Is it really that hard to file paperwork?

October 1, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off on Is it really that hard to file paperwork? 

As I promised in last night’s post, I looked up some of the many campaign finance accounts that were opened for this year’s election, including older accounts that have been around for years. My focus was on those who are on the November ballot in Wicomico County, although I also looked at candidates who failed to advance beyond the June 26 primary.

This post was inspired by the long-standing deficiency of Kirkland Hall, who went several months overdue without filing the required campaign finance paperwork with the state Board of Elections. However, as I found out in looking at the 64 candidates who are/were on the Wicomico County ballot, it must be a mean feat for some people to do this.

(Hall and opponent Delegate Charles Otto are not actually on the Wicomico County ballot, but they are part of our District 38 nonetheless. Otto was first elected in part with Wicomico County votes in 2010, before District 38A was gerrymandered to place Otto and former Delegate Mike McDermott in the same district by shifting it eastward into the southern end of Worcester County.)

I’m going to reach back into my memory bank for this, because one needed change for 2018 was a revision to campaign finance laws to make them easier on party office candidates (as I was.) Prior to that, I ran for office three times in 2006, 2010, and 2014.

The first time I had a treasurer who took care of the modest amount of paperwork for what they called a Personal Treasurer Account (PTA), with the biggest (only) contribution I had being the $100 I donated to my campaign, the in-kind donation that I was advised to consider my website as, and the two expenditures my filing fee and the $58 or so I used to buy palm cards to distribute among my close neighborhoods. At that time, you could have a non-continuing account so after that campaign it went away, with the proceeds donated to our Central Committee.

But the second time in 2010, they eliminated the PTA option so I had to keep my account open for the four years between the 2010 and 2014 elections, which meant I had to file all the 2010 reports, the annuals for 2011-14, and all the 2014 reports until after my primary when I formally closed the account since I didn’t intend to run again. During that time, my treasurer/(then) fiance and I missed the 2013 Annual Report by five days, so we had to pay a $20 fine. Honestly, I don’t remember seeing the little green reminder card so I think it went to our previous address – the 2012 one came right at the end of our forwarding order. But I should have known it was time.

So I have some empathy for those who miss the deadline by a few days, especially in a small-scale campaign like most of those at the county level. However, it turns out that group was the minority as out of 64 candidates I checked – the majority were in complete compliance:

  • 36 of 64 had no violations.
  • 15 of the remaining 28 had just one violation, with fines ranging from $10 to $250 – these two gentlemen on the extremes both missed the 2012 Annual Report, but Senator Jim Mathias was a day late and County Executive Bob Culver was almost a year late. Neither have missed another deadline in the last six years, though.
  • 4 of the remaining 13 had two violations: County Council at-large candidates Julie Brewington and Jamaad Gould, Senator (but at the time of the violations, Delegate) Addie Eckardt, and perennial primary and write-in candidate Ed Tinus. All have racked up over $200 apiece in fines.

And then you have the serious scofflaws. All of these nine have three or more violations; however, since Christopher Adams has only generated $40 in fines for three offenses, his reports are only a day or two late at most. It’s the rest who seem to have some issues. This is done in order of fine, smallest to largest:

  1. Delegate Christopher Adams, District 37B: 2014 Pre-General 1, 2017 Annual, 2018 Annual – $40 in fines
  2. William Turner, candidate, Wicomico County BOE District 3: 2018 Spring, 2018 Pre-Primary 2, 2018 Pre-General 1 – $90 in fines
  3. Michelle Bradley, candidate, Wicomico County BOE District 1: 2018 Spring, 2018 Pre-Primary 2, 2018 Pre-General 1 – $220 in fines
  4. Larry Dodd, Wicomico County Councilman (District 3): 2016 Annual, 2018 Annual, 2018 Pre-Primary 2, 2018 Pre-General 1 – $490 in fines
  5. Kirkland Hall, candidate, District 38A Delegate: 2018 Annual, 2018 Pre-Primary 2, 2018 Pre-General 1 – $1,340 in fines
  6. Mimi Gedamu, candidate, District 37B Delegate: 2018 Pre-Primary 1, 2018 Pre-Primary 2, 2018 Pre-General 1 – $1,390 in fines
  7. Ernest Davis, Wicomico County Councilman (District 1): 4 in 2010, 2011 Annual, 2015 Annual – $1,530 in fines
  8. Marvin Ames, candidate, Wicomico County Council (District 1): no filings since inception in February 2018 – $1,890 in fines
  9. Jim Shaffer, candidate, District 38C Delegate: no filings since inception in February 2018 – $1,890 in fines

