Phone polls, show votes, and truth

By Cathy Keim

I was just thinking the other day that now that the holidays were over, the Congressional races in Maryland should start heating up. Before the thought disappeared, my home phone rang – and I was asked to take a survey. I usually enjoy these surveys, as I try to see behind the questions and guess who is paying for the poll. If they have a live person, then I will ask questions to see if they will give out any information.

This automated poll asked questions about Congressman Andy Harris, the incumbent, and former Delegate Mike Smigiel in the Maryland First Congressional District race. The questions were worded in this format: “If you knew such-and-such about Andy Harris, would you be more likely to vote for him, less likely to vote for him, or no difference?” After several questions the questioning switched to Mike Smigiel, repeating the process but with different questions. The phone poll closed by asking who you would vote for if the election were today and gave three choices: Andy Harris, Mike Smigiel, and Sean Jackson. This surprised me, as I was not even aware of the third candidate.

I went to the Maryland Board of Elections website and found that candidates can file a Certificate of Candidacy until February 3, meaning we still have several weeks for additional candidates to file. So far one Democrat (Joe Werner of Harford County) and three Republicans (Jonathan Marvin Goff, Jr. and Sean M. Jackson, both of Harford County, and Smigiel from Cecil County) are listed. I am assuming that Andy Harris will file before the deadline.

(Editor’s note:  Since Cathy wrote this, Matt Beers, a Libertarian candidate from Cecil County, has filed for the First District seat with the state Board of Elections. Meanwhile, federal campaign finance filings are not completed for the last quarter of 2015, but only Harris and Smigiel are listed with FEC campaign finance accounts.)

The primary is not until April 26, so we still have plenty of time for these candidates to present their positions.

But what are their positions? At least with Congressman Harris we have a current track record that can be poked and prodded, thus enabling the prospective voter to review the information and make a decision. But is it really that easy to know how any politician voted?

And even more to the crux of the matter: which vote do you look at?

John Kerry, former Senator and current Secretary of State, famously uttered the words, “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it,” cementing his reputation as a flip-flopper. But knowing which vote you are looking at and the context in which it was cast is particularly crucial in an election year. Voters’ memories are short, so a candidate usually only needs to vote as his constituents desire in the last few months before an election.

Congress just voted to pass the omnibus spending bill which provides funding for Obamacare, Planned Parenthood, refugee resettlement, and oodles of other awful programs. If your Congressman voted no on it, then he should be in the clear, correct? Well, maybe not. You need to step back and examine the background behind the bill. Why was it allowed to be brought to a vote so it could be passed with Democrat votes? The Speaker of the House controls what comes up for a vote so Speaker Ryan did not have to bring the omnibus bill up for a vote where he knew it would pass with mainly Democrat votes. But he did.

Paul Ryan was elected Speaker of the House after John Boehner was forced out for not leading the fight against President Obama. Only nine Republicans opposed his nomination as Speaker. If a Republican Congressman voted for Paul Ryan to be Speaker but then voted against the omnibus bill, did he or she vote correctly?

Let’s go further back. How do last year’s votes count? What if a Republican Congressman voted for the CRomnibus bill in December 2014? Should that be held against them if they voted against the omnibus bill in December 2015? It takes a bit of interest and time to dig through the old votes to get the whole picture. And that is why politicians can dissemble so well. Who can keep up with the constantly changing stream of votes?

Remember: as Election Day draws closer and closer, we are going to see votes on one politicized project or issue after another — none of which will significantly change anything because the Omnibus bill, funding the Federal Government through next October, was passed in December. Congress, under the GOP leadership of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave up all power of the purse and the only restraint that was possible on an out-of-control President in his final year.

Do not be impressed by these showcase votes! The deed is done and all we can do is hang on for the increasingly bumpy ride until the new President is elected — and it may get bumpier yet depending on who is elected.

So how did Andy Harris vote in the last two Speaker of the House elections? He voted for Speaker Boehner last January, even after the CRomnibus horror was pushed through (which he also voted for). He voted for Paul Ryan to replace Boehner as Speaker this fall. Despite these votes, however, he “bravely” voted against the Omnibus Bill this December.

So, to paraphrase John Kerry, Congressman Harris voted for Speaker Ryan, Speaker Boehner, and CRomnibus before Harris voted against the Omnibus Bill.

Those are the facts. What is the truth?

Out of order

It’s become almost as much a Christmas tradition as hanging stockings or decorating the tree – our national government gets another stopgap spending measure in lieu of a regular budget in order to avoid a Christmas government shutdown. We’ve done this practically every year since Barack Obama became President, and this year is no exception.

You can read any number of opinions about how bad this deal will be, such as this one from my friend Rick Manning at Americans for Limited Government or the fine folks at Heritage Action. It’s not a done deal yet, for the vote is expected to come tomorrow, but there will be a lot of pressure to vote this out and beat it out of town before Christmas. We already have the tax package that was a series of tradeoffs.

Yet I want to focus on one representative, and he happens to be ours. You may recall Andy Harris voted on an equally controversial bill last year that he explained away, as well as the same thing earlier in 2014. There’s obviously some who also still hold a grudge against him for voting for John Boehner to stay on as Speaker of the House. Somewhere in the back of my mind I seem to recall him saying something along the lines that this year’s budget process should be smooth because we could do it in regular order. So much for that.

If anything deserves explanation, the reason all this couldn’t be done in regular order would be the first thing on my mind. In November 2014 we gave Republicans a majority in Congress – they have the “power of the purse” that was the excuse as to why things couldn’t get done in the previous four years. No longer did we have only 1/2 of 1/3 of the government. So why is this still a problem?

As I see it, if Congress does its job and passes a budget that does what conservatives want to do such as defund Obamacare, rein in the regulators, and make other prudent spending cuts, the onus is on Barack Obama to sign it or deal with the consequences of a government shutdown. It’s on him. After all, if people are still blaming George W. Bush for a government shutdown 4 1/2 years after leaving office, it must be the president’s fault.

