I think I can get all this in one part. To be quite honest, this convention didn’t match the buildup.
It was sort of strange. I noted earlier in the week that the whole Lollar controversy in the blogosphere overshadowed the months-long debate over the open primary question, and then the prospect of a Larry Hogan gubernatorial announcement upstaged several other events.
These were the scenes around the main ballroom on Friday night after arrival.
There was no doubt that they were proud of their achievements.
And something tells me that most of these stickers were gone by the end of the night.
The Change Maryland party even had a live band, called the Great Escape Band. I noted on Facebook that may be something subliminal if Larry doesn’t win.
Aside from one song they sort of butchered up in my line of thinking, the band was really pretty good. They also reinforced my belief that there’s not a band which doesn’t know ‘Mustang Sally.’ Although he actually didn’t write the song Wilson Pickett must be proud, wherever he is.
But when they took their break, the real rock star came into the room.
What I have found interesting in looking back and listening again to what Larry said is that my interpretation is much different than what Larry presented to other outlets.
This, which I transcribed from the remarks he presented, is part of what Larry Hogan said last night:
Now everyone who knows me knows that I love this state, I hate to let people down, and that I’ve never walked away from a tough fight.
I’m not a professional politician – I’m just a businessman – but I don’t think that you need to be campaigning all throughout 2013 for an election that takes place at the end of 2014. But, you know, we are getting pretty close to the end of the year.
I promised my wife and family that I would spend a little quality time with them over the holidays, and I’m looking forward to that.
And as you may know I founded and run a group of companies that has brought hundreds of businesses and thousands of jobs to Maryland, and I promised the employees and my colleagues that I would stay at the helm and continue to work hard with them to try to have a strong finish to the calendar year.
So there won’t be a formal announcement or an official launch until January, but tonight – tonight I wanted to be very clear about our intentions.
I happen to believe very strongly that the people of Maryland simply cannot afford another four years of O’Malley/Brown/Gansler tax and spend policies.
Hogan went on to say, “This isn’t a fight between right and left, it’s a fight between right and wrong.
I honestly believe people went in there expecting Larry to make the formal announcement last night, so once he made his remarks a good percentage of the people left his party.
Of course, Hogan’s wasn’t the only party. Before I stopped by the Change Maryland event, I dropped in to Ron George’s suite which featured this.
I had one other photo which, alas, didn’t come out. Ron actually had a pretty lively thing going early on.
Just downstairs from Ron was David Craig’s suite. The candidate wasn’t there because he was at the RGA meeting in Arizona, but David had a lovely second-in-command to take his place.
LG hopeful Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio held down the fort. It’s worth noting they had pretty good traffic.
They also have a slew of printed material. I suppose you can cut out the Craig part if you really share the sentiment.
Instead of a suite, fellow candidate Charles Lollar (who was also in Arizona at the RGA) had a lobby table.
On the table, among the other handouts, was a letter explaining his absence, which read in part:
Unfortunately, this means I will miss the opportunity on Friday evening to meet with you, answer your questions, and tour the hospitality suites, but I look forward to joining everyone on Saturday to share my plans for returning prosperity to Maryland.
One place Charles may have found himself welcome was the Maryland Liberty PAC suite, which was all by itself on the other end of the building. Despite that, they had a lively group.
Alas, I think I missed this presentation.
The other suites were county suites from Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties. This photo was of the Anne Arundel suite, which by the way had the best food.
But it seemed like a lot of the air was sucked out of the celebrations early, with most of the parties finished before the clock struck 12. That’s when I took to Facebook and wrote:
So my thoughts on day 1 as I head to bed:
I’m sure I’m not the only one scratching my head over Larry Hogan and his decision to wait to announce his intentions until January. The chatter around the convention seemed, well, less than positive. He had 1,000 supporters in a festive mood and plenty of press only to cite family and business as reason to wait.
There were a number of good parties about, though, and I renewed acquaintances with a number of friends and fans. But pardon me if tomorrow seems a little less exciting.
I think I’ll have some more thoughts on all this tomorrow, but allow me to move on. They probably won’t be in line with the thoughts of these gentlemen: from left to right, Jeff Quinton of The Quinton Report and Greg Kline, Mark Newgent, and Andrew Langer of the Red Maryland Network.
And no, I was not on their show last night. Wasn’t sought out and didn’t seek them out – gave some others a chance.
This is what I saw looking out the window this morning.
So when I woke up, I was at least expecting to deal with this lengthy issue regarding open primaries – finally, a chance to decide. Wrong!
I suppose I should back up and point out that I did not cover the Friday evening Executive Committee meeting as I usually do. There were a couple reasons for this, but the primary one is that I was the escort for a good friend of mine who was the lucky recipient of my second Change Maryland ticket. But had I done so I may have found out that open primaries wouldn’t be discussed. Nor did I do breakfast this time, because the speaker didn’t appeal to me.
So the first (and only) Saturday event I attended was our combination lunch and session.
Let me say that I thought having the lunch and session as we did was a splendid idea, with the key reasons being we didn’t have to get settled in after lunch in a different venue and the fact we could sit at tables – no more balancing my note pad on my lap.
First we heard welcoming remarks by Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman.
Yes, the photo is dark. But Laura had an intriguing story of being an MBA without being a high school graduate. Her remarks reflected a philosophy which said “over and over, if I worked hard, opportunity would be available to me.”
“My story could only happen in this country,” she added. “That’s why I’m a Republican.” She expressed the belief that hard work should equal opportunity.
Our luncheon speakers both came from the RNC.
Kristal Quarker-Hartsfield is the director of African-American Initiatives whose family “has been Republican since Reconstruction.” Her task was to spread the Republican message to areas not typically reached by the party, including black churches, historically black colleges and universities, and so forth. She added that Reince Priebus was “serious about going into these communities and doing things the right way.”
Meanwhile, Stephen Fong noted there’s “a good mix of people” here, and talked about the GOP’s renewed emphasis on minority communities. He made the case that many blacks would “consider” voting Republican if we were “just showing up.”
There was a buzz about the next speaker as well.
Described by Chair Diana Waterman as the future of the party, Annapolis Mayor-elect Mike Pantelides briefly outlined some of his secrets to success, particularly in social media. (The Twitter debate seems like a good way to promote brevity of remarks.)
