Newt Gingrich was right after all

I wrote a little bit about the 2012 contenders yesterday in a piece about 2016, but I’ve been seeing the evidence that Newt Gingrich’s thought and 2012 campaign plank that we could once again see gasoline at $2.50 a gallon (or less, as the recent photo above from my Missouri-based writer friend Melinda Musil demonstrates) has come true despite naysayers from just a short year or so ago. Yet despite experts who called the idea “absurd” and noted “the price of oil is set on a global market” and decreed “in the immediate term there is almost nothing you can do,” well, here we are. Musil reported yesterday her prices are now under $2 a gallon.

The reason prices are so much lower is pretty much what Gingrich proposed to do in the 2012 campaign: increased production. With fracking and other enhancements in technology allowing domestic output to increase, the benefits have been enormous. Considering that average prices going into the July 4 holiday hovered over $3.60 a gallon, the relief expressed by drivers may begin spilling over into the economy at-large. Now the average is about $2.54 a gallon, with this area’s prices relatively close to that point.

Over time, the benefits will be accruing to consumers – if an Eastern Shore driver goes 20,000 miles a year in a truck that gets 20 miles per gallon, spending $1 less a gallon for a year is equivalent to a $1,000 annual raise that’s tax free. On the other hand, this decline in prices is thwarting the state of Maryland’s scheme to take more out of our pockets by increasing the sales tax on gas, because as I noted a few days back their 8 cents per gallon projected revenue is sinking closer to a nickel. Luckily, the state government over the next four years will desperately try not to confiscate any more revenue from working folks like us thanks to the recent election, and this tailwind could help Governor-elect Hogan address the state’s structural deficit through a modest increase in economic activity.

It’s doubtful that our prices will stay quite this low, for oil at $60 a barrel means our extraction with its price point that’s a little bit higher isn’t sustainable in the long term. But there is the chance that more practice with these unconventional techniques could drive down production costs to a point where our producers could prosper at that price or even below – if we could match the Saudis’ lower extraction cost we could wipe out the OPEC cartel once and for all.

So enjoy these low prices while they last. Hopefully, this modest economic bump will kickstart other sectors and bring us prosperity despite the best efforts of some in Washington – you know, the ones who try to take credit for this energy boom despite having little to do with it.

To the left, the world is not enough

I’ve probably given as many pixels to failed candidate Rick Weiland as anyone outside his native South Dakota, but it’s because I think he’s very useful as a gauge of reactionary liberalism in a part of the nation which has maintained a streak of populism surprising for such a rural area. While the South has gone almost completely Republican, those in the rural Midwest will occasionally elect Democrats they deem to be centrists or populists on a statewide level. South Dakota has rejected Weiland several times, but it doesn’t mean he’ll stop trying and to me that exhibits precisely how the far left operates and why it’s important to hear about their desires. (He could also use the money since he can’t manage his campaign funds, but I digress.)

So yesterday, in the wake of the debate about CRomnibus, I received a missive called “We can’t breathe!” from which I quote in part:

The revenge of the money changers is in full swing in Congress today.

Let the big banks have their swaps back. Let Las Vegas advertise itself with your tax dollars. Increase by 1000% the amount billionaires can contribute to buy off our political parties.

Men of color are not the only ones they have in a choke-hold – now they’ve got all of us – and it’s way past time to tell them none of us can breathe!

Emboldened by the Obama-haters they just elected, Wall Street is readying the nooses for Obamacare and Dodd-Frank. They think they can’t be stopped.

But WE can stop them!

24 states allow initiatives and referendums – 24 states where you can show them exactly what you think of their choke-hold on the rest of us.

So let’s put what they are doing to us on the ballot in those 24 states and find out who is right.

(snip)

Help us close down the debt on my just completed Senate campaign, and fire up our initiative and referendum team. Because we are going to turn our little state into a laboratory for direct democracy.

A laboratory and an export market.

Let’s put Citizens United, Ferguson, and Big Bank plutocracy on trial at the ballot box.

Because when you go down fighting instead of whimpering, a funny thing often happens: people notice, then they think a little, and pretty soon they’re fighting too.

If you have to vote on it you have to think about it.  So let’s put our ideas directly on the ballot and pick a fight. (All emphasis in original.)

This is the mirror-reverse of the strategy Maryland Republicans tried in 2012 to petition already-enacted legislation to referendum, which failed. Looking back, I wonder if the Maryland Republican Party isn’t kicking itself for not placing the “bathroom bill” or 2013 gun bill on the ballot this year – we may have even had a more shocking victory by repealing both laws. (The counter-argument, of course, is the “sleeping dog” school of thought which liked the Democrats’ low turnout – perhaps the inclusion of those ballot measures would have hurt Larry Hogan’s chances by bringing out more liberal Democrats.)

