The “poor Kathy” campaign

As a Republican in Maryland, there are two things you have to account for in a statewide race: you have a smaller pool of party regulars in the voting bank when compared to the Democrat in the race and you will have less money and free media than the Democrat has at his or her disposal. These have been givens throughout the modern political era, and it’s a rare Republican who can overcome them.

But I think the idea of playing up just how low-budget a campaign is (against a well-funded Washington insider) doesn’t work well as a serious campaign ad. I’m going to share Kathy Szeliga’s ad so you can judge whether she plays this shtick (as well as the motorcycle riding angle) too much.

In truth, when I looked up the latest FEC reports (as of June 30), Van Hollen only had about a 2-to-1 cash on hand advantage on Szeliga, with $566,795 on hand. Admittedly, Van Hollen had definitely churned through a lot more money than Szeliga over the previous 15 months covered in his report, but he was also trying to fend off a well-known challenger for the Democratic nomination in Fourth District Congressman Donna Edwards.

And Kathy was determined to squeeze her nickels:

Our fundraising has been going well, but we didn’t want to waste a dime, so we shot the ad on an iPhone – saving the campaign thousands of dollars. And TV ads are expensive, so we decided to buy cable and focus on a strong social media push.

She would need more than a strong social media push, though: her 17,126 Facebook likes trail Van Hollen’s 21,333, while the margin is even worse on Twitter: Szeliga has just 2,349 followers compared to 28,780 Twitter followers for Van Hollen. (Of course, Chris has more of a national profile as a Congressman so that should be expected. As evidence, current Senator Barb Mikulski has 48,683 followers while Andy Harris has 6,281.)

But since the Democrat is afraid to debate in the hinterlands of the state (or include the third candidate in the race, Green Party candidate Margaret Flowers), perhaps the ante needs to be increased. This is what you really need to know about Chris Van Hollen: a description from his campaign website but edited for more truthfulness by this writer. Normally this would be a blockquote but I have it in normal text to make the edits (deletions struck through, additions in italics) more clear.

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Chris Van Hollen has been described as “one of those rare leaders who runs for office because he wants to DO something, not because he wants to BE something.” Yet it’s what he has done that should trouble the hardworking Marylanders he’s trying to win over.

This sentiment captures Chris’s approach to public service, an approach that he will bring to the U.S. Senate to fight – and win – for Marylanders who depend on the ever-expanding federal government to deal with on the challenges we face today.

Government-dependent Maryland families can count on Chris to be their champion – because that’s what he has been doing for over two decades. As for the rest of you, well, you are correctly described by our Presidential nominee as the “basket of deplorables“ because you don’t share my ‘progressive’ vision.

Chris was first elected to public office in 1990, when he campaigned for the Maryland House of Delegates as part of the ‘Choice Team,’ which unseated an a pro-life incumbent opposed to women’s reproductive rights. So I have spent 26 of my 57 years on this planet in public office, and as you will see later on I was groomed for this practically from birth.

In Annapolis, Chris quickly earned a reputation as a champion for progressive causes and a talented legislator who was not afraid to take on blame powerful special interests for problems we in government created – like the NRA, Big Oil, and Big Tobacco – on behalf of hardworking families. I just didn’t let on that the NRA never pulled the trigger on a murder victim in Baltimore, Big Oil makes a fraction of the profit for putting in all the work compared to the ever-increasing bonanza we take in with every gallon, and we don’t have the guts to actually ban tobacco because we need their tax (and settlement) money.

He led successful fights to make Maryland the first state to require infringe with built-in safety trigger locks on handguns, ban the prospective job creation of oil drilling around the Chesapeake Bay, and prevent tobacco companies from peddling cigarettes to our kids, taking credit even though sales to minors have been illegal for decades. Chris also negotiated an historic tax increase in funding for all Maryland schools. Just don’t ask me to increase the choices you have to educate your children by allowing that money to follow your child.

Time Magazine said Chris was “a hero to environmentalists, education groups and gun control advocates.” The Baltimore Sun called him “effective” and “tenacious” and the Washington Post dubbed him “one of the most accomplished members of the General Assembly.” If you were a special interest that depended on a continual government gravy train, I was definitely your “fair-haired boy.”

In 2002 Chris was elected to Congress on a wave of grassroots special interest support, ousting a 16-year Republican incumbent thanks in large part to some creative redistricting. There he brought the same brand of can-do activism socialist failure with him. He led the successful effort to stop big banks from reaping outrageous profits from having student loans as part of their loan portfolio - instead, we made sure Uncle Sam got that piece of the action and rigged the game so that even bankruptcy cannot save most graduates who can’t find a job to pay their loans from - and was also credited with helping Democrats win back control of the House in 2006, just in time to steer the national economy into the rocks.  He became a Democratic leader and played a key role in the passage of the Affordable Care Act perpetual annual increase in health insurance rates and deductibles, the Wall Street Reform protection law, and the Economic Recovery Act that helped rebuild our shattered economy has helped saddle us with the worst recovery from recession in the last century.

When the Republicans took over the House in 2010, Chris’s colleagues elected him to lead the battle against the Tea Party budget sanity. In that role he has been leading the fight to protect Medicare and Social Security from GOP budget attacks necessary reforms and protect vital investments in education, transportation, medical research and programs for the most needy. We have to buy those votes somehow and grease the right palms – debt is only a number anyway, right?

Chris has also unveiled a comprehensive plan to address one of the greatest challenges of our time – growing inequality in America.  His ‘Action Plan to Grow the Paychecks of All, Not Just the Wealth of a Few’  Redistribute Even More Wealth and Create More Government Dependency’ has been called a forward-looking blueprint for building an economy a government behemoth that works for everyone the ruling class inside the Beltway.

In the Senate Chris will continue to fight for against bold measures to revive the promise that every individual has the chance to climb the ladder of opportunity and lead a successful and fulfilling life. We Democrats can’t let an individual be successful on his or her own, particularly if he or she is a minority.

The son of a Baltimore native, Chris’s involvement in social justice and political action began at an early age. Chris’s mom and dad were both dedicated public servants, and growing up he saw their strong commitment to making the world a better place.  As a student, he joined efforts to end Apartheid in South Africa and stop the nuclear arms race. And while Chris put himself through law school at night, he worked as a Congressional aide and then as an advisor to Maryland Governor William Donald Schaefer. So in my adult life I have never held a private-sector job or signed a paycheck. But I’m fighting for you because I am down with your struggle to balance a household budget when both parents are working multiple jobs!

Chris and his wife, Katherine, live in Kensington where they have raised their three children.

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The above is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but along the line in this campaign I am very tempted to look at some of the local races on a more issue-by-issue basis, a “compare and contrast” if you will. I have no doubt that Chris Van Hollen is well to the left of most hardworking Maryland families.

But if Kathy Szeliga is as conservative as she says, perhaps we should downplay the “Washington insider” angle a bit because that’s not going to play inside the Beltway. The latest voter registration numbers tell the tale: just between the two counties directly bordering Washington, D.C. we find 31% of all state voters. Add in the close-by counties of Charles and Howard and the number edges close to 40%. Put another way, 2 in 5 Maryland voters have some degree of connection to the seat of federal government – even if they don’t work directly for Uncle Sam, their area was built on the economic impact of the government bureaucrat.

So the real question has to be about real solutions. Van Hollen cites a lot of things he has worked on, but one has to ask if the work he has done has actually solved the problem. Intentions might be grand for putting together a political webpage, but they don’t fly in the real world.

