Conservative victories – wherever you can get them

Tuesday is a big day for a Maryland-based PAC as they attempt to broaden their reach and influence.

That evening the Conservative Victory PAC is sponsoring a fundraiser for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, with plenty of influence from Maryland: Dan Bongino will give  ”special remarks”  and the host committee features both former Maryland governor Bob Ehrlich and lieutenant governor Michael Steele. As they note, “proceeds will be provided to the Cuccinelli Campaign Team,” and there should be plenty of proceeds seeing that the admission prices start at a steep $135. This ain’t no little spaghetti dinner fundraiser.

My erstwhile Red Maryland colleagues Brian Griffiths and Greg Kline have been critical of the CVPAC on their website and radio show this week, contending the group should be paying attention to local races in Annapolis and Frederick. But unlike last year, Diana Waterman stated to me in a recent conference call that there were no plans for the state party to help in Virginia as they did for Mitt Romney. So in that respect the CVPAC is taking up that slack.

Yet there’s a factor which makes the CVPAC decision less surprising for me. With the exception of Jim Rutledge, the CVPAC Board of Directors lives in the Washington metropolitan area, so they likely follow Virginia politics almost as closely as Maryland’s because their local media deals with both. And while I disagree that the host committee is necessarily the shining example of conservatism, certainly Ken Cuccinelli would be considered a conservative rising star and perhaps future Presidential material in 2020 (after his one term in Virginia would be completed) if he succeeds in winning this year.

And it’s not like this should be a surprise, coming from the CVPAC. If you recall their trailer for 2014, the video narrator intoned that “alliances will be formed” between Maryland and Virginia. Moreover, their stated goal for Maryland is 19 State Senate seats and if they can get some reciprocal help from the commonwealth to our south – yes, that’s a big ‘if’ but they’re trying to form the alliance – we may be able to tip those scales. (Meanwhile, a member of their Board of Directors is running for governor here, so one might think CVPAC may be looking for assistance there, too.)

Are the races in Annapolis and Frederick a big deal? To an extent, yes – perhaps they can succeed and show us a path for success in Salisbury come 2015. (By population, Salisbury is quite comparable to Annapolis and is Maryland’s ninth-largest city; it’s also the largest on the Eastern Shore.) But every political operation has its priorities and it sounds like CVPAC is trying to leverage conservative success in Virginia into victories next year in Maryland.

But you have to have the Virginia success first for that plan to work.

No man of Steele to save Maryland

September 19, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

Not that I was all that confident he would be the best Republican candidate to set forth, but in yesterday’s Washington Post Michael Steele said he would “take a pass” at Maryland’s race for governor. That sound you hear is the sigh of relief from those candidates who have already invested their time and effort into building support for their runs – now they won’t have to worry about Michael Steele sucking all of the oxygen out of the Maryland race.

And though I’m sure many will fret that he was the one candidate with the best chance at victory, I only have to look back at 2006 to see what happened when the Maryland Republican Party essentially handed him a statewide race nomination on a silver platter – he lost an open-seat Senate race by 10 points. Of course, I’ve heard all the arguments – bad year for Republicans nationwide, reaction to an unpopular president – but Steele lagged behind Bob Ehrlich by almost 40,000 votes overall; more importantly, he got just 24% in Prince George’s County and 23.2% in Baltimore City. Surely the GOP hopes were that Steele would poll much better in those heavily minority areas, but instead he was just 3.5% better in PG and o.6% improved in Baltimore City over Bob Ehrlich. But Steele lost Baltimore County, where Ehrlich carried the day.

Perhaps the reason Steele took a pass on the race, though, was that he would have to work for it. If done right, a contested primary is good for a candidate because it places them on a campaign footing much more quickly. While there were a number of other candidates in the 2006 Republican Senate primary, they were of the perennial candidate sort and no one else eclipsed 3% of the vote; on the other hand, Ben Cardin won a spirited Democratic primary with only 43.7% of the vote. That sharpening of campaign skills certainly gave Cardin some advantages later on.

But the biggest vibe I seem to be getting is why this was such a big deal in the first place. Sure, old-timers in the Maryland GOP look back at Steele’s tenure as Chair fondly, but he really never ran for anything until that Senate race. (One could equate that with the same sort of criticism certain people who make their first run for office a statewide one have received.) While I’m sure Anthony Brown would like to change this, insofar as running for subsequent electoral office goes the Maryland LG post has been comparable to the national vice-presidency – not worth “a bucket of warm (spit).”

So once we know the intentions of one Lawrence Hogan it appears the Republican field for governor will be pretty much set. Now it’s time to fill out the lower part of the dance card – I have it on the best of authority that one person thought of as a prospective aspirant for Attorney General will not be seeking the job, so it will be up to the MDGOP to dig deeper for a candidate to try for that open seat.

I suppose Michael Steele is available.

The first dropout

I wasn’t really surprised at a portion of this news, except for one thing:

I thought the idea was Blaine would drop out if Michael Steele got in.

So what this tells me is one of two things: either Charles made a better offer (because the polling data is really that good for Charles) or Michael Steele is taking a pass on the race. According to the Maryland Politics blog (part of the Baltimore Sun, so take for what it’s worth) Young called Lollar the “best choice.” I wouldn’t call that the strongest endorsement, and it’s interesting that Lollar’s nascent campaign hasn’t made as much of a deal out of it as it did Ben Carson’s backing, which was fairly soft-sold in and of itself.

