Earning my presidential vote: social issues

The next step in my journey to determining my vote is a discussion of those dreaded social issues; you know, the ones that a group in the Republican Party keep trying to sweep under the rug because they fret about losing moderate voters. Well, if voters are moderate they are most likely going to vote for Democrats anyway because to be moderate is to be unprincipled – and Democrats seem to lack principle except in one instance: acquiring political power at the expense of liberty.

(By the way, if you are joining me here, this is the fourth part of the series. You’d be well-served to work through from the first part. I can wait.)

So here are the parameters I’m looking for, in five or fewer bullet points:

  • Abortion should not be the law of the land despite what the Supreme Court says – a proper reading of the Constitution would maintain states retain the right to restrict it as they wish. The next President should work to overturn the incorrectly decided Roe v. Wade decision, which hopefully will be looked at by future generations with the disdain the Dred Scott decision is today. No funding for Planned Parenthood and preservation of the Hyde Amendment. Taxpayers shouldn’t pay for abortions, nor should insurers be compelled to cover them.
  • The same goes for so-called same-sex “marriage.” I’m fine with the legality of civil unions, but once again the SCOTUS whiffed on Obergefell. It’s properly a state-level issue, too.
  • By the same token, religious conscience should be protected. Just because 2 Timothy 3:12 advises Christians that they will face persecution doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a President who fights on our side.
  • Guys use the guys room, ladies use the ladies. God gave us a particular set of plumbing and that should be the guide. However, I will say that a truly transgender person really isn’t the problem because they have to use a private stall wherever they go – so no one would ever really know. Maybe “don’t ask, don’t tell” should be the guide for that group.
  • I don’t have a problem with a state legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana. It’s their right.

This category is worth eight points – not quite to the deal-breaker stage yet, but it may begin to separate the field. And no apologies.

Castle: “Well, I’m a Christian, so I’m opposed to (same-sex ‘marriage.’) I don’t think it exists, because it violates God’s law. But as president, I don’t think it’s any of government’s business. I want to see the government out of the marriage business altogether.”

As for same sex marriage, I have said that I do not believe in it or that it even exists. If I were President and two members of the same sex came to me and said we’re married and here’s a priest, a minister, and a civil magistrate who will attest to that, I would say you are not married because God defines marriage quite clearly in his holy word and you do not meet that definition. However, as President it is irrelevant to me because your relationship is none of my business. It is an abuse of political power to require people to buy a license from the government for permission to engage in whatever relationship they choose. Since there would be no governmental financial advantage to this relationship it is not a governmental concern. (interview with Peter Gemma)

Gender-neutral bathrooms “violate every sense of privacy and decency.”

“Unlike Hillary Clinton who recently said, ‘unborn persons have no constitutional rights’, I know that all ‘persons’ have the right to life and both the 5th and 14th amendments confirm that position. I also know, as does Mrs. Clinton in the deep recesses of her heart, that those waiting in their mother’s womb to be born are in fact persons.

There are many things that a Constitutional President could do about abortion but I will give you a couple.

1. Veto and refuse to spend every penny of funding for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.

2. Recommend to Congress, and work to convince Congress, to take away the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction over such matters.”

Would not prosecute mothers who abort child, but would prosecute the abortionists.

Would not tell a baker to bake a cake for a same-sex ceremony if their views conflict. (Iron Sharpens Iron radio show)

Hedges: Those who distribute alcohol/drugs should be responsible for effects on those served (dram shop laws). But don’t prosecute individual drug users. Would allow medical marijuana, although many party members would disagree.

A prohibition on gambling, including state lotteries as they are a regressive tax.

Not all religions should be equally prohibited. ACLU is backward: U.S. is nation of all religions, not no religion.

Family is basis for society.

“I believe all lives matter.” Abortions since 1973 are “absolute travesty.” (VP candidate Bill Bayes)

“We deplore the recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court on same-sex marriage as an abomination to God. We call for a constitutional amendment, which shall read as follows: ‘Marriage is, historically, an Institution and Sacrament of the Church. Only the Church shall decide what qualifies as a ‘marriage.’ For the purpose of two individuals who need only legal protection, such as for inheritance and for power of attorney one for the other, the state may license Civil Unions.’” (party platform)

Voluntary prayer and other religious activities shall not be prohibited in schools and public spaces. (party platform)

“We consider abortion to be morally repugnant. We will implement policies to minimize the number of abortions without infringing on the doctor/patient relationship and without thrusting government into family decisions about child rearing. Abortion procedures should not be funded by government.” (party platform)

Hoefling: (T)he God-given, unalienable right to life of every innocent person, from biological inception or creation to natural death, be protected everywhere within every state, territory and jurisdiction of the United States of America; that every officer of the judicial, legislative and executive departments, at every level and in every branch, is required to use all lawful means to protect every innocent life within their jurisdictions; and that we will henceforth deem failure to carry out this supreme sworn duty to be cause for removal from public office via impeachment or recall, or by statutory or electoral means, notwithstanding any law passed by any legislative body within the United States, or the decision of any court, or the decree of any executive officer, at any level of governance, to the contrary. (party platform)

We seek the passage of a Federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and oppose all attempts everywhere to redefine marriage as being anything but what it has always been: the union of one man and one woman. Since the natural family is the basic God-given institution of our civilization, and the nursery of our future, it must be protected from all who would destroy it. (party platform)

Johnson: Protect Religious Freedom. Enforce Common Sense Non-discrimiation Laws.

Gov. Gary Johnson will zealously defend the Constitution of the United States and all of its amendments, including religious freedom. The right to practice one’s religion is a fundamental part of being an American and must be preserved. Johnson personally credits his own religious upbringing as a Lutheran in the definition of his own beliefs and character.