Even if you go back to his earliest days, consider these checklist items: as a youth, Van Hollen worked to stop apartheid in South Africa and against nuclear arms proliferation. Unfortunately, the transition away from apartheid also led to the decline of South Africa as a nation – just like a number of American inner cities in the 1950s and 1960s the nation was a victim of white flight because among those who were liberated were too many who used the occasion to settle scores instead of living peacefully as may have occurred with a slower transition. And that youthful resistance against nuclear proliferation yielded to political partisanship when Van Hollen supported the Iranian nuclear agreement. Perhaps the proliferation he sought to end was only our own.

Or ponder the effects of the policies Van Hollen backed in the General Assembly. Trigger locks became required for all guns sold in Maryland, so there’s already an extra expense. And I seriously doubt the bad guys have one on their guns, so if some citizen is shot and killed because they couldn’t disengage a trigger lock in order to defend themselves, will Van Hollen apologize or believe more legislation is needed?

And like many liberal policies, Chris took the first step and his cohorts have walked them a mile. We went from banning oil drilling in the Chesapeake (which may not be economically viable anyway, but we have no way of finding out) to thwarting the state’s efforts to drill for its proven natural gas reserves in the Marcellus Shale region (as well as other prospective areas including Annapolis and parts of the Eastern Shore.) That cost the state hundreds of possible jobs. Meanwhile, the state of Maryland perpetuates the hypocrisy of encouraging people to stop smoking with a small portion of the taxes they rake in with every pack – a sum that “progressives” annually want to increase as one of the state’s most regressive taxes.

Nor should we forget the policies Van Hollen has supported over the last eight years. Just ask around whether your friend in conversation feels they are better off with their health coverage, or if the economy is really doing well for them. If they have student loans, ask them what they think of the price of college. In all these areas, government that considers meddling as its task has made things worse for the rest of us in Maryland.

These are the questions Kathy Szeliga should be asking, rather than joking about her low-budget campaign. The aggressor sets the rules, and to win over the voters the candidate has to define the opponent for them. My definition of Chris Van Hollen is that he’s part of the problem, so the task is to make sure voters know that before explaining the solution.

Part of the exodus

On Labor Day I normally post on something union-related, but today I have a different sort of union to ponder: the union between conservative activists and the Republican Party.

Among the items on my Facebook feed this morning was one from Dwight Patel, who is one of the financial movers and shakers in the Maryland Republican Party (note: I have transcribed these as written, grammatical/spelling errors and all):

If you are an elected Republican Central Committee member and you can’t bring yourself to Vote for our Parties (sic) nominee… Go resign

After the shouts of “Preach!” and “Word!” in response was this from Eugene Craig, who is the 3rd Vice-Chair of the MDGOP:

Elected members of the central committee were elected to build the GOP not tear it down with blind gang like loyalty to open racism. That is not the party of Reagan and Lincoln and I will protect every RCC member rights to do what’s best to build their local party and vote their conscience.

So Patel responded:

Eugene out (sic) bylaws speak of this… Hence many people have resigned over trump… It was the right thing to do… And you need not further the lefts talking points by calling Donald trump a racist.

Dwight went on to explain that Trump was among his bottom choices and he gave maximum or sizeable donations to others. I can vouch for the fact that Dwight is a significant donor – the resident of Montgomery County bought two tables for our Lincoln Day Dinner last year and brought several people across the bridge. It’s likely he will do so again this year.

As you likely know, I am one of the “many people (who) have resigned over trump.” I didn’t have to in accordance with the bylaws, but I chose to anyway. Simply put, as one who is conservative before Republican I could not back a man who I saw as detrimental to the conservative cause, in part because I found him lacking in trustworthiness and principle. Having no way of knowing just how many people have resigned over Trump as compared to regular turnover, though, I don’t know what sort of trend we have here. But it’s highly likely that most of those who have left over Trump are those who were on the conservative side of the Republican party – people I call the “principle over party” wing as opposed to the “party over everything” wing. (And then you have those caught in the middle based on the fear of a Hillary Clinton administration, which seems to be descriptive of Patel. I suspect they would be sorely disappointed with the lack of positive change that would come from a Trump administration – just more of the status quo of ever-expanding government but with the “Republican” imprimatur on it.)

But in speaking to Craig’s point about “build(ing) their local party,” the sad fact is that 64.6% of those voters in Wicomico County who showed up voted for Trump over a more Constitutional conservative choice in Ted Cruz and a more moderate choice in John Kasich. Perhaps if Maryland had voted earlier in the process many within the 64.6% would have backed other conservatives in the race but we will never know – I just have to deal with the data at hand, and to me it proved that our county voters may be the “party over everything” group. If that’s true, then many of my efforts in educating local voters have been for naught.

I will admit that Trump seems to be getting his campaign going in a better direction, and even with the possible pitfalls of the Trump University trial and allegations of financial ties to Russian and Chinese backers those pale in comparison to the headaches Hillary Clinton is dealing with as the e-mail and Clinton Foundation scandals – along with the rumors of serious health issues with which Hillary is afflicted - smolder in the background despite being ignored by the partisan media. And the other day I concocted a scenario in playing with an Electoral College map where Trump had a path to victory if he can make up just five points on Clinton in certain states. (Part of that involves getting Gary Johnson into the debates, which I support. Let Jill Stein come along and participate, too.)

But, to use an overused phrase, in terms of the conservative movement a Trump presidency would still be rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Moreover, his base has been variously described as “nationalist populist” or ”alt-right” while those who oppose those ideas are dismissed as “cuckservative.” I reject that description: I think I stand on the real conservative ground here based on my body of work – it’s you guys who need to get off the idea of using government to get even with your opponents. That makes you no better than liberals.

In this case I am not an unbiased observer, but the number in Maryland and around the country that have resigned from party-level positions based on Trump securing the nomination on a plurality of the vote – with some unknown number of Democrats switching over to goose the process for nefarious reasons – is less important than the conservative balance they brought to the Republican Party. Because of certain tasks I was generally given, I could not bear the idea of publicly having to show support for Donald Trump so I opted out.

I have read on many occasions that the Republican Party will soon go the way of the Whig Party, but the circumstances have changed significantly since the mid-19th century as Republicans and Democrats cooperated to make ballot access difficult, if not impossible, for other parties to secure. (The same goes for the Presidential debates, which are controlled a commission made up primarily by members of the two parties. It’s why people like me, who have some degree of agreement with the Libertarian and Constitution parties, stayed as Republicans – the others can’t win on a state and national level.) If the Republican Party ceased to be, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see the power-hungry Democrats take the opportunity to lock the process entirely. So it’s gut-wrenching to see the GOP self-destruct, but there’s the possibility this may occur.

The conservative fight has to go on, though. Like many of the others who left over Trump, I may just need some time to figure out my role.

Willful ignorance?

According to multiple news reports on both the state and national level – apparently this was, to paraphrase Joe Biden, a “big f’ing deal” – Larry Hogan is now an official member of #NeverTrump. Welcome aboard.

Hogan said he doesn’t plan to vote for Trump, but was coy on his choice otherwise. “I guess when I get behind the curtain I’ll have to figure it out,” Hogan said. “Maybe write someone in, I’m not sure.” That sounds vaguely familiar, although even as moderate as Hogan can be I would imagine he’s not a Hillary supporter.

Certainly the governor would prefer to keep his questioning confined to affairs of state, but after being bugged about his choice for months once his endorsed candidate Chris Christie exited the race he obviously threw up his hands and gave the most honest answer he could. Of course, it wasn’t good enough for the Democrats who want Hogan to condemn Trump for his statements so they can beat up the downticket candidates this year, but the goal shouldn’t be to satisfy a party that’s nominating a candidate who, if she were not Bill Clinton’s wife, would likely be in prison for her actions as Secretary of State.

