My final primary endorsement comes in a race that, for me, has come down to the wire: do I go for the known conservative quantity that’s part of one of the most unpopular institutions in the country or do I go for one of the upstarts in a hope to bring about change or a more libertarian direction?
Well, the answer became a little easier as I looked into two of the four GOP candidates. Both Jonathan Goff, who challenged Andy Harris in 2014 and got the 22% of the anti-Harris vote in that primary, and Sean Jackson have expressed their support for Donald Trump so that eliminates them automatically as not conservative.
Yet despite the entry of Goff and Jackson, the Congressional race has been figured all along as a two-man contest between Harris and former Delegate Mike Smigiel.
We pretty much know the backstory on Andy Harris: he served in the Maryland State Senate for a decade before challenging incumbent Republican Congressman Wayne Gilchrest in 2008. The problem with Wayne, as Harris and many others saw in the district, was that Gilchrest was too centrist for a conservative district. Harris ended up winning a contentious primary, alienating enough Gilchrest supporters in the process that Democrat Frank Kratovil (who Gilchrest eventually endorsed) won by a narrow plurality in the Obama wave election of 2008. (A Libertarian candidate took 2.5% of the vote, denying Kratovil a majority.)
Harris finished out his term in the State Senate as he plotted to challenge Kratovil, who served as a “blue dog” Democrat (case in point: he voted against Obamacare.) Winning a far less acrimonious GOP primary in 2010 over businessman Rob Fisher, Harris went on to defeat Kratovil by 12 points in the first TEA Party wave election of 2010. Since then Harris hasn’t been seriously challenged in either the primary or general elections, winning with 63.4% of the vote in 2012 and 70.4% in 2014 after Goff challenged him in the primary.
While Democrat Jim Ireton may think he has a shot against Harris, it’s very likely that Tuesday’s election is the deciding factor in who will be our representative to the 115th Congress. But Mike Smigiel is the first serious candidate with a pedigree to challenge for the First District seat since Harris and State Senator E.J. Pipkin, among others, both took on Wayne Gilchrest in 2008.
Like Harris, Smigiel served for 12 years in the Maryland General Assembly but he served in the House of Delegates, representing the upper Eastern Shore. This factor is an important one in determining who will be the better candidate, as their terms of service overlapped from 2003-2010. Smigiel ran for re-election in the 2014 primary, but finished fourth in a seven-person field. It’s worth noting that four of the District 36 contenders were from Smigiel’s Cecil County, which may have sapped his electoral strength – or reflected a dissatisfaction with Mike’s approach. Only one of them could have advanced, so in effect they cannibalized the primary vote.
Mike’s case for unseating Harris has evolved from an undertone of dissatisfaction from those who supported Harris for the seat. They say that Andy is not a fighter or a leader in the conservative movement, and long for a more libertarian Congressman perhaps in the mold of Justin Amash or Thomas Massie. To that end, Smigiel has advocated his case for a Constitutional, limited government, often waving his copy of the Constitution in a debate or forum session. His campaign has focused to a great extent on a number of Congressional votes that Harris has cast, particularly the 2014 CRomnibus bill.
In looking at this race, it should be pointed out that I saw Smigiel’s libertarian approach as an asset; however, I felt the strong emphasis on Harris’s voting record masked some of the real truth.
A key difference between the legislative process in Maryland and the federal sausage-grinding we find in Washington is that Congressional legislation is not limited to a single issue as Maryland’s is. You can take the CRomnibus bill as an example, as it was a compromise hammered out between the various factions of Congress. That’s not to say Harris made the correct vote, but Smigiel is counting on a bit of ignorance in how the system works. I could say the same thing about Smigiel since he voted for the first O’Malley budget while Harris voted no.
So let’s talk about voting records, shall we? Because voting in a federal legislature is not the same as voting on state matters, we have an apples-to-oranges comparison between Harris and Smigiel. But over the eight years both men served in the General Assembly, a more apples-to-apples approach is possible.
Since 2007, I have done the monoblogue Accountability Project, so it covers the last four years that Harris and Smigiel served together. As an aggregate, I found that Smigiel voted as I would have 77.7% of the time, or 101 times out of 130. On the other hand, Harris was “correct” 89.1% of the time, or 122 times out of 137.
I even went back and found three years’ worth of data on the old Maryland Accountability Project that mine continued. While the author perhaps had a different standard of what he considered “conservative,” in each of those three years (2003-2005) Harris had a higher score: 84%-60% in 2003, 80%-75% in 2004, and 84%-83% in 2005. (The 2006 results were not available for the House, but Harris only scored 65% in the Senate – so Smigiel may have prevailed that year.)
Yet these are not “clean” comparisons, either, because in my case I hadn’t streamlined the process of doing the mAP yet. (Since 2011, both House and Senate ratings are based on the same bills.) So I went back and tried to locate the cases in my work where Harris and Smigiel voted the opposite way. There were a handful that over time have mattered less, but I would like to point out a few items that Harris favored and Smigiel opposed, since Mike has attacked Andy’s record:
- Smart, Green, and Growing – Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission (2010) – replaced a task force with the MSGC, an O’Malley-sponsored bill.
- Higher Education Investment Fund – Tuition Stabilization and Funding (2010) – a spending mandate O’Malley also sought.
- Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act of 2009 – this was a horrible bill that established and codified carbon reductions into state law.
One can definitely argue that Harris was trying to soften his image with these votes, since they came after his unsuccessful 2008 run.
But there is another side: those bills that Smigiel favored and Harris opposed:
- Other Tobacco Products Licenses (2010) – required separate licenses for those who sell cigars, snuff, or pipe tobacco. Harris was one of just 7 in the MGA to oppose this.
