Announcing: the 2016 monoblogue Accountability Project

For the tenth year in a row, I have graded all 188 legislators in the Maryland General Assembly based on their voting patterns on a number of key issues. Beginning with sine die back in April, I started looking into both floor and committee votes trying to find those which reflected conservative principles, with an eye on civil liberties as well. The final product, all 27 pages, can be found right here or in its usual sidebar location.

You’ll notice the look is a little different this year, as I decided to scrap the old two-column format and just give it more of a standard form that’s easier to read. I also changed the font to something a little more stylistic. On the charts themselves, I decided to eliminate the committee votes from the main chart and instead added two new pages for those votes so that all of the legislators on the committee can be more directly compared.

As for the votes themselves, the overriding theme to me was fiscal. Democrats don’t like not being in the governor’s chair to spend money, so they are trying to use their legislative majority to force Governor Hogan to spend more. To the majority, there are two advantages to this approach: not only can they give handouts to favored constituencies, but they can prevent Hogan from finding the savings he can use to cut taxes and fees. Their goal seems to be putting our governor in a position where he has to raise taxes, which is music to the ears of people like Mike Miller and Michael Busch.

So you’ll notice quite a few floor votes deal with these sort of mandates. There are also quite a few intended to strip power from the Executive Branch (which wasn’t an issue just two short years ago) and tie the hands of businesses because government needs something to justify its existence.

I note in the conclusion that there were far fewer correct votes this year, and a large part of that was the mix of bills I selected. Last year I had an average House score of 39.82 and Senate count of 41.15. This was because a lot of Democrats got scores in the 20s, and that was based on their support for marijuana and civil liberties legislation I favored. This year, not so much as the averages plummeted to 27.1 in the House and 23.26 in the Senate. Being a more hardline fiscal conservative this year (because they addressed the issues they were with me on last year) changed a lot of Democratic scores from 24 to a big fat zero. On the other hand, I had only seen two perfect scores in nine previous years but got two in one session this year for the first time.

I’ve been warned that the third year of the cycle is always the most ambitious for policy, although liberals are dangerous any year. There are a few things that were stopped this year that we will surely see in 2017, such as paid sick leave. I also expect a bid to extend the fracking moratorium as part of a broad environmental package – the wackos were strangely quiet this year but I think 2017 brings some interim deadlines and reports on Bay cleanup. Add in the trend to mandate more spending and 2017 will be an interesting time.

One final change comes in the sidebar. I’m leaving the 2015 report available as part of a long-term process to show trends for the 2015-18 term. As one example, I think the candidacies of Kathy Szeliga and David Vogt affected their voting patterns – you’ll be able to judge for yourself now.

Feel free to print yourself a copy for your use, just don’t forget where it came from.

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.

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.

Making the intentions known

June 15, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off 

I don’t think I have ever heard of someone making their intentions known for a local office three years before the filing deadline, but today I received word from 2014 gubernatorial candidate Ron George that he’s running again…for Maryland Senate.

But in a way this move makes sense. Let’s hear what he had to say in a release today:

(George) was drawn out of the district during redistricting after receiving more votes than either Speaker Michael Busch or Senator John Astle. He was in the process of moving closer to his Main Street business when he was approached by former constituents and elected officials who urged him to run.

Mr. George says, “I intend to build on my record of strong constituent service, fiscal responsibility, and constructive solutions to the problems of the district and state. I look forward to bringing fiscal conservative-solution oriented government to the State Senate.”

As for the early start, George said, “I know the district and its citizens well, but I want to knock on every door and hear from each person. The early start will also help in meeting our fundraising goals.”

Fair enough. I’m sure some Republicans were disappointed that they did not oust Senator John Astle from his seat, as Don Quinn lost by fewer than 1,200 votes out of nearly 44,000 cast. It’s a winnable seat, and George correctly noted he outpolled both Astle and Speaker Busch in 2010 as the leading vote-getter in that former configuration of District 30.

This move may also tend to push people out of the Senate race; however, the current District 30 already has two Republican delegates (Herb McMillan in District 30A and Seth Howard in District 30B. It also has Speaker Busch, who actually had fewer votes than McMillan but still finished comfortably in second place.

It also gives George an opportunity to dust off some of his old campaign rhetoric that didn’t play as well with a conservative statewide electorate:

While serving in the General Assembly, Mr. George was nicknamed the Green Elephant for solutions for the environment that did not raise taxes or hurt farmers, watermen, local businesses, or residents along the bay. These solutions included energy net metering and wind energy that supplemented the grid and other energy sources while lowering energy bills.

