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.
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…)
The question expressed in the title is perhaps the most vital one going forward for Maryland Republicans. Some are already arguing the state is a lost cause, and when your state’s winning Presidential write-in is Santa Claus (yes, Santa was an official write-in candidate so his votes counted) it’s pretty likely that too many expect things from the government.
In 2012 there were two statewide candidates bearing the Republican ticket and two Libertarians. While the circles aren’t perfectly together, if you made a Venn diagram there would be a lot of common ground and that percentage could make a difference someday. So for the sake of this argument I’m adding them together.
- President: Mitt Romney 971,869 + Gary Johnson 30,195 = 1,002,064 (37%)
- U.S. Senate: Dan Bongino 693,291 + Dean Ahmad 32,252 = 725,543 (27.5%)
Arguably, of the two Republicans the case can be made that Bongino was the more conservative while Romney was perceived by most as relatively centrist (and the closer he got to the end of the campaign, the more he drifted toward the center.) But in that Senate race there was the third man, and polling suggests that for every two votes he took from Democrat Ben Cardin he took three from Dan Bongino. Add 60% of Rob Sobhani’s total to this mix and you have 984,103. Figure in the 2.7% undervote on the Senate race as compared to the Presidential one and it looks like the current conservative/libertarian ceiling is about 1 million votes statewide.
So let’s say that 1,000,000 is the magic number. If our side had turned out 1,000,000 votes for each past statewide election:
- The 2010 statewide elections for Governor and Comptroller would have been nailbiters rather than over by 30 minutes after the polls closed.
- Those elections would have been for an open gubernatorial seat because Bob Ehrlich would have been re-elected in 2006. Michael Steele would have ran this year as an incumbent, and the other two statewide races would have been agonizingly close losses.
You’ll notice that these are gubernatorial cycles rather than Presidential – simply put, 1 million votes in Maryland won’t win in a Presidential year. The only GOP candidate to ever exceed 1 million here was George W. Bush in 2004 and he was running as an incumbent (and still lost big.)
So the trick is getting the same base which comes out to vote in the Presidential election to participate in the gubernatorial ones. But at the same time we have to expand our share of the pie somewhat to be more competitive in Presidential races rather than having GOP campaigns write Maryland off as a lost cause before the campaign even begins.
While there is a share of the electorate which has as its focus a single issue (generally social issues like abortion or gay marriage, although this extends to items like Second Amendment issues or property rights) most people vote their pocketbook and unfortunately they’ve come to grudgingly accept that the government is going to take more out of their pocket regardless of how much they complain. After all, in 2010 – during a TEA Party wave election – Maryland voters re-elected a governor who had raised taxes on practically everyone. But Martin O’Malley successfully pushed the message that “a fee is a tax” and could paint his GOP opponent Bob Ehrlich with the same brush. (O’Malley and General Assembly Democrats then merrily went on to raise many of those same fees.)
Yet at the same time a growing proportion of these voters have become recipients of these same government handouts the increased taxes pay for, creating a situation where redistribution of wealth is the means by which the majority party maintains power. After all, when over half depend on government for their well-being then those in charge of the government tend to stay in charge.
Somewhere we have allowed the opposition to paint us as heartless government cutters. And the other problem is that telling people that “it’s your money” doesn’t work as well when they receive the money from a governmental unit. That doesn’t have to be the ever more ubiquitous EBT card – it can be employment by a governmental unit, whether city hall, the local school, or any of the thousand other bureaus, agencies, or even nonprofits which depend on government grants for their existence. Remember, that cop on the street, your child’s public school teacher, or the lady at the MVA are all government employees, but so is the Salisbury University professor or – indirectly – the grant writer at the nonprofit. Nearly all of them have a vested interest in making sure the taxpayer money spigot remains flowing, because many are scared by the common media narrative into believing the TEA Party is going to leave them high and dry.
Indeed, there are certain cases where they could be correct. But one argument I wish Dan Bongino could have amplified more, because it was effective, ran along the lines (I’m paraphrasing from memory) of being happy to pay for the cop on the street, the public school teacher, or the soldier in Afghanistan – but he drew the line at cowboy poetry festivals in Nevada.
Obviously one can argue the merits of a project which benefits one small area – the drought-stricken farmer in Indiana whose subsidized disaster assistance we criticize may feel the same way about Ocean City beach replenishment here. Moreover, those are small potatoes compared to the huge entitlement spending begging to be cleaned up on the federal level.
But we have to start small and gain trust, particularly when it comes to state politics. For all his tax-raising faults and sacrificing the needs of his state in order to pursue the personal gain of higher office, Martin O’Malley is not an unpopular governor. Arguably this could be due to plenty of help from a sympathetic media, but he’s used the state’s better-than-average unemployment rate (thanks to adjacency to the seat of federal government) to convey the message that all is well. Those who have differing opinions don’t have the same blowtorch to get the message out – 25,000 Facebook followers for Change Maryland is great but hundreds of thousands of Marylanders subscribe to the Baltimore Sun and Washington Post. While I wish to have thousands of readers a day and believe my message is worth the readership, I don’t reach that many with this little candle of mine – it’s no blowtorch quite yet. To be quite blunt, if you took the unique daily readership of ALL the political blogs which deal with Maryland politics – even including their attempts at multimedia – and added them all together, you might equal the readership of a regional newspaper like the Daily Times. As it stands at present, we’re the guppies in an ocean of media, and we have to work at expanding that sphere of influence as well.
