The Primary 2016 postmortem, part 1

I knew Maryland wasn’t a typical conservative state, but I didn’t think that many Republicans would be fooled by Donald Trump’s act.

Late last night I wrote down some “gut instinct” predictions for the state, Congressional district, and county:

Pre-primary wild guesses:

Maryland for President: Trump 42.7, Kasich 27.4, Cruz 24.6, others 5.3 (mostly protests for Carson and Rubio.)

Wicomico for President: Trump 51.2, Cruz 30.7, Kasich 16.3, others (mostly Carson) 1.8.

Trump wins all 8 districts, although 1 or 2 are less than 5 points over Kasich.

For Senate overall: Szeliga 32.3, Kefalas 22.7, Douglas 19.3, Wallace 11.2, Hooe 8.7, the field 5.8.

Wicomico for Senate: Szeliga 41, Douglas 23.3, Wallace 14.7, Kefalas 12.6, Hooe 4.2, field 4.2.

First District overall: Harris 51.3, Smigiel 35.2, Jackson 6.8, Goff 6.7.

Wicomico First District: Harris 41.9, Smigiel 40.7, Goff 9, Jackson 8.4.

So let’s see how I did.

Well, first and foremost I underestimated Trump’s support. Looks like those rallies paid off in news coverage and creating the illusion he really cared about Maryland. John Kasich did some half-hearted stops here as well, and Ted Cruz made just one early on.

Trump is running about 12 points better than I thought statewide. Five of those points came out of my Kasich totals and six from Cruz. The rest come out of the “other” category that Carson (who was the only other candidate over 1%) and Rubio indeed led.

Here in Wicomico County, Trump outpaced me by fourteen points, and I blame the Berlin rally. I was actually not far off on Kasich (16.3 vs. 15.1 actual) but I am deeply disappointed with my fellow Wicomico voters for not supporting the real conservative left in the race, underperforming my expectation on Ted Cruz by almost 14 points – about the same as Trump overperformed. Ben Carson led the stragglers that exceeded my expectations by half again with 2.7%. And let me find a Volkswagen to house the three Santorum voters here in Wicomico.

While Trump won all eight Congressional districts by double-digit margins, it’s worth pointing out that Montgomery County (which is split among several Congressional districts) indeed only gave Trump a five-point win over John Kasich.

Yet if you thought I was shocked by the Trump margin, imagine the surprise when I saw how easily Kathy Szeliga decimated the U.S. Senate field. Getting on TV obviously made all the difference because the polling suggested a much closer race. And Chris Chaffee, who came in second, wasn’t even polled! But I was only about three points off on her.

I think what happened was the inevitability factor - Kathy had a lot more money and (dare I say) tacit MDGOP support. And it may have been a weakness in polling that the 40 to 50 percent undecided were really supporting someone who wasn’t named in the poll. If you look at the three or four who were polled (Szeliga, Kefalas, Douglas, Hooe) combined they only pulled 55% of the total vote statewide. Perhaps those “undecided” were really decided, with the various party factions splitting several ways. Obviously everyone except Szeliga horribly underperformed my expectations – well, except the “field.” Yet Kathy did worse than I expected here in Wicomico.

Now for Congress. There is so much complaining I hear about Andy Harris, but apparently this is a very loud, tiny minority I should have ignored. 10.8% overall for Mike Smigiel and just two votes more for him than Jonathan Goff in Wicomico? Get real. It turns out that the 22% who didn’t like Harris in the 2014 primary didn’t like him this time either, but split their vote three ways.

So my gut instinct wasn’t as good as it should have been – then again, the pollsters didn’t do very well here either and people pay them.

I also speculated Donna Edwards might pull off the upset over Chris Van Hollen, so it will be interesting to see what the minority turnout was for a primary that didn’t have a lot of suspense at the top. Apparently the coalition of Millennials who I thought would help Kefalas a little on the GOP side didn’t show up for Bernie Sanders or the more progressive Edwards, either.

Guess it might be time to clean off my radar since it seems to be broken. Lord knows my little endorsements didn’t help, either, but someone has to hold up the tattered and torn conservative banner in this state – may as well be me.

The one piece of good news I got tonight was that a great friend of monoblogue won her primary in Cecil County. Jackie Gregory took 55% of the vote in winning the District 5 primary, and unless there’s a write-in or independent campaign she will win in a walkover come November (no Democrat ran for the seat.) So congratulations to her!

For First District Congress

My final primary endorsement comes in a race that, for me, has come down to the wire: do I go for the known conservative quantity that’s part of one of the most unpopular institutions in the country or do I go for one of the upstarts in a hope to bring about change or a more libertarian direction?

Well, the answer became a little easier as I looked into two of the four GOP candidates. Both Jonathan Goff, who challenged Andy Harris in 2014 and got the 22% of the anti-Harris vote in that primary, and Sean Jackson have expressed their support for Donald Trump so that eliminates them automatically as not conservative.

Yet despite the entry of Goff and Jackson, the Congressional race has been figured all along as a two-man contest between Harris and former Delegate Mike Smigiel.

We pretty much know the backstory on Andy Harris: he served in the Maryland State Senate for a decade before challenging incumbent Republican Congressman Wayne Gilchrest in 2008. The problem with Wayne, as Harris and many others saw in the district, was that Gilchrest was too centrist for a conservative district. Harris ended up winning a contentious primary, alienating enough Gilchrest supporters in the process that Democrat Frank Kratovil (who Gilchrest eventually endorsed) won by a narrow plurality in the Obama wave election of 2008. (A Libertarian candidate took 2.5% of the vote, denying Kratovil a majority.)

Harris finished out his term in the State Senate as he plotted to challenge Kratovil, who served as a “blue dog” Democrat (case in point: he voted against Obamacare.) Winning a far less acrimonious GOP primary in 2010 over businessman Rob Fisher, Harris went on to defeat Kratovil by 12 points in the first TEA Party wave election of 2010. Since then Harris hasn’t been seriously challenged in either the primary or general elections, winning with 63.4% of the vote in 2012 and 70.4% in 2014 after Goff challenged him in the primary.

While Democrat Jim Ireton may think he has a shot against Harris, it’s very likely that Tuesday’s election is the deciding factor in who will be our representative to the 115th Congress. But Mike Smigiel is the first serious candidate with a pedigree to challenge for the First District seat since Harris and State Senator E.J. Pipkin, among others, both took on Wayne Gilchrest in 2008.

Like Harris, Smigiel served for 12 years in the Maryland General Assembly but he served in the House of Delegates, representing the upper Eastern Shore. This factor is an important one in determining who will be the better candidate, as their terms of service overlapped from 2003-2010. Smigiel ran for re-election in the 2014 primary, but finished fourth in a seven-person field. It’s worth noting that four of the District 36 contenders were from Smigiel’s Cecil County, which may have sapped his electoral strength – or reflected a dissatisfaction with Mike’s approach. Only one of them could have advanced, so in effect they cannibalized the primary vote.

Mike’s case for unseating Harris has evolved from an undertone of dissatisfaction from those who supported Harris for the seat. They say that Andy is not a fighter or a leader in the conservative movement, and long for a more libertarian Congressman perhaps in the mold of Justin Amash or Thomas Massie. To that end, Smigiel has advocated his case for a Constitutional, limited government, often waving his copy of the Constitution in a debate or forum session. His campaign has focused to a great extent on a number of Congressional votes that Harris has cast, particularly the 2014 CRomnibus bill.