That tends to play better in Anne Arundel County than on places like the lower Eastern Shore.

So our friends in the Anne Arundel County GOP have one less seat to worry about as far as finding a fairly strong candidate goes. While a lot can happen in three years, it should make for an interesting race should this come to pass.

The Democrats’ house of cards starts a-tumblin’

February 8, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off 

I hope you enjoyed my fellow contributor yesterday; I’ve had mostly positive reviews. But I’m back in the saddle and look forward to Cathy’s next post.

You may have seen this piece in the Baltimore Sun by Michael Dresser; a tome which claims that much of Larry Hogan’s agenda is DOA. In it, House Speaker Michael Busch is quoted as saying, “No matter how many times (House Republicans) stood up, you couldn’t count to 71.”

Well, I wouldn’t expect many Democrats to stand up, and truth be told most of the Democrats who might have are working elsewhere now because their electorates decided conservative-lite wasn’t good enough. Granted, 50 is not 71, but it’s better than 43 or 37 where we have been the last two terms.

In an enhanced edition of tit-for-tat, Senate Democrats decided to play political games with several of Hogan’s appointees. Ironically enough, two of the five appointees being held up were Democrats, although both had previously served under Bob Ehrlich. But it goes to show you: when you reach out the hand of bipartisanship to Democrats, many will rip off the arm and beat you with it every time. Once again, they are proving that their interest is in maintaining power and not helping the working family by granting a little bit of tax relief at the gas pump and in the property tax bill. And all the caterwauling about the budget Hogan produced reminds me of the 2012 budget fight where the budget “only” went up $700 million instead of the $1.2 billion they desired.

In short, Maryland Democrats are ignoring the election results and acting like Anthony Brown was elected instead of Larry Hogan. So it’s time to remind them just who they work for.

If you want a review of the State of the State speech Democrats are upset about, I briefly outlined his eleven points in the wake of the speech last week. To me, it sounds like the Democrats are having a cow about Hogan’s plans for repealing the “rain tax” and giving a tax break to specific retirees, and dumping the Phosphorus Management Tool regulations at the last possible minute. So we know what to push the recalcitrant legislators to do as the squeaky wheels get the grease.

Two people I really haven’t heard much from in the wake of the State of the State address are the local Eastern Shore Democratic delegation, namely Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes and Senator Jim Mathias. Given the counties they represent went heavily for Larry Hogan, I would expect them to be Democratic leaders in getting his agenda passed. While the extent will vary, the ideas Hogan promoted will benefit their districts as well. They need to be the leaders in getting the Hogan agenda to 71 and 24 in the House and Senate, respectively.

It’s what the state voted for, so let’s get this done.

Winding down

As I begin to write this, we have about an hour and ten minutes remaining in the 90 days of terror that is the annual Maryland General Assembly session. And because of the Maryland Legislative Watch website, the process of completing my annual monoblogue Accountability Project will be a snap – they’re kind enough to align all the votes taken during session by individual legislator.

So the process of weeding out what I’ll be focusing on has been my task over the last couple weeks. Since I cover 25 different votes, with three of them being committee votes for practically all the legislators (there are three exceptions: Speaker of the House Michael Busch, Senate President Mike Miller, and Delegate Don Dwyer, who was stripped of a committee assignment as punishment for his misdemeanor conviction last year) having them already arranged by legislator is a HUGE help.

Sadly to me, out of the hundreds of votes the General Assembly takes each year, the vast majority are unanimous or have very limited opposition. While there have been occasions I’ve used such exercises in futility for the minority, generally I like to find bills which have a significant number of votes on both sides. Unfortunately, this has eliminated a number of good bills I would have used via what I call the “gutless Senate syndrome” – a bill which may be 96-38 in the House passes 46-0 in the Senate. For example, did you know the state was soon to ban “vaportinis”? (Interesting, since they’re decriminalizing pot in the same session.) It would have been a good vote to use, but our gutless Senate passed it with no opposition. The same went for bills designating new wildlands, financial assistance for so-called “food desert” areas (not “desserts,” by the way), mandating balcony inspections, and several others.

All told, I will probably have 25 to 30 candidates to distill into the final 22 votes – there were a few bills which may have received a vote in their opposite chamber tonight. The “automatics” in this term will be the budget bills, the “bathroom bill”, minimum wage, and the “fix” for individuals who were hosed out of health insurance because the state screwed up. Those were always going to make the cut, even though the Senate vote on the capital budget was 46-0. Talk about gutless!

