When three should be one

Last month I wrote about the controversy some Central Committees around the state faced when it came to filling vacancies for Senator and Delegate positions. It boiled down to the preference of Governor Hogan to have a selection of names to choose from when it came to these positions clashing with both the desire of local Central Committees to make the choice and the language of Section 13 of the Maryland Constitution.

If you look at those who have been appointed so far to the various positions, there is a level of familiarity involved: Barrie Ciliberti is a former Delegate returning to the House of Delegates, while Andrew Serafini and Justin Ready have moved up from the House to the Senate to fill vacancies there. The seats formerly held by Ready and Serafini are among the three current vacancies in the House of Delegates, with the other being the seat formerly belonging to Delegate Cathy Vitale, who was tapped by the outgoing O’Malley administration to fill an Anne Arundel County judgeship.

In the cases of Ciliberti, Ready, and now Vitale, there has been no shortage of controversy in filling the seats. Supporters of Wendi Peters, who finished fourth in the District 4 primary for Delegate, fumed that a member of the slate also consisting of Delegates Kathy Afzali and David Vogt and Senator Michael Hough leapfrogged Peters in the selection process – Barrie Ciliberti was fifth in that primary, but a Frederick County Republican Central Committee consisting of Hough supporters made the decision with Carroll County’s body tabbing Ciliberti as one of their three finalists as well.

Carroll County’s Republican Central Committee has its own stain, replacing its original choice of Robin Bartlett Frazier for District 5 Senate at the behest of the Hogan Administration, which insisted that they amend the process to permit the elevation of then-Delegate Justin Ready to the Senate.

With Anne Arundel County now under the gun to replace Vitale, the three vs. one controversy is back. According to an article in the Capital Gazette by Chase Cook and Sarah Haynesworth, Anne Arundel County’s Central Committee is planning to send just one name to Governor Hogan – at least until there’s a formal request to do otherwise. Apparently such a request is on its way.

If it were my Central Committee, though, that formal request would be crumpled up and thrown into the circular file. The Gazette piece quotes current Delegate Tony McConkey at length, noting that he’s advising the AARCC to send just one name.

As I stated in January, the selection of a state officer should be done closest to the district involved, meaning it would be the Central Committee’s task to select the recipient and not the Governor’s. It’s a similar argument to the one we as a Central Committee have made regarding the wisdom of an elected Board of Education for Wicomico County as opposed to the current system of appointees from the governor’s office in Annapolis. Assuming we get the school board as currently envisioned, even the appointees for the hybrid portion of the board and for any vacancies would be done locally.

Yet there’s now another element being thrown into the mix. On her way out the door Delegate Vitale introduced HB1070, which would change the Maryland Constitution to allow for a special election in Presidential years once a vacancy is created. As an example, if the law were in effect today those who were recently appointed would face re-election in 2016 to a two-year term rather than serving all the way until 2018. In its description of the proposal the Gazette is incorrect because the earliest we could see such an election would be 2020 – even if passed this year it would be on the 2016 statewide ballot as a question (most likely Question 1.)

In some respects this is a good idea, but I think this would be very confusing to voters. In certain time frames, it could also be difficult to get a person to serve unless it was understood they would be a caretaker member until the election was over – sort of like the situation we faced in replacing Page Elmore in 2010 during the midst of a primary campaign for his successor. The consensus we reached with Somerset County was to put his widow in the seat until the new Delegate was elected (which turned out to be Charles Otto.)

Nor should we forget that, when the shoe was on the other foot and a Democrat was appointing for a Democratic seat, only one name was turned in by the local party organizations.

If appointments are going to be done in Annapolis from a list of three names, it begs the question: just what function do Central Committees have, anyway? At that point the Appointments Secretary just might as well handle the whole thing. I hope that’s not the overall intent of the Hogan administration, but right now they seem to want to cut the locals out of the process where they can and it’s disappointing.

Back to normalcy

It’s not quite as momentous as the 1920 election, where Warren G. Harding made my title part of his post-World War sloganeering, but today the holidays are now behind us, we return to the five-day workweek, and the political world awakens from its slumber later this week as Congress returns to session. (Maryland politicians will wait another week, as the second Wednesday in January falls at its latest possible date, the 14th.) Soon we will begin to see if the solutions that were promised to the voters will be the agenda for the new sessions.

But there are other aspects of “normalcy” we are beginning to see as well, as the power brokers jockey for position in the Republican Party. Case in point: the hue and cry put up by supporters of the next-highest primary vote-getter in the process of selecting a replacement for Delegate Kelly Schulz, who was tapped by Governor-elect Hogan to be his Secretary of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation. It was up to the Frederick County Republican Central Committee to select three people for a final interview process out of the sixteen applicants, and the three they selected were Barrie Ciliberti, a former delegate from Montgomery County who finished fifth in the primary (the top three advanced); Paul Stull, a former delegate who lost to Schulz in the 2010 Republican primary, closing a 16-year run in the House, and Chris Glass, Sr.