With that out of the way, we rolled through some convention business so routine I snapped this on the Allegany County sign.
I guess the one interesting part was the complaint that the minutes didn’t reflect a resolution which was on the spring agenda but not brought up – the Tari Moore resolution tabled a year ago. But parliamentary procedure showed it was dead once the gavel fell in April.
So we moved on to State Senator David Brinkley’s report on the Senate, where we have a “tremendous field of candidates.” He made sure to mention that if Anthony Brown thought he’d have a coronation, he should have a cup of coffee with Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
Brinkley bemoaned the economic state of the state, making the case that job creators are “voting with their feet” and “anyplace south of the Potomac is friendlier (to business) than Maryland.” If we want more manufacturing jobs, Brinkley added, “right-to-work has to be one of the conversations.”
Overall, David believed that “even the Democrats are disgusted with the games and gamesmanship.” All we need are candidates who are conversant with the issues.
On the House side, Delegate Kathy Szeliga was kind enough to pass out her report, which highlighted many of the measures to be considered in next year’s session. It’s a list which includes tax cuts, a repeal of the “rain tax” and Common Core, protecting charter schools and creating a voucher system, and modifications to the gun bill.
Moving into the Chair’s Report, Diana Waterman exhorted us to “take advantage of all the opportunities our liberal Democrats gave us.” She also pushed an initiative called the Old Line Club, which was a monthly fundraising of $8 or more a month, automatically deducted.
But I found the Executive Director’s Report from Joe Cluster made me sit up and take notice: county-by-county goals. Even the Republican strongholds of Carroll and Garrett counties had marching orders: hold what you have and help other counties out.
Nicolee Ambrose, in her National Committeewoman’s Report, touted the successes of the Super Saturday program in Annapolis and Frederick. It also served as a good test market for issue advocacy, and next year the program will be expanded and divided into pre-primary and post-primary positions.
She also related the success of 3-part fundraisers like the Allen West event in Prince George’s County as a model for others to follow.
On a national scale, Nicolee spoke on IT improvements the party was undertaking as well as the winter RNC meeting in Virginia.
As is often the case, National Committeeman Louis Pope was optimistic: “We’re going to have a phenomenal year in 2014,” he predicted. He shared good news on the financial front and on how the party was working on regaining its technological advantage. Moreover, Obama’s “Teflon-coated presidency is coming to an end,” said Louis.
Pope also spoke on Maryland, calling the state one with a “very angry electorate” and “very energized (GOP) base.”
Finally we made it to resolutions. Two of them made it out of committee and two didn’t.
The ones which were presented to the floor came from John Fiastro, Jr. and Dave Myers.
You could call Fiastro’s resolution the Don Dwyer resolution, since it seemed tailored with his situation in mind. But Delegate Michael Smigiel, who was carrying a proxy, spoke up and called it “too broad.” An amendment to allow for acts of civil disobedience to address Smigiel’s concerns failed on a voice vote when Smigiel noted “there’s not enough lipstick to put on this pig.”
Once the question was called, the Fiastro motion failed by a large margin, over 75 percent voting against.
The other resolution was one which called on the party to stop sending “mixed messages” and integrate the pro-liberty community. It lost on a voice vote, even after the “mixed message” portion was excised. But Diana Waterman promised to create an advisory committee to hear the diverse portions of the party after the first of the year. So we’ll see.
Certainly the Maryland Liberty PAC and other groups will be watching.
There was an attempt to get one other resolution to the floor concerning the Frederick robocall, which had some support. But more people wanted to adjourn, which was the motion presented by Nick Panuzio of Talbot County. He’s good at that. (Update: I’m told by Denise Lovelady of Talbot that it actually was Josh Horner who motioned to adjourn, but I heard the motion credited to Nick by the Chair. So let’s say Talbot County is good at that.)
Upon driving home, though, the four of us who traveled together saw perhaps the prettiest sunset we’d seen in quite some time, so I’m going to take it as a divine sign we did something right even if it wasn’t expected.
Normally in the state conventions leading up to a primary election, candidates for elected office scurry around, gladhanding the attendees and hosting hospitality parties therein. This is the path contender Ron George has chosen, alerting those of us on his e-mail list of his intentions today. He’ll be there, but at a much smaller scale than presumable future opponent Larry Hogan, whose nascent campaign has pushed a major event and announcement tomorrow night as well.
On the other hand, a competing event in Arizona has drawn two of the other challengers. The Republican Governors Association meets there this week and both David Craig and Charles Lollar have chosen to attend that gathering instead of the state convention, with Craig making a presentation there according to campaign spokesman Jim Pettit, quoted in the Baltimore Sun.
Not to be outdone, Lollar posted a photo on his campaign Facebook page with recently re-elected New Jersey governor Chris Christie.
Having Craig there may help provide Lollar cover from the naysayers who chide him for skipping party events, and he promised to be back on Saturday. But going to the RGA made perfect sense for Craig, who related in July that he would lean heavily on other Republican governors for guidance.
Since Hogan’s party has the prospect of sucking all of the oxygen out of the MDGOP affair, this may not be such a bad move. Certainly there will be representatives of both absent campaigns there, but with the convention coming just before Thanksgiving the news cycle created will be relatively short.
The event for which I’ll be anxious to see participation will be the Turning the Tides 2014 conference held in the very same hotel in January. Last year’s event was outstanding and organizers are going to great lengths to top it in 2014 by extending it to a evening/day affair similar to the MDGOP conventions. We’ll see who puts it on their calendar and who risks alienating a committed conservative crowd.
Honestly, it didn’t surprise me when I saw this “media advisory” from Change Maryland:
Larry Hogan & Change Maryland will host a Fall Harvest Party to celebrate the success of Change Maryland in 2013, including building the largest and fastest growing grassroots army in the state – 65,000 people. Hogan will be speaking at the event and will discuss his plans for 2014 in front of a sold out capacity crowd.
So at about 8:35 Friday night, give or take, we will likely hear the confirmation that the pining and wishing has paid off and Larry Hogan will be the newest candidate for governor. In reality, it will be the end of a long path I foreshadowed when I wrote about the formation of Change Maryland 2 1/2 years ago.
