2016 Maryland GOP Spring Convention in pictures and text (part 1)

It had been awhile since I had been to the DoubleTree in Annapolis, but seeing the place was like old home day. While the MDGOP often holds its conventions there, it hadn’t hosted one in some time – in fact, Fall 2013 was the last one. But this time instead of the big news being the impending candidacy of Larry Hogan, it was the presumptive nomination of this guy.

(No, not Don Murphy sitting on the bench – I’m referring to the guy who supposedly will make America great again.)

Also different than our last visit was the number of sponsors.

It sure doesn’t hurt to have a governor from your party. But the story of this convention was all the electioneering going on. As I pointed out earlier this week, 98 people were seeking office and some were on this “unity slate.”

The idea was to take some folks from each of the campaigns and send them off to Cleveland to represent us. But after I had the chance to freshen up and get registered, those who represent us in the Maryland Senate made for my first stop of the evening. I could freshen up with some light snacks and an adult beverage.

(Note that Donald Trump is adding to that $2 billion in free media coverage on the adjacent TV. I didn’t say it was flattering.)

Speaking of media coverage, these two erstwhile associates of mine were doing their semi-annual Friday night internet radio show from the convention lobby.

I wasn’t listening so I have no idea who they dragged on as guests, aside from me not being one of them. I was downstairs at the Executive Committee meeting, where I found out the MDGOP had “a great fundraising quarter…our best since 2006,” according to party treasurer Chris Rosenthal.

But Diana Waterman had a message. “We must get behind Mr. Trump,” she said, “Trump is a helluva lot better than Mrs. Clinton.” Yet she also urged us to be respectful to those who can’t support our nominee.

She also pointed out that there’s no Republican “war on women” in Maryland given the fact two of our Congressional nominees are women versus none for the Democrats.

After National Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose updated us on some of the upcoming goals and events for the GOP, National Committeeman Louis Pope discussed the national scene, stating regarding this year’s primaries, “the goal was to have as fair of a nominating process as possible.” He added that the debate control “worked very well.”

Pope was looking forward to Cleveland, saying he was “preparing for a unified convention” and predicting Donald Trump “will be a pretty cool nominee.” As he saw it, the convention will be a “four-day infomercial for the Republican Party.”

Yet the Presidential election was to the benefit of local parties as well, added Pope, because they could use the national race as a tool for local fundraising, allowing them to build up their war chests.

We also learned about two proposed bylaw amendments and a resolution, which I will simply foreshadow because they will be covered more in-depth in part 2.

The Executive Committee was done in remarkable time, meaning that shortly after 8 I could go see what was going on. This was my initial stop.

It wasn’t a place I stayed long, for obvious reasons. But it appeared they were having a good time celebrating their presumptive nominee status.

My second stop was nearly as uncomfortable, but I did see Louis Pope there and wished him luck.

If you look closely in front of his sign, you can see Louis behind the other gentleman. He apparently held court in his suite for most of the evening, as I didn’t see him circulating. Nor did I see his opponent David Bossie, who co-sponsored the suite I stopped at later.

First, though, the prize for most appetizing spread went to the host County Executive Steve Schuh.

This doesn’t show the vegetable tray and chicken on the other table. Oftentimes there’s not enough good stuff to eat at these hospitality suites but between the spring rolls at the Maryland Senate pre-party and Schuh’s suite, my appetite was satisfied. I was there quite awhile, eating and talking to Senator Justin Ready.

Next, I went upstairs to the Conservative Club suite. But since I didn’t see Bossie, I didn’t hang out too long there.

As it turned out – at least judging by the times on my photos – the Harris/Szeliga suite was where I stayed the longest. It was a happening place.

It’s where I ran into an old friend of mine, Maria Ialacci of PG County, and my partner in crime Heather Olsen. So I was there awhile, although I retreated to the hall so I could hear and cool off – it was hot in there, and when I say it’s hot it’s downright uncomfortable to most people.

So I got to see the co-star of that show as she happened by.

I still haven’t spoken with Kathy Szeliga, but at least I have seen her so that’s a start.

My penultimate stop was a suite that wasn’t on the “official” list but somewhat underground – both literally and in spirit.

The only one down on the first floor, the combined suite of Don Murphy and John Fiastro was the famous grilled cheese suite, with Fiastro doing most of the flipping.

Let’s see what they can do with this.

I did not take a picture at my last stop, which was definitely a shame because Delegate Tony McConkey and his wife Susan did an after-hours (after 10 p.m.) ice cream suite. (They also had it during our lunch break today, but I didn’t go.) Now I was a little worried since it was situated just 2 doors from my room, but it must have died down by the time I talked to my sweetie and finally went to bed because I pretty much slept like a log. The hard part was getting up at 6:45 to get ready for breakfast, which is where I will pick things up tomorrow in part 2.

2015 Maryland GOP Fall Convention in pictures and text (part 2)

A new day dawned yesterday after a night of partying I described in part 1. Too bad it was about the last time we got to see the sun.

Instead, I went down to grab breakfast and remarks fron three U.S. Senate candidates. It should be noted that a fourth, Anthony Seda, “has never reached out” to the MDGOP, according to Diana Waterman.

After an opening prayer where Delegate Deb Rey prayed that we “cruise to victory,” we did the speeches in alphabetical order. This meant Richard Douglas spoke first.

Richard noted the news was still filled with images from Paris, Belgium, and Mali, saying it underscores that “terrorism…remains a concern.” He added that the authorization to use military force passed after 9/11 remains in effect today.

He added that growing up abroad made incidents like the building of the Berlin Wall and Cuban missile crisis “indelibly etched in my mind.” But he assured us we are stronger than Russia – we just have a leadership problem. No one is pushing back on Russia, China, or Iran, he continued.

Douglas pivoted to domestic issues with a mention of the Bladensburg Cross, a court case he’s assisting on and one for which he predicted “we’ll take the wood to the humanists.” It led into his thought that the job of a Senator was not to pontificate, but to act. In Maryland, it meant not just doing what he could at the federal level to eliminate the rain tax and entice industry. One example of the latter was the Howard Street Tunnel, which is too shallow to accommodate double-decker rail cars. It’s a problem the current Senator has had 30 years to address.

“People who have three squares a day…don’t riot,” Douglas noted. With foreign policy experience and what could be described as a populist agenda, Douglas vowed “I intend to go to the Senate to make that place better.”

The son of Greek immigrants, Chrys Kefalas opened by saying, “I’m a story that’s brought to you courtesy of the American Dream.” He then detailed a life of precocious entrepreneurship as a teenage business owner who parlayed that success into law school and eventually jobs with Bob Ehrlich, both as Congressman and as governor. One of his accomplishments with the Ehrlich administration was pioneering criminal justice reform.

After a stint at the Eric Holder Justice Department working on a “smart on crime” initiative, Kefalas is now a vice-president at the National Association of Manufacturers. “Manufacturing is coming back,” said Chrys. America has the advantages of innovative and productive workers as well as affordable energy. Taxes and regulations were holding us back, he explained.

Yet he was quick to recognize “you are the ones who are going to make the party strong…the campaign is about you.”

Kefalas added that the task of the nominee is to win, and he would do so with his positive vision. In this “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to win the seat, Kefalas believed “I can get more Democratic crossover support than anyone else in the primary.”

“We need to expand the map in Maryland,” he continued. Through him “we have a path to victory.”

Kefalas concluded by noting his recent engagement, stating “I am a gay Republican.” But “we move our country in a better direction when we are together.”

Kathy Szeliga emphasized her working-class background and that she and her husband Mark “believed in the American Dream.” For most of her life she’d played the various roles working moms did.

But Kathy stressed her more recent past, talking about how she and fellow Delegate Nic Kipke “brought some new ideas to Annapolis.” She also learned how to work across the aisle there.

With a new governor, Szeliga added, things were moving in the right direction – for example, we “repealed that darn rain tax.” (Actually, we only eliminated the ‘shall’ but kept the onus on counties to pay for the improvements.)

As for her Senate run, Kathy believed “there was a time that Congress worked,” but now government is too big, too gridlocked, and too distant. Indeed, “now is the time to turn Washington around…the American Dream is fading.”

Her pet issues if elected would be quality of life, security, and schools. Most of her remaining time was spent discussing the security aspect, noting that “terrorism is real…we must remain vigilant.” She vowed to support law enforcement as well.

Addressing her prospective opponents Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards, Szeliga opined they don’t understand the dangers we face from “radical Islam terrorists.”

In closing, Kathy pointed out her initial run of 61 endorsements and stated, “together we’re gonna get this done in 2016.”