I’m not sure how much help Blaine will be on the campaign trail since he’ll likely be doing his own fundraising and politicking for county office in Frederick County. Having a radio show to talk up Charles may be a help for Blaine, although my guess is that the show would come to a halt if and when Young files again for office.

And so ends our first effort for governor, one which had quite a bit of promise to begin with but really went downhill after the Patrick Allen allegations brought out by Mark Newgent at Red Maryland. These came out days after David Craig and Ron George officially entered the race, making the run a three-way battle. Blaine couldn’t take advantage of early momentum and events which were calculated to make a splash with certain groups, such as the one I covered at MACo last year.

We’ll see if Charles can make a better push than Young did.

The real polls are yet to come

Because there isn’t a whole lot of interest yet in the race, polling from reliable sources doesn’t exist yet in the Maryland gubernatorial primaries. Since none of us are privy to internal polling done by the campaigns – if someone is, he or she’s not talking – two state websites have attempted to step into the breach: the old reliable Red Maryland and the upstart Red White and Blue.

In both cases, their polls show a spirited three-way race, with David Craig holding a 7.5 point edge over Ron George on the Red Maryland poll. But on the RWB poll, Charles Lollar leads by 4 points over Craig.

Having done polls myself, I know the results are rife with manipulation, as the campaigns exhort their supporters to vote in the respective polls to make their cause look better. A victory in these polls can prove to be a little lift in the real polls, as success tends to breed success.

However, I approach these with the theory that the more passionate supporters who would vote in these internet ballots exist in rough proportion to those found in real life, so I accept the idea that it’s a three-way race. A simple averaging of the polls in question would put David Craig at 33%, Charles Lollar at 30%, and Ron George at 23%, with the rest supporting one of the other candidates. As it turns out, the numbers for Craig and George are fairly consistent on both sites, but Lollar’s fluctuates by 16 points between the two.

Yet if you do a little digging into the actual numbers as I have, you may find that these polls are perhaps propping up one of the contenders to an outsized extent. The RWB poll is better for calculating this because the numbers are broken down not just by county in percentages, but the actual number of votes cast for each county. Unfortunately, the Red Maryland poll doesn’t provide the same crosstabs, but it does break down responses by county enough so I can make an educated guess as to how things really are.

Let’s begin with the obvious: there are three counties which are ridiculously oversampled in both polls, and all of them directly benefit two of the candidates. Both Harford and Talbot counties favor David Craig in an outsized manner, which is natural because Craig is Harford County Executive and running mate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio comes from Talbot. The other county is Anne Arundel, which benefits Ron George as he represents a portion of that county.

As it turns out, Anne Arundel (and to a lesser extent, Harford) are so oversampled that they suck the oxygen out of a number of counties – many of which tend to favor Charles Lollar. Out of nine counties significantly undersampled on the two polls, Lollar carries six of them, Craig two, and George one.

So when I adjusted the data to fit a more realistic turnout model (based on the RWB poll results, which featured the necessary raw data) I found that Lollar picked up four points, Craig lost four, and George (somewhat surprisingly) gained one. If you made that adjustment to the Red Maryland poll, you literally have a three-way battle which is anyone’s to win: Craig 28%, Lollar 26%, and George 25%. On the RWB poll, Lollar would have a commanding 42%-30% lead over Craig, with George lagging behind at 23%.

Truthfully, I don’t think Charles Lollar has 42% of the vote right now, but I don’t see him as third place either. At this stage in the game, it’s all about getting activists and volunteers, and I can give you an example from the Farm and Home Show this past weekend.

You may recall these pictures from my Facebook page:

I can tell you that the David Craig signs in the top photo and the literature on the upper right edge of the bottom photo all came courtesy of Craig’s county coordinator, who was my second volunteer of the weekend Thursday night and already there with bells on when I came by to check after work; she was an hour early for her shift.

The Ron George signs came courtesy of the candidate himself, as he stopped by sometime Friday to drop them off. I had some Ron George literature sent to me prior to the event, but it appears to be supplemented by the inserts; moreover, I had no bumper stickers or palm cards when I started. I do now.

Meanwhile, the yellow Charles Lollar palm cards and business cards in the middle of the second photo came via a volunteer who took time out of her trip to the beach to drop them off on Friday. (She would have also brought a big sign, but I advised her against it.) Now that’s dedication, and that’s why it’s important to get an early start on a campaign so the word can be spread.

So perhaps these are the polls of activists, but if Ron George only has support in Anne Arundel County and David Craig rests on his laurels assuming the Baltimore area is his, they may not even make it to the primary when there’s the possibility of Larry Hogan and Michael Steele to consider. I don’t see both of them entering the race, but one of the two may make the field too large to support. Worth noting, though, is even if Michael Steele took his 6% support in the Red Maryland poll, added the entirety of the undecided, and got the Blaine Young supporters to back him, he would still be fourth.

That would be the penalty of getting into the race late, banking on name recognition but not having the grassroots support needed for victory at the polls. Money can do a lot, but it can’t always win – otherwise we’d have a new Senator named Rob Sobhani.