So when can you look for the monoblogue Accountability Report? I figure it could be done by month’s end.

One change I’ve made from previous editions is that legislators will be arranged into groups based on whether they are retiring, running for higher (or different) office, or trying for another term. Of course, I will still have the Legislative All-Stars and my usual rewards and criticism as well.

The process can go full throttle in less than a half-hour.

WCRC meeting – September 2013

For the third month in a row (and fourth overall this year), a gubernatorial candidate came to speak to the Wicomico County Republican Club. This time it was Delegate Ron George who graced us with his presence.

So once we opened the meeting in our usual manner, with the Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and introduction of a growing number of distinguished guests, we turned the meeting over to Ron. He began by making the case that he was making the “sacrifice” of running because “I don’t want to leave the state (as it’s becoming) to my sons.”

And after giving a brief biography covering everything from being far enough down the sibling food chain to have to learn a trade instead of going to college, learning the business of being a goldsmith well enough to make his way to college at Syracuse University, making his way to New York City and briefly acting in a soap opera (“I died…but then I came back later,” he joked) it eventually ended with him meeting his wife and returning to Annapolis to start a family and business.

But it was his time in New York where “I saw a lot of people suffering on the street” that moved him the most. “I’m a man of faith,” continued Ron, and the experience gave him insight into the situation in Baltimore and other impoverished areas. One problem in Maryland was that “we don’t have an economic base in this state.” He pointed out that employment in the public sector in Maryland was up 7% while private-sector employment was stagnant. The budget had increased from $27 billion to $37 billion, and “they’ve squeezed you to death,” said Ron.

It was interesting to me that Ron provided some insight on how he got into politics – in essence, his frequent testimony in Annapolis got him noticed, and he was asked to run in the same district as Speaker of the House Michael Busch. Ron stated that Busch spent $350,000 and turned to negative ads in the campaign’s waning days. At first the mudslinging appeared to work as George was behind on election night by about 50 votes, but absentees sent in before the negative campaigning began pulled Ron over the top by 53 votes when all was counted.

On the other hand, George did such an effective job in the General Assembly that he was the top vote-getter in 2010, finishing 1,636 votes ahead of Speaker Busch. “I never ran to the middle,” Ron reminded us, “I spoke to the middle.”

But the idea behind the 2006 run was also one of keeping Michael Busch from spending his money to help other Democrats. (Hence why I harp on having a full slate of candidates.)

Ron then turned to this campaign, stating the case that his 10-point plan was based on three things: “economics, economics, economics.” It was a message which played well in Democratic areas, alluding to polling he was doing on the subject.

He also revealed why he had the success he’d had in Annapolis. Liberals “like to feel good about themselves,” said Ron, but never thought of how their policies affect the average Marylander. By organizing opposition testimony on various issues, particularly the abortive “tech tax” – where he found dozens willing to testify and put a face to the opposition – Ron got bad laws reversed or changed. “I’m very solution-oriented,” he added.

As Common Core has been in the news, Ron weighed in on how Maryland adopted it. The package of bills was fourfold, he explained, with the first two not being too obnoxious – but once they passed the fix was in for the bad portions. Ron stated he was “very much against” the mandates in Common Core. It’s being forced on the counties, he later said, but was “totally dumbing down” students.

To conclude the initial portion of his remarks, Ron noted he was the Maryland Business for Responsive Government’s legislator of the year, in part for his work in capping the state’s boat excise tax, and promised that, if elected, “I will make sure (rural areas of Maryland) get their fair share.”

While Ron delivered his remarks well enough, though, I sensed he was almost ill at ease making the stump speech portion of the remarks, expressing several times the preference for a question-and-answer session. It wasn’t as somnambulant as David Craig can occasionally be, but wasn’t delivered with the passion of Charles Lollar, either.

As was the case Saturday at the First District Bull Roast, Ron seemed better with the give-and-take of answering questions. When asked about the impact of the banes of rural Maryland – the Maryland Department of Planning, Department of the Environment, and Chesapeake Bay Foundation – Ron launched into an explanation of how he got the state to revisit laws passed in 2008 and misused for two years afterward, noting that several of those overcharged for permits were quietly reimbursed after it was revealed they were interpreting the law too broadly in order to collect additional permitting fees. On that front, Ron also vowed to work toward repealing the “rain tax” and following Virginia’s lead in challenging the EPA.

