Fighting ‘behavior modification’

Fortunately, we are about five months (and one election) away from the “90 days of terror” which comprises a regular session of the Maryland General Assembly. We have no idea yet just who will be representing us in Annapolis, but there is one agenda item a familiar group is out to stop in its tracks.

As Bob Willick of Maryland Liberty PAC puts it:

Maryland Liberty PAC is ramping up efforts to drive a stake in the heart of the proposed VMT tax before it gains any more traction.

Their aim is to pass a bill prohibiting the practice, similar to one which was introduced last year but went nowhere. In that effort, they have compiled a half-page flyer and video describing their reasons for concern.

Aside from blaming a few current and former legislators for their votes on the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act of 2009 – indeed, a poor vote but just one – the video does a nice job of illustrating what the bureaucrats of the state have wrought and why it should be stopped.

But let’s leave aside the peak-hour tolls and tracking just for a moment and look at the impact a simple VMT might have.

Let’s say you work here in Salisbury but choose to live in a rural part of Wicomico County, such as around Tyaskin or Powellville. Every day you may drive 20 to 30 miles round trip to work, plus there are those 15 to 20 mile round trips for grocery shopping, taking the kids for extracurricular activities, and the like. It would be easy to put 20,000 to 25,000 miles annually on your car and if a VMT is set for every mile above some artificial limit such as 10,000 miles it could run into several hundred dollars a year, almost regardless of what kind of car you own. (Chances are certain models would be exempted from a VMT, regardless of how useful they are to one’s needs.)

The VMT became seriously discussed when the effects of the fuel economy standards adopted by the federal government in the wake of the 1970s oil embargoes became painfully obvious. As cars became more efficient, they used less gasoline so a per-gallon tax became less and less lucrative. If you drive 20,000 miles a year in a car that gets 40 miles to the gallon, you’re only using 500 gallons of gas a year as opposed to a 20 MPG car that takes in 1,000 gallons. At a federal gasoline tax of 18.4 cents per gallon, that’s a “cost” to Uncle Sam of $92 a year for being a “good citizen” and purchasing a more efficient car. As they often say, “no good deed goes unpunished,” so with the advent of GPS tracking systems it became more possible to accurately gauge a car’s true mileage and perhaps make up all of that $92 or even more.

As I see it, though, the VMT tax is just a small part of a larger drive to decouple people from their cars. Maryland is doing little to enhance the traffic situation in parts of the state insofar as highway work is concerned. Sure, they may replace the occasional bridge or repave a perfectly good highway, but the bulk of their transportation money and effort is going to be concentrated on two boondoggles called the Red Line and Purple Line. Before that, it was the ICC toll road, which should serve as a signal for what’s to come: variable tolls based on time of day, collected by electronic means with an EZPass or – for a “service fee” – a bill sent to the car’s registered owner. I predict this same “makeover” will be on the Bay Bridge within the next decade, with sky-high tolls at rush hour and on weekends.

Obviously this process of enhancing specific, politically correct traffic is well underway – witness the HOT lanes in urban areas or proposed “transitways” for busses only. Maybe that’s great for urban dwellers, but that doesn’t help people trying to get into Ocean City or through Cambridge or Easton at the height of tourist season. Forget the logic of building another Bay Bridge connecting southern Maryland and Dorchester County to save motorists coming from the Washington area time and hassle.

There’s no question we need to invest money in our transportation infrastructure. The problem with Maryland is that it seeks to create demand where none exists and ignores logical extensions of the existing overburdened system in the name of addressing a “global warming” problem we couldn’t change if we tried.

The idea of the VMT should be the first thing scrapped, but let’s not stop there. It’s time to give up on the folly of reducing our greenhouse gas output because that equates to reducing our standard of living as well as our liberty.

By the way, since I’m on the subject of boondoggles like the Red Line, Purple Line, and VMT, I’ve been meaning to work this editorial on ethanol by my Patriot Post cohort Mark Alexander in for a few days. Here’s a good chance to read it.

Leaving the resistance: a case study

July 11, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, National politics, Personal stuff, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Leaving the resistance: a case study 

This article was actually going to be about one piece of information I received, but then I got another which I can tie in. I do that every now and then.

The TEA Party movement, depending on how you determine its beginning, is somewhere between five and seven years old now. Thousands upon thousands of activists have participated in it, but in reality conditions have generally become worse in terms of its main fiscal goals.

