In the giving spirit

December 23, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2015 - Salisbury, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on In the giving spirit 

One nice thing about Salisbury elections is that money unspent in the campaigns is not carried over to the next election but is required to either be returned to contributors or given to another entity, normally a charity. (There are exceptions, though – stick with me, it’s called foreshadowing.) With the release of the final financial statements earlier this week, I was curious to see where all the money went.

I’ll begin with the City Council races and District 1, where defeated incumbent Shanie Shields distributed $959.48 to a number of organizations around her neighborhood. $500 went to the Chipman Foundation while smaller amounts were received by the Wesley Temple, Operation We Care, and two local elementary schools, West Salisbury and Pemberton. Meanwhile, the winner April Jackson donated her modest leftover sum of $26.82 to the Salisbury Advisory Council while Sarah Halcott closed out her books by donating $96.13 to the Art Institute and Gallery. That made sense given Halcott’s line of business as an artisan.

There wasn’t a lot of money left in District 2, as the only candidate to file a final statement was victor Muir Boda. Boda gave $39.61 to Salisbury Neighborhood Housing Services.

District 3 winner Jack Heath had much more unspent, as he distributed $1,495.80 among four recipients: Lower Shore Enterprises, Operation We Care, the Salisbury Zoo, and the Joseph House. Amounts ranged from $325 to $500 for each. Neither of the other candidates had leftover funds at the end of the campaign.

Lots of money flowed into District 4, but not all of it was spent campaigning. Jim Ireton split the $399.96 remaining balance equally between the Wicomico High softball team, Tri-Community Mediation, and the Wicomico Public Library Homework Help Center. On the other hand, Roger Mazzullo had no money remaining.

Finally among the Council members, Laura Mitchell did not need to file a report. She was the lone unopposed Council candidate, as was Mayor Jake Day for his post. And that’s where the story gets interesting.

First of all, Day was two days late in filing his report because he has a discrepancy between his records and accounts of $764.85. I make no accusations as to funny business; most likely someone put a number in the wrong column or the bank messed up. There are any number of logical reasons for the error.

More importantly, though, Day had over $10,000 to distribute – getting contributions when running unopposed will tend to do that – and he chose to make two disbursements. Instead of charitable contributions, though, as of this week we have two brand new state political entities:

  • Jake Day for Maryland had an initial contribution of $6,000. Day serves as the chairman and his campaign treasurer Jordan Gilmore retains that role for the new entity.
  • The New Day for Maryland PAC got the remaining $4,075.89, with Day’s campaign manager Alison Pulcher serving as chair and Gilmore as treasurer.

Note that the PAC is not to be confused with the New Day MD PAC that former gubernatorial candidate Charles Lollar began in 2009. Lollar’s PAC, as of its 2015 report filed in January, has less than $250 to its name.

Naturally these new campaign finance entities make me wonder if Day is going to serve a full term unhindered by political aspirations or perhaps challenge Bob Culver in 2018. Heck, even Jim Ireton – who has strongly hinted about a Congressional run – didn’t move his city money to create a federal account. (Ireton’s had a state account for a few years, with just over $1,000 in it at last report back in January.) But the campaign entity can also serve as a warchest to stave off challengers in the next city election, too.

In the meantime, we should be proud that much of the leftover campaign cash will be doing good in the community. With the elections now set for November, the contributions came as a nice Christmas gift to several local entities. It will have to tide them over through 2019, though.

Update: Day responds:

The start of something good?

November 16, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2015 - Salisbury, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on The start of something good? 

Tonight the City of Salisbury embarked on a new chapter in its government as its City Council changed hands. Ironically, the person running the meeting at the beginning would shortly become the city’s mayor – Jake Day wielded the gavel for the last time, departing slightly from the agenda to ask for a moment of silence for the people of Paris.

But the first to make comments was outgoing mayor Jim Ireton, who credited the “unsung heroes” who voted for him twice as mayor but “await(s) the incredible things we’ll do together” during the next four years. Ireton also noted later that changing just one person on council can make a profound difference in the body.

Jack Heath, who won election to a full term, noted he “came to know the power of the city and the goodness of its workers.” The man he defeated, Tim Spies, said the last 4 1/2 years were “good for me” and believed the city had a terrific future, with high expectations. He encouraged more people to make a Monday night of getting to Council meetings, adding afterward it was half-price burger night at the Irish Penny to cap off the evening. Public service for him was “fulfilling” with no end to opportunities, Spies said later.

Outgoing Mayor Ireton noted on Spies, “We would be well to have 33,000 Tim Spieses in the city.”

The other Council member leaving, Shanie Shields, vowed “I’m not going anywhere.” Not only would she be there for her successors, she planned on using her newfound time to make County Council meetings. In speaking of Shields, Ireton noted that the Salisbury he grew up in was a “place of 1,000 moms” and Shields was one of them. Shields, he added, reminded him never to forget our best work is ahead of us.

Noting the overflow crowd in the garage of Station 16, Laura Mitchell also hoped they would stay involved. “I would love to see more of this.” Day wrapped up that portion of the evening to noting Council had “exceeded my expectations.”

