Maryland’s loss

He was mentioned for political posts ranging from Congress to head of the state police to perhaps even governor, but like many Maryland families Dan Bongino’s is heading for the sunny climes of Florida. As he noted on social media:

My family and I will be relocating to Martin County, Florida within the next few months. The reasons are beyond the scope of this platform and, for that reason, I explain a bit more in this week’s podcast show. I will speak more about it over the coming weeks as I see many of you individually and during the radio fill-ins, but I felt that you deserved to know as soon as I did. You have allowed me into your lives in this small way and I feel like you are a part of my extended family.

(In case you are wondering, Martin County is along the Atlantic coast, north of Miami and Palm Beach. Its western border is Lake Okeechobee.)

Whatever the reason, Dan will be missed in Maryland politics as an effective, articulate spokesman for conservative values. His departure from the scene leaves a void which, quite frankly, is begging to be filled by someone – but there’s no one on the state’s political scene who can bring that combination of conservatism and charisma.

Naturally, naysayers will say that he never won a general election in either of his two tries, and this is true. Yet he was successful at one thing: nationalizing races that otherwise would have escaped the attention of political observers. I think that it can be argued that his success in that regard in 2012 helped a little in getting Larry Hogan elected two years later, as he made people believe races could be won here by a Republican.

The withdrawal of Dan Bongino may have effects on the Democratic side as well. I think it cements John Delaney as the contender to beat for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018 because now he has an easier path to re-election in 2016. (If Bongino were to have entered a 2016 contest, my thought is that he would have made a second try at a Congressional seat rather than another statewide race.)

I have a couple reasons for this line of thought. If you look at the U.S. Senate race for next year, you have two sitting Congressmen already eyeing the seat: Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards. It wouldn’t surprise me if another one or two get in, particularly John Sarbanes as his family name is still associated with the United States Senate. While Delaney is not hurting for money and could compete on the level required for such a high-powered field, I’m sure the state Democratic leadership is having a collective heart attack as more Senatorial aspirants come from the ranks of relatively safe Congressional seats. So his staying put may be rewarded down the road as far as the party goes.

On the other hand, Delaney is trying to make a name for himself as being a bipartisan player, and Democrats in the know realize that part of Larry Hogan’s appeal was the promise to work on both sides of the aisle. Those Democrats who crossed over to back Hogan probably don’t budge for a Doug Gansler, Heather Mizeur, or one of the also-rans in the 2016 Senate race, but they just night for Delaney as he is the Democratic mirror image of Hogan as a business owner. The biggest difference is that Delaney won his bid for Congress while Hogan lost his.

Now I don’t think Dan is going to fall off the face of the earth, as I’m sure he will maintain his thriving broadcast career. I’m sure he’s looking at this as a different door opening rather than one being closed.

But for someone who, four years ago, was known to hardly anyone as he commenced what I’m sure most people thought was the crazy notion that he could be a U.S. Senator, Dan’s done well for himself. Yet don’t forget that his career is rooted in that of another upstart who also made a political splash for a short while before returning to private business – Brian Murphy. It was the onetime gubernatorial candidate who chaired Dan’s campaign at the start.

I guess that’s the problem with conservatives. They’re too busy being productive to play politics, and Dan Bongino is a pretty productive guy. I hope he finds success and happiness for his family in Florida, but as a force in Maryland politics he will be missed.

Hearing all the voices

I’m probably going to drive my Republican friends nuts here, but I think this guy has a point.

Last night I saw this among the posts on my Facebook feed:

What do you think you will hear Saturday from Brown and Hogan?

Brown will tell you about his folks and the one year he served. He will replay everything that O’Malley has done has if he had something to do with it.

Hogan will simply bash Brown for every problem in the state.

If Quinn had been allowed to speak you would hear about term limits, lower taxes, better schools, reformed tax codes and regulations, restored rights and power being given back to the people. Do you see why they can not let Quinn to be heard? November you decide, a self serving governor or an open, honest and people caring governor. They can’t stop you from voting for the best possible governor.

Of course, the author of this piece was Libertarian candidate for governor Shawn Quinn, who wasn’t invited to the MACO forum to speak and will lead a small protest to that fact Saturday morning.

Come out on Saturday in Ocean City and help me protest this apparent anti-citizen group. We will get pictures of who is supporting this government-controlled Association and let you see who is abusing their office.

Obviously I come from a Republican perspective, but I have given the Libertarians a little ink in the past (like this when the 2010 campaign began.) So it’s nothing necessarily new, even though I do believe they take more votes away from Republicans than Democrats. (Conversely, the Green Party takes mainly from the Democrats, which may be why they haven’t put up a 2014 candidate.)

I can understand that there are candidates who will be on the ballot but get a tiny percentage of the vote, but it’s interesting how they’re treated by the media. Until he was tossed off the ballot, Brian Vaeth and his likely 1-2 percent of the vote was often included in Republican debates; on the other hand, only the three main Democratic candidates got the spotlight while the other three (Ralph Jaffe, Charles Smith, and Cindy Walsh) were ignored. It begs the question of whether their combined 2.8% was a factor of not having popular viewpoints or being ignored by most media. (Jaffe and Smith, however, fall into the perennial candidate category. On the other hand, Walsh ran to the left of Heather Mizeur, who she called “a nice person (who) will serve as an establishment neo-liberal.” I think Walsh would have been great in the debates, and she got half that 2.8%.)

There’s no question that Quinn will fall far short of being the next governor. Susan Gaztanaga got 0.8% of the vote in 2010, which set the high-water mark for the Libertarians in Maryland. They didn’t field a 2006 candidate, and Spear Lancaster scored 0.68% of the electorate in 2002. Getting to 1% would be enough of an achievement.

But even though there’s little chance Quinn will win, I think he should be included in debates. I think it would be educational for the others to respond to some of the points the Libertarian brings up on his issue page, like this one:

The largest percentage of welfare tax dollars goes to pay the salaries of welfare workers and government overhead expenses, only a fraction of these monies actually make it into the hands of the needy. Throughout history private charities and groups do a better and more efficient job of helping the truly needy get back on their feet. A priority for our administration will be working to transfer these much needed services to the private sector and assist them in creating programs to put people back in the work force instead of continuing to perpetuate the meager handouts which force the needy into government dependency.

In turn, there needs to be some questioning of Quinn as to how he would perform some of these policy changes with a General Assembly practically (if not physically) devoid of his party.

But that’s the great thing about a debate of ideas – too bad we won’t get one anytime soon.

Team players

I’ve heard a lot of talk about nominees who are RINOs and sitting out the election because so-and-so won the primary and they don’t want to vote for the “lesser of two evils,” and it always amazes me because this doesn’t happen on the other side. Here’s a case in point from a fawning AP story by Steve LeBlanc about Senator (and potential Presidential candidate) Elizabeth Warren.

Now, Warren is continuing her fundraising efforts, with a planned Monday event with West Virginia Democratic Senate hopeful Natalie Tennant. Tennant, West Virginia’s secretary of state, is vying with U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito for the seat held by retiring Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller. Capito is favored and holds a hefty cash advantage.

Capito’s campaign has also been quick to target Warren, calling her “one of the staunchest opponents of coal and West Virginia’s way of life.”

Warren has conceded that she and Tennant — who, like (Kentucky Democrat Senate nominee Alison Lundergan) Grimes, has criticized Obama’s plans to limit carbon emissions from the coal industry — don’t agree on everything, but can come together on economic issues facing struggling families.

