WCRC meeting – July 2014

We don’t always hold a meeting in July, but since it is an election year and we like to give candidates a chance to update us on their platform, the Wicomico County Republican Club heard from the guy who predicted “I’m going to be your next County Executive.”

Obviously the voters will have their say on this in November, but Bob Culver laid out a compelling case for himself once we got through the usual business of the Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and introduction of distinguished guests. The latter list was somewhat shorter now that the primary is over. We also heard the Treasurer’s report and got a quick update from our President Jackie Wellfonder.

Welffonder revealed that “we do have a headquarters, finally.” Once the building is turned over for our use and a few minor modifications made in the way of utilities, we should be up and running soon. It’s the former Mister Paul’s Legacy on North Salisbury Boulevard.

She also introduced the man who would be running the headquarters, David Warren. In this cycle he’s done work for the Ron George and David Brinkley campaigns, but instead of taking up an offer to go back to the Midwest (he worked for the RNC in Youngstown, Ohio in the 2012 election and had an offer to go work in Michigan this time) he came here because “I view this as a huge opportunity…(District) 38 is a very winnable district.” He was also complementary to Jackie, citing her as “one of the reasons I stayed.”

Wellfonder, for her part, called Warren “an asset to us because of his experience.”

We then turned the meeting over to Culver, who vowed to “bring back a government you can trust…government needs to work for you.”

If elected, his missions would be to sustain and diversify our local economy, improve workforce training and skills while recruiting within Maryland for new employers, and insuring the proper infrastructure – not just physical infrastructure, but including the environment and education as well. He also noted that our community is judged by how they take care of the elderly and less fortunate. And, as music to my ears, he wanted County Council to send him a proposal for an elected school board he could sign on to.

But while he won’t necessarily clean house, he did want to do things differently in various county departments. He would work more closely with Council on the budget, though, and try to change the “sense of entitlement” in certain quarters of government. Culver also promised to work toward a term limit for County Executive, believing two terms was plenty.

In Dave Parker’s absence, I read a Central Committee report he submitted. It talked at length about the upcoming Allen West Patriot’s Dinner on September 27, although we were also trying to work with the state on a Super Saturday the week before or after.

With fewer candidates because the primary weeded many of them out, we only had a few updates. A common theme was their door-knocking as most were getting out in the community. We heard from Circuit Court Judge candidate M.J. Caldwell, County Councilman Joe Holloway from District 5, County Council District 2 hopeful Marc Kilmer, County Council District 3 candidate Larry Dodd, and Delmar Mayor and Delegate aspirant Carl Anderton, Jr.

Another concern raised by some was how some opponents will get outside financial support, even on a more local level.

Tom Taylor brought up that candidates can take advantage of PAC-14, the local cable access channel, and discuss issues with host Phil Tilghman.

Shawn Jester mentioned some recent events Andy Harris was involved in, including the District of Columbia marijuana controversy and the Eastern Shore boycott that “fizzled out” as well as the possibility of housing illegal aliens in Westminster, which won’t happen. Harris also sponsored a well-attended event in Worcester County dealing with emergency preparedness.

Plans for the Crab Feast were moving along, but more volunteers were sought, said Joe Ollinger. The event will be held September 6 at Schumaker Pond.

With that and the reminder we next meet August 25, we broke into our usual post-game kibitzing. Most of the people stick around for that, so when you consider we have a pre-event social time at Cellar Door Tavern and linger for awhile afterward, it makes for a full evening. Those who are Wicomico County Republicans and want to get engaged in the local political scene should make a Monday night of it next time.

Book review: The Founder’s Plot, by Frank Victoria

July 18, 2014 · Posted in Book Reviews · Comment 

The Founders Plot

Here at my site I have, on rare occasions, reviewed a non-fiction book which interests me from a political angle. For the first time, though, I’m today reviewing a fictional novel – but it’s one which could, more or less, be ripped from current headlines.

In The Founder’s Plot, at a time not-so-far removed from the present, Michael DiGrasso is elected as governor with the promise to get tough on illegal immigration. The one aspect of the story which is a little unbelievable is the part about being elected in California on that particular platform, although I suppose those few taxpaying citizens who remain in the Golden State could be motivated enough to do such a thing as conditions in the state continue to deteriorate from an onslaught of illegal immigrants. We have seen evidence of this outrage recently in the small town of Murrieta, California.

Regardless, DiGrasso is elected and immediately puts his plan into action. The secondary storyline of The Founder’s Plot shrewdly looks at the situation through the eyes of Carlos and Marisol Costellano, illegal immigrants who had made a home in America despite their lack of legal status. Over several years, Carlos had worked his way through a variety of jobs to the point of being a skilled laborer, investing his earnings into the purchase of the duplex where his family lived. Also residing in the duplex are the Castellanos’ good friends Julio and Carmella Perez, whose grown children also work their way into the story.

Yet it’s not just characterization, as Victoria puts a lot of work into the book’s details. While he glosses past the machinations of putting the tough immigration law into place, he doesn’t skimp on the political dealings which occur after the law takes effect and it becomes clear that DiGrasso means business. Nor are we spared the backstory explaining DiGrasso’s dogged determination and desire to make a stand against where he believes America has veered from the path intended by those who created our nation. In that regard, he gets assistance from some powerful friends.

On the flip side, Victoria adroitly creates a setting where we follow Carlos into an underworld of selling forged documents to fellow illegal immigrants as he desperately tries to make additional money for his growing family. While DiGrasso is only a man Carlos sees in the news, he senses DiGrasso is serious about enforcing the new immigration law and has to consider whether to pull up stakes and move to another state or even return to Mexico after years away.

The book’s seminal event is perhaps its most realistic prospect: a legal challenge to DiGrasso’s immigration law survives to the Supreme Court, which rules that it goes too far in its restrictions. The governor’s open defiance of the Court’s decision leads to protests and calls for his impeachment by California opposition leaders. Unsurprisingly, Victoria relates how some in DiGrasso’s own party are too weak-willed or blinded by political opportunism to stand up for a state’s right to enforce its own laws.

