The state of a non-state

The result of a special election in Delaware’s 10th Senate district, way up there in New Castle County, was discouraging to First State Republicans who were thisclose to regaining the State Senate for the first time in decades. Instead, the Democrats reached into their vastly deep pockets and bought themselves a seat, spending about $100 a vote to hold on to the State Senate in a district they were already about 6,000 votes in based on registration. (While they didn’t have a majority of the registered voters, they had the most significant plurality. In fact, the results indicated either unaffiliated voters slightly favored the GOP or the Republicans did a little better turning out their voters – just not good enough.)

Perhaps the most interesting takes were from libertarian Delaware-based writer Chris Slavens. Taking to social media, he opined the time was now to work on an old idea for which the time may have come: a state of Delmarva that takes in the remainder of the peninsula. My thought on this: what would the makeup of this new state really look like – would it be a red state?

Let’s start with the basics: based on the 2015 Census estimates this state would have a total of 1,444,288 people.

  • 945,934 in Delaware (556,779 in New Castle County, 215,622 in Sussex County, 173,533 in Kent County)
  • 453,226 in Maryland (102,382 in Cecil County, 102,370 in Wicomico County, 51,540 in Worcester County, 48,904 in Queen Anne’s County, 37,512 in Talbot County, 32,579 in Caroline County, 32,384 in Dorchester County, 25,768 in Somerset County, 19,787 in Kent County)
  • 45,128 in Virginia (32,973 in Accomack County, 12,155 in Northampton County)

Having that number of residents would allow for two Congressional seats, with the most likely and logical divisions being either New Castle + Kent County (DE) or New Castle + Cecil + Kent (MD) + the northern extent of Kent (DE). It’s most likely they would split evenly, with a Democrat representing the Wilmington area and a Republican winning the rest.

On a legislative level, there’s somewhat of an apples-to-oranges comparison because of the nature of each state’s districts – Delaware’s 41 representatives and 21 Senators represent smaller districts than the 12 Delegates and 4 Senators who come from Eastern Shore counties in Maryland. (In reality, there’s a small portion of Harford County that gives the Eastern Shore its delegation of 12 and 4, as the 35th District straddles Cecil and Harford counties.) Meanwhile, the Eastern Shore counties in Virginia are represented by one Delegate and one Senator they share with the other side of the bay. It’s only a fraction of a Delegate district.

Regardless, in terms of raw numbers, Delaware’s Senate is split 11-10 in favor of Democrats – however, Maryland balances it out with a 3-1 Republican split among its districts to push the GOP ahead 13-12. But Eastern Shore Virginia voters send a Democratic senator to Richmond so the parties split 13-13 in this case.

As for their lower houses, the Democrats control Delaware by a 25-16 margin but that would be tempered by the 11-1 edge Republicans have on the Maryland Eastern Shore. With a 27-26 advantage, Republicans would control the Delmarva House 28-26 when the one Republican Delegate is added from Virginia.

That closeness would also be reflected in election results. In 2016, the Delmarva race would have been watched to practically the same extent as New Hampshire, which also had four electoral votes and was razor-close. Based on the totals in all 14 Delmarva counties, the result would also have mirrored that of the Granite State:

  • Hillary Clinton – 322,702 votes (47.58%)
  • Donald Trump – 320,387 votes (47.24%)
  • Gary Johnson – 21,690 votes (3.2%)
  • Jill Stein – 8,351 votes (1.23%)
  • all others – 5,094 votes (0.75%)

In most states, the margin would have triggered an automatic recount. But imagine the attention we would have received from the national press on this one! Hillary carried New Castle County, of course, but the other county she carried was on the other end of the “state” and population range - Northampton County, which is the smallest of the 12.

Even the Congressional race would have been close. I am using the three Congressional race results (Delaware – at-large, Maryland – 1st, Virginia – 2nd) as a proxy for a Senatorial race.

  • generic Republican – 316,736 votes (48.8%)
  • generic Democrat – 308,891 votes (47.59%)
  • generic Libertarian – 14,739 votes (2.27% in DE and MD only)
  • generic Green – 8,326 votes (1.28% in DE only)
  • all others – 398 votes (0.06%)

This despite a voter registration advantage for the Democratic Party, which holds 441,022 registered voters (43.24%) compared to 317,263 Republicans (31.1%) and 261,735 unaffiliated and minor party voters (25.66%). Note, though, that the unaffiliated total is bolstered by nearly 34,000 Virginia voters, none of whom declare party affiliation.

So if there were a state of Delmarva, there would be a very good chance it would rank as among the most “purple” states in the nation, with frequent swings in party control. (Because each state elects a governor in a different year, there’s no way to compare these totals.*) Most of the counties would be Republican-controlled, but the largest county would have its say in state politics. Yet it would not dominate nearly as much as it does in the present-day state of Delaware as the additional population leans to the right. Moreover, practically any measure coming out of the legislature would have to be bipartisan just by the nature of the bodies.

But if a state of Delmarva ever came to pass, everyone’s vote would definitely count.

* Based on the McAuliffe-Cuccinelli race in Virginia (2013), the Hogan-Brown race in Maryland (2014), and the Carney-Bonini race in Delaware (2016) it comes out:

  • total Democrats (McAuliffe/Brown/Carney) – 292,196 votes (50.41%)
  • total Republicans (Cuccinelli/Hogan/Bonini) – 273,928 votes (47.26%)
  • total Libertarians – 7,342 votes (1.27%)
  • total Green (DE only) – 5,951 votes (1.03%)
  • total others – 235 votes (0.04%)

Note that Carney provided 248,404 votes of the Democrats’ total since he ran in a presidential year, while Hogan put up only 100,608 GOP votes to the total because he ran in an offyear election. (Virginia’s aggregate was less than 15,000 votes.) That’s why it’s hard to compare, because Hogan actually prevailed by a larger percentage margin than Carney did.

Eight is far less than enough: a postmortem, part four (and last)

For Maryland, the results for the 2016 finally in and official. There are a number of conclusions which can be drawn from them.

Originally I predicted that Evan McMullin would be ”eclipsing the 5,000 mark statewide” while Darrell Castle would pick up about 1,100 votes. Turned out that McMullin exceeded expectations by about as much as Castle underperformed them, with the former garnering 9,630 write-in votes while the latter had 566.

As I see it, this has as much to do with press coverage and awareness of the McMullin campaign as it did where he stood on the issues – but it’s interesting that McMullin did the best in Anne Arundel, Howard, and Frederick counties as a percentage of the vote. In those three counties he had over 1/2 percent of the vote as a write-in. These were also counties where Trump received less than 50% of the vote – in all, his 35% of the vote was driven down by just five jurisdictions where he was under that mark: the usual suspects of Baltimore City, Montgomery, and Prince George’s counties, along with Charles and Howard counties. (In essence, the inner city and capital regions.) On the other hand, Castle’s performance was more consistent with his small average – he actually did best in Somerset and St. Mary’s counties by percentage, although in Somerset’s case it’s just 6 votes of 9,900 cast. The “eight” in the title refers to the 8 votes Castle received in Wicomico County. So there are seven others who agreed with me.

But if you look at this race from the perspective of breaking a two-party duopoly that seemed very evident in this race – as both candidates did their share of moving to the left on certain issues, making themselves indistinguishable as far as rightsizing government goes – there is a huge lesson to be learned: ballot access is vital.

If you take McMullin, who entered the race too late to make the ballot in most of the 42 states where he actually contended (there were several where he even missed the cutoff for write-in access) and analyze his vote totals nationwide, he’s received between 60 and 70 percent of his votes from those 11 states where he was on the ballot. Granted, Utah by itself – a state where he was on the ballot - will make up about 1/3 of his overall total once all the write-ins are tabulated (hence the possible range on ballot vs. write-in) but the disparity between states where he was on the ballot and listed as a write-in is quite telling.