So it’s obvious that the Democrats have their own 80/20 rule, but unlike some on our side they don’t take their ball and go home based on the non-conformance of the 20.

We had our primary, and at the top of the ticket there were 57% who voted for someone else besides our nominee – many of those live here on the Eastern Shore, where David Craig received 49.6% of the vote and carried seven of the nine counties. There can be a case made that Craig’s running mate, Eastern Shore native and resident Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, was a huge factor in his success here, but the fact remains that this area I live in was one of the two areas Hogan was weakest (the other being southern Maryland, where Charles Lollar resides.) These are votes Hogan will need, and surely many will migrate his way because he’s the Republican nominee.

On the other hand, Anthony Brown got a majority of the Democratic vote and carried all but a few counties. Those three on the Eastern Shore, plus Carroll County, aren’t places Brown would expect to win in November anyway – except perhaps Kent County, which was the lone county Heather Mizeur won and which only backed Mitt Romney by a scant 28 votes in 2012.

The path to victory for any statewide Republican candidate is simple, because Bob Ehrlich did this in 2002 – roll up huge margins in the rural areas and hold your own in the I-95 corridor. Ehrlich won several rural counties with over 70% of the vote in 2002, and got 24%, 38%, and 23% in Baltimore City, Montgomery County, and Prince George’s County, respectively. When that formula didn’t happen in 2006, he lost.

Granted, demographic changes and other factors may not allow Larry Hogan to pick up 65% of the vote in Anne Arundel County, 61% in Baltimore County, or 56% in Charles County, but it’s possible he does slightly better in Prince George’s and may hold some of those other areas. Turnout is key, and we know the media will do its utmost to paint Anthony Brown as anything other than an incompetent administrator and uninspiring candidate – as the natural successor to Martin O’Malley, who has done a wonderful job further transforming this state into a liberal’s Utopian dream at the expense of working Maryland families, one would have expected Brown to have picked up at least 60% of the Democratic primary vote.

Yet you can bet your bottom dollar that even the most diehard Mizeur and Gansler supporters may hold their nose but will still push that spot on the screen next to Anthony Brown’s name. They may have several points of contention with Brown on key issues, but the other side will push those aside to maintain power.

Perhaps Natalie Tennant over in West Virginia had misgivings for a moment about inviting Elizabeth Warren for a fundraiser, but she realized that there is a segment of her would-be supporters who would gladly contribute more to her campaign to meet Senator Warren, despite the fact they are on opposite sides of a particular issue. To Warren, the end goal of holding that seat in her party’s hands and maintaining a Democrat-controlled Senate was more important than conformity with the one place where Tennant may go against leftist orthodoxy.

If we’re to upset the apple cart here in Maryland, we have to deal with the obvious flaws in Larry Hogan’s philosophy and platform at the most opportune time – when he takes office.

The Mississippi mud

July 1, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Inside the Beltway, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The Mississippi mud 

Here’s the problem with being a conservative Republican. It’s a little bit like an adage we heard during the Long War against terrorism – we have to be successful 100% of the time or else there is no success.

This brings me to the situation in Mississippi, where Chris McDaniel had an apparent victory snatched from him because those who would nominally be Democrats decided to vote for the establishment Republican incumbent, 76-year-old Thad Cochran. Cochran has spent nearly half his life in the United States Senate, but lost the initial primary by 0.5% to McDaniel. In many states (including Maryland) that would have been the end, but Mississippi election rules demand a runoff when no candidate attains a majority and Cochran won the rematch with thousands of black voters switching allegiance to support Cochran. One member of the Congressional Black Caucus has already said “we have expectations” for Cochran – but promised to campaign for his Democratic opponent.

A friend and supporter of mine sent this e-mail, saying it made her “angry and confused,” and asked me for comment. First of all, it’s another reason why I’ve stopped giving to party organizations and simply give to individual candidates.

But it’s also another illustration of what Angelo Codevilla calls the “ruling class” spending thousands to maintain its grip on power – perhaps it’s the one bipartisan effort in our nation’s capital right now. He wrote a fine piece on this very situation, and thanks to the folks at Blue Ridge Forum for pointing it out.

Now I will cheerfully tell you I’m not the be-all and end-all of political experts – after all, if I were I think I may have been able to pull off the most recent election. But it seems to me that the overall lack of growth in the Republican Party on a national scale isn’t because they’re too conservative, but because they aren’t conservative enough. Most people who leave the party don’t switch to the Democratic column but to independent or unaffiliated status.

So there was an election in Mississippi where the chances were really good the Republicans would retain the seat. If you asked conservatives around the country who they thought would be the better Senator, I would guess the vast majority would say Chris McDaniel – if for no other reason than to oust a 36-year Washington incumbent. You would probably get the same response in Mississippi, which is why the Cochran side had to appeal to Democrats to maintain their hold on the seat, smearing the TEA Party along the way. (Never mind that the TEA Party is one key reason Senate Republicans are even sniffing the chance for a majority this year.)

More than ever, after this McDaniel debacle the clamor will rise for a third party. Obviously Democrats would love this because it would guarantee perpetual power for them, even if they’re not a majority of the voting public. As we see time and time again, Democrats stick together regardless of who wins their primaries. Here in Maryland, the Doug Gansler and Heather Mizeur supporters won’t take their ball and go home like disaffected Republicans do – they will pull the “D” lever right down the line beginning with Anthony Brown. He may not be their preferred candidate, but as long as the goodies keep flowing they really don’t care.

Having said all that, though, I think the rumors of the TEA Party’s demise are a little overblown; however, it is developing its own ruling class. That’s the problem, because when it was just about activism we were at our most effective.

One thing I’m not hearing much about in the Mississippi race – granted, I’m not on the ground there so take from it what you will – is any GOTV effort on McDaniel’s part. There was a lot of money spent on political ads, but perhaps the most effective spending was that done on the robocalls and flyers which whipped up the black vote. That spending gave the most benefit to Cochran – yet no one wants to take credit for it! Wonder why?

Some years ago, Republicans were pilloried for an ill-advised robocall here in Maryland to benefit one of their own, despite the fact it was the doing of a former Democratic chief of staff and rough-and-tumble operative. Hopefully the Mississippi media will be as curious about the origins of that Cochran robocall as Maryland’s was about the Ehrlich one, and justice will be served as it was with the Ehrlich robocall.

I suppose the lesson our side has to learn is that you can never take anything for granted except for one fact: those in power will stop at nothing to keep it. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Update: And now we get the prospect of vote buying – by Republicans. We can joke all we want about Democrats securing votes from the graveyard, but thanks to the lust for power by the Beltway establishment, our hands are forever sullied as well.

The $6 million man

Yesterday this gem came to my attention via my inbox. It’s from Ken Timmerman, who’s the running mate of gubernatorial candidate Charles Lollar.

You may have heard Charles say it: if elections in Maryland were only about the money, Michael Steele would be our U.S. Senator.

He outraised Ben Cardin by a good margin in 2006 – and lost.

Political commentators were making the same mistake today in the news reports about this candidate qualifying for public financing, and that candidate not.

Here’s the dirty secret about public financing in Maryland: it actually handicaps a campaign in the general election.

That’s right. Any Republican campaign for governor that accepts public financing will be limited in how much they can raise and spend.

Don’t believe what some candidates are telling you about their ability to get millions of dollars from these public funds – which they absurdly claim are not taxpayer dollars.

Here is the truth: any campaign that accepts public funds is limited to total spending of $2,586,124.21 – and that amount includes so-called matching funds they get from the taxpayer.

