Tales of an election

So now that you know where I was on Election Night (thanks to Muir Boda) let me shine some light on our party. I’m the guy in the McDermott shirt; hopefully it wasn’t a jinx.

Unlike a lot of elections past, I did not work a poll. My outside job had tasks which a) had to be covered Tuesday and b) were up in Dover. I didn’t even get home until almost 8:00; fortunately knowing this a couple weeks in advance I could hold my nose and vote early.

Since I wanted a table to write notes on I sat next to Dr. Rene Desmarais, who has admirably remained in the fray despite his primary election loss. I hope the Hogan administration can use his health care expertise. He’s the guy at the laptop in the checkered shirt.

Taking my seat for a few minutes was Mike McDermott, who was anxiously looking at results and drawing attention.

Mike didn’t stay all that long. I figure he went home to see his supporters and share the bad news with them, since it was obvious from the get-go he wasn’t doing all that well. It turned out that Wicomico was the only one of the three counties Mike won, and it’s a margin which is pending absentees. The difference between Michael James in 2010 and Mike in 2014 seems to be that McDermott did poorly in Somerset County, which James carried but Mike lost by almost 700 votes.

Obviously there were a lot of people who craved information. Bob Culver (center, in white) and Joe Holloway (right) were awaiting results.

As it turned out, Culver erased a slight early voting disadvantage to rout incumbent County Executive Rick Pollitt by almost 3,000 votes, with just under 56% all told. Holloway had much less to worry about as his Democratic opponent withdrew after the primary and was not replaced by the local party.

The two pictured there were the conservative backbone of the local County Council, and hopefully two newcomers are going to maintain the proper direction.

Larry Dodd (in the arm sling) and Marc Kilmer are two of the three “new” Republican members of County Council, although Dodd represented District 5 for 4 years before Joe Holloway defeated him in the 2006 primary. Similarly, John Cannon left County Council after one term in 2010 to run unsuccessfully for a seat in the House of Delegates before winning again last night. Thus, Marc Kilmer is one of just two “new” County Council members; the other being lone Democrat Ernest Davis, who was unopposed for the District 1 seat.

As it turned out, County Council maintained its 6-1 Republican edge. But there are definite things to look out for, as two of those Republicans openly backed Rick Pollitt for County Executive.

I don’t think Matt Holloway or John Hall will be opposed to the elected school board Republicans in Wicomico County have sought for years, only to be thwarted by Rick Pollitt and (especially) Norm Conway. Both those obstacles are no more; to his credit Jim Mathias has been supportive of the idea in the past and a Senate bill for the elected school board passed there in 2011. (Conway sponsored a House bill that passed in 2011, but did not in 2012 – nor did a Senate bill that year. No action was taken in 2013 or 2014.)

But Pollitt was quick to point out in debates and forums that four of the six Republicans voted for his latest budget. Two of them, Gail Bartkovich and Stevie Prettyman, did not seek another term, but Matt Holloway and John Hall were the other two. Beginning with the FY2016 budget, it may be a battle to get four votes on County Council if Matt Holloway and Hall maintain their big-spending ways.

I would also love to see the county’s speed cameras become a thing of the past, as Culver was the lone voice of reason to vote against their adoption. It’s called excising that line item from the budget.

The party itself was relatively well-attended, although I’m certain some candidates had their own gatherings. At its peak there were probably 50-60 people in the house.

But while the news was good on the county front, there’s no doubt the star of the show was one Carl Anderton, Jr.

At 9:45 Bunky Luffman, Anderton’s campaign manager, sidled up to me and predicted, “I think we’ve got it.” He explained a particular precinct where they were hoping to get 30% of the vote came in down by just 89 votes.