The accurate detail continues in the depiction of DiGrasso’s dealings with a skeptical, questioning press around the country. The harsh questioning from penny-ante television “legal experts” is expertly dissected by DiGrasso, whose confident answers – ones which cite well the Founders’ original intent – make you wish DiGrasso was a real governor putting these personalities in their place.

As the book continues on, both protagonists wrestle with a number of moral dilemmas. Castellanos finds he’s a good salesman of the forged documents, but keeping that job secret from his wife and staying one step ahead of the law takes its toll – yet to stop the activity exposes him to the prospect of additional harm. Similar family issues also leave DiGrasso wavering on whether to continue his defiant stance or find compromise with those who claim the law is too difficult on immigrant families simply searching for a better life.

I read The Founder’s Plot over several sittings, but it was crafted in such a way that getting deeper into it made it harder to put down. Running at 341 pages, Victoria puts together a gripping tale full of twists and turns which can’t be anticipated, leaving the reader trying to guess how the story would come out. The ending turns out to involve the President and may come as a pleasant surprise given the caliber of politicians and entities involved.

While Victoria has a degree in journalism and experience in the writing field as a longtime newsletter writer and editor, it’s a giant leap to writing fiction in a believable manner. Perhaps a pickier review would speak more to the lack of development of certain minor characters and subplots which could have been excised from the book, but overall I found The Founder’s Plot to be an excellent political thriller – as I said, the farther I got into it, the harder time I had putting it down. Those who like their fiction taken from the events of today would be well-served to pick up and read Victoria’s debut fictional effort.

A slightly different version of this is crossposted at Watchdog Wire.

The influx

In this time of crisis on the southern border, it’s worth having an idea of what the long-term effects can be. While the source of the information is the immigration hardliners at the Center for Immigration Studies, the figures don’t lie. This is particularly noteworthy as Maryland is one of the top destination states for immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.

So the trends are disturbing, as most of the statistics cited by CIS would suggest the influx of illegal aliens would be a drain on the system – among current immigrants from those nations, they are more likely to be lacking a high school diploma and either live in poverty and/or be enrolled in some sort of welfare program despite holding a job at about the same proportion as native-born Americans.

Granted, the CIS figures are released by an entity that bills itself as “low-immigration, pro-immigrant.” But imagine that 20,000 of these new immigrants find their way to Maryland – what does that mean for the state’s financial situation? This is particularly troubling long-term as the Anthony Brown platform includes at least $9.15 million in state money to give student loans to children of illegal aliens. Obviously more such children will mean more of a strain on that program as well as other supplemental income programs Maryland taxpayers already provide.

For too long business has looked the other way as illegal aliens came in, willing to take jobs for lower wages than the native-born. But now the conditions are a little different because the use of child labor is frowned upon and a larger proportion of those crossing the border are minors, many of whom are unaccompanied.

Having an immigrant underclass is nothing new in American history. Leading into the Great Depression, the immigrant population hovered around 13 to 15 percent before declining under 10 percent for most of the remainder of the 20th century. In fact, we are only now beginning to reach the point where we were a century ago insofar as percentage is concerned.

But the question going forward is whether they will assimilate as well as their European forefathers did, and based on how we’ve done over the last 30 years since the Simpson-Mazzoli amnesty, I can’t see the new wave of immigrants doing much to become Americans. Yet they don’t mind accepting our dollars.

GOP race for governor turns negative

For most of the last year or so since the first two candidates made it official, the race for the GOP nomination for governor has been relatively genteel. But in the waning days before the primary, the campaign has gone downhill fast. Some would argue the decline started with the Change Maryland/Hogan-Rutherford allegations, but I thought it was a legitimate question because there is a gap between Hogan’s formal announcement and the accounting for his campaign.

But I found it interesting that an e-mail from the address “mdfreedom2014@gmail.com” came to me last evening, alleging the following. It is untouched from its original, with the exception of moving links for flow:

I’ve been following the primary for governor with increasing alarm — Larry Hogan is hoodwinking us. He sounds like a republican but when you actually hear his personal feelings, he’s an Obama Democrat. I was even more upset this morning when I heard he was supporting and promising to uphold gay marriage. It’s ridiculous that we can’t get someone who will defend marraige (sic) at its most basic level. He also seems to be fine with Obamacare and I’ve been told he supports abortion and refuses to stand up for life.

I’m sending you the most disturbing part though and people really need to understand how DANGEROUS this is!! There’s video of Hogan telling the baltimore sun how he supports opening up our borders to illegal immigrants. He also seems perfectly fine with the illegal dream act enticing illegal immigrants to come to maryland. I mean just read that whole last article.

We have a unique opportunity right now to nominate a real conservative patriot to stand up against the O’Malley tax regime, and if we nominate a moderate who’s too weak to present a contrast we’ll blow it completely. Marylanders NEED to understand how dangerous Hogan will be in office and we NEED to get out the word.

For the first part, I don’t see the correlation between the 14-second clip “freedom60″ on YouTube gleaned from the Baltimore Sun forum and the allegation. As I heard Hogan say on the clip:

I think we ought to make it a fair and balanced process for people to legally immigrate to the United States. I like the fact we’re a beacon of freedom and opportunity, that people want to come here.

It’s not making sure they are legal before they receive driver’s licenses or encouraging 287 (g) enforcement, but I don’t see that as throwing open the borders, either. The case against Larry, though, is made a little stronger given this from the Carroll County Times:

While O’Malley and Maryland lawmakers have taken up a host of social issues such as same-sex marriage and allowing people who are not in the country legally to pay in-state tuition if they have paid state taxes, Hogan isn’t interested in trying to make any changes on those issues.

“It’s not something we need to revisit at all,” Hogan said, adding that voters approved both of those laws on the ballot in 2012.

Well, voters can be hoodwinked – after all, a slim majority voted against their best interests on a host of issues in 2012, beginning at the top and working down.

It’s been apparent from a few weeks into the campaign that Larry Hogan was more centrist than the rest, which is why he studiously avoided making statements on several key issues and skipped forums where such questions could be asked. Message control has been key, even on two mailers I’ve received over the last few days. They both say essentially the same thing, although his idea of “reforming” Common Core on one morphed into putting a “halt” to Common Core for the second. He also went from the original “spending-first approach” to “lower taxes” to “lowering taxes across the board.” I think the polling is showing that approach resonates with voters.