It’s even more steep for Castle, who put the Constitution Party over the 200,000 vote plateau nationwide for the first time. The 24 states where he had ballot access ended up accounting for 186,540 of what should end up being between 204,000 and 210,000 votes. (With seven states that have not yet or will not report write-in totals under a certain threshold, Castle is at 202,900 nationwide, so 204,000 seems plausible.) There were 23 write-in states for Castle, so the difference is quite stark.

[By the way, 200,000 votes may not seem like much, but at last report two other candidates I considered, James Hedges of the Prohibition Party and Tom Hoefling of America's Party, had 5,617 and 4,838 votes, respectively. The vast majority of Hedges' votes came from Arkansas (where he was on the ballot and edged Castle by 96 votes with 4,709 vs. 4,613) and Mississippi (715 as a write-in), while Hoefling got nearly half of his total from the two states he was on the ballot (Colorado and Louisiana.) In Maryland they had 5 and 42 write-in votes, respectively.]

And if you compare the Constitution Party to the Libertarians, the vote totals over time have been far smaller but Libertarians have had ballot access in most states since 1980. Considering the Constitution Party only made it in half the states (and missed in four of the six largest, with only write-in status in Illinois, New York, and Texas and no access in California) they overcame a lot just to get as far as they did.

As the Republican Party moves farther and farther away from conservatism toward the adoption of populist planks, softening on social issues, and the idea that government simply needs to be more effective and efficient rather than limited - a philosophy that will probably take further root as they’re going to have Donald Trump’s hand-picked chairperson to lead the GOP come January – those of us on the political right may have to search for a new home. (Obviously I’ve had this thought in mind, too.) The Constitution Party may not be perfect – I don’t agree 100 percent with everything in their platform but that’s true of any political party – but perhaps it’s time to bring them to the point of being a viable place for those who believe in all three legs of the Reagan-era conservative stool.

To have ballot access in 2020 in Maryland, the Constitution Party would have to follow the same route the Libertarians and Green Party have often had to: collect 10,000 signatures to secure access for the remainder of the gubernatorial cycle. If they can secure 1% of the vote in a statewide election they maintain access – based on their showing in the 2014 election, the Libertarians automatically qualified for this cycle but for several beforehand they went through the petition process.

It’s somewhat easier in Delaware, as the Constitution Party already has a portion of the number of 600-plus voters registered with the party they need to be on the ballot. Perhaps the place to look is the moribund Conservative Party of Delaware, which has a website full of dead links and no listed leadership – but enough registered voters that, if the two were combined under the Constitution Party banner, they would have enough for access with about 100 voters to spare.

While I’m not thrilled that the candidate I selected after a lengthy time of research and bout of prayer received just eight votes in Wicomico County, I can at least say there are a few of like mind with me. It’s seven fewer people I need to educate because they already get it and won’t compromise their beliefs. As for the rest of the conservatives in the nation, the task over the next four years is to convince them they don’t have to settle, either.

Advice for the next MDGOP leader

On Wednesday night I put up a relatively quick post handicapping the various officer races for Maryland Republican Party leadership. But there was one person I may have missed, and his name is Gary Collins.

Over the last few days his social media has been on fire because he had noted his thought about trying for the brass ring, but deciding against it – only to find a lot of people want him to consider it anyway. It seems to me there can be floor nominations (although my recollection is rusty on this) so he may have something of a support base if he decides to try.

Back in the summer, though, Gary was one of the strongest Trumpkin voices screaming for my resignation, and I suppose he eventually got his wish because I did. Now he has to be careful what he wished for, though, because I’m going to give him (and anyone else who seeks the top spot) some free advice from an outsider who was once on the inside. It’s not so much on how to be chair of the party as it is a general treatise on philosophy. So here goes.

  • There are two numbers for the new Chair to remember: 818,890 and 1,677,926. The former number is the Democratic vote in 2014, and the latter in 2016. We can’t count on a weak Democrat that the party can’t get excited about to run in 2018, and you can be sure that the other party will be trying to tie the person who only won in 2014 by about 65,000 votes to the guy who lost two years later, in large part from Democrats and independents voting against him as opposed to being for their own flawed nominee, by over 700,000 votes. (You can fairly say that 1/3 of Hillary’s popular vote margin came from this state.) This is true even though Larry Hogan didn’t support Donald Trump and reportedly didn’t vote for him.
  • Thus, job one for the party Chair is to re-elect the governor and job 1A is to get him more help. You may not like it, and the chances are reasonably good the winner supported Trump from early on. But not everything Trump says or does will play well here, especially when 2/5 of the voters live in the Capital region.
  • Legislatively, this will be the year in the cycle the General Assembly majority is most aggressive. You can bet that paid sick leave will pass and they will dare Hogan to veto it. Even other crazy stuff like the “chicken tax” and a renewed push for the O’Malley-era phosphorus regulations have a decent chance of passing – both to burnish the far-left legacy of ambitious Democrats and to attempt to embarrass Governor Hogan. Meanwhile, if it’s an administration-sponsored bill you can be certain the committee chairs have standing orders to throw it in their desk drawers and lose the key. (Of course, identical Democrat-sponsored legislation will have a chance at passing, provided they get all the credit.) Bear in mind that 2017 will be aggressive because 2018 is an election year and the filing deadline will again likely be during session – so those who wish to move up in the ranks may keep their powder dry on the most extreme issues next session until they see who wins that fall.
  • Conservatives have a lot to lose. Larry Hogan is not a doctrinaire conservative, but he needs a second term for one big reason – sort of like the rationale of keeping the Supreme Court that #NeverTrump people were constantly subjected to. It’s the redistricting, stupid. They got rid of Roscoe Bartlett by adding thousands of Montgomery County voters to the Sixth District (while diluting the former Sixth District voters into the Eighth or packing them into the First) so the next target will be Andy Harris. If you subtracted out the four Lower Shore counties from his district and pushed it over into Baltimore City, you would only lose a little in the Democratic Third and Seventh Districts but pick up the First. The Lower Shore voters would be well outnumbered by PG and Charles County as part of the Fifth District (such a district split is not unprecedented.) Democrats dreamed about this last time out, and they want no part of an independent redistricting commission.
  • One place to play offense: vulnerable Democrat Senators. I live in Jim Mathias’s district, and it’s very interesting how much more of an advocate he was for an elected school board after 2014. He’s always tried to play up his somewhat centrist (compared to most Democrats. anyway) voting record, and I suspect there are a handful of other D’s who may try to do the same. Don’t let them get away with it, because over years of doing the monoblogue Accountability Project I’ve found (with a couple rare exceptions) that even the worst Republican is superior to the best Democrat as far as voting is concerned.

So whoever wins Saturday can feel free to use these ideas. As for me, I have far better plans for my weekend – I’ll wave in the general direction in Frederick as we go by. Fair warning: comment moderation may be slow or non-existent.

Sitting right next to square one: a postmortem, part three

I’m not patient enough to wait on the final Maryland results, but if they hold fair enough to form they will conform to a degree with my prediction.

Evan McMullin will get the majority of counted write-in votes, eclipsing the 5,000 mark statewide. I think Darrell Castle comes in next with around 1,100, which almost triples the 2012 Constitution Party candidates Virgil Goode and James Clymer (both ran under that banner as the party had split factions.) This would be astounding when you consider there were over 10,000 write-in votes cast in 2012 but most of those weren’t counted…Thanks to McMullin, though, this year the stigma behind write-ins will be broken somewhat.

On the Wicomico County level…Evan McMullin will beat (Jill Stein) by getting 0.6% of the vote. Of the other 100 or so votes, I figure Darrell Castle gets about 45.

If I had to make a living predicting write-in votes I would go broke in a week. However, there is something very instructive about how they did turn out.