In looking back at that post, I find it interesting that I brought up two names within: Charles Lollar and Brian Murphy. Both were candidates for the state’s top post in the 2010 cycle, although Charles dropped out fairly early once it was learned he was ineligible for the post – at the time he could not prove he was a resident of Maryland for the requisite five years. Murphy, on the other hand, persevered through the primary and become the conservative alternative to Bob Ehrlich, including the endorsement from Sarah Palin which gave him credibility among the TEA Party faithful.
Indeed, both have resurfaced for the 2014 campaign – Lollar coyly subjected himself to a “draft” campaign for several months before formally announcing in early September; meanwhile, Murphy wrote this on his Facebook page in early October:
The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated. Joy and I are well, and we are enjoying life on the Eastern Shore. We welcomed our fifth child into the world this summer, and our business is growing, but we’re concerned about the country we’re leaving for our children and yours. Been out of the political world, but I have thoroughly enjoyed living vicariously through Dan Bongino. Dan and I were in the phone tonight and he finally convinced me to come off the sidelines. Stay tuned…
Of course this could mean many different things since there’s no shortage of posts on the political field. But there’s been an intriguing rumor going around about a Hogan/Murphy ticket. No question the timing of Murphy’s announcement could be simply coincidence, but this would indeed create a formidable team if it came to pass, perhaps as a melding of the fiscal savvy of both candidates with Murphy’s TEA Party appeal.
We may find out more on Friday night.
Well, folks, I have to admit my wheel wasn’t the one which squeaked last on the matter since the crap I described last Wednesday continues apace. So hopefully someone with a little law enforcement experience can get this din to a dull roar:
As Republican candidates in a deep-blue state, we have a responsibility to provide you with a quality message and a quality campaign.
The likely nominees for office on the Democratic side will be flush with campaign cash, aided by an accommodating media and, in the case of Democratic candidate for Governor Anthony Brown, operatives from the Obama campaign. These campaigns are not playing games and this is not a joke, they are running to install a permanent tax and spend super-majority which will bankrupt our beautiful state and drive thousands more to flee across our borders.
I write this out of a deep and genuine concern for our state’s future. Some of the parochial spats developing amongst a limited number of campaign staffs are causing unnecessary and damaging rifts within our Party while we struggle for relevancy and the support of the people of Maryland.
It’s time for us to put the games and the nonsense aside and focus on the real fight. As the head of my campaign team I promise you a relentless effort and a quality team and if either I or my team fail to produce, email me immediately at email@example.com. I respectfully request that the remaining candidates on our Party team do the same and start to prune their campaign trees of people who alienate rather than unite.
That’s what Dan wrote on his Facebook page earlier this Tuesday evening, and I (almost) couldn’t agree more. (I think we will get the Obama operatives regardless of who wins that Democratic primary because we have one of the state-run exchange states.)
But we’ve had “unnecessary and damaging rifts” for a long time, well before this campaign began. I’m going to go beyond the whole Lollar aspect for the moment because plenty enough has been said about that over the last week; in fact, the controversy over that has enabled the argument over open primaries to be swept way under the rug. People may need to be reminded we have a convention next week.
In essence, it seems to me the party lost its unity when Bob Ehrlich lost. That so happens to be the time I was elected to my Central Committee – I swear, though, this is not cause and effect – and these are just some of the political slugfests we have endured since:
- The argument over convention voting, which got so bad for a time some small counties boycotted the whole thing
- The vote of no confidence on party Chair Jim Pelura
- The return of Bob Ehrlich, which begat the Rule 11 controversy because Brian Murphy was also in the race (as was a challenger for Andy Harris, who also benefitted)
- Audrey Scott and “party over everything” – her tenure neatly coincided with the rise of the TEA Party and pro-liberty movement
- Speaking of Scott, her battle with Nicolee Ambrose for National Committeewoman
- The ongoing question about whether Delegate Don Dwyer should resign, which one of the current gubernatorial candidates used to score political points
- The referendum battles, including the times we chose not to use it
- Alex Mooney’s resignation and the bitter subsequent election for party Chair
- And now the open primary question
It’s been a constant routine of renegades, rule changes, and rancor for the last eight years – all we’ve been missing is the string of victories we need to make ourselves relevant in Maryland. The math is simple: one governor + one comptroller + 19 Senators + 57 Delegates = relevance. Anything less and we may as well not be there at all. Get that or more and maybe this state can be saved.
Now I will cheerfully admit I’ve had a hand in a couple of these issues I alluded to above; surely I’m not on Audrey Scott’s Christmas card list. But my goal is to help drag the Maryland Republican Party (insofar as it relates to the idea of enhanced liberty and freedom) over the finish line and make this more of a truly “free state.” (I’d like to do the same for all the other states as well.)
So this is why it bugs me that we have this whole power struggle between campaigns, between individuals – and even between websites. I like a good argument as much as anyone, but after awhile it gets pretty pointless. (Although I should take this moment to thank those who have supported me and my efforts – never hurts to acknowledge them! I have a support base I’d stack up to anyone’s.)
Certainly the average person, who may only now be starting to pay attention peripherally to the race (we’re months away from it being foremost in mind to probably 90% or more of Marylanders; this won’t occur until after the primary) would be unaware of what has transpired so far but right now we’re doing a damn fine job of both providing the opposition research Democrats can use in the general election and probably cheap entertainment for them as well. Doug Gansler has to be thanking his lucky stars that word of these shenanigans on our side is starting to get out because people will forget his transgressions long enough for him to rehabilitate his image.
I can surely guarantee, though, that Dan Bongino’s got enough of a struggle on his hands without having to worry about being tarred with these same broad brushstrokes. His is advice which should be heeded.
The curious (and dismissed) case of Zeauskas v. Moore took another interesting turn last week as Cecil County filed a ten-page motion to recoup legal expenses from Delegate Michael Smigiel, who was the plaintiff’s counsel in the case.
At stake is the nearly $40,000 the county spent defending a case where the defendant claimed damage due to inaction by the plaintiff, in a case Cecil County argues was filed simply “(t)o make a public political splash, and in the process, to vex, delay, and oppress the efficient operation of County government.”