Not to say Hogan is immune, since some of his most prominent backers stretched way out on a limb to equate a bad vote on a bill with support of a mileage tax which was proposed much later – an attack picked up by the Maryland Liberty PAC, making for some odd bedfellows in the Maryland political world.

But rather than work on catching the first place contender, David Craig must be hearing footsteps from behind. It’s an effort to make conservatives question Charles Lollar.

Craig Lollar mailer

It’s unfortunate that Craig doesn’t list the documentation on these charges, but I can review all three as Lollar threw an unnamed “former campaign staffer” under the bus for the NRA grade, a naivete on how Planned Parenthood can shift money around, and a promise to “push forward” with the Purple Line in front of a pro-transit audience after being against it elsewhere.

This is the quote regarding Planned Parenthood that I’m sure Craig used, from the Gazette:

(Lollar) said he would make sure groups such as Planned Parenthood could not use any tax dollars to pay for abortions, although they still could receive and use public money for other women’s health services.

Ask yourself: if someone paid your car payment, wouldn’t it be easier to spend your income on groceries? If government pays for “other women’s health services” then PP has more money to provide abortions. It’s that simple, and remember – the card simply says Charles “supports funding Planned Parenthood with taxpayer’s money.”

But Lollar struck back with his own e-mail:

When you hear accusations about me such as those that appeared in a campaign postcard distributed by another Republican candidate recently, please ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who was on NBC 4 last Sunday boldly stating my position against the Purple Line. How could I possibly be in favor of spending $5 billion on it? Watch the debate (at 27:00).
  • Who just received an endorsement from Protect Marriage Maryland, the only Republican gubernatorial candidate to receive their endorsement? In the words of the endorsement,“there is no other ticket that will defend marriage and protect our religious rights to the same degree that the Lollar-Timmerman ticket will.” How could I possibly allow Planned Parenthood to use taxpayer dollars for abortions? (You can also view the PMM endorsement on their website.) (Emphasis in original.)

Regarding the Purple Line, I suppose it depends on the definition of “affordable.” He’s also taken to using the hashtag #BratTheVote, referring to Dave Brat’s recent upset of Eric Cantor in Virginia.

Still, I wish the four had stuck to defining and attacking the real enemy: the Maryland Democratic Party machine.

Lots of guv news

It worked out that something came to my attention from all four gubernatorial candidates in the last few hours to couple days, so I decided to go through them in polling order.

This mean’s Larry Hogan‘s comments about our state’s moribund economy lead things off. In response to a U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis report that Maryland’s state GDP did not budge over the last year, Hogan said:

Today, the Federal Government confirmed what Marylanders have long known:  Our economy is dead in the water.  The tax and spend policies and mismanagement of the Martin O’Malley and Anthony Brown years have destroyed jobs and are driving residents and employers out of state.  It’s time to end one-party rule and get Maryland’s economy moving again.

The state’s economy was all but stagnant in 2013, essentially unchanged from 2012. Only the District of Columbia and Alaska did worse, as both of those went into a statewide recession. And while it can be argued that the government shutdown had a negative impact on the region – as noted, the District of Columbia lost economic ground and Virginia only eked out 0.1% growth – it just points out the need for Maryland to diversify its economy and not just be the home for government workers along the I-95 corridor.

Meanwhile, David Craig attempted to shore up support in western Maryland by announcing an endorsement from former Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, who called Craig:

…the only candidate for governor that has a record of accomplishment. He has cut taxes, cut the size of the government, and vigorously opposed gun control legislation as a member of the General Assembly, which has earned him an “A” rating from the NRA. No other candidate has fought for our conservative values like him. No other candidate has the experience to lead our state like he does. I am proud to endorse David Craig for Governor, he will be our voice in Annapolis.

Bartlett has gained a lot of respect from voters in that region of the state over the years, so this isn’t a bad thing to have in your pocket. Of course, it’s not going to make up all of the ground David needs to gain on Larry Hogan, but it helps shore up a portion of the state which is somewhat up for grabs as it has no favorite son in the race.

The Charles Lollar camp took heart in Dave Brat’s Virginia win on Tuesday night:

You just saw it in Virginia: Eric Cantor outspent his opponent by 40-to-1 and was defeated in a landslide in yesterday’s primary.

Why? Because Cantor was out of touch with the Republican base, and because Dave Brat’s volunteers were passionate – just as you are!

Don’t let Establishment Republicans in Maryland steal your victory from you for a few dollars.

They’ve also touted endorsements from several minority groups:

I was thrilled last night at the reception I was given at the First Baptist Church of Glenarden, one of the largest churches in Prince Georges County.

And this came right after Ken and I were endorsed by the Business & Clergy Partnership of Prince Georges County, a group that represents 300 predominantly black churches and small businesses.

Now the latter becomes interesting after I found this item. Perhaps the Prince George’s group is making an endorsement in both primaries, but the Maryland branch endorsed Doug Gansler first. Charles may do well in Prince George’s County, but unless he was handing out lots of voter registration change cards prior to the June 3 deadline, there may not be a Lollar on the November ballot for whom to vote.

And then we come to Ron George, who is definitely pulling out all the stops here. He’s also jumped on the Dave Brat bandwagon by making a late issue of illegal immigration by pledging to restore a lawful presence requirement for driver’s licenses. Said Ron:

Maryland cannot afford to once again be giving driver’s licenses to those unlawfully present in the state. The current two-tier system offers no protections. A driver’s license is the recognized ID card throughout the United States. The second tier may help to keep someone out of federal buildings, but it does nothing to protect Marylanders from criminals and others who are unlawfully present.

A terrorist or even a sexual predator on the national registry can come here under a new name, and we do not check their status. Our proximity to Washington, D.C., as well as our airports, harbor, tunnels and bridges means Maryland needs a governor who will lead. The George/Aloi Administration will get Maryland back to lawfully present secure driver’s licenses and observe the federal and state rule of law.

I don’t quite get the last sentence (perhaps he needed the quotation marks as written below) but the idea is sound. Ron also provides some helpful background:

Ron George won a three year fight for “Lawfully Present, Secure Driver’s Licenses” in 2009, but O’Malley, Busch and Miller overturned it in 2013.

