A Wicomico changing of the guard

December 2, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on A Wicomico changing of the guard 

It was an exciting day and a contentious night for the new County Executive and County Council here in Wicomico County. It’s not often the incoming governor pays attention to an event in our fair county.

But the auditorium at Wor-Wic Community College was packed to its 200-plus person capacity to watch our second County Executive (and first such Republican) Bob Culver take the oath of office from Clerk of the Court Mark Bowen.

After the presentation of colors, the Rev. George Patterson delivered an invocation where he prayed that Culver would be “seasoned with wisdom, grace, and humility” as he took this office.

That quickly, since it had to be finished by noon, Culver took the oath flanked by members of his family.

In his remarks which followed, Bob expressed how he was “humbled and honored” by his election, about which he commented that he “wasn’t the only one who wanted to see change.”

His approach was going to be relatively simple, as he believed “good, workable ideas can come from either side,” but at the same time “‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ will no longer be the rule.” On the other hand, change wouldn’t be made for its own sake.

Culver’s brief address, which lasted less than four minutes, concluded with a simple request: “we need your ideas.” He then introduced the Governor-elect.

Along with Culver, Larry Hogan announced “we’re going to roll up our sleeves and get to work.” Hogan was optimistic about Wicomico County and the rest of the Eastern Shore, promising we “will no longer be taken for granted…you’ll have a seat at the table.”

His first order of business affecting us locally was fighting the Phosphorus Management Tool, new regulations he accused Governor O”Malley of “push(ing) at the midnight hour, on his way out the door.” Hogan wasn’t necessarily opposed to regulations on farmers, but believed they needed to be based on science and not “promised to a special interest group.”

Turning to the new County Executive, Hogan said “Bob is truly a salt of the earth kind of guy” and that he “can’t think of anyone more qualified” to grow the local economy based on his business experience than Culver.

The ceremony wasn’t all that long, but it was lunchtime and many of those who came to the swearing-in went to the next building to celebrate with a reception hosted by Culver.

I must say the catering was outstanding, and people generally left in a good, optimistic mood.

But while Culver was “humbled and honored” by his election, the first County Council meeting under his tenure was definitely on the humbling side.

It began, though, with remarks from the outgoing County Council. In particular, retiring Council member Gail Bartkovich called her tenure “an honor, privilege…and tremendous education.” Interestingly enough, all three of the women who served in the 2010-14 term left County Council, leaving a body of seven men.

Stevie Prettyman acknowledged the large crowd “for a change” and thanked the citizens for their trust in her.

And while he wasn’t going anywhere, John Hall lamented the “loss of wisdom and integrity” provided by the outgoing members. Matt Holloway, who was also staying on, noted this edition of Council had accomplished a lot: building a new Bennett Middle School, supplying water to the Morris Mill neighborhood plagued by well contamination, and continually improving its bond ratings.

Similarly, Sheree Sample-Hughes, who was elected to the House of Delegates, thanked the people for “putting their trust in me as a leader.”

But she foreshadowed the discussion to come by expressing her disappointment that West Salisbury Elementary School would not be in the revised bonding program Culver was asking County Council to approve.

After a quick recess to rearrange seats, the new County Council was sworn in.

Returning members Joe Holloway (third from left), Matt Holloway (center), and John Hall (far right) were now joined by Larry Dodd (far left), Marc Kilmer (second from left), John Cannon (third from right), and Ernest Davis (second from right.) Dodd and Cannon have previously served one term apiece on County Council, though, leaving Kilmer and Davis as the two rookies.

Their first order of business was electing a president and vice-president. Since John Cannon and Matt Holloway were the lone nominees for those respective positions, Cannon took over the meeting with Matt Holloway seated next to him.

The other item on the agenda was the controversial reduction in new county debt from the $16.5 million requested by Rick Pollitt to a new $10.9 million total Culver desired, To accomplish this reduction Bob reduced the bonding amount for ongoing construction of Bennett Middle School, and postponed three other projects: work on the final phase of the Westside Collector Road, work on the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center, and replacement of West Salisbury Elementary.

Projects which would remain, on the other hand, were Bennett Middle School, the purchase of land for dredge material placement for the Wicomico River, the purchase of the newly renovated State’s Attorney office, and renovations to Perdue Stadium.

Culver explained that the Bennett bond could be safely reduced without endangering progress. He also made the case that improvements to the river channel would allow for continued commerce and safer oil transport (as there is a refinery along the river), the purchase of the State’s Attorney office would save $300,000 annually in rent, and that the Perdue Stadium renovations were at the request of the Orioles and would ensure the team remains in Salisbury.

Joe Holloway commented that taking off the school was “probably a good idea” based on his conversation earlier that day with Larry Hogan, with Kilmer agreeing it was likely a “prudent course.” On the other hand, Larry Dodd was “disappointed” that the West Salisbury bond was removed, and Ernest Davis, who represents that district, criticized the deletion as pushing them to the back burner again.

That sentiment was echoed frequently in the public comments Cannon allowed. Over a dozen citizens stood up to blast the decision to drop the bond funding, many complaining about the deplorable shape the 50-year-old building is in and decrying its lack of air conditioning. (It’s worth pointing out the state denied Wicomico County’s request to address the air conditioning for FY2015 because the amount was too small – see page 173 here. Three other Wicomico County schools were granted funds.)

In the end, though, the vote was 5-1 to approve the revised bonding, with Davis opposed. Larry Dodd had to leave early for a family function.

After that vote, Kilmer expressed the sentiment that he wished he saw as much passion about what happens in the schools as he did about the school building. But in his president’s remarks, Cannon was more optimistic, saying “I see good things for Wicomico County.” He also expressed his appreciation for all that Rick Pollitt did in his eight years at the helm.

But it goes without saying that Culver’s honeymoon wasn’t very long. Several people expressed the belief that our place in line for funding would be lost and we could go another several years before the needs of West Salisbury were addressed. But Culver and County Council wanted to see some of the buildings for themselves to assess the needs. Aside from the question one observer brought up about the maintenance issues related by those testifying on West Salisbury’s behalf, it was a night filled with passion for a school of just 309 students.

Look for more battles as the FY2016 budget begins to take shape next year.

Tales of an election

So now that you know where I was on Election Night (thanks to Muir Boda) let me shine some light on our party. I’m the guy in the McDermott shirt; hopefully it wasn’t a jinx.

Unlike a lot of elections past, I did not work a poll. My outside job had tasks which a) had to be covered Tuesday and b) were up in Dover. I didn’t even get home until almost 8:00; fortunately knowing this a couple weeks in advance I could hold my nose and vote early.

Since I wanted a table to write notes on I sat next to Dr. Rene Desmarais, who has admirably remained in the fray despite his primary election loss. I hope the Hogan administration can use his health care expertise. He’s the guy at the laptop in the checkered shirt.

Taking my seat for a few minutes was Mike McDermott, who was anxiously looking at results and drawing attention.

Mike didn’t stay all that long. I figure he went home to see his supporters and share the bad news with them, since it was obvious from the get-go he wasn’t doing all that well. It turned out that Wicomico was the only one of the three counties Mike won, and it’s a margin which is pending absentees. The difference between Michael James in 2010 and Mike in 2014 seems to be that McDermott did poorly in Somerset County, which James carried but Mike lost by almost 700 votes.

Obviously there were a lot of people who craved information. Bob Culver (center, in white) and Joe Holloway (right) were awaiting results.

As it turned out, Culver erased a slight early voting disadvantage to rout incumbent County Executive Rick Pollitt by almost 3,000 votes, with just under 56% all told. Holloway had much less to worry about as his Democratic opponent withdrew after the primary and was not replaced by the local party.

The two pictured there were the conservative backbone of the local County Council, and hopefully two newcomers are going to maintain the proper direction.

Larry Dodd (in the arm sling) and Marc Kilmer are two of the three “new” Republican members of County Council, although Dodd represented District 5 for 4 years before Joe Holloway defeated him in the 2006 primary. Similarly, John Cannon left County Council after one term in 2010 to run unsuccessfully for a seat in the House of Delegates before winning again last night. Thus, Marc Kilmer is one of just two “new” County Council members; the other being lone Democrat Ernest Davis, who was unopposed for the District 1 seat.

As it turned out, County Council maintained its 6-1 Republican edge. But there are definite things to look out for, as two of those Republicans openly backed Rick Pollitt for County Executive.

I don’t think Matt Holloway or John Hall will be opposed to the elected school board Republicans in Wicomico County have sought for years, only to be thwarted by Rick Pollitt and (especially) Norm Conway. Both those obstacles are no more; to his credit Jim Mathias has been supportive of the idea in the past and a Senate bill for the elected school board passed there in 2011. (Conway sponsored a House bill that passed in 2011, but did not in 2012 – nor did a Senate bill that year. No action was taken in 2013 or 2014.)

