Odds and ends number 79

With the winds of Jonas howling around us last night, I decided it was a good night to clean out the old e-mail box. One result of that is the Liberty Features widget I placed in my sidebar. They have a lot of good content I use for these “odds and ends” posts as well as other content – that and once upon a time I was a writer for them. You just never know when doors may open back up.

On Tuesday last I alerted readers to the Maryland Senate bill that would allow Wicomico County to determine whether or not they want an elected school board. It’s doubtful they picked up on the coincidence that their hearing will occur in the midst of National School Choice Week. But we deserve a choice, so there’s just something appropriate about this – it may even occur during the #schoolchoice Tweetup occurring Wednesday afternoon.

Teachers may be gaining a choice in how they wish to be represented thanks to an upcoming Supreme Court case. Here’s hoping the side of right prevails and teachers are freed from paying excessive union dues to support political causes they don’t agree with.

And since a lot of my cohorts in the region are using their heat, it’s a good time to talk a little about all the energy news that’s been piling up. For example, energy writer Marita Noon recently detailed the Obama administration’s War on Coal. She quotes one Pennsylvania United Mine Workers officer who says, “Obama’s actions have alienated those who work in the industry from Democrats in general.” I think someday there may be thousands of workers in the green energy field, but for now the people who work in the coal mines are looking desperately for jobs.

On the other hand, if the government showers you with favored status, you have a golden ticket. Noon also wrote about the subsidies and rent-seeking that green energy company Solar City is in danger of losing in several states.

Our fracking boom has gone bust, though, since oil has approached $25 a barrel. Some of those furloughed employees could be rehired to pump oil for export, but this game of chicken between OPEC and American producers shows no sign of ending soon.

Those would-be workers could also be good candidates for rebuilding American manufacturing – if any jobs were to be had, that is. Over at the Alliance for American Manufacturing, Scott Paul notes:

I know I don’t have to tell you how important manufacturing is. More than 12 million Americans are directly employed in manufacturing, and many more are employed indirectly.

These good-paying manufacturing jobs are key to a healthy middle class. It’s no coincidence that the middle class is shrinking at the same time manufacturing is struggling.

Manufacturing certainly faced a tough 2015. There were only 30,000 new jobs created nationwide. We still only have gained back 40 percent of the jobs lost during the Great Recession.

They ponder what the 2016 Presidential candidates will do and invite you to ask for yourself (through their form letter, of course.) The valid question is:

What will you do differently? How do you plan to help spur manufacturing job growth and grow the middle class?

Perhaps Larry Hogan’s plan is one answer, although federal intervention may be needed to bring jobs back from overseas. Maryland, though, could create the conditions for growing new companies.

Finally, I wanted to give a shout out to a long-distance supporter of mine over the last several years, one who has decided to make the leap and run for public office. Jackie Gregory threw her hat into the ring for Cecil County Council back in November, running as a Republican in the county’s District 5. That district covers the central part of the county, from the town of North East south along the Elk Neck peninsula.

If you are in the area, she’s having a breakfast next weekend in North East so I would encourage you to drop by and give her some support. Cecil County has been an interesting subject to me for several years, with Gregory’s Cecil County Patriots group being an advocate for change.

So my 79th edition of odds and ends comes to a close as my heater kicks on again. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for summer. By the way, I also finally finished my updates to the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame so the page is back up. I’m not sure it’s odd, but it is the end.

Speeding in the right direction

In one piece of good news from the Maryland Senate they approved SB44, a bill allowing the maximum speed limit in the state to be raised to 70 miles per hour. The 39-7 vote in the Senate isolated a handful of Senators from urban areas who thought 65 was good enough, but common sense prevailed given most highways were designed for 70 MPH speeds decades ago when cars weren’t built with all the safety features they now have. If the law is passed through the House, it would take effect in October and most likely one of the roads affected would be the U.S. 50/13 bypass around Salisbury where the current speed limit is 65.