It’s a well-documented lack of success, and perhaps that lack of reward is frustrating those who want real positive change. Take this piece I received an e-mail the other day from an area TEA Party group lamenting the writer’s Independence Day plans.

This year for the July 4th Holiday I spent it doing laundry or something mundane like that. No family gathering, no special commemoration or meditation on my part to mark this critically important day. I cannot let this happen again.

When I think of the miracle of the founding of this nation and the sacrifice made by millions to preserve it I am ashamed that it passed like another day, a long weekend. I’m sure most of you reading this didn’t abuse this important day to the extent that I did – hopefully. I serve in a position of leadership in this organization; I know better. God forgive me but God help me to do better not just next year but every day from this point on.

This organization didn’t participate in (a local) event due to lack of interest from the membership. We didn’t walk in the July 4th Parade, also due to lack of interest. The Summer BBQ will most likely be pushed out again due to lack of interest. These are perhaps less important than what we do daily to mark the miracle that is this precious nation BUT they are outward expressions of our commitment to each other, to this nation, to our God in front of others. If we don’t stand up in front of an unschooled community every chance we have, how can we hope to shift this paradigm?

I know we are all tired, exhausted, hardly able to pay our bills and take care of our families. Perhaps we are in our senior years and feel that we have paid a hefty price already. Many of us are weary from trying to inform a willingly uninformed public, legislature, clergy, education system, healthcare system, etc. I get it; I’m part of that tired and huddled mass.

If you go back on my website you’ll find numerous references to TEA Party gatherings, local meetings of an Americans for Prosperity chapter, or the Wicomico Society of Patriots – these are all groups which flourished for a brief time but then died due to lack of interest, leadership issues, or both. Some of those organizers have moved into the mainstream of politics, but many others found that activism too difficult to keep up when their family’s financial survival was at stake.

But then we have the diehards, among them the purists who will accept no compromise. That’s one lament of Sara Marie Brenner, a conservative activist who announced on her Brenner Brief website yesterday that she was taking a hiatus from her news aggregation website and radio show.

I bring this up as I’ve interviewed her for my now-dormant TQT feature as well as talked about a venture she launched late last year. While I definitely haven’t agreed with her on everything and incurred her wrath by pointing out the lack of viability of her many past and present enterprises in the new media world, I think she makes some very good points in her lengthy piece.

For one, I nearly laughed out loud when she wrote about the Ohio PAC where $7,000 or the $7,400 raised went to the leader’s own company knowing that the Maryland Liberty PAC has a similar history – the majority ($14,826.03) of the nearly $26,000 MDLPAC spent last year went to Stable Revolution Consulting. It’s one thing to collect money for a cause, but the same people who question the Larry Hogan connection with Change Maryland may want to ask about that arrangement as well.

As a whole it seems that some in the TEA Party movement can’t be happy unless they either amass power and wealth for themselves – making them little better than the big-government flunkies they decry – or refuse to compromise on one particular issue, forgetting that they may need their conservative opponent for some other pressing issue tomorrow. Brenner brings up two hot-button items of interest – Common Core and Glenn Beck’s charity effort to assist the unaccompanied minors streaming over our southern border from Central America. On these I only agree with her 50% but as I said she makes other good points.

I don’t blame Sara Marie for backing away from the fray; that’s her decision just as it was to get involved in the first place – and I wish her nothing but the best in her ventures as she follows her other passions. But we have to remember that the other side wins when we stop fighting.

It was a more hopeful tone from the other side of the TEA Party:

I hope that we will always remember that no matter what the political ideology, we must find commonalities if we are going to make any progress. I hope that we make a concerted effort to reach out in peace to at least one person over the summer that we have heretofore had disagreements. We know that the truth is on our side as long as we deliver it in peace and love.

Now if anyone would have sour grapes and wish to take their ball and go home, it might be me given recent election results. Believe it or not, though, after nearly two decades in the political game I am still learning and listening, so losing an election won’t crush or define me – it just means I retire with a .500 record. But I’m still going to participate because it’s important, if not necessarily lucrative.

The trick is getting new people into the fray to replace those who can’t go on for whatever reason. Because I have a talent for writing – or so I’ve been told – I have soldiered on with this website for going on nine years. It may not be the most useful or unique contribution, but it’s what I have.

So those who have departed will be missed. However, they are always invited back once they recharge and reload because we can always use the help.

The 80-20 rule (part 1 of 2)

The Maryland Liberty PAC is at it again.

