That Rand Paul, he sure gets around

February 18, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Inside the Beltway, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on That Rand Paul, he sure gets around 

It’s become obvious that the junior Senator from Kentucky has become quite the item in Maryland, since he will be engaged in Free State-related causes supporting state political action committees twice in the space of slightly over a month. In this case, though, the support will be more indirect.

Instead of a relatively affordable event, though, it seems like Dan Bongino and the Conservative Victory PAC are going for more of the high-dollar donors. Perhaps that’s a function of holding the event in Washington, D.C. but the event doesn’t seem to be aiming for the attendance figures the Maryland Liberty PAC will be seeking a month later – of course, Bongino needs the money in a more immediate fashion as he prepares to presumably take on the deep pockets of incumbent Congressman John Delaney.

Rand Paul, by the way, is no stranger to the Conservative Victory PAC. He also was a featured speaker at a rally last October for Ken Cuccinelli, who narrowly lost the gubernatorial election there and was being mentioned as a candidate for U.S. Senator himself before quashing the rumors in December. For its part, the Maryland-based CVPAC took criticism from some quarters for supporting a candidate in Virginia. (I didn’t have as much of a problem with it.) The October event even featured Bongino as a “special speaker” so he knows the group too.

Once again, it’s worth pointing out the event is for Dan Bongino’s benefit because checks are made payable to Bongino’s Congressional campaign. But the CVPAC has plans for local Maryland campaigns as well:

We are launching this year in high gear with a fundraiser in February to support Dan Bongino as the next US Congressman from Maryland’s sixth district.  In March, we will roll out a multi-tiered plan to conduct fundraisers as well as grassroots outreach as part of our victory campaign for high caliber Constitutional Conservatives seeking elected office.

That statement was the introduction to the CVPAC January newsletter, available on their website. Presumably they are working on a list of candidates to support in local and perhaps statewide races. (I can think of a couple local candidates who can use the help as they face off against entrenched Democrats and their high-dollar consultants from across the Bay.) So I look forward to seeing if our humble little side of the state is included in that victory campaign.

And if Rand Paul wants to help us out, he’s more than welcome to.

The ever-popular turnout model

November 9, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The ever-popular turnout model 

Apparently it is all about turning out the base.

In their victory lap and appeal to flip the House, national Democrats cited the recent decision in Virginia to embrace cronyism in the persona of Terry McAuliffe as well as a number of big-city mayors such as Bill de Blasio in New York as evidence they have momentum. It’s the usual spin, considering they were whacked in New Jersey – a state with a Democratic voter registration advantage.

Yet look at the electorate which showed up in Virginia:

So McAuliffe, who won by less than two points, was elected by a D+9 turnout. Yet because Virginia is an open primary state and doesn’t make voters select a political party upon registration, this simply means self-declared Democrats were the largest of the three groups, with independents next and Republicans last. Those who declared themselves independent actually voted more for Ken Cuccinelli than for Terry McAuliffe, so where the GOP may have failed was getting their likely voters to the ballot. Many may be kicking themselves now because they believed the polls when they showed McAuliffe up by 10 points and didn’t turn out.

But the Democrats apparently believe that, because the 2013 model of turnout in Virginia turned out like the 2012 model, that the success will continue through 2014. They cling to this hope, as well as the polling data I wrote about a few weeks back where a generic Democrat leads in several Congressional races, in believing 2014 will be more of the same and they will get back the House to match the Senate.

The problem which their line of rainbow unicorn thinking is once you actually select a candidate the voters may not like his or her record or promises, particularly if they run on Obamacare. That, my friends, promises to be an albatross around the collective necks of the Democratic Party. Everyone who counters the lie we were told that “you can keep your insurance policy” is another potential Republican vote if done correctly in 2014 and 2016. Do you seriously think Hillary Clinton will change a thing about Obamacare when she had this bright idea two decades ago? She won’t. Yes, I realize the Democrats will try their best to change the subject and/or demonize Big Insurance, but they have a mess on their hands right now which goes far beyond a balky website.

Yet there is a lesson for us as well. I’ll grant this is a little bit of apples-to-oranges comparison because Virginia’s voters are self-declared, but if you had even a 35-34 Democratic turnout they would have never sent the e-mail because Ken Cuccinelli would be the incoming governor.

