Bloggers love it when they can tie multiple points together in one cohesive post, and here I have the opportunity to do so thanks to a press release from Delegate David Vogt, who is moonlighting as a candidate for Congress from the Sixth Congressional District. Here’s what Vogt had to say about likely opponent John Delaney and his insistence that Larry Hogan should denounce GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump:
John Delaney should just go ahead and declare his candidacy for Governor so he can stop pretending to represent the 6th District. Congressman Delaney would rather support an avowed socialist or a career criminal over an accomplished businessman who is tackling the issues that matter.
The Congressman’s time in office has been spent as a rubber-stamp for the failed Obama/Pelosi liberal agenda, and it is no surprise that he is calling on one popular, successful Republican to denounce another.
The people of the 6th District need a Congressman, not a political pundit, and Delaney’s incompetent handling of the Iran nuclear deal, the Syrian refugee crisis, and Obamacare shows that he isn’t qualified to be either.
It’s intriguing to me that Vogt feels that way because I have those same suspicions about Delaney’s plans for 2018. In a lot of respects, Delaney is the Democratic mirror image of Hogan with a business background and, aside from the two terms in Congress, a similar political record. (Had Hogan had a specially-gerrymandered district created for him, perhaps he would have gone in another direction after winning his 1992 Congressional campaign. It was a trajectory his old boss, Bob Ehrlich, employed in 2002.)
Obviously Democrats are trying to throw the kitchen sink at Hogan legislatively but try as they might Hogan’s approval numbers continue to rise, reaching a stratospheric 70 percent in the most recent Maryland Poll released today. (H/T: Maryland Reporter.) Yes, that is 7 out of 10. I have no doubt they may chip away at the approval rating as a strategy but Maryland Democrats also have to find a candidate willing to take on a popular Republican governor running for re-election. Will anyone have the same ambitious streak as Martin O’Malley?
There’s one thing missing from the Maryland Poll that would serve as a counterpoint to Hogan’s numbers, and that is an approval rating for the General Assembly. We know Congress is unpopular (although the “throw the bastards out” mentality stops with their own representative) but no one polls regarding our body politic either during or after the “90 days of terror.” With the number of veto overrides and the blockage of some of Hogan’s legislation, it would be intriguing to see how popular the Maryland legislature is.
But returning to 2018: the Democrats have a relatively short bench of willing candidates with name recognition, and it’s unclear just how well Delaney is known outside the Capital region. The only other statewide candidate being mentioned is Peter Franchot, and right now he has a rather sweet gig as Comptroller – maybe not quite to the extent of Louis Goldstein, but if he wants another term or two it’s doubtful Maryland voters would object. At the age of 70 by the time the 2018 election comes around, Franchot would be the oldest governor to win election in at least a century. (AG Brian Frosh is reputedly not interested in being Governor.)
As for Hogan and Trump, that’s a matchup which seems like oil and water. While I’m sure Hogan respects the business acumen of Trump, the bombast The Donald brings is a polarizing feature among both parties that Hogan is likely to avoid. Hogan was indebted to Chris Christie for campaigning on his behalf, but if I were to pick a remaining hopeful Hogan would back he probably lines up best with fellow Governor John Kasich. But Hogan may just steer clear of an endorsement until mid-April, seeing who is still in the race.
At 12:01 on Tuesday morning, the Maryland Democratic Party probably had a collective conniption when they found out how much damage they would have to do to Larry Hogan over the next three years in order to get “their” governor’s chair back.
That was the moment that the latest Gonzales Research Maryland Poll came off its embargo and revealed two key points that probably keep whoever is in charge of that party awake at night. In a state which features voter registration numbers 2-to-1 in their favor, even a plurality of Democrats think Republican Larry Hogan is doing a good job. (If five more Democrats had stated in the affirmative there would have a majority – as it was, 48% is a good number.) Meanwhile, 52% of those same Democrats think the state is heading in the right direction.
Overall, a whopping 67 percent of respondents approved either somewhat or strongly the job Larry Hogan is doing as governor, with a paltry 19 percent disapproving. While the margin is only 48-31 as far as Democrats are concerned, it’s that same coalition that propelled him to the governorship.
Yet the Democrats have played with fire a little bit by overriding several of Governor Hogan’s vetoes. It seems to be their priority to make life more difficult (and taxing) for travel agents and allowing felons to vote prior to completing their sentences. The ball will now be in Hogan’s court for his legislative agenda, which didn’t really fare all that well last year.
It’s obvious people like the job Larry is doing, so maybe he needs to get a little more of a bully pulpit. Imagine what his approval could reach if he got a little more Reaganesque with his tax cut proposals. Let’s make Mike and Mike (Busch and Miller) look like the obstructionists they are. I don’t want to predict we can bury the Democrats face down come 2018, but they do deserve a few shovelfuls of dirt for the damage they did to the state over the term of the guy who gets a pathetic 4.5% of the Maryland Democratic presidential primary vote.
Most newspapers will use their Sunday edition before the election to either make the most key endorsement, such as for governor or president, or summarize their endorsements into a ballot guide for voters.
I’m not a newspaper, but I have a news source. And I’m urging you (all of you, including the ten friends you drag to the polls) to march right into that ballot box, look for every Republican name on it, and check that box right next to it – making sure, of course, that the ballot summary agrees with your steady diet of Republicans and doesn’t show a “calibration error.”
Let’s begin from the top. Does this state really need a third term of Martin O’Malley? Thought not.
