A worthwhile proposal?

April 22, 2014 · Posted in Maryland Politics, Politics · 1 Comment 

On Saturday, a somewhat contentious issue may come up at the state convention. But its path became a lot harder when the Bylaws Committee of the state party decided not to approve a proposal by Kevin Waterman of Queen Anne’s County to revamp the current structure of officers and move from holding two conventions during odd-numbered years to holding just one along with a regional convention.

A summary of the amendment changes, by Waterman:

This amendment is being offered to update and modernize the structure of the State Party in order to better reflect the needs and desires of the Party as it exists today, while incorporating lessons learned from auxiliary organizations such as the MFRW.

There are two chief changes being proposed through this amendment.

The first change is a revision to the structure of the Executive Board. As currently designed we elect 3 vice-chairs, however there is no clear portfolio or responsibilities that fall under their purview other than the duty of the 1st vice-chair to fill in as interim Chair if the Chairman for any reason vacates the office. The proposed revision does away with the 2nd and 3rd vice-chairs and replaces them with a set of regional vice-chairs who will have more clearly delineated duties specific to their regions. These chairs would be elected by the committee members of the region only.

The second change is a revision to the current approach to conventions. As everyone well knows the State Party holds conventions twice a year. These are almost always accompanied by complaints about the expense of travel and lodging twice a year as well as objections to the business sessions. The original version of this amendment called for going from 2 state conventions a year to 1; due to feedback on both issues relating to election of National Committeeman and Committeewoman as well as some concerns about the idea of regional implementations the change is now to 1 state convention in odd numbered years. The shift to regional conventions will reduce travel obligations for committee members, enhance regional camaraderie and political coordination, and allow for conventions and business sessions to be more focused on issues, speakers, and workshops of particular importance to that region. It is hoped that if this revised model is successful we can look to expand and go fully to 1 state convention and 1 regional convention (per region) in all years.

Yes, the Waterman in question is related to our current party chair; Kevin is her son.

Several years ago, at the time I first became involved in the state party, we thought we had voted in regional chairs but someone objected to how the vote was conducted and the matter was subsequently scrubbed. It seems the long-standing objection to this generally comes down to how the regions are divided out. A grouping like the Eastern Shore is fairly easy geographically, but at the time of the discussions we hadn’t reformed the voting system yet and many of the larger counties complained about how our region was far smaller in voting strength than the others but given an equal share of the executive chairs.

Some of the more private complaints I’m aware of deal with the fact that no one wants to be paired up with Montgomery County. Certainly those others who are placed with MoCo in the Western Region (under Waterman’s plan it would be Garrett, Allegany, Washington, and Frederick counties) would feel slighted considering there are more members in Montgomery’s committee than in the other four combined. One change which may occur would be to create a region just for Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, which may help the proposal pass muster with several counties which would otherwise be included with them in a particular region.

The idea of regional conventions has more merit; in fact, Montgomery County is one county which has its own one-day convention. An Eastern Region convention can be held in several locations, perhaps rotating on a regular basis between locations along the Upper Shore, Mid-Shore, and Lower Shore. Obviously Ocean City would be a popular location as well.

On the whole, I think it’s an idea which should be heard and debated at the convention. We probably will not have any other significant business, so this would be a good time to discuss it. However, knowing how the process goes, the excuse this time will be of the nature that this is the final convention for this term – better to leave this discussion for the next one. And the next convention it will be one of having so much other business like officer elections, so it will be passed on to the spring of next year. Of course, then the officers are in the middle of their terms so why not plan this for closer to the end? And so on, and so forth. We complain about legislators kicking the can down the road, but the Maryland GOP can have a tendency to do the same with controversial ideas.

Missing in action again

It’s almost becoming a running joke now.

Larry Hogan can crow as he wishes about raising $450,000 in the initial months of his campaign (although a significant portion was his own money, as I’ll document later this week) and make hay about being on both TV and radio in most parts of the state, but the reputation he’s building as a guy who avoids debates and tough questions is getting harder to shake.

Let’s begin with the television ads. As I speculated when I first wrote about it, it was indeed a cable buy, but now it’s spread across most of the state:

Two days after his campaign reported raising more than $450,000 in its first filing period, gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan significantly expanded his TV and radio advertising campaign.  His first 30-second ad entitled “Dedicated” which began running in 11 Maryland counties on April 3 is now airing on cable networks in a total of 19 counties.

The presser mentions radio, and I can vouch that the Hogan campaign is on our local talk station since I heard the ad Thursday. It’s a fairly good spot, but using the live audience feed on what Larry had to say in his stump speech was a little distracting because of the applause lines used. He also mentioned last Saturday when I spoke to him before our Lincoln Day Dinner that he had done another interview that day with WGMD-FM out of Georgetown, Delaware – a station popular in the Ocean City/Ocean Pines area. This is one area Hogan has used to advantage – one-on-one interviews where he can take his time to answer questions and steer the conversation back to his main campaign topics. When the questions depart from those areas, in at least one well-known instance Hogan’s called them “crazy.

In the release, Hogan is quoted as saying:

Through our one-on-one meetings with voters in their homes, places of work and communities and now with statewide advertising, Boyd and I are bringing our message of fiscal restraint and common sense reform to Marylanders who simply can’t afford another four years of single party rule and  incompetence by Annapolis elites.