In looking at this race, it should be pointed out that I saw Smigiel’s libertarian approach as an asset; however, I felt the strong emphasis on Harris’s voting record masked some of the real truth.

A key difference between the legislative process in Maryland and the federal sausage-grinding we find in Washington is that Congressional legislation is not limited to a single issue as Maryland’s is. You can take the CRomnibus bill as an example, as it was a compromise hammered out between the various factions of Congress. That’s not to say Harris made the correct vote, but Smigiel is counting on a bit of ignorance in how the system works. I could say the same thing about Smigiel since he voted for the first O’Malley budget while Harris voted no.

So let’s talk about voting records, shall we? Because voting in a federal legislature is not the same as voting on state matters, we have an apples-to-oranges comparison between Harris and Smigiel. But over the eight years both men served in the General Assembly, a more apples-to-apples approach is possible.

Since 2007, I have done the monoblogue Accountability Project, so it covers the last four years that Harris and Smigiel served together. As an aggregate, I found that Smigiel voted as I would have 77.7% of the time, or 101 times out of 130. On the other hand, Harris was “correct” 89.1% of the time, or 122 times out of 137.

I even went back and found three years’ worth of data on the old Maryland Accountability Project that mine continued. While the author perhaps had a different standard of what he considered “conservative,” in each of those three years (2003-2005) Harris had a higher score: 84%-60% in 2003, 80%-75% in 2004, and 84%-83% in 2005. (The 2006 results were not available for the House, but Harris only scored 65% in the Senate – so Smigiel may have prevailed that year.)

Yet these are not “clean” comparisons, either, because in my case I hadn’t streamlined the process of doing the mAP yet. (Since 2011, both House and Senate ratings are based on the same bills.) So I went back and tried to locate the cases in my work where Harris and Smigiel voted the opposite way. There were a handful that over time have mattered less, but I would like to point out a few items that Harris favored and Smigiel opposed, since Mike has attacked Andy’s record:

  • Smart, Green, and Growing – Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission (2010) – replaced a task force with the MSGC, an O’Malley-sponsored bill.
  • Higher Education Investment Fund – Tuition Stabilization and Funding (2010) – a spending mandate O’Malley also sought.
  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act of 2009 – this was a horrible bill that established and codified carbon reductions into state law.

One can definitely argue that Harris was trying to soften his image with these votes, since they came after his unsuccessful 2008 run.

But there is another side: those bills that Smigiel favored and Harris opposed:

  • Other Tobacco Products Licenses (2010) – required separate licenses for those who sell cigars, snuff, or pipe tobacco. Harris was one of just 7 in the MGA to oppose this.
  • High Performance Buildings Act – Applicable to Community College Capital Projects (2010) – required LEED Silver or above ratings.
  • Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – Maryland Strategic Energy Investment Program (2008) – an O’Malley bill to spend RGGI money.
  • Environment – Water Management Administration – Wetlands and Waterways Program Fees (2008) – established a fee of up to $7,500 an acre for certain developments.
  • Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Critical Area Protection Program – Administrative and Enforcement Provisions (2008) – additional mandates on local government.
  • High Performance Buildings Act (2008) – the precursor to the 2010 act above.
  • Maryland Clean Cars Act of 2007 – an O’Malley bill requiring California emissions for Maryland cars, which added cost to new cars.
  • Higher Education – Tuition Affordability Act of 2007 – another O’Malley bill that extended an artificial tuition freeze.
  • Electricity – Net Energy Metering – Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard – Solar Energy (2007) - a good old-fashioned carveout, picking a winner.

It seems to me there’s a major difference on environmental issues between Smigiel and Harris, and while that may not matter so much at a federal level my belief that “green is the new red” leads me to think that Smigiel’s pro-liberty case isn’t as airtight as we are led to believe.

I can go all night looking at voting records, but there is one other thing I’d like to point out.

Last week I criticized Smigiel for spending part of the weekend before the primary at a cannabis convention, a stance he took exception to in a private message to me. Without divulging the full conversation, which I assumed was just for my private use, the upshot was that he argued there were going to be fundraising benefits for him as well as possible job creation in the 1st District. I can buy that argument, but if it hinges on him winning the primary Job One has to be getting the votes.

So it was interesting that a friend of mine shared a card her daughter received, which looks like the one below.

420 USA PAC Smigiel postcard

My friend speculated the card was targeted to a certain age group of Millennials since her daughter was the only one in the house to receive it. Yet the card isn’t from Mike’s campaign but instead an organization called 420 USA PAC, which advocates for cannabis legalization.

Of course, my personal stance is not all that far from Mike’s, but we also have two laboratories of democracy in Colorado and Washington state to see how the legalization of marijuana plays out. Smigiel argues the District of Columbia cannabis initiative is a state’s rights issue but should know that in the Constitution Congress is responsible to “exercise exclusive Legislation in all cases whatsoever” over the District per Article I, Section 8. So Harris performed some oversight.

On the other hand I can vouch for Andy being in the district over the weekend. Perhaps this is a classic conservative vs. libertarian matchup, although both men are well-accepted in the pro-life community.

This has been an endorsement I have had to think long and hard about; luckily it’s a case where I could easily work for the other gentleman if he will have me.

But I have decided that Andy Harris deserves another term in Congress. Saying that, though, it’s obvious people will be watching and if I were Mike Smigiel I wouldn’t dismiss trying again in 2018 because we could use his kind of voice in Congress as well. Think of the next two years as a probationary period for Harris.

So allow me to review my three endorsements for the major races.

For President, I urge you to vote for the remaining true conservative in the race, Ted Cruz. He has six people running for Delegate and Alternate Delegate who need your votes as well (although my friend Muir Boda is on the ballot, too.)

For U.S. Senate, I had a hard time deciding between Dave Wallace and Richard Douglas, but the backbone Richard Douglas has shown earned him my endorsement and vote.

And finally, retain Andy Harris as our Congressman.

Just don’t forget to vote Tuesday. It’s up to us to begin turning Maryland into a more conservative state – not just trying to teach the benefits of conservatism to an audience charitably described as skeptical but making sure we vote in the right manner as well.

How to lose a Congressional race in one speech

If any post I’ve ever done deserved to be put up on 4/20, it’s this one. But suffice to say there are times when the perfect becomes the enemy of the good, and for Congressional candidate Mike Smigiel that point may have been reached.

On Monday I received a press release from the Smigiel campaign promoting his appearance as a featured speaker at the National Cannabis Festival, an event to be held Saturday in Washington, D.C. Held for the first time this year, the Cannabis Festival promotes itself as:

More than just a festival, NCF is a chance to connect with members of the cannabis community and industry from across the country while enjoying a full day of music, games, delicious food and drink.

In the release, there was a rationale provided for Smigiel’s remarks:

The Maryland 1st District Congressional Race is of national importance and serves as a barometer to gauge the mood of the country regarding removal of barriers for the cannabis industry. (Andy) Harris is seeking re-election in a tough primary that Marylanders will be voting in on April 26th, and Del. Smigiel has released polling that suggests that when voters know of Harris’ votes, including his actions with cannabis prohibition, residents will not vote for Harris at an overwhelming majority.  Industry supporters are upset because Congress renewed the prohibition on the District’s government from spending any funds to set up a legal market for marijuana distribution and taxation, a move lead by Congressman Harris. There is a deep seeded negative sentiment against Rep. Harris as he is seen as an exemplification of the worst of big government overreach when he interfered with District voters’ attempt to follow Colorado, Washington State and others in exercising political autonomy with Initiative 71. The initiative appeared on the ballot and was approved by voters, only to have Rep. Harris successfully lead the effort to block the District government’s implementation efforts. Since that time, several unintended consequences have resulted from Rep. Harris’ paternalism.