It’s funny because I generally agree with these folks, but I can’t let their continued leap of logic stand. Here’s some of what we know so far:

  • In 2009, Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio voted in favor of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act of 2009.
  • A few months later, I wrote in that edition of the monoblogue Accountability Project: “Someday I’m confident that future generations will look back and wonder about the folly of such a bill thinking it would actually impact the climate. In the meantime we have to reduce our emissions to 75% of 2006 levels in eleven years. I know – let’s throw out all of the industry and job creation!” Needless to say, I was against the bill.
  • A couple years later, the Maryland Climate Action Plan was released. This is the document cited by those who insist that Haddaway-Riccio (and others I’ll shortly detail) were responsible for the proposed implementation of the VMT.

This is what the Climate Action Plan says about the VMT:

This policy option addresses transportation pricing and travel demand management incentive programs. It also tests the associated potential GHG reduction benefits of alternate funding sources for GHG beneficial programs. These strategies amplify GHG emission reductions from other strategies by supporting Smart Growth, transit, and bike and pedestrian investments. The draft MDOT policy design, developed by the pricing working group in Phase I, considers four strategy areas combined with an education component for state and local officials. (Emphasis mine.)

The detailed definitions of the four strategy areas are listed below:

  • Maryland motor fuel taxes or VMT fees – There are two primary options for consideration: (1) an increase in the per gallon motor fuel tax consistent with alternatives under consideration by the Blue Ribbon Commission on Maryland Transportation Funding, and (2) establish a GHG emission-based road user fee (or VMT fee) statewide by 2020 in addition to existing motor fuel taxes. Both options would create additional revenue that could be used to fund transportation improvements and systems operations to help meet Maryland GHG reduction goals.
  • Congestion Pricing and Managed Lanes – Establish as a local pricing option in urban areas that charges motorists more to use a roadway, bridge or tunnel during peak periods, with revenues used to fund transportation improvements and systems operations to help meet Maryland GHG reduction goals.
  • Parking Impact Fees and Parking Management – Establish parking pricing policies that ensure effective use of urban street space. Provision of off-street parking should be regulated and managed with appropriate impact fees, taxes, incentives, and regulations.
  • Employer Commute Incentives – Strengthen employer commute incentive programs by increasing marketing and financial and/or tax based incentives for employers, schools, and universities to encourage walking, biking, public transportation usage, carpooling, and teleworking.

The working group noted consisted (according to the report) of people from four groups:

The Working Groups provided technical guidance and included local representation though the participation of the Baltimore Metropolitan Council (BMC), the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG), Montgomery County and the City of Baltimore.

They met in the early part of 2009, pretty much simultaneously with the bill’s debate and passage, but there was no real way of knowing whether the VMT proposal would make the final cut until the report’s release two years later.

It’s a way of stretching the truth, so I’m curious why those who made a big deal out of Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio voting for the GGRA don’t say the same about David Brinkley, Richard Colburn, Barry Glassman, Andy Harris, Susan Aumann, Addie Eckardt, and Steve Schuh. All of them, along with the departed E.J. Pipkin and Richard Weldon, departing Bill Frank, and late Page Elmore, voted for the GGRA. Surprised?

Listen, I still say it was a bad vote. But this is why it pays to do your own homework, and also why one mustn’t make the perfect the enemy of the good. The Maryland Liberty PAC had Rand Paul for a recent fundraiser, but did they account for his pro-amnesty stance? Or is the Maryland Liberty PAC now in favor of illegal immigration? (Or, for that matter since Rand is doing a July event for them, is the Maryland GOP itself pro-amnesty?)

It seems to me that’s the same sort of stretch MDLPAC and others make when saying Jeannie Haddaway backs a VMT. And of the group of Republicans above, Aumann and Schuh co-sponsored an anti-VMT measure. Does that cleanse them of their previous sins? You can do this with any politician who holds legislative office (as you’ll read further in part 2 tomorrow), which is why outsiders can look so temptingly good.

I went and looked at the issues, one by one, to make my decision. It was a measured decision, not made because of hype or because I was a follower of a particular candidate. So while it disappointed me that Haddaway voted this way (which I knew about back in 2009), I took the 20% or so bad with the 80% or so good.

In part 2 tomorrow I will look at another candidate.

That Rand Paul, he sure gets around

February 18, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Inside the Beltway, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on That Rand Paul, he sure gets around 

It’s become obvious that the junior Senator from Kentucky has become quite the item in Maryland, since he will be engaged in Free State-related causes supporting state political action committees twice in the space of slightly over a month. In this case, though, the support will be more indirect.