What’s interesting to me about this whole thing is that Hogan’s appeal cuts across many of the same lines as Donald Trump’s does. Both had crossover attraction in their election, as thousands of Democrats voted Hogan in 2014. Many of them switched parties two years later to cast a ballot for Donald Trump. At the end of last year the Maryland GOP had 971,806 voters but gained over 29,000 by the end of April to eclipse 1 million for the first time at 1,000,915. (As of the end of May they had 1,004,083.) Unfortunately, the Democrats are growing even faster as they gained 68,000 in the same December-May period. So there may be a little bit of a political calculation going there.

(Contrary to popular opinion, however, the Libertarian Party has not gained in Maryland despite Republican threats to leave if Trump was nominated. In the month after the primary they actually lost 87 voters.)

It’s worth noting that Donald Trump got 54.1% of the GOP primary vote, which translated to 248,343 votes. On the other hand, Hillary Clinton received 62.5% of the Democrat vote, which turned out to be 573,242 votes. Even Bernie Sanders outpolled Trump with 309,990 votes. GOP turnout was right about 45%, so Trump would have to get a whole lot of unaffiliated voters to have a shot. Having Hogan come out publicly against The Donald probably doesn’t assist that cause.

But the more important number to Hogan is 70 percent, which is roughly his approval rating right now. I don’t think Trump can touch that number in Maryland, and while there may be the most radical 10 percent of Trump supporters who won’t vote for Hogan in 2018 because Hogan is withholding his support, that’s only about 25,000 voters at risk – not even 1/4 of his victory margin in 2014. If 70 percent of the population likes you, it’s a pretty good bet you’ll be re-elected. (This is why the Democrats have tried to pin Trump to Hogan every chance they get.)

While I suspect that his reasoning may be a lot different than mine, I’m pleased to have Governor Hogan on my side on this one. The GOP still has an opportunity to correct course at the Cleveland convention, and I think they better take it.

The conservative’s conundrum

Thanks to social media, I found out my good friend and “partner in crime” Heather Olsen was leaving her post as the Chair of the Prince George’s County Republican Party. While she was not specific about her reasoning, it soon became apparent that she could not and would not support Donald Trump as the standard-bearer of the national Republican Party. So she did what she thought was the most honorable thing and resigned her post.

Seeing that news and my reaction – “I’m sorry to see my ‘partner in crime’ go, but it’s principle over party for some of us,” I had another political friend of mine ask me if I was leaving the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee. I’m going to answer that question in due course, but in answer to the later query my friend had regarding how many people would resign from their respective Central Committees if our presumptive nominee becomes the guy on the ballot, I think it’s hard to say because there is a normal turnover of members from these bodies. Our county Central Committee was a rare exception to this as the nine who were elected in 2010 all served their full term. Already this time, though, we have had one personnel shift as I returned to replace a member who had to resign due to an employment change. So the #NeverTrump group wouldn’t be much of a dent considering the number who leave for various other reasons: change of employment, loss of interest, or inability to get along with their group.

Olsen and her solution of resignation is one end of the spectrum, and it’s certainly a valid reaction. On the other hand, you have Brian Griffiths of Red Maryland, who was ready to drop the GOP like a bad habit after the primary knowing they were nominating a “sh*t sandwich” but is now in the camp of staying for the others on the ballot. But Griffiths doesn’t hold a current position in the party, so he can easily enough be a bombthrower.

My position is different, but perhaps more similar to Brian’s. The simple reason for this is that I have no intention to run for office again so that aspect will not matter to me. (Besides, since this website predates my tenure on the Central Committee it’s hardly been a secret where I stand on any political issue.) So just let me say this: there may be candidates on the Maryland presidential ballot who will exemplify the traditional three-legged conservative stool of fiscal responsibility, strong national defense, and support for Judeo-Christian values more fully than the nominee of the party who is supposed to stand for these things. Will any of those candidates win? It’s doubtful, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Maryland politics it’s that Republicans who try to beat liberal Democrats at their own game don’t stand a chance because when the chips are down liberals will vote for the real thing. I’m not convinced there is a clear distinction between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton with regard to the overall direction they will take this country.

So I stand as #NeverTrump.

But having said that it doesn’t mean I’m not for Kathy Szeliga or Andy Harris down the ballot. While Szeliga has had a disappointing voting record this year, I still see broad differences between her and her career politician opponent, Chris Van Hollen. As for Andy, I endorsed him in the primary and he won convincingly – enough said. They may be for Trump, and I’m okay with that. There’s also the local school board issue on our Wicomico County ballot where we need to achieve the desired result of a fully-elected board beginning in 2018.

And it was said at the convention that we should have tolerance for those with opposite views, so I tolerate Trump supporters as best I can. (It’s difficult sometimes.)

Naturally this leads to the question of how the Maryland GOP will react to this declaration. Well, it seems to me that a member of their Executive Committee was once a proud member of Republicans for Obama, and I’m certainly not supporting Hillary – if anything, I’m rooting for a repeat of the 1824 election that was decided by the House and praying sanity will reign therein. So it might be a touch hypocritical for them to speak out.

It’s worth repeating that I’m not standing for re-election and that my term runs through the 2018 general election. I also am quite aware that the state party bylaws spell out sanctions that “may include a vote of censure and/or a request for the resignation of that member,” but I’m not going to honor such a request unless I see fit to. I will leave the Central Committee at a time of my choosing, not theirs.

When I was sworn in as a member I took an oath to uphold both the United States and Maryland Constitutions as well as abide by the bylaws of the Maryland Republican Party “with diligence to the best of (my) skill, abilities, and judgment.” It is my judgment that supporting Donald Trump for President, despite the fact he is the presumptive Republican nominee, will be detrimental to the overall platform and positions that have generally been associated with the Republican Party since the era of President Reagan. Thus I cannot support him and will back a candidate who better exhibits these qualities.

And since I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks this way, the Maryland GOP should tread carefully. One Presidential election is not worth risking your stock of committed conservatives over.

Election analysis: how did the slates fare?

If you have read my site over the last couple weeks, you’ll know that I had a fascination with how the slates of delegates and alternate delegates to the Republican National Convention came together. As it turned out, there were four of them:

  • The Conservative Club slate, which was the first one out. It featured ten Delegate and nine Alternate Delegate candidates, of which only seven actually ran. Four of those on the Delegate ballot were state elected officials.
  • The Trump slate, which obviously featured more backers of Donald Trump to add to the total he has. Of the 22 they fielded, seven were state (or federal) elected officials. Both the Trump slate and Conservative Club slate featured the soon-to-be-elected as National Committeeman David Bossie, who was the overall top vote-getter among Delegates.
  • The Cruz slate, which as I was told was an unofficial slate but featured those who worked for and trusTed Cruz. Their 22 hopefuls had just one state elected official, but two others who ran unsuccessfully in recent elections.
  • And finally, the Unity slate, which was an effort to bring all of the camps together. It intentionally excluded current state elected officials.

Out of 96 who ran, 67 (by my count) were on one of the slates, and while it didn’t guarantee election it bears noting that only Steve Schuh, who had the advantage of hosting the convention, beat the odds and won without being on a slate. The other 21 victors were on at least one slate.

So how did the slates fare?