So I think tomorrow we will see another long social media post from Andy Harris explaining away another vote for bloated government. We already have the narrative that these were the cards dealt by John Boehner to Paul Ryan and next year things will be different.

Stop me if you’ve heard that one before. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Speaker Paul Ryan: Hero or Bane?

By Cathy Keim

I have been out of action due to travel and a crashed computer. Now that I am home and my computer has been revived, I would like to offer some thoughts about last week’s disheartening and cowardly betrayal of the base by our overlords in D.C.

Speaker Boehner used his last opportunity to either support President Obama’s agenda again or to clear the path for the 2016 Presidential election so that the GOP candidate can win by removing the controversial budget battle and potential government shutdown. I suppose that the GOP leadership thinks that it was the second option, but the effect on the base was to demoralize and depress them to the point where one might say we are not a two party system anymore. Instead, they contend we are a one party system with two names!

The backroom bargaining that led to the passage of the budget bill was a slap in the face to all the grassroots supporters of the GOP. The leadership may think that they have cleared the path for the new Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, to work collegially with the various factions in the House, but this seems unlikely.

Speaker Boehner passed his budget through with Democrat votes again! The majority of the Republicans voted against the budget, but not Paul Ryan. “I think this process stinks,” the speaker-in-waiting reportedly harrumphed as he walked into a meeting where Republicans were briefed about the 11th-hour agreement. “Under new management, we are not going to run the House this way.”

Speaker Boehner cleaned the barn before turning the reins over to Paul Ryan, who despite his complaint about how the budget deal came to be, did not disagree so strongly as to vote against it.

Congressman Andy Harris voted against the budget and even tweeted this plea to the senate to save us from this deal.

But in similar fashion to Ryan, he got over his angst quickly enough to vote the next day to approve Ryan as Speaker.

Where does this leave us now? Will Speaker Ryan be an improvement over John Boehner? Will it make any difference?

Our first inkling of whether Paul Ryan will try to re-establish Congressional prerogatives to check this administration will be whether he will allow riders on the next CRomnibus bill. If he allows the conservative members to attach riders, this will lead to a fight with the President. Will Ryan permit this or will he roll over for the President?

We will know soon enough since the CR has to be dealt with in December.

Another major issue to watch is immigration. Paul Ryan has been soft on immigration for years. In a bargain to be elected Speaker, he agreed to not bring up immigration reform under this President. Depending on who the next President is, this promise may not amount to much. Several of the GOP candidates are open border types as is Hillary Clinton, so this promise is a weak reed for the conservatives in Congress to lean on.

Interestingly, the House Freedom Caucus is not conservative on immigration. This makes logical sense if one realizes that many of the Freedom Caucus members are more libertarian than conservative and libertarians tend to advocate for immigration.

From Breitbart:

A recent PBS documentary exposed how Ryan and Rubio were nearly successful in their effort to pass amnesty in 2014. Ryan had crafted a bill and had the Republican votes necessary to pass it. Ryan’s amnesty effort was aided by many of the members of the House Freedom Caucus, including Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) and Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID). Mulvaney has since become one of the biggest boosters in the House Freedom Caucus of a Paul Ryan Speakership. According to the documentary, the Ryan-Rubio amnesty plan was foiled when Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA)scored a historic primary victory to oust then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

Sessions explained in the interview, “There’s a great danger to elect a Speaker of the House who is a leading advocate for two major issues today — trade and immigration — and advocating against the wishes of the Republican voter.”

No matter what Speaker Ryan does, I doubt if any of us will wish to have John Boehner back. But we may not find Ryan much of an improvement if he follows through on his previous positions. If he does allow for more open debate without punishing those that disagree with him and if he will return to the Hastert Rule which says the Speaker will not bring up issues for a vote which cannot be passed by a majority vote of the majority party (no more bills passed by a minority of Republicans aided by Democrats), then we may find that Paul Ryan is an improvement over John Boehner.

Another betrayal of the loyal base

October 22, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2016 - President, Cathy Keim, Delmarva items, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Another betrayal of the loyal base 

By Cathy Keim

On Friday, October 23, 2015, the House is set to vote on H.R. 3762, a reconciliation bill that repeals parts of Obamacare and stops federal funding of Planned Parenthood for one year. This sounds pretty good since most of the base wants to stop Obamacare and Planned Parenthood. So, why is this a poison pill once again?

According to Lifenews:

H.R. 3762 is a special once-a-year measure called the “reconciliation bill.” Unlike almost every other kind of bill, the “reconciliation bill” cannot be filibustered in the U.S. Senate — so it can pass with only 51 votes, rather than 60 (of 100 senators). Republicans currently hold a narrow majority in the U.S. Senate, 54-46.

But before the bill can be considered by the Senate, it first must pass the House on October 23.

The bill contains two major sections:

* The bill would block, for one year, most federal payments to Planned Parenthood. At least 89% of federal funding of Planned Parenthood would be blocked by this bill.

* The bill would repeal a number of major components of the Obamacare health law, including two of the major provisions that will lead to rationing of lifesaving care — the “Independent Payment Advisory Board” and the “excess benefits tax.”

My first concern is that the defunding of Planned Parenthood is being added onto this bill to placate the base that was angered by Speaker Boehner pushing through a clean CR instead of fighting for defunding Planned Parenthood then. As he has done too many times before, the Speaker gave the President what he wanted without a fight. Apparently no hill is worth fighting for including a hill of tiny babies’ broken bodies being sold for profit.

In a déjà vu moment, the base was promised that the defund movement would get their moment by using the reconciliation process instead of attaching it to the CR. This bait and switch tactic has been used frequently to get something past the base.

I could have even perhaps been pacified except that now the House attaches the defund provision to a bill that only partially repeals Obamacare. We have been promised for years that our leaders would repeal Obamacare: not parts of it, but the whole sorry mess. The strongest argument for standing strong for repealing the entire Obamacare fiasco is that if it is divided into parts and the worst parts are repealed, then the others may be left to fester. It is best to root out all of the beast at one time.