Yet that message can’t seem to stand the scrutiny of direct questioning with other candidates present. On May 9 the Maryland Public Policy Institute is hosting a GOP gubernatorial debate and just three of the four candidates are participating. I’ll give you three guesses as to who declined, first two don’t count. You would think Larry can change pre-scheduled events with a month’s advance notice when he had a late change to his official announcement due to a predicted snowstorm (which indeed occurred.) So the excuse that “we have a lot of scheduling conflicts” won’t wash if he misses the May 31 debate scheduled for here in Salisbury.

Another candidate who developed the reputation of missing events early in the campaign has cleaned up his act to a large extent, and the party he’s promoting at the upcoming state convention in Bethesda promises to be a tightly-packed gathering if the guest list is accurate. Emceed by WMAL radio’s Larry O’Connor, the sponsor list includes “Ben Carson, Jr, Jimmy Kemp, Henry Marraffa, Richard Rothschild, Armstrong Williams and many others.” Most readers know who Ben Carson, Sr. is but this event features his son. Similarly, Jimmy Kemp is the son of onetime GOP Vice-Presidential nominee Jack Kemp (1996) and, like his dad, a former pro football quarterback. Marraffa and Rothschild are local elected officials, but Armstrong Williams is best known as a syndicated columnist. So it’s an eclectic group of conservatives who will be featured at Lollar’s soiree, and perhaps Lollar will get a Carson endorsement after all.

Much ado about HB1513

March 16, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

Controversy is still swirling about a proposed bill that is all but universally despised by Republican Central Committee members and the state party itself, with one local member alluding to a new twist in the saga.

Scott Delong, who is a member of the Harford County Republican Central Committee, sent out a lengthy e-mail yesterday to fellow Central Committee members detailing his opposition to the move. While this bill has remained bottled up in the Rules and Executive Nominations Committee of the House of Delegates due to its late introduction, a committee where no further meetings are planned for this session, Delong alleges that sponsor Delegates Rick Impallaria. Pat McDonough, and Kathy Szeliga are trying to petition the bill to the floor.

Assuming this is indeed the case, it’s worth pointing out that petitioning is a rarely-used alternative to the standard committee process, but while the GOP is seemingly afraid to use this procedure to move bills along which have merit, such as repeals to onerous legislation like the Septic Bill or so-called Firearm Safety Act, these members are apparently embracing this manuever to promote a bill harmful to the state GOP. It wouldn’t surprise me to see mostly Democrats sign this petition just as a way of dividing their opposition prior to an important election.

Delong also comments on the responses from Delegates Szeliga and Impallaria in links from his e-mail. It seems that the good Delegates have some concerns about the way things have operated in the past, which is fine. So why wait until after the filing deadline to put this bill in the hopper if this has been a concern? Amazingly, the 12 positions on the Harford County Republican Central Committee have attracted a total of 32 aspirants – only the far larger counties of Baltimore and Montgomery have drawn more for their positions, but many more will be elected from those jurisdictions.

Again, the biggest problem I have with this proposal is that it’s none of the Delegates’ business who sits on the Central Committee, aside from the vote they cast in that election. Moreover, certain people who are co-sponsors of this bill don’t even have that right because they don’t live in Harford County –  neither McDonough nor Szeliga live there, as both come from Baltimore County. To use Wicomico County as an example, there could be four Republicans in our county delegation but potentially only one actually living in the county. And because all of Harford’s (and Wicomico’s, for that matter) members are elected at-large, would it be fair for someone for whom only some of those who live in the county cast a vote to have the power to represent an entire county in this manner?

Let’s hope the bill remains buried in committee. I also call on the Delegates to abandon any effort to petition this to the floor, as it is simply a divisive and unacceptable abuse of power to follow through with this bill.

Sound advice for me and my fellows

As many of you know, I write regularly for the Patriot Post. As such, I’ve been a longtime subscriber to their various releases and today editor Mark Alexander wrote a piece called “The GOP’s Fratricidal Threat to Liberty.” And while I disagree with his premise to some degree – because he seems to blame the TEA Party movement for recent failures moreso than the “Establishment” pushback, something I would reverse – the overall point about unity is a good one, and it got me to thinking about how things are going in Maryland.

Back in November I was crucified for a particular post, but in light of recent events I want to quote from what I said then:

Now you can trust me when I tell you this “erstwhile contributor” to Red Maryland has had many differences with them over the years. But I have to say that they are an important piece of Republican politics in this state, for better or worse. I would have more respect for those running the Lollar campaign if they pointed out the differences between their guy and the other Republicans running than I do with their spending time worrying about what a group of bloggers thinks. If you disagree with Kline’s assessment (of your campaign), prove him wrong and step up your game.

Indeed, I think the Lollar campaign has stepped up. But more to my point, there are some who are taking a victory lap over the eviction of Red Maryland from the pages of the Baltimore Sun. It’s well worth noting a particular timeline of events: I wrote my piece on November 6, the Red Maryland – Baltimore Sun partnership came out November 20 (on the eve of the MDGOP Fall Convention), and their endorsement of Larry Hogan was made official December 12. So the endorsement was made after the Sun hired them.

Also worth mentioning is this part of Red Maryland‘s rationale on choosing Hogan:

No doubt there will be, in some circles, the gnashing of teeth over our endorsement, much like there was for our 2010 endorsement of Bob Ehrlich. However, we will continue to ascribe to the Buckley Rule and support the most viable right candidate who can win. (Emphasis in original.)