To me, it’s a start. While we’re not as open as Texas or other states west of the Mississippi, I could see interstate-grade highways in this area supporting an 80 MPH limit and perhaps even “autobahn” rules (no speed limit in the left lane.) Obviously with the amount of computing and communication around the state (think about those large billboard-style signs on U.S. 50, for example) we could even progress to variable speed limits with 60 MPH as a floor but ranging upward based on traffic and conditions. (I use 60 MPH as a basis because U.S. 50 on the Eastern Shore reminds me of U.S. 27 in central Florida where my parents live – a mainly rural highway with crossroads connecting a few small-to-medium sized towns, and it’s a 60 MPH highway.)

Now we all know that people use the speed limit as a suggestion and drive 7 to 10 MPH over, so 55 becomes 62 to 65 MPH in practice. This Washington Post story on the Maryland Senate vote quoted opponent Jim Brochin making that point. But no one says a municipality or county has to change its limit, although I would encourage them to do so.

When I moved here from Ohio a decade ago, I noticed that Maryland had quite a few nanny state driving laws. So while we are looking at changing the speed limits, can we also dump the full-time headlight requirement on certain two-lane highways like U.S. 113 and Maryland Route 90? Long stretches of both highways affected are now divided.

North of the border, I would love to see Delaware get with the program and raise a lot of its 50 MPH roads at least to 55 MPH.

I’m sure the insurance industry is already screaming bloody murder about the speed limit change, so I doubt that my pet projects will go anywhere because they have a lot more lobbying cash than I have. Yet this is the state that can’t even bring itself to discuss the possibility of self-driving vehicles with a task force (although they’re trying again in 2015 with HB172/SB778.)

We talk about making the state more business-friendly, but it’s not just financial – getting goods to market and being able to provide rapid service through improved utilization of transportation infrastructure is quite important, too. Adding 5 MPH to the interstate speed limits is a nice tiny step, but only one of many needed.

Stepping into the ring

Yesterday I pointed out the voting records of the two men who wish to represent those of us who live in Senate District 38, but another thing I alluded to was the disparity in amending bills. Granted, it’s rare that Democrats have to make floor motions because much of their work can be done as a collective at the subcommittee and committee level; moreover, Senator Jim Mathias sits on the Finance Committee and that committee reviewed the smallest number of bills among the four main committees in the Senate (Budget and Taxation; Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs; Finance; and Judicial Proceedings.) All but the Senate President serve on at least one of those committees. Some members also sit on either the Executive Nominations or Rules committees, but Mathias isn’t among that group.

As I pointed out, often the only way a member (particularly a Republican one) has to amend a bill going through a committee he’s not part of is via the floor and McDermott has done so on many occasions.

But another thing Mike does well is communicate with constituents, and he also has a good way of getting to the root of the issue. Take this recent example, part of a piece he wrote called “Politically Correct Farming”:

Farmers have always been the first conservationists, even though they are often the last one to get called to a “Round Table Discussion” when policy is being crafted. Those “Round Tables” are reserved for election years. Ask any farmer about fixing the Bay and they will first point to the Conowingo Dam. The next point will be to the metro core area septic plants. They would also point out that the farming community is way ahead of the mandated time lines already placed upon them by the government.

The fact is, we do not need any further mandates on the shore. We need action in the areas that are creating the problem! The areas of the Bay which receive the best environmental scores are those adjacent to the Eastern Shore; and they rest next to the shore county (Somerset) that has the highest number of poultry operations in Maryland. Go figure!

Our water does not travel from lower shore rivers into the upper Bay regions, rather it moves toward the Atlantic. In spite of the obvious, farmers are an easy lot to blame; and politicians often do so with food in their mouths.

It should be obvious that poor water quality at the Bay Bridge isn’t being caused by a Somerset County poultry farmer, but from an Annapolis point of view untreated chicken waste flows as if magnetized toward the otherwise-pristine waters of the Annapolis harbor.

Or how about another case, this regarding gambling. McDermott called this the “Capitulating vs. Negotiating” piece, from which I excerpt:

For several years, Worcester County and Ocean Downs Casino have been paying off Baltimore City and Prince George’s County. All of that money could (and should) have been utilized for local spending. When I was elected in 2010, I was keenly aware of this wealth transfer and I looked for a mechanism to bring it back home where it belonged.