Just based on the state results that are in, and making an educated guess about the remainder, it looks like Evan McMullin will handily exceed the 5,000 mark. Based on the number of votes left to be counted and where they come from, I wouldn’t be surprised if McMullin picks up close to 9,000 statewide. But compare that to the 34,062 Jill Stein received as the bottom on-ballot candidate. McMullin’s success comes in a field of write-ins that is far outshadowed by the “other” write-ins category they don’t count (that category is beating Stein so far but its numbers will dwindle as counties sort out the results.)

On the other hand, my expectations of Castle may be twice what he actually draws, as he’s looking at about 500 to 600 votes when all is said and done. However, there is a chance he may finish third among the group of write-ins depending on how many wrote in Michael Maturen of the American Solidarity Party – I would describe that group as having a left-of-center Christian worldview and the counties that remain to be counted would be more likely to support that than a conservative, Constitutional viewpoint. (99 votes separate the two.)

Here in Wicomico County I think double-digits could be a stretch, although the comparable Cecil County gave Castle 17 votes. (Proportionately, though, Somerset County cast 6 votes for Castle, which put him at 0.1%. So my vote for Castle may have quite a bit of company.)

But think of all the press coverage Evan McMullin received during his brief run of 3 months; by comparison we heard next to nothing about Darrell Castle accepting his party’s nomination in April of this year. I did a Bing search just a day or two before the election and found out that McMullin had five times the number of mentions that Castle did. Although that rudimentary measuring stick alluded to a large disparity, it doesn’t factor in the depth of coverage, either. McMullin got a serious number of pixels from #NeverTrump personalities such as Erick Erickson and Glenn Beck, so people had an awareness of a candidate whose campaign turned out to be more or less a favorite-son quest in Utah to deny Trump 270 electoral votes.

And there is a legitimate argument to be made for a very pessimistic point of view regarding this. My friend Robert Broadus remarked yesterday on Facebook that:

Considering that among all these choices, Castle was the only candidate representing a pro-God, pro-Family, pro-Constitution platform, I think it’s safe to say that conservatives are a negligible minority in the United States. Either it’s time for conservatives to adopt a new philosophy, or it’s time for a new party that can attract conservative voters, rather than abandoning them to liberal Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Greens, and all the other flavors of Communism that exist on the ballot.

Nationwide, Evan McMullin has 545,104 votes (with ballot access in just 11 states and write-in access in 31 others) while Darrell Castle is at 190,599 with ballot access in 24 states and write-in access in 23. If nothing else, this shows the power of media, but I disagree that conservatives are a negligible minority. Rather, they fall prey to the notion that the election is a binary choice and the two major parties aren’t exactly going to go out of their way to say, hey, we know you may not agree with us so you may want to consider (fill in the blank.)

But it’s also clear that ballot access makes a difference. In looking at the states where Castle was on the ballot and McMullin a write-in, the limited amount of data I could find (the state of Missouri and a sampling of Wisconsin counties – they report that way) suggested that a Castle on the ballot far outdistanced a McMullin write-in. Castle received nearly ten times the votes in Missouri, for example, and generally defeated McMullin by a factor of 2 to 4 in Wisconsin.

So if you are the Constitution Party (which, based on their platform, would be my preference as an alternate party) – or any other alternate to the R/D duopoly not called the Libertarian or Green parties – job one for you is to get ballot access.  Granted, the Constitution Party only received between .2% and 1.1% of the vote in states where they qualified for the ballot, but that was vastly better than any state where they were a write-in.

Maryland makes this a difficult process, and this is more than likely intentional. To secure ballot access, a party first needs to get 10,000 valid signatures to the Board of Elections stating that these voters wish to create a new party. To maintain access they then need to get at least 1% of the vote in a gubernatorial election or 1% of the total registered voters – at this point, that number would be about 38,000. The Libertarian Party maintained its access in 2014 by receiving 1.5% of the vote, while the Green Party managed to once again qualify via petition, so both were on the ballot for the 2016 Presidential race. The Constitution Party did field a candidate for Maryland governor (Eric Knowles and running mate Michael Hargadon) with ballot access in 2010, but did not qualify in subsequent elections.

I also looked up the requirements in Delaware:

No political party shall be listed on any general election ballot unless, 21 days prior to the date of the primary election, there shall be registered in the name of that party a number of voters equal to at least 1 0/100 of 1 percent of the total number of voters registered in the State as of December 31 of the year immediately preceding the general election year.

In the First State the same parties as Maryland (Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green) qualified for the ballot; however, the Green Party made it by the skin of its teeth as they barely broke the threshold of 653 they needed – they had fallen below that earlier in 2016. At this point Delaware would be adding the American Delta Party (2016 nominee: Rocky De La Fuente, who has 6 Maryland write-in votes so far) and maintaining the other four; meanwhile the Constitution Party sits at 311 of what is now a requirement of 676. (The Conservative Party is also in the same boat with 432. Perhaps a merger is in order? Also worth noting for the Constitution Party: Sussex County could be a huge growth area since they only have 36 of the 311 – they should be no less than Kent County’s 135.)

So the task for liberty- and Godly-minded people is right in front of them. While it’s likely the Republican Party has always been the “backstop” party when there are only two choices, more and more often they are simply becoming the lesser of two evils. Never was that more clear than this election, as most of the choices they presented to voters were the “tinker around the edge” sort of candidate who will inevitably drift to the left if elected.

Of course, Broadus may be right and those who are “pro-God, pro-Family, (and) pro-Constitution” may be a tiny minority. But so are homosexuals and they seem to have an outsized role in culture and politics. (I use that group as an example because they have successfully created a perception that homosexuals are 20 to 25 percent of the population.) It’s time for the group I write about to become the “irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.” It may be a stretch when most people think Samuel Adams is a brand of beer, but I choose to try.

Thoughts on Trump: a postmortem, part two

November 11, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off 

When I did part one I intended to wait until all of the write-in votes were counted and tallied before continuing, but it appears that process will be very time-consuming and drag out over the next couple weeks. So I will save the third part for that facet of the evaluation I wasn’t anticipating would take so long and carry on with what we do know to date, beginning with the rest of my predictions. I’m still working in reverse order.

On the Wicomico County level, Donald Trump will carry the county with ease, with 63.7% of the vote compared to 32.8% for Hillary. Gary Johnson will hover around 2.3% here and Jill Stein at 0.4%; in fact, Evan McMullin will beat her…

I keep making the mistake of thinking Wicomico County is more conservative than reality bears out. Trump won Wicomico County, but underperformed my expectations by a full 10.6 percentage points (53.1% vs. 63.7%.) Hillary received 8.8% of my overage, going from the 32.8% I guessed to the actual 41.6%, while Gary Johnson was the recipient of a small portion as well, outperforming with 3% against the 2.2% I predicted.

But it was the Green Party candidate Jill Stein who vastly outperformed, going from a cipher to a semi-cipher with 1%. She received 388 votes, and with 526 write-in votes to allocate – a total which presumably includes a batch for non-candidates like Larry Hogan or Mickey Mouse – I think Stein will end up beating McMullin after all. He needs nearly 3/4 of all the write-in votes and that’s a tall order.

The suspense will be much less in Maryland, where Trump will lose but not as badly as polls once suggested. Out of 2.6 million votes cast (again, down slightly from 2012) Hillary will get 56.1% and Trump 38.7%. Among the rest, Gary Johnson will get 3.3%, Jill Stein will pick up 1.2%, and write-ins the rest.

Turns out turnout wasn’t even as good as I thought, even knowing the high number who voted early. As of this writing, there were 2,545,896 Maryland votes for President, and you’re asking a lot for a 2% undervote on that part of the ballot (although it is possible.) But Hillary picked up an “extra” 3.5% in the state, a total that Trump exceeded by underperforming my estimate by 3.8%. (It is 59.6% for Hillary vs. 34.9% for Trump.) Gary Johnson also came up short, getting 2.8% vs. the 3.3% I projected, but Jill Stein came close with 1.3% as opposed to the 1.2% I predicted. But the write-ins I guessed would be less than 1 percent are (as a combined total) leading Stein 32,957 to 32,406. (Worth noting: over 6,000 absentee/provisional votes have been deleted from the write-in totals, so the final tally among them may be closer to 30,000 rather than the 40,000 I noted in part one. Still, that is over thrice the number of write-ins cast in 2012 at this point – although a high number will be non-official candidates as well.)