I will grant that Larry Hogan wasn’t my first – or second – choice for the GOP nomination, but I also have to admit as well he has run about as good of a campaign as a Republican can run statewide in Maryland and picked up national attention for it. Yes, I would like him to be stronger on the Second Amendment and I cringed when I heard him say no to addressing social issues, but the overall electorate in this state is still conditioned to believe that there’s a right to privacy and gay marriage is no big deal. They need a little work yet. Let’s at least get someone who won’t be completely hostile to those interests like Anthony Brown would be.
(And yes, I hear the Libertarians caterwauling in the corner. When you get to double-digits with a candidate, we’ll talk.)
Actually, though, I must say some bloggers have a point about the Libertarian candidate for AG, Leo Dymowski. But the election is about more than the failed “war on drugs” – although I agree with that particular assessment, I would also like the AG to fight on other issues. Unfortunately, the late start Republican Jeffrey Pritzker got means the chances are good that we’ll have to endure four years of gun-grabbing Brian Frosh; however, every vote counts and stranger things have happened.
For 2018, though, I think a county-level State’s Attorney needs to make that step up. It’s something Matt Maciarello should consider.
And we have a more than qualified Comptroller candidate in William Campbell. My main mission in two festivals was, every time I came across a Maryland voter from outside our county, to push the candidacy of one Bill Campbell. Everyone knew who Larry Hogan was but not enough knew of this fine gentleman. If Maryland voters have a clue they will choose Campbell.
And then we have local races. Frankly, I’m not too worried about Andy Harris although it would be helpful for Sixth District voters to add Dan Bongino to the GOP roster at the federal level. But there’s a lot at stake on the General Assembly front.
Try as we might, we had to concede the District 37A seat for this term to Sheree Sample-Hughes. If she gets more than single digits on the monoblogue Accountability Project I will be shocked. Otherwise in District 37, you know its a conservative district when even one of the Democrats is running on a platform of lower taxes and less government. But why have conservative-lite when the real thing is attainable?
Even if we sweep those three District 37 seats, though, we don’t really gain anything because three of the four representatives are already Republican. But in District 38 we can reclaim the Senate seat lost in 2010 to a liberal Democrat and take over a seat in the House of Delegates to bring us closer to that magic number of 47, where, as I understand it, we can work around Democrat-controlled committees. (A Hogan win may make that necessary more often.) Aside from that splotch of blue in our county we can work on for 2018, I’d like the Eastern Shore painted red, gaining the one Senate seat and one House seat we can contribute to the GOP effort statewide.
And then we have Wicomico County, which needs a strong leader in Bob Culver. We’ve done eight years with the affable bureaucrat Rick Pollitt, but those eight years have seen our county backslide economically. We can blame the national economy to some extent, but other surrounding counties seem to be succeeding – so why haven’t we?
Unfortunately, the problem Culver has is that two of the Republicans who will likely be on County Council are already stabbing him in the back. With one Democrat assured of victory in Council District 1, it makes the County Council races very important. We know District 5′s Joe Holloway is a conservative who will win and Marc Kilmer in District 2 has an excellent chance to join him, but the John Cannon vs. Laura Mitchell race is a key along with Larry Dodd vs. Josh Hastings in District 3. Both Democrats are trying to convince voters they’ll be fiscal hawks, but don’t be fooled. We need the 6-1 Republican majority to have a potential 4-3 conservative majority behind Bob as he tries to right the ship. Finding good local candidates is a priority for 2018 as well.
As for the issues on the ballot, I’ve already urged a vote AGAINST Question 1 because it’s a weak excuse for a lockbox and Maryland taxpayers deserve better: send it packing and insist on a 3/4 majority provision to be voted on in 2016. On Question 2, I think on balance it’s a good idea but it will also demand vigilance, as Election Integrity Maryland’s Cathy Kelleher points out in a Sun editorial opposing the question.
Lastly, I must say this is the time for conservative voters to shine. The fact that early voting had as many Republicans as Democrats by percentage statewide and by raw numbers on the Lower Shore (despite a registration disadvantage of about 10 percent) indicates the GOP is more keenly interested in this election. But I want to run a few numbers, with the photo below telling the tale.
For this exercise, I used the voter proportions illustrated in the recent Gonzales Research poll, which is probably a fairly realistic model. I assumed undecided voters would remain in proportion with their trend (as opposed to breaking for the challenger) and left 1% for other candidates, write-ins, etc. (I also didn’t figure in the 50,000 or so registered to minor parties – if they vote they’ll not influence the result significantly.)
The sheet on the left is my calculations using a Bob Ehrlich Republican turnout from 2002, 68% of Republicans.
The sheet on the right is the same calculations for Democrats and the unaffiliated, but assuming a turnout like we saw in the Presidential election two years ago, when 78% of Republicans came out – even though Maryland was considered a lost cause for Mitt Romney.
Indeed, we turn from crushing disappointment to “winner, winner, chicken dinner” simply by getting an extra 1 in 10 Republicans to turn out.
If Republicans turned out like that for an election which was an almost foregone conclusion in this state, hopefully this simple calculation will provide the incentive to Maryland Republicans to come out in a gubernatorial election where they have a shot to sneak away with a close victory!
Early voting numbers were encouraging, but Tuesday it will be time to finish the job.
Update: Hey, I missed a key set of races. It’s not a partisan race, but M.J. Caldwell is a far more qualified jurist than the guy Martin O’Malley picked based on his last name. And speaking of O’Malley picks, there are two others on our ballot who we can remove from office and perhaps allow for the first crop of Larry Hogan appointees. So vote “no” on continuance in office for Kevin Arthur and Andrea Leahy.