That opportunity presented itself in 2012 during our 2nd Special Session when the expansion of gaming was being sought. The issue was no longer about whether or not we would have gambling, rather it was about allowing a 6th casino to be built in Prince George’s County at National Harbor. Gambling was no longer the issue.

This bill originated in the Senate and once again, I noticed that the payoffs to Baltimore City and Prince George’s County were still embedded in the legislation. There was no attempt by Mathias to remove these provisions from the bill.

When the bill arrived in the House, the Democrats were hunting for insurance votes to pass the bill. I took advantage of the situation and spoke to the leader on the bill about the possibility of my supporting it. My demand was straightforward: return the local impact money to the citizens where the casinos are located. Depending on revenues, this could amount to $2 million each year that would remain on the lower shore.

To our benefit, they agreed to amend the bill and cut out the funding for Baltimore City and Prince George’s County as soon as Baltimore’s casino was open for business. In turn, I cast a deciding vote for the National Harbor expansion. The amendment was introduced by Delegate Dave Rudolph (D-Cecil) whose county also benefited directly from these local impact grants staying on the Upper Shore in Cecil County.

I could not help but see the irony of these two separate votes from two Delegates representing the same area:

  • Mathias casts the deciding vote that brings gambling to Maryland, establishes a casino in Ocean City’s backyard, and agrees to give Baltimore City and Prince Georges County $2 million of our money every year.
  • I cast the deciding vote that expands gambling to Prince George’s County alone and only after seeing the bill amended to strip Baltimore City and Prince George’s County from receiving one dime of our local impact money (returning $2 million to the Eastern Shore.)

Let me state for the record that both voted for this bill, a stance with which I disagreed because it punted this responsibility to the voters instead of in the General Assembly where it belongs. One could argue that McDermott sold his vote, or it can be termed horsetrading. But what horsetrading have we received from Mathias?

I also wanted to see what those on the other side of the political spectrum think. This is from a blog called Seventh State, which is a liberal site. In handicapping the 38th District races, David Lublin wrote back in March:

Backed by Rep. Andy Harris, one of my Eastern Shore sources describes McDermott as “to the right of Genghis Khan” on both social and fiscal issues. No one would confuse comparatively moderate Mathias with a Western Shore liberal but the difference between him and McDermott cannot be missed.

Actually, I would pretty much confuse Mathias with a Western Shore liberal given the preponderance of his votes. But honestly I don’t think the 38th District at large would truly mind “to the right of Genghis Khan” because it’s a conservative district. (It’s also an interesting comparison given what we know about the Mongol ruler.) Ours is also a district which chafes at the influence of Annapolis in its affairs, and considering Mathias has received a large portion of his six-figure campaign account from PACs and out-of-area donors, you have to wonder which of these two would be fighting out of our corner.

In a recent PAC-14 interview, McDermott said, “(W)e need leaders from the shore to go up there and represent our values.” Having heard Mike McDermott speak on a number of occasions, I think he would be a great addition to the Senate because he has shown over the last four years that he does the better job of that than his opponent.

Jim Mathias is a nice guy, but in this instance nice guys should finish last.

The same old story

Proving once again that elections mean something, Delegate Mike McDermott pointed out the voting record of his upcoming opponent, Senator Jim Mathias. Mathias supported the state’s Capital Budget of $1.17 billion as well as a $300 million transfer from the General Fund, leading McDermott to predict a property tax increase to cover the difference.

McDermott went on to note:

There are many good projects in the Capital Budget but, quite frankly, voting for the Capital Budget is irresponsible with this state’s economy. Making your grandchildren pay for their parents’ playground is immoral. You’re using a credit card with your kid’s name on it.

(Mathias’s) vote goes to support extremist liberal groups like CASA de Maryland who receive funding for their illegal alien advocacy at the expense of Eastern Shore families struggling to live paycheck to paycheck. This must stop!