For the last part, I’m going to bring in my predicted electoral map.

The important race: Hillary Clinton will pull out a fairly close popular vote race by 1 or 2 points nationwide, but fails to eclipse 50 percent just like her husband. However, there is a highly distinct possibility we may live the 2000 election all over again: the Electoral College very well could finish 279-259 Trump and the straw that breaks Hillary Clinton’s back will be losing Florida. Trump will win 30 states but Florida will be the dagger the GOP regains to defeat Hillary. Also from the 2012 map Trump will regain Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Ohio for the GOP, plus one Electoral College vote in Maine. (That one vote in Maine could be key if Florida and Pennsylvania trade places, with the former going to Clinton and the latter Trump. If Trump takes one Congressional district in Maine he would prevail 270-268, but if that elector decides to go with the other three Maine electors it becomes a tie.)


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

The reasons neither candidate breaks 50 percent: about 4.5% for Gary Johnson, 1.5% for Jill Stein, and various write-in candidates will split roughly 2% of the vote. This means Hillary beats Trump by something like 46-45 or 47-45.

It does not look like Hillary Clinton will win the popular vote by more than a margin that would trigger an automatic recount in many states (0.5%.) Both Clinton and Trump are hovering in the 47 to 48% range; based on standard rounding rules it’s 48-47 Hillary right now. So I was actually correct on margin.

But I’m intrigued by the states I messed up on. Let me share a little secret with you: my prediction map was based on a very simple formula – take the last poll from each state and if it was anything less than Clinton +3 give it to Trump. After all, people tell me I barely know Maryland and Delaware politics, let alone the dynamics of swing states I have never been to. But I did sense there was a Bradley effect going in that people either wouldn’t admit to a stranger they were voting for Trump or they were convinced that where there was the smoke of allegations over dirty dealings by Hillary Clinton there was the fire of influence-peddling, despite the FBI clearing her twice.

So Donald Trump did not win Colorado, Nevada, or New Hampshire as I predicted (although there may be an automatic recount in New Hampshire based on margin.) But I think he will gladly trade those 19 electoral votes for the 46 he gets by winning Michigan (maybe, as that is also likely an automatic recount margin), Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin (!). Trump lost Colorado by 3 and Nevada by about 2, so they were close as were Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, both taken by Trump by about 1 percent. Even if they find a trunkful of votes somehow deposited under home plate where Tiger Stadium once stood, though, Trump wins the Electoral College by 290-248. (If Michigan holds it’s 306-232, not quite the 332-206 Obama was re-elected with, but a healthy margin nonetheless. Even without Michigan, though, Trump beats Bush’s 2004 re-election, let alone the 2000 race.)

Yet despite underperforming my expectations, the Libertarian Gary Johnson blew away his party’s previous best national showing with 3.3%. Jill Stein actually did worse than I expected, garnering just less than 1% nationally. On both sides of the spectrum, those who wavered in their support for alternative candidates fell prey to the siren song of the duopoly who continually tries to convince people a vote other than R or D is “wasted.” And that’s the way the establishment continues to reign. So let me digress for a moment to wrap up the prediction part of this post…

First of all, national turnout will be about 124 million votes, which will be down from 2012 but not as bad as I once predicted.

Turnout was better than I guessed, but it will still be down from 2012. (By the way, I thought someplace I wrote it was 128 million in 2012, but the undervotes pushed it beyond 129 million casting a ballot. So far they have counted 126.8 million ballots.)

…and pick up with my thoughts on why Trump did so well where he was expected to lose.

If you see a common theme in those three states (as well as Ohio) this election was all about trade and job creation. These are the voters who have seen their livelihoods taken away by NAFTA and the relocation of manufacturing to other nations like China, so they have a latent animus against the Clinton family to begin with.

Yet these were also the union voters who either went with their union leadership to support Al Gore, John Kerry, and Barack Obama, or (more likely) just said the heck with it and stayed home because they liked neither choice presented by the duopoly. And let’s face it: to these working-class people George W. Bush only became president because his dad pulled the strings,  John McCain wasn’t appealing because he was a Washington insider, and Mitt Romney was the subject of their class envy. But Donald Trump made the election about things they cared about with his populist, pro-America appeal, so they turned out for him.

And it’s worth adding that pollsters tend to call those they know are likely voters. As I noted, much of this group stayed home for the last several elections and they’re skeptical enough of the press to deceive the pollsters if they do happen to call – thus, all the pollsters overestimated the base of support for Hillary in these states.

If I have a perception of these Trump voters, they remind me of my dad: he was a union worker for over 35 years, was drafted into the Army and served his hitch (fortunately in the period between Korea and Vietnam), and he worked for several years at a friend’s greenhouse even after he “retired” from his longtime employer (a concrete block plant that is no longer in business.) I have no idea if he voted, but if he did he fits well the profile of one of those Trump supporters who came out of the woodwork.

So I’m left with the surprise and shock I received when I opened up my browser to the New York Times website where I was tracking the results and finding they were predicting a Trump victory was more and more likely. It was surprising because it was lining up with my EC prediction, and shocking once the results began rolling in from Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Conversely, I’m not shocked by the discord in the election’s wake, just saddened (remember, I didn’t vote for Trump either – but I’m not going to march in the streets about it.)

My last part is going to wrap up the predictions once I get the write-in results. Already Darrell Castle is at 180,000 votes nationwide and that will hopefully increase as states where he was a write-in tally their ballots. Considering the Constitution Party has never broken 200,000, it’s a start. I’m going to be interested to see how Castle fares in Maryland and Delaware.

I suppose the next great political event around these parts will be the runup to the Maryland GOP Fall Convention that I will miss (but only in the sense I won’t be there – as it turns out I have much better plans for that particular weekend) but will elect a new party Chair whose top job will be to re-elect Larry Hogan in two years.

In the meantime, I may do a little work on my book this weekend. I also found out there will be a change afoot with this site, so stay tuned.

WCRC meeting – May 2016

The fact that Memorial Day occurs on a somewhat rare fifth Monday of the month this year provided the WCRC with an “extra” meeting this year, and they took advantage by scheduling something that’s becoming a tradition: the annual Legislative Wrapup. All six Republican members of our local delegation (from Districts 37 and 38) were invited – but thanks to a number of calendar conflicts, only two of them came. It was ladies’ night for the delegation as Delegate Mary Beth Carozza and Senator Addie Eckardt gave their accounts of the recently completed session. (Delegate Chris Adams made the attempt to stop by, but came just after we wrapped up.)

So once we did our usual Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and introduction of distinguished guests, Eckardt got the meeting underway by praising the state’s $42 billion budget, which needed no new taxes for balance. The reason for this was that the Hogan cabinet was finding more efficiencies in their respective departments, enabling the state to become more business-friendly. One way they were doing this was through fee reduction, although Eckardt noted that some Democrats were fretting that fees were getting too low. Yet the budget allowed for a reduction in the structural deficit and did not feature a BRFA, the omnibus bill where spending mandates are often buried. This year’s spending had “full transparency,” said Addie.

But the push to reduce taxation was one goal of the Augustine Commission, explained Addie. Sadly, the broader tax reform package could not pass thanks to the question of passing a package mandating expanded paid sick leave - despite the fact changes to the earned income tax credit would have helped thousands of working Maryland families that I thought the majority party deigned to represent.

On the other side of that Augustine coin, Addie continued, was the idea of being responsive to constituents; to “change the tenor of government.” This went with a drive to bring things to the county level, as Addie noted “local control is important to me.”