The District is still unable to tax and or otherwise control the manufacturing and distribution of marijuana thus is losing out on tens of millions of dollars of new tax revenue.

Harris’ vote against the District not only exemplifies the overreach of big government it is also indicative of an arrogance where elected servants of our government presume to have a better understanding of our needs than we, the electorate do. The ramifications are far reaching throughout Maryland’s 1st District as well, affecting opportunities for the development of agricultural crops, business, and also resulted in a boycott of Ocean City, Maryland.

I get all that argument (aside from the state’s rights argument, since the District of Columbia is not a state), but perhaps the weekend before the election is not the best time to be hanging out with a crowd that few in the First District would identify with. Even worse is the idea of promoting recreational drug use (and let’s get real, most of the support for the “cannabis industry” isn’t so we can produce more industrial hemp) at a time when the local headlines often shout about yet another death by drug overdose. Simply put, the optics are really bad on this one. What may grab you another handful of votes among those who are passionate about the issue will turn off a lot of people who are already concerned about the impact of drugs on crime and on society at large.

And in what may be the sharpest 180 degree turn ever in politics, the chances are pretty good (since he appeared at last August’s rendition) that Smigiel will spent at least some of his morning protesting Planned Parenthood in Easton since that event is also Saturday. (Harris may also make an appearance for that same reason.) I don’t think the devout pro-life crowd would much approve of the National Cannabis Festival, and in the case of abortion Harris can claim pro-life groups’ support despite the objections Smigiel puts up.

There is definitely a libertarian streak in me that likes how Smigiel looks at certain issues, and he’s made his campaign into one that is a near-constant diatribe about what he feels is the hypocrisy between Andy Harris the campaigner and speaker and Andy Harris the Washington insider Congressman. A lot of that is legitimate, but the question is just how much of that comes with the territory. Unfortunately, purists seldom make it far in politics, especially on the conservative side.

Yet in making his point about how Harris is not a Tenth Amendment kind of guy, Smigiel is taking the time that I feel would be better served in the district trying to win votes in what’s already an uphill battle. I know Mike’s been working hard for nearly a year to make his case to the people of the First District, but unless there’s a fundraising element involved in his Washington trip (and I highly doubt this) in my opinion it’s an unforced error to spend valuable time just before the primary to tell the cannabis industry how bad Andy Harris is.

Despite what Jim Ireton might believe, the election for the First District seat occurs April 26. If Mike Smgiel loses a close election, I suppose he will have the cold comfort of losing on a particular principle.

WCRC meeting – March 2016

It was double-barreled action at last night’s Wicomico County Republican Club meeting, perhaps appropriate because one of the speakers was Second Amendment advocate and Congressional hopeful Mike Smigiel. He was joined by a fellow challenger seeking the open United States Senate seat from Maryland, Dave Wallace.

Because we had out-of-town speakers, we quickly went through the usual business of reciting the Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and introducing the elected officials and distinguished guests among us. I noted the February minutes were online, and treasurer-elect Muir Boda gave us a financial update.

Because Wallace was the first to arrive, he spoke first.

As an opening statement, Wallace vowed to represent all of Maryland “for the first time in 30 years.” He pointed out that “we’ve been going (in) the wrong direction,” so it was time to “alter our course until you get it just right.” Instead of the government’s favored cure of increasing taxes and regulations, Wallace advocated for what he termed a “maximum wage” that government can’t supply.

Wallace spoke at length about the Reagan years in his remarks, adding that he knew a number of his associates and opining in response to a question that we “needed a Jack Kemp model” for a Senator. He contrasted himself with prospective opponent Chris Van Hollen, who Wallace challenged for Congress in 2014, calling Van Hollen the “superfailure” of the supercommittee that, among other things, cut the defense budget. Echoing Reagan on the topic, Dave noted he believed in peace through strength.

Yet one topic Wallace expounded more at length on was a subject where I think Reagan erred, immigration. Dave stated his belief that the situation at the border now contributed to the drug problem; moreover, Wallace stated that up to 15% of the Syrian refugees were embedded by ISIS, and added that on his website was a petition calling on Congress to confront the refugee problem. If immigration wasn’t dealt with, said Wallace, we’ll end up with an America where we won’t want to raise our kids – this was a problem of culture and values.

On topics brought up by the audience, Wallace established his limited-government argument with a call to reduce the federal involvement in education, vowing to eliminate the Department of Education and saying “Common Core has got to go.” He thought that it’s not the role of the federal government to enforce the rules of education, but rightfully was that of the states. Additionally, rather than the “apple” that represents the preferred politicians of the teachers’ unions, Wallace believed candidates on the conservative side should use a school bus as their logo.

Shifting gears to the oversight responsibility of Congress, Wallace chided the body for not doing that job. He called for the heads of all 180 welfare programs to be brought before Congress to justify their programs’ existence.

Wallace concluded that Maryland needs someone in the Senate who will partner with Larry Hogan, and rather than the supply-side economics associated with Reagan conservatism Wallace envisioned a model based on production and ability to work that would lift our economy.

Later, when the conversation turned to a bill regarding forced unionization in Maryland, Dave added that he supported a federal right-to-work bill and would sponsor it in the next Congress. Dave believed that in right-to-work states, “unions were more concerned and responsive.”

The winner of an award for “upholding the Constitution,” Mike Smigiel spent 12 years in the Maryland House of Delegates, including the creation of the TEA Party Caucus. In his last four, Smigiel remarked, he shared office space and a desk in the chamber with local Delegate Mike McDermott, with whom he made “a pretty strong team.”

Yet the reason Smigiel sought the Congressional seat was his disgust with the voting record of the incumbent. Calling it a vote for funding Obamacare, executive amnesty, and abortion, Mike blasted the Republican leadership and Andy Harris for supporting the CRomnibus bill in 2014. He remarked that Democrats don’t settle or think they can’t accomplish their goals, but Republicans in Congress give up their principles far too easily.

Other bills that Smigiel hammered Harris about were an in-state tuition for illegal immigrants bill both voted on in the Maryland General Assembly as well as a bill regarding country of origin labeling – Harris backed a bill that allowed companies to not label for country of origin, about which Smigiel asked if you wouldn’t like to know if your chicken you thought was locally produced was instead imported from China.

(While the bill seems to be anti-consumer, it is worth noting that it is a response to a WTO complaint from Canada.)

Other Harris measures that angered Smigiel was a bill which he alleged became part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, and Harris’s support of a bill opposed by state regulators who want Exelon Energy to meet certain conditions before their permit to operate the Conowingo Dam is renewed for over 40 years.

On the other hand, during the eight years of the O’Malley administration Mike sued them three times for actions he considered unconstitutional. In one case regarding a $1.5 billion budget item, the state court ruled against him quickly but took five years to render their formal opinion because the “question is too political.” When it comes to matters such as these, “you stand on principle and you fight,” said Smigiel.

Those principles are embodied in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, copies of which Smigiel passed out before he began speaking. But Congress was seeing its authority usurped by “a potentate President,” added Mike, who said he would be the guy to shout out “you lie!” His principle was that of “the Constitution first, always.” We needed to have the government run in accordance with the Constitution; to that end, Smigiel advocated for single-subject bills that would make legislating easier to understand.