Yet the very argument we have a winning message remains untested. Perhaps Dan Bongino was a nearly perfect spokesperson for a conservative message, but there were factors which affected his Senate bid: a perceived lack of life and business experience compared to his opponents, and the fact that one opponent ran a populist campaign with non-specific promises no one forced him to flesh out. Rob Sobhani wanted the debates and so did we, but Hurricane Sandy had other plans for our state and hard questions weren’t asked.
Yet even if Bongino had ran his 2012 race unmolested, the probability is strong he would have picked up around the same 36 to 37 percent which has seemed to be our ceiling in Presidential years. We have to convince about 300,000 more voters in a Presidential year that – assuming we have a conservative, pro-liberty candidate, of course – it’s in the best interests of both them and succeeding generations to cast their ballot for such a person. In one lump, that seems like a lot, but it really only takes a handful of politically agnostic neighbors or friends per activist to accomplish.
In the near future, 2014 is looming and there are at least four candidates who are looking for conservative, pro-liberty support (although they may or may not necessarily have a compatible message: think Bob Ehrlich.) Yet the same rules apply; as I demonstrated earlier getting 1 million votes in a gubernatorial year keeps us at least close and climbing the ladder for another 100,000 may put us over the top.
Yet we cannot rely on a politician – even one as articulate as Dan Bongino – to deliver our message for us. It’s time for all of us to do our part, even though many of us are still burned out on the lengthy 2012 campaign and the disappointment we feel with the results. Indeed, we lost this time but there’s always the next election. Spread the word that we CAN win!
Those of you who have been following Maryland politics for awhile may recall that in 2010, before Bob Ehrlich finally made up his mind whether to give it another go and even prior to the upstart Brian Murphy upsetting the state GOP apple cart, there was another likable, passionate young politician who was being drafted to run for governor.
Former Charles County Republican head Charles Lollar was tripped up by a residency issue, falling just short of the five-year timeline decreed by state law based on his voter registration date. But prior to that he had made the rounds, attracting notice on RedState and appearing at the summertime Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in Crisfield. Lollar also gained fame when former GOP chair Jim Pelura asked him to head a “Maryland GOP Anti-Tax Plan Commission” in 2008.
But after Lollar withdrew from the governor’s race, he turned his sights on the difficult task of unseating entrenched Fifth District Congressman Steny Hoyer. He got 35% of the vote, but a few months later landed on his feet by being named head of the Maryland chapter of Americans for Prosperity.
It was on the “New Day Maryland” advocacy group’s website, though, that Lollar wrote he would make a decision soon:
As some of you may know by I now I have been asked to consider a run for governor in 2014. In fact, there has been a “Draft” campaign started along with a FACEBOOK site advertising such. May I say that this has humbled me to say the least and I am honored to have such friends and patriots that think so highly of me and my family.
In the upcoming months, I will be spending a tremendous amount of time considering this endeavor as I want to ensure this the right direction for me and my family. Additionally, I am meeting with business leaders throughout the state of Maryland discussing my solutions for the economic struggles of our great state to include our rising unemployment as I outlined in the “RedPrint” for Maryland that can be found on my site www.newdaymd.com.
I humbly ask each and every one of you to pray with me considering this all impressing matter. Whether you are within or without the borders of Maryland, I will need your support and prayers if in fact my family and I continue down this road. Please feel free to go on the “Draft Charles Lollar for Governor” Face Book and leave a message, I guarantee you it will encourage those who have authored this Draft as well as myself.
You all have my commitment that after considerable contemplation and prayer I will let you all know of my decision by the first of the New Year.
So what would a Lollar candidacy bring to the table?
Obviously, he’s a minority Republican, but any advantage from that with those voters would be negated if one leaked Garin-Hart-Yang internal Democratic poll from September is correct and Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown is the Democrats’ frontrunner. Furthermore, Michael Steele (among many others) proved that blacks vote for ideology before race. Yet Lollar has a compelling message which still needs to be put out in the hopes of changing hearts and minds in both that specific community and (more importantly) the state at large. Truly, prosperity and freedom aren’t (and shouldn’t be) limited by the color of one’s skin – those of us on our side take that to heart.
A second effect, though, is one of splitting the TEA Party vote a little further. Certainly the tough-talking fiscal conservative Blaine Young is a leading candidate among conservatives, but TEA Parties will have another choice if Lollar jumps in. Of course, the “establishment” Republicans also have a conundrum when they consider the choice of David Craig vs. Larry Hogan, both of whom are more known quantities in GOP circles. Hogan may also negate what advantage Lollar has in southern Maryland based on the fact his father represented the area in Congress for a few years back in the 1970s.
Lollar would also have to play catch-up in fundraising, but Lollar’s media-friendly approach could catch on nationally like Dan Bongino’s did. (Of course, if Rob Sobhani decides to run for governor all bets are off.)
Depending on the audience he seeks, though, Lollar may want to embrace (or have to live down) a statement he made in this BET profile on minority convention delegates. Of course, context is key and it’s doubtful the “not overly impressed with either party” part of the interview came without plenty of context, knowing Charles.
If I were a betting man, I’d place my money on Charles getting into the race – it’s not like he wasn’t interested before. The only thing which may hold him back would be lack of support from his family and I’m certainly not in the position to speculate on how they would feel about such a decision. From what Lollar says, we’ll know soon enough anyway.