Senators Mike Lee (R. Utah), Ted Cruz (R. Texas), and Marco Rubio (R. Florida) issued a joint statement today:

On Friday the House of Representatives is set to vote on a reconciliation bill that repeals only parts of Obamacare. This simply isn’t good enough. Each of us campaigned on a promise to fully repeal Obamacare and a reconciliation bill is the best way to send such legislation to President Obama’s desk. If this bill cannot be amended so that it fully repeals Obamacare pursuant to Senate rules, we cannot support this bill. With millions of Americans now getting health premium increase notices in the mail, we owe our constituents nothing less.

Why am I bothering to even care about any of this when we all know that the President will veto the bill when it reaches his desk and we do not have the votes to override the veto?

The two reasons that stand out are to make the President, Congressmen, and Senators go on record with their position on both issues and to prepare for the real vote to repeal Obamacare once a new president is in office.

The original Obamacare Bill was foisted upon us by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid with the reconciliation process, so it is only fitting that Obamacare should be repealed using the same reconciliation process. All we need is a president that won’t veto the bill.

This current effort only repeals part of Obamacare. I join with Cruz, Lee, and Rubio in demanding that our representatives make good on their promise to repeal Obamacare in its entirety. This is an excellent time to make an issue of it since we are all getting our new quotes on insurance. Multiple exchanges are shuttering their doors because they are losing so much money. A lot of us are facing 40% increases this year on our premiums on top of increases last year and the year before. And don’t forget that the benefits are not as good as our previous coverage, even though we are paying more.

So, by all means, use this opportunity to force the Democrats to own Obamacare. Why is the House only trying to repeal part of it? This should be a trial run for the real effort under the new President. Please, please show us some leadership and some effort. Make the case to the American people that none of this has turned out as promised. Showcase the fiascos of increased premiums, decreased coverage, broken exchanges, lack of portability, and push a bill through. Then stand strong in front of the American people and explain how the Democrats are forcing this mess upon us once again. Finally promise that you will use the same process after a new President is elected to repeal it. Line up the candidates and have them promise to sign the bill as soon as it reaches their desk. Put them on record that they will repeal Obamacare the minute that you can get the bill to them.

The base would stand up and cheer. They would be motivated to turn out in droves. The base would feel like somebody was listening to them. Instead, we have the House pushing through a partial repeal and it looks increasingly likely that we will be getting Paul Ryan as the new Speaker. Did I mention that the base feels betrayed?

We were all delighted when Mark Meadows (R-NC) made the courageous motion to replace Speaker Boehner. There seemed to be real momentum to coalesce around Daniel Webster (R-FL) so that he could reprise his role as a leader as he had done in the Florida state government, but then the rug was pulled out from under our feet and Paul Ryan is now proclaimed as the man to save us. Andy Harris has thrown his support to Ryan. Please prove me wrong, but I am expecting this to turn out poorly.

One would hope that Andy would not support Ryan unless Ryan gave up his demand that the motion to Vacate the Chair be removed, but I could not verify that it had been as of tonight.

The base is watching.

The truth, the spin, and the battlefield

By Cathy Keim

John Boehner hit the Sunday morning TV circuit to explain why he is resigning and to spin his past performances. In addition, the various media are adding their spin and giving advice as to how to proceed. After reading through a variety of reports, it seems pretty well decided that:

  • John Boehner did the best he could under the circumstances.
  • Congress never really had the ability to stop the Obama agenda.
  • The conservatives/Tea Party types that caused this ruckus should go away.
  • House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy will be the next speaker.

One can go farther and depending on the source conclude that:

  • Our nation has grown too large to govern as a republic.
  • Christians should withdraw to enclaves because it is all going to the dogs.
  • There is no turning back from the path of destruction that we are on.

Before you give up hope and head for the hills with your guns, ammo, Bibles, and food, let us take a quick review of the comment sections of the same articles.

I do not read the comments on some sites because they are merely vile epithets interspersed with poor spelling, but other sites actually have rousing comment sections. There are many Americans that are still interested in the American Experiment and in their Christian faith. They are not giving up. Nor should we.

We need to think about the battlefield before we proceed. Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) says:

If we launch headfirst into leadership elections like this is a typical succession, without ever taking the time to diagnose our current ailments, we won’t heal the fractures in a Conference that has thus far proved unleadable. Simply reshuffling the deck won’t serve our members, and it especially won’t help our next slate of leaders who will be tasked with producing better results than our leaders have so far been able to achieve.

Kudos to Rep. Roskam for identifying the need to come up with a coherent strategy to unite the GOP. The current fracture between the leadership and the base is not going to disappear, especially if Boehner uses his last 30 days as Speaker to push through a clean CR as is rumored. (He did.) If the House replaces Boehner with McCarthy it will be viewed as the leadership ignoring the base once again. It is possible that McCarthy would acknowledge the desires of the base more than Boehner did, but it would be a long road to prove this and to gain the trust of the base.

We have entered into a dangerous time for the country with an expanded imperial presidency unfettered by the legislative branch and supported by the judicial branch. This president rules by executive order, regulations, and selective enforcing of the laws.

Congress has allowed this because under Pelosi and Reid they agreed with Obama’s agenda. The citizens expressed their strong disapproval by dismissing first Pelosi and then Reid by decisive victories in the House and the Senate. Those victories at the elections have never translated into victories in rolling back the president’s fundamental changes. This has led to extreme disappointment and anger amongst the base. The passage of the CRomnibus bill is a recent example of this outrage. Rep. Harris said we needed to just pass the CRomnibus so that we could focus on this year’s budget. We didn’t have time to fight over the previous budget, because we needed to look ahead. Fast forward. Now we are looking at another CR. Hmmm, we didn’t fight last time so that we could work on doing it right this time, so now let’s just pass another clean CR so we can focus on the next one?

We have been handed that line just a few too many times. They say we will hold the line on that debt ceiling; no, at the budget; no, back to the debt ceiling. The bait and switch doesn’t work once people realize that it is happening.

Congress under its present failed leadership has tried one too many times to blame everything on anything except themselves. Like a drug addict in rehab, they need to get clean, and face their inner demons. They were elected to serve their country, not to become rich, powerful men and women addicted to their status and in need of the next cash transfusion from their donors/masters.