In 2008 and 2009, Ron George proved Maryland had handed Driver’s Licenses to MS 13 gang members. When terrorists were caught in other states planning attacks on military bases, they had Maryland drivers licenses. Prince George’s Emergency Hospital System was going under from the large influx of undocumented immigrants who didn’t pay for services and hundreds of millions were spent to keep it afloat. There were lines around Motor Vehicle Administration locations (MVA’s) everyday.  Now, once again, we have an enormous backlog of applicants at the MVA.

And then we have this from the Ron George “grooveyard of forgotten favorites”:

Hey, it got a little bit of media love from the folks at Rare – but still has fewer than 700 views. It’s the kind of thing he could have used back in April – maybe things would have turned out differently.

And this is just a couple days’ worth. But don’t forget – in a couple hours early voting begins around the state. And if I may be so bold as to make a campaign plug – and yes, there is an authority line on this website – Wicomico County GOP voters should make sure they get to page 2 on the ballot. Central Committee is the final office listed, and my name is second-to-last this time (in 2006 and 2010 I was listed last.) Whether you “bullet vote” just one or select nine, I’d appreciate it if my name was among those you select. And spread the word!

In a wringer

Oh no, here comes that big bad TEA Party again. And the Democrats are using it as a fundraiser:

I’ve been working in Virginia politics for a long time, but I’ve never seen anything like what happened tonight.

Seriously: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor just lost his primary to a Tea Party challenger. Eric Cantor — Eric. Freaking. Cantor. — is officially too moderate to win the nomination of the Republican Party. And the results are not even close!

The Tea Party isn’t just alive and well — it’s taken wholesale control of the GOP.

We’ve got to stop these guys, and here’s why: If they think that the House under Eric Cantor is too moderate, you can only imagine what Congress will look like if they win this November.

Those were the words of Mo Elleithee, DNC Communications Director. So I guess Matt Bevin and J.D. Winteregg won post-election recounts over Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, respectively, while Lindsey “Grahamnesty” Graham found a way to lose to one of a host of wannabe contenders last night. Oh wait, they didn’t?

I only wish the TEA Party had “wholesale control” of the GOP, but the facts aren’t there. Certainly we can move the needle a little to the right with Eric Cantor out, but this is hype. However, the Cantor defeat also should serve as a warning to Beltway insiders that there is a huge amount of frustration with GOP leadership right now.

The base does not – I repeat, DOES NOT – want any sort of amnesty, and they don’t want to tinker around the edges of Obamacare, they want it gone. It matters not that the House is only half the Congress because they hold the power of the purse, and there are a lot of conservatives out there who found the Republican leadership was too spineless to stand for principle on that front, as the insiders kept pushing off a confrontation until it was too late and they had zero leverage.

Unlike Mitch McConnell, whose opponent’s campaign imploded in the final weeks, or the split opposition to Boehner and Graham, there was only one challenger to Cantor and the TEA Party coalesced around Dave Brat enough to get him over the primary finish line. That seems to be the key in these races.

The real test, though, will be in November. Let’s hope the TEA Party rises to put an end to failed Washington leadership from both parties.

For Governor

Every two years we hear the shopworn sentiment that “this is the most important election of our lives.” Okay, I wouldn’t go quite that far for Maryland in 2014, but the choice we have is clear: we can continue on a path where our fair state continues to become lock, stock, and barrel a ward of the federal government, conducted for the benefit of those who exist solely to suckle from the government teat, or we can turn our state around by diversifying the economy, restoring agriculture to a prominent position instead of favored environmentalist whipping boy, and making ourselves more prosperous by having government reach its grubby hands into our collective pockets less often.

I think any of the four Republicans can take steps in the right direction, but there are a large number of issues I care about and this is where Larry Hogan fails my test. His single-minded devotion to staying on an economic message is one thing, but it leaves me scratching my head about how he would govern when it came to other important issues. Even in its endorsement of Hogan for the GOP nod, the Washington Post noted that:

Given the time he’s had to plan his run, his campaign is glaringly short on policy specifics, and his views on education, health care and the environment are gauzy at best.

In other words, we just know that he wants to change Maryland. Well, so do I, and I have the little oval sticker on my car to prove it. But I’m just a writer and I’m not in charge of much of anything – he wants to run the state. Yet I’ll bet I’ve proposed more policy specifics than he has.

Another troubling aspect of a potential Hogan administration is that it would be the long-lost second term of Bob Ehrlich. Yes, Bob was a Republican governor, but he took pride in his bipartisanship, and Larry Hogan was instrumental in that because he helped to appoint all the Democrats who helped to undermine the Ehrlich term. Why is it only our side is called upon to be bipartisan?

There’s no doubt that Hogan has the best financial situation of any GOP challenger, but it came at a steep price. And why do I sense there’s a smoking gun someplace in the transition between Change Maryland – which was an outstanding foil to Martin O’Malley, bringing a lot of valuable economic data to public scrutiny – and the Hogan for Governor campaign? Obviously there was the wink and a nod from early on that Change Maryland was the vehicle for the eventual Hogan campaign but it really seems more and more like his organization was just a Potemkin village, bought and paid for out of Hogan’s back pocket.

I don’t want to elect the governor before we know what’s in him – we tried that once on a national scale and see how successful that was.

And then we have Charles Lollar, whose stance on many issues is quite appealing to me. I like the idea of eliminating the income tax in particular, but I notice in the interim he’s backed off his onetime priority of cutting out all federal grants – $10.557 billion worth in FY2015 – into Maryland’s budget.

But that’s not all he’s backed away from. On the NRA front, he blamed a lot of factors before throwing an unnamed campaign staffer under the bus. Listen, I understand Charles is for the Second Amendment and this seems fair enough to me, but some of the conspiracies I’ve heard on this issue from his staunch supporters boggle my mind.