I asked him a question which addressed a tactic the presumptive Democratic nominee for the seat, Jim Ireton, was using of painting Harris as a do-nothing Congressman. Smigiel reminded us that he had worked across the aisle with Heather Mizeur on a pre-natal care bill that got mothers care they needed while saving thousands of abortions, as well as decriminalization of marijuana legislation.

That ended the speaking portion of the program, although both Wallace and Smigiel stuck around to talk with the voters once we finished our business.

In his Central Committee report, Mark McIver announced we were still seeking applicants for the Board of Education seats opening up later this summer. He also distributed a proof copy of a mailing to be sent out to unaffiliated and certain Democrat voters reminding them that they can still change their voter registration until April 5th. The mailing is a joint effort between the Central Committee and Republican Club.

Updating us on the Ted Cruz campaign, Julie Brewington assessed that “things are going pretty well.” They are looking for volunteers to make phone calls as well as some local sign locations. Dave Wallace chimed in to say he was also looking for the same thing locally. He had brought a few yard signs and shirts as well.

(Unfortunately, the ones on the bottom left didn’t end up in the garbage. #NeverTrump.)

Shelli Neal, who was speaking for Jackie Wellfonder on behalf of Senate candidate Kathy Szeliga, announced they would be knocking on doors soon.

In club news, Woody Willing announced our scholarship winners had been selected and would be introduced next month. Jim Jester told us that he would be coordinating this year’s Crab Feast, for which we needed to nail down the date and location.

Finally. John Palmer from the Board of Education revealed that Dr. Donna Hanlon would be the new Wicomico County superintendent of schools. and one of her first challenges would be redistricting.

So the candidates said their piece, the audience got their questions in, and we will roll along up to next month’s meeting on April 25 with a speaker to be determined. Chances are this will be our legislative wrapup meeting.

Odds and ends number 82

It’s time once again to go through my e-mailbox and share some of the more interesting things I saved for just such a purpose.

There wasn’t much play from this in the national media, but recently the Americans for Limited Government group released a poll they commissioned from pollster Pat Caddell that showed wide opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement:

Republicans are even more likely to oppose bad trade deals than Independents or Democrats. Once they find out what’s in it, Republican voters overwhelmingly oppose TPP, 66 percent to 15 percent. Democrats only oppose it 44 percent to 30 percent, and Independents oppose it 52 percent to 19 percent.

TPP does sound like a bad deal, but the key words are “once they find out what’s in it.” To me, it’s a little bit of a push poll but in reading some of the other findings we can deduce that Americans are a little pissed off about the state of their affairs, blaming the politics of Washington for their plight. I’ll come back to that in a bit, but as for the TPP and its opposition the ALG group has put together a website with their thoughts on the deal.

While as I noted the national media didn’t make much of it, the question did make it into the Miami GOP debate.

I noted that the voters Caddell surveyed were upset with inside the Beltway politics, and in a recent column at Conservative Review Dan Bongino discusses why.

Whenever government tries to pick economic winners and losers, it usually picks the losers, while the political winners continue to get re-elected because their campaign coffers are filled with business lobbyists eager to get their snouts in the taxpayer-funded trough.

In so many ways this explains the rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump to the left of center and Ted Cruz (who Bongino has endorsed) to the right. For years I’ve known that the object of government is not to solve a problem but to perpetuate the solution to make the agency tasked to deal with it indispensable, yet those whose livelihood depends on big government continue to stay close to the seat of power. In Maryland it’s no surprise that the wealthiest areas are those right outside Washington, D.C. I’ve contended for about as many years that if not for the nation’s capital Maryland would be in the same boat as West Virginia.

Speaking of Trump, I suppose I’ll add my couple pennies to the nearly $2 billion of free media he’s received. But staying on the subject of Bongino, he discusses the protests Trump is enduring, most famously in Chicago but after Dan went to press with his column Trump had more strife in Arizona yesterday.

What these far-left mobs are seeking is known as the “heckler’s veto.” The heckler’s veto occurs when an organized group of far-left protestors actively cause unrest and violence at an event, and then use the threat of violence at the event to call for future events to be shut down and the speaker to be silenced. This scam has been going on for a long time. I’ve seen it again and again. As a supporter of Senator Cruz for the presidency, I’m asking all conservatives, libertarians, Republicans, and fed-up Democrats to do the right thing and stand against these tyrannical tactics, regardless of who you are supporting for the presidency.

Trump isn’t the only one who has endured the heckler’s veto. Just ask speakers like Ben Shapiro – who, by the way, is slated to be at Salisbury University Monday, March 28.

But Trump supporters and Ben Shapiro may not be on speaking terms considering Shapiro’s recent resignation from the Breitbart website. In fact, the #NeverTrump forces seem to be coalescing behind Erick Erickson and his Resurgent website. There we find the “Conservatives Against Trump” statement, which reads in part:

We are a group of grassroots conservative activists from all over the country and from various backgrounds, including supporters of many of the other campaigns. We are committed to ensuring a real conservative candidate is elected. We believe that neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump, a Hillary Clinton donor, is that person.

We believe that the issue of Donald Trump is greater than an issue of party. It is an issue of morals and character that all Americans, not just those of us in the conservative movement, must confront.

We call for a unity ticket that unites the Republican Party.  If that unity ticket is unable to get 1,237 delegates prior to the convention, we recognize that it took Abraham Lincoln three ballots at the Republican convention in 1860 to become the party’s nominee and if it is good enough for Lincoln, that process should be good enough for all the candidates without threats of riots.

We encourage all former Republican candidates not currently supporting Trump to unite against him and encourage all candidates to hold their delegates on the first ballot.

Lastly, we intend to keep our options open as to other avenues to oppose Donald Trump.  Our multiple decades of work in the conservative movement for free markets, limited government, national defense, religious liberty, life, and marriage are about ideas, not necessarily parties.

Right now the Republicans have a leader who hasn’t cracked the 50% barrier in any state (and only has done so among the few dozen voters in the territory of the Northern Mariana Islands.) In fact, Trump has received about 35% of the Republican primary and caucus vote, with some of his broadest support coming in open primary states. Is it not conceivable that there’s a reverse Operation Chaos going on from Democrats to elect the weakest possible GOP nominee, one that regularly gets thumped in head-to-head polling against Hillary Clinton and has negatives over 60%?

It’s obvious Erickson and his group realizes people are fed up, but they realize the answer is not Trumped-up populism but the bold colors of conservatism. Of the remaining candidates, Ted Cruz is the best example.

There’s also the question of whether people are ticked off enough to remove their Congressman. I haven’t heard about any major primary upsets so far this campaign (most states have only done Presidential preference) but Maryland First District voters will have their chance to hear from the most serious challenger to Congressman Andy Harris several times over the primary campaign’s last month. Former Delegate Mike Smigiel is in the midst of a series of townhall meetings around the district: he had his Salisbury meeting while I was on my honeymoon and was in Easton yesterday, but there are several remaining dates. Next Saturday Smigiel will be in Carroll County for a 1:30 meeting at the Taneytown Library, but more important to local readers are upcoming gatherings in Cambridge at the Dorchester Library on Friday, April 1 and two meetings on Saturday, April 9: 11 a.m. at the Somerset County Library in Princess Anne and 2 p.m. at the Kent County branch library in Chestertown. (That may involve some fast driving.)