- High Performance Buildings Act – Applicable to Community College Capital Projects (2010) – required LEED Silver or above ratings.
- Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – Maryland Strategic Energy Investment Program (2008) – an O’Malley bill to spend RGGI money.
- Environment – Water Management Administration – Wetlands and Waterways Program Fees (2008) – established a fee of up to $7,500 an acre for certain developments.
- Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Critical Area Protection Program – Administrative and Enforcement Provisions (2008) – additional mandates on local government.
- High Performance Buildings Act (2008) – the precursor to the 2010 act above.
- Maryland Clean Cars Act of 2007 – an O’Malley bill requiring California emissions for Maryland cars, which added cost to new cars.
- Higher Education – Tuition Affordability Act of 2007 – another O’Malley bill that extended an artificial tuition freeze.
- Electricity – Net Energy Metering – Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard – Solar Energy (2007) - a good old-fashioned carveout, picking a winner.
It seems to me there’s a major difference on environmental issues between Smigiel and Harris, and while that may not matter so much at a federal level my belief that “green is the new red” leads me to think that Smigiel’s pro-liberty case isn’t as airtight as we are led to believe.
I can go all night looking at voting records, but there is one other thing I’d like to point out.
Last week I criticized Smigiel for spending part of the weekend before the primary at a cannabis convention, a stance he took exception to in a private message to me. Without divulging the full conversation, which I assumed was just for my private use, the upshot was that he argued there were going to be fundraising benefits for him as well as possible job creation in the 1st District. I can buy that argument, but if it hinges on him winning the primary Job One has to be getting the votes.
So it was interesting that a friend of mine shared a card her daughter received, which looks like the one below.
My friend speculated the card was targeted to a certain age group of Millennials since her daughter was the only one in the house to receive it. Yet the card isn’t from Mike’s campaign but instead an organization called 420 USA PAC, which advocates for cannabis legalization.
Of course, my personal stance is not all that far from Mike’s, but we also have two laboratories of democracy in Colorado and Washington state to see how the legalization of marijuana plays out. Smigiel argues the District of Columbia cannabis initiative is a state’s rights issue but should know that in the Constitution Congress is responsible to “exercise exclusive Legislation in all cases whatsoever” over the District per Article I, Section 8. So Harris performed some oversight.
On the other hand I can vouch for Andy being in the district over the weekend. Perhaps this is a classic conservative vs. libertarian matchup, although both men are well-accepted in the pro-life community.
This has been an endorsement I have had to think long and hard about; luckily it’s a case where I could easily work for the other gentleman if he will have me.
But I have decided that Andy Harris deserves another term in Congress. Saying that, though, it’s obvious people will be watching and if I were Mike Smigiel I wouldn’t dismiss trying again in 2018 because we could use his kind of voice in Congress as well. Think of the next two years as a probationary period for Harris.
So allow me to review my three endorsements for the major races.
For President, I urge you to vote for the remaining true conservative in the race, Ted Cruz. He has six people running for Delegate and Alternate Delegate who need your votes as well (although my friend Muir Boda is on the ballot, too.)
For U.S. Senate, I had a hard time deciding between Dave Wallace and Richard Douglas, but the backbone Richard Douglas has shown earned him my endorsement and vote.
And finally, retain Andy Harris as our Congressman.
Just don’t forget to vote Tuesday. It’s up to us to begin turning Maryland into a more conservative state – not just trying to teach the benefits of conservatism to an audience charitably described as skeptical but making sure we vote in the right manner as well.
I really had to blow a lot of dust off this series – its last installment was in July of 2013 – but I will be on the internet radio tomorrow morning at 11:00 thanks to radio hostess (and new monoblogue contributor) Marita Noon. She asked me to come on this week’s installment of her “America’s Voice for Energy” program to discuss a post I did last year.
It came about because she was doing a piece on where the candidates stood on energy (which will be her debut post here tomorrow morning) and I noted to her via social media that I had done quite a bit of research last summer on that very topic as part of my “Dossier” series. She wanted to discuss that piece and other thoughts I had on the subject, thus early this morning we recorded my segment of her show, which will be the opening segment. Thirteen minutes may seem like a long time to fill on the radio, but we were rolling so well I almost didn’t get to promote my site.
Yet there are some other things which were sadly left on the cutting room floor, so to speak. Something I would have liked to fill her audience in on further but didn’t have the time to this morning was the unique situation we have here in Maryland with regard to energy. I did get to discuss a little bit about the proposed offshore wind that Martin O’Malley was trying to push, but I wanted to mention that there are hundreds of other jobs at stake in Maryland’s energy industry. (I actually did a little looking up last night because I was curious.)
According to the most recent state report available (2013) there are 401 coal mining workers in the state of Maryland, all based out of Allegany and Garrett counties in Maryland’s western panhandle. No, we’re not West Virginia or Kentucky by any stretch of the imagination but the Obama administration’s “war on coal” isn’t going to help their employment situation, particularly since these coal fields lie close to shale deposits ripe for fracking – unfortunately, a short-sighted General Assembly and Hogan administration put that resource development on hold until 2017.
The other fascinating thing I didn’t get to was the fact that cities up and down the coast are being intimidated into opposing seismic exploration of the ocean floor for the purposes of oil and gas exploration - but had no objection when they went out and did the same thing to map the ocean floor for siting wind turbines. Apparently that was a noble enough cause to kill a few fish over. Honestly, I think the opponents are very aware what is really out there and that’s billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas, all within easy reach of our shoreline and extractable at a cost that would blow the renewables out of the water. (Yes, the pun was intended.)