Yes, Ames and Shaffer have never filed a single report. Since both lost in the primary, their campaigns are finished but they cannot close their accounts until the fines are waived or (more likely) paid. Honestly, I think they have more in fines than they raised for the campaigns!

In case you wanted to use this as evidence that one party or the other is worse about the situation, be advised that of the highest nine there are two in a non-partisan race, four Republicans, and three Democrats. Ironically, none of the top 4 face a November race as Ames, Shaffer, and Gedamu lost in the primary and Davis (who, admittedly, seems to have put these issues in the past since he’s been “clean” for almost three years) is unopposed.

I may take a look at the situation again when the last pre-general reports come out later this month but I suspect most of the campaigns will be careful to file coming into the election. No need for an October surprise on that front.

District 38: a closer look at finances

September 10, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on District 38: a closer look at finances 

Having looked at the races in District 37 yesterday, I know you’re waiting with bated breath for the really important one here in District 38 which will come at the end. (Always leave them wanting more.)

As opposed to the competition going on in its western neighbor, many District 38 denizens have their Delegates already all but selected. Barring a successful write-in campaign, both Delegate Carl Anderton, Jr. and Wayne Hartman will be representing their districts in January.

So let me review the parameters: I have pored over the campaign finance reports from each candidate submitted to the state Board of Elections beginning with the 2017 annual that covers from January of 2016. From there I subdivided contributions into five loose categories:

  • Donations from individuals within the area. For this exercise, the “area” is defined for both local districts as an address with a 216xx or 218xx zip code. Yes, the 216xx zip area is well outside the 38th District but it allows me apples-to-apples comparison with District 37 hopefuls – and there really aren’t a significant number of them, anyway.
  • Donations from individuals outside the 216xx and 218xx zip code area.
  • Donations from businesses within the area. Included in the definition of businesses are LLCs, LPs, and PAs.
  • Donations from businesses outside the area.
  • Donations from PACs. As a way of simplifying this, this also includes transfers from other campaign accounts, and (at my discretion) certain entities that were recognizable as similar to a political action committee, including larger businesses, unions, and governmental entities.

Having these all categorized and built into a spreadsheet, I can figure out several things: proportion of donations coming from each group, proportion of donations inside/outside the area, and an average donation. In many cases, I can compare and contrast candidates – but not always. Read on and you’ll find out why.

House District 38A:

Incumbent Republican (since 2010) Charles Otto vs. Democrat Kirkland Hall, Sr.

For Charles Otto:

  • 2 donations from individuals in area for $525
  • 1 donation from an individual outside of area for $250
  • 2 donations from businesses in area for $450
  • No donations from businesses outside of area
  • 6 donations from PACs and other committees for $4,600
  • Average donation: $529.55
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $15,361.57

Because of one huge PAC donation of $2,500 skewing the results, just 16.7% of Otto’s money came from inside the area, with only 4.3% coming from outside the area and a whopping 79% from PACs and other committees. Out of the 21% coming from individuals and businesses, 13.3% was out of individual pockets and 7.7% was from local businesses.

Since 2010 Charles has had an outstanding loan to his campaign for $22,500. But as you can see, Otto doesn’t make a great effort to supplement his campaign with fundraising – it’s almost like an accident when someone sends him a check given that he’s only had 11 in over 2 1/2 years. Being his treasurer is almost as easy as being mine was.