  1. The Trump slate. It was no surprise that this slate was built for success, as it was heavy on elected officials. All but one of those who ran for Delegate finished in the upper half of the field, with five of the eleven slots taken by Trump backers. Collectively they received a healthy 30% of the vote. The success was even more pronounced in the Alternate Delegate field, where the names were less familiar so voting was based more on the slate. Again, all but one finished in the upper half of the field and an amazing eight of the eleven were chosen, overwhelming the rest with 46.6% of the vote.
  2. The Conservative Club slate. Had they ran with a full field, they would have presented a decent challenge to the Trump backers. Still, all but one of their ten Delegates finished in the upper half and they won four of the eleven slots when you count Bossie. House of Delegates member Deb Rey would have made it five but she just missed the top eleven by an eyelash. They finished with 26.5% of the Delegate vote as a group. As for Alternate Delegates, two of their choices did not actually participate in the election. Of the seven who did, six finished in the top half of the field with one making it to Cleveland. Their 23% of the vote was solid for just seven participants – had they fielded eleven, they may have made the low 30s.
  3. The Unity slate. In a race based as highly on name recognition as this one, not taking elected officials was destined to cut into overall success. Their Delegate field ran the gamut from third overall to 60th (of 61), with nine finishing in the top half and three of the top eleven Delegates. Overall they picked up 23.6% of the collective vote. On the Alternate Delegate side they placed seven in the top half and advanced four to the national convention – Marcus Alzona just missed making it five - scoring 33% of the Alternate Delegate vote.
  4. The Cruz slate. Out of their 11 selections for Delegate, just six finished in the top half and only two in the top twenty – their best Delegate finisher was Deb Rey, who as I noted just missed the field in 12th. Collectively they picked up only 17.8% of the ballots. The news was a little better for the Alternate Delegates – although only three finished in the top 20, two of those made the Cleveland field. The Cruz crew got 23.8% of the Alternate Delegate vote overall.

So in terms of those going to Cleveland, the score was Trump 13, Unity 7, Conservative Club 6, and Cruz 2. This adds up to more than 21 because David Bossie was on both the Trump and Conservative Club slates, Kory Boone was on both the Conservative Club and Unity slates, Cynthia Houser was on both Trump and Unity, and Alirio Martinez, Jr. and Christina Trotta had the trifecta of Conservative Club, Unity, and Cruz. (No wonder Trotta finished third and Martinez eleventh.)

But how did the monoblogue Slate do? Here’s the list I voted for, which began with crossing out the Trump backers and most of the elected officials.

Delegates:

  • Don Murphy (3rd, Unity)
  • Deb Rey (12th, Cruz/CC)
  • Maria Pycha (14th, Cruz)
  • John Fiastro Jr. (16th, Unity)
  • Faith Loudon (19th, Unity)
  • Michael Smigiel (21st, Cruz)
  • William Campbell (22nd, Cruz)
  • Julie Brewington (27th, Cruz)
  • Gus Alzona (34th, Cruz)
  • Donald Frazier (40th, Cruz)
  • Patricia Fenati (43rd, Cruz)

Alternates:

  • Christina Trotta, 3rd (Cruz/CC/Unity)
  • Gloria Murphy, 6th (Unity)
  • Alirio Martinez, Jr., 11th (Cruz/CC/Unity)
  • David Dobbs, 18th (Cruz)
  • Chike Anayanwu, 21st (Cruz)
  • Daniel Lathrop, 23rd (Cruz)
  • C. Paul Smith, 25th (Cruz)
  • Samuel Fenati, 27th (Cruz)
  • Luis Puig, 29th (Cruz)
  • Nathan Weirich, 30th (Cruz)
  • Robert Charles, 34th (Cruz)

Combined the monoblogue slate received 22.6% of the total Delegate vote and 27% of the total alternate vote – not counting the 100% of the votes that mattered, which would be mine.

So I pray that these folks who are going to Cleveland make some wise decisions for us when it comes to the platform, rules, and even perhaps reconsideration of the presumptive nominee if he continues to drift away from what I’ve always understood to be Republican principles on all three legs of the conservative stool.

Having done this before and not been on any sort of slate, my advice to those of you wishing to try in 2020 is to get on one. Unless you have stratospheric name recognition in the party, it’s highly doubtful you’ll advance to the national convention based on past results. It’s a sad state of affairs that this process generally benefits the “establishment” but it is what it is, and the best way to combat it seems to be putting together a slate. Remember, the bottom half of this field was littered with non-slate hopefuls, distasteful as that may seem.

2016 Maryland GOP Spring Convention in pictures and text (part 2)

When I last left you, I was commenting on having to get up at 6:45 for breakfast. Given that this was our election day and the polls were yet to open, this was the scene around the hotel on available spaces.

Aside from the Coke can (which, as an aside, is a drawback to this hotel because Pepsi products are difficult to come by), I often wonder what non-political guests think about all this. I’m sure they are amused.

On the way back to breakfast from putting my stuff in the car (on a glorious morning) I snapped this shot of the convention hall.

One tangible improvement was our county signs, which have finally been upgraded after a decade.

Our breakfast speaker was introduced by the recovering MDGOP Chair Diana Waterman, who was thrilled to report her hair was growing back after the chemo and surgery she has endured for her fight against breast cancer.

She called Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh “a great Republican.” Schuh began his remarks by noting this was the “most unusual election in at least 100 years.”

But Schuh went on to praise Donald Trump for tapping into several “electoral undercurrents,” particularly when he brought up the issues of immigration and national security. Yet while he said the “misgivings were understandable,” Schuh has “come to peace with a Trump candidacy.” Steve then outlined a number of stark differences between Democrats and Republicans: the role of government, immigration, Second Amendment, free speech (where the Left uses “shoutdowns as a weapon of choice”), taxation, private property, and life itself. It was a “belief in limited government and personal responsibility” that set the two major parties apart, Schuh added.

Schuh’s rather brief remarks allowed me to grab a good seat for the convention itself, which featured a number of reports in the morning. I wasn’t satisfied with how most of my photos came out inside the hall, so you will have to read about most of what was said inside without the visual aids.

Annapolis Mayor Mike Pantelides welcomed us to his city, noting that the Maryland GOP “got involved in my race in a very big way” and allowed him to win by a narrow 59-vote margin. Encouraging us to note on social media that the event was being held in Annapolis, Pantelides also called both County Executive Schuh and Governor Hogan “mentors to me.” His was the one city in Maryland with Republican leadership across the board: mayor, County Executive, and Governor, Mike added. Solid Republican principles and leadership could provide solutions, concluded Pantelides.

This photo of Congressman Andy Harris came out all right, and so did his message. He warned us that the Democrats have “a lot of assets” to throw at Governor Hogan in two years, so we needed to raise millions of dollars to assist him. But there were some advantages we had, too: for example, the sign denoting the reduced toll rates at the Bay Bridge is “like a Republican ad.”

Turning to the national scene, Harris noted we could not have another four years of liberal policy. And even though he endorsed Ben Carson in the GOP race, he came out to say, “I’m a Donald Trump guy 101% now.” He also told us there was no fight between Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, despite what the media would lead you to believe.

We had two legislative reports, one from Delegate Nic Kipke and the other from Senator J.B. Jennings.

Kipke believed that we were “at the precipice of…another surge of Republicans” added to the House ranks. “There are a lot of seats in play for us,” he assessed, particularly when Larry Hogan won in 21 more House districts than the Republican House candidates did. And the Democrats “are losing their minds” about it: Kipke gave the example of the bill allowing felons to vote before completing their sentences. Despite the fact 80% of Marylanders disagreed with this, and many of the General Assembly Democrats agreed with the veto, “the Democrats require compliance,” said Kipke – so the veto was overridden.

There were Republican-backed items we should be proud of, though, said Nic – another budget with no new taxes, the elimination of preschool testing, and the adoption of P-TECH schools, beginning in Baltimore City. Republicans are “leading on issues, big and small, that make sense,” said Kipke. He also awarded their Republican of the Year award to state Executive Director Joe Cluster.