Yet there have been times in our history when religion has been invoked to justify serious harm. In years past, opponents of interracial marriage, desegregation and other efforts to protect civil rights have too often cited scripture and religion in making their arguments.

To be blunt, certain politicians have twisted religious liberty and used it as a tool to discriminate. That’s just wrong, and the overwhelming majority of religious leaders agree.

Gary Johnson believes we can, and must, strike a balance between our shared American values of religious liberty and freedom from discrimination. Today, in some states, politically-driven legislation which claims to promote religious liberty but instead rolls back the legal protections held by LGBT Americans is failing that test of balance.

When it comes to civil rights and the rights of the LGBT community, states are best served when they take an inclusive approach of “fairness to all.”

Conversely, divisive and thinly-veiled legislation clearly aimed at LGBT individuals serves no one, and is not the American way.

One state who “got it right” is Utah. In a compromise worked out among religious leaders, lawmakers and members of the LGBT community, Utah enacted a law making clear that discrimination in employment, housing, and government services is illegal. At the same time, the law granted common sense protections to insure that the legitimate First Amendment rights of individuals and religious organizations cannot be put at risk.

In short, Utah found a way to protect religious freedom without creating a “right to discriminate”.

America is big enough to accommodate differences of opinion and practice in religious and social beliefs. As a nation and as a society, we must reject discrimination, forcefully and without asterisks while at the same time we must protect our important religious freedoms. (campaign website)

Appreciate Life. Respect Choice. Stay Out of Personal Decisions.

Gary Johnson has the utmost respect for the deeply-held convictions of those on both sides of the abortion issue. It is an intensely personal question, and one that government is ill-equipped to answer.

On a personal level, Gary Johnson believes in the sanctity of the life of the unborn. As Governor, he supported efforts to ban late-term abortions.

However, Gov. Johnson recognizes that the right of a woman to choose is the law of the land, and has been for several decades. That right must be respected and despite his personal aversion to abortion, he believes that such a very personal and individual decision is best left to women and families, not the government. He feels that each woman must be allowed to make decisions about her own health and well-being and that the government should not be in the business of second guessing these difficult decisions.

Gov. Johnson feels strongly that women seeking to exercise their legal right must not be subjected to prosecution or denied access to health services by politicians in Washington, or anywhere else. (campaign website)

Save money. Change lives. Protect families.

The Federal government should not stand in the way of states that choose to legalize marijuana. Governors Johnson and Weld would remove cannabis from Schedule I of the federal Controlled Substances Act, which will allow individual states to make their own decisions about both recreational and medical marijuana — just as they have done for decades with alcohol. Eliminating the Federal government as an obstacle to state legalization decisions is not only constitutionally sound, but would allow much-needed testing of marijuana for medical purposes, as well as regulation that reflects individual states’ values and needs.

The health benefits of cannabis in pain treatment has already proven to be safer and less addictive than current pain medications such as opioids. Pharmaceutical companies need to be allowed to conduct medical testing on cannabis. This is better for all Americans. A President that is not afraid to tackle the tough issues would understand that de-scheduling cannabis and allowing medical research is the right thing to do.

The marijuana black market has created a non-stop crime epidemic. Thousands of lives are lost each year in trafficking along the Mexican boarder alone. The War on Drugs has been an expensive failure. We spend money to police it. We spend money to incarcerate nonviolent offenders. And what do we get in return? A society that kicks our troubled mothers, fathers, and young adults while they’re down, instead of giving them the tools to be healthier and more productive members of society. Crime and wasted lives has produced a circle of failure….and it needs to stop.

We can save thousands of lives and billions of dollars by simply changing our approach to drug abuse. That is why Gary Johnson came out as an early proponent on the national stage in 1999 while Governor of New Mexico, and publicly stated his support of marijuana legalization.

Governors Johnson and Weld do not support the legalization of other recreational drugs that are currently illegal. It is, however, their belief that drug rehabilitation and harm-reduction programs result in a more productive society than incarceration and arrests for drug use. (campaign website)

This is why Gary Johnson embraced marriage equality before many current Democratic leaders joined the parade. He was also the highest ranking official to call for an end to the drug war and start treating drug abuse like a disease instead of a crime.

His vice presidential running mate, Governor Bill Weld, was not only an early proponent of civil rights for gays and lesbians, he actually appointed the judge who wrote the opinion that established marriage equality as a matter of constitutional right. He is also an outspoken defender of a woman’s right to choose, rather than allow the government to make such an important and personal decision for them.

Unlike Governors Johnson and Weld, those in power today are steadily eroding the personal freedoms that our government was established to protect.

Gary Johnson believes that people, not politicians, should make choices in their personal lives. Responsible adults should be free to marry whom they want, arm themselves if they want, and lead their personal lives as they see fit — as long as they aren’t harming anyone else in doing so. (campaign website)

McMullin: Our respect for life is the most important measure of our humanity. From conception to death – and any time in between – life is precious and we have a responsibility to protect it. A culture that subsidizes abortion on demand runs counter to the fundamental American belief in the potential of every person – it undermines the dignity of mother and child alike. Americans can and should work together to increase support and resources to reduce unintended pregnancies and encourage adoption, even if they may have different opinions on abortion rights.

