The end of an era

It’s funny that this Election Day, November 6, came on the day my website renews for another year. I pay my money to midPhase and they keep my website tucked in some crevice on a server farm. Every so often the space I need gets incrementally larger as I make yet another post.

It seemed like this state election cycle was one where I grabbed quite a bit more space despite the fact I resigned from most of my political activity as well as daily updating less than halfway through it. October, however, was the busiest month I’ve had since November of 2016. But after I cleared the 2018 election widget off my sidebar, I found I had a lot of thoughts about how it transpired. This may be a two-part series or it may not – we’ll see as I go along I guess.

The whole “blue wave” phenomenon for 2018 began at the tail end of last year when Virginia voters came within (literally) one vote of wiping out the 32-seat GOP majority in the Virginia House of Delegates and gathered more steam when the Washington Post giftwrapped an Alabama Senate seat for Democrat Doug Jones by printing scurrilous and sensational accusations about Republican candidate Judge Roy Moore at the eleventh hour. (Ironically, as I write this the news of the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who created that opening by leaving the Senate, is still fresh.) Flush with success and assuming that President Trump couldn’t withstand the 90-plus percent of negative coverage he’s received from the media, there were thoughts of Democrats having a wave election on the order of the TEA Party one in 2010 – in fact, it was an even better opportunity because the Senate majority at the time in 2010 was 59-41 Democrat but the 2018 Senate was only 51-49 GOP. Granted, the Democrats had a lot of seats to defend but in those heady days visions of impeachment danced in the heads of the progressives.

As it has turned out, though, the “blue wave” ran into a break wall in the Senate, and gains in the House appear to be only on par with the “average” gains made by the opposition party in the first midterm after a President is elected. It should be pointed out, though, that in the last similar situation – that being George W. Bush and the 2002 midterm – the GOP gained seats in both House (8) and Senate (2).

However, despite gaining the House majority for the first time since the TEA Party wave in 2010, the Democrats still haven’t fully recovered that majority, which was once 258 members. (It looks like they will be in the range of 227 or 228.) Out of a 63-seat loss eight years ago, they’ve only gained back about half – sure, it’s good enough to give them back power but it’s a pretty thin majority from which to work. And you may find there are enough “Blue Dog” Democrats that Republicans may not be totally stymied. In fact, there are analysts out there who think this is the ideal situation for President Trump because he needs an enemy and now the House will be it – the Senate is the more important driver for him because that’s where the judicial selections are confirmed and the GOP still has the majority there. While a GOP trifecta was good, just remember that the TEA Party had for several years the excuse of only controlling 1/2 of 1/3 of the government – now the so-called “progressives” will get to endure that argument for another couple years, anyway.

But let’s talk about the two federal races the Eastern Shore was directly involved in:

  • Pending absentees/provisionals, the only suspense for Andy Harris is whether he will stay north of 60 percent – he’s at 60.5%, beating Democrat Jessie Colvin‘s 37.6% and the 1.9% for Libertarian Jenica Martin.
  • On the other hand, the 31% for Tony Campbell was nowhere near enough to beat Ben Cardin‘s 64.1%. Neal Simon had 3.7% and Libertarian Arvin Vohra is at 1.0%. The latter figure is interesting because the Libertarians need 1% in a statewide race to maintain ballot access and by my count they are 27 votes short of that mark. (Gubernatorial candidate Shawn Quinn had well less than 1 percent.)

Editor’s note: Bob Johnston of the Maryland Libertarian Party updates the situation (and corrects me) in the comments.

While I have often dismissed the whole #flipthefirst phenomenon as a pipe dream given the district went about 2-to-1 for Trump, there was always that slim chance. I think the national Democrats figured Colvin was their best candidate given his military background and relatively tame, left-of-center viewpoints.

But Jesse didn’t sell everyone: I noticed the scuttlebutt and grousing from “progressives” who thought Colvin was a PINO. Had runner-up Allison Galbraith won the primary, I think she may have had the better chance at success in that she may have energized progressives and women who would have wanted a liberal woman in Congress. It would have also been a more contentious race, as Colvin’s attempts at stirring controversy on Harris were sadly lacking because he had his own ethics questions. It still would have shut the Eastern Shore out (aside from Martin, who hails from Cecil County) but the race would have been more on the map nationally.