While it can be dismissed as an internal push poll, given its conclusion that Larry Hogan “is well positioned heading into the final week,” or the final add of, “Having the resources to go toe-to-toe with Brown on TV will be crucial in turning his current lead into a victory on Election Day,” a survey by pollster Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research has buoyed the Hogan camp and led to another upcoming visit from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie this coming Sunday evening at Patapsco Arena in Baltimore.
Yet other polls suggest a significant Brown lead, most particularly a YouGov poll which has stubbornly put Brown up by double-digits every month (and is computed in the RCP average.) Not added to the RCP total, though, is a survey by Gonzales Research which showed the race was far closer and as an added benefit gives the breakdown of expected turnout.
One could even argue that the “calibration error” problems with voting machines – which only seem to be turning Republican votes to Democratic ones, and not vice versa – is the sign of a party desperate to hold on to the governor’s chair. (A source tells me here in Wicomico County, at least one early voting machine was put out of service after the error was replicated on it. The personnel at the early voting center were reluctant to get involved, according to my insider.) Add to that the allegation of non-citizen voting and it’s no wonder Republicans are sweating out the prospect of the same fishiness which plagued the 1994 gubernatorial election some swear was stolen from Ellen Sauerbrey.
Yet as the old adage says, you just have to beat them by more than they can cheat.
There’s no question that Democrats are less enthused about this election than they have been in the past. But let’s go back and look at some key numbers from 2010, the second Ehrlich-O’Malley rumble.
As I said, I really like Gonzales polling because they give an honest breakdown and analysis. In October 2010 their poll had Martin O’Malley with a 47-42 advantage over Bob Ehrlich – a race that O’Malley eventually ran away with. In fact, out of the last several polls this was the one which gave the last fading hope of an Ehrlich upset.
But there were some warning signs – for example, Ehrlich’s 17% support among Democrats “won’t do it,” said Gonzales, nor would the 8-point advantage in the Baltimore suburbs. In the recent Gonzales survey, Hogan doesn’t do a whole lot better among Democrats than Ehrlich (19-73 for Hogan vs. 17-72 for Ehrlich) but is significantly stronger in the Baltimore suburbs (55-37 Hogan vs. 49-41 Ehrlich.) On the other hand, Brown does a little better in the Washington suburbs at 70-25 (vs. O’Malley’s 65-25) but Hogan counteracts this with a strong showing among the growing unaffiliated ranks (46-32 Hogan vs. 42-36 Ehrlich.)
To me, the truth is somewhere in between the five-point Hogan lead in the WPA poll and the 2 points Gonzales has him down, probably closer to the latter. All I know is I think it will be close and every vote will have to be carefully scrutinized by the person casting it. (My source also told me there may be a robocall put out to remind Republicans to check their ballot before leaving.)
Yet the idea isn’t just to be satisfied with a Republican governor – we need to give him plenty of help and local voters can oust a number of thorns in the conservative side next week. Let’s paint the Eastern Shore red from Cecil to Somerset, from the Bay Bridge to Ocean City.
On Saturday I pointed out the Gonzales Poll Larry Hogan has cited as proof he’s within striking distance in the governor’s race. The news wasn’t quite as good in a more recent Washington Post poll, but it wasn’t as bad as previous polls in that newspaper.
But again it’s a question of turnout, and the Post simply replicated the pattern of registered voters in the state. If Republicans come out to a greater extent than Democrats – many of whom aren’t excited about Brown – that cuts into the Brown lead. Considering the Post poll is of randomly selected adults, I suspect the turnout model they’re using favors Brown in the poll.
So instead of the 15 to 18 points Brown has led by in previous polls, this poll by itself drove the RCP average down from 15 to 12 points.
But the breakdown on issues is interesting. Remember, this is a sample that is probably slightly oversampling Democrats, but the key issue is taxes. Yet on a number of other issues the only ones which reflect closely the partisan breakdown are social issues and public education. It’s hard to believe that fully half prefer Brown on the issue of health care considering how he botched the state’s website, but others like gun laws, job creation, and illegal immigration lean Hogan’s way in comparison to the partisan breakdown of the sample.
Given the crosstabs, though, the best way for Hogan to cut into Brown’s lead is to chip away at the Democrats on the issues that he’s closest to moving ahead on. It’s absolutely essential for Larry to somehow get to about 25 percent of Democrats going his way, with this polling suggesting he’s at about 14 percent. If Democrats get the 62% turnout this poll suggests (with Republicans at 65% and unaffiliated at 48%) that’s the only way he can win.
Somehow the case has to be made to the low-information crowd that a third term of Martin O’Malley is too much for the state to bear. Those of us who have a lick of common sense already know this, but too many people must actually think a poor economy is a good thing.
It goes without saying that Larry Hogan is excited about the most recent polling results and how they affect the perception of the race.
Everyone now knows this race is too close to call. This week, we told you about the Gonzales poll showing us within striking distance of Brown. Yesterday, the media validated these numbers. And today, the Cook Political Report has reclassified this race from “Solid Democrat” to “Leans Democrat”!
The Maryland governors race started as “Solid Democrat” and has moved TWO SPOTS to its current classification.
This varies from the Real Clear Politics version of the race, which hasn’t updated in the month since the YouGov poll that Hogan questioned. They still show the race as “Likely Dem” with a 15-point margin. So which is right?
In my opinion, the fact that Anthony Brown is trying to paint Larry as a TEA Party Republican by stressing the gun law and abortion rather than discussing the state’s moribund economy points to a tightening race. That seems to be the conventional wisdom of the Hogan camp and I’m inclined to agree.
Yet the tale will begin to be told with the debates that begin next week. One thing Marylanders really haven’t seen is how the two candidates perform on the stump to an audience which hasn’t been attuned to the race aside from thirty-second commercials. How will the two fare under the pressure of direct questioning and close media scrutiny? Elections aren’t won with debates, but they can be lost.
