Yes, this puppy is going to need to be a two-parter because I have photos a-plenty.
I can start with the first thing I did after checking in and getting a little freshened up: the host county had their reception for arrivals.
There were also advertisements for the evening to come.
I’ve often wondered what guests who happen to be here for other purposes think about all of these advertisements – and how many of them drop in for the free food and drink, sort of like wedding crashers.
Previously I have characterized the conventions after an electoral loss (which have happened all too frequently in Maryland) as wakes. But this one had a little less bitterness and a little more of a hopeful tone to it after we admitted our side indeed took a shellacking. After all, as Andy Harris noted during a surprise appearance at the Executive Committee meeting Friday evening, “we have to remember where we were three years ago.”
Of course, when Harris said that “we’re going to expose the President for what he is…he doesn’t get it,” I had the thought those of us who already knew that couldn’t get the message through the thick skulls (or entitlement-addled psyches) of the voting public. But we carried on and Harris stated unequivocally, “I’m going to hold firm – no new taxes,” adding that “Democrats are the ones who tax the middle class.”
Andy’s closing message was that we needed to lay the groundwork for 2014.
On the other hand, MDGOP Chair Alex Mooney knew we had a lot of grievances to go around. “Be prepared for a long meeting,” he warned Executive Committee attendees. “These things need to be aired out.” As it turned out, I’m told their affair lasted almost three hours.
Yet Mooney echoed what we all knew: “It was a disappointing year top to bottom.” For example, he “never thought in a million years” Question 6 would pass, but it did. We have to “look hard to ballot questions” in the future, Mooney continued.
But Alex also looked ahead to 2014 opportunities.
Both National Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose and National Committeeman Louis Pope spoke before the group. While Ambrose chose to defer most of her report, which was to assess the success of the “Super Saturday” program this fall, to the general meeting Saturday afternoon, Pope bluntly called the time since the election “a tough 3 1/2 weeks.” Yet he also snapped back at critics who questioned his role at the national convention, saying there are “some factions (that) continually want to divide us.” Fighting among ourselves throws us off track, said Louis.
He also reminded us about an upcoming event at this very facility: the Reagan Presidential Ball on February 9, 2013. “One thing this party needs is fundraisers to be solvent,” Pope concluded.
It was then time for committee reports, and the unrest began from the youth.
Brian Griffiths of the Maryland Young Republicans gave us a rundown of what the MDYRs had done within the state during this election cycle before tartly noting, “I wish the officers and others would make that effort.” That was in reference to several MDGOP-sponsored bus trips to Ohio and Virginia. I happen to agree with Brian, particularly in hindsight.
Equally critical was the College Republicans’ Fiona Moodie, who saw a “vast disconnect” between the College Republicans and the main party message.
A few county Chairs were also more critical of the 2012 effort than others. In announcing he was stepping down on December 31, John McCullough of Dorchester County told us that we have one of two choices: either we target (and change) the media, Hollywood, and the schools or “we let everything collapse and we rebuild on the other side.” Preparing his young family for whatever hits the fan was more important than being part of the MDGOP at this time, said John.
Sandy Terpeluk of Kent County was impressed by the effort to get the ballot initiatives to the voters via petition, but agreed with Brian Griffiths that we should have stayed home and made more of an effort to defeat O’Malley’s laws. Her message was that we need more of an organization for these types of ballot issues.
After the county chairs gave their reports, the meeting moved into closed session and I went to see just what was going on. Turf Valley has perhaps the best room ever for an Executive Committee meeting, since it was set up like a college classroom and I could have easily liveblogged it had I known, but it had perhaps the worst setup for hospitality suites since they were in two different parts of the facility. To get from one side to the other, you had to return to the lobby and get to the other elevator.
Since I had to go back to my room to drop off a few items, I started on my side of the facility and dropped in on Maryland’s leading elected Republican.
Andy looked very relaxed, don’t you think? I stopped by his first because he wasn’t staying too late. But he had some scrumptious desserts as always.
Another guy with dessert was Delegate Tony McConkey, whose suite had plenty of Hostess products. On this I’m going to use a photo taken by my good friend Maria Ialacci since for some reason mine didn’t come out – camera issues.