So after Diana Waterman thanked her “three amazing candidates,” I had some time to spend in the exhibit hall before the morning session.

There I ran into Tanya Tiffany from MDCAN.

It’s a good moment to remind readers about the upcoming Turning the Tides Conference coming up January 8-9, 2016. I asked her if they would have a Blogger’s Row as in past editions and she said they were looking for a sponsor. They’re also changing the format a little bit to be more like previous editions, so it should be informative and more like “Maryland’s version of CPAC.”

With the convention opening, we were welcomed by Senator Steve Waugh.

In his remarks, Waugh focused on the fact this part of Maryland “gave freedom of religion to the world” with the passage of the Tolerance Act in 1649. In the here and now, Waugh believed Governor Hogan “made the perfect call” regarding Syrian refugees, noting “you must ensure our safety.”

In another bit of history, Waugh pointed out that 15 years ago Calvert and St. Mary’s counties were about 2-1 Democrat but now both have a GOP majority.

Since Larry Hogan was at the RGA meeting and Boyd Rutherford had a previous personal engagement, it fell to Secretaty of Human Resources Sam Malhotra to extend the governor’s greetings. He went through a laundry list of accomplishments by the administration over its first year, but concluded with the remark “I can’t wait for the next seven years.” He believed we were in the process of changing Maryland from deep blue to “baby blue” to purple to red.

Congressman Andy Harris supplemented Malhotra’s remarks by saying he’d work hard to get five more Senators in Larry’s second term. “What a difference a year makes,” he added, also maintaining “this is not a deep blue state.”

As far as Congressional leadership, Harris believed it was the right time to change leadership. Paul Ryan can deliver our message, as opposed to John Boehner. “I don’t believe he communicated well,” said Harris. Andy also believed Speaker Ryan had his priorities in order, putting family first. “It doesn’t take a village, it takes a family,” said Harris.

Turning to the economy, the Congressman was waiting for the “last shoe to drop,” meaning an inevitable interest rate hike. If rates rise to their historical rate of 2 1/2% it would mean $500 billion a year in interest payments alone – more than we spend on defense. “The economy is not going to get better” under Barack Obama, he added.

Obama’s administration is also promoting the message that law enforcement “is our enemy.” Yet this is a time where we had a real enemy. “What Paris showed us is that 9/11 is not over,” said Andy. Add in the Russian airliner and the Mali attack, and it was no wonder France took action. Hollande “figured it out” that Obama wouldn’t take charge. “This is a setback to him,” explained Harris.

The narrative that ISIS is contained falls flat to Harris as well. “ISIS is here in the United States,” said Harris. “We have to declare war on ISIS.” Moreover, “we have to fight the war on ISIS as a war to win.”

Looking back to the state party, Harris believed we were on a roll and the Democrats were worried. Now we have to recognize the importance of local elections and raise money for the local Central Committees. “Only 350 days until Election Day,” Harris concluded.

We then heard from Steve Waugh again, who gave the Senate portion of the legislative update. “The magic number today is 19,” he said, referring to the number of Senators required to sustain a veto.

He predicted the next session “will be all about Baltimore,” adding that the budget will also come through the Senate this year. Other items to watch out for: paid sick leave, body cameras for police, K-12 education funding, a bottle tax, and “death with dignity.” We also have to figure out how to come up with over $1 billion to service O’Malley’s debt, Waugh added.

While the Democrats would try to sandbag Governor Hogan by laying traps for him to spring in 2018, Waugh advised us to “stay focused on the message.”

Wearing her Delegate hat, Kathy Szeliga urged us to join the Governor’s press list so we could spread the word about his successes. She harped on the $17,000 per pupil Baltimore City Schools spends, saying we were committed to education but also to accountability. How much is enough?, asked Szeliga.

She added there were some successes from the House on the Second Amendment as we ended ballistic fingerprinting, made it easier for armored car personnel to get permits, and removed some accessories from the SB281 ban list.

Finally, Kathy urged us to “answer back” to Democratic fundraising.

Shifting gears, we heard from Lucas Boyce of the RNC regarding their new philosophy to “engage, embrace, entrust” and the Republican Leadership Institute. Diana Waterman was working to bring some RLI graduates to work here in Maryland.

Boyce wrapped up the morning session, so we adjourned for two seminars and lunch. The first seminar I went to featured Nicolee Ambrose.

There we discussed two somewhat disparate but vital topics: grassroots organizing and public speaking. On the latter, we did a pair of “American Idol” style auditions where “contestants” were judged and advised on a two-minute speech. It’s really hard to talk for two minutes.

I didn’t take a photo at the second one, but Justin Ready spoke on some of these same topics and more.

Not taking Justin’s photo means I have a cleaner lead into the National Committeewoman’s report Nicolee delivered to start the afternoon.

Nicolee pointed out some of our engagement events featuring Alveda King and J.C. Watts in Baltimore City, adding that getting Republican totals to 25% there makes us a red state. She also announced the winners of our voter registration contest for various-sized counties.

Ambrose was happy about going “2 for 2” with her Super Saturdays, winning with both Michael Esteve in Bowie and Muir Boda right here in Salisbury. “This man was an animal” when it came to door-knocking, said Ambrose of Boda. She also praised Patrick McGrady for winning for mayor in Aberdeen.

A man who hosted a “phenomenal” house party, according to Diana Waterman, Louis Pope gave the National Committeeman’s report.

He focused more on the national scene, saying the RNC was “far more viable” than at any other point in history. And although this success wasn’t being picked up by the mainstream media, the ground game was “going exceedingly well…our turnout machine is working.” Now we had 32 GOP governors, added Pope.

Noting the CNBC debate showed “how unbelievably biased” the media is, Pope opined the primary season would be over by April 30. After that, it was “absolutely essential” that we come together. “Next year’s election will be a battle royal,” said Pope. The RNC has “a very deep playbook” on Hillary, Louis added.

On a local level, Pope urged the Central Committee members to raise money this year for the 2018 elections, since there’s not much competition for funding. This year’s campaign, though, will require “sweat equity,” said Pope.

We heard a quick report from College Republican Chair Christine McElroy, detailing their successes – including the Salisbury University CRs co-sponsoring our Lincoln Day Dinner. But she also revealed the sad fact that 77% of millennials could not identify even one of their home state Senators.

Party Executive Director Joe Cluster went over voter registration, pointing out the five counties (including Wicomico) where the GOP is closest to overtaking Democrats. “The numbers are moving in our direction,” said Cluster. He also touched on goals for precinct captains, opportunities to help Governor Hogan on boards and commissions, and the Baltimore city elections.

In her Chair’s report, Diana Waterman paid tribute to the late Frank McCabe, for whom the party would have a dinner later that evening. But she stressed the need to pass the first bylaws amendment, believing if we fail to adopt this the General Assembly will take the right away. “It is for your protection,” said Diana.

First we had to deal with one resolution in support of a Constitutional amendment to reform redistricting. It passed by a voice vote, with just one or two objections.

In introducing the first bylaw amendment, Mark Edney of Wicomico County stressed that “we have a problem with the process.” The proposal provides a process but is not specific.

While there was spirited debate on both sides, in the end the measure had enough votes to pass. On the weighted voting scale it was 369-170, which exceeded the 2/3 majority required. (In terms of actual people, the vote was 182-85. Only Baltimore City, Frederick, Queen Anne’s, and Washington counties had a majority objecting.) All nine in Wicomico County voted in favor, although I believe we will create our own specific guidelines.

On the “loser pays” amendment, an attempt to change it to cover both sides was proposed but was superseded by a motion to table the amendment, which passed with a resounding voice vote.

And then we had bylaw amendment #3. I thought it would pass with little objection, but the fireworks began right away. Most of the argument centered on whether the Black Republican group was established enough – those arguing against the amendment frequently referred to the Young Republicans, which reached a low point in chapters and membership shortly after getting an Executive Committee vote.

At first we voted on a motion to recommit to the Bylaws Committee, which drew the argument that it came from that committee. But Heather Olsen explained that the committee got this at the last minute and only checks for conformance, not on merits. In the end, the motion to recommit failed 217-324, or 114-156 in bodies. Wicomico was split 5-4 against recommitting.

Then we tried to table it, but that motion was rejected by voice vote.

The next move was to amend the bylaw to strip the voting rights from every one of the auxiliary organizations. That started new debarte, including a motion to continue debate that lost soundly in a voice vote.

The final motion to amend passed 359-178, with the amended bylaw change passing 408-83. (Body counts were 178-91 and 206-41.) Only Calvert, St. Mary’s, Wicomico, and Worcester voted against both.