Ireton and Day, with help from Delegates Christopher Adams, Carl Anderton, and Sherrie Sample-Hughes, and Senator Jim Mathias, presented certificates to Shields and Spies. Anderton also revealed to the audience that Governor Larry Hogan had come through his cancer treatment successfully and was deemed cancer-free, which brought rousing applause from the gathering.

Once those who were leaving were honored, it was time to turn the page and swear in the new members. The Council went first, then Jake Day, with his wife and daughter by his side.

Our featured speaker was Comptroller Peter Franchot, who let us know “I’m a huge fan of Jake Day.”

In his relatively brief remarks, he praised Salisbury as “a city on the rise” with “fresh talent (and) new energy.” We were crucial to the state’s economic fabric, concluded Franchot.

The Council did have a little work to do, though: electing officers. In what turned out to be uncontested votes by acclamation, Jim Ireton nominated Jack Heath to be Council president and Muir Boda nominated Laura Mitchell to its vice-president.

Once again, we heard remarks from the new Mayor and Council. Day made a laundry list of promises, concluding with a vow “we will give you a Salisbury we can be proud of.”

It was noted that Muir Boda had won after multiple tries for office, to which he responded, “I’m finally here.” Even though it was a long process for Boda, he was nowhere near as emotional as April Jackson, who choked up when she said, “I wish my dad could be here.” A well-known community leader, Billy Gene Jackson died earlier this year. Once she regained her composure, she told the crowd, “I’m ready to go. Not to go home, but to get to work!”

As the new Council President, Jack Heath said mutual respect and inclusion was “his pledge.” Once he spoke, he rapped the gavel and declared the meeting to be adjourned.

Because it comes on board at this point in the year, the Council will get to ease into its duties a little bit – the city’s budget isn’t due for a few months. But we will have crime and economic development to deal with, and that’s a pretty full plate as well.

I think they’ll do just fine. To wrap up, here’s a guy I’m proud to call friend, Muir Boda, and his wife Briggit.

It took six years, but I’m pleased my support finally helped make him a winner. My advice to him? Get used to having your picture taken.

To borrow a phrase from Delegate Carl,Anderton, let’s get to work!

A new Day for Salisbury, and a Council to match

November 3, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2015 - Salisbury, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on A new Day for Salisbury, and a Council to match 

We knew awhile back that Jake Day would Salisbury’s next mayor several months ago when the filing deadline came and went with him as the only candidate in the field. The only question was whether he would get a City Council friendly to his interests, and the answer is somewhat mixed.

With the redistricting set up as it was, it was possible somewhere between one and three incumbents would be elected, as well as the possibility the outgoing mayor would hang around as a Council member. When the smoke cleared tonight, we got the old mayor and two incumbents – one of them, though, is incumbent only a few months as he was appointed to a vacancy last year.

The previous (outgoing) edition of City Council was Day as president, Laura Mitchell as vice-president, and Jack Heath, Shanie Shields, and Tim Spies. We know Day advanced to mayor, while Mitchell was unopposed for her District 5 seat – the only two getting a free pass.

Redistricting lumped Heath and Spies into the same District 3, with Heath getting the victory tonight. Meanwhile, District 1 incumbent Shanie Shields lost her rematch from 2013 with April Jackson, who got 48% of a three-way vote.

In District 4, Jim Ireton prevailed by 53 votes over newcomer Roger Mazzullo, but Muir Boda blew out the field in District 2 – he only got 80 votes but everyone else combined for just 57. Yes, turnout was terrible – initial totals indicate just 1,414 voters bothered to show out of 13,455 registered. Of course, the lack of a mayor’s race – or any race in District 5, which is the largest district in terms of voters – did the most to dampen turnout on what was otherwise a gorgeous day to go to the polls.

With the exception of District 4 I think the Council will be an improvement. Interestingly enough, the newly elected Councilman announced on WBOC-TV he’s already considering another race, perhaps seeking the Democratic nomination for Congress next year. Honestly, for his sake I hope Jim Ireton is kidding because I think the rest of Council is willing to be the work horses rather than the show horse.

A couple other things about the changeover – the composition of the body gets a shade younger because Boda’s relative youth outweighs the age increase between Day and Ireton, who is a dozen years older, and Jackson being a few years younger than Shields. Boda also marks the first elected Republican since Louise Smith served from 2007-11.

So if there’s anything I foresee among City Council, I suspect there will be some tension between former mayor Ireton and new mayor Day. I’m sure there is precedent for former Salisbury mayors returning to government; however, my limited experience with the city means Day is only the third mayor I’ve lived under in 11 years. Previous mayor Barrie Parsons Tilghman has largely avoided the spotlight since she left office in 2009. Whether it’s Ireton’s atrocious rent control idea, his high-strung personality, or his jihad against those who invest in the city as landlords, Jim may be the sand in the gears when it comes to moving Salisbury forward.

With the new rules, the city is now set until 2019 – no more alternating elections in the spring of odd-numbered years. It will make 2017 rather quiet around these parts until the latter half when state campaigns get going.

On a personal note, those who advertised with me went 1-for-2, and while Muir Boda lapped the field I would say getting 44% as a novice candidate against an incumbent mayor with built-in name recognition as Roger Mazzullo did counts as a moral victory. So if you want to increase your market share, you may consider giving this website a try.