Finally, the rancor even extends to the local level. Smigiel and Harris have had bad blood over the years in Cecil County (which Smigiel represented in the House of Delegates) but that county – which is almost the same size as Wicomico County, so it’s not a greatly populous county compared to others in Maryland – seems to have an outsized share of political infighting. The most recent instance came to my attention a few days ago when their Campaign for Liberty chapter attacked local County Council candidate Jackie Gregory in an e-mail I received. Her cardinal sin? Supporting what the C4L considers “establishment politicians.” On their Facebook page C4L sneers, “Gregory’s desire to become part of the Cecil County political establishment apparently outweighs the tea party principles she claims to adhere to.” (Gregory is a founding member of the Cecil County Patriots TEA Party group.)

Well, let me tell you about this “establishment” candidate: she is a supporter of mine and has been for some time. The time C4L should have acted was finding a candidate to oppose Gregory in the primary – at least one who has more than the 2.9% support he received when running for County Executive there in 2012. (Note that Paul Trapani may not be the Campaign for Liberty’s choice, either – but they are the only two on the ballot. Unless an independent bid crops up over the summer, the winner of the GOP primary will become the County Council member after the November election since no Democrat ran.) So I have made a modest donation to Jackie’s campaign and encourage more people do so.

Perhaps what is annoying to the C4L crew is Jackie’s stance on the County Executive race:

I am supportive of all of the candidates having a good, positive race which highlights the issues important to the county and their vision regarding how to deal with those issues. Each of them has a history, a record, and a voice. It is up to each of them to convince the voters that he is the best person to lead Cecil County for the next four years. I am confident that the voters will choose wisely.

Seems fair to me, since there are four running on the GOP side.

Here’s the thing about groups like the Campaign for Liberty: they’re great at bringing up issue advocacy but not so good at getting people elected. Sure, they will say that the establishment stacks the deck against them but at least Gregory has made the step of putting her beliefs into action by stepping forward to run for office rather than use her candidacy to create a hit piece to beg for money.

So ends this cauldron of trouble I have now stirred up. The other day I was called an “ass” by a Trump supporter, but as I told him I have been called far worse by much better people. Then again, I still sleep well at night so I must be doing something right. On that note, have a great week.

Andy Harris endorses Ben Carson: too little too late?

Multiple reports today revealed that our Congressman, Andy Harris, became the first member of Congress to endorse Dr. Ben Carson for President, taking time to join Carson on the campaign trail in South Carolina today. Said Harris, in part:

(Carson) will restore America to greatness – not as a punch line in a campaign, but as a belief in returning America to its Constitutional roots. What we saw in the debate last Saturday reminds us just how much we need someone thoughtful like Dr. Carson in the White House.

Given the position in the polls the good doctor (Carson, not Harris) has fallen to in the Presidential race, one has to wonder if this will stop the bleeding in Ben’s foundering campaign. Despite protestations to the contrary from Carson loyalists, there’s no question that he has lost his luster since being one of the frontrunners last fall. Currently on a national level Carson polls fifth with 6% of the vote, according to the RCP average. (To be fair, the most recent poll cited has Carson at a much more healthy 10 percent.) In the Palmetto State, Carson is also right around 6 percent, but that put him (on average) in last place among the six remaining GOP contenders, with one poll placing him in fifth.

So to say Carson has an uphill battle is to put it mildly. On a national political basis, one has to wonder if an endorsement by a Congressman, regardless of how well-known he is around the country, would have made more impact back in November when Carson was near the top.

But if you take this to a more local scale and consider the race Harris has at home, an endorsement of Carson could make more sense. If you polled the First Congressional District, I suspect Carson would at least double his national total and 10 percent is a significant chunk in the Congressional primary. If Carson is still in the race come April, there’s a pretty good chance he would do some campaigning in the region because it would be one of his stronger areas. (Maryland shares an April 26 date with four other states: Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.) A stop or two in the First District with the popular Carson could drive the pro-life constituency over to Harris, since his opponent Mike Smigiel has made hay over remarks Harris made at a Planned Parenthood protest in August.

And even if Carson is out of the running, I would say the chances are pretty good he’ll be assisting the Harris re-election bid to some extent, particularly in the primary. (I would think that prohibitive Democratic nomination favorite Jim Ireton will have a contrasting position to Harris’s on the subject, so there’s no real need for Carson to buttress Harris on social issues in the general election.) If you want a popular draw locally, you probably can’t go wrong with Carson.

So I’m going to count this as an endorsement more for the sake of the Congressman than the Presidential candidate. After all, besides being the leading voice against decriminalizing marijuana in Washington, D.C. there isn’t a whole lot Andy Harris is known for on a national scale. In certain areas of the GOP, this is an endorsement well worth making.

The Smigiel 2A townhall

By Cathy Keim

Editor’s note: While I was off on my honeymoon, Cathy Keim took the lead and attended Congressional challenger Mike Smigiel’s Second Amendment townhall meeting Saturday. She filed this report on the proceedings.

I dropped by the 2A Townhall on Saturday, February 6, at Headquarters Live here in Salisbury. Former Delegate Mike Smigiel, who is running for Congress as a Republican in the First Congressional district, is holding 2A Townhall meetings around the district to address the ex post facto confiscation of guns for old offenses prior to the passage of the Firearm Safety Act of 2013 (SB 281).

First to speak at the Smigiel event, though, was Justin Trader, a former Marine who now runs D. I. Strategic, LLC, here in Salisbury. “The Second Amendment is the ultimate safeguard to protect our rights,” said Trader, adding that it is not just about hunting or collecting guns; instead the amendment’s main purpose is to safeguard us from tyranny amongst us. He quoted Abraham Lincoln that the enemy which destroys America would not be from far away, but from amongst us. Justin also believed that today we are under the government that our founders warned us about.

Next up was retired Maryland State Police (MSP) Captain Jack McCauley, who was the former commander of their Licensing Division. That agency is the one which oversees background checks for firearms in the state. McCauley spoke about being asked to testify before the House Judiciary Committee about SB281 back when it was being debated in 2013. Smigiel, who was a Delegate at the time, asked him if the ban of certain guns would have an effect on crime. But when McCauley tried to answer the question, Governor O’Malley’s lawyer advised him not to. McCauley was shocked because he thought the whole purpose of his appearance was to answer questions.

The hearing erupted in arguments, but Captain McCauley did not answer the question in order to obey the direct order of an agent of the governor’s office. Later, after the hearing, the agent told him that she directed him not to answer because the bill was “not about policy - it is just votes.”

This served as the wakeup call for McCauley, who realized the Firearm Safety Act was all politics and had nothing to do with the safety of the citizens. The Governor’s office was only interested in the number of guns seized, so it really didn’t matter whether manpower was wasted doing work that would not increase safety or decrease crime.

Had McCauley answered Smigiel’s question at the committee hearing, McCauley would have answered that the law would not decrease crime at all. For one thing, the banned weapons were rarely used in crimes. Secondly, the restriction on the magazines to only ten rounds would not stop people from buying larger magazines from out of state, but would only restrict which guns and magazines could be bought in Maryland by law-abiding citizens.

The O’Malley administration was only concerned with the political capital to be gained by passing the law, continued McCauley, and not whether it was a good law or whether it would actually achieve any reduction in crime. McCauley contends that by forcing the MSP to do three background checks on every citizen that wants to buy a handgun, valuable manpower is being wasted doing paperwork instead of being out on the streets.

McCauley concluded by noting that he resigned so that he could tell the truth. It was his belief that there was only one legislator working for the people and that legislator was Mike Smigiel.