Instead of a relatively affordable event, though, it seems like Dan Bongino and the Conservative Victory PAC are going for more of the high-dollar donors. Perhaps that’s a function of holding the event in Washington, D.C. but the event doesn’t seem to be aiming for the attendance figures the Maryland Liberty PAC will be seeking a month later – of course, Bongino needs the money in a more immediate fashion as he prepares to presumably take on the deep pockets of incumbent Congressman John Delaney.

Rand Paul, by the way, is no stranger to the Conservative Victory PAC. He also was a featured speaker at a rally last October for Ken Cuccinelli, who narrowly lost the gubernatorial election there and was being mentioned as a candidate for U.S. Senator himself before quashing the rumors in December. For its part, the Maryland-based CVPAC took criticism from some quarters for supporting a candidate in Virginia. (I didn’t have as much of a problem with it.) The October event even featured Bongino as a “special speaker” so he knows the group too.

Once again, it’s worth pointing out the event is for Dan Bongino’s benefit because checks are made payable to Bongino’s Congressional campaign. But the CVPAC has plans for local Maryland campaigns as well:

We are launching this year in high gear with a fundraiser in February to support Dan Bongino as the next US Congressman from Maryland’s sixth district.  In March, we will roll out a multi-tiered plan to conduct fundraisers as well as grassroots outreach as part of our victory campaign for high caliber Constitutional Conservatives seeking elected office.

That statement was the introduction to the CVPAC January newsletter, available on their website. Presumably they are working on a list of candidates to support in local and perhaps statewide races. (I can think of a couple local candidates who can use the help as they face off against entrenched Democrats and their high-dollar consultants from across the Bay.) So I look forward to seeing if our humble little side of the state is included in that victory campaign.

And if Rand Paul wants to help us out, he’s more than welcome to.

The liberty dinner

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

Rand Paul

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

MLPAC chairman Patrick McGrady added in a release that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PlanMaryland repeal redux will get a hearing

January 13, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, Radical Green, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on PlanMaryland repeal redux will get a hearing 

I’m glad conservatives are playing the game liberals in the Maryland General Assembly play – if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Many of the restrictions and regulations we’re currently saddled with came on the second, third, or later try in the General Assembly.

So it’s nice to see that a PlanMaryland repeal bill is being introduced again, by Delegate Michael Smigiel. It was pre-filed this session as HB74.

Understandably, the Maryland Liberty PAC was pleased to see this:

Plan Maryland is a statewide development plan designed to consolidate everyone’s property rights into one simple document.

Centralized government planning has never and will never work, but that won’t phase (sic) Martin O’Malley.

The agenda behind Plan Maryland is not to improve our state, it’s to kill all new development that doesn’t match the left’s green agenda.

Many of you, especially those who are property owners or business owners in the development industry know all too well the headaches caused by Maryland’s radical land use policies.

Well now, Plan Maryland is just another headache that we have to deal with statewide.

I used to talk about things which were in the category of “duh” and the last three sentences of this portion of their notice fit the bill. But this bill will get a hearing in the Environmental Matters Committee on Thursday, January 30 at 1 p.m. Delegate Maggie McIntosh is the chair of that committee, and she is definitely the keeper of all things Radical Green in this state.

The MLPAC notice goes on to note the bill introduced last year, but in reality this is the third straight year a similar bill was introduced. However, the 2012 version had many more co-sponsors.

In both cases, though, the votes were there to kill the bills in committee. And even though they were both 17-6 against the side of good, it’s worthy to note that Delegate Herb McMillan switched sides between 2012 and 2013, voting to kill the bill in the latter case. Delegate Patrick Hogan, who was excused from the 2012 vote, voted the correct way in 2013.

Bear in mind this is not the same bill as the one which attempted to rescind the 2012 Septic Bill, a proposal which was introduced by Delegate Mike McDermott last year but failed. The Smigiel bill simply tries to eliminate the aspect of a statewide plan in favor of leaving things to the local jurisdictions which best know their own situation.

There are a lot of bad ideas which eminated from the General Assembly over the last several years, so many more repeal bills need to be introduced. This is one which has merit – if a county wishes to be less than developer-friendly it’s their right. But don’t impose those restrictions on places which may seek to utilize their resources in the highest and best manner.