One complaint Eckardt had about the session was the “crusade to get the Red Line back.” It led to the passage of what’s known as the “Maryland Open Transportation Investment Decision Act of 2016.” (I call it the “Revenge for Not Funding the Red Line in Baltimore” Act.) While the bill overall is terrible, Eckardt noted it was amended somewhat to give local jurisdictions a little more priority.

And while she was pleased Wicomico County would be receiving an additional $8.7 million from the state for various projects, Addie was more passionate about a series of initiatives to bolster mental health and combat addiction around the state. She was also happy to see the Justice Reinvestment Act pass, which was a bipartisan effort at criminal justice reform. The state was also doing more to address mental and behavioral health, particularly since she claimed later in the evening it took someone who was addicted and incarcerated two years to re-integrate fully. This led to a discussion about what the state and local governments were doing to deal with the issue of homelessness, to which Muir Boda revealed the city of Salisbury would be embarking on a Housing First program modeled after one in the state of Utah.

Between Eckardt’s main presentation and the later discussion about mental and behavioral health issues, we heard Delegate Carozza’s perspective. She began by praising the club for being a group of workers and doers when it came to advocacy, with the optimistic view that “this is our time…Governor Hogan is turning the state around.” But that was a process which would take at least eight years, said Mary Beth. As an aside, she also believed that Kathy Szeliga was “the candidate that can win” the U.S. Senate seat, which would also lay the groundwork for Larry Hogan’s re-election campaign.

Both she and Eckardt, added Carozza, were in the position to support the budget thanks to their respective committees. They could succeed making suggestions for “walling off” funds for supplemental budget proposals, of which there were two or three each year. And while this budget allowed for what Carozza termed “a well-rounded tax package,” only a minor tax break for Northrop Grumman made it through. But the “good news” out of that was that it was making Mike Busch and Mike Miller talk about tax relief, making it a stronger possibility we may see some in 2017.

As for some of her priorities, Carozza was happy to see the bomb threat bill she sponsored make it through the General Assembly in its second try. (A similar proposal was introduced by then-Delegate Mike McDermott in 2013, said Mary Beth.) She commented about how the broad community support, combined with the “sense of urgency” provided by a series of bomb threats making the news earlier this year, allowed the bill to pass easily. Another bill she was happy to shepherd through was the ABLE bill, which allows the disabled to save money for dealing with their medical-related expenses without jeopardizing their means-tested benefits.

She also stressed that killing bad bills was a part of the job as well, citing the defeat of the poultry litter and “farmer’s rights” bills where she praised Delegates Carl Anderton and Charles Otto as they “led the charge” against those measures. Mary Beth also took the unusual step of personally testifying against the assisted suicide bill and worked to amend the sick leave bill to exempt more seasonal employees. On that bill, she predicted “we’re going to see it again next session.”

Even after hearing all that information, we had some business to do, like the treasurer’s report and Central Committee report that Dave Parker delivered. He called the recent state convention the “get over it, people” convention, noting the party seemed pretty well unified afterward. Even local radio host Don Rush had difficulty finding disunity among a group of Republicans who were his guests last Friday, Parker added. On the other hand, “Hillary can’t close the deal” on the Democratic side.

I added my two cents about the convention to his report, pointing out the National Committeeman race was perhaps the biggest bone of contention and that was relatively minor. But the Fall Convention may be interesting because we will be electing a new Chair, and the question is whether it will be someone who will work more for Larry Hogan’s re-election or to bolster the GOP numbers in the General Assembly. A Hogan win, I added, would make redistricting the key focus for the second term – personally, I think we should strive for single-member districts and Eckardt agreed based on its impact to minorities.

Shelli Neal updated us on the Greater Wicomico Republican Women, who would be holding their next meeting June 16 at Adam’s Taphouse. They had two tickets to the Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in Crisfield to raffle off as part of a membership meeting for the newly-christened organization.

Another fairly new creation was the Wicomico Teenage Republicans, which had “a great start of a club” according to Nate Sansom. While their next meeting was slated for this coming Friday, they planned on taking a summer break and reconvening in August once school started back up. With a group of “passionate people, happy to be involved,” Sansom believed his group would focus on statewide campaigns like Kathy Szeliga’s as well as the local We Decide Wicomico campaign for an elected school board.

Representing the statewide College Republicans, their Chair Patty Miller was hoping to reach each county Central Committee at one of their meetings over the next few months and “see what they need from us.” Her first stop will be this week in Calvert County.

Jim Jester reminded us the Crab Feast would be September 10, but stressed the need for more volunteers – particularly to handle admissions and the silent auction.

Shawn Jester pointed out the WCRC Scholarship winners had a brief story in the Daily Times. But, since the subject was volunteering, he was also looking for people to help out at Third Friday, which we missed this month because no one was available. On that note, a signup sheet was passed around. (We will also need help for upcoming events such as the Wicomico County Fair, Good Beer Festival, and Autumn Wine Festival.)

After all that discussion, and seeing that we had a legislative update where the topic wasn’t addressed, I added one thing to the conversation. General Assembly Democrats sponsored a large number of bills this year that mandated spending. To me, this is an effort to handcuff Larry Hogan when it comes to budgeting but also leaves less room for tax reform. Many of these bills may become law without Hogan’s signature, but they will be law just the same. It’s an issue that I think needs a strategy to address, perhaps a reverse BRFA to eliminate mandates.

We are going to try and get the guys who didn’t show up this month to come to our June meeting, so stay tuned. It will be June 27.

The stampede for higher rates

Back on Tuesday I promoted Marita Noon’s most recent column on social media with the promise to do a Maryland-centric follow up “If I think about it this week.” (I planned to all along, but sometimes I forget so I figured I better cover myself.) Anyway, the passage that piqued my interest was this one:

In California, where (billionaire and liberal Democrat political backer Tom Steyer) has been a generous supporter of green energy policies, he helped pass Senate Bill 350 that calls for 50 percent renewable energy by 2030. California’s current mandate is 33 percent by 2020 – which California’s three investor-owned utilities are, reportedly, “already well on their way to meeting.” It is no surprise that California already has some of the highest electricity rates in the country. Analysis released last week found that states with policies supporting green energy have much higher power prices.

In doing research for the monoblogue Accountability Project, which I am in the process of completing now, I stumbled across two bills which dovetail nicely with both this article and another recent commentary by Noon regarding solar power mandates and incentives. I’ll tackle the latter issue first.

For several years the state of Maryland has mandated a certain percentage of electrical power be derived from renewable sources, with a proposed new version of the law (HB1106/SB921)retaining the 13.1% share required for 2017 but increasing the carveout for solar energy from 0.95% to 1.15%. This bill also proposed that the share of both renewables and solar power increase at an accelerating rate, eventually ratcheting up the requirements to 25% and 2.5%, respectively. While that would be great news for the solar industry, it would be bad news for consumers – according to the information provided with these bills the increase in monthly electric bills to an average consumer if this measure is enacted could be as much as $3.06 per month by 2020. However, Maryland’s Department of Legislative Services cautions (page 7 of the Fiscal and Policy Note) predicting this increase can only be “for illustrative purposes” because of all the factors involved.

The reason behind the rate increases is the payment to the state called the Alternative Compliance Payment (ACP), which also is affected by the bill. The proposal actually would decrease slightly the ACP for all renewable energy sources except solar from 4 cents to 3.75 cents per kilowatt-hour, or, in a more practical term, from $40 per megawatt-hour (MWh) to $37.50 per MWh. (An average home is considered to use 1 megawatt-hour of electricity per month.) It also gives utilities a temporary break on the solar energy carveout, where the fee for a shortfall would decrease from a scheduled $200 per MWh in 2017 and 2018 to $195 and $175 for 2017 and 2018, respectively. The fee would increase in the out years, however.

When the Fiscal Note predicts that the state itself would incur an additional $2.2 million in electrical costs by 2021, it’s obvious that this proposal would be a costly one for consumers. At this point the bill is in limbo, as it was passed by both the House of Delegates and Senate but has not been signed or vetoed yet by Governor Larry Hogan.