Anderton’s win, though, was just the tip of the iceberg. A lot of Titanic Democrats went down last night (with lifetime monoblogue Accountability Project scores shown):

  • After six terms, longtime Blue Dog Democrat Delegate Kevin Kelly in District 1B (mAP = 40) lost to Jason Buckel.
  • Delegate John Donoghue (mAP = 9), also a 24-year veteran, was ousted in District 2B by Brett Wilson.
  • In District 6, 9-year incumbent Delegate John Olszewski, Jr. (mAP = 16) lost his bid for the Senate seat held for 48 years by Norman Stone, Jr. (mAP = 28). Three-term Delegate Michael Weir, Jr. (mAP = 28) was also knocked off.
  • Longtime District 29 Senator (and onetime Congressman) Roy Dyson (mAP = 26) lost his bid for a sixth term to Steve Waugh. In that same district, 15-year veteran John Bohanon (mAP = 6) trails Deb Rey by 115 votes with absentees to count.
  • District 34’s Senate seat stayed in GOP hands as Bob Cassilly defeated Delegate Mary-Dulany James (mAP =14), who leaves after 16 years.
  • In District 35A, 20-year incumbent David Rudolph (mAP = 17) lost to Kevin Hornberger.
  • And we know about 28-year incumbent and committee Chair Norm Conway (mAP = 6) who lost to Anderton.

Most of the damage, though, came from the ranks of “moderate” Democrats. According to the monoblogue Accountability Project, these were the top 10 Democrats and here’s how they did.

  1. Delegate John Wood, Jr. – retired, endorsed Larry Hogan.
  2. Delegate Kevin Kelly – lost re-election.
  3. Delegate Joseph “Sonny” Minnick – retired.
  4. Senator Norman Stone – retired.
  5. Delegate Michael Weir, Jr. – lost re-election.
  6. Senator James DeGrange – won with 59% of vote.
  7. Senator Jim Mathias – won with 52% of vote.
  8. Senator Roy Dyson – lost re-election.
  9. Senator John Astle – won with 51% of the vote.
  10. Senator James Brochin – won with 52% of the vote.

Six out of the 10 won’t be back and only one of the remaining four won convincingly. Not knowing how most of those who defeated these incumbents will vote, the chances are the divide between the two parties will become more pronounced. Only a couple hardline Democrats (those 10 or less on the mAP) were losers last night, while McDermott was the only Republican to lose in the general election. In the respect that Democrats managed to get rid of two perpetual thorns in their side through redistricting (Mike McDermott and Don Dwyer) it was a success, but the GOP still picked up more seats than they did before the new districts were drawn in 2010.

So the stage is set for what should be a very intriguing (and hopefully, prosperous for this county and state) four-year term.

Finally, I want to go through a little of my thinking on these races. I was perhaps less optimistic than most about the outcomes because I figured Democratic turnout would be about where it was four years ago. But as it happens, turnout is going to be about 46%, which is a significant decline from the 54% posted in 2010. If the Democratic turnout followed that pattern it was about 10% less than I figured it would be, and those that were passionate enough to show up may likely have cast a number of votes for the GOP.

Simply put, the Democratic base didn’t show up. Whether it was disillusionment with the candidates or just a general apathy, it looks like the GOP filled the void, to the benefit of the state.

After it was all over, I spoke a little bit with David Warren, who came down here to run the Eastern Shore Victory Headquarters.

He pointed out two key factors that led to Hogan’s win: money from the RNC and Republican Governor’s Association, and the help – both financially and in volunteers – from the College Republicans, from the national level to all the phone calls made by the local Salisbury University CRs. “Teenagers and college kids get it,” said Warren.

David also praised the work of state party Chair Diana Waterman and Executive Director Joe Cluster, saying “what they did was phenomenal.” Similar praise was heaped by Warren onto Andy Harris, who put a lot of money into these local races and helped level the playing field.

Finally, I have one more statement. Eight years ago, it was said that:

(GOP leaders are) “going to be flying high, but we’re going to get together and we’re going to shoot them down. We’re going to bury them face down in the ground, and it’ll be 10 years before they crawl out again.”

I think we’re two years early, Mike Miller. Suck on that.

Anderton among Constitutional Conservatives for Maryland PAC endorsees

Yesterday the Constitutional Conservatives for Maryland PAC announced seven endorsements for the 2014 campaign. All seven of these candidates are Republicans and they are seeking office in most corners of the state, so I will cover them in district order. As a hint to what they are up against, I’m featuring the lifetime monoblogue Accountability Project (mAP) score for incumbents.