Gnashing of teeth – check. But there’s another issue at play here, and it has nothing to do with who is on what payroll.

There are only a handful of conservative political blogs in Maryland; perhaps no more than a dozen really cover the state well on a regular basis. As I said back in November, I have had many differences with Red Maryland and probably will lock horns with them on a number of future occasions. There’s no doubt we see the limits and overall merit of the Buckley Rule differently.

But I do agree with the need for the Eleventh Commandment. There has to be a change in philosophy among all of us – instead of trying to be the “tallest midget in the room” (as a Red Maryland stalwart is fond of saying) by needlessly savaging political and online opponents, we should be the ones who support each other in the overall uphill climb. On the whole, we’ve lost a valuable platform because of mistakes made by those who tried to be that tallest midget, ones for which they were called out. Hopefully a lesson is learned out of all this; and I don’t doubt Red Maryland will still have a part to play going forward. Just remember, folks: perception is reality.

As I see in my perception, each and every one of us who toil in this field can complain all we want and write 24/7/365 about the mess that is Maryland politics, but if we don’t strive to educate and motivate our readers into supporting good conservative candidates from around the state we’ve done nothing but waste our time. (Okay, a few of us may be paid for advertising, consulting, and other favors, but that’s peanuts.)

I may not necessarily agree with Red Maryland or Jackie Wellfonder about their belief that Larry Hogan is the best candidate for governor, but if he wins on June 24 it’s our job to help him win on November 4. I can tell you from experience that it’s a rare ballot indeed where a Democrat is more conservative than a Republican, and looking at the top of the Maryland ticket this year won’t be one of those rarities. Trust me, it’s not like I’ve never had to put my ego aside because my choice in the primary lost. But I sucked it up, buttercup, because I understood what was at stake.

To me, the end game is to elect conservatives, and if we elect GOP moderates we either convince them they should become more conservative or find a better primary opponent for the next go-round. As Alexander said, we will still agree with them on 80 percent or more of the issues.

To finish, let me quote Alexander but add just a couple words:

The internecine warfare in the (Maryland) GOP (blogosphere) may be good for cornering constituents and emptying their wallets, but it is most assuredly and demonstrably NOT good for advancing Liberty.

If I have a legitimate beef with a candidate – and there’s at least one I’ve been disappointed in so far – I’m reserving the right to say so. But the events of the last couple weeks should remind us all we have a ton of work to do and these misadventures are too much of an ill-timed idle diversion.

The other November election

There’s no doubt the importance of the 2014 elections in Maryland can’t be overstated. At stake will be the very direction of the state: will it continue to re-elect the same failed liberal leadership that’s been bleeding jobs (and may continue to do so) and can’t seem to balance a budget, or will it try the GOP alternative that at least promises to reduce the state’s onerous personal tax burden, depending on whether the victor is David Craig, Ron George, Larry Hogan, or Charles Lollar? And will the GOP get to those magical numbers of 48 Delegates and 19 Senators which will allow it to be a viable minority party?

To address the latter point, it’s worth mentioning that the GOP has conceded 46 House seats and 14 Senate seats to the Democrats because they couldn’t find a willing candidate. Most of these vacancies are in what I call the 10, 20, and 40 districts, which in the state’s numbering system cover areas around Washington, D.C. and inner-city Baltimore – basically the counties and Baltimore City which haven’t quite figured out yet that it would be in their best interest to divest themselves from big government and voted for Martin O’Malley and Barack Obama. Most of the areas which backed Bob Ehrlich and Mitt Romney lie in the districts with single digits 1 through 9 or in the 30s. (For reference, here on the Eastern Shore we have districts 36, 37, and 38.) In the latter areas, Democrats conceded five House seats and three in the Senate, so at play are a total of 90 House seats and 30 Senate seats. In order to get to 48 and 19, respectively, the MDGOP has to win 43 out of 90 races in the House and 16 of 30 in the Senate.

We obviously won’t know those results until November, and they will go a long way in determining the fate of the Free State. They will also go a long way in determining who will lead the party over the next four two years, and I think Diana Waterman is working hard to overcome her early missteps – so would she be in the mix for a full four-year term starting this November? (Corrected: I forgot we changed the bylaws a couple years ago to a two-year term starting in 2014, to match the national party.)

Certainly many have been impressed with her response to the ill-considered HB1513 on behalf of the state’s Central Committees, which Joe Steffen elaborated on yesterday. But she’s also been careful to reiterate that Central Committees cannot endorse candidates in contested primaries (although individual members can) and that our terms run until the election is over. (This year’s Fall Convention doubles as the quadrennial organizational meeting for the party, when new members are officially sworn in.)

And she also reminded us:

I’m sure you’re getting tired of hearing this but our number one job is to get Republicans elected. This is our time – the stage is almost set (Primary first to determine who will be facing off against the Democrat). The only way we will be successful is by working together. We are outnumbered. We must find a way to pull together – even if don’t see eye to eye with the candidate or some of their volunteers. And I expect all of us to run clean campaigns so that they day after the Primary we can stand together and show our complete support for our ballot. I promise you, no matter who the candidate is, even if they were not your candidate, that you will have more in common with them than you will the Democrat on the other side of the ballot. I am not asking you to yield on any of your principles but to remember, even if the candidate who won the Primary is too conservative or too moderate for you – they are better than the Democrats who have a strangle hold on everything in our State. For starters, the Democrat who wins in the Legislature will case their first vote for Mike Miller or Mike Busch. And it just goes downhill from there!