Regarding the felon vote, Jennings later added that it actually failed 28-18 the first time, but was allowed to be reconsidered and passed 29-18.

One thing Senator Jennings stressed was the devious ways Democrats tried to flout the rules; in one example they tried to put one Senator on two committees, which is a no-no. They also worked hard to fix bad bills to make them more palatable.

But the problem Senate Republicans have is that “we are short five votes.” Getting to 19 votes would allow Republicans to sustain filibusters and kill the worst legislation. And there may be a lot of it next year: Jennings remarked that year 3 of an administration is where major pieces of legislation come out.

In between the legislative reports, MDGOP Chair Diana Waterman gave her report. She opened by welcoming new members but also remembering members who had recently passed, including my late cohort Blan Harcum who passed away earlier this year. She also announced the traditional June Red, White, and Blue Dinner would be pushed back to a date in early September because of the convention.

Diana also had a comment about the so-called “Republican war on women” when she asked “where is the ‘war on women’ when the Republicans have two (federal candidates) running and the Democrats have none?”

Waterman also gave the newly created Chairman’s Elephant Award to Dwight Patel, but the key remark to me was an offhand one where Diana referred to chairing “my last convention” in November. If so, Diana would conclude a remarkable four-year run where she took over a party in crisis and guided it to electoral success.

We then heard from our National Committeewoman and National Committeeman, respectively Nicolee Ambrose and Louis Pope.

Much of what they said was a rehash of what they told the Executive Committee on Friday night, although this time Nicolee came equipped with a slideshow. Here are the party’s goals for the new Precinct Captain recruitment program.

She also had a lot of these handy flyers to distribute.

I’m only giving you the top five – for the rest, come see us when we are out and about in the community.

Louis reiterated that this year’s convention “will be about unity,” for it’s the RNC’s “#1 job” to elect the President. And while Pope believed the GOP has “an amazing array of tools to make sure we win this year” and has “tremendously expanded minority outreach” over the last four years, it all comes down to our candidate. Pope conceded that “Trump changes our plans quite a bit,” and added it may “take a little bit of sculpting of (Trump’s) policies” to have effective minority outreach. But Louis also contended the “Trump effect (on downticket races) is not going to materialize.”

Pope’s remarks concluded the morning session. I went out to eat my lunch (with Andy Harris, no less) and saw this nice display from someone who would like to join him on Congress.

I was less interested in this swag, although I could have picked up a Cruz hat, too.

I also spied the potential National Committeeman making last-minute preparations.

One other task I had to perform was voting for Delegate and Alternate Delegate. Because I refused to add to the Trump slate I only voted for four winners, including the guy voting immediately after me.

At these conventions it seems like Don Murphy is my shadow. But he and Gloria should enjoy Cleveland, since they were two of my four that won.

The system was neat and easy – we knew the winners five minutes after we voted, as I will explain shortly.

Up first was the National Committeewoman election. Since that was a walkover for Nicolee Ambrose, I can simply comment that she had one of youngest members of the General Assembly, Delegate Robin Grammer (a member of the “Dundalk Revolution”) nominate her and Senator Steve Waugh second her. Both were results of the hard work Nicolee has done to elect more Republicans as both flipped Democratic districts. And I really liked Waugh’s line about how Republicans “focus on putting air conditioning in the classrooms and not transgenders in the bathrooms.”

We then had the National Committeeman election. Because the nominating and seconding speeches came in alphabetical order of the candidates, Bossie’s went first. Nominating Bossie was the highest elected federal official in the state, Andy Harris, who said David represented “a new way of thinking” that we need.

But the jaws hit the floor for the seconding speech, as Joe Steffen notes on his site in more depth. None other than Nicolee Ambrose delivered the dagger to her associate’s heart. “This is serious, serious business,” said Nicolee, and “we need a fighter.”

Despite that blow, Pope could counter with some firepower of his own. Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford nominated Pope, recalling how he had worked with Louis for years in the Howard County party and that he’s been fighting for the GOP. His seconding speech, delivered by Martha Schaerr of Montgomery County, added that Pope was “a tireless, trustworthy leader.”

The focus shifted back to Bossie for his remarks, and he closed the sale by saying “I believe I can bring a lot…to the Maryland Republicans.” It was “critical to have new blood in leadership,” David went on, and while he promised to raise Maryland’s profile, he also said “we must not cede ground to liberal Democrats, anytime.”

Pope could only appeal to the masses with his experience and passion, countering, “I’ve spent a lifetime working for the Republican Party…I stand on my record of accomplishment.”

But Pope’s defense was to no avail. It was clear when the first four jurisdictions to report (Allegany, Anne Arundel, and Baltimore City and County) picked Bossie by a combined 56-8 margin that the rout was on. In terms of our voting system the count was 365-188, but in actual bodies it was 182 to 91 – a perfect 2-to-1 margin. Pope only carried eight counties (Caroline, Cecil, Frederick, Garrett, Howard, Prince George’s, St. Mary’s, and Talbot) and in four of the eight it was a 5-4 verdict. Only Garrett (6-0), Caroline (7-2), and St. Mary’s (7-2) were big wins for Pope. (Wicomico County was 7-2 for Bossie.)

This was an emotional moment as the baton was figuratively passed, but we still had work to do.

There was a resolution that would allow the Bylaws Committee to perform what I would call a curative function, making minor changes to the bylaws in places where references were incorrect, misspellings, and so forth. They would report and we would review changes at the Fall Convention. That passed by a voice vote with one objection.

The first Bylaw amendment was an effort to both restore voting rights to the various ancillary organizations (Maryland Federation of Republican Women, College Republicans, Young Republicans, etc.) and set standards for their inclusion. But after some discussion and debate, it failed by a 188-361 vote (105-167 in terms of voters,) falling far short of the 2/3 majority needed.

The second one was less controversial, although there was enough of an objection to a lengthy lame duck period for party officers to transition after our organizing conventions (such as will occur this fall) that the date of takeover was amended back to January 3 rather than based on the day after the Governor or President of the United States is inaugurated. As amended it passed 438-99, although the amendment barely passed 283-258. (It was behind until Montgomery County sealed the deal.)

All this concluded just in time for the Delegate and Alternate Delegate results to be revealed.

As I said above, I only ended up voting for four winners: the two Murphys, Christina Trotta, and Alirio Martinez, Jr.

We then got to hear from our candidate for U.S. Senate, Delegate Kathy Szeliga.

Kathy thanked us for her support, then added that Bossie and Ambrose are “going to do a great job for us.” She also added that the fourteen U.S. Senate candidates are “unified and together.”

And while she gave something of a standard stump speech recalling her middle-class background, she noted that the business they created was “struggling like many small businesses in the country.” Repeating her message that Washington is broken, she chastised the Democrats for electing their “golden boy” Chris Van Hollen, pointing out that since he’s been in office the national debt has tripled and calling Van Hollen an “attack dog” for Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, and Harry Reid.

“Together we can change Washington,” the candidate, who Nic Kipke had earlier called “relentless,” concluded.

Our final task was to select electors, which necessitated us gathering in groups by Congressional district. Our district has the largest number of Central Committee members so we all crammed into one corner of the hall to hear several nominations. For the second time in a row, I nominated the First District winner: Diana Waterman, who prevailed over five others. The others will be Tony Campbell, Jane Roger, Faith Loudon, Cathryn Grasso, Dick Jurgena, Loretta Shields, and Alan McMahon.