So take a listen, either live as it happens or later on when it becomes available as a podcast. I believe there are three other guests on the show, so I’ll be curious to see what they have to say as well when I catch the podcast (I’ll be at work when it’s on live.)
Let’s just hope that the long radio slump is over. Thanks to Marita for having me on as a guest, albeit a little reluctantly since I have been under the weather the last few days. But I managed to avoid a Hillary-style coughing jag and pushed through.
Bloggers love it when they can tie multiple points together in one cohesive post, and here I have the opportunity to do so thanks to a press release from Delegate David Vogt, who is moonlighting as a candidate for Congress from the Sixth Congressional District. Here’s what Vogt had to say about likely opponent John Delaney and his insistence that Larry Hogan should denounce GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump:
John Delaney should just go ahead and declare his candidacy for Governor so he can stop pretending to represent the 6th District. Congressman Delaney would rather support an avowed socialist or a career criminal over an accomplished businessman who is tackling the issues that matter.
The Congressman’s time in office has been spent as a rubber-stamp for the failed Obama/Pelosi liberal agenda, and it is no surprise that he is calling on one popular, successful Republican to denounce another.
The people of the 6th District need a Congressman, not a political pundit, and Delaney’s incompetent handling of the Iran nuclear deal, the Syrian refugee crisis, and Obamacare shows that he isn’t qualified to be either.
It’s intriguing to me that Vogt feels that way because I have those same suspicions about Delaney’s plans for 2018. In a lot of respects, Delaney is the Democratic mirror image of Hogan with a business background and, aside from the two terms in Congress, a similar political record. (Had Hogan had a specially-gerrymandered district created for him, perhaps he would have gone in another direction after winning his 1992 Congressional campaign. It was a trajectory his old boss, Bob Ehrlich, employed in 2002.)
Obviously Democrats are trying to throw the kitchen sink at Hogan legislatively but try as they might Hogan’s approval numbers continue to rise, reaching a stratospheric 70 percent in the most recent Maryland Poll released today. (H/T: Maryland Reporter.) Yes, that is 7 out of 10. I have no doubt they may chip away at the approval rating as a strategy but Maryland Democrats also have to find a candidate willing to take on a popular Republican governor running for re-election. Will anyone have the same ambitious streak as Martin O’Malley?
There’s one thing missing from the Maryland Poll that would serve as a counterpoint to Hogan’s numbers, and that is an approval rating for the General Assembly. We know Congress is unpopular (although the “throw the bastards out” mentality stops with their own representative) but no one polls regarding our body politic either during or after the “90 days of terror.” With the number of veto overrides and the blockage of some of Hogan’s legislation, it would be intriguing to see how popular the Maryland legislature is.
But returning to 2018: the Democrats have a relatively short bench of willing candidates with name recognition, and it’s unclear just how well Delaney is known outside the Capital region. The only other statewide candidate being mentioned is Peter Franchot, and right now he has a rather sweet gig as Comptroller – maybe not quite to the extent of Louis Goldstein, but if he wants another term or two it’s doubtful Maryland voters would object. At the age of 70 by the time the 2018 election comes around, Franchot would be the oldest governor to win election in at least a century. (AG Brian Frosh is reputedly not interested in being Governor.)
As for Hogan and Trump, that’s a matchup which seems like oil and water. While I’m sure Hogan respects the business acumen of Trump, the bombast The Donald brings is a polarizing feature among both parties that Hogan is likely to avoid. Hogan was indebted to Chris Christie for campaigning on his behalf, but if I were to pick a remaining hopeful Hogan would back he probably lines up best with fellow Governor John Kasich. But Hogan may just steer clear of an endorsement until mid-April, seeing who is still in the race.
By Cathy Keim
It is great to receive good news when the Maryland General Assembly is in session. Too often one opens the morning emails to find a call to arms to fight off the newest horror that our Delegates and Senators are perpetrating on us. So it was with great pleasure that I read this announcement from Maryland Against Physician Assisted Suicide:
We had to share this exciting news with you as soon as we could. Today, the physician assisted suicide bill, SB418, was withdrawn from consideration by its lead Senate sponsor, Sen. Ron Young. Sen. Young stated that he didn’t believe the bill had enough support in the Senate Judicial Proceedings committee to pass, and he’d rather withdraw it than have it voted down.
This bill was cross-filed with HB404, sponsored by Delegate Shane Pendergrass, so there is still a small (but unlikely) possibility that it could proceed from the House side. Sadly, it can be assumed that the bill will be reintroduced again next year since the progressives never, never give up no matter how bad the idea.
In fact, the Washington Post reports that:
Kim Callinan, chief program officer for the advocacy group Compassion & Choices, said her organization will continue to push for passage of such legislation in Maryland and elsewhere. “From our experience, it takes multiple times,” she said. “This is not uncommon.”
Compassion and Choices was formerly known as the Hemlock Society. You have to give the progressive groups credit for advancing their cause by changing their language to fit the times.
Nor was this their first bite at the apple. I covered the issue last year when it was called Death with Dignity. This year they tweaked the bill and called it the End of Life Option Act. We will just have to wait and see what new name it appears under next year.
I took the time to watch the committee hearings for the House bill a couple of weeks ago and wanted to mention some thoughts I had on the newest attempt to push the Culture of Death in Maryland. First of all, the many citizens that came to testify against the bill were articulate, compassionate, and informed. They included doctors, nurses, pharmacists, caregivers, social workers, and family members.
Advocates for the disabled made a particularly poignant argument for not passing this bill because people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are already discriminated against by the quality of life argument.