Religious liberty is freedom of conscience, inherently connected to actions and expression; it’s the grace to let others pursue their convictions and the willingness to welcome a marketplace of diverse ideas. This freedom is central to the American experiment, and it should be protected, not disparaged. At a time when global religious persecution is at record highs, America must prioritize the defense of this core human right in our diplomatic efforts. Our moral authority to defend religious freedom abroad relies on the vitality of religious freedom here at home. Our government should not target religious groups for discrimination or marginalization based on the obligations of their faith, but instead recognize that religious diversity and robust pluralism are foundational sources of strength for our nation. (campaign website)

Evan McMullin told Mark Halperin he is personally opposed to redefining marriage but that he would do nothing to reverse the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Bloomberg News webcast, “With All Due Respect.”

“As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I believe in traditional marriage between a man and a woman, but I respect the decision of the Court, and I think it’s time to move on,” McMullin said, echoing moderate Republican presidential hopefuls.

When pressed, McMullin said he would have “ideally” liked to see the issue decided by the states, “but it’s been handled by the Supreme Court, and that’s where it is.”

McMullin said he bases his definition of marriage on his Mormon faith, but “my faith isn’t everybody else’s faith. I make my decisions for me [based] on those kinds of things.”

When Halperin asked if a President McMullin would appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn the case nullifying state marriage protection laws nationwide, Obergefell v. Hodges, he replied, “I wouldn’t.” (LifeSite News)

**********

I like Darrell Castle‘s thought process, as he posits an argument that has merit when it comes to marriage as a whole, because it is a legitimate option states could take if they so chose. He’s also very sound on the abortion issue since indeed Congress could remove that area of jurisdiction – in fact, they could very easily rein in the SCOTUS if they had the desire to do so. Overall he does extremely well in this category. 7 points.

Jim Hedges is a little weak on abortion, but on the other hand he gives the other legitimate counter-argument with regard to marriage: since it would take 38 states to ratify a Federal Marriage Amendment, it would occur in a situation where the vast majority of states were already on board. I’m not sure a federal ban on gambling would be enforceable, but I could see this as being a benefit overall since lotteries are indeed regressive taxes. I also agree with him on voluntary prayer. 6 points.

I appreciate Tom Hoefling‘s passion for life. But I’m curious how all that shakes out with the rule of law as it currently exists. Indeed, as an inalienable right life comes before liberty for a reason - for without life there is no liberty. Yet this nation lives under a Constitution that prohibits “notwithstanding any law passed…to the contrary.” It makes me question where he feels the extent of his executive power would lie, and that is troubling too. I don’t want to trade one Trump (or Obama) for another, no matter how well-intentioned. 3 points.

When a woman’s liberty is deemed to trump the unborn’s right to life, that is a non-starter with me. But Gary Johnson goes there. Johnson also cites Utah’s anti-discrimination law as a model to follow, even though the head of Equality Utah noted the law Johnson cites has, “among the broadest religious exemptions in the country, and you would never want to cut and paste (their law.)” He called the bill “a milestone for Utah, but not a model for the country.” So it wasn’t the grand compromise Johnson makes it out to be.

Johnson and Weld seem to turn their back on Judeo-Christian values in the name of liberty – but I contend America needs the guardrails for its system of government is intended “only for a moral and religious people.” Only because they are relatively permissive on marijuana do they score at all here. 1 point.

Evan McMullin may be a decent and pious man, but in his statement he shows that he does not have the gumption to stand up for what is right. Whether it’s in the name of “pragmatic” political expediency or the belief that people need to be left alone and to “move on,” he forgoes the use of his bully pulpit at a time when it’s more necessary than ever. Shameful. No points.

It is on that sour note that I inform you the next part will deal with pocketbook issues, specifically trade and job creation.

How to lose a Congressional race in one speech

If any post I’ve ever done deserved to be put up on 4/20, it’s this one. But suffice to say there are times when the perfect becomes the enemy of the good, and for Congressional candidate Mike Smigiel that point may have been reached.

On Monday I received a press release from the Smigiel campaign promoting his appearance as a featured speaker at the National Cannabis Festival, an event to be held Saturday in Washington, D.C. Held for the first time this year, the Cannabis Festival promotes itself as:

More than just a festival, NCF is a chance to connect with members of the cannabis community and industry from across the country while enjoying a full day of music, games, delicious food and drink.

In the release, there was a rationale provided for Smigiel’s remarks:

The Maryland 1st District Congressional Race is of national importance and serves as a barometer to gauge the mood of the country regarding removal of barriers for the cannabis industry. (Andy) Harris is seeking re-election in a tough primary that Marylanders will be voting in on April 26th, and Del. Smigiel has released polling that suggests that when voters know of Harris’ votes, including his actions with cannabis prohibition, residents will not vote for Harris at an overwhelming majority.  Industry supporters are upset because Congress renewed the prohibition on the District’s government from spending any funds to set up a legal market for marijuana distribution and taxation, a move lead by Congressman Harris. There is a deep seeded negative sentiment against Rep. Harris as he is seen as an exemplification of the worst of big government overreach when he interfered with District voters’ attempt to follow Colorado, Washington State and others in exercising political autonomy with Initiative 71. The initiative appeared on the ballot and was approved by voters, only to have Rep. Harris successfully lead the effort to block the District government’s implementation efforts. Since that time, several unintended consequences have resulted from Rep. Harris’ paternalism.

The District is still unable to tax and or otherwise control the manufacturing and distribution of marijuana thus is losing out on tens of millions of dollars of new tax revenue.

Harris’ vote against the District not only exemplifies the overreach of big government it is also indicative of an arrogance where elected servants of our government presume to have a better understanding of our needs than we, the electorate do. The ramifications are far reaching throughout Maryland’s 1st District as well, affecting opportunities for the development of agricultural crops, business, and also resulted in a boycott of Ocean City, Maryland.