**********

On a completely unrelated note, you are reading post number 3,500 in the series I call monoblogue, Not bad for nearly eight years of work, you think?

No surprise: the draft bears fruit

The official announcement will come in September via a bus tour – much like one conducted by opponent David Craig – but an article by Jeff Newman in yesterday’s SoMd News let the cat out of a bag which had been pretty much ripped open months ago: Charles Lollar will be a gubernatorial candidate.

Because the move is just making formal something political insiders had already figured on, it’s probably not going to change a lot of hearts and minds among insiders and activists. Put another way, a Lollar candidacy has already been priced into the market.

But there is one piece of the puzzle which seems to be escaping the commentators, with the exception of St. Mary’s College political science professor Todd Eberly, who was quoted in the Newman story. Perhaps it’s the evidence of a colorblind society in Maryland or the fact that Michael Steele already blazed this trail with his 2006 statewide U.S. Senate run, but there’s a good chance we could have a black vs. black governor’s race in 2014. So the question is whether blacks will feel more free to vote for a Republican because he would be black, or stay on the Democratic plantation?

I presume that Lollar’s campaign would be, at a minimum, based on the Red Print plan he has at his New Day MD website, to wit:

  • Reducing energy costs in an effort to become a net energy producer. Presumably alternative energy sources like wind and solar would be allowed to compete with coal, nuclear, and natural gas but it would be on their merits.
  • Borrowing from fellow black conservative Herman Cain, the “5-5-5″ plan: reducing the corporate tax rate to 5%, the sales tax rate to 5%, and the top income tax rate to 5%, all of which are presumed to allow the revenue to be replaced through increased economic activity and job creation.
  • What Lollar calls “zero-based regulation,” which as he explains, “will require all departments and agencies to justify their existence and the existence of their management priorities annually.”

Admittedly, I’m a policy wonk of sorts who studies this stuff and it all sounds like an admirable first-term goal to me. But what about the voter Republicans have always wanted to attract but could never persuade: to continue a race-based example, I’ll use the single black mom towing two kids around.

She’s probably not going to care a whole lot about what energy costs because she’s on a subsidy for the payment, and regulation is all Greek to her. That message will go straight over her head.

More importantly, she has been told by her Democratic leaders that taxes should be progressive, and the rich never pay their fair share. It’s going to take a good bit of explaining why two of the three “fives” are important to her, meanwhile, the third five of the sales tax rarely comes into play because she doesn’t spend a lot of money.

Where Charles may need to devote some thought and campaigning is in the realm of educational opportunity. It’s all but guaranteed that Anthony Brown would come around with all his supportive Democratic plantation masters, er, elected officials surrounding him and harp on the statistic that Maryland has the best schools in the nation. That may be true, but schools don’t do much good for dropouts, and therein lies much of the black community’s problem. The schools in affluent areas are masking the real issues their underperforming inner-city peers face, although there’s a cultural divide as well. It also needs to be addressed but that’s not the role of government.

If there are two people whom I would suggest Charles Lollar make use of frequently, they are Dr. Ben Carson (who is already in his corner and would be an intriguing LG choice) and Star Parker, a nationally-known conservative columnist who was once in the shoes of many government-dependent Marylanders. Negating Anthony Brown’s built-in advantage among the minority community is essential for victory in this state.

And I don’t think social issues can be ignored, either. But it’s a matter of targeting the audience for that one.

At any rate, it looks like our August Wicomico County Republican Club meeting will be akin to an exhibition game before the season opener for Lollar, as he’s scheduled to appear here on the 26th. So let’s see what this draft choice can do.

Scathing words

It’s not often that I blockquote an entire piece, but a recent “Politics and Pets” editorial from former Maryland GOP Chair Jim Pelura is worth the space, as I see it. I did a slight amount of editing, adding the bullet points and the link.

I recently read an article by Thomas Edsall in the New York Times that attempts to psychoanalyze the Republican Party.

Much to my dismay, his general conclusion is that the Party will continue to lose credibility as long as there is a significant Conservative wing expressing ideas and attempting to thwart the far-left agenda of the Obama administration, the Democrat Party, Democrats in Congress and those Republicans that adhere to the notion that moderation is the way to victory.

To quote one of the Republican sources in this article describing Conservatives…”Their rigidity is killing them. It’s either holy purity, or you are anathema. Too many ideologues have come in. You don’t win by what they are doing.”

Excuse me, but, ideological candidates have won in the House and Senate and our moderate candidates continue to lose the White House.

Republicans who claim to stand for clearly stated Republican ideals like fiscal responsibility, faith in the private sector, small government and standing up for the individual and our Constitution, and then act and vote in a manner contrary to those ideals are, in my opinion, the main reason for the public’s lack of trust in and erosion of the Republican brand.

This problem is not unique to national Republicans as we see many examples of this problem involving Republican elected officials in Maryland.