Apparently there is a letter being sent to Maryland Republicans from Anthony Marsh, who is one of us but has decided to vote for independent candidate Rob Sobhani. I disagree with Marsh’s choice, but that’s his right as an American. The photo comes from Dan Bongino’s Facebook page, but I don’t know the source. I didn’t receive a copy of the letter myself.
Of course, I look at these things with suspicion considering the source and how far this falls from the typical Republican thought. So I looked up Anthony Marsh to see how loyal of a Republican he is, and insofar as federal donations go he is indeed straight-line GOP.
But there was one thing the letter reveals about Anthony Marsh – he’s a political consultant. And given the factoid he’s written a book on how to write copy that gets votes it’s obvious he’s putting his talents to work.
Moreover, I found it interesting that Marsh has worked on political campaigns in several farflung places like the Middle East and the former Soviet Union – precisely the same places where Rob Sobhani has made his biggest deals. Is Marsh looking for another “in” to these regions by working with Sobhani?
…to take back Congress Republicans have to run smart, upstart campaigns that aren’t afraid to use surprise and aggressive tactics. Republicans can’t win by running campaigns as if the GOP were still in charge. Newsflash to GOP candidates: no one is going to parachute into your district with $4 million this election year.
Well, Rob Sobhani did – unfortunately, he’s spending it in a manner that’s crippling the Republican candidate. And since the guy can’t even do a robocall properly – forgetting the obligatory disclaimer and authority line – it’s truly a question of whether this guy is ready for prime time. (Notice that this robocall hasn’t piqued Ben Cardin’s interest, but he noticed the last large-scale robocall without an authority line. That whole faux-voter suppression issue seemed to be the only thing which woke Ben up from a six-year-long stupor in the Senate.)
It’s a sad way to end a campaign with such promise. TEA Party Republicans have developed somewhat of a reputation as being the ones who won’t moderate their views and cost our side elections, but you can’t blame our side for this one. Nope, that tar brush needs to paint the mushy middle and those who wouldn’t stand behind our nominee. This one is on you for undercutting Dan Bongino and making the road to GOP victory that much more difficult.
Yesterday I got a mail piece that REALLY burned me up as an elected member of the Maryland Republican Party – as opposed to the two who claim to speak on my behalf. Here’s a photo:
Maybe it’s because I don’t have family on the payroll of the pro-Issue 7 side, but it seems to me that these two have drifted pretty far away from the party mainstream on a number of issues.
If you really want a good – conservative – Republican voter guide, you can look no further than my website since I went over all these questions last week. I don’t sell out to the highest bidder.
It is interesting to note, however, that the group which paid for this mailing is NOT the one which has paid for the numerous pro-Question 7 mailings which have found their way to my mailbox. Those are paid for by the laughably misnamed FOR Maryland Jobs and Schools, while this mailing was paid for by the similarly misnamed Republican Leaders Referendum Guide. The treasurers for each group are different as well.
Now I can understand that both Audrey and Michael have their roots in Prince George’s County and they feel the new casino would someday benefit their former home. And it just might once the conditions are set right.
But we are in a situation now where casinos being opened up cannibalize the revenues of existing facilities, and the rationale for choosing locations seems to be more about cronyism and buying votes than real market forces. It’s telling that MGM waited to jump into the market until they got a sweetheart deal they could live with; meanwhile, Penn National played by the original rules and watched their investment in Perryville go sour the minute a casino opened in Anne Arundel County. Obviously that’s the risk an investor runs.
So why should every little decision have to come down to the voters? I’ll grant that I’m not familiar with the setup of other states, but it seems to me that if we’re talking about a commission that includes both gaming and the Maryland Lottery the rules should be relatively the same – if the Maryland Lottery wants a new scratch-off game voter approval is not required.
The solution is simple: vote AGAINST Question 7 and make the General Assembly come back with a ballot issue in 2014 to repeal Article XIX of the Maryland Constitution. That ill-considered change from 2008 removed the General Assembly from making decisions more properly theirs, punting these issues to a ballot every two years as opposed to being able to make changes at least annually if not more often via a Special Session as it was this summer. If Question 7 passes then there’s no incentive to change a system that’s flawed. Let’s get gambling done right: it’s as simple as that.
And just for the record: Steele and Scott are wrong on Questions 1 and 2 as well. There’s no need to modify the Orphan’s Court in any county.
I received an interesting letter today and it regards Question 7. I’m not going to reprint the whole thing (since I’m sure a number of my Republican readers received it as well) but I think the first few paragraphs are worth reprising. You’ll find out who wrote it after I finish – I’m saving that tidbit of information:
Dear Fellow Republicans,
Just like 5 years ago, West Virginia interests are flooding Maryland airwaves with false advertising trying to fool us into putting West Virginia’s interest first, even though it hurts Maryland.
Why West Virginia? Because that is where Penn National’s casino is located. A casino that West Virginia reporters call a “cash cow.” They can’t say that directly, so they hire fancy marketing companies to try and fool us – spending almost $40 million so far to defeat Question 7.
Penn National’s meddling has cost Marylanders hundreds of millions (of) dollars in lost revenue, and would cost us much more if they win in November. It is time we told Penn National to butt out!
We are FOR Question 7
We have teamed up to explain the history of Question 7 and why we are both voting FOR Question 7.