Yet Harris didn’t get the same percentage he normally got in a Congressional contest and it was all because of “new” voters: Harris should finish about 5,000 votes ahead of his 2014 total but Colvin will end up close to 40,000 votes ahead of 2014 Democrat candidate Bill Tilghman. It will be the best Democrat performance since former Congressman Frank Kratovil drew 120,400 votes in 2010 (but lost to Harris by 12 points.)

But for the Libertarians, this has to be a disappointment – Jenica Martin getting less than 2 percent ends a trend where the Libertarians had edged up over 4% in the race.

(By the way, executive decision: this will be a two-parter because I’m just getting warmed up.)

Now about the Senate race.

I did a post awhile back about how many people were maxing out donations to Neal Simon. All told, according to the last FEC report Simon raised just over $850,000 from other people and loaned himself nearly a million dollars – all to get 3.7% of the vote. Three point seven freaking percent! We have Libertarians in our district that did that well and spent next to nothing. The lady from the Green Party did almost that good in 2016.

As has often been the case with third party and independent campaigns, they poll well (Simon recently touted an 18% share of the vote) but people don’t want to feel like they’ve thrown their vote away. My educated guess – since these same polls were claiming Cardin was under 50% – is that Simon was initially attracting Democrats to his campaign but they were persuaded to return home and voted for Ben Cardin. If Simon had stayed at 18% Cardin would have been right around 50% so I think my theory is sound.

My hope in this race – and granted, it was a very long shot – is that Tony Campbell could get into the upper 30’s percentage-wise but sneak away with the win when Simon drew about 25% and left Cardin in the mid-30’s. I knew there was no way Tony would get 50% but at least the third guy would be to our advantage for once. But not only was the third guy a cipher in the race, he wasn’t even close to Rob Sobhani’s 2012 numbers (of course. Simon didn’t spend $7 million either.)

But Ben Cardin didn’t do significantly better than any other Democrat U.S. Senate candidate in the last eight years – they seem to have that low-60’s lane covered. To me, this race was almost a carbon copy of 2012 – a Republican candidate running as an unabashed conservative has to deal with a third person sucking oxygen from the race. And barring something untoward happening to Senator Cardin (or Chris Van Hollen) we won’t have a Senate election until 2022 since Van Hollen was just elected in 2016, so who knows if Tony will want a repeat in four years. We haven’t had any GOP Senate nominee take a second bite of the apple in decades, since Alan Keyes in 1988-92.

What did Tony in, though, wasn’t his stance on the issues. It was lack of money and a lack of support from both the state GOP and the top of its ticket. Now I thought I had seen and liked a post earlier by Tony where he tersely let his disappointment in the MDGOP be known, but perhaps he thought better of it and took it down.

They won’t be so lucky from me.

I was very pleased and proud to cast my votes for Republicans for Congress for the first time in awhile. You see, the last two times a Libertarian ran for Congress I voted for him (of course, one of those was my friend Muir Boda.) I voted for Andy in 2010 and 2014. As for Senate, I had to hold my nose to varying degrees to vote for Kathy Szeliga in 2016 and Eric Wargotz in 2010, but happily supported Dan Bongino in 2012. (Michael Steele in 2006 I was ambivalent about.)

And the Maryland GOP was primed for success for the first time in forever because they actually had a little bit of money and a very popular governor. Unfortunately, Tony’s race was the top race ignored by Larry Hogan, and his rumored betrayal of Campbell by voting for Neal Simon was the straw that broke the camel’s back with me. Tony Campbell worked his ass off to win what was already an uphill battle thanks to an state electorate which thinks Republicans are icky because of Donald Trump, so a little love from the governor may have made some inroads into that contest.

But I went to see Larry Hogan last month when he showed up here, and while it was a good visit for Mary Beth Carozza (and may have helped her push over the top) it suffered from tunnel vision – Hogan didn’t mention his other statewide candidates such as Campbell and Craig Wolf, another great candidate Larry left twisting in the wind. (I knew he wouldn’t mention Angie Phukan given his relationship with the guy she was running against, Peter Franchot.)

I want to finish my thought on Hogan in the next piece, so let me return to Campbell.

I won’t say that Tony was the greatest candidate – I wish he had done better in the lone Senate debate, which really could have scored some points with a stronger performance – but he would have been a lightyears improvement over the guy we’re now saddled with for years 53 to 58 of sucking on the public teat as an elected official, Ben Cardin.

