2014 Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner in pictures and text

It wouldn’t be a Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner without the guest of honor, now would it?

But it was that and much more as about 100 people enjoyed the festivities last night in Salisbury. I was a little disappointed in the attendance, but those who missed the affair missed some stirring words from both our four featured speakers – the GOP gubernatorial candidates – save Jeannie Haddaway pinch-hitting for David Craig, who was in Frederick tonight – and Delegate Mike McDermott.

Our event is set up so guests have an opportunity to talk to candidates before and after the proceedings. So before dinner was underway, acquaintances were made and renewed, such as Delegate Ron George speaking with the newly-goateed Delegate Charles Otto.

I like that look on Charles. Meanwhile, Larry Hogan and wife Yumi spoke to Wicomico County Council member Joe Holloway. I believe fellow Council member Bob Culver is back to camera.

As I noted earlier, Jeannie Haddaway was taking the place of David Craig and visiting her alma mater. In the background is Larry Hogan’s LG pick, Boyd Rutherford.

Candidates were also taking advantage of the space provided for literature and signs.

Things began to get going when the Union troops and band arrived in the room.

This heralded the arrival of our sixteenth president, who is a popular subject. In this case, it was with Senator Rich Colburn (left) and John and Gail Bartkovich. Gail is the outgoing Council member from District 3, while the good doctor John was our county chair for several years.

One new wrinkle we added this year was a Union band, described by Lincoln as “the Eastern Shore detachment of the 3rd Maryland Irregular Regimental Band,” which played traditional music during the prelude to the ceremonies.

The troops sat behind Lincoln as he made his remarks, with a little banjo accompaniment toward the end.

As he always does, Lincoln made remarks which tried to use the words of yesterday to relate to today’s world, leading off with a tale about General George McClellan, one which he concluded by stating the case “the lunatics are running the asylum.”

“Our greatest enemy is voter apathy,” he continued. “It cheats honest citizens.”

And just as the British Empire sparked a revolution by resorting to tyranny, Lincoln called the modern situation “mental torture.” Now, “A lying tyrant is in control,” Lincoln added, “We need to be a stumbling block to tyrants.” But he ended on a hopeful note, believing “America shall not pass away.”

Our county Chair Dave Parker then secured the floor for a number of announcements as well as praise for one outgoing member of our Central Committee.

First of all, we learned that there will be a gubernatorial debate among the GOP candidates here on May 31, at Salisbury University. Once the June 24 primary is history, we will convene for the Wicomico County Republican Club Crab Feast on September 6.

But the huge event was the one slated for September 27. After twice being unsuccessful at getting a Lincoln Day date, we got the next best thing: Lt. Col. Allen West will be appearing in Salisbury for a series of events September 27. Those who attend Central Committee or Wicomico County Republican Club functions already know this, but we put out the formal word tonight at Lincoln Day.

Before we heard from the gubernatorial candidates, we also took a few moments to honor one of the few Republicans in Maryland whose Presidential vote has truly counted – this man served on the Electoral College from Maryland in 1972 for Nixon and 1984 for Reagan. For the better part of five decades Blan Harcum has been a fixture in Wicomico County GOP politics, but after this election he will take a well-deserved retirement from the Central Committee. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” said Blan about his tenure.

And as it turns out, Larry Hogan has known Blan “for a long, long time.” He drew the opening slot among our four, and in doing so decided to play up his experience in both the private sector and executive branch under former governor Bob Ehrlich. “I’ve spent a lifetime challenging the status quo,” Hogan said, accusing our current leaders of “actually causing the problems.” Rather than “be something,” he wanted to do something about them and that was why he decided to run.

Naturally, Hogan spoke about Change Maryland, noting that it “successfully changed the dialogue in this state.” He could sense the frustration with the “huge disconnect” between the people and their government as well as the belief the state was heading in the wrong direction. Regarding the “arrogant, out of touch monopoly” in Annapolis, he believed it was “about time the politicians in Annapolis listened to the rest of us.”

As he has often done in his stump speeches, Hogan returned to three main points: creating jobs, helping out the middle class, and getting government off our backs. He related his day in Salisbury, with stops in several area businesses as well as a Little League opening day and the downtown Easter Egg hunt.

Charles Lollar also told us about his day, one spent taking the fight to Democratic strongholds and crossing paths with Democrat Anthony Brown on three occasions, debating him once. He was inducted into the 100 Black Men of Prince George’s County, heard Brown say at a Howard County forum that “Maryland is doing fine” – while 1 out of 3 in portions of Baltimore are jobless – and went to a Veterans for Democracy meeting back in Charles County where he was “disinvited” to speak because of “political pressure” his name has brought. On top of that, his second daughter is going to her first prom tonight. “I’m not doing this for me…we’re doing this for you,” said Charles.

But his message to the Republicans was that whoever the nominee for governor may be, he has to have the “intestinal fortitude and integrity” to speak our convictions. His basic agenda would be one of economic solvency, installing a Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights to slow budget growth, and eventually eliminating the personal income tax – a proposal which got him the support of economist Arthur Laffer.

He knew it would be difficult, but concluded that “I don’t play politics very well, but I do enjoy a good fight every once in awhile.” Whoever wins the primary has to care about the ideals of the minority community to earn their votes, Charles stated in closing.