Don’t take my word for it: click here to read the rules on public financing from the State Board of Elections.

Bob Ehrlich raised over $10 million in 2006 – and still lost.

We expect will raise $6 million for the general election, and probably more.

Because we have run a lean campaign, leveraging the sweat equity of our volunteer army over the past 18 months, we expect to do much more than other campaigns with less money.

We already have pledges from the Republican Governors’ Association and other outside groups to throw millions more into the race – money that will not be available to a candidate limited to the $2.6 million spending cap imposed by the state as a condition to receive public financing.

I hope I’ve been clear enough in explaining this. A candidate who accepts publc (sic) financing will lose in November because of that hard spending cap, which includes money spent by associated groups.

Charles and I need your help now to win the June 24 primary, because we know we can win in November.

We can win in November because we have been laying the groundwork these past 18 months in Democrat strongholds – something none of our Republican competitors have not done.

You can’t start reaching out to Democrats after the primary and expect them to listen. We have already built those relationships, and have Democrats for Lollar in Baltimore City, the Eastern shore, and in Prince Georges and Montgomery counties. Some of these groups are campaigning for us openly, and some of them waiting until after the primary to support us.

So, don’t believe the hype. Join us for the real deal.

I probably didn’t need to add the final half-dozen paragraphs, particularly with the misspelling and glaring double negative (proofreading is your friend!) but my reading of the law confirms what Ken says – regardless of what others may say, this is the expenditure limit. The seed money certification also reads:

Furthermore, we certify that we will not expend in either the primary or the general election an amount in excess of the maximum spending limitation set forth by Election Law Article §15-105.

The prescribed amount was originally 30 cents for every resident in the state, but adjusted for inflation works out to the $2.6 million or so. However, the hook that could save Hogan is this line:

A gubernatorial ticket that accepts a public contribution from the Fund for an election…

Let’s say Hogan accepts the $275,000 he’s eligible for in the primary and wins. As I read it, the cycle begins anew with the general election because they’re considered separate entities. If he doesn’t take a dollar once the general election cycle begins one reading of the law would suggest that he has no spending limit. It’s an issue which would probably be dragged into court, sapping resources from Hogan at a time when he’s trying to challenge a well-funded Democrat (unless fellow public finance participant Heather Mizeur somehow secures that nomination.)

In any case, it would only make a further mockery of the public financing system which is enriching a heretofore primarily self-funded campaign. But I also want to turn my attention to the fundraising prowess Timmerman claims – if only Charles can get through the primary.

This may seem like a stupid question, but if there are outside groups willing to fork over that much money wouldn’t you think they could spare a half-million to get Charles through the primary? After all, I get e-mail every day touting a challenger here, a TEA Party favorite there…granted, these are generally for seats in Congress but would it not be a feather in someone’s camp to upset the establishment and elect a black conservative governor in Maryland? Yet I haven’t seen those appeals or that funding – perhaps it’s lost with Ben Carson’s endorsement. (On that note, if Carson endorsed Lollar’s health care plan, as Charles has claimed, wouldn’t you think it would be a prominent issue on his campaign site?)

Having said all that, if Charles loses on June 24 I hope he’s front and center at the June 26 unity dinner promising to continue spreading the message in those minority areas about the benefits of conservatism. It’s the one asset he’s brought to the campaign, and the trick is to make it a transferable one. Timmerman pointed this out about Michael Steele who, despite the racial component, still lost badly in minority-dominated areas to a white Democrat. (Steele only received about 7,000 more votes in Prince George’s County – his home territory – than Bob Ehrlich did. Both were swamped there by lopsided margins.)

All of us know we need to do better in those areas to have a chance to elect Republicans, but I’m also sure the Democrats will do what they do best and play the race card. Lollar’s outreach has to be the beginning of a process spanning several election cycles, and not the end.

“You make less, government takes more.”

We haven’t heard a whole lot from gubernatorial candidate Ron George lately. Certainly part of the problem was a lack of campaign money to get his message out, complicated by this side job he had of being a Delegate during the session. (According to the Maryland Legislative Watch website, out of all the votes available Ron was absent for just one – albeit an important one for SB134 – on January 28. Heather Mizeur also was out one day, March 13, and missed a total of eight votes. Both should be commended for that attendance record despite the crimp it certainly put in campaigning.)

But all along George has maintained perhaps the most comprehensive platform, and to be quite honest Ron’s impressed me in the race as one of the work horses as opposed to one of the show horses.

So it was nice to see the succinct line I quoted as the title as the lede to a recent release from George:

You make less, government takes more. That is Martin O’Malley’s economic model. News broke this morning that the number of state employees making over $100,000 grew in the last year alone by 20% (Maryland Reporter, May 13, 2014). This follows a trend that O’Malley started in 2007 at the start of the recession. As the recession began, other governors such as Tim Kaine cut their administration’s payrolls and budgets, but Martin O’Malley drastically increased the pay to his staff. Over the course of an eight year recession, he has increased government spending by 36%! In his first five years alone, O’Malley decreased the private sector by a net of 73,000 jobs, yet government grew by 26,500 jobs. I know. I was there on the front lines. As your next governor, it is a trend I plan to stop.

Help me build a new Maryland. One that stops the taking and starts the growing. While others running sat wishing someday to be governor, I rolled up my sleeves, got in the fight, exposed waste, won battles for secure drivers licenses, a tech tax repeal, lower boat excise tax, and helped kill 240 of the 320 taxes proposed.

The latter portion alluded to his eight years in the General Assembly. Unfortunately, Ron missed an opportunity: it’s “O’Malley/Brown.” Have to tie those two together since they are essentially peas in a pod.

But all this – and more – is true of Maryland over the last eight years; moreover, it’s not just a fiscal phenomenon. Government in Annapolis has taken our local control of zoning matters, threatened counties which, in their belief, don’t spend enough on education – talk about bullying! – restricted our Second Amendment freedom, increased the surveillance state, and placed an unneeded moratorium on a viable and vital development for portions of our state. Would all of this have happened under an Ehrlich/name your 2010 Republican successor administration? Perhaps, but I doubt it.

And Ron must be raising a little bit of money as he retained a young man new to the region as his Communications Director. As he is a graduate of the University of Toledo, I would wager Casey Cheap is familiar with my birthplace, so that immediately piqued my interest. Perhaps a George-driven economy could bring a few more from the Midwest?

I also noticed one more thing about the George release:

Each donor will receive a call from me personally.

It seems like the “smile and dial” should really be on the soliciting end, but it appears Ron is taking a page out of the Dan Bongino playbook and calling to thank individual donors. While he’s free to call me anytime anyway, let me say that if you think Ron has a good message he could certainly use the financial support. It’s not like he’s built up thousands of Facebook likes from a vague message of “change” without a ton of substance behind it.

Campaign 2014: a (second) look at finance

If this post looks fairly familiar to you, I’ll explain why.

Back on January 22, I did the original post which bears the “look at finance” title above. Because I wanted to keep the same format while adding the newest information from Larry Hogan as a compare and contrast, I’m essentially reprising the earlier post with the additional information. If Larry Hogan can do apples-to-oranges comparisons of campaign finance, I can too. Everyone will be even with the pre-primary report due at the end of next month, but for now this will have to suffice.

*********

For each category, I’m going to do a rank order among the seven gubernatorial contenders who have filed a campaign finance report. Six of these were filed in January covering 2013, with the seventh being Larry Hogan – he announced his campaign in late January so his first report was due last week and covered the period through April 8. For the purpose of this exercise, I’m ignoring the minor candidates who did not file a campaign finance report as they are generally perennial candidates who raise little money.