So while I was harboring no illusions that Tony Campbell had anything more than a sliver of hope for winning, the way he lost was my first big disappointment of the election. In the second part I’ll write in the next couple days or so, I’ll work my way through state and local races.

42nd annual Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in pictures and text

And away we go…

Thanks to the much better interface of photo captioning I’ve adopted since my WordPress update awhile back, this one can literally be handled with photos, captions, and text. You get all three in one gooey, chewy, oh-so-sweet and ooo-ey mishmash of photos that will basically take you through my day – except for the tired feet.

This was the scene when I arrived about 10:45.

Local supporters of Jom Mathias were coordinating their efforts at the gate, Quite a few of those shirts found their way onto people at the event.

I Tweeted this next photo the day of, as I recall.

I wonder who pulled the strings to get Jim Mathias the plum spot up front. If you were coming this way to a corporate tent or the Crab Trap, you had to walk by.

Inside, people were getting set for the show to begin.

This is almost like a class photo. I’m sure 20 years from now, these runners will be looking at this, laughing, and wondering whatever happened to some of these nice folks.

Runners assigned here had a LONG way to travel.

The Crab Trap is a relatively new idea. It’s sort of a cross between a corporate tent and an after-party, and for a $20 premium you could enjoy the day from there.

Before I get too much farther, I could kick myself for not getting a photo of those doing the cooking. They are the heroes of the day and don’t get thanked enough for a hot, nearly thankless task for which they still willingly volunteer.

Speaking of thankless, volunteer roles…

You know, it’s a good thing this truly isn’t up for election. Could you imagine a split ticket winning that one?

I didn’t see Yumi at Tawes (not that I would necessarily be able to pick her out in the crowd) but I saw her husband make the rounds. More on that in a bit.

Luckily it was still before 11 when I took this – whoever was in charge of slapping up signs had a lot to do!

As the 11:00 hour rolled in, people were still busy getting ready for the crowds.

The Somerset County GOP was getting their tent space set up with plenty of signs and stickers.

It was at that point I realized that even 13-year veterans can make rookie mistakes: I left my box bottom in the car. A box bottom is a key component for Tawes because it serves as your food tray and (for some) a place to festoon with campaign stickers.

So on my way out I got a shirt. First time ever.

They had a good selection of shirts this year. I picked out a nice blue one.

By the time I trudged my way back in after a good half-mile round trip, I saw that food was already being served.

These seem like long lines, but most of them went fast and I have seen longer. I think having the runners has cut down on wait time.

So I found my way to the Somerset GOP tent and crashed their party. While I was there, Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford was already making the rounds. I took a few photos but with a bright background from a tent in the shadows they didn’t work well.

After I finished eating, I spied these two guys – part of a modest contingent backing unaffiliated U.S. Senate hopeful Neal Simon. They were circulating petitions at Tawes to get Simon on the ballot.

Backers of U.S. Senate hopeful Neal Simon fish for petition signatures.

Now this photo is nowhere near as important as a photo Neal put out Wednesday with the aforementioned Governor Hogan. And I’ll get to that in a little bit, too.

But first I ran into a guy who’s in the catbird seat – my Delegate, Carl Anderton.

With no election opposition, Delegate Carl Anderton can afford to give the thumbs-up.

He was just the first of a whole host of political and semi-political folks I got to chat with over the next 3 hours or so as I wandered around. There are some people who take “all you can eat crabs” as a challenge, but I’m to a point where I can barely make it through what I’m given in one trip to four lines, none of which are crabs.

Yes, it is campaign season. And since Wicomico County (and its media) are prominent there, you see a lot from our candidates.

In an indication of what was to come, Boyd Rutherford was rather popular.

The crowd of supporters surrounds Boyd Rutherford. I wonder if he will be here in 2021 as a candidate, and whether it will be to succeed his boss or upend the socialist?

Smaller groups chatted with the more local and regional politicians.

While Delegate Chris Adams (on the left in white) has one general election opponent for the two seats of District 37B, even that guy admits Adams and Johnny Mautz (who was also there) are prohibitive favorites to return to Annapolis.

Because State Senator Jim Mathias had his own tent, the group at the main Democrat tent was smaller. It wasn’t exactly a blue wave.