“Not Dead Yet, The Resistance, is a national, grassroots disability rights group that opposes legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia as deadly forms of discrimination.” I found them while reading up on the issues. I do not know if they participated in the testimony at the Maryland hearings, but their website is a great resource for information and facts such as:
Although intractable pain has been emphasized as the primary reason for enacting assisted suicide laws, the top five reasons Oregon doctors actually report for issuing lethal prescriptions are the “loss of autonomy” (89.9%), “less able to engage in activities” (87.4%), “loss of dignity” (83.8%), “loss of control of bodily functions” (58.7%) and “feelings of being a burden”(38.3%). (Death With Dignity Act Annual Reports, PDF download) These are disability issues.
Many people are so afraid of being disabled that they would rather kill themselves than suffer the ignominy of being disabled. However, their demand for death puts all disabled people at risk. Once it is deemed acceptable to kill people to end their suffering – since poor quality of life is considered suffering – then all disabled people are one step closer to being denied care and the ultimate form of discrimination: euthanasia.
I have generally thought about life issues in term of Judeo-Christian ethics, which are more than sufficient for me to oppose abortion, suicide, assisted suicide, and euthanasia. The concept of Imago Dei, that we are formed in the image of God, which gave us the basis for our Declaration of Independence and the foundation of our whole system of government based on the God-given rights of the individual, is what I base my principles on.
However, in this present age of post-Christian thought, it is not bad to have some principled arguments from others that come alongside the Church to make the stand for life to an unbelieving culture.
One moment of the testimony that I found revealing was when a physician who works with elderly patients and helped craft the Maryland patient rights law told the Delegates that HB404 was poorly crafted and would cause many problems legally and ethically if they passed it. The Delegate who was questioning him declared that they had taken a lot of time and care to write the bill. Despite his testimony pointing out flaws, she was unwilling to admit that there might be problems in the offing should the bill pass.
The hubris of this Delegate was a picture of what we are up against when our politicians get together for ninety days to wreak havoc on our state to please their advocacy groups. Their lack of understanding of the basic issues at hand is readily evident and their lack of concern for what the laws will unleash is disconcerting. Single party dominance of our state has not enhanced our legislative experiences.
The second piece of good news that I saw this week concerns SB868 which would require that all students have three doses of the HPV vaccine prior to entering ninth grade. Senator Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, the sponsor, pulled the bill after receiving more information about the vaccine.
The American Academy of Pediatricians stated in January:
It has recently come to the attention of the College that one of the recommended vaccines could possibly be associated with the very rare but serious condition of premature ovarian failure (POF), also known as premature menopause.
They call for additional testing to be done to ensure the safety of the vaccine.
This bill is also cross filed with HB1178. I called Delegate Angela Angel’s office to inquire if she would pull her bill also. Her office responded that there was discussion between the bill sponsors to decide what to do. The hearing is currently scheduled for March 10, so we will have to continue to watch that bill.
Just a word on the inconsistencies of the human mind. It is in vogue to eat hormone free meat and to avoid all sorts of food that is deemed not healthy, but at the same time we push young women to be on hormonal birth control and try to mandate that all students be vaccinated against human papilloma virus (HPV).
No one questions whether it is healthy for our girls to be on hormonal birth control for years, but you won’t eat a chicken breast from a chicken that is fed hormones?
Furthermore, while HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that does cause cancer, young people can avoid sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy by not having sex! Perhaps we need to spend more time teaching our youth about the dangers of promiscuous sex rather than subjecting them to hormone manipulation and vaccines which may cause premature menopause.
Editor’s note: In verifying the websites (as I always do to check the links) I read what Cathy sent and then found this from the Patients Rights Action Fund:
Maryland – This week assisted suicide proponents withdrew legislation noting to the Associated Press, “it became clear the measure did not have enough votes…” The bill author further mentioned that it is unlikely a new bill will be reintroduced next year due to the strong opposition. The Maryland Senate includes 35 Democrats and only 12 Republicans, and the House of Delegates holds 98 Democrats and 43 Republicans. (Emphasis mine.)
So we will see if they keep to their word or try it again under yet another name. They could also be saving it to make it an election-year issue in 2018.
It’s Leap Day, so why not use the occasion to put up the odds and ends cluttering up the mailbox? After sifting through the stuff I thought might be useful but is now pretty much irrelevant, I’ve still come up with a post’s worth of things that take a sentence to a couple paragraphs to deal with.
As you may know, here in Maryland we have passed the halfway point of the “90 days of terror” I call the General Assembly session. While several of the items I cite aren’t on the agenda, I think you can file them under the “bright idea” category, as in “don’t give them any bright ideas.”
While the first idea (one of many Daily Signal items that caught my eye) isn’t really on the table in the state, locally they are kicking around the thought of assisting local students who want to attend Wor-Wic Community College. But Louisiana’s program is breaking the state, so it may be a cautionary tale for the county.
Look, you begin with one college campus and recent high school graduates but then the folks at Salisbury University will want in, then there will be a clamor to include other groups and schools. With any government program, mission creep is a concern and this is no exception. It’s a natural lead-in to an excellent piece by James Bovard at Mises Daily (for this the hat tip goes to my friends at Americans for Limited Government.) Once we set the precedent of free tuition, will the county ever get off the hook?
“(Politicians) realize that addicting citizens to government handouts is the easiest way to breed mass docility and stretch their power,” writes Bovard, and he is absolutely correct. Why do you think I advocate so much for starving the beast? It’s the only way out of this mess we have created.
But as the Daily Signal adds in another great piece, Republicans who want limited government find it a tough sell in minority communities despite the evidence that shoveling money into the welfare system isn’t helping. Perhaps this is because conservatives are losing the battle for debunking the lies being sold to the minorities and youth, despite Dan Bongino’s best efforts to change the narrative at the Conservative Review.