Representing David Craig, who couldn’t be here tonight but was instead over in Frederick County, was his lieutenant governor candidate Jeannie Haddaway. We’re out “covering the state as much as we could,” she explained. Reflecting on the recent General Assembly session, Haddaway remarked that “there are people in Annapolis fighting for you.” Some of the more controversial bills only passed by slim majorities, added Jeannie, because Democrats are reluctant to vote for them but have to contend with their “top-down agenda.” Thanks to what’s gone on the last few years, “our state is in really bad shape,” said Jeannie.

She corrected Larry Hogan’s remark about private sector experience, noting David Craig worked in a factory when not teaching and her own work as a small business owner. Their priority would be to straighten out the budget then “put money back in your pocket” through elimination of the income tax.

Haddaway pointed out 40 percent of Democrats were undecided, perhaps because they didn’t like the options and may consider a Republican who would “try something different.” And even in heavily Democratic districts, Craig had won. “We have won collectively 14 general elections,” she said. “Whoever turns out is going to win this election.” She promised that if Craig won and she became the state’s first Eastern Shore lieutenant governor, “the Eastern Shore will be forgotten no more.”

While he was holding up the flyer for an upcoming event in Ocean City in the photo above, Ron George opened up by discussing running mate Shelley Aloi – like many of us, I met her for the first time tonight. (She and Ron happened to sit at our table, along with our next speaker and his wife and the Parkers.)

Ron spent much of his time talking about the General Assembly: “I felt like I needed Rolaids constantly,” remarked George – but considered it an “honor” to serve with our Republican “warriors.” His pitch was combining his business experience with time served at the “front line” of issues as a member of the General Assembly – one who formed the Doctor’s Caucus “to build consensus” and a related group called the Physician’s Advisory. That group had uncovered waste within the exchange and the failures of health care contractor Maximus early on.

Ron also spoke about his work on the electoral process, closing a loophole for the next cycle so a donor couldn’t form multiple LLCs just to circumvent campaign finance limits. Audits, too, were another major part of his platform since he’d found where Prince George’s County “totally misused” $400 million. “That kind of waste has got to stop.”

George went over a couple parts of his ten-point promise, one which “will fix the drain that Baltimore is” and strive to rebuild the state’s manufacturing base in small communities like ours. “I cannot cut welfare payments unless I have those entry-level, mid-level jobs,” said Ron.

He also made an announcement about a Monday event to be held in conjunction with Dan Bongino and David Craig, endorsing Anthony Brown for governor…of Connecticut. “How’s that (health care) working out for us?” added Jeannie Haddaway.

But the rhetorical storm was brewing.

You knew Delegate Mike McDermott was working on a stemwinder when he noted, “the problem with Democrat math is that they follow Common Core logic.” This after he noted losing the two GOP Senators in 2010, including the seat he seeks, “opened up the floodgates of hell on the social side.” This didn’t count the pilfering of various trust funds or the “blank check” to uncovered patients for the budget.

But once he got going on the “outrage” on the bathroom bill, it was on. “It should be unacceptable to all Marylanders,” he said. We gave each gubernatorial candidate ten minutes – Mike was still going strong after fifteen.

“The tragedy of Maryland politics can be turned around,” he said. “Don’t send a governor to the governor’s mansion without sending them reinforcements” of five Senators.” His voice rising, McDermott made the case that North Carolina “worked on making government work for the people” after the GOP took over and raised its business friendliness rating from 46th to 17th in two years. “They’ve brought that state back! It can happen here.”

“If we can’t make the case for change this year,” Mike thundered, “the Republican Party can never make it.”

“We can take Wicomico County by storm! If there was ever a county which needed good leadership and change, it’s this one. I’m tired of being up there, and being in a welfare county…I challenge you to take it back,” an emotional McDermott concluded. He had to dial it back some for the benediction that he delivered.

Our friends in Worcester County have the chance to have a great team in Annapolis: Mike McDermott in the Senate, and Mary Beth Carozza and Charles Otto in the House.

So ended another Lincoln Day Dinner. It wasn’t quite what we bargained for when we started planning it last year, but those who were there were treated to a good event nonetheless.

A qualified success

He may not be much for participating in debates, but by the standard I set a few days ago Larry Hogan is a more-than-successful fundraiser. Today his campaign released a press statement claiming that the Hogan juggernaut raised $422,000 from over 1,800 individuals in just 68 days. (The official numbers are due next week, so this is a preliminary tally.)

Speaking on this, Hogan was thankful for the generosity:

Thanks to our supporters, volunteers and staff we’ve surpassed our outreach and fundraising goals.  The incredible outpouring of support from middle class voters across our state shows that Marylanders want a governor who’ll put working families and small businesses ahead of Annapolis elites.

Yet a quick look behind the numbers reveals a few interesting things.

First of all, it appears that many of the donations are maxing out the $250 allowed for matching contributions, as the average works out to about $234 per. So you’re getting your share of smaller numbers, but it’s likely the report will show a high number who pitched in the most allowed. Moreover, it bears pointing out that Hogan only promised to use matching funds in the primary, so there’s a lot of room for these donors to come back and upgrade to the maximum $4,000 allowed should Hogan win in June. This may be a shrewd strategy to compete in the general election.

But I found the comparisons to other campaigns at the 68-day stage a little disingenuous, because they’re apples and oranges. Eighteen months out from an election is generally not prime fundraising time, and no contender makes a whole lot in the summer before a campaign year – for example, David Craig raised about $250,000 in each of the last two years but it was clear he wouldn’t rest on those laurels and fundraising wasn’t a big push at the time. As long as candidates have enough to keep the lights on a year out, they’re happy, so saying that his campaign is more popular than the others based on that fact alone is a little misleading.