Wendi Peters, who finished fourth in the primary, did not get the nod to move on. Her sin? Not being on a slate with Senator-elect Michael Hough, Delegate Kathy Afzali, Delegate-elect David Vogt, and Ciliberti. Instead, she was a supporter of losing Senator David Brinkley – yet she had the backing of Schulz for the seat. A Central Committee chaired by JoeyLynn Hough made the selections.

I’ve been around this block a time or two. As a member of a Central Committee, our focus in selecting replacements was on whether the new person would be relatively conservative and also electable for the next term. Admittedly, we’ve had at least one swing and miss in this regard but the County Council chose not to select our committee’s top vote-getter for a 2011 vacancy. In the instance of picking a Delegate – which we had to help Somerset County do when Page Elmore passed away in 2010 – it occurred at a time when we didn’t want to influence a primary campaign in progress, so we agreed to select his wife Carolyn to finish the term.

In Frederick County’s case, an argument could be made for the former Delegates but personally I would have preferred someone younger than their late seventies, which is the case for both Ciliberti and Stull. But ignoring the voters who picked Peters as the highest vote-getter that didn’t advance – as well as the choice of the Delegate who is leaving the seat to replace her – seems to me a slap in the face to those voters over petty politics and a disservice to the Republicans they purport to represent. It’s a battle which reminds me of the entirety of the District 36 fiasco back in 2013 when Senator E.J. Pipkin resigned.

On a national level, this is reflected in the grassroots movement to dump John Boehner as Speaker of the House. Take as an example an e-mail I received from the Wicomico Patriots:

Now it is time to engage again as Congress returns on Tuesday to swear in the members and to vote for Speaker of the House. Please call or write an email to Andy Harris encouraging him to vote for a new speaker. It only takes 29 congressmen to block Boehner’s re-election as speaker. Once he is blocked, the opportunity is there for a new person to step up.

I am aware that it is potentially politically dangerous for Andy Harris to vote against Boehner. If Boehner were to win anyway, then he can retaliate by removing people from their prestigious positions. Andy Harris is on the appropriations committee, one of the most powerful committees. However, we did not vote for Andy Harris so that he could protect his political power in DC. We voted for Andy Harris to stop the Obama agenda. Boehner has been completely ineffectual in stopping Obama.

So, Andy Harris, will you listen to the people who got you elected and take the difficult step of voting against Boehner or will you continue to follow him?

Your CRomnibus vote was very discouraging to your conservative base. Do we really think that you and Boehner will suddenly get the courage to block the funding of Homeland Security in February? Do you think that blocking funding for that is easier than refusing the whole 1000 page monstrosity called cromnibus?

No, the excuses keep coming as the can is kicked down the road over and over again. Now is the time for you to stand up and fight for us.

Please do contact Andy Harris at: (202) 225-5311. (Emphasis mine.)

And here’s my own message to the Congressman:

For too long we have heard excuse after excuse from your leadership, accompanied by the promise to fight at the next critical juncture. If the Republicans want to be the opposition party they were elected by We the People to be, then they need to show some opposition on Obamacare, on securing the border and addressing executive actions further encouraging the torrent of illegal immigration, and on spending beyond our means. Collectively, you will be painted as a “do-nothing Congress” by the President, Democrats, and media (but I repeat myself) anyway so just pass those common-sense measures and dare Obama to veto them.

In short, we want a Speaker of the House with the backbone to stand up to Barack Obama so we demand you withhold your vote from John Boehner. It’s worth pointing out that a 2016 Congressional run from a conservative member of the Maryland General Assembly is possible and doable – just as you did against a sitting Wayne Gilchrest when you were first nominated in 2008. Certainly there would be a monetary disadvantage for the challenger, but in my opinion no one should be immune from a serious primary challenge – particularly if he or she isn’t listening to the wishes of the district being represented. A poll cited by Jim Geraghty of National Review Online shows 60% of Republicans would “probably” or “definitely” replace Boehner as Speaker. Even as an Ohio native, count me as a “definite.”

These are two stories to keep your eye on in the coming days. Why do I get a sinking feeling they won’t end well for the good guys?

PCUCPA will be back, under a new name

Naturally the news came with an appeal for financial help, but the Maryland Pro-Life Alliance shared some good news on the pro-life front for next year. They announced that newly-elected Senator Michael Hough will sponsor the Women’s Late-Term Pregnancy Health Act (WLTPHA) in the upcoming session.