But Pollitt was quick to point out in debates and forums that four of the six Republicans voted for his latest budget. Two of them, Gail Bartkovich and Stevie Prettyman, did not seek another term, but Matt Holloway and John Hall were the other two. Beginning with the FY2016 budget, it may be a battle to get four votes on County Council if Matt Holloway and Hall maintain their big-spending ways.

I would also love to see the county’s speed cameras become a thing of the past, as Culver was the lone voice of reason to vote against their adoption. It’s called excising that line item from the budget.

The party itself was relatively well-attended, although I’m certain some candidates had their own gatherings. At its peak there were probably 50-60 people in the house.

But while the news was good on the county front, there’s no doubt the star of the show was one Carl Anderton, Jr.

At 9:45 Bunky Luffman, Anderton’s campaign manager, sidled up to me and predicted, “I think we’ve got it.” He explained a particular precinct where they were hoping to get 30% of the vote came in down by just 89 votes.

Anderton’s win, though, was just the tip of the iceberg. A lot of Titanic Democrats went down last night (with lifetime monoblogue Accountability Project scores shown):

  • After six terms, longtime Blue Dog Democrat Delegate Kevin Kelly in District 1B (mAP = 40) lost to Jason Buckel.
  • Delegate John Donoghue (mAP = 9), also a 24-year veteran, was ousted in District 2B by Brett Wilson.
  • In District 6, 9-year incumbent Delegate John Olszewski, Jr. (mAP = 16) lost his bid for the Senate seat held for 48 years by Norman Stone, Jr. (mAP = 28). Three-term Delegate Michael Weir, Jr. (mAP = 28) was also knocked off.
  • Longtime District 29 Senator (and onetime Congressman) Roy Dyson (mAP = 26) lost his bid for a sixth term to Steve Waugh. In that same district, 15-year veteran John Bohanon (mAP = 6) trails Deb Rey by 115 votes with absentees to count.
  • District 34’s Senate seat stayed in GOP hands as Bob Cassilly defeated Delegate Mary-Dulany James (mAP =14), who leaves after 16 years.
  • In District 35A, 20-year incumbent David Rudolph (mAP = 17) lost to Kevin Hornberger.
  • And we know about 28-year incumbent and committee Chair Norm Conway (mAP = 6) who lost to Anderton.

Most of the damage, though, came from the ranks of “moderate” Democrats. According to the monoblogue Accountability Project, these were the top 10 Democrats and here’s how they did.

  1. Delegate John Wood, Jr. – retired, endorsed Larry Hogan.
  2. Delegate Kevin Kelly – lost re-election.
  3. Delegate Joseph “Sonny” Minnick – retired.
  4. Senator Norman Stone – retired.
  5. Delegate Michael Weir, Jr. – lost re-election.
  6. Senator James DeGrange – won with 59% of vote.
  7. Senator Jim Mathias – won with 52% of vote.
  8. Senator Roy Dyson – lost re-election.
  9. Senator John Astle – won with 51% of the vote.
  10. Senator James Brochin – won with 52% of the vote.

Six out of the 10 won’t be back and only one of the remaining four won convincingly. Not knowing how most of those who defeated these incumbents will vote, the chances are the divide between the two parties will become more pronounced. Only a couple hardline Democrats (those 10 or less on the mAP) were losers last night, while McDermott was the only Republican to lose in the general election. In the respect that Democrats managed to get rid of two perpetual thorns in their side through redistricting (Mike McDermott and Don Dwyer) it was a success, but the GOP still picked up more seats than they did before the new districts were drawn in 2010.

So the stage is set for what should be a very intriguing (and hopefully, prosperous for this county and state) four-year term.

Finally, I want to go through a little of my thinking on these races. I was perhaps less optimistic than most about the outcomes because I figured Democratic turnout would be about where it was four years ago. But as it happens, turnout is going to be about 46%, which is a significant decline from the 54% posted in 2010. If the Democratic turnout followed that pattern it was about 10% less than I figured it would be, and those that were passionate enough to show up may likely have cast a number of votes for the GOP.

Simply put, the Democratic base didn’t show up. Whether it was disillusionment with the candidates or just a general apathy, it looks like the GOP filled the void, to the benefit of the state.

After it was all over, I spoke a little bit with David Warren, who came down here to run the Eastern Shore Victory Headquarters.

He pointed out two key factors that led to Hogan’s win: money from the RNC and Republican Governor’s Association, and the help – both financially and in volunteers – from the College Republicans, from the national level to all the phone calls made by the local Salisbury University CRs. “Teenagers and college kids get it,” said Warren.

David also praised the work of state party Chair Diana Waterman and Executive Director Joe Cluster, saying “what they did was phenomenal.” Similar praise was heaped by Warren onto Andy Harris, who put a lot of money into these local races and helped level the playing field.

Finally, I have one more statement. Eight years ago, it was said that:

(GOP leaders are) “going to be flying high, but we’re going to get together and we’re going to shoot them down. We’re going to bury them face down in the ground, and it’ll be 10 years before they crawl out again.”

I think we’re two years early, Mike Miller. Suck on that.

Time to do the deed

October 23, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Time to do the deed 

Today is the day that tiny percentage of Maryland registered voters who actually do this begin going to the polls for early voting. I know some of my party cohorts will be out at the Civic Center campaigning for the Republican ticket, and needless to say it’s a straight R year for me.

But there are races I’m much more passionate about than others, so let’s go through the list and I’ll tell you what I think. That IS why you come here, isn’t it? If my number 16 race doesn’t come out I won’t be all that upset, but if the top half-dozen or so go the wrong way I’ll be pissed. These are the 16 items on my specimen ballot – I live in House District 38B and Wicomico County Council District 3, which is one of only two of the five districts to have a contested race.