To begin this comparison, it helps to know how much was raised during the 2013 period, which is about a week off the actual calendar since it ended January 8, 2014. For Hogan this runs from February 3 to April 8 – it’s a much shorter timeframe but has the advantage of being much closer to the primary.

  1. Anthony Brown (D) – $4,019,803.13
  2. Doug Gansler (D) – $1,487,704.79
  3. Heather Mizeur (D) – $493,173.55
  4. Larry Hogan (R) – $487.073.56
  5. David Craig (R) – $249,808.75
  6. Ron George (R) – $130,159.00
  7. Charles Lollar (R) – $65,329.67

Another piece of this puzzle which interests me is trying to figure out an average contribution. But rather than count the actual number of line items, I decided it was easier and far faster to assume there would be a certain number of contributions per page. This is the number of pages of contributors each report had.

  1. Anthony Brown (D) – 358
  2. Heather Mizeur (D) – 202
  3. Larry Hogan (R) – 197
  4. Doug Gansler (D) – 125
  5. David Craig (R) – 58
  6. Ron George (R) – 46
  7. Charles Lollar (R) – 36

So if you assumed 17 contributors per page, the average donation per contribution would comes out like this for the 2013 reports. In Hogan’s case, there are two provisos: his report is formatted a little bit differently so there are only about 12 per page; in addition, he loaned his campaign $100,000. So his average will be based on those revised numbers.

  1. Doug Gansler (D) – $700.10
  2. Anthony Brown (D) – $660.50
  3. David Craig (R) – $253.36
  4. Larry Hogan (R) – $206.04
  5. Ron George (R) – $166.44
  6. Heather Mizeur (D) – $143.91
  7. Charles Lollar (R) – $106.75

Something I found intriguing, particularly in Lollar’s case, was the fact that several contributors were serial repeaters. Some campaigns seem to have a feature where a donor can use an automatic monthly withdrawal, but in Lollar’s case it appears to be through PayPal and a large share of his backers tended to use that feature. That made for dozens of pages of expenditures on individual PayPal fees, which doesn’t seem to be a very efficient use of what turns out to be hundreds of campaign dollars a few pennies at a time, particularly on a $10 monthly donation.

Now let’s look at where the overall take came from. In all cases, the overwhelming majority of funds came from individual donations. But Charles Lollar took the cake there.

  1. Charles Lollar (R) – 100%
  2. Heather Mizeur (D) – 99.53%
  3. Ron George (R) – 98.12%
  4. Doug Gansler (D) – 97.5%
  5. David Craig (R) – 93.19%
  6. Anthony Brown (D) – 91.65%
  7. Larry Hogan (R) – 78.51%

I think there is a glaring mistake in Lollar’s totals, though, as I think the $6,000 transferred in from Blaine Young’s shuttered gubernatorial campaign probably should count as being from what the Board of Elections calls “Maryland candidates or slates” and not as an individual contribution. Based on overall 2013 totals, that would actually put Lollar near the bottom of the list. But he’s not the only one who made mistakes, as I found PAC money interspersed with individual contributions on a number of reports, along with missing addresses and the like.

In Hogan’s case, the $100,000 loan figures into the sum. While it doesn’t reflect in these totals, for interest of disclosure it should be noted that Hogan made another $5,000 in direct donations, $25,000 more came from LLCs affiliated with Hogan’s business interests (more on that later), and another $18,838.64 was made in in-kind donations. In all, 30.6% of Hogan’s money came from his own pocket.

Without changing the Lollar numbers, here’s the percentage of contribution some of these six received from other candidates or slates.

  1. Anthony Brown (D) – 3.27%
  2. David Craig (R) – 0.64%
  3. Doug Gansler (D) – 0.52%
  4. Larry Hogan (R) – 0.08%

The others received none.

But how about state PACs? I would have thought they comprised a much larger share of the pie, but none of the candidates received more than a tiny percentage of PAC money.

  1. Anthony Brown (D) – 3.13%
  2. David Craig (R) – 2.8%
  3. Larry Hogan (R) – 0.88%
  4. Heather Mizeur (D) – 0.44%
  5. Doug Gansler (D) – 0.42%

Neither Ron George nor Charles Lollar were beneficiaries of PAC money. Obviously in terms of actual dollars there’s a huge difference between Brown and Craig, but percentage-wise they are fairly even.

Oddly enough, though, Ron George leads in the percentage coming from political clubs. I think it’s based on one contribution.

  1. Ron George (R) – 1.88%
  2. Anthony Brown (D) – 0.21%
  3. Heather Mizeur (D) – 0.04%

Again, it’s a matter of scale – Brown’s largess from political clubs is nearly fourfold more in actual dollars. The lieutenant governor is also the sole beneficiary of federal committee money, to the tune of $69,000.

Since individual contributions are such a large part of the game, though, I wanted to take a closer look at where they came from. To that end, I decided to categorize appropriate donations into one of five categories, if they fit – most did not, while some fit more than one.

  • percentage from LLCs, LLPs, trusts, and other similar financial arrangements
  • percentage from law firms, as I could reasonably ascertain same (inexact, to be sure)
  • percentage from unions, although most give as PACs and I didn’t track those this time
  • percentage from businesses
  • percentage from out-of-state – in contrast to a federal race where out-of-state money is to be expected, it struck me that some campaigns leaned heavily on donors outside Maryland

I’ll start with the LLC category, which is being addressed for the next election cycle. Some believe it’s too easy to skirt contribution limits by maxing out a donation as an individual then shelling out more under the guise of an LLC. Each candidate got some LLC money, but some more than others.

  1. David Craig (R) – 25.16% of individual contribution money
  2. Larry Hogan (R) – 24.5%
  3. Anthony Brown (D) – 17.58%
  4. Doug Gansler (D) – 14.2%
  5. Ron George (R) – 4.69%
  6. Heather Mizeur (D) – 3.56%
  7. Charles Lollar (R) – 0.58%

Heather Mizeur is low on some of these categories because individual contributions from certain entities, like LLCs and businesses, could not be counted toward her matching funds for public campaign financing. Larry Hogan received a lot of individual contributions, but many of them exceeded the $250 allowed to be counted toward the match.

I sort of expected this result from law firms, although percentages were lower than I figured on.

  1. Doug Gansler (D) – 3.6%
  2. Anthony Brown (D) – 0.73%
  3.  David Craig (R) – 0.6%
  4. Larry Hogan (R) – 0.27%

They were the only four receiving contributions from what I reckoned were law firms. Even if I were wrong on a few, Gansler took that category with ease.

The same was true of unions, where Democrats Anthony Brown (0.59%) and Doug Gansler (0.07%) were unsurprisingly the leaders.

And if you thought pay-to-play was the rule in Maryland, well, you may be correct. The individual share from businesses went like this.

  1. Anthony Brown (D) – 17.38%
  2. David Craig (R) – 15.33%
  3. Doug Gansler (D) – 12.6%
  4. Larry Hogan (R) – 7.43%
  5. Ron George (R) – 5.09%
  6. Charles Lollar (R) – 2.85%
  7. Heather Mizeur (D) – 0.17%

Maryland may have one of the worst business climates in the country, but the big, established players must like the way competition is curtailed in the state. Some of the largest businesses in the country gave big checks to Brown and Gansler, with health care businesses propping up Brown and some large technology firms backing Gansler.