The bill is described by MPLA as having several purposes:

  • Documents the undisputed medical risks to a pregnant woman’s health when an abortion is performed at 20 weeks gestation.
  • Substantial medical evidence verifies that an unborn child by at least 20 weeks gestation has the capacity to feel pain.
  • Based upon medical evidence of the risks to women’s health and the pain felt by unborn children, this bill will prohibit abortions at or or after 20 weeks gestation.

Without knowing the text of the bill, it sounds markedly similar to the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB283/SB34 in 2014) which went nowhere in the last two sessions. I doubt this bill would pass in Maryland, but there are purposes for introducing it in the upcoming session.

First and foremost, this bill surveys the lay of the land in the Senate. How many co-sponsors does it get? To use last year’s examples, the House version had 43 co-sponsors but the Senate bill had none other than its original backer, Senator Ed Reilly. Certainly there are more pro-life members there than just Senator Reilly but apparently no one wanted to step forward in an election year. That pressure is eased this time around.

And while the sponsors in the House for last year’s version included four Democrats, only one (Delegate Ted Sophocleus) returned for another term. Conversely, a handful of Republicans were not co-sponsors but of those only Delegates Wendell Beitzel and Mark Fisher came back. A companion cross-filed House bill could be important because there are now enough Republicans to force a floor vote if desired through the process of bypassing the committee it would be assigned to. Whether the WLTPHA is an important enough issue to use that option will also be a story that develops, especially if the fiscal portions of Governor-elect Hogan’s agenda have a difficult time getting a committee vote.

It will be many years before Maryland becomes as enlightened as other states about the physical and psychological hazards that freely available abortion carries. But the first step has to be made somewhere, and just as bad legislation sometimes needed to be introduced year after year to break down the barriers to passage, so do bills like this. Progress in Maryland for this year would be getting non-sponsoring legislators on record as to their support or lack thereof.

That’s the idea, guys!

I don’t often get praise from the quarters of Red Maryland these days, so I was surprised to see their kind words about my monoblogue Accountability Project last week. They cited it in analyzing the Senate District 4 race between David Brinkley and Michael Hough. As it turns out, I used that race as an example of why it’s needed in certain primaries when I wrote my summary for the mAP.

So let me extend those remarks with a little more research I did. While I’ve done the mAP for seven years, I had never established an average score by party – until I decided to figure it out for 2014 the other night. So when you look at a ballot with a Republican and a Democrat on it – particularly if the Democrat has tried his or her best to convince you they have a streak of conservatism in them – remember these numbers.

On the average, Democrats in the Senate score 8.77 on a 100-point scale while their GOP counterparts average 56.75 – and this year was really, really bad for GOP senators.

In the House, Democrats average just 7.40 while Republicans average a more respectable 71.86. In most years, it’s about where the Senate would be.

So on 25 issues, which I score at 4 points apiece, the average Republican will vote the correct way somewhere between 12 and 16 more times. Granted, there are exceptions, and as a percentage of the vote both parties do somewhat better than their numbers because my overall scores deduct for absences and ducking votes. In general, a Republican gets about 18 to 23 of my 25 votes right.

Here’s another example I could have used from southern Maryland. In District 27C, current Delegate Mark Fisher is paired up with former Delegate Sue Kullen. Since my records now go back eight years, I can (and did) add to my scoresheet her lifetime score of 4, compared to Fisher’s lifetime mark of 84. Out of 25 issues, it’s likely Fisher would vote correctly 20 more times than Kullen would and that makes a huge difference.

In my District 38, the Senate race is between Democrat incumbent Jim Mathias (lifetime Senate score of 28) and Delegate Mike McDermott, with a lifetime 85 score in the House. Who would be better to represent a conservative district?

If you look at the mAP, I have several other examples where comparisons can be made. The point is that there can be a significant difference between candidates, even within their own party. For those with primary decisions to make, my guide can be a useful tool in studying the record of incumbents and working out some general election matchups – even if your candidates have no record, the average “generic” Democrat or Republican should provide a good indicator of how they’ll do.

A thin case of semantics

I haven’t weighed in much on the Senate District 4 primary race between incumbent David Brinkley and challenger Delegate Michael Hough except to point out that Hough’s score on the monoblogue Accountability Project has been significantly better over the last four years as part of my summary within.

But the Maryland Pro-Life Alliance is reaching back 18 years to reinforce its belief that David Brinkley is pro-abortion, as they dredged out a procedural vote on a 1996 bill which would have banned partial-birth abortion in the state. It was a bill which failed in committee, so its sponsor tried to bring it back as a substitute bill and Brinkley voted against consideration, as did a handful of other Republicans whose names I recognize from that long-ago session.

I also noticed another name among the opponents, and that was Addie Eckardt. I don’t think she’s pro-choice in the least, but it’s interesting that the Senate version of that 1996 bill was co-sponsored by Richard Colburn.