It’s also true that, even in the face of a Republican wave election, four states that had a minimum wage increase on the ballot, including the aforementioned South Dakota, passed these measures while electing Republican Senators – in Alaska and Arkansas the Democrats seeking re-election to the Senate were defeated on that same ballot. (Nebraska was the fourth state.) Again, this shows the streak of populism which occurs in the Midwest.

Obviously Weiland sees a trend, exhibited in his home state, where direct democracy can succeed in accomplishing those things a representative republic would not. As the minimum wage example shows, people can be fooled into voting against their best interests – that’s why we were founded as a Constitutional republic.

Weiland’s mindset is shared by a lot of people, though. Witness the populist appeal to Southern voters espoused by the writer of the linked New Republic piece, Michael A. Cooper, Jr., who pleads with his party:

Speaking as a southerner, we need help, not from the DCCC but from government to deal with issues like homelessness and drug addiction.

These aren’t esoteric concerns Beltway liberals tut-tut about like global warming or political correctness, but true pocketbook issues which unfortunately tend to affect the poorest among us. Conservatives would prefer these issues be dealt with on more of a faith-based level through private charity but it can also be addressed by local and state governments. (By the way, thanks to Jackie Wellfonder for bringing the New Republic piece to my attention just in time for me to add it in because it fit the point so well.)

Just as the right has its TEA Party movement which has cooled to the mainstream Republican party – and for good reason – many activists on the left are embracing their new savior as Senator Elizabeth Warren, whose populist screed against Wall Street has won the backing of elements of the Democrat Party who think Barack Obama sold them out and Hillary Clinton is too close to the right wing. They are also fed up with the government, but stare at the problem from the other side of the fence because they want the power of government to regulate corporatism out of existence, or rein it in as fascism dictates.

Meanwhile, while these Warren acolytes whine about what Barack Obama is not providing them, they fail to see that many of their goals are being realized anyway. Truly it’s the Right that’s not being served.

As the new year arrives and Republicans take over Congress (along with the governor’s chair in Annapolis) we will begin to see all the stories and tales of woe unreported on over the last six years. There’s a lot of work to do, and Republican leaders in Congress didn’t get off on the right foot by passing CRomnibus. We must demand, now that we’ve granted them the opportunity to complete the FY2016 budget in regular order as they’ve wished to do for several years, that our priorities be the ones funded and the mistakes of the last six years deleted.

Perhaps we can also do our part in using the referendum system in advancing conservative causes as well. Two can play that game, and it’s just as important to motivate our voters as it is for the other side to buy theirs.

‘Made in America’ gains strength in November

It was good news in November for manufacturers, at least as expressed on the employment front – based on the November jobs report and revisions to previous reports, the sector gained 48,000 workers over that timeframe.

Naturally, manufacturing supporters were cheered by the news, with the union-backed Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) noting that Barack Obama is now over 1/4 of the way to his promise of a million new manufacturing jobs in his second term, while economist Chad Mowbray of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) trade group pointed out robust growth in new orders was beginning to translate into new employees.

However, both groups saw some clouds among the silver linings. In the case of AAM, their complaint was the “failure to stop currency manipulation by China and Japan” while NAM cited “headwinds such as rising health care costs and regulatory burdens.”

Each complaint has some validity, but for the majority of manufacturers the specter of operational costs is a key deterrent to expansion or even staying in business. While it’s not manufacturing in a traditional sense – and certainly applies on a more limited scale than federal edicts which can overturn an entire industry – one example could be how the local processing of chicken would take a blow from ill-advised state phosphorus regulations that have the potential to drive the poultry business to different areas of the country. Needless to say, such a result would be devastating to this part of the state, leaving just tourism and some limited local services to provide the employment to support our region.

And while I’m mentioning Maryland politics, I may as well make one other pronouncement here. As I followed his gubernatorial campaign for a year, I paid attention to how Ron George studied and shared his thoughts on the prospect of making things in Maryland. I hope Larry Hogan can utilize Ron’s passion and expertise in his administration. While we would love to score an auto plant or other similarly large employer in this area of the state, a more realistic goal might be to, as Ron stressed during his campaign, fill up the existing facilities and areas several towns on the Eastern Shore have already laid out for manufacturing. To use a local example, adding 100 jobs for Wicomico County residents would immediately shave 0.2% off our unemployment rate, not to mention bring up the standard of living for everyone else.

