ pulling out of all forums is a complete slap in the face to all the voters and the organizations that are taking their time to organize the forums by securing a place to have the forum, organizing resources to record the forums and to the those who desired to attend and to participate in the discussion of the future of country.

Congressman Harris has many questions to answer. For instance, we need an explanation on why, as a so called fiscal conservative he would support adding another $1 Trillion to our national debt. Or where does he really stand on the TSA, the Patriot Act and the NDAA.

I truly don’t think it’s fear of debating Muir on Andy’s part, but answering some of these questions Boda brings up would be helpful to me in understanding why Harris acted in a less conservative manner than normal – particularly on the continuing resolution vote.

Alan Girard of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which was a lead sponsor of the September 24 debate, had this to say as well:

We are disappointed voters won’t hear the views of candidates for Congress on “Farming and Protecting the Environment,” the topic of a scheduled debate we had planned with the Maryland Farm Bureau and the Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement at Salisbury University. Mr. Harris had agreed to participate in the Sept. 24 debate, but this week told us he is withdrawing from this and all other scheduled debates.

Without Mr. Harris’ participation, and uncertainty about other candidates’ participation, staging a debate seems unproductive, and we are announcing the cancellation of the debate which was to be held at Salisbury University. We apologize to voters who planned to attend.

We are pleased, however, that Mr. Harris has agreed to announce a schedule of public town meetings around the 1st District at which citizens can pose questions to the Congressman.

Let’s face it, though: I don’t think the CBF was going to do anything but sandbag Andy because they vehemently disagree with his balanced approach to environmental issues. If it were up to the most radical members of the CBF we’d all be forcably moved into tiny enclaves far away from the pristine waters at the mouth of the Susquehanna. Moreover, I couldn’t be there anyway to make sure people knew what really happened.

While I’m happy to see that Harris isn’t abandoning the public debate entirely, I believe he’s making a big mistake by canceling his participation in these debates and forums, unfriendly as the territory may be. Fairly or not, Andy has received a reputation of being callous and aloof (lifesaving traffic stops notwithstanding) and dropping out of these head-to-head contests only enhances the perception. Certainly Harris does his share of townhall-style events around the district during periods when Congress is out of session, but a compare-and-contrast was something he shouldn’t be afraid of in a district essentially drawn for him.

On the other hand, I learned via Duke Brooks that Delaware voters will be treated to not one, not two, but ten (!) debates between U.S. Senator Tom Carper and Republican challenger Kevin Wade. (Note to Ben Cardin: the ante has been upped.) Of course, the devil is in the details but Delaware voters will certainly have ample opportunity to get a picture of where the two hopefuls (and whatever minor party candidates are invited to participate) stand on issues near and dear to Delaware voters. It may not be Lincoln v. Douglas but they will be better served by the opportunity to attend in person.

Rosen out of 1st CD race – or is she?

Once she was caught voting in two different states – and I’d love to know who picked up on that, because Andy Harris owes him or her a steak dinner – you had to know that Wendy Rosen’s days as a Congressional candidate were numbered.

Here’s what the Maryland Democrat Party had to say:

Today, the Maryland Democratic Party took immediate and decisive action and demanded the withdrawal of Wendy Rosen as nominee for US Representative in the 1st Congressional District after allegations of electoral law violations were brought to our attention.

In addition, at my direction, the Maryland Democratic Party submitted a letter to the Attorney General and State Prosecutor outlining all information regarding the alleged violations.

Any effort to corrupt or misuse the electoral process is reprehensible, wrong and must not be tolerated.

They added:

Per Maryland law, the Maryland Democratic Party will designate an alternate nominee to the State Board of Elections following a vote by the local Democratic Central Committees in the 1st Congressional District. The Party remains committed to ensuring that the voices of all Marylanders are represented and we maintain the highest commitment to the law and the Democratic process.

Not so fast, says the Maryland Board of Elections: according to state law, Rosen has to remain on the ballot as the Democrats’ standard-bearer because she didn’t withdraw by an August 28 deadline. According to reports, the state party conceded it would have to allow local Central Committees to select a candidate to run a write-in campaign.