  1. Carl Anderton, Jr. for Delegate, District 38B. I am really tired of my poor representation in Annapolis from Norm Conway. He votes for every bloated budget, (almost) every conformity with Obamacare, every accommodation to Big Labor, and a number of other dreadful things as well: in 2011 he voted for the Congressional redistricting that made our state a laughingstock but in committee he helped kill provisions to allow referendums on tax increases and proof of lawful presence before collecting benefits. In 2012 he voted to saddle new homeowners with the added expense of sprinklers, but he saddled the rest of us with the rain tax, tier maps, and the key to getting around our county’s revenue cap by mandating maintenance of effort spending. Granted, once in awhile he votes the right way but why lose on three or four issues to gain one? Republicans and pro-Wicomico Democrats: don’t fall for the hype of potentially losing a committee chair – even though Norm is a fairly nice guy, if he were all that powerful we would be the richest county in the state and we are far from that. It’s definitely time for some new blood to get us back to work. Chances of success: about 50-50.
  2. Mike McDermott for Senate, District 38. Really, this should be 1-a but my function won’t let me do that. Jim Mathias may vote a little better than Norm Conway, but I would rather have someone who’s a thorn in the side of the current Annapolis majority – who went out of their way to lump him into a district with another sitting Delegate – than a backbencher. What better way to thumb your nose at those who believe the Eastern Shore is the state’s “shithouse” (in more ways than one) than to foil their political intentions? If I can pick up 60 points on the monoblogue Accountability Project by changing my representation, you know the answer is yes. This is another race where conservatives need to come home and not cross the aisle, because Jim’s few blind squirrel votes aren’t worth the overall pain. Chances of success: about 50-50.
  3. Bob Culver for County Executive.  Our county has stumbled and staggered through this so-called recovery with the incumbent Rick Pollitt, a self-described bureaucrat, in charge. Don’t forget that Rick whined about the revenue cap for the first three years in office and promised a zero-based budget I haven’t seen yet. After eight years, it’s time for a change in tactics and Bob can be a fresh set of eyes to address our declining number of employed. I know Bob may rub some the wrong way but I’m willing to overlook that because, to me, re-electing Rick Pollitt is the definition of insanity for Wicomico County. Chances of success: I would say about 40-50 percent.
  4. M.J. Caldwell for Circuit Court Judge. To me, this is a perplexing case. Here you have an experienced attorney who knows his way around a courtroom taking on a person whose claim to fame is his last name – if it were Swartz, he’d still be at his old firm. But because people still know the Sarbanes name in this area, the newly-appointed “incumbent” got the gig. I was extremely disappointed and somewhat disgusted to see that Caldwell only won the Republican primary with 57 percent of the vote – people, do your homework! Caldwell would be a good judge. Chances of success: about 1 in 3 unless Republicans shape up.
  5. William Campbell for Comptroller. You’ll notice Peter Franchot has played up his fiscal watchdog tendencies in this campaign, but I think that if Larry Hogan becomes governor we need Bill to keep him grounded and make the Board of Public Works work in a conservative direction for the first time in…well, ever. Unfortunately, Bill has little money to get his message out and Franchot’s too scared to debate him. One problem with Larry Hogan taking public financing is that the Maryland GOP is spending maximum time and effort fundraising for Larry instead of helping these downballot races. Chances of success: alas, probably less than 1 percent.
  6. Larry Hogan for Governor. All politics is local, so I think the state race can take care of itself. But I hope that Hogan has enough coattails to bring in a dozen Delegates and half-dozen new Senators, including the two mentioned above. While I hated his primary campaign, I have to admit Hogan’s done a good job in the general election round. But will it be enough? Polls suggest it might. Chances of success: about 50-50.
  7. Larry Dodd for District 3 Council. The thing that bothers me about his opponent is that, for all his “aw, shucks” demeanor, he’s been exposed to a large number of anti-property rights zealots. He worked for Joan Carter Conway, the Senate’s EHEA Chair, and not only does she have a lifetime mAP rating of 4 (yes, that’s really bad) but she has passed a lot of bad legislation through her committee over the last several years – something Josh fails to mention. But I will give Josh Hastings his due: he’s campaigning hard, knocked on my door and has worked harder for the seat than Dodd has. It would be a shame to succeed a good, conservative Councilwoman in Gail Bartkovich with a liberal who may have grown up on a farm but has spent his politically formative years more readily influenced by Baltimore City and Annapolis. Chances of success: about 35 to 40 percent.
  8. John Cannon for at-large County Council. While his voting record has often been a disappointment, he was one of the two who got through the primary. I have more hope for him becoming a conservative stalwart, though, than I do for his fellow Republican. Chances of success: around 60 percent.
  9. Voting against Question 1. I’ve stated my reasons for opposition before, but most of the money is backing it and referendum items rarely fail. Chances of success: less than 10 percent.
  10. Jeffrey Pritzker for Attorney General. We are really in trouble, folks. We could have had one of our good county state’s attorneys (or my personal favorite, Jim Rutledge) step up but instead we got Pritzker, who I have never met. When I see prominent conservative-leaning bloggers backing the Libertarian in the race, it can’t be much of a campaign. That’s a shame, because there’s more to the campaign than legalizing pot. And losing this seat means the gun-grabbing Brian Frosh will be our Attorney General. Chances of success: even less than Campbell’s sub-1 percent shot.
  11. Matt Holloway for at-large County Council. There are many holes in his voting record as well, but winning the primary makes him the odds-on favorite to not be third on November 4. So I guess I’ll have to wonder how often he’ll cave for another four years. Chances of success: over 80 percent.
  12. Andy Harris for Congress. No muss, no fuss. Have you heard a word about Bill Tilghman? The one thing you can say about Bill is that at least we haven’t caught him voting twice. This race is perhaps the closest thing to an automatic win for our side – when even the Daily Times has to endorse you, it’s a good sign. Chances of success: over 95 percent.
  13. Voting against Andrea Leahy as a Special Appeals Judge. Similar to the election involving Jimmy Sarbanes, Judge Leahy is up for election because she was appointed by Martin O’Malley in March. I looked at her profile and wasn’t impressed, but it’s rare a judge is tossed out. I would love to see who Larry Hogan would appoint, but if Leahy lost Martin O’Malley would rush another appointee through – and he or she would sit until 2016. Chances of success: in the single-digits.
  14. Voting against Kevin Arthur as a Special Appeals Judge. His profile is better than Leahy’s but, still, he is an O’Malley appointee. Chances of success: in the single-digits.
  15. Grover Cantwell for Orphan’s Court Judge. I have never met the guy, yet he wants my vote. This is a part of the ballot where those who get listed first (the Democrats) have the advantage because they’ve all been on the ballot before. Chances of success: perhaps 1 in 3.
  16. Voting for Question 2. I can get behind this proposal, which allows charter counties like Wicomico the option to have special elections to fill County Council seats. Having gone through the process of filling such a vacancy, I think it should be opened up despite the risk of losing a GOP seat to a Democrat. Chances of success: over 90 percent.

So this is how I think my local election will go. As for some other contested county races I’m supporting, in order of likelihood of success:

  • Addie Eckardt for Senate, District 37. The hard part for her was winning the primary. Sure, there may be some diehard Colburn supporters out there but their other choice is a guy he beat by 20 points last time around. Chances of success: 95 percent.
  • Mary Beth Carozza for Delegate, District 38C. Having an opponent who wears a “Ban Assault Weapons” t-shirt to an Andy Harris townhall event provides an immediate advantage in this area. But Mary Beth has been working since the summer of 2013 on this race, and that hard work is on the verge of paying off. Chances of success: 95 percent.
  • Marc Kilmer for District 2 Council. When your opponent threatens to go to court for winning, you know you’re in good shape. But Marc has taken nothing for granted, works hard, and has a fairly solid Republican district. Chances of success: at least 80 percent.
  • Christopher Adams for Delegate, District 37B. He wasn’t the top vote-getter in any county, but he’s run a solid campaign and the dynamics of the race give him a better path to victory than fellow Republican contender Johnny Mautz. Chances of success: a solid 75 percent.
  • Johnny Mautz for Delegate, District 37B. By far the top primary vote-getter, the one drawback is that he has to finish ahead of Keasha Haythe because both hail from Talbot County and there’s a limit of one per county. If he were second to her in the overall voting, he would lose and the third-place finisher moves up. With that in mind, I give him just ever-so-slightly less favorable odds. Chances of success: a solid 74.9 percent.

My advice to every contender in the last two weeks: run like you are five points behind. See you at the polls!

Muir Boda for County Council

Muir Boda Ad 160 WideIf you have only one vote in the Republican primary for County Council at-large here in Wicomico County, make it count. Vote for Muir Boda.

This year’s at-large County Council election is unique in two respects: first, it features two candidates who have already served four years on County Council in John Cannon and Matt Holloway. Secondly, unless there is a strong write-in campaign, a Republican is assured of winning at least one of the two seats because the Democrats only fielded one candidate, Salisbury City Council member Laura Mitchell.

To me, Cannon and Holloway are akin to peas in a pod. Both have earned the reputation as being the moderate Republican swing votes on a Council which desperately cried out for conservative leadership. Obviously one of them has to be nominated since there are two slots, but the winner between those two is not nearly as important as making sure Muir advances to the next round.

I’ve known Muir since before he first ran for office five years ago, and he’s always impressed me as earnest, down-to-earth, and willing to work hard to solve problems. I was happy to vote for him as one of my endorsed City Council candidates in 2011 (had I lived in the city in 2009, he would have received my vote that year as well) because I believed he would add a voice of sanity to the body, and with a County Council that will feature a lot of new faces – including at least four new members since Gail Bartkovich, Bob Culver, Stevie Prettyman, and Sheree Sample-Hughes are departing for retirement or for other offices – having someone with his understanding of the working man’s perspective will be important.

Crime is Muir’s biggest issue, and for good reason: he sees it on a daily basis as part of his job. Boda is a believer in the High Point Initiative, which is being instilled by Matt Maciarello and other members of the law enforcement community, but would like to take it further with another unique idea worth considering and discussing.

As many know, Muir ran for Congress as a Libertarian in 2012, and served for several years as an officer in the Maryland Libertarian Party. One might consider him an opportunist for changing to the GOP for this election, but as for me I see this as a welcome change. We need new, younger blood in the local party and this is one opportunity to put a good, thoughtful conservative on County Council. He and District 2 candidate Marc Kilmer can be the building blocks to a conservative rebirth in Wicomico County, but the hardest step will be his getting through the primary with two opponents who certainly have more of a bankroll than Muir does.

But it can be done, with your help. Let the chips fall where they may for slot number 2, but let’s make sure Muir Boda makes the November ballot – even if you have to “bullet vote” and leave a choice blank.

Oh, and just to answer the question surely to come: this is a personal endorsement, and not one with my Central Committee hat on.

2014 Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner in pictures and text

It wouldn’t be a Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner without the guest of honor, now would it?

But it was that and much more as about 100 people enjoyed the festivities last night in Salisbury. I was a little disappointed in the attendance, but those who missed the affair missed some stirring words from both our four featured speakers – the GOP gubernatorial candidates – save Jeannie Haddaway pinch-hitting for David Craig, who was in Frederick tonight – and Delegate Mike McDermott.

Our event is set up so guests have an opportunity to talk to candidates before and after the proceedings. So before dinner was underway, acquaintances were made and renewed, such as Delegate Ron George speaking with the newly-goateed Delegate Charles Otto.

I like that look on Charles. Meanwhile, Larry Hogan and wife Yumi spoke to Wicomico County Council member Joe Holloway. I believe fellow Council member Bob Culver is back to camera.

As I noted earlier, Jeannie Haddaway was taking the place of David Craig and visiting her alma mater. In the background is Larry Hogan’s LG pick, Boyd Rutherford.