So what will be the strategies of the two participants? I would look for Brown to continue his recent line of attack on Hogan by stressing social issues and gun safety in an attempt to hold the female vote – you know, that whole thoroughly discredited War on Women meme. He’ll avoid direct questions on the lack of job creation by saying he has a plan to address it – which he does, all 17 pages of it – but not go into the specifics of how it may affect Maryland workers. For example, a “Blue Ribbon Commission on Tax Reform” just means at least two more years of the status quo and inaction, not addressing the issue.
On the other hand, Hogan will stress the “most incompetent man in Maryland” theme for Brown, while sticking with his bread and butter issues of jobs, the middle class, and restoring the state’s economy. It’s carried him this far, so why stop now?
That task will likely be made more difficult by the questioning, which will probably cater more to Brown’s strategy of marginalizing Hogan than tough questions on how the state of the economy got to where it is under the O’Malley/Brown team.
I’m hoping to see a couple polls come out after the debate to gauge the true state of the race. In truth, I think it’s probably closer to the margin of error than the 15-point RCP average. It doesn’t mean Hogan has it in the bag, but we could have a far closer race than 2010′s blowout.
You know, after the hullabaloo we had to endure over the Obama-Reid government shutdown, one would think the Democrats would be feeling their oats and confident of 2014 success. But maybe not.
Earlier this week, New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen called for an extension of the individual mandate and an evaluation in the penalties inherent in failing to enroll:
Given the existing problems with the website, I urge you to consider extending open enrollment beyond the current end date of March 31, 2014. Allowing extra time for consumers is critically important so they have the opportunity to become familiar with the website, survey their options and enroll.
Further, in light of the difficulties individuals may be having with enrolling through healthcare.gov, I ask that you clarify how the individual responsibility penalty will be administered and enforced. If an individual is unable to purchase health insurance due to technical problems with enrollment, they should not be penalized because of lack of coverage.
Isn’t it funny that the Democrats, who rebuffed a Republican attempt to delay the process by a year, now are having second thoughts because there’s no government shutdown to blame the GOP with?
Well, perhaps some of these Democrats are looking at the polls. In Maryland, which is still heavily Democratic for the time being, Obamacare had a 57% approval rating in the latest Maryland Poll. But Democrats in other states which are up for grabs next year may have a tougher row to hoe. Take Bill Clinton’s old stomping grounds of Arkansas, where Obama has an anemic 29% approval rating. There respondents to the Arkansas Poll, conducted by the University of Arkansas, blamed Democrats for the Obama-Reid government shutdown by a 39-27 margin over Republicans. Like Shaheen, Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor is up for re-election next year and a 34% approval rating isn’t conducive for continued political employment.
So, if CNN’s Dana Bash is correct in stating:
— Dana Bash (@DanaBashCNN) October 23, 2013
then the prospect of a delay actually occurring in the Senate is greatly enhanced. Remember, those Senators up for election in 2014 last faced the voters in the Democratic wave election of 2008, so they may have much stronger headwinds for their re-election. Not all of them are in “red” states, but enough would be to swing the balance of power – if the GOP holds together. The House would certainly follow suit.
Perhaps the electorate is taking the statement that the Democrats “can’t spin this turd” of Obamacare to heart. They may have the dream of single-payer health care, but most won’t sacrifice their office to achieve it.
Yesterday the latest Maryland Poll from Gonzales Research came out (h/t Maryland Reporter), and it suggests that we have a long way to go in educating the voters of this state about the real facts at hand. But there are a few encouraging signs, I suppose.
In the nine months since a similar sampling in January, we can now determine that Barack Obama’s job approval has gone down six points in the topline, from 64% to 58%. But the difference between “strongly approve” and “strongly disapprove” has plummeted in that span: it was +19.4 in January but is now just +6.7. A 13-point swing in that demographic suggests the national economic situation of an ongoing sluggish “recovery” is taking its toll.
By the same token, the 54% job approval Martin O’Malley enjoyed in January was a mirage, too. O’Malley now finds himself in a statistical dead heat, with 48% approval and disapproval in the October poll. But that difference between “strongly approve’ and “strongly disapprove” has once again moved more than the six-point decline on the topline, going from a +0.2 in January to a (-15.1) now. That’s an even more pronounced 15-point swing not shown by a 6 point drop in the headlines. Tellingly, nearly 3 of 10 Democrats now disapprove of O’Malley.
But that doesn’t seem to reflect on Anthony Brown, who leads the first non-campaign poll by a fairly similar margin to the Garin-Hart-Yang poll released by Brown’s campaign last month. The Maryland Poll has Anthony Brown/Ken Ulman at 41%, Doug Gansler/Jolene Ivey at 21%, and Heather Mizeur at 5%. (Maybe she can have Wayne Gilchrest as a running mate. As an aside, Mizeur also got the endorsement of Salisbury City Council member Laura Mitchell.)
Unfortunately, the numbers trend the wrong way on some key issues. While 49% of Marylanders polled favored the death penalty and 44% opposed it in January, those numbers are now reversed in that 49% favor the law rescinding it and 44% said no. Then again, its support was rather soft all along because it had a strong approve/strong disapprove ratio of (-3.2) in January while the repeal now has a +5.5 ratio. In part, this is probably because of the state’s reluctance to use the death penalty and the over-sensationalized Kirk Bloodsworth case. However, I would wager that if you put a name and a victim to a case (e.g. Thomas Leggs and Sarah Foxwell) the support for rescinding the death penalty repeal declines drastically. (In that case, Leggs pled guilty to avoid the death penalty, while the family agreed because of the probability of endless appeals.)
