An assessment of the current situation

By Cathy Keim and Michael Swartz

Here is a question for our loyal readers: Now that it is mid-May, do you think that the GOP elites in Washington, D.C. have fulfilled their campaign pledges to stop President Obama’s fundamental change of our country?

Michael and I have voted no on that question and to make our point we have signed the Open Letter to Congress: Interim Assessment from the Citizens’ Mandate. (Our signatures are on page 5.)

I wrote about the original Citizens’ Mandate on monoblogue back in February. After working hard on the 2014 elections, many of us felt great relief when the GOP won by a landslide. That feeling was quickly replaced by a sense of betrayal with the passage of the CRomnibus budget and the retaining of John Boehner as Speaker of the House. The Citizens’ Mandate was a call to the GOP leadership to remember their campaign promises and to fulfill their obligations to their voters.

Instead, as the organizers of the mandate stated:

Contrary to the Republicans’ self-assessment of their first 100 days… more than 100 conservative leaders, in only 72 hours of signature collection, have given the Republican Congress a poor assessment on the members’ performance in their first 132 days in control of the legislative branch.

Among the actions by the GOP Cathy and I disagreed with, they:

  • Funded executive amnesty;
  • Continued Obamacare;
  • Jeopardized national security (by not addressing illegal immigration);
  • Ceded away treaty power on a nuke deal with Iran;
  • Continued excessive federal spending;
  • Undermined faith-based agenda;
  • Helped Obama (by confirming Loretta Lynch as Attorney General);
  • Continued federal education;
  • Punished conservative champions (through changing committee assignments), and;
  • Neglected congressional oversight.

While Congress is doing some things right, there’s a tremendous amount of untapped potential we are missing out on. It’s a reason that other vocal critics such as Richard and Susan Falknor of Blue Ridge Forum, Carroll County GOP Central Committee member Kathy Fuller, and former Delegate Michael Smigiel (who is running for Congress against the incumbent Andy Harris), and conservative commentator Dan Bongino have signed on. Bongino was quoted in the release, noting:

It’s way past time to reinvigorate our party and set forth a set of guiding principles. For too long we’ve been lost in partisan games while forgetting that, in the end, it’s the ideas that will take us to a better tomorrow.

Some may argue that Barack Obama received his electoral mandate in 2012, but it’s just as valid (if not moreso) to make the point that a course correction had become necessary and the results showed the message was sent emphatically in 2014.

Our call is for Congress to translate that message in legislation and oversight. Certainly there’s the prospect of veto after veto, but rather than get the reputation as a “do-nothing Congress” put the onus on the President to respond and – whatever you do – don’t cede any more power to the Executive Branch. We don’t want to have to sign an updated letter in the fall, so get busy.

Stacking the deck by rule?

March 4, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

If you’re not aware of this, the saga of appointing new legislative members in Carroll County came to an inglorious end when the state Court of Appeals ruled it was within the Carroll County Republican Central Committee’s right to send multiple names to Governor Hogan for the selection of a new member of the legislature. Personally I think it should remain as one name, but apparently Larry likes having choices.

But you may not be aware – in fact, I wasn’t either until it was alluded to at Monday night’s Central Committee meeting – that the next state party convention, to be held next month in Ocean City, will feature a push to have counties adopt a standardized policy on filling legislative vacancies.

Indeed, there is logic and sense behind this as a whole. However, if it’s up to each county to make this official I would recommend the Central Committee in Wicomico County adopt this with at least one change. In Section 13, where it reads:

The Chair shall submit one name, however, at the request of the Governor, may submit more than one name.

I would ask the sentence be amended thus:

The Chair shall submit one name.

Here’s the reasoning why we should stay with a one-name approach (and why the Court of Appeals got it wrong.)

It has long been the practice that Central Committees in each county submitted just one name - problems only tended to occur with multi-county districts where more than one name was sent because counties preferred different candidates. (Senate District 36 is a recent example.)

That District 36 situation illustrates the problem with a multiple-name approach. If my memory serves me correctly, two counties selected eventual winner (and then-Delegate) Steve Hershey while the two other ones tabbed former Delegate Michael Smigiel. The choice was eventually made by Martin O’Malley, a Democrat. (Note each of the four counties sent up one name.)

Someday there will be a Democratic governor again who will preside over the selection for filling a vacancy in a conservative Republican district. Based on the language in this prospective amendment, what is to stop this governor from informing the Central Committee that he or she wants ten names rather than just three? Or instead of making a formal selection, the governor simply requested the forwarding of the name of everyone who applied, regardless of merit?

There are not a lot of representative functions for which the local Central Committee is charged – mainly their job is to represent the county at the state conventions. But it does serve at times as the electorate in those situations where it’s not practical to have an election – in recent meetings, the committee I serve with has selected applicants for the Board of Elections and interviewed for vacancies in our Board of Education. In the recent past, our local Central Committees have worked to select members of the General Assembly who died in office - Republicans for Page Elmore in 2010 and Democrats for Bennett Bozman in 2006.

Because Maryland doesn’t have the provision for special elections, we have to take that task seriously as voters won’t be able to correct us for many months or even three-plus years. It’s interesting that Kathy Fuller, who was one of the plaintiffs in the Carroll County case (supporting the submission of just one name) has the idea of prohibiting the selection of a member of the General Assembly for an administration position. With one exception, that’s the root cause of all this commotion.

But I digress. While there are many times we would be satisfied with any of a number of candidates, there is generally one who stands above the others in our estimation; however, there’s no guarantee the Appointments Secretary will feel the same since it’s likely he or she won’t do an in-depth interview.

One name has worked well in the past, and it’s a shame Larry Hogan mucked up the system because he didn’t like the Central Committee’s original choice. That’s what it boils down to. A more stout Central Committee would have stuck with their first choice, so I think we need the rules that will stiffen their collective spines.

The power of one

January 25, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

The return of a Republican to Government House has been a boon to the state party, but it has created no shortage of chaos in the General Assembly and in counties where erstwhile members of that body reside. One example of this is Carroll County, which has had to replace two members of its delegation as both Senator Joe Getty and Delegate Kelly Schulz were tapped for administration jobs.

Replacing the latter brought significant strife to neighboring Frederick County, where most of District 4 lies, but since a small portion lies in Carroll County they also get their say. But one change in their process was agreeing to Larry Hogan’s request to send him three names, which Carroll did. Since former Delegate Barrie Ciliberti is on both lists, it would presumably be his seat once Schulz is confirmed the Secretary of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation by the Maryland Senate.

But if you look at the three men Frederick County advanced to their final interview stage, you would notice that Ciliberti was the only name agreed on – however, it’s been reported that Carroll had Ciliberti as their second choice behind Ken Timmerman, who didn’t make Frederick’s top three.