I get all that argument (aside from the state’s rights argument, since the District of Columbia is not a state), but perhaps the weekend before the election is not the best time to be hanging out with a crowd that few in the First District would identify with. Even worse is the idea of promoting recreational drug use (and let’s get real, most of the support for the “cannabis industry” isn’t so we can produce more industrial hemp) at a time when the local headlines often shout about yet another death by drug overdose. Simply put, the optics are really bad on this one. What may grab you another handful of votes among those who are passionate about the issue will turn off a lot of people who are already concerned about the impact of drugs on crime and on society at large.

And in what may be the sharpest 180 degree turn ever in politics, the chances are pretty good (since he appeared at last August’s rendition) that Smigiel will spent at least some of his morning protesting Planned Parenthood in Easton since that event is also Saturday. (Harris may also make an appearance for that same reason.) I don’t think the devout pro-life crowd would much approve of the National Cannabis Festival, and in the case of abortion Harris can claim pro-life groups’ support despite the objections Smigiel puts up.

There is definitely a libertarian streak in me that likes how Smigiel looks at certain issues, and he’s made his campaign into one that is a near-constant diatribe about what he feels is the hypocrisy between Andy Harris the campaigner and speaker and Andy Harris the Washington insider Congressman. A lot of that is legitimate, but the question is just how much of that comes with the territory. Unfortunately, purists seldom make it far in politics, especially on the conservative side.

Yet in making his point about how Harris is not a Tenth Amendment kind of guy, Smigiel is taking the time that I feel would be better served in the district trying to win votes in what’s already an uphill battle. I know Mike’s been working hard for nearly a year to make his case to the people of the First District, but unless there’s a fundraising element involved in his Washington trip (and I highly doubt this) in my opinion it’s an unforced error to spend valuable time just before the primary to tell the cannabis industry how bad Andy Harris is.

Despite what Jim Ireton might believe, the election for the First District seat occurs April 26. If Mike Smgiel loses a close election, I suppose he will have the cold comfort of losing on a particular principle.

Ehrlich brings book tour to Salisbury

It was an event which was supposed to occur on a Monday night back in January in a completely different venue, but as has been the case before with Bob Ehrlich we all had to wait until the weather thawed before Wicomico County Republicans could hear from him.

As part of what he billed as a 16-state tour for his third and newest book, Turning Point: Picking Up the Pieces After Eight Years of Failed Progressive Policies, the former governor made brief remarks then commenced to signing copies for a crowd of close to fifty people.

Calling the book an “eight-count indictment of the Obama administration,” Bob remarked that some of his favorite stories, which come from a volume that’s a compilation of his writings over the last several years from a number of sources (with a couple of original, previously unpublished portions added in) were the open letter he wrote to his son about marijuana laws and his interactions with some of the offenders. Two common elements he found among those who had been caught and imprisoned for drugs were the lack of a father figure at home and that they got their start with marijuana. However, Bob was careful to note that not everyone who used marijuana was a criminal.

A second favorite was the chapter on political correctness that he wrote to be humorous, but are instead being reflected in today’s headlines. He implored the college students in attendance not to placate those who get overly worked up about “safe spaces” on campus.

As you may expect, Bob showed a passion and zeal about the subject matter which should make these chapters great reading. (My plan is to eventually review the book once I get a chance to sit and digest it all.)

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There were a lot of books being signed and plenty of people had their chance to pose for a photo with Bob. I’m going to borrow Dave Snyder’s picture here, which I got from social media – the snapshot I got of Bob signing came out too blurry.

Those in attendance also got to meet one of the Republican candidates running for Senate, a man who once worked for Bob Ehrlich. Chrys Kefalas was in the area today on what he described as a “listening tour” of local manufacturers, although he was also at Fratelli’s for lunch. (I was invited to that event but couldn’t attend.)

My chat with Kefalas was rather brief, as he was obviously concentrating on circulating around, but in conversations I had with his campaign staff I gained a little perspective on his ideas and shared some of my own. To me, Chrys’s job if he wins is to concentrate on making conditions better for the country as a whole: more beneficial trade pacts, a decrease in taxation and regulation on a federal level, and working to leave government as the least of our worries. It would then be incumbent upon the Hogan administration to make Maryland more competitive against its neighbors and other states because the federal government would simply create the best possible conditions for any American company to succeed.

Once Ehrlich left, the party began to break up. But if I may make one observation regarding a summerlike evening in the midst of an early spring: walking out of Roadie Joe’s they had a musician outside. I turned the corner and could faintly hear something down at Brew River only to arrive at the parking lot where I had parked and hear some very good band over at Headquarters Live. I was standing at my car literally listening to three different venues, all opened up.

Downtown Salisbury’s not just alive on 3rd Friday anymore, folks. And speaking of music, it gives me a good segue into letting you know monoblogue music will be back tomorrow after its winter hiatus. It’s someone you’ve heard from before with something new.

A change in the First?

In the First Congressional District, winning the Republican primary is tantamount to winning the race: the latest round of gerrymandering by Maryland Democrats made sure it would be by creating an R+13 district in a state that’s nominally D+26. So what do I make of an announcement by upstart former Delegate Michael Smigiel that he has a 2-to-1 lead over incumbent Andy Harris in a pre-primary poll?

If you read between the lines, you’ll see a few interesting tidbits. And my readers may recall that my co-writer Cathy Keim talked about a survey she took a few days ago. Chances are this was the same Gravis Marketing survey Smigiel is referring to in his work, which leads me to believe this was a push poll Smigiel did to build up his support. If you’re a relative unknown in much of the district, a tactic often used is that of driving up the negatives of the established politician.