  • Robin Grammer, District 6. This Baltimore County district elected three Democrats in 2010 but only Michael Weir, Jr. (mAP = 28), who is seeking his fourth term, decided to run again. (John Olszewski, Jr. decided to run for the Senate seat of retiring Senator Norman Stone and Joseph “Sonny” Minnick opted to retire.) So two of the seats are open in a district which has elected moderate Democrats and just might be amenable to the GOP alternative.
  • Gordon Bull, District 12. Sliced between Baltimore and Howard counties, this used to be a 2/1 split district. But all three incumbent Democrats, who had a combined 52 years in office, decided to get out so the opening is there. Not the easiest territory but hopefully the district’s conservative voters can unite and sneak Bull into the top three.
  • Michael Ostroff, District 14. Ostroff certainly has a tough race. All three incumbents are running again: Anne Kaiser (mAP = 3), Eric Luedtke (mAP = 2), and Craig Zucker (mAP = 3) are in the race. But for Luedtke and Zucker, this is their first bid for re-election so the jury could be out on them – Ostroff provides a conservative alternative for MoCo voters.
  • Philip Parenti, District 27B. Some could write this race off because it’s in Prince George’s County, but a significant part of the 27B district lies in Calvert County, much friendlier to Republicans. It’s the eastern half of the old two-member District 27A, but shifted even a little more eastward into Calvert. Moreover, Parenti is up against a newcomer rather than an incumbent – James Proctor, Jr. is running in adjacent District 27A while Joseph Vallario, Jr. was redistricted himself to District 23B. So this is a winnable race as well.
  • Deb Rey, District 29B. St. Mary’s County has been trending more Republican over the last four years and the opponent is 15-year veteran John Bohanon, Jr. (mAP = 6). True, her section of the 29th district at the southern tip of St. Mary’s County has a Democratic voter advantage – but so does Wicomico County and we see how Republicans do there. This is a case where the Delegate may be a mismatch for the district in terms of voting record.
  • Sid Saab, District 33. Saab is in the catbird seat among these contenders. Two of the three incumbents in the newly-restored District 33 (it was a split district) are Republicans who have represented Anne Arundel County well – Tony McConkey (mAP = 82) and Cathy Vitale (mAP = 80) decided to stay on, while Robert Costa (mAP = 44) opted to leave after three terms. It created the opening for Saab, who should hopefully score about as well as McConkey and Vitale, if not better.
  • Carl Anderton, Jr., District 38B. Most of my readers should be familiar with Anderton, who’s running against a 28-year incumbent in Norm Conway (mAP = 6.) State Democrats tried to assist Conway by excising most of the geography of his old district, removing Republican-heavy Worcester County entirely and centering it in the Salisbury metro area. Voter registration would suggest it’s a leaning-Democratic district but in terms of registered voters it’s also the third-smallest in the state – so the candidate who can motivate best has an advantage and Carl is working extremely hard.

While this PAC isn’t wealthy by any means, they can throw a few hundred dollars into the coffers of each of these candidates should they so choose. But it’s more important to spread the word about these worthy conservative alternatives – imagine what the General Assembly would be like if all six won and pushed the GOP numbers tantalizingly close to 50. Even getting to 47 would be a victory as they could get around the committee process if all stick together.

So those who bought raffle tickets from the group should be pleased with the results.

A sneak attack (on our county taxpayers)

Two similar (but not identical, thus not crossfiled) bills have been introduced in the General Assembly this term, measures which would thwart the will of voters in Wicomico County and elsewhere in Maryland.

First among them was SB740, which was introduced February 3 by Senator Richard Madeleno of Montgomery County, which is one of the counties that inhibits property tax collections in some manner. (The others are Anne Arundel, Prince George’s, Talbot, and Wicomico.) It’s a bill which would simply allow counties which have this sort of cap to circumvent it, provided the money goes to the county’s school board.

But HB1412, which was introduced on February 28 – and got the extraordinary benefit of a hearing just two days after introduction – would do grave damage to the financial bottom line of several counties, most particularly Wicomico. It’s notable that Delegate Norm “Five Dollar” Conway is a co-sponsor of the bill, which is led by Delegate John Bohanon of St. Mary’s County and also backed by members from Baltimore City and Baltimore, Howard, and Montgomery counties.