An aggressive approach

Say what you will about the Maryland Liberty PAC, but it appears they will maintain an aggressive approach to the upcoming General Assembly session. They and an affiliated group called the Maryland Pro-Life Alliance are already sounding the alarm against prefiled legislation.

This is in response to a minimum wage bill prefiled by Delegate Keith Haynes of Baltimore City, which would more than double the state’s current $6.15 minimum wage (which is superseded by a higher federal law) to $12.50 per hour. Efforts to raise the minimum wage are nothing new, though – this bill from 2013 didn’t even get a committee vote.

My guess is this bill meets the same fate; however, there is a move in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties to create a regional minimum wage with the District of Columbia. This isn’t a surprise given the far-left orientation of the local governments there. This may also be a way of staking a position so far out of the mainstream that a bill like last year’s, which increased the minimum wage in several steps, looks like a common-sense compromise. In either case, though, the effect on small Maryland businesses would be devastating.

But while the Maryland Liberty PAC wants HB72 killed, their affiliated Maryland Pro-Life Alliance group is looking once again to get the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (PCUCPA) to receive a committee vote.

The “Mac” in question is State Senator Thomas “Mac” Middleton, who the Pro-Life Alliance claims “completely stonewalled” the bill last year. They note that:

Right now, your Maryland Pro-Life Alliance is running ads to pressure Senator Middleton in his district.

He alone holds the key to allowing for an up or down vote on SB-34 in the Senate Finance Committee.

Of course, not only is this a call for pro-life voters in his district and beyond to contact Middleton, but an appeal for money to run ads in his State Senate district. At this point, no Republican has filed to oppose Middleton.

The bill, SB34, was prefiled this year by Senator Ed Reilly. At this point, no companion House bill has been introduced. If and when one is introduced, it will be interesting to see whether Delegate Ron George signs on as a co-sponsor as he’s running for governor. I guarantee if he doesn’t, the Maryland Pro-Life Alliance will be on his case despite an impressive pro-life resume and support.

It’s an aggressive approach, and one which doesn’t have fans everywhere in the Maryland Republican Party. But it’s said that in war the aggressor sets the rules, and we need to change the playbook.

2013 Maryland GOP Fall Convention in pictures and text

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.

Picking on homeschoolers

September 26, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Education, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Picking on homeschoolers 

It appears that Wicomico County is trying to bully those who choose to homeschool their children into conforming with how they think it should be done.

Homeschooling parents received a letter from the county school board asking for information they weren’t legally entitled to, according to Scott Woodruff, Senior Counsel of the Home School Legal Defense Association. “(Y)our letter is out of line with state policy in a number of respects,” wrote Woodruff.

In particular, objections were raised about requests for contact information, including mailing address, cell and home phone numbers, and e-mail address. There’s noting in state law which requires this.

The letter also attracted the attention of the Maryland Liberty PAC, which restated that:

The Wicomico County Board of Education recently sent a letter to area homeschool families that misquoted and misapplied the Maryland homeschool regulations and made improper demands.

Yet, while at least one parent objected to the requests made by the Wicomico County Board of Education, how many unthinkingly returned the form? And now that Lori Batts, the Supervisor for Counseling for Wicomico County Public Schools, has this information, what are the chances the families may come under additional scrutiny? Even the slightest hint of abuse – or behavior which could be interpreted as such – may be used as an excuse for authorities to intervene, especially as they already know the child is receiving an unapproved course of education. I’m sure that’s the concern of the Maryland Liberty PAC and those who brought this up – as one observer noted:

It is…an example of the kind of thing we might expect from a school board that is Governor-appointed and therefore not responsive to the people of Wicomico County whom they are charged to represent.  With little to fear from voters, this kind of overreach should not come as a surprise.  The big question, of course, is what we can do to stop it.

So let me remind you that the only people standing between you and an elected school board in Wicomico County are County Executive Rick Pollitt and Delegates Rudy Cane and Norm Conway. The County Council has twice requested the state take the steps necessary to bring the issue before voters and they have been rebuffed twice because Pollitt wasn’t on board. So don’t blame the County Council.

This can be rectified in 2014.

Scott drops bid for District 36 Senate seat

After coming from nowhere and arousing a great deal of controversy in a quixotic bid to replace E.J. Pipkin in the Maryland Senate, the surprise choice of Queen Anne’s County’s Central Committee suddenly withdrew from the race late Friday afternoon, according to a story broken by Mark Newgent at the Red Maryland blog. In a communication to the committees in question and the state party, Scott told them that:

It is my hope that my withdrawal from consideration will permit Queen Anne’s County to revote for another candidate of their choosing.