He was equally as excited about the prospect of auditing state agencies. “I guarantee we’ll find about $5 billion in waste,” promised Ron. The Delegate blasted the current administration for its handling of highway user revenues, pointing out previous shortfalls were paid back, but not with real revenues. Instead, more bonds were issued, and rather than the standard five-year payback these were 15-year bonds.

Finally, Ron made sure to remark the Second Amendment “has my full support,” noting he was the only Delegate to actually testify at the afternoon regulatory hearing in Annapolis. He noted eight different problems with the regulations, where legislation was being written in. (It was also why Ron missed a planned appearance at the club’s happy hour.)

As Lollar did the month before, Ron was courteous enough to stay for the meeting, which meant he sat through my lengthy reading of the August minutes and our treasurer’s report. Deb Okerblom was pleased to report the Crab Feast did better than expected financially.

Jackie Wellfonder, in her President’s report, also thanked those who put together the club’s main fundraising event. She also noted an event to be held in Wicomico County October 20 but benefiting the Dorchester County GOP, which was represented by Billy Lee. She also announced “we have a new website” and asserted our happy hours are “going well.”

Speaking in the Central Committee report, county Chair Dave Parker reminded us of upcoming events like the Wicomico Society of Patriots meeting featuring Charles Lollar this Wednesday (as well as his appearance at a business roundtable the previous evening), the Good Beer and Autumn Wine festivals in October, and the state party’s Octoberfest on the 12th. Parker was pleased at the amount of attention we were getting from the gubernatorial hopefuls.

Parker also filled us in on some news, particularly the Common Core meeting fiasco in Towson. (Ron George noted the charges against the speaker have been dropped.) Dave also related a Forbes article claiming families will pay an extra $7,450 annually over a period of nine years for Obamacare. Apparently Maryland has the highest increase in the nation.

But this gave Ron George the opportunity to add that he created the Doctors’ Caucus in the General Assembly and reveal that 60% of doctors were near retirement age. Some are more than willing to hang up the stethoscope thanks to Obamacare.

Blan Harcum chimed in to alert us to a Maryland Farm Bureau campaign seminar in Annapolis October 14 and 15. Then it was my turn as I updated those in attendance on the status of our candidate search.

In club business, we found a chair for our upcoming Christmas Party, I reminded the folks they could sign up to help at the upcoming festivals, and we secured space for equipment one of our members urged us to purchase. These are the mundane things which seem tedious, but can turn out to be important.

The same may be true about our last three meetings with gubernatorial hopefuls. Next month we go back to local races and speakers, although the exact keynoter is to be announced. We will see you October 28.

Leadership turnover in Maryland House

Of course, it’s not with the Democrats.

This was supposed to happen several weeks ago during session, but cooler heads prevailed and pushed the vote back to last night. All it did, though, was delay the inevitable and this time Delegate Nic Kipke won. Instead of Delegate Michael Smigiel as second-in-command, though, the new Minority Whip will be Delegate Kathy Szeliga. They replace the old leadership team of Delegates Tony O’Donnell and Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, which had held their respective Minority Leader and Minority Whip positions since 2007 and 2011, respectively.

And like Delegate Ron George’s announcement last night, it seems like the center is striking back. With O’Donnell being fairly conservative in philosophy – at least as evidenced by his voting record – Kipke leaves a lot of room for improvement; in fact, for as much grief as I gave Delegate George for his choices, Kipke’s have been even worse every year since I started the mAP in 2007, and for many of the same reasons. Yet when I hear Mike Busch saying “Tony did a good job of providing the loyal opposition,” I wonder if the change wasn’t needed.

On that note, Kipke is pledging to work with center-right groups like Americans for Prosperity, Change Maryland, and the central committees to “coordinate the GOP’s push for support.” We won’t find out if this bears fruit, though, until next January.

At that point Nic may have to be the circus master as Delegates eyeing new districts or higher office add their political calculations to the already volatile mix of session business.

MDGOP to Democrats: return “dirty contributions”

January 6, 2013 · Posted in Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off 

Well, this is an interesting case indeed.

It seems that a Catonsville developer flouted campaign contribution laws by soliciting associates of his to make “straw donations” on his behalf to a Democratic Baltimore County Council member. Multiple reports relate that Stephen Whalen is on the hook for over $50,000 in fines for these transgressions.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t believe in campaign contribution limits so the Whalen conviction was a witch hunt of sorts. Yet there is a side to the story which should be exposed and that’s the sheer number of candidates and slates that Whalen and his companies made nearly $200,000 in contributions to over the last several years. Most of us who follow the law know that the limit for a state election cycle is $4,000 in donations to a particular candidate and $10,000 in total for the cycle.