A week ago yesterday we celebrated Small Business Saturday, but the best way to support them (other than shopping there) would be to make their lives easier by calling off the government regulator’s dogs and encouraging them to grow so that sometime down the road we can be the manufacturing power we once were.

A Wicomico changing of the guard

It was an exciting day and a contentious night for the new County Executive and County Council here in Wicomico County. It’s not often the incoming governor pays attention to an event in our fair county.

But the auditorium at Wor-Wic Community College was packed to its 200-plus person capacity to watch our second County Executive (and first such Republican) Bob Culver take the oath of office from Clerk of the Court Mark Bowen.

After the presentation of colors, the Rev. George Patterson delivered an invocation where he prayed that Culver would be “seasoned with wisdom, grace, and humility” as he took this office.

That quickly, since it had to be finished by noon, Culver took the oath flanked by members of his family.

In his remarks which followed, Bob expressed how he was “humbled and honored” by his election, about which he commented that he “wasn’t the only one who wanted to see change.”

His approach was going to be relatively simple, as he believed “good, workable ideas can come from either side,” but at the same time “‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ will no longer be the rule.” On the other hand, change wouldn’t be made for its own sake.

Culver’s brief address, which lasted less than four minutes, concluded with a simple request: “we need your ideas.” He then introduced the Governor-elect.

Along with Culver, Larry Hogan announced “we’re going to roll up our sleeves and get to work.” Hogan was optimistic about Wicomico County and the rest of the Eastern Shore, promising we “will no longer be taken for granted…you’ll have a seat at the table.”

His first order of business affecting us locally was fighting the Phosphorus Management Tool, new regulations he accused Governor O”Malley of “push(ing) at the midnight hour, on his way out the door.” Hogan wasn’t necessarily opposed to regulations on farmers, but believed they needed to be based on science and not “promised to a special interest group.”

Turning to the new County Executive, Hogan said “Bob is truly a salt of the earth kind of guy” and that he “can’t think of anyone more qualified” to grow the local economy based on his business experience than Culver.

The ceremony wasn’t all that long, but it was lunchtime and many of those who came to the swearing-in went to the next building to celebrate with a reception hosted by Culver.

I must say the catering was outstanding, and people generally left in a good, optimistic mood.

But while Culver was “humbled and honored” by his election, the first County Council meeting under his tenure was definitely on the humbling side.

It began, though, with remarks from the outgoing County Council. In particular, retiring Council member Gail Bartkovich called her tenure “an honor, privilege…and tremendous education.” Interestingly enough, all three of the women who served in the 2010-14 term left County Council, leaving a body of seven men.

Stevie Prettyman acknowledged the large crowd “for a change” and thanked the citizens for their trust in her.

And while he wasn’t going anywhere, John Hall lamented the “loss of wisdom and integrity” provided by the outgoing members. Matt Holloway, who was also staying on, noted this edition of Council had accomplished a lot: building a new Bennett Middle School, supplying water to the Morris Mill neighborhood plagued by well contamination, and continually improving its bond ratings.

Similarly, Sheree Sample-Hughes, who was elected to the House of Delegates, thanked the people for “putting their trust in me as a leader.”

But she foreshadowed the discussion to come by expressing her disappointment that West Salisbury Elementary School would not be in the revised bonding program Culver was asking County Council to approve.

After a quick recess to rearrange seats, the new County Council was sworn in.

Returning members Joe Holloway (third from left), Matt Holloway (center), and John Hall (far right) were now joined by Larry Dodd (far left), Marc Kilmer (second from left), John Cannon (third from right), and Ernest Davis (second from right.) Dodd and Cannon have previously served one term apiece on County Council, though, leaving Kilmer and Davis as the two rookies.

Their first order of business was electing a president and vice-president. Since John Cannon and Matt Holloway were the lone nominees for those respective positions, Cannon took over the meeting with Matt Holloway seated next to him.

The other item on the agenda was the controversial reduction in new county debt from the $16.5 million requested by Rick Pollitt to a new $10.9 million total Culver desired, To accomplish this reduction Bob reduced the bonding amount for ongoing construction of Bennett Middle School, and postponed three other projects: work on the final phase of the Westside Collector Road, work on the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center, and replacement of West Salisbury Elementary.

Projects which would remain, on the other hand, were Bennett Middle School, the purchase of land for dredge material placement for the Wicomico River, the purchase of the newly renovated State’s Attorney office, and renovations to Perdue Stadium.