Carroll County has also been feeling the heat for sending up the name of Robin Bartlett Frazier as their choice to replace Senator Getty over Delegate Justin Ready, among others. Frazier was a county commissioner until losing a bid for re-election this year; her biggest claim to fame is ignoring a judge’s order and beginning commission meetings with a prayer. One argument in Bartlett’s favor was that selecting Ready would have only set up a second search for his vacant position.

These incidents serve as a reminder to the issues Republicans had with replacing Senator E. J. Pipkin and Pipkin’s eventual successor Steve Hershey back in 2013. But imagine if all four counties in the District 36 jurisdiction had to send up three names, and they were all different? It would be chaos.

Here’s what the Maryland Constitution has to say about the process of replacing General Assembly members:

SEC. 13. (a) (1) In case of death, disqualification, resignation, refusal to act, expulsion, or removal from the county or city for which he shall have been elected, of any person who shall have been chosen as a Delegate or Senator, or in case of a tie between two or more such qualified persons, the Governor shall appoint a person to fill such vacancy from a person whose name shall be submitted to him in writing, within thirty days after the occurrence of the vacancy, by the Central Committee of the political party, if any, with which the Delegate or Senator, so vacating, had been affiliated, at the time of the last election or appointment of the vacating Senator or Delegate, in the County or District from which he or she was appointed or elected, provided that the appointee shall be of the same political party, if any, as was that of the Delegate or Senator, whose office is to be filled, at the time of the last election or appointment of the vacating Delegate or Senator, and it shall be the duty of the Governor to make said appointment within fifteen days after the submission thereof to him.

(2) If a name is not submitted by the Central Committee within thirty days after the occurrence of the vacancy, the Governor within another period of fifteen days shall appoint a person, who shall be affiliated with the same political party, if any as was that of the Delegate or Senator, whose office is to be filled, at the time of the last election or appointment of the vacating Delegate or Senator, and who is otherwise properly qualified to hold the office of Delegate or Senator in the District or County.

(3) In the event there is no Central Committee in the County or District from which said vacancy is to be filled, the Governor shall within fifteen days after the occurrence of such vacancy appoint a person, from the same political party, if any, as that of the vacating Delegate or Senator, at the time of the last election or appointment of the vacating Senator or Delegate, who is otherwise properly qualified to hold the office of Delegate or Senator in such District or County.

(4) In every case when any person is so appointed by the Governor, his appointment shall be deemed to be for the unexpired term of the person whose office has become vacant.

(b) In addition, and in submitting a name to the Governor to fill a vacancy in a legislative or delegate district, as the case may be, in any of the twenty-three counties of Maryland, the Central Committee or committees shall follow these provisions:

(1) If the vacancy occurs in a district having the same boundaries as a county, the Central Committee of the county shall submit the name of a resident of the district.

(2) If the vacancy occurs in a district which has boundaries comprising a portion of one county, the Central Committee of that county shall submit the name of a resident of the district.

(3) If the vacancy occurs in a district which has boundaries comprising a portion or all of two or more counties, the Central Committee of each county involved shall have one vote for submitting the name of a resident of the district; and if there is a tie vote between or among the Central Committees, the list of names there proposed shall be submitted to the Governor, and he shall make the appointment from the list (amended by Chapter 584, Acts of 1935, ratified Nov. 3, 1936; Chapter 162, Acts of 1966, ratified Nov. 8, 1966; Chapter 681, Acts of 1977, ratified Nov. 7, 1978; Chapter 649, Acts of 1986, ratified Nov. 4, 1986).

One can argue this both ways, but since the language states “a person whose name shall be submitted” it’s taken to mean one person. In the case of District 36, the choice was made by then-Governor O’Malley between two names because two counties backed Hershey and two preferred Delegate Michael Smigiel. All of them submitted one name.

And this brings me to a message those of us who serve (or ran for) Central Committees around the state received from Kathy Fuller, who serves on the Carroll County Republican Central Committee. After she went through the process Carroll County used, she made one key point:

We have the constitutional requirement to provide one name. To do anything else usurps the constitutional authority endowed upon the Central Committee. If a Central Committee decides upon one name and submits it, the Governor must appoint that person. The power of the appointment then rests with the Central Committee. If the Central Committee can be convinced to submit more than one name then the Governor actually chooses who is appointed, and the power of the appointment rests with the Governor.

The Constitution designates Central Committees to choose who is appointed and the governor to carry out the appointment. This is separation of power. The Governor is the executive branch; the House and Senate are the legislative branch. If the Governor picks the members of the legislative branch then this corrupts the separation of powers and the checks and balances necessary for good government.

Think of it this way: The Governor has hundreds of appointments he is able to make. If he were to appoint legislators to most of those jobs and then tell the central committees who to send as replacements he would control most of government, both the executive and legislative branches. This is an extreme example, but illustrates the danger of allowing the authority endowed upon the central committees to be usurped by giving the governor more than one name or by allowing him to tell the central committee who that name should be. This is the same reason many gubernatorial appointments are made with the consent of the legislature. It is the check and balance of good government.

Just because Larry Hogan wants three names to choose from doesn’t mean he is entitled to those three names. Unfortunately, most Republican politics turns the process on its head as they desire only one person to run in any primary (to avoid a GOP candidate spending money in a primary fight) but more than one person in this instance so that the state elected official farthest from the people (and perhaps representing the opposite party) makes the choice. Given the choice between a hardline conservative and someone more moderate and “bipartisan” we know who Larry Hogan would pick 95 percent of the time – so Carroll County should have maintained their fealty to the original process. If Maryland had a provision for a special election to fill these seats I would be happy to have plenty of choices, but it does not and I think Fuller’s argument is the correct one.

And to me there is no better illustration of what went wrong with the process than our experience with the District 4 Wicomico County Council vacancy some years ago. By charter, we had to submit four names to County Council, which did their own vetting process after we did our interviews and voted on who to send. At the time it was also an overly rushed process because we only had 30 days to get through the process – a charter change adopted in 2012 extended this to 45 days. But had we only been required to send one name, there would be a different occupant of the office because the eventual appointee was not our top choice. This would be a good charter change to consider since the county charter is different than the state’s Constitution on this manner.

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that, in one respect, all of these appointments are moot because none of the principals have resigned yet. They all await confirmation to their positions but the process was started early because the General Assembly would be in session during the time. But I think it needs to be clarified that the duty of the Central Committee is already spelled out in the state’s Constitution and we need only submit one name for these positions.

Let’s do what’s right under the law, not the personal preference of the new governor.

The required renovation of Andy Harris

For the four years he has been in office, Andy Harris has generally enjoyed the support of his conservative Eastern Shore constituents. He’s not had a serious primary challenge since he was elected and garnered over 70% of the vote in 2014 against Democrat Bill Tilghman, whose centrist posture was well right of mainstream Democrats but far out of step with the district.