Now I can better understand the logic of equating a vote for a budget which happens to have abortion funding as a tiny proportion of the whole, or not advocating more for the advancement of the PCUCPA bill – which didn’t even get a committee vote – than using this particular vote to paint a candidate with that broad of a brush. I know my opinions on some subjects are different now than they were in 1996, in particular the so-called War on Drugs and term limits, so this is an overreach in criticism as I see it. What Brinkley didn’t vote for in 1996 isn’t as relevant as what no one got to vote for in 2014.

Something that was voted on in 2014, in both the Senate and the House, was an amendment to remove taxpayer funding for elective abortions. Needless to say, neither version passed as the House amendment from Delegate Susan Aumann failed 84-48 and the Senate version lost 29-16. The sponsor of the Senate version? David Brinkley. This is based on information from Maryland Right to Life, which did a three-vote scorecard covering both the Brinkley and Aumann amendments as well as an amendment from Delegate Tony O’Donnell to limit taxpayer funding of third-trimester abortions. Delegate Hough went 2-for-2, as did most other Republicans in the House (Delegate Robert Costa didn’t vote on the O’Donnell amendment and Delegate Bill Frank missed both votes), while all but one Republican voted for the Brinkley amendment – Senator Allan Kittleman was the lone no vote. (If only the GOP were as united on several other issues, but I digress.) They also pointed out the failure of PCUCPA to get a vote.

This is what I mean by seriously reaching. It’s pretty likely that a Republican will be pro-life to one extent or another; on the other hand pro-life Democrats are few and far between. Of course, the Maryland Pro-Life Alliance could pick almost any of those standard-issue Democrats as the “Pro-Abort Legislator of the Year;” my choices would be the committee chairs who wouldn’t even give PCUCPA a vote.

Some may say I’m the pot calling the kettle black given my criticism of certain Republicans in various races. My beef is generally in one of two categories: issue obfuscation or pandering to a particular audience. Thus I have a preference for candidates who spell out a platform which is bold. Say what you will about Heather Mizeur’s views on the issues, but at least she makes no bones about being way out on the last strands of that left-wing feather and clearly states her reasoning.

But there is a point where the perfect becomes the enemy of the good. The pro-life movement could do far worse than have David Brinkley re-elected, so maybe the MPLA should train its fire where it will do more good. Check out the pro-abortion votes from Norm Conway and Jim Mathias, for example – wins there from Carl Anderton, Jr. and Mike McDermott, respectively, will do far more good for the pro-life community than this internecine squabble.

Who will vote for Vogt now?

The uphill battle is over.

This morning I received the following release in my e-mail:

David Vogt, a Marine combat veteran and former Military Times’ Marine of the Year, announced on Tuesday morning that he will not continue to seek the Republican nomination for United States Congress in Maryland’s 6th Congressional District. The seat is currently held by Democrat John Delaney. Vogt has been very critical of Congressman Delaney’s continued support for the Affordable Care Act and his partisan voting record. “His voting record and lack of presence within our district are exactly why he needs to be replaced during the 2014 election cycle,” Vogt said.

Vogt launched his campaign for Congress in June of last year and was the first Republican to officially file with the Maryland State Board of Elections.

“After spending much time discussing with friends, family, and supporters, I have decided to withdraw from the Republican primary in the Sixth District,” Vogt announced. “I have traveled all over this district in the past several months, and I have spoken with countless Marylanders who have been adversely affected by a failed Big Government agenda. I will continue to offer my fervent support of returning statesmanship to our district, state and country regardless of candidacy. In direct regard to our 6th Congressional District, I wish Dan Bongino the best of luck in his fight to restore conservative principles to Western Maryland.”

“Although I am withdrawing from this race, I remain committed to our community, our state, and our nation. I will continue my work in assisting our military veterans and their families as I have with the Major General Boyd Cook Memorial Foundation, Toys-for-Tots and Operation Second Chance and I look forward to continue being involved in our futures together as neighbors and friends. The fight for liberty and the advancement of the American Dream is never finished, and it must be fought for on every level: municipal, county, state and national. If we forfeit the fight on any battlefield, then we have forfeited the rights given by God alone,” Vogt exclaimed.

Vogt is considering entering a more local race during the 2014 cycle.

So Vogt just ceded ground to Dan Bongino in the Sixth District Congressional race, although there was little doubt Bongino had the campaign funding and name recognition to prevail in the primary anyway. What interested me, though, was the last line.