In 2010, Jim Mathias lost both Wicomico and Somerset counties to Republican Michael James, but prevailed by enough in Worcester County to win election by just 640 votes – in percentage terms, it was 1.4%. The bulk of that damage came from absentee and provisional votes, probably swayed by Jim’s insistence he was the second coming of Ronald Reagan. Okay, that may be a little over-the-top, but as I wrote at the time he sent out a lot of mailings insisting he was conservative. (I debunked them, too.)

Of course, there’s no guarantee that Michael James would have been a rock-ribbed conservative in the Maryland General Assembly, but I’m very sure Mike McDermott would be a far better steward of our tax dollars. After all, I have his voting record over 4 years in the House of Delegates to back that assertion up.

Yet Mathias has a number of built-in advantages which need to be overcome: he’s very personable and quite popular as a former Ocean City mayor, plus he has a boatload of campaign money available to spend – lots of it came from across the Bay, too. Starting in late summer I’m sure the good citizens of District 38 will get the full-color mailers telling us Jim’s fighting for us in Annapolis, even though his true voting record on this is spotty at best. Given the Democrats’ 35-12 advantage in the Senate, they can afford to have Jim side with the Republicans once in awhile.

But what if it begins to appear that the GOP may win several seats in the Maryland Senate? For many years, District 38 was ably represented by Lowell Stoltzfus, who decided to retire despite the fact he could have kept the seat for years to come because he was popular and his conservative voting record fit the district. The only reason Mathias even ran for the Senate was because Lowell decided to call it a career. I happen to think that, when the chips are down for Annapolis Democrats, Jim Mathias will be right there to save their bacon at the expense of the needs of his district. This budget vote stands as proof, and underscores the importance of bringing this seat back to the GOP column where it belongs.

To conclude, I found it apt to remind people of how I reported something Mike McDermott said four years ago:

(Mike) thought it was funny to hear liberals talk about conservative values. “Don’t tolerate that nonsense,” he said.

Because 641 too many in District 38 bought the line Jim Mathias handed them, we’ve tolerated nonsense the last four years. It’s time for that to stop.

Mooney rising

If I didn’t give enough attention to the former Senator-turned-party-chair-turned-Congressional candidate (twice) I think I will now. But at the intersection of familiar former radio personalities from my hometown and party chairs who were my second or third choice for the job, along comes this podcast from Mark Standriff and the Tea Party Express, telling me, “This candidate is a movement conservative.”

In this week’s “On the Campaign Trail” podcast, we are joined by Alex Mooney. Alex discusses his campaign for the U.S. Congress in West Virginia’s 2nd District where he hopes to replace the seat vacated by Republican Shelley Moore Capito.

Alex Mooney is exactly the kind of Constitutional conservative that will bring the voice of the working class to Washington, D.C. He is a proven conservative champion who will never back down in the face of President Obama’s war on coal and will stand strong against the EPA’s radical anti-coal agenda.

Alex talks about his experience as a Maryland state senator and how it compares to his current campaign, as well as Obamacare, Obama’s war on coal, the recent debt ceiling deal, and states rights.

As I’ve pointed out in the past, Mooney had a very conservative voting record while he was in the Maryland Senate, and for want of 1,045 votes would probably either be running again for State Senate in Maryland, or more likely trying again for a Congressional seat from our Sixth District. (He also could have pulled an E.J. Pipkin and resigned mid-term to do what he’s doing now.) In any case, the carpetbagging aspect of Mooney’s run was ignored in Standriff’s line of questioning, which is too bad. I think if Mark were still doing the radio show it may have come up.

All this leads me to ponder whether the TEA Party Express will be helping Maryland candidates like Dan Bongino, who perhaps could have used it in his last run. While the TPX has done eight national bus tours and a handful of regional ones, Maryland is one of just five states to have never drawn a stop. (For obvious reasons, Alaska and Hawaii are two of the others, as are Vermont and Idaho.) That may not be in the cards anymore, as the TPX hasn’t done a bus tour since 2012, but it would be nice to see some support.

Apparently Andy Harris likes the guy, though. And why shouldn’t he? They served together in the Maryland Senate for the same three terms, and where Mooney had the second most conservative voting record, Harris was number one.