But since that resounding November victory, Andy’s actions in Congress during the lame duck session have earned him further enmity from the strong libertarian wing of the party and alienated conservatives as well.

By inserting a provision into the so-called CRomnibus bill preventing the District of Columbia from enacting its Proposition 71 marijuana legalization, Harris again became the target of District residents and leaders who demanded a tourism boycott of Andy’s Eastern Shore district earlier this summer. Accusations of being in the pocket of Big Pharma followed, but Harris defended the role of Congress spelled out in the Constitution [Article 1, Section 8] as overseer of the District’s affairs.

Yet while the libertarians of the Shore make up a small slice of the constituency – a Libertarian candidate ran in the First District for three successive elections from 2008-12, but never received even 5% of the vote – the conservatives are upset about Andy’s vote in favor of CRomnibus. That segment of the electorate is Andy’s bread and butter.

In the TEA Party community, there are whispers about who could challenge Andy from the right, as several feel he is on the same glide path that Wayne Gilchrest took during his long Congressional career. His 2008 primary defeat (by Harris) came after a bitter campaign where Andy stuck the “liberal” tag successfully on the longtime pol as well as fellow Maryland Senate opponent E. J. Pipkin.

Ironically, a politician long allied with Pipkin could be a prospect to make that challenge. Michael Smigiel, a delegate who was defeated in the 2014 District 36 GOP primary, is popular among the TEA Party community for his strong Second Amendment stance. But it would be difficult for anyone to raise the money Andy has at his disposal and Harris has bolstered his profile among local elected officials and the state Republican party by being generous with his campaign funds through A Great Maryland PAC.

It’s also worth mentioning for context that CRomnibus is probably roughly the same deal which would have been made if the budget were completed in regular order, given the partisan divide between the House and Senate.

Instead, while most functions of the government will continue through next September, the Department of Homeland Security budget has a February expiration date. This sets up a showdown between Congress and Barack Obama regarding the latter’s executive actions to give de facto amnesty to millions of illegal aliens; however, some hardliners already feel the damage is done.

In response to a lengthy Facebook post by Harris explaining his CRomnibus stance, though, local activists summed up the frustration TEA party activists felt, noting:

  • “(Harris) does a nice job of listing those riders and amendments that might seem to gain the approbation of the conservative and Republican audiences, while omitting anything that might serve as a balance – what effectively was the PRICE paid for what was had, the PRICE of ‘compromise.’”
  • “It is rather sad that Andy thinks that he can list a few paltry gains and that will make us overlook the whole thousand page monstrosity. The obvious question is that if he got in a few tidbits that he wanted, then who else got in their tidbits and what are those?  I would imagine that they will far outweigh any small gains that he is bragging about.”

These activists agree one way Harris could help to restore his image would be to take the lead in the conservative grassroots push to replace John Boehner as Speaker of the House. Bear in mind that this could come at some cost as Andy serves on the Appropriations Committee and a Boehner victory over any challenger for whom Andy shows support could bring repercussions such as the stripping of his position there, but on balance I believe a potential sacrifice such as that is worth the opportunity to have a stronger conservative leader as Speaker. It’s a sentiment shared by commentators at American Thinker, WorldNetDaily, and RedState.

On November 4, people hungry for real change went to the polls to reject the Democratic Senate and place Republicans firmly in control of Congress. The events leading to the CRonmibus, though, shook the confidence that Washington would depart from its business-as-usual benefits to the ruling class by allowing the outgoing defeated members one last hurrah. While all of this blame cannot be laid at the feet of John Boehner, there is a mood in this country that a strong counterbalance is needed to the increasing use of Executive Branch power by Barack Obama, particularly on immigration and Obamacare. The fear of many conservatives, particularly those in the First District, is that John Boehner doesn’t have the spine to rein in the executive.

Just like in 2008, when Andy Harris first ran for Congress, the potential is there in 2016 for state elected officials to “run from cover” as their Delegate or Senate seats aren’t on the ballot. During the similar 2012 election, 7 members of the Maryland General Assembly ran for Congress – one for the Senate and six for various Congressional seats. While none were successful overall, two won their party primary and ran through November.

No member of Congress is universally loved, and being a representative at any level of government means you won’t please everyone. But there’s a growing number who want Andy Harris to be a conservative leader and not just talk a good game.

Never surrender

I’ve been seeing some comment about a blog post recently penned by outgoing Delegate Michael Smigiel regarding the Maryland GOP not assisting Mike McDermott in his Maryland Senate run against Jim Mathias. There are two damning allegations therein, so I’ll speak to both.

First, we have the financial angle:

The Republican Party found it possible just two years ago to support three Republicans running for local county council seats to the tune of $40,000 in a Cecil County race! Now in a pivotal State Senate Race they can not offer the same support? Correct that, they can not offer any support? Even if the party claims financial inability, where are the dollars from Congressman Harris who two years ago gave $40,000 to the party to help those local candidates? Where is the help from the State Senators who have no challengers in their races but have tens of thousands of dollars in their war chests?

I know Smigiel has some sour grapes against certain Cecil County Republicans, but a quick check of campaign finance records finds only a few thousand dollars in contributions to these candidates from the local Republican club and Central Committee – nowhere near $40,000.

As for Andy Harris, he’s already assisted Delegate candidate Carl Anderton (as have others) and it may be he’s going to chip into McDermott’s cause as well.

But the last sentence of Smigiel’s is a valid question, particularly in light of his next paragraphs.

Republican State Senators have been told by the Democrat Senate President, “If you get in the McDermott v. Mathias race, you will be punished.” So Republican Senators with the ability and the desire to help are not helping because of a concern over their own political comfort. Shame on any Senator in a position to help who fails to help out of fear they may be punished by the Democrat Senate President.

I call it Political cowardice to kowtow to the Democrat leadership on the decision of whom the Republicans should support for election to State wide office.

The Party and individual members of the Senate need to stand up to Democrat leadership and show they will not be intimidated into allowing the Democrat leadership to keep the growth of the Republican party stifled. Rhetoric about freedom and liberty rings hollow when you fail to stand up to tyranny when confronted with it in government. Republican Senators need to stand up and be counted. If you have no opponent and have tens of thousands of dollars in the bank you need to donate to and assist in every way possible in elected fellow Republicans. If you are threatened with loss of your committee seat or any other punishment by the Senate President, then make it public and double your efforts on behalf of the Republican candidate.

So is this a Senate or a fiefdom? Bear in mind that Senate President Mike Miller (Maryland’s version of Harry Reid) has a Republican opponent himself, Jesse Peed. Those of you reading this in District 27 should note accordingly.