Yet on the campaign trail he’s revealed a populist (as opposed to conservative) strain and tendency to pander to the audience in front of him. Take these two examples:

In an interview in September 2013 with Real Clear Markets, it was said about Charles that:

Lollar is opposed to the Purple Line, a $2.2 billion 16-mile rail project that even the richest Maryland residents are not prepared to pay for. It can only be built with substantial federal and state subsidies, as yet unappropriated: $900 million from Uncle Sam, $400 million from Maryland, and the rest from who knows where. The Purple Line is disliked by some residents because it would displace a popular walking and bike trail, but supported by developers because they think it would enhance the value of commercial property. Instead, Lollar favors small buses, which have high per-person pick-up rates.

Yet just a few months later at a Montgomery County transportation forum:

Of course we want better opportunities, better modes of transportation – a diverse collection of different ways to get back and forth to work. Livable, workable, playable communities where you can actually live, work, and play in the same place and have a legitimate conversation with yourself in the morning whether to walk or drive your bike to work and get there on time.

I think (the Purple Line) is absolutely doable. The question is – is it affordable? If it is, let’s push forward.

So which is it?

Now I definitely commend Charles for making the effort to go where Republicans fear to tread – even though he’s also been quoted as saying:

He said he is frustrated with “the Republican brand,” but chose to run as a Republican because his character and ideals most align with that party, he said.

As a whole, while he’s eliminated most of the missteps from his early campaign, I’m not sold on the hype that Lollar is the “only candidate who can win.” He has strong grassroots support in some areas, but very little money to get out his message, On Friday I received an e-mail from the Lollar campaign which claimed that:

We already have pledges from the Republican Governors’ Association and other outside groups to throw millions more into the race.

It’s not so much the RGA, which I would expect to remain neutral in a primary, but if those outside groups are so enamored with Charles, why aren’t they donating to get him through the primary? In a nutshell, it’s the story of the Lollar campaign: over-promise and under-deliver.

Early on, it seemed to me the choice was going to come down to David Craig or Ron George. So let’s run down an issue-by-issue comparison.

  • On election reform, Ron George has done more to work out issues with LLC contributions and increased the allowable individual contribution limit to a particular campaign for the next cycle. David Craig will look into voter fraud.
  • Both are willing to fight to overturn the law allowing illegal immigrants to have Maryland driver licenses, and Craig added his support of E-Verify.
  • While Craig would tweak around the edges of Obamacare, George has promised to join other GOP governors in fighting it.
  • Both candidates support opening up the western end of the state to fracking, but George also wants to build a single demonstration wind turbine off Ocean City as Virginia has proposed. I would let Virginia have its boondoggle.
  • With his background in education and opposition to Common Core, that area is perhaps Craig’s strongest. Originally Ron George was against Common Core; he still is but concedes “a repeal ain’t going to happen” in Maryland. I say that’s why we need a leader who concedes nothing. On the other hand, Ron has some good proposals to help private school students and I love his emphasis on vocational education.
  • Both would work to repeal 2013′s Senate Bill 281, although Craig is more vocal about supporting concealed carry.
  • Personally I would love to see David Craig repeal the Critical Areas Act and other overly restrictive environmental measures – as far as I’m concerned the Chesapeake Bay Foundation needs to be put in its place. I sincerely hope this is not a case of running right for the primary and tacking back to the center, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if this wasn’t a hit piece from the Sun that quoted him out of context. (This is especially true when Harford County was in ICLEI for a time.) Unfortunately, Ron George assisted in putting a lot of bad law in place during his first legislative term, but he’s also correctly noted much of the Bay’s problem lies in the silt stuck behind Conowingo Dam. He’s also refrained from supporting more recent O’Malley bills.
  • Craig would lean heavily on the Republican Governors Association in terms of initiative to limit government, but he would prefer to bring more of it back to the county level. George agrees, but would lean heavily on independent audits to better define government spending (and its role). Then again, David Craig would get rid of speed cameras.
  • Craig would center his job creation strategy on the state’s economic development office, but would also prefer each county set its own minimum wage. George’s strategy employs tax cuts on business, but also would employ regional-level planning with a focus on Baltimore City and additional incentives for manufacturing jobs in smaller cities such as Salisbury.
  • The two candidates differ on their taxation strategy, though. While Craig wants to eliminate the income tax (along with reducing the corporate tax), George doesn’t take it as far.

In both cases, there’s a lot to like although the strengths and weaknesses are slightly different. To be perfectly honest, it’s too bad we can’t have these two rolled into one super-candidate with the good ideas and aptitudes from both. But we each only get one vote, so I have to look at two other factors.

It’s truly unfortunate that state law prohibited Ron George from raising money during the legislative session, because it’s a law which has crippled him to this day. I’m sure he went into this with eyes open and was hoping to do better on fundraising last year before the session began, but it is what it is. With just a low five-figure amount in the bank at this juncture it’s going to be exceedingly hard for him to get a message out, although hopefully the other three losing candidates will assist the winner financially as much as possible. While he’s not in the catbird seat financially, David Craig should be in a good enough position to be competitive.

But perhaps the decision which sealed it for the man I’m endorsing was made early on. As we have seen with the current administration, the office of lieutenant governor can be useful – or it can be a hindrance. The rollout of the state health exchange proved Anthony Brown was a hindrance, and that’s why I think the early decision by David Craig to secure Jeannie Haddaway as a running mate makes the difference. Shelley Aloi is a very nice and gracious lady, but I didn’t get the sense of confidence she could handle the job when voters in Frederick rejected her mayoral bid. I just got the feeling she wasn’t Ron’s first choice, but he made the best decision he could at such a late juncture.

This campaign has been one of attrition – I’ve been a fan of Larry Hogan’s Change Maryland since its inception, and love the passion Charles Lollar brings to the stump. But in examining them over the course of the campaign, I’ve been left wanting. And if Ron George had made one or two decisions during the campaign a little differently, I may have been writing his name a few sentences from now. The overall decision was really that close, and if things work out that way I could enthusiastically support Ron as well. It reminds me of the 2012 GOP Senate race between Dan Bongino and Richard Douglas as, despite my eventual support for Bongino, I would have been quite comfortable if either had won because they both brought great assets to the table.

Two years ago, I saw David Craig as a moderate, establishment choice. Sure, in many respects he still is, but when it comes down to where he stands on the issues and the position he’s currently in, I think he could be the first of two great leaders for Maryland. 2014 is a good time to start the ball rolling on a new, improved Free State.