We also don’t know how much cash on hand any of the campaigns have, and going forward at this stage that’s a far more important number. With Hogan making a television ad buy, some part of that $422,000 is already spent.

Yet as time goes on, it’s becoming more clear we may be looking at a two-person race, unless the campaign finance reports of Ron George or Charles Lollar show they’ve cut into the significant fundraising advantages David Craig already enjoyed and Larry Hogan has appeared to establish. Grassroots support is great, and taking the message to underserved areas helps build the Maryland GOP for the future. Reaching nearly a million Maryland GOP voters, however, isn’t free, and there’s a reason it’s called broadcasting – media reaches a huge number of people other methods do not.

These warm and fuzzy commercials Democratic contenders are putting out are simply to build a brand association, because very few of those voters are going to look at the issues until the end, if at all. The more discerning group on the GOP side is fine with questioning the record of the incumbents, but they’ll want a little more depth when all is said and done.

As a closing aside, David Craig is going to try and raise a little money on Sunday as he hosts a fundraiser of his own:

Please join the Eastern Shore’s own Jeannie Haddaway and me on Sunday, April 13th at Sailwinds Park in Cambridge.

Our friends from all over the Eastern Shore and across Maryland will be gathering for fresh seafood, cold drinks, and good times. The event will be held from 12pm-4pm. Tickets are $60 in advance and $70 at the door. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here.

I will say that based on the forecast he is going to luck out in that respect. Next thing you know we’ll be sweating in Crisfield, but only one GOP gubernatorial candidate will be there as a nominee.

Martin O’Malley’s (not-so) greatest hits – how about a new song?

Returning once again to a familiar role of thorn in the side and burr under the saddle, Change Maryland and Larry Hogan took the occasion of the final legislative session under Martin O’Malley to remind us of his underwhelming record of “accomplishments” over the last long eight years, wrapped up in one release. All we needed was the bow, as Change Maryland remarked that:

  • They broke promises to state workers by diverting $200,000,000 from pension funds to plug their budget gap.
  • They’ve eviscerated local arts funding to hike the film tax credit for Hollywood millionaires.
  • They raided the Transportation Trust Fund then raised gas taxes to pay for mass transit.
  • They hiked income taxes on families, small business and large employers.
  • They blew $125,000,000 of our tax dollars on a health exchange website that still doesn’t work and was never needed in the first place; today, more Marylanders lack health insurance than when O’Malley-Brown took office.
  • More than 73,000 residents have had their health insurance policies cancelled and tens of thousands more have seen massive increases in their premiums and deductibles.
  • They put the teacher union bosses that bankroll their political machine ahead of students, parents and classroom teachers.
  • They’ve badly mismanaged the education budget, as a result inner city schools are falling farther behind, state SAT scores are down and elementary school reading aptitude is flat. And, even the teacher union said their rollout of Common Core was a mismanaged “train wreck.”
  • Their job-destroying tax hikes on the so-called rich and small businesses – those individuals earning $100k or more – backfired, missing revenue projections.
  • Some entry level jobs will pay a little more but there will be fewer of them.
  • There’s a federal investigation into the Anthony Brown Health Exchange but state lawmakers aren’t issuing their findings until well after the primaries.
  • Thousands of employers are now “paying their fair share” in taxes albeit to Virginia and the Carolinas; about 6,500 companies have left Maryland taking with them more than 100,000 jobs.
  • Likewise, more than 31,000 Maryland residents left for more affordable states, taking $1.7 billion each year out of our economy; among these were thousands of seniors on fixed incomes who can no longer afford to retire near their families.
  • It costs you more when it rains and more again when you drive to the beach.

Describing the O’Malley era as one where, “(i)n nearly every quality of life measurement our state is worse off than it was seven years ago… even areas that showed modest improvement came at a horrendous financial cost due (to) Martin O’Malley and Anthony Brown’s mismanagement and one-party rule in Annapolis,” it’s clear that Hogan isn’t too enamored with the last seven years.

But while Hogan strives to “get the government off our backs and out of our pockets so we can grow the private sector, put people back to work and turn our economy around,” we’re more or less supposed to take his word for it. Obviously some of these items he complains about from the outside will be ones he may well find useful when he takes over the governor’s chair. For example, he (or anyone else for that matter) will have to figure out how to backfill the pension funds, live with the increasing minimum wage (which, for all his charms, he won’t be able to get the General Assembly Democrats to rescind), and roll back taxes and fees to previous levels yet keep the budget in balance. That aspect may actually be the easiest because he would set the budget. Unfortunately, we’re stuck with Obamacare for at least the first two years of anyone’s term, and probably longer.

However, I have a prediction for you. If the budget gets smaller – or even if it’s level-funded – you will hear a howling like you’ve never heard before from the special interests, press, and Democrats (but I repeat myself) who will be out marching in the streets against the heartless Republicans. Remember why we had a Special Session a couple years ago? It was because we passed a “doomsday budget” that was “only” $700 million higher than the previous one, and despite GOP objection we ended up raising spending another $500 million. Again, that was with a budget increase! Heaven help us if we actually proposed spending less money!

So those we elect in 2014 need to be ready and be stiff of spine because those Annapolis fat cats are going to come after us. We threaten their existence on the government teat and they know it. Having a $125 million boondoggle of a health exchange isn’t helping, which is why that scandal is being swept under the rug just as fast as the broom can collect the dirt.