In looking up the district where Vogt’s hometown of Brunswick lies, it appears Vogt now resides in District 4. In the former configuration, however, Brunswick was in District 3B, represented by Delegate Michael Hough. If Vogt were to run for a state seat, he’s now in the same district as Senate Minority Leader David Brinkley, along with Hough and fellow Delegates Kathy Afzali and Kelly Schulz, who represent the current District 4A. All of them are Republicans, but at this point, Schulz is the only one who has filed for a House seat. Interestingly enough, though, today the lone person who had filed for State Senate, Jason Miller, withdrew from the race – seems to be coincidental timing there, doesn’t it?

On the other hand, if Vogt were to aspire to a County Council position, he would be in the newly-created Frederick County Council District 1, where no Republican has filed.

Of course, I don’t believe in “turns” nor do I think anyone is entitled to a legislative seat. But the chances are pretty good that Vogt may step out of the frying pan into the fire. We’ll see how his political moxie is built in a local race, should he choose to go that route.

One seat, fourteen applicants

Monday evening the list of applicants for E.J. Pipkin’s District 36 Maryland Senate seat came out, and there were several surprises on the list. We knew some of the names which would be on there, but there is no lack of aspirants for the job. In alphabetical order, they are:

  • Steven Arentz, a Queen Anne’s County Commissioner elected in 2010
  • R. Scott Bramble, of Cecil County
  • Frank Frohn, a former member of the Queen Anne’s County Planning Commission and unsuccessful 2010 Commission candidate
  • John Graham, of Queen Anne’s County
  • Stephen Hershey, current District 36 Delegate from Queen Anne’s County (elected in 2010)
  • Andrew Langer, president of the Institute for Liberty and Red Maryland radio host
  • Tim McCluskey, a town councilman from Centreville since 2009
  • Audrey Scott, onetime mayor of Bowie, Secretary of Planning, and more recently Maryland GOP Chair 2009-10
  • Michael Smigiel, current District 36 Delegate from Cecil County (first elected in 2002)
  • Richard Sossi, former District 36 Delegate from 2002-10
  • Robert Thornton, Jr., former Delegate from Caroline County (1990-94) – elected as a Democrat
  • John Leo Walter, who ran for Congress in 2008, from Queen Anne’s County
  • John Walton, Jr., of Caroline County
  • Eric Wargotz, GOP Senate nominee in 2010 and former Queen Anne’s County Commissioner

So as far as I can tell, most of these officeseekers have already served in some capacity, while many others have run for office. I would imagine that most, if not all, of them would try once again if one of the two current Delegates in the mix (Hershey or Smigiel) is elevated to the Senate (and if they are eligible, based on my recollection of state law – see below.)

Personally, I think it’s going to be Smigiel’s seat to lose, but he probably has to get the backing of all four counties to be selected. If more than one name is sent to Governor O’Malley, it won’t be Smigiel who’s picked, not after his strident opposition to the cherished O’Malley gun law. If Caroline County stays home and picks Thornton as one of several names submitted he may be the choice as a former Democrat and current attorney. Martin O’Malley can also then say he addressed the unfairness of having one county not represented in Annapolis.

To me, the most intriguing names in the running are Langer, Scott, Sossi, Walter, and Wargotz.

Obviously Andrew Langer is a political activist and could be an interesting bomb thrower in the Maryland Senate as a TEA Party stalwart. I think he has a slightly better chance of being selected as a Delegate should a seat open up thanks to the elevation of Hershey – I believe if Smigiel is selected his successor would have to come from a county not already represented in the district, which would leave only Caroline and Cecil counties as possibilities because Hershey is from Queen Anne’s and Delegate Jay Jacobs, who is not seeking the Senate seat, comes from Kent County.

I see Audrey Scott, meanwhile, as a possible compromise, caretaker candidate who probably wouldn’t run again in 2014. It’s not like she hasn’t come in to finish someone else’s term and opted not to run again, although she may then assume some position will be handed to her. Also worth mentioning: she’s the only woman in the field.

From what I gather, Sossi is running for the poetic justice of succeeding the guy who allegedly helped orchestrate his defeat in 2010 by Hershey. I suppose he could then run in 2014 as being the tan, rested, and ready candidate.

Most may not have heard of John Leo Walter, but I remember him. Lost in the bloodbath that was the 2008 First District Congressional primary was Walter’s principled, conservative campaign. Maybe this is his time, although he is probably the darkest of horses in this race.

And after passing up the 2012 Senate campaign and thoughts of climbing into the gubernatorial ring, it’s worth pointing out that Eric Wargotz has trimmed his aspirations back to where some probably thought they should have been all along.

It’s interesting to me that, when I did the research into one of the candidates, I came across this Free Republic thread from 2003 when Jeannie Haddaway (pre-Riccio) was selected for the then-vacant District 37B Delegate seat in a similar situation – four counties were involved there, too. At that time, both Caroline and Wicomico selected Jim Newcomb of Dorchester County but Haddaway was Bob Ehrlich’s choice as her name was submitted by Talbot County, which at the time was the largest jurisdiction in the district. But there were only six shooting for the seat back then as opposed to the fourteen-person scrum we have this time.