Ten years ago, when gaming (slots) was first introduced to the State Capital (sic) by Governor Bob Ehrlich, we were enthusiastic supporters, as were most Republicans. After years of back and forth, the Maryland Legislature in 2007 passed a slots bill, which was then ratified by the voters in 2008 (passing in every Republican jurisdiction in the State.)
Unfortunately, the 2007 legislation was hastily put together. It put our gaming industry at a decided disadvantage to surrounding states. To put this in perspective, Pennsylvania, which began gambling the same year as Maryland, received $1.5 billion per year in tax revenue while Maryland lost money.
Maryland Republicans supported bringing gaming to Maryland. But, as many of you have said, “if we’re going to have gaming in Maryland, we should do it right.” Well, we agree.
You know, though, it’s uncanny how often my fellow Republican Audrey Scott and I find ourselves on opposite sides of an issue. Her and co-author Michael Steele have exactly diagnosed the disease, but fail to come up with the correct cure.
But before I get to the meat of my argument, allow me to pick out a few points.
It’s worth mentioning that Penn National indeed owns the Hollywood Casino in Charles Town, West Virginia but also owns the Hollywood Casino in Perryville, so they’re not a completely out-of-state entity. That Perryville casino has requested 400 slots be removed so the facility didn’t look as barren and devoid of players, as an empty casino discourages patrons.
On the other hand, MGM wants to be a party-crasher. This comes from a story I found in the Baltimore Business Journal:
MGM decided not to bid for a Maryland casino in 2007 when the state first opened the door to gaming, (MGM CEO James) Murren said. Maryland’s high — 67 percent tax rate on gambling revenue — the state’s resolve to own the video lottery terminals (VLTs) and its refusal to allow table games drove MGM away.
To me, this seems like a form of crony capitalism at its finest, and I wish the state would be as accommodating to securing productive jobs for Maryland residents as it’s bent over backwards for MGM despite their alleged ties to organized crime. The $40 million Penn National has spent has been matched by MGM and casino backers, potentially making this question a nine-figure bonanza for media and other related interests before it’s all said and done. (Hopefully Steele and Scott received a nice little cut for their efforts. It doesn’t hurt to have Prince George’s County ties as both authors do, either.)
The argument about Penn National “costing” Maryland hundreds of millions is also a red herring. Certainly a number of Maryland gamblers go to Charles Town, but there’s no guarantee they’ll suddenly cease to do so if and when a casino at National Harbor opens. And those who flock to National Harbor may well come from other Maryland properties, particularly the Maryland Live! facility in Anne Arundel County. (In turn, that Anne Arundel facility is blamed for cutting Perryville’s business once it opened.) The rosy revenue projections often given to Maryland gambling have seen their bloom fade when reality hits, and there’s no reason to expect this round to do any better.
The crux of the Steele/Scott argument, though, is the request for Maryland to “do it right.” They correctly point out that Pennsylvania is raising far more money – with lower tax rates - than Maryland has. In fact, Maryland’s tax rate on casino operators is among the highest percentages in the country (based on 2010 data) with only New York and Rhode Island in the same neighborhood, although Pennsylvania is above average as well.
But the problem Maryland alone has is the inefficient method of making changes. It’s a point I made back in 2008 to no avail, and we’re now stuck with the folly of needing voter approval to build a facility and place equipment inside.
Voting for Question 7 only repeats the mistake made because, sure enough, someone will come along and promote the next “can’t miss” venture and have to suffer through both a legislative process and voter approval to receive it. Many casino operators don’t like those odds (or those tax rates) which probably explains why just three of the five proposed facilities are in operation four years after voters approved them the first time. A valid question raised by opponents is why the casino authorized in Baltimore City is being promised now when ample time has elapsed to build a slot barn – are they holding it hostage to a better deal? And what’s to stop MGM from demanding a better cut down the road and holding National Harbor hostage?
Maryland casinos should have the flexibility afforded to the Maryland Lottery. When they wanted to join up with MegaMillions and Powerball they didn’t need voter approval; instead, they just went ahead and did it. Certainly there are a few Maryland residents and businesses pleased that a ballot question was unnecessary.
I believe the best way to give the state this sort of leeway is to reject Question 7 and force the state to come back in 2014 with a ballot measure repealing Article XIX of the Maryland Constitution. By repealing Article XIX, it once again frees the General Assembly to make necessary law adjustments because these lines will no longer be in effect:
(d) Except as provided in subsection (e) of this section, on or after November 15, 2008, the General Assembly may not authorize any additional forms or expansion of commercial gaming.
(e) The General Assembly may only authorize additional forms or expansion of commercial gaming if approval is granted through a referendum, authorized by an act of the General Assembly, in a general election by a majority of the qualified voters in the State.
So the game plan is simple: say no now and say yes to repeal of Article XIX in 2014. The National Harbor project is not slated to come online under its current schedule until 2016 anyway, so a two-year wait wouldn’t hurt the state much in the long run.
I’m not naive enough to believe that gambling can be eliminated in Maryland, for three of our neighboring states have let that genie out of the bottle. But if we really want to do it right, the small-d democratic idea of voter involvement has to be eliminated from the process. While the power of the referendum is a useful one, it shouldn’t be a substitute for a General Assembly doing the job it’s appointed to do in a republic.