Once Diana Waterman announced her choices for the at-large electors would be Ellen Sauerbrey and Michael Steele, we could finally adjourn. Next time is slated for Frederick this November – the question is whether it will be a wake, a celebration, or some combination thereof?

2016 Maryland GOP Spring Convention in pictures and text (part 1)

It had been awhile since I had been to the DoubleTree in Annapolis, but seeing the place was like old home day. While the MDGOP often holds its conventions there, it hadn’t hosted one in some time – in fact, Fall 2013 was the last one. But this time instead of the big news being the impending candidacy of Larry Hogan, it was the presumptive nomination of this guy.

(No, not Don Murphy sitting on the bench – I’m referring to the guy who supposedly will make America great again.)

Also different than our last visit was the number of sponsors.

It sure doesn’t hurt to have a governor from your party. But the story of this convention was all the electioneering going on. As I pointed out earlier this week, 98 people were seeking office and some were on this “unity slate.”

The idea was to take some folks from each of the campaigns and send them off to Cleveland to represent us. But after I had the chance to freshen up and get registered, those who represent us in the Maryland Senate made for my first stop of the evening. I could freshen up with some light snacks and an adult beverage.

(Note that Donald Trump is adding to that $2 billion in free media coverage on the adjacent TV. I didn’t say it was flattering.)

Speaking of media coverage, these two erstwhile associates of mine were doing their semi-annual Friday night internet radio show from the convention lobby.

I wasn’t listening so I have no idea who they dragged on as guests, aside from me not being one of them. I was downstairs at the Executive Committee meeting, where I found out the MDGOP had “a great fundraising quarter…our best since 2006,” according to party treasurer Chris Rosenthal.

But Diana Waterman had a message. “We must get behind Mr. Trump,” she said, “Trump is a helluva lot better than Mrs. Clinton.” Yet she also urged us to be respectful to those who can’t support our nominee.

She also pointed out that there’s no Republican “war on women” in Maryland given the fact two of our Congressional nominees are women versus none for the Democrats.

After National Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose updated us on some of the upcoming goals and events for the GOP, National Committeeman Louis Pope discussed the national scene, stating regarding this year’s primaries, “the goal was to have as fair of a nominating process as possible.” He added that the debate control “worked very well.”

Pope was looking forward to Cleveland, saying he was “preparing for a unified convention” and predicting Donald Trump “will be a pretty cool nominee.” As he saw it, the convention will be a “four-day infomercial for the Republican Party.”

Yet the Presidential election was to the benefit of local parties as well, added Pope, because they could use the national race as a tool for local fundraising, allowing them to build up their war chests.

We also learned about two proposed bylaw amendments and a resolution, which I will simply foreshadow because they will be covered more in-depth in part 2.

The Executive Committee was done in remarkable time, meaning that shortly after 8 I could go see what was going on. This was my initial stop.

It wasn’t a place I stayed long, for obvious reasons. But it appeared they were having a good time celebrating their presumptive nominee status.

My second stop was nearly as uncomfortable, but I did see Louis Pope there and wished him luck.

If you look closely in front of his sign, you can see Louis behind the other gentleman. He apparently held court in his suite for most of the evening, as I didn’t see him circulating. Nor did I see his opponent David Bossie, who co-sponsored the suite I stopped at later.

First, though, the prize for most appetizing spread went to the host County Executive Steve Schuh.

This doesn’t show the vegetable tray and chicken on the other table. Oftentimes there’s not enough good stuff to eat at these hospitality suites but between the spring rolls at the Maryland Senate pre-party and Schuh’s suite, my appetite was satisfied. I was there quite awhile, eating and talking to Senator Justin Ready.

Next, I went upstairs to the Conservative Club suite. But since I didn’t see Bossie, I didn’t hang out too long there.

As it turned out – at least judging by the times on my photos – the Harris/Szeliga suite was where I stayed the longest. It was a happening place.

It’s where I ran into an old friend of mine, Maria Ialacci of PG County, and my partner in crime Heather Olsen. So I was there awhile, although I retreated to the hall so I could hear and cool off – it was hot in there, and when I say it’s hot it’s downright uncomfortable to most people.

So I got to see the co-star of that show as she happened by.

I still haven’t spoken with Kathy Szeliga, but at least I have seen her so that’s a start.

My penultimate stop was a suite that wasn’t on the “official” list but somewhat underground – both literally and in spirit.

The only one down on the first floor, the combined suite of Don Murphy and John Fiastro was the famous grilled cheese suite, with Fiastro doing most of the flipping.

Let’s see what they can do with this.

I did not take a picture at my last stop, which was definitely a shame because Delegate Tony McConkey and his wife Susan did an after-hours (after 10 p.m.) ice cream suite. (They also had it during our lunch break today, but I didn’t go.) Now I was a little worried since it was situated just 2 doors from my room, but it must have died down by the time I talked to my sweetie and finally went to bed because I pretty much slept like a log. The hard part was getting up at 6:45 to get ready for breakfast, which is where I will pick things up tomorrow in part 2.

The battle now turns on fundraising

(Update: I was surprised to find Bossie read this piece and sent along pages of additional Presidential Coalition donations since 2006, to the tune of almost $140,000.)

Do you think Louis Pope is feeling the heat? I got a second letter from him Monday; this was the letter I alluded to Monday evening and was hoping to get to yesterday.

There were one passage in it that I found interesting. It talks about his opponent’s lack of party experience and Pope’s fundraising ability:

I now have competition in my race for re-election. My opponent has not yet served in any of the (party-related) jobs listed above, nor on a Central Committee or any party office. I wholeheartedly invite him to become more involved on the local & state level over the next few years. Experience pays in politics and I am one of the most experienced members of the Maryland Republican Party as well as the RNC. My seniority on the committee is important as I am able to direct RNC resources and funds back to Maryland.

The final piece of the puzzle needed for success at both the MDGOP and RNC is the ability to continually fundraise. Virtually ALL of our money comes through donations and you can only get those by making thousands of phone calls along with e-mails and letters to my personal donor base. Over the last two decades I have helped raise millions of dollars for MDGOP and our local & statewide candidates in Maryland, as well as Presidential candidates. (Emphasis in original.)

As we have seen in the last several months, GOP voters are perfectly comfortable with eschewing experienced politicians for someone who has done practically squat for the Republican Party until the day he decided to run for President representing it. And perhaps this is the problem with Pope’s experience: those who have stayed in an office too long tend to lose touch with their electorate, and become immersed in a world divorced from reality. Pope moved up the Republican ranks over a couple of decades, making it to state party chair in a good year to do so (2002.) And it seems the glide path for a former party chair involves serving in a different capacity with the RNC, since both Pope and former National Committeewoman Joyce Lyons Terhes were state party chairs at one time – Audrey Scott thought she could get in on that, too, but the Central Committee voters thought differently four years ago.

But I have to question whether that much in “resources and funds” accrued to the state party before Larry Hogan became governor. When I first became a Central Committee member in 2006, the Maryland Republican Party was worse than bankrupt financially – for years we were saddled with debt and things really didn’t come around until Hogan was elected. (And note that he used public financing to do so.) Perhaps Pope escaped Audrey Scott territory by being less than specific about dates and fundraising totals, but there were a lot of lean years while Pope was in office.

But Bossie’s organization has been no slouch, either. As part of the Citizens United umbrella, their Political Victory Fund has donated $119,000 so far this cycle to 40 different candidates, including a $5,000 shot in the arm to Kathy Szeliga’s Senate campaign (as well as a radio ad) and $3,500 to Andy Harris. In addition, this 2014 release shows the Presidential Coalition (another offshoot of Citizens United) donated over $33,000 to state candidates during that cycle.