(snip)

Now, with both Delegate (Michael) Smigiel and Delegate (Steve) Hershey each receiving a vote from a Central Committee, putting them each in a position to be the next State Senator, I do not wish for my presence in the race to interfere with either person being selected.

Had it remained a three- or possibly even a four-way race – Caroline County apparently hasn’t finalized its selection process – it would have been very likely Governor O’Malley would have selected Scott in order not to elevate a Delegate from the district. So unless Caroline stays home and picks a third name and/or Queen Anne’s makes a different choice, it’s likely O’Malley would be stuck with his preference of either Hershey or Smigiel. My guess would be Hershey.

Of course, there is still the possibility that no candidate could get a majority of the counties – four could win one county apiece, or Hershey and Smigiel could each take two counties. It’s brought up the thought of having special elections when these situations occur, but with 188 legislative districts in the state, filling each vacancy in this fashion could be very expensive, time-consuming, and confusing. So far this year, for example, we’ve had one death and two resignations, including Pipkin’s. It would make more sense to have such a law if the vacancy occurred in the first 18 months of the term, before the Presidential election (there would still have to be a special primary in many cases.) Having gone through an instance where our Central Committee had to select a “caretaker” delegate when Page Elmore passed away barely two months before a primary to replace him, it seems to me the system as is works sufficiently.

There’s no question I disagree with Audrey Scott on a number of issues, and I’m not convinced she would have been a good State Senator anyway. But I’m curious about who the “numerous Central Committee members” are who asked her to run in the first place. If they’re aware in any way how the political system works in Maryland, they would have had to know that at least one Delegate would seek the seat and would be a natural successor. So what purpose would there be in having Scott try for the position in the first place? Drumming up business for her son?

Anyway – at least until a seat for Delegate opens up – it looks like the Audrey Scott saga may end as quickly as it blew in earlier this week. All it seems to have accomplished is allowing some of us a little more fodder for the internet archives.

It also makes the Maryland Liberty PAC look a little foolish, as they got all worked up over the possibility of Scott moving up. Think they’ll take credit for her withdrawal?

Update 10:45 p.m.: You betcha. This just hit my e-mail box:

I could not be more proud to be a part of the Maryland Liberty Movement tonight.

We just received word that Audrey Scott has now officially dropped out of the State Senate race in District 36.

Our objective was to get this RINO out of the race and tonight we did just that.

Multiple sources are telling us that a huge number of emails and phone calls were flowing into Central Committee members.

This ultimately gave them the support they needed to stand up to the Establishment.

The question, though, is just how much influence they had since it was Scott’s decision. But regardless they got what they wanted this time.

Making money with guns

May 29, 2013 · Posted in Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on Making money with guns 

I guess this makes perfect sense, and I’m surprised more conservative politicians don’t use this method. I would think most localities have a range of some sort – in fact, there are eight on the Lower Shore –  but this comes from the Maryland Liberty PAC and will be held this weekend. (Sorry, I have no link and the e-mail wasn’t available as a webpage. All emphasis in original, and I decided not to blockquote this since it’s center-justified as the original was.)

Maryland Liberty PAC will be holding a special fundraising event this weekend.

We’d like to see you there! See below for all the details!

Breakfast at the Range
Support 2nd Amendment Rights for All Marylanders

Saturday June 1, 2013 8AM – 11AM
Horst & McCann Inc. (www.HorstGuns.com)
2137 North Fountain Green Road
Bel Air, MD 21015

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN

ENJOY A MORNING OUT! Breakfast and baked treats while, some lead down range and chatting with likeminded patriots.

Only $50!

Tickets include: Breakfast, Firearms Safety Class, Firearm Rental, 25 Rounds of Ammunition, Targets, and 30 minutes in the shooting lane. Eye and ear protection will be provided. Range Safety Officers on duty to guarantee safety and provide help and advice when needed.

Range Rentals Available:
.22LR Pistols- Ruger Mk III, Ruger SR22, Ruger Single 10 Revolver, GSG 1911
.22LR Rifles- S&W MP15/22, Ruger 10/22, Henry Golden Boy Lever Action
.38Spcl- S&W 686 Revolver
9mm- XDM-9, Glock 17, Sig Sauer P226

Both range rentals and personal firearms must use provided range ammo.