In this part of the state we have some opportunities to chip away at the Democrats’ overall advantage. We’ll have to wait until 2018 to win back the District 37A seat – which will be held for the time being by a woman who I predict will have the same reliably far-left voting record as her predecessor – but aside from that we can speak our piece by ejecting two members of the General Assembly who will occasionally vote the right way when they get the hall pass to do so, but can be replaced by two members who we know will stand up for our interests. We can confound the Democrats’ cynical redistricting ploys by elevating Mike McDermott to the Senate and getting the fresh new ideas of Maryland Municipal League president Carl Anderton, Jr. into the House of Delegates.

Changing the state means pulling our weight, and the Eastern Shore can do most of its part by leaving just one Democrat east of the Chesapeake for the next four years.

Let the campaigning begin

Now that the General Assembly has made it to sine die, the transition to regular campaigning can begin. Certainly there will be posturing over one issue or another, and there are rumblings that the “bathroom bill” and perhaps even marijuana decriminalization could be placed on the ballot. But for better or worse, the General Assembly has completed its work for the year, and at least 37 members out of the 188 will not be back – many are retiring, but some are seeking other local or statewide offices.

So for those who are looking for greener pastures, as well as the 150-odd who are willing to serve another term – with many among them trying to move up from the House to the Senate – the campaigning can begin in earnest. Only seven Senators (three Republican, four Democrat) have a free ride to re-election, barring a late write-in entry. Two Democrats running for the House of Delegates will enjoy the same freedom, and both will be newcomers – Will Campos in District 47A (Prince George’s County) and Sheree Sample-Hughes from right here in Salisbury. Both had opposition, but the one filer against Campos was disqualified and incumbent Delegate Rudy Cane from District 37A withdrew from his race, leaving it for Sample-Hughes.

Some in difficult races have been chomping at the bit to go out there and press the flesh, along with once again having the chance to raise funds. An e-mail from Delegate Neil Parrott greeted me this afternoon in my e-mail box, and certainly many others were making plans to raise some dough.

While he didn’t serve in the General Assembly, Larry Hogan is making a push to look good on his initial campaign finance report. Messages like this have been appearing on his Change Maryland Facebook feed:

Thanks to the generous support of engaged and informed Marylanders like you, we are EVEN CLOSER to hitting our fundraising goal before tonight’s finance report deadline! We have less than TWELVE HOURS to hit our goal – Can we count on you to help us get there? Any contribution you can afford, whether it’s $5, $50, or $500, will make a big impact on our campaign and could be enough to put us over the edge to reach our goal!

Of course, since they’re not letting on exactly what the goal is, I highly doubt they’ll actually fall short. Yet what would be success in fundraising? Back in January, it was revealed that David Craig raised just under $250,000 in 2013 after a similar performance in 2012. Since we’re closer to the election, I would have to assess success as whether Hogan raised the amount required to qualify for matching funds, which would come pretty close to matching Craig’s total 2013 take. Since Hogan has media up already with a cable television buy, it’s likely he’s raised at least $200,000.

(It’s worth pointing out as well that Hogan is slated to appear at our Lincoln Day Dinner on Saturday, as are Ron George and Charles Lollar. Jeannie Haddaway will pinch-hit for David Craig, who has another engagement. So if you’re coming you can ask the tough questions, although we don’t plan this as a debate.)

For us, the event will serve as a kickoff to the serious campaigning to come since it’s likely we’ll hear from a number of Republicans who are running, even if we have to drag out the egg timer to make sure they keep things short for our featured guests. If we let all of the District 37B aspirants go, we’ll be there all night! (Yes, that was supposed to be funny. You are allowed to laugh.)

After all, not that I’m trying to hurry it along by any stretch of the imagination, we’re just 30 weeks away from the November election (and 11 weeks from the primary, which I have a vested interest in.) Lots of time for good things to happen.

Hogan first Republican gubernatorial hopeful to buy television time

While David Craig got the jump on Larry Hogan for radio campaign ads, the Change Maryland founder has struck back with a 30-second TV ad called ‘Dedicated’:

I found it a very good ad, simple as an introduction to the candidate and his main campaign philosophy. Perhaps my only knock on it would be the fact it was shot in black and white, a technique usually reserved for the target of negative ads. The usage of black and white in an introductory commercial, therefore, seems a little stark.

While promising an “aggressive media effort” Hogan stated about the introduction:

Just two months ago I announced my candidacy, and since that time we have focused on building a campaign that will compete head-to-head with the Democratic nominee. The incredible outpouring of support from Marylanders we have received enables us to begin our TV and radio campaign earlier than we ever anticipated. This next phase of our campaign will help take our message of fiscal restraint and common sense government to every corner of the state.

Naturally, there is a lack of specifics about exactly where the ad is being placed, although John Wagner of the Washington Post notes it’s in the “Baltimore market.” Whether it’s a cable buy or over-the-air I cannot ascertain.

But with the two leading contenders on the air, it means Ron George and Charles Lollar will have to scramble to raise the money required for their own ad buys. George will be able to restart his campaign, which has been stuck in low gear because of the General Assembly session that wraps up its work tomorrow night; meanwhile, Lollar and running mate Ken Timmerman recently wrapped up their “Economic Recovery Tour” which bypassed an area much in need of an economic recovery – the Eastern Shore. (Lollar is slated to appear at our Lincoln Day Dinner Saturday night, though.)

At this point neither George nor Lollar seem to have the kind of juice which can buy media advertising, although we should have a better idea of the financial picture of all the candidates in the coming weeks.