Ironically, it’s much the same tactic Harris used to win the nomination in 2008 against a well-known incumbent, Wayne Gilchrest. Wayne’s biggest issue was the leftward drift of his philosophy and voting record, so much so that a clearly upset Gilchrest later rejected his party’s nominee and endorsed the Democrat challenger, Frank Kratovil. That and the Obama wave election led to Kratovil being a one-term Congressman before Harris defeated him in the TEA Party wave election of 2010.

As Cathy described it – a manner which isn’t reflected in Smigiel’s narrative – the issue questions came first:

Calls were made to over 20,000 voters with over 600 individuals answering the poll, and results indicate that when voters were informed that Rep. Harris had voted to fully fund Obamacare, 82 percent (82%) of the Republican primary voters surveyed would not vote for Harris.

When voters were aware that Rep. Harris had voted to fully fund President Barrack (sic) Obama’s unconstitutional use of executive power to grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens, 85 percent (85%) of Republican voters said they would not vote to re-elect Harris.

Likewise, 80 percent (80%) of those surveyed reported that they would not vote to re-elect Rep. Andy Harris if they knew he had made the statement that it was “just fine” for Planned Parenthood to sell baby parts as long as they did not use federal money to do so.

Nationally, Rep. Harris is known as the most outspoken critic of D.C. and states which have chosen to allow medical marijuana, decriminalization or legalization. In the 1st District, fifty-nine percent (59%) of the Republican voters surveyed reported they would be less likely to vote for Harris because of his anti-marijuana, anti-state’s rights stance.

In that context, it’s hard to believe Harris got 29% when over 80% of Republicans disagreed with him on one or more issues.

But there are two advantages Andy still enjoys in this race. While the FEC data is still from back in September, Harris had over a half-million dollars in cash on hand while Smigiel barely registered. Certainly Harris has been fundraising since then, and incumbents often enjoy the largest share of PAC money. In the 2015-16 cycle Harris had already amassed over $166,000 from various committees, a large portion of them in the medical field.

The second advantage is the IOUs Andy has built up through donating to local candidates. Here’s just a few that I noticed on his 2013-14 FEC report:

  • Bob Cassilly (Senator, Harford County) – $4,000
  • Matt Morgan (Delegate, St. Mary’s County) – $1,000
  • Theresa Reilly (Delegate, Harford County) – $1,000
  • Mike McDermott (former Delegate, Worcester County) – $4,000
  • Bob Culver (Wicomico County Executive) – $4,000
  • Carl Anderton (Delegate, Wicomico County) – $4,000
  • Christopher Adams (Delegate, Wicomico County) – $1,000
  • Jay Jacobs (Delegate, Kent County) – $1,000
  • Jeff Ghrist (Delegate, Caroline County) – $1,000
  • John Cluster (Delegate, Baltimore County) – $1,000
  • Johnny Mautz (Delegate, Talbot County) – $1,000
  • Justin Ready (Delegate and now Senator, Carroll County) – $4,000
  • Kathy Szeliga (Delegate, Baltimore County) – $4,000
  • Kevin Hornberger (Delegate, Cecil County) – $4,000
  • Mary Beth Carozza (Delegate, Worcester County) – $4,000
  • Nic Kipke (Delegate, Anne Arundel County) – $4,000
  • Rick Impallaria (Delegate, Baltimore County) – $2,000
  • Robin Grammer (Delegate, Baltimore County) – $1,000
  • Steve Arentz (Delegate, Queen Anne’s County) – $1,000
  • Susan Krebs (Delegate, Carroll County) – $4,000
  • Addie Eckardt (Senator, Dorchester County) – $1,000
  • Michael Hough (Senator, Frederick County) – $4,000
  • Herb McMillan (Delegate, Anne Arundel County) – $4,000
  • Ric Metzgar (Delegate, Baltimore County) – $1,000
  • Johnny Salling (Senator, Baltimore County) – $4,000
  • Maryland Republican Party – $49,500

Well over $100,000 went from Andy’s campaign coffers to help build the GOP state bench with several new legislators being the result. I don’t look for a lot of those folks jumping ship to support (in several but not all cases) a more recent former colleague. That’s a significant part of the state GOP delegation, including all three who defeated Smigiel in the 2014 Republican primary. And electability is a legitimate question mark for Smigiel.

In the 2014 Republican primary, Smigiel was fourth among seven candidates, four of whom hailed from Smigiel’s Cecil County portion of the district – those four finished fourth through seventh. (Mike finished third in Cecil behind fellow resident Alan McCarthy, who finished a distant fifth overall, and Jay Jacobs of Kent County, who was second overall.) Smigiel was third among five candidates in 2010 (all three winners were Republican) and while he kept the seat in 2006 based on the overall district vote he actually lost in his home Cecil County to Democrat Mark Guns. Smigiel was barely second out of five when he won his first term in 2002, so he’s never been overwhelmingly popular at the ballot box – just good enough to win three terms in a very safe GOP district. The fact that three other people challenged Smigiel from Cecil County – knowing only one of them could win due to an election law stating only one person could advance from any particular county – indicates there was some dissatisfaction with him, just as many are now displeased with Harris.

That anger toward Harris attracted Smigiel to the race and produced a poll result like this. Since he won the election in 2010, Harris has had little in the way of a challenge from either party until now. It’s a race perhaps reminiscent of the 2004 primary between Wayne Gilchrest and then-Maryland Senator Rich Colburn – the fact Colburn got 38% against a sitting Congressman may have opened the race up four years later when state officials could run from cover again without having to risk their own seats.

If I were to handicap the election today I would put it around that 60-40 range with Harris prevailing. A lot can occur in 3 1/2 months, though, and it’s probably good for Harris that there are a couple of other lesser known hopefuls in the race to split the protest vote.