Campaign finance, Salisbury style

October 28, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2015 - Salisbury, Delmarva items, Politics · Comments Off on Campaign finance, Salisbury style 

With just a week to go before the election, we finally learned who was giving and receiving the most money of the dozen-plus candidates running for office in the city of Salisbury. (Thanks to the Salisbury Independent for sharing the city’s information in their summary.)

After reading through the various reports, one thing is clear: Jake Day is great at raising money. Despite the fact we learned weeks ago he would be unopposed, contributors have still dropped nearly $25,000 in his campaign coffers. (As I recall, there are options to wind down a campaign account once the cycle is through, so Day may have the opportunity to select from a number of willing groups and share the wealth.)

Last time around in the former District 1, Shanie Shields outraised and outspent her two opponents, one of which was the current office seeker April Jackson. The same is holding true this time, as Shields holds a roughly 3-to-1 fundraising advantage over her two opponents combined. Newcomer Sarah Halcott is the third person in the race.

The advantage is even more pronounced in District 2, with Muir Boda miles ahead of his three opponents. Before I go on, I will disclose that I am a recipient of advertising money from Boda, but two things jumped out at me from his opposition.

First, Keyvan Aarabi only lists $200 in contributions but nearly $900 in spending, so the question is whether they failed to report candidate loans. (Perhaps they made that oversight.) But that’s better than not reporting at all, which Marvin Ames failed to do. The third aspirant, Justin Gregoli, reported his activity did not meet the threshold for itemizing.

In District 3, where two incumbents are battling it out, Jack Heath has raised money while Tim Spies is funding his own efforts, vowing to return contributions. Compared to Heath, newcomer Kevin Lindsay barely registers, having raised just $370 for his bid.

After I disclose that District 4’s Roger Mazzullo is also an advertiser, let me point out that he is by far the most successful political newcomer when it comes to fundraising, raising $3,450 so far compared to outgoing Mayor Jim Ireton’s $870. (In an effort to portray himself as the little guy, Ireton is limiting contributions to $20 – of course, he has the advantage of name recognition that Mazzullo has to spend money to build.)

Finally, since Laura Mitchell is unopposed in District 5 she filed the report stating she had raised and spent less than $600. Given that District 5 voters have no choices on the ballot I would be surprised if more than 100 show up. Turnout in city elections is already abysmal, so 200 to 250 votes in any district may be plenty.

(A total of 2,775 voters participated in the 2013 election, which was citywide and had all contested races. With the lack of a mayor’s race and no contest in one district, I think we’ll be hard-pressed to see 2,000 votes total. Hope they surprise me.)

As we enter the home stretch, we will see what the candidates do to maximize their positions. If money equals votes, City Council could be very receptive to the pro-business side of Jake Day’s agenda.

Third Friday September 2015 in pictures and text

September 18, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2015 - Salisbury, Delmarva items, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off on Third Friday September 2015 in pictures and text 

Tonight I had a choice: expand once again on a topic I wrote about for today’s Patriot Post or go to Third Friday and see the sights. Our military prowess is important, but this one was more fun.

Hundreds of people agreed with me. The first photo was taken looking west from Division Street while the second was from within the Plaza. They were taken perhaps 20 minutes apart.

I hadn’t taken ten steps into the Plaza when I saw City Council member Laura Mitchell and husband Miguel heading out. Seems like Third Friday is the place for people I know. But I wasn’t really expecting this guy, who’s about 30 miles from being “downy o’shun.”

Yes, that’s former Delegate Don Murphy hanging out with current Delegate Carl Anderton and Jackie Wellfonder, at whose behest I took the photo.

But there were two people looking for votes at tables. One was mayoral candidate Jake Day, who has no one on the ballot against him, and the other was Muir Boda.

He had a well-stocked table, but then Muir’s been a Third Friday fan for a long time.

One element which contributes to its success is the music. This month The Larks were playing on the Plaza.

That photo came out pretty well for being taken in the twilight. The earlier sunset made the event finish after dark.

And as it was winding down, it was plain to see that a block of Division Street was one giant sidewalk chalk canvas. They probably had 200 boxes scattered around Third Friday; fortunately, there’s not much chance of rain although there is a 100% chance of traffic rolling over the colorful street.

Tonight was the second-to-last outdoor Third Friday of the year, although there will be outdoor events associated with it from time to time over the winter months. Throughout this year, it seems the crowds have been excellent and the city is trying to expand on the success with First Saturday and the trolley between Salisbury University and downtown which runs on weekend nights.

With all that is going on this weekend around the region, Third Friday seems to be holding its own. Salisbury’s had its share of bad news over the last decade, but this golden goose continues to produce each warm-weather month.

Tales of a community barbecue

August 30, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2015 - Salisbury, Delmarva items, Politics · Comments Off on Tales of a community barbecue 

Yesterday was a pleasant day for a barbecue, and as it turned out City Council candidate Muir Boda had one. In the space of a half-hour Doverdale Park went from abandoned to buzzing with activity – and I’m not just talking about other candidates who dropped by to engage with that working-class neighborhood. Once the DJ got going, people began to show.

Boda is running in City Council District 2, but as the map is drawn many areas are a short walk from the adjacent District 4. It is the district where outgoing Mayor Jim Ireton is running for City Council, but opponent Roger Mazzullo was there meeting and greeting voters. Doverdale Park is actually in that district, with Boda’s on the other side of Decatur Street.