In one of our Republican Club meetings it was noted that Bob Ehrlich was elected with 68% Republican turnout. That simply won’t do. Martin O’Malley was re-elected with 1,044,961 votes in 2010, and even with 100% turnout and perfect GOP loyalty we are still almost 100,000 votes shy of that mark based on our current registration numbers. If we are going to win, we need to get that 20% of the Democrats who remain registered that way because their daddy was a Democrat to vote for us, and draw in independents, too.

Surely the opposition will paint us as extremists and try to play on voters’ emotions as they did in the Virginia race. But what’s so extreme about keeping more of your own money, presenting additional choices for the education of your children, and bringing the focus of government back to a local level? You tell me.

I refuse to believe the voters of Maryland will continue to vote against their own self-interest and will work accordingly to correct that. Education is a process which spans elections, but keep in mind we don’t have to convince everyone – if just one out of roughly former O’Malley voters switches to our side, we win. Given O’Malley’s tepid approval ratings it’s not such a daunting task, is it?

Time to get to work.

By the way, as an aside: it’s worth pointing out (as I was looking up the 2010 totals) that O’Malley won huge in two areas: early voting, where he received 62.9% of the vote, and absentee ballots, where he got 63.3%. But together they were only 18.1% of the total. Election Day is still important, but it won’t hurt to try and bank a lot of votes beforehand.

A course to work on

November 7, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, Polling · Comments Off on A course to work on 

Thanks to my reading of the other side – namely the Maryland Juice website – I was alerted to a poll conducted recently. It’s a poll which shows that we as a movement and party have some work to do.

I’m going to reserve comment on the Goucher College survey insofar as the questions on minimum wage and pensions, the results of which gave me the sick sensation that people in this state really don’t understand economics, and focus on the key question of name recognition. Obviously I knew every name on this list but it turns out most of Maryland is familiar with few of the people running for governor. In order of name recognition, the percentages of people who have heard of these candidates are as follows:

  • Anthony Brown – 62.3%
  • Doug Gansler – 57.9%
  • Dutch Ruppersberger – 49.1%
  • David Craig – 30.6%
  • Charles Lollar – 22.7%
  • Ron George – 21.6%
  • Heather Mizeur – 13.1%

Now this is a strict name recognition poll, and not a favorable/unfavorable one. But as you can see all of the GOP hopefuls trail all but one of the Democrats, which presents a problem but also an opportunity.

As we saw in the Virginia gubernatorial race, Ken Cuccinelli lost because he was defined by his opponent as hostile on social issues. Not only was the press generally favorable to Terry McAuliffe, he had a lot more money to spend in the latter days of the campaign to pour onto the thick layer of mud which had been slung for several months from both sides.

So an obvious goal of all candidates is to bring that name recognition number up, but also do it in such a way to present a positive image. With the rash of bad news Doug Gansler has endured, surely his recognition is up – but just as certainly his negatives are as well. The same can become true of Anthony Brown, since in the same Goucher Poll his boss Martin O’Malley only had a 41-40 favorable vs. unfavorable ratio, with strong unfavorables running 11.3 points ahead of strong favorables (e.g. a -11.3, which echoes the -15.1 O’Malley had in the recent Maryland Poll). Those two are as peas in a pod to me.

Besides, the factor Marylanders are most looking for in their next governor is trustworthiness. I don’t trust any of the Democrats any farther than I can throw them – the closest is Mizeur, who makes no bones about being liberal.

If we can alert as many Marylanders as possible to our candidates with good and truthful words – accentuate the positive – it makes their job easier. Time to get to work.

Election year promises

These from a guy who’s not even on the 2014 ballot, criticized by someone who’s not made the leap onto the ballot yet. Respectively, I’m referring to Martin O’Malley and his favorite burr under the saddle, Change Maryland’s Larry Hogan. The story goes like this:

Late last week the blog Politics Maryland reported that State Budget secretary Eloise Foster of the Department of Budget and Management indicated Governor O’Malley directed government agencies to prepare “cost containment plans” to cut spending instead of raising taxes. Change Maryland, the state’s leading voice of opposition to a one-party political monopoly in Annapolis, scoffed at the claim that O’Malley would not seek higher taxes or fees in the face of Maryland’s looming $510 million structural deficit.