A radical proposal (or two)

I got to thinking the other day – yes, I know that can be a dangerous thing – about the 2014 electoral map for Maryland and an intriguing possibility.

Since State Senator E.J. Pipkin resigned a few months back, a sidebar to the story of his succession – as well as that of selecting a replacement for former Delegate Steve Hershey, who was elevated to replace Pipkin – is the fact that Caroline County is the lone county in the state without resident representation. However, with the gerrymandering done by the O’Malley administration to protect Democrats and punish opponents, it’s now possible the 2015 session could dawn with four – yes, four – counties unrepresented in that body based on the 2012 lines. Three of those four would be on the Eastern Shore, and would be a combination of two mid-Shore counties and Worcester County, with the fourth being Garrett County at the state’s far western end.

Granted, that scenario is highly unlikely and there is probably a better chance all 23 counties and Baltimore City will have at least one resident member of the General Assembly. But what if I had an idea which could eliminate that potential problem while bolstering the hands of the counties representing themselves in Annapolis?

The current composition of the Maryland Senate dates from 1972, a change which occurred in response to a 1964 Supreme Court decision holding that Maryland’s system of electing Senators from each county violated the Fourteenth Amendment. Furthermore, Marylanders had directly elected their state Senators long before the Seventeenth Amendment was passed in 1913. Over time, with these changes, the Senate has become just another extension of the House of Delegates, just with only a third of the membership.

So my question is: why not go back to the future and restore our national founders’ intent at the same time?

What if Maryland adopted a system where each county and Baltimore City were allotted two Senators, but those Senators weren’t selected directly by the voters? Instead, these Senators would be picked by the legislative body of each county or Baltimore City, which would give the state 48 Senators instead of 47. Any tie would be broken by the lieutenant governor similar to the way our national vice-president does now for the United States Senate.

Naturally the Democrats would scream bloody murder because it would eliminate their advantage in the state Senate; based on current county government and assuming each selects two members of their own party the Senate would be Republican-controlled. But that would also encourage more voting on local elections and isn’t that what Democrats want? It’s probably a better way to boost turnout than the dismal failure of “early and often” voting, which was supposed to cure the so-called ailment of poor participation.

If someone would argue to me that my proposal violates “one man, one vote” then they should stand behind the repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment. How is it fair that I’m one of 2,942,241 people (poorly) represented by Ben Cardin or Barbara Mikulski while 283,206 people in Wyoming are far more capably represented by John Barasso or Mike Enzi? We have counties in Maryland more populous than Wyoming.

No one questions the function or Constitutionality of the U.S. Senate as a body, knowing it was part of a compromise between larger and smaller states in the era of our founding. It’s why we have a bicameral legislature which all states save one copied as a model. (Before you ask, Nebraska is the holdout.) What I’ve done is restored the intent of those who conceived the nation as a Constitutional republic with several balances of power.

But I’m not through yet. If the Senate idea doesn’t grab you, another thought I had was to rework the House of Delegates to assure each county has a representative by creating seats for a ratio of one per 20,000 residents. (This essentially equals the population of Maryland’s least-populated county, Kent County. Their county could be one single House district.) In future years, the divisor could reflect the population of the county with the least population.

The corollary to this proposal is setting up a system of districts which do not overlap county lines, meaning counties would subdivide themselves to attain one seat per every 20,000 of population, give or take. For my home county of Wicomico, this would translate into five districts and – very conveniently as it turns out – we already have five ready-drawn County Council districts which we could use for legislative districts. Obviously, other counties would have anywhere from 1 to 50 seats in the newly expanded House of Delegates. Even better, because the counties would have the self-contained districts, who better to draw them? They know best which communities have commonality.

Obviously in smaller counties, the task of drawing 2 or 3 districts would be relatively simple and straightforward. It may be a little more difficult in a municipality like Baltimore or a highly-populated area like Montgomery County, but certainly they could come up with tightly-drawn, contiguous districts.

And if you think a body of around 300 seats is unwieldy, consider the state of New Hampshire has 400 members in their lower house. Certainly there would be changes necessary in the physical plant because the number of Delegates and their attendant staff would be far larger, but on the whole this would restore more power to the people and restrict the edicts from on high in Annapolis.