Precisely. So the question is whether the grassroots and activists will follow, or take their ball and stay home on election day if their chosen candidate doesn’t win. Remember, based on the polls we’ve had so far, a majority of voters will not have their first choice be the nominee for governor; unlike other states, we don’t have a runoff to ensure majority support.

That healing process has to start June 25, because I know from experience that the other side sucks it up and gets behind whoever they pick, generally having their arguments behind closed doors.

But if Diana Waterman can pull off these electoral miracles with very little money and the more than 2-to-1 registration disadvantage with which we’re currently handicapped, the only races we may have would be for the vice-Chair positions. I can’t see the Republican winner wanting to put “their guy” in as the party chair after success like that. She’s mended some fences over her term, and standing up for the Central Committees may allow her to climb out of the hole she dug early on.

Stepping over the line

Every year there are bills introduced late in the session which seem to be fraught with peril. For example, last year we were saddled with a new gasoline tax from a bill introduced one year ago Tuesday, well after the cutoff for new bills to avoid the need for Rules Committee approval. Last year’s session also brought a late bill, introduced at the end of February, which radically changed campaign finance law and, among other things, pushed the filing deadline to February from April. Bad idea.

Because the filing deadline was much earlier this year, a certain delegation must not have liked the hand it was dealt insofar as those running for Central Committee. To that end, the Harford County delegation introduced House Bill 1513, which makes a key change to the Central Committee in that county only.

At this time, there are 12 members of the Harford County Republican Central Committee – twelve positions that a whopping 32 people are seeking. (All of them are at-large countywide positions similar to many other counties in Maryland.) Out of that crowd, it’s apparent that a number are members of the local Campaign for Liberty chapter, and those who would be considered the “establishment” came running to their General Assembly delegation for aid. The result was HB1513, which is written as an “emergency” bill so it would take effect once passed and approved by the governor. Generally this occurs no later than May.

The idea behind the bill is that Republican members of the county’s delegation to Annapolis would become ex officio members of the HCRCC, with voting power in just two instances: removal of members and new appointments. At this time, there are seven members of the Harford County delegation who would become members: Glen Glass, Rick Impallaria, Susan McComas, Pat McDonough, Wayne Norman, Donna Stifler, and Kathy Szeliga. With the exceptions of Norman and Stifler, all could be members going forward into next term if this law passes.

What this bill would do is expand the voting from 12 members to 19 members (as it stands now) or perhaps even 20 members if all members of the General Assembly from Harford are Republicans. (There is one Democrat among the eight presently.) The key reason for this is to make the difficulty of having a 2/3 majority on these issues – where 8 of 12 have to agree – to a situation where it becomes 13 of 19 or 14 of 20.

I think the fear is that a majority of the insurgents will win over so-called “establishment” candidates. By stacking the numbers with members of the General Assembly, they need only convince about half of the existing body to vote with them in order to reach a 2/3 majority. (I use this number because it’s an operative one here in Wicomico County.)

While the numbers would be much less significant here in Wicomico County, if a similar law were passed for us it would add four members to our nine. In that case, attaining a 2/3 majority if the Delegates voted as a bloc could require only a minority of original members (4 of 9.) In Harford’s case, it could be a 6-6 split turned into a 13-6 majority.

And while we certainly would welcome our Republican delegates to our meetings, I think this bill sets a tremendously horrible precedent. There was nothing stopping any of these Delegates from running for Central Committee, aside from the obvious fact not all of them live in Harford County – that in and of itself is a terrible feature of the bill. Again using Wicomico County as an example, all four Delegate slots would go to members who live outside Wicomico County. Shamefully, the only two resident Delegates we have are Democrats.

Unfortunately, it wouldn’t surprise me if this bill passes, even if it does so on just Democratic votes (which is very possible.)  And I’m not sure what sort of legal challenge could be made to it, aside from perhaps the fact they would be adding non-residents to the Central Committee – but it could be argued as well that they were voted in by the people of Harford County, too. And if it does, look for a lot of copycat bills in the coming years as the legislative branch consolidates power.

To this I say not just no, but “hell no!” They won’t let us come vote in the General Assembly on bills, so why should they have the right to vote on our Central Committee?

I love form letters!

The other day I got an interesting note from onetime Maryland Senate candidate turned campaign director Chris Cavey. I’ll just start with it and comment later.

Michael,

Just wanted to write you a quick note of congratulations as an officially filled Wicomico Central Committee candidate! I think you have made a wonderful choice. Building our party has long been a personal cause of mine and I am proud to say my name is on the ballot for Central Committee in Baltimore County – so, perhaps we will be working together building a stronger MDGOP during the next four years.

You should know Larry Hogan has also been very committed to our party for many, many years. Not only did he run several of his father’s campaigns and serve for many years on the Prince George’s Central Committee; but he has been to several national conventions including 1976 where he Chaired Youth for Reagan! Over the past several years Larry has been a major sponsor of MDGOP including hosting numerous events for the party – and many convention hospitality suites. We were proud to have our Change Maryland Fall Harvest Party in conjunction with MDGOP at this past Winter Convention in Annapolis. It was quite a success with over 1100 people in attendance.