Meanwhile, those who responded to the poll must have believed the onerous gun laws passed by Martin O’Malley and Democrats would actually curb crime. When asked in January, support for an assault weapons ban in the immediate wake of Sandy Hook was 58-40 (with a +17.5 intensity of strongly support/strongly oppose), while background checks passed muster by an 88-11 figure overall. But the gun law as passed maintained its 58-40 support (with only a slightly lower +16.7 intensity.) That, my friends, is a sadly bamboozled and gullible public.
Yet when it comes to the pocketbook, people get it. When asked whether a 10 cent per gallon gasoline tax was acceptable in January, just 26% favored in with 73% opposed. The intensity of opposition was just as stiff, with a factor of (-50.8) strong approve/strong disapprove.
So now that the reality of a 21 cent per gallon increase spread out over three years has smacked Free Staters in the pocketbook, they hate it even more. 22 percent approve of the tax hike, while 76 percent oppose it. Intensity remains as strong, at a factor of (-50.7). Most telling to me is that the Democrats don’t tout it as a success.
Knowing that, where do we go from here? It appears to me that the emotional appeals of Democrats have worked on the above non-fiscal issues because those polled are probably not affected – the chances are small that someone knows a person who’s been heinously murdered by someone who would receive the death penalty, and for those who do too many are blaming the tool used for the victim’s demise.
I can sit and stare at a gun with a 30-round magazine all day, but as long as I don’t pick up the weapon and make the physical motion to fire it, the gun is inert and harmless. Thousands of Marylanders have access to a gun, most have never fired it outside the confines of a closed gun range. Those who use the tool of a handgun otherwise are more often than not breaking enough laws already that the so-called Firearm Safety Act of 2013 won’t prevent them from carrying out their mayhem. However, another person with a weapon just might.
Someone out there probably collects the rare news stories of crimes prevented by the presence of a gun, but the narrative of “if it bleeds, it leads” plays into the hands of those who would usurp our Second Amendment rights. Yet if the hapless victim of random violence had his or her own weapon, things may have played out differently. Instead, the state is placing a burden on those who simply wish to defend themselves, and I thought government was supposed to be about empowerment. That’s what liberals tell me, anyway.
Liberals like Anthony Brown, Doug Gansler, and Heather Mizeur.
And by the way, where is the Republican poll? I think the Gonzales pollsters have fallen into the same “one-party state” trap Doug Gansler did. I’d like to see something more scientific than a blog poll on that race.
Since I didn’t get a GO Friday feature this week, I added my own two cents as I told you I would. This place doesn’t go dark.
But if you want to be considered for GO Friday next week, just let me know.
In news which wasn’t totally unexpected, the petition drives for both reinstating the death penalty and rescinding the onerous gun laws passed by Democrats in the Maryland General Assembly both fell short of the 18,579 signatures necessary to continue the process through the end of June.
It seems to me that each failed for a different reason.
In the case of the death penalty petition, which was backed by mdpetitions.com – a group that had previously been 3-for-3 in getting statewide petitions on the ballot – it seemed like there was a resigned resistance to their efforts given that all three of their previous referenda lost at the ballot box. Moreover, it wasn’t like we hadn’t already done without the death penalty for nearly eight years before SB276 passed, since the last Maryland execution occurred under Bob Ehrlich in 2005. With just five people remaining on Death Row in Maryland, those who believe in maintaining the ultimate penalty on the books probably figured that they would only delay the inevitable, as a future General Assembly could (and likely would) once again vote to drop the death penalty in a few years’ time.
It’s worth pointing out, though, that this was simply a change of statute and not a Constitutional amendment, so a General Assembly restored to its senses could bring the death penalty back. It’s likely we would have to go through the referendum process in reverse, though, as signatures would surely be gathered for a ballot question on the issue. And since the death penalty is pretty much a 50-50 issue according to the most recent Maryland Poll, legislators who vote to make it a ballot issue – as a Constitutional ban would have to be – could potentially see the initiative on the same docket as their re-election.
In order to kill the death penalty in Maryland once and for all, look for opponents to go the Constitutional route in the 2015 or 2016 session in order to secure more votes for the Democratic nominee for President here in Maryland in 2016. It won’t pass in 2014 because any Constitutional amendment proposed there goes before voters in the same year.
Conversely, mdpetitions.com took a pass on petitioning the SB281 gun bill to referendum, with the stated belief that our rights under the United States Constitution are not subject to a balloting. They opted to join the effort to fight the bill in court. Instead, a new competing entity called freestatepetitions.com took up that banner with just a few weeks to gather the signatures. So the fact they came within a few hundred signatures of the minimum tells me the passion was there, and the petition stood a fair chance of success if started earlier.
And while the idea of a referendum was supported with the thought of buying more time to fight the law in court, the fact the petition drive failed was immediately trumpeted by gun grabbers as proof their bill had overwhelming public support.
Similarly, those who worked to eliminate the only crime control method with a zero percent recidivism rate crowed about both their victory and how the 2012 election set things up. State Senator Jamie Raskin:
Sen. Jamie Raskin, a Montgomery County Democrat who lead his chamber’s floor debate on repeal, said lawmakers were emboldened after voters upheld same-sex marriage and in-state tuition for immigrants who are in this country illegally when those laws were petitioned to referendum on last fall’s ballot. Friday’s announcement that organizers could not find enough votes to send the death penalty question to voters, Raskin said, further proves that Marylanders back the legislature.
“The defenders of the death penalty promised retaliation, but their bark was worse than their bite,” Raskin said. (Emphasis mine.)