Once those two speakers set the stage, Smigiel came up to present his concerns about Maryland’s treatment of the Second Amendment. Smigiel revealed that he had come to Headquarters Live at the request of Jeremy Norton, the man who runs both that venue and Roadie Joe’s, the location of the fundraiser that followed the townhall meeting.

Mike explained that Jeremy had contacted him in response to an event which had occurred to Norton, but one which was occurring all across Maryland. As a businessman and a gun owner, Norton was given clearance to own his guns. But after SB281 was passed the MSP began checking the records for prior offenses that would not have precluded legal ownership prior to SB281′s passage, but now would affect their legal right to own a gun. Smigiel alleged that the MSP was showing up at gunowners’ homes, without warrants, and asking for their registered guns.

In Norton’s case, a juvenile conviction for selling a small amount of marijuana was enough to give the MSP reason to confiscate his guns, alleging that under SB281 he was now disqualified. However, since it was a juvenile offense, he will be eligible to reclaim his guns when he turns 30. (Isn’t that just charitable of the state of Maryland?)

This provision of the law also traps those who may have committed a crime decades ago; when the penalty changed to require a longer sentence some were suddenly retroactively determined to be unfit to possess a gun according to the state of Maryland. Needless to say, Mike is concerned that this law will lead to an unnecessary tragedy because the MSP sends plainclothes police to confiscate guns. Smigiel has spoken to Governor Hogan’s office and asked him to intervene before a tragedy occurs.

Mike has also written an article in the Maryland Bar Journal that covers the issue, where he concludes:

In light of the Doe court’s position prohibiting the ex post facto application of the law against convicted sex offenders, it is unconscionable that the Maryland State Police could continue applying gun laws, ex post facto, against citizens who are merely wishing to continue exercising their Second Amendment rights.

Jack McCauley stated in the Q&A that followed that gun confiscation schemes are ineffective in reducing crime, so why waste time harassing law abiding citizens?

Yet the whole mindset of the progressives in their battle to disarm America seems to be their pure-hearted conviction that the only way to make us safe is to disarm everybody. Facts to the contrary do not impinge upon their plans.

Once again we see that the battle for our country is waged in the hearts and minds of citizens that have opposing views of reality. The progressive supporters have embraced the propaganda that is being churned out daily by the media, the leadership, the schools, and Hollywood. Just as they will believe in global warming despite the lack of evidence, they will confiscate guns in spite of the abundance of evidence saying it will not make us safer.

While he’s actively trying to win a Congressional seat, Smigiel really didn’t speak about his campaign at the townhall meeting. But his determination to follow his principles and to fight for our Constitutional rights came through loud and clear. From his record as a Delegate, one can see that he will stand his ground if elected to Congress. Personally I have no doubt that he would continue to be a Constitutionalist despite the pressures of the lobbyists and donor class.

A trio of events

Before I step aside for a few days, there are some things I’ve been meaning to push. I’ll do these in chronological order of occurrence.

I had wondered when the First District challenger would have an event in Salisbury, but he has the uncharacteristic bad luck of picking the weekend I’m away (this Saturday) to do a combination townhall and fundraiser at two popular downtown venues. So I will just pass this on without additional comment, except for noting that the Roadie Joe’s event is $40 (or $30 if you’re wearing camo or hunter orange.)

Another would-be challenger is bringing one of the last stops on his three-day announcement tour to Salisbury University next Wednesday. SU is the penultimate stop on the tour for U.S. Senate candidate Dave Wallace, who will stop at Holloway Hall next Wednesday, February 10th, around 4 p.m. (His day will wrap up in Easton before returning the vehicle to the Western Shore.)

As his campaign’s advance person pointed out:

If you have owned or operated a business on the Eastern Shore, you know how hard it has been to work with all the new laws, regulations, fees and taxes. When did Senator Barbara Mikulski, our Democrat US Senator for 30 years, decide to work with Safran Labinal, one of Wicomico County’s largest companies, with more than 650 workers?  When they announced they were moving to Denton, Texas – a bit too late, don’t you think?  Have you wondered why Perdue AgriBusiness is planning to build their corporate offices in Delmar, DE? Could it be that Delaware is more business friendly?

Wallace will be the second candidate to announce in Salisbury, as Kathy Szeliga made a swing through town in November.

Finally, I took advantage of a rare weekday off to attend yesterday’s Republican Women of Wicomico monthly meeting. (Yes, there were three guys there, including speaker Muir Boda.) But they wanted me to pass along word of their Paint Night fundraiser on Thursday, February 11 at Brew River. It goes from 6 to 8 p.m. and the cost is $40. Men are invited and encouraged to both attend the fundraiser and be associate members of the group, said RWOW president Julie Brewington. (Associate membership is only $15, if I recall correctly, and they run a pretty good meeting.)

This should fill the political calendar pretty well.

A lack of interest?

January 28, 2016 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2016, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off 

There are still a few days to the primary, but I’m using the occasion of Greg Holmes’s entry to the Republican U.S. Senate race and check how the field is shaping up. (And if you say “who?” you’re not alone – Holmes was one of the also-rans in 2014′s Fourth Congressional District primary.)

Having done this political thing for a few years, I know that there are usually 10 or so Republicans who run for U.S. Senate in any given cycle. My first election here was 2006, the year Michael Steele was the overwhelming choice of the state party (and accordingly won 87 percent of the vote.) Despite that, there were 10 people on the GOP primary ballot, nine of whom split the other 13 percent of the vote. (With an open seat, that was a scrum on the Democratic side – they had 18 running.)

As of this writing, though, we are only at eight running on the GOP side and Holmes would be nine – so we should be in the ballpark for an average election. On the other hand, the open seat on the Democratic side isn’t bringing out nearly as many – just nine have signed up for the Democrats, with at least four being the perennial candidates who rarely get more than 1% of the vote.

Of those nine Republicans, most have some sort of electoral history: Holmes and John Graziani both ran for the same Congressional seat in 2014, while Dave Wallace was the Republican nominee against Democrat Chris Van Hollen that same year. Richard Douglas was a Senate candidate in 2012 and Richard Shawver was in 2006, but Kathy Szeliga is the only one who’s won a legislative position as a Delegate in the Maryland General Assembly. It appears Chrys Kefalas, Lynn Richardson, and Anthony Seda are first-time candidates.

So while Szeliga probably has the greatest name recognition, followed by Douglas, it is a relatively wide open race. If someone were to do favorability numbers on the GOP side right now, I doubt any one of the candidates would be over 20% favorable, with the vast majority saying “never heard of them.” I myself didn’t know many of these people were in the race until I looked tonight.

Meanwhile, in looking at our First District, it’s still a four-person race on the GOP side where incumbent Andy Harris is joined by 2014 challenger Jonathan Goff, first-time candidate Sean Jackson, and former Delegate Mike Smigiel. Jim Ireton hasn’t filed yet, so Joe Werner (who ran for the seat in 2008) is the only candidate so far on the Democratic side.

I think there will be between one and three more in each of the aforementioned races by the time Wednesday’s filing deadline expires. But I am sort of surprised that we’re not seeing as many candidates up and down the ballot this year.

A change in the First?

In the First Congressional District, winning the Republican primary is tantamount to winning the race: the latest round of gerrymandering by Maryland Democrats made sure it would be by creating an R+13 district in a state that’s nominally D+26. So what do I make of an announcement by upstart former Delegate Michael Smigiel that he has a 2-to-1 lead over incumbent Andy Harris in a pre-primary poll?