David Craig for Governor.

An overstatement by Sauerbrey?

Writing recently about the concept of “prevailing wage,” two-time gubernatorial candidate Ellen Sauerbrey used the letter to the editor to praise her apparent choice for governor, David Craig. Here’s the letter in its entirety, as posted on Southern Maryland News Net. I received it as an e-mail under Craig’s campaign letterhead.

I want to point out a specific passage for comment, in particular the one where Sauerbrey speaks about Craig himself and attributes statements to him.

The 2014 General Assembly has passed legislation to apply the prevailing wage to additional local government projects that receive partial state funding. The prevailing wage which is essentially the union wage, artificially inflates labor costs by ab (sic) estimated 30% to 50%.

I commend Harford County Executive and Gubernatorial candidate David Craig for speaking out on the impact of the new law on his county, as well as the impact of prevailing wages on the state budget. Every local elected official concerned about getting the most value on public projects should want to let the market determine employee wages as is done in the private sector. County Executive Craig points out that the prevailing wage adds an additional $30 million cost to his county’s $300 million capital budget for school construction.

It may not surprise you that I have some familiarity with school construction. In the 1990s, thanks to a court decision, the state of Ohio went on a multi-billion dollar spending binge to construct new schools in practically every one of Ohio’s 600-plus school districts. (I spent seven years working for an architectural firm which specialized in schools, although I had left that company before the boom in school construction began.) In 1997 the state created an exemption to prevailing wage regulations for schools, and in that debate numbers similar to the 30 to 50 percent savings were bandied about by proponents of the measure eliminating prevailing wage.

Also mandated at the time, however, was a report to be delivered five years later, in 2002. In this report, the research indicated savings were more in the ten percent range. While that is a great savings to the taxpayer, it’s not the panacea proponents were anticipating when the bill was passed. Granted, with the vast volume of work going on at the time there was less incentive for low bids – perhaps an economic climate such as today’s would yield more significant savings.

While Sauerbrey uses the hyperbole of the 50 percent savings in her letter, it should be pointed out that David Craig’s statement within seems to ring true – out of $300 million, the $30 million addition seems to line up with the data from Ohio’s study.

But regardless of the actual savings, there is a philosophical argument to be made against the concept of an artificially-created “prevailing” wage, simply because it doesn’t necessarily reflect the true conditions of the actual labor market. I can completely understand the contention that projects completed under prevailing wage (more often than not by union shops) have a better quality to them, as one advantage of using union tradesmen borne out in my experience is that they are better trained, so the question is one of whether they are worth the premium. In some cases I would say yes, but I’m not sure schools are structures complex enough to justify the extra cost – certainly not to the extent of a health care facility or technology-heavy factory where fit and finish can be most important.

I also find it interesting that on the one hand Democrats tend to be for cherished union giveaways like prevailing wage, but do nothing on the other but encourage illegal aliens to come in and undercut the market for construction labor. I haven’t seen them yet this spring, but sooner or later somewhere on Delmarva there will be three or four union carpenters holding up the “shame on” banner because someone hired non-union labor most likely mainly made up of illegal aliens. And what else do those hapless guys have to do?

In a perfect world, many advocacy groups agree that the Davis-Bacon Act which spawned the concept of prevailing wage would be repealed. (At one time even the General Accounting Office argued for repeal.) There is even a bill in the House of Representatives to do the same, although no action has been taken on it since introduction. (And why not?) Eliminating the federal law may well trigger some states to do away with their own versions, although if you assume Maryland politics will remain as they’re currently composed for the next couple decades you won’t find us on that list. (As I pointed out yesterday, we threaten liberals’ existence on the government teat and they know it.)

But it should be a job for General Assembly Republicans to try and roll back this year’s changes in the next session. In the meantime, while 10 percent may not seem like a lot, imagine a ten percent cut in the state budget – it would roll our expenditures back to FY2013 levels and just about negate the need for our sales tax, which is 11% of revenue according to our most recent budget. That wouldn’t be a rollback to 5%, it would be eliminating the whole enchilada to match Delaware. Or we could cut our income taxes in half.

Ten percent is a lot, even in the limited realm of state construction, and to me it’s better that the people have it than the government. In the case of the capital budget, it’s less bonding we have to pass along to our children. So let’s hope a Governor Craig would have the stiff spine to fight for such a change to prevailing wage, even if Ellen Sauerbrey was a little overly optimistic on its effects.

Sending a message

A confluence of factors gives certain residents of the Eastern Shore an additional opportunity to make their feelings known on issues near and dear to conservative hearts everywhere.

Let me preface this by mentioning something from an e-mail I received from Heritage Action:

On January 29th, the House Republican Conference will begin its annual retreat to discuss its legislative agenda: their plans for piecemeal (immigration) reform will undoubtedly be the subject of much debate. All Sentinels are encouraged to contact their Members of Congress in advance of this strategy session to remind them to oppose all piecemeal amnesty bills.

Well, consider this my contact. But I also had an idea, based loosely on those who have been decorating overpasses with various political messages.

My friends in Dorchester County probably already know this, but the annual retreat Heritage Action alludes to is being held at the Hyatt resort in Cambridge. The setting is no stranger to political gatherings; on a few occasions the Democrats have used the facility and it also was the location of the first GOP state convention I ever attended (as a guest) in 2006. It also bears retelling the story about the first time I ever came here, to interview for the job which brought me to the Eastern Shore in 2004. I knew I’d like the area because it was like home: flat, dotted with little towns, and conservative – at least based on all the Bush/Cheney signs I saw up and down U.S. 50.

But there are no overpasses to decorate once U.S. 50 and U.S. 301 part ways in Queen Anne’s County. So perhaps in the next few days those who have message boards, yard signs from old campaigns, or other ways to convey opinion may want to place a sign along U.S. 50 between the Bay Bridge and Cambridge. (An alternative can be along the roads between the Dorchester airport and the Hyatt in case they fly over, but I suspect most will drive the couple hours.) Imagine seeing mile after mile of a “No Amnesty” message – think they may get the hint?