Finally, I thought it was telling who got support from out-of-state. This may be controversial because I counted Washington, D.C. addresses as out of state and surely some business people who are Maryland residents wrote checks based on their place of business. But I had to draw a line somewhere and the results are telling to me. These figures represent the percentage of individual contribution money drawn from out of state.

  1. Heather Mizeur (D) – 36.63%
  2. Doug Gansler (D) – 32.67%
  3. Anthony Brown (D) – 25.55%
  4. Charles Lollar (R) – 7.09%
  5. Larry Hogan (R) – 5.65%
  6. Ron George (R) – 4.11%
  7. David Craig (R) – 3.87%

In the cases of Brown and Gansler, it seemed like much of their out-of-state take came from the District of Columbia, while Mizeur’s came from all over the country. Yet if you considered Takoma Park and Silver Spring as part of another state (sometimes we here on the Shore consider them another country) I believe Mizeur would have been over 50 percent. Does everyone in Takoma Park have an extra Benjamin to spend on her race? Seems like it.

This final category shows that Maryland Republicans can’t seem to nationalize this statewide race as they could recent federal races with Dan Bongino and Andy Harris, for example. This is a pity because what better encouraging message to conservatives than a Republican winning in Maryland?

*********

Now to the present day.

In going through the Hogan report, I noticed a few interesting items regarding the LLCs which contributed to his campaign: a number of them shared the same address. The worst offender: a group of LLCs which list as their address the domicile of St. John Properties. Combined, these LLCs gave $30,000 to the Hogan campaign as well as $5,500 to David Craig. And they’re bipartisan, since Anthony Brown and Doug Gansler also have contributions from that same address – it may be the nerve center of political donations in the state. In Hogan’s case, he even rents his office space from St. John.

While he has a dog in this fight as one of those who’s running for the state’s highest office, I’ve found Ron George is a good go-to expert on campaign finance laws since he helped write many of the reforms taking effect next year. So I asked him about this situation as it relates to those in the race. Replied George:

The LLC loophole allowed Brown to get around $68,000 from one guy that created many LLC’s. That will stop after January 2015, but even though we increased the aggregate total limit, there will not be one because of the recent Supreme Court ruling. The limits to each candidate will still be law but we increased the $4,000 amount.

I also wanted some clarification on how the $250 matching funds worked, and Ron had that answer as well:

All “individual” donations (in Maryland law that means those from private individuals) can only be matched “up to” the first $250. So, yes, an aggregate amount of $500 can only have the first $250 matched.

The reporting periods became law this year, thus a couple more were added. The BOE software is keeping track of the matching fund qualifying money in a separate spread sheet.

Based on the numbers I found, and even deducting for the overage on many contributions – which ranged up to the maximum $4,000 allowed and then some in one case – it appears Hogan has, or shortly will have, enough seed money to fully qualify for matching funds in the primary.

But a glaring figure stuck out at me. As of the close of the reporting period, Larry Hogan had $167,748.15 on hand. I’ll grant Larry’s spent a lot on media already, but just as a reminder this is what the others had back in January:

  1. David Craig – $154,577.02
  2. Ron George – $15,449.89
  3. Charles Lollar – $5,731.35

If David Craig simply held serve and raised enough to cover his expenses for the first three months of the year, the two are basically even going forward. Obviously Ron George and Charles Lollar lag well behind, but since he had the chance to respond to my question George added this assessment of the situation:

Hogan is still playing the perception game. Many started to think he had a lot of money so they began to back him, but even his numbers are not so good. If he did not donate to his own campaign, he would be at my levels. That puts it in perspective. My three months of not fundraising did hold me back. But people should not count me out. It is still wide open and Hogan sent many fundraising letters out when I could not. I had a responsibility to serve my oath of office to which I was elected. Many felt I should have resigned like Palin did so I could raise money, but I felt I owed my constituents that voted me in.

As a gentle correction to Ron, Sarah Palin didn’t resign as governor until after she and John McCain lost in 2008. I think he was thinking of Bob Dole in 1996.

But Ron’s assessment of Hogan’s situation isn’t all that far off if you back out the nearly $150,000 Hogan has provided directly or indirectly to his campaign. Unfortunately for George, money is fungible and right now that cash is sitting in Larry’s campaign account ready to use, along with the possible volunteers that spending nearly $6,500 on Facebook advertising can whip up. It’s also why Hogan has a fairly significant lead in the polls despite the fact he’s not been queried much (if at all) on key issues like education, the environment, the Second Amendment, and agriculture.

The campaign playing field should be leveled May 27 when all of them have to file the first pre-primary report. For all contenders save Hogan, it will cover the time period since the 2014 Annual Report was due; in Hogan’s case we can combine this recent report with the next one to show an apples-to-apples compare and contrast with all the candidates on both sides. It’s about time.

Pointing out and planning solutions

In life there is a difference between saying and doing. In this case neither protagonist, unfortunately, is in a position where they can do much more than talk and advocate but it is interesting to see what the two men in question have to say about a paticular situation.

First I’ll point out the talker:

More and more of our friends and neighbors are unemployed and our state economy remains stalled. Clearly, the economic policies of Martin O’Malley and Anthony Brown have failed, and it’s time for new leadership and a new direction in Annapolis.

The O’Malley/Brown Administration continues to drive taxpayers and job creators from Maryland and into the arms of better run, lower cost states.

Those were the words of gubernatiorial candidate Larry Hogan, whose campaign went on to point out that 9,800 Marylanders were furloughed in January and the state endured its worst year of job creation since the recession ended in 2009. (At least for some parts of the state, the question of whether we are back in one is open for debate.)

I will give some credit to Larry for beginning to round out a platform which doesn’t simply bash the incumbent and his heir apparent for tax increases or cite his group’s social media prowess:

Hogan, a business leader and former Maryland state cabinet secretary, favors a pro-growth agenda that combines reigning (sic) in Annapolis spending, jump starting the economy by cutting taxes on workers and their employers, and aggressively courting larger employers which in recent years have left Maryland for Virginia and other states.

We’re still a little vague as to specifics, but the ideas are mostly right out of the conservative playbook and certainly won’t hurt. I’m ever-so-slightly leery of the “cutting taxes on workers and their employers” line because that suggests only a targeted tax cut rather than the flattening (or complete elimination) of rates we need, but we’ll see where Larry goes with this one.

On the other hand – and I really wish he had said it a month ago, because it would have went perfectly with this post – David Craig has a grand idea:

Harford County Executive and Maryland Governor Candidate David Craig called on incumbent Governor Martin O’Malley to push the Obama Administration to complete a final regulatory review to enable a facility in southern Maryland to export liquefied natural gas. The issue takes on greater urgency as the Ukraine and several European countries seek long-term solutions to reduce dependence on Russian energy exports.

“Now is not the time for dithering and red tape,” said Craig. “Maryland is on the verge of being only the second state in the country to export liquefied natural gas and our proximity to the Marcellus Shale, and the Atlantic Ocean and existing infrastructure gives us a competitive advantage that nobody else has. Maryland can attract thousands of energy sector jobs and help assert U.S. influence in the crisis in the Ukraine. But we must act now.”

Ambassadors to the U.S. from Hungary, Poland and the Czech and Slovak republics wrote House Speaker John Boehner last week that U.S. “natural gas would be much welcome in Central and Eastern Europe, and Congressional action to expedite [liquefied natural gas] exports to America’s allies would come at a critically important time for the region.”

The U.S. Department of Energy has approved just six export licenses for LNG projects, including Cove Point, since 2011. Dominion Resources-owned Cove Point, in Lusby, MD, is one of about 20 U.S. projects that want to export LNG. Of those, only one, in Louisiana, has full federal permitting.