As an aside, I find it interesting how our local paper, which rarely has anything good to say about Andy Harris, bends over backwards to say Maryland Democrats “allegedly” found evidence against Rosen.

But they also make the same assumption I would by figuring the write-in choice would be John LaFerla, who Rosen defeated by just a handful of votes (and who was endorsed by people and groups as disparate as former Congressman Wayne Gilchrest and pro-abortion advocates NARAL.) Even the third candidate in the primary race, Kim Letke, wrote on a LaFerla Facebook page: “You are up…get your bat and let’s get to work.”

Still, there are a number of people upset about the Rosen scandal, with one dejected supporter writing, “I can’t believe you could be so stupid: you have just given the GOP evidence for their otherwise baseless concerns about voter fraud!” (Baseless, my foot.)

Obviously there’s a difference in scale here – particularly since Rosen ended her race – but one has to wonder how much media play this will receive when compared to the Todd Akin story. All Akin did was make a somewhat foolish statement, for which he was roundly condemned. Yet Rosen is the latest in a series of Democratic officeholders (or would-be officeholders, in her case) to consider themselves unencumbered by the law – until they get caught, that is.

As for Harris, his campaign manager Kathy Szeliga released a statement regarding the Rosen affair:

Andy Harris will continue to work hard throughout the district offering solutions to restore our economy and our nation. This development must not delay our troops serving oversees (sic) from getting their ballots and exercising their right to vote in such an important Presidential Election.

More interesting were the comments from Libertarian Muir Boda:

I do wish to commend the Democratic Party of Maryland for taking proactive steps in this matter. The integrity of our elections is paramount in the democratic process and it is unfortunate that this was not discovered sooner. It is even more unfortunate that anyone would seek office at any level (of) government and have violated election laws in such a manner, if in fact the allegations are true.

Though not the way I was hoping to be able to provide an alternative to the two major parties, this does provide us with an opportunity. We will now be directly competing with incumbent Congressman Andy Harris for the votes of moderate Democrats, Libertarian Republicans and Independents. Though we may not agree with Democrats on some issues, I believe we can sway votes by focusing on ending the wars, defending civil liberties and educating many on the advantages of free markets in addressing many of the issues that government has failed at regulating.

First and foremost we must be focused on reducing the $16 Trillion National Debt and the $1 Trillion budget deficit. This is the greatest threat to our National Security and we must come together and address this issue head on. Serious progress must be made on reforming Social Security and Medicare. We must work to reduce spending across the board to prevent a financial meltdown of the Federal Government.

There are two other observations to be made here. Let’s say John LaFerla is a write-in candidate and placed in candidate debates – does this mean the other current write-in aspirant, Mike Calpino, is included too? That would be only fair, wouldn’t it?

The second is whether the Maryland Democrats are putting on this show of being on the side of fair elections in order to bolster their legal case for replacing Rosen on the ballot despite the passage of the legal deadline, sort of like Democrats in New Jersey did in ousting scandal-plagued Sen. Robert Torricelli from the ballot a decade ago. I wouldn’t put it past them, although they may decide the long odds of removing Harris make that a hill they don’t wish to die on.

Obviously the significant number of write-in votes which will be cast will make it a longer Election Night for the counties which make up the First Congressional District. Still, in the end Andy Harris is expected to prevail anyway.

A liberty forum for two

This was probably a pretty short forum if just two candidates were featured, but if you didn’t have the opportunity to find out what two of the First District Congressional candidates had to say at a recent forum sponsored by the Free State Patriots. Featured were Libertarian candidate Muir Boda and write-in aspirant Michael Calpino. First up will be Boda, who has twice ran unsuccessfully for Salisbury City Council.

This is Mike Calpino, who ran in 2010 as a Libertarian here in Wicomico County for a County Council seat.

I’m glad to give these guys a little bit of exposure, but the obvious question remains: where were Andy Harris and Wendy Rosen? Were they invited? Since the forum occurred in June (the videos were released earlier this week) I’m led to assume neither showed up.

The sponsoring Free State Patriots group has this as their aim:

Free State Patriots is a non-partisan, citizen organization in Maryland, committed to the principles of liberty and limited, constitutional government. Our specific purpose is to compare and evaluate candidates with respect to these principles, and lend support to those patriot candidates who will most likely uphold these principles in elected office.