Obviously the GOP wants to spend time in its own enclave: presumably the entire resort is rented for this purpose, thus for the most part closing it to the public. But they can’t control the entire 80 miles or so that they have to traverse, and the message can be broadcast to ignore us at your peril.

Competing views on manufacturing

As a follow up and way to revise and extend remarks on Friday’s post about the Alliance for American Manufacturing, I decided to dig a little bit more into who they are and what they are proposing. The idea of “Made in America” is a sound one, for a number of reasons, but as I pointed out the AAM seems to have many of its eggs in the protectionist basket. To some extent, they have a case: even their attempt to furnish their Washington, D.C. office with exclusively American-made goods fell a little short:

Our tour began in one of the small offices, where (AAM executive director Scott) Paul showed off a desk from Washington state. But things took a turn downhill from there, when we got to the products on the desk.

“You can’t find phones, video display terminals,” says Paul. “I mean, none of that is American-made.” Paul couldn’t find American-made computers, either, though that may change following Apple’s announcement that it plans to make some Macs in the United States.

But then I found an entire AAM-backed legislative agenda, for which they linked to this subpage on the website of Delaware’s junior Senator Chris Coons. In it, we find a number of top-down legislative proposals in the areas of skills training, exports, access to capital, and “conditions necessary for growth.” At the time of its last update, about half of these proposals hadn’t been introduced as bills, with the last introduced bill being S.1400 in July of this year – either the website is not often updated or these proposals have languished on the back burner of a do-nothing, obstructionist Senate. This to me is quite telling as most of the sponsors are Democrats, who have the majority in the body.

It should be pointed out, too, that the Alliance for American Manufacturing is the brainchild of the United Steelworkers union and a “select group of America’s leading manufacturers.” The list of this select group isn’t widely disseminated, but the AAM describes that:

Leo Gerard, the International President of the United Steelworkers, and CEOs of Steelworker-represented manufacturers understood that. These leaders launched AAM in 2007 to build on the success of the “Stand Up For Steel” coalition.

The roots of that coalition date back to the 1990s, so this fight is an old one under a relatively new name since the AAM was founded in 2007. Essentially it’s a union partnership with the closed shops under its wing; a business-labor pact in name only.

Now that you understand its roots, it becomes more clear why they prescribe their menu of solutions. The steel industry is long known as a bastion of protectionism, given the charges of foreign steel dumping a decade or so back.

So are there any other solutions out there? The competing group to AAM is the National Association of Manufacturers, a group whose board is representative of over 200 industrial leaders. Their vision is somewhat different than that of the union-backed organization, although there are elements of protectionism and top-down dictates in their plan as well. Most worrisome to me is their advocacy for immigration reform, which is needed but must be done in such a manner that law-breaking is not rewarded at the expense of those who went about it in the correct manner.

Yet NAM makes one sound point:

Because of our tax, tort, energy and regulatory policies, it is 20 percent more expensive to do business in the United States than it is in the countries that are our nine largest trading partners — and that excludes the cost of labor.

And it’s not like the problem is new, particularly here in Maryland. I mentioned Friday that Ron George is perhaps the gubernatorial candidate most attuned to the problem (David Craig has his own plan as well), although all but one of the players involved at the time had their say at an October manufacturing summit. Moreover, outgoing Governor Martin O’Malley was even forced to pay lip service to the issue.

But we have had this discussion for several years, and the prescriptions which were suggested a half-decade ago languished on the bookshelf while Maryland developed a growing reputation as a state hostile to business. It’s sort of strange that what I wrote on Friday – as a person who had never seen this report – nailed their first point about “a competitive and stable business environment.” They also talked about the need for a “balanced approach” to energy rather than the heavy emphasis on renewables, which is another pet peeve of mine. (Little did they know at the time the report was compiled – just five short years ago – that America and a portion of Maryland were sitting on an energy gold mine.)

In short, the solutions to the problem seem to be there and many fall into the conservative, pro-liberty camp. If we tell the radical environmentalists and regulators to go pound sand because we have work to do, chances are more of us would indeed have more work to do and more prosperity to spread around.

2014 Maryland dossier: part 3 (illegal immigration)

Now I’ll turn my attention to illegal immigration, another subject which suffers from a lack of attention and detail thus far. Then again, the issue is more cut and dried.

**********

David Craig: I will seek to overturn the state law enabling illegal immigrants to receive driver’s licenses. (campaign website)

*

On illegal immigration, he expressed support for the e-verify program. (Northern Prince George’s Republican Club meeting, February 2013(?)) (Note: Harford County adopted it in 2007.)

Ron George: (S)tates should not encourage those that come here illegally and those who have become illegal due to expired visas or are undocumented. States must resist providing these illegal aliens Driver’s Licenses, In-State Tuition, free public services, or the allowance for over capacitated group houses in neighborhoods that are otherwise zoned. Encouragement of these activities strains the infrastructure of communities while perpetuating a larger increase of illegal immigration. (campaign website)

*

But while others emphasized George’s support for such issues as requiring legal residence for immigrants to obtain a driver’s license…(Maryland Reporter, June 6, 2013)

*

Ron also co-sponsored a statewide E-Verify bill in 2012 and 2013.

Charles Lollar: (question) Do you believe Maryland county police forces should follow Frederick County’s example and seek ICE training?

Lollar: ”Frederick Co Example – This example should be seen as a benchmark for Maryland counties and states across our nation.  Although opponents feel this is profiling, I completely disagree! The FC model simply checks those who have been arrested for illegal activity and those arresting such individuals are trained by the ICT to conduct these checks of legality.” (Blue Ridge Forum, November 20, 2009)

*

In 2010, running for Congress, Lollar received a “True Reformer” rating from NumbersUSA.

**********

As you may recall, I was dead-set against the in-state tuition for illegal aliens. Personally I think that those here illegally should be sent home, and if they want to come back they should do it the correct way. It’s only fair to those who have taken the steps to become Americans through legal methods, and are we not a nation of laws? I understand people want a better life and I certainly don’t blame them for coming to America, but those who go through the legal channels generally become some of our best and brightest citizens – particularly if they’ve emigrated from an oppressive homeland. Those who come illegally have to continue being illegal to get along; for example, it’s nothing for them to offer money for a valid Social Security number as happened to a friend of mine.