If you read between the lines, you’ll see a few interesting tidbits. And my readers may recall that my co-writer Cathy Keim talked about a survey she took a few days ago. Chances are this was the same Gravis Marketing survey Smigiel is referring to in his work, which leads me to believe this was a push poll Smigiel did to build up his support. If you’re a relative unknown in much of the district, a tactic often used is that of driving up the negatives of the established politician.

Ironically, it’s much the same tactic Harris used to win the nomination in 2008 against a well-known incumbent, Wayne Gilchrest. Wayne’s biggest issue was the leftward drift of his philosophy and voting record, so much so that a clearly upset Gilchrest later rejected his party’s nominee and endorsed the Democrat challenger, Frank Kratovil. That and the Obama wave election led to Kratovil being a one-term Congressman before Harris defeated him in the TEA Party wave election of 2010.

As Cathy described it – a manner which isn’t reflected in Smigiel’s narrative – the issue questions came first:

Calls were made to over 20,000 voters with over 600 individuals answering the poll, and results indicate that when voters were informed that Rep. Harris had voted to fully fund Obamacare, 82 percent (82%) of the Republican primary voters surveyed would not vote for Harris.

When voters were aware that Rep. Harris had voted to fully fund President Barrack (sic) Obama’s unconstitutional use of executive power to grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens, 85 percent (85%) of Republican voters said they would not vote to re-elect Harris.

Likewise, 80 percent (80%) of those surveyed reported that they would not vote to re-elect Rep. Andy Harris if they knew he had made the statement that it was “just fine” for Planned Parenthood to sell baby parts as long as they did not use federal money to do so.

Nationally, Rep. Harris is known as the most outspoken critic of D.C. and states which have chosen to allow medical marijuana, decriminalization or legalization. In the 1st District, fifty-nine percent (59%) of the Republican voters surveyed reported they would be less likely to vote for Harris because of his anti-marijuana, anti-state’s rights stance.

In that context, it’s hard to believe Harris got 29% when over 80% of Republicans disagreed with him on one or more issues.

But there are two advantages Andy still enjoys in this race. While the FEC data is still from back in September, Harris had over a half-million dollars in cash on hand while Smigiel barely registered. Certainly Harris has been fundraising since then, and incumbents often enjoy the largest share of PAC money. In the 2015-16 cycle Harris had already amassed over $166,000 from various committees, a large portion of them in the medical field.

The second advantage is the IOUs Andy has built up through donating to local candidates. Here’s just a few that I noticed on his 2013-14 FEC report:

  • Bob Cassilly (Senator, Harford County) – $4,000
  • Matt Morgan (Delegate, St. Mary’s County) – $1,000
  • Theresa Reilly (Delegate, Harford County) – $1,000
  • Mike McDermott (former Delegate, Worcester County) – $4,000
  • Bob Culver (Wicomico County Executive) – $4,000
  • Carl Anderton (Delegate, Wicomico County) – $4,000
  • Christopher Adams (Delegate, Wicomico County) – $1,000
  • Jay Jacobs (Delegate, Kent County) – $1,000
  • Jeff Ghrist (Delegate, Caroline County) – $1,000
  • John Cluster (Delegate, Baltimore County) – $1,000
  • Johnny Mautz (Delegate, Talbot County) – $1,000
  • Justin Ready (Delegate and now Senator, Carroll County) – $4,000
  • Kathy Szeliga (Delegate, Baltimore County) – $4,000
  • Kevin Hornberger (Delegate, Cecil County) – $4,000
  • Mary Beth Carozza (Delegate, Worcester County) – $4,000
  • Nic Kipke (Delegate, Anne Arundel County) – $4,000
  • Rick Impallaria (Delegate, Baltimore County) – $2,000
  • Robin Grammer (Delegate, Baltimore County) – $1,000
  • Steve Arentz (Delegate, Queen Anne’s County) – $1,000
  • Susan Krebs (Delegate, Carroll County) – $4,000
  • Addie Eckardt (Senator, Dorchester County) – $1,000
  • Michael Hough (Senator, Frederick County) – $4,000
  • Herb McMillan (Delegate, Anne Arundel County) – $4,000
  • Ric Metzgar (Delegate, Baltimore County) – $1,000
  • Johnny Salling (Senator, Baltimore County) – $4,000
  • Maryland Republican Party – $49,500

Well over $100,000 went from Andy’s campaign coffers to help build the GOP state bench with several new legislators being the result. I don’t look for a lot of those folks jumping ship to support (in several but not all cases) a more recent former colleague. That’s a significant part of the state GOP delegation, including all three who defeated Smigiel in the 2014 Republican primary. And electability is a legitimate question mark for Smigiel.

In the 2014 Republican primary, Smigiel was fourth among seven candidates, four of whom hailed from Smigiel’s Cecil County portion of the district – those four finished fourth through seventh. (Mike finished third in Cecil behind fellow resident Alan McCarthy, who finished a distant fifth overall, and Jay Jacobs of Kent County, who was second overall.) Smigiel was third among five candidates in 2010 (all three winners were Republican) and while he kept the seat in 2006 based on the overall district vote he actually lost in his home Cecil County to Democrat Mark Guns. Smigiel was barely second out of five when he won his first term in 2002, so he’s never been overwhelmingly popular at the ballot box – just good enough to win three terms in a very safe GOP district. The fact that three other people challenged Smigiel from Cecil County – knowing only one of them could win due to an election law stating only one person could advance from any particular county – indicates there was some dissatisfaction with him, just as many are now displeased with Harris.

That anger toward Harris attracted Smigiel to the race and produced a poll result like this. Since he won the election in 2010, Harris has had little in the way of a challenge from either party until now. It’s a race perhaps reminiscent of the 2004 primary between Wayne Gilchrest and then-Maryland Senator Rich Colburn – the fact Colburn got 38% against a sitting Congressman may have opened the race up four years later when state officials could run from cover again without having to risk their own seats.

If I were to handicap the election today I would put it around that 60-40 range with Harris prevailing. A lot can occur in 3 1/2 months, though, and it’s probably good for Harris that there are a couple of other lesser known hopefuls in the race to split the protest vote.

This may be a good time to point out that Andy has a couple of townhall meetings slated for the Eastern Shore. On Monday night the 18th he will be at the Black Diamond Lodge in Fruitland for a 6 p.m. meeting. (Right next door is the site of Andy’s chicken suit affair of a few years back.) Then Tuesday at noon he will be the host at the Easton Volunteer Fire Department headquarters on Aurora Park Drive.

Unfortunately, I already have a commitment for Monday night so I will have to hear second-hand about what the Congressman has to say. It will be interesting to hear how all that goes down.

Phone polls, show votes, and truth

By Cathy Keim

I was just thinking the other day that now that the holidays were over, the Congressional races in Maryland should start heating up. Before the thought disappeared, my home phone rang – and I was asked to take a survey. I usually enjoy these surveys, as I try to see behind the questions and guess who is paying for the poll. If they have a live person, then I will ask questions to see if they will give out any information.

This automated poll asked questions about Congressman Andy Harris, the incumbent, and former Delegate Mike Smigiel in the Maryland First Congressional District race. The questions were worded in this format: “If you knew such-and-such about Andy Harris, would you be more likely to vote for him, less likely to vote for him, or no difference?” After several questions the questioning switched to Mike Smigiel, repeating the process but with different questions. The phone poll closed by asking who you would vote for if the election were today and gave three choices: Andy Harris, Mike Smigiel, and Sean Jackson. This surprised me, as I was not even aware of the third candidate.