Having said that, though, Otto is far more circumspect than his opponent.

This is what I found for Kirkland Hall. The first link is a screenshot taken of his most current campaign finance entity, taken yesterday on the Maryland SBE site. The second link is a different screenshot of another open – but considered inactive – campaign finance account for Kirkland Hall. This would appear to be a successful run for the Somerset County Democrat Central Committee. Unlike what I did for my three runs, apparently the account was never officially closed.

Hall has sent in ALCEs for 2 of the reporting periods, so we don’t have financial details of his campaign. But here’s the important issue – Hall is now overdue on his campaign finance reports for two consecutive reporting periods, the latest expiring in August. Enough days have elapsed since the first one was due to incur the maximum $500 fine, and he’s $180 and counting for this most recent period.

This is a screenshot of Kirkland Hall’s present campaign committee. Note the fines for lack of reporting at the bottom.

Note he was also a scofflaw on the 2018 Annual Report before fimally filing, with another $500 fine that was paid. And it’s not like he wasn’t warned about the May report. Yet the Hall campaign has been actively seeking financing during the time they were delinquent:

And as I can attest, his opponent doesn’t have “big money” flowing into his campaign – unless you count one $2,500 donation that came from the Maryland Farm Bureau PAC. But we don’t know how much Kirkland has because they’re not being forthcoming with their information. Could this be an intentional oversight as this is his campaign’s third offense?

On the other hand, the situation is much calmer in the other two District 38 subdistricts.

House District 38B:

Incumbent Republican Carl Anderton, Jr (since 2014) is unopposed.

For Carl Anderton:

  • 98 donations from individuals inside the area for $9,318
  • 12 donations from individuals outside the area for $2,350
  • 13 donations from businesses in area for $3,750
  • 4 donations from businesses outside the area for $1,500
  • 15 donations from PACs and other committees for $5,250
  • Average donation: $156.11
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $21,048.02

58.9% of his money came from inside the area, with 17.4% coming from outside the area and 23.7% from PACs and other committees. Out of the 76.3% coming from individuals and businesses, 52.6% was out of individual pockets and 23.7% came from businesses.

However, once it became obvious that Carl would not have an opponent his fundraising has all but ceased – since the 2018 report came due in January he’s only picked up a total of $1,850.

House District 38C:

Incumbent Republican Mary Beth Carozza opted to run for Senate, leaving an open seat. Wayne Hartman won the June 26 primary and is only opposed in the General Election by write-in candidate Ed Tinus – one of those Hartman defeated in the primary.

For Wayne Hartman:

  • 83 donations from individuals inside the area for $31,255
  • 16 donations from individuals outside the area for $5,920
  • 45 donations from businesses in area for $29,208
  • 5 donations from businesses outside the area for $2,329
  • 1 donation from PACs and other committees for $1,000
  • Average donation: $464.75
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $3,477.58

86.7% of Wayne’s money came from inside the area, with 11.8% coming from outside the region and 1.4% coming from a different committee. Out of the non-PAC money, 53.3% of his funding came from individuals and 45.2% from businesses. (Those numbers again fall short of rounding correctly.)

Much like Carl Anderton, Wayne all but ceased active fundraising after the primary. Unlike Carl, though, he still got some big checks – only 7 donations netted Hartman $5,550 – which has kept him in the black for his future plans.

Write-in Ed Tinus has mainly filed ALCEs since he began his campaign account in 2014; however, Ed stepped up his game to file a formal Pre-Primary 2 report that showed he contributed $40 to himself but spent $2,605 to leave himself a negative balance of $2,565.

So the undercard is complete – now comes what you’ve all been waiting for:

Senate District 38:

Republican Delegate Mary Beth Carozza (since 2014) is challenging Democrat Senator (since 2010, Delegate from 2006-2010) Jim Mathias.