Then again, when you have the dissent-free atmosphere of college campuses these days (again from the Daily Signal), it’s easier to see why the “skulls full of mush” remain in their state.
Something that is on the docket in Maryland once again is a “death with dignity” bill. But my final piece from the Daily Signal points out that if you took Oregon’s assisted suicide rate and extrapolated the numbers nationwide, 10,529 people annually would take their own lives. By comparison, in 2013 just over 33,000 people died as a result of vehicle accidents and roughly the same number perished in firearm-related deaths. But the majority of those firearm deaths were suicides, with 11,208 being homicides. (Table 18 way back in this government report.)
So what we would be doing is likely reducing the firearm death figure by a little bit, but increasing the suicide rate by giving it less of a stigma. I’m not sure I agree with this because in this day and age it’s easy for the greedy grandkids to convince their rich grandma she is bound any day to catch Alzheimer’s and struggle on for years afterward. Why not save us, uh, we mean yourself the trouble, they would ask.
I wanted to bring up one more seeming juxtaposition in Maryland politics before I switch gears. A couple weeks back there was a candidates’ debate for the Republicans seeking the U.S. Senate seat (way too) long held by Barbara Mikulski. I believe there were five candidates present of the fourteen who filed, but the most notable absentee was Delegate Kathy Szeliga. As she noted, there was a Maryland GOP event held that same night. Under the heading of “An Amazing Event!” she wrote:
Thursday night, I was able to attend an event with three great governors… Bob Ehrlich, Charlie Baker (Mass. GOP Gov.), and Larry Hogan even stopped by! These men know how to win and govern in blue states.
We will win our U.S. Senate campaign the same way – by being authentic and showing voters that we truly care about our state and nation. Our ideas work and empower people over big government.
It’s interesting she points this out since we didn’t get to hear her ideas in the debate. On the other hand, fellow candidate Richard Douglas chided Szeliga indirectly by stating:
I am delighted to be participating in the Goucher College Republican candidate’s debate for the U.S. Senate on February 18, 2016. Only a serious family emergency could keep me away. Over many weeks, College Republicans and some of Maryland’s most devoted grassroots Republican activists have devoted enormous effort to this useful event. I warmly commend them for this effort, and from the beginning, my participation was never in doubt. Service in the armed forces and with two U.S. Senate committees teaches a vital lesson: people come first. I took that lesson to heart in Iraq, on a Navy submarine, and in the U.S. Senate as it reacted to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. If elected to the U.S. Senate, I will never make party or President higher priorities than the people of Maryland.
As you recall, there were a series of questions I sent out to 12 of the 14 candidates (two had bad e-mail addresses so their mail bounced.) I mention this because I received Douglas’s answers yesterday as the second response to come in – haven’t heard from Szeliga yet.
Finally, if there were a third person I would like to add to monoblogue (at least on a weekly basis) it’s this lady. Each time I read Marita Noon’s posts on the political aspects of energy I nod my head in agreement, and this one was no exception – it even ties in to the lunacy on college campuses these days because this is what some of these crackpots do after college. I give you the movement to “keep it in the ground”:
“Keep it in the ground” is the new face of environmental activism. If those who understand the role energy plays in America and our freedoms don’t engage, don’t attend meetings and send statements, and don’t vote, the policy makers have almost no choice but to think these vocal few represent the many.
For example, there’s the case of Sandoval County, New Mexico, which has potential to be a wealthier county but can’t even give permission to drill an exploratory well without angst:
In the past few years, when oil prices were higher, Encana and WPX drilled some 200 wells in the same geology, 70 of them in Sandoval County. Not one single instance of any interference, damage, or invasion of fresh water aquifers has occurred. For that matter, over the past 50 years of production in Sandoval County, even with technology and safety standards that were not as advanced or rigorous as todays, there has not been one instance of aquifer harm.
One “small drilling well” outside of a community on the edge of Albuquerque that could create jobs and help the local and state economy could be blocked because of a few dozen agitators who could cause the county to “keep it in the ground.”
When I read this it makes me think of the short-sightedness of several regional governmental bodies that have expressed their opposition to the simple act of seismic surveying of the waters off the coast, citing harm to marine life. (This didn’t seem to be a problem in 2013 when it was done to place wind turbines, though.)
I suppose they would rather wreak havoc on the migratory bird population with wind turbines, but I think both oil platforms and wind turbines can co-exist – an “all of the above” strategy if you will. It’s just that one will prove to be a boondoggle without subsidies and one won’t.
So as we wrap up this Leap Day, here’s hoping Donald Trump is the first to take a flying leap – to where I don’t care.
I was alerted to a bill that was pre-filed regarding automatic voter registration for Marylanders, only to find that there are actually three up for consideration this year.
SB11, introduced by Senator Roger Manno of Montgomery County, and SB19, introduced by Senator Victor Ramirez of Prince George’s County, were both requested for pre-filing over the summer. While neither has been withdrawn, it appears that the two have joined forces with SB350 and gained 18 other co-sponsors from the liberal Democratic wing of the Maryland Senate.
Currently someone who wishes to register to vote has a number of options: most can do so online, although there is the route of doing so at the state MVA. However, this is an opt-in system and apparently it’s not good enough for those backing this bill as they want it to become an “opt-out” system where would-be voters would have 21 days to notify the state board that they do not want to be registered. Obviously these Democrats are counting on people to ignore the notice and be added to the voter rolls.