Delays in Maryland are coming on multiple fronts. Political support among the O’Malley-Brown Administration is non-existent. Gubernatorial candidate and legislator Heather Mizeur is leading the charge in outright opposition to the project, while Lt. Gov. and front-runner candidate Anthony Brown promotes “environmental justice,” a left-wing social movement that attempts to stifle energy exploration wherever politically-favored constituencies may object. The other democratic gubernatorial candidate, the current Attorney General, is opposed to timely approval of the project. Apart from general statements about the importance of developing jobs and traditional forms of energy, GOP primary candidates for Governor have heretofore not yet articulated positions on the issue. (Links added.)

Given my interest in energy-related issues, I can’t believe I missed that originally – the release has been out about a week – but I’m glad David Craig is coming out on the right side of this issue. As I pointed out last month, Dominion Resources, the operator of the Cove Point facility, estimated that 4,000 construction jobs and 14,600 permanent positions could be created through this $3.5 billion investment. Those could be 14,600 people paying taxes and investing in our communities rather than wondering what comes next after the unemployment runs out or making plans to escape Maryland for greener pastures like Virginia, the Carolinas, Florida, or Texas. Democrats often talk about making “investments” with our tax dollars, well, here’s an investment that the private sector is willing to make and government is mad because they can’t control who receives it. Let’s throw them a pity party: awwwwwwww….

Running mate Jeannie Haddaway made another good point in that statement:

Instead of picking winners and losers and subsidizing the most expensive options such as wind energy, we should be taking advantage of our existing resources and diversifying in a way that is meaningful to our economy and to job creation.

The choice is clear, the opportunity is now.

I look at it this way: if there were a market for wind energy, we would already have plenty of infrastructure out there. But the fact we have to subsidize its meager presence and carve out market share for it tells me wind is an economic loser overall. Just like solar energy, it’s only as reliable as atmospheric conditions allow it to be. And while solar and wind are considered “green” energy, the birds being cooked or bats being exterminated might beg to differ.

So we can exacerbate the unemployment problem or we can put the people in place to help create jobs. It’s your choice, Maryland.

Back to that three letter word: J-O-B-S

I still like picking on Joe Biden. But over the last month or so I’ve collected a lot of divergent information on policy suggestions, each of which promses to be the magic elixir to get our economy moving in the right direction again.

I think the key to this lies in two areas: manufacturing and energy. In that respect, I keep a lot of information handy to discuss in this space, with a group called the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) generally representing the left-of-center, pro-union side. And while their main goal seems to be increasing the coffers of Big Labor, luckily most workers still have free will – ask the employees at the Tennessee Volkswagen plant about how much effort from the UAW can be rebuffed in a simple up-or-down vote.

Currency manipulation is one area in which the AAM has been focusing. A study they cite, by the liberal Economic Policy Institute (EPI), makes the case that:

Many of the new jobs (if the subject is addressed) would be in manufacturing, a sector devastated by rising trade deficits over the past 15 years. Rising trade deficits are to blame for most of the 5.7 million U.S. manufacturing jobs (nearly a third of manufacturing employment) lost since April 1998. Although half a million manufacturing jobs have been added since 2009, a full manufacturing recovery requires greatly increasing exports, which support domestic job creation, relative to imports, which eliminate domestic jobs.

Personally I disagree with the premise that rising trade deficits can be blamed for the job losses; instead, I think an absurdly high corporate tax rate and onerous regulations have contributed more to chasing away American manufacturing. (While many simply blame “outsourcing” for the problem, fewer understand the dynamics which led to the outsourcing.) Yet there is merit to the idea that all sides should be competing on as level of a playing field as possible when it comes to the means of exchange, and China is one of the worst offenders. (And why not? They are communists, after all, and you can’t trust communists any farther than you can throw them.)

Two of EPI’s findings are quite interesting: first, should the EPI model come to its fruition, the oil and gas industry would be the hardest hit, and second, Maryland would be among the states least impacted, with barely a 1% rise in employment.

Yet AAM president Scott Paul is quick to blame Barack Obama:

President Obama promised to hold China accountable. He hasn’t. The White House last month said President Obama would use his pen and his phone to make progress on economic issues. He could start today by signing an order to designate China as a currency manipulator.  Then, he could call the Chinese leadership to demand an end to that practice, and secure an agreement on a plan to cut this deficit in half over the next three years.

I sort of wish Mr. Paul would also figure out the other problems, but he is correct to be concerned about our Chinese policy. Job creation has become more important than deficit reduction in the minds of Americans, both in the AAM poll I cited above and a Pew Research Poll cited by the American Petroleum Institute (API).

And the industry which benefits from API’s efforts represents another piece of the puzzle which we can take advantage of: our abundant energy supplies. While America uses 26 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year, there is the possibility of as much as 10,000 trillion cubic feet within our land mass. That’s nearly 4 centuries worth, so I don’t think we will run out anytime soon. (Estimates have continued on an upward path as new technology makes previously unworkable plays economically viable.) As I keep saying, it’s too bad we don’t have a nice shale play under our little sandbar. Not only that, but the infrastructure we will need to take advantage of all that (and help curtail spot shortages like the ones we’re having this chilly winter) would be a guaranteed job creator – one which derives its basis from the private sector. New pipelines aren’t just for export facilities like Cove Point, but could benefit this area and perhaps bring more natural gas service to our region.

Unfortunately, Maryland isn’t poised to take advatange of either the manufacturing or energy booms at present, thanks to back-breaking economic policy and a foolhardy go-slow approach on fracking. It takes a strident opponent of the latter to suggest yet another approach which will do damage to the former, but gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur accomplishes this with the tired old combined reporting proposal. Hers comes with a twist, though, which she announced last Monday:

In the morning, Mizeur will host several Maryland business owners for a Small Business Roundtable. They will discuss her legislation to provide tax relief to small business owners, as well as other highlights from the campaign’s ten-point plan for jobs and the economy, which was released last fall. She will also hear from the business owners on a range of other concerns.

(snip)

At 1:00 pm, several business owners will join Mizeur in front of Ways and Means to testify on behalf of legislation that would enact combined reporting and distribute the estimated $197 million to small businesses for personal property tax rebates.

It’s the liberal way of picking winners and losers. And according to a 2008 study by the Council on State Taxation – admittedly, an opponent of the practice:

Combined reporting has uncertain effects on a state’s revenues, making it very difficult to predict the revenue effect of adopting combined reporting.

Even proponents don’t address that aspect, instead emphasizing how it would “level the playing field between multistate corporations and locally based companies.” But since Mizeur’s idea is one which would subsidize some businesses under a certain employment plateau, the uncertainty would likely be just another reason to avoid Maryland.

On the other hand, a Republican like Larry Hogan at least gets businesses together to discuss what they really want. Granted, once he gets them together he speaks in broad concepts rather than a more specific plan, but at least he’s listening to the right people. None of the others in the GOP field have specific plans, either, although Ron George probably comes the closest.

One has to ask what states which are succeeding economically are doing to attract new business. The state with the lowest unemployment rate, North Dakota, is prospering – more like crushing the rest of the field – on account of abundant energy resources, and perhaps that success is pulling surrounding states up with it. Its three neighbors (Montana, South Dakota, and Minnesota) all rest within the top 13 when it comes to low unemployment rates and other regional states like second-place Nebraska, Iowa, Wyoming, and Kansas lie within the top 10. Although the top five are right-to-work states, half the bottom 10 are as well. Nor can tax climate be seen as a dominating factor since the top 10 in unemployment vary widely in that category: Wyoming, South Dakota, Utah, and Montana are indeed excellent in that aspect, but North Dakota is decidedly more pedestrian and Iowa, Vermont, and Minnesota are among the worst.