Update: I’m told Fox News is one of the outlets for the Hogan spot, so presumably it’s a cable buy.

Spreading the wealth around

April 4, 2014 · Posted in Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comment 

I had to do a double-take at my e-mail last night, and perhaps John Wagner at the Washington Post did as well. I thought I was seeing double, with Bob Ehrlich at two separate fundraising events for two different candidates for his old job. Only about an hour separated the two announcements, with David Craig’s April 14 event in Bel Air hitting my mailbox just before Ron George let me know about his April 22 affair in Glen Burnie. It got me to thinking: didn’t Larry Hogan have an Ehrlich event, too? Indeed he did back in February.

Ehrlich may only have a 1-2 record in gubernatorial contests, but he remains a popular fundraiser for a number of state and local Republican candidates. However, the common denominator seems to be the interest for Ehrlich in promoting his 2013 book, America: Hope for Change. Since it’s languishing at #800,039 on the Amazon best-seller list, obviously Bob may have a few dozen copies laying around, and each of these events features (or featured, in Hogan’s case) a book signing from Bob. At this point, the only Republican gubernatorial candidate who hasn’t solicited Bob’s help is Charles Lollar – then again, Lollar doesn’t have the same political connection to Ehrlich as the others do.

It’s also interesting that the maximum amount for each fundraiser is $250. Some may well pay more to see and be seen with Bob Ehrlich, but it also neatly matches the maximum donation allowed for a match from public campaign financing. Giving $251 would do no good in that regard.

But I also have to wonder if writing this book was part of a larger Ehrlich plan. If you look at the Republican party and the prospective 2016 presidential candidates, there are a number of governors who could play a role. Yet a guy like Chris Christie who hangs his hat on being able to appeal to the middle because he was elected (and re-elected) in a deeply Democratic state has the baggage of Bridgegate to deal with in contending for a 2016 run, not to mention he still has to run his state for another three years. Ehrlich could argue he’s cut from the same cloth, but happened to run for re-election at a time when the overall GOP brand was at its nadir due to the press-created unpopularity of President George W. Bush. (By the way, look who some in the party and punditry are trying to foist on us – yet another member of the Bush family.)

At 56 years of age, Ehrlich should be in the prime of his political career, and he has a reasonable resume at the state and federal levels. Bob would be the darkest of horses for a 2016 run, but is it possible he may be angling for a Cabinet post in a future GOP administration? To me, it would be another reason why Bob hasn’t endorsed anyone in this Maryland race – why alienate possible supporters for a favorite son bid to pump up a national profile?

I guess it would have helped, though, if America: Hope for Change was number 39 on Amazon’s list rather than 800,039. Nevertheless, if supporters of Craig, George, or Hogan are willing to shell out a couple Benjamins for a picture and signed book from our last GOP governor, more power to them. Heck, somewhere I have a photo of Bob and I from 2006 at a Perdue Stadium event so it’s not like I’ve never done the same (although it cost me much less.)

So if reading is your thing, you have another reason to attend. (Or you can read mine and save about 240-odd dollars.) Say what you might about his four years at Maryland’s helm, but Bob Ehrlich is still somewhat of a draw and he’ll take advantage of it.

No foolin’ – really?

I know a fair number of people will consider this a cheap shot, but is this something a legitimate candidate would cite?

As I pointed out yesterday, I get a lot of e-mail from candidates asking me for money. But in building his case for his campaign, Larry Hogan made the following statement:

My campaign for Governor has a commanding lead in the Republican primary. In fact, a recent poll shows that we garner more support than all the other candidates combined, with over 50 percent of voters supporting us. We can win this race!

Really? You’re citing the Red Maryland poll, which even the authors admit isn’t scientific and is backed by a website which endorsed you before you even formally entered the race? How low of information voters do you think you’ll reach?

Granted, I’ve made news before from a Larry Hogan poll of my own but at least at the time I fessed up to the fact it wasn’t a scientific poll.

And maybe it’s not Larry’s fault, since the e-mail itself traces back to a firm called SalientMG. But it is a little deceptive to say you already have over 50 percent primary support when no reputable poll puts you over 20 percent at the moment.

In many respects Hogan’s statement is like bragging about winning a straw poll, which a fellow candidate has done on a couple occasions only to be mocked for doing so. Then again, we can be far more certain those running the straw polls probably weren’t in the tank for the winner. The Red Maryland poll wasn’t quite like the Crimean referendum, but it was sort of close.

I’ll be more interested to see the fundraising reports in a couple weeks. If Larry Hogan has raised over 50% of the Republican money then maybe I’ll see him as a more legitimate front runner – right now I think it’s still anyone’s race. Some have a lot more work to do than others, but we still have almost three months.

Pockets lined, no blame assigned

So after six months of saying things are fixable, the state of Maryland is finally throwing in the towel on its online health exchange and using the technology which supposedly works for Connecticut? And it only cost us $125 million that we will likely never see again? But that’s not all – according to the Washington Post story by Mary Pat Flaherty and Jenna Johnson:

It was not immediately clear how much more money Maryland may have to invest to get a fully functioning system, according to the two individuals, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the changes.

Can anyone say blank check? I think gubernatorial candidate and Delegate Ron George might be able to:

We cannot allow the O’Malley/Brown administration to get away with wiping this scandal under the rug and forget that over $260 million taxpayer dollars were doled out to large corporate special interests in exchange for a broken website. The Maryland Health Exchange never stood a chance because the administration approached the Affordable Care Act as a pile of federal money they could convert into favors for political allies and donors. We have been taken to the cleaners by these vendors.