If you are old enough to remember the 1992 election, you may recall that the usual two-player Presidential game had a party-crasher by the name of Ross Perot. Eventually after a few campaign fits and starts Perot got 19% of the national Presidential vote and allowed Bill Clinton to win with just 43 percent (incumbent George H.W. Bush received 38 percent.) Some say that the eventual result would not have changed even without Perot, and perhaps my little piece of anecdotal evidence bears that out – I voted Perot but had he not been there I would have held my nose and voted for Bush. On the other hand, I also talked my spouse at the time out of voting for Clinton and into Perot. (Or so she said.) Still, there’s a part of me which believes Bush may have hung on to beat Clinton if not for Ross Perot and the Reform Party. (Which, by the way, is trying to make a comeback in Maryland.)
So after writing on Friday about the recent Gonzales Maryland Poll (which posted yesterday) I saw a couple items on independent U.S. Senate candidate Rob Sobhani. This in particular piqued my interest.
“I hit the jackpot, I could have bought another house” Rob Sobhani today on why he decided today to run for the US Senate.
— Dan Bongino (@dbongino) September 29, 2012
Perhaps Mr. Sobhani has a unique sense of humor I don’t understand given his Iranian heritage and loyalty to it, or Dan Bongino took him out of context. But then there was another item I spied on my Facebook page and alluded to in my previous link that led me to do a little research on the political donations of one Rob Sobhani. I’ll get to that shortly.
Worthy of note in this context is that Sobhani has run for the Republican nomination for Maryland’s U.S. Senate seat on two previous occasions – 1992, when he finished 5th out of a crowded 15-person field behind eventual GOP nominee Alan Keyes, and 2000, where he was runner-up to Paul Rappaport in an 8-way race.
Yet in his first FEC report on June 30, Sobhani recorded some typical expenditures. The timeline is as follows:
- On February 5, the campaign paid Sullivan and Associates for legal services. They were paid again in May.
- The Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies was paid $21,000 on March 10.
- Presumably the polls were agreeable, since Sobhani paid a total of $142,171 to both Savanna Communications and Arno Political Consultants for petition services from April through June.
- In addition he began a marketing campaign prominently featured on this website, at a cost of $1,800.
- Finally, he hired Igoe and Associates as a consultant on June 15.
With the possible exceptions of Sullivan and Associates and hy.ly, the firms Sobhani used are fairly reliable Republican backers. But that doesn’t add up with his pattern of personal political donations.
I went to Opensecrets.com and pulled up a lengthy file of Sobhani’s political giving over the last 22 years. During a 15-year stretch from 1991 to 2006, Sobhani donated a total of $9,400 to a group of candidates which were almost exclusively Republican, with the one exception running as an independent. He also gave a total of $9,340 to the state and national Republican parties. His last donation to a Republican was to Michael Steele in 2006, who ironically ran for the very Senate seat Sobhani is trying for now.
But after a five-year hiatus, Sobhani started giving again – to Democrats. First was Milad Pooran, who was an also-ran for the Sixth District nomination won by John Delaney. Pooran was endorsed by a number of leftists including Howard Dean and Keith Ellison, the lone Islamic member of Congress. Just before the June 30 deadline, Sobhani doubled down and donated $250 to Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen, who represents the Memphis area. Most notably, Cohen sponsored a amendment reducing infrastructure funding in Afghanistan.
Perhaps it’s a way to burnish his independent credentials, but this seems quite curious for a guy who used to be a Republican to have gone so far to the left, at least in his political giving.
But rather than speculate on what his motives were, I wrote an e-mail to Rob and asked him a few questions point-blank:
- Since you have run for the Senate before in 1992 and 2000, what made you decide to run as an independent? Was it a case of not having confidence in the MDGOP banner or did the party move in a direction you were uncomfortable with?
- I noticed your last two political donations were to Democrats after a decade and a half of almost solid GOP giving? What was your rationale in doing so, given you have a message which is somewhat conservative?
I received Rob’s reply yesterday, which I am presenting in its entirety:
Thanks for your interest in my campaign. I am pleased by the support I have received so far and attribute it to the fact that my message resonates with many people in our state who are tired of politics as usual.
With regard to my decision to become an independent, I have lost my faith in both parties to fairly represent people’s needs today. Our economy is in trouble, and I see few solutions offered either by Republicans or Democrats. That is why I am trying something different. I think a lot of people share my thinking on this, let’s see as the campaign continues.
I have personally supported Republicans and Democrats in the past in cases where I believed the individual offered something important in the respective races. We should all be able to declare our independence in this state. Only by creating more jobs and getting our economy going again will we restore the quality of life we’d be proud to pass onto our children. At the end of the day, that is our duty, and it is more important than any party ideology.
I’m sorry Rob feels that way about the Republican Party, as I see it as the most viable vehicle to represent what the people truly want and need to have to prosper – freedom and liberty. And while he’s correct in assessing the fact our economy is in the dumper, the question of whether what he is proposing as a cure will work still needs to be explained a little more to me. Brian Griffiths at Red Maryland makes an interesting case that Sobhani should run for a different office in a post which could otherwise do well as a hit piece:
…to me, the role that Sobhani is suggesting he fill as a U.S. Senator is generally filled by a Governor. Because it is the Governor who is more directly responsible for creating economic development within the state. Furthermore, I sure as heck don’t want a U.S. Senator who thinks that his role is to go to Washington and send the bacon home to Maryland, no matter where the money is coming from.