This may be a good time to point out that Andy has a couple of townhall meetings slated for the Eastern Shore. On Monday night the 18th he will be at the Black Diamond Lodge in Fruitland for a 6 p.m. meeting. (Right next door is the site of Andy’s chicken suit affair of a few years back.) Then Tuesday at noon he will be the host at the Easton Volunteer Fire Department headquarters on Aurora Park Drive.

Unfortunately, I already have a commitment for Monday night so I will have to hear second-hand about what the Congressman has to say. It will be interesting to hear how all that goes down.

The required renovation of Andy Harris

For the four years he has been in office, Andy Harris has generally enjoyed the support of his conservative Eastern Shore constituents. He’s not had a serious primary challenge since he was elected and garnered over 70% of the vote in 2014 against Democrat Bill Tilghman, whose centrist posture was well right of mainstream Democrats but far out of step with the district.

But since that resounding November victory, Andy’s actions in Congress during the lame duck session have earned him further enmity from the strong libertarian wing of the party and alienated conservatives as well.

By inserting a provision into the so-called CRomnibus bill preventing the District of Columbia from enacting its Proposition 71 marijuana legalization, Harris again became the target of District residents and leaders who demanded a tourism boycott of Andy’s Eastern Shore district earlier this summer. Accusations of being in the pocket of Big Pharma followed, but Harris defended the role of Congress spelled out in the Constitution [Article 1, Section 8] as overseer of the District’s affairs.

Yet while the libertarians of the Shore make up a small slice of the constituency – a Libertarian candidate ran in the First District for three successive elections from 2008-12, but never received even 5% of the vote – the conservatives are upset about Andy’s vote in favor of CRomnibus. That segment of the electorate is Andy’s bread and butter.

In the TEA Party community, there are whispers about who could challenge Andy from the right, as several feel he is on the same glide path that Wayne Gilchrest took during his long Congressional career. His 2008 primary defeat (by Harris) came after a bitter campaign where Andy stuck the “liberal” tag successfully on the longtime pol as well as fellow Maryland Senate opponent E. J. Pipkin.

Ironically, a politician long allied with Pipkin could be a prospect to make that challenge. Michael Smigiel, a delegate who was defeated in the 2014 District 36 GOP primary, is popular among the TEA Party community for his strong Second Amendment stance. But it would be difficult for anyone to raise the money Andy has at his disposal and Harris has bolstered his profile among local elected officials and the state Republican party by being generous with his campaign funds through A Great Maryland PAC.

It’s also worth mentioning for context that CRomnibus is probably roughly the same deal which would have been made if the budget were completed in regular order, given the partisan divide between the House and Senate.

Instead, while most functions of the government will continue through next September, the Department of Homeland Security budget has a February expiration date. This sets up a showdown between Congress and Barack Obama regarding the latter’s executive actions to give de facto amnesty to millions of illegal aliens; however, some hardliners already feel the damage is done.

In response to a lengthy Facebook post by Harris explaining his CRomnibus stance, though, local activists summed up the frustration TEA party activists felt, noting:

  • “(Harris) does a nice job of listing those riders and amendments that might seem to gain the approbation of the conservative and Republican audiences, while omitting anything that might serve as a balance – what effectively was the PRICE paid for what was had, the PRICE of ‘compromise.’”
  • “It is rather sad that Andy thinks that he can list a few paltry gains and that will make us overlook the whole thousand page monstrosity. The obvious question is that if he got in a few tidbits that he wanted, then who else got in their tidbits and what are those?  I would imagine that they will far outweigh any small gains that he is bragging about.”

These activists agree one way Harris could help to restore his image would be to take the lead in the conservative grassroots push to replace John Boehner as Speaker of the House. Bear in mind that this could come at some cost as Andy serves on the Appropriations Committee and a Boehner victory over any challenger for whom Andy shows support could bring repercussions such as the stripping of his position there, but on balance I believe a potential sacrifice such as that is worth the opportunity to have a stronger conservative leader as Speaker. It’s a sentiment shared by commentators at American Thinker, WorldNetDaily, and RedState.

On November 4, people hungry for real change went to the polls to reject the Democratic Senate and place Republicans firmly in control of Congress. The events leading to the CRonmibus, though, shook the confidence that Washington would depart from its business-as-usual benefits to the ruling class by allowing the outgoing defeated members one last hurrah. While all of this blame cannot be laid at the feet of John Boehner, there is a mood in this country that a strong counterbalance is needed to the increasing use of Executive Branch power by Barack Obama, particularly on immigration and Obamacare. The fear of many conservatives, particularly those in the First District, is that John Boehner doesn’t have the spine to rein in the executive.

Just like in 2008, when Andy Harris first ran for Congress, the potential is there in 2016 for state elected officials to “run from cover” as their Delegate or Senate seats aren’t on the ballot. During the similar 2012 election, 7 members of the Maryland General Assembly ran for Congress – one for the Senate and six for various Congressional seats. While none were successful overall, two won their party primary and ran through November.

No member of Congress is universally loved, and being a representative at any level of government means you won’t please everyone. But there’s a growing number who want Andy Harris to be a conservative leader and not just talk a good game.

The District goes to pot

It’s definitely a peripheral story to the overall House adoption of CRomnibus, but one provision which was passed in the bill prohibited the District of Columbia from enacting a recently-passed district referendum allowing the decriminalization of marijuana. Because the District isn’t one of the 50 states, Andy Harris remarked that the supporters of the law could leave. As quoted in Politico:

“That’s the way the Constitution was written,” Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland said in an interview Wednesday. “If they don’t like that oversight, move outside of the federal district to one of the 50 states that is not covered by the jurisdiction of Congress as a whole.”

