A few convention thoughts

For those who don’t know, the Maryland Republican Party had its convention “downy ocean” on Friday and Saturday.

They certainly can go upscale now that we occupy the governor’s office.

Doesn’t seem that long ago we couldn’t scrape up convention sponsors, let alone “Governor’s Circle” or “Chairman’s Circle.”

Since I didn’t have a proxy, nor could I attend anyway because I had work to do for a new employer, I decided to do the Friday night drop-in. To allocate a couple lines from an old Bob Seger song: “I headed east because I felt the change would do me good – see some old friends, good for the soul.”

Unfortunately, poolside at the Princess Royale isn’t great for photos. But truth be told, I wasn’t much into documenting the night anyway. I was having too much fun chatting up folks like my old “partner in crime” Heather Olsen, being a radio guest for Ryan Miner, and talking shop with some others. I did take a few various shots with the cell phone, but they don’t rise to the level of worth commenting on because most are dark or somewhat tiresome.

But I did receive some flak from on high about the piece I wrote Friday, being scolded because I didn’t know the whole story. Yet this bears one question: what would Joe Burns – or those four members of the Carroll County RCC who opposed the change to submitting multiple names – gain from lying or embellishing the truth? Conversely, if they are right, what does the “good old boy establishment” wing of the MDGOP lose? The ability for cronyism at will?

There’s no doubt that Joe’s idea of a properly working MDGOP is different than that of the leadership, and it’s probably a far cry than mine. But it’s my understanding that Diana Waterman chose to address this at the very end of the convention, after the expected move by the Resolutions Committee to not report any resolutions out. Been there, done that. As always, we have plenty of time for rehashes of what’s going on with the various party leaders, but not enough time to put some simmering issues to rest. I’d love to have some input from those on Resolutions to know why nothing made the cut.

Going forward, though, this is something which needs clarity. Either we allow the governor to have his way simply because he has an “R” behind his name or we have consistency in rules. After all, there was no do-over on any of the other General Assembly nominees.

One other thought I had, thanks to the presence of Don Murphy, was his belief that “you must be present to win.” Where was everyone who is considering a 2016 U.S. Senate bid? Besides Andy Harris, who had a hospitality suite upstairs, away from the pool, I wasn’t aware anyone else hosted a suite. Perhaps they were on the downlow, but now that session is over you would think we would have some movement. We already know a couple of the players lined up on the other side.

From what I heard, the party will be back in Annapolis┬áSolomons this fall so I’m sure all those Senate hopefuls will be out of the woodwork by then – along with the umpteen GOP presidential hopefuls (more specifically, their Maryland proxies.) Hopefully we can be arguing over the merits of Dan Bongino vs. Andy Harris vs. Laura Neuman for Senate and all those who wish to clean up Barack Obama’s disaster because we will have some resolution and direction on the subjects currently at hand.

And who knows? I might just get a proxy for that one, or I might not. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon for all but two things: working (which is what I did) or arguing politics. I only missed it a little bit, which isn’t bad considering.

It might be a good idea this fall, though, to bump the Resolutions Committee report to the front of the agenda – and bring some popcorn.

2013 Maryland GOP Fall Convention in pictures and text

I think I can get all this in one part. To be quite honest, this convention didn’t match the buildup.

It was sort of strange. I noted earlier in the week that the whole Lollar controversy in the blogosphere overshadowed the months-long debate over the open primary question, and then the prospect of a Larry Hogan gubernatorial announcement upstaged several other events.

These were the scenes around the main ballroom on Friday night after arrival.

There was no doubt that they were proud of their achievements.

And something tells me that most of these stickers were gone by the end of the night.

The Change Maryland party even had a live band, called the Great Escape Band. I noted on Facebook that may be something subliminal if Larry doesn’t win.

Aside from one song they sort of butchered up in my line of thinking, the band was really pretty good. They also reinforced my belief that there’s not a band which doesn’t know ‘Mustang Sally.’ Although he actually didn’t write the song Wilson Pickett must be proud, wherever he is.

But when they took their break, the real rock star came into the room.

What I have found interesting in looking back and listening again to what Larry said is that my interpretation is much different than what Larry presented to other outlets.