The motion also chides Smigiel, who has practiced law since 1989:
Legal counsel, particularly an attorney with Smigiel’s credentials and experience in government litigation, either knew, or should well have known, that the pleading tiled in this case was patently groundless. In fact, Defendants’ counsel, on three occasions prior to filing the Motions to Dismiss, sent correspondence to Smigiel specifically addressing the spuriousness of Plaintiffs action and requesting that the case be voluntarily dismissed.
It goes without saying that Smigiel has had a tough run of luck lately, as he lost this case shortly after losing his bid to be appointed as State Senator from District 36 to fellow Delegate Steve Hershey – a loss he didn’t take all that well. Add to it Mike’s valiant but fruitless effort to stop Maryland’s onerous new gun laws from passing and taking effect, and one may think he can’t wait for the General Assembly session to begin and allow him something new to do.
In the meantime, this could extend the Zeauskas case into our convention, and while I haven’t heard anything yet about resurrecting the call for censure of Cecil County Executive Tari Moore for abandoning the GOP shortly after her election in order to better control the appointment of her successor per the county’s charter, it wouldn’t shock me if the measure came up once again. It was tabled last fall before a binding vote could be made. My impression is that Moore is awaiting the conclusion of the case before reverting to the GOP fold; however, I’m not privy to any official word on this. (If she reads this, feel free to enlighten us.)
As I explained back in October at the conclusion of the case, this whole episode has probably assured Tari a primary opponent once 2016 rolls around. (This is assuming, of course, she officially changes her registration back.) But with Moore’s court triumph and the defeat of Smigiel in his effort to succeed political ally State Senator E.J. Pipkin after Pipkin’s startling resignation, it appears the turbulence in Cecil County politics may be closer to the end than to the beginning – much to the relief of county residents.
In 52 weeks from Tuesday, Marylanders will go to the polls to decide the fate of their state government for the next four years. How long that four years will seem to Maryland Republicans will hinge on the results.
But there are a lot of people already pondering the message the party should put across, or even whether they can. Take Richard Falknor at Blue Ridge Forum for example, who wrote today:
Our take: there is a broad culturally conservative base in the Old Line State, as well as a deep reservoir of those who quite rightly believe they are vastly overtaxed and overregulated. Understandably, many of these citizens have found the state Republican Party ineffective. How congenial is the G.O.P. to Blue Collar Maryland of all ethnicities when its chair here and the sole Republican U.S. Representative here flirt with amnesty? And why run the business risks of joining the opposition party in a one-dominant-party state if that opposition party has few fixed principles and won’t make serious trouble for the dominant party anyway?
The Maryland GOP and its politicians fell far short last year on two unusual outreach opportunities: they failed to put full energy and resources behind the referenda against gay marriage and against in-state tuition for illegals. Both these referenda did better here than governor Mitt Romney in 2012 in Maryland.
The state needs an energetic, organized conservative-grass-roots organization drawn from all parties. But the problem is like the one school reformers face: deciding whether to shut down a failing high school and start a new one with a new team, or to try to rehabilitate the failing school.
Whether to rebuild or replace the Beltway-Establishment-linked Maryland GOP is an open question.
Unfortunately, the question is already answered by the rules written for electioneering, as the two principal parties have distinct advantages over attempting to get on the ballot via a third party or as an independent. Few independents make it to the ballot in a statewide race, with failed onetime Republican Rob Sobhani the most recent example.
So the Maryland GOP it is. But which one?
Is it the group which seems content to be the perpetual opposition party, playing the game as best they can hoping for approval from the dominant side so that the state can move forward in a bipartisan manner? Damn, I hope not.
No, I’m more into the bomb throwers; the type who assumes that in order to make an omelet you have to scramble some eggs. Once the TEA Party came into being I hoped it was the impetus which would shake up a moribund state party which saw its lone Republican incumbent governor in two generations shellacked at the polls, losing one of its two Congressional seats two years later when the national elections gave the other party a stranglehold on the federal government. That was the situation we encountered at the dawn of 2009.
Once the TEA Party got rolling, I was hoping the Maryland Republican Party would embrace it. Instead, they decided the retread who had been pounded four years before was good enough to run again. But the upstart campaign of Brian Murphy brought a new element into the MDGOP - particularly once Sarah Palin endorsed him – and the 2010 primary results showed just how significant a portion it was. To get 1/4 of the vote against a candidate the state party all but endorsed was an accomplishment.
But the race for party Chair that fall still showed we had a long way to go, with the most overt TEA Party participant receiving only a smattering of votes. It’s funny, though, how turnover in the state party erodes that which most people thought was conventional wisdom because the TEA Party favorite just missed winning the special election for Chair this spring and ended up as First Vice-Chair. Still, observers like Falknor saw it as a Pyrrhic victory at best, choosing to advocate for a different path.
I bring all that history to the fore because 2014 will be the first state election where the TEA Party is more integrated into the political process. We gained experience with the 2010 campaign, but now the hard work begins. And the question we must answer: how can we make sure those in the political middle receive the conservative message? We know the other side tries to smear and obfuscate it as much as possible.
A lot of people say the way to accomplish this is to focus strictly on pocketbook issues. But to me that misses the point – if we’re going to be painted as extremists, why not explain why we feel the way we do instead of being defensive? For example, I’m pro-life and believe life begins at conception because how else would you define when life begins? How is it logical that a child one centimeter away from exiting the birth canal can be murder but once outside is considered human?
On the other hand, though, I feel that those who commit premeditated murder forfeit the right to life through their action, and in so doing deserve the ultimate punishment of the death penalty.
Life is about far more than money and the size of government. It is also up to us to construct the guard rails for our progeny so they stay on a relatively straight and narrow path. Yes, they will have their period of rumspringa but the idea is not to allow them enough rope to hang themselves with.
Liberals will tell us that delving into social issues will keep us from winning elections, but since when do we solicit counsel from an enemy? It would be like John Harbaugh taking play-calling advice from Troy Polamalu. You know, for as far-left a state as Maryland supposedly is, it took a Presidential election against a weak Republican candidate to get more than 50% of the voters to support gay marriage. As I said at the time, that was their best chance because no one wanted it on the 2014 ballot with them,
So I don’t think all discussion of social issues should be off-limits if we use them as a teachable moment. In order to change Maryland to a “purple” state we need to educate the public on the benefits of conservative thought.