Those who favor “good government” and honest elections have their concerns about “opt-out” registration, but even more troubling is a proposal in Montgomery County to allow non-citizens and 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in local school board elections. As it was passed by the county’s delegation, this proposed amendment to the Maryland Constitution will soon be introduced as legislation. The Maryland Voter Alliance has urged concerned citizens to help defeat this measure, stating that:
MC 25-16 must not be allowed to pass, as it will continue to muddy the rolls and flood the already-plagued system with additional ineligible individuals, particularly non-citizens and underage voters, which both are violations of state and federal law.
Of course, the proponents will protest that it’s only for local school board elections, but this is the camel’s nose under the tent for expanding the practice. Just imagine the uproar if we in the city of Salisbury passed a voter ID bill for city elections – you can bet your bottom dollar it would be taken to court by someone like the ACLU and groups from all over the country would become involved in our local issue. (Not that such a common-sense bill would pass our City Council or be supported by our mayor.)
Voting is a right, and I would love it if 100% of the population took the time to become informed on the issues and candidates and took the elections seriously. (If they did, I contend there wouldn’t be anyone left of center elected in the country.) But millions who are registered choose not to participate, and millions more have their reasons for not registering. If we get universal registration, what’s to stop the party in power from allocating the ballots of some of these voters who may not even be aware they are registered, casting votes in their name because they - and only they – know what’s good for them?
Yet if that doesn’t arrest the long-term decline in overall participation – a percentage that would only get worse with universal registration – the next step will be compulsory voting, with legal penalties for not participating. In other words, welcome to North Korea. I wonder who would win then? It sure wouldn’t be the supporters of limited government.
I suspect that these two pieces of legislation will be approved by the General Assembly, and it will be incumbent upon Governor Hogan to veto them. We have heard the discussion about this year being the session that lays the groundwork for the Democrats’ strategy to get “their” governor’s seat back in 2018, and one of these tactics was to make Hogan veto bills that Democrats can demagogue with certain voters. This would be one of them; however, he should still veto these bills.
Surely you follow my site and know that each year, once the General Assembly session is over, I compile the monoblogue Accountability Project. Last year I believe I mentioned that some of the bills that I tracked were vetoed by Larry Hogan but would likely be revisited by this year’s group – sure enough, the “travel tax” was passed for a second time despite the efforts of every Republican who stood behind his or her governor. Even Senator Addie Eckardt, who co-sponsored the original bill, voted to sustain the veto.
That was one of the two bills I used for last year’s mAP. The other bill, which allows felons to vote before completing their sentences (as parole and probation are part of the sentence) has not received a veto vote yet. According to the Maryland House Republican Caucus, the reason why is that Mike Miller is one vote short and waiting for an appointee to replace former Senator Karen Montgomery, who resigned effective January 1. Given the fact Democrats hold a 32-14 edge and will get the 33rd vote when Montgomery is replaced, it appears four Democrats are feeling the pressure to stand with the governor. (If I were to guess I would say three of those four are John Astle, Jim Brochin, and Jim Mathias. They tend to be the most willing to cross the aisle in the Senate and represent conservative districts.)
Assuming the Senate gets that vote – and it won’t happen if Miller can’t rustle up the votes – that will be 2 of my 25 votes. I’m debating whether to eliminate one committee vote and one floor vote or two floor votes to accommodate these veto votes – it may depend on what else shakes out.
The felon voting override was particularly galling because it made it by one vote, and the one member of the Eastern Shore delegation who voted to override should have known better. Perhaps a “soft on crime” label will come in handy in four years because Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes won’t have an incumbent to protect her next time. It was an office that should never have received the free ride she got in 2014.
Next week’s assignment will be to get testimony in favor of our elected school board bill. Those of us who do honest work for a living can’t drop everything and go to Annapolis, but I will make it a point to write up my own statement of support. The hope is that the bill emerges unmolested and we get to decide how we want our school board to be come November.
At 12:01 on Tuesday morning, the Maryland Democratic Party probably had a collective conniption when they found out how much damage they would have to do to Larry Hogan over the next three years in order to get “their” governor’s chair back.
That was the moment that the latest Gonzales Research Maryland Poll came off its embargo and revealed two key points that probably keep whoever is in charge of that party awake at night. In a state which features voter registration numbers 2-to-1 in their favor, even a plurality of Democrats think Republican Larry Hogan is doing a good job. (If five more Democrats had stated in the affirmative there would have a majority – as it was, 48% is a good number.) Meanwhile, 52% of those same Democrats think the state is heading in the right direction.
Overall, a whopping 67 percent of respondents approved either somewhat or strongly the job Larry Hogan is doing as governor, with a paltry 19 percent disapproving. While the margin is only 48-31 as far as Democrats are concerned, it’s that same coalition that propelled him to the governorship.
Yet the Democrats have played with fire a little bit by overriding several of Governor Hogan’s vetoes. It seems to be their priority to make life more difficult (and taxing) for travel agents and allowing felons to vote prior to completing their sentences. The ball will now be in Hogan’s court for his legislative agenda, which didn’t really fare all that well last year.
It’s obvious people like the job Larry is doing, so maybe he needs to get a little more of a bully pulpit. Imagine what his approval could reach if he got a little more Reaganesque with his tax cut proposals. Let’s make Mike and Mike (Busch and Miller) look like the obstructionists they are. I don’t want to predict we can bury the Democrats face down come 2018, but they do deserve a few shovelfuls of dirt for the damage they did to the state over the term of the guy who gets a pathetic 4.5% of the Maryland Democratic presidential primary vote.