A few examples:

  • A Republican candidate for Lt. Governor who, as a Delegate in the Maryland General Assembly, sent a letter to the Speaker imploring him not to pass any bond (pork) bills while submitting several pork bills for her district.
  • A Republican gubernatorial candidate that criticizes the current Democrat Governor for raising taxes while raising taxes in his own county as County Executive.
  • A Republican member of a County Council that introduces legislation that significantly restricts our 2nd Amendment rights.
  • A past Chairman of the Maryland Republican Party and the Republican Minority Leader in the Maryland General Assembly sending strong letters of support for the extremely liberal ideologue Tom Perez to be appointed to a position in the Obama administration.
  • A Republican candidate for County Executive urging the sitting administration to block implementation of a “rain tax” that he voted for while in the Maryland General Assembly.
  • A current Republican County Council raised taxes, grew government, implemented a fiscally irresponsible “rain tax” yet talks the Conservative message.
  • A current Republican County Executive getting praise for vetoing a “rain tax” bill in her county but supports the concept and did not object to the new bill that the Council sent to her.

No need to burden you with more examples, you get my point.

The Democrat party is completely ideological and no one complains, but an ideological Republican Party, in their opinion, cannot win.

How wrong they are. In reality, for every liberal vote a moderate Republican may gain, they will lose many more Republican votes.

Voter apathy is at an all-time high and I suggest that it is because the leftist agenda of the Democrat Party is out of step with main-stream Americans and the loss of credibility of the Republican Party due to its confusing, non-principled and hypocritical message from its elected members.

Ideology, principle and acting on those ideals when elected is what is needed in our Republican Party.

God Bless America with God’s blessings on those who guard it.

By reading between the lines, I could figure out each of those Pelura was referring to.

But I also took the time to read the original editorial, and the problem I see is that most of those who were quoted or solicited for their opinions come from the very class which is threatened by a conservative resurgence in the Republican Party. Many of the “Establishment” Republicans were represented: Bob Dole, Jeb Bush, Haley Barbour, and other inside-the-Beltway types fretted about losing four of the last six Presidential elections and not following through on cherished “ruling class” priorities like amnesty, which they consider “immigration reform.” Some blame the rise of talk radio, others the “Southern Strategy” which made the “solid South” solidly GOP, and still others panned the TEA Party.

All this proves is that there is a serious disconnect between the Republicans who inhabit that mysterious land called Washington, D.C. and make their living through one or another of the thousands of Republican-leaning advocacy groups which thrive on their access and the folks like me who have been loyally casting their ballot for the GOP for most of their adult lives but are disheartened that Republicans seem to have turned their back on conservative principles in the interest of seeking bipartisan “solutions” like amnesty or, conversely, wishing to “improve” Obamacare rather than simply defunding it.

Unfortunately, Pelura points out many of these same problems plague the GOP in our state. And while he seems to be picking on a number of Anne Arundel County politicians, he’s saved some venom for the Craig/Haddaway ticket while sparing others like Ron George or Charles Lollar. They tend to be the more conservative in the field.

Now I will grant that in Maryland the center looks far to the right to most political observers, and I would have categorized Bob Ehrlich as a centrist Republican. Some obviously argue that’s the only type which can win statewide, and based on the Ehrlich victory they could be correct. I know Martin O’Malley tried to paint Ehrlich as uncaring in 2006, really trying to tie him to the then-unpopular George W. Bush. Hard to otherwise explain why Bob Ehrlich lost despite a positive approval rating.

Yet it will have been 12 years since a non-Ehrlich ran for the state’s top job; that is, unless Michael Steele jumps into the race and grabs the nomination. And I know the political game fairly well: run right (or left) for the nomination, then tack to the center for the general – at least that’s the conventional wisdom. Then again, conventional wisdom suggested Mitt Romney was a perfect nominee for 2012.

The job of whoever wins the Republican nomination next year will be a simple one: define your narrative before it gets defined for you by the opposition. Those of us in the alternative media can help – because we’ll be the only ones hoisting that flag – but it will also take quite a bit of money. I don’t think the party is quite on the scrap heap yet, but 2014 is looking to be more and more of a last stand for this once free state.

Success at the top will also take a full undercard. We can’t skip races this year, and we have to work as a team around a few common pocketbook issues. While I’m certainly pro-life and pro-Second Amendment, I realize issues like those play much better in Trappe than Takoma Park. Put it this way: we know the word “invest” is code for raising taxes and spending more but we also know the other side has equated abortion with a sacrament and having a gun with being a lunatic, out hunting down innocent black youths like Trayvon Martin. Democrats still get away with saying it.

Conversely, though, there is such a thing as a Goldwater effect. Early on it was obvious that he would lose in 1964, but the unabashed conservative message  Barry Goldwater presented (with help from Ronald Reagan) sowed the seeds for future success. You may live in a 10:1 Democrat district, but the effort you put in against the incumbent means he or she has to work to keep the district and not be able to help others. That’s important, as is the education you can provide there.

Still, I appreciate Jim’s efforts to keep us on the straight and narrow. As Maryland Republicans, we have allowed ourselves to be defined by failure when we should be pointing out the myriad failures of the other side in the very act of governing. Change Maryland is a group working to reset that perception, but the overall theme needs to be that it’s time for the adults in the room to take charge of Maryland and get the state working for all of us.

50,000 strong – but where does it go?

Last week, in another story sort of buried in the runup to the Tawes event, the fine folks at Change Maryland hit the 50,000 “like” mark on Facebook. (Today it appears they have surpassed 51,000.) It bears recalling that in the spring of 2012 they were just at 12,000 – although I noted at the time their cake was much more optimistic. Perhaps by the spring convention of 2014 that extra zero will come in handy.