I did take a peek at Smigiel’s last filing, which was the May filing, and it showed he had about $21,000 remaining in his account (with loans outstanding.) Obviously we have nothing newer to go by, but I haven’t seen any transfers out from his account yet.

Now I don’t know anything about the inner workings of the Maryland General Assembly but I do know bullshit when I smell it. Simply put, the way those bodies are conducted during the 90 days of terror we endure each year reeks to high heaven. Bills which would do a lot of good are stashed in the desk drawers of committee heads, arms are twisted in grotesque ways to get other less palatable bills to pass, and the public’s voice is often ignored.

Thus, it doesn’t really surprise me that such a punishment threat as Smigiel alleges might exist, but we need someone to stand up and say so. There are some who are no longer in office who could verify such statements because I’m sure these threats aren’t new. Maybe Senator Simonaire would have something to say since he was the lone voice of opposition to Miller’s re-election as Senate President.

As for the would-be Senator McDermott, he’s come out with some interesting items of his own lately. I had intended to take a look at them, but there’s one thing I need to put it all together so it can wait a few days. It’s all good.

A post-primary look back

I actually started this a couple weeks ago, when writing about Ron George’s last stand, and just added to it here and there every couple days – if only to keep it atop the queue. Regarding Ron, it was unfortunate that such a good candidate couldn’t get much traction in the race.

But as the race comes to an end for three of the four gubernatorial hopefuls, I’m convinced that my initial instinct was correct and there was really only money enough for three candidates. Blaine Young saw this early on and, despite a solid period of fundraising, opted to drop out of the gubernatorial race and focus on a local campaign for the newly-created Frederick County Executive post. “We have a tendency to eat our own,” he said.

To me this is yet another legacy of the Ehrlich era, which in some respects set our party back several years.  With the most direct connection to that administration, Larry Hogan was perhaps the second-most natural successor – besides Michael Steele, who took a pass in 2014. More and more I see 2010 as a completely missed opportunity in this state, and its domino effect is hurting us in 2014.

So Hogan starts out about 15 points down, just like Ehrlich ended up in 2010. How does he close the gap?

Out of the box, he’s taking the approach which he used a little bit in the primary: Anthony Brown as incompetent.

Driving up negatives is generally a conventional wisdom play, but there are a couple downsides. First of all, Brown is, well, brown and the inevitable comparison to Republicans picking on Barack Obama will occur. I also don’t see the counter of a positive agenda from the Hogan camp, which seems to be focusing more on undoing things than doing new things.

I mentioned Ron George early on and it was interesting how he accepted his defeat, as a letter to his youngest son Tommy:

Tommy, I lost. But that is okay. Many took my ideas, and I know those ideas will help our state. Your dad is now able to go camping with you and have more time with you, and that alone makes me glad I lost. I can go on trips with you and Mom visiting your nieces and nephew, and I look forward to that also. I did what God asked of me and did my best and that is all we are to do. I never wanted to do anything that took time from you, so I am happy to say I am not a governor but I am Tommy’s dad. Love you, Dad.

Perhaps had Ron been given a do-over, he may have decided to devote full-time to running for governor. Surely he had people to run his business, but while David Craig had a staff to help him do his job as County Executive, Larry Hogan the same for his business, and Charles Lollar was granted extended leave from his duties, Ron had to also function as a Delegate. That was 90 days basically off the trail in the formative part of the campaign. It may be disappointing to me because it was one of two decisions that cost him my vote and endorsement; otherwise Ron had perhaps the best overall platform and he came very close to getting both from me.

But Ron ran the best campaign insofar as staying issue-based and not going off on personal attack tangents.

For David Craig, he pretty much spent the last three years trying for this. Obviously the blogger meeting he had early on didn’t do him much good.

There have been people who opined privately that Craig should have attacked Hogan earlier, just as there are people who believed attacking Charles Lollar was a mistake. I would place myself in the latter camp, but what did Craig in was the lack of money to overcome Larry Hogan’s advantage there. Once Larry got the public financing, the race was over and Craig couldn’t chip away at the double-digit lead.

It’s the Charles Lollar supporters I worry about, as in my opinion they are most likely to stay home in November. Charles tried to convince them otherwise:

Wow, family, what an experience! I can honestly say that the past 16 months have been filled with such excitement and joy as my family has had the chance to meet so many good people across the state of Maryland. I could not be happier with the extended family that I have acquired as a result of this campaign. While the results may have not been exactly what we wanted at least we know that there were many out there who share our vision for a better Maryland and a New Way Forward. From the bottom of my heart I want to thank everyone who played a role in making this such a successful campaign.

As many of you know there is still more work for us to do. A New Way Forward for Maryland is still out there for us to obtain and together we can make this happen. I want to congratulate Larry Hogan on a job well done as well as David Craig and Ron George for successful campaigns of their own.

I look forward to coming together in unity to win the state of Maryland and I urge all of my supporters to do the same and ensure unity within our state across the board.

It makes me wonder what Charles will do with the next few months, although his July 5th event for supporters and volunteers will likely have a lot of clues.

Looking down the ballot a little bit, there were some interesting upsets from both parties.

Two incumbent Senators lost in their primaries as ambitious House members ousted them: Republicans David Brinkley and Richard Colburn were knocked off. By the same token, many of the nine House members who were defeated were victims of redistricting: Republicans Joseph Boteler, Don Dwyer, Donald Elliott, and Michael Smigiel, and Democrats Keiffer Mitchell, Melvin Stukes, Michael Summers, Darren Swain, and Shawn Tarrant. Mitchell and Stukes were drawn, along with winner Keith Haynes, into one Baltimore City district.

In particular, Boteler was one of the good guys, and the reigning monoblogue Accountability Project Legislator of the Year. That district’s voters made a serious mistake by pushing him aside.

Aside from the shocking margin of Addie Eckardt’s victory, the Wicomico County results were pretty much what I expected. Obviously I was disappointed by Muir Boda’s loss but apparently county Republican voters like mushy moderates. If things hold as expected, we will still have a significant GOP majority on County Council but it won’t always govern like one.

It should be noted, though, that my advertisers went 3-1 for the primary. Mary Beth Carozza easily had the most primary votes in District 38C and Chris Adams and Johnny Mautz paced the field in District 37B. Mautz carried three of the four counties, with Adams second in all four (Rene Desmarais won Wicomico County.)

This brings up one of my favorite comments along the way in the campaign, from an old NetRightDaily colleague of mine, Richard Manning. It was in response to a Facebook post I put up to promote this post.

(A)ll those ads along the side pay Michael for his great work. He should be commended that he has created something from nothing that has enough value that people want to advertise on it to reach his readers. That is the essence of the entrepreneurial spirit that those on the right claim to embrace.