But Maryland has the tendency to depend too much on the federal government as an economic driver. This presents a problem because bureaucrats don’t really produce anything – they skim off the top of others’ labor but don’t add value. Certainly it’s great for those who live around the Beltway, and it’s telling that all three of the Democratic candidates have a connection to the two Maryland counties which border the District of Columbia while none of the Republicans save Larry Hogan do.

In order to create jobs, I think the state needs to diversify its economy, weaning itself off the government teat and encouraging manufacturing and energy exploration. Meanwhile, there’s also a need to rightsize regulation and restore a balance between development and Chesapeake Bay cleanup – specifically by placing a five-year moratorium on new environmental restrictions while cleaning up the sediment behind the Conowingo Dam. Let’s give that which we’ve already done a chance to work and other states a chance to catch up.

The best route out of government dependence is a job. Unfortunately, when the aim of the dominant political party in the state is one of creating as many dependents as possible, a lot of good entrepreneurs will be shown the door. It’s time to welcome them in with open arms.

Grading the second bananas

Now that we’ve filled in the gubernatorial primary with all the major players from each party (as well as a handful of lesser lights who probably won’t have the wherewithal to make a dent in the race) it’s time to look at who they are and perhaps why they were selected.

It’s been many years since a party nominated a pair of white males to the state’s two top jobs, and once again the tickets are diverse in terms of race, gender, or in a couple cases, both. These thumbnails will be in alphabetical order of lieutenant governor candidates, beginning with the last one to be named today.

Shelley Aloi was introduced by her running mate Ron George this morning. In terms of political experience, she’s in the middle of the pack as she served as an alderman in the city of Frederick for one term (2009-13) before losing in the GOP primary for mayor last year to the eventual winner, incumbent Randy McClement. So she has a little bit of political experience, as well as a diverse resume of accomplishments. In her mayoral run, she stressed a relatively conservative approach of public safety, responsible spending, and job creation.

In sum, it was an interesting choice by Ron. Detractors will probably wonder if the move was made out of desperation as a second-tier choice, but Ron has always maintained he would announce his LG late in the game. It’s certainly not a head-scratcher to the level of the ill-fated Kristen Cox selection by Bob Ehrlich in 2006, but may not do a lot to lift the ticket either.  Grade: C.

Back in November Democratic contender Heather Mizeur announced Delman Coates as her running mate. In doing so, Mizeur selected a black man with no political experience to round out the twofer of both female and minority on the same ticket. One thing both share is a political philosophy way out on the left wing, as Coates is described as “an outspoken champion on a range of progressive issues, including health care, the Voting Rights Act, immigration reform, and foreclosure protection.” It’s not unusual to have compatible political viewpoints on a ticket, but generally running mates come from the political world or have a business background, and Coates has neither.

It may be great for Heather to have in Coates “a friend, a confidant, a brilliant mind and a caring heart,” but when it comes to governing those who have little political background tend to be the most susceptible to a corrupt administration when placed in power. Grade: D.

The first lieutenant governor candidate to be selected was David Craig’s pick of Jeannie Haddway-Riccio, who has dropped the married Riccio name for this campaign. Admittedly, it’s a long name for a sign. But for several years, GOP observers has believed she would be an ideal LG candidate – young, but with over a decade of political experience under her belt as a member of the House of Delegates and a background from the conservative Eastern Shore. She was a sought-after quality to be sure, and it’s likely she was asked by at least a couple contenders to be part of the ticket. Perhaps the only knock on her was that she only has legislative experience, but that didn’t stop the current lieutenant governor.

When he selected her, David Craig said of Haddaway, “I chose Jeannie because she will actually help me run the government.” She hasn’t done anything to hurt the ticket and is the strongest of the four GOP running mates. Grade: A.

A fellow Delegate was the selection of Doug Gansler in October. Jolene Ivey, of Prince George’s County, brought the requisite balance to the ticket as both being a woman and of mixed race, but perhaps was more useful to Gansler as a counterbalance to Anthony Brown’s background in Prince George’s County. Rather than a business background, Ivey worked in television for several years.

But playing up her biracial background and being a mother to five boys didn’t save her from this unfortunate utterance: “I am Trayvon Martin’s mom,” she told the Baltimore Sun last October, just after accepting the second spot on Gansler’s ticket. She seems more like a pick strictly for political expedience than a woman ready to lead, particularly with her unremarkable record in the House of Delegates, even as a member of the dominant party. Grade: D+.

The last candidate to announce his intentions, Larry Hogan took the occasion of formally entering the race to announce Boyd Rutherford as his running mate. The pairing is unusual in that neither have held elective office, but both served in the same Bob Ehrlich administration. In one respect, Boyd is the perfect lieutenant governor candidate given his experience in the public and private sectors, but the question is how he would do in a political campaign.

When Hogan selected Rutherford, he said Boyd would bring “real management experience who has the ability to be a full partner in our administration and who is actually qualified to be governor.” If he can work through the rigors of a campaign without making the mistakes a political novice tend to make, he would indeed be an asset. Grade: A-.

Perhaps the most unusual running mate of the seven is Ken Timmerman, who was announced as Charles Lollar’s running mate Monday. While Timmerman has campaigned through the state as an aspirant for a U.S. Senate seat in 2000, his more recent experience in that field was being routed by Chris Van Hollen in 2012 for the Eighth Congressional District seat.

And while Lollar “intend(s) on using Ken as Maryland’s chief investigator to help us uncover all of the excessive spending and misplaced tax dollars,” according to the Washington Post, one has to ask how Ken’s national and international background really matches up with state government. There’s been the undercurrent of rumor that Lollar was practically to the point of using Craigslist to find a running mate; unfortunately, Timmerman wasn’t the guy to completely dispel the notion. The one asset Ken may have, though, would be that of having the name to possibly nationalize the race for Lollar, enabling him to increase his barren coffers. Grade: C-.

It was the ultimate marriage of convenience: two contenders unite to make a strong financial team for the Democratic nomination. Since Anthony Brown was the chosen successor to Martin O”Malley, Ken Ulman made the political calculation that he’d rather switch than fight. Along with David Craig, Ulman brings executive experience to the race as chief executive of a medium-sized county – Howard and Harford counties are fairly similar in population. More importantly to the O’Malley wing of the Democrats, the two combined had a warchest large enough to overcome the initial financial advantage Doug Gansler had built up.

But while I doubt I’d be enamored with all of his political moves, there’s no question Ulman would be able to easily assume the duties of governor should be need arise based on his experience as Howard County Executive. Insofar as the quality of the choice: Grade: A.

So we have the seven main contenders now, and the guessing games are over. Let the campaign begin.

Denying the market

To be honest, I’m not sure if I was sent this to provoke a comment or if I just happen to be on a list that gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur doesn’t use all that often. I think most observers know I have an interest in energy issues, and this definitely falls into one of them. You just have to ask yourself why Mizeur counts herself among the Democrats are so insistent on denying the opportunity for shovel-ready jobs and investment – I thought that was what they were all about.

First of all, this is what Mizeur had to say about the proposed Cove Point LNG export facility.