(As an aside, there was a fascinating mention of then-officeseeker Stevie Prettyman, who remains on Wicomico County Council to this day:

Stevie Prettyman, current Wicomico County Council member, supports conservative spending and agreed with the other candidate that Maryland citizens are over-taxed. Prettyman said building bonds with Democrats would be a key strategy if selected.

“You have to cross the aisle,” Prettyman said. “You have to be able to hold hands for a common goal – and that common goal is the best for the people you serve.”

To some, it seems to still hold true even when there’s only one Democrat on County Council because we’ve not managed to elect a GOP County Executive.)

I would imagine that the timetable has been set so that there’s plenty of breathing room before counties are required to submit nominees. Will the four counties go with the conventional wisdom, or will they break ranks and allow Martin O’Malley to select a centrist Republican who would bend to his will as he did when former Delegate Richard Weldon resigned in 2009? At that time, Frederick and Washington counties split and Charles Jenkins was picked over Michael Hough, who then ran against Jenkins and won the seat in 2010.

No one can be certain at this time. While Smigiel has claimed he has the votes, that’s not necessarily true.

Incorrect hiring practices?

By now readers are probably aware of the brewing prison scandal in Baltimore, where it’s been widely reported that the Black Guerrilla Family ran the Baltimore City Detention Center to the extent where inmate and BGF leader Tavon White is quoted as saying, “This is my jail…I make every final call in this jail.” If you’re not, this Washington Post article by Ann E. Marimow and John Wagner is a good place to start, while Jeff Quinton at The Quinton Report is critical of the lack of calls for accountability from the Maryland GOP. Quinton also links to the indictment press release and ponders the impact on O’Malley’s nascent presidential run – in short, he’s been a bulldog on this one.

However, that’s not to say individual GOP members have been silent. State Senator Joe Getty was quoted in the Post piece, and Delegates Michael Smigiel and Michael Hough have opposite opinions on the fate of Maryland Public Safety and Correctional Services head Gary Maynard.

One thing that may bear further scrutiny, though, is the backgrounds of the thirteen women, aged between 24 and 31, who were indicted as rogue correctional officers. It’s interesting that State Senator Lisa Gladden noted in the Post, “A lot of times, (female corrections officers) become smitten with the inmates.” But what if they were already acquainted with the inmates? Is BGF also prevalent outside the walls of the prison, too? Were any of these women gang wannabes in their youth, and recruited by the gangs from the inside?

Something which needs to be addressed is the workplace practice which, first, leads to a situation where there are female corrections officers guarding male inmates, and, second, seems to permit behavior where suspicions should have been aroused. If someone comes to work with the name of an inmate tattooed on their neck, shouldn’t that have raised a red flag?

This scandal, which came to light just as Governor Martin O’Malley was trying to raise his 2016 profile with a trip to the Middle East, also could spark a debate over whether the death penalty should have been rescinded.  If you read the indictment, it’s clear that Tavon White would stop at nothing, not even murder, to further his aims. If it can be proven that he ordered a “hit” from his jail cell, with the rescinded death penalty there is no ultimate punishment awaiting him.

At this time, it doesn’t appear there will be a petition drive to overturn the ill-considered legislation that ended the death penalty in Maryland, and that’s simply wrong. I can understand the logic of fighting the gun law in the courts, but it’s shameful that no similar effort seems to be possible to restore the ultimate punishment.

The Scott response

Just as I did with Scott Shaffer a few days ago, I’m going to publish Audrey Scott’s refutation of points made by yours truly and others in its entirety, aside from minor formatting revisions to make this work on my site. It will not be blockquoted.

This comes from a letter to Central Committee members, with two pages being a general letter and a third page entitled “My Response.” I’ll have additional comments at the conclusion, which will come after Audrey’s note commences on the other side of the jump.

Continue reading “The Scott response”

The inside baseball races

At the end of this month, I will be among nearly 300 Central Committee members who will vote for two of the three Maryland representatives to the Republican National Committee. As of this writing, both are contested races: Louis Pope is running for another four-year term against Anne Arundel County Central Committee member Scott Shaffer, while former party Chair Audrey Scott is running for a seat opened up by the retirement of Joyce Terhes. Her opponent is Nicolee Ambrose, Chairman Emeritus of the Young Republican National Federation.