This, which I transcribed from the remarks he presented, is part of what Larry Hogan said last night:

Now everyone who knows me knows that I love this state, I hate to let people down, and that I’ve never walked away from a tough fight.

I’m not a professional politician – I’m just a businessman – but I don’t think that you need to be campaigning all throughout 2013 for an election that takes place at the end of 2014. But, you know, we are getting pretty close to the end of the year.

I promised my wife and family that I would spend a little quality time with them over the holidays, and I’m looking forward to that.

And as you may know I founded and run a group of companies that has brought hundreds of businesses and thousands of jobs to Maryland, and I promised the employees and my colleagues that I would stay at the helm and continue to work hard with them to try to have a strong finish to the calendar year.

So there won’t be a formal announcement or an official launch until January, but tonight – tonight I wanted to be very clear about our intentions.

I happen to believe very strongly that the people of Maryland simply cannot afford another four years of O’Malley/Brown/Gansler tax and spend policies.

Hogan went on to say, “This isn’t a fight between right and left, it’s a fight between right and wrong.

I honestly believe people went in there expecting Larry to make the formal announcement last night, so once he made his remarks a good percentage of the people left his party.

Of course, Hogan’s wasn’t the only party. Before I stopped by the Change Maryland event, I dropped in to Ron George’s suite which featured this.

I had one other photo which, alas, didn’t come out. Ron actually had a pretty lively thing going early on.

Just downstairs from Ron was David Craig’s suite. The candidate wasn’t there because he was at the RGA meeting in Arizona, but David had a lovely second-in-command to take his place.

LG hopeful Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio held down the fort. It’s worth noting they had pretty good traffic.

They also have a slew of printed material. I suppose you can cut out the Craig part if you really share the sentiment.

Instead of a suite, fellow candidate Charles Lollar (who was also in Arizona at the RGA) had a lobby table.

On the table, among the other handouts, was a letter explaining his absence, which read in part:

Unfortunately, this means I will miss the opportunity on Friday evening to meet with you, answer your questions, and tour the hospitality suites, but I look forward to joining everyone on Saturday to share my plans for returning prosperity to Maryland.

One place Charles may have found himself welcome was the Maryland Liberty PAC suite, which was all by itself on the other end of the building. Despite that, they had a lively group.

Alas, I think I missed this presentation.

The other suites were county suites from Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties. This photo was of the Anne Arundel suite, which by the way had the best food.

But it seemed like a lot of the air was sucked out of the celebrations early, with most of the parties finished before the clock struck 12. That’s when I took to Facebook and wrote:

So my thoughts on day 1 as I head to bed:

I’m sure I’m not the only one scratching my head over Larry Hogan and his decision to wait to announce his intentions until January. The chatter around the convention seemed, well, less than positive. He had 1,000 supporters in a festive mood and plenty of press only to cite family and business as reason to wait.

There were a number of good parties about, though, and I renewed acquaintances with a number of friends and fans. But pardon me if tomorrow seems a little less exciting.

I think I’ll have some more thoughts on all this tomorrow, but allow me to move on. They probably won’t be in line with the thoughts of these gentlemen: from left to right, Jeff Quinton of The Quinton Report and Greg Kline, Mark Newgent, and Andrew Langer of the Red Maryland Network.

And no, I was not on their show last night. Wasn’t sought out and didn’t seek them out – gave some others a chance.

This is what I saw looking out the window this morning.

So when I woke up, I was at least expecting to deal with this lengthy issue regarding open primaries – finally, a chance to decide. Wrong!

I suppose I should back up and point out that I did not cover the Friday evening Executive Committee meeting as I usually do. There were a couple reasons for this, but the primary one is that I was the escort for a good friend of mine who was the lucky recipient of my second Change Maryland ticket. But had I done so I may have found out that open primaries wouldn’t be discussed. Nor did I do breakfast this time, because the speaker didn’t appeal to me.

So the first (and only) Saturday event I attended was our combination lunch and session.

Let me say that I thought having the lunch and session as we did was a splendid idea, with the key reasons being we didn’t have to get settled in after lunch in a different venue and the fact we could sit at tables – no more balancing my note pad on my lap.

First we heard welcoming remarks by Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman.