Mazzullo had a table full of items with his name on them, but very little further information. This display was there for the cuteness factor.

In talking to Roger, I gathered his concern was economic development and jobs, as both he and his wife operate businesses. Ironically, both do most of their business outside Salisbury on a regional and national level.

As the event went on, I noticed there were three types of people. Some came for the free food and left, while the kids naturally ate and drank while playing basketball or riding their bikes. But a select few stayed and chatted with others there in the park’s modest picnic pavilion.

Those who did stick around found a number of fellow City Council candidates and others who wanted to hear this neighborhood’s concerns. Boda and Muzzullo stuck around for the whole thing, but Delegate Carl Anderton was there as were April Jackson from District 1 and Laura Mitchell from District 5. Barring a write-in campaign, she is unopposed for re-election but was there for a good hour or so hearing from folks.

I’m not a great judge of crowds, but I would guess 75 to 100 people came by. Of course, not all of them were voters – and in hindsight, speaking as a Central Committee member, there should have been someone to register voters there – but it created a good impression and Boda has to because he lives just down the street from there. So those are his neighbors he hosted.

While we contemplate how many billions – yes, billions with a “b” – the Presidential candidates will spend on mass media, it’s nice to get a reminder that Tip O’Neill’s adage that “all politics is local” still rings true.

An anticlimactic November

August 19, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2015 - Salisbury, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on An anticlimactic November 

One reason the Salisbury city elections were changed beginning this year was the abysmal turnout they usually had in the spring. Sadly, turnout will likely be lower still thanks to the lack of a mayor’s race. The deadline came and went today and Jake Day is the only candidate who filed for mayor.

Voters in District 5, on the city’s far east side, will have even less reason to show up because incumbent Council member Laura Mitchell was the only one bothering to run in her district.

On the other hand, there are old-fashioned shootouts in the other four Council districts. Two incumbents lumped together in District 3 will tangle as both Tim Spies, who won in his second try in 2011, and 2014 appointee Jack Heath will both battle for that seat along with Kevin Lindsay, who was one of 11 unsuccessful applicants to succeed Terry Cohen when she resigned last year – it was the seat Heath won appointment to. It’s a district that takes in the Camden neighborhood by Salisbury University and hops across the Wicomico River to take in areas along Pemberton Drive.

There are two others who tried for the Cohen chair that are running for election this year: Sarah Halcott in District 1 and Muir Boda in District 2. Halcott faces two foes who are familiar with each other: incumbent Shanie Shields and 2013 opponent April Jackson in this inner-city and near west side district. Boda, who is in a district with no incumbent, has three fellow challengers in Keyvan Aarabi, Marvin Ames, and Justin Gregoli. Ames ran for the District 1 County Council seat last year but lost in the Democratic primary. District 2 covers the close-in neighborhoods on the north and east sides of Salisbury (and is my home district.)

Instead of running again for mayor, Jim Ireton opted to run for City Council in District 4. He will face two others vying for the seat: Kenneth Vickers III and Roger Mazzullo. That district is perhaps the largest in geography as it takes in most of the commercial center along the northern fringes of town before veering toward downtown Salisbury.

And downtown will have a friend in Day, who has to be pinching himself and wondering how he was fortunate enough not to have an opponent in his run for mayor. It’s very possible, though, that he may just switch roles with Ireton as he would likely seek to be Council president after being put on the Council as Day did after the 2013 election. (Ireton has served on City Council before, though. He was on it for about a year before leaving – as the story goes it was to take a job out of town.)

With no incumbent in District 2, that will be an interesting race as the victor may be the only newcomer to city government. Boda has run for City Council twice before, losing to incumbent Debbie Campbell in 2009 and finishing fourth behind Mitchell, Cohen, and Spies in 2011.

Out of the 16 total candidates, there are six incumbents (one by appointment), four who have sought election at least once before and lost (including the appointee), four who tried for appointment (one apiece being also in the previous two categories), and five who are apparently political neophytes. Some have steeper learning curves than others.

Interestingly to me, the lack of a primary election means financial disclosure statements will not be due until a week before the election – so no one will know just how the money supply is for candidates until the last minute. (Had the primary remained in place, it would have been held in early September for voters in all but District 5 as the three or four candidates otherwise would have been whittled down to two in each race.) One can ask the legitimate question of who, if anyone, Jake Day will ask his donors to give to now that he is in the clear. (They can also ask about Laura Mitchell.) As two incumbents who got a free ride, their backing could make a difference.

So the first hurdle is crossed, eleven weeks before we actually vote. For a candidate, 77 days can seem like an eternity until they get to mid-October and wonder how they will get through the next few weeks with all they need to do. I look forward to hearing some new and good ideas for the city of Salisbury from this group.

The straight-ticket election

Most newspapers will use their Sunday edition before the election to either make the most key endorsement, such as for governor or president, or summarize their endorsements into a ballot guide for voters.

I’m not a newspaper, but I have a news source. And I’m urging you (all of you, including the ten friends you drag to the polls) to march right into that ballot box, look for every Republican name on it, and check that box right next to it – making sure, of course, that the ballot summary agrees with your steady diet of Republicans and doesn’t show a “calibration error.”