Now let’s turn to the most recent commentary from Noon, where she notes California will mandate 50 percent renewables 14 years hence. Unfortunately, Maryland is not that far behind them as they just enacted SB323, which will take effect in October. Instead of letting this silly notion that our little state can actually do something about climate change by reducing our energy consumption expire – as it would have with no action - this bill instead maintained a 25% by 2020 mandate and increased the mandated energy reduction to 40% by 2030. As an analysis Noon used in her piece shows, Maryland is among the states with the highest electricity bills and follies such as these are a reason why.

Don’t get me wrong: I am definitely for energy efficiency, but it should be in terms of consumer choice rather than government fiat. Those who create and pass the laws rarely embark on any sort of dynamic cost/benefit analysis for their policies, so in this case they’re not considering the effect on ratepayers and job creators in balance with the very dubious pie-in-the-sky notion of affecting our climate. (After all, if it was once warm enough to have the polar expanse of Greenland actually be green, as it was around the turn of the previous millennium – well before the Industrial Revolution or the car-happy society we inhabit now – then how much effect do we really have?) We can hardly predict with any certainly the weather two weeks from now, so why should we trust the accuracy and inerrancy of a climate forecast for 2050 when it’s used as an excuse for confiscatory policy that indirectly benefits those making the forecast?

As I brought up the monoblogue Accountability Project earlier, it shall be noted that the votes on both these bills will be used for this year’s mAP. It’s a shame that just 39 Delegates out of 141 and only two (yes, two!) Senators out of 47 have the potential for getting both these votes correct. Maryland has a relatively powerful environmental lobby thanks to its straddling of Chesapeake Bay, but these were cases where the state’s budding attempt to be more business-friendly and hopefully end its economic reliance on big government should have held sway. While Governor Hogan erred in signing the climate change folly, he can do a more concrete favor for businesses and ratepayers by vetoing HB1106/SB921 and creating a proposal to sunset the ACP for next year’s session.

And while we are at making energy policy, I encourage Governor Hogan to follow the lead of his friend and cohort New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and remove Maryland from the membership rolls of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Utilities (and their ratepayers) will thank him from getting us out from under that wealth transfer boondoggle.

The Primary 2016 postmortem, part 1

I knew Maryland wasn’t a typical conservative state, but I didn’t think that many Republicans would be fooled by Donald Trump’s act.

Late last night I wrote down some “gut instinct” predictions for the state, Congressional district, and county:

Pre-primary wild guesses:

Maryland for President: Trump 42.7, Kasich 27.4, Cruz 24.6, others 5.3 (mostly protests for Carson and Rubio.)

Wicomico for President: Trump 51.2, Cruz 30.7, Kasich 16.3, others (mostly Carson) 1.8.

Trump wins all 8 districts, although 1 or 2 are less than 5 points over Kasich.

For Senate overall: Szeliga 32.3, Kefalas 22.7, Douglas 19.3, Wallace 11.2, Hooe 8.7, the field 5.8.

Wicomico for Senate: Szeliga 41, Douglas 23.3, Wallace 14.7, Kefalas 12.6, Hooe 4.2, field 4.2.

First District overall: Harris 51.3, Smigiel 35.2, Jackson 6.8, Goff 6.7.

Wicomico First District: Harris 41.9, Smigiel 40.7, Goff 9, Jackson 8.4.

So let’s see how I did.

Well, first and foremost I underestimated Trump’s support. Looks like those rallies paid off in news coverage and creating the illusion he really cared about Maryland. John Kasich did some half-hearted stops here as well, and Ted Cruz made just one early on.

Trump is running about 12 points better than I thought statewide. Five of those points came out of my Kasich totals and six from Cruz. The rest come out of the “other” category that Carson (who was the only other candidate over 1%) and Rubio indeed led.

Here in Wicomico County, Trump outpaced me by fourteen points, and I blame the Berlin rally. I was actually not far off on Kasich (16.3 vs. 15.1 actual) but I am deeply disappointed with my fellow Wicomico voters for not supporting the real conservative left in the race, underperforming my expectation on Ted Cruz by almost 14 points – about the same as Trump overperformed. Ben Carson led the stragglers that exceeded my expectations by half again with 2.7%. And let me find a Volkswagen to house the three Santorum voters here in Wicomico.

While Trump won all eight Congressional districts by double-digit margins, it’s worth pointing out that Montgomery County (which is split among several Congressional districts) indeed only gave Trump a five-point win over John Kasich.

Yet if you thought I was shocked by the Trump margin, imagine the surprise when I saw how easily Kathy Szeliga decimated the U.S. Senate field. Getting on TV obviously made all the difference because the polling suggested a much closer race. And Chris Chaffee, who came in second, wasn’t even polled! But I was only about three points off on her.

I think what happened was the inevitability factor - Kathy had a lot more money and (dare I say) tacit MDGOP support. And it may have been a weakness in polling that the 40 to 50 percent undecided were really supporting someone who wasn’t named in the poll. If you look at the three or four who were polled (Szeliga, Kefalas, Douglas, Hooe) combined they only pulled 55% of the total vote statewide. Perhaps those “undecided” were really decided, with the various party factions splitting several ways. Obviously everyone except Szeliga horribly underperformed my expectations – well, except the “field.” Yet Kathy did worse than I expected here in Wicomico.

Now for Congress. There is so much complaining I hear about Andy Harris, but apparently this is a very loud, tiny minority I should have ignored. 10.8% overall for Mike Smigiel and just two votes more for him than Jonathan Goff in Wicomico? Get real. It turns out that the 22% who didn’t like Harris in the 2014 primary didn’t like him this time either, but split their vote three ways.

So my gut instinct wasn’t as good as it should have been – then again, the pollsters didn’t do very well here either and people pay them.

I also speculated Donna Edwards might pull off the upset over Chris Van Hollen, so it will be interesting to see what the minority turnout was for a primary that didn’t have a lot of suspense at the top. Apparently the coalition of Millennials who I thought would help Kefalas a little on the GOP side didn’t show up for Bernie Sanders or the more progressive Edwards, either.

Guess it might be time to clean off my radar since it seems to be broken. Lord knows my little endorsements didn’t help, either, but someone has to hold up the tattered and torn conservative banner in this state – may as well be me.

The one piece of good news I got tonight was that a great friend of monoblogue won her primary in Cecil County. Jackie Gregory took 55% of the vote in winning the District 5 primary, and unless there’s a write-in or independent campaign she will win in a walkover come November (no Democrat ran for the seat.) So congratulations to her!

More impressions about the Maryland U.S. Senate GOP primary

Since the first round did so well and there’s more to write about anyway I think I’ll revise and extend my earlier remarks. I suppose I will begin with the front-runner according to the Washington Post poll from earlier this week.

So we know now that Kathy Szeliga has indeed debuted her television spot, at least online. (I haven’t seen it on broadcast yet.) More on that in a moment, but if you weren’t already sure she was the “establishment” candidate, the fact the Maryland GOP’s executive director made a “small donation” to the tune of $250 to her campaign might just change your mind. (For someone like me, that’s not “small.”)

Now about that commercial, which continues Kathy’s narrative that she would bring change to Washington. It’s basically an introduction piece that I think will have one lasting impact: “oh yeah, she’s the candidate that rides the motorcycle.” To each his or her own, I guess. Since this race is still a lot about name recognition, every little bit helps.

I do want to bring one other voice into the discussion on Szeliga, although it can extend to other candidates as well. Richard Falknor at Blue Ridge Forum (who was kind enough to link the last Senate piece) states:

Maryland Republicans should insist on clear answers from whoever is their standard bearer for United States Senator. The optimistic tone of delegate Szeliga’s campaign message is praiseworthy, but she must support it by articulating thoughtful positions on vital matters. Many Maryland voters of all flavors will respect blunt answers in these times of grave peril to our land.