I don’t doubt the Republican establishment likes Pope, as he’s been one of their loyal footsoldiers for many years. But perhaps it’s time for a new chapter, some fresh ideas, and a different style. One thing that struck me about Pope’s letter was how much it looked back at accomplishments rather than forward at goals. While there’s the idea of supporting the GOP nominee for President, the fact that Donald Trump begins with a “yuuuge” 325,000 vote deficit here in Maryland to Hillary Clinton (in a state which only has 677,000 unaffiliated voters compared to almost exactly 1 million Republicans) means that a more realistic goal is to concentrate on keeping a Republican governor and chipping away at the Democratic majority in the General Assembly – if the GOP succeeds there, they can finally control redistricting for the first time in decades and perhaps have districts more fairly drawn based on geography and not politics.

As I said a couple weeks ago, twelve years is enough. Looking back into the past is nice, but I prefer to look forward when I can.

The question of slates

You may recall that I wrote about the “Conservative Club” and its slate of proposed Delegates and Alternate Delegates to the Republican National Convention, and that discussion came up briefly tonight at our meeting (which was actually to interview candidates for the Wicomico County Board of Education; the discussion came as we were tallying the ballots for ranking the candidates for submission.) Later on, I observed in an e-mail to another member that there will probably be a “Trump slate,” “unity slate,” and any other number of combinations.

So, lo and behold, I came home to see my mail for the day. One of the two envelopes to me had a letter I’ll get to tomorrow evening, but the other had these sentences:

I was honored to be asked by the Trump Campaign to be a Trump Delegate. I will be running on the Trump Slate.

(snip)

As a central committee member, you play a very important role in the future of our Country. Thank you for your service. I respectfully ask for your vote as a Trump Delegate to the National Convention representing Maryland.

Indeed Trump will have a slate. Without revealing the name of the letter writer, I can tell you this person ran in our Congressional district but did not win because he wasn’t one of the “official” Trump delegates. (Editor’s note: I stand corrected, this person alerted me to the fact he DID NOT run in the primary. My error.) And while I happen to know this person is a businessman, I have to question his wisdom when he “believe(s) that he will stay true to his promises and fight and scrap for our future.” It’s taken Trump just a few days to flip and flop on some key issues, so I have to ask why this tendency wasn’t as obvious to everyone else as it was to me?

The letter writer is a nice guy, but I’m afraid he’s going to get egg on his face before this is all over by supporting Trump.

I hope someone publicizes the Trump slate because it will make a handy guide of people I can skip voting for come Saturday. (Turns out they did.) I think I have a pretty good idea of who I’ll favor, but there’s still a lot of research to do before I make my decisions on that front.

Update: There is also an official Cruz list, so I encourage you to start there with your voting.

The noble ninety-eight

If you want to talk about an absolute scrum, look no further than the list of candidates for Delegate and Alternate Delegate to be presented to us at next Saturday’s Maryland Republican Party Spring Convention. Between the two races there are a total of 98 people vying for the 22 positions that will be available for Central Committee members and/or proxies to vote upon.

A lot of them are well-known names: 16 are current state or federal elected officials – Andy Harris is one of those trying for a spot – in addition, all of the party officers are on the ballot as well as a host of other elected officials, candidates, and familiar faces such as Anne Arundel County Executive (and former Delegate) Steve Schuh, two-time Comptroller candidate William Campbell, unsuccessful Congressional aspirants Faith Loudon and former Delegate Mike Smigiel, and even the onetime First Lady of Maryland Kendel Ehrlich. But there are several dozen activists and people who ran for the positions in the primary but failed to be successful. The insurgent campaign of Donald Trump vaulted a lot of unfamiliar names to the Cleveland convention because many of Maryland’s elected officials backed other candidates.

With so many in the race it’s only natural to see slates formed. Here’s one from the “Conservative Club” of Maryland:

I have no idea who runs the Conservative Club, where their meetings are, and whether I owe them any dues, but I can tell you a little about their slate:

  • I have previously endorsed their top two candidates for National Committeewoman and National Committeeman.
  • Six of their ten At-Large Delegates previously ran as Cruz delegates or alternates: Boone, Brewington, Loudon, McConkey, Pycha, and Rey. Two of the others were Rubio delegates (Cluster, Patel) and the other two did not run. Bossie is a natural pick as he’s trying to be National Committeeman.
  • Three of their At-Large Alternate Delegates previously ran as Cruz alternates: Alzona, Lathrop, and Trotta. O’Keefe was a Rubio delegate, while the others either did not run or were unaffiliated.

So this seems to be a combination of Cruz and Rubio supporters under the conservative banner. Fair enough, although I can question Patel’s conservative bonafides when I see a photo like this:

Silent majority of what? It’s not a majority of Republicans in the country, since Trump still has only a plurality. And to me, backing someone who’s not going to advance many conservative principles is not worthy of being in a Conservative Club. So I think I’ll skip that name on the ballot.

Obviously there are not any Trump delegates from April running in this election since the voters of Maryland blindly sent them to Cleveland. But out of the field who ran for the seats in April there are a number who are trying again, and it will be interesting to see how they fare in round 2. In my case, I’m looking to send as many Cruz delegates as possible to hopefully bring some sanity to the Maryland delegation – however, it is likely there will be a Trump slate as well and that group is to be avoided. I may have to bring my own list and check names off as I figure out their allegiances.

One other aspect of the race that fascinates me is the sheer volume of people and ballots that need to be created. When I ran in 2008 for a at-large post, there were only about 25 of us and I think the voting and tallying took about 45 minutes. One problem is that our voting system is a somewhat proportional one based on the county you represent and its relative voting strength – as I recall, the bulk of the modest amount of support I received came from Eastern Shore counties and their votes weren’t much in the scheme of things. It’s better now, but thanks to variances in the voting strength and number of members on a Central Committee, a member from Anne Arundel County has about four times the power as a Montgomery County member – or, for that matter, my vote from Wicomico County. Because their strength is diluted so much by having 48 members (the maximum allowed by law) each of the nine of us on the Wicomico County Central Committee are roughly at par with each member of Montgomery County’s CC – they just have a lot more bodies. Anne Arundel only has 13 members, so they each have a lot of say.

Long story short, I’m told they will have an electronic system in place for this so I hope it goes smoothly. I would like to be home before church on Sunday.

It’s just another aspect of what could be the most contentious convention in the ten years I have attended them.

The end of the GOP campaign

Imagine, if you will, a gathering of one lady and 15 distinguished gentlemen. Nine of them had served as the governor of their state, most for multiple terms. Another five have served the nation in its highest legislative body, while one was a world-renowned neurosurgeon and the lady worked her up to CEO of a large hi-tech corporation.

Now, if you’ve ever watched the movie Caddyshack, imagine the character Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield’s character) – loud, bawdy, and obnoxious. Our version of Al, bullying his way into this genteel affair, was Donald Trump. Yet he emerged victorious, in part due to that brash personality but also thanks to a heaping helping of populist rhetoric that sounded so good 40 percent of the Republicans voted for him. (That’s assuming, of course, our side hasn’t been hoodwinked by a massive version of Operation Chaos – and given the number of people who switched their registration from Democrat to Republican or voted in open primaries, I wouldn’t put it past them.) I say “sounded good” because, by and large, his rhetoric had the depth of a cookie sheet.

One upshot of this in Maryland is that the state Republican Party was poised to exceed one million members for (I believe) the first time ever. (As of the end of March, the MDGOP had 997,211 voters, which was an increase of about 16,000 from February – so the trend may have put them over the top.) But that success will be short-lived with Trump, who has disgusted so many erstwhile Republicans that a decrease of 50,000 Maryland Republicans in the next couple months isn’t out of the question.