I’ve not heard of any upcoming debates or other chances to hear First District candidates speak, especially the lesser-known ones like Boda or Calpino that may not be in a formal debate. (Boda may well be included, though, but Calpino likely not since he’s a write-in.) Since Muir is a regular reader, he may have more insight on this.

So here’s a chance to meet these two candidates and see if they’ll steal support from Andy Harris or Wendy Rosen, the two odds-on favorites in the First District race.

Nationalizing a campaign

July 29, 2012 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2012, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on Nationalizing a campaign 

It’s only baby steps, but Libertarian Congressional hopeful Muir Boda is hoping for a little bit of exposure tomorrow evening when he appears on the internet’s Freedom Broadcasting Network. The online broadcaster will slot Boda on the “Ground Wars” program at 7 p.m.

Of course, it’s not likely to entice nearly as many viewers as the typical 30-second commercial during the local newscast – the typical weapon of an average Congressional campaign – but it’s doubtful that Muir, who has just $150 cash on hand for his low-budget campaign, will come anywhere close to being able to afford a campaign commercial. He’ll be hard-pressed to get much radio time at this pace. On the other hand, Democratic challenger Wendy Rosen had just over $30,000 cash on hand (and over $80,000 in debt) during the same reporting period while Andy Harris is sitting on a war chest of over $700,000 on hand. Harris definitely has economy of scale on his side.

Yet the prospect of exposure in any form – particularly if it’s free – is the lifeblood of any low-budget campaign. And Boda needs to increase his visibility if he wants any chance to represent his viewpoint in a formal debate; however, at this stage I’m not aware of any debate plans for the First Congressional District. Hopefully Andy Harris will agree to a series of several throughout the district.

But any show which has a host billing himself as “The Minister of Truth” might be interesting to check out. So if you want to find out more about the Salisbury resident who’s running for Congress, you should check the program either live or via FBN’s YouTube channel after the fact.

A new entry

April 17, 2012 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2012, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on A new entry 

As I alluded to the other day, I found out about this last week but waited until the person in question made it official. Two-time Salisbury City Council candidate Muir Boda is throwing his hat into the Congressional race under the Libertarian banner:

I have been asked by the Chair of the Maryland Libertarian Party to consider seeking the Libertarian nomination for Congress in the 1st District of Maryland. After much prayer, talking with Dr. Richard Davis and discussing it with my family, I have decided to seek the nomination. This is a couple years ahead of schedule on my political calendar, however the opportunity to represent my party and to be a part of the debate on the direction of our country is an honor and a duty that would be a disservice to my country if I turned it down.

(snip)

I am currently planning to have my Statement of Organization paperwork to the State Board of Elections by the end of May if the Central Committee meets before then. In preparation for that I am diligently working on my website and meeting with people who have expressed interest in serving on my campaign.

Like each of you, I am deeply concerned about the near future of our country. The National Debt, failed immigration policies, out of control government regulations, budget reform and tax reform are going to be the central focus of my campaign.

I look forward to sharing and debating ideas by offering solutions.  The focus and tone of my campaign will be much like my previous two City Council campaigns, positive and solution oriented.

Once the campaign begins I will be issuing a regular campaign message that I will send to you.

Thank you for time and I look forward to saving our country together.

Of course, the Libertarian candidate hasn’t come anywhere close to winning the First District, but Davis drew 10,876 votes in the 2010 election, good for just under 3.8% of the vote. His 2008 effort was just enough to deny Frank Kratovil a majority of the vote as Davis drew over 8,000 votes in an election decided by far less. It may be a more Republican district this time around, but surely Andy Harris may have preferred the Libertarians take a pass this time around given he has a Democratic opponent who is trying to sound like a populist and a target on his back from national Democrats.

It should make for an interesting race.

Next Page »

  • I haven't. Have you?
  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Link to Maryland Democratic Party

    In the interest of being fair and balanced, I provide this service to readers. But before you click on the picture below, just remember their message:

  • Part of the Politics in Stereo network.