Culver explained that the Bennett bond could be safely reduced without endangering progress. He also made the case that improvements to the river channel would allow for continued commerce and safer oil transport (as there is a refinery along the river), the purchase of the State’s Attorney office would save $300,000 annually in rent, and that the Perdue Stadium renovations were at the request of the Orioles and would ensure the team remains in Salisbury.

Joe Holloway commented that taking off the school was “probably a good idea” based on his conversation earlier that day with Larry Hogan, with Kilmer agreeing it was likely a “prudent course.” On the other hand, Larry Dodd was “disappointed” that the West Salisbury bond was removed, and Ernest Davis, who represents that district, criticized the deletion as pushing them to the back burner again.

That sentiment was echoed frequently in the public comments Cannon allowed. Over a dozen citizens stood up to blast the decision to drop the bond funding, many complaining about the deplorable shape the 50-year-old building is in and decrying its lack of air conditioning. (It’s worth pointing out the state denied Wicomico County’s request to address the air conditioning for FY2015 because the amount was too small – see page 173 here. Three other Wicomico County schools were granted funds.)

In the end, though, the vote was 5-1 to approve the revised bonding, with Davis opposed. Larry Dodd had to leave early for a family function.

After that vote, Kilmer expressed the sentiment that he wished he saw as much passion about what happens in the schools as he did about the school building. But in his president’s remarks, Cannon was more optimistic, saying “I see good things for Wicomico County.” He also expressed his appreciation for all that Rick Pollitt did in his eight years at the helm.

But it goes without saying that Culver’s honeymoon wasn’t very long. Several people expressed the belief that our place in line for funding would be lost and we could go another several years before the needs of West Salisbury were addressed. But Culver and County Council wanted to see some of the buildings for themselves to assess the needs. Aside from the question one observer brought up about the maintenance issues related by those testifying on West Salisbury’s behalf, it was a night filled with passion for a school of just 309 students.

Look for more battles as the FY2016 budget begins to take shape next year.

WCRC meeting – November 2014

Now that the election is in the rearview mirror, the Wicomico County Republican Club moved off its campaign mode and began working on next year’s agenda. Among the items of business were establishing a nominations committee and elections committee for next year’s crop of officers, which will be different in several positions, as well as finalizing arrangements for the club’s Christmas Party December 7.

But for the first time in several months we had a guest speaker, even though he was a familiar face to a lot of us. Carl Anderton reviewed his campaign and put forth a few of the items he was looking to achieve in relatively brief remarks before the gathering this evening. Fondly recalling that he had made his intentions known to the WCRC in June of 2013, Carl thanked all those who helped, particularly the crew which knocked on thousands of doors in the district.

It wasn’t easy, though. A campaign that was “hitting its stride” after an early October debate at the Chamber “had to start all over” after a mailing came out depicting Norm Conway as a masked criminal. (Anderton revealed his wasn’t the only district so targeted; a Cecil County race had a similar mailing.) But the local GOP team overcame that obstacle, and once results from two key precincts were known Anderton realized he was over the top. But that “shellshocked” feeling you may have noticed on Election Night was genuine – Carl was “incredibly blessed and overwhelmed” about this “opportunity of a lifetime.”

There will be work to do in Annapolis, though. Carl sarcastically noted he was “excited about the going-away present” of hundreds of millions of dollars in budget shortfalls, particularly since the FY2016 budget is mainly being created by Martin O’Malley. But the important thing to Carl is to “bring back the quality of life on the Eastern Shore.”

Asked about the prospect of an elected school board, Carl said he “absolutely” supports it, and received some pointers from current legislators on how to bring it to fruition.

We also got to hear a little bit from incoming County Executive Bob Culver, who will be sworn in next Tuesday. Culver revealed that we would have a special guest at the ceremony in Governor-elect Larry Hogan.

Bob also noted that he was hard at work already, addressing some changes he’d like to make to Rick Pollitt’s last bond request. He also talked about an elected school board, calling on a new vote from the incoming County Council to back it.

Yet cleaning up county government isn’t the only thing which will change. The physical office of the County Executive would also undergo some renovations to update the look to be more appropriate for a county on the rise. And if you’re worried about taxpayer expense, don’t be because Culver added he’d be footing the bill for the new carpet and paint.

Newly-appointed county GOP Chair Mark McIver called his election “a humbling experience,” adding he was “psyched and excited” to take over the party. One of the first orders of business for the new committee, though, will be helping to select a Wicomico County Board of Education member to replace Larry Dodd, who will become the new District 3 Council member. McIver thought it would be a good goal to create a pool of interested Republicans from which we could appoint members to appropriate entities for their interests. “I want to hear from the Republicans in Wicomico County,” McIver concluded.