Apparently this will affect Wicomico County in two ways: first of all, their maintenance of effort (MOE) won’t come down to a more realistic level based on tax revenues – for FY2012 they were over $14 million short of the $50 million MOE goal, the largest percentage of any of the state’s 24 counties – and our MOE will likely automatically increase up to 2.5% each year after FY2015 because we’ll almost certainly be considered a “below average” county. At a starting point of $50 million, that’s an extra $1 million we would have to come up with (or roughly 1.5 cents per $100 extra on property tax rates, based on what the county currently receives) annually. That’s also faster than our revenue cap would allow, since it’s based on an increase of no more than two percent.

But the other problem the bill will create is shorting other areas of the county’s budget which depend on the state – according to the fiscal note for HB1412, “(i)f a county does not fully fund MOE and has not received a waiver, the county’s income tax revenues will be intercepted and sent to the school board.” In other words, we lose the local control we have on state funding.

Now some may argue that because the state is providing the funds, they should call the tune. I don’t disagree with that, but if they want to play that game I’d like to see an opt-out provision. Call their bluff: okay, if you want to take away our local control of the money then we don’t want to send you our taxes. Obviously that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

And the problem most people have with the local Board of Education isn’t one of necessity. Few would argue that we don’t need public education as an option.

But there are a lot of us who feel money should follow the child, regardless of where the parents wish to send them to school. By bringing that element of competition into it, schools are forced to improve and provide more bang for the buck. Certainly I’m aware that Wicomico County schools have been studied and found to spend a below-average amount on administrative costs, but it certainly seems to me that the things the Board of Education likes to project as cuts are the ones which provide the greatest shock value. Yet what would our financial situation be like if we simply increased the average class size to 25 students? How much help would that provide?

I seem to recall that once upon a time our County Executive vowed he would do zero-based budgeting as he did as Fruitland’s city manager, beginning each year from scratch. It doesn’t seem to work that way at the Board of Education, which seems to assume they are entitled to every dime they can extract out of our pockets and then some.

And, needless to say, this bill would also provide impetus to opponents of the revenue cap to push for its removal – “the children are hurting,” they’ll whine in a tone which will remind me of those who are dismissed as the “Bennett babes.” But that squeaky wheel got the grease, didn’t it?

I suspect the long-term answer, however, may be for Maryland to give local districts taxing authority like they have in most other states. Certainly this has its drawbacks – for example, my alma mater district derives revenue from both a local income tax and a local property tax, which is somewhat rare among Ohio districts – but at least there may be a little bit of a chance for local control and reform. (The reason for this dual taxation practice is that a vast percentage of the district consists of low-value agricultural land but many of the families on the eastern edge of the district have reasonably high-paying jobs in nearby Toledo and moved to the school district for its lower property taxes.) If a school board isn’t doing its fiduciary duty by the taxpayers, the option is there to “starve the beast” until needed changes are made.

I don’t know what the fate of these two bills will be, but if one or both are passed it will change the local financial landscape for the worse. Those on the side of the statists never fail to make everything they do hurt the “country class” like hell, and this will be no exception.

The McDermott notes: week 7

February 26, 2012 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on The McDermott notes: week 7 

As the General Assembly session chugs along into its second half, we’re beginning to see more votes being taken during House sessions – no longer is the time being spent with first readers of new House bills. They’re also getting the bills passed by the Senate to consider.

Two key happenings on Monday were the traditional Washington’s Birthday speech given by a Democrat and a challenge to the same-sex marriage vote count. McDermott opined that Delegate John Olszewski’s speech on Washington “implied he liked taxes…but maybe he was referring to Washington, D.C.”

But more important is the vote count challenge, since it’s against House rules to have voted and not placed up on the board. As of this writing, the official count is 72-67 but Delegate John Bohanan’s vote was originally not counted, which is why initial reports had it 71-67. This challenge has meant the day’s journal is not yet official.