Let’s begin from the top. Does this state really need a third term of Martin O’Malley? Thought not.

I will grant that Larry Hogan wasn’t my first – or second – choice for the GOP nomination, but I also have to admit as well he has run about as good of a campaign as a Republican can run statewide in Maryland and picked up national attention for it. Yes, I would like him to be stronger on the Second Amendment and I cringed when I heard him say no to addressing social issues, but the overall electorate in this state is still conditioned to believe that there’s a right to privacy and gay marriage is no big deal. They need a little work yet. Let’s at least get someone who won’t be completely hostile to those interests like Anthony Brown would be.

(And yes, I hear the Libertarians caterwauling in the corner. When you get to double-digits with a candidate, we’ll talk.)

Actually, though, I must say some bloggers have a point about the Libertarian candidate for AG, Leo Dymowski. But the election is about more than the failed “war on drugs” – although I agree with that particular assessment, I would also like the AG to fight on other issues. Unfortunately, the late start Republican Jeffrey Pritzker got means the chances are good that we’ll have to endure four years of gun-grabbing Brian Frosh; however, every vote counts and stranger things have happened.

For 2018, though, I think a county-level State’s Attorney needs to make that step up. It’s something Matt Maciarello should consider.

And we have a more than qualified Comptroller candidate in William Campbell. My main mission in two festivals was, every time I came across a Maryland voter from outside our county, to push the candidacy of one Bill Campbell. Everyone knew who Larry Hogan was but not enough knew of this fine gentleman. If Maryland voters have a clue they will choose Campbell.

And then we have local races. Frankly, I’m not too worried about Andy Harris although it would be helpful for Sixth District voters to add Dan Bongino to the GOP roster at the federal level. But there’s a lot at stake on the General Assembly front.

Try as we might, we had to concede the District 37A seat for this term to Sheree Sample-Hughes. If she gets more than single digits on the monoblogue Accountability Project I will be shocked. Otherwise in District 37, you know its a conservative district when even one of the Democrats is running on a platform of lower taxes and less government. But why have conservative-lite when the real thing is attainable?

Even if we sweep those three District 37 seats, though, we don’t really gain anything because three of the four representatives are already Republican. But in District 38 we can reclaim the Senate seat lost in 2010 to a liberal Democrat and take over a seat in the House of Delegates to bring us closer to that magic number of 47, where, as I understand it, we can work around Democrat-controlled committees. (A Hogan win may make that necessary more often.) Aside from that splotch of blue in our county we can work on for 2018, I’d like the Eastern Shore painted red, gaining the one Senate seat and one House seat we can contribute to the GOP effort statewide.

And then we have Wicomico County, which needs a strong leader in Bob Culver. We’ve done eight years with the affable bureaucrat Rick Pollitt, but those eight years have seen our county backslide economically. We can blame the national economy to some extent, but other surrounding counties seem to be succeeding – so why haven’t we?

Unfortunately, the problem Culver has is that two of the Republicans who will likely be on County Council are already stabbing him in the back. With one Democrat assured of victory in Council District 1, it makes the County Council races very important. We know District 5’s Joe Holloway is a conservative who will win and Marc Kilmer in District 2 has an excellent chance to join him, but the John Cannon vs. Laura Mitchell race is a key along with Larry Dodd vs. Josh Hastings in District 3. Both Democrats are trying to convince voters they’ll be fiscal hawks, but don’t be fooled. We need the 6-1 Republican majority to have a potential 4-3 conservative majority behind Bob as he tries to right the ship. Finding good local candidates is a priority for 2018 as well.

As for the issues on the ballot, I’ve already urged a vote AGAINST Question 1 because it’s a weak excuse for a lockbox and Maryland taxpayers deserve better: send it packing and insist on a 3/4 majority provision to be voted on in 2016. On Question 2, I think on balance it’s a good idea but it will also demand vigilance, as Election Integrity Maryland’s Cathy Kelleher points out in a Sun editorial opposing the question.

Lastly, I must say this is the time for conservative voters to shine. The fact that early voting had as many Republicans as Democrats by percentage statewide and by raw numbers on the Lower Shore (despite a registration disadvantage of about 10 percent) indicates the GOP is more keenly interested in this election. But I want to run a few numbers, with the photo below telling the tale.

For this exercise, I used the voter proportions illustrated in the recent Gonzales Research poll, which is probably a fairly realistic model. I assumed undecided voters would remain in proportion with their trend (as opposed to breaking for the challenger) and left 1% for other candidates, write-ins, etc. (I also didn’t figure in the 50,000 or so registered to minor parties – if they vote they’ll not influence the result significantly.)

The sheet on the left is my calculations using a Bob Ehrlich Republican turnout from 2002, 68% of Republicans.

The sheet on the right is the same calculations for Democrats and the unaffiliated, but assuming a turnout like we saw in the Presidential election two years ago, when 78% of Republicans came out – even though Maryland was considered a lost cause for Mitt Romney.

Indeed, we turn from crushing disappointment to “winner, winner, chicken dinner” simply by getting an extra 1 in 10 Republicans to turn out.