But the statement Sobhani makes about adding to races is more telling, and perhaps explains well why he’s gone from staunch support of Republicans to backing Democrats. I’m not sure what Steve Cohen adds to his race since he’s in a D+23 district anyway, but Pooran shares Sobhani’s Iranian heritage.
Yet in order to have a chance to do as Rob says and “restore the quality of life we’d be proud to pass onto our children” it seems to me there should be a set of guiding principles involved. Rob oversimplifies this by saying on his campaign site that:
The parties are both locked into narrow ideological agendas that prevent them from talking to one another or working together for meaningful solutions. As an Independent, I’m not beholden to either political party. I hope to bring people of goodwill from both parties together.
One man’s “ideological agenda” is another’s principles, and among Republicans we should hold these truths to be self-evident and we should sell out our core beliefs to no one. NO ONE. There really is no middle ground between freedom and tyranny.
And don’t we have a President who promised to be “post-partisan?” That lasted about as long as it took for a Republican to show some backbone and be greeted by the President saying “I won.” Compromise, rather than fealty to the principles which made our nation strong, has placed us where we are now.
There is one other observation for me to make, and if Rob chooses to hold his cards close to the vest on this point I suppose I can understand. But it’s another question which should be asked.
Over the last few years in the Senate, there have been two independents: Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. While the are ostensibly unaffiliated, in reality both have caucused with the Democrats as Sanders is an avowed Socialist while Lieberman was once a Democratic vice-presidential nominee and won his seat in 2006 despite losing in the Democratic primary and re-entering the race as an independent.
So let’s say Sobhani defies the odds and pulls the upset. Will he caucus with the Republicans because that’s his traditional political home and the side from which he seems to be pulling more support, or will he caucus with the Democrats based on the fact his Senior Senator is in that caucus? Or will he wait and see other results so he can gravitate to the winning side? Imagine the scenario of Mitt Romney winning the White House but the Democrats controlling the Senate by a 50-49 margin – will he sell his position to the highest bidder like just another business deal?
At some point he’s going to have to choose.
It’s a shame, though, that it appears Dan Bongino doesn’t want to include Rob Sobhani in the debates (at least that’s how the AP story depicts it.) Let Rob’s voice be heard, and let him answer some tough questions. I’m sure I would have some more.
Ben Cardin’s been in office for 46 years, and Dan Bongino has been on the campaign trail for 16 months. If money can buy a Senate seat, I suppose we will find out from a guy who’s barely been at it for six months and only officially announced four weeks ago.
Update: Mark Newgent at Red Maryland has unearthed the pitch sheet Sobhani used to gather signatures. I didn’t know that Rob was ”pro-choice and supports gay rights,” did you? I’ll concede that, indeed, these issues are less important than fixing the economy (although Sobhani’s plan is dubious in itself – after all, wasn’t Solyndra a sort of public-private partnership?) but America is also better-served by those who believe in upholding traditional morals.
If there’s one thing which can be said about Dan Bongino, it’s that he is very, very telegenic. Here’s an example: this interview with Ginni Thomas at the Daily Caller. (I had issues last night with this video so sorry, no embed.)
The only complaint I would have about the video is questioning why they had to use the profile camera angle when both parties aren’t involved in the shot. It makes Dan look like he wouldn’t look you in the eye and in my dealings with him there’s nothing further from the truth.
But if you have forty minutes this is a valuable chance to hear what Bongino has to say, in depth. It’s the raw video from one which was culled by Anthropocon‘s Jim Jamitis and praised by conservatives like Sarah Palin. I didn’t know it existed until I looked for a better source to embed the first video.
Having been involved in politics for almost twenty years, I’ve found there are rare people who seem to cut through the political crap and are genuine. I would put Dan in this category, even though I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says. Let’s just put it this way: unlike his opponent, I wouldn’t have to be convinced he’s my friend.
So how is the Bongino campaign going? Well, the conventional wisdom is that Ben Cardin is safe, so there’s no recent polling. The most recent poll I found is a PPP Poll from 2010 which had Cardin defeating a generic Republican 51-33. (The poll was intended to match him up with Michael Steele, who Cardin beat 58-28.) But it’s telling that in the poll Cardin only had a 42% approval rating, with 28% disapproval. Against the current partisan breakdown of Maryland voters, the poll oversamples Democrats by 4 points and Republicans by about 1 point, so I suspect Cardin would be polling under 50 percent now. More recently, the Gonzales Research Maryland Poll from January had Cardin with 51% approval, but it didn’t project a primary opponent.
The same polling company did a survey last October which stated Cardin had 32% who “definitely would” vote for him with 25% saying the opposite. Supposedly 1/3 of Republicans would consider voting for Cardin, but they hadn’t met Dan Bongino yet. Considered in that respect, with that seven-point margin it’s a little surprising that people believe Maryland is safe Cardin territory, but they’re probably basing that simply on the 56-26 Democrat partisan advantage in the state. One thing about a significant percentage of Maryland Democrats, though: they’re not necessarily party loyalists.
Yet Dan Bongino is ceding no ground and Ben Cardin’s not covering a whole lot of it. Apparently Ben’s counting on that $1.5 million in the bank to carpetbomb the state with 30-second commercials, but it’s possible Cardin may be aced out by the massive spending on issues like Question 7. There’s only so much commercial time available and television stations are licking their chops, imagining a robust bottom line thanks to at least $11 million spent so far by gambling interests.