The GOP leadership really cannot afford to kick this can down the road now. In the progressive movement, they are facing a ruthless, effective opposition that will stop at nothing to achieve total control of every aspect of our lives.

  • Housing and transportation zoning codes: Agenda 21 takes care of that.
  • Education: Common Core destroys that.
  • Family: Changes to marriage and social mores finishes that off.
  • Freedom of Religion: Reduced to a personal faith only to be expressed inside the church building, and only as long as they don’t get political.
  • Government medical care: We have you covered, but that doesn’t ensure access to care.

We are well on our way to a totalitarian state and the progressives will not stop until they get there or are decisively defeated, not just pushed back for an election cycle or two.

Now, GOP leadership, do I have your attention? Your base understands and is extremely motivated to stop the fundamental transformation that is taking place in this country. We are no longer deceived by your show votes.

I suggest that instead of sneering at your base, the leadership of the GOP should take a brief time to reflect on the course of the nation and come to a plan of action that will encourage its base and present the proper explanations which can be ably defended by many of the presidential candidates as to why we need to defund Planned Parenthood, stop the flood of immigrants that we are not assimilating, and change our foreign policies, particularly our policy towards Iran.

Carly Fiorina is not backing down on the evil that is Planned Parenthood as revealed by the Center for Medical Progress’s videos. Congress should join her by forcing a vote on defunding PP and making the President veto it. Show the videos so that the President and his followers are exposed for supporting selling butchered baby organs.

Ted Cruz is standing alone on the floor of the Senate calling out the failed leadership on their collusion in funding Planned Parenthood and the Iran deal.

Ben Carson is not retreating from his statements about a Muslim president.

Many of our candidates are showing themselves to be fearless in presenting their ideas. This should be a lesson to our present failed leadership.

Do not go onto the battlefield without a strategy to win. Once you start, stand by your principles, and go for victory.

The only flaw in this advice is that it assumes that our current leadership is operating on principles when it sadly seems that they are doing the bidding of the highest donors. This is the most plausible theory to explain why the GOP keeps siding with the progressive agenda when it coalesces around the goals of crony capitalism rather than their base. If so, they need to reform or find themselves cast aside like Boehner. Revolutions can pick up momentum. The outsiders may just lead the base to true victory.

The soul of the GOP

September 27, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016, Campaign 2016 - President, Cathy Keim, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The soul of the GOP 

By Cathy Keim

I wrote a piece on Thursday night about John Boehner’s upcoming problem with the continuing resolution. To my surprise, Speaker Boehner announced on Friday morning that he would resign at the end of October. He claims that he had the votes to survive Rep. Mark Meadows’ (R-NC) motion to vacate the chair, but we will never know now if that was true.

At his resignation press conference he stated:

But more than anything, my first job is — as Speaker, is to protect the institution.

He seemed to think that by resigning he was protecting the institution. Actually, I believe that he was not protecting the institution by his continual acquiescing to President Obama’s desires, nor has he stopped the infighting amongst the House members by his resignation.

His self-deception will continue, it appears. In the corporate world when an employee is terminated, they are often escorted to the door immediately. Here, the Speaker is resigning before he can be fired, but he has decided to hang around for another month to help with the transition and has already said that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) would be a good Speaker of the House.

Since he is resigning due to conflict, perhaps it would be better if he left posthaste and didn’t try to influence the election of the next Speaker.

Here is my original piece. I still think that many of the points are worth reading since Boehner’s resignation has not fixed anything. Unless a new Speaker is elected that will replace the failed GOP leadership model, then there will be no improvement and the conflict between the conservative and moderate GOP House members will continue.

(Editor’s note: I slightly revised the original piece to refer to Boehner in the past tense as appropriate.)

Original piece:

It is possible that we are seeing the end of the Republican Party. We are rapidly approaching another continuing resolution battle where the fight is between two factions of the GOP rather than between the Democrats and the Republicans. The conservative portion of the House of Representatives would like to stand up and fight even to the point of shutting down the government. The mainstream portion would prefer that they go along to get along.

There are two potential sources of members refusing to go along with the party line: the Defund Planned Parenthood group and the no to Syrian refugee resettlement group (both of which may overlap.)

We may have to call this the Carly Fiorina dilemma: shut the government down to stop the attack on our physical security by importing thousands of Syrians who cannot be vetted by the FBI to ensure that they are not jihadists or shut down the government to stop the destruction of our moral character by the killing of our babies and selling their body parts for profit.

Personally, I am for attaching amendments to the CR to achieve both of these goals. However, as we have seen with the CRomnibus bill and numerous other opportunities, the leadership would rather throw in the towel before the fight begins than stand up to the President.

I am not a gambler, but as Kenny Rogers sang, “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.” Speaker Boehner seemed to have one policy and that was to fold ‘em and run away.

His refusal to fight resulted in the relinquishing of the power of the purse and the complete abandonment of any check on the executive branch of the government.

Speaker Boehner is leaving in part because he was in the unenviable position of being squeezed between the unhappy conservative members. If he insisted on the clean CR he would lose at least 50 conservative Republican votes – meaning he will need Democrat votes to pass his CR.

Had this come to pass, it would have caused Congressman Mark Meadows (R-NC) to call for his motion to vacate the chair. At that point, it is possible that the Speaker would have only been able to retain his position if he had support from the Democrats. He would have retained control as Speaker, but at the cost of being beholden to the opposition party for saving his speakership. There was even talk that Boehner would give subcommittee chairmanships to Democrats.

At some point, you have to ask, is it really worth being the Speaker of the House if it would require destroying your party to retain power? For Boehner, the answer was no.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-LA, is trying to woo the conservative bloc by offering to use reconciliation as a method to defund Planned Parenthood. Reconciliation only requires a simple majority, as we remember from the Obamacare fight. By using reconciliation, the amended CR could make it to President Obama’s desk, where he would promptly veto it and that would be the end of that since the GOP could not get the 67 votes necessary to override a veto.