Campaigns are exciting and addictive for people like me who are political junkies. I halted my Senate Campaign in District 42 to work fulltime for Larry – and I am very committed and pumped about the Hogan for Governor Campaign. Since our announcement, just five short weeks ago, we have hit the road at a sprint. The on-line presence with over 80,000 Facebook friends creating new volunteers every day has actually shocked me and I believe it will be a wonderful outreach for our party.

It is very rewarding, for a long time Central Committee member like me, to see so many new and excited people wanting to volunteer. In these few short weeks we have had three major fundraisers each exceeding expectations. Our mail program and on-line donations have been outstanding. Internal polling has us in very good position and we were very pleased to see similar reflections in outside public polling. Long story short – all is well.

Please feel free to call or contact me anytime should you wish to coordinate or work with the Hogan Campaign. My job as Campaign Director includes working with you as a candidate, all Central Committees and MDGOP. Our campaign has made the decision that we are open to helping all GOP candidates, working directly with each County Committee and MDGOP as we each work hard to change Maryland.

See you on the campaign trail!

Chris Cavey
Campaign Director

I guess what made it funny for me is that certainly Chris knows who I am since I’ve been on our Central Committee for eight years – he was first vice-chair under Jim Pelura. I’m sure someone from Larry’s campaign just went through the hundreds of Central Committee candidate files, pulled out their e-mail addresses, and blasted out this form letter regardless if they were running for the first time or the tenth. The only fields they had to rearrange were the first name and the county.

Well, first things first: I’ve been trying in my own special way to build this party for eight-plus years, so I wish your boss wouldn’t be so coy about how he will reach out to people who care about a number of issues: education, the environment, Second Amendment rights, and agriculture being chief among them. We are well aware of all the tax increases we’ve been forced to endure – if we didn’t vote with our feet and leave the state, as Change Maryland has so often pointed out – and we know economic conditions here are lacking. But those aren’t the only issues and all I hear from your boss is the same message of how Change Maryland appeals to independents and how bad the situation is right now. Remember, I was at the Change Maryland party in November, in part because I figured he’d actually make it official that night.

Yet there’s a line I find interesting in your e-mail:

 The on-line presence with over 80,000 Facebook friends creating new volunteers every day has actually shocked me and I believe it will be a wonderful outreach for our party.

So it leads me to a question: what if Larry either isn’t the nominee or doesn’t win in November? Does Change Maryland go on, and will you share resources with the Maryland GOP? One criticism I heard in the years following Bob Ehrlich’s defeat was that the party was still overly oriented to Bob’s success rather than trying to be there for everyone. I’m sure there were some who were relieved when Bob lost in 2010, taking the short-term pain in looking at the long road because the party could finally move on from the Ehrlich legacy – let’s face it, we’re not exactly talking about Ronald Reagan here.

So Chris, if Larry wins, this will not be the Maryland Larry Hogan Party, it will be the Maryland Republican Party. We will work appropriately for his re-election but not exclusively as it seemed, by many accounts, like the MDGOP did from 2002-06 (and even during O’Malley’s first term, when Larry ran the first time before ceding the field to “my friend” Bob.)

Finally, you may want to make sure April 12 is clear on your calendar because it looks like that will be the date of our Lincoln Day Dinner. I understand Larry is in demand for fundraisers but we would kinda like him to show up at our LDD since no candidate has a home-field advantage here and we just might want him to say a few words.

Listen, I really would like to back Larry but so far I don’t know where he stands on a lot of important issues. He has a good overall message but one thing I’ve found about certain candidates is that once you look deeper into what they have to say, they tend to either contradict themselves over time or they pander to the crowd they’re speaking in front of. I suppose Larry’s keeping it simple to stay on message but sooner or later people like me have to ask and there has to be more than one dimension. We know it’s easy to be the opposition party and stand on the sidelines, so – aside from the three-point test Larry touts – how will he govern and lead?

There you have my response, Chris. Color me skeptical – and still undecided – for now.

Lollar to introduce running mate Monday

The puzzle pieces will be complete by Tuesday.

I had already found out with good authority that Ron George has secured a running mate, with an announcement to come at a later time, but Charles Lollar sent out word yesterday evening that he will announce his LG pick Monday morning in Annapolis. For these two, that will be the final hurdle before beginning the campaign. (Update: George will introduce his running mate Tuesday morning in Annapolis.)

While Maryland election law dictates each candidate for governor have a running mate, the idea of waiting until the last minute fueled speculation that one or both of the two who selected last would be dropping out; moreover, the idea of the two joining forces has even been pitched to me as well. Since both Lollar and George have trailed in polling and in fundraising, there’s a certain logic to this.

And the dance card is filling up around the state. Just so you know, last Monday I filed for re-election to the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee for a third term. At the time I was the third to file, but the race has blown up over the last couple days and it appears we will have about the same number of candidates as we did in 2010 – a lucky 13. (I was the luckiest because I finished ninth with just 30 votes separating me from being tenth and out in the cold.)

But around the state it’s not filling as fast as I’d like. As of today we are conceding 21 State Senate seats to the Democrats (out of 47) and 72 of 141 Delegate seats. Even if we won them all it’s still a minority in both houses. Obviously some will be filled at the last minute, but not enough.