It seems the rule of thumb is that their membership grew in year two at a rate twice as fast as it did in Change Maryland’s first year – if this continues they would be in the 115,000 range by this time next year. But is that too optimistic of a goal?

The bread and butter of Change Maryland has been its strident opposition of Martin O’Malley’s numerous tax hikes and pointing out his incompetence at job creation, especially when compared to peer states. But having covered many of those revenue enhancements now – and knowing 2014 is an election year for his anointed successor, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown – the process of raising taxes may come to a halt. Bear in mind as well that most of O’Malley’s increases are now occurring automatically like clockwork; for example, the sales tax charged on gasoline increases in July during both 2014 and 2015.

A second item affecting Hogan’s organization is a change in personnel. Jim Pettit, who worked with Change Maryland during its run to 50,000, recently joined the campaign of gubernatorial candidate David Craig. Perhaps this is a good time for a transition, knowing that much of the issue advocacy occurs during and immediately after the General Assembly session, but I don’t discount the experience Pettit brought to the table. He’s been replaced by Matt Proud, who has plenty of political experience for a youngster and may bring some youthful enthusiasm to the effort, but will still need a little time to transition into the task.

But what does having 50,000 Facebook followers really mean? Change Maryland explains:

(Change Maryland) has built a dominating presence on social media with more people engaged online than the Maryland Democratic Party, the Maryland Republican Party and all of the potential statewide candidates of either party, added together. Change Maryland’s Facebook page has a total weekly reach of over 341,153 people. No other citizen group in the state has ever accomplished what Change Maryland has, in just over two years.

So they are influencing over 300,000 people of all political stripes with a fiscally conservative message. But will founder Larry Hogan upset the apple cart by making his own bid for Governor? Hogan was coy at Tawes, being quoted in an AP story as noting:

I just think it’s very, very early to be here in the hot, dog days of July the year before the election to be out campaigning. At some point, we might have to take a serious look at it. I don’t think we would do that for quite some time, though.

The way I interpret that is the question of whether Michael Steele jumps into the race later on. None of the others on the GOP side could reasonably be interpreted as Bob Ehrlich loyalists in the way Hogan or Steele would be.

In some respects Hogan is faced with a similar question Newt Gingrich faced in 2008: fresh off the formation of American Solutions, Newt had to decide whether to jump into the presidential race or continue to grow his group. He eventually decided to take a pass on the 2008 race, choosing to maintain his American Solutions leadership role. Conversely, once Newt decided to enter the 2012 presidential race his group withered on the vine.

If Change Maryland becomes interpreted as a campaign entity for Larry Hogan’s gubernatorial bid, its influence would wane. But if Hogan becomes a kingmaker of sorts, using his organization to promote candidates with a fiscally responsible track record in the same manner Sarah Palin lends her hand to certain conservative hopefuls on a national scale (such as Dan Bongino) he could retain his following and influence the 2014 election up and down the line.

There’s no question Maryland needs a change from the liberal philosophy dragging the state down, and Hogan’s group is succeeding in getting out the message. The next step is motivating these disciples to action, and we won’t know the success of that mission until November of 2014.

Problem resolved

June 15, 2013 · Posted in Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off 

Earlier this week my friend and colleague Jackie Wellfonder did a piece about two possible entrants to the 2014 Maryland GOP gubernatorial chase, Michael Steele and Larry Hogan. While I’ve written about Steele’s bid in regards to how it would affect the race, I’ve sort of dismissed Hogan’s chances for two reasons.

One reason is reminiscent of why Newt Gingrich didn’t run for president in 2008 – at the time, Newt was getting American Solutions off the ground and couldn’t legally maintain his leadership role with that group while participating in an exploratory committee. While the rules are probably different in Maryland, Hogan’s role as leader of Change Maryland – a group he regularly touts as nonpartisan – may have to be ceded should he decide to get into the race for governor.

Wellfonder, though, makes the point an upcoming fundraiser Hogan is hosting on Change Maryland’s behalf could be an opportunity to announce, and the timing would be correct. But this might also be a little deceptive, since those who attend may be interested in helping Change Maryland financially but may not necessarily be as willing to support a Hogan gubernatorial bid; in fact, this sort of speculation might just keep would-be supporters who back other candidates away.

In truth, insuring that fundraiser’s success given the important role Change Maryland is playing in Maryland’s conservative movement is a pretty compelling reason itself to end the speculation and announce he would take a pass on 2014. But the other reason I had mentally checked Larry off the list was shown here, on page 3:

[gview file="http://monoblogue.us/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/CampaignFinanceReport-Hogan-1.pdf"]

I first accessed this file back in January, at a time I was trying to line up an interview with Larry for my moribund Ten Question Tuesday segment. It was still on my computer here because I don’t clean out my “downloads” folder. But it was an “aha!” moment of sorts, particularly when you figure $325,000 is a sizable chunk of change from anyone’s personal funds outside of Warren Buffett or Bill Gates.

However, I found out last night there’s more to the story. In fact, the 2012 campaign finance report I cited was later corrected because Hogan paid off the loans in 2010 once he wound down the exploratory committee. (Page 5 on both documents.)