Once that vote was in, the bylaws committee report was done “after 2 hours and 3 minutes.” Before we adjourned, Diana Waterman told us it should never be said we don’t allow enough debate.

But I suspect the debate will go on. I’ll have more thoughts later this week.

Oh, and another thing. We did a straw poll, with Ted Cruz the winner.

  • Ted Cruz – 62 votes (24%)
  • Marco Rubio – 52 (20%)
  • Donald Trump – 49 (19%)
  • Ben Carson – 26 (10%)
  • Carly Fiorina – 18 (7%)
  • Rand Paul – 15 (6%)
  • Chris Christie – 14 (5%)
  • John Kasich – 12 (5%)
  • Jeb Bush – 11 (4%)
  • Mike Huckabee – 2 (1%)
  • Rick Santorum – 2 (1%)

39th annual Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in pictures and text

July 15, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2016, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Personal stuff, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on 39th annual Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in pictures and text 

Bereano’s Corner was in roughly the same location, but there was a lot of strangeness about this year’s event.

Our tent was in a new location. Some liked the idea of being along the marina, but the traffic walking by wasn’t as brisk as we had when we were in the middle, next to Bereano.

It did have a great space for signage that many took advantage of.

Being on the grass, we also had our share of bloodsucking biting flies. Speaking of bloodsuckers, the Democrats were less than thrilled with their location as well. Normally they have been the corner tent in this line.

But they did have the keg, not that I had anything from it. They also had an interesting table within.

While I am part of working America I’m not a member of this AFL-CIO affiliated organization, so it’s no surprise to find them in the Democrats’ tent. There were a handful of folks walking around with their red shirts on, but Big Labor didn’t have the presence here they did during the O’Malley years. Maybe they are laying low until next year.

There were quite a few businesses there, although it was a different mix than I recall from previous years.

Some enterprising youth took the occasion to be their own business people. Those in orange were “runners” and on their shirts it read they were working for tips.

Hopefully they made more money than those who annually charge $10 or $20 for parking in their yard. I don’t think business was as brisk for them because attendance seemed off from last year.

Government and public entities were well-represented, too. Interesting how the environmentalists are cozy with the economic development group.

I think the University of Maryland – Eastern Shore was next to the Democrats, but Salisbury University was really trying to make a splash.

While there were a lot of differences in this year’s rendition of Tawes, some things never change. Lobbyist Bruce Bereano always has the biggest tent.

Another constant is a ton of good food, particularly of the fried variety. This was my spread.

Not a salad in sight – in my dietary defense, I skipped breakfast. But it was all very good, aside from a little lack of fileting on one of the sandwiches. It was a trifle bony.

(No, I don’t like crabs – so don’t ask.)

This event also draws media like the food on the ground draws seagulls. Here’s Delegate Carl Anderton being interviewed by local television.

Both local Salisbury stations were there doing live shots and interviews.

And while the faces may change, the political aspect never does. You have the newcomers trying to make a good first impression, like U.S. Senate hopeful Chrys Kefalas and his millennial posse.

By the way, I had to look up that Kefalas is 35 because he appears a decade younger.

You have old hands looking for new positions, like Congressional candidate Mike Smigiel (in the center). He had a batch of “I Like Mike” buttons.

County Councilman Larry Dodd is on the right, and I apologize for not recalling the gentleman on the left’s name.

And then there were established officeholders like my 2015 monoblogue Accountability Project Legislator of the Year, State Senator Justin Ready. He’s talking to Jackie Wellfonder, who probably has some sort of social media record for photos with the most officeholders and general friends of hers.

I think I’ve already seen her picture with our Lieutenant Governor, Boyd Rutherford. He’s the distinguished-looking guy in the center.

One final difference was the weather. While it was relatively comfortable, with a gentle breeze, the clouds rolled in toward the end.

I left about 20 minutes before the scheduled 4:00 close, and by the time I got to my car about 1/2 mile away it was raining lightly. Before I got out of Crisfield it let loose and poured, so those who stayed to the bitter end either got under a tent or looked like drowned rats (or both.)

It was a fitting end to an event which was good, but perhaps a little off kilter. In fact, I was discussing the future of this gathering with someone who compared it to the Salisbury Festival – a venerable event that didn’t change and eventually withered away. Since the cost went up this year (to $45 a ticket) we’ll see how it affects the plans for next year.

As for me, I’d like the center location back.

When three should be one

Last month I wrote about the controversy some Central Committees around the state faced when it came to filling vacancies for Senator and Delegate positions. It boiled down to the preference of Governor Hogan to have a selection of names to choose from when it came to these positions clashing with both the desire of local Central Committees to make the choice and the language of Section 13 of the Maryland Constitution.

If you look at those who have been appointed so far to the various positions, there is a level of familiarity involved: Barrie Ciliberti is a former Delegate returning to the House of Delegates, while Andrew Serafini and Justin Ready have moved up from the House to the Senate to fill vacancies there. The seats formerly held by Ready and Serafini are among the three current vacancies in the House of Delegates, with the other being the seat formerly belonging to Delegate Cathy Vitale, who was tapped by the outgoing O’Malley administration to fill an Anne Arundel County judgeship.

In the cases of Ciliberti, Ready, and now Vitale, there has been no shortage of controversy in filling the seats. Supporters of Wendi Peters, who finished fourth in the District 4 primary for Delegate, fumed that a member of the slate also consisting of Delegates Kathy Afzali and David Vogt and Senator Michael Hough leapfrogged Peters in the selection process – Barrie Ciliberti was fifth in that primary, but a Frederick County Republican Central Committee consisting of Hough supporters made the decision with Carroll County’s body tabbing Ciliberti as one of their three finalists as well.

Carroll County’s Republican Central Committee has its own stain, replacing its original choice of Robin Bartlett Frazier for District 5 Senate at the behest of the Hogan Administration, which insisted that they amend the process to permit the elevation of then-Delegate Justin Ready to the Senate.

With Anne Arundel County now under the gun to replace Vitale, the three vs. one controversy is back. According to an article in the Capital Gazette by Chase Cook and Sarah Haynesworth, Anne Arundel County’s Central Committee is planning to send just one name to Governor Hogan – at least until there’s a formal request to do otherwise. Apparently such a request is on its way.

If it were my Central Committee, though, that formal request would be crumpled up and thrown into the circular file. The Gazette piece quotes current Delegate Tony McConkey at length, noting that he’s advising the AARCC to send just one name.

As I stated in January, the selection of a state officer should be done closest to the district involved, meaning it would be the Central Committee’s task to select the recipient and not the Governor’s. It’s a similar argument to the one we as a Central Committee have made regarding the wisdom of an elected Board of Education for Wicomico County as opposed to the current system of appointees from the governor’s office in Annapolis. Assuming we get the school board as currently envisioned, even the appointees for the hybrid portion of the board and for any vacancies would be done locally.

Yet there’s now another element being thrown into the mix. On her way out the door Delegate Vitale introduced HB1070, which would change the Maryland Constitution to allow for a special election in Presidential years once a vacancy is created. As an example, if the law were in effect today those who were recently appointed would face re-election in 2016 to a two-year term rather than serving all the way until 2018. In its description of the proposal the Gazette is incorrect because the earliest we could see such an election would be 2020 – even if passed this year it would be on the 2016 statewide ballot as a question (most likely Question 1.)

In some respects this is a good idea, but I think this would be very confusing to voters. In certain time frames, it could also be difficult to get a person to serve unless it was understood they would be a caretaker member until the election was over – sort of like the situation we faced in replacing Page Elmore in 2010 during the midst of a primary campaign for his successor. The consensus we reached with Somerset County was to put his widow in the seat until the new Delegate was elected (which turned out to be Charles Otto.)

Nor should we forget that, when the shoe was on the other foot and a Democrat was appointing for a Democratic seat, only one name was turned in by the local party organizations.

If appointments are going to be done in Annapolis from a list of three names, it begs the question: just what function do Central Committees have, anyway? At that point the Appointments Secretary just might as well handle the whole thing. I hope that’s not the overall intent of the Hogan administration, but right now they seem to want to cut the locals out of the process where they can and it’s disappointing.

The power of one

January 25, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The power of one 

The return of a Republican to Government House has been a boon to the state party, but it has created no shortage of chaos in the General Assembly and in counties where erstwhile members of that body reside. One example of this is Carroll County, which has had to replace two members of its delegation as both Senator Joe Getty and Delegate Kelly Schulz were tapped for administration jobs.

Replacing the latter brought significant strife to neighboring Frederick County, where most of District 4 lies, but since a small portion lies in Carroll County they also get their say. But one change in their process was agreeing to Larry Hogan’s request to send him three names, which Carroll did. Since former Delegate Barrie Ciliberti is on both lists, it would presumably be his seat once Schulz is confirmed the Secretary of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation by the Maryland Senate.