Regarding the Democrat tent: I did get to meet and say hello to Jesse Colvin, who is the Democrat opposing Andy Harris. He had his wife and baby boy with him (he was the holder) so I opted to skip the photo of Colvin. I will say he doesn’t seem to have the spunk and gift of gab that Allison Galbraith – who I met at Tawes 2017 – does, but perhaps that’s a military trait. Still, I would be interested to see debates between Harris, Colvin, and Libertarian candidate Jenica Martin. (I’m not sure if she was there – I know Andy was a little busy, as were federal counterparts Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin.)

There were a number of business tents as usual, but they didn’t seem to draw a lot of interest. It seems anymore that the Tawes event is used as a company picnic of sorts.

I’m going to return to the subject of business tents later as I wrap up, but in taking the photo I saw a person I wanted to meet. In fact, in speaking to him I found out he’s visited this site a time or two.

This is one of the few times you’ll see someone to the right of me, if only in a visual sense. Actually, Neal Simon and I had a nice conversation.

In speaking to Neil I found out he had gotten the Hogan signature I alluded to above at the event and that he was going to make the announcement about having the sufficient number of petition signatures the next day, which was yesterday. He just told me to keep it under my hat until the time came, which wasn’t a problem since I had other things to write on and it was pretty much a fait accompli anyway.

Next up, though, is my favorite picture.

You just gotta like Carol Frazier. That’s all there is to it.

It gives me a chance to say thanks to one of my biggest fans and supporters. And speaking of such, I had the opportunity to see someone I hadn’t seen since Turning the Tides five years ago. It’s just a shame I neglected to get a picture of Cecil County Council member Jackie Gregory, a longtime friend and supporter of monoblogue. Even Delegate Kathy Szeliga saw me and gave me a greeting hug.

But when it comes to big fans and supporters of Tawes, I’m not sure anyone beats Bruce Bereano.

If this guy ever stops coming, I suspect they could have Tawes in the Food Lion parking lot.

For those politicians whose district doesn’t include the region, this is the place to hang out and eat. I think the Crab Trap idea was inspired by Bruce’s tent since people could see the political in-crowd live it up and wanted a version for their own.

That guy in the center with his hands up – he’s the governor. Larry Hogan always draws a crowd.

He may have pissed off various swaths of the Maryland electorate for various reasons, but the people don’t seem too upset at Governor Hogan here. Maybe a little bit of a smaller group circling him, but still significant.

Even the host city welcomed him.

The City of Crisfield tent. Since everyone in town who could afford a ticket was down here anyway.

I shouldn’t pick on Crisfield, since our former County Executive Rick Pollitt is their city manager. He stopped and said hello with a warm handshake.

This is one of the strangest sights, although I’m sure it’s the way of the news business these days: talking to a camera on a tripod.

It didn’t seem like the media was all over like before, but I saw all three local stations: WBOC channel 16 (and their associated FM radio station) and WMDT channel 47 out of Salisbury as well as WRDE channel 31 from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware – now that was a trip from one side of the peninsula to the other. I also saw channel 7, which I think is out of Washington, D.C. I know there were print and radio reporters as well, but they did their jobs in places I wasn’t, aside from WRDE who wanted to speak with Simon as I was talking to him.

I took this photo a little after 2:00.

The tall guy in black in the center, that’s Ben Jealous. He’s trying to take Hogan’s job.

In the last three Democrat campaigns for governor (2006, 2010, 2014) I witnessed their favored or chosen gubernatorial candidate walk into Tawes surrounded by a posse of supporters clad in campaign shirts to help rouse support. However, Anthony Brown skipped Tawes in 2014 since it was by then post-primary – his blue shirts came the year before.

Regardless, the lack of campaign savvy on the Jealous team was very apparent – few supporters and not much engagement. It was almost like Ben used the event as a photo-op but the optics weren’t nearly as good as they should be in an area that’s heavily minority and majority Democrat. Even I quickly worked my way up to say hello and express a concern I had, as I did later to Governor Hogan.

Finally, I’m glad I helped convince this guy into coming – or maybe he already made up his mind and likes to humor his supporters.

Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford on the left, U.S. Senate candidate Tony Campbell on the right. Wait a minute, I thought the GOP was exclusively for white people.

Hopefully Tony followed a little bit of my advice: I told him to not just concentrate on the circle of tents in the back but go and speak to the people in the pavilions up front. And this is where my commentary on Tawes begins.