Candidates were also taking advantage of the space provided for literature and signs.

Things began to get going when the Union troops and band arrived in the room.

This heralded the arrival of our sixteenth president, who is a popular subject. In this case, it was with Senator Rich Colburn (left) and John and Gail Bartkovich. Gail is the outgoing Council member from District 3, while the good doctor John was our county chair for several years.

One new wrinkle we added this year was a Union band, described by Lincoln as “the Eastern Shore detachment of the 3rd Maryland Irregular Regimental Band,” which played traditional music during the prelude to the ceremonies.

The troops sat behind Lincoln as he made his remarks, with a little banjo accompaniment toward the end.

As he always does, Lincoln made remarks which tried to use the words of yesterday to relate to today’s world, leading off with a tale about General George McClellan, one which he concluded by stating the case “the lunatics are running the asylum.”

“Our greatest enemy is voter apathy,” he continued. “It cheats honest citizens.”

And just as the British Empire sparked a revolution by resorting to tyranny, Lincoln called the modern situation “mental torture.” Now, “A lying tyrant is in control,” Lincoln added, “We need to be a stumbling block to tyrants.” But he ended on a hopeful note, believing “America shall not pass away.”

Our county Chair Dave Parker then secured the floor for a number of announcements as well as praise for one outgoing member of our Central Committee.

First of all, we learned that there will be a gubernatorial debate among the GOP candidates here on May 31, at Salisbury University. Once the June 24 primary is history, we will convene for the Wicomico County Republican Club Crab Feast on September 6.

But the huge event was the one slated for September 27. After twice being unsuccessful at getting a Lincoln Day date, we got the next best thing: Lt. Col. Allen West will be appearing in Salisbury for a series of events September 27. Those who attend Central Committee or Wicomico County Republican Club functions already know this, but we put out the formal word tonight at Lincoln Day.

Before we heard from the gubernatorial candidates, we also took a few moments to honor one of the few Republicans in Maryland whose Presidential vote has truly counted – this man served on the Electoral College from Maryland in 1972 for Nixon and 1984 for Reagan. For the better part of five decades Blan Harcum has been a fixture in Wicomico County GOP politics, but after this election he will take a well-deserved retirement from the Central Committee. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” said Blan about his tenure.

And as it turns out, Larry Hogan has known Blan “for a long, long time.” He drew the opening slot among our four, and in doing so decided to play up his experience in both the private sector and executive branch under former governor Bob Ehrlich. “I’ve spent a lifetime challenging the status quo,” Hogan said, accusing our current leaders of “actually causing the problems.” Rather than “be something,” he wanted to do something about them and that was why he decided to run.

Naturally, Hogan spoke about Change Maryland, noting that it “successfully changed the dialogue in this state.” He could sense the frustration with the “huge disconnect” between the people and their government as well as the belief the state was heading in the wrong direction. Regarding the “arrogant, out of touch monopoly” in Annapolis, he believed it was “about time the politicians in Annapolis listened to the rest of us.”

As he has often done in his stump speeches, Hogan returned to three main points: creating jobs, helping out the middle class, and getting government off our backs. He related his day in Salisbury, with stops in several area businesses as well as a Little League opening day and the downtown Easter Egg hunt.

Charles Lollar also told us about his day, one spent taking the fight to Democratic strongholds and crossing paths with Democrat Anthony Brown on three occasions, debating him once. He was inducted into the 100 Black Men of Prince George’s County, heard Brown say at a Howard County forum that “Maryland is doing fine” – while 1 out of 3 in portions of Baltimore are jobless – and went to a Veterans for Democracy meeting back in Charles County where he was “disinvited” to speak because of “political pressure” his name has brought. On top of that, his second daughter is going to her first prom tonight. “I’m not doing this for me…we’re doing this for you,” said Charles.

But his message to the Republicans was that whoever the nominee for governor may be, he has to have the “intestinal fortitude and integrity” to speak our convictions. His basic agenda would be one of economic solvency, installing a Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights to slow budget growth, and eventually eliminating the personal income tax – a proposal which got him the support of economist Arthur Laffer.

He knew it would be difficult, but concluded that “I don’t play politics very well, but I do enjoy a good fight every once in awhile.” Whoever wins the primary has to care about the ideals of the minority community to earn their votes, Charles stated in closing.

Representing David Craig, who couldn’t be here tonight but was instead over in Frederick County, was his lieutenant governor candidate Jeannie Haddaway. We’re out “covering the state as much as we could,” she explained. Reflecting on the recent General Assembly session, Haddaway remarked that “there are people in Annapolis fighting for you.” Some of the more controversial bills only passed by slim majorities, added Jeannie, because Democrats are reluctant to vote for them but have to contend with their “top-down agenda.” Thanks to what’s gone on the last few years, “our state is in really bad shape,” said Jeannie.

She corrected Larry Hogan’s remark about private sector experience, noting David Craig worked in a factory when not teaching and her own work as a small business owner. Their priority would be to straighten out the budget then “put money back in your pocket” through elimination of the income tax.

Haddaway pointed out 40 percent of Democrats were undecided, perhaps because they didn’t like the options and may consider a Republican who would “try something different.” And even in heavily Democratic districts, Craig had won. “We have won collectively 14 general elections,” she said. “Whoever turns out is going to win this election.” She promised that if Craig won and she became the state’s first Eastern Shore lieutenant governor, “the Eastern Shore will be forgotten no more.”

While he was holding up the flyer for an upcoming event in Ocean City in the photo above, Ron George opened up by discussing running mate Shelley Aloi – like many of us, I met her for the first time tonight. (She and Ron happened to sit at our table, along with our next speaker and his wife and the Parkers.)

Ron spent much of his time talking about the General Assembly: “I felt like I needed Rolaids constantly,” remarked George – but considered it an “honor” to serve with our Republican “warriors.” His pitch was combining his business experience with time served at the “front line” of issues as a member of the General Assembly – one who formed the Doctor’s Caucus “to build consensus” and a related group called the Physician’s Advisory. That group had uncovered waste within the exchange and the failures of health care contractor Maximus early on.

Ron also spoke about his work on the electoral process, closing a loophole for the next cycle so a donor couldn’t form multiple LLCs just to circumvent campaign finance limits. Audits, too, were another major part of his platform since he’d found where Prince George’s County “totally misused” $400 million. “That kind of waste has got to stop.”

George went over a couple parts of his ten-point promise, one which “will fix the drain that Baltimore is” and strive to rebuild the state’s manufacturing base in small communities like ours. “I cannot cut welfare payments unless I have those entry-level, mid-level jobs,” said Ron.

He also made an announcement about a Monday event to be held in conjunction with Dan Bongino and David Craig, endorsing Anthony Brown for governor…of Connecticut. “How’s that (health care) working out for us?” added Jeannie Haddaway.

But the rhetorical storm was brewing.

You knew Delegate Mike McDermott was working on a stemwinder when he noted, “the problem with Democrat math is that they follow Common Core logic.” This after he noted losing the two GOP Senators in 2010, including the seat he seeks, “opened up the floodgates of hell on the social side.” This didn’t count the pilfering of various trust funds or the “blank check” to uncovered patients for the budget.

But once he got going on the “outrage” on the bathroom bill, it was on. “It should be unacceptable to all Marylanders,” he said. We gave each gubernatorial candidate ten minutes – Mike was still going strong after fifteen.

“The tragedy of Maryland politics can be turned around,” he said. “Don’t send a governor to the governor’s mansion without sending them reinforcements” of five Senators. His voice rising, McDermott made the case that North Carolina “worked on making government work for the people” after the GOP took over and raised its business friendliness rating from 46th to 17th in two years. “They’ve brought that state back! It can happen here.”

“If we can’t make the case for change this year,” Mike thundered, “the Republican Party can never make it.”

“We can take Wicomico County by storm! If there was ever a county which needed good leadership and change, it’s this one. I’m tired of being up there, and being in a welfare county…I challenge you to take it back,” an emotional McDermott concluded. He had to dial it back some for the benediction that he delivered.

Our friends in Worcester County have the chance to have a great team in Annapolis: Mike McDermott in the Senate, and Mary Beth Carozza and Charles Otto in the House.

So ended another Lincoln Day Dinner. It wasn’t quite what we bargained for when we started planning it last year, but those who were there were treated to a good event nonetheless.

WCRC meeting – March 2014

While tonight’s meeting was pretty much standing room only, the oddity was (by my count) there were in the room more candidates and those who are helping out campaigns than what one termed ‘regular people.” Of course, with 13 running for Central Committee (including yours truly) that was going to increase the odds a little bit as 9 of those 13 hopefuls were present, as were many seeking other positions. Once we did our usual club business of reciting the Lord’s Prayer (yes, we still do that and not one person is offended by it), Pledge of Allegiance, and treasurer’s report, we got a number of campaign updates.