So what does that get us? Nothing. Planned Parenthood would continue to receive 41% of its funding from taxpayers. Although they cannot directly use the money to fund abortions, we all know that they just shift money around and pretend that it didn’t enable them to do exactly what they want to do. PP would continue to abort babies. They would perform about 440,000 more abortions before President Obama would finish his last day in office.

If the GOP leadership would stand up and fight, there could be a chance to save some of those 440,000 babies. If they would refuse to allow thousand of “refugees” into the USA, they would not have to be concerned about jihadists gaining entry through the refugee programs.

Despite the clear and present danger to the lives of our unborn citizens and of violent jihadists gaining entry to our country, Speaker Boehner showed every sign of weepily folding without a fight. And by his staying through October, a grand bargain may well be set in motion.

Rather than hoping that the next president will be a Republican who will fix everything by undoing executive orders, I plead with our current leaders to do what we sent them to DC to do: fight.

Do not brag to me about how many bills you passed in the House when we all know they never made it through the Senate, so they never achieved anything. Stop passing bills that never go anywhere and get a strategy that will actually advance our cause. If we must shut the government down to get the president’s attention, then let’s do it. All essential personnel are required to work anyway, so the government never really shuts down.

This president has already shown his vindictive streak the last time there was a government shutdown when he “closed” the World War II Memorial and national parks. We know what he will do. Let’s prepare an offensive strategy.

We have many vocal Presidential candidates who can very ably make the case to the public that the President is the one that is shutting down the government by his veto. This may be the best possible time to have this battle since the Presidential candidates can use their public time to advance the cause.

Wouldn’t you like to see Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and even Donald Trump explain why we needed to pass the CR with the defund Planned Parenthood amendment and the no refugee amendment?

Speaker Boehner and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell should welcome the help since they have been silent far too long.

Did Boehner really say that?

August 31, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016, Cathy Keim, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Did Boehner really say that? 

By Cathy Keim

The other day a friend emailed me to let me know that Speaker Boehner was at a fundraiser for Congressman Scott Tipton in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, on Wednesday night, August 26, 2015, where Speaker Boehner said, ”Ted Cruz is a jackass.” She stated that he made several other offensive remarks that didn’t sit well with most of the audience.

Remember that the Speaker of the House is third in line to the presidency. As someone quipped, “The top three aren’t looking so good.”

When our congressmen return from their August holiday September 8, Congressman Mark Meadows’ motion to vacate the chair will be waiting for a resolution. Word on the street has it that Boehner did not bring the motion up for a vote prior to the holiday because he did not have the votes to dispatch with it summarily. If Boehner were deposed, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the second in command, is said to be getting positioned to claim the speakership.

That would not appear to be much of an improvement unless he learned a lesson from the unrest that caused Boehner to be removed.

The GOP leadership in both the House and the Senate has been playing a game for years now. When the conservative base gets restless and fired up, then the leadership says they will act boldly to stop whatever the issue is such as overturning Obamacare or, more recently, defunding Planned Parenthood.

Then the same kabuki dance starts once again. The House will pass a bill and send it to the Senate where it dies an ignoble death, but the Congressmen can proudly point to their votes and declare I voted for or against this terrible thing even though they knew it was a meaningless exercise from the beginning. They never intended to fight to the end for the cause. They never exerted themselves to gain traction for the issue. They never tried to lead, but only to snooker the rubes back home that do not check the vote record closely enough to get the big picture.

That is why it is so offensive that Boehner would choose to speak so rudely about Senator Ted Cruz. There are not many politicians that go to DC and continue to fight for what they campaigned for. The few that do are pilloried by the GOP leadership and despised for upsetting the apple cart.

Don’t they know that they are elected to govern? In their minds, that appears to mean rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Almost all of our politicians seem to be playing small ball while our country is falling apart. This administration has coldly manipulated their various factions into a perpetual sense of victimhood and strife.

Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland, have erupted as a result of the black rage that has been carefully fueled by the Justice Department and the administration. Illegal immigration is out of control and legal immigration is at high levels which keep the job market closed to many Americans as their jobs are going to workers that undercut them by working under the table – or the employers have government-funded incentives that make hiring a foreign worker cheaper than hiring an American.

The rage is being stoked by the progressives to achieve their goals of remaking America, but they seem unaware that there are hardworking Americans that are trying to play by the rules and live their lives according to the principles that made this country great. These Middle Americans are reaching a breaking point as they are taxed to pay for the welfare costs of the illegal and legal aliens that are driving the job market down.

There was a cry for John Boehner to be removed as speaker after the last election, but only a few brave souls dared to vote against him. Now the congressmen will have another chance to get it right with Congressman Meadows’ motion to vacate:

Whereas the Speaker of the House of Representatives for the 114th Congress has endeavored to consolidate power and centralize decision-making, bypassing the majority of the 435 Members of Congress and the people they represent;

Whereas the Speaker has, through inaction, caused the power of Congress to atrophy, thereby making Congress subservient to the Executive and Judicial branches, diminishing the voice of the American People;

Whereas the Speaker uses the power of the office to punish Members who vote according to their conscience instead of the will of the Speaker;

Whereas the Speaker has intentionally provided for voice votes on consequential and controversial legislation to be taken without notice and with few Members present;

Whereas the Speaker uses the legislative calendar to create crises for the American People, in order to compel Members to vote for legislation;

Whereas the Speaker does not comply with the spirit of the rules of the House of Representatives, which provide that Members shall have three days to review legislation before voting;

Whereas the Speaker continues to direct the Rules Committee to limit meaningful amendments, to limit debate on the House floor, and to subvert a straightforward legislative process;

(snip)

Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the office of Speaker of the House of Representatives is hereby declared to be vacant.

If our congressmen will stand with Mark Meadows and force Boehner out, then maybe we will finally have an opportunity to resist this administration’s continual overreaching.

It will require our representatives to care more about their country than about their own committee chairmanship or perk. It will require them to quit settling for useless votes to placate the folks back home while knowing that nothing is being done to reclaim America. It will require them to challenge the established powers that be in order to change from inaction to action.