Earlier I alluded to the business tents, and in the last few years I’ve noticed it’s been pretty much the same businesses and entities are present at Tawes, and they bring a particular group of people to the event. Needless to say, the political entities also bring their own supporters and hangers-on as well. All of them stay pretty much within an area that’s bounded by the tents and the food lines up front. Of course, with the Crab Trap and addition of food runners over the last few years, Tawes has gotten to a point where one doesn’t have to come out from under the tent to partake in the event.

On the other side, behind the AFSCME local that always camps out by the restroom building and the City of Crisfield tent, is the portion of the main pavilion where those who are there simply to eat and socialize with their friends go and sit. They have their own DJ, they’re not far from the bathrooms, and in my travels I notice it’s more of a minority gathering – it’s almost like that’s where the locals stay and they let the out-of-towners have the other side. That’s where I advised Tony to go, and it’s not a bad idea for any candidate. (Toward the end I found Mary Beth Carozza over there doing a radio spot so I presume she had been through there, too.)

In my years doing the Tawes event, one of the benefits I enjoyed about it was the opportunity to speak with people from the other side. For the ten years I sat on the Central Committee and was active in the local Republican club, I obviously saw the local Republicans once or twice a month and my GOP friends from around the state twice a year at the convention. On the other hand, if you were a Democrat and a friend of mine (or a candidate with whom I wanted to place a face with the name, such as Jesse Colvin or Ben Jealous), just about the only time I got to see you was at Tawes. And even though I haven’t been nearly as active on the GOP side of late, the same still holds true on the Democrats’ side. For the most part I have no animus with them aside from their short-sighted political views.

Unfortunately, there isn’t the mixing of people on a political level like there used to be and a similar phenomenon is beginning to take place at Tawes as groups become more insular. Surely there are people who never set foot outside the Crab Trap or Bereano tent from the time they arrived to the time they went home, and that’s sort of a shame. I have no idea on the attendance figure, but I think it may have been lower than in past years – on the other hand, there may have been people I never saw hiding in their safe spaces.

Unfortunately for a person like me, 2019 looks to be a year dull as dishwater politically. Sure, we may have some Presidential campaigns underway on the Democrat side but you don’t see a lot of them represented at Tawes and it would be a shock to see a Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, et. al. walk through those gates. It’s not a statewide office election year, and in 2020 Maryland will have no Senate race. All that leaves is Congress, and whatever Democrat opts to step up. It’s pretty thin gruel.

I don’t want to say the event is past its prime, but I suspect there are diminishing returns for a politician who isn’t statewide or represents an area outside the 37th or 38th District. To make things a little better there, we need to recall what we have in common, not what divides us.

A look at our federal races

Finishing my book draft has opened up my calendar just in time for the local political races to begin heating up. If you consider the June 26 primary as the “November” of this particular campaign, that means we are at about the mid-August of the race. But I’m already seeing the yard signs pop up for some of the local contests, so I decided over the last couple days to take a pretty comprehensive look at our two federal races: the battle for Maryland’s U.S. Senate seat and our local First District Congressional contest.

On the Senate side, thus far most of the news has come from the entry of the former PFC Bradley Manning, who has transitioned in identity to the female Chelsea Manning. (Never mind he was convicted of espionage and released just a few years into a 35-year sentence, much of it spent in the process of indulging a case of gender dysphoria.) Aside from he/she/it, there are the usual complement of perennial candidates and those who decided their first try for office would be for a statewide post. There are a total of eight Democrats on the ballot, but the prohibitive favorite among them is incumbent Senator Ben Cardin. The primary field looks similar to that in 2012 when Cardin last ran, with Manning probably getting about the same share (15%) as the doomed Senatorial campaign of current State Senator C. Anthony Muse while Cardin should retain his 75% or so. (Because it’s a state election year, you don’t have the opportunity for some officeholders to “run from cover” for a higher office – they forfeit the one they have to run. However, in the Sixth Congressional District, which is an open seat due to the departure of John Delaney for a quixotic Presidential bid, there are a couple of current state officeholders vying for the opening.)