But amongst all those who spent a couple minutes relating their stories about doing door-to-door or announcing their upcoming fundraisers as we went around the room for campaign updates, there were two candidates who we asked to speak. Both are seeking the District 3 Wicomico County Council seat currently held by Gail Bartkovich, who chose not to seek another term.

Larry Dodd was familiar to all of us because he had served as the president of the WCRC from 2011 to 2013, immediately before our current president Jackie Wellfonder. (Dodd is still a club officer.) He pointed out that he was the father of 12-year-old twins that were in public school, which he stated “aren’t all bad.” Larry may share a little of those plaudits because he’s been on the Wicomico County Board of Education since 2009, and was reappointed for a five-year term in 2013. Prior to that he served as a County Council member from 2002-06, in the district now represented by Joe Holloway. Redistricting shifted him to District 3, which was good because “I was going to run anyway.” He conceded, though, it would be tough to follow “one of the best” in Gail Bartkovich.

Before a serious injury sidelined him, Larry was an active firefighter and EMT, acquiring “all the certifications I could get” and earning a master’s degree in the field. He is planning to resume teaching in the EMT field in the next few months.

Larry took a somehat different approach to his presentation, though. While he pointed out a couple of his key issues, stating that “crime is the biggest issue” in the county and calling for “more cohesion” between city and county. he also stated the case that living in Salisbury “has its issues.”  Other bullet points for Larry were – naturally – education and agriculture, where he felt “we need to protect farmers.”

But he also asked what we felt were significant issues, and brought up a few possibilities: a countywide water and sewer district, teacher’s pensions, hughway user funds, and reducing overall spending.

Larry also beseeched us, saying “everybody needs to work together” and that we need to hit the streets and work for candidates. “You can’t vote for third party candidates” in this election, he concluded.

Tom Taylor is no stranger to running for office, either. In 2006 and 2010 he ran for County Executive on the Democratic ticket, making his appeal to the most conservative part of the Democratic party – as a result, he only got a small percentage of the vote. Now as a Republican, he’s running for the Council seat despite the fact “I feel like the County Council is becoming irrelevant” due to the influence Annapolis policies have on the county. But he also warned that he’s “not afraid of shaming anyone to do what’s right.” Our County Council has to stand up to Annapolis and needs to draw “a firm line in the sand” at times, Tom added.

One of his key issues was crime, but he made it plain that “we need a way to protect ourselves” and that the right to carry is “a proven deterrent.” He also advocated zero-based budgeting, which would force us to make the “hard decision” to ask ourselves whether we could afford something rather than the easy choice of raising taxes yet again. Taylor wrapped up his remarks by saying “admitting there’s a problem is the first step to recovery.”

Dave Parker gave the Central Committee report, which mainly focused on the Lincoln Day Dinner but also touched upon a September event we are planning as well. Our plan to invite all four remaining gubernatorial candidates to the LDD was coming together nicely, with all but David Craig confirming their attendance. (To me that’s a surprise.)

As I mentioned earlier, we had a lot of candidates in the room, but one newcomer who got to say a few words was Karen Tolley, who is running for the District 37B seat. Once Johnny Mautz, Jr. arrived we had four of the five would-be Delegates in the room – Allen Nelson was the lone exception. She briefly got to introduce herself, saying “this really is grassroots,” and plugged her campaign site.

Some of the key upcoming events mentioned:

  • Circuit Court judge candidate M.J. Caldwell will have a fundraiser on Wednesday, March 26 at La Tolteca in Salisbury. (I can tell you the food will be good.)
  • The NAACP candidate forum will be held this Thursday, March 27 at the Chipman Center in Salisbury.
  • On Friday, March 28 District 38B hopeful Carl Anderton, Jr. will host a fundraiser at the Evo Public House in Salisbury. (Thumbs up to the Primal Pale Ale there.)
  • District 37B candidate Dr. Rene Desmarais will be holding a Talbot County event on April 3.
  • Gubernatorial candidate David Craig will be hosting an event on April 13 at Sailwinds Park in Cambridge.
  • And of course, our annual Crab Feast will be September 6, so save the date.

We will also have a presence at the Salisbury Festival, although I won’t be there this year because I’ll be at our state convention. Immediately after that weekend will be our next meeting, which will be April 28 with a speaker to be announced.

WCRC meeting – January 2014

It’s a new year, and apparently people are pent up with political desire. Benefitting from this enthusiasm in particular were Comptroller candidate William Campbell and District 37B hopeful Dr. Rene Desmarais, both of whom were our featured speakers tonight.

So once we handled the usual opening of reciting the Lord’s Prayer and Pledge of Allegiance and introducing the growing number of distinguished guests, we heard mainly from Campbell and Desmarais about their proposals if elected. We began with the second-time Comptroller candidate, who ran for the same post in 2010.

The reason he ran, said Campbell, was that he met the incumbent. But Comptroller was the “second most important vote you’ll make” behind the governor’s race. The Comptroller, Campbell continued, acts as the watchdog over the “rapacious” actions of our governor and legislature.

He also has a vote on the Maryland Board of Public Works, and if Republicans are elected to both the governor and comptroller posts they could “end the lunacy” in Maryland’s spending.

Chief among those flaws was pension funding. Campbell explained that a program which was fully funded just 12 years ago was only 65% funded when he ran in 2010 and is down to 60% now – although William argued that new accounting standards could prove that number to be closer to 50% funding. It’s a $40 billion unfunded liability.

Finally among the Comptroller’s chief duties is regulation of alcohol, fuel, and tobacco in the state of Maryland.

He went on to outline his qualifications, which were more than sufficient for the job: 9 years as chief financial officer of the United States Coast Guard, a stint as CFO of the Department of Veterans Affairs – where he oversaw a $65 billion budget and 225,000 employees; figures which dwarf the state of Maryland – and two years at Amtrak, which is still a money pit but “lost less money with me.” His planning to address the shortfall enabled Amtrak to buy locomotives for the first time in decades.

After leaving Amtrak, he did pro bono work for NASA, making their books auditable for the first time in years. Campbell did it for free because “I believe in good government.”

Speaking to his 2010 run, he conceded that he started late and ran a campaign with no more than 4 figures in the bank and 30,000 miles on his truck. Yet he outpolled U.S. Senate candidate Eric Wargotz, who spent far more money, garnering 691,461 votes and only trailing Bob Ehrlich by about 85,000 votes (Ehrlich had 776,319, which translated to 3% more.) He learned that you have to get voters to know you, like you, and trust you, so he started running last year for 2014. “I know the things to fix,” concluded Campbell.

When asked about how he would deal with Annapolis Democrats, Campbell’s initial inclination would be that of “quiet persuasion,” but it would escalate to that of a bully pulpit if needed. “I see a lot of ignorance in Annapolis,” said Campbell.

He was also asked if marijuana would fall under his supervision if legalized. It would, but the $150 million projected annual revenue was “a rounding error” in a budget of $40 billion. More important was the lack of attention to the pension fund, which should ideally be replenished to the tune of $500 million a year but was getting $350 million or less under Martin O’Malley. He charged current Comptroller Peter Franchot with “not living up to his fiduciary responsibility” by his handling of the pension funds, including coming in way short of the 7.5% annual return projections are based on.

Turning things over to Dr. Rene Desmarais, he began by stating the obvious: “Health care is a mess.” If elected, Desmarais added, he would be the only Republican doctor in the House of Delegates.

Desmarais was more brief, given a tighter time constraint, but spoke about three distinct themes: vision, connection, and opportunity.

The lack of vision in Annapolis was apparent in that there was no help in getting from point A to point B – government was just asked to solve the problem. This was true, not just in health care, but in a broad array of subjects like education, phosphorous regulations, and even the Second Amendment, Desmarais argued.

Connections abound from health care to a number of political topics, added Rene, but he spent part of the time discussing the connections to Obamacare, which has “22 missing things” and “done harm to people.”

Yet we also have opportunity because of a unique hospital payment system which can be the foundation to making needed changes. It would take a “message of clarity”for Republicans to succeed overall, but it can be done. Moreover, Maryland “can push the reset button” on the health insurance market, providing a better alternative than the current system where Eastern Shore residents get to choose from a whopping two insurance providers through the state exchange.

That concluded the portion of the program devoted to our guest speakers, but the treasurer’s report was brief and club president Jackie Wellfonder recounted a breakfast held with Delegate Addie Eckardt a week ago Saturday before yielding her time to County Council member Joe Holloway.

Holloway wanted to remind us that the County Council would meet next Tuesday evening (February 4) and discuss the recently-discovered $3;7 million revenue shortfall in the county’s budget, along with raises for various county officials and the allocation of $25,000 to the Clean Chesapeake Coalition.