“Every election year, Governor O’Malley promises not to raise taxes, but he has broken this promise every year he has been governor. Under this administration, Marylanders have been slammed with 40 consecutive tax, toll and fee hikes. Now, as he attempts to cement his legacy and further his presidential aspirations, he is back to singing the ‘no new tax’ tune once again,” said Larry Hogan, founder and Chairman of Change Maryland.

During his re-election campaign, O’Malley ran commercials railing against fee and tax increases; after he claimed he was looking for a “diet of cuts” until the state’s economy and revenue were stronger. Yet in his second term, he pushed for some of the most regressive taxes and fees we’ve seen in this administration: increases in the state’s gas tax and tolls, a rain tax, and more that disproportionately affect the families that can least afford them.

“In 2012, O’Malley infamously tweeted ‘You have to have the guts to make the cuts.’ But after seven years, where are the cuts, governor?” asked Hogan. “The facts show that Martin O’Malley has actually increased state spending by over $8 billion — with zero cuts. By the standards of his own rhetoric, Governor O’Malley is gutless,” Hogan said.

“The massive tax increases in 2007 were supposed to solve the structural deficit. Then it was the 2012 tax hikes. Here we are again with a shortfall, even after forty consecutive tax increases under this administration,” charged Hogan. “Even these outrageous tax increases have not kept up with spending addiction of the O’Malley-Brown administration. This is further proof that this administration simply lacks the courage to say, ‘no’ to spending.”

The proof to Hogan’s assertions is in the pudding: our budget is indeed up $8 billion from what it was in FY2007, as I’ll show below.

A solution Hogan didn’t point out was instead posited by one of his prospective opponents, Charles Lollar. He’s been advocating a Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR law, similar to one Colorado adopted some years back.

Let’s take a look at where we’d be had Bob Ehrlich passed one in 2006. TABOR establishes that the budget cannot grow more than the rate of inflation plus the rate of population growth in a particular year.

Had a TABOR been in place, the budget from 2007 to 2013 would have only grown by the rate of inflation, which the CPI inflation calculator I used pegged at 12.93% over the period, plus Maryland’s population growth. I extrapolated the Census figures and used a population estimate I made of 5,650,000 as a “close enough” starting point and came up with this:

  • Inflation: 12.93%, based on the CPI inflation calculator
  • Population growth:  4.42% (based on extrapolating Census data to assume a population of roughly 5,900,000 today vs. around 5,650,000 in 2007)
  • The FY2007 Maryland budget came in at $29.629 billion, including reversions.
  • The FY2014 Maryland budget is $37.307 billion, including fund raids.

With the TABOR rule and using the last Ehrlich budget as a starting point, anything over $34.77 billion ($29.629 billion + 17.35%) is excessive spending. So Martin O’Malley overspent by $2.537 billion this year, not to mention smaller sums over his first six budgets. So much for having “guts for cuts.”

Put another way, the corporate tax that some candidates are tinkering around the edges with could easily be eliminated now if the TABOR was in effect. Meanwhile, those gasoline taxes could be spent strictly on roads. Or, we could have taken a sizable step toward eliminating our $9.8 billion dependence on Uncle Sam – another point brought up by Lollar.

Unfortunately for those looking to vote with their feet, O’Malley/Brown will be the beneficiary of a giant present dumped in their lap – a bare plurality of the voters of Virginia were foolish enough to elect Terry McAuliffe as governor over the vastly superior Ken Cuccinelli. Now Marylanders who were ready to bail to Virginia will have to wait four years for sanity to be re-established there. And do you think McAuliffe will govern like he got 60% of the vote, calling his 47% a mandate? You betcha.

Fortunately, the Virginia House of Delegates looks to be very safely in Republican hands (it should end up somewhere around 66-34 R) so hopefully McAuliffe can’t do too much damage IF Republicans stay strong.

One thing the Virginia race proves: you have to define yourself before your opponent does it for you. Anthony Brown is basically the blankest of slates, so let’s get to work.