For Mary Beth Carozza:

  • 518 donations from individuals inside the area for $112,287
  • 122 donations from individuals outside the area for $23,366.06
  • 79 donations from businesses in area for $44,589.38
  • 18 donations from businesses outside the area for $11,305
  • 45 donations from PACs and other committees for $30,288
  • Average donation: $251.51
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $140,987.98

For Mary Beth, 70.7% of her money came from inside the area, with 15.6% coming from outside the area and 13.7% from PACs and other committees. Out of the 86.3% coming from individuals and businesses, 61.2% was out of individual pockets and 25.2% came from businesses. (It rounds off wrong again.)

This is a sea change from her initial campaign, which saw Mary Beth receive a great deal of money from outside the district from her erstwhile cohorts in Washington, D.C. In the 2014 campaign I wrote:

In her first report that covered the inception of her campaign to the initial days of 2014, over 70% of her funding came from out-of-state, mainly from the Washington, D.C. area and Ohio. Those Ohio connections, as well as work for Maine Sen. Susan Collins, proved valuable in the category of federal committees, as Mary Beth received money from the Buckeye Patriot PAC, Dirigo PAC, and Promoting Our Republican Team PAC, as well as the campaigns of Mike DeWine, Steve Stivers, and Pat Tiberi. DeWine is a former Senator from Ohio who is now the state’s Attorney General, while Stivers and Tiberi currently serve in Congress representing parts of the state.

It appears that Mary Beth has since established the local connections to compete in this race against perhaps the most well-funded incumbent in this portion of the state.

For Jim Mathias:

  • 469 donations from individuals inside the area for $91,115
  • 178 donations from individuals outside the area for $43,127
  • 157 donations from businesses in area for $82,339
  • 106 donations from businesses outside the area for $34,914
  • 301 donations from PACs and other committees for $124,610
  • Average donation: $310.57
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $273,873.43

Jim collected 46.1% of his money from inside the area and 20.7% of his funding from outside this region. More importantly, Mathias collected 33.1% of his donation total from PACs and other committees, including a number of his General Assembly cohorts. (Rounding is off again.) Out of the non-PAC money, Mathias picked up 35.7% from individuals and 31.2% from businesses. It’s perhaps the most well-rounded report of any I’ve done in terms of equality of sources between individuals, businesses, and PACs.

With the exception of the brief Pre-Primary 2 period, though, Carozza has outraised Mathias among local individuals in each reporting period. On the other hand, among individual donors from outside the district Mathias has outgunned Mary Beth almost 2-to-1 with a significant amount from connections from the area surrounding his hometown of Baltimore.

From a business standpoint, Carozza has ate into Jim’s longstanding advantage and outraised him among local businesses in the last reporting period. She’s also negated his advantage among out-of-district businesses over the last three periods.

The biggest fundraising advantage Mathias enjoys, then, is the many thousands of dollars he has received from PACs over the last 2 1/2 years. It’s not that Carozza hasn’t received PAC money, but dozens of PACs in and out of the state have been handing over checks to Jim for several years, building up an intimidating war chest. (One interesting donation: ask the progressives if they appreciate Jim getting a check from the NRA. He did – $500 on January 3, 2018. Or ask the NRA if they really want to give money to someone with Jim’s overall voting record.) But Carozza, unlike Jim’s previous opponent Mike McDermott, has the money to compete in what may be the most-watched race in this part of the state.

Considering that Mathias has more in his bank account than the total of all the other candidates in both District 37 and 38 outside the 38th Senate race, and Carozza isn’t far behind (you would have to exclude Johnny Mautz and his $96k war chest to make it about even) and you can see where the focus will be.

Update 9-28-2018: This week Kirkland Hall – after I gave a gentle reminder to some of his supporters – finally filed a portion of his campaign finance:

For the period from August 30, 2017 to June 10, 2018 (the Pre-Primary 2 report) this is what Hall reported:

  • 9 donations from individuals in area for $737
  • 2 donations from individuals outside of county for $300
  • No donations from a business in area
  • No donations from businesses outside of area
  • 1 donations from a PAC or other committee for $500
  • Average donation: $128.08
  • Cash on hand (bank account balance) – $291.56

Hall has already filed his ALCEs for the two Pre-General cycles; however, there is still a balance of $840 in fines as of this date.