In a Central Committee report which was more brief than usual, Dave Parker pointed out a candidate conference call slated for Tuesday and that the deadline for candidates was approaching quickly. “This could be a very good year for Republicans,” said Parker. We also heard plans for the Lincoln Day Dinner, which promises to be a memorable event if we can pull off getting our preferred guest speaker.

Turning to club business, we nominated new officers for 2014 – a simple process as all but one current officer volunteered to stay on. So we nominated one person to fill the vacancy and nominations were closed.

After that, we heard quickly from a number of other candidates who updated their campaign status. John Cannon, who served from 2006-10 on County Council, has decided to return to the at-large position he vacated to run for Delegate. He praised the current Council for making sure tha county didn’t tax its way out of the recession, and said his campaign would be based on business and job growth. Businesses “can’t find educated and drug-free workers in Wicomico,” said Cannon.

District 37B hopeful Johnny Mautz, Jr. invited people to a campaign kickoff in St. Michaels on February 9 from 4-6 p.m.

Matt Maciarello, our State’s Attorney, pointed with some pride to the fact that Salisbury has improved from the 4th most dangerous city per capita in the country to 52nd most over his tenure, although he was disappointed to find we were still on the top 100 list. Matt was more pleased, though, with the renovation of an old downtown building into new offices for his department along with space for the Maryland State Police, Sheriff’s Department, Salisbury city police, Children’s Services, and room for therapy for abuse victims.

Larry Dodd was another interested in a return to County Council, where he served from 2002-2006. He praised outgoing Council members Stevie Prettyman and Gail Bartkovich as being a “hard act to follow” – he’s running for the District 3 seat Bartkovich is vacating – and stressed his tenure on the Board of Education (where he’s a current member) as an advantage.

District 38B hopeful Carl Anderton, Jr. spoke about how he’s already “made a mark” in Annapolis, where the traditional introduction of the Maryland Municipal League president at the opening ceremony of the Maryland General Assembly was somehow skipped this year – coincidentally, he’s running against longtime member Norm Conway. Anderton also quipped that the state “wasted $100 million on a website that doesn’t work” but he spent $20 on his and it runs just fine. Carl’s having a meet-and-greet at Main Roots Coffee on Saturday from 11-1, added campaign manager Bunky Luffman.

Marc Kilmer, running for District 2 County Council, stated that the coverage of the $3.7 million county shortfall ignored a key fact – the budget went up by $10.9 million from the year before. We need fiscal discipline and not the “sky is falling rhetoric” the county seems to employ.

Touching on that, Joe Holloway praised local activists Johnnie Miller and John Palmer for trying to bring that shortfall to the county’s attention. “We were warned” that the county was being overly optimistic on revenue projections, Joe said.

On behalf of Christopher Adams, Jackie Wellfonder let us know he was still out knocking on doors and talking to people.

Finally, we were asked if any Democrats were in any of the races. At this point, the only Democrats who have filed are the incumbent Clerk of the Courts and Register of Wills, along with two seeking the District 1 County Council seat.

It really wasn’t a lengthy meeting, but it turned out to be chock full of information. The next meeting is February 24, with a speaker to be determined.

A look ahead: 2014 in Wicomico County

I covered some of the events from this year last night, but as we enter 2014 some interesting political campaigns and battles are taking shape.

The largest question for 2014 will obviously be who gets the keys for the next four years as County Executive, with the sidebar being whether he, along with County Council and some other leadership, will be paid more. I suspect the latter measure will be voted in with a close vote, as the County Council seems to have its Republicans divided into two groups of three, one being much less fiscally conservative than the other and carrying a 4-3 vote when they side with the lone Democrat.

As for that County Executive race, Republican County Council at-large member Bob Culver announced earlier this month that he would seek the office for a second time, with current County Executive Rick Pollitt planning to file for a third term next month. Pollitt is the only chief executive the county has known, winning the position in 2006 over Republican Ron Alessi and narrowly escaping a challenge from first-time officeseeker Joe Ollinger in 2010. Culver has a history in running for County Executive, though; finishing a distant third in the three-way GOP primary race in 2006 with 23% of the vote. And while he managed to win an at-large County Council seat in 2010, he was second overall to political neophyte Matt Holloway.

Whoever wins the County Executive race, he will be dealing with a radically revised County Council. Much like the 2006 election, which marked the end of a commission style of government with the Council serving as leadership, the 2014 balloting will result in large turnover. That 2006 campaign featured none of the four incumbent Democrats, all of whom decided not to seek another term as legislators rather than commissioners, while one of the three Republicans lost in the primary. Eight years later, while Matt Holloway has filed for another term at large, Culver will seek the County Executive position and leave the other at-large seat to another. Republican Muir Boda is thus far the only other one to file.

The districts will be where the real change occurs, though. Not only were some of the battle lines radically redrawn by redistricting, but only District 5 Council member Joe Holloway is truly seeking re-election, since District 4’s John Hall will be running for the first time for the seat he holds. Hall was appointed in 2011 to finish the term of the late Bob Caldwell, who died in office after winning the closest county election in recent memory. Caldwell unseated incumbent Democrat David MacLeod by two votes out of 4,072 cast.

Yet three district Council members will not be seeking another term – the body’s lone Democrat, Sheree Sample-Hughes of District 1 is seeking a seat in the House of Delegates, while Stevie Prettyman in District 2 and Gail Bartkovich of District 3 opted not to stand for re-election after lengthy tenures. They were the lone holdovers in the aforementioned 2006 election, and it’s possible 2014 will be similar. Two Democrats, Ernest Davis and McKinley Hayward, have already filed in District 1; meanwhile, the District 2 seat has attracted Republican Marc Kilmer.

For the most part, other county offices will hold their status quo as most incumbents have already filed for re-election. The only turnover will be in the Orphan’s Court, where two of the three current members had previously indicated their current term would be their last. Republican Grover Cantwell has already filed, but will likely be joined by a host of others from both parties – raising the prospect of contested primaries on both sides.

And while many of these officers will receive a modest bump in their paychecks in 2015, they will be hoping that 2014 brings a resolution to a number of nagging issues. Our small county can’t do a whole lot to improve the national economy, but financial pressures brought on by a shrinking income tax base and flagging property values will press County Executive Pollitt to submit a far leaner budget than he might like in an election year. While the state gave Pollitt an “out” by allowing him a workaround to the county’s revenue cap to fund local schools, the money may not be there for everything government wants – particlarly since the other end of that state deal was a larger maintenance of effort requirement. It’s noteworthy that Pollitt was vague about 2014 plans in his recent State of the County address.

The state mandates will also affect our planning. Our development is currently stymied by state law, which severely curtails the subdivision of land in areas not served by a municipal sewage system because we haven’t submitted an approved tier map. Wicomico County is closing in on a year overdue with the map, which has met resistance because farmers are understandably worried about their property values should they be placed in the most restrictive development tier. Most likely this will lead to a solution few on the local level will embrace. We also may find our county has to enact the dreaded “rain tax” since we’re one of the more populous counties not to have one yet – so we are in line.

Accountability for county schools may become an issue as well. Stymied by a legislative delegation which won’t allow the citizens a say in whether they desire an elected school board because County Executive Pollitt demands public proof of favorability – despite the 6-1 vote County Council made in favor of the resolution – the alternative may indeed become one of petitioning the issue to the ballot. The end result could be a compromise to place the issue on the 2016 ballot, one which will have a larger turnout and not feature the two Delegates who have stood in the way of Wicomico County joining the vast majority of others in Maryland and across the country which have elected bodies to monitor local education.

Obviously there will be a number of other issues which crop up in the upcoming year, but as we stand here looking forward it appears the local government is far more at the mercy of their state and national counterparts than many here feel comfortable being. These entities will be looked at tomorrow and Tuesday, the final two days of a politically bruising year.

WCRC meeting – October 2013

October 28, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on WCRC meeting – October 2013 

This meeting had a much different vibe than the previous three simply because there was no guest speaker. Instead, we broomed the speaker’s portion of the agenda in favor of catching up on old business and soliciting ideas for new ways of conserving our funds and raising more. Suffice to say there were plenty, which worked out well given club President Jackie Wellfonder’s request in her report to make suggestions. (One other suggestion was to post minutes rather than read them at the meeting, which took effect this month. Soon minutes of meetings extending back to 2010 will be available for online inspection.)

Now we did get our treasurer’s report, but without the physical reading of the minutes or speaker we moved rather quickly into the Chairman’s Report from Dave Parker. He related that we have a “bunch of candidates” for County Council but none had given the green light to make their plans public. Parker also reminded those attending that the Central Committee would meet one week hence in the same location so we can make plans for our state convention November 22-23 in Annapolis. He also spoke a little about the issues of gun control in the state, pointing out problems with our registration system and remarked that “everything about Obamacare is botched.”

The abbreviated schedule also enabled us to hear from a number of candidates, who updated us on their efforts.