Since I’m not voting on the Democrat side, though, my interest in this case is the GOP battle. As usual, there are a number of prospective candidates on the ballot: 2018 brought 11 aspirants to the fore, many of whom have played this game multiple times. For example, in 2016 Chris Chaffee was the (distant) runner-up to GOP Senate nominee Kathy Szeliga, John Graziani was 8th in the 14-person field, and Blaine Taylor was 9th – out of 10 Democrats. (Maybe he’s a Trump Republican now?) Brian Vaeth previously ran for Senate in 2012 as well. (It’s possible he may have suspended his 2018 run, anyway.) Chaffee was a definite surprise given that he was never polled into the 2016 Senate race, but he beat more established candidates such as Richard Douglas and Chrys Kefalas.

Considering the incumbent Senator is well-funded, I thought the best place to begin culling the field was to see who had actually set up an FEC account, which is a must for candidates who want to fundraise beyond a certain point. (Despite the fantasy some have of running a completely grassroots effort to win a statewide office, that’s not happening.) It turns out the only one to actually have a report is Charles “Sam” Faddis, who decided not to follow through and file this time around. (Faddis was an unsuccessful Congressional challenger to Steny Hoyer a few years ago.) But four in the field have established FEC accounts earlier this year so their first quarterly report just came due: Chaffee, Tony Campbell, Christina Grigorian, and Albert Binyahmin Howard.

Out of that quartet, I’ve already discounted the chances of Chaffee and Howard. Why?

Well, if you look at Chaffee’s website, you’ll see that it’s a poorly-written one. Granted, we have a President who mangles the English language on a regular basis, but one thing that I’ve come to believe is that a good-looking website conveys a good impression. And it’s difficult to get past the generalities and platitudes that stand in for his issue positions. He would really have to sell me in a debate to have a chance at getting my vote, which is discouraging because I suspect he is rather conservative. Honestly, I think his second-place finish last time was by virtue of being first on the ballot since few people knew the players aside from Kathy Szeliga. Chaffee won’t have that leg up this time because Tony Campbell is listed first.

Even worse is the website for Howard, whose chief claim to fame seems to be that of being the founder of Hebrews for Trump. Okay, then.

So I’m down as of now to Campbell and Grigorian. Ladies first.

Christina has started off on the wrong foot with me in two respects: number one, her website is nice but insofar as issues go I see nothing but general platitudes of being an advocate for the state and assisting Governor Hogan in his efforts. Yet to be a Senator from Maryland in this current political reality is to be (hopefully) fortunate enough to take office as Hogan begins his second term because in order to save America the state of Maryland has to endure a world of hurt for a few years, and the GOP is going to take the blame to a point where 2022 local elections would be a bloodbath. This is because the state has foolishly put most of its economic and job creation eggs in the basket of an ever-expanding federal government when the real solution is rightsizing our federal bureaucracy to the extent it’s allowed to be by the Constitution. Hogan is best-equipped to solve that problem as a more or less business-friendly governor, albeit one who gets it seriously wrong on some good job-creation issues like fracking in Western Maryland.

My other issue with Grigorian is making her first issue-oriented video one of celebrating International Women’s Day as well as making the point Maryland has no female representation in Congress. Okay, I’m going to admit I’m a little biased on this, but making a case about being a female candidate is a little Hillary-esque. Maryland had a female Senator for three decades and all it did was set the country back a little bit. Certainly I know of a good share of women who would make great Senators or members of Congress, but the reason they would be so is because they don’t base their politics on their gender.

Grigorian is so far to me coming off as a moderate, based on her bland answers to key issues. We really don’t need a woman in the Senate if she’s a clone of Lisa Murkowski or Susan Collins, the bottom two Republicans as graded by Heritage Action. (A third woman, Shelley Capito, is in the bottom 5 – none of the five female GOP Senators are in their top ten.) She has a lot to sell me on, too.

What I will say about Tony Campbell is that he has manned up and apologized for a couple past mistakes, the chief one being part of Republicans for Obama. Tony’s not going to make me jump up and down in supporting him, but based on what I’ve learned about his positions I’m leaning his way. I think with a little bit of work he could be an effective, relatively conservative Senator. But he has to win first.