This continues a sad trend among Republicans who leave a lot of seats uncontested – in 2010, 15 Democrats in the Senate and 35 in the House got practically free rides after the primary – only 4 Republicans in each chamber had the same luxury. Obviously candidate recruitment is difficult at best in districts where the voter registration numbers are skewed even 10 to 1 against a Republican, but it’s still important for candidates to hoist the flag and – more importantly – be educators. Plant the seed for future victories. And by pinning the Democrats down with at least some opposition, they can’t help as readily in other districts. The days you force them to campaign are days they can’t help out in a swing district. Notice that Democrats only left 4 seats uncontested – in House Districts 33A, 33B, 36, and 37B and Senate Districts 1, 2, 33, and 35. Even in the GOP stronghold of Carroll County, they contested those seats.

Hopefully the news will be better as we complete the field and find out who the last two running mates will be.

Hogan leads in first inning

At last we have a scientific poll to determine who is the top dog among Republican voters, and the big winner is…undecided.

I know that belies my headline, but an OpinionWorks poll for the Baltimore Sun found 68% of Republican voters hadn’t made their mind up yet. Of those expressing a preference, the poll looks like this:

  • Larry Hogan – 13%
  • David Craig – 7%
  • Ron George – 6%
  • Charles Lollar – 5%

Doing some quick math and extrapolating the numbers, the primary would come out like this:

  • Larry Hogan – 42%
  • David Craig – 23%
  • Ron George – 19%
  • Charles Lollar – 16%

In other words, I would be pretty close to my 60 percent statement from the other night.

According to the Sun, the poll was taken from 1,199 likely Maryland voters over last week (Saturday through Wednesday.) 499 of them were likely Republican primary voters, with 500 likely Democratic primary voters backing Anthony Brown by a significant 21 point margin over Doug Gansler, with Heather Mizeur just 4 points back from Gansler. (40% are still undecided, though.) Margin of error on both polls is 4.4 points, so in actual terms all four GOP candidates are within the margin of error at this point.

OpinionWorks is the Sun‘s resident pollster, and they recently did a poll suggesting an additional $1 per pack tobacco tax would be acceptable to state voters. (They didn’t call me, or the “no” would have been larger.) Based on their body of work, they would seem to be a more left-leaning pollster, sort of in the same vein as Public Policy Polling. At this point, though, there’s no real reason to suspect they would have their finger on the scale of the Republican race.

Of course, we didn’t get any direct polling of possible matchups, such as Brown vs. Hogan, which is unfortunate because there’s no way to find out whether Larry’s more or less populist, anti-establishment message is selling. He’s been good at criticizing the current lieutenant governor for both actions and inaction, but Hogan hasn’t completely spelled out an agenda on key issues like education and the environment. Does he tack to the center and risk alienating a large portion of his base like his former employer did?

There’s also the aspect of name recognition. Back in November I wrote about a Goucher College poll measuring how well-known the various candidates were. It still seems to track well, given that the Democrats were more well-known at the time and now have far fewer undecided voters. Indeed, a current 28-point difference in undecideds matches up well with November’s 31.7 point name recognition gap between Anthony Brown and David Craig. (Larry Hogan was not part of the November poll.) Once people begin to pay attention to who the players are, the polls will start moving up for the various candidates.

My last observation is wondering whether Hogan’s success is akin to a “convention bump” because he’s announced so recently. A poll taken in March or April will help to determine this. I think Larry is indeed the leading contender, but I don’t think he’s really getting nearly twice as many votes as any of the others in the field – this is why I compared the results to giving up a 3-run homer in the top of the first. As people begin to get to know Larry Hogan on the campaign trail, he will either break the game open or allow the opposition to catch up.

The liberty dinner

At this time of year many counties are scrambling to find speakers for their annual political dinners, whether they’re the Lincoln or Reagan Day events Republicans hold or Jefferson-Jackson dinners for Democrats. However, the Maryland Liberty PAC has scored a coup by securing libertarian favorite Senator Rand Paul for their upcoming event.

Rand Paul

Obviously being close to Washington, D.C. assisted the Maryland Liberty PAC in their effort, but having Rand Paul as a keynoter may bring more interest to the group than the buzz about securing former VP candidate Paul Ryan to speak at the 2013 Red, White, and Blue Dinner sponsored by the Maryland Republican Party last June. The worrisome trend for Maryland Republicans: reports seem to indicate attendance at the event has declined markedly in recent years – while 400 came to see Ryan, close to 700 came for Mitt Romney in 2010 and for Newt Gingrich in 2009. Gingrich also spoke there in 2011, while Karl Rove and Grover Norquist have also addressed recent RWB gatherings. Although the attendance goals expressed by the MLPAC are somewhat more modest, in the range of 150 to 200, it may be a sign that allegiances in the continuing MDGOP struggle between establishment and grassroots may be shifting. All the Liberty PAC needs is the group which has tuned out the mainstream GOP over the last few years to be successful.

MLPAC chairman Patrick McGrady added in a release that:

It is widely rumored that Dr. Paul will run for President of the United States in 2016.

March 26th is your opportunity to meet this rising star within the Republican Party.

Maryland Liberty PAC is committed to building a 21st Century Republican Party that brings new ideas and new people to the cause for liberty in our country.