Yes, the photo is dark. But Laura had an intriguing story of being an MBA without being a high school graduate. Her remarks reflected a philosophy which said “over and over, if I worked hard, opportunity would be available to me.”

“My story could only happen in this country,” she added. “That’s why I’m a Republican.” She expressed the belief that hard work should equal opportunity.

Our luncheon speakers both came from the RNC.

Kristal Quarker-Hartsfield is the director of African-American Initiatives whose family “has been Republican since Reconstruction.” Her task was to spread the Republican message to areas not typically reached by the party, including black churches, historically black colleges and universities, and so forth. She added that Reince Priebus was “serious about going into these communities and doing things the right way.”

Meanwhile, Stephen Fong noted there’s “a good mix of people” here, and talked about the GOP’s renewed emphasis on minority communities. He made the case that many blacks would “consider” voting Republican if we were “just showing up.”

There was a buzz about the next speaker as well.

Described by Chair Diana Waterman as the future of the party, Annapolis Mayor-elect Mike Pantelides briefly outlined some of his secrets to success, particularly in social media. (The Twitter debate seems like a good way to promote brevity of remarks.)

With that out of the way, we rolled through some convention business so routine I snapped this on the Allegany County sign.

I guess the one interesting part was the complaint that the minutes didn’t reflect a resolution which was on the spring agenda but not brought up – the Tari Moore resolution tabled a year ago. But parliamentary procedure showed it was dead once the gavel fell in April.

So we moved on to State Senator David Brinkley’s report on the Senate, where we have a “tremendous field of candidates.” He made sure to mention that if Anthony Brown thought he’d have a coronation, he should have a cup of coffee with Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

Brinkley bemoaned the economic state of the state, making the case that job creators are “voting with their feet” and “anyplace south of the Potomac is friendlier (to business) than Maryland.” If we want more manufacturing jobs, Brinkley added, “right-to-work has to be one of the conversations.”

Overall, David believed that “even the Democrats are disgusted with the games and gamesmanship.” All we need are candidates who are conversant with the issues.

On the House side, Delegate Kathy Szeliga was kind enough to pass out her report, which highlighted many of the measures to be considered in next year’s session. It’s a list which includes tax cuts, a repeal of the “rain tax” and Common Core, protecting charter schools and creating a voucher system, and modifications to the gun bill.

Moving into the Chair’s Report, Diana Waterman exhorted us to “take advantage of all the opportunities our liberal Democrats gave us.” She also pushed an initiative called the Old Line Club, which was a monthly fundraising of $8 or more a month, automatically deducted.

But I found the Executive Director’s Report from Joe Cluster made me sit up and take notice: county-by-county goals. Even the Republican strongholds of Carroll and Garrett counties had marching orders: hold what you have and help other counties out.

Nicolee Ambrose, in her National Committeewoman’s Report, touted the successes of the Super Saturday program in Annapolis and Frederick. It also served as a good test market for issue advocacy, and next year the program will be expanded and divided into pre-primary and post-primary positions.

She also related the success of 3-part fundraisers like the Allen West event in Prince George’s County as a model for others to follow.

On a national scale, Nicolee spoke on IT improvements the party was undertaking as well as the winter RNC meeting in Virginia.

As is often the case, National Committeeman Louis Pope was optimistic: “We’re going to have a phenomenal year in 2014,” he predicted. He shared good news on the financial front and on how the party was working on regaining its technological advantage. Moreover, Obama’s “Teflon-coated presidency is coming to an end,” said Louis.

Pope also spoke on Maryland, calling the state one with a “very angry electorate” and “very energized (GOP) base.”

Finally we made it to resolutions. Two of them made it out of committee and two didn’t.

The ones which were presented to the floor came from John Fiastro, Jr. and Dave Myers.

You could call Fiastro’s resolution the Don Dwyer resolution, since it seemed tailored with his situation in mind. But Delegate Michael Smigiel, who was carrying a proxy, spoke up and called it “too broad.” An amendment to allow for acts of civil disobedience to address Smigiel’s concerns failed on a voice vote when Smigiel noted “there’s not enough lipstick to put on this pig.”

Once the question was called, the Fiastro motion failed by a large margin, over 75 percent voting against.