So in this case grassroots may be more important than money, and I’d rather side with the true conservative believers than the hired guns who are in it for the box lunch or time off work on Election Day, like this rent-a-mob.
As Bongino said:
I will not let the Republican Party cede the moral high-ground to a Party driven by lofty intentions and failed results. Time to take off the gloves and fight for what we know is the right path forward.
Speaking of Dan, this also gives me an opportunity to update yesterday’s post on the Libya response. Bongino added these remarks in a release today:
The Administration’s continuing claims that the Libyan protests, which resulted in the horrific deaths of four Americans along with our Ambassador, were the result of unpredictable, spontaneous protest activity are either intentionally deceptive or demonstrate complete incompetence.
Having spent over a decade reviewing threat assessments from all over the world, it is hard to believe that given the amount of information Libyan officials claim to have passed to the U.S. government regarding the active terrorist threat to our personnel on the ground, that the Administration sincerely believes this deadly assault to be spontaneous. There are only two potential answers, either the threat to our personnel was ignored due to incompetence or political concerns regarding the approaching election influenced the allocation of security forces to the region. I am calling upon the State Department to immediately release any information related to the threat assessment which led to the sub-standard and deadly security footprint in Benghazi.
The Hillary Clinton State Department? I’m not holding my breath that she’s going to fall on a sword for Obama. Interesting times indeed.
But returning to my main point: we have to believe this race is winnable because a lot has changed in the six years since Ben Cardin eked out a surprisingly close 10-point victory over Michael Steele – in an awful year for Republicans. Cardin is not the shoo-in people think he is, so let’s get to work and prove the conventional wisdom wrong once again.
Over the course of the past year we have been engaged in a door to door, hand to hand, grassroots campaign effort in Prince George’s County, Baltimore City, and throughout Maryland. We refuse to forfeit any votes due to historical voting patterns. Today is a new day, and ideas matter. The simple fact is the City and the County have been governed exclusively by bureaucrats enmeshed in a specific ideology for decades and have few results to show their tax-paying constituents. The bureaucratic neglect suffered by the citizens of these areas is staggering and unacceptable.
That’s a statement from U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino, who will be the featured speaker at the “No More Neglect Rally” held just outside Washington D.C. tomorrow. Interestingly enough, one of the other speakers will be the last person who tried to defeat Senator Ben Cardin, that being onetime Lieutenant Governor and, more recently, RNC Chair Michael Steele.
That list of speakers got me to thinking about my recollections of the Steele-Cardin race. To be sure, since 2006 was a state election year (and the first Maryland campaign I was involved with) the U.S. Senate race was sort of an undercard to the effort of Governor Bob Ehrlich to be re-elected. But once Steele decided to step out of Ehrlich’s shadow, the way was paved for him to be the GOP nominee and it was believed that having a black candidate could be the ticket to winning a Republican U.S. Senate seat out of Maryland for the first time since 1980.
But I’m not sure that there wasn’t an assumption that race would trump ideology. Surely the Steele campaign wasn’t foolish enough to believe they would get every minority vote, but in both Baltimore City and Prince George’s County – two heavily minority areas – Steele received less than 1/4 of the vote, and he only outpaced Bob Ehrlich’s performance in those two areas by a few points. Looking at the numbers, one can deduce that, had Steele ran even with Ben Cardin in Baltimore and Prince George’s County, he would have been won a close election because Michael won the rest of the state outright.
However, it should be noted that Ehrlich and Steele did far better in those areas in 2006 than Ehrlich and Wargotz did in 2010, and roughly the same as the Ehrlich/Steele 2002 ticket did. So race apparently did help somewhat.
We know that Ben Cardin will tie his wagon to that of Barack Obama, particularly in minority areas. But Dan Bongino is asking the right question: what has blind loyalty to the Democrat Party done for their communities? Are they better off than they were four years ago? Even more to the point: are they better off than they were fifty years ago?
There’s no doubt that most would answer yes to the latter question, as the rising tide of American economic dominance lifted all the boats to a level where even someone considered poor today is living far better than the middle class of 30 to 40 years ago, insofar as material goods measure success. As far as other aspects of life, though, the jury is still out.
Yet I know Republicans who will swear up and down it’s a waste of time to campaign in minority areas because they’ll never vote for a Republican. No doubt it’s frustrating, but Dan Bongino is investing the time and effort by tailoring the message to hot-button issues which resonate regardless of race, particularly education. And he only needs to gain about 6% of the overall vote to succeed, so if he attracts 30 percent of the vote in Baltimore City and PG County it’s going to be a long night for Ben Cardin because that first loss is always the toughest. One would have to presume that Bongino is outpacing Steele in the rest of the state if he’s at that magic 30% threshold in minority areas.
To be perfectly frank, the fact that Dan Bongino has no record – just rhetoric – could be the reason the Republican establishment has seemed to shy away from his campaign. Several of the top party brass supported his primary opponent, Richard Douglas, in part because he at least had a Senatorial pedigree as a staffer to Senator Jesse Helms. To them, Bongino was a wild-card unknown, and another candidate those who believe they’re in the know dismiss as the “nice guy who doesn’t have a chance because he’s from dark blue Maryland and has no money.” Funny, but they said that about Scott Brown.
I understand the argument that Scott Brown was an outlier – the beneficiary of a special election held at a time when the national focus was on that one race, in a time period where his election meant the difference between a filibuster-proof Democrat majority or simply a 59-41 bulge. I get that. But Dan is doing his best to nationalize the election like Scott Brown did, based on his frequent national television and radio appearances. It’s a ton of free media which maximizes his efforts at getting the word out, and it’s making a difference.