David Ferguson of the MDGOP sent me a list of those who benefited from the largess, and it reads like a who’s who of Baltimore-area Democratic politics (with a couple exceptions.) Let’s start from the top, shall we?

  • Democratic National Committee
  • National Association Industrial & Office Parks PAC
  • President Barack Obama
  • Former Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton
  • Congressman Elijah Cummings (7th District)
  • Former Congressman Frank Kratovil (1st District)
  • Governor Martin O’Malley
  • Comptroller Peter Franchot
  • State Senator Delores Kelly
  • State Senator Edward Kasemeyer
  • House Speaker Delegate Michael Busch
  • Delegate Emmitt Burns
  • Delegate Adrienne Jones
  • Delegate Stephen DeBoy
  • Delegate James Malone
  • Delegate Stephen Lafferty
  • Delegate Peter Hammen
  • 23rd District Slate
  • District 12A Slate
  • Howard County Executive Ken Ulman
  • Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz
  • Former Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith
  • Baltimore County Council member Vicki Almond
  • Baltimore County Council member Kenneth Oliver
  • Baltimore County Council member Cathy Bevins

It’s not the whole list, as there were a few primary losers in the bunch. There were also five Republicans named, with Bob Ehrlich and Baltimore County Council members David Marks and Todd Huff the three winners among the group. (Marks has returned his contributions from Whalen.)

Ferguson condemned the Democrats who have been recipients of over 95% of Whalen’s generosity. In a statement, the MDGOP’s Executive Director says:

Those who have received contributions from Stephen Whalen should follow the lead of Baltimore County Councilman David Marks and return his dirty contributions. Whalen gave over 96% of his contributions to Democrats and it is unacceptable for nearly $200,000 to be floating through the Democrat Party’s coffers from an individual convicted of political corruption.

Stephen Whalen’s conviction is another consequence of Maryland being a political monopoly for Democrats and their cronies. Unfortunately, this culture of corruption is standard operating procedure for crooked politicians and donors like Stephen Whalen looking to pay-for-play. For six years, Martin O’Malley and his allies have willfully embraced the lack of ethics in their government.

There’s no doubt that money may have been the lubricant for Whalen to grease the skids on getting his developments built: his company’s website states they specialize in medical office space around the outskirts of Baltimore.

(I find it somewhat ironic, then, that he supports many of the same Democrats who have voted to curtail growth in rural and suburban areas. Perhaps there’s more infrastructure in areas Whalen is interested in.)

So once again the state’s majority party is caught with its hand in the cookie jar, but do they condemn this violation of the law? No, they’d rather take potshots at Andy Harris for voting against a pork-laden hurricane relief bill. Their silence on the transgression is deafening and speaks volumes about the corruption they’re happy to put up with for political gain.

Announcing: the 2012 monoblogue Accountability Project

It took a little longer than I figured it would, but just in time for the 2013 session which starts in just a few weeks I have completed my annual guide to the voting records of the 188 members of the Maryland General Assembly.

There was good news and bad news from this year’s session: obviously the bad news is that a LOT of bad law passed, everything from gay marriage and expanded gambling that we had to vote on in November to usurpation of local control over planning and school funding. But the good news is that, by and large, the Maryland GOP stuck together and became relatively more conservative.

Needless to say, the trick will be figuring out a way to parlay this information into gaining seats in 2014. But those who have seats in more conservative areas but vote with the Annapolis liberal gang of O’Malley, Miller, and Busch should be on notice that we know how you voted and we’re not afraid to spread the word. Moreover, the Republicans who showed a tendency to bend over for the opposition may want to start worrying about primary opponents.

So how did this work and why did it take me so long? As I have done the previous four years, I study what bills the Maryland General Assembly contemplated over the session (including the two Special Sessions this year) and see what votes were among the most contested. You’d be surprised how many bills are passed with votes like 138-0 and 46-0, or with otherwise token opposition. Knowing I would have at least one Special Session I had to hold off and leave room for key votes there so my research couldn’t even begin until the middle of summer. Then we had this little thing called an election I had to cover. I expound a little bit more on the whole process in the introduction.

But it’s done, with the aforementioned introduction, the list of bills and why I would vote as I would (and too few did, for the most part,) the voting tallies, and – of course – legislative awards and admonishments. Feel free to browse the 19 pages and distribute it as you so desire; just give me the credit is all I ask. If you are a Maryland conservative, there’s no question in my mind this information should be close at hand. Spread the word!