Ted Cruz has been a leader whose vision for America demands that he stand against much of the small vision dealings of the leadership. I am sure that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell hate to see him coming since he is driven by principle while they are driven by a spirit of accommodation. His stands on policy issues are a stark contrast to their backroom deals and caving to pressure.

The question is: who is the jackass?

The answer may come when Congress returns from their holiday.

Out on his ear?

In relatively breaking news, Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina has filed a motion to vacate the House chair. Translation from wonkspeak: he wants to remove John Boehner as Speaker of the House. However, Meadows has couched his request in such a way that it has to go through committee, which essentially is a death sentence for the resolution. As he told the Washington Post:

What I’m hopeful for is this provided perhaps the impetus to have a discussion, a family discussion, where we can start talking about how we can make sure that every voice, every vote matters, and really about representing the American people. Ultimately what I want to is to make sure everyone is treated fairly.

So really this is not an effort to get rid of Boehner but to put him on notice? That won’t go too far. The time to get rid of John Boehner was in January, but there was no organization behind that effort. Short of him resigning as Speaker, we are stuck with him through 2016. Even if a majority of Republicans supported the effort, the Democrats probably won’t bite because John Boehner is probably the best Republican Speaker they can get, and there are a fair number of Republicans who will suck up to leadership.

America really needs a do-over in 2016. If there were ever a time for the “throw the bums out” mentality, it would be right now. Tough-talking complete outsider Donald Trump is light-years in front in GOP polling, and while it’s likely that lead will dissipate when people begin to pay attention it should be noted that early in the 2012 campaign, during the fall of 2011, those miffed at Washington were backing the outsider businessman in the person of Herman Cain. Like Trump talks tough on immigration, Cain made a lot of hay around his 9-9-9 tax program. Ugly rumors of an extramarital affair did Cain in, but we will need to wait to see what, if anything given his celebrity, can be dug up on the Donald.

I sense a mood of resignation from rank-and-file Republican regulars, though. In the back of our minds we figured this was how it would be despite getting the Senate back after an eight-year hiatus. There is always an excuse with this bunch, and even though people are weary of Barack Obama the press is not actively driving down his polling numbers as they did for George W. Bush – so there is the illusion that he is still popular. But well-liked presidents don’t lose over 80 Congressional seats during their tenure. (Bush lost 36 in 2006, but had gained 17 in the two preceding elections.)

I think the impression was that we would make Obama’s veto pen his most-used writing instrument, but once again we are being let down by a spineless leadership who quakes at the thought of being blamed for anything. News flash: you will be anyway so you may as well be guilty of what you are accused of.

No, we won’t see a Speaker of the House fall, but we will get more evidence the natives are restless.

Fast track bill bounces back to Senate

June 23, 2015 · Posted in Cathy Keim, Delmarva items, Inside the Beltway, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Fast track bill bounces back to Senate 

By Cathy Keim

Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) is alive and well due to political shenanigans to keep it going. When the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) bill was voted down by Democrats hoping to block TPA, the game was supposed to end. However, Speaker Boehner is determined to work with Majority Leader McConnell in the Senate to present fast track to the president.

Part of what makes this so confusing is that the Republican-controlled House and Senate are working overtime to present the Democratic president the gift that he has been longing for: more authority to pursue multiple trade bills with Congress only able to vote the deal up or down. Why would the Republicans be feverishly pursuing this goal?

The obvious answer is that free trade is so important that any way of achieving it is worth making any sacrifice. That may be what they are telling you, but it just isn’t true. There are plenty of ways that this deal could lock the US into untenable trade agreements. Currency manipulation, immigration, patent and copyright issues are just a few of the areas that could turn against American workers.

Even when you look at the Maryland delegation’s votes, you will see strange bedfellows. First, take our two senators who split on the issue. I cannot find a statement by Senator Mikulski about her vote, but she voted no. Since she is not running for office again, she does not have to worry about offending the president.

Senator Cardin voted yes after he introduced an AIPAC backed amendment. AIPAC states:

On April 22, the Senate Finance Committee voted unanimously to include an amendment targeting harmful anti-Israel trade and commercial practices in the “Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority bill. The amendment, authored by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH), addresses efforts by foreign governments to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel. It also directs that one of the principal American objectives in upcoming trade negotiations will be to discourage trading partners from taking actions that would limit U.S.-Israel commerce.

I can understand why Senator Cardin would want to defend Israel when the current administration has shown real hostility towards them, but one has to ask if this is shortsighted on the Senator’s part. Giving the same administration fast track authority when the president has shown little interest in adhering to any restraints put upon him, may in the long run turn out worse for Israel. Perhaps Senator Cardin would do better to vote no and stop the whole fast track process.

Only one other representative from Maryland voted yes on TPA and that was Congressman John Delaney of the 6th Congressional District. He stated in a press release that:

Right now, two things are happening: 1) Congress is considering a bipartisan agreement that instructs the President on trade negotiations and begins the deliberation process for a new accord and 2) China is working on their own regional trade agreement. I support giving President Obama Trade Promotion Authority because it will give the President the tools he needs to negotiate the best trade deal for America and our workers. For the first time, the bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority package includes groundbreaking environmental and labor standards and provides unprecedented human rights protections. The Trade Promotion Authority Package gives President Obama new ways to enforce these standards to make sure we’re not having a race to the bottom that drags American workers down. So it’s either going to be our country setting the terms for trade or it’s going to be China. I want our country, our government and this President setting the terms of international trade, not China.

Congressman Harris of the 1st Congressional District voted no. His Facebook page states:

Thousands of citizens in Maryland’s First District contacted my office regarding bills on trade that were recently considered in the House. Today, I voted against the Trade Promotional Authority (TPA) bill for a second time. Representing your views are of the utmost importance to me and it is truly an honor to serve the people in the First District.

He did not listen to his constituents about CRomnibus or voting out Boehner as Speaker of the House, but this time he heard us loud and clear and responded as we asked. I wonder if that is because former Delegate Mike Smigiel has announced that he is opposing Andy in the primary next April?