It’s obvious that the GOP is at somewhat of a crossroads here in Maryland. The 2010 election didn’t go as well as the party would have liked at the top, since none of the statewide candidates even sniffed victory in their races. Just as a sad review, Bob Ehrlich lost by a 56-42 margin to Martin O’Malley, and he was the closest of the statewide losers. Bill Campbell lost the Comptroller race by a 61-39 count and Eric Wargotz was blown out 62-36 by Barb Mikulski. Worst of all, the party didn’t even field an opponent for Attorney General Doug Gansler, allowing him to save his campaign funds for a 2014 run and assist other candidates.

Down ticket, the state results were mixed. Republicans got back to their traditional 6-2 deficit in our Congressional delegation when Andy Harris avenged his 2008 defeat to Frank Kratovil, and they also returned to the 43-seat minority they enjoyed in the middle of the last decade – their best showing in the House of Delegates in modern history. And aside from the loss of two Maryland Senate seats in close races, the GOP was relatively successful at the local level in picking up a number of local seats.

But the Maryland Republican Party faces other problems as well. Their ongoing financial struggles meant they had to abandon their prime West Street office location for one a little more off the beaten path, a converted residence around the corner on Cathedral Street. Ambitious fundraising goals are set but not met.

Continue reading “The inside baseball races”

The McDermott notes: week 7

As the General Assembly session chugs along into its second half, we’re beginning to see more votes being taken during House sessions – no longer is the time being spent with first readers of new House bills. They’re also getting the bills passed by the Senate to consider.

Two key happenings on Monday were the traditional Washington’s Birthday speech given by a Democrat and a challenge to the same-sex marriage vote count. McDermott opined that Delegate John Olszewski’s speech on Washington “implied he liked taxes…but maybe he was referring to Washington, D.C.”

But more important is the vote count challenge, since it’s against House rules to have voted and not placed up on the board. As of this writing, the official count is 72-67 but Delegate John Bohanan’s vote was originally not counted, which is why initial reports had it 71-67. This challenge has meant the day’s journal is not yet official.

Yet this is also interesting because House rules in the past have allowed Delegates to change their vote; on occasion in doing my monoblogue Accountability Project I notice this and those who do so are penalized. (The same is not true for the Senate.) It will be interesting what the record eventually shows for Bohanon.

McDermott broke the three days of hearings conducted last week down into three distinct groups: Tuesday was “gun day,” Wednesday was “DWI day,” and Thursday was “family law day.” It seems to be the custom that similar bills are lumped together in a hearing scenario, and that probably helps assure that lobbyists on each side of these issues have their calendars in sync.

Mike lamented that pro-Second Amendment legislation normally didn’t even get a vote in his committee, while those bills which continue to make Maryland a state hostile to lawful gun owners will likely not only make it out of committee but probably reach the floor. McDermott’s view is that Maryland should join the 40 “shall issue” states and place the burden on the state as to why a person should not carry a gun instead of placing the onus on the person who wants to carry to give a reason why. My reason is that there’s a Second Amendment which says I can.

Regarding the DWI bills, Mike is a co-sponsor of several of these, but a couple in particular may raise the ire of civil libertarians. I think the second one could be a problem since the state uses so many unmarked police cars.

Mike noted that all three days had standing room only crowds, which bolsters my point about the lobbyists having the days circled on their calendar in advance.

There were also three bills voted out of the Judiciary Committee on Thursday, with the only one I could find drawing opposition being HB96. Oddly enough, the 16-4 vote found four of the seven Republicans voting no, with McDermott and Delegate Michael Hough the only ones voting yes. (Delegate Don Dwyer was absent.) I’d be interested to know why they objected, with my one thought being that it limits a judge’s options in the case.

McDermott also noted the Senate’s work on Thursday, and compared it with how the House passed the gay marriage bill:

The Senate voted quickly on the O’Malley-Brown Same Sex Marriage Bill. They also created two legislative days out of one calendar day and passed the bill in the afternoon. No amendments were accepted onto the bill by the Democrats which could have at least made the bill better. These included amendments to address homosexual-same sex marriage curriculum in public schools and a prohibition on a minor being able to enter into a same sex marriage. As a result of these rejections, when the governor signs the bill into law next week a 16 year old boy will be able to marry a 40 year old man and our schools will be forced to instruct that same sex marriage is a normal option.

As a result, the referendum process has begun. The people of Maryland will have the last word when we force the issue into the ballot box. In the coming weeks, I will provide detailed information on how to get involved in the referendum. For those who helped in the referendum on Illegal Alien In-State Tuition last year, it will be the same process. We will now be on guard in the House for legislation that will seek to make the referendum process more complicated and arduous for the people. We know it is coming.