Democrat gubernatorial hopefuls invade Salisbury

April 15, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, Radical Green · Comments Off on Democrat gubernatorial hopefuls invade Salisbury 

There are eight candidates on the Democrat side of the ballot hoping to be the challenger to current GOP Governor Larry Hogan. On a gorgeous, almost summer-like day on the Eastern Shore, only four of them could be bothered to come to Salisbury University to address their would-be primary electorate.

Originally that was supposed to be five of the eight, though.

An empty table...sort of like their bag of new ideas.

The lineup as originally intended: Alec Ross, Krish Vignarajah, Rushern Baker, Jim Shea, and Richard Madaleno.

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker was slated to be there, but informed the event organizers 15 minutes beforehand that he had an “emergency” and could not appear. According to his Twitter feed, he had begun the day campaigning in Baltimore City but the trail grows cold afterward. Yesterday evening there were Tweets and social media posts touting his previous endorsement by Congressman Steny Hoyer (who represents a portion of his county) and a piece touting his partnership for STEM training, but no mention of the forum or an apology for missing it. A Democrat friend of mine remarked afterward that “I know quite a few people who were definitely upset and said they wouldn’t vote for him now even if they had considered him before.” Unfortunately, that left us with a group of what would be defined as “second-tier” candidates who are polling in low single digits – combined they’re not Baker’s equal polling-wise.

On top of that, State Senator Richard Madaleno was a few minutes late, missing the opening statement but being allowed to make up for it when he answered his first question. Apparently there was an accident on the Bay Bridge, which was the topic of a subsequent question.

So the order was set, and placeholders were rearranged. This photo was taken once Madaleno arrived.

State Senator Richard Madaleno (right) answers a question as moderator Don Rush of Delmarva Public Radio (far left), Alec Ross (second from left), Krish Vignarajah (center), and Jim Shea (second from right) look on.

The Wicomico County Democratic Central Committee co-sponsored the event with the Salisbury University College Democrats, and aside from the horribly uncomfortable chairs we were forced to sit in for two hours the event was well-conducted for the 100 or so in attendance on this beautiful afternoon. I learned that a group of liberal Democrats can sit and listen attentively, so now I expect that same behavior at the next Andy Harris town hall that I attend. Moderator Don Rush instructed the audience early on to keep their reactions to themselves, and they complied.

I debated whether I wanted to handle this by candidate or by question, and decided that keeping the candidates’ answers together for each question would present a better, more comparative format. But first I wanted to mention something that was said by WCDCC chair Mark L. Bowen. (Just to be clear, this Mark Bowen is not Mark S. Bowen, the current Democrat Clerk of the Court for Wicomico County.) Bowen assured the gathering that “our work is being done for us…all we have to do is close the deal.” He was also the one who informed us that Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and former NAACP head Ben Jealous were absent due to “previous commitments.” (That would be their personally lobbying the state’s teacher’s union, which endorsed Jealous yesterday at their meeting. Perhaps endorsing Kamemetz or Baker would have been problematic for the teachers given educational scandals in their respective counties.)

So after an opening statement, the four remaining candidates answered questions on these topics:

  • New “economic engines” for the Eastern Shore
  • Balancing the interests of agriculture and environmentalists
  • Offshore wind energy development
  • How they would assist watermen and the Bay
  • Transportation priorities for our area
  • A new Bay Bridge
  • Their focus on education
  • Health care – a single-payer system?
  • Redistricting

But I want to begin with separate categorizations of their opening statements, and I’ll proceed in the order that they spoke. This means Alec Ross goes first and Richard Madaleno goes not at all because he was tardy.

You may recall that I spent a few minutes speaking to Alec at the Tawes event last year, when he informed me that he had a rather unique view on education for a Democrat, since he focused more on vocational education than college readiness. Obviously coming over here is something he cherishes, as he recalled childhood vacations spent in Ocean City and told the crowd his blood pressure comes down when he crosses the Bay Bridge as part of his opening statement.