So that brings me to the final race, which was my own. I posted this on the soon-to-disappear Facebook page for my campaign:

I’d like to thank my supporters. Looks like I’m going to come up one spot short this time, but with so many good people running I knew I was the most vulnerable incumbent because I only made it by a little bit last time.

So after November it looks like I may have some free time on my hands – or maybe not.

It does look like the Central Committee will have a little more TEA Party influence because Julie Brewington and Greg Belcher got their start as part of that movement, so that’s good.

As I’ve said all along, this will be my last election as a candidate. I was only planning to run this term anyway, and I would have definitely preferred to go out a winner. But I came home and got a hug from my treasurer, who happens to be my fiance. So everything is okay. I lost an election, but elections don’t define me anyway. In fact, in some respects this can be liberating.

Obviously there’s still the prospect of my involvement with the Central Committee, at least as secretary (it can be a non-voting position.) If they wish, I’m happy to stay on in that capacity.

But this will be the last time I have to go through all the hassle of getting a treasurer, filing campaign finance reports, and so forth. In the next few days we’ll close the campaign account, file the necessary paperwork to wind up this committee, and it will be time for a new chapter in political involvement.

So in a few days this (Facebook) page will also go away. Congratulations to the winners and hopefully many of those who tried but fell short will try again. But this will be it for me on the ballot.

Again, I appreciate the kind words from my supporters and thanks to those who voted for me.

A lot of those remarks have appeared on my Facebook page or in e-mails to me. I appreciate the sentiment, but I have an observation on this whole thing.

Of the nine who made it, six were already on the Central Committee and had name recognition for various reasons. I’ve lived in the county for less than a decade and, quite frankly, had the 2006 election featured more aspirants than candidates I probably wouldn’t have won my first term, let alone the second. Look at the three newcomers who won: two are doctors, and the other ran for the House of Delegates in 2010.

On the other hand, two of the other three who lost had been active in Republican circles but had little name recognition otherwise. Tyler Harwood probably knocked on hundreds of doors on behalf of himself and other candidates and was rewarded by finishing last. Jackie Wellfonder had bought signs and cards, and made her way around polling places yesterday to no avail. The gap between us and ninth place suggests that people just went with the names they knew, and that’s sort of a sad commentary.

I’m not going to lie to you and say I’m happy about losing this election, but I knew going in this time that I would have a hard time keeping my spot. I originally figured that only five or six incumbents would run, but with seven that made it really difficult.

So here we are. Even if I’m selected as secretary again (a non-voting secretary and treasurer are allowed) October will be my last meeting as an elected Central Committee member. It would be strange not having something to do on the first Monday of the month, but life changes and so we have to as well.

I didn’t plan on being a Central Committee member my entire life anyway, but now that this election is over my thoughts are on seeing our candidates through and working where I can to improve the process. It may not be completely universal, but one thing I think I’ve achieved over the last eight years is the respect of my peers.

PlanMaryland repeal redux will get a hearing

I’m glad conservatives are playing the game liberals in the Maryland General Assembly play – if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Many of the restrictions and regulations we’re currently saddled with came on the second, third, or later try in the General Assembly.

So it’s nice to see that a PlanMaryland repeal bill is being introduced again, by Delegate Michael Smigiel. It was pre-filed this session as HB74.

Understandably, the Maryland Liberty PAC was pleased to see this:

Plan Maryland is a statewide development plan designed to consolidate everyone’s property rights into one simple document.

Centralized government planning has never and will never work, but that won’t phase (sic) Martin O’Malley.

The agenda behind Plan Maryland is not to improve our state, it’s to kill all new development that doesn’t match the left’s green agenda.

Many of you, especially those who are property owners or business owners in the development industry know all too well the headaches caused by Maryland’s radical land use policies.

Well now, Plan Maryland is just another headache that we have to deal with statewide.

I used to talk about things which were in the category of “duh” and the last three sentences of this portion of their notice fit the bill. But this bill will get a hearing in the Environmental Matters Committee on Thursday, January 30 at 1 p.m. Delegate Maggie McIntosh is the chair of that committee, and she is definitely the keeper of all things Radical Green in this state.

The MLPAC notice goes on to note the bill introduced last year, but in reality this is the third straight year a similar bill was introduced. However, the 2012 version had many more co-sponsors.

In both cases, though, the votes were there to kill the bills in committee. And even though they were both 17-6 against the side of good, it’s worthy to note that Delegate Herb McMillan switched sides between 2012 and 2013, voting to kill the bill in the latter case. Delegate Patrick Hogan, who was excused from the 2012 vote, voted the correct way in 2013.

Bear in mind this is not the same bill as the one which attempted to rescind the 2012 Septic Bill, a proposal which was introduced by Delegate Mike McDermott last year but failed. The Smigiel bill simply tries to eliminate the aspect of a statewide plan in favor of leaving things to the local jurisdictions which best know their own situation.

There are a lot of bad ideas which eminated from the General Assembly over the last several years, so many more repeal bills need to be introduced. This is one which has merit – if a county wishes to be less than developer-friendly it’s their right. But don’t impose those restrictions on places which may seek to utilize their resources in the highest and best manner.

Creeping back into the fold

There were a number of critical articles (like this one) and even a resolution before the state party stemming from the decision of Cecil County Executive Tari Moore to bolt from the Republican Party so she could pick her own successor on the County Council. But count me among those who figured she’d return to the GOP. Indeed, she did so back in November.

Needless to say, the local party didn’t exactly welcome her back with open arms, particular county Chair Chris Zeauskas:

Today, the Cecil Whig published a story announcing County Executive Tari Moore’s switch back from Unaffiliated to Republican.

By changing her Party affiliation, she confirms, yet again, that her switch was nothing more than political calculation.

For Tari Moore, it wasn’t about conscience and it wasn’t about doing what was best for Cecil County.

As you might remember, just after being elected County Executive, Tari Moore changed her Party affiliation in a politically motivated move to control who her successor would be in filling her then vacant County Council seat.

She chose to steal the right of the duly elected Cecil County Republican Central Committee to nominate candidates to fill her vacancy on the Cecil County Council.

As per the County Charter, when a vacancy opens on the County Council (assuming that seat is held by a Republican), the Cecil County Republican Central Committee nominates 3 individuals for the County Council to select for appointment.

Rather than stand for the conservative Republican values of Cecil County voters, Tari Moore decided to undermine them.

She undermined the democratic process and the will of the voters for her own political gain.

Not only was it wrong for Moore to betray Republican voters who helped her get elected, she’s betrayed all Cecil County voters in her time in office.

As our representative, Moore has:

  • Increased taxes and fees several times
  • Increased and voted for huge spending increases
  • Piled on massive new debt that our children and grandchildren will have to pay for
  • Voted against our property rights by supporting government purchases of land and centralized planning initiatives

Tari Moore is not a Republican, she does not stand for any Republican values, and she has proven herself to be yet another self-interested, self-serving politician.