So no driver’s licenses or special favors for those who came in without permission and unpersecuted. Needless to say, Democrats don’t talk about this issue because they’re the ones who encouraged the mess in the first place.

David Craig takes a couple important first steps in the process, although I’m certain many in the business community will work against him on E-Verify. Yet he overcame any opposition in Harford County, so I will give him 3 out of 5 points for the promising beginning.

Of the three, Ron George provides the best of these (limited) responses. But once elected (and as I mentioned above) I would hope the candidates work to reverse the Question 4 debacle Maryland voters unwisely upheld in their emotional outburst last year. If Ron is out to resist the other aspects of illegal immigration, he needs to show leadership on that part of it too.

But there’s one item where George somewhat contradicts his tough talk. Remember on Sunday when I discussed education and one of Ron’s points was:

By the creation of charter schools where immigration numbers are high and test scores are dropping such as in Montgomery County so that the immigrant population can receive education tailored to help them get acclimated into their new society, addressing language and other needs while other students can concentrate on their needs.

Wouldn’t that fall under a “free public service” for illegal aliens? I downgrade him slightly for that idea, but otherwise I get the impression Ron is a hawk on this issue so he gets 3.5 points of 5.

Despite the fact Charles Lollar talked about this issue on a national level, the fact he received a good grade from Numbers USA gives me confidence he will lead in the right direction. But I need more specifics, so he picks up 2 of 5 points.

Next week I’m getting back into this with energy issues.

Where to draw the line?

November 1, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Politics · 3 Comments 

In 52 weeks from Tuesday, Marylanders will go to the polls to decide the fate of their state government for the next four years. How long that four years will seem to Maryland Republicans will hinge on the results.

But there are a lot of people already pondering the message the party should put across, or even whether they can. Take Richard Falknor at Blue Ridge Forum for example, who wrote today:

Our take: there is a broad culturally conservative base in the Old Line State, as well as a deep reservoir of those who quite rightly believe they are vastly overtaxed and overregulated. Understandably, many of these citizens have found the state Republican Party ineffective. How congenial is the G.O.P. to Blue Collar Maryland of all ethnicities when its chair here and the sole Republican U.S. Representative here flirt with amnesty? And why run the business risks of joining the opposition party in a one-dominant-party state if that opposition party has few fixed principles and won’t make serious trouble for the dominant party anyway?

The Maryland GOP and its politicians fell far short last year on two unusual outreach opportunities: they failed to put full energy and resources behind the referenda against gay marriage and against in-state tuition for illegals. Both these referenda did better here than governor Mitt Romney in 2012 in Maryland.

The state needs an energetic, organized conservative-grass-roots organization drawn from all parties. But the problem is like the one school reformers face: deciding whether to shut down a failing high school and start a new one with a new team, or to try to rehabilitate the failing school.

Whether to rebuild or replace the Beltway-Establishment-linked Maryland GOP is an open question.

Unfortunately, the question is already answered by the rules written for electioneering, as the two principal parties have distinct advantages over attempting to get on the ballot via a third party or as an independent. Few independents make it to the ballot in a statewide race, with failed onetime Republican Rob Sobhani the most recent example.

So the Maryland GOP it is. But which one?

Is it the group which seems content to be the perpetual opposition party, playing the game as best they can hoping for approval from the dominant side so that the state can move forward in a bipartisan manner? Damn, I hope not.

No, I’m more into the bomb throwers; the type who assumes that in order to make an omelet you have to scramble some eggs. Once the TEA Party came into being I hoped it was the impetus which would shake up a moribund state party which saw its lone Republican incumbent governor in two generations shellacked at the polls, losing one of its two Congressional seats two years later when the national elections gave the other party a stranglehold on the federal government. That was the situation we encountered at the dawn of 2009.

Once the TEA Party got rolling, I was hoping the Maryland Republican Party would embrace it. Instead, they decided the retread who had been pounded four years before was good enough to run again. But the upstart campaign of Brian Murphy brought a new element into the MDGOP  - particularly once Sarah Palin endorsed him – and the 2010 primary results showed just how significant a portion it was. To get 1/4 of the vote against a candidate the state party all but endorsed was an accomplishment.

But the race for party Chair that fall still showed we had a long way to go, with the most overt TEA Party participant receiving only a smattering of votes. It’s funny, though, how turnover in the state party erodes that which most people thought was conventional wisdom because the TEA Party favorite just missed winning the special election for Chair this spring and ended up as First Vice-Chair. Still, observers like Falknor saw it as a Pyrrhic victory at best, choosing to advocate for a different path.

I bring all that history to the fore because 2014 will be the first state election where the TEA Party is more integrated into the political process. We gained experience with the 2010 campaign, but now the hard work begins. And the question we must answer: how can we make sure those in the political middle receive the conservative message? We know the other side tries to smear and obfuscate it as much as possible.

A lot of people say the way to accomplish this is to focus strictly on pocketbook issues. But to me that misses the point – if we’re going to be painted as extremists, why not explain why we feel the way we do instead of being defensive? For example, I’m pro-life and believe life begins at conception because how else would you define when life begins? How is it logical that a child one centimeter away from exiting the birth canal can be murder but once outside is considered human?

On the other hand, though, I feel that those who commit premeditated murder forfeit the right to life through their action, and in so doing deserve the ultimate punishment of the death penalty.

Life is about far more than money and the size of government. It is also up to us to construct the guard rails for our progeny so they stay on a relatively straight and narrow path. Yes, they will have their period of rumspringa but the idea is not to allow them enough rope to hang themselves with.

Liberals will tell us that delving into social issues will keep us from winning elections, but since when do we solicit counsel from an enemy? It would be like John Harbaugh taking play-calling advice from Troy Polamalu. You know, for as far-left a state as Maryland supposedly is, it took a Presidential election against a weak Republican candidate to get more than 50% of the voters to support gay marriage. As I said at the time, that was their best chance because no one wanted it on the 2014 ballot with them,

So I don’t think all discussion of social issues should be off-limits if we use them as a teachable moment. In order to change Maryland to a “purple” state we need to educate the public on the benefits of conservative thought.

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