His main point, though, was that “talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not.” And while “we are bringing new faces and new ideas to the Democratic Party,” Ross noted their voter registration numbers are trending downward.

I could have spent a couple minutes speaking to Krish Vignarajah, but I didn’t realize she was one of those waiting with me on the elevator to arrive. With her husband in tow and a young child, she could have been an interested observer. (She was also somewhat casually dressed.)

Krish came to America as a infant, emigrating from Sri Lanka with her parents. (A few years later, Sri Lanka would be embroiled in a civil war, so tensions were rising at the time.) She also painted a gloomy picture of Maryland, telling the audience that “opportunities are declining” but she would be “Larry Hogan’s worst nightmare” as a candidate. “We need to give people a reason to vote,” she exhorted.

Jim Shea used the Bay Bridge as an example of how infrastructure could help the economy. He was running to “invest in Maryland,” with a focus on three areas: education, transportation, and infrastructure.

Leading off the questioning was one about new economic engines for the Eastern Shore. All of them agreed agriculture was going to remain the primary driver, but they also wanted to add green energy to the mix in various ways.

For Vignarajah, the object wasn’t to attack “Big Chicken” but to address its environmental issues through research. She also touted the idea of tourism, both as part of an “outdoor economy” and “heritage tourism.” Shea stressed his belief that we need to bring the two sides of farmer and environmentalist together. Corporations want a good environment, too, he said, but “we need clarity on the regulations.” Jim also believed that we needed to grow our own businesses and not work as much at attracting those from other states.

Madaleno, after giving a brief introduction, talked about keeping agriculture sustainable, both environmentally and economically, but also brought up the idea of “eds and beds” – our educational institutions and tourism industry. Richard also pointed out the impact from Wallops Island and its space industry. He had one other point, but he joked that “I feel like the Secretary of Energy” because he couldn’t recall it. Later, he said Shea reminded him it was offshore wind – it was a byproduct of seeing each other so much and knowing their talking points, as Shea mentioned later: “(Madaleno) did the same thing for me at another forum.”

Perhaps Alec’s drop in blood pressure stemmed from the produce he’s purchased at an Eastern Shore roadside market. As the produce was bigger and better than ever at his last stop, Ross asked how they did it. “Precision agriculture,” the stand owner beamed. Agriculture in the state needs to continue to evolve, he added, the combination of analytics and agriculture would allow that to happen. And to help small farmers, Ross was proposing a billion-dollar investment in a “green bank” model – a model already in place in New York and Massachusetts. (In looking this up, perhaps Ross misspoke: I found programs in place in New York and Connecticut as a way to promote “clean energy.” What Ross proposes may have a slightly different focus.)

So how do you balance agriculture and the environment? Would you add restrictions to the poultry industry?

Madaleno, Shea, and Vignarajah all touted the Community Healthy Air Act, a measure Madaleno sponsored during the last General Assembly session, and one that Shea said “made sense.” (It did not get beyond the hearing stage.) Alec and Krish also brought up the Phosphorus Management Tool, with Krish calling it a “win-win.” She also proposed to “empower” farmers with a Farmers Rights Act.

Ross wanted all sides to play by the same rules as well, saying that neither side thinks they are lying when it comes to the facts.

Needless to say, all of them were supportive of wind energy development. Madaleno said they “will make a lot of sense,” believing the won’t impact the viewshed and be the basis for job growth. They can “drive the economy ahead,” added Shea; however, he was concerned that there was no way to store their energy. We need to invest in that technology, he added.

Ross and Vignarajah were just as aggressive, with Alec comparing areas that don’t “embrace the future” through wind to the coal country he grew up in and assuring us that windmills would not keep them from the beaches. Vignarajah promised 2,000 megawatts of wind power in her first term and chided Larry Hogan for not being proactive. We are exporting our dollars and importing their pollution, she said regarding the current situation.