I say all this, though, having no idea whether Dan would be a Scott Brown or a Jim DeMint. In six years I may be at the front of the line calling for a Republican primary opponent for Dan because he turned out to be what I consider a squishy moderate. I’d rather be in that position, though, than hoping we can find a quality opponent to take on the man National Journal has regularly tabbed as the most liberal Senator in a body which has more than its share of would-be patricians. I think the only true friends Ben Cardin has are the ones with checkbooks.
Yet in the meantime those on the wrong side of political assumptions and bureaucratic neglect continue to reliably vote against their best interests. For their trouble they have a president who stabbed them in the back by both denying them educational opportunities and allowing their closest economic competitors – illegal aliens – free rein in this country; meanwhile, their so-called leaders cry racism at the drop of a hat rather than suggest that the best way to prosper isn’t necessarily though athletics, rap music, or crime, but through a method employed by those success stories which are rewarded with the derision of being known as Oreos, Uncle Toms, or simply too white.
Obviously I think that’s completely crazy, but then again I’m just a white guy who grew up in a white-bread middle-class city neighborhood for several years before moving to a rural school district with ONE black student. If I may butcher the dialect and/or date myself, I’ve not been down much with the homeboys. But I am aware that history hasn’t always been kind to them.
On the other hand, it only takes a small percentage of those people who open their eyes and minds to realize that enslavement to one political party is contributing to the enslavement of their population to lives of poverty and fear. Other races don’t play that game, although Latinos are heading in that same direction towards marginalization, to their detriment.
So we should applaud Dan Bongino and the others who are taking the fight to the enemy in such a manner. I hope there’s a thousand at the rally and they each tell ten of their friends – there is an alternative to the same old pandering liberal Democratic politicians out there, so accept nothing less.
Since it seemed to me to be sort of an unfair fight and a point was made, I closed my poll a couple days early.
It’s obvious that two campaigns have enough supporters (and programming savvy, since I know it can be done) to game the system in such a way that they’ll do well. If this were an actual scientific survey it’s obvious the top two wouldn’t get 98% of the vote as they did.
But here’s how this poll turned out:
- David Craig – 2,153 (52.95%)
- Larry Hogan – 1,831 (45.03%)
- Brian Murphy – 29 (0.71%)
- Bob Ehrlich – 15 (0.37%)
- Charles Lollar – 15 (0.37%)
- Marty Madden – 9 (0.22%)
- Blaine Young – 5 (0.12%)
- Pat McDonough – 3 (0.07%)
- E.J. Pipkin – 3 (0.07%)
- Michael Steele – 3 (0.07%)
Compare this with a straw poll recently done at the Maryland YR Convention, where among those I listed on my ballot David Craig won, but with just 25 percent. He was trailed by Michael Steele with 21%, Larry Hogan at 13%, Blaine Young at 8%, and Charles Lollar and Brian Murphy at 4 percent. Marty Madden and Pat McDonough got no votes.
I suspect that if someone actually did a real, scientific poll with these ten names on it Michael Steele and Bob Ehrlich would be the top two and it would comprise about 50 percent of the vote. That’s simply based on name recognition at this point, and not any substantive discussion of issues.
The next tier would feature David Craig, Larry Hogan, and Brian Murphy, and it would get about 30 percent of the vote.
The bottom tier would be led by Young, with McDonough, Pipkin, Lollar, and Madden bringing up the rear.
But neither Ehrlich nor Steele has made any overtures toward running in 2014, and that small 20 percent or so who would like a fourth Ehrlich run are very, very likely to be disappointed. In the meantime, David Craig is all but officially in and has been talking like a candidate for months; meanwhile Larry Hogan has a 12,000-strong Change Maryland group as a possible support base. Brian Murphy obviously has some residual 2010 support to count on as well.
The others have name recognition, but only in one part of the state: Young in the Frederick area, McDonough around Baltimore, Pipkin on the Upper Eastern Shore, Lollar in southern Maryland, and Madden around Howard County. With the exception of Pipkin in 2004, none have embarked formally on the rigors of a statewide race.
Of course, the process is a long way from over since we are still over two years out from the GOP primary, and not everyone mentioned as a hopeful will actually decide to run. My belief is that when all is said and done we will have three and perhaps four viable candidates vying for the nomination, since it’s an open seat. But it’s obvious which ones are trying to put their name into circulation as a front-runner.
During a political campaign of any sort, the candidate and his or her handlers will spin any information they can control in order to make himself or herself look completely golden. Massaging the image is the name of the game, so getting a peek behind the curtain can be a real eye-opener if you know where to look.
The other day I had forwarded to me an interesting e-mail from a member of a particular Central Committee which National Committeewoman candidate (and former MDGOP Chair) Audrey Scott had visited – it was not ours, since as of this writing Mrs. Scott has not visited Wicomico County as part of her bid. (Rumor has it she will come to our quad-county meeting later this week.) Aside from thanking them for their consideration and asking for their support, one of the key quotes from the note was this evidence of her financial savvy:
As State Party Chair, I retired a $250,000 debt in the first 5 months of my term and raised over $1.5M, in addition to obtaining another $1M from the RNC for the Victory Campaign.
To me, that seemed quite odd. Read more