So now I am hearing the old complaint that not voting for Trump will be a vote for Hillary. No, for conservatives, not voting for Trump will be a repudiation of the direction the Republican Party has taken since Barack Obama took office, and arguably since Ronald Reagan left.

You see, if Congress had shown any stones whatsoever, rank-and-file Republicans would not have felt the need to shake things up by electing an outsider as President. Perhaps Ted Cruz would not have felt the need to run for President in the first place, and the Republican nomination may well be coming down to a contest between two or three of those governors, or perhaps another Senator or the CEO with business experience.

Instead we get Trump, who basically ignores one leg of the conservative stool by praising Planned Parenthood and giving short shrift to religious liberty. Limited government doesn’t seem to be his bag either, since he’s pledged to let Social Security and Medicare go without reforming them and pandered to Iowa farmers by promising to keep ethanol subsidies going. Where most GOP candidates run right in the primary and tack to the center for the general election, Trump is already in the middle so he will likely soften some of his more conservative positions as part of the flexibility in getting the deal done. It’s getting to the point where Trump and Clinton are not all that distinguishable from each other.

And about getting those deals done. Conservatives have wanted a border fence for more than a decade; in fact, the authorizing legislation was passed under President Bush. So why do I think that The Donald will get his fence once he promises to Democrats he will create a bigger, more beautiful door for it? Since he’s the de facto head of the Republican Party now, when is he going to negotiate with Congressional Republicans and work in a more conservative direction? Perhaps the twelfth of never? We will get the “touchback” amnesty, but then the Democrats will just say “forget the touchback part.”

Finally, to borrow a phrase from another movie, I find Donald Trump to be like a box of chocolates, because you never know which one you’ll get. He’s not exactly the poster child for consistency so a Trump administration would be a constant guessing game.

I suppose my advice to voters in those remaining primary states is to show up and vote your conscience if you’re not a Donald Trump supporter. Don’t change parties yet, and get out and vote for Ted Cruz, John Kasich, or anyone else but Trump. Keeping him under 50% of the overall national vote would be a good way to send a message that we’re not sold on Trump as the nominee.

You have to give Donald Trump credit for one thing: he was smart enough to run in a dysfunctional political year. In that case, he has been the perfect candidate – too bad voters like me were looking for order after the disarray of the last eight years. And I will say: had I written this last night, the word “campaign” would not have been in the title. But the Grand Old Party may want to prepare for some stormy days ahead.

Twelve years is enough

It’s not the most glamorous pair of positions, but every four years the Maryland Republican Party elects two of its three representatives to the Republican National Committee. The positions of National Committeeman (NCM) and National Committeewoman (NCW) are the two most powerful in the state when it comes to the nuts-and-bolts of national GOP politics.

Too often, states have used these positions to reward veteran movers and shakers in the party, and there was a drive four years ago to do just that as former MDGOP Chair Audrey Scott thought she could waltz right into the NCW post to succeed longtime activist (and a former MDGOP Chair herself) Joyce Lyons Terhes – fortunately, there was a good candidate opposing her in Nicolee Ambrose and the resulting breath of fresh air from her election breathed new life into a moribund and stale state party organization.

As it turns out, Ambrose and another party veteran, NCM Louis Pope, tag team in their reports during our semi-annual state conventions. Ambrose tends to talk about voter registration, campaigning, and GOTV efforts on a state and local level while Pope generally looks at the national GOP perspective and their fundraising. Pope has spent three terms in the NCM position, and while I wasn’t here for his initial election he did have opposition for re-election last time around. But the crush of endorsements from other party leaders as well as a somewhat lackluster campaign from his opponent meant Pope was re-elected handily.

I first became suspicious about the prospects of there once again being an opponent for Louis when the letters began arriving a couple months ago. The first one came from Pope, but other party leaders have typed out snail mail and sent it to me beseeching me to stay the course and once again elect Louis Pope as NCM. I didn’t know who the opponent would be, but these forces appeared to be quite worried. (Conversely, aside from Nicolee’s letter to me, I have not seen a single thing pleading for her re-election – so she could well be unopposed, or the state establishment has another candidate in mind.)

So a week or so ago I was checking my junk mail when I saw an e-mail note from the leader of the group whose name liberals spit out as an epithet because of a famous Supreme Court case, Citizens United. In this note from David Bossie I found out he was the NCM opponent in question, and immediately this turned Maryland’s NCM race from a standard-grade party election to something with a more national profile. In the introductory letter, Bossie noted:

The Maryland Republican Party needs new blood. I bring to the table the ability to raise Maryland’s profile by bringing in high-level GOP leaders from across the country to raise money for the Maryland GOP’s efforts. Just in the past year, I secured Donald Trump for the party’s “Red, White, and Blue” dinner, and also helped bring into Maryland Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Tom Cotton (R-AR), as well as former Speaker Newt Gingrich to headline events for Republican candidates and elected officials.

Say what you will about Trump as a presidential candidate, but he provided a profitable RWB Dinner from the accounts I have seen.

Through our experience trying to secure Lt. Col. Allen West to do a dinner and fundraiser here for our local party, we have found out it’s hard work to get the caliber of speaker we feel is worthy of a county of 100,000 residents. Certainly we could get Louis Pope to attend the affair - he’s been to our LDD a few times over twelve years, and in looking at his giving history I believe he has made it at least once to each county’s LDD over his tenure. Attending the county’s dinner is a nice gesture of support.

Moreover, Pope has regularly conducted seminars at our state conventions on fundraising, and has been ready with helpful suggestions on how to write fundraising letters and other tricks of the fundraising trade. He’s also a regular host of party events at his Howard County home.

But in speaking to David this morning with some questions about how the smaller counties such as ours could benefit from his tenure, I brought up the LDD as a fundraising standby most counties employ. It got me to imagine: what sort of attendance could you get for a Lincoln Day Dinner here with a Mike Lee or Tom Cotton? These two men, and many other heroes of the conservative movement, are on Bossie’s Rolodex. As he noted, there’s a big difference between just buying the ticket and helping secure the person drawing the ticket buyers.

More importantly, I think the NCM position needs the same kick in the pants that Ambrose has given on her side of the equation. She’s not been afraid to lead or speak out if circumstances dictate, such as her stance on changing party rules almost immediately after taking office. It’s notable that Pope was on the side of the status quo in that case, and while the NCM and NCW positions have served to become de facto party leadership in the state alongside the Chair position, at their heart they are legislative positions. The NCW and NCM are supposed to do the bidding of Maryland Republicans at the national level just as Andy Harris is supposed to in Congress. Admittedly, I have less information to go on regarding that aspect of the job but my instinct tells me Bossie would be a little bit less “establishment” and a little more “grassroots.” We know where Pope has stood as he’s worked his way up the party hierarchy, maintaining the status quo.

Louis Pope has given us twelve years as National Committeeman, and it’s a tenure he can look back on as a net positive for the Maryland Republican Party. But given the successful change in direction that was made through the election of Nicolee Ambrose as NCW in 2012, I think lightning can strike twice at a point where we will need to focus on the twin tasks of re-electing Larry Hogan and (more importantly) getting more conservatives and Republicans in the Maryland General Assembly. If two people can be the ones to bring these races to the attention of the national party, I believe it will be the two I vote for two weeks hence.

So I’m urging my fellow Central Committee members around the state to re-elect Nicolee Ambrose as our National Committeewoman and, more importantly, bring some new blood to the state leadership by electing David Bossie as National Committeeman. I appreciate Louis Pope and what he’s done for us as a state party, but twelve years is enough.

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