But if you look at the three men Frederick County advanced to their final interview stage, you would notice that Ciliberti was the only name agreed on – however, it’s been reported that Carroll had Ciliberti as their second choice behind Ken Timmerman, who didn’t make Frederick’s top three.

Carroll County has also been feeling the heat for sending up the name of Robin Bartlett Frazier as their choice to replace Senator Getty over Delegate Justin Ready, among others. Frazier was a county commissioner until losing a bid for re-election this year; her biggest claim to fame is ignoring a judge’s order and beginning commission meetings with a prayer. One argument in Bartlett’s favor was that selecting Ready would have only set up a second search for his vacant position.

These incidents serve as a reminder to the issues Republicans had with replacing Senator E. J. Pipkin and Pipkin’s eventual successor Steve Hershey back in 2013. But imagine if all four counties in the District 36 jurisdiction had to send up three names, and they were all different? It would be chaos.

Here’s what the Maryland Constitution has to say about the process of replacing General Assembly members:

SEC. 13. (a) (1) In case of death, disqualification, resignation, refusal to act, expulsion, or removal from the county or city for which he shall have been elected, of any person who shall have been chosen as a Delegate or Senator, or in case of a tie between two or more such qualified persons, the Governor shall appoint a person to fill such vacancy from a person whose name shall be submitted to him in writing, within thirty days after the occurrence of the vacancy, by the Central Committee of the political party, if any, with which the Delegate or Senator, so vacating, had been affiliated, at the time of the last election or appointment of the vacating Senator or Delegate, in the County or District from which he or she was appointed or elected, provided that the appointee shall be of the same political party, if any, as was that of the Delegate or Senator, whose office is to be filled, at the time of the last election or appointment of the vacating Delegate or Senator, and it shall be the duty of the Governor to make said appointment within fifteen days after the submission thereof to him.

(2) If a name is not submitted by the Central Committee within thirty days after the occurrence of the vacancy, the Governor within another period of fifteen days shall appoint a person, who shall be affiliated with the same political party, if any as was that of the Delegate or Senator, whose office is to be filled, at the time of the last election or appointment of the vacating Delegate or Senator, and who is otherwise properly qualified to hold the office of Delegate or Senator in the District or County.

(3) In the event there is no Central Committee in the County or District from which said vacancy is to be filled, the Governor shall within fifteen days after the occurrence of such vacancy appoint a person, from the same political party, if any, as that of the vacating Delegate or Senator, at the time of the last election or appointment of the vacating Senator or Delegate, who is otherwise properly qualified to hold the office of Delegate or Senator in such District or County.

(4) In every case when any person is so appointed by the Governor, his appointment shall be deemed to be for the unexpired term of the person whose office has become vacant.

(b) In addition, and in submitting a name to the Governor to fill a vacancy in a legislative or delegate district, as the case may be, in any of the twenty-three counties of Maryland, the Central Committee or committees shall follow these provisions:

(1) If the vacancy occurs in a district having the same boundaries as a county, the Central Committee of the county shall submit the name of a resident of the district.

(2) If the vacancy occurs in a district which has boundaries comprising a portion of one county, the Central Committee of that county shall submit the name of a resident of the district.

(3) If the vacancy occurs in a district which has boundaries comprising a portion or all of two or more counties, the Central Committee of each county involved shall have one vote for submitting the name of a resident of the district; and if there is a tie vote between or among the Central Committees, the list of names there proposed shall be submitted to the Governor, and he shall make the appointment from the list (amended by Chapter 584, Acts of 1935, ratified Nov. 3, 1936; Chapter 162, Acts of 1966, ratified Nov. 8, 1966; Chapter 681, Acts of 1977, ratified Nov. 7, 1978; Chapter 649, Acts of 1986, ratified Nov. 4, 1986).

One can argue this both ways, but since the language states “a person whose name shall be submitted” it’s taken to mean one person. In the case of District 36, the choice was made by then-Governor O’Malley between two names because two counties backed Hershey and two preferred Delegate Michael Smigiel. All of them submitted one name.

And this brings me to a message those of us who serve (or ran for) Central Committees around the state received from Kathy Fuller, who serves on the Carroll County Republican Central Committee. After she went through the process Carroll County used, she made one key point:

We have the constitutional requirement to provide one name. To do anything else usurps the constitutional authority endowed upon the Central Committee. If a Central Committee decides upon one name and submits it, the Governor must appoint that person. The power of the appointment then rests with the Central Committee. If the Central Committee can be convinced to submit more than one name then the Governor actually chooses who is appointed, and the power of the appointment rests with the Governor.

The Constitution designates Central Committees to choose who is appointed and the governor to carry out the appointment. This is separation of power. The Governor is the executive branch; the House and Senate are the legislative branch. If the Governor picks the members of the legislative branch then this corrupts the separation of powers and the checks and balances necessary for good government.

Think of it this way: The Governor has hundreds of appointments he is able to make. If he were to appoint legislators to most of those jobs and then tell the central committees who to send as replacements he would control most of government, both the executive and legislative branches. This is an extreme example, but illustrates the danger of allowing the authority endowed upon the central committees to be usurped by giving the governor more than one name or by allowing him to tell the central committee who that name should be. This is the same reason many gubernatorial appointments are made with the consent of the legislature. It is the check and balance of good government.

Just because Larry Hogan wants three names to choose from doesn’t mean he is entitled to those three names. Unfortunately, most Republican politics turns the process on its head as they desire only one person to run in any primary (to avoid a GOP candidate spending money in a primary fight) but more than one person in this instance so that the state elected official farthest from the people (and perhaps representing the opposite party) makes the choice. Given the choice between a hardline conservative and someone more moderate and “bipartisan” we know who Larry Hogan would pick 95 percent of the time – so Carroll County should have maintained their fealty to the original process. If Maryland had a provision for a special election to fill these seats I would be happy to have plenty of choices, but it does not and I think Fuller’s argument is the correct one.

And to me there is no better illustration of what went wrong with the process than our experience with the District 4 Wicomico County Council vacancy some years ago. By charter, we had to submit four names to County Council, which did their own vetting process after we did our interviews and voted on who to send. At the time it was also an overly rushed process because we only had 30 days to get through the process – a charter change adopted in 2012 extended this to 45 days. But had we only been required to send one name, there would be a different occupant of the office because the eventual appointee was not our top choice. This would be a good charter change to consider since the county charter is different than the state’s Constitution on this manner.

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that, in one respect, all of these appointments are moot because none of the principals have resigned yet. They all await confirmation to their positions but the process was started early because the General Assembly would be in session during the time. But I think it needs to be clarified that the duty of the Central Committee is already spelled out in the state’s Constitution and we need only submit one name for these positions.

Let’s do what’s right under the law, not the personal preference of the new governor.

Returning to her roots

There are occasions in life where everything goes full circle, bringing you back to where you began – just older and (hopefully) wiser.

So it is with the political journey of Carmen Amedori, who’s been quiet on these pages for some time as she tried to build a real estate business in Ocean City. It was a well-deserved respite after a tumultous few years which took her from the House of Delegates seat she won in Carroll County in 1998 to an appointment by then-Governor Bob Ehrlich to the Maryland Parole Commission in 2004, where she served five years.

But 2010 was Amedori’s year of chaos, pinballing between an abortive run for the U.S. Senate, a 10-day stint as gubernatorial challenger Brian Murphy’s running mate – a move she later regretted – then, after winning a seat on the Worcester County Republican Central Committee in September 2010 she considered a run for state Republican Party chair before later backing out.

So imagine my surprise when I saw this linked on my Facebook page:

Former state Delegate and Maryland Parole Commissioner Carmen Amedori has filed her candidacy for the Maryland House of Delegates Legislative District 5 Carroll County. Amedori represented Carroll County in the House from 1999 to 2004. In 2004, she was appointed to the Maryland Parole Commission where she served five and a half years as a Parole Commissioner.

“It would be an honor, once again, to work for the citizens of Carroll County and serve as their voice on issues such as no tax increases, protections for the unborn child, and the Second Amendment for gun owners, and defeating Common Core curriculum in our schools,” Amedori said. “Under the eight years of O’Malley-Brown administration citizens have been overburdened with more taxes and fees which the current House delegation did not fight hard enough against. As a knee-jerk reaction to rogue school shootings one of the most restrictive anti-gun legislation packages was passed hindering law-abiding citizens from exercising their right to purchase and own a firearm. We need to do more and do it better. We need a stronger voice in Annapolis from our House delegation.”