Representatives Donna Edwards (4th District) and Chris Van Hollen Jr. (8th District) are both running for the Senate seat being vacated by Barbara Mikulski. Edwards is running to the left and Van Hollen is obliged to move left too. Van Hollen explains his reasons in a letter to Rep. Levin.

He lists multiple concerns such as currency manipulation, increased investor lawsuits, workers’ rights, environmental issues and more as his reasons for voting no.

Representatives Ruppersberger, Sarbanes, Edwards, and Cummings all signed a letter to President Obama explaining why they were voting no on TPA.

For some time, members of Congress have urged your administration to engage in broader and deeper consultations with members of the full range of committees of Congress whose jurisdiction touches on the numerous issues being negotiated.

(snip)

Beyond traditional tariff issues, these include policies related to labor, patent and copyright, land use, food, agriculture and product standards, natural resources, the environment, professional licensing, competition, state-owned enterprises and government procurement policies, as well as financial, healthcare, energy, e-commerce, telecommunications and other service sector regulations.

(snip)

Congress, not the Executive Branch, must determine when an agreement meets the objectives Congress sets in the exercise of its Article I-8 exclusive constitutional authority to set the terms of trade.

Representative Steny Hoyer is the Minority Whip. He voted against TPA because:

Trade Promotion Authority legislation lays the foundation for how we approach trade policy as part of our overall economic strategy, and we cannot look at trade simply on its own. We must consider all the elements that affect American workers and jobs.

(snip)

Our workers deserve policies that boost our competitiveness and place us at an advantage in global markets, making it easier for them to get ahead.

He then lists a whole smorgasbord of expensive programs that he wants for the workers.

The reasons for the votes cast vary from constituent demands, to fear of China, to wanting more spending, to defending Israel and to pursuing a Senate seat. Some of the reasons I can agree with while others, like wanting the Export-Import Bank renewed, are not acceptable. However, on this important vote I am happy to have the Democrats join with as many Republicans as will stand against TPA.

Keep on calling and prodding your senators to vote against TPA. The cloture vote is expected today, with the final vote coming tomorrow. If the bill survives cloture, it will likely pass, so the ball is now in the Senate’s court.

An assessment of the current situation

By Cathy Keim and Michael Swartz

Here is a question for our loyal readers: Now that it is mid-May, do you think that the GOP elites in Washington, D.C. have fulfilled their campaign pledges to stop President Obama’s fundamental change of our country?

Michael and I have voted no on that question and to make our point we have signed the Open Letter to Congress: Interim Assessment from the Citizens’ Mandate. (Our signatures are on page 5.)

I wrote about the original Citizens’ Mandate on monoblogue back in February. After working hard on the 2014 elections, many of us felt great relief when the GOP won by a landslide. That feeling was quickly replaced by a sense of betrayal with the passage of the CRomnibus budget and the retaining of John Boehner as Speaker of the House. The Citizens’ Mandate was a call to the GOP leadership to remember their campaign promises and to fulfill their obligations to their voters.

Instead, as the organizers of the mandate stated:

Contrary to the Republicans’ self-assessment of their first 100 days… more than 100 conservative leaders, in only 72 hours of signature collection, have given the Republican Congress a poor assessment on the members’ performance in their first 132 days in control of the legislative branch.

Among the actions by the GOP Cathy and I disagreed with, they:

  • Funded executive amnesty;
  • Continued Obamacare;
  • Jeopardized national security (by not addressing illegal immigration);
  • Ceded away treaty power on a nuke deal with Iran;
  • Continued excessive federal spending;
  • Undermined faith-based agenda;
  • Helped Obama (by confirming Loretta Lynch as Attorney General);
  • Continued federal education;
  • Punished conservative champions (through changing committee assignments), and;
  • Neglected congressional oversight.

While Congress is doing some things right, there’s a tremendous amount of untapped potential we are missing out on. It’s a reason that other vocal critics such as Richard and Susan Falknor of Blue Ridge Forum, Carroll County GOP Central Committee member Kathy Fuller, and former Delegate Michael Smigiel (who is running for Congress against the incumbent Andy Harris), and conservative commentator Dan Bongino have signed on. Bongino was quoted in the release, noting:

It’s way past time to reinvigorate our party and set forth a set of guiding principles. For too long we’ve been lost in partisan games while forgetting that, in the end, it’s the ideas that will take us to a better tomorrow.

Some may argue that Barack Obama received his electoral mandate in 2012, but it’s just as valid (if not moreso) to make the point that a course correction had become necessary and the results showed the message was sent emphatically in 2014.

Our call is for Congress to translate that message in legislation and oversight. Certainly there’s the prospect of veto after veto, but rather than get the reputation as a “do-nothing Congress” put the onus on the President to respond and – whatever you do – don’t cede any more power to the Executive Branch. We don’t want to have to sign an updated letter in the fall, so get busy.

Will Maryland join a Convention of States or an Article V Convention?

March 15, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Cathy Keim, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Will Maryland join a Convention of States or an Article V Convention? 

By Cathy Keim

The push for an Article V Convention is growing nationwide, and it is coming from both sides of the political spectrum. The citizens are aware that they are not being heard and they are looking for ways to correct this.

An Article V Convention or Convention of the States is one of two ways to amend the Constitution of the United States. In case you’ve forgotten, here is Article V:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, (emphasis added) or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate

All previous amendments have been through Congress. However, the Convention of States method has been utilized to put pressure on Congress to act. For example, the states wanted to have direct election of their senators but Congress would not oblige – so the states began the process of calling for a convention of states. Once they got within one state of achieving the two thirds needed, Congress acted rather than losing its prerogative. (This led to the Seventeenth Amendment.)

Maryland has legislation under consideration now which states:

Applying to the U.S. Congress for an amendments convention called under Article V of the U.S. Constitution, on the application of the legislatures of two-thirds of the several states, to propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that affirms every citizen’s freedom to vote and restores free and fair elections in America.