Sometimes the best of candidates are derailed by bad management, bad preparation, or just plain bad luck. I’m not sure how much any of those three apply to a campaign which initially held promise, but it’s sad to see Charles Lollar get such bad press. Some, like blogger Jeff Quinton, are comparing Lollar to Doug Gansler – to me that’s way out of bounds. On the other hand, this push against Lollar has been greeted by a somewhat shrill retort by Julie Brewington, who is my local Lollar campaign coordinator. That light you see on the horizon is all those bridges she’s torching.
Still, both have some valid points. I’m going to focus on three which are holding him back.
At this stage in the game, the most valuable introduction to a campaign is their website, which is supposed to serve as a one-stop shop for getting to know the candidate, soliciting donations and volunteers, and keeping abreast of their comings and goings. Certainly there’s a place for Facebook, Twitter, and other social media as well, but I prefer to have all of this information in a single point source and I’m sure others do too.
So I have to question why the Lollar team has had three separate URLs, including a .co which made little sense as a political website. While the other campaigns have registered a fairly simple, straightforward .com address, these guys can’t settle on a site.
On the other hand, I disagree with Quinton in that the new Lollar site (assuming its layout and design remains as he’s pictured) looks to me very clean and easy-to-use. It would be a contrast to the photo-heavy splash pages of all three Democrats; more businesslike. The other two GOP contenders have intro pages which seem just a bit too busy to me, but it’s all a personal preference. I’m sure my layout isn’t for everyone either.
While I admire Julie’s tenacity in sticking up for her chosen candidate, the question she doesn’t answer is why Charles has missed a number of key events, including the opportunity for free media on Pat McDonough’s radio show last week (for which he ran a few minutes late.) Far be it for me – of all people – to be a subscriber to conventional wisdom, but there are times to play the outsider and times where it doesn’t pay to. I’ll grant that perhaps Charles was out meeting voters and working on retail campaigning rather than hang around with people who would almost certainly at least vote for him if he garnered the nomination (in the same grudging respect that many Brian Murphy supporters like myself bit the bullet and backed Bob Ehrlich in the general election) but there are places where your face needs to show once in awhile to be considered serious. Out of the three contenders, Charles is the only one who’s not won a general election. (The same can be said, though, for Larry Hogan if he gets into the GOP race.)
Whether Karen Winterling has to go, or whether former jailbird Jason Boisvert is a help or hindrance to the Lollar effort – that’s really only relevant to some political junkies and others looking for blog fodder. (I think Jason’s a halfway decent writer, though, at least insofar as education is concerned.) Most of that does weigh into my decision on the race as intangibles, but to me what really matters are issues.
So at this particular moment in time the piece which irks me most is the website being down because I’m working on dossiers of the GOP candidates for use in future posts about the race. An issues page is quite useful in that regard – heck, if the Lollar campaign is reading this (I’ll bet they are) can you shoot me an .html of the issues page of the website? Or just get it up and running?
I think Charles is learning that being a statewide candidate is an entirely different animal than working around a Congressional district. Let’s hope the road from here on out becomes a lot less bumpy.
I got to thinking the other day – yes, I know that can be a dangerous thing – about the 2014 electoral map for Maryland and an intriguing possibility.
Since State Senator E.J. Pipkin resigned a few months back, a sidebar to the story of his succession – as well as that of selecting a replacement for former Delegate Steve Hershey, who was elevated to replace Pipkin – is the fact that Caroline County is the lone county in the state without resident representation. However, with the gerrymandering done by the O’Malley administration to protect Democrats and punish opponents, it’s now possible the 2015 session could dawn with four – yes, four – counties unrepresented in that body based on the 2012 lines. Three of those four would be on the Eastern Shore, and would be a combination of two mid-Shore counties and Worcester County, with the fourth being Garrett County at the state’s far western end.
Granted, that scenario is highly unlikely and there is probably a better chance all 23 counties and Baltimore City will have at least one resident member of the General Assembly. But what if I had an idea which could eliminate that potential problem while bolstering the hands of the counties representing themselves in Annapolis?
The current composition of the Maryland Senate dates from 1972, a change which occurred in response to a 1964 Supreme Court decision holding that Maryland’s system of electing Senators from each county violated the Fourteenth Amendment. Furthermore, Marylanders had directly elected their state Senators long before the Seventeenth Amendment was passed in 1913. Over time, with these changes, the Senate has become just another extension of the House of Delegates, just with only a third of the membership.
So my question is: why not go back to the future and restore our national founders’ intent at the same time?
What if Maryland adopted a system where each county and Baltimore City were allotted two Senators, but those Senators weren’t selected directly by the voters? Instead, these Senators would be picked by the legislative body of each county or Baltimore City, which would give the state 48 Senators instead of 47. Any tie would be broken by the lieutenant governor similar to the way our national vice-president does now for the United States Senate.
Naturally the Democrats would scream bloody murder because it would eliminate their advantage in the state Senate; based on current county government and assuming each selects two members of their own party the Senate would be Republican-controlled. But that would also encourage more voting on local elections and isn’t that what Democrats want? It’s probably a better way to boost turnout than the dismal failure of “early and often” voting, which was supposed to cure the so-called ailment of poor participation.
If someone would argue to me that my proposal violates “one man, one vote” then they should stand behind the repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment. How is it fair that I’m one of 2,942,241 people (poorly) represented by Ben Cardin or Barbara Mikulski while 283,206 people in Wyoming are far more capably represented by John Barasso or Mike Enzi? We have counties in Maryland more populous than Wyoming.
No one questions the function or Constitutionality of the U.S. Senate as a body, knowing it was part of a compromise between larger and smaller states in the era of our founding. It’s why we have a bicameral legislature which all states save one copied as a model. (Before you ask, Nebraska is the holdout.) What I’ve done is restored the intent of those who conceived the nation as a Constitutional republic with several balances of power.
But I’m not through yet. If the Senate idea doesn’t grab you, another thought I had was to rework the House of Delegates to assure each county has a representative by creating seats for a ratio of one per 20,000 residents. (This essentially equals the population of Maryland’s least-populated county, Kent County. Their county could be one single House district.) In future years, the divisor could reflect the population of the county with the least population.