“Our House delegation has had problems getting legislation passed in Annapolis such as the non-profit Casino bill. This is a revenue issue and our non-profit volunteer fire companies will benefit by it. I would work to eliminate the current gridlock on local legislation and would enjoy working with our Senate delegation as a unified voice for Carroll County. I am excited to begin my campaign to put Carroll County first.”

“I have been encouraged by many of Carroll’s constituents and friends to run,” Amedori said. “They are looking for conservative representation in the House from a person they can trust, and who will uphold their oath to honor the Constitution and vote accordingly.”

At this moment, Amedori joins a field with three incumbent legislators, two of whom were redistricted into the revamped District 5. Donald Elliott was elected in District 4B, which covered both Carroll and Frederick counties, while Susan Krebs hails from the Carroll side of District 9B, which also covered a portion of Howard County. Justin Ready already represents Carroll in the former District 5A. The new map somewhat resembles the district Amedori was originally elected in, a time when she served with both Elliott and (later) Krebs in the General Assembly. Ready was first elected in 2010.

Of course, the obvious question for voters in Carroll County will be whether Carmen’s heart is in this, given her recent tendencies. Then again, she won two elections in Carroll County so she had some appeal to voters back then. Will everything old become new again, and if so, at who’s expense?

Odds and ends number 70

More and more items pique my interest as the General Assembly session wears on, so you might find these continue to pop up on a regular basis. As always, these are items to which I devote anywhere from a sentence to a few paragraphs, so here goes.

I’ll begin with this pre-emptive strike by Delegate Justin Ready I learned about a few days ago. He’s planning to introduce a bill which will prohibit the state of Maryland from enacting user fees based on mileage driven to replace or supplement the existing per-gallon gasoline tax. The state of Oregon has, for several years, been exploring ways of doing this and the latest ties into existing onboard and smart phone technologies. But the Luddites out there should take this under advisement; this comes from the Council of State Governments piece Ready links to:

Importantly, the use of GPS also will not be a requirement. For those who reject all the private sector technology options despite being able to choose between them and despite their information not being transmitted to a government entity, another option would allow drivers to pre-pay for the miles they expect to drive at a rate based on 35,000 miles minimum annually. Those drivers will pay a substantially higher flat fee than what most drivers whose mileage is more closely tracked will likely average. Instead of paying at the pump as participants in the initial pilot program did, motorists will pay at the end of the three-month demonstration. State transportation officials foresee monthly or quarterly charges if the system were to be adopted on a statewide basis. (Emphasis mine.)

So the options are, in my case, either “voluntarily” allow the government into my personal car to see that I drive roughly 20,000 miles per year or pay a significantly higher penalty to keep my freedom. Some choice. It almost makes raising the gas tax more attractive, which may be the overall aim of Annapolis liberals. They constantly harp on the fact we haven’t raised the tax in 20 years or so – well, if you would spend it on what it’s meant for instead of wasting it on mass transit no one rides, we may accomplish the road repairs and construction for which the gas tax was intended.

Another pro-freedom push to free Maryland’s roads comes from HB251, a bill introduced by Delegate Michael Smigiel to repeal Maryland’s speed camera laws – a bill which has my full support and should have yours, too. (Locally, Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio is a co-sponsor as well, and should be thanked for that support.) Meanwhile, the Maryland Liberty PAC correctly notes that these devices comprise a large portion of “O’Malley’s War On Driving”:

Speed cameras are nothing more than the privatization of our due process rights and the contracting-out of law enforcement duties.

The Maryland Liberty PAC has an ongoing petition drive to dismantle the speed cameras once and for all; they also stress that pressure should be brought to bear on Environmental Matters Committee Chair Maggie McIntosh to give the bill a hearing (none has been scheduled yet.)

If speed cameras were truly about safety, the violation wouldn’t be a civil offense but a criminal one. Yet they know that, with a criminal offense, one has to be able to face their accuser and the evidence wouldn’t be admissible (because the speed camera can’t be a witness like a patrol officer can.) So they made it a civil offense based on the much lower standard of “preponderance of the evidence.” My judgment is that speed cameras should be banned.

There are also local steps which need to be undertaken, says Sam Hale of the Maryland Society of Patriots. Among them are:

  • Asking Wicomico and Worcester counties to nullify the “Septic Bill” and refuse to draw the counties into tiers,
  • Contacting Salisbury’s City Council and asking them to withdraw their membership in ICLEI, a group promoting anti-liberty incursions on rights such as PlanMaryland and the septic bill as an extension of the United Nations,
  • Asking Worcester County to join the Maryland Rural Counties Coalition.

So the liberty movement is well-represented here, but how about Washington, D.C.? Maybe not so much.

For example, take the debt ceiling. It was panned by both Americans for Limited Government and the Coalition to Reduce Spending. Bill Wilson of ALG reacted:

This is a partial repeal of representative government. Through the elimination of the debt ceiling, even just until May 19, the American people now have no say in the amount of debt the government contracts. The only say whatsoever representatives had on the some 60 percent of the $3.7 trillion budget that operates on autopilot, which includes Social Security, Medicare, and other forms of so-called ‘mandatory’ spending, was the periodic vote on increasing the debt ceiling.

“Now that it has been suspended, the debt ceiling may never be reinstated. All the Senate needs to do now come May 19 is again threaten default should the debt ceiling suspension not be indefinitely extended. Under those circumstances, House Republican leadership is likely to fold under even the slightest pressure.

Added Jonathan Bydlak of the Coalition to Reduce Spending:

Congress today again avoided its duty to be a responsible steward of the public trust. Stalling is not a serious solution to federal debt created by habitual deficit spending.

By delaying a vote on whether and at what cost the federal government should be allowed to borrow more money, House members chose to deny accountability to the public.

This move goes against the clear wishes of American voters. As a recent Rasmussen poll showed, 73% nationwide believe the federal government should cut spending in order to deal with the nation’s current economic problems.

The Coalition to Reduce Spending recognizes that choosing to increase the public debt is ultimately one of the most important decisions a legislator can make. It’s for that reason that this decision should never be pushed into the future haphazardly.

The only thing to like about the bill is that it holds Senators’ salaries hostage until they pass a budget, although our Senator Barbara Mikulski whined and cried poverty about the prospect. Well, all you need to do is your job.

Perhaps they can act on this measure which failed to get through the last Congress, something which could give the legislative branch a little control over regulators run amok. Ryan Young of the Competitive Enterprise Institute sums things up brilliantly:

There is too much regulation without representation in this country. In an average year, Congress will pass a little over 100 bills into law, while regulatory agencies will pass more than 3,500 new regulations.

It’s easy to see why members of Congress like agencies to do their job for them. If a regulation turns out to be unpopular, or more costly than expected, they can just shift the blame to, say, the EPA or FCC. It’s well past time for Congress to take its lawmaking responsibility seriously again. REINS is the first step in that process.

In general, there are those who favor a more militant approach, even with the belief we should learn from our opponents. I look at it this way: if conservative principles are as popular as we believe them to be, we should stick out our necks for their adoption on a daily basis. If not, it proves my point from yesterday about the need to educate, although we should be doing that regardless.

This lesson isn’t lost on professional golfer Phil Mickelson, who, as my friend Jim Pettit points out, is simply doing what’s best for his personal situation by contemplating a move out of high-tax California. I don’t think he’ll be looking to move to Maryland; instead states like Florida and Texas – which combine a more temperate climate with non-existent state income taxes – may be attractive. (Thousands of professional athletes live in Florida for that very reason.)

Another angle those who love liberty are pursuing is finding the right Presidential candidate for 2016. Those who favor Judge Andrew Napolitano, a group I wrote about late last year, are still actively seeking petition signers. But they updated their totals to say they have over 10,000 signers now, and the Facebook page now boasts 3,319 fans. Napolitano may well say no, but the backing behind him is slowly growing.

Finally, this story has a little local interest as well as a tie-in to a group I’ve supported. Move America Forward is holding their “Super Bowl Rally for the Troops”:

The Ravens fans have taken an early lead, but there’s still plenty of time for Niners fans to come back! Vote for which team you think will win by sponsoring a package full of goodies for the troops!

SUPERBOWL XLVII is only ten days away so time is running out to participate in our Super Bowl challenge to all of our pro-troops supporters out there. Whether you happen to be a 49ers fan, Ravens fan, or just a football fan, the whole mission at the end of the day is to support our TROOPS serving overseas. They are the real winners in this competition and they deserve our thanks and gratitude. (Emphasis in original.)

If the Ravens win this particular competition, additional items will be included for a fortunate group of troops from Maryland.