For his Friday “diary” Mike referred readers to the House Proceedings calendar to show the votes taken and bills passed. It’s worth noting that, out of 22 bills considered on the House docket for the day, 16 passed without a single “no” vote and three others with just token opposition. Only three had any significant force against them, and these dealt with the following subjects:

  • HB74, which extended the life of the State Board of Certified Interior Designers
  • HB104, which makes certain uses of a cell phone while driving a primary offense
  • HB173, which allows an electronic signature to be placed on file for voter registration

I would say all three of these have some potential to be part of the monoblogue Accountability Project, with HB104 and HB74 the two most likely to be used. Unfortunately, these votes aren’t public record yet so I don’t know who voted correctly or incorrectly.

McDermott was also pleased with the advancement of two of his bills, which he claimed would save the state millions of dollars. (He also said this at the Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner, which I’ll detail more tomorrow.) Interestingly enough, McDermott credits Wicomico County State’s Attorney Matt Maciarello with assisting on the bill.

Obviously it was a less stressful week than Week 6, but things will probably heat up as the budget bills begin to advance.

While Mike didn’t mention this, Friday also marked the day – since there was no legislative action on an alternative – that Governor O’Malley’s state gerrymandering officially became law, pending any court action of course. Now Mike shares District 38A with fellow Republican Delegate Charles Otto while the northeastern section of his old district becomes District 38C, an open seat. The parts of his former District 38B closest to Salisbury will presumably be left for Delegate Norm Conway to defend two years hence.

The McDermott notes: week 5

Because I posted last night, welcome to a Monday morning version of the McDermott notes.

Most of what Mike discussed from last week had to do with his spot on the Judiciary Committee, including a handful of committee votes on items which passed on their way through to the floor. These bills dealt with a number of items, and McDermott voted with the majority in sending them along. Interestingly enough, Delegate Michael Smigiel voted against HB111 and HB115, while Delegate Don Dwyer also voted against HB115. Delegates Michael Hough and John Cluster voted no on HB187. Out of that group, I can most see the civil libertarian vs. law-and-order argument on HB115 in particular. McDermott is a co-sponsor of two of these bills, so it follows he would support them. It’s not likely that any of these votes will rise to the level of the monoblogue Accountability Project, but you never know.

They also heard testimony on a number of bills, with the most prominent being various versions of “Caylee’s Law” being introduced. Because there are three versions of the bill out there, my guess is that there won’t be much problem passing one of them with the winner likely being the one sponsored by the “right” people. If I were a betting man I would wager they take HB20, slap the “Caylee’s Law” moniker on it, add the extra provisions of the bill in the GOP version (HB122) and call it a day. Makes it look like the Democrats had everything to do with it.

Another area of interest during testimony last week were animal laws. One bill the Judiciary Committee heard established a class of “at-risk” owners who have “dangerous” dogs. If little Johnny next door teases your dog mercilessly and is bitten in return, the way I read this law is that your dog could be considered “dangerous” and you would be subject to this law. I love unintended consequences. The other bill established that owners who are convicted of animal cruelty will also be liable for the cost of taking care of their seized animals. I can see the point of this, but I think it should be left at the court’s discretion rather than be mandatory.

They also dealt with a number of child support bills which would affect thousands of families in Maryland.

McDermott also mentioned some of the bills he introduced in the last few days before bills would be need to go through the Rules Committee for late introduction: HB984 would stiffen penalties for driving under the influence of controlled dangerous substances, and HB999 would make it a crime to not report child abuse.

But HB1032 sort of takes the cake for me, and makes me shake my head about the litigious society we have. I really don’t want to go to Plow Days or have little Johnny take his class farm tour and have to see this sign when common sense should dictate. It would be better to have judges who would simply laugh those fools who litigate such actions out of court.

There wasn’t much to tell about the Eastern Shore delegation meeting, according to Mike. They heard from Senator Mikulski’s office and discussed the budget with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which Mike contends is being cut too much in the area of prevention.

Finally, Mike devoted a paragraph to the lengthy (10+ hour) joint committee hearing on the subject of gay marriage. It appears McDermott will be a steadfast vote against these bills – in other words, for upholding the state law that marriage is only between one man and one woman. I would tend to think his district agrees with him on this for the most part, and I concur with that assessment as well. McDermott also stated:

I did ask (Governor O’Malley, who led off the testimony) why we simply did not put this issue before all of the voters as a referendum on the ballot…particularly when we thought enough about gambling to put that on the ballot for the people to decide.

I notice O’Malley testified first, so he didn’t have to wait until late in the evening to say his piece. Not knowing how the hearing shook out, it would be interesting to find out if those who are in favor of the change stuck around when those who oppose the bill testified (and the inverse as well.) My guess is that the “tolerant” side wasn’t so much when bill opponents testified, but I would have to have eyewitnesses to know for sure.

As the session nears its halfway point, we’ll begin to see more floor votes and fewer hearings. Bills are now getting through committee, so the impetus will be getting those which are slam-dunks through first and leaving the controversial ones for next month.