The retaliation may yet come in 2014 despite this interim failure. Raskin may not feel the voters’ wrath in his relatively safe district, but those in swing districts may fall victim if they voted to spare convicted murderers capital punishment.
So once October 1 rolls around, those in the Black Guerrilla Family and other gangs who seem to be in control of Maryland’s prisons will have even less to fear because their actions won’t be subjected to the needle. Hopefully we won’t need the senseless murder of corrections personnel to prove that taking away that possibility was a short-sighted action.
In the meantime, though, we are left to wonder about one thing. What if either petition group had the financial muscle to pull a Rob Sobhani and pay people to gather petition signatures? With a financial incentive, to me there’s no doubt enough signatures would be gathered but everything in these failed drives was done in a volunteer fashion.
And since these groups now have a little bit of forced downtime, there’s a project I would love to speak to you about. Since Rick Pollitt wants to see a referendum before moving on an elected school board, and we can’t get help from Annapolis to otherwise make it happen, perhaps getting the signatures required to put it on the Wicomico County ballot next year will get things moving. Why should a board appointed by the Governor control a $180 million chunk of our tax dollars, with nearly $40 million of that directly coming out of local taxpayers’ pockets?
Just let me know; you know how to reach me.
Note: this is my first article posted at the Watchdog Wire.
After seeing several of their other pet issues derailed for months due to spirited referendum efforts by opponents, those who wish to rescind the death penalty in Maryland are trying to take advantage of a provision in the Maryland Constitution to protect a bill to repeal the state’s little-used death penalty from having its fate decided by voters. Polling numbers suggest they have cause to be worried: last month’s Maryland Poll by Gonzales Research pegged support for the death penalty from 49% of those polled, with 44% in opposition.
Yet Article XVI of the Maryland Constitution exempts bills with an appropriation from the referendum process, and a small portion of the crossfiled measures House Bill 295 and Senate Bill 276 both state that:
For Fiscal Year 2015 and each Fiscal Year thereafter, the Governor shall include in the annual budget submission $500,000 for the (State Victims of Crime) Fund, redirected from General Fund savings resulting from the repeal of the death penalty.
That provision would amount to less than 1/1000 of 1% of the overall state budget, but in a strict reading of Article XVI of the state Constitution this clause would seem to preclude any effort for repealing the death penalty in Maryland from being acted upon by the voters in 2014. Passage of the bill is nearly a certainty given the Senate and House versions of the bill respectively have 21 and 67 co-sponsors – 24 Senate and 71 House votes are needed for passage.
(continued at the Watchdog Wire…)
If you are old enough to remember the 1992 election, you may recall that the usual two-player Presidential game had a party-crasher by the name of Ross Perot. Eventually after a few campaign fits and starts Perot got 19% of the national Presidential vote and allowed Bill Clinton to win with just 43 percent (incumbent George H.W. Bush received 38 percent.) Some say that the eventual result would not have changed even without Perot, and perhaps my little piece of anecdotal evidence bears that out – I voted Perot but had he not been there I would have held my nose and voted for Bush. On the other hand, I also talked my spouse at the time out of voting for Clinton and into Perot. (Or so she said.) Still, there’s a part of me which believes Bush may have hung on to beat Clinton if not for Ross Perot and the Reform Party. (Which, by the way, is trying to make a comeback in Maryland.)
So after writing on Friday about the recent Gonzales Maryland Poll (which posted yesterday) I saw a couple items on independent U.S. Senate candidate Rob Sobhani. This in particular piqued my interest.
“I hit the jackpot, I could have bought another house” Rob Sobhani today on why he decided today to run for the US Senate.
— Dan Bongino (@dbongino) September 29, 2012
Perhaps Mr. Sobhani has a unique sense of humor I don’t understand given his Iranian heritage and loyalty to it, or Dan Bongino took him out of context. But then there was another item I spied on my Facebook page and alluded to in my previous link that led me to do a little research on the political donations of one Rob Sobhani. I’ll get to that shortly.
Worthy of note in this context is that Sobhani has run for the Republican nomination for Maryland’s U.S. Senate seat on two previous occasions – 1992, when he finished 5th out of a crowded 15-person field behind eventual GOP nominee Alan Keyes, and 2000, where he was runner-up to Paul Rappaport in an 8-way race.
Yet in his first FEC report on June 30, Sobhani recorded some typical expenditures. The timeline is as follows:
- On February 5, the campaign paid Sullivan and Associates for legal services. They were paid again in May.
- The Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies was paid $21,000 on March 10.
- Presumably the polls were agreeable, since Sobhani paid a total of $142,171 to both Savanna Communications and Arno Political Consultants for petition services from April through June.
- In addition he began a marketing campaign prominently featured on this website, at a cost of $1,800.
- Finally, he hired Igoe and Associates as a consultant on June 15.
With the possible exceptions of Sullivan and Associates and hy.ly, the firms Sobhani used are fairly reliable Republican backers. But that doesn’t add up with his pattern of personal political donations.
I went to Opensecrets.com and pulled up a lengthy file of Sobhani’s political giving over the last 22 years. During a 15-year stretch from 1991 to 2006, Sobhani donated a total of $9,400 to a group of candidates which were almost exclusively Republican, with the one exception running as an independent. He also gave a total of $9,340 to the state and national Republican parties. His last donation to a Republican was to Michael Steele in 2006, who ironically ran for the very Senate seat Sobhani is trying for now.
But after a five-year hiatus, Sobhani started giving again – to Democrats. First was Milad Pooran, who was an also-ran for the Sixth District nomination won by John Delaney. Pooran was endorsed by a number of leftists including Howard Dean and Keith Ellison, the lone Islamic member of Congress. Just before the June 30 deadline, Sobhani doubled down and donated $250 to Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen, who represents the Memphis area. Most notably, Cohen sponsored a amendment reducing infrastructure funding in Afghanistan.