Unfortunately, as I pointed out in my original treatise, Szeliga is one of two top candidates who don’t have an “issues” page on their website. (Chrys Kefalas, who is second at the moment, is the other.) A quick check of their websites reveals both Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen have relatively extensive issues pages, so one could ask what our frontrunners are hiding. I suppose they remember that it more or less worked for Larry Hogan, who frustrated me by having a skimpy issues page as well. Perhaps many of us now know why.

So it’s interesting that Chrys Kefalas is now trying to corner the market on the tagline “Larry Hogan Republican,” as he plays up his experience in Maryland’s previous GOP administration. Of course, the perspective is somewhat different as Larry is an executive while Chrys would be a legislator, but you can’t argue with a 70% approval rating, can you? It seems the top two candidates are trying to out-Hogan the other as far as invoking the name (and perhaps political philosophy.)

It’s been more quiet on the Richard Douglas front, although he is chiming in on several Obama administration foreign policy decisions. His latest is his “hunch” that a lame-duck Barack Obama will pardon American criminals hiding out in Cuba. But if I can clear my docket I may see Richard tomorrow morning at the Somerset County GOP breakfast – he sent an e-mail to me today inviting me to come. It will be interesting to see how much of his presentation (if he makes one) will be devoted to foreign policy and how much goes to pocketbook issues.

Recently I completed the Facebook five-pack as I “liked” Joe Hooe‘s campaign page there. Not much new under the sun there, but it did pique my curiosity. I don’t think Hooe’s page has been around very long, but it got me thinking about social media. All five top contenders have a Senate campaign page – so how many followers do they have? Here you go:

  1. Kathy Szeliga – 7,126
  2. Chrys Kefalas – 5,553
  3. Dave Wallace – 2,895
  4. Richard Douglas – 2,039
  5. Joe Hooe – 439

Granted, Dave Wallace could have carried his page over from his 2014 campaign and renamed it, but still that’s very good for a guy who’s not even polled. It’s a very tenuous connection based on this possibility, but if you assume from Szeliga’s number of Facebook followers that one polling point is equal to 475 followers (a formula which works fairly close for Kefalas as well) then Wallace should be at about 6 or 7 percent. I have noticed he engages his Facebook followers more than most, and I’ve been setting some of the doubters straight on energy issues there. He’s not hurt his position regarding the horserace as little has changed for me over the week; however, I’m hoping I make it down to Princess Anne in time to speak with Douglas tomorrow.

So that’s where I stand for now as I work on making a final endorsement on April 17.

WCRC meeting – February 2016

This time we meant it. After having a last-minute meeting called last month, a little planning made this month’s meeting go a long way. It got off to an unusual beginning as the Jaycees meeting in the next room joined us for the Pledge of Allegiance before we went solo on the Lord’s Prayer. (Usually we do this in reverse – as a former WCRC president once said, God before country. I think that it was the late George Ossman who introduced that tradition.)

The meeting was jam-packed with information because we had two speakers. It was suggested to us that we have Anthony Gutierrez from the Board of Elections in to go over the new paper-ballot voting machines we will be using, so he led off the evening with a pair of short videos explaining how they will work. For early voting there will be one ADA unit (which is slightly enhanced for those who are physically impaired but can be used by anyone) and two optical scanner units. Filling out a paper ballot is like filling out the standardized tests you had in school except you fill the circle in with an ink pen.

There were a few other election notes he passed along, including the fact that over 10,000 Wicomico voters will not be participating in April’s primary because they are unaffiliated. (This is out of about 58,000 total.) Gutierrez noted as well that the last Presidential primary with no incumbent (2008) had 48.9% for a February primary, but he predicted April’s turnout would be more like 35-40%. There will be five separate races on the ballot, he added: President, U.S. Senate, Congressional representative, and delegates/alternate delegates to the national convention. Voters will be sent their specimen ballots the Monday before early voting begins.

Mark McIver of the Central Committee asked whether more election judges were needed, and Gutierrez said they were fine for the primary. But he encouraged those interested to apply anyway for November and to be backups in case they have a need in April. Compensation for the day is $250.

Another question about same-day registration came up, and Anthony replied that it would be effective only for early voting. Some voters who had MVA information in the system would be “precleared,” he added.

I asked if the new machines would result in delays, but Gutierrez noted from the experience he had with observing these machines in other elections that the process was actually faster. They would use the primary to make adjustments for the larger turnout in November, he added.

Once Gutierrez wrapped up, our other featured speaker began. Having served as the co-chair of the Redistricting Reform Commission (RRC), Walter Olson came to speak about Maryland’s gerrymandering and the commission set up to suggest improved voting districts. Legislation to create a non-partisan redistricting body was introduced earlier this session, with hearings next week in both the House and Senate.

“I think we’ve got to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters and not the other way around.” Those weren’t the words of Walter Olson; it’s a quote from the most recent State of the Union speech Barack Obama delivered. He also made the point in Illinois during a recent appearance there, said Olson. Moreover, 70 percent of Maryland residents would prefer an independent commission, which is fitting: since North Carolina’s gerrymandering (considered the worst in the country) was struck down in court, the new number one worst was the great state of Maryland.

With the recalcitrant Democrats being placed in an uncomfortable position of being against both their president and the voting public – as Olson pointed out, ”they’re not happy with what we’re doing” - their only response was to complain that five hearings around the state weren’t enough. And “did we ever get an earful” at the hearings, said Walter. Districts were created not to fairly represent, but “to reward and punish” legislators. Olson handed out a chart that clearly showed how the system was exploited: all but 6 Republicans represent districts with larger-than-average population, while Democrats represent all but one of the smallest 25 districts. (The one Republican who represents a small district won election in 2014 over an incumbent Democrat.) Needless to say, Mike Miller and Michael Busch are “not enthusiastic” about this proposed change, even though it’s been debated off and on over the last half-century.

The RRC was an 11-member commission, with seven selected by Governor Hogan (3 from each party, plus one unaffiliated) and two from both the House and Senate, one from each party. Their report of suggestions were based mainly on those adopted by California, with some tweaking to fit our Constitution. The report was adopted by a 9-2 vote, and you can imagine which party had the two and where they came from to serve on the RRC. The legislation introduced on Hogan’s behalf has “most of” the recommendations, Olson added.

What the RRC asked for was stronger criteria for population, with just a 1% variation. Districts had to comply with the Voting Rights Act, of course, but also needed to be congruent, contiguous, and compact. No more “blood splatters at a crime scene,” as Olson described Maryland’s Third Congressional District.

The redistricting body itself was intriguing to me. Applicants would be screened to make sure they weren’t connected to the process as members of the legislature, their families, etc. After that, they would be placed into groups representing each of the two principal parties and unaffiliated/minor party voters, those who hadn’t switched registration recently. Out of 10 applicants in each pool (Republican, Democrat, unaffiliated) selected based on these criteria, three of them would be randomly chosen to serve on the body, with the chair chosen out of the three unaffiliated members.

But the cool part was that anyone could submit a map. Olson said that Pennsylvania’s map, which replaced a gerrymandered original done by the legislature, was done by a piano tuner who submitted a map which best complied with the requirements.

In the question-and-answer period, Olson stressed that the redistricting body would do both Congressional and state legislative districts. But it likely wouldn’t be pressed into service until after the next census because it was unlikely the system in place now would be overturned unless it was found to be a Voting Rights Act violation. A suit by Judicial Watch regarding Maryland’s gerrymandering was “somewhat of a long shot” to succeed, assessed Olson.

Walter also was careful to add that, while he works at the Cato Institute, the Institute is not involved with this. He was doing this as a private citizen.

Finally, we got to club business. The treasurer’s report was given by Muir Boda, who has stepped in to become treasurer since the previous officeholder had to resign to take a job across the Bay. We are working out kinks in the accounts since they were based on her e-mail.