Between now and her next election we hope to educate all voters in Cecil County about what Tari Moore truly stands for and we ask you today to do the same.

You know, I could say all that about a lot of Republicans all around the state. Anyway, I’m reading that as Tari Moore having a primary opponent the next time she’s up for election. Cecil County, though, is sort of an odd duck in that they will have perhaps the most significant of the local elections come 2016. Unlike most other counties, they elect certain officers (such as their County Executive) in a Presidential year rather than a Gubernatorial one; thus, the election will be one of the most closely watched in the state.

You may recall Zeauskas is the Central Committee chair who sponsored a resolution in 2012 accusing Moore of accepting party money “under false pretenses.” The resolution was tabled in that meeting and not brought up in the chaotic spring 2013 convention that followed.

In fact, this news wasn’t revealed as the county filed suit against Delegate Michael Smigiel to recoup legal costs incurred in the Zeauskas lawsuit against Cecil County. My post happened to be the day she switched back, but it turns out I was correct in assuming she would wait until the legal coast was clear.

I find it very intriguing, though, that Zeauskas will get very little feedback about being critical of a fellow Republican elected official – but let a conservative blogger do the same thing and the cries of disloyalty spring up from several quarters. I’m sure what passes for a Democratic Party in Cecil County is enjoying the show, not that they have nothing else to run against since most county officials there are Republicans.

So I’ll welcome Tari back, even if her motives for leaving weren’t the purest. Let’s allow the debate to focus on policy, both now and once the candidates are known.

2013 Maryland GOP Fall Convention in pictures and text

I think I can get all this in one part. To be quite honest, this convention didn’t match the buildup.

It was sort of strange. I noted earlier in the week that the whole Lollar controversy in the blogosphere overshadowed the months-long debate over the open primary question, and then the prospect of a Larry Hogan gubernatorial announcement upstaged several other events.

These were the scenes around the main ballroom on Friday night after arrival.

There was no doubt that they were proud of their achievements.

And something tells me that most of these stickers were gone by the end of the night.

The Change Maryland party even had a live band, called the Great Escape Band. I noted on Facebook that may be something subliminal if Larry doesn’t win.

Aside from one song they sort of butchered up in my line of thinking, the band was really pretty good. They also reinforced my belief that there’s not a band which doesn’t know ‘Mustang Sally.’ Although he actually didn’t write the song Wilson Pickett must be proud, wherever he is.

But when they took their break, the real rock star came into the room.

What I have found interesting in looking back and listening again to what Larry said is that my interpretation is much different than what Larry presented to other outlets.

This, which I transcribed from the remarks he presented, is part of what Larry Hogan said last night:

Now everyone who knows me knows that I love this state, I hate to let people down, and that I’ve never walked away from a tough fight.

I’m not a professional politician – I’m just a businessman – but I don’t think that you need to be campaigning all throughout 2013 for an election that takes place at the end of 2014. But, you know, we are getting pretty close to the end of the year.

I promised my wife and family that I would spend a little quality time with them over the holidays, and I’m looking forward to that.

And as you may know I founded and run a group of companies that has brought hundreds of businesses and thousands of jobs to Maryland, and I promised the employees and my colleagues that I would stay at the helm and continue to work hard with them to try to have a strong finish to the calendar year.

So there won’t be a formal announcement or an official launch until January, but tonight – tonight I wanted to be very clear about our intentions.

I happen to believe very strongly that the people of Maryland simply cannot afford another four years of O’Malley/Brown/Gansler tax and spend policies.

Hogan went on to say, “This isn’t a fight between right and left, it’s a fight between right and wrong.

I honestly believe people went in there expecting Larry to make the formal announcement last night, so once he made his remarks a good percentage of the people left his party.

Of course, Hogan’s wasn’t the only party. Before I stopped by the Change Maryland event, I dropped in to Ron George’s suite which featured this.

I had one other photo which, alas, didn’t come out. Ron actually had a pretty lively thing going early on.

Just downstairs from Ron was David Craig’s suite. The candidate wasn’t there because he was at the RGA meeting in Arizona, but David had a lovely second-in-command to take his place.

LG hopeful Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio held down the fort. It’s worth noting they had pretty good traffic.

They also have a slew of printed material. I suppose you can cut out the Craig part if you really share the sentiment.

Instead of a suite, fellow candidate Charles Lollar (who was also in Arizona at the RGA) had a lobby table.

On the table, among the other handouts, was a letter explaining his absence, which read in part:

Unfortunately, this means I will miss the opportunity on Friday evening to meet with you, answer your questions, and tour the hospitality suites, but I look forward to joining everyone on Saturday to share my plans for returning prosperity to Maryland.

One place Charles may have found himself welcome was the Maryland Liberty PAC suite, which was all by itself on the other end of the building. Despite that, they had a lively group.

Alas, I think I missed this presentation.

The other suites were county suites from Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties. This photo was of the Anne Arundel suite, which by the way had the best food.

But it seemed like a lot of the air was sucked out of the celebrations early, with most of the parties finished before the clock struck 12. That’s when I took to Facebook and wrote:

So my thoughts on day 1 as I head to bed:

I’m sure I’m not the only one scratching my head over Larry Hogan and his decision to wait to announce his intentions until January. The chatter around the convention seemed, well, less than positive. He had 1,000 supporters in a festive mood and plenty of press only to cite family and business as reason to wait.

There were a number of good parties about, though, and I renewed acquaintances with a number of friends and fans. But pardon me if tomorrow seems a little less exciting.

I think I’ll have some more thoughts on all this tomorrow, but allow me to move on. They probably won’t be in line with the thoughts of these gentlemen: from left to right, Jeff Quinton of The Quinton Report and Greg Kline, Mark Newgent, and Andrew Langer of the Red Maryland Network.

And no, I was not on their show last night. Wasn’t sought out and didn’t seek them out – gave some others a chance.

This is what I saw looking out the window this morning.

So when I woke up, I was at least expecting to deal with this lengthy issue regarding open primaries – finally, a chance to decide. Wrong!

I suppose I should back up and point out that I did not cover the Friday evening Executive Committee meeting as I usually do. There were a couple reasons for this, but the primary one is that I was the escort for a good friend of mine who was the lucky recipient of my second Change Maryland ticket. But had I done so I may have found out that open primaries wouldn’t be discussed. Nor did I do breakfast this time, because the speaker didn’t appeal to me.

So the first (and only) Saturday event I attended was our combination lunch and session.

Let me say that I thought having the lunch and session as we did was a splendid idea, with the key reasons being we didn’t have to get settled in after lunch in a different venue and the fact we could sit at tables – no more balancing my note pad on my lap.