Rand Paul is one of those new voices who presents a bold, conservative message that’s appealing to millions and millions of Americans.

The proceeds from this event will continue to support Maryland Liberty PAC’s ongoing efforts to

  • Build the statewide liberty movement
  • Train new activists on effective tactics
  • Mobilize the grassroots around liberty issues
  • Hold leftist politicians accountable

Don’t miss your chance to build the cause for liberty in Maryland and celebrate an instrumental leader in the movement.

But it’s interesting to me that the MLPAC wants to work within the framework of the Republican Party, considering the fact they and their subgroup the Maryland Pro-Life Alliance – particularly the latter – tend to aim their fire at recalcitrant Republican members of the General Assembly as opposed to Democrats.

Moreover, the money raised may not go to the candidates and causes more mainstream Republicans may want to support. Unlike most PACs, the MLPAC doesn’t directly support candidates. Indeed, a look at their campaign finance reports shows they’ve never transferred any money to candidates and have endorsed just one local candidate in their history. Much of what they’ve raised so far has gone to political education, as expressed in their frequent e-mail blast campaigns against members of the General Assembly or advocacy for or against certain bills (particularly the 2012 Septic Bill and 2013 gun control legislation) in session, with most of the rest going toward fundraising expenses.

According to McGrady, that trend will continue. “We are primarily focused on issue advocacy and informing the public about voting records of politicians on those issues,” he said. McGrady went on to add that they wanted a price point which was “attainable for everybody,” and I would say $30 to hear Rand Paul accomplishes the goal – although the hourlong VIP session is more conventionally priced at $200 a head. Dirty little secret: that and the sponsorships are where the money is really made.

This show of support from Rand Paul may put a little spring in the step of Maryland’s “tireless, irate minority” and give them more impetus to change hearts and minds. It should be a fun event, nonetheless, and the question of whether any of those who attend are Republican elected officials and candidates will be something to check for the next financial report.

Ducking the question

In certain quarters of the Maryland GOP, a video is being shared – one that’s less than flattering to candidate Larry Hogan. It was done by a gentleman named John Lofton.

Biographically, John Lofton is a journalist of some repute, including a stint as editor of an RNC newsletter during the Nixon era and jobs as a syndicated columnist as well as op-ed writer for the Washington Times in its infancy. He’s now Communications Director of the Institute on the Constitution (IOTC), and perhaps one of the quirkier, if God-fearing, people in the state. This video illustrates the point. As for the state of the GOP these days, Lofton writes that “(b)eing a Republican is not a disease; it is a choice – a very bad choice, but a choice nonetheless.” His other working title is the director of the God and Government Project, billed as “an outreach mission” of the IOTC.

Yet on the way to a Republican coronation, in a race where at least one supporter feels the other candidates should drop out, Larry Hogan stumbled over what was a simple philosophical question posed by Lofton: what is the purpose of government? Admittedly, I might have, too, although when asked a second time about the role of government the change in terms may have helped me understand what he was driving at. Instead, the Lofton-Hogan conversation came to an end and has not been restarted despite what Lofton calls repeated efforts to conclude what John calls “possibly the shortest interview of my career.”

So while blogger Jeff Quinton saw Larry’s supporters as perhaps a little thin-skinned, and Richard Cross took time to note that Lofton, indeed, has some views which could charitably be considered as somewhat outside the mainstream of thought, it fell on some of the strongest Hogan backers to shoot the messenger and blame the spread of the video on Charles Lollar supporters, a group which Red Maryland Radio called “Facebook warriors.” On Thursday’s show co-host Greg Kline assessed it this way, part of a conversation during the show’s first segment:

(John Lofton) is one of these guys who’s, you know, Christian nation – his answer to the question, by the way, is the purpose of the government is to serve God, that’s the answer he was looking for. And because this interview got cut off, and Larry Hogan – I think you can hear, even in that clip, I think he realized ‘what am I doing here’…

…he gets interviewed all the time and doesn’t get that question very often.

That may be true, but the question has validity – regardless of its source or the answer the questioner was looking for – because voters aren’t as familiar with Larry’s stand on all the issues. One weakness of a candidate who comes from a non-political background is that we can’t tell political philosophy based on voting records or how he or she has governed in smaller jurisdictions, which on the GOP side covers Ron George and David Craig, respectively. This is tempered somewhat in the cases of Charles Lollar and even Brian Vaeth by their recent unsuccessful runs for office, but aside from an abortive 2010 run for governor, Larry Hogan last completed a campaign 22 years ago – in politics, that’s a lifetime. (To put this in context, that was the election cycle just before the Contract With America.) That’s not to say political experience is a requirement, but without it a candidate should take pains to reveal to voters where he stands.

Yet there’s a second aspect to this. If the situation were reversed, and Anthony Brown similarly blew off an interviewer asking a “crazy” question, most on our side would be caterwauling (and rightfully so) about ducking the tough questions in order to maintain spin control. On the other hand, Larry Hogan has thus far run one of the most non-specific campaigns in recent memory. I want to believe that Larry will be different, but we all see what happened the last time someone ran on a “change” platform – millions have been disappointed with the changes which were made. And when he’s been given the forum to expand on his plans, he’s taken a pass or simply refused to answer the question.