The other resolution was one which called on the party to stop sending “mixed messages” and integrate the pro-liberty community. It lost on a voice vote, even after the “mixed message” portion was excised. But Diana Waterman promised to create an advisory committee to hear the diverse portions of the party after the first of the year. So we’ll see.

Certainly the Maryland Liberty PAC and other groups will be watching.

There was an attempt to get one other resolution to the floor concerning the Frederick robocall, which had some support. But more people wanted to adjourn, which was the motion presented by Nick Panuzio of Talbot County. He’s good at that. (Update: I’m told by Denise Lovelady of Talbot that it actually was Josh Horner who motioned to adjourn, but I heard the motion credited to Nick by the Chair. So let’s say Talbot County is good at that.)

Upon driving home, though, the four of us who traveled together saw perhaps the prettiest sunset we’d seen in quite some time, so I’m going to take it as a divine sign we did something right even if it wasn’t expected.

Radio days volume 19

It was a whirlwind week for me in terms of radio appearances. First I was invited to do a segment on “Watchdog Wire Radio” which aired on Friday night regarding my recent release of the monoblogue Accountability Project. I was thrilled to give my baby a little more exposure, as I think it should be required reading for all Marylanders considering going to the polls.

So on Tuesday morning I was invited to record my segment, which we finally got to do Thursday night. (“Watchdog Wire Radio” is apparently one of at least two shows taped beforehand for later broadcast.)

Oddly enough, by that point I had already done an interview with Brian Griffiths, who conducted a number of interviews at the Tawes event. Mine was one of a number that happened to air on the Red Maryland Network’s Saturday “Election Focus” hour, joining the likes of gubernatorial candidates David Craig and Ron George, among others. I believe mine was the first one Brian did, since he was using me to check his levels and such. No biggie, someone has to do it.

So allow me to discuss the actual shows, “Watchdog Wire” first. The thing which sticks out at me about doing “Watchdog Wire Radio” is that I need to either sit closer to my computer or play around with the recording volume a little bit. Mark does his interviews via Skype, and while I’ve worked with it before I’d always done it on my desktop computer. It’s a little different on my laptop, which has a built-in camera and microphone (although I didn’t need the camera.) So maybe I need to lean into it.

As for the content, I was pretty pleased with how it went initially, although I think I bogged down a little bit talking about the accolades and admonishments. It shocked me, though, that I had the entire first half of the 50-minute show. Obviously host Mark Newgent came prepared with a lot of questions for me, but I didn’t think I had that lengthy of a segment. This is particularly true when I was one of four pieces.

There were a couple of things I could have kicked myself for. One is that I didn’t explain the point system and the reason 25 votes is easy math – each correct vote is four points. I also have deductions of 1 to 6 points for absences, not voting while present, and changing a vote to incorrect (which is possible in the House, as is the half-credit I give for switching to the correct side.)

The second is not being able to navigate through it as quickly as I should have. I knew exactly the bill I was referring to for Delegate Norman, but couldn’t locate the title. Obviously there’s much more to the mAP than just the votes and accolades, as I try to give a reason why I would or wouldn’t support a bill. We also didn’t get into the committee votes, which I suppose is just as well because you should always leave an audience wanting more.

Well, they got more on Saturday night, right off the bat. The first ten minutes or so of “Election Focus” was my interview at Tawes. This made sense because, as I noted above, I was first out of the chute. Given the roster of guests I don’t mind being an opening act.

Once I got used to Brian Griffiths’ rapid-fire delivery and got into the flow of things, I think I did all right (except for not recalling Laura Neuman’s name.) Listening to the rest of the interviews, I noticed Brian is that way with most of them. On the other hand, you can tell I’m from the Midwest because I speak more slowly.

And because I was sort of the “home team” for this effort – and they knew I’d done several recaps of Tawes – I enjoyed giving the lowdown on the local scene around the lower Eastern Shore. Perhaps I was a little tongue-tied speaking about the second bananas on the Republican ticket, but I think I have a pretty good idea of what’s going on around here.

Overall, “Election Focus” seems to be an interesting show for Marylanders to get to hear from a number of candidates from top to bottom on the ballot. (It will be better when it’s not “300 degrees,” apparently.) With about 48 weeks or so until the primary, there’s a lot of airtime to fill. I was happy to do my little part.