MDGOP 2012 Spring Convention in pictures and text (part 2)

If you want to read part 1 first, here you go.

It was a cloudier morning once we got underway Saturday. Just as an observation, though, I’ve always wondered why we put all these signs out front of our convention site when it should be presumed we would be voting for the candidates.

I suppose this is helpful to those who come in the morning to find the location for the convention.

For those of us who stayed overnight and chose the option, however, we were treated to a hearty breakfast and, after Harford County Executive (and “unofficially official” candidate for Governor in 2014) David Craig exhorted us to “be unified” we heard former state MDGOP official John Gibson, who now works as the regional political director of the Northeast Region of the RNC, discuss the “Path to 270.”

Gibson contended that President Obama has fewer paths to 270 than he did in 2008, when the “issues matrix was in their favor.” As examples, John believed President Obama couldn’t count on states where the Democrats were boldly saying they had a shot, like Georgia or Arizona.

Instead, with job approval numbers plummeting among a number of key demographics, President Obama is stuck having to secure his base instead of trying to get new voters. Just watch where he travels, said Gibson.

Among states Obama won last time, Indiana is already conceded to be “out of reach.” Other states which could come into play after Obama wins in 2008: North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

After attending an interesting seminar on petitioning techniques and social media, I walked over to the convention hall to get this shot. Little did we know that some hours later passions would be high in that room.

But first we began the convention session with a welcome from Calvert County Chair Frank McCabe and a series of reports, beginning with Senator J.B. Jennings.

You’ll notice my county was in the back of the hall, so the convention hall pictures will be few and far between.

But Senator Jennings walked us through his description of the session, noting that the budget wasn’t completed on time and recounting the final hours before sine die. While Speaker Mike Busch couldn’t get the House to extend its session and Senate President Mike Miller was trying to reach agreements on a budget, the Senate GOP took the opportunity to filibuster the tax bills. Still, the budget is $700 million more than it was last year, said Jennings, and “it’s not a doomsday.”

We were also alerted to the possibility of a Special Session the week of May 14, so we should “keep the heat up” on Democrats, said Senator Jennings.

Delegate Tony O’Donnell contended Democrats “dropped the ball big time.” It was a wonderful thing to behold, he continued, especially because Democrats couldn’t count on gaming bill votes from Republicans in the House.

O’Donnell urged us to “make (the Democrats) pay a very high political price” and called 2012 a “great opportunity to change the dynamic in this state.”

After Chair Alex Mooney essentially repeated his statements from the night before, we received the National Committeewoman’s report from an emotional Joyce Lyons Terhes, who reflected on her enjoyment of almost 30 years of working with the Maryland Republican Party – not that she was really going anywhere. She had simply followed through on her vow to serve just two terms as National Committeewoman and would take on new challenges.

And she’d lost none of her passion at the stump, telling us “we are going to get rid of Barack Obama.” If Maryland can do it, she said, so can the rest of the nation.

Louis Pope called Joyce a “friend, mentor, (and) shining example” in opening his National Committeeman report. The RNC is in “good shape,” said Pope, and he asserted his belief “we are technologically ahead of the Democrats.”

In somewhat of a pitch for re-election, he also informed us that his job is to “bring resources to Maryland.” Regarding this fall’s campaign, he hoped the media underestimates Mitt Romney.

Our final morning speaker was a bit of a surprise, but Congressman Andy Harris told us that “any time out of Washington is good” to him. Warning us that “the end is not on sight on this recession,” Harris opined that “all the issues are on our side” this election.

Delving into the energy issue, Harris blasted the idea of subsidizing wind energy, saying it’s not viable without subsidies. On the other hand, “we can be energy independent in 12 years if this President would have a real energy policy.”

“We have got to take America back,” said Andy.

Nor was he sparing criticism of state government. Harris predicted that once Martin O’Malley is through with his last term, people will be “ready for a new day…Marylanders will be sick and tired of what’s happening in Annapolis by 2014,” Harris concluded.

We began working on bylaw changes at this point, and completed two of the four proposed by voice vote – with a few scattered opposition shouts – before breaking for lunch. The MDGOP now officially has a Bylaws Committee to take care of a year-old oversight and allowed proxies to come from anywhere in a county rather than having to be in the same legislative district as the absent member.

The master of ceremonies for our luncheon was Frederick County commissioner and talk radio host Blaine Young. In his opening remarks, he contended “I don’t think the economy is getting any better” and gave us a quick rundown of how he got to where he is as a former Democrat.