But basically once we finalized some plans for the Christmas Party and heard a comment about the “excellent job” the executive board did in allocating contributions to various candidates, we were through, It was a meeting which came in under an hour, but a lot got done in that time span.

The next time we formally meet will be January 26, 2015. Obviously the speaker is to be determined.

All quiet on the western front

They say success has many fathers while failure is an orphan. In the case of the Maryland Republican Party, the inverse seems to be true: thanks to the outstanding election results, people seem to be satisfied with the status quo. I may be out of the loop insofar as voting, but I’m still on the list distributed to the state party because I remain an officer on our local central committee.

Just in case the candidates were really checking their e-mail lists and omitting me because I don’t have a vote (although I would probably be first in line for a proxy) I asked a few of my cohorts if they were getting any campaign-related items and aside from knowing Diana Waterman and party treasurer Chris Rosenthal were seeking new terms the answer was no. Considering the state of the race in 2010, it appears the convention will be fairly innocuous compared to organizing conventions in the past; perhaps victory is the balm which heals old wounds. As one of my respondents noted, “Frankly I don’t see anyone having an easy time of defeating (Diana) – unless s/he can sell the Party on the idea that cleaning out the officers is the right thing to do after the most devastating victory in memory.”

So in terms of party unity this may be the best convention since 2002, which is before my time in this state. It doesn’t appear Larry Hogan will want “his” chairman put in place at this point, although in two years it may be a different story.

Perhaps the one interesting point of view to be presented will be the now semi-annual Friday night gathering of the Maryland Liberty Action group, a get-together which will feature some good speakers: Delegate-elect Robin Grammer, Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothschild, and MLA director of operations Christina Trotta (a fan of this site, by the way.) It’s a good representation of the libertarian side of the GOP, and it’s a crowd which tends to skew younger than the average Central Committee member.

With a focus on what we can expect during the upcoming 2015 General Assembly session it will certainly be worth it to stop by if you’re at the convention. They start a little earlier than most of the other hospitality suites (a 6:00 start) so you can check them out before heading over to the other suites sponsored by the various candidates. (Pro tip: as I recall – and unlike a lot of our other venues over the years – Turf Valley had suites in two very separate areas of the complex, so check your local listings.)

Victory has been a rare experience for Maryland Republicans, so if the convention has the same joyous mood as our local election night party, Turf Valley should be rocking on December 5.

Under the radar

After he lost the 2012 Senatorial primary to Dan Bongino, Richard Douglas has kept a somewhat low profile. Eschewing a possible run for Attorney General this year, Douglas has instead focused on particular issues such as the Bladensburg Peace Cross earlier this year and his latest, a criticism of Maryland’s two sitting Senators for a lack of action on freeing Marylander Alan Gross from a Cuban prison.

In today’s Daily Record (11/19), I was astonished to read the Capital News Service whitewash of the Maryland U.S. congressional delegation’s record of failure on Alan Gross.

Marylander Gross remains in a Cuban jail because Maryland’s weak, irresolute U.S. Senators have done precisely nothing to force our weak, irresolute President to make Cuba howl. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski have used none of the tools available to majority-party senators, or in Mikulski’s case, to the chair of the Senate’s most powerful standing committee, to bludgeon the Obama White House into meaningful action to free their fellow Marylander.

To try to force presidential action, Cardin and Mikulski could easily have blocked Obama legislative priorities, Obama executive nominations, treaties, senior bureaucratic promotion lists, and spending bills. But they didn’t, and these are glaring omissions in the Capitol Hill playbook. They confirm that Cardin and Mikulski have pulled their punches with their ideological teammate in the White House.

Whitewash can’t conceal the truth. Maryland’s U.S. Senators and the White House have shown weakness and a lack of resolve on Mr. Gross. That same brand of weakness and lack of resolve helped put Russian troops in Ukraine, and allows Islamist terrorists to murder Americans almost at will.

In January, the new Republican majority in the Senate could finally force President Obama to break a sweat over Alan Gross, five long years into his imprisonment. We’ll see. But what a pity that Maryland’s U.S. Senators, clucking furiously on the sidelines, have utterly failed to use the tools which the Framers gave them to force Obama to do his job.