The half-decade or more process of securing a Board of Education in Wicomico County that’s directly elected by the people entered a new chapter late last week with the introduction of the appropriate legislation in the Maryland General Assembly. Senate Bill 145, with Senator Jim Mathias as lead sponsor and Addie Eckardt as co-sponsor, provides for the makeup of the board as well as a three-way referendum to be placed on this November’s ballot. It’s a relatively complex 16-page bill, subdivided into several sections because the sections which would actually become law are dependent on the results of the referendum.
To make a long story short, voters would face three choices in November, from which they can only select one:
- FOR a Board of Education with seven members appointed by the Governor;
- FOR a Board of Education with five members elected by district and two members elected at-large;
- FOR a Board of Education with five members elected by district and two members appointed by County Council.
The method with the most votes wins, regardless of whether it is a majority or plurality.
SB145 was assigned to the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs (EHEA) Committee and given a relatively quick hearing date of Wednesday, January 27. The EHEA committee has 10 members and is led by Chair Senator Joan Carter Conway of Baltimore City and Vice-Chair Paul Pinsky of Prince George’s County. Other Democratic members are Cheryl Kagan of Montgomery County, Shirley Nathan-Pulliam of Baltimore County, Jim Rosapepe of Prince George’s County, and Ronald Young of Frederick County, while Republicans Gail Bates of Howard County, Johnny Ray Salling of Baltimore County, Bryan Simonaire of Anne Arundel County, and Steve Waugh of Calvert County also sit on the committee.
At the present time it’s the smallest committee with just 10 members (and a slim 6-4 Democratic advantage) because there’s one vacancy in the Senate. At some point it’s presumed that a Montgomery County Democrat will join the committee to be its eleventh member, but the bill will likely have its hearing and committee vote by then. (Former District 14 Senator Karen Montgomery resigned as of January 1.)
An interesting note regarding the makeup of the committee is that Conway and Simonaire represent counties with appointed boards, while Pinsky, Nathan-Pulliam, Rosapepe, and Salling represent counties with hybrid boards. Moreover, none of these committee members represent the Eastern Shore. It’s worth noting as well that Conway was the chair of EHEA when Caroline County got its hybrid board. It was Senator Conway, who represents a district several counties and a completely different way of life away, that deemed that Caroline County didn’t have sufficient minority representation with a fully-elected board, so if the initial all-elected option is scrubbed for Wicomico it’s likely her doing. (This despite the fact we have one majority-minority County Council district and two others with significant minority populations, out of five.)
So the goal is to make sure this bill gets through without being tampered with, but that will be difficult since we don’t have a local representative on the board. And remember: last year when we had a bill for a hybrid board, their excuse for stopping it was that only one of the two Senators were supporting it. Now both are sponsors, and thanks to the public hearings we know that a lot of support was there for the all-elected option as one of three choices. Anything less is a disservice to the people of Wicomico County.
For years I have dubbed the annual Maryland General Assembly session the “90 days of terror,” and with good reason: no wallet or personal liberty is safe when the statists who inhabit most of the seats therein get together. Over the eight years of the previous two terms we endured tax increases, spending boondoggles, and enough new regulations to choke a horse, not to mention three measures which were petitioned to referendum by angry citizens.
While a new broom swept the governor’s office clean last year, Larry Hogan needed to get his sea legs under him as he took the helm of the ship of state so he didn’t create a huge legislative agenda last year – in a broad sense, it was about easing some of the tax burden Marylanders had been subjected to over the O’Malley administration, including repeals of the rain tax and automatic increases in the gasoline tax. Other items Hogan focused on were charter school reform and public campaign financing, which were among the few items Hogan had passed.
So since Hogan didn’t get his tax relief last year, it’s the front and center item on his 2016 agenda that kicks off later today. Democrats, of course, believe shoveling money into a bloated public education system is more important than giving hard-working Marylanders a tax break.
Something else to keep an eye on, though, are the department-sponsored bills, which now will bear the stamp of Hogan’s departmental appointees. Just like the governor, this is their first full legislative session as well and I’ve noticed a number of interesting measures coming from various departments that have already been pre-filed.
But the tension will be thick as Hogan tries to enact the agenda he promised while Democrats strive to make sure he’s another one-term Republican governor. As of 2018, it will have been 64 years since a Republican was re-elected as Maryland governor; however, Hogan has began his term as one of the most popular governors in the country and this session will occur with the backdrop of a Presidential race in which the Democrats aren’t utterly sold on their potential nominee. (Tellingly, the previous governor couldn’t even be a “favorite son” Presidential nominee from his own state.) In a contest over pocketbook issues, Hogan may have the public on his side.
We will know quickly just how the session will go as several of Hogan’s vetoes will be up for override. This was a rarity in the previous administration, but it’s worth recalling that the Democrats didn’t give Bob Ehrlich much of a honeymoon so I expect there to be at least one Hogan veto rebuffed. Democrats want to raise taxes, give felons the right to vote before completing their full sentences, make some reforms on civil forfeiture, and decriminalize marijuana paraphernalia. Out of those four vetoes, only the civil forfeiture bill originally had enough House votes to override a veto.
On a local level, we will be very interested to see what becomes of our elected school board bill. Will this finally be the year the state relents and lets the voters of Wicomico County decide its fate?
With a projection that we will have a large increase in filings over last session, it should be a year worth watching. I suspect I will have a difficult time keeping it to just the 25 votes I use for the monoblogue Accountability Project given that the veto votes will likely be included. But with a little help from my friends I look forward to the challenge.
I normally don’t go into great detail when it comes to internal Central Committee business, but I had already broached the subject when I covered the recent Maryland GOP convention. Moreover, I’m a representative of the county GOP voters so I think it’s only fair to bring my thoughts and opinions on this particular subject out to the public, as it will be debated in the General Assembly and eventually affect the representation of all Republicans in the state. Here Republicans have a forum for response should they choose to.