This question also provided a couple of shout outs: Madaleno praised fellow Senator Jim Mathias: “No one fights harder for the Eastern Shore – I have some of the scars.” Alec Ross said of Salisbury mayor Jake Day. “I like the work (he) is doing as mayor.”

When it comes to watermen and the Bay, the answers were again rather similar because they focused more on the Bay, with some expressing the recovery of the oyster population as one positive development. It’s a “win-win” to support the oyster industry, said Vignarajah, but don’t forget the tributaries to the Bay like the Choptank, Potomac, and so forth. Shea warned that it’s “too soon” to harvest oysters as watermen are pleading with Governor Hogan to allow.

Madaleno, though, expressed the opinion that the Bay’s recovery was evidence that “government can do and does good things.” And while he joked that being a member of the General Assembly meant he had to become an expert in crabs, oysters, and chicken, he added that cleaning the Bay has to be a multi-state effort. Richard also pledged to give waterman “a voice at the table.”

And while Ross would do “whatever it takes” to accomplish this difficult and expensive work, he spent part of his time noting that “when you drive into Maryland, you should be entering The Resistance.” Chiding the “abhorrent” leadership at the EPA, he wanted a set-aside to sustain watermen. Shea temed a similar concept as an “investment” in the needed vocational training for the “social costs of our advancement.” On the other hand, Vignarajah expressed the “unpopular” view of crediting Larry Hogan with trying to protect Chesapeake Bay funding.

As far as transportation priorities for our rural areas are concerned, there was no real shock in their answers. Krish led off by saying “let us try to be innovative,” making the investment in our economy of extending the MARC system to Salisbury and Ocean City as “an attraction” to provide “more mobility.” Jim Shea agreed that the Eastern Shore has a lack of mass transit.

Madaleno and Ross blasted Larry Hogan’s transportation plan, with Ross calling it “a press release” and “not realistic” because it mainly focuses on DC and Baltimore. Hogan was “one of the luckiest politicians around,” said Madaleno, who noted that the Purple Line was “placed on a credit card” while the gas tax Hogan criticized was now being used for highway widening. Richard would invest in “smart mass transit,” meaning on demand.

Shea was more realistic, calling transportation “anathema” for career politicians because projects take so long. He termed the high-speed rail project backed by Hogan “pie in the sky” and would vet his plan with citizens around the state.

Most telling to me was part of Alec’s answer, where he called widening U.S. 50 “looking backward” and mass transit “looking forward.” So I wasn’t shocked by their answers to the next question, about a third Bay Bridge.

At least Jim Shea was honest enough to answer “I don’t know what the correct answer is.” (Hint: look at how close Dorchester and Calvert counties are.) His bigger issue was funding education. Madaleno was more worried about whether the current bridges survive, as the Hogan toll reductions “restrict the decision” on these bridges, which Madaleno would replace there.

Alec and Krish were even more blunt. “People need investments in them,” said Ross. High-speed connectivity and schools were a higher priority in his eyes, with another Bay span “way down the queue.” Vignarajah echoed the sentiment: “A lot of priorities are ahead in the queue” over the Bay Bridge, adding “we have a 1950s budget in many respects.” She would spend money on universal broadband, too, noting 1 in 12 Maryland residents don’t have high-speed internet access.

Since it had been hinted around at, the focus shifted to education. Education “will be the centerpiece of (a Madaleno) administration,” said Rich, and “this is why (Ross) is running for governor,” he said, but all of them were ready to give free stuff out: universal pre-K and community college were most mentioned.

Madaleno touted his membership on the Kirwan Commission, while Krish advocated for a “cradle to career” educational policy, including “hot and healthy meals.” Shea’s “bold and comprehensive” plan (which he mentioned was there in full on his website) included as well what he called “wrap-around services” and “funding solutions.”

One thing I did like about Alec was his advocacy for vocational education, rather than the “terribly elitist” idea all kids have to go to college. He promoted an online academy to assist rural students in receiving services not otherwise available to them and advocates for universal computer science education.