Needless to say, Harris’s Facebook page is littered with protests – not about his vote on the overall CRomnibus, which he voted in favor of – but about the vote against pot, presumably from District residents who didn’t care for his vote and claim he’s in the pocket of Big Pharma. Ironically, most of these comments are on a post alerting constituents to the opportunity for public comment on fee increases at Assateague National Seashore.

Yet this re-ignited a thought I’ve had before – one which wouldn’t necessarily make Republicans happy, but one which I think would more truly reflect the intent of our Constitution. In Article 1, Section 8 it established one of the duties of Congress as:

To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cessation of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of government of the United States…

The key is the portion in parentheses, While the District was originally laid out as the maximum ten miles square, carved out of Maryland and Virginia, the Virginia portion was retroceded to the commonwealth in 1847. But since many government functions exist outside the District, the question becomes one of whether the District in its current form has outlived its usefulness. For decades denizens of the District have griped about “taxation without representation.”

Because the Constitution only dictates a maximum size and not a minimum size, perhaps the solution lies in retroceding all but the immediate seats and symbols of government – the White House, the Capitol, the National Mall, and various memorials – back to the state of Maryland, with the city of Washington having the same status with its Maryland affairs as does Baltimore City. Instead of a half-million or so, living in the District would only apply to a handful of citizens. This could be made effective in 2020 so there would be time for transition and Congressional and local representation could be redetermined for the somewhat larger state of Maryland. The effect would be similar to the Vatican City as part of the overall city of Rome.

Naturally Republicans in Maryland and nationally would be dismayed because the advantage in voter registration and representation already enjoyed by Maryland Democrats would be enhanced. But if we want to make the pot-smokers happy that they aren’t under the control of Congress – which really shouldn’t be concerned about the affairs of a city of a half-million in a population of over 300 million – perhaps this is the better solution.

It’s a better solution than making the District the 51st state, as some have wanted, or simply giving in and elevating their status by allowing them a House member and two Senators. The intent was creating the seat of government, not a state which would be placed above others by virtue of being the national capital. While we’ve ignored the Constitution numerous times over the nation’s history, here’s a chance to restore the intent of the Founders.

Update: I should mention that Harris gave his side of the marijuana story in the Washington Post today.

Let the campaigning begin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Odds and ends number 32

Yes, it’s another edition of those items which deserve a paragraph or three but maybe not a full post.

Let’s begin with a rescheduled event. Originally scheduled for last month, Andy Harris will hold his “healthcare discussion” fundraiser on Wednesday, August 24 at 6 p.m. at the original location. It’s still $50 and you can still contact Cathy Keim at (443) 880-5912 for details.

That may be the last time you have a spare $50 in your pocket, though, since the Maryland General Assembly is spending their summer trying to figure out just how they can squeeze more revenue out of the citizenry. Take this report done by the Maryland Department of Legislative Services.

There’s a couple not-so-obvious things which jumped out at me and were buried in the report. One is the idea of considering those who are online affiliates to a company such as Amazon.com as a presence in the state, necessitating the collection of sales tax. As a website owner who indeed acts as an Amazon.com affiliate (and makes a few pennies off the website in that manner) the last thing I really want to do is collect sales tax. Amazon doesn’t have affiliates in states with such laws, and for good reason.

But notice what South Carolina did – in order to create jobs they waived their requirement, and Tennessee is considering the same. Yes, they would lose sales tax revenue but would presumably make that up and more with increased economic activity. Maryland? Well, I guess they seem to believe that making more taxes will make the state more attractive. Not.

In fact, the Republican Caucus in the House of Delegates continues to point out this fatal flaw:

For years, the House Republican Caucus has offered plan after plan to bring Maryland’s spending in line with revenues and ultimately lower taxes; knowing that real spending cuts, not fantastical numbers games, would ultimately protect the taxpayers of Maryland from another mugging by their government.  We have warned repeatedly against the reliance on federal funds. Real, meaningful spending reductions have not occurred; in fact the budget has grown year after year.  Rather than listening to sound fiscal advice, the Democratic monopoly has chosen instead to demonize anyone who suggests true spending reductions and terrorize the public with tales of apocalyptic calamity should true reductions in government spending happen.

The only “apocalyptic calamity” seems to be the job creation numbers in Maryland, which are dismal to say the least.

But there’s no calamity in the ozone layer, as the EPA fortunately has held off on new, tougher job-killing ozone standards so stringent that even Yellowstone National Park couldn’t qualify. Perhaps a reason why is that Fedzilla couldn’t hide their cooking of the books nor justify the benefits versus the costs.

It’s foolish, though, to believe that this was ever about costs or even public health. It’s about control, and something tells me that well-connected companies could make sweetheart deals with regulators to carve out an exemption or two. In Washington these days you have to pay to play, and the sale of regulations favoring the highest political contributor seems to be in vogue more than ever.

Then again, drug cartels have a lot of money. And in the wake of a deepening protection scandal involving the Sinaloa drug cartel in Mexico, maybe Gary Johnson and his libertarian ilk is right on this one:

While I certainly disagree with several parts of Gary’s platform, I do believe perhaps it’s time we considered the legalization option. Granted, the cartels may still operate because there are a lot of other illegal substances out there but I’m not so sure the benefits of the War on Drugs outweigh the costs. It’s a little surprising that Barack Obama hasn’t pushed for this himself given past history – in theory, the act of drug possession could have landed him in jail in some jurisdictions.

Imagine how things may have turned out had that happened. (Oh wait, I’m undercutting my own argument!)