First we heard welcoming remarks by Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman.

Yes, the photo is dark. But Laura had an intriguing story of being an MBA without being a high school graduate. Her remarks reflected a philosophy which said “over and over, if I worked hard, opportunity would be available to me.”

“My story could only happen in this country,” she added. “That’s why I’m a Republican.” She expressed the belief that hard work should equal opportunity.

Our luncheon speakers both came from the RNC.

Kristal Quarker-Hartsfield is the director of African-American Initiatives whose family “has been Republican since Reconstruction.” Her task was to spread the Republican message to areas not typically reached by the party, including black churches, historically black colleges and universities, and so forth. She added that Reince Priebus was “serious about going into these communities and doing things the right way.”

Meanwhile, Stephen Fong noted there’s “a good mix of people” here, and talked about the GOP’s renewed emphasis on minority communities. He made the case that many blacks would “consider” voting Republican if we were “just showing up.”

There was a buzz about the next speaker as well.

Described by Chair Diana Waterman as the future of the party, Annapolis Mayor-elect Mike Pantelides briefly outlined some of his secrets to success, particularly in social media. (The Twitter debate seems like a good way to promote brevity of remarks.)

With that out of the way, we rolled through some convention business so routine I snapped this on the Allegany County sign.

I guess the one interesting part was the complaint that the minutes didn’t reflect a resolution which was on the spring agenda but not brought up – the Tari Moore resolution tabled a year ago. But parliamentary procedure showed it was dead once the gavel fell in April.

So we moved on to State Senator David Brinkley’s report on the Senate, where we have a “tremendous field of candidates.” He made sure to mention that if Anthony Brown thought he’d have a coronation, he should have a cup of coffee with Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

Brinkley bemoaned the economic state of the state, making the case that job creators are “voting with their feet” and “anyplace south of the Potomac is friendlier (to business) than Maryland.” If we want more manufacturing jobs, Brinkley added, “right-to-work has to be one of the conversations.”

Overall, David believed that “even the Democrats are disgusted with the games and gamesmanship.” All we need are candidates who are conversant with the issues.

On the House side, Delegate Kathy Szeliga was kind enough to pass out her report, which highlighted many of the measures to be considered in next year’s session. It’s a list which includes tax cuts, a repeal of the “rain tax” and Common Core, protecting charter schools and creating a voucher system, and modifications to the gun bill.

Moving into the Chair’s Report, Diana Waterman exhorted us to “take advantage of all the opportunities our liberal Democrats gave us.” She also pushed an initiative called the Old Line Club, which was a monthly fundraising of $8 or more a month, automatically deducted.

But I found the Executive Director’s Report from Joe Cluster made me sit up and take notice: county-by-county goals. Even the Republican strongholds of Carroll and Garrett counties had marching orders: hold what you have and help other counties out.

Nicolee Ambrose, in her National Committeewoman’s Report, touted the successes of the Super Saturday program in Annapolis and Frederick. It also served as a good test market for issue advocacy, and next year the program will be expanded and divided into pre-primary and post-primary positions.

She also related the success of 3-part fundraisers like the Allen West event in Prince George’s County as a model for others to follow.

On a national scale, Nicolee spoke on IT improvements the party was undertaking as well as the winter RNC meeting in Virginia.

As is often the case, National Committeeman Louis Pope was optimistic: “We’re going to have a phenomenal year in 2014,” he predicted. He shared good news on the financial front and on how the party was working on regaining its technological advantage. Moreover, Obama’s “Teflon-coated presidency is coming to an end,” said Louis.

Pope also spoke on Maryland, calling the state one with a “very angry electorate” and “very energized (GOP) base.”

Finally we made it to resolutions. Two of them made it out of committee and two didn’t.

The ones which were presented to the floor came from John Fiastro, Jr. and Dave Myers.

You could call Fiastro’s resolution the Don Dwyer resolution, since it seemed tailored with his situation in mind. But Delegate Michael Smigiel, who was carrying a proxy, spoke up and called it “too broad.” An amendment to allow for acts of civil disobedience to address Smigiel’s concerns failed on a voice vote when Smigiel noted “there’s not enough lipstick to put on this pig.”

Once the question was called, the Fiastro motion failed by a large margin, over 75 percent voting against.

The other resolution was one which called on the party to stop sending “mixed messages” and integrate the pro-liberty community. It lost on a voice vote, even after the “mixed message” portion was excised. But Diana Waterman promised to create an advisory committee to hear the diverse portions of the party after the first of the year. So we’ll see.

Certainly the Maryland Liberty PAC and other groups will be watching.

There was an attempt to get one other resolution to the floor concerning the Frederick robocall, which had some support. But more people wanted to adjourn, which was the motion presented by Nick Panuzio of Talbot County. He’s good at that. (Update: I’m told by Denise Lovelady of Talbot that it actually was Josh Horner who motioned to adjourn, but I heard the motion credited to Nick by the Chair. So let’s say Talbot County is good at that.)

Upon driving home, though, the four of us who traveled together saw perhaps the prettiest sunset we’d seen in quite some time, so I’m going to take it as a divine sign we did something right even if it wasn’t expected.

Cecil County wants its money back

November 11, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off 

The curious (and dismissed) case of Zeauskas v. Moore took another interesting turn last week as Cecil County filed a ten-page motion to recoup legal expenses from Delegate Michael Smigiel, who was the plaintiff’s counsel in the case.

At stake is the nearly $40,000 the county spent defending a case where the defendant claimed damage due to inaction by the plaintiff, in a case Cecil County argues was filed simply “(t)o make a public political splash, and in the process, to vex, delay, and oppress the efficient operation of County government.”

The motion also chides Smigiel, who has practiced law since 1989:

Legal counsel, particularly an attorney with Smigiel’s credentials and experience in government litigation, either knew, or should well have known, that the pleading tiled in this case was patently groundless. In fact, Defendants’ counsel, on three occasions prior to filing the Motions to Dismiss, sent correspondence to Smigiel specifically addressing the spuriousness of Plaintiffs action and requesting that the case be voluntarily dismissed.

It goes without saying that Smigiel has had a tough run of luck lately, as he lost this case shortly after losing his bid to be appointed as State Senator from District 36 to fellow Delegate Steve Hershey – a loss he didn’t take all that well. Add to it Mike’s valiant but fruitless effort to stop Maryland’s onerous new gun laws from passing and taking effect, and one may think he can’t wait for the General Assembly session to begin and allow him something new to do.

In the meantime, this could extend the Zeauskas case into our convention, and while I haven’t heard anything yet about resurrecting the call for censure of Cecil County Executive Tari Moore for abandoning the GOP shortly after her election in order to better control the appointment of her successor per the county’s charter, it wouldn’t shock me if the measure came up once again. It was tabled last fall before a binding vote could be made. My impression is that Moore is awaiting the conclusion of the case before reverting to the GOP fold; however, I’m not privy to any official word on this. (If she reads this, feel free to enlighten us.)