The corollary to this proposal is setting up a system of districts which do not overlap county lines, meaning counties would subdivide themselves to attain one seat per every 20,000 of population, give or take. For my home county of Wicomico, this would translate into five districts and – very conveniently as it turns out – we already have five ready-drawn County Council districts which we could use for legislative districts. Obviously, other counties would have anywhere from 1 to 50 seats in the newly expanded House of Delegates. Even better, because the counties would have the self-contained districts, who better to draw them? They know best which communities have commonality.
Obviously in smaller counties, the task of drawing 2 or 3 districts would be relatively simple and straightforward. It may be a little more difficult in a municipality like Baltimore or a highly-populated area like Montgomery County, but certainly they could come up with tightly-drawn, contiguous districts.
And if you think a body of around 300 seats is unwieldy, consider the state of New Hampshire has 400 members in their lower house. Certainly there would be changes necessary in the physical plant because the number of Delegates and their attendant staff would be far larger, but on the whole this would restore more power to the people and restrict the edicts from on high in Annapolis.
Tonight I was listening to Jackie Wellfonder launch into a brief discussion of whether the Maryland Republican Party should adopt open primaries, an idea she’s leaning toward adopting – on the other hand, I think it’s nuts. In my estimation, though, these sorts of proposals are nothing more than tinkering around the edges – these ideas I’ve dropped onto the table like a load of bricks represent real change. I think they should be discussed as sincere proposals to truly make this a more Free State by restoring the balance of power between the people, their local government, and the state government in Annapolis.
Over the last couple days, a segment of the Maryland Republican Party is scratching its head over the absence of gubernatorial candidate Charles Lollar from several high-profile events: last month’s Andy Harris First District Bull Roast, the Conservative Victory PAC Ken Cuccinelli fundraiser (which was sponsored by several Maryland politicians), the Prince George’s County Lincoln Day Dinner with Lt. Col. Allen West, and most recently the state party’s Oktoberfest gathering in Timonium Saturday night. The conventional wisdom argument is that these were lost opportunities to impress the party brass.
But this may also presuppose Lollar wasn’t out meeting with “regular Joe” voters, and some say a lot of these gatherings would be time better spent knocking on doors or making phone calls. So which is it? I don’t know, but my feeling is that we all need to get back to basics and begin to compare just where each of the three major declared candidates stand on important issues facing the state.
A year and a half before the 2012 Presidential election, I began a process of grading the candidates in the race at the time on a number of issues. I think it’s time to repeat the process, with some different parameters because the issues aren’t always congruent between state and national elections – for example, I don’t have to worry about trade or the Long War but I do have concerns about agricultural issues and necessary changes to the state political system, meanwhile, some issues grow or contract in importance because of recent state developments. But I like the 100-point system so I will adapt it to suit.
So the 2014 monoblogue endorsement will be based on the following formula:
- Election/campaign finance reform (3 points)
- Illegal immigration (5 points)
- Dealing with Obamacare (7 points)
- Energy policy (8 points)
- Education (9 points)
- Second Amendment (11 points)
- War on Rural Maryland (12 points)
- Role of government (13 points)
- Job creation and transportation (14 points)
- Fiscal conservatism/taxation (15 points)
Once I add or subtract three points for various intangibles of my choosing, I’ll come up with the candidate who I think will best serve Maryland. Granted, my endorsement will only be worth the pixels they’re darkening but at least some thought will be put into why this candidate is the best one for Maryland. (Keep in mind that any of these three would be vastly superior to Anthony Brown, Doug Gansler, Heather Mizeur, or anyone else Democrats put up.) Otherwise, I come in with no preconceived notions with the exception that the other declared GOP candidates in the race don’t have the campaign or the presence to achieve any more than a tiny percentage of the vote so they’re not included; also, this is subject to update if/when Larry Hogan enters the race.
So now that you have the basic concepts, how about some specifics of what I’m getting at for each point? These are questions I may be able to find answers for within the candidates’ own websites, but it’s more likely I need further guidance. I have had the chance to hear all three declared candidates speak on at least two occasions apiece so I might have a decent idea where they’ll go, but it never hurts to ask. With that, here goes:
- Election/campaign finance reform: Will you aggressively pursue the redistricting revision case in court; if we succeed can we have 141 single-member districts? Where do you stand on current reporting requirements: too tight, too loose, or just right? What about getting after local boards of elections and telling them to clean up their voter rolls?
- Illegal immigration: Will you take the 287 (g) program used in Frederick County statewide? How about rescinding recent changes to drivers’ license laws in Maryland? And what about in-state tuition – do you revisit this issue? What about withholding a portion of state funds from sanctuary cities? Cooperation with the federal E-Verify program? What about policies allowing status checks such as those in Arizona?
- Dealing with Obamacare: Do we eliminate the state exchange? Would you pursue a waiver for the state if one becomes available? Are you in favor of defunding or letting the law go into effect and watching it collapse? What steps would you take to encourage more insurance competition in the state? What about returning Medicaid limits to minimum levels?
- Energy policy: When can we expect fracking to begin in Western Maryland? And what will you do with the renewable portfolio standard? Will you move to re-regulate Maryland’s electrical utilities? Can Martin O’Malley’s offshore wind scheme work? What about offshore oil drilling – is that an option for you? Will you maintain Maryland’s membership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative?
- Education: Will Common Core be the law of the land in Maryland, or will you eschew Race to the Top funding? How about school choice, or money following the child regardless of school? How will you protect homeschooling? Instill more local control? What about promoting elected school boards in those counties still without them? Emphasis on vocational education? How do you message against the certain opposition of the teachers’ unions?
- Second Amendment: Will you work to repeal the so-called Firearms Safety Act? What about concealed carry, and making licenses easier to get? If the federal government gets too onerous, will you fight them? What’s your interpretation of the Second Amendment?
- War on Rural Maryland: Can we count on you to repeal the Septic Bill and tier mapping? Will nitrogen-removal systems still be required? Will the Hudson family be made whole by the state, since it was with the state’s assistance they were legally harassed? How will you assist the poultry industry in the state and keep them here? What about cleaning up behind the Conowingo Dam and fighting the mandated burden on rural counties, as well as the rain tax on urban ones?