He then presided over our annual awards, with the following winners:

  • Charles Carroll Award (Republican Man of the Year): Neil Parrott
  • Belva Lockwood Award (Republican Woman of the Year): Ella Ennis
  • William Paca Award (Republican Youth of the Year): Matt Proud
  • Aris Allen Award (Voter Registration): St. Mary’s County
  • Samuel Chase Award (Outstanding County): Howard County

Our keynote speaker was Dan Bongino, who Young glowingly referred to as a man whose word has value.

Bongino began by noting that the concepts of “establishment” and “anti-establishment” are “all buzzwords.”

“If you want labels, join the Democrats,” said Dan, “We believe in ideas (and) labels only serve to divide us.” And division was part of the Obama strategy because “they’re devoid of ideas,” Bongino said. For our part, “we won the battle of ideas long ago,” Bongino stated.

A lot of Dan’s remarks spoke about the perception of fairness. We needed to embrace that debate, he believed, and while we should “respect the political genius” of Martin O’Malley and Barack Obama, Bongino was passionate about the educational system. He thought his daughter’s (public) school was great, but those kids in inner-city Baltimore and Prince George’s County deserve a shot as well. They are our kids, too, said Bongino.

Dan also criticized educational priorities. “Forget about environmental literacy – let’s be literate first,” he stated. Teachers are working in a “flawed system,” said Dan. Democrats “sold kids out to special interests long ago.”

In the end, though, Bongino believed “our state is worth saving.”

“It’s our fight…against an ideology which will destroy the very fabric of the country,” concluded Dan.

We also heard from several of the eight Congressional candidates.

Andy Harris believed the state wanted him to be the “last Republican standing.”

Eric Knowles, who’s running against John Sarbanes, made a good accounting of himself. The bartender believed he may be the least wealthy person running but made the case “I want to get this by the sweat of my labor.” We are part of the three percent who fight the battles, said Eric.

Faith Loudon noted her 4:1 registration disadvantage but was “figuring on an army of 76,000 Republicans” come November. “We are in a war.”

Similarly, Tony O’Donnell noted “we have a big challenge ahead of us…but it can be done.” Steny Hoyer is not invincible, in part because he’s no different than Nancy Pelosi.

Once lunch was done, we came back for the afternoon session and the two key votes. First, though, we had to wrap up business on the proposed bylaw changes. One dealing with proxies was remanded to the newly-formed Bylaws Committee after a contentious amendment to the proposal was introduced, and the other, which added conviction of a felony to the list of reasons for dismissal from a Central Committee, passed without objection.

I am quite aware, though, that this is the part you were waiting for.

The procedure for nomination and election of both the National Committeewoman and National Committeeman is as follows: a brief nominating speech, followed by two seconding speeches (about a minute per), and then remarks from the nominee.

Personally, I thought the nominating and first seconding speech by Ambrose’s supporters were a little bit weak and not really as well-received as they should have been. Dave Parker’s wrapup seconding remarks were nicely pointed, giving respect to Audrey’s role in the party but stressing it was time for a change.

I didn’t take a lot of notes for the remarks because I was sitting on pins and needles, but Nicolee hit on the themes of her campaign in terms of building the party.

The same order of presentation was set for Audrey Scott, and she had some heavy hitters on her side. Outgoing NCW Joyce Lyons Terhes introduced her, and state Party Treasurer Chris Rosenthal provided the initial seconding speech.

But it was the final one that riled the crowd up, when the very young man giving it made the remark that we should not “send a girl to do a woman’s job.” I didn’t hear the next 10 to 15 seconds of his speech over the boos and catcalls that remark provided. In truth, that probably lost Audrey a few votes.

And one thing I noticed about Audrey’s speech was that she finally claimed to have only raised a million dollars, which is relatively close to the truth. Audrey backed off her $2.5 million claim – wonder why?

(Honestly, if she didn’t feel the heat that the questioning of her financial claim provided, don’t you think she’d have continued to state the $1.5 million and $1 million Victory 2010 figures?)

Finally, it was time to vote. When Heather Olsen asked me my gut feeling I thought it would be inside 60-40 but wasn’t sure the vote would go the right way. Perhaps it was based on the loud, boisterous group of Audrey supporters right behind me. But once the voting began I started feeling better.