It’s election day somewhere

While Maryland statewide voters will have another 52 weeks to wait until their time has come, there are certain Free State towns and cities where the polls are open today. Of course, we also get some spillover from the races down in Virginia, whose voters may well be sick of the campaign Terry McAuliffe has ran against Ken Cuccinelli – a guy who’s actually held elected office and wasn’t rejected by his party’s own voters four years ago.

Obviously the focus in Maryland has been on those municipal elections in Frederick and Annapolis, where a strong crop of Republicans must be scaring those higher up on the food chain:

Decisions are made by those who show up. That is never truer than on Election Day. And in Maryland, people like you have some important decisions to make.

The polls open tomorrow morning, which means it’s time to step up, make a plan for how you’re going vote, and stick to it.

Commit to vote now:

(link redacted)

Barack Obama, if people like me made the decisions in Maryland this state would be far better off – instead, they voted against their best interests and re-elected you. Obviously this is boilerplate since he didn’t know the only election I’m involved in is the one for the Mobbie Awards. And did his people really write “you’re going vote”? Must be taking a break from working on healthcare.gov.

At least the Red Maryland guys have a clue:

It’s Election Day in Annapolis and Frederick. We’re proud of the hard work our Republican candidates have been doing, and of all the work conservative activists from across Maryland have done to help them on to victory today.

If you live in Annapolis and Frederick; please vote today!

And yes, they have a radio show tonight, expanding Jackie Wellfonder’s normal hourlong show to two hours and taking it on the road.

The state Republican party has made a push in these two cities as well. From Chair Diana Waterman:

If you have some free time, consider making calls on election day to remind voters to go vote! Or help at the polls. I’ll be working a poll in Annapolis from 4 – 8PM.

Want to help tomorrow? Call (410) 989-2095 in Annapolis and (740) 816-1465 in Frederick. Or make calls from home – all you need is a computer and a phone. Click here to find out how to do it! It’s so easy!

In Frederick, we will elect Mayor Randy McClement and Alderman candidates Daniel Cowell, Phil Dacey, Alan Imhoff, Katie Nash, and Dave Schmidt!

In Annapolis, we’re going to shake things up and elect Mike Pantelides as mayor and Alderman candidates Allen Furth, Fred Paone, and James Clenny!

Of course, depending on who wins all these contests it will either be a “bellwether election” or “temper tantrum.” That’s the job of the spinners of the political world who might take a day or two off once the counting ends before firing back up with their thoughts on the 2014 election.

Yes, today ends a chapter in the book of politics, but I’ll be around to start on writing the next one as soon as tomorrow – maybe even this evening after the polls close depending on how much work I get done on other tasks.

Clearing the air and getting back to basics

Over the last couple days, a segment of the Maryland Republican Party is scratching its head over the absence of gubernatorial candidate Charles Lollar from several high-profile events: last month’s Andy Harris First District Bull Roast, the Conservative Victory PAC Ken Cuccinelli fundraiser (which was sponsored by several Maryland politicians), the Prince George’s County Lincoln Day Dinner with Lt. Col. Allen West, and most recently the state party’s Oktoberfest gathering in Timonium Saturday night. The conventional wisdom argument is that these were lost opportunities to impress the party brass.

But this may also presuppose Lollar wasn’t out meeting with “regular Joe” voters, and some say a lot of these gatherings would be time better spent knocking on doors or making phone calls. So which is it? I don’t know, but my feeling is that we all need to get back to basics and begin to compare just where each of the three major declared candidates stand on important issues facing the state.

A year and a half before the 2012 Presidential election, I began a process of grading the candidates in the race at the time on a number of issues. I think it’s time to repeat the process, with some different parameters because the issues aren’t always congruent between state and national elections – for example, I don’t have to worry about trade or the Long War but I do have concerns about agricultural issues and necessary changes to the state political system, meanwhile, some issues grow or contract in importance because of recent state developments. But I like the 100-point system so I will adapt it to suit.