We also waited until nearly the end to learn about their proposals for health care, and whether it included single-payer?

Of course it does, but not everyone is as honest as Jim Shea, who, while he told the audience that “a single-payer system is something we will eventually move to,” it wasn’t practical for a single state to adopt. That push had to be at a federal level, but we could control costs locally through a collaborative approach.

Otherwise, it seemed the consensus was that Obamacare was just a start, or a “strong start” in the words of Vignarajah. For her, “health care is a basic human right” and she advocated for a public option to lead to single-payer. Madaleno insisted that Obamacare “has worked to reduce costs” and brought Maryland down to 6% uninsured. He warned the gathering to not fall for the “trumped-up theory” that the ACA has failed. The fight was against insurers and Big Pharma to cut costs. (This also gave Madaleno a chance for a second Mathias shout-out: he was a “hero” as a voice for rural health care.)

Alec called on us to “resist the evil that is coming out of Donald Trump’s Washington.” While he admitted that “we have to continue to play defense,” he gave an example of something he would do differently: because of the waiver system Maryland was benefiting from, Medicare for All wasn’t possible – but Medicaid for All as a public option was.

I was honestly surprised by the final question, which had to do with redistricting. Had there been five participants, the health care question would have likely been last.

Only the American system allows for politicians to pick their voters, said Krish, but it was a “problematic” issue that had to be addressed at a national level. Shea disagreed, saying that while gerrymandering had polarized us, it wasn’t a federal problem – but the solution wasn’t (as he called it) “unilateral disarmament” here in Maryland. It needs to be “fair and smart,” Jim added, but he warned there’s no such thing as a non-partisan group.

Madaleno admitted that the gerrymandering “got out of hand” during the O’Malley administration (but failed to mention his lack of objection at the time.) Going with the theme that “the Koch brothers have bought the Congress they wanted,” Rich wanted to reform as part of a multi-state compact.

Alec saw the issue as part of the “damage to democracy,” which has led to both far-right and far-left factions in Congress. “We need representatives to engage with everyone in the district,” he said.

It should be noted that Vignarajah used part of her answer time to express her disappointment that no question was asked on opioids. “We need action” on both the over-prescription and treatment aspects of that problem.

In conclusion, Jim Shea said Democrats needed to unite as a party. “We’re going to pull together because we are a great party and take the governor’s seat back.”

Richard Madaleno contended that the GOP of Donald Trump is “in the process of imploding.” Yet since there will be gridlock in Washington, it make the governors more important, and Maryland has one of the most powerful chief executives in the nation. “It matters who the governor of Maryland is,” he continued, and “this is the time to have serious experience in office.” That was a nod to his years in the General Assembly, but his goal was to “move the state in a progressive way.”

Alec Ross told the local Democrats that it’s “more about ‘we’ than ‘me,’ but disagreed with Madeleno on one point: the GOP is not coming apart. “We’ve got to work for it,” he said. He also promised “no one will be more anti-Trump than me,” but warned the group they “can’t just resist,” they have to have an “aspirational agenda.” It was time for new faces and new ideas to come forward., Ross concluded.

“How do we beat Larry Hogan?” asked Krish Vignarajah. “No man can beat Larry Hogan, they say. Well…?” While Hogan “fakes left and moves right,” Vignarajah pointed out that 61% of those who toppled incumbent Republicans in this cycle were women. She pledged a “fiscally responsible. socially progressive” administration.

I’ve noted above that Jim Mathias was in the building, but there were a handful of other Democrats seeking local and state office there: Michael Pullen for Congress (who sat two seats away from me and never said a word), Holly Wright for Senate District 37 (who did introduce herself to me), Delegate 38A candidate Kirkland Hall, and county-level candidates Bill McCain (County Council) and Bo McAllister, who I had spoken to at last fall’s Good Beer Festival. (You would have known that had my old cell phone not crapped out the next day, before I could write the post.)

They did their thing and I did mine, but mine is done.

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