[gview file="http://monoblogue.us/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/CampaignFinanceReport-Hogan-2.pdf"]

[gview file="http://monoblogue.us/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/CampaignFinanceReport-Hogan-3.pdf"]

The original 2012 report I saw back in January and filed in July of 2011 was what I based my mistaken assumption on. Now one could come back and say that Hogan and his treasurer filed a false report, but it’s worth pointing out that these were corrected several months ago, not at a time when public outcry demanded it. It may have been as simple as forgetting to eliminate the last page from the filed report, since generally reports have to be carried over from one reporting period to the next; perhaps the state Board of Elections noticed the discrepancy and alerted Hogan’s campaign treasurer to it as they reviewed all the 2012 information.

In short, someone made a mistake, it was fixed, no harm no foul. This should be a non-issue, and I bring it up only to explain some of the reasoning I had all but dismissed Hogan as a 2014 candidate. In fact, one could use this to argue he believed strongly enough in the state to put that much of a personal stake in the race, even as he promised to withdraw if Bob Ehrlich ran. (Never mind the formation of Change Maryland and all the time and effort Larry surely puts into it.)

Given the already-crowded field and the possibility Michael Steele could indeed get into the race, I’m still fairly convinced Larry Hogan will be happy to remain on the sidelines. However, should he decide to run it will be with a clean slate financially.

The exit strategy

I wasn’t going to crack the whip again on the rapidly expiring horse known as a week of furious activity in the 2014 governor’s race until I followed a link at Maryland Reporter and found this Daniel Leaderman piece in the Gazette on Michael Steele. The most interesting sentence to me was this one:

“I’ve stated several times that I think Michael Steele’s our best shot,” (gubernatorial candidate and Frederick County Commission President Blaine) Young said, adding that he will not run if Steele does. (Emphasis mine.)

It’s interesting to note that Young first alluded to this possibility of Steele entering the race in my presence back in February, when he was here speaking with the Wicomico County Republican Club.

Unlike the 2010 race where everyone was waiting to see what Bob Ehrlich would do – even in July of 2009 at the Tawes event we only had two gubernatorial contenders, Mike Pappas and Charles Lollar – this time around no one waited for Michael Steele. Yet if Michael gets into the race, he’s probably the leading contender as most rank-and-file Republicans (the ones who only pay attention every couple years as opposed to junkies like me who write about these races on a constant basis) probably have fond memories of the Lieutenant Governor; moreover, Steele can take some credit for the electoral successes for Republicans in 2010 – and probably will on the campaign trail.

Blaine’s admission that he would withdraw if Steele gets into the race sort of sets the tone for other contenders as well. We found out late last month that Dan Bongino would take a pass on a statewide race next year in favor of a Congressional run – perhaps he knew something not yet cleared for public consumption? – and Blaine could comfortably slot himself into a bid for the newly-created Frederick County Executive post, albeit not without GOP opposition. At just 41 years of age, there’s certainly time for Young to work on a future run for statewide office in 2018 or 2022.

Other contenders find themselves in different positions, though. Because of a residency requirement snafu, Charles Lollar had to downgrade his 2010 campaign to one for a Fifth District Congressional seat. Unlike some of his cohorts, though, Lollar doesn’t have a long resume of elective office to fall back on so it may be logical that, if Charles can’t build on his base of support within the TEA Party community for a statewide race, he could go for a local Delegate or State Senate race – his home county is fertile ground for GOP challengers because the incumbents are Democrats and Lollar only needs a top-three finish for a House seat.

Ron George could obviously run again for Delegate if he decides to abort his statewide plans early enough, but as a guy who’s turning 60 later this year, his prime days of grabbing the brass ring may soon be behind him. In the last 50 years, only one governor (William Donald Schaefer) has been initially elected beyond the age of 60, so this may be Ron’s one shot at glory.

That being said, history is definitely not on the side of David Craig, who is term-limited out his current job as Harford County Executive and has been essentially running for governor over the last two years. Of all those mentioned, I think he’s most likely to stick the race out and challenge Steele should Michael get into the race. Craig really has the most to lose in terms of time invested in the race to just roll over for Steele.

I don’t see this as a four-way race (Craig, George, Lollar, Steele) all the way to the primary, but I don’t see this as a Steele walkover either. In fact, given certain circumstances we could see this split the party into several different factions, not unlike the recent Chair race.

Yet if Michael Steele is planning to jump into the race, it would be best to not keep everyone hanging until just a few months before the primary like Bob Ehrlich did in 2010. That sense of entitlement exhibited by getting in at a late date – and particularly this time, when several have stated their desire for the race and amassed funds and volunteers hoping to dismantle the Democratic status quo – would probably do more to harm the Maryland Republican Party’s chances for downticket success than the 2010 Ehrlich debacle did. That was a year when success was created in spite of the state party, not because of it.

Once upon a time Michael Steele was Chair of the Maryland Republican Party. The best thing he can do for it now is make his intentions known sooner rather than later, so other pieces can fall into place.

Craig 2014 announcement tour reaches Salisbury

It wasn’t exactly by Pony Express, but the third of three days of current Harford County Executive David Craig traveling the state and making his 2014 plans official began this morning in Salisbury at the Government Office Building. His announcement drew about 40 onlookers and various members of the media, as you’ll soon see.