I’ll list the counties each contestant won:

  • Ambrose: Anne Arundel, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Carroll, Dorchester, Frederick (unanimous), Montgomery, Washington (unanimous), Wicomico, Worcester. We in Wicomico voted 6-3 for Nicolee.
  • Scott: Calvert, Caroline (unanimous), Cecil, Charles, Garrett, Howard, Kent, Queen Anne’s (unanimous), Somerset, St. Mary’s (unanimous), Talbot (unanimous).

The vote was evenly split in Allegany, Harford, and Prince George’s. So Ambrose generally won the center of the state, the western section, and the lower Eastern Shore while Scott heavily carried the upper Eastern Shore and southern Maryland. This can be somewhat explained by Scott residing on the upper Shore and the influence of Terhes on southern Maryland. On the other hand, many of Nicolee’s candidate endorsements came from those who live in the areas she won.

In fact, Scott led in terms of actual votes cast (as opposed to the weighted system we use) until the last two counties reported – they were Baltimore County (won by Ambrose 21-7) and Montgomery (Ambrose 32-15.) In terms of votes cast, Ambrose won 143-123 with a couple abstentions and that translates to a 286-247 total under our system.

I’m going to come back to the Ambrose-Scott race, but I also wanted to report that Louis Pope won re-election handily in a far less controversial nomination and election process. By my tally Pope won the body count 225 to 45, so the weighted vote was probably just as overwhelming. Scott Shaffer only carried his home county of Anne Arundel and Worcester County, while tying in Harford County.

I think Shaffer’s biggest mistake was not getting out and campaigning around the state. We never saw him in our county, and although I disagreed with him on a couple key issues I think what did him in was not knowing the time and money investment which seems to be required to win this contest.

Similarly, those who put a lot more time and effort into winning Delegate and Alternate Delegate seats (or had plenty of name recognition) tended to prevail. In the Delegate race, nine of the ten on the so-called “Maryland for Romney Unity Slate” prevailed, as did six of the ten Alternates. But the one Unity Slate Delegate shut out: Lawrence Scott, son of Audrey Scott. It’s been a tough month for that family. State Delegate Michael Smigiel from the Eastern Shore got in instead. Non-slate Alternates who made it: O.P. Ditch, Jerry Walker, Deborah Rey, and James Calderwood placed fifth, eighth, ninth, and tenth, respectively. Aside from Calderwood, the other three all approached me to seek my vote so they aggressively pressed the flesh and won. (I voted for two of the three who took a few moments to ask.)

I know I’ve gone a long way already on the Ambrose-Scott race over the last couple months, but I want to share something I said to Nicolee – it’s not exact, but paraphrased. I told her that now I expect her not to fudge financial figures or disparage candidates over the next four years or she can expect me to come after her. In fact, Nicolee has an ambitious agenda that I would accept no less than for her to carry out.

Believe it or not, I don’t embrace change just for change’s sake. When you have nothing, though, you have nothing to lose. Despite Audrey Scott’s best efforts in 2010, we got no statewide offices, simply returned to where we were four years earlier insofar as the House of Delegates goes, and lost seats in the State Senate. Yes, the party did better financially but it didn’t do the job where it counts and that’s putting Republicans in the seats of power on a state-level basis.

Instead, we on the local level stepped up our game – without a lot of state help – and elected Republicans to perhaps be the farm team for future runs. But while Audrey counted on the past to give her the NCW position, there are some of us who wished to “progress forward,” as the snazzy Ambrose signs read.

It’s my fervent hope, though, that we channel the passion we placed into the NCW race in a different direction: to take the fight to the Democrats. Now I think we’ve sent the message that youth (like the young political consultant Kristin Shields of Purple Elephant Politics pictured below) will finally be served.

But the Ambrose win, guided by my friend and occasional partner in crime Heather Olsen, was not the only reason I left Solomons Island with a smile on my face and perhaps a joyful tear in my eye from the emotion of the day.

In the midst of all the hubbub of electing national convention Delegates, a process which took an absurdly long time because of a county which shall remain nameless, I approached my County Chair with a request, one that he granted. And since he was not elected as a Delegate to the National Convention, I put into place the next best thing.

When the counties of our Congressional district got together to nominate an elector from the First District, four names were placed into nomination and three gave speeches. Unbeknownst to me – although I realized later he had a previous engagement – the fourth person had left the premises.

Yet the man I nominated won. I’m pleased to tell you that it was the least honor I could give him, but our County Chair Dave Parker will be the Republican elector from the First District. I was told he won in a landslide, and he was as shocked as anyone when I called him with the news. It’s just more incentive to carry Maryland for Mitt Romney, just so he can enjoy the honor of being an elector.

Now THAT is how a convention should go!

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