Mary Beth Carozza, running for Delegate in District 38C, let us know she was “staying on her three tracks”: door to door, fundraising, and events. She commented that her reception had been great thus far, and “folks do want to believe” they can make a difference.

Christopher Adams, a Delegate hopeful in District 37B, credited his work over the last three years on behalf of a business group as providing the motivation for him to run. New regulations were “unpalatable” to him. He also recalled the situation where he was to testify on a sick pay bill but was cut off because the gun law had to come to a vote at the behest of the Obama administration.

Turning to local races, Marc Kilmer mentioned his work in his district as well as meeting voters at the Autumn Wine Festival. He contended, though, that “rural Wicomico County has a lot of challenges.”

Meanwhile, Muir Boda was also a fixture at many of the same events Marc had attended, but his focus of late was on local land use issues, as people were showing “a lot of concern about that” as well as about property rights. He was planning on visiting a number of local municipal meetings over the next month or so to familiarize himself with those communities.

Since the tier maps subject had come up, I took a moment to remind people that our lack of an approved map meant we could not subdivide any parcel into more than seven lots.

A less weighty subject was our annual Christmas party, which promises to be quite an event with a buffet dinner, cash bar, live and silent auctions, raffles, and entertainment by Peter’s Voice – all for $20 (or $35 for couples) with advance purchase. It will be held December 15 at Mister Paul’s Legacy from 5 to 8 p.m.

We also had a discussion of whether to enter into the Jaycees Christmas Parade, which was left unfinished until more information was gathered. Much of the conversation was about just how much exposure we would receive.

I gave an update on our candidate recruitment, which Dave Parker remarked was as good as he’d ever seen. I added that interest in the club and its events was quite strong, which led me into a report on the Good Beer and Autumn Wine Festivals. Despite the poor weather, I assessed them as vital to our mission in gathering exposure for candidates – a point echoed by many who were there.

We then batted around ideas for a spring fundraiser, with a number of recently popular events in mind. We just had to work around the Lincoln Day Dinner to be held in March 2014.

Opening up the meeting to comments from the gallery, we were asked about the idea of a “Contract with Wicomico” – an idea some favored while others disagreed.

It was also brought up that the WCRC would soon be able to accept payments online through our website, which will be of great benefit for fundraising.

Since County Council member Gail Bartkovich was in attendance, an onlooker asked what the body was up to. They had taken a short break but were preparing to tackle the aforementioned Tier Map issue in a work session, said Bartkovich.

Woody Willing piped up that 32 precincts and 10 polling places had been approved, with some more work to finish before all is complete. One new wrinkle is a requirement that all polling places allow electioneering, which some had forbidden in the past. Those will no longer be used.

This was a productive meeting – a work horse as opposed to a show horse, if you will – but our next meeting November 25 will feature local 2014 candidates as well as reaction from the state party’s Fall Convention.

2013 Autumn Wine Festival in pictures and text

Let me say right up front that if you can’t tell the difference between photos I took Saturday and those I snapped Sunday, please make an eye appointment.

It was definitely a tale of two days, but those who showed were welcomed.

While the event serves as a fundraiser for the local tourism board (as well as a signature event), the chief aim is to showcase the state’s wineries.

We’re not California, but over twenty Maryland vintners answered the call and a line stood Saturday afternoon waiting for the ribbon to be cut.

Among the local elected officials looking on were County Council members John Hall (in the blue shirt on the left) and Gail Bartkovich (next to Hall) as well as State Senator Jim Mathias (looking over the scissors in the center). Our State’s Attorney Matt Maciarello was obscured on the right, in the red.

Matt was first at our tent as we got set up. Here he’s flanked by County Council candidate Muir Boda on the left and Hall on the right.

We also had District 2 Council candidate Marc Kilmer out campaigning in the drizzle, as well as District 37B hopeful Christopher Adams. Kilmer is pictured immediately below, with Adams in the next shot.

Also dropping by but not pictured was District 38C hopeful Mary Beth Carozza.

Now one of those pictured above spent the extra money and bought the VIP pass. This entitled him to spend time and get food in this special area large enough to need two photos.

If you weren’t a VIP but wanted to learn more about wine, there was an educational tent as well.

I never noticed a lot of people in there, though. To be fair, I probably took this after the last class let out so it may not be the most flattering illustration.

As you may be able to tell, the above photo was taken on a sunny Sunday. But as Saturday wore on I took crowd photos about two hours apart – 1:30, 3:30, and 5:30. Notice the 3:30 picture and hang onto it in your mind. Yes, it was taken in a different location but that’s not why.

I like to use these to illustrate the attendance, which was shockingly good to me considering the drizzle to light rain which fell for much of the day.

So when Sunday dawned sunny and bright, it allowed me to enjoy one of my favorite parts of the day, getting those still life shots with the color a wine rack can provide. In order, these come from Costa Ventosa, Boordy, Solomons Island, and Legends wineries.

I couldn’t decide which I liked best so I said “screw it, this is my site and they’ll get all of them.” It’s the nice thing about showing up two hours before the event opens so I can set up. Beats the obligatory 1:30 crowd shot – oh wait, I think you should see that too.

Now, do you remember the 3:30 shot above and the lady mugging for the camera at the bottom? Well, she wanted her photo taken but I didn’t know how to get it to her. She and her friend were having fun. I think they said they were both middle school teachers.

This guy is always there, too.

Now I didn’t get Joe Cool from Layton’s Chance, since he managed to stay put this year, but I noticed the new Gollywobbler sign with the great classic cultural reference.

So I’m guessing we were some of the more serious people there, but I had a fun group to work with. Besides the elected officials and wannabes I already mentioned who sat in, I should thank Jackie, Shawn, Woody. Melinda, and Ann, plus Mark for the use of the tent and chairs over the last two weekends. We had a lot of fun, and it wouldn’t have been nearly as much so without their help.

So as the sun set on another October festival season, it’s worth pointing out that the stakes will be a lot higher the next time this rolls around. You can enjoy your beer or wine with the full knowledge that we will be there to spread the message to those willing to hear it. I had one lady today who was disgusted enough with the Democrats to fill out a registration change form on the spot – soon she will be in the GOP fold.

While we may be a small cog in the so-called “One Maryland” machine, we will have even more success with our festivals if the powers that be allow it by freeing those who produce from the shackles of taxation and regulation, growing the economy and producing more disposable income. If a family or couple is barely scraping by, they’re not likely to buy Maryland wine or show up for a festival. Keep that in the back of your mind for next year, and hope for good weather too.

2013 Good Beer Festival in pictures and text

October 14, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off on 2013 Good Beer Festival in pictures and text 

I’ll charitably call it a race run on a sloppy track, but let’s just say the weather conditions kept most but the diehards away from this year’s Good Beer Festival – despite the welcoming sign from my favorite brewery.

Once I get to the upcoming Weekend of Local Rock feature you’ll better see what I mean, but for the most part Saturday’s proceedings were endured in a steady light drizzle. It’s unfortunate because there were some neat new features this weekend, like the Local Beer Garden.

Several local breweries secured a small corner for their pouring stations or a place to enjoy the product.

Another corner had a unique feature which many enjoyed and employed.

Me? I was just doing what I was told (for once.)

(Yes, I can be a smartass at times. But if you can’t have a little fun in life, why bother?)

Aside from the chalkboard, I took those shots before the event even began Saturday. Meanwhile, the volunteer pourers were receiving their final instructions.

It was only when I walked over to the ribbon cutting that the sprinkles began, literally minutes before the GBF was opened.

Among those participating were Wicomico Recreation Chairman Allen Brown (holding microphone), who actually wielded the scissors, and fellow Commission member April Jackson to his left. Elected officials flanking Brown in the background from left to right were County Council members Bob Culver, Gail Bartkovich, and Stevie Prettyman, with Delegate Addie Eckradt at the far right. Aside from a brief walkaround, though, I don’t think the elected officials stuck around.

At least I had the little sampling glass they gave out. The slips of paper served two purposes: a sticker for the event you could wear and a ballot for the Taster’s Choice Awards.

It wasn’t a complete surprise that local favorite Evolution Craft Brewing Company was knocked out of its three-time defending Taster’s Choice champion perch by the Tall Tales Brewing Company – after all, Tall Tales was the lead event sponsor. But newcomer Fin City Brewing Company from Ocean City finished third. All this was announced just before closing on Sunday.

So you could tell Saturday’s rain had its effect on the crowd. This shot was taken about 1:30, looking down the food court.

Did I say food? Yes, they had plenty of food to go with the beer, for the most part conveniently lined up along the fence line. I had some good pulled pork sliders, North Carolina style.

Yet a strange thing happened: by 4:30 there were a LOT of hungry folks despite the persistent mist. I wondered where they all came from!

As it turns out – and I was floored by this – they had 1,700 at Saturday’s event. No, it’s nowhere near record territory but for the conditions of the day I was impressed.