If Republicans turned out like that for an election which was an almost foregone conclusion in this state, hopefully this simple calculation will provide the incentive to Maryland Republicans to come out in a gubernatorial election where they have a shot to sneak away with a close victory!

Early voting numbers were encouraging, but Tuesday it will be time to finish the job.

Update: Hey, I missed a key set of races. It’s not a partisan race, but M.J. Caldwell is a far more qualified jurist than the guy Martin O’Malley picked based on his last name. And speaking of O’Malley picks, there are two others on our ballot who we can remove from office and perhaps allow for the first crop of Larry Hogan appointees. So vote “no” on continuance in office for Kevin Arthur and Andrea Leahy.

CAR/Salisbury Independent forum part 1: Wicomico County offices

October 20, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, Radical Green, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on CAR/Salisbury Independent forum part 1: Wicomico County offices 

As I noted the other day when I broached the subject, more than a dozen candidates shared the stage for a forum sponsored in part by the Coastal Association of Realtors and the Salisbury Independent newspaper. In this first part, I’ll discuss some of what the county candidates said.

First, the contenders:

For County Executive, two-term incumbent Rick Pollitt faced off with challenger County Councilman Bob Culver. Pollitt was elected in 2006 as Wicomico County’s first County Executive and narrowly won re-election over Republican Joe Ollinger in 2010. Bob Culver lost in a three-way Republican primary in 2006 for County Executive to eventual nominee Ron Alessi and B.J. Corbin before rebounding to win an at-large County Council seat in 2010.

Culver’s seat is being sought by two who join Republican Matt Holloway in attempting to win one of the two at-large County Council posts. Holloway was elected to County Council in the same 2010 election that brought Culver back; ironically those seats opened up because the two incumbents decided not to continue. One of those two was John Cannon, who unsuccessfully ran for the General Assembly in 2010 after one term on the County Council from 2006-10. Now John seeks a return after a four-year hiatus, noting that being a Council member was his “lifeblood.”

The lone Democrat seeking one of the two at-large seats is current Salisbury City Council member Laura Mitchell. Mitchell has served on the City Council since being elected in 2011.

(While there are 7 contenders for the five district Council seats, the forum only covered the pair of countywide posts.)

In the County Executive race, the two contenders disagree on a lot but agree that they would have “stark contrasts” in their approaches to governing. For example, when asked what the most pressing issue was, Culver was blunt: it was the loss of jobs over the last 18 months. (In the July 2013-July 2014 period, BLS statistics show Wicomico County lost 429 jobs as its labor force fell by 649.)

On the other hand, Pollitt asserted we were still in a recession and pleaded that “we have to rebuild our community.” He went on to describe how the needed to “leverage assets” like Wallops Island, Virginia, the port of Salisbury, and the Salisbury-Wicomico Economic Development organization. It was part of a required overall strategy for the “new normal,” added Pollitt.

When it came to whether additional tax increases would be required, Pollitt pointed out that the property tax rates had to increase just to stay even – four cents of the five cent increase this year simply brought us back to constant yield, with the other penny being allowed under the revenue cap. Four of of six Republicans voted for this tax increase, which was the “only responsible thing” to do.

Culver wasn’t one of those Republicans, though. He contended the county needed to go back to zero-based budgeting and trim the fat one step at a time. “Right now the time is not for a tax increase,” said Bob. “We have to do it from a business aspect.”

Another bone of contention came in the question about how best to assist realtors. Culver argued that dropping the county’s impact fee had resulted in 54 new homes being built in Wicomico County, and pointed out that there was only 16% of the county’s land mass which could be developed and we had just 3 percent to go.

Pollitt shot back that the impact fee change was part of the overall budget Culver opposed, restated that government needs to provide services and reminded us that five of the seven Council members had been correct in voting for the budget.

Rick closed with a familiar theme of “building community,” noting as well his role as the Maryland Rural Counties Coalition legislative chair and in the Clean Chesapeake Coalition. The more plain-spoken Culver repeated his assertion that “I think Wicomico County government is broken.”

If you look at it stylistically, Pollitt is a sharper debater. But the approach he’s taken over the last few years has been pragmatic by circumstance rather than by choice. And since the zero-based budgeting Pollitt did as city manager of Fruitland and promised early on doesn’t appear to be the case now – because it’s a campaign issue – and he whined early on in his tenure about the voter-installed revenue cap,  one wonders what the budget and tax rate would be if not for the recession.

Rick Pollitt often talks about what he calls “quality of life” issues. But it has to be asked whether our quality of life is better when job numbers are going the wrong way.

The County Council members were asked a different set of questions. One of them was on how to take the good things happening in downtown Salisbury and jump start the area outside the metro core and the other dealt with thoughts on the comprehensive plan.

John Cannon got first shot at the former question, and he opened by praising the “refreshing” leadership of Salisbury City Council president Jake Day. But he believed the county had the responsibility to create its own environment for growth, and Cannon wanted to bring together the major players on a quarterly basis.

As far as tier maps went, John believed it was an argument of local vs. state control and was hoping for relief with the new administration, presumably a Larry Hogan one. He also advocated for enhanced transfer of development rights and perhaps even a wastewater treatment authority. He also noted that he had pushed for a reduction in impact fees six years ago when he was on County Council.