Perhaps it’s a way to burnish his independent credentials, but this seems quite curious for a guy who used to be a Republican to have gone so far to the left, at least in his political giving.
But rather than speculate on what his motives were, I wrote an e-mail to Rob and asked him a few questions point-blank:
- Since you have run for the Senate before in 1992 and 2000, what made you decide to run as an independent? Was it a case of not having confidence in the MDGOP banner or did the party move in a direction you were uncomfortable with?
- I noticed your last two political donations were to Democrats after a decade and a half of almost solid GOP giving? What was your rationale in doing so, given you have a message which is somewhat conservative?
I received Rob’s reply yesterday, which I am presenting in its entirety:
Thanks for your interest in my campaign. I am pleased by the support I have received so far and attribute it to the fact that my message resonates with many people in our state who are tired of politics as usual.
With regard to my decision to become an independent, I have lost my faith in both parties to fairly represent people’s needs today. Our economy is in trouble, and I see few solutions offered either by Republicans or Democrats. That is why I am trying something different. I think a lot of people share my thinking on this, let’s see as the campaign continues.
I have personally supported Republicans and Democrats in the past in cases where I believed the individual offered something important in the respective races. We should all be able to declare our independence in this state. Only by creating more jobs and getting our economy going again will we restore the quality of life we’d be proud to pass onto our children. At the end of the day, that is our duty, and it is more important than any party ideology.
I’m sorry Rob feels that way about the Republican Party, as I see it as the most viable vehicle to represent what the people truly want and need to have to prosper – freedom and liberty. And while he’s correct in assessing the fact our economy is in the dumper, the question of whether what he is proposing as a cure will work still needs to be explained a little more to me. Brian Griffiths at Red Maryland makes an interesting case that Sobhani should run for a different office in a post which could otherwise do well as a hit piece:
…to me, the role that Sobhani is suggesting he fill as a U.S. Senator is generally filled by a Governor. Because it is the Governor who is more directly responsible for creating economic development within the state. Furthermore, I sure as heck don’t want a U.S. Senator who thinks that his role is to go to Washington and send the bacon home to Maryland, no matter where the money is coming from.
But the statement Sobhani makes about adding to races is more telling, and perhaps explains well why he’s gone from staunch support of Republicans to backing Democrats. I’m not sure what Steve Cohen adds to his race since he’s in a D+23 district anyway, but Pooran shares Sobhani’s Iranian heritage.
Yet in order to have a chance to do as Rob says and “restore the quality of life we’d be proud to pass onto our children” it seems to me there should be a set of guiding principles involved. Rob oversimplifies this by saying on his campaign site that:
The parties are both locked into narrow ideological agendas that prevent them from talking to one another or working together for meaningful solutions. As an Independent, I’m not beholden to either political party. I hope to bring people of goodwill from both parties together.
One man’s “ideological agenda” is another’s principles, and among Republicans we should hold these truths to be self-evident and we should sell out our core beliefs to no one. NO ONE. There really is no middle ground between freedom and tyranny.
And don’t we have a President who promised to be “post-partisan?” That lasted about as long as it took for a Republican to show some backbone and be greeted by the President saying “I won.” Compromise, rather than fealty to the principles which made our nation strong, has placed us where we are now.
There is one other observation for me to make, and if Rob chooses to hold his cards close to the vest on this point I suppose I can understand. But it’s another question which should be asked.
Over the last few years in the Senate, there have been two independents: Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. While the are ostensibly unaffiliated, in reality both have caucused with the Democrats as Sanders is an avowed Socialist while Lieberman was once a Democratic vice-presidential nominee and won his seat in 2006 despite losing in the Democratic primary and re-entering the race as an independent.
So let’s say Sobhani defies the odds and pulls the upset. Will he caucus with the Republicans because that’s his traditional political home and the side from which he seems to be pulling more support, or will he caucus with the Democrats based on the fact his Senior Senator is in that caucus? Or will he wait and see other results so he can gravitate to the winning side? Imagine the scenario of Mitt Romney winning the White House but the Democrats controlling the Senate by a 50-49 margin – will he sell his position to the highest bidder like just another business deal?
At some point he’s going to have to choose.
It’s a shame, though, that it appears Dan Bongino doesn’t want to include Rob Sobhani in the debates (at least that’s how the AP story depicts it.) Let Rob’s voice be heard, and let him answer some tough questions. I’m sure I would have some more.
Ben Cardin’s been in office for 46 years, and Dan Bongino has been on the campaign trail for 16 months. If money can buy a Senate seat, I suppose we will find out from a guy who’s barely been at it for six months and only officially announced four weeks ago.
Update: Mark Newgent at Red Maryland has unearthed the pitch sheet Sobhani used to gather signatures. I didn’t know that Rob was ”pro-choice and supports gay rights,” did you? I’ll concede that, indeed, these issues are less important than fixing the economy (although Sobhani’s plan is dubious in itself – after all, wasn’t Solyndra a sort of public-private partnership?) but America is also better-served by those who believe in upholding traditional morals.
The most recent Maryland Poll by Gonzales Research came out on Wednesday, and the results can only be described as disheartening to Maryland conservatives, who have their work cut out for them in the last month of the campaign. (Hat tip to Maryland Reporter for the link.)