If you plan on bringing your own firearm you must use range ammo.

Ticket only includes ammo for .22LR, .38spcl, or 9mm calibers. If your personal firearm is not one of these listed calibers then you must purchase ammo out of pocket.

Photo I.D. & waiver required for participation!

Black powder firearms are prohibited.

All State, Local & Federal Laws apply. Range rules must be followed at all times, no exceptions!

Cash and Check accepted.

Make checks payable to Maryland Liberty PAC

For Tickets and Information Call 410-569-4821.

Something tells me there will be a few petition signatures collected there, assuming the threshold for May collections has been met.

To me, this isn’t exactly out-of-the-box thinking as other entities have held gun raffles to raise money, but it is a little unusual to have a fundraiser at a gun range. (Seems like the kind of business I could use as an advertiser, too.) There may only be 20 people who attend but in that event that’s still $1,000 in the MLPAC coffers before expenses.

Perhaps the one question I would have is what people will do with the time they are not in the shooting lane or listening to the safety course. Presumably one will get their chance to shoot for a half-hour (or however long it takes to squeeze off 25 rounds) then change guns if they desire.

Either way, the event seems like a natural fit for celebrating liberty.

Observations on observations

May 8, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Observations on observations 

Perhaps the pro-liberty crowd is still a little restless in Maryland.

Today I got an e-mail from “the Susquehanna Conservative,” a.k.a. Scott DeLong of Harford County. Let me toss out a couple caveats before I begin with my analysis of his remarks: one, he was a Collins Bailey supporter for Chair as I was,  and two, Scott is part of the Campaign for Liberty group, which probably makes point number one unsurprising since that was Bailey’s base of support. This rather lengthy e-mail mainly speaks to Scott’s thoughts about our recent convention, although he opines on some other topics as well.

Upon his arrival, he noticed the same thing I did: a handful of Waterman signs but many passionate Bailey supporters out sign waving. Of course, he also highlighted the Maryland Liberty PAC hospitality room to a much greater extent than I did, because I went to several others in my travels that evening. I didn’t realize, for example, that Delegate Michael Smigiel spoke to the group and the information Smigiel related about the SB281 gun bill was quite enlightening. I truly appreciated the overview and wonder if anyone recorded all of the speakers there for future reference.

And since I’m sure I have the attention of the pro-liberty crowd – and hopefully the MDGOP leadership as well – I’d like to offer a suggestion. I’ve alluded to this before, but honestly I’m not sure I have done so in this particular forum: why not move the Maryland Liberty PAC suite out of Friday night, when the focus is more on socializing and schmoozing, to Saturday morning? As DeLong explained later, not all of the Saturday morning fare was well-attended, and to me it would be like a miniature MDCAN conference before our convention business began. Perhaps we could integrate a continental breakfast into it, but in either case I bet it would draw more than seven people.

So only a small portion of Scott’s reflections focused on Friday night. The next part, though, I found interesting. To quote Scott, “It was the Establishment versus 2 grassroots candidates,” but by the very next paragraph he darkly alludes that “The Establishment was going to pull out all the stops to make sure their candidate, Waterman, would win” by “Thugging The Vote.”

Personally I found what I heard to be happening reprehensible, then again, this is politics and “politics ain’t beanbag.” While we had a proxy unsure of the direction to go, having heard conflicting information about following the wishes of the person being substituted for versus following their own desire, I was hearing some of the same stories being related by DeLong in his account.

So let me back up the scenario a little bit. In previous discussions, Dave Parker (our county Chair) and I agreed that our county’s vote could easily (and likely would) split three ways. I actually was mildly surprised by the split as one person I thought of as a Waterman supporter picked Bailey and one other did the reverse. In the end, we were about as split as any county was – but our Chair was perfectly fine with that, and allowed us to make up our own mind.

Contrast that to the browbeating some county chairs gave to their charges, particularly those in the Waterman camp. It was disappointing, but frankly not too surprising. They weren’t going to repeat the same mistakes they made when they thought Audrey Scott had the National Committeewoman’s seat in the bag last spring. Granted, the three votes DeLong alludes to would not have changed the end result – unless it was the tip of the iceberg, and we may never really know that.

But after Scott goes through the voting process, he points out some of the goings-on between ballots for the Chair position:

The chain of events after the first round of balloting for Chairman was interesting.

The Kline and Bailey camps appeared to be genuinely cordial to one another.