Matt Holloway outlined some of the accomplishments the county has achieved since he came on board: decoupling the personal property tax rate from the real property tax rate, phasing out the inventory tax, and making the manufacturer’s tax exemption automatic. He suggested a focus on public relations and enhancing our one-man economic development team.

Holloway also believed the comprehensive plan needed a “fresh set of eyes” with his goal being that of not impacting property values. But Matt cautioned that the state “has the trump card” under the law. They could help us with our septic issues, however.

Because she is on City Council, the initial question was right in Laura Mitchell’s wheelhouse: “That is why I’m running.” She wanted to translate Salisbury’s excitement to the county and talk about the positive things. She also thought the idea of an EDU bank, which allocates unused sewage capacity that developers donate back to the city, had merit on a countywide level.

Unfortunately, while it is “convoluted, to say the least,” Mitchell dropped the ball on even a rudimentary understanding of the tier maps. She advocated for infill development and sustainable growth, while addressing the double taxation and foreclosure issues in response to the realtors’ question.

Mitchell stressed her accounting background and budgeting experience as the key reasons to vote for her, portraying herself as sort of a budget nerd. But I found it interesting that the city budget had increased for three years in a row before finally declining this year. It’s still almost 7% higher than it was in FY2011, when she won election. (The first budget she would have approved would have been FY2012.)

And while you can’t expect expertise on every issue, her befuddlement on the tier maps was a bad sign.

It’s interesting that tier maps are an issue in this county, which now labors under the state’s default position that lots of any size can’t be subdivided into more than seven lots. Unfortunately, no county has found someone aggrieved enough by this terrible law that they could have standing to sue for the law’s nullification. (It’s doubtful the Democrats in the General Assembly would consider a repeal such as that tried in 2013.) Much as I’d love to force the state to pound sand, I’m not an injured party.

But there can be steps taken in the right direction. If we must have a tier map, the amount of land placed off-limits to development should be minimized because to do otherwise is an infringement on private property rights.

And while downtown development is indeed encouraging, the best way to replicate it isn’t to precisely duplicate it. While entertainment districts are nice, we need more industrial districts, more transportation hubs, and more encouragement of overall development. We shouldn’t shackle ourselves to one approach, either – if Chesapeake Shipbuilding, which isn’t exactly a glamorous company but a useful one that actually is seeking tradesmen, needs something to create another 150 jobs, that should take priority over yet another entertainment venue that may create 20 or 30.

Part 2 tomorrow will look at District 37 races.

Engaging the students

As they have in previous election cycles, the Salisbury University campus group PACE involved themselves with a candidate meet and greet this afternoon on the SU campus. While it looked somewhat modest at first glance, the event seemed to draw plenty of attention in the end.

With participation from both major parties, and plenty of pizza to go around, students had a golden opportunity to interact with those who may be representing them in local and state government. Sadly, there was a disappointing lack of participation on their end, even with plenty of voter registration cards and absentee ballot forms available.

(I don’t know what can be read into this, but the Republicans had large boxes of Pat’s Pizza while the Democrats chose a number of smaller boxes from Pizza Hut. Just in my personal opinion – big win for the GOP, because Pizza Hut has taken Domino’s old slot of “ketchup on cardboard.”)

There was no shortage of signs, that’s for sure.

Nor was there a shortage of candidates. In the hour I spent over there, I spied Republicans Carl Anderton Jr., Addie Eckardt, Bob Culver, John Cannon, Mary Beth Carozza, and Christopher Adams. Democrats outnumbered them slightly, with Rick Pollitt, Laura Mitchell, Norm Conway, Keasha Haythe, Chris Robinson, Judy Davis, and Jim Mathias representing their team.

Addie Eckardt was the subject of this WBOC interviewer, but there was also SU press there, too.

So participation was very good, particularly on the Delegate level. One thing I like about this type of event is that I get to say hello to my friends across the aisle, so I spoke at some length to Rick Pollitt and Laura Mitchell, and got to meet Judy Davis, who I’d not met before. Of course, I spoke to a number of the Republicans, too.

In terms of generating awareness on campus, I’m hoping this was a success. I noticed a lot of people walking by somewhat oblivious to the scene, which is a shame. Thinking back to my days on campus, though, I was somewhat apolitical although I voted in every election – but I don’t recall having an opportunity such as this to connect with my state representatives when I was an undergrad at Miami. PACE should be commended for putting this event together, even with somewhat short notice.

Posing as the saviors

Perhaps it’s a case of sour grapes because he wasn’t asked to the photo-op and his opponent was, but Mike McDermott makes the case that the three politicians plastered across a recent edition of the Daily Times are “posers” in more ways than one.

Here’s a little of what McDermott had to say:

What is disturbing is when politicians stand up in front of the public, hold up those giant prop checks, and, in turn, hand them over to a local group or official as if it came out of their personal bank account. This is the great ruse of politicians and it is all done with (other people’s money.)

US Senator Ben Cardin poses with a Cheshire Cat grin holding a “check” signed by “U.S. Treasury” and takes a bow for a runway project that is simply part of ongoing improvements and upgrades at an airport that we pay for! To add more irony to the mix, Cardin and Jim Mathias pose with the check standing with a US Airways Turboprop in the background. After all, it is that private sector company (US Airways) who pays fees and taxes along with every passenger who flies in and out of the SBY terminal that have foot the bill for that runway. Heck, we even pay for the politician’s flights when they use the runway!