Tonight I was listening to Jackie Wellfonder launch into a brief discussion of whether the Maryland Republican Party should adopt open primaries, an idea she’s leaning toward adopting – on the other hand, I think it’s nuts. In my estimation, though, these sorts of proposals are nothing more than tinkering around the edges – these ideas I’ve dropped onto the table like a load of bricks represent real change. I think they should be discussed as sincere proposals to truly make this a more Free State by restoring the balance of power between the people, their local government, and the state government in Annapolis.

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.

Pipkin bids farewell to Maryland Senate

It wasn’t how you’d expect the political career of a man who served as Minority Leader of the Maryland State Senate – and who was brash enough to seek statewide office just two scant years after upsetting a longtime incumbent to enter the Senate in the first place – to end. But no one ever said E.J. Pipkin did the expected as a politician.

In a letter written on Maryland Senate stationery but addressed as a “Letter to the Editor”, I found this in my e-mailbox tonight:

Dear Sir,

First, I want to thank the citizens of the Upper Shore and the State of Maryland for giving me the honor of representing them in the Maryland Senate. My eleven years in the General Assembly has been a time of challenge as a Republican, a time of accomplishment as a State Senator and a time when I have learned much about people and what can be achieved when people are determined.

One’s responsibilities to family and oneself often change the direction of life. So, it is with regret that I am resigning as Senator from District 36. My last day will be Monday, August 12, 2013. I will carry with me both the bitter and the sweet memories of the past eleven years. My family will be moving to Texas, where I will pursue studies at Southern Methodist University for a Masters of Science in Sport Management.

I chose to resign now, rather than serve out my term, which ends in January 2015, in order to give the Republican who fills the 36th District Senate seat the advantage of serving the people until he or she runs for re-election.

Again, I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity and honor to serve as your representative.

Sincerely,

E.J. Pipkin

I’d actually first heard this at our Central Committee meeting this evening. But while the multimillionaire Pipkin follows his dream of higher education, those in his district have to consider a successor and, for the rest of us, the battle to become new Minority Leader among the other eleven Republican Senators is on.

I’ll look at the successor first. The obvious choice would be to elevate one of the three sitting Delegates from the district – who are all Republicans – to serve as the new Senator. In terms of seniority in the House, there is no contest because Delegate Michael Smigiel was elected in the same 2002 election which saw Pipkin win office. The other two Delegates, Steve Hershey and Jay Jacobs, were first elected in 2010. Smigiel also has the advantage of greater name recognition as he’s taken a lead role in the fight to uphold our Second Amendment rights.

Moreover, elevating Smigiel could allow the Central Committees within District 36 to correct a grievous wrong which has affected Caroline County for several years – it is the only county in Maryland without a representative in Annapolis, basically owing  to its small population and unfortunate geographical position of always being part of large, multi-county districts. While District 36 covers all or part of four counties, the Cecil County portion is also in two other House districts, with District 35A being exclusive to the county.

On the other hand, the race for Minority Leader boils down to just a few possibilities. Starting with the eleven remaining Senators, we can probably throw out three who are leaving the Senate next year: Nancy Jacobs is retiring, while Allan Kittleman and Barry Glassman are seeking County Executive posts in their native counties.

Senator David Brinkley, though, served as Minority Leader for two years (2007-08) and more recently was Minority Whip (2010-11). His counterpart George Edwards was the House Minority Leader from 2003 to 2007 under Governor Ehrlich, though.

The only other members with leadership experience in the General Assembly: Senator Joseph Getty was a Deputy Minority Whip in the House from 1999-2002, and he was succeeded by fellow Senators Christopher Shank from 2002-03 and J.B. Jennings from 2003-06. Shank was Assistant Minority Leader from 2003-06, though.

Since it’s probably going to be more or less of a caretaker role I wouldn’t be surprised if Brinkley doesn’t get another turn, although the newer members may want a fresh start with a new face. With only 11 votes (or 12 if a new Senator from District 36 is selected before the leadership change) the winner only has to convince five or six others.