So the 2014 monoblogue endorsement will be based on the following formula:

  • Election/campaign finance reform (3 points)
  • Illegal immigration (5 points)
  • Dealing with Obamacare (7 points)
  • Energy policy (8 points)
  • Education (9 points)
  • Second Amendment (11 points)
  • War on Rural Maryland (12 points)
  • Role of government (13 points)
  • Job creation and transportation (14 points)
  • Fiscal conservatism/taxation (15 points)

Once I add or subtract three points for various intangibles of my choosing, I’ll come up with the candidate who I think will best serve Maryland. Granted, my endorsement will only be worth the pixels they’re darkening but at least some thought will be put into why this candidate is the best one for Maryland. (Keep in mind that any of these three would be vastly superior to Anthony Brown, Doug Gansler, Heather Mizeur, or anyone else Democrats put up.) Otherwise, I come in with no preconceived notions with the exception that the other declared GOP candidates in the race don’t have the campaign or the presence to achieve any more than a tiny percentage of the vote so they’re not included; also, this is subject to update if/when Larry Hogan enters the race.

So now that you have the basic concepts, how about some specifics of what I’m getting at for each point? These are questions I may be able to find answers for within the candidates’ own websites, but it’s more likely I need further guidance. I have had the chance to hear all three declared candidates speak on at least two occasions apiece so I might have a decent idea where they’ll go, but it never hurts to ask. With that, here goes:

  • Election/campaign finance reform: Will you aggressively pursue the redistricting revision case in court; if we succeed can we have 141 single-member districts? Where do you stand on current reporting requirements: too tight, too loose, or just right? What about getting after local boards of elections and telling them to clean up their voter rolls?
  • Illegal immigration: Will you take the 287 (g) program used in Frederick County statewide? How about rescinding recent changes to drivers’ license laws in Maryland? And what about in-state tuition – do you revisit this issue? What about withholding a portion of state funds from sanctuary cities? Cooperation with the federal E-Verify program? What about policies allowing status checks such as those in Arizona?
  • Dealing with Obamacare: Do we eliminate the state exchange? Would you pursue a waiver for the state if one becomes available? Are you in favor of defunding or letting the law go into effect and watching it collapse? What steps would you take to encourage more insurance competition in the state? What about returning Medicaid limits to minimum levels?
  • Energy policy: When can we expect fracking to begin in Western Maryland? And what will you do with the renewable portfolio standard? Will you move to re-regulate Maryland’s electrical utilities? Can Martin O’Malley’s offshore wind scheme work? What about offshore oil drilling – is that an option for you? Will you maintain Maryland’s membership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative?
  • Education: Will Common Core be the law of the land in Maryland, or will you eschew Race to the Top funding? How about school choice, or money following the child regardless of school? How will you protect homeschooling? Instill more local control? What about promoting elected school boards in those counties still without them? Emphasis on vocational education? How do you message against the certain opposition of the teachers’ unions?
  • Second Amendment: Will you work to repeal the so-called Firearms Safety Act? What about concealed carry, and making licenses easier to get? If the federal government gets too onerous, will you fight them? What’s your interpretation of the Second Amendment?
  • War on Rural Maryland: Can we count on you to repeal the Septic Bill and tier mapping? Will nitrogen-removal systems still be required? Will the Hudson family be made whole by the state, since it was with the state’s assistance they were legally harassed? How will you assist the poultry industry in the state and keep them here? What about cleaning up behind the Conowingo Dam and fighting the mandated burden on rural counties, as well as the rain tax on urban ones?
  • Role of Government: Where do you stand on a regulation moratorium, and would you veto new mandates passed through the General Assembly? Are there any agencies you’d work to abolish? What about divestiture of surplus state land? Is a consolidation of primary state government functions in Annapolis on your agenda? Can we count on you to repeal as many laws as you create? Where do you stand on public-private partnerships? Do you support citizen-based petition to referendum for new laws (as opposed to those passed by the General Assembly)? What about the right to recall elected officials?
  • Job creation and transportation: We know you’ll lower the corporate tax rate – what about eliminating it entirely? What about reform of unemployment insurance? What other steps will you take to make it easier to do business in Maryland? As far as infrastructure goes, will you kill the Red Line and Purple Line in favor of more useful means for transporting goods, such as expanding the interstate network in Maryland and surrounding states? Will you hold the line on tolls? What about another Bay crossing – where would you put it? What non-tax code incentives would you offer for rural area job creation? What policies would you adopt from other states?
  • Fiscal conservatism/taxation: Can Marylanders expect a flatter income tax system? How about eliminating it entirely as some states have done? Or would you prefer a sales tax decrease or elimination? Would you agree to a TABOR, or at least a budget utilizing those principles? Can we get per-capita spending closer to the national norm? And how will you deal with the outcry of the press, such as the old “tax cuts for the rich” saw?
  • Intangibles: Positions on abortion, expansion of gambling and/or return to legislative control (as opposed to Constitutional amendment), protection for religious objections to gay marriage, your perception of the TEA Party and pro-liberty movement, and so forth. Mainly social issues.