Douglas was quite critical of Cardin in his 2012 run, but hadn’t really had much need to be critical of Maryland’s senior Senator. It’s Mikulski’s seat which will be at stake in 2016, though, and Douglas’s statewide experience may lead some to ask whether he’s thinking of challenging Mikulski. With the Senate political landscape being almost exactly the opposite of 2014′s (where Republicans will have at least 24 seats to defend against just 10 for Democrats) the chance to pull an upset in Maryland is intriguing in the wake of Larry Hogan’s win.

Naturally, the prospect of a rematch of the two top GOP contenders from 2012 means Dan Bongino will be in the conversation as a possible contender. But will Bongino want to undergo yet another campaign, the third one in five years?

With the experience Douglas boasts as a former Chief Counsel of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and former General Counsel of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in an election where cleaning up Barack Obama’s foreign policy messes may be a key issue, the prospect of someone with Richard’s expertise going up against Mikulski – or a new Democrat should Barb decide to retire – is quite interesting. Surely we will see in the coming months if it’s a race Richard wants to run.

Common Core subject of TEA Party meeting

On Thursday night an interesting meeting is slated in Ocean Pines.

Jillian Patterson, VP of Policy for Education Freedom Committee will speak about fighting Common Core at the state and local levels and strategies for defeating it. Ms. Patterson will include some basic information about what Common Core is and why parents should be concerned with its current implementation, followed by Q&A.

County Commissioners and School Board members will be invited.

The Worcester County TEA Party is the sponsor of the event, which will be held at the Ocean Pines Community Center.

Most interesting to me is the last line, because some will judge the worthiness of the newly-elected (or re-elected) county commissioners and school board members on whether they show up and listen attentively to this speaker. Fortunately for Worcester County. any school board member who doesn’t wish to enlist in this (admittedly uphill) battle can be ousted in the next election. It’s something we here in Wicomico County cannot boast about yet, although I’m confident our new leadership team will begin the long-overdue process of addressing this inequity.

But Maryland is likely going to be one of the last states to reconsider the Common Core standards, which have gotten such a bad rap nationally that the state dubbed them the “College and Career-Ready” standards, eschewing the “Common Core” moniker. So it will be interesting to see what the report which is due from that bill will say, and whether any mention of the states which are dropping Common Core is made. This despite the fact that Governor-elect Larry Hogan has said we “need to hit the ‘pause’ button on Common Core and to give control back to teachers and parents.”

The chances are fairly good that a Common Core repeal could be introduced in the General Assembly this year, although likely not at the behest of Hogan. The question is how many Democrats will cross the MSEA teachers’ union and help pass the bill out of committee if it even gets a vote. That’s where we come in, with the “encouragement” to make sure such a bill escapes the committee chair’s drawer.

On running the state

One concern I see and hear after the surprise Larry Hogan victory is that we don’t want all of the Ehrlich retreads running the state government now that the GOP is back in charge. As it turns out, Hogan – the Secretary of Appointments for Ehrlich – selected another Ehrlich official, Secretary of General Services Boyd Rutherford, as his lieutenant governor and has tabbed James T. Brady and Robert Neill as integral parts of the transition team. Brady worked as a member of the Parris Glendenning administration and Neill is a Republican-turned-Democrat who served in the Maryland General Assembly for 18 years, sandwiching a term as Anne Arundel County Executive. Reports are that outgoing Harford County Executive David Craig, who also sought the GOP nomination for governor, is also being considered for a role.

This is all well and good, I suppose, since a stated goal of the incoming Hogan administration seems to be one of bipartisanship. But my question is how much it will build the Maryland Republican party if we tab Democrats for positions they’ve already had over the last 8 and 40 of the last 44 years? Building a farm team doesn’t just come from elected officials and I’m sure that fresh eyes in a lot of positions will do a lot of good.

The Democrats lost, so let’s act like winners and put good conservatives in charge of state departments, To do otherwise leaves the potential that we will have another opportunity to build on success slip away in 2018, dooming ourselves to more years in the wilderness. In short, let’s use the electoral broom we just received to sweep these offices clean like Martin O’Malley did. It’s the least we can do to push this state in the right direction.

The same direction

It’s been a great month for Maryland Republicans, and after a few weeks to finish the counting of both our votes and our blessings on Thanksgiving, the party will meet early next month to elect its new leadership.