- Role of Government: Where do you stand on a regulation moratorium, and would you veto new mandates passed through the General Assembly? Are there any agencies you’d work to abolish? What about divestiture of surplus state land? Is a consolidation of primary state government functions in Annapolis on your agenda? Can we count on you to repeal as many laws as you create? Where do you stand on public-private partnerships? Do you support citizen-based petition to referendum for new laws (as opposed to those passed by the General Assembly)? What about the right to recall elected officials?
- Job creation and transportation: We know you’ll lower the corporate tax rate – what about eliminating it entirely? What about reform of unemployment insurance? What other steps will you take to make it easier to do business in Maryland? As far as infrastructure goes, will you kill the Red Line and Purple Line in favor of more useful means for transporting goods, such as expanding the interstate network in Maryland and surrounding states? Will you hold the line on tolls? What about another Bay crossing – where would you put it? What non-tax code incentives would you offer for rural area job creation? What policies would you adopt from other states?
- Fiscal conservatism/taxation: Can Marylanders expect a flatter income tax system? How about eliminating it entirely as some states have done? Or would you prefer a sales tax decrease or elimination? Would you agree to a TABOR, or at least a budget utilizing those principles? Can we get per-capita spending closer to the national norm? And how will you deal with the outcry of the press, such as the old “tax cuts for the rich” saw?
- Intangibles: Positions on abortion, expansion of gambling and/or return to legislative control (as opposed to Constitutional amendment), protection for religious objections to gay marriage, your perception of the TEA Party and pro-liberty movement, and so forth. Mainly social issues.
Yes, that’s a hell of a lot. But somewhere, someone else is asking some of the same questions and if I’m going to make a decision I want it to be informed. And while I’d like to make these issue posts on about a weekly basis, that’s probably a quite aggressive timetable.
But I’m sure that a) people from the respective campaigns read my website, and b) they will bend over backwards for new media. (At least that’s what I’m counting on.) And it’s likely they haven’t even pondered some of these queries, so I don’t expect miracles – but I’ll take them anyhow.
Yet I’m sure that some high-dollar Beltway Republican consultant will tell their candidate that he’d be nuts to get into specifics this far out because all it would provide is fodder for the Democrats and the press (but I repeat myself) to harp upon as the campaign heats up. News flash: they will do that anyway, even if they have to make stuff up (e.g. “a fee is a tax.”) So get it out now and I’ll take those clowns on myself, even as I point out that it’s not like I don’t have a few allies in this fight.
Just let me know you have the balls to stand for something, okay?
In a spectacular flameout, the allegations of wrongdoing in the controversy over Cecil County Executive Tari Moore’s sudden affiliation change and subsequent appointment of a candidate not on the list submitted by the county’s Republican Central Committee were dismissed in the county’s Circuit Court via a seven-page decision by visiting Judge Thomas E. Marshall, a retired Harford County Circuit Court judge.
[gview file="http://monoblogue.us/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/C-13-089-Opinion-10.8.2013-1.pdf" width="480"]
Also dismissed in the suit due to a lack of standing was a claim that the county’s Tier Map was unlawfully submitted to the state.
The controversy closes another chapter in the ongoing war between supporters and opponents of former State Senator E.J. Pipkin and current Delegate Michael Smigiel. (Opponents have generally had the backing of former State Senator and now-Congressman Andy Harris, who defeated Pipkin as well as former Congressman Wayne Gilchrest in a bitter 2008 GOP Congressional primary.) Those allied with Smigiel control the county’s Republican Central Committee, and it was Chair Chris Zeauskas who filed the complaint. On the other hand, Tari Moore was backed by Harris in her quest to be Cecil County’s first executive.
Just before assuming office as the incoming County Executive last December, Moore suddenly changed her party affiliation from Republican to unaffiliated, making the switch because she wanted to bypass the county’s GOP Central Committee in selecting her successor. By becoming unaffiliated, she retained the right to pick once County Council became deadlocked in a 2-2 tie between Smigiel supporters and Harris allies. Eventually Moore picked Joyce Bowlsbey, a Republican. (The Republicans control all five seats on Cecil County Council, so this was an intraparty fight.) Judge Marshall agreed that, despite the GOP’s backing in the 2012 election, Moore’s status as unaffiliated at the moment of her resignation from County Council complied with the method of selection prescribed in the county’s Charter and eventually followed.
Yet there is one other piece of business on the table, notwithstanding the possibility of an appeal by Zeauskas. At last fall’s state GOP convention, a motion was made to censure Tari Moore for her “corrupt and reprehensible decision“; a motion which had support from some quarters but was tabled via a fairly close vote. Because of the abrupt cutoff of our Spring Convention this year, we did not revisit the Moore controversy but it may return next month at this year’s Fall Convention in Annapolis.
But now that the court case is settled, the question will be whether Moore rejoins the GOP fold. Those calling for her censure had a point in that Republicans backed her election in the primary; had she gone the independent route in 2012 she would have likely lost badly. Yet I’ve been assured by Moore’s backers that the decision to be unaffiliated was just temporary and would be rectified once the court case was settled. Obviously it would be to her benefit in 2016 to run as a Republican, although this episode has probably assured her of a primary opponent. She would have a hard time in a three-way general election race if the county GOP stays loyal to its nominee and the Democrats run someone, too.
So the clock is ticking. If she changes back before the state convention, the question of censure may be moot in a “no harm, no foul” sense. But if not, even the assurances of Andy Harris may not spare her the state party’s wrath.
Not that I was all that confident he would be the best Republican candidate to set forth, but in yesterday’s Washington Post Michael Steele said he would “take a pass” at Maryland’s race for governor. That sound you hear is the sigh of relief from those candidates who have already invested their time and effort into building support for their runs – now they won’t have to worry about Michael Steele sucking all of the oxygen out of the Maryland race.
And though I’m sure many will fret that he was the one candidate with the best chance at victory, I only have to look back at 2006 to see what happened when the Maryland Republican Party essentially handed him a statewide race nomination on a silver platter – he lost an open-seat Senate race by 10 points. Of course, I’ve heard all the arguments – bad year for Republicans nationwide, reaction to an unpopular president – but Steele lagged behind Bob Ehrlich by almost 40,000 votes overall; more importantly, he got just 24% in Prince George’s County and 23.2% in Baltimore City. Surely the GOP hopes were that Steele would poll much better in those heavily minority areas, but instead he was just 3.5% better in PG and o.6% improved in Baltimore City over Bob Ehrlich. But Steele lost Baltimore County, where Ehrlich carried the day.