Now I’ll sharpen the focus a little bit to the First District race. You know, they keep talking on the Left about “flipping the First” but to do so would take the right candidate and electorate. Unfortunately for the Democrats, the right candidate for the job is the only one who hasn’t filed FEC paperwork and that would be “conservative Democrat” Erik Lane. (Even so, the “right electorate” went away when Martin O’Malley submitted his Congressional plan in 2011. That made the First a highly Republican district that even Donald Trump – he of the 34% statewide vote – won handily.) As for the rest, I tend to believe the “establishment” Democrats and media (but I repeat myself) would prefer to see Jesse Colvin win because that would immediately be portrayed as our version of the Conor Lamb race in Pennsylvania. (He has the most campaign cash to spend, too.) Perhaps their second choice would be Allison Galbraith, who is a single mom and rather spunky both in person and online – I know because I’ve sparred with her on several occasions.

But you also have the Eastern Shore factor, and two candidates hail from our side of the Bay – Michael Brown and Michael Pullen. So parochial voters may opt to elect them, too.

And then you have Andy Harris, who hasn’t had a primary where he’s unopposed since 2012. Then again, since first being nominated in 2008 in a surprise upset of longtime erstwhile moderate GOP Congressman Wayne Gilchrest (who will likely continue his semi-annual biennial tradition of endorsing the Democrat in the race) Harris has dispatched primary foes like King Kong swatting away airplanes while perched on a skyscraper: 68% against Rob Fisher in 2010, 78% against Jonathan Goff, Jr. in 2014, and the same 78% against a tag team of Goff, Sean Jackson, and former Delegate Michael Smigiel in 2016. Martin Elborn and Lamont Taylor may be nice guys, but they probably won’t do any better – nor should they. It would be the Democrats’ dream if one of these two somehow won the primary because they aren’t coming across to me as very serious candidates. That would be about the only way the Democrats could level the field in this district.

I’ve liked Andy Harris as a legislator since his days in the Maryland General Assembly – Andy was, for several years until 2016, the only Maryland legislator to achieve a perfect session score on the monoblogue Accountability Project., Admittedly, there have been a couple times I didn’t vote for him: come on, when your Libertarian friend is running for Congress, how can you not vote for him when you know the district is safely Republican? And I liked the last guy the LP had (Matt Beers), too – he was ready to shrink government more than Andy would, and that’s saying something.

But this year’s Libertarian model seems to be the left-libertarian type, so there’s no excuse for me not to vote to retain Andy Harris for another term in both the primary and general elections. It makes the town hall meetings that much more entertaining.

I really don’t need to go over the state races in much detail because all three GOP nominees are set; meanwhile, the only suspense on the Democrat side is whether Tweedledum x 5 or Tweedledee x 4 will win the nod for Governor. The early polling favorite is PG County Executive Rushern Baker. In fact, my ballot on the GOP side is very boring – I have no State Senator, Delegate, or county race to vote in except for the downballot Clerk of the Court and Central Committee races. So this is probably all the analysis you get.

But I’ll keep an eye on it nonetheless in case I’m moved to say more.

Would a Lamb be slaughtered here?

March 16, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on Would a Lamb be slaughtered here? 

Until a bridge collapsed in Miami, the main news item drawing attention was Democrat Conor Lamb’s upset win over Republican Rick Saccone in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District. Since I was assigned to write about Lamb’s victory in The Patriot Post this week, it got me to pondering if the Democrats’ bold local pronouncements about “flipping the First” are realistic.

So let’s begin with a little history. I’m working from my faulty memory here but I thought I read that the 18th was an R+11 district. According to our the latest voter registration numbers by district (which were just prior to the 2016 election, so perhaps a bit out of date) the First District was about R+9.5 or so. But where Trump won by 22 points in the 18th, he won by nearly 29 points in Maryland’s First. Thus, the question is whether those Democrats who “stayed home” and stuck with their party in Pennsylvania would do so here, or will they abandon the Democrat Party once again. (Case in point: while Democrats have always held a voter registration advantage over the GOP in Wicomico County, it hasn’t voted for a Democrat for governor or President since 1986.)

In doing my research, I found seven major “priorities” Lamb was running on:

  • The heroin crisis (and props to him for spelling “heroin” correctly, with one “e”)
  • Jobs and infrastructure
  • Affordable health care
  • Protecting Medicare and Social Security
  • Student loans
  • Union issues
  • Modern energy development

Here’s some of what he had to say for each:

On heroin:

We need to invest in prevention. We need to expand access to treatment and rehabilitation. And we need to crack down on the people who are fueling and profiting from this crisis. There are drug dealers on the street, in doctors’ offices, and in drug company boardrooms, and we need to pass legislation that guarantees every one of them will face justice for their crimes.