First, the terrible topline numbers here in the state:
- President: Barack Obama (D) 55, Mitt Romney (R) 36
- U.S. Senate: Ben Cardin (D) 50, Dan Bongino (R) 22, Rob Sobhani (I) 21
- Question 4 (in-state tuition for illegal aliens): For 58, Against 34
- Question 6 (legalizing gay marriage): For 51, Against 43
- Question 7 (expanding gambling): For 45, Against 46
- President Obama has a 54% favorable rating, with 32% unfavorable
- Vice-President Joe Biden has a 47% favorable rating, with 34% unfavorable
- Mitt Romney has a 35% favorable rating, with 50% unfavorable
- Paul Ryan has a 36% favorable rating, with 38% unfavorable
Gonzales did not poll on Question 5 (redistricting) or any of the Congressional races; in the latter case it’s likely because the sample sizes would be too small for reliable results. 813 self-proclaimed likely voters made up this sample.
One thing I have always liked about the Gonzales surveys is their willingness to provide the actual numbers. Instead of massaging the results to a certain turnout model, the Maryland Poll is set up to reflect the electorate based on party registration – so 56% of the respondents were Democrats, 30% Republicans, and the remainder unaffiliated. This closely matches the state’s current voter registration totals.
Because of that, some trends can be determined. For example, as a percentage fewer Democrats are behind Barack Obama (81%) than Republicans backing Romney (86%). This is because there’s always been a percentage of Democrats in Maryland who are simply registered as Democrats but often vote for Republicans. It’s President Obama’s 88% approval rating among black voters (which matches their lockstep 88% support) that saves his bacon in Maryland.
On the other hand, though, Democrats strongly back political lifer Ben Cardin (74%) while Republicans are just 60% behind Dan Bongino, their U.S. Senate nominee. The presence of onetime Republican-turned-independent Rob Sobhani is all but destroying GOP chances of posting an upset in the race, since Cardin is only at 50 percent. This is because Sobhani is taking more votes away from Bongino (22% of Republicans) than Cardin (16% of Democrats.) More troublesome is that these numbers are undermining Bongino’s stated intention of making inroads into the minority community, because just 8% of black voters support him but 15% back Sobhani, who was born in America but is of Iranian origin.
Meanwhile, the political correctness bug seems to be biting some of the squishier members of the GOP. While the state party has come out against these issues in a broad manner by supporting the idea of “repealing O’Malley’s laws” the Maryland Poll finds 29% of Republicans are for in-state tuition for illegal aliens, 17% support gay marriage, and 35% are in favor of expanding gambling. Could this be the Bradley effect manifested in a different manner? There’s no way to tell.
Overall these numbers are quite disappointing, but the silver lining which exists in them is now we know where to focus our efforts. For one thing, we are close enough on some races that enhancing GOP turnout could turn the election, particularly on Questions 6 and 7.
It’s also important to remember that a number of Congressional races could hinge on turnout as well. Simply based on voter registration numbers it’s clear that Eric Knowles, Faith Loudon, and Frank Mirabile have the steepest uphill battles but there’s more possibility of an upset from Tony O’Donnell, Nancy Jacobs, or Ken Timmerman. Even Roscoe Bartlett could fall into the “upset” category based on the gerrymandering Democrats did to make his seat endangered for Republicans.
There is one other observation regarding the races I need to make. Given the 19-point advantage Barack Obama enjoys here in the formerly Free State, it’s clear he probably won’t be spending any money in the local Baltimore television market. (Washington, D.C. is a different story because Virginia is in play.) Yet that commercial time is being vacuumed up by the millions of dollars both sides are spending on debating Question 7.
Because of that simple fact, it will be harder for those advocating other ballot issues and downticket candidates to afford television time, and that works against both sides equally. This makes the retail and social media campaigns that much more important because one easy outlet is no longer as readily available.
You may ask why I’m so strident on some of these issues. In my case, there’s a lot of areas where they crossed my line in the sand a long time ago and I’m simply fighting a sort of guerrilla war trying to beat things back where I can. But like Benjamin Netanyahu, we need to pull out our red Sharpie and draw our own line this time around because once that’s passed there is no putting the genie back in the bottle.
Once we allow illegal immigrants in-state tuition, the next thing they’ll want is full amnesty and voting rights – never mind they have broken numerous laws by crossing the border (or overstaying their visa) while thousands who try to do things the correct way are denied or face long delays in receiving what’s due for them. Crime is not supposed to pay.
Once we tell Democrats it’s okay to ignore geography and cynically make up Congressional districts which place people with little in common together for base political interests, there’s no telling what other steps they’ll take to dictate what they determine is fair representation. Obviously political affiliation is a fickle standard, but when only 56% of voters are registered Democrat should they have 88% of the Congressional representation? Obviously it could work out that way even if the state was scrupulously and evenly divided based simply on existing geographic lines, equalizing population, and contiguity, but I suspect it would not.
Once we allow gay marriage to pass, then the question becomes what will be legitimized next: plural marriage, marriage between adults and children, or some other bastardization of the concept? Where does the line get drawn? Despite common misguidance, marriage is NOT a right and despite the best efforts of the gay lobby to promote the idea this quest shouldn’t be equated with the civil rights movement of a half-century ago. As this group points out, there are no “gay only” drinking fountains.
Certainly people of any gender can be in a loving relationship with one of their own gender, but as far as the legal concepts of marriage our state already covers it. What was wrong with civil unions? I could live with that as a compromise which preserves, as much as possible in this day and age, the sanctity of marriage.
I’ve seen elections where people down double-digits in polling have come back to win in the last week, and a month is an eternity in political circles. Just a month ago Wendy Rosen was a game but underfunded challenger to Andy Harris until the startling allegation she voted twice in two consecutive elections, and now Democrats are reduced to pinning their hopes on a write-in candidacy. So anything is possible, good or bad.