I ask the Attorney General to take the primary contractors, including prolific O’Malley/Brown donors Maximus Inc, to court to win back our wasted tax dollars. As a sitting delegate, I call on the Department of Justice to appoint a federal prosecutor to begin investigations into how these vendors contracts were procured and at what stage these vendors knew the exchange was never going to effiectively operate. The citizens of Maryland deserve a full and thorough investigation into the collapse of our state exchange.

Not to be outdone, the Larry Hogan campaign chimed in:

The O’Malley-Brown administration was one of the first and most vocal proponents of the new healthcare law, touting itself as a national model for the Affordable Healthcare Act. Lt. Governor Brown, the O’Malley administration’s point man on the rollout, was eager to take credit for prior to the rollout. Yet the news out of our state since the day the exchange opened has been nothing short of embarrassing and now, Lt. Governor Brown and the rest of the administration has done nothing but seek to evade accountability.

After learning of the state’s plans to scrap its exchange entirely (the only state to do so), the Hogan-Rutherford campaign urges that the Lt. Governor should have no further dealings with the exchange, that all of Lt. Governor Brown’s and the administration’s correspondence with those in charge of the exchange be made public, and that an independent, thorough audit of what happened in this horrible failure be conducted immediately, the findings of which made available to the public prior to the November election.

Unfortunately, the chances of a “full and thorough investigation” or “independent, thorough audit” are roughly equal to the probability of the glue factory reject winning the Preakness. This guy named Anthony Brown is having those skids greased for his ascension to the Maryland political throne, which is odd because one would think his opponent, the Attorney General Doug Gansler, could take advantage of such an investigation. He sure seemed to go for the headlines in many previous cases.

But let’s say the state somehow manages to prevail in court. All that will do is tap out the liability insurers the vendors use, and of course they will either have to raise their rates for all small businesses or come hat in hand to the government, or both. Welcome to the modern America.

So we ask again: while you can’t say everything was perfect back then, just what was irretrievably wrong with the system circa 2008? It’s pretty obvious the 2014 system isn’t working all that well.

And then you have this video:

Let’s see if it can go viral.

Political gamesmanship

I was inspired to write this by a recent Facebook post I came across, which initially touted an upcoming debate between Republican candidates for governor. One of those sharing the post was making the statement that Larry Hogan would be a no-show, and further discussion centered on why he would miss it.

But one commenter asked the following:

Why should (Larry Hogan) debate? Please someone provide me some legitimate reason.

So I responded:

Because to not do so gives the impression he has something to hide. Remember, perception is reality despite the fact we’re dealing with primary voters (who tend to be more attuned to the situation.)

I wanted to add a little more context to what I was saying, so here is the history of Hogan’s campaign.

I would argue Larry made the decision to jump into the race several months prior to his actual January announcement. One thing which convinced me of the inevitability was his farm tour of the Eastern Shore as the debate over phosphorus regulations was raging. That tour was conducted in October, so we can start the timeline then.

After the holidays came and went, the first joint appearance by the candidates was the Fox45 debate in Baltimore January 16 – an event Hogan was invited to but decided to skip. (At the time he had not formally announced, though.) It’s set up a pattern where pre-scheduled events have precluded Hogan’s participation in joint appearances such as the Charles County Lincoln-Douglass Dinner and a radio debate hosted by WCBM’s Pat McDonough.

The only joint appearance Larry has made was with fellow candidate David Craig at an event where no press was allowed – not even cell phones. While it wasn’t billed as a debate, fellow candidate Ron George was upset at not being  invited. And perhaps this is a sign that Hogan will begin making more joint appearances.

It’s understandable that candidates can’t be everywhere at once, but the reasons I think Hogan needs to debate are twofold: first, to explain his position on issues which are off his economic message, such as education, the environment, and so forth, and secondly to prepare himself for the joint appearances he will have to make in the general election to get his message out. There will be several debates between the candidates leading up to the November election, so Larry needs to be ready.

Obviously the political experts would have you believe that, as the frontrunner, you avoid debates because you have more to lose than the other person. For years I lived in a Congressional district where the Democrat incumbent would follow that strategy to the letter and never debate her Republican opponent, yet be rewarded with re-election time after time. But what may be politically successful isn’t always right, and that’s why I’m speaking out on this. People should be informed without having to pull teeth to get the facts.

We are hoping all of the GOP gubernatorial candidates show up for our April 12 Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner. It won’t be a formal debate, but at least we may have a chance to compare and contrast the candidates in one place.

The uninvited

For the last two CPACs, Bretbart News has hosted a gathering called “The Uninvited”, a meeting where those who speak to subjects taboo to the main conference meet. In 2013, they met in a side conference area well away from many of the main events and this year they left the Gaylord National Resort and Conference Center entirely, choosing the nearby Westin Hotel instead.

I bring this up not because I want to extend CPAC coverage, but it was the immediate thought I had after reading a piece by Jeff Quinton last night about a Larry Hogan-sponsored Maryland blogger gathering. Indeed, when asked by Quinton a few days ago I said I hadn’t heard about such a meeting so presumably I wasn’t invited – not that 4:30 on a Wednesday afternoon in Annapolis generally works for me anyway.

But I thought a little compare and contrast was in order, perhaps to help make Quinton’s overall point.