Unlike the last few times we have done this (I say “we” because I was a part of the process for eight years) the convention mood should be pretty joyous. Consider the situations where we’ve had this election in recent years I’ve been involved:

  • In 2006 we elected Jim Pelura in the wake of losing the governor’s race and taking a step backward nationally.
  • In 2009 Audrey Scott was picked to finish Pelura’s four-year term at a time when the party was broke, desperate, and suffered from infighting over Jim’s activist role while he was Chair.
  • In 2010 we lost the governor’s race again after a contested primary, missing out on the TEA Party wave which otherwise swept the country with the exception of getting back the First District Congressional seat. Alex Mooney won based on a platform of improving the party’s fiscal situation.
  • In early 2013, Diana Waterman ascended to the position as the previous First Vice-Chair, taking over a party riven by discord between TEA Party conservatives and more moderate members. Mooney’s promise of financial health had not come true, so the party was forced to downsize its headquarters in an effort to maintain solvency.

I did a little reading of my archives over the last few minutes in order to rehash the 2010 race (which was decided a week later than this year’s convention will be) and it’s interesting to note I spent the better part of a month talking about the race and its various players last time. Granted, we were talking about an open seat since Audrey Scott didn’t want another term, but the success of 2014 means a lot of people should be happy with the current leadership.

Moreover, there is a slightly different dynamic at play this time around – by-law changes a few years back mean the recently-concluded term of Mooney/Waterman was the final four-year term for a party Chair. As of this election, the new Chair will be in office for just two years, through the Fall Convention in 2016.

This gives the party an opportunity to split the four-year cycle into two logical halves. The first half should be devoted to something which was done fairly well in this cycle with a few exceptions – candidate recruitment and growing the party. Once we see the 2016 results and know the health of the national party, we can go to more of a re-elect Hogan mode with fundraising being the main idea. Personally, I think Diana deserves the opportunity to lead over the next two years, while the Hogan administration can have its selection for years 3 and 4. The 2018 election will be important to our side as the winner controls redistricting, so egregious gerrymanders such as the Third and Sixth Congressional Districts can be addressed once the 2020 census is complete.

Unless I hold a proxy for the convention I won’t have a direct say in the matter but I think the Maryland GOP would be well-served to avoid a divisive fight in this convention and work toward making inroads into more Democratic-controlled areas by identifying and recruiting good candidates, volunteers, and financial supporters for the 2018 cycle. I see no need to make a change if Diana Waterman wants the job for another two years.

Update: Going by her reply to my Facebook post promoting this piece, she’s in.

The rookie class

November 10, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off 

I tell you, it’s the mundane things I do…

Last night I was setting up the 2015 monoblogue Accountability Project charts, to save me a little work come next spring. (One key change: I’m going to alphabetical order to make it so, so much easier to compile votes since the state legislative chart lists tallies alphabetically.) Something I note on the mAP is the “years of service” and there are a lot of people who will have “1″ next to their name.

In the House of Delegates, there will be a whopping 58 rookie legislators, while the Senate will boast three rookies. Out of those 61, which make up almost a third of the General Assembly as 29 are Republicans and 32 are Democrats, it’s worth noting that all three Senate rookies come from the GOP, which has changed over half its 12 members that were elected in 2010 in expanding back to the 14 they had from 2006-10.

While the GOP House caucus is at a modern high of 50 members, over half of them will be new to the General Assembly. Just on a local level, the District 38 delegation has two rookies while District 37 has three. Between the primary and general elections, the three local politicians who have 20 or more years in the General Assembly were whittled to one (newly-minted Senator Addie Eckardt.) Next in seniority is Senator Jim Mathias, who was first appointed to the House in 2006, then Delegate Charles Otto, who won re-election last week for a second term.

The learning curve for all these newbies will be steep, but it will be fascinating to see if they come up with new and better bills than the old veterans have done over the last eight years. Another interesting angle will be the bills sponsored by the Speaker and Senate President – since the governor cannot introduce a bill, it’s normally introduced by the Speaker or President “by request” of the administration – here’s one example. Imagine a tax cut bill being introduced by a Democrat – but that will be the case as Governor-elect Hogan outlines a legislative agenda.

(Another thing to watch is whether Martin O’Malley will leave some sponsored bills as parting gifts walking out the door, since the General Assembly reconvenes a couple weeks before the inauguration of Larry Hogan. Honestly, I doubt it.)

This will be an exciting time to watch the General Assembly.

A doable goal?

Yesterday we received word that the unemployment rate dropped again, with another month of job growth in the 200,000 range. It’s not the Reagan recovery of the 1980s – when we had 15 straight months of job growth in 1983-84 that would put this latest number to shame, including a whopping 1,115,000 jobs created in September 1983 – but it is a reasonably decent run.

Yet just as manufacturing didn’t share in the Reagan-era gains as much as other sectors did (in fact, it lost some ground), the second Obama term has also fallen well short of manufacturing growth goals. I’ve discussed this group and its job tally before both here and on my former American Certified site, but the Alliance for American Manufacturing tracks progress toward the one million manufacturing jobs Barack Obama promised in his second term.