In the Executive Committee meeting we had as part of our November convention, Senator Bryan Simonaire went over his proposal to change the date new Central Committee members are sworn in. More recently he sent a letter to Central Committee members asking for their input. Simonaire stated in his letter that the change in inauguration of Central Committee members dates from the mid-1980s, when the period was changed from about a week after the primary (then held in September) to after the November election (as it has remained.) With the change in our primary date from September to late June, it leaves a long lame duck period for those who chose not to run or were defeated for re-election. Bryan seems to think the will of the voters was expressed in June and should be reflected more quickly.
In a perfect world, the primary would not have been moved back quite so far – to me, a mid-August primary date would have been appropriate for the federal regulations and better compressed the political season. But we are stuck with late June and the five-month interim between election and swearing-in.
Yet this doesn’t bother me for two reasons. First of all, voters in the many districts where one party or the other is either unopposed or has token opposition already have to wait from June to January for new representation. A local example was Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes, who won her seat when no one stepped up to challenge her (granted, the incumbent waited until immediately after the filing deadline to withdraw and leave her as the only candidate in the race.) She was the Delegate-in-waiting for most of a year before she actually took office.
Secondly, and corollary to this, is the theory that most of the campaign experience comes from those who had been in office for the prior three-plus years. We recruited the candidates and had given them advice and support, experience which a new member might not have. Simonaire points out that the majority of those who seek re-election win, but speaking as a member of the minority that didn’t I was glad my term extended through the November election. It allowed us to bring the new members up to speed, giving them a little bit of on-the-job training for the next cycle. On our group we only turned over three people, with two choosing not to run and one losing in the primary.
When we elect people assuming they will serve from the beginning of a term or session it seems a little unfair to stagger the terms of the Central Committee members that far off the remaining state political offices. We may be elected in the primary, but the idea is to be the representatives of the Republican Party and the job of the Central Committee is to help elect Republicans.
Given how the state runs its electoral cycle, and even though it defies logic to some extent, I think we should keep things the way they are.
Now that I made my thoughts on the fate of Wicomico County next year known, it’s time to expand the focus to the state as a whole. After the runup to the 2014 campaign and the transition of last year occupied the state over the last two years, it seems that the political class has settled in as we enter the second year of Larry Hogan’s term. His honeymoon was extended to some degree by his cancer diagnosis, but with a clean bill of health I suspect the gloves will be coming off as far as statewide Democrats are concerned. They need to position themselves for both the 2018 state election and, in some cases, the 2016 election as well. The surprise retirement announcement from Senator Barb Mikulski placed several Congressional Democrats into the race to succeed her, with House members Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen leading the charge. Elijah Cummings is also considering the race as well.
Of course, having these vacancies means ambitious state politicians are eyeing a move from Annapolis to Washington. So far five Democrats are considering the move, which in turn could create some vacancies by year’s end as it’s likely some of them emerge victorious. But on a policy note, these Democrats aren’t going to run from the political center so look for a serious turn to the left from the General Assembly this year – particularly if they succeed at overturning some of Larry Hogan’s 2015 vetoes in the opening days of this year’s session.
One place where Hogan can make a difference, though, is on the regulatory front. He doesn’t always need the General Assembly to make progress toward his goal of a more business-competitive Maryland, so look for him to try and do some pruning through his department heads.
With the economy recovering ever-so-slightly and the state addressing the structural deficit to the degree that it ran a small surplus this fiscal year, another bone of contention will be how the state’s budget is set up when it comes out next month. Having reached $40 billion last year, even the $500 million reportedly in surplus only allows the state to increase spending by a little over 1 percent – of course, the Democrats have a wish list twice that large and then some. Being used to the 4 to 5 percent annual budget increases common during the O’Malley era, Democrats consider Hogan’s smaller increases as cuts and that attitude is already in effect as we get ready to see the FY2017 budget.
Conservatives, though, probably aren’t going to see a lot of progress toward cutting the O’Malley excess on other issues. Short of a rejection to Maryland’s 2013 gun law in federal court (not likely), Hogan isn’t going to push very hard to restore Second Amendment rights or bring more school choice to the state. In year one, Hogan hasn’t really used his bully pulpit very much – granted, he was ill and undergoing cancer treatment for a large portion of the year but if you’re expecting Hogan to be another Ronald Reagan you may be disappointed. Besides the toll and fee decreases we were given last year, there’s not been much of a push for overall tax relief either thanks to the continuing structural deficit that Hogan’s predecessors have granted to him.
To the extent that Maryland has a large majority of Democratic voters, perhaps the best a conservative can expect is to slow down the leftward slide into the abyss. Bringing real change to the state is perhaps a multiple-term effort – not just the two Hogan may be fortunate enough to receive, but also with the hope that he paves the way for a more conservative successor. With the exception of one Bob Ehrlich term, the state has shifted leftward more or less continuously for decades so it will take time to undo the damage.
With the national election and the real prospect of conservative change in mind, the Maryland Republican agenda should be one of working the state away from its reliability on Uncle Sam as both employer and provider of funding. Since the Democrats are going to make 2016 about laying some ticking time bombs to go off just in time for them to come save the day in 2018, the GOP needs a plan to defuse them.
Maryland probably won’t make the same kind of news in 2016 as it did in 2015 – given the Baltimore riots and tremendous murder rate, we sure hope not. But the year has a lot of potential for this state, in my opinion more so than we’ve had in a decade. Leadership will be the key: if Larry Hogan emerges as the leader, we should be all right. But Heaven help us if it’s one of those on the loony left.