The crowd – and a week’s worth of rainy conditions – was already beginning to take a toll on the grassy meadow the GBF is held on.

So when I arrived Sunday morning, and found a nice puddle had collected on the roof of our tent, it was no surprise to find some no-go zones. The tape was removed before the event formally opened.

One thing I’ve noticed about the Sunday crowd (as opposed to the Saturday gathering) is that it’s somewhat smaller and many of them partake in the other amusements scattered about the grounds. Always popular on Sunday is this tent with the big screen televisions.

Others played cornhole, although this group had a different idea of the rules.

Luckily, I think she missed – didn’t need an Orlando Brown incident at the GBF.

Meanwhile, this little game can be maddeningly addictive. I keep coming thisclose to hooking it.

Sunday also brought the home brewers out, with their own contest and enclave.

I don’t recall who won, but it was with a fruit-based home brew. It’s worth pointing out that, in the spirit of the Halloween season, a number of breweries had pumpkin-based beer. There was also one concoction featuring Old Bay I didn’t try and the 16 Mile Killer Tiller Brown Ale, which I did. That stuff BURNED all the way down. I’ll stick with the Blues’ Golden Ale (which, sadly, wasn’t on tap there), thanks.

It’s also a more intimate gathering. My guess is that attendance was about 1,000. You’ll notice in my 1:30 shot that it’s cloudy but the rain held off all day.

I know I’ve discussed the more humorous signage at the Autumn Wine Festival and Pork in the Park, and the brewers are beginning to catch up.

And if you wanted to flaunt your drunken humor I’m sure these guys had the shirt for you.

But perhaps most emblematic of the rollicking, fun-loving spirit of the Good Beer Festival were these young ladies who happened to be next door to us. (No, not the guys in the kilts.)

Where else could you do this?

The Salisbury Roller Girls aren’t a new group and they’re regulars at Third Friday. But I found out that they have Old Bay as one sponsor and they were using the arm wrestling as a fundraiser along with shirt sales and such. It takes money to get the rinks, hire the refs, and travel around the region playing teams like the New Jersey Hellrazors or Black Rose Rotten Cherries.

So why was our humble group of Republicans there? Because the Democrats weren’t!

Among my Sunday volunteers was County Council candidate Muir Boda, who’s in the center between Greg Belcher and Shawn Jester.

Shawn is also in this shot with District 38C hopeful Mary Beth Carozza, who stopped by with the signs and magnets you see in the above picture. And remember that name of Shawn Jester; I think you’ll be reading it in the future here.

So I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my volunteers: not just Shawn, Muir, and Greg, but Phil, Bob, and Bunky as well. It made for an enjoyable weekend – and wasn’t that the point? Giving out literature, meeting Republicans who urged us to keep up the fight, and recruiting new potential Wicomico County Republican Club members is great, but the idea is to be in the community and enjoy being there.

We will see you next weekend at the Autumn Wine Festival, but you’ll be able to relive the bands which played as an installment of Weekend of Local Rock over the weekend.

Craig 2014 announcement tour reaches Salisbury

It wasn’t exactly by Pony Express, but the third of three days of current Harford County Executive David Craig traveling the state and making his 2014 plans official began this morning in Salisbury at the Government Office Building. His announcement drew about 40 onlookers and various members of the media, as you’ll soon see.

Following Monday stops in Havre de Grace, Dundalk, and Hagerstown, and an itinerary yesterday which included Silver Spring, Prince Frederick, and Annapolis, the final day was opened with some pleasant weather and welcoming remarks by Wicomico County Councilman Joe Holloway.

Holloway’s welcome served as a means to introduce many of the local elected officials who were there to back this Republican effort; a group which included Central Committee members from Worcester, Somerset, and Wicomico counties as well as his fellow County Council members Bob Culver and Gail Bartkovich, Wicomico County State’s Attorney Matt Maciarello, and Delegates Addie Eckardt and Charles Otto.

Holloway then introduced Gail Bartkovich, who had the honor of introducing our esteemed guest.

Gail opened up her warm welcome by noting that our state government seems to think that problems are solved in just two ways: taxes and spending. “Annapolis has forgotten that Maryland government works for us,” said Bartkovich. “We deserve a choice.”

Gail went on to point out that David is unique as a man who has headed up both the Maryland Municipal League and the Maryland Association of Counties as mayor of Havre de Grace and Harford County Executive, respectively. She touted a number of fiscal accomplishments David has achieved as county executive, including leadership in agricultural preservation and a “buy local” campaign. Obviously in a rural county like Wicomico this was seen as appealing.

But the key points Gail wanted to bring up were Craig’s experience as a county leader and the idea David could be a credible alternative to the current policies in Annapolis which I feel only seem to enrich those who are connected. In that, she accomplished her goal and set the stage for the man who would be governor.

The audience seemed quite receptive to his message as well.

In his 16-minute statement, Craig touched on a number of key points.

Coming from a long line of Marylanders, Craig praised the state he grew up in. “I’ve been blessed to grow up in Maryland, to live here, to raise a family here, to have a career here, and to live with my grandparents and – now – our grandchildren,” he beamed.

Comparing his hometown to Salisbury and other small towns in Maryland, Craig reiterated his “faith” in the state, noting, “we can get off the mat, we don’t have to be counted out and don’t have to give in.” But our leaders were focused on the next election, not the next generation, said David.

“When they focus on their political power for too long, we see our faith starting to erode,” warned Craig. He then blasted the incumbent, stating that “politicians…seem to be more concerned about being rockstars and celebrities and (with the) headlines than they are about doing what they’re supposed to do.”

All the while, Maryland is being “outflanked” by its neighboring states. Yet, in the areas adjacent to our surrounding states, said Craig, “we are the forgotten Marylanders.” Government isn’t working for us, he continued – the “political monopoly” in Annapolis is working for itself.

David turned to the taxing legacy of Martin O’Malley, pointing out that the 40 tax increases enacted by the O’Malley/Brown administration have cost working Maryland families $3.1 billion. Yet he warned, “if we don’t offer an opportunity or a choice in 2014, by 2018 that number will be $20 billion.”

If government continues to act as it pleases, added Craig, we will continue the trend which has seen 6,500 small businesses leave the state – second worst on the East Coast – and 31,000 taxpayers who fled the state for more tax-friendly confines like Florida. As an aside, David added “it would have been better to get rid of the death tax than the death penalty,” a line which drew applause from those present.

Turning to education, David reminded the audience which had been fed the line about Maryland’s top-ranked education system that the assessment had come from a trade publication. “That has no connection with student achievement,” said David. “It’s all about how much money you spend in education, not about how well the children do and what happens with them afterward.”

Craig was also critical of the state’s transportation plans, chastising the waste and conflicts of interest in awarding contracts, along with “falsely” balancing the state budget with $1 billion from the Transportation Trust Fund.

David asked about how we “lost our balance” between the environment and agriculture, steering away from sound science principles and instead “looking at what the headlines will be” in the quest for a cleaner environment. Eventually this imbalance will force succeeding generations to leave the state.

“This is what an unbalanced government looks like,” added Craig. He then extolled his achievements in 32 years in government, including setting a financial plan for his successor as mayor of Havre de Grace which has enabled the lowering of the city’s tax rate seven years in a row. (If only Salisbury could say the same.)

But his biggest selling point may have been lost, buried in a paragraph of other remarks. “We have more jobs in Harford County now than we did before the recession started,” said David.

“I’m just a regular Maryland guy,” he continued. “I refuse to accept we are going to continue to be a one-party state…we need to give people a true choice.” And with a track record of confounding the naysayers, Craig was confident in victory. “I’m not going to be counted out,” concluded David.

He then talked to his supporters before turning his attention to the media.

There was a good bit of local media there, with a camera crew and reporter from WMDT-TV patiently watching the affair before getting their interview in, while next in line was Jennifer Shutt of the Daily Times.

As I noted in my post from early this morning, newly-minted District 38C candidate Mary Beth Carozza was also there and introduced herself to the would-be governor. I also received a little insight about her campaign as I was awaiting my chance to speak with David.

That interview I had with David Craig will be published next Tuesday as I polish off the TQT series for a day. I was the only local blogger there so you’ll get his insight on some local issues.

Yet David didn’t just jump on the bus and leave after finishing with me. Instead he investigated another local business.

Today was the final day of the Craig announcement tour, which came just as fellow Republican Ron George will formally kick off his 2014 gubernatorial campaign this evening in Annapolis and rumblings from former Lieutenant Governor and RNC Chairman Michael Steele about throwing his hat into the ring later this year. (Sounds like a former governor I know, feeling entitled to win without a campaign.)

But Craig seems to have established his place as the man to beat thus far, and it’s certain that he’ll see a lot of Salisbury in the coming months as he seeks the nomination.

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