Ironically, MAF ran a similar competition last year in which Giants fans outpaced the Patriots faithful. It’s sort of a sad commentary that fans of a team named after our colonial forefathers couldn’t win this competition, and maybe that karma got them this season.

That’s plenty for now, but it probably won’t be long until my mailbox is full of interesting items once again.

Odds and ends number 63

Maybe sometime I’ll do one of these without the obligatory reference to Dan Bongino (who, even in this post-election hangover is being promoted as a 2014 candidate for governor) but for now I’m content to continue trading on a popular name among conservatives in the state. Call this edition of my occasional digest of quick little takes on news items a version of Murphy’s law – not the familiar old adage, but applicable if you recall that 2010 gubernatorial candidate Brian Murphy was one of Dan’s initial backers. Maybe those of us who supported Murphy realized the guy knew what he was talking about?

Anyway, there was an item I wanted to quote stemming from the immediate reaction to the Great Wipeout of 2012, and it came from Delegate Justin Ready:

In particular, whether we won or lost, I have come to believe that our party and the conservative movement must make some adjustments in the way we communicate with certain voters – particularly those who do not follow the political give-and-take year-round. Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh each have around 20 million listeners, but there are more than twice that number of voters that don’t get their information from talk radio.  It shouldn’t be a surprise that voters did not know or care about some of the things we all cared about.

Let me be clear – we should absolutely not retreat from our principles of limited government, lower taxes, and respect for life.  But we do need to find a better way to present those values in a way that cuts through the soundbite wars and the demonizing we see from the national media.  Even FOX News is not much of an ally in getting a clear, coherent message across. It’s something that every Republican elected official and activist must take seriously. (All emphasis in original.)

Well, that’s the goal I’ve had for going on seven years. I’d love to have 20 million readers for my website, too. (Selling a million copies of my book would be a definite plus as well.)

Yet there’s an underlying theme to election coverage which otherwise has the depth of a cookie sheet: the horserace aspect of polling. Certainly I like to use polling as an occasional newsmaker, but we have made the names Rasmussen, Gallup, and Zogby almost as famous as Obama and Romney. But how many people could have stated where (or if) Romney stood for “limited government, lower taxes, and respect for life?” Perhaps aside from the Hannity/Limbaugh axis, most people saw Romney as the one taking away their government check, slashing taxes on just the wealthy, and perpetuating the so-called “war on women.” It was a perception popularized by the dominant media and not countered enough in a world where neighbors don’t talk to neighbors anymore.

We’ll soon see what’s said in the state party echo chamber at the end of this month. But I’m curious to know if the cake will have the correct number, since Change Maryland has grown to 25,000 members. You may recall back in April they celebrated 12,000 with the infamous cake, so this time at Turf Valley they have twice as much to party about.

In the release celebrating the milestone, Change Maryland notes:

The only way to bring about real change in Maryland is to build a coalition of Republicans, Independents, and fiscally conservative and moderate Democrats. That is exactly what Change Maryland has been doing so effectively. It unites people of all parties to work together to bring reform, fiscal responsibility and common sense to Annapolis.

The group now has more than twice as many Facebook followers than the Maryland Democratic and Republican parties combined and more than all the potential statewide candidates added together.

I haven’t asked Larry Hogan this question, but since I know many among his group are fans it’s worth pondering why Change Maryland didn’t take a leadership role in the state’s Congressional races? While the results don’t initially appear to be all that close, would their involvement have moved the needle even a little bit?

In 2010, a simple averaging of the eight Congressional candidates’ share of the vote gives a figure of 35.46%. This time around, we declined to 33.35%. Granted, thanks to redistricting and the turnout of a presidential election vs. a gubernatorial election this is something of an apples vs. oranges comparison but the trend is in the wrong direction. It’s worth noting that the GOP share went up in four districts: the First, where the largest percentage of the state’s Republicans were packed, the Fourth and Seventh, which are majority-minority districts in which Democrats could afford to dilute their vote somewhat, and the Eighth, which along with the First gained a lot of former Sixth District voters which were drawn out of that formerly Republican district. Yet there still wasn’t enough there to unseat the Democratic incumbent.

If Change Maryland is the home of this grand coalition, one would think taking a little more of a leadership role would start tipping some of these districts. Obviously we’ll have the same issue in 2014, with the added complication of a gerrymandered state map as well.

Yet while the conservative cause is licking its wounds, there is a parting on the left as well. Maryland Juice blogger David Moon sent out an e-mail on behalf of the Demand Progress group demanding President Obama not replace Hillary Clinton at the State Department with former Congressman Howard Berman. Why?

…Internet freedom activist group Demand Progress is rallying its members to oppose Berman’s potential appointment: Berman was a leading supporter and architect of the infamous Stop Online Piracy Act — which was decried and defeated because of its Internet censorship implications — and would have great influence over global Internet policy if named Secretary of State.

(snip)

According to Demand Progress executive director David Segal, “It’s outrageous that Berman’s name is even being floated for Secretary of State, where he’d play a key role in developing global Internet policy.  He’s made a career of shilling for Hollywood, and Hollywood’s been leading the charge for Internet censorship here at home and abroad — backing SOPA, compelling the government to block access to scores of sites, and even having website owners extradited for posting links to Hollywood movies.  It’s clear that other Internet freedom groups and tens of thousands of Internet users would mobilize to oppose his appointment.”

Of course, this group is looking at the problem as one of not being able to see the latest Hollywood movie for free – ironic when Hollywood supplied millions for the Obama campaign – but my perspective is one of maintaining Internet freedom and access for all usages and viewpoints, even ones which aren’t politically correct. However, Demand Progress stops with the civil libertarian side of the equation and doesn’t stop to consider the equally chilling effect internet taxation would have on the World Wide Web. We all know it’s a cash cow that progressives just haven’t quite figured out how to milk for their purposes yet – but that’s not going to stop them from trying.

Speaking of cash cows, now that Obama’s re-elected we’re going to hear more and more about the adoption of a carbon tax. The Competitive Enterprise Institute is suing under the Freedom of Information Act to have over 7,000 e-mails released regarding behind-the-scenes lobbying efforts to make a carbon tax palatable to conservative opposition.

While there’s some aspect of a fishing expedition here, the time it would take to search the e-mail database for the word “carbon” and place the files on disk is rather negligible. But the impact of knowing how the current and future regime is attempting to place their thumb on the scale is significant. The only carbon tax I would support is when the FairTax is paid as part of a purchase of carbon or carbon-based products, and only after the income tax is repealed.

The group also put out a five-minute treatise on economics:

The short film is based on a 1958 essay by Leonard Reed and outlines the complexities of creating a simple product. Imagine this process multiplied to create complex machinery like your car or this laptop I write on, replicated countless times a day. Certainly not all of us manufacture things, but a pencil is also a metaphor for and tool of creativity. Now I create on a laptop, but all that represents is a pencil and eraser in a more technologically advanced form. Imagine if this process came to a halt – would we stop advancing as a global society as well? Just like our certain extinction if the sun ever ceased shining, I suspect our progress would terminate as well.

I think I’ve created enough to bring this treatise to an end, so I’m going to focus my talents on another job and place a wrap on this one. Hope you enjoyed reading.

36th Annual Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in pictures and text

I know a lot of people have been waiting with bated breath for this, so let me tell you that if a picture is a thousand words this will be a post upwards of 32,000 words. And I didn’t think I took all that many pictures.

Nor did it seem like this year’s edition had the crowds that previous recent Tawes gatherings did. Perhaps this falls in the category of anecdotal evidence, but I climbed up to the top of the bleachers and took this panoramic photo just before 1 p.m. – a time you would think there would be huge, long lines.

And it also seemed like fewer businesses were there this year, too. Of course, you had the regulars:

Both of these entities are there every year, with Eddie Heath providing the tent “fencing” for another longtime client, the Hebron Savings Bank. And it goes without saying that this event is an important part of Somerset County’s economic development.

But I spied a couple new entities I was unfamiliar with, too.

The Great Bay Wind Energy Center is being pushed by Somerset’s economic development team, as they seek a 65-turbine complex. Despite its name, the wind farm is planned for an inland site near Marion Station.

The second could be an exciting development on the entertainment front.

The first concert at The Amphitheater at Heron Ponds will be a free show featuring local ’80’s bands on August 24; a shakedown cruise if you will for its first major event featuring country singer Kellie Pickler on August 25.

They also win the creativity award for keeping the beer cold.

If you’re scratching your head as to why I found it humorous, here’s a wider view.

But the reputation of the Tawes Crab and Clam Bake was built on the perception that it was the place for Maryland politicians to see and be seen. Despite the smaller crowds, this year was no different.