So in a nutshell, more federal money thrown at the problem and tougher drug laws.

For infrastructure, Lamb wants “a serious bill big enough to match the urgency of the situation,” with “investments” in job training that he claims companies want to have done through public schools and community colleges. He also wants companies to hire their trainees with “full-time, family-supporting jobs.”

On health care:

I believe that every American has a right to go see a doctor when they’re sick, and that means every American has a right to health insurance they can afford…I’ll work with anyone from either party who wants to help people with pre-existing conditions, improve the quality of care, and reduce premiums, out-of-pocket costs, and prescription drug prices.

In other words, Obamacare isn’t the problem.

Conor also goes after that old “third rail” of politics, making the shopworn claim that Republicans are out to gut entitlements and solemnly vowing to protect Medicare and Social Security. If only Republicans would actually threaten them.

I will give Lamb a little credit for this one, no pun intended:

We need to allow people to refinance their student loans, just as we do for corporations and credit card holders. And I believe we should let people pay at least some portion of their student loans with pre-tax dollars.

He also gets into the idea of paying them back through serving in underserved areas – think of the old TV series “Northern Exposure” and its plot of having a New York doctor practice in rural Alaska to pay off student loans.

With his district being heavily union, Lamb is a proponent of their causes. That’s a key difference between his district and ours, which is not infested much by Big Labor.

The other big difference:

I support robust and responsible energy development. Natural gas extraction is creating and supporting a lot of good, middle-class jobs in our region, and I want more of those jobs for our people.

Yes it is; unfortunately, we have a governor who foolishly and short-sightedly took the option off the table in our state.

That, then, is the (somewhat oversimplified) baseline for local Democrats. There are a total of six on the ballot but only four have FEC accounts (Michael Brown and Erik Lane do not – this is a shame because Lane is the one who’s claiming to be the “conservative Democrat” but he’s not set up the FEC account – which most likely means he has little to no money. I’m sorry but you can’t win an election without some money.)

Out of the other four, as of the end of last year, the cash on hand was as follows:

  1. Jesse Colvin – $186,101
  2. Steve Worton – $99,630 (most of which he loaned)
  3. Michael Pullen – $33,433 (he owes himself over $55,000)
  4. Allison Galbraith – $32,465

Just by comparison, Andy Harris is sitting on over $1.1 million. We pretty much know where he stands on issues as Harris tends to hew to the GOP line and it’s paid off: in three re-election campaigns since being elected in 2010 Andy has averaged 67% of the vote, which was the mark he hit in 2016.

So if we do the “Lamb test” for each of the four remaining candidates, let’s see how they stack up. Women and children first, we start with my sparring partner Allison Galbraith and her “priorities.” You get the sense after reading them that Galbraith would fail the Lamb test by being several steps to his left.

And then you have Michael Pullen, whose website plays heavily on his name by announcing he’s “Pullen for…” various policy items to occur. I read through them and was fascinated: by making Galbraith look centrist by comparison, Pullen truly flunks the Lamb test.

Steve Worton stakes out a number of positions on his key issues with a good, old-fashioned “trifold.” He’s closer to Lamb than the other two, but I believe that title will go to our next competitor.

If you look at the background and profile,, Jesse Colvin is very similar to Conor Lamb: just swap out military branches. He comes out of Democratic Central Casting: a war veteran who spouts more or less center-left talking points. (He and Lamb even have a scarily similar website setup.)

I think that if the powers-that-be in the Democrat Party had their choice it would come down to either Colvin or Galbraith. (They certainly wouldn’t want the conservative guy, who may well be the most appealing to district Democrats but has no money.) Colvin has a young family he can use as props (like Frank Kratovil did to some extent) but so does Galbraith and she’s not afraid to use them. But compared to Colvin she’s vastly underfunded.

Being three months out a lot can (and will) happen, and the race is tough to handicap because there are so many competing interests: Galbraith is the only woman in the race, but Pullen is the only major contender from the parochial Eastern Shore. If people hear about the conservative Democrat Erik Lane he may steal some votes from the more centrist Worton, who can ill afford to lose them.

But the bigger question is whether any of them can beat Andy Harris. Unlike the PA-18 race, which was an open seat, Harris is an incumbent that people seem to like well enough. Once June rolls around we will see how well the local Democrats embrace their choice.

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