About 2 1/2 years ago, well before he officially announced but at a time when the wheels for a 2014 run were already in motion, David Craig gathered a number of prominent bloggers at the time (including a couple of the Red Maryland guys) for an informal Friday evening meeting in Annapolis.

But it didn’t stop there. Craig also made sure I was aware of the announcement tour stop in Salisbury and his staff arranged for me to have some time for an interview before they left. Insofar as I know, David has been fair to most of the bloggers – no complaints.

And while I haven’t had similar face time with either Ron George or Charles Lollar, Ron has taken care to call me or provide comment for my site on several occasions. I’ve also heard from members of Lollar’s staff regarding things going on in the new media world. On the other hand, it’s been a long time since I’ve spoken to Larry Hogan, but then I don’t initiate the conversation either. There was a point where I was trying to get him for the most recent Ten Questions series of interviews I did last year, but we couldn’t get a time coordinated and I eventually abandoned the effort.

Now I’m presuming the Hogan event would be patterned on the initial Craig soiree, and since there were about 10 or 11 total people there perhaps only six to eight bloggers were invited – figure four from Red Maryland, Jackie Wellfonder, and perhaps the folks from the Sun and Post and pretty soon you have a crowded table. But if a candidate really wanted to do it right, he or she would have 3 or 4 similar events around the state.

Then again, what do I know? In the scheme of things I’m just a blogger whose main complaint about the Hogan campaign isn’t lack of access but lack of detail, as in his plans for governance should he be fortunate enough to win. Maybe I’m just one voter but I have a lot of pet issues, so that’s why I want to know.

So I hope my cohorts have a good time this afternoon. I won’t be there, particularly since I’ll probably still be hard at work doing my outside job in the real world. But I’m sure I’ll hear about it from someone.

Pointing out and planning solutions

In life there is a difference between saying and doing. In this case neither protagonist, unfortunately, is in a position where they can do much more than talk and advocate but it is interesting to see what the two men in question have to say about a paticular situation.

First I’ll point out the talker:

More and more of our friends and neighbors are unemployed and our state economy remains stalled. Clearly, the economic policies of Martin O’Malley and Anthony Brown have failed, and it’s time for new leadership and a new direction in Annapolis.

The O’Malley/Brown Administration continues to drive taxpayers and job creators from Maryland and into the arms of better run, lower cost states.

Those were the words of gubernatiorial candidate Larry Hogan, whose campaign went on to point out that 9,800 Marylanders were furloughed in January and the state endured its worst year of job creation since the recession ended in 2009. (At least for some parts of the state, the question of whether we are back in one is open for debate.)

I will give some credit to Larry for beginning to round out a platform which doesn’t simply bash the incumbent and his heir apparent for tax increases or cite his group’s social media prowess:

Hogan, a business leader and former Maryland state cabinet secretary, favors a pro-growth agenda that combines reigning (sic) in Annapolis spending, jump starting the economy by cutting taxes on workers and their employers, and aggressively courting larger employers which in recent years have left Maryland for Virginia and other states.

We’re still a little vague as to specifics, but the ideas are mostly right out of the conservative playbook and certainly won’t hurt. I’m ever-so-slightly leery of the “cutting taxes on workers and their employers” line because that suggests only a targeted tax cut rather than the flattening (or complete elimination) of rates we need, but we’ll see where Larry goes with this one.

On the other hand – and I really wish he had said it a month ago, because it would have went perfectly with this post – David Craig has a grand idea:

Harford County Executive and Maryland Governor Candidate David Craig called on incumbent Governor Martin O’Malley to push the Obama Administration to complete a final regulatory review to enable a facility in southern Maryland to export liquefied natural gas. The issue takes on greater urgency as the Ukraine and several European countries seek long-term solutions to reduce dependence on Russian energy exports.

“Now is not the time for dithering and red tape,” said Craig. “Maryland is on the verge of being only the second state in the country to export liquefied natural gas and our proximity to the Marcellus Shale, and the Atlantic Ocean and existing infrastructure gives us a competitive advantage that nobody else has. Maryland can attract thousands of energy sector jobs and help assert U.S. influence in the crisis in the Ukraine. But we must act now.”

Ambassadors to the U.S. from Hungary, Poland and the Czech and Slovak republics wrote House Speaker John Boehner last week that U.S. “natural gas would be much welcome in Central and Eastern Europe, and Congressional action to expedite [liquefied natural gas] exports to America’s allies would come at a critically important time for the region.”

The U.S. Department of Energy has approved just six export licenses for LNG projects, including Cove Point, since 2011. Dominion Resources-owned Cove Point, in Lusby, MD, is one of about 20 U.S. projects that want to export LNG. Of those, only one, in Louisiana, has full federal permitting.

Delays in Maryland are coming on multiple fronts. Political support among the O’Malley-Brown Administration is non-existent. Gubernatorial candidate and legislator Heather Mizeur is leading the charge in outright opposition to the project, while Lt. Gov. and front-runner candidate Anthony Brown promotes “environmental justice,” a left-wing social movement that attempts to stifle energy exploration wherever politically-favored constituencies may object. The other democratic gubernatorial candidate, the current Attorney General, is opposed to timely approval of the project. Apart from general statements about the importance of developing jobs and traditional forms of energy, GOP primary candidates for Governor have heretofore not yet articulated positions on the issue. (Links added.)