Of course, you had the two party tents. I’m biased, so the GOP goes first.

The Democrats had a smaller rendition, but I think part of the reason is, as I found out, there’s only two counties represented there. (The Republicans generally pool Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester into theirs.)

One advantage the Democrats had was a little grassy area for easy sign placement.

They had the usual fare: Obama, Cardin, Rosen, Conway. Norm Conway? He’s not up this year, is he?

Nor is Blaine Young of Frederick County. But he is planning a 2014 run for Governor on the GOP side so he secured his own tent.

But the granddaddy of all political tents didn’t belong to a party or a candidate. Instead, it belonged to a lobbyist.

It even had fans stationed along one side of the perimeter.

Unfortunately, you cannot read the cards, but various politicians had reserved tables inside the tent. These two were saved for Delegate Cheryl Glenn and State Senator Joan Carter Conway. They weren’t the only ones.

However, I must say that Bereano is bipartisan – a goodly number of the pictures below were shot in front of his tent, which was conveniently across from the GOP tent.

And as I said above, those who wanted to see and be seen were in Crisfield, the southernmost city in Maryland. (Bet you non-locals didn’t know that.) I have a lot of these photos, so I suppose I’ll begin with statewide races and work my way to local ones.

Since I already revealed Blaine Young had a tent for his 2014 gubernatorial bid, I’ll start with him enjoying his lunch within.

To be honest, this was the biggest splash his nascent campaign has made, as he has a little catching up to do with two of his fellow presumptive GOP contenders. Larry Hogan (right in photo below) was in the house, sporting his Change Maryland logo with Red Maryland blogger and state YR head Brian Griffiths.

Griffiths is apparently an equal opportunity gladhander, since he’s also here with Harford County Executive David Craig, the unofficial-official candidate for Governor in 2014.

On the other side, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman is thought to be considering a run for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. He’s on the right, Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt (who introduced me) is to the left. I’m also told Peter Franchot, who may run in 2014, was there as well but I didn’t see him.

There was one other statewide candidate there, at least that I’m aware of.

Let’s just put it this way. I arrived at 11:00, and Dan Bongino was there 15 minutes later (note that the event officially started at noon.) The photo below was the second one I took. He stayed and sweated it out (literally) until almost the bitter end.

And while I show him by the GOP tent in this picture, he was all over the Somers Cove complex getting votes.

And they didn’t forget to get more volunteers, as the Bongino signup sheet was prominent on this table.

An advantage Bongino and other challengers had was the fact the incumbents were working today in Washington. So Ben Cardin couldn’t walk the grounds gathering votes, and nor could Andy Harris in the local First District race. But Harris had a good volunteer turnout.

Opponent Wendy Rosen had her own small posse of backers, too.

I had never met Rosen before today, so I wanted to put a face to a name. She’s a nice enough lady, but when she remarked something along the lines of Republicans selling their souls to the Koch Brothers, well, let’s just say the class envy card isn’t accepted here.

The Second District could have much better representation with this lady, who obviously approves this message.

It was nice to see her get some airtime, although the local TV station isn’t in her district.

I wish I had gotten a better photo of Third District hopeful Eric Knowles (on the right) but this will have to suffice.

While most state and local politicians aren’t on the ballot for awhile, there is one exception. Salisbury Mayor Jim Ireton is up for re-election in early 2013. Here he’s on the left (which seems to be the norm) but being bipartisan is Delegate Charles Otto, on the right.

General Assembly members from near and far came to participate. Delegate Mike McDermott was rolling up his sign as the day wound down.

State Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin had one of his supporters in tow.

Here’s that Brian Griffiths guy again, in front of the Bereano tent with Delegates Kathy Szeliga and Justin Ready. Truly, though, it’s better Griffiths be in front of the camera and me behind it than the other way around.

And maybe politics is in the future of these two lovely young ladies – after all, they’ve won one contest already. The outgoing Miss Crustacean and Little Miss Crustacean will turn over their crowns at the Hard Crab Derby in September, but Hannah Adkins (left) and Jessica Wilson (right) seem to be having fun with their titles for now.

They definitely have winning smiles.

And by next week those who normally frequent the Somers Cove Marina can have their facility back.

So with that another Tawes Crab and Clam Bake is in the books. Next year should be a little more active since the 2014 campaign will be in full swing.

Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of my local blogging cohorts there. Since Jackie Wellfonder was busy coordinating Dan Bongino’s effort she may not put anything up on her Raging Against the Rhetoric site, but Julie Brewington of Right Coast Conservative was snapping a number of shots for herself while Jonathan Taylor of Lower Eastern Shore News has his observations as well.

Odds and ends number 46

This morning most of my usual rundown of items that, as always, don’t merit a full post but perhaps 1-3 paragraphs, concern the goings-on here in the great state of Maryland. (Note: additional update at bottom.)

I’ve heard so much over the last week about the gas tax: first it was off the table in favor of an income tax hike, and now it’s just being backed up to the end of the General Assembly session. The Senate Republican slate is still pressing the anti-gas tax website, though, also making the point that the Transportation Trust Fund is about the least trustworthy option for placing extra revenue.

And gas prices aren’t just a state issue. The Republican Study Committee, a group of conservative Congressional Republicans, raises a valid argument:

Oil production on private and state-owned land – land beyond the federal government’s grip – grew 14% last year. At the exact same time, production on federal land fell 11%. Gas prices have nearly doubled since Obama’s inauguration, and energy analysts predict that more Americans than ever before will pay $5.00 per gallon this year.

The President’s response to soaring gas prices is to shrug his shoulders and say, “There’s not much we can do.” And his Secretary of Energy Steven Chu has actually called for raising gas prices to European levels. Italians currently pay about $9.00 per gallon!

This isn’t the energy policy Americans deserve. Aggressively increasing our energy production will help lower gas prices and create more jobs. To do it, we must unlock more areas for exploration, cut through the red tape that slows production, and green light common sense projects like the Keystone XL pipeline.

The smart and responsible path to American energy security is clear, and the Republican Study Committee’s Jobs Through Growth Act shows the way. We quite literally cannot afford to wait. (Emphasis mine.)

Read that first sentence again – oil exploration on private land grew, but public lands waned. And the Democrats’ response? They want to once again raid the Strategic Petroleum Reserve rather than admitting their culpability in holding up production for a decade or more – oil which could have already been on the market.

I’m a strong believer in the concept of “highest and best use” when it comes to land, although I adapt it somewhat to consider the resource value. Furthermore, I feel that recreational usage, preservation, and energy extraction need not be mutually exclusive over large tracts of land. It wouldn’t be any worse to see an oil well or fracking operation than to have a wind turbine hovering hundreds of feet in the air, either offshore or land-based, or a field full of solar panels.

As an example of how energy is becoming a national campaign issue, even in local races, I can direct you to Second District Congressional candidate Larry Smith, who both put forth his energy plan and challenged opponent Dutch Ruppersberger to” support the Keystone XL pipeline” and “stand up to President Obama and the special interest groups in Washington. It is time for him to fight for the people of his district and begin taking constructive measures to help end the pain at the pump.”

It’s good that Smith is another Maryland Republican who is taking the fight to the Democrat rather than his primary opponents. We can leave that for the other side, even when they’re correct in pointing it out.

Another race where this is occurring is the U.S. Senate race, where both the leading contenders are hammering the opponent. Dan Bongino recently called Ben Cardin the “milquetoast senator.” Bongino continued, “I like to say that Maryland is missing two senators because they just vote the party line. No reason for Maryland to get any national interest because there is no diversity of political thought.”

Richard Douglas called Maryland “desperate for leaders” and blasted the state’s junior Senator for being out of touch:

For most Americans, longevity brings wisdom. In Congress, longevity brings isolation. Isolation from the people invites tyranny. Such isolation is visible in Baghdad’s fortified ‘Green Zone,’ whose original architect was Saddam Hussein, not the American soldier. America must not tolerate creation of a Green Zone around Congress by politicians-for-life.  A Senate leader who is truly concerned about the interests of his state and nation knows this. Like General Washington, he understands the critical value to the nation of a Farewell Address. He leaves on a warhorse, not a gurney.

Ben Cardin has held elected office since 1967. His time is up.

Indeed, it is time for a change, and these two gentlemen lead a group which would do a far better job representing the true interests of Marylanders.

And Free Staters could be well served without the need for tax increases, simply by adopting a more austere budget than the one proposed by Governor O’Malley. But it certainly wouldn’t be bare-bones, says Delegate Justin Ready.