Following Monday stops in Havre de Grace, Dundalk, and Hagerstown, and an itinerary yesterday which included Silver Spring, Prince Frederick, and Annapolis, the final day was opened with some pleasant weather and welcoming remarks by Wicomico County Councilman Joe Holloway.

Holloway’s welcome served as a means to introduce many of the local elected officials who were there to back this Republican effort; a group which included Central Committee members from Worcester, Somerset, and Wicomico counties as well as his fellow County Council members Bob Culver and Gail Bartkovich, Wicomico County State’s Attorney Matt Maciarello, and Delegates Addie Eckardt and Charles Otto.

Holloway then introduced Gail Bartkovich, who had the honor of introducing our esteemed guest.

Gail opened up her warm welcome by noting that our state government seems to think that problems are solved in just two ways: taxes and spending. “Annapolis has forgotten that Maryland government works for us,” said Bartkovich. “We deserve a choice.”

Gail went on to point out that David is unique as a man who has headed up both the Maryland Municipal League and the Maryland Association of Counties as mayor of Havre de Grace and Harford County Executive, respectively. She touted a number of fiscal accomplishments David has achieved as county executive, including leadership in agricultural preservation and a “buy local” campaign. Obviously in a rural county like Wicomico this was seen as appealing.

But the key points Gail wanted to bring up were Craig’s experience as a county leader and the idea David could be a credible alternative to the current policies in Annapolis which I feel only seem to enrich those who are connected. In that, she accomplished her goal and set the stage for the man who would be governor.

The audience seemed quite receptive to his message as well.

In his 16-minute statement, Craig touched on a number of key points.

Coming from a long line of Marylanders, Craig praised the state he grew up in. “I’ve been blessed to grow up in Maryland, to live here, to raise a family here, to have a career here, and to live with my grandparents and – now – our grandchildren,” he beamed.

Comparing his hometown to Salisbury and other small towns in Maryland, Craig reiterated his “faith” in the state, noting, “we can get off the mat, we don’t have to be counted out and don’t have to give in.” But our leaders were focused on the next election, not the next generation, said David.

“When they focus on their political power for too long, we see our faith starting to erode,” warned Craig. He then blasted the incumbent, stating that “politicians…seem to be more concerned about being rockstars and celebrities and (with the) headlines than they are about doing what they’re supposed to do.”

All the while, Maryland is being “outflanked” by its neighboring states. Yet, in the areas adjacent to our surrounding states, said Craig, “we are the forgotten Marylanders.” Government isn’t working for us, he continued – the “political monopoly” in Annapolis is working for itself.

David turned to the taxing legacy of Martin O’Malley, pointing out that the 40 tax increases enacted by the O’Malley/Brown administration have cost working Maryland families $3.1 billion. Yet he warned, “if we don’t offer an opportunity or a choice in 2014, by 2018 that number will be $20 billion.”

If government continues to act as it pleases, added Craig, we will continue the trend which has seen 6,500 small businesses leave the state – second worst on the East Coast – and 31,000 taxpayers who fled the state for more tax-friendly confines like Florida. As an aside, David added “it would have been better to get rid of the death tax than the death penalty,” a line which drew applause from those present.

Turning to education, David reminded the audience which had been fed the line about Maryland’s top-ranked education system that the assessment had come from a trade publication. “That has no connection with student achievement,” said David. “It’s all about how much money you spend in education, not about how well the children do and what happens with them afterward.”

Craig was also critical of the state’s transportation plans, chastising the waste and conflicts of interest in awarding contracts, along with “falsely” balancing the state budget with $1 billion from the Transportation Trust Fund.

David asked about how we “lost our balance” between the environment and agriculture, steering away from sound science principles and instead “looking at what the headlines will be” in the quest for a cleaner environment. Eventually this imbalance will force succeeding generations to leave the state.

“This is what an unbalanced government looks like,” added Craig. He then extolled his achievements in 32 years in government, including setting a financial plan for his successor as mayor of Havre de Grace which has enabled the lowering of the city’s tax rate seven years in a row. (If only Salisbury could say the same.)

But his biggest selling point may have been lost, buried in a paragraph of other remarks. “We have more jobs in Harford County now than we did before the recession started,” said David.

“I’m just a regular Maryland guy,” he continued. “I refuse to accept we are going to continue to be a one-party state…we need to give people a true choice.” And with a track record of confounding the naysayers, Craig was confident in victory. “I’m not going to be counted out,” concluded David.

He then talked to his supporters before turning his attention to the media.

There was a good bit of local media there, with a camera crew and reporter from WMDT-TV patiently watching the affair before getting their interview in, while next in line was Jennifer Shutt of the Daily Times.

As I noted in my post from early this morning, newly-minted District 38C candidate Mary Beth Carozza was also there and introduced herself to the would-be governor. I also received a little insight about her campaign as I was awaiting my chance to speak with David.

That interview I had with David Craig will be published next Tuesday as I polish off the TQT series for a day. I was the only local blogger there so you’ll get his insight on some local issues.

Yet David didn’t just jump on the bus and leave after finishing with me. Instead he investigated another local business.