AAM’s president Scott Paul isn’t all that pleased about it, either.

The good news is that manufacturing jobs have grown over the past few months. The bad news is that they haven’t grown fast enough. I’m very concerned that a surge of imports from China and a paucity of public investment in infrastructure will continue to hamper the great potential of the productive sector of our economy.

Hopes of achieving the White House goal of 1 million new jobs in the Administration’s final term are fading fast. Without some progress on the trade deficit and a long-term infrastructure plan, I don’t see that changing. No doubt the economic anxiety that many Americans still feel is compounded by stagnant wage growth and diminished opportunities for middle class careers.

Two of the key issues AAM harps on are, indeed, currency manipulation and infrastructure investment, although they also took time recently to praise Obama’s manufacturing initiatives and chastise Walmart for their ‘buy American’ effort because much of it comes in the form of produce and groceries. Around these parts, we don’t really mind that emphasis because we produce a lot of American-grown poultry so if Walmart is willing to invest in us we’re happy to provide. (Then again, that promised distribution center would be nice too.) Of course, AAM is backed in part by the steelworkers’ union so one can reasonably assume their view is the center-left’s perspective.

Even so, the group is useful because it makes some valid points. And I think we should have some focus on creating manufacturing jobs in Maryland, as the defunct gubernatorial campaign of outgoing Delegate Ron George tried to do.

Thus, I think the incoming Hogan/Rutherford administration should make it a goal to create 50,000 new manufacturing jobs in Maryland over his first four-year term – if he succeeds, you better believe he deserves a second. According to BLS figures, as of September an estimated 103,000 people are employed in manufacturing in Maryland. But if you look at past data, it’s not unprecedented to have 150,000 (as late as November 2002) or even 200,000 (as late as June 1990) working in the field. And when you take the confluence of a state that is supposedly #1 in education and combine it with the proximity to both major markets and inexpensive energy sources, there’s no reason we should have lost 30,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector under Martin O’Malley – or 16,000 under Bob Ehrlich, for that matter.

But how do you turn things around in four years? Maryland has to make people notice they are open for business, and there are some radical proposals I have to help with that turnaround.

First of all, rather than tweak around the edges with lowering the corporate tax rate, why not just eliminate it altogether? The revenue to the state from that toll is $1.011 billion in FY2015, which is far less than the annual budgetary increase has been. Would that not send a message that we are serious about job growth and immediately improve our status as a business-friendly state?

The next proposals are somewhat more controversial. To the extent we are allowed by the federal government and its environmental regulations, those who choose to invest in the state and create jobs should have an easier path to getting environmental permits and zoning approvals. Even if a moratorium is temporary, making it easier to deal with MDE regulations would encourage job creation. Most of Maryland’s towns and cities already have industrial sites available, but we shouldn’t discourage construction in rural areas if a job creator needs more space.

We’ve also heard about the construction of the Purple Line in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and the Red Line in Baltimore - combined, the two are expected to fetch a price tag of $5.33 billion. For that sum, it seems to me we could build a lot of interstate highway – even if this $4 million per mile figure is low (and it would be 1,267 miles of highway based on the combined cost of the Red Line and Purple Line) we could do a lot to assist in moving goods through and from Maryland, whether by finishing the originally envisioned I-97 through to the Potomac (and with Virginia’s assistance, to I-95 near Richmond) or enlisting Virginia and Delaware’s help in improving the U.S. 13/58 corridor to interstate standards to provide a secondary route around Richmond, Washington, and Baltimore.

Once we eliminate the onerous restrictions proposed for fracking and begin to open up the western end of the state for exploration, and (dare I say it?) work on making Maryland a right-to-work state like Virginia – or even creating right-to-work zones in certain rural counties like the Eastern Shore and Maryland’s western panhandle – the potential is there to indeed create those 50,000 manufacturing jobs – and a lot more! It just takes a leader with foresight and the cajones to appeal to the Democrats in the General Assembly as well as a Republican Party unafraid to take it to the streets in the districts of recalcitrant members of Maryland’s obstructionist majority party.

But even if we only create 40,000 or 25,000 manufacturing jobs through these policies, the state would be better-positioned to compete for a lot of other jobs as well, and the need is great. For too long this state has put its economic eggs in the federal government’s basket and there’s a changing mood about the need for an expansive presence inside the Beltway. Rightsizing the federal government means Maryland has to come up with another plan, and this one has proven to be a success time and time again across the nation.

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