I went to the Maryland Board of Elections website and found that candidates can file a Certificate of Candidacy until February 3, meaning we still have several weeks for additional candidates to file. So far one Democrat (Joe Werner of Harford County) and three Republicans (Jonathan Marvin Goff, Jr. and Sean M. Jackson, both of Harford County, and Smigiel from Cecil County) are listed. I am assuming that Andy Harris will file before the deadline.

(Editor’s note:  Since Cathy wrote this, Matt Beers, a Libertarian candidate from Cecil County, has filed for the First District seat with the state Board of Elections. Meanwhile, federal campaign finance filings are not completed for the last quarter of 2015, but only Harris and Smigiel are listed with FEC campaign finance accounts.)

The primary is not until April 26, so we still have plenty of time for these candidates to present their positions.

But what are their positions? At least with Congressman Harris we have a current track record that can be poked and prodded, thus enabling the prospective voter to review the information and make a decision. But is it really that easy to know how any politician voted?

And even more to the crux of the matter: which vote do you look at?

John Kerry, former Senator and current Secretary of State, famously uttered the words, “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it,” cementing his reputation as a flip-flopper. But knowing which vote you are looking at and the context in which it was cast is particularly crucial in an election year. Voters’ memories are short, so a candidate usually only needs to vote as his constituents desire in the last few months before an election.

Congress just voted to pass the omnibus spending bill which provides funding for Obamacare, Planned Parenthood, refugee resettlement, and oodles of other awful programs. If your Congressman voted no on it, then he should be in the clear, correct? Well, maybe not. You need to step back and examine the background behind the bill. Why was it allowed to be brought to a vote so it could be passed with Democrat votes? The Speaker of the House controls what comes up for a vote so Speaker Ryan did not have to bring the omnibus bill up for a vote where he knew it would pass with mainly Democrat votes. But he did.

Paul Ryan was elected Speaker of the House after John Boehner was forced out for not leading the fight against President Obama. Only nine Republicans opposed his nomination as Speaker. If a Republican Congressman voted for Paul Ryan to be Speaker but then voted against the omnibus bill, did he or she vote correctly?

Let’s go further back. How do last year’s votes count? What if a Republican Congressman voted for the CRomnibus bill in December 2014? Should that be held against them if they voted against the omnibus bill in December 2015? It takes a bit of interest and time to dig through the old votes to get the whole picture. And that is why politicians can dissemble so well. Who can keep up with the constantly changing stream of votes?

Remember: as Election Day draws closer and closer, we are going to see votes on one politicized project or issue after another — none of which will significantly change anything because the Omnibus bill, funding the Federal Government through next October, was passed in December. Congress, under the GOP leadership of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave up all power of the purse and the only restraint that was possible on an out-of-control President in his final year.

Do not be impressed by these showcase votes! The deed is done and all we can do is hang on for the increasingly bumpy ride until the new President is elected — and it may get bumpier yet depending on who is elected.

So how did Andy Harris vote in the last two Speaker of the House elections? He voted for Speaker Boehner last January, even after the CRomnibus horror was pushed through (which he also voted for). He voted for Paul Ryan to replace Boehner as Speaker this fall. Despite these votes, however, he “bravely” voted against the Omnibus Bill this December.

So, to paraphrase John Kerry, Congressman Harris voted for Speaker Ryan, Speaker Boehner, and CRomnibus before Harris voted against the Omnibus Bill.

Those are the facts. What is the truth?

Immigration: The SEASON Act and its effects

By Cathy Keim

Second in an ongoing series.

I am using my prerogative to switch to a different immigration topic because a friend sent this Breitbart article and pointed out that Rep. Andy Harris is on the list, as is Senator Barbara Mikulski. As I mentioned before, immigration is such a broad subject that one cannot cover all the angles in just an article or two.

I actually wrote to Andy Harris about the Strengthen Employment and Seasonal Opportunities Now (SEASON) Act (H.R. 3918) back on November 12. I saw him later that day at the Kathy Szeliga event and I asked him about his support for this bill.

He stated that the Obama administration had changed the regulations about the H2B visa program and HR 3918 was merely to return things to the way they were done previously, adding that employers needed the foreign workers to do these jobs that Americans will not do. I asked about the families of H2B workers and he said that they were not allowed to bring their families with them.

But I checked on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) website and it clearly states that:

Any H-2B worker’s spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age may seek admission in H-4 nonimmigrant classification. Family members are not eligible for employment in the United States while in H-4 status.

So I must disagree with the Congressman’s assertion. My concern was that if the families enter with the worker, then they will most certainly have an impact on the local economy as the children enroll in school and utilize other social services.

The H2B visa worker may be a boon for the employer, but the rest of the community is underwriting the social service costs for the cheap labor. In addition, we are paying the welfare costs of our unemployed citizens who could be working instead of a foreign worker. The taxpayer is picking up the tab in every direction while the employer is improving his profits.

The employers complain that Americans won’t do these jobs, but it is likely that they would do them if they were paid a fair wage. The employers utilize the H2B visa program to bring in foreign workers to keep the wages depressed.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management:

In a separate final rule, the departments unveiled the methodology for determining the prevailing wage that must be paid to H-2B workers.

(snip)

The Economic Policy Institute’s (vice-president Ross) Eisenbrey expressed disappointment that the rule allows alternative wage surveys to set the prevailing wage. “Employers only use these alternative surveys to ensure that they can pay their workers the least possible amount, rather than using credible and reliable survey data compiled by DOL,” he said, pointing to the seafood industry as an example as having used private wage surveys to justify “paying their H-2B workers wages near the federal minimum wage for grueling work like crab-picking, rather than the higher average wages paid across Virginia and Maryland for similar work.”

Here is a link to information about the changes to the H2B visa program that were put into effect in April of this year.

I also asked Mike Smigiel, who is running against Andy Harris for the First Congressional District seat, for a statement about HR 3918. Smigiel said:

With our real unemployment numbers over 11% and the workforce participation at one of its lowest levels in years we clearly have a workforce that is hard pressed to find employment. The most vulnerable sector of the workforce are youth, legal immigrants, and those with a high school education or less. Record numbers of Americans are living in poverty and surviving on food stamps, it is hard to fathom that Congress would expand the H2-B program to an all time high.

What Congressman Harris failed to address is the fact that those here on the H2-B program can bring their spouses and families in under the H-4 visas. Do you think that the spouses and children of those coming in under the H-4 visa program are not going to be working, going to school, getting sick? These associated costs will be additional burdens upon our already strained economy.

Our first obligation should be to helping our unemployed and underemployed citizens by providing this most vulnerable sector of the workforce work training and providing incentives to employers to hire citizens for the jobs.

It is disingenuous of Congressman Harris to sponsor this legislation since just a few months ago he voted to prohibit American poultry, beef or pork producers from listing the country of origin on their products. This does not benefit the consumer or farm workers but makes it easier for large farming corporations to take their operations overseas where labor is cheaper and there are fewer regulations placed upon their farming operations. Their products can then be sold in the US without any notice that they were not raised here. So thanks to Congressman Harris we may be eating Chinese chickens with American companies’ names on the product.

Once again, I would encourage you to pick up your phone and call Congressman Andy Harris and Senator Barbara Mikulski and ask them to not support HR 3918. Let’s put our own citizens back to work.

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