Today was the final day of the Craig announcement tour, which came just as fellow Republican Ron George will formally kick off his 2014 gubernatorial campaign this evening in Annapolis and rumblings from former Lieutenant Governor and RNC Chairman Michael Steele about throwing his hat into the ring later this year. (Sounds like a former governor I know, feeling entitled to win without a campaign.)

But Craig seems to have established his place as the man to beat thus far, and it’s certain that he’ll see a lot of Salisbury in the coming months as he seeks the nomination.

An early – and interesting – endorsement

I’ve actually sat on this piece of news for a few days, as it didn’t seem to attract a lot of notice anywhere else and I think I know why.

On Tuesday I received a message in my e-mail from the “Draft Charles Lollar” campaign telling me that:

I am honored and deeply humbled to be endorsed by Dr. Ben Carson regarding my consideration to run in the upcoming election to become the next Governor of Maryland.  Dr. Carson is a great leader who exemplifies the American spirit.  This is the same spirit that I intend to bring with me as we begin to share our message with Maryland’s voters now and all the way to Annapolis. – Charles

Great, outstanding, a nice “get” – but what did Dr. Carson actually say? You see, in most endorsements the person promoting the candidate will have a few words to say but in this case we only have the statement that Dr. Carson endorsed Charles. I don’t say this to call Charles Lollar or those working on his nascent and still unofficial campaign liars – don’t misunderstand – but perhaps they need to learn a little more basic technique in writing press releases. And maybe that’s why what would ordinarily draw attention didn’t do a whole lot for the campaign.

On the other hand, given Carson’s comments about gay marriage which led to him withdrawing as Johns Hopkins commencement speaker, the lack of attention may be good. Unfortunately, these comments on political correctness in general have detracted from the good work Carson does in his community and could reflect poorly on Lollar if we don’t seize the narrative.

Still, this is the clearest indication yet that the race for Governor may be between at least four major candidates. All four of these men had presences of various sizes at the recent Maryland GOP state convention, but of that quartet only Frederick County Commission President Blaine Young has used the words “for Governor” in his campaign. 2012 U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino, Harford County Executive David Craig, and Lollar, who made an abortive try for the state’s top job in 2010 before withdrawing and running for Congress instead, have been non-committal beyond an exploratory stage of sorts, although Craig’s campaign is planning a three-day tour of the state in June, according to his local “county point person.” I would presume this would serve as Craig’s official launch to the race.

On the other side of the fence, it’s worth pointing out that Larry Hogan and Change Maryland sat out this convention with the exception of providing a program sponsorship. With four strongly hinting at running for governor, the field may be a little crowded for Larry to jump into. The same goes for Michael Steele – yes, some would like him to run, but would anyone step aside for Steele after eight years away?

Yet with four reasonably strong potential candidates, it looks like the race for the state’s top job could be a scrap on both sides. For the first time in nearly two decades, the GOP has no odds-on choice for governor such as they had with Bob Ehrlich from 2002-10 and Ellen Sauerbrey in 1998. Even the 1994 GOP race only featured two strong candidates, meaning that unless things change between now and the filing deadline the nominee could win with far less than 50% of the GOP vote, leaving himself just weeks to form a united front among disappointed supporters of the other contestants. (Obviously this also depends on the tenor of the primary race, with the hope we don’t relive a situation like the 2008 First District or 2012 Sixth District Republican Congressional primaries, for example.)

It’s an interesting field, one where at this early stage I could see Young, Lollar, and Bongino going after the same conservative wing of the party and allowing the more moderate Craig to slip through. Unfortunately for Lollar, the Carson endorsement wasn’t as well-handled as it probably should have been, particularly since Charles isn’t officially in the race yet. Perhaps this was a misstep by an inexperienced state campaign, but Carson’s was one endorsement which should have been held back for a few weeks.

Gubernatorial hopeful Blaine Young speaks in Wicomico County

On Monday night the Wicomico County Republican Club held its monthly meeting with gubernatorial candidate Blaine Young as the guest. Young spoke for about a half-hour on a number of topics, mainly relating to events in Frederick and surrounding Frederick County, a place where rapid growth over the last several years has come from those he jokingly described as “refugees from Montgomery County.”

Blaine outlined his position as President of the Frederick County Board of Commissioners, although that position will soon be abolished as Frederick County will join a number of other Maryland counties which have adopted a County Executive form of government. In fact, just like Wicomico County, Frederick will have a similarly-comprised seven-member County Council as well beginning in 2014.

In speaking to those gathered, though, Young made it clear his biggest influence after completing a brief previous political career as an alderman in the city of Frederick was that of becoming a small business owner. “It woke me up and opened my eyes,” he said. Blaine is also a radio host, a daily enterprise he claimed the local papers and liberals hate. But his overall stable of business support between 120 and 140 people, stated Young.

But Blaine made the case that he took the appointment to the Commission in 2010 and subsequently decided to run for a full term because his predecessors “liked to spend money.” Instead, the slate he led into office is “a very property-rights oriented commission” which “started slashing away” at a $48 million deficit and turned it into a $29 million surplus. They did so by cooperating with the local Chamber of Commerce to adopt over 200 of their suggestions, eliminating taxes and rescinding “frivolous” fees. The number of county employees had also declined by 400 during his tenure, Young added.

(continued at the Watchdog Wire…)

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