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!