Such is the sad state of affairs for Maryland Republicans when a former statewide candidate decides a gig in a master’s program is better than politics. I must say, though, it’s a good exercise in citizen legislation since Pipkin wasn’t a lifer and went on to something new after 11 years. I wish him the best of luck in Texas, and suspect he’ll like it there.

Rage against ‘The Machine’

May 24, 2013 · Posted in Business and industry, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Rage against ‘The Machine’ 

Oh, I’m sure I torqued those communists with the title of this piece, but it lends itself to a delicious irony. Just watch the video.

Perhaps a little overblown on the scale of quirkiness, the video still is rather effective in getting across its main points. (As I saw it, though, a little judicious pruning and it could have easily made it into a two-minute window.)

To me, the irony is that the band RATM and the CVPAC video are fighting against the same thing. The big difference is how we address the problem and what we see as a solution to it. Obviously we’re not leftists, and where the idea of collectivism generally fails is that it runs counter to human nature because people don’t seek equality, they seek to be more equal than others. Our side would prefer to limit the influence of government and enhance the opportunities for individuals to improve their lives as they see fit, in particular allowing them to keep more of the fruit of their labors.

Ordinarily I would be disappointed in such a modest goal as securing 19 Maryland Senate seats if it were the sole aim of, say, the Maryland Republican Party. But as a small political action committee, the Conservative Victory PAC seems to have set an agenda which is realistic for the scope of their work.

Just as an example, I’m sure CVPAC would be gunning for the seat of District 38 Senator Jim Mathias, in whose district I reside and for whom I’ve not voted because I studied his record and believed we could do far better. According to Jim’s 2013 campaign finance statement, he had about $105,000 on hand when the report was due in January and I’m sure that figure will probably be several thousand dollars greater after his annual fundraiser next month. My educated guess would be he’ll be closer to $150,000 – by comparison, the two most likely Republican challengers (Delegates Mike McDermott and Charles Otto) have less than $10,000 apiece as of the January reporting date. So having CVPAC on their side would be some help, although it’s likely Republicans will be outspent here anyway. (Off topic, but I hope that the popular former District 38 Senator Lowell Stoltzfus takes a key role in the GOP campaign as well.)

This is an example of where grassroots can come in handy and political neophytes can get their feet wet. 2014 will have a multitude of opportunities for learning how to reverse the curse of Democratic mismanagement which has plagued this state for decades. It may not be the most slickly produced video out there, but for the people who put it together it’s a chance to see how that particular rendition of the message plays out – it can be tweaked, amplified, or buried as necessary.

Odds and ends number 47

The occasional rundown of items I find interesting and deserving of a paragraph or two…begins now.

In the category of acting locally, thinking globally I’ll pass along the annual dog and pony show against the Wicomico County revenue cap called the Public Hearing for the county’s FY2013 operating budget, which will be held in the Flanders Room of the Wicomico County Youth and Civic Center this coming Thursday, March 22nd at 7 p.m.

Since the deadline for county departments to submit their budget requests only passed this week, we probably won’t see the county’s FY2013 budget proposal until it’s distributed at the meeting. The obvious sword of Damocles hanging over our fiscal head is the prospect of a shifting of teacher pensions to the county, and that hasn’t been resolved at the state level yet.

So there’s a lot of uncertainty in the Government Office Building these days.

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Maryland Senate GOP picks new leadership

The Eastern Shore is again represented in the upper echelon of Maryland Senate Republicans, for the first time since former Senator Lowell Stoltzfus walked away from leadership a few years back.

State Senator Nancy Jacobs, who was Minority Whip, was promoted to the leadership post yesterday in a vote among the Senate caucus. The new Minority Whip is State Senator E.J. Pipkin of the upper Shore.

A press release from the Senate caucus included reaction from the two:

“I am honored and humbled by the support of my colleagues in electing me Minority Leader,” said Jacobs. “While there are many difficult issues we need to address during this legislative session, I look forward working with my fellow senators to ensure Maryland’s success.”

