The battle now turns on fundraising

May 11, 2016 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2016, Campaign 2016 - President, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on The battle now turns on fundraising 

(Update: I was surprised to find Bossie read this piece and sent along pages of additional Presidential Coalition donations since 2006, to the tune of almost $140,000.)

Do you think Louis Pope is feeling the heat? I got a second letter from him Monday; this was the letter I alluded to Monday evening and was hoping to get to yesterday.

There were one passage in it that I found interesting. It talks about his opponent’s lack of party experience and Pope’s fundraising ability:

I now have competition in my race for re-election. My opponent has not yet served in any of the (party-related) jobs listed above, nor on a Central Committee or any party office. I wholeheartedly invite him to become more involved on the local & state level over the next few years. Experience pays in politics and I am one of the most experienced members of the Maryland Republican Party as well as the RNC. My seniority on the committee is important as I am able to direct RNC resources and funds back to Maryland.

The final piece of the puzzle needed for success at both the MDGOP and RNC is the ability to continually fundraise. Virtually ALL of our money comes through donations and you can only get those by making thousands of phone calls along with e-mails and letters to my personal donor base. Over the last two decades I have helped raise millions of dollars for MDGOP and our local & statewide candidates in Maryland, as well as Presidential candidates. (Emphasis in original.)

As we have seen in the last several months, GOP voters are perfectly comfortable with eschewing experienced politicians for someone who has done practically squat for the Republican Party until the day he decided to run for President representing it. And perhaps this is the problem with Pope’s experience: those who have stayed in an office too long tend to lose touch with their electorate, and become immersed in a world divorced from reality. Pope moved up the Republican ranks over a couple of decades, making it to state party chair in a good year to do so (2002.) And it seems the glide path for a former party chair involves serving in a different capacity with the RNC, since both Pope and former National Committeewoman Joyce Lyons Terhes were state party chairs at one time – Audrey Scott thought she could get in on that, too, but the Central Committee voters thought differently four years ago.

But I have to question whether that much in “resources and funds” accrued to the state party before Larry Hogan became governor. When I first became a Central Committee member in 2006, the Maryland Republican Party was worse than bankrupt financially – for years we were saddled with debt and things really didn’t come around until Hogan was elected. (And note that he used public financing to do so.) Perhaps Pope escaped Audrey Scott territory by being less than specific about dates and fundraising totals, but there were a lot of lean years while Pope was in office.

But Bossie’s organization has been no slouch, either. As part of the Citizens United umbrella, their Political Victory Fund has donated $119,000 so far this cycle to 40 different candidates, including a $5,000 shot in the arm to Kathy Szeliga’s Senate campaign (as well as a radio ad) and $3,500 to Andy Harris. In addition, this 2014 release shows the Presidential Coalition (another offshoot of Citizens United) donated over $33,000 to state candidates during that cycle.

I don’t doubt the Republican establishment likes Pope, as he’s been one of their loyal footsoldiers for many years. But perhaps it’s time for a new chapter, some fresh ideas, and a different style. One thing that struck me about Pope’s letter was how much it looked back at accomplishments rather than forward at goals. While there’s the idea of supporting the GOP nominee for President, the fact that Donald Trump begins with a “yuuuge” 325,000 vote deficit here in Maryland to Hillary Clinton (in a state which only has 677,000 unaffiliated voters compared to almost exactly 1 million Republicans) means that a more realistic goal is to concentrate on keeping a Republican governor and chipping away at the Democratic majority in the General Assembly – if the GOP succeeds there, they can finally control redistricting for the first time in decades and perhaps have districts more fairly drawn based on geography and not politics.

As I said a couple weeks ago, twelve years is enough. Looking back into the past is nice, but I prefer to look forward when I can.

Twelve years is enough

It’s not the most glamorous pair of positions, but every four years the Maryland Republican Party elects two of its three representatives to the Republican National Committee. The positions of National Committeeman (NCM) and National Committeewoman (NCW) are the two most powerful in the state when it comes to the nuts-and-bolts of national GOP politics.

Too often, states have used these positions to reward veteran movers and shakers in the party, and there was a drive four years ago to do just that as former MDGOP Chair Audrey Scott thought she could waltz right into the NCW post to succeed longtime activist (and a former MDGOP Chair herself) Joyce Lyons Terhes – fortunately, there was a good candidate opposing her in Nicolee Ambrose and the resulting breath of fresh air from her election breathed new life into a moribund and stale state party organization.

As it turns out, Ambrose and another party veteran, NCM Louis Pope, tag team in their reports during our semi-annual state conventions. Ambrose tends to talk about voter registration, campaigning, and GOTV efforts on a state and local level while Pope generally looks at the national GOP perspective and their fundraising. Pope has spent three terms in the NCM position, and while I wasn’t here for his initial election he did have opposition for re-election last time around. But the crush of endorsements from other party leaders as well as a somewhat lackluster campaign from his opponent meant Pope was re-elected handily.

I first became suspicious about the prospects of there once again being an opponent for Louis when the letters began arriving a couple months ago. The first one came from Pope, but other party leaders have typed out snail mail and sent it to me beseeching me to stay the course and once again elect Louis Pope as NCM. I didn’t know who the opponent would be, but these forces appeared to be quite worried. (Conversely, aside from Nicolee’s letter to me, I have not seen a single thing pleading for her re-election – so she could well be unopposed, or the state establishment has another candidate in mind.)