(Yesterday), Delegate Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery), candidate for governor, called on Governor O’Malley to join her in opposition to the Dominion Resources liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility at Cove Point in Calvert County. She made the announcement during a speech at the Stop Cove Point Rally in downtown Baltimore City earlier today.

“I am calling on Gov. O’Malley to take a stand with us today to reject Cove Point,” Mizeur told the audience. “You cannot leave a legacy on addressing climate change and be silent on Cove Point. It’s time for Gov. O’Malley to break the silence and join us in saying no to Cove Point.”

The rally, which was attended by 500 people, was organized by climate, health and anti-fracking activists from across the state, and was one of the largest environmental rallies ever in Baltimore City. It came as the state Public Service Commission begins official hearings on the project.

Mizeur is currently the only gubernatorial candidate to state her opposition to the project. When she announced her opposition in December, both Lieutenant Governor Brown and Attorney General Gansler – the two other Democratic candidates in the race for governor – expressed a desire to build the project without environmental damage, but failed to explain how such a plan would be possible.

Dominion Resources, a Virginia-based energy company, is pursuing the construction of a $3.8 billion facility to serve as a collection point for fracked natural gas from throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, where cargo tankers would then ship it throughout the world.

But the Cove Point facility would release 3.3 million tons of carbon dioxide and other harmful greenhouse gases into the air annually, making it a serious setback to achieving the state’s goals on fighting climate change, including a plan for a 25% reduction of greenhouse gases by 2020.

Mizeur has also called on Dominion Resources to invest $3.8 billion – the construction cost of the proposed facility – in the state’s renewable energy sector. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, clean energy investments create more permanent jobs than exporting fracked gas.

Obviously Mizeur is an adherent to the religion of manmade climate change, a belief system which fails to address why none of the climate models have predicted the lack of warming this century. The fact that they managed to get just 500 people to a climate change rally shows how small the cadre of believers really is – a good Second Amendment or TEA Party rally can rustle up similar numbers without really trying. If this is “one of the largest environmental protests in state history” then we really are letting a tiny minority dictate policy.

But let’s say these guys are really serious – I suppose living in a state foolish enough to believe that artificially limiting its carbon emissions will have an effect on our overall global climate will do that to you. Even if the point source of 3.3 million tons is correct, it doesn’t take into account the reduction in emissions at destination points abroad. Natural gas is cleaner burning than coal, and until we figured out that fracking was a way to supercharge the moribund domestic natural gas market it was a fossil fuel environmentalists weren’t uncomfortable with. To show how the market has changed, the Cove Point facility was originally built in the 1970s as an import facility because the domestic natural gas market was thought to be in an irreversible decline.

On the other hand, the point source investment of $3.8 billion will have a positive effect on the regional and state economies. Last year, in announcing its filing, Dominion claimed the project will create up to 4,000 jobs during the construction phase and perhaps over 14,000 jobs overall, not to mention billions in royalty payments. Because most of the supply would come from regional producers, the entire mid-Atlantic area would benefit (except Maryland and New York, which currently have bans on fracking.) The facility would also provide a needed boost to our export tally to address a persistent American trade deficit, as the LNG is already contracted out to distributors in Japan and India.

Finally, Mizeur complains that the $3.8 billion Dominion is willing to invest in the project could be better spent in the renewable energy sector. Does the name “Solyndra” ring a bell? Despite its best efforts to create a market for offshore wind, companies aren’t willing to make the investment in that area – remember Bluewater Wind? In the area of solar energy, it took billions in taxpayer-guaranteed loans – and mandated renewable energy portfolios such as the one Maryland is saddled with – to get that market off the ground, yet it still produces but a tiny fraction of our electricity needs at a cost several times the going rate for electricity produced from coal or natural gas.

And it’s funny that Mizeur worries about the cost of natural gas going up due to exports, but had no problem with raising the gasoline tax on a perpetual basis. So much for supporting hard-working Marylanders.

So the choices are either zero or $3.8 billion; that’s reality. We can take advantage of proven resources we already have or listen to alarmists whose real goal is to foster dependence on government under the guise of saving the planet. It’s just too bad our little sandbar is energy-poor, unless you deign to call chicken manure an energy gold mine, and even the proponents concede its not as efficient as natural gas.

WaPo poll: Hogan lead cut to 4

February 19, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, Polling · Comments Off on WaPo poll: Hogan lead cut to 4 

Just a couple days after its Baltimore competitor unveiled an OpinionWorks poll which showed Larry Hogan with a six-point lead over David Craig and the others in the quest for the Republcan nomination for governor, the Washington Post put out its own survey which captured the views of 290 randomly selected GOP voters and leaners. In their survey, undecided was again the clear winner with 56%, with Hogan at 17%, David Craig at 13%, Charles Lollar in third at 10%, and Ron George pulling 5%. As I did the other day, extrapolating results leaves me with this breakdown:

  • Larry Hogan – 38%
  • David Craig – 29%
  • Charles Lollar – 22%
  • Ron George – 11%

The survey, though, has a large margin of error of 7% for Republicans, compared to 5.5% for Democrats. On their side, Anthony Brown has a 19-point lead over Doug Gansler, who in turn leads Heather Mizeur by seven points. The survey was conducted Thursday through Sunday.

Unlike the Sun poll, there are a wide variety of crosstabs available in the WaPo survey. Most of them favor Hogan, but the independents surveyed backed Craig by a 16-14 margin. David also scored well with Baltimore-area voters and with college graduates, both categories where he ran even with Hogan.

Another interesting facet of this poll was favorability ratings for each candidate. I’ll go from highest among all candidates to the lowest.

  • Anthomy Brown – 30% (16% unfavorable, +14)
  • Doug Gansler – 22% (17% unfavorable, +5)
  • Larry Hogan – 15% (8% unfavorable, +7)
  • Heather Mizeur – 13% (9% unfavorable, +4)
  • David Craig – 11% (10% unfavorable, +1)
  • Ron George – 8% (7% unfavorable, +1)
  • Charles Lollar – 6% (9% unfavorable, -3)

So it appears Hogan’s very non-specific campaign has attracted notice without driving up unfavorables. Note this was done before David Craig put out a program to eventually phase out the state’s income tax.

Making a RealClearPolitics-style average of the results so far, we get the following on the GOP side:

  1. Larry Hogan – 14.4%
  2. David Craig – 9.3% (-5.1)
  3. Charles Lollar – 7.5% (-6.9)
  4. Ron George – 5.1% (-9.3)

Doing the same for Democrats:

  1. Anthony Brown – 34.5%
  2. Doug Gansler – 14.4% (-20.1)
  3. Heather Mizeur – 9.1% (-25.4)

While it appears that George is slipping just beyond the margin of error, the other two are still within striking distance. On the Democratic side, it’s Anthony Brown’s race to lose. Note that the foibles of Maryland’s health exchange aren’t affecting Brown among the base.

Larry Hogan is spinning this, using an unreleased “internal poll” to note:

(I)nternal polling by a respected national pollster gives Hogan an excellent chance to win in November. Hogan has a 30% better chance of beating Brown than Gansler has, and the polling also shows Hogan has a 36% better chance of winning than Bob Ehrlich had when he was elected governor in 2002.

Obviously without context it sounds great, but one has to ask if Brown would be as weak of a candidate as Kathleen Kennedy Townsend was in 2002.

There is generally one more poll which comes out around this time of year, but I have no word on whether a new Maryland Poll will come from Gonzales Research anytime soon. Back in October, Brown had a 41-21 advantage over Doug Gansler, with 5% preferring Heather Mizeur.

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