“We have significant budgetary challenges facing us in the 2011 legislative session,” Pipkin said, “fortunately I feel that our caucus has a united sense of mission and passion in facing these challenges.  I’m ready to get to work.”

Now that the leadership question is settled, Republicans can get down to work being solid, conservative opposition. I’m especially looking forward to seeing how Pipkin can use his enhanced profile as a leader for sanity in the budgetary process.

The vote yesterday means the Eastern Shore is home to both Minority Whips as Pipkin joins Delegate Jeannie Haddway-Riccio of Talbot County in this leadership post.

Kittleman leaves state leadership post

For those critics who believe there is a schism in Maryland between social conservatives and the Maryland GOP; well, this news may prove that the two are joined at the hip.

Earlier this week State Senate Minority Leader Allan Kittleman of Howard County announced he was stepping aside, effective tomorrow. His reason? According to a story by Sarah Breitenbach in the Gazette, Kittleman is leaving his leadership post because:

I could just sense that the majority would feel more comfortable having someone who is more socially conservative, and that’s just not who I am.

This stems from a bill Kittleman plans to introduce in the General Assembly which would legalize civil unions for same-sex couples in Maryland. It’s a position which puts him at odds with many Republicans outside the Log Cabin segment.

State GOP Chair Alex Mooney, a former colleague of Kittleman’s, also weighed in on the situation and prodded Allan to reconsider:

Senator Kittleman is an excellent Senate minority leader and I encourage him to reconsider his decision to step aside this Friday.  In the past election Senator Kittleman was the only Republican Senator to give away most of his campaign funds to help elect other candidates.  Senator Kittleman also traveled the state of Maryland tirelessly to offer grassroots campaign support to candidates without requiring any litmus test on issues.

While Republicans in elected office and Republican voters at the grassroots level will not agree on every issue, Senator Kittleman’s strong record on issues such as the right to keep and bear arms, tax relief, parental rights in education and less government spending fit well within the values of the Republican Party

In addition, Senator Kittleman is a man of the utmost ethical and moral character.  He is a strong family man from a distinguished family of loyal Republicans.  I urge my former Republican colleagues in the state Senate and Republicans at the grassroots level to publicly show their support for Senator Kittleman to continue as minority leader.  I have already called Senator Kittleman today and asked him to reconsider.

I think the die has already been cast, and it will be interesting to see who emerges as the new Senate GOP leader.

To me, this is a no-win situation for the GOP. If the measure has enough votes to pass they would surely come from the strong Democratic majority, who would likely squeeze Kittleman out of any credit for introducing the bill. (Don’t put it past Democrats to write nearly identical legislation under their auspices and pass it, either.) If it doesn’t pass, of course Republicans will be blamed for hanging their leader out to dry over the issue.

There are some who argue that marriage shouldn’t be a government issue at all; that it’s an issue between the couple and their church or deity. Some states still allow common-law marriages, for example (but Maryland is not one of them.) However, the state does recognize common-law marriages originating in jurisdictions where they are allowed – for the most part they would come out of the District of Columbia.

In the Republican Party though there is considerably more sentiment for the idea of marriage being between one man and one woman than for muddying up the waters with civil unions or gay “marriage.” Perhaps that’s because the tried and true method for maintaining society depended on men marrying women, and children brought up under such arrangements tended to succeed on a more regular basis. Exceptions to the rule cut both ways, but I happen to think the inclusion of same-sex couples in this institution for the sake of “tolerance” is the wrong move.

I also believe that this hill is far from the best one for Allan Kittleman to die on. As Mooney points out, Kittleman isn’t too unconventional of a Republican in most other ways. Then again, if leadership is using the power of conviction to bring others to your cause Allan isn’t being much of a leader in this regard. Instead, he’s a follower who seems to believe that being politically correct will pay off in the end – it rarely does for conservatives.

In a time when Republicans need to do whatever they can to stop the unceasing march of Maryland toward becoming a statist’s paradise, we need strength at the top. Perhaps it is time for new blood in Senate leadership.

Update: Richard Cross wonders if this is a harbinger of a possible Kittleman run for state office.

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