Negotiations are taking place to avoid what liberal interest groups are calling a doomsday budget – one that would reduce approximately $500 million from Governor O’Malley’s proposed $36 Billion budget.  A reduction of 1.4% out of the largest projected budget in Maryland history does not sound like doomsday to me, it sounds like a very good idea to get our state’s finances back on track.

It’s important to note that a cut of $500-$700 million out of Gov. O’Malley’s proposed FY2013 budget would still leave Maryland’s state government spending more than in last year’s budget.  That’s not an unreasonable request to make of our government in a time when families have seen their budgets reduced dramatically.

So we would STILL spend more, but that’s not good enough for Annapolis liberals. They seem to want the whole enchilada, middle class (and everyone else not on the government teat) be damned.

But before I get to my new links, I wanted to add a quick news update: Mitt Romney won the Washington caucuses, although in truth it doesn’t mean much because the hard work of picking delegates to the national convention comes later on. Of course, I’m waiting for the Ron Paul cult to tell me that he’ll end up with all the delegates despite the fact he finished a distant second.

But there’s a simple truth at play: even if Paul got EVERY delegate from EVERY caucus, he would still be far short of the number needed for nomination. And getting 10 percent of the primary vote in a particular state isn’t going to get it.

I have one new link to share. She’s a California-based conservative who is most famous for the message below.

She’s also spoken about the Sandra Fluke imbroglio in this classic, no-holds-barred style. Her name is Kira Davis, and her website is quite interesting, so check it out.

And to close, another sad note of passing. Fellow Maryland blogger T.J. Grogg (The Grogg Report) passed away last week. She was 68.

Update: I had to add this in because Robert Stacy McCain just destroys Sandra Fluke and her $3,000 for birth control argument.

PlanMaryland, like it or not

December 19, 2011 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, Radical Green, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on PlanMaryland, like it or not 

Why? Because the Governor says so. And you will like it.

I have found it interesting over the last few days that our “beloved” Governor seems to be operating from the shadows. First of all, his hand-picked redistricting committee dumps out the General Assembly redistricting plan on a Friday evening, when many have tuned out for the weekend, and now this move a week before Christmas. It seems to me that he could have gotten the same thing by making it part of his legislative package for the 2012 session and legitimized PlanMaryland more in the eyes of the public. Instead, Martin O’Malley rams it into law via executive order. Maybe he has learned a lesson or two from Barack Obama and certainly eyes the 2016 Democratic nomination.

And while the Executive Order claims that “PlanMaryland is not a substitute for local comprehensive plans and it will not supplant local planning and zoning authority,” let’s see what happens if a local jurisdiction doesn’t “identify proposed Planning Areas by reviewing their existing comprehensive plans and regulations to see where and how they align with Planning Area Guidelines.” Of course, those will be commanded from on high at the Maryland Department of Planning – the same people who gave us our redistricting.

The biggest problem I have with PlanMaryland is my belief that those who already have growth and development will be allowed to keep going, while areas like ours which need something to spur job creation and attract growth will be starved. There’s no question that the Radical Green idea of maintaining our rural heritage isn’t one of agriculture, but restoring our land back to a state of wilderness. Sadly, we have a Governor who’s pretty much in allegiance to Radical Green – hence the War on Rural Maryland.

Moreover, it’s a question of autonomy. Similar to the argument for supporting an elected school board over one appointed by the Governor, generally the closer government is to the people the more responsive and proper it becomes. Our interests may not be those of some Annapolis bureaucrat in his cubicle, but with PlanMaryland what that faceless and feckless automaton says will dictate our policies regardless of how we would prefer to proceed.

Now that the process is underway, a group called the Smart Growth Subcabinet will have the task of receiving reports over the next 180 days from various state agencies on how they will implement PlanMaryland, then another 60 days to come up with a summary report. Thus, by the end of next summer we will have some idea of PlanMaryland’s effects on our way of life.

Speaking for the other side, Delegate Justin Ready noted that “(t)he O’Malley Administration has said that PlanMaryland is nothing new.  However, they have also said that it is a ‘first step’. My view is if this is a ‘first step’ towards any change in how we deal with land use in our state – that first step should be vetted by the General Assembly,” Ready concluded.   “This discussion will definitely continue in the 2012 Legislative Session.”

However, the problem with Ready’s approach is that it’s almost certainly doomed to fail. Even if legislation which curtails some or all of PlanMaryland manages to pass the General Assembly it’s likely to be vetoed by Governor O’Malley. Then the question would obviously be whether the General Assembly could muster the votes to override next year and I don’t think the majority party really wants to cross the governor. They can conveniently let him take the blame since he’s not up for re-election in 2014 – but they are. And given the short attention span of many Maryland voters who don’t notice their freedoms being eroded drop by drop, they just might get away with it.

Odds and ends number 37

November 13, 2011 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on Odds and ends number 37 

A lot of little items piled up in my inboxes while I’ve been away, so let’s see what I dig up.

There was another incident at our convention that attracted notice, as the tires on two cars belonging to campaign staffers of U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino were slashed. I guess someone doesn’t like Dan, but I doubt it’s one of his GOP opponents whose supporters did this.

This incident also affected a friend of mine who was riding home from the convention with one of the staffers, so she didn’t get home until late. Bet she slept well last night.

Otherwise, Bongino had enjoyed a good week as he garnered an endorsement from 2014 candidate and Harford County Executive David Craig.

Cathy Keim reminded me that tomorrow will be the monthly meeting of the Wicomico Society of Patriots, which will be held at Adam’s Ribs in Fruitland beginning at 7 p.m. The subject will be election fraud and what can be done about it, presented by Election Integrity Maryland.

While there’s been no reports of election fraud locally, it’s not a bad idea to have an inkling of what to look for. The Board of Elections locally is quite sound, but additional eyes and ears aren’t going to hurt.

Maybe they needed some additional eyes and ears in the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Administration, as Delegate Justin Ready points out:

Today, Delegate Justin Ready (R-5A) was appalled to hear of the gross financial discrepancies within the Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA). As referenced in the Maryland Reporter, the DDA has been holding onto a surplus of thirty eight million dollars, rolled over since 2010. The funds which were hidden from prior audits consist of twenty five million dollars in state funds and twelve million dollars in Federal aid to the administration. “I am very disturbed and disappointed to hear about this gross abuse of funds within the DDA. With thousands of people with disabilities on the state waiting list – and Maryland facing an ongoing budget deficit – these tax dollars could certainly have been put to much better use than just sitting in bureaucratic limbo,“ said Ready, a member of the Health and Government Operations Committee.

“Perhaps even more appalling is the fact that lobbyists and government officials used DDA’s lack of funds as a rationale for passing an alcohol tax increase that directly hurts small businesses and consumers in our state.  The alcohol tax increase originally proposed to raise more revenue for the DDA and for programs helping people with disabilities.  Many of the people I met were very sincere and were suffering with major physical and mental disabilities.  It is sad to learn that during this same time, funding could have been available to many of these individuals,” said Ready. (Emphasis mine.)

So we were lied to? You know if a Republican were in charge you’d never hear the end of this story, but those in charge chalk it up to accounting errors. And more troubling is the fact a tax increase came based on a perceived shortfall – so what else is being held back?

It’s a matter of trust.

Turning to lighter fare, a blogger friend of mine can now claim to be a bestselling author. Bob McCarty’s new tome Three Days in August is now a top ten seller in Amazon.com’s ‘Law’ category. So congratulations to Bob on the book’s early success.

And there’s a new home-based business in town, as founder Gretchen Parks informed me.

The new site pulls listings from many popular websites including Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com, Craigslist.org, and more to create one daily listing of jobs available. And instead of covering one small region, this website covers the whole Delmarva Peninsula with jobs for all three states and even work from home listings.

The site’s creator, Gretchen Parks, works from home and knows how discouraging the job search can be. “As a freelancer, I am always trolling the job boards and looking for my next client or opportunity. The competition is fierce and every edge that you can have can make all the difference.” Parks said.

Parks had the idea to create this blog site to fill a need. “I saw people online looking for work and asking others if they knew of any openings. Online groups have formed to help each other, but the job listings are not plentiful in these groups because only the person looking knows the extent of their experience and qualifications for any given job,” she said.

There’s no doubt there’s a need for her service, and perhaps she can build this up as a local clearinghouse for employers and job seekers. But it will be a tough row to hoe with a number of other job sites already in place and with the backing of various media outlets. I wish Gretchen the best of luck.

Finally, you may have noticed this morning that my website was briefly hacked by a miscreant. Well, with a little help from my server and a little bit of study on the back end of my website I managed to repair the problem, as you can see. So I’m back, and a little bit wiser. Think I have some people worried?

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