Yet this is also interesting because House rules in the past have allowed Delegates to change their vote; on occasion in doing my monoblogue Accountability Project I notice this and those who do so are penalized. (The same is not true for the Senate.) It will be interesting what the record eventually shows for Bohanon.

McDermott broke the three days of hearings conducted last week down into three distinct groups: Tuesday was “gun day,” Wednesday was “DWI day,” and Thursday was “family law day.” It seems to be the custom that similar bills are lumped together in a hearing scenario, and that probably helps assure that lobbyists on each side of these issues have their calendars in sync.

Mike lamented that pro-Second Amendment legislation normally didn’t even get a vote in his committee, while those bills which continue to make Maryland a state hostile to lawful gun owners will likely not only make it out of committee but probably reach the floor. McDermott’s view is that Maryland should join the 40 “shall issue” states and place the burden on the state as to why a person should not carry a gun instead of placing the onus on the person who wants to carry to give a reason why. My reason is that there’s a Second Amendment which says I can.

Regarding the DWI bills, Mike is a co-sponsor of several of these, but a couple in particular may raise the ire of civil libertarians. I think the second one could be a problem since the state uses so many unmarked police cars.

Mike noted that all three days had standing room only crowds, which bolsters my point about the lobbyists having the days circled on their calendar in advance.

There were also three bills voted out of the Judiciary Committee on Thursday, with the only one I could find drawing opposition being HB96. Oddly enough, the 16-4 vote found four of the seven Republicans voting no, with McDermott and Delegate Michael Hough the only ones voting yes. (Delegate Don Dwyer was absent.) I’d be interested to know why they objected, with my one thought being that it limits a judge’s options in the case.

McDermott also noted the Senate’s work on Thursday, and compared it with how the House passed the gay marriage bill:

The Senate voted quickly on the O’Malley-Brown Same Sex Marriage Bill. They also created two legislative days out of one calendar day and passed the bill in the afternoon. No amendments were accepted onto the bill by the Democrats which could have at least made the bill better. These included amendments to address homosexual-same sex marriage curriculum in public schools and a prohibition on a minor being able to enter into a same sex marriage. As a result of these rejections, when the governor signs the bill into law next week a 16 year old boy will be able to marry a 40 year old man and our schools will be forced to instruct that same sex marriage is a normal option.

As a result, the referendum process has begun. The people of Maryland will have the last word when we force the issue into the ballot box. In the coming weeks, I will provide detailed information on how to get involved in the referendum. For those who helped in the referendum on Illegal Alien In-State Tuition last year, it will be the same process. We will now be on guard in the House for legislation that will seek to make the referendum process more complicated and arduous for the people. We know it is coming.

For his Friday “diary” Mike referred readers to the House Proceedings calendar to show the votes taken and bills passed. It’s worth noting that, out of 22 bills considered on the House docket for the day, 16 passed without a single “no” vote and three others with just token opposition. Only three had any significant force against them, and these dealt with the following subjects:

  • HB74, which extended the life of the State Board of Certified Interior Designers
  • HB104, which makes certain uses of a cell phone while driving a primary offense
  • HB173, which allows an electronic signature to be placed on file for voter registration

I would say all three of these have some potential to be part of the monoblogue Accountability Project, with HB104 and HB74 the two most likely to be used. Unfortunately, these votes aren’t public record yet so I don’t know who voted correctly or incorrectly.

McDermott was also pleased with the advancement of two of his bills, which he claimed would save the state millions of dollars. (He also said this at the Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner, which I’ll detail more tomorrow.) Interestingly enough, McDermott credits Wicomico County State’s Attorney Matt Maciarello with assisting on the bill.

Obviously it was a less stressful week than Week 6, but things will probably heat up as the budget bills begin to advance.

While Mike didn’t mention this, Friday also marked the day – since there was no legislative action on an alternative – that Governor O’Malley’s state gerrymandering officially became law, pending any court action of course. Now Mike shares District 38A with fellow Republican Delegate Charles Otto while the northeastern section of his old district becomes District 38C, an open seat. The parts of his former District 38B closest to Salisbury will presumably be left for Delegate Norm Conway to defend two years hence.

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