Mark McIver reported for the Central Committee. After a moment of silence for Blan Harcum, we learned his funeral will be Saturday, March 5 at Holloway Funeral Home, with visitation the evening before. He also related that he testified for the elected school board bill, which has now passed the full Senate (with a clean sweep 47-0 vote, by the way.)

Julie Brewington, speaking on behalf of the Ted Cruz presidential campaign as its Lower Shore coordinator, announced she had county chairs in each of her counties and was seeking sign locations along U.S. 50.

I made a motion to clean up some business so we could have our officer elections, and all five officers were nominated and elected by acclamation. I’m going to use Julie Brewington’s photo here. (She posted it on social media last night, so she gets the credit.)

From left to right, it’s Treasurer Muir Boda, First Vice-President Dave Snyder, President Shawn Jester, Second Vice-President Shawn Bradley, and Secretary Michael Swartz. (Me on the far right – whooda thunk it?)

We found out from Jackie Wellfonder that the Ehrlich book-signing was rescheduled for Friday, March 11 and relocated to the lobby of the City Center building, adjacent to Roadie Joe’s. She was hoping to coordinate with the College Republican event that has to be similarly rescheduled, but the date didn’t work with SU.

Woody Willing reminded us the WCRC Scholarship was still available, but the deadline was fast approaching (March 1.) Graduating seniors from any Wicomico County school (public, private, or homeschooled) are eligible provided they complete the application process. I asked if the application could be put online.

Willing also asked if we could make our annual YMCA donation, which was met with the club’s approval.

Julie Brewington returned to announce the Republican Women of Wicomico would next meet March 2, with Mitzi Perdue as the speaker.

Joe Ollinger and John Palmer gave us some news about the Wicomico Board of Education, which was getting deeper into its superintendent search. They should be close to selecting the next time we meet, said Ollinger. Various focus groups comprised of about 75 people total were considering the applicants, added Palmer. John also said we were “on track” to getting Board of Education meetings on PAC14.

Nate Sansom updated us on the Teenage Republicans, which would have their first meeting March 4 at the Centre of Salisbury library branch. This led to Patty Miller being asked to fill us in on the SU College Republicans, which are having a fundraiser at the Greene Turtle March 21 and are “working on some big things.”

Matt Maciarello updated us briefly on legislation he was interested in, adding the Eastern Shore delegation is “working so hard” on these items. Included in his assessment was the bomb threat prosecution bill sponsored by Mary Beth Carozza as well as a bill dealing with sex offenders.

As you can tell, it was a meeting full of information that we somehow crammed into about 90 minutes. Our next gathering will be March 28, with U.S. Senate candidate Dave Wallace the first statewide candidate to stop by one of our meetings since 2013.

The 67 percent solution

January 21, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, Polling, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

At 12:01 on Tuesday morning, the Maryland Democratic Party probably had a collective conniption when they found out how much damage they would have to do to Larry Hogan over the next three years in order to get “their” governor’s chair back.

That was the moment that the latest Gonzales Research Maryland Poll came off its embargo and revealed two key points that probably keep whoever is in charge of that party awake at night. In a state which features voter registration numbers 2-to-1 in their favor, even a plurality of Democrats think Republican Larry Hogan is doing a good job. (If five more Democrats had stated in the affirmative there would have a majority – as it was, 48% is a good number.) Meanwhile, 52% of those same Democrats think the state is heading in the right direction.

Overall, a whopping 67 percent of respondents approved either somewhat or strongly the job Larry Hogan is doing as governor, with a paltry 19 percent disapproving. While the margin is only 48-31 as far as Democrats are concerned, it’s that same coalition that propelled him to the governorship.

Yet the Democrats have played with fire a little bit by overriding several of Governor Hogan’s vetoes. It seems to be their priority to make life more difficult (and taxing) for travel agents and allowing felons to vote prior to completing their sentences. The ball will now be in Hogan’s court for his legislative agenda, which didn’t really fare all that well last year.

It’s obvious people like the job Larry is doing, so maybe he needs to get a little more of a bully pulpit. Imagine what his approval could reach if he got a little more Reaganesque with his tax cut proposals. Let’s make Mike and Mike (Busch and Miller) look like the obstructionists they are. I don’t want to predict we can bury the Democrats face down come 2018, but they do deserve a few shovelfuls of dirt for the damage they did to the state over the term of the guy who gets a pathetic 4.5% of the Maryland Democratic presidential primary vote.

The lab of democracy

November 10, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2015 - Salisbury, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

You wouldn’t think much about South Dakota, which is a state squarely in flyover country and fated to be close by – but not the center of – several economic, cultural, political, and geographic phenomena. It lies just off the booming North Dakota oil fields, dosen’t have a major league pro sports team like neighboring Minnesota does, misses the campaign excitement of Iowa just across the Big Sioux River, and is one state east of the majesty of the Rocky Mountains.

Yet South Dakota has one neighbor that it’s trying to emulate, and the impetus behind that is, in part, from a candidate who’s been destroyed electorally in that state by running as a populist liberal, Rick Weiland. He’s a guy I’ve quoted, featured, and snickered at on occasion here, but give him credit for not giving up. At least he’s not tossed me off the mailing list – perhaps bad press really is better than no press at all.

After having his doors blown off in the midterm Senate run last year, he put his energy into a website called TakeItBack.org, which has lent itself to an initiative called South Dakotans for a Non-Partisan Democracy. Its goal is to scrap partisan elections in the state via a referendum on next year’s ballot in order to match its neighbor to the south, Nebraska. Not only is Nebraska the only state to have a unicameral legislature, but they elect all of its members on a non-partisan basis with the top two finishers in the primary advancing to the general election regardless of party.

Given that South Dakota has Republican domination, certainly the cynic can easily argue Weiland is just trying to fool the voters, albeit with the backing of a popular local talk radio host. Yesterday they announced the initiative had more than enough signatures to make the ballot for 2016 – South Dakota is a state which allows citizen-driven referenda without a corresponding act from the legislature.

I’m sure this is a rhetorical exercise because Maryland doesn’t allow citizen initiatives, but it makes me wonder how the Maryland conservative movement would fare under such a system if it were introduced here? Obviously there are thousands upon thousands who almost reflexively vote for the first Democrat they see on the ballot, but what if that security blanket were taken away? The Justice Department didn’t want to find out in one city, but eventually relented.

We didn’t have a primary in the recent Salisbury election, but if we had (as was the case in previous elections) the lone white candidate would have been eliminated in District 1 (a majority-minority district), one minority candidate would have moved on in District 2 (also a majority-minority district), and a minority candidate would have been eliminated in District 3. Racial minority hopefuls ran in three districts but won just one seat in these non-partisan elections.

But Salisbury scrapped its partisan primaries some years ago, allowing candidates who are unaffiliated to run on an even playing field with those having partisan backing. Arguably this may have helped Muir Boda, although he was successful in far greater measure based on the work he put in. We’ll never know if not being specifically identified as a Republican would have helped or hurt his cause, although having a slew of statewide Republicans helping him may have yielded a clue to the discerning voter.

Unlike South Dakota, which doesn’t have a Congressional gerrymandering issue because there’s only one House member from the state (it’s less populated than Delaware), Maryland Denocrats stand in the way of non-partisan solutions because they run the show. They even complain about the Hogan redistricting commission because (gasp!) drawing boundaries in a way that makes geographical sense could make the Congressional delegation 5-3 Democrat – never mind it’s a closer proportion to voter registration than the result of the current scheme Martin O’Malley put in place. While the House of Delegates comes relatively closer in proportion to registration numbers, the districts there were still drawn in such a fashion that safe GOP districts on average have more population than safe Democrat ones.

If my home state can do a redistricting reform, so can Maryland. If going to non-partisan elections is a worthy goal – and I suspect some of my unaffiliated friends may agree – the first step should be getting the districts in order.

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