This bill is filed as HJ2 by Delegate Sheila Hixson and is cross-filed with SJ2 by Senator Paul Pinsky. It was introduced last session also, but did not come to the floor for a vote. (Editor’s note: The Senate version from 2014, however, passed committee 9-2 with all three Republicans on the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee voting yes.)

Reading the bill summary left me perplexed. Who thinks we need an amendment to restore free and fair elections? My mind thought of voter fraud, but who would want to amend the Constitution to fix that issue? After some phone calls to Delegate Hixson and Senator Pinsky’s offices, though, the confusion was cleared up.

This bill is the result of the work of Get Money Out of Maryland (GMOM) and its allies. They claim to be bipartisan, but the groups in the allies list lean distinctly progressive.

The bills have a total of sixty-nine sponsors of which two are Republicans, so I suppose that makes it bipartisan.

GMOM states:

The Citizens United v FEC decision by the Supreme Court opened the floodgates for unlimited campaign expenditures in elections, which corporations and the extremely wealthy have used with devastating impact in the last few elections. This misguided decision reversed decades of campaign finance regulation at the state and federal level, turning our public elections into private auctions. With regard to voting rights, Supreme Court justices in the Bush v Gore decision declared that there is no individual right to vote in the Constitution and in its aftermath, there has been a concerted attack upon the right to vote across the country. These legal travesties require remedy if we are going to preserve representative democracy and create a more perfect union. (Emphasis in original.)

According to Senator Pinsky’s spokesman, the principal point of this amendment is that there is too much money in politics since the Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case opened the floodgates. GMOM wants the Citizens United ruling reversed so the only option is to exert pressure on Congress via an Article V Convention to amend the Constitution. Their expectation is that Congress will act if the states approach the two-thirds approval level as happened with the direct election of senators.

GMOM states that Vermont, California, Illinois, and New Jersey have already passed the “Democracy” amendment and several other states, such as Maryland, are considering the bill now.

Working from the opposite side of the political spectrum is the group Citizens for Self-Governance which states:

Citizens concerned for the future of their country, under a federal government that’s increasingly bloated, corrupt, reckless and invasive, have a constitutional option. We can call a Convention of States to return the country to its original vision of a limited federal government that is of, by and for the people.

They also add:

Rather than calling a convention for a specific amendment, Citizens for Self-Governance (CSG) has launched the Convention of the States Project to urge state legislatures to properly use Article V to call a convention for a particular subject—reducing the power of Washington, D.C. It is important to note that a convention for an individual amendment (e.g. a Balanced Budget Amendment) would be limited to that single idea. Requiring a balanced budget is a great idea that CSG fully supports. Congress, however, could comply with a Balanced Budget Amendment by simply raising taxes. We need spending restraints as well. We need restraints on taxation. We need prohibitions against improper federal regulation. We need to stop unfunded mandates.

Both sides of the debate assure their followers that the Article V Convention cannot spiral out of control and rewrite the entire Constitution once they convene. Their main defense against this is that any amendment that comes out of the convention still has to be approved by three quarters of the states, thus giving ample room for rogue amendments to be stopped.

You may want to keep an eye on how Maryland’s effort plays out this legislative session – although from the progressive side, it still illustrates the discontent that is growing as citizens realize that their overlords in DC are not listening to them. It is striking (and terrifying) that the progressives feel that President Obama is not doing enough to reach their goals, while the conservatives feel attacked and denigrated by their weak and ineffective leadership under Speaker Boehner and Senate Leader McConnell.

Perhaps the only people happy with the current system are the politicians that are in power and the wealthy elites and crony capitalists that consort with and fund their campaigns. Outside that narrow group, there is a battle brewing.

Congressman Harris, we are waiting!

March 5, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Cathy Keim, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Congressman Harris, we are waiting! 

By Cathy Keim

The failure of Congress to hold President Obama accountable for his increasingly aggressive executive overreach is about to make them irrelevant. They have reneged on their oaths to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. The protection against a tyrant that our Founders put into our Constitution was the separation of powers. Congress has abdicated their responsibility to resist and stop illegal actions by this president particularly by the power of the purse.

Back on January 6, 2015, in response to pressure from many angry constituents over his vote to re-elect John Boehner as Speaker of the House, Andy Harris posted the following on his Facebook page:

In November, Speaker Boehner was re-nominated by the Republican House Conference without a single opponent stepping forward. That was the appropriate time for an alternative to step forward and be considered by House Republicans. Today’s vote on the House floor was simply whether Nancy Pelosi or John Boehner was going to be Speaker of the House. I hope that we can now move forward and work with the Senate to pass common-sense conservative policies. If Speaker Boehner does not deliver on his promises, a Republican House Conference can be called by 50 members and I would join in that call. (Emphasis mine.)

I have no problem standing up for conservative principles to the Speaker and Republican leadership, such as my vote against the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, as well as my votes against the Ryan-Murray budget deal and debt ceiling increases. Please know that I will continue to fight for conservative values and Maryland’s First District in the 114th Congress.

So, I am asking, “Congressman Harris, Speaker Boehner has clearly failed miserably at stopping the executive amnesty overreach. What are you going to do about it?”

The loss of jobs to illegal immigrants, the cost of welfare benefits, Social Security payments for older people that have not paid into the system, tax credits from the IRS for the previous three years amounting to thousands of dollars, etc. etc. The costs are extremely high both in taxpayer dollars expended and in stress to our citizens that cannot find jobs.

Congressman Harris, the damage from this illegal amnesty is far reaching. Again, I urge: please tell us what you plan to do about it.

P.S. Governor Hogan, our state budget is already in the red. This amnesty is going to cause additional drains on our taxpayers. Maryland joined in supporting the executive overreach prior to you being sworn in, but I cannot find any statement from you to say that you disagree with the amnesty.

In a “friend of the court” brief filed Monday, attorneys general from 12 states and the District of Columbia threw their backing behind the president’s executive actions, which could help nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants who currently live in the U.S., allowing them to seek work without fear of deportation.

Officials from 12 states – Washington, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Vermont – and the District of Columbia filed the brief Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

In fact, according to WorldNetDaily, your press secretary ducked questions on the subject when asked.

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