Yes, that’s a hell of a lot. But somewhere, someone else is asking some of the same questions and if I’m going to make a decision I want it to be informed. And while I’d like to make these issue posts on about a weekly basis, that’s probably a quite aggressive timetable.

But I’m sure that a) people from the respective campaigns read my website, and b) they will bend over backwards for new media. (At least that’s what I’m counting on.) And it’s likely they haven’t even pondered some of these queries, so I don’t expect miracles – but I’ll take them anyhow.

Yet I’m sure that some high-dollar Beltway Republican consultant will tell their candidate that he’d be nuts to get into specifics this far out because all it would provide is fodder for the Democrats and the press (but I repeat myself) to harp upon as the campaign heats up. News flash: they will do that anyway, even if they have to make stuff up (e.g. “a fee is a tax.”) So get it out now and I’ll take those clowns on myself, even as I point out that it’s not like I don’t have a few allies in this fight.

Just let me know you have the balls to stand for something, okay?

Conservative victories – wherever you can get them

Tuesday is a big day for a Maryland-based PAC as they attempt to broaden their reach and influence.

That evening the Conservative Victory PAC is sponsoring a fundraiser for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, with plenty of influence from Maryland: Dan Bongino will give  “special remarks”  and the host committee features both former Maryland governor Bob Ehrlich and lieutenant governor Michael Steele. As they note, “proceeds will be provided to the Cuccinelli Campaign Team,” and there should be plenty of proceeds seeing that the admission prices start at a steep $135. This ain’t no little spaghetti dinner fundraiser.

My erstwhile Red Maryland colleagues Brian Griffiths and Greg Kline have been critical of the CVPAC on their website and radio show this week, contending the group should be paying attention to local races in Annapolis and Frederick. But unlike last year, Diana Waterman stated to me in a recent conference call that there were no plans for the state party to help in Virginia as they did for Mitt Romney. So in that respect the CVPAC is taking up that slack.

Yet there’s a factor which makes the CVPAC decision less surprising for me. With the exception of Jim Rutledge, the CVPAC Board of Directors lives in the Washington metropolitan area, so they likely follow Virginia politics almost as closely as Maryland’s because their local media deals with both. And while I disagree that the host committee is necessarily the shining example of conservatism, certainly Ken Cuccinelli would be considered a conservative rising star and perhaps future Presidential material in 2020 (after his one term in Virginia would be completed) if he succeeds in winning this year.

And it’s not like this should be a surprise, coming from the CVPAC. If you recall their trailer for 2014, the video narrator intoned that “alliances will be formed” between Maryland and Virginia. Moreover, their stated goal for Maryland is 19 State Senate seats and if they can get some reciprocal help from the commonwealth to our south – yes, that’s a big ‘if’ but they’re trying to form the alliance – we may be able to tip those scales. (Meanwhile, a member of their Board of Directors is running for governor here, so one might think CVPAC may be looking for assistance there, too.)

Are the races in Annapolis and Frederick a big deal? To an extent, yes – perhaps they can succeed and show us a path for success in Salisbury come 2015. (By population, Salisbury is quite comparable to Annapolis and is Maryland’s ninth-largest city; it’s also the largest on the Eastern Shore.) But every political operation has its priorities and it sounds like CVPAC is trying to leverage conservative success in Virginia into victories next year in Maryland.

But you have to have the Virginia success first for that plan to work.

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