A jam-packed day

It was a day of hot and cold running politicians.

Obviously a lot of them made the scene at the grand opening and ribbon cutting for the local Republican headquarters, with most making their way to the Wicomico County Republican Club Crab Feast held this afternoon.

But quite a few made it a bipartisan event at the St. Francis carnival held in Salisbury. State’s Attorney Matt Maciarello was all over the event but also seen were Mike and Julie Brewington, County Executive hopeful Joe Ollinger, and fellow County Executive candidate Tom Taylor working the wheel for the church. That was just in the few hours I spent there tonight. Nice carnival, by the way.

I think I’m going to hold the pictures and text for tonight since I plan on attending Chris Lewis’s Sharptown event tomorrow. This way I can make it one nicely wrapped package.

I also have other political items on the back burner which will become posts, so don’t fret. I took last week off to some extent because of personal business, but I think next week I’ll be back to normal.

Candidate Wednesday: August 11, 2010

The first edition of Candidate Wednesday begins with Democratic Wicomico County Council at-large hopeful Mike Brewington, features second Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jim Rutledge (in the famous school bus interview), and wraps up with House of Delegates District 38A officeseeker Mike McCready.

Just in watching the interview I was struck by the ease at which Mike delivered his message, which is sometimes rare in a first-time candidate. I can understand his ideas about being a Democrat, although I disagree about them being “for the people” anymore. He obviously would fall under the category described as a “Reagan Democrat” given his conservative fiscal views.

However, he fell a little flat in some of the answers. While you can’t get too wonkish in a ten-minute interview, he needs to realize that, yes, it will be tough on these workers that are furloughed but job creation doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game: losing a public sector job may be the stimulus for creating private sector work on a large scale. And Mike never answered the question on the parking lot, although he brought up a good point regarding the gas tax.

The interview with Jim Rutledge was done on his Crisfield-bound bus for the Tawes Crab and Clam Bake – sometimes you have to take your chances when you get them. But the problem with doing the interview in such a location is that the background noise is too distracting to effectively allow Jim to convey his message. And that’s too bad because Jim makes a lot of good critical points about legislation passed (financial reform, Obamacare, etc.) with the help of his Democratic opponent, Senator Barbara Mikulski.

This interview with Mike McCready was one of the earlier efforts and it seemed that they were still working out the bugs – for example, the whole interview is slightly out of focus. But I liked the line of questioning for the most part and if McCready was trying to establish himself as a conservative he did more or less a decent job – perhaps aside from the aspect of toll roads and raising bridge fees.

I just wish Matt had thought to ask an obvious question I would have asked – how do you think you’ll get along with the liberal majority of Democrats in Annapolis? Certainly he’ll be one of the few who supports gun rights and cares about the fate of farmers and watermen in that caucus.

That brings the first edition of Candidate Wednesday to a close – hopefully if you’re a voter you’re now a more informed one.

If the family that plays together stays together, what does the family that runs together do?

Just a few minutes ago I received this on my Facebook page:

I’m Running for Maryland’s 38A Delegate Seat (Southern Wicomico and Somerset) I hope I can count on your support!

The author of this Facebook post: Julie Brewington, spouse of Mike Brewington. Mike is running as a Democrat for Wicomico County Council at-large, while Julie will file as a Republican for the seat previously held by Page Elmore.

(continued on my Examiner.com page…)

Cannon fires up campaign for General Assembly seat

According to a published report, Wicomico County at-large councilman John Cannon will enter the race for Delegate for District 38A, becoming the second Republican to seek the seat held by the late Delegate Page Elmore. He’ll face Crisfield attorney John Phoebus for the GOP primary nod. With just a few days to go before the filing deadline only one Democrat, Somerset County Commission President Mike McCready, has filed for his party’s nomination.

Cannon’s entry into the House of Delegates race also means that neither at-large County Council member will return for another term, as Democrat Bill McCain announced previously he would not run again. It also leaves the GOP without a candidate to fill either of the two at-large slots on the ballot as Ryan Hohman announced his withdrawal from the race last month. Two Democrats, former councilman Ed Taylor and political activist Mike Brewington, are already set for the ballot.

(continued on my Examiner.com page…but come back for the enhanced article.)

As I noted in my Facebook posting of the original article, I’m not sure I agree with the move in a tactical sense.

First of all, love him or hate him, there wasn’t much doubt that John Cannon would’ve kept his County Council seat had he ran again. In fact, a best-case scenario among those in the running may have maintained or enhanced the GOP’s 4-3 advantage but with even more fiscal hawks placed on County Council – for example, even though he’s a Democrat, Mike Brewington would likely be much more fiscally conservative than Bill McCain.

Yet now the possibility exists of a Democratic takeover of County Council, with the spendthrift likes of Ed Taylor being returned to County Council. Combine that with another term of Rick Pollitt and you better hold on to your wallets.

On the flip side, it’s obvious the Democrats would like to get the District 38A seat to make up for a possible loss in neighboring District 38B. They have a relatively strong Somerset-based candidate in Mike McCready and it’s my belief that a Somerset-based Republican is the better choice to counter McCready’s effect. As I pointed out in the Examiner piece, while Wicomico Republicans made up a majority of the GOP vote, Somerset voters have a majority in the district. And if you think the Republican voter registration numbers are bad here, the situation for the GOP is much worse in Somerset County. (It’s another classic case of the “Daddy was a Democrat so I’m one” syndrome common on the Eastern Shore.)

I don’t mind the contested primary, but I think in a strategical sense things would have been better if Cannon had decided to stay put. I think Page tried to put the bravest face possible on his condition hoping that it would work out best for the party, but word spreads just as quickly here as anywhere else and I think Democrats smelled an opportunity this time around.

Frankly, I was less than pleased with Page Elmore’s voting record on a number of key issues but it’s not very likely a Democrat will do any better. Hopefully Cannon’s move won’t end up losing Republicans a much-needed seat in Annapolis.

Political season heats up like the weather

Last night I made it to two events which prove the passion is already there for a heated electoral campaign.

A number of candidates made it out to the local AFP meeting last night, which benefitted from