But perhaps the liveliest pair of suites on that side of the facility were the ones hosted by Strategic Victory Consulting and the Montgomery County GOP. Since I ended up returning there to wrap up my long evening, my narrative will work back to those because, in the meantime, on the other side of the Turf Valley hotel, there were also dueling rooms let by two candidates for Governor.
Blaine Young had an entire ballroom, complete with finger food and open bar. At last I had something good and substantial to eat.
I thanked Blaine for my time on his show, but the room was crowded with a number of people who believed his more conservative message was the right way to go in 2014.
On the other hand, David Craig’s hospitality suite was more modest and featured…hotdogs.
I actually don’t recall speaking to David while there. Someone else there was trying to ply me with spiked snowballs, which with a liberal dosage of vodka and cherry flavoring were actually not too bad.
The nascent Charles Lollar draft effort seemed to have an insignificant presence at Turf Valley and, as Joe Steffen of Global Rhetoric writes, Larry Hogan’s Change Maryland group was conspicuous in its absence this time.
In his assessment Steffen also relays his dealings with 2012 U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino, who I ran into going between sides of the building. He was nice enough to pose with my fellow blogger (and Bongino worker) Jackie Wellfonder.
Once I got upstairs I came across a group trying to flex its political muscles at Turf Valley. This was the dual suite of the Maryland Liberty PAC.
Their message and fundraising choices were obvious: pro-liberty is the way to go.
You may have noticed the podium in the first picture. The idea behind the suite was to feature a number of pro-liberty speakers (including Dr. Greg Belcher from here in Wicomico County); alas, I arrived too late to hear any of the speakers. In fact, I would have to say their party was dying out as I tardily showed up.
But two things I noticed about the hangers-on: they weren’t all familiar faces I was used to seeing at MDGOP conventions and most of them were rather young. I’m not a great judge of age but I would peg the average age of those I saw at about 25 to 30. These were the activists who were energized by the message of Ron Paul and may have felt betrayed by the actions of the national Republican Party. While they returned this time, I would be wary about losing their support once again.
Whether that was the “disconnect” Fiona Moodie of the College Republicans spoke out on or not, the fact I heard a few people disparagingly speak about the “Ron Paul people” as I was going from place to place shows that there’s still a clique mentality in our party rather than the “big tent” philosophy we try to sell.
As I talked about earlier, there were a different group of younger Republicans working their best efforts at political capitalism. One lively suite belonged to Strategic Victory Consulting, and the hook was an addictive purple drink they called the SVC. They also had elephant-shaped food.
The SVC suite had some interesting people and props; in the background of this picture you can see the professional photography setup.
In my first go-round through the suite the online Red Maryland Radio Network was doing a live broadcast. From behind the bed and clockwise were Andrew Langer, Greg Kline, guest Hillary Pennington, and Brian Griffiths (standing.) Hillary Pennington and fellow SVC leader Kristen Shields also do their own online radio show called Purple Elephant Politics, so I’m thinking Hillary knows the drill.
Those photography props made for interesting pictures later on.
From left to right in this one are Julianne Grim, Ryan Miner, Kristen Shields, and aforementioned blogger Joe Steffen (aka the ‘Prince of Darkness’ during the Ehrlich era. Thanks to him and Hillary Pennington for setting me straight on names and faces – definitely not my strong suit in most cases and really bad after a couple concoctions.)
The other rocking suite was the Montgomery County Republicans’ one next door.
They had karaoke going on, and we found out Anne Arundel County Councilman Jerry Walker and National Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose can sing – in this case, the duet ‘Summer Nights’ from ‘Grease.’
Me? I can’t carry a tune in a bucket. And by the time I had ate, drank, been merry, collected a few business cards, found a few of my fans, and spoken to a whole host of people at and around the various convention suites and lobbies, it was getting past 2 in the morning. So I was finally off to bed in order to try and be up for breakfast and what promised to be an interesting convention proper.
You’ll find out my observations about Saturday in Part 2 tomorrow.