It was reported that during that pow-wow that when Kline was deciding what to do that Bailey told him that if he thought he should stay in for one more round, he should.

That’s just Collins being Collins.

However, if one of their goals was to get a grassroots chair and get Pope off the RNC Rules Committee, then the Kline team really needed to be able to see the writing on the wall.

The only thing that would be accomplished with Kline remaining in the race would be the election of Diana Waterman as Chairman since she was 11 votes away and it would be virtually impossible for Kline to get enough to get close.

The Bailey team was prepared to endorse Kline had the outcome been reversed.

The supporters of these two groups clearly had more in common with each other than with Waterman and Pope.

Had either become the Chairman the other groups would have certainly had a seat at the table and would have had their ideas and input considered, and if found workable, implemented.

The Kline guys seemed like a decent bunch, but they clearly need to get better at reading the tea leaves.

Now that last statement will probably earn Scott DeLong the everlasting enmity of the Red Maryland crew, for whom I am an erstwhile contributor (as they like to point out.) One result of this particular election, though, is that it may create a change in the bylaws or the adoption in the future of a special rule where the lowest-ranked candidate is automatically evicted from the ballot. Again, we will never know if a Kline withdrawal and endorsement of Bailey would have been enough to push Collins over the top given how close Diana was in the first place, but as things turned out Bailey supporters got the next best result.

From here, Scott implores us in the pro-liberty movement to “unite for common goals” and launches into a discussion about national party affairs. I believe DeLong is correct that National Committeeman Louis Pope will be extremely resistant to change, and given some of his statements regarding the “Liberty Pack” (as he calls it) it doesn’t appear he will be of much use to the purpose of revisiting the RNC rules.

Yet some of the ideas in the “Growth and Opportunity Project” that DeLong doesn’t like are ones I happen to be in favor of. Personally. I would like to see multi-state primaries – but I don’t want the calendar front-loaded because I would prefer the primaries occur in the timeframe of May through early July, with the conventions remaining in September. With such a compressed schedule, there would be plenty of time for a grassroots candidate to gather support beforehand, not to mention “as much debate and discussion as possible.” (By the way, we should tell the cable networks that either we pick the debate moderators or they can pound sand.) On the other hand, the idea of all caucuses intrigues me as well – perhaps we can have a cutoff number of Republicans in a state (say, just for an example, one million) between a state which can caucus and a state which must hold a primary. (And yes, I think the primaries should be closed. Don Murphy hasn’t convinced me yet.)

DeLong returns to the convention narrative to talk about the reports from Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin and now-former House Minority Leader Tony O’Donnell as well as the “usual parliamentary chaos.” I have to agree with Scott on that one.

There have been far too many conventions where we simply ran out of time before important business could be concluded, and to me that’s inexcusable. In one case, I had a pending bylaw change on the short end of the time stick; this time, there was the Tari Moore resolution which was tabled last fall. It always seems like we have some sort of high-priced dinner afterward that no one really wants to attend because they’re dragged out from 24 nearly non-stop stressful hours with very little sleep and – for many – a long drive home. (Next spring in Rocky Gap will be a classic example of that for those on my end of the state, just as Ocean City conventions were difficult on those who came from out west.) I understand we weren’t expecting a Chair election when this spring gathering was scheduled, but why put people through this?

Another place where I part ways with DeLong is over the Tari Moore resolution. If you want to be critical of her budget and other decisions she’s made since becoming Cecil County Executive, that’s one thing and I can accept that. But unless and until she files to run for re-election as an unaffiliated candidate, I think she deserves the benefit of the doubt that she will revert back to her Republican registration so I wouldn’t support such a resolution coming off the table.

To me, Scott is beginning to let the perfect be the enemy of the good and not looking at the 80% rule. Certainly I can pore over anyone’s voting record and find at least a few flaws, but until a better alternative comes along the idea is to try and steer them right.

Yet I think we could have had a better alternative than Nic Kipke for Minority Leader; unfortunately none stepped up to the plate. DeLong correctly points out some of the many flaws in Nic’s voting record but also savages Tony O’Donnell for his mistake of supporting Thomas Perez for a federal position several years ago.

I think Scott’s letter is shorter than my analysis, but in the end he does point out that:

I hope that some of the issues I’ve highlighted in this e-mail provide you with a starting point.

So I made it such. It’s better to get this discussion underway now so we can get through it in plenty of time for 2014, since it’s not like the Democrats aren’t dealing with their own problems.

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