Taking credit is what politicians do best. Especially in an election year. Are we to believe that a state senator holds sway over the Federal government? No way! However, as a means of political control and illusion, whenever the Democrat power brokers show up with one of those checks they wrote on our account, they always put their arm around their local democrat politicians and infer that they had something to do with it. We saw the same thing in Crisfield following the devastation of Sandy. Frankly, it is shameless.

It is no different with school construction allocations or highway money; all of these things are projects on a list that are placed on a timeline. When their turn comes up, we will hear how hard the politician worked to aid in the process, but it is all just smoke and mirrors.

Ben Cardin and Jim Mathias had little to do with the decision to improve upon a runway at SBY. They simply acted as government couriers. After all, when someone sends you a beautiful bouquet of flowers, do you fall all over yourself thanking the delivery person from the florist for the thoughtful gift?

After reading the Daily Times report from Phil Davis, one thing jumped out at me:

Federal aviation inspectors have encouraged the airport to apply for the grant to renovate the runway for the past seven years, said Bryant, as the airport has been written up in each of those seven years for “maintenance issues” with the runway.

So they have known this is a problem with the “alternate” runway – the one which runs more north to south – since 2007, which rather neatly coincides with the tenure of office of both Cardin and Mathias. One would think if these officeholders had so much pull that this would have been addressed several years ago, rather than the airport be written up for seven straight years. Maybe now the airport won’t lose money as it has this year, with just under $1.13 million in revenues reported for the first eleven months of FY2014 vs. just over $917,000 in revenue. It still needs a lot of work.

In all honesty, it doesn’t matter about the particular project – what does matter is that Jim Mathias and Laura Mitchell received some media attention for something they had little to do with, but looks good for campaign literature.

And that’s the problem with a lot of our politicians. They participate in the photo-op, ribbon-cutting, or groundbreaking which implies that they actually had something to do with the new enterprise, but in reality it’s often the capitalist who’s either risking their own wealth or having it taken from them to pay for the project. That’s not to say this airport runway improvement won’t do the area good, but McDermott’s point that it’s really the private sector who is paying the freight (with only a select few getting the benefit) is a valid one. Moreover, one has to ask how many other public facilities elsewhere benefited from our money because their representatives had more pull.

It’s a question of priorities, and for those in the photo-op it appears their priority is maintaining their elected position. We can do better.

Cohen out, so who will be in?

August 6, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Politics · 3 Comments 

It came as a surprise to many that Salisbury City Council member Terry Cohen resigned with a little over a year left on her term. Citing her family’s “major life changes” she’s resigning as of August 8.

Cohen was originally elected as part of a reform-minded slate in 2007, and found a natural ally in then-Council member Debbie Campbell. And while those who advocated for reform eventually turned on Louise Smith, who was one of the two new Council members elected in 2007, the real change in Salisbury came when current Mayor Jim Ireton was elected in 2009. Campbell and Cohen became more reviled as the obstacles to Ireton’s agenda, eventually leading to Campbell’s defeat by Jake Day in 2013 as well as Cohen’s removal as City Council president, where she served from 2011-13, to be replaced by the newcomer Day.

Of course, the blogs which focus more on local politics are already aflame with comments and suggestions for a replacement for Cohen, with the situation further complicated by Day’s required military reserve service occurring this week – however, they have until September 5 to name a replacement and they’ll begin accepting applications Monday. That replacement will have just 15 months to serve out Cohen’s term before he or she stands for election, if desired.

Two of the names most bandied about to fill Cohen’s seat are Josh Hastings and Muir Boda. As most locals know, Hastings is already running for a County Council District 3 seat as the Democratic nominee while Boda ran at-large and finished third in the Republican primary behind Matt Holloway and John Cannon – respectively, present and former County Council members. There are others who are being mentioned, mainly on the Democratic side, so the obvious question is whether the Democratic-dominated City Council will stay loyal to party or not.

Yet what do I always hear from Democrats when the Republicans are in charge – we need to have bipartisan consensus, they say. Well, here’s an opportunity to put their money where their mouth is and select the best candidate out there. (Worth noting: the city elections are non-partisan.)

I believe in having everyone at the table.  All are stakeholders in this city whether you are a homeowner or business owner, landlord or renter, employer or employee, you have a right to be heard.  We all have a stake in this community and passing it on to the next generation better than we received it is not just the right thing to do, it is our duty.

Join me as we bring forth a positive message of healing, reaching out to our neighborhoods that are disenfranchised and opening up our doors for business.  We have so much work to do and it is going to take all of us putting aside our differences to do what is best for Salisbury.

These were Muir Boda’s words in 2011, just before the general election where he finished fourth – it was the same election where Terry Cohen retained the seat she’s vacating, along with Laura Mitchell and Tim Spies. For the most part, the message rings true still today.

As the city moves into a phase where the downtown may be revitalized, I want to make sure that’s not at the expense of the neighborhoods. As a homeowner in one of the city’s most transient neighborhoods – most homes on his block are rentals – Muir has an interest in maintaining the sometimes-neglected corners of the city. I think he would be a fine choice for this sudden vacancy.

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