Given my interest in energy-related issues, I can’t believe I missed that originally – the release has been out about a week – but I’m glad David Craig is coming out on the right side of this issue. As I pointed out last month, Dominion Resources, the operator of the Cove Point facility, estimated that 4,000 construction jobs and 14,600 permanent positions could be created through this $3.5 billion investment. Those could be 14,600 people paying taxes and investing in our communities rather than wondering what comes next after the unemployment runs out or making plans to escape Maryland for greener pastures like Virginia, the Carolinas, Florida, or Texas. Democrats often talk about making “investments” with our tax dollars, well, here’s an investment that the private sector is willing to make and government is mad because they can’t control who receives it. Let’s throw them a pity party: awwwwwwww….

Running mate Jeannie Haddaway made another good point in that statement:

Instead of picking winners and losers and subsidizing the most expensive options such as wind energy, we should be taking advantage of our existing resources and diversifying in a way that is meaningful to our economy and to job creation.

The choice is clear, the opportunity is now.

I look at it this way: if there were a market for wind energy, we would already have plenty of infrastructure out there. But the fact we have to subsidize its meager presence and carve out market share for it tells me wind is an economic loser overall. Just like solar energy, it’s only as reliable as atmospheric conditions allow it to be. And while solar and wind are considered “green” energy, the birds being cooked or bats being exterminated might beg to differ.

So we can exacerbate the unemployment problem or we can put the people in place to help create jobs. It’s your choice, Maryland.

Sound advice for me and my fellows

As many of you know, I write regularly for the Patriot Post. As such, I’ve been a longtime subscriber to their various releases and today editor Mark Alexander wrote a piece called “The GOP’s Fratricidal Threat to Liberty.” And while I disagree with his premise to some degree – because he seems to blame the TEA Party movement for recent failures moreso than the “Establishment” pushback, something I would reverse – the overall point about unity is a good one, and it got me to thinking about how things are going in Maryland.

Back in November I was crucified for a particular post, but in light of recent events I want to quote from what I said then:

Now you can trust me when I tell you this “erstwhile contributor” to Red Maryland has had many differences with them over the years. But I have to say that they are an important piece of Republican politics in this state, for better or worse. I would have more respect for those running the Lollar campaign if they pointed out the differences between their guy and the other Republicans running than I do with their spending time worrying about what a group of bloggers thinks. If you disagree with Kline’s assessment (of your campaign), prove him wrong and step up your game.

Indeed, I think the Lollar campaign has stepped up. But more to my point, there are some who are taking a victory lap over the eviction of Red Maryland from the pages of the Baltimore Sun. It’s well worth noting a particular timeline of events: I wrote my piece on November 6, the Red Maryland – Baltimore Sun partnership came out November 20 (on the eve of the MDGOP Fall Convention), and their endorsement of Larry Hogan was made official December 12. So the endorsement was made after the Sun hired them.

Also worth mentioning is this part of Red Maryland‘s rationale on choosing Hogan:

No doubt there will be, in some circles, the gnashing of teeth over our endorsement, much like there was for our 2010 endorsement of Bob Ehrlich. However, we will continue to ascribe to the Buckley Rule and support the most viable right candidate who can win. (Emphasis in original.)

Gnashing of teeth – check. But there’s another issue at play here, and it has nothing to do with who is on what payroll.

There are only a handful of conservative political blogs in Maryland; perhaps no more than a dozen really cover the state well on a regular basis. As I said back in November, I have had many differences with Red Maryland and probably will lock horns with them on a number of future occasions. There’s no doubt we see the limits and overall merit of the Buckley Rule differently.

But I do agree with the need for the Eleventh Commandment. There has to be a change in philosophy among all of us – instead of trying to be the “tallest midget in the room” (as a Red Maryland stalwart is fond of saying) by needlessly savaging political and online opponents, we should be the ones who support each other in the overall uphill climb. On the whole, we’ve lost a valuable platform because of mistakes made by those who tried to be that tallest midget, ones for which they were called out. Hopefully a lesson is learned out of all this; and I don’t doubt Red Maryland will still have a part to play going forward. Just remember, folks: perception is reality.

As I see in my perception, each and every one of us who toil in this field can complain all we want and write 24/7/365 about the mess that is Maryland politics, but if we don’t strive to educate and motivate our readers into supporting good conservative candidates from around the state we’ve done nothing but waste our time. (Okay, a few of us may be paid for advertising, consulting, and other favors, but that’s peanuts.)

I may not necessarily agree with Red Maryland or Jackie Wellfonder about their belief that Larry Hogan is the best candidate for governor, but if he wins on June 24 it’s our job to help him win on November 4. I can tell you from experience that it’s a rare ballot indeed where a Democrat is more conservative than a Republican, and looking at the top of the Maryland ticket this year won’t be one of those rarities. Trust me, it’s not like I’ve never had to put my ego aside because my choice in the primary lost. But I sucked it up, buttercup, because I understood what was at stake.

To me, the end game is to elect conservatives, and if we elect GOP moderates we either convince them they should become more conservative or find a better primary opponent for the next go-round. As Alexander said, we will still agree with them on 80 percent or more of the issues.

To finish, let me quote Alexander but add just a couple words:

The internecine warfare in the (Maryland) GOP (blogosphere) may be good for cornering constituents and emptying their wallets, but it is most assuredly and demonstrably NOT good for advancing Liberty.

If I have a legitimate beef with a candidate – and there’s at least one I’ve been disappointed in so far – I’m reserving the right to say so. But the events of the last couple weeks should remind us all we have a ton of work to do and these misadventures are too much of an ill-timed idle diversion.

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