I’ll leave aside my opinion that Larry should have gotten into the race sooner as well as the strange itinerary which has had him miss certain key events. But let’s look at how other candidates have addressed key issues.

Both David Craig and Charles Lollar made whistle-stop tours, engaging voters at several stops along the way. (This is from Craig’s stop in Salisbury last June. Unfortunately my outside job precluded seeing Lollar on his September tour here.) Meanwhile, Ron George eschewed the bus tour but released a multi-point agenda of proposals shortly after he announced.

Some may say that gives the other side ammunition to pick apart certain pieces of the candidate’s platform, but in looking at the Democratic contenders I see no shortage of specific proposals from them. We certainly don’t agree with most of them because they’re not going to be in the best interest of Maryland voters, but at least we have somthing concrete to debate on a philosophical basis. This is lacking from Larry Hogan thus far, and it bothers me because I like to know where those seeking office stand. Ducking a legitimate question and calling it “crazy” didn’t help because I’d also like to know how candidates feel about the role of government.

Finally, I have one statement about all this fallout, charges, and countercharges.

On June 25th someone will emerge from the chaos of our Republican primary with the nomination for governor. And unless a candidate or two drops out before the primary, the chances are pretty good that the victor will only have a plurality of the vote. If Bob Ehrlich suffered in 2010 from the disinterest of the 1/4 of GOP primary voters who backed Brian Murphy, can you imagine the headwinds our candidate will have when 60% or so supported someone else?

Say what you will about Democrats – once the primaries are over, they seem to quickly get on board with their winner. It’s likely we will have the situation I described above, so the underlying thought all candidates should have is how to get those who supported the opposition behind them in a state of unity. Having Lollarites at war with the Hoganistas in a show of junior-high style personal attacks on supporters’ weight and brushes with the law, with the Craigsters and Bygeorges looking on hoping to gain advantage, is no way to run a party.

You may not like the supporters of the other guy, but just remember who the real enemy is. Hint: it’s the guys on the other team making this a less Free State.

Hornberger makes his debut

As Republicans in Maryland, we are always pining for a time when we develop a deep bench of candidates, something to act like the farm system Democrats seem to have where they can send out waves of liberal idealistic candidates across the state to attempt to shuck and jive their way into office through slick messaging without a great deal of substance or, for that matter, originality.

So this morning I received a press release from one of those new young candidates, Kevin Hornberger from Cecil County. He’s the first from either party to file in the rebadged District 35A, which more or less takes in the area of the current District 34B. That district is now represented by Democrat David Rudolph.

I’ll share a little bit about Hornberger, as he writes:

An engineer and small business owner since 2006, Hornberger said he intends to bring increased fiscal responsibility and spending oversight to Annapolis. A lifelong conservative, he will challenge the tax and spend practices of the state’s liberal super majority. “Annapolis has to stop treating its citizens like ATMs. Instead, less spending through better oversight of expenditures is the only way to ensure families in this our great state can prosper—and one way is by keeping more of their own money.”

As a Library of Congress employee for over eight years, Hornberger has effectively managed multi-year, multi-million-dollar contracts and capital improvement projects. In one instance, his innovative approach saved taxpayers more than half a million dollars. “My yardstick for civil service is how much money can you save the taxpayer and still provide an acceptable level of service.”

As a gun-rights advocate and NRA life member, he has already begun to work with his future colleagues in the General Assembly to reverse the unconstitutional gun laws passed by the current Democratic majority. “One of my top priorities,” Hornberger said, “is to restore Marylanders’ Second Amendment rights, and to prevent continued attacks from close-minded extremists—whose positions show they are ill-informed about the vital present day role and historical importance of firearms in our country.”

I saw the next part as the money quote, though.

“I think any political incumbent should be very concerned about maintaining his elected position,” he said, “particularly after what has transpired in our state over the last four years. It is time for fresh leadership. The greatest threat to our God given constitutional rights is the super majority ruling our current one party state.”

It’s a great message, from a candidate who was an Eagle Scout. But the way it was disseminated was interesting as well.

My site was one of several not local to Cecil County which received this release; so far the Dagger Press is the only one to run the story (too bad they messed up the name.) Others like Red Maryland, The Quinton Report, and Maryland Reporter have taken a pass, which is their right. (I think I have a little fan base in Cecil County, which may be why I was included.) Moreover, you’re probably not going to get such a fair shake from the mainstream media – witness this Daily Times story I found linked on Maryland Reporter.  (This mayor sure is trying to sound like a conservative, isn’t he? Stick with the real thing in Charles Otto.) Outlets like the Baltimore Sun or other large-circulation newspapers weren’t even included in the list.

Obviously Kevin is just getting his feet wet politically and needs to get out his word on a budget – the release doesn’t even have a letterhead and the Facebook page has only 18 likes. It’s the grassroots that count in this case.

If the Republican Party here in Maryland is ever going to become relevant, we need to find people of all stripes willing to put themselves out to endure the slings and arrows certain to come their way from an entrenched majority ruling against the peoples’ best interests. Will they make some mistakes? Certainly – it’s not like we have a template for success we can follow nor the built-in advantage of registered voters.

But we have the ideas to succeed, if only the word gets out. We probably have 100 Kevin Hornbergers running across the state who just need a little encouragement as they begin a political journey. The least we can do to change this state is take a look at their campaign and help them as needed.

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    February 10, 2014