Perhaps the reason Steele took a pass on the race, though, was that he would have to work for it. If done right, a contested primary is good for a candidate because it places them on a campaign footing much more quickly. While there were a number of other candidates in the 2006 Republican Senate primary, they were of the perennial candidate sort and no one else eclipsed 3% of the vote; on the other hand, Ben Cardin won a spirited Democratic primary with only 43.7% of the vote. That sharpening of campaign skills certainly gave Cardin some advantages later on.
But the biggest vibe I seem to be getting is why this was such a big deal in the first place. Sure, old-timers in the Maryland GOP look back at Steele’s tenure as Chair fondly, but he really never ran for anything until that Senate race. (One could equate that with the same sort of criticism certain people who make their first run for office a statewide one have received.) While I’m sure Anthony Brown would like to change this, insofar as running for subsequent electoral office goes the Maryland LG post has been comparable to the national vice-presidency – not worth “a bucket of warm (spit).”
So once we know the intentions of one Lawrence Hogan it appears the Republican field for governor will be pretty much set. Now it’s time to fill out the lower part of the dance card – I have it on the best of authority that one person thought of as a prospective aspirant for Attorney General will not be seeking the job, so it will be up to the MDGOP to dig deeper for a candidate to try for that open seat.
I suppose Michael Steele is available.
I’m going to give Jackie Wellfonder and her Raging Against the Rhetoric radio show full credit for planting this seed in my mind.
(Spoiler alert: if you want to hear the podcast and be surprised, skip the next sentence.)
Since Jackie essentially threw in her endorsement of Larry Hogan, bemoaning the fact that there’s a missing element among the current contenders which could be added with his entry into the race, I decided to take you back.
Back to early 2010, that is. You may recall that, in the summer of 2009, everyone in the Maryland Republican Party was breathlessly awaiting the decision by Bob Ehrlich whether to try for a rematch of the 2006 election he lost to Martin O’Malley. Yes, there was a candidate in the race by the name of Mike Pappas – a likeable guy to be sure, but not exactly a household name in Maryland.
But since we weren’t sure whether Bob Ehrlich would give up his comfortable semi-retirement from the public arena, someone with a little name recognition had to step in and that someone was Larry Hogan. In the summer of 2009 he began his campaign on a somewhat low-key note, but it picked up steam once Pappas ceded the field to him in November of that year. At that year’s MDGOP Fall Convention Larry was the “it” guy.
So I did a little research, and it turns out Hogan has never relinquished his 2010 campaign website page (http://www.hoganformaryland.com/), his campaign Facebook site (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hogan-for-Maryland/140191322375), and his YouTube site (http://www.youtube.com/user/HoganforMaryland). (The reason I link this way is to memorialize the specific web addresses for archival purposes, such as on the internet’s Wayback Machine, in case he uses the same URLs for 2014.)
With these, we get a little glimpse at where Larry was coming from, and you could see the seeds of what eventually became Change Maryland in some of the statements and videos he put out at the time. It’s clear that Larry would be focusing on the economic aspects of the race.
So we know that, to Larry, pocketbook issues are where it’s at. But there was an interesting sidebar I brought up several months ago which I originally thought precluded a 2014 race from Hogan. We won’t know for awhile how the financial picture is for several of the candidates until their first report is required in January of 2014, but the chances are pretty good that none of them currently have the $325,000 in the coffers that Hogan lent to himself for the last cycle.
As a comparison of sorts, I looked up Bob Ehrlich’s 2001 report – roughly the same timeframe we’re at in this cycle – and he went from a cash balance of $97,008.71 in November, 2000 to $425,147.20 in November, 2001, a year out. For the 2014 campaign, Blaine Young had about $350,000 in the bank at the beginning of this year while David Craig had just a shade over $200,000 on hand. There probably hasn’t been a great deal of movement on these numbers; moreover, the field is now split in four ways. While Blaine Young dropped out and announced his backing of Charles Lollar, I wouldn’t think all Young’s money will be automatically ceded to Charles, since Blaine may have his own personal political plans locally.
So Hogan has some definite advantages. But, beyond the aspect of economics, I’m certain that some will ask – given Hogan’s close ties to Bob Ehrlich – whether Maryland is being set up for the second term Bob Ehrlich never received.
One complaint about our last GOP governor was that, while he was a Republican, he wasn’t conservative. For example, the state’s budget surged 30.8% from FY2003 to FY2007, which is actually a somewhat higher rate than the 25.9% it’s increased since. (Much of Ehrlich’s increase, however, was in his final FY2007 budget, a whopping 12% higher than the FY2006 model.) And while Martin O’Malley rightly is panned for the “rain tax” Bob Ehrlich was the originator of the “flush tax.”
A second argument among Hogan backers is the bipartisan nature of Change Maryland, which they point to as evidence that Larry can gather support from the state’s political majority. I have no doubt that many Democrats would support Hogan on the economic front, but what of the Democrats who cross over on a number of other conservative issues such as Maryland’s onerous new gun laws, our growing reputation as a sanctuary state for illegal aliens based on items like in-state tuition for the children of these scofflaws, the adoption of gay marriage in Maryland, or the extreme tilt of our state on abortion? There are pockets of Democrats and unaffiliated voters who are looking for the right Republican to back on those issues; one with a conservative message Bob Ehrlich didn’t send out.
These are issues which Larry can weigh in on if and when he decides to jump into the race. But once the field got to four the last time, Blaine Young took an early exit – so the question is who would be most likely to fold if Hogan got in?
My guess is that Larry would take more support from Ron George and David Craig than he would Charles Lollar, so with a smaller support base George could be the one knocked out. This is based on two factors: I don’t think we will have four contenders all the way to the primary, and since Larry Hogan deferred once in seeking the office I don’t think he would do so again. And I think two business owners from Anne Arundel County are too many for the race, so if Hogan is in I think Ron George becomes the one out.
They may surprise me, I don’t know. But, unlike Jackie, I had no problem with the field as it was, and I think if Larry Hogan was going to get in he should have already started. Change Maryland and its social media presence is one thing, but social media is no substitute for running an actual campaign, knocking on real doors, and pressing the flesh.