As I explained back in October at the conclusion of the case, this whole episode has probably assured Tari a primary opponent once 2016 rolls around. (This is assuming, of course, she officially changes her registration back.) But with Moore’s court triumph and the defeat of Smigiel in his effort to succeed political ally State Senator E.J. Pipkin after Pipkin’s startling resignation, it appears the turbulence in Cecil County politics may be closer to the end than to the beginning – much to the relief of county residents.

Case dismissed

In a spectacular flameout, the allegations of wrongdoing in the controversy over Cecil County Executive Tari Moore’s sudden affiliation change and subsequent appointment of a candidate not on the list submitted by the county’s Republican Central Committee were dismissed in the county’s Circuit Court via a seven-page decision by visiting Judge Thomas E. Marshall, a retired Harford County Circuit Court judge.

Download (PDF, 283KB)

Also dismissed in the suit due to a lack of standing was a claim that the county’s Tier Map was unlawfully submitted to the state.

The controversy closes another chapter in the ongoing war between supporters and opponents of former State Senator E.J. Pipkin and current Delegate Michael Smigiel. (Opponents have generally had the backing of former State Senator and now-Congressman Andy Harris, who defeated Pipkin as well as former Congressman Wayne Gilchrest in a bitter 2008 GOP Congressional primary.) Those allied with Smigiel control the county’s Republican Central Committee, and it was Chair Chris Zeauskas who filed the complaint. On the other hand, Tari Moore was backed by Harris in her quest to be Cecil County’s first executive.

Just before assuming office as the incoming County Executive last December, Moore suddenly changed her party affiliation from Republican to unaffiliated, making the switch because she wanted to bypass the county’s GOP Central Committee in selecting her successor. By becoming unaffiliated, she retained the right to pick once County Council became deadlocked in a 2-2 tie between Smigiel supporters and Harris allies. Eventually Moore picked Joyce Bowlsbey, a Republican. (The Republicans control all five seats on Cecil County Council, so this was an intraparty fight.) Judge Marshall agreed that, despite the GOP’s backing in the 2012 election, Moore’s status as unaffiliated at the moment of her resignation from County Council complied with the method of selection prescribed in the county’s Charter and eventually followed.

Yet there is one other piece of business on the table, notwithstanding the possibility of an appeal by Zeauskas. At last fall’s state GOP convention, a motion was made to censure Tari Moore for her “corrupt and reprehensible decision“; a motion which had support from some quarters but was tabled via a fairly close vote. Because of the abrupt cutoff of our Spring Convention this year, we did not revisit the Moore controversy but it may return next month at this year’s Fall Convention in Annapolis.

But now that the court case is settled, the question will be whether Moore rejoins the GOP fold. Those calling for her censure had a point in that Republicans backed her election in the primary; had she gone the independent route in 2012 she would have likely lost badly. Yet I’ve been assured by Moore’s backers that the decision to be unaffiliated was just temporary and would be rectified once the court case was settled. Obviously it would be to her benefit in 2016 to run as a Republican, although this episode has probably assured her of a primary opponent. She would have a hard time in a three-way general election race if the county GOP stays loyal to its nominee and the Democrats run someone, too.

So the clock is ticking. If she changes back before the state convention, the question of censure may be moot in a “no harm, no foul” sense. But if not, even the assurances of Andy Harris may not spare her the state party’s wrath.

Hershey appointed to District 36 Senate seat

The word came down last night from the victor himself:

I just received a call from the Governor’s office appointing me as the new Senator for District 36 – I am both thrilled and humbled by all the support I received during this appointment process. I am looking forward to serving the 36th District in this new role. Thank you again to all those that offered support, prayers and well wishes this was truly a humbling experience.

Steve Hershey wasn’t the longest shot, but going in he may not have been the favorite, either. Yet he secured the votes of two Central Committees in the four-county district and that was enough to forge a tie with fellow Delegate Michael Smigiel and throw the fate of the seat into the hands of Governor Martin O’Malley. Given Smigiel’s forceful opposition of O’Malley’s onerous gun law package this spring, you knew he would be punished by not getting the appointment he sought.

So Hershey gets the seat vacated by the resignation of former Minority Leader Senator E. J. Pipkin, who followed Rick Perry’s advice before the commercials even came out and moved to Texas. Now the scene shifts to the battle over Hershey’s vacated Delegate seat. As I recall, it cannot be filled by a resident of a county already represented in the district, so residents of Cecil County (Smigiel) and Kent County (Delegate Jay Jacobs, who did not seek the Senate post) would be excluded – but their Central Committees would have a vote.

Out of the original field of 14, all but three hailed from either Queen Anne’s County or Caroline County, which is the lone Maryland county without a resident Delegate. Not all of the remaining ten would seek the Delegate seat, but several probably would and they may be joined by a few others – one being Caroline County commissioner Jeff Ghrist, who made a lengthy plea on Facebook which I excerpt here:

Governor O’Malley will soon be selecting our new District 36 Senator and subsequently one of two House of Delegate seats will become available. This will require someone to fill a Delegate seat. Caroline County has been without a resident of our county representing us in Annapolis for nearly two decades. While I sincerely enjoy being a Commissioner in Caroline County…I would love to take my passion and experience for limited and efficient government to Annapolis.

(snip)

The first goal is to build a concensus (sic) throughout the district that I am the best appointment for Delegate. Not only do I have a strong legislative and executive track record but Caroline County deserves resident representation.

Ghrist has been seeking higher office for awhile; he briefly campaigned for Congress in 2009 before withdrawing and endorsing Andy Harris.

So we will probably have much the same circus we did for the Senate seat, with the real possibility of another split vote and Martin O’Malley breaking the tie.

Meanwhile, Hershey’s tenure may be short-lived. Former Delegate Richard Sossi is actively planning a run for the seat, as is 2010 U.S. Senate nominee Eric Wargotz. The same sort of situation may occur in the District 36 Delegate race next year, with several jockeying for position to be the top vote-getter in a particular county.

Long-term, the solution to that issue may be to enact 141 separate House of Delegate districts, instead of the confusing mishmash of having some three-person districts as well as a handful which are split in a 2-1 configuration. But in the meantime, the political races on the Eastern Shore may be some of the most interesting in the state with the District 36 openings, a primary challenge to the incumbent in District 37A, the opening in District 37B thanks to the selection of Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio to the David Craig gubernatorial ticket, the forced move of Delegate Mike McDermott to a challenge for the District 38 Senate seat due to redistricting, and a brand new District 38C with no incumbent.

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