I must say, though, that Gary is perhaps the most blogger-friendly candidate out there. If only Herman Cain or Michele Bachmann were as accomodating… *sigh*

By the way, I didn’t forget that I’m still in the midst of grading candidates. I’ve just been a little busy lately and now I have an issue with the laptop where all those text files are, so it’s temporarily out of commission.

And now for something completely different.

I was asked by a nice lady to include her website as one of my links.

Now this sort of thing happens on occasion as spam e-mail and this particular message was in that folder as well. A lot of the time it’s one of those “we should trade links” sort of things to cover as an advertisement for a poker or porn website. But I checked out the site in question and it’s definitely legit – and it’s striking in the amount of photography used, along with the fact that Kathy covers an area that I don’t often get to for this gig – up around St. Michaels (also known as “the town that fooled the British.”) So dig in and enjoy.

A day of significance

April 20 may have just seemed like a lovely and warm spring day around these parts, but in the counterculture community the date 4-20 has significance. Those who smoke the ‘ganja’ tend to attach a little more importance to today than others.

So perhaps this is a good time to question our approach to the war on drugs and marijuana legalization. (No, I’m not a charter member of NORML, but hear me out.)

Over the years, I’ve began to wonder what the point was in being so harsh on a certain substance when other addictive compounds are legal and even produce revenue for the state. Alcohol will soon be counted on to assist in making a dent in Maryland’s budget deficit thanks to a 50% increase in its sales tax, while tobacco is an annual target for increasing state income.

Meanwhile, support has been growing (no pun intended) for relaxing the state’s marijuana laws when it comes to the use of medical marijuana, which some claim is the only method which works for easing their pain. Obviously that system can be abused (Michigan may be one example) but this is a step toward a little more sensibility in marijuana statutes.

The way I look at it, I don’t see growing marijuana for one’s personal use as any different than home brewing or, if the climate allowed it locally, growing your own tobacco for rolling your own cigars. Certainly there should be penalties on the books for overindulgence in pot just as there are for drunkenness (since both marijuana and alcohol have adverse effects with overuse) but I fail to see the problem if someone wants to grow a few pot (as opposed to potted) plants in their house. In fact, I think the government cracks down on the sale of the stuff so harshly because they don’t get a cut – watch their attitudes change if Mary Jane ever becomes legal and taxable. (Then they can broaden the scope of their frequent anti-smoking screeds to include marijuana as well as tobacco. What a bunch of hypocrites.)

Now, before you start wondering, I don’t smoke the stuff nor have I had the desire to do so. But I have friends and family members who do or did at some period in their lives, and they haven’t had any long-term issues insofar as I can tell with society at large. This just goes with the libertarian streak I have about ‘live and let live’ and likely sets me apart from the average Republican who supports a robust war on drugs. (In reality, ‘just say no’ was simple enough as it was and didn’t really need millions of tax dollars behind it.)

The other argument regarding legalization centers around the situation in Mexico, where a significant portion of their internal strife stems from the fact that a number of crime families make their fortunes feeding America’s hunger for illicit drugs. Perhaps, the argument goes, legalizing marijuana would reduce the influence and cashflow of those crime families.

Well, the Eighteenth Amendment certainly fueled the rise of organized crime in America, but mobsters didn’t dry up and blow away once that ill-considered addition to the Constitution was nullified by the Twenty-First Amendment in 1933. Mexican crime families will have several other drugs which will (and probably should) remain illegal to push across our border. So I can’t see that aspect of the argument carrying a great deal of weight.

I suppose the question comes down to this: is marijuana a ‘gateway’ drug? For some, it certainly was – but many thousands of others never graduated to the harder stuff because they only smoked weed on an occasional, recreational basis.

Maybe the solution comes down to this: why not a trial legalization? For a period of ten years, wipe out the federal laws against pot and see what the effects are. After a decade, it will be apparent whether those who fret legalization will bring about a nation of stoners would be correct, or whether those who feel marijuana is essentially harmless will be vindicated. True, it could be difficult to put the genie back into the bottle but I tend to favor fewer laws over more restrictions and this would be a good test case for a number of theories.

My bet is that the drive for recriminalization will be inversely proportional to the amount of money government would make through marijuana’s taxation. As always with government, it’s all about the Benjamins.

Friday night videos – episode 31

Back to politics again after my foray into local music. Let’s see what I can dig up here, all right?

The other day it was Earth Day and needless to say I don’t go in for the hype – neither does Mario Lewis of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Three guys who were too much into Earth Day are Senators John Kerry, Lindsey Graham, and Joe Lieberman. They are a creative bunch, though, as they spin cap and tax. Again, from CEI:

Speaking of big government, the Environmental Protection Agency has a video contest going to explain why government regulations are a good thing. Needless to say, someone had to poke fun at it – why not the gang at Americans for Prosperity?

This spotlight is on a group which wants government regulation (in the form of higher taxes) to fatten their coffers.

Perhaps the Maryland GOP can borrow this from their California brethren?

Instead, our state is faced with too many voters like this group Bob McCarty found at an Illinois rally.

This is the same rally where TEA Partiers were greeted by a riot squad.

A protest of a different sort occurred right here in Maryland. Disaffected workers in the film industry aren’t too happy with our present governor – WBAL reports.

Newt Gingrich always has something to say as well. Here he talks about President Obama’s “secular socialist machine.”

I wrote about Daniel “The Whig Man” Vovak earlier this week as he proposed to legalize pot. Nick Gillespie of the Reason Foundation agrees.

But I didn’t forget local music! Here’s the hard-rocking Christian group Not My Own recorded live (not by me) at Circles in Milford, Delaware.

Until next time, that’s a wrap.

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