So a week or so ago I was checking my junk mail when I saw an e-mail note from the leader of the group whose name liberals spit out as an epithet because of a famous Supreme Court case, Citizens United. In this note from David Bossie I found out he was the NCM opponent in question, and immediately this turned Maryland’s NCM race from a standard-grade party election to something with a more national profile. In the introductory letter, Bossie noted:

The Maryland Republican Party needs new blood. I bring to the table the ability to raise Maryland’s profile by bringing in high-level GOP leaders from across the country to raise money for the Maryland GOP’s efforts. Just in the past year, I secured Donald Trump for the party’s “Red, White, and Blue” dinner, and also helped bring into Maryland Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Tom Cotton (R-AR), as well as former Speaker Newt Gingrich to headline events for Republican candidates and elected officials.

Say what you will about Trump as a presidential candidate, but he provided a profitable RWB Dinner from the accounts I have seen.

Through our experience trying to secure Lt. Col. Allen West to do a dinner and fundraiser here for our local party, we have found out it’s hard work to get the caliber of speaker we feel is worthy of a county of 100,000 residents. Certainly we could get Louis Pope to attend the affair – he’s been to our LDD a few times over twelve years, and in looking at his giving history I believe he has made it at least once to each county’s LDD over his tenure. Attending the county’s dinner is a nice gesture of support.

Moreover, Pope has regularly conducted seminars at our state conventions on fundraising, and has been ready with helpful suggestions on how to write fundraising letters and other tricks of the fundraising trade. He’s also a regular host of party events at his Howard County home.

But in speaking to David this morning with some questions about how the smaller counties such as ours could benefit from his tenure, I brought up the LDD as a fundraising standby most counties employ. It got me to imagine: what sort of attendance could you get for a Lincoln Day Dinner here with a Mike Lee or Tom Cotton? These two men, and many other heroes of the conservative movement, are on Bossie’s Rolodex. As he noted, there’s a big difference between just buying the ticket and helping secure the person drawing the ticket buyers.

More importantly, I think the NCM position needs the same kick in the pants that Ambrose has given on her side of the equation. She’s not been afraid to lead or speak out if circumstances dictate, such as her stance on changing party rules almost immediately after taking office. It’s notable that Pope was on the side of the status quo in that case, and while the NCM and NCW positions have served to become de facto party leadership in the state alongside the Chair position, at their heart they are legislative positions. The NCW and NCM are supposed to do the bidding of Maryland Republicans at the national level just as Andy Harris is supposed to in Congress. Admittedly, I have less information to go on regarding that aspect of the job but my instinct tells me Bossie would be a little bit less “establishment” and a little more “grassroots.” We know where Pope has stood as he’s worked his way up the party hierarchy, maintaining the status quo.

Louis Pope has given us twelve years as National Committeeman, and it’s a tenure he can look back on as a net positive for the Maryland Republican Party. But given the successful change in direction that was made through the election of Nicolee Ambrose as NCW in 2012, I think lightning can strike twice at a point where we will need to focus on the twin tasks of re-electing Larry Hogan and (more importantly) getting more conservatives and Republicans in the Maryland General Assembly. If two people can be the ones to bring these races to the attention of the national party, I believe it will be the two I vote for two weeks hence.

So I’m urging my fellow Central Committee members around the state to re-elect Nicolee Ambrose as our National Committeewoman and, more importantly, bring some new blood to the state leadership by electing David Bossie as National Committeeman. I appreciate Louis Pope and what he’s done for us as a state party, but twelve years is enough.

Some Maryland GOP inside baseball that could lead to an interesting race

April 2, 2016 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2016, Campaign 2016 - President, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Some Maryland GOP inside baseball that could lead to an interesting race 

We’re still six weeks away from the Maryland Republican Party Spring Convention, to be held May 14 in Annapolis, and much of the interest in the event will be driven by the selection of eleven at-large Delegates and Alternate Delegates to the national convention in Cleveland. Since Maryland’s primary will be completed, not only will we know which aspirants advanced from each of the state’s eight Congressional districts, but we will also have a clearer picture of whether a first-ballot victory is still mathematically possible for Ted Cruz or Donald Trump. By then, just 375 delegates will remain to be determined (from primaries in Oregon, Washington, California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota) with the lion’s share awarded by the June 7 primaries.

Yet those who become Delegate at the state primary will be bound to vote for the statewide winner. Polling has been scarce in Maryland for the GOP, as the last major poll came out a month ago and included Marco Rubio and his 14% of the vote. At that point, Trump led Cruz 34-25, with Kasich at 18. Following the trend, Maryland may be a state where Trump wins with only about 40% of the vote but Cruz picks off a Congressional district or two to gain a few delegates. But The Donald will get the lion’s share as it stands now, meaning some of the alternate delegates could come into play. (If I’m a Cruz backer I’m refusing to vote for Trump.)

So a lot of the interest will come from that demolition derby of a race, which normally draws 20 to 25 names for each. (In 2008, I was one of about 23 who ran and I was second or third from the bottom. Name recognition goes a long, long way in the race.)

But at the Spring Convention we will also be selecting our next National Committeeman and National Committeewoman, who will take office after the November election and help to select the next RNC Chair in January 2017. As a Central Committee member, I have already received a handful of appeals on the races where both incumbents, Louis Pope for the men and Nicolee Ambrose for the women, are running again. Several weeks ago I got the letter from Nicolee that she was running, and I’m unaware of any challengers. Aside from her letter announcing her bid for re-election, my mailboxes have been empty on the race – and that may be a good thing, since Nicolee has been out front with her party-building efforts. Here in Salisbury I’m sure Muir Boda would be in agreement that she deserves support for another term.

On the other hand, today I got my third letter from one of the party’s old guard beseeching me to vote for Louis Pope, who has also sent me a letter asking for support. Apparently he will have an opponent come May 14 so I suspect my mailbox will be full of these appeals from names I know.

Back in 2012 we had that same kind of race for National Committeewoman, with the exception that it was an open seat as incumbent NCW Joyce Terhes decided to retire. The party leadership and “establishment” was backing Audrey Scott, who had ridden in to “rescue” a bankrupt Maryland GOP as Chair in 2009 after former Chair Jim Pelura resigned. Ambrose appealed to a different sector of the party, and the clash between the two came down to a close, emotional vote at the Spring 2012 convention. (Worth noting: Pope was re-elected handily at that same convention over Anne Arundel County Republican Scott Shaffer.) Incumbency seems to have its advantages, but I haven’t received the same outpouring of support from party regulars for Ambrose.

Our representatives on the RNC are just a small part of a 168-member body (three from each state and certain territories) but they also represent us in regional matters as well. Over the last term, Ambrose has taken charge of grassroots organization and GOTV efforts while Pope has portrayed himself as a fundraising expert. Granted, the state GOP (which includes Chair Diana Waterman) has been successful insofar as electing Governor Hogan and increasing the number of Republican elected officials, but perhaps not so much on moving the needle on key issues. (Just as an aside, Waterman’s term will come to an end this fall, meaning we will have a Chair election then. A few years ago we adopted two-year terms for the Chair to match the national Republican Party.) With the national mood registering against establishment candidates of all parties, one has to ask how far the “throw the bums out” mentality will go when it comes to state party affairs.

It should be a fun convention; that is, if fun is defined by being on pins and needles the whole time like I was four years ago when I strongly backed Ambrose. We’ll see what the next few weeks brings.

The Pope perspective

In this continuing saga of he said-she said regarding the status of who represents us on the Rules Committee of the Republican National Committee, one person had remained silent – until now. Yesterday a copy of a letter from Louis Pope was acquired by the folks at Red Maryland and posted on their site. (Update: I finally received my copy today, April 8. My mail is apparently slow out in the hinterlands.)

While Brian Griffiths, who wrote the Red Maryland piece and is an avowed supporter of Chair candidate Greg Kline, makes the case that Pope’s objection stems in part from a supposed quid pro quo between Virginia RNC member Morton Blackwell and former Maryland chair Alex Mooney regarding a book Mooney is writing, I’m more appalled that Pope believes “a great deal of misinformation has been flying around the Maryland Republican Party through various blogs, e-mail chains, letters, etc.” about the affair. If this has been so, the (undated) letter to “set the record straight” should have come out some time ago in order to clear the air.

Also intriguing is the implication that Waterman indeed did not make the decision on her own, but spoke to “senior leadership at the RNC who encouraged her to have me remain on the Rules Committee.”

To me, that says the RNC is really not serious about revisiting the rules adopted in Tampa. Sure, they will pay lip service to the concept of listening to the grassroots but in the end they’re really going to listen to the cadre of inside-the-Beltway consultants who are already sizing up the 2016 field and trying to determine who is both most malleable and “electable.” My guess would be Marco Rubio, who remains popular among activists despite his pro-amnesty immigration stance.

As one would also expect, Louis states his support for Diana Waterman, saying “I feel terrible to have put Diana in such an awkward position…she deserves our thanks and admiration, not our criticism.”

While I agree that Diana has performed a number of valuable services to the MDGOP over the last two years as First Vice-Chair, I cannot place her above criticism for the way she has handled this particular duty. Central Committee members are assured over and over again that communication is paramount, only to be bowled over by incidents such as this Rules Committee dustup. Having seen this before with the Rule 11 controversy in 2010 I really don’t like how this movie ends.

Pope goes on to talk about the Tampa rules changes, which he conveniently did not vote on because of his leadership position. At the time, of course, our National Committeewoman was Joyce Terhes, who was not going to rock the boat on her way out the door to a well-deserved retirement from party affairs. Nor is it apparent that Alex Mooney strenuously objected.

The only person who has stood up for the grassroots and voiced her objection was our newly-elected National Committeewoman, Nicolee Ambrose. Since she was the squeaky wheel who got the grease, it’s no surprise that Diana Waterman was “encouraged” to keep Louis Pope in the Rules Committee position.

Lastly, it should be noted that not all Central Committee members have received this message from Pope yet; to be fair, it may have been mailed to all the 300-plus membership and perhaps my copy hasn’t hit my mailbox yet.

But once again it seems to me the party insiders are trying to play their games and, as the aforementioned Griffiths has pointed out, be “the tallest midget in the room.” I’d rather stand tall on my principles, thank you.

MDGOP 2012 Spring Convention in pictures and text (part 2)

If you want to read part 1 first, here you go.

It was a cloudier morning once we got underway Saturday. Just as an observation, though, I’ve always wondered why we put all these signs out front of our convention site when it should be presumed we would be voting for the candidates.

I suppose this is helpful to those who come in the morning to find the location for the convention.

For those of us who stayed overnight and chose the option, however, we were treated to a hearty breakfast and, after Harford County Executive (and “unofficially official” candidate for Governor in 2014) David Craig exhorted us to “be unified” we heard former state MDGOP official John Gibson, who now works as the regional political director of the Northeast Region of the RNC, discuss the “Path to 270.”

Gibson contended that President Obama has fewer paths to 270 than he did in 2008, when the “issues matrix was in their favor.” As examples, John believed President Obama couldn’t count on states where the Democrats were boldly saying they had a shot, like Georgia or Arizona.

Instead, with job approval numbers plummeting among a number of key demographics, President Obama is stuck having to secure his base instead of trying to get new voters. Just watch where he travels, said Gibson.

Among states Obama won last time, Indiana is already conceded to be “out of reach.” Other states which could come into play after Obama wins in 2008: North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

After attending an interesting seminar on petitioning techniques and social media, I walked over to the convention hall to get this shot. Little did we know that some hours later passions would be high in that room.

But first we began the convention session with a welcome from Calvert County Chair Frank McCabe and a series of reports, beginning with Senator J.B. Jennings.

You’ll notice my county was in the back of the hall, so the convention hall pictures will be few and far between.

But Senator Jennings walked us through his description of the session, noting that the budget wasn’t completed on time and recounting the final hours before sine die. While Speaker Mike Busch couldn’t get the House to extend its session and Senate President Mike Miller was trying to reach agreements on a budget, the Senate GOP took the opportunity to filibuster the tax bills. Still, the budget is $700 million more than it was last year, said Jennings, and “it’s not a doomsday.”

We were also alerted to the possibility of a Special Session the week of May 14, so we should “keep the heat up” on Democrats, said Senator Jennings.

Delegate Tony O’Donnell contended Democrats “dropped the ball big time.” It was a wonderful thing to behold, he continued, especially because Democrats couldn’t count on gaming bill votes from Republicans in the House.

O’Donnell urged us to “make (the Democrats) pay a very high political price” and called 2012 a “great opportunity to change the dynamic in this state.”

After Chair Alex Mooney essentially repeated his statements from the night before, we received the National Committeewoman’s report from an emotional Joyce Lyons Terhes, who reflected on her enjoyment of almost 30 years of working with the Maryland Republican Party – not that she was really going anywhere. She had simply followed through on her vow to serve just two terms as National Committeewoman and would take on new challenges.

And she’d lost none of her passion at the stump, telling us “we are going to get rid of Barack Obama.” If Maryland can do it, she said, so can the rest of the nation.

Louis Pope called Joyce a “friend, mentor, (and) shining example” in opening his National Committeeman report. The RNC is in “good shape,” said Pope, and he asserted his belief “we are technologically ahead of the Democrats.”

In somewhat of a pitch for re-election, he also informed us that his job is to “bring resources to Maryland.” Regarding this fall’s campaign, he hoped the media underestimates Mitt Romney.

Our final morning speaker was a bit of a surprise, but Congressman Andy Harris told us that “any time out of Washington is good” to him. Warning us that “the end is not on sight on this recession,” Harris opined that “all the issues are on our side” this election.

Delving into the energy issue, Harris blasted the idea of subsidizing wind energy, saying it’s not viable without subsidies. On the other hand, “we can be energy independent in 12 years if this President would have a real energy policy.”

“We have got to take America back,” said Andy.

Nor was he sparing criticism of state government. Harris predicted that once Martin O’Malley is through with his last term, people will be “ready for a new day…Marylanders will be sick and tired of what’s happening in Annapolis by 2014,” Harris concluded.

We began working on bylaw changes at this point, and completed two of the four proposed by voice vote – with a few scattered opposition shouts – before breaking for lunch. The MDGOP now officially has a Bylaws Committee to take care of a year-old oversight and allowed proxies to come from anywhere in a county rather than having to be in the same legislative district as the absent member.

The master of ceremonies for our luncheon was Frederick County commissioner and talk radio host Blaine Young. In his opening remarks, he contended “I don’t think the economy is getting any better” and gave us a quick rundown of how he got to where he is as a former Democrat.

He then presided over our annual awards, with the following winners:

  • Charles Carroll Award (Republican Man of the Year): Neil Parrott
  • Belva Lockwood Award (Republican Woman of the Year): Ella Ennis
  • William Paca Award (Republican Youth of the Year): Matt Proud
  • Aris Allen Award (Voter Registration): St. Mary’s County
  • Samuel Chase Award (Outstanding County): Howard County

Our keynote speaker was Dan Bongino, who Young glowingly referred to as a man whose word has value.

Bongino began by noting that the concepts of “establishment” and “anti-establishment” are “all buzzwords.”

“If you want labels, join the Democrats,” said Dan, “We believe in ideas (and) labels only serve to divide us.” And division was part of the Obama strategy because “they’re devoid of ideas,” Bongino said. For our part, “we won the battle of ideas long ago,” Bongino stated.

A lot of Dan’s remarks spoke about the perception of fairness. We needed to embrace that debate, he believed, and while we should “respect the political genius” of Martin O’Malley and Barack Obama, Bongino was passionate about the educational system. He thought his daughter’s (public) school was great, but those kids in inner-city Baltimore and Prince George’s County deserve a shot as well. They are our kids, too, said Bongino.

Dan also criticized educational priorities. “Forget about environmental literacy – let’s be literate first,” he stated. Teachers are working in a “flawed system,” said Dan. Democrats “sold kids out to special interests long ago.”

In the end, though, Bongino believed “our state is worth saving.”

“It’s our fight…against an ideology which will destroy the very fabric of the country,” concluded Dan.

We also heard from several of the eight Congressional candidates.

Andy Harris believed the state wanted him to be the “last Republican standing.”

Eric Knowles, who’s running against John Sarbanes, made a good accounting of himself. The bartender believed he may be the least wealthy person running but made the case “I want to get this by the sweat of my labor.” We are part of the three percent who fight the battles, said Eric.

Faith Loudon noted her 4:1 registration disadvantage but was “figuring on an army of 76,000 Republicans” come November. “We are in a war.”

Similarly, Tony O’Donnell noted “we have a big challenge ahead of us…but it can be done.” Steny Hoyer is not invincible, in part because he’s no different than Nancy Pelosi.

Once lunch was done, we came back for the afternoon session and the two key votes. First, though, we had to wrap up business on the proposed bylaw changes. One dealing with proxies was remanded to the newly-formed Bylaws Committee after a contentious amendment to the proposal was introduced, and the other, which added conviction of a felony to the list of reasons for dismissal from a Central Committee, passed without objection.

I am quite aware, though, that this is the part you were waiting for.

The procedure for nomination and election of both the National Committeewoman and National Committeeman is as follows: a brief nominating speech, followed by two seconding speeches (about a minute per), and then remarks from the nominee.

Personally, I thought the nominating and first seconding speech by Ambrose’s supporters were a little bit weak and not really as well-received as they should have been. Dave Parker’s wrapup seconding remarks were nicely pointed, giving respect to Audrey’s role in the party but stressing it was time for a change.

I didn’t take a lot of notes for the remarks because I was sitting on pins and needles, but Nicolee hit on the themes of her campaign in terms of building the party.

The same order of presentation was set for Audrey Scott, and she had some heavy hitters on her side. Outgoing NCW Joyce Lyons Terhes introduced her, and state Party Treasurer Chris Rosenthal provided the initial seconding speech.

But it was the final one that riled the crowd up, when the very young man giving it made the remark that we should not “send a girl to do a woman’s job.” I didn’t hear the next 10 to 15 seconds of his speech over the boos and catcalls that remark provided. In truth, that probably lost Audrey a few votes.

And one thing I noticed about Audrey’s speech was that she finally claimed to have only raised a million dollars, which is relatively close to the truth. Audrey backed off her $2.5 million claim – wonder why?

(Honestly, if she didn’t feel the heat that the questioning of her financial claim provided, don’t you think she’d have continued to state the $1.5 million and $1 million Victory 2010 figures?)

Finally, it was time to vote. When Heather Olsen asked me my gut feeling I thought it would be inside 60-40 but wasn’t sure the vote would go the right way. Perhaps it was based on the loud, boisterous group of Audrey supporters right behind me. But once the voting began I started feeling better.

I’ll list the counties each contestant won:

  • Ambrose: Anne Arundel, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Carroll, Dorchester, Frederick (unanimous), Montgomery, Washington (unanimous), Wicomico, Worcester. We in Wicomico voted 6-3 for Nicolee.
  • Scott: Calvert, Caroline (unanimous), Cecil, Charles, Garrett, Howard, Kent, Queen Anne’s (unanimous), Somerset, St. Mary’s (unanimous), Talbot (unanimous).

The vote was evenly split in Allegany, Harford, and Prince George’s. So Ambrose generally won the center of the state, the western section, and the lower Eastern Shore while Scott heavily carried the upper Eastern Shore and southern Maryland. This can be somewhat explained by Scott residing on the upper Shore and the influence of Terhes on southern Maryland. On the other hand, many of Nicolee’s candidate endorsements came from those who live in the areas she won.

In fact, Scott led in terms of actual votes cast (as opposed to the weighted system we use) until the last two counties reported – they were Baltimore County (won by Ambrose 21-7) and Montgomery (Ambrose 32-15.) In terms of votes cast, Ambrose won 143-123 with a couple abstentions and that translates to a 286-247 total under our system.

I’m going to come back to the Ambrose-Scott race, but I also wanted to report that Louis Pope won re-election handily in a far less controversial nomination and election process. By my tally Pope won the body count 225 to 45, so the weighted vote was probably just as overwhelming. Scott Shaffer only carried his home county of Anne Arundel and Worcester County, while tying in Harford County.

I think Shaffer’s biggest mistake was not getting out and campaigning around the state. We never saw him in our county, and although I disagreed with him on a couple key issues I think what did him in was not knowing the time and money investment which seems to be required to win this contest.

Similarly, those who put a lot more time and effort into winning Delegate and Alternate Delegate seats (or had plenty of name recognition) tended to prevail. In the Delegate race, nine of the ten on the so-called “Maryland for Romney Unity Slate” prevailed, as did six of the ten Alternates. But the one Unity Slate Delegate shut out: Lawrence Scott, son of Audrey Scott. It’s been a tough month for that family. State Delegate Michael Smigiel from the Eastern Shore got in instead. Non-slate Alternates who made it: O.P. Ditch, Jerry Walker, Deborah Rey, and James Calderwood placed fifth, eighth, ninth, and tenth, respectively. Aside from Calderwood, the other three all approached me to seek my vote so they aggressively pressed the flesh and won. (I voted for two of the three who took a few moments to ask.)

I know I’ve gone a long way already on the Ambrose-Scott race over the last couple months, but I want to share something I said to Nicolee – it’s not exact, but paraphrased. I told her that now I expect her not to fudge financial figures or disparage candidates over the next four years or she can expect me to come after her. In fact, Nicolee has an ambitious agenda that I would accept no less than for her to carry out.

Believe it or not, I don’t embrace change just for change’s sake. When you have nothing, though, you have nothing to lose. Despite Audrey Scott’s best efforts in 2010, we got no statewide offices, simply returned to where we were four years earlier insofar as the House of Delegates goes, and lost seats in the State Senate. Yes, the party did better financially but it didn’t do the job where it counts and that’s putting Republicans in the seats of power on a state-level basis.

Instead, we on the local level stepped up our game – without a lot of state help – and elected Republicans to perhaps be the farm team for future runs. But while Audrey counted on the past to give her the NCW position, there are some of us who wished to “progress forward,” as the snazzy Ambrose signs read.

It’s my fervent hope, though, that we channel the passion we placed into the NCW race in a different direction: to take the fight to the Democrats. Now I think we’ve sent the message that youth (like the young political consultant Kristin Shields of Purple Elephant Politics pictured below) will finally be served.

But the Ambrose win, guided by my friend and occasional partner in crime Heather Olsen, was not the only reason I left Solomons Island with a smile on my face and perhaps a joyful tear in my eye from the emotion of the day.

In the midst of all the hubbub of electing national convention Delegates, a process which took an absurdly long time because of a county which shall remain nameless, I approached my County Chair with a request, one that he granted. And since he was not elected as a Delegate to the National Convention, I put into place the next best thing.

When the counties of our Congressional district got together to nominate an elector from the First District, four names were placed into nomination and three gave speeches. Unbeknownst to me – although I realized later he had a previous engagement – the fourth person had left the premises.

Yet the man I nominated won. I’m pleased to tell you that it was the least honor I could give him, but our County Chair Dave Parker will be the Republican elector from the First District. I was told he won in a landslide, and he was as shocked as anyone when I called him with the news. It’s just more incentive to carry Maryland for Mitt Romney, just so he can enjoy the honor of being an elector.

Now THAT is how a convention should go!

MDGOP 2012 Spring Convention in pictures and text (part 1)

A fountain at the Solomons Island Holiday Inn, where the convention was held.

We descended on the lovely village of Solomons Island this weekend to hold our Spring Convention. Because it was such an action-packed two days I’m breaking this post into two parts: one dealing with the events of Friday night and the other (for tomorrow) describing Saturday’s action. (Always leave them wanting more.)

The Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary's County welcoming reception.

First on the agenda was a Welcome Reception sponsored by the three Southern Maryland county Republican parties. In the photo on the right (in the light blue) is retiring National Committeewoman Joyce Lyons Terhes, whose retirement was the impetus in placing the convention there. Although it’s a long haul around the Chesapeake Bay for us on the Lower Shore, I suppose that’s payback for making them come to Ocean City two years in a row.

Larry Hogan with his Change Maryland cake.

Also getting an early start on the proceedings was Larry Hogan, who was celebrating the first year of his group Change Maryland. Funny story: if you look at the cake Larry is pointing at, you’ll notice that there’s a mistake as the cake came with an extra zero. I call it optimism on the part of the baker, and while Change Maryland now has 12,000 members 120,000 is an admirable goal for next year.

David Craig's table.

Hogan has often been mentioned as a 2014 gubernatorial candidate because he made an abortive run in 2010 until Bob Ehrlich made up his mind. But the “unofficially officially in” David Craig had his own table as well, and was also a sponsor of the entire convention. No doubt he’s been laying the groundwork of a run for quite a long time.

Another key element of the convention was the two petition drives, both same-sex marriage and redistricting. I didn’t manage to get a photo of him, but rest assured Robert Broadus of Protect Marriage Maryland was among those collecting signatures in favor of that referendum. Yet it seemed there was more of an “official” push to have the redistricting referendum signed. (I will have an interesting backstory on this involving one candidate later on this week.) So I added my name to the redistricting petition.

A map of Maryland gerrymandering.

Of course, there were other vendors as well. The rear guard effort continues.

But it wasn’t apparent in that evening’s Executive Committee meeting. And while party treasurer Chris Rosenthal opened up the meat of the business portion of the meeting by conceding 2011 “wasn’t that great of a year” for fundraising, he brightened up the room by announcing we were “back on the right track” for 2012.

Included in that optimism was a newly created endowment in honor of the retiring Joyce Lyons Terhes, a fund that Audrey Scott announced the creation of and initial funding for during the meeting.

In his report, Party Chair Alex Mooney expressed disappointment in the 2011 financial statement as well, stating “I accept responsibility…we didn’t do as well as I’d like.” But he’s “working hard” on getting the party out of debt and brought up the fiscal importance of this year’s Red, White, and Blue Dinner which will feature GOP political guru Karl Rove. “We need this to be a successful event,” said Mooney.

He also said there’s “no room for dissent” now that the primary is over.

A better financial tale was told by National Committeeman Louis Pope, who said the Republican National Committee is in “great shape” financially for the fall campaign, well on their way to their fundraising goals.

Those of us among the spectators – which included nearly all the Wicomico County delegation, unique among counties – also heard a number of other reports. Perhaps the most important among them was the Maryland GOP Hispanic Coalition report, where Linda Hernandez made the case that the Latino vote is “essential” to turn Maryland around.

Our County Chair, Dave Parker, was also head of the Credentials Committee, and he gave a fairly lengthy and detailed explanation of the balloting which would take place the next day for Delegate and Alternate Delegate candidates for the national convention. With nearly 80 hopefuls vying for the 20 spots, it was a complex process to gather all the information.

The final report was given by MDGOP Executive Director David Ferguson, who said we were “moving in the right direction” and need to “run the party like a business.” Fair enough, but he also had five priorities for the state party: an effective message, recruiting candidates, a permanent professional infrastructure, utilizing the referendum process as a check on Democratic power, and providing good customer service for local party units. He also had unkind words for Martin O’Malley and noted “Maryland is a GOP state at the local level.” (Apparently this is true, as we have a majority of local seats.)

We also learned during the meeting that the next convention will be held in Western Maryland – it would have been their turn this time had Joyce Lyons Terhes not announced her retirement.

But the Executive Committee meeting isn’t what those who come to the event a day early generally seek out. They come to be social, and those who have a political agenda know this. For example, three of the four National Committee candidates had hospitality suites – Committeeman hopeful Scott Shaffer was the exception.

Louis Pope's suite sign.

Audrey Scott's suite sign.

Nice use of a lapel sticker by the Pope campaign, by the way. I did go to his suite but didn’t think I’d be too welcome in Audrey’s so I skipped it.

I made it a point to stop by this young lady’s space, though. Nicolee Ambrose had one of the more exuberant parties I attended.

Nicolee Ambrose talks to a possible supporter.

Inside the suite, of course, you had signage for Nicolee’s bid. But there were a lot of other items there as well, as this table demonstrates.

A table full of items in the Ambrose suite.

And there’s a larger point as well. If you go back to Audrey’s sign two photos above, you’ll notice Nancy Jacobs is among those endorsing Scott. But Ambrose had plenty of space to put her items out in the interest of helping the Jacobs campaign.

I also found this guy there.

U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino.

As I’ll detail tomorrow, Dan Bongino gave a great accounting for himself at our luncheon. But he was holding court in Nicolee’s suite when I arrived.

This was just a great picture someone taped up in Nicolee’s suite bathroom.

Ben Cardin - a closet Bongino supporter?

Next up was one of the more interesting conversations I had, with Eighth District Congressional candidate Ken Timmerman.

Ken Timmerman for Congress sign.

I confessed to him that his was one of the races I predicted incorrectly, believing that having three Montgomery County residents in the primary would split the vote enough to have him finish second. But he advised me to follow the money – since his MoCo opponents had very little – and noted the political geography of his district was more neutral toward opponent Dave Wallace than I thought.

It was a good give-and-take with the accomplished author, who posed with some of the books he was selling. Bet you could have had one autographed!

U.S. Congress candidate Ken Timmerman.

And sometimes it’s not about having the suite, but being seen. Two of these ladies are attempting to build a political name for themselves in the consulting field, so they were circulating among the rooms.

Two of the three behind Purple Elephant Politics - Kristin Shields (center) and Hillary Pennington (right).

With Norma Secoura on the left, Kristin Shields (center) and Hillary Pennington (right) are two of the three behind Purple Elephant Politics, an “exclusive political networking group” which is attempting to stomp its way into the political fray through a number of outlets. They were among Nicolee Ambrose’s biggest backers.

And while I’m not exactly old, I agree that it’s time for a new generation of leaders to begin to emerge so it was good to see their involvement and interest. (They really were doing more than drinking margaritas.) As you’ll see in tomorrow’s installment, though, youth had a tough time being served.

Maryland GOP: home for interesting electoral action?

At the risk of playing a little too much inside baseball again, it’s interesting to note that the Republican primaries for various Maryland Congressional seats (all but the First District) and U.S. Senate post aren’t the only games in town this April, at least not for those who serve on the various county Central Committees.

The race for the Republican National Committeewoman seat which opened up when Joyce Terhes opted not to seek another term has already made news around these parts, but there was no counterpart on the National Committeeman side, where Louis Pope is presumably seeking another term. Until today.

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Scott reveals support group

For most, the contest to represent the Maryland Republican Party nationally as National Committeewoman has no meaning and is just another example of the “inside baseball” of party politics. But those who are astute should see the parallels between this race and the power struggle within the Republican Party on a national level.

To review, last month current state National Committeewoman (and onetime MDGOP Chair) Joyce Lyons Terhes announced she would not seek another four-year term in the post. To date two contenders have announced their intention to seek election – former YRNF Chairwoman Nicolee Ambrose and former state party Chair Audrey Scott. Anyone who’s paid attention to this space has seen me rake Audrey Scott over the coals for her participation in a rally supporting an increase in the state’s gasoline tax and, secondarily, for locking up the Transportation Trust Fund to prevent it from being raided every time Martin O’Malley needs to balance his budget. (The latter I’m fine with, but not the gas tax increase. Correctly prioritize what we have first.)

Audrey Scott, though, has a lot of backers who don’t mind that misstep with six members of the MDGOP’s executive board, six of the 24 local county Chairs, 24 of 43 Delegates, and 5 of 12 Senators on a list of endorsers Audrey has on her Facebook site devoted to the race. On the other hand, Ambrose has fewer elected officials supporting her (only Delegates Donna Stifler and LeRoy Myers, Senator J.B. Jennings, and U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino have expressed their support for Ambrose) but far more “likes” on her campaign’s Facebook page (143 vs. 17 for Scott.) Perhaps that’s a generational thing, but in any case the votes which will count are coming at the party’s Spring Convention April 27-28 – over three months from now.

(This upcoming state convention will also feature the election of ten Delegates and ten Alternate Delegates to the Republican National Convention. I unsuccessfully ran for this in 2008 but will take a pass in 2012 since I have something far more important to attend to that month and money enough for just one trip. We also elect a National Committeeman but thus far I’m unaware of anyone who will challenge current officeholder Louis Pope.)

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Romney gains Maryland support (and Pawlenty’s, too)

This news didn’t come to me directly, but it is legitimate: I found it on Mitt Romney’s website too.

Mitt Romney today won the support from leaders in Maryland.

“It is an honor to have the support of so many in Maryland,” said Mitt Romney. “They share my goals in this campaign to reverse President Obama’s failed policies and get our economy moving again. I look forward to working with them as I bring this message to Maryland and the American people.”

Announcing his support, State Senator Richard Colburn said, “Mitt Romney has a proven record of creating jobs and cutting spending. President Obama has failed on these points and it has hurt the American economy. Mitt Romney has the much-needed experience to lead our country toward an economic recovery.”

Maryland Leaders Endorsing Mitt Romney:

  • State Senator Richard Colburn
  • State Senator Joe Getty
  • State Senator Allan Kittleman
  • Delegate Kathryn Afzali
  • Delegate John Cluster
  • Delegate Addie Eckardt
  • Delegate Donald Elliott
  • Delegate Michael Hough
  • Delegate Nic Kipke
  • Delegate Steven Schuh
  • Former United States Ambassador to New Zealand Robert Goodwin
  • National Committeeman Louis Pope
  • National Committeewoman Joyce Terhes
  • 2010 Republican Candidate for Lieutenant Governor and Former Secretary of State Mary Kane
  • Former Maryland Republican Party Chairman John Kane
  • Former Maryland Republican Party Chairman Audrey Scott
  • Former Maryland Republican Party First Vice Chair Chris Cavey
  • Former Maryland Republican Party First Vice Chair Chuck Gast
  • Maryland Republican Party Treasurer Christopher Rosenthal
  • Garrett County Republican Party Chairman Brenda Butcsher
  • Howard County Republican Party Chairman Loretta Shields
  • Montgomery County Republican Party Chairman Mark Uncapher
  • Frederick County Councilman Paul Smith
  • Howard County Councilman Greg Fox
  • State Central Committee Member – St. Mary’s County Mary Russell

Well, you won’t find my name on that list – it’s pretty safe to say that Mitt isn’t among my top picks. I see him as 2012’s answer to John McCain. Obviously, these 25 feel differently and that’s fine. Aside from Senator Colburn’s brief statement sure to draw a primary challenger in 2014, I don’t know what led the others to support him so I can’t really pass judgement on their intentions.

Read more

The man of Steele in trouble?

One outlet following the RNC Chair race closely has been the Hotline OnCall section of the NationalJournal. While the rest of us were watching bowl games or recovering from a night of revelry (or both) they were again updating their whip count on the race. With nearly half the voters having made a first-ballot commitment, none of the six candidates are over 1/3 of the way to the 85 votes they need to succeed.

Surprisingly, though, the leader at this point is Wisconsin state Chair Reince Priebus. Michael Steele lags behind in second place with 15 confirmed to 28 in the Priebus corner.

Further, while it’s no surprise that our national committeeman Louis Pope and national committeewoman Joyce Terhes are in Steele’s camp, the willingness of newly elected Chair Alex Mooney to shop around is encouraging. I happen to know some aspects of what Mooney is looking for in a Chair, but am not at liberty to divulge them. Michael Steele might not be the perfect fit for Alex, although in later rounds (and there will be later rounds if the last RNC election is any sort of guide) he could gravitate back to Michael if that option is still available.

It’s also worthy to note that the last incumbent RNC Chair also made a bid for re-election, but Mike Duncan lost his race on the heels of a 2008 campaign that saw a Democratic expansion of influence in Congress and capture of the White House. Obviously Michael Steele had a better election on his watch, but there have been complaints that the GOP left a few races on the table – particularly Senate races in Alaska, Nevada, and Delaware where ‘establishment’ GOP candidates lost in the primary and TEA Party insurgents faltered in the general election. (The GOP kept the Alaska seat as Senator Lisa Murkowski maintained her party affiliation while winning a write-in campaign.)

Yet the chief complaint against Steele is financial, with opponents pointing out that the party will need a huge infusion of cash to compete for the White House in 2012. President Obama may run the first billion-dollar campaign (not to mention the free publicity of a fawning press) so in order to compete fundraising needs to be key.

Tomorrow will feature a debate between the six announced candidates, with streaming available here. The election will be held on January 15, with the winner possibly becoming the GOP’s 65th Chairman.

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  • 2018 Election

    Election Day is November 6 for all of us. With the Maryland primary by us and a shorter widget, I’ll add the Delaware statewide federal offices (Congress and U.S. Senate) to the mix once their July 10 filing deadline is passed. Their primary is September 6.

    Maryland

    Governor

    Larry Hogan (R – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Shawn Quinn (Libertarian) – Facebook

    Ben Jealous (D) – Facebook Twitter

    Ian Schlakman (Green) Facebook Twitter

     

    U.S. Senate

    Tony Campbell (R) – Facebook Twitter

    Ben Cardin (D – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Arvin Vohra (Libertarian) – Facebook Twitter

    There are three independent candidates currently listed as seeking nomination via petition: Steve Gladstone, Michael Puskar, and Neal Simon. All have to have the requisite number of signatures in to the state BoE by August 6.

     

    U.S. Congress -1st District

    Andy Harris (R – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Jenica Martin (Libertarian) – Facebook Twitter

    Jesse Colvin (D) – Facebook Twitter

     

    State Senate – District 37

    Addie Eckardt (R – incumbent) – Facebook

    Holly Wright (D) – Facebook

     

    Delegate – District 37A

    Frank Cooke (R) – Facebook

    Sheree Sample-Hughes (D – incumbent) – Twitter

     

    Delegate – District 37B (elect 2)

    Chris Adams (R – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Johnny Mautz (R – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Dan O’Hare (D) – Facebook

     

    State Senate – District 38

    Mary Beth Carozza (R) – Facebook Twitter

    Jim Mathias (D – incumbent) Facebook Twitter

     

    Delegate – District 38A

    Charles Otto (R – incumbent)

    Kirkland Hall, Sr. (D) – Facebook Twitter

     

    Delegate – District 38B

    Carl Anderton, Jr. (R – incumbent) Facebook Twitter

     

    Delegate – District 38C

    Wayne Hartman (R) – Facebook

     

    Delaware

     

    U.S. Senate

     

    Republican:

    Rob ArlettFacebook Twitter

    Roque de la FuenteFacebook Twitter

    Gene Truono, Jr. –  Facebook

     

    Libertarian (no primary, advances to General):

    Nadine Frost – Facebook

     

    Democrat:

    Tom Carper (incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Kerri Evelyn HarrisFacebook Twitter

     

    Green (no primary, advances to General):

    Demitri Theodoropoulos

     

     

    Congress (at-large):

     

    Republican:

    Lee MurphyFacebook Twitter

    Scott Walker

     

    Democrat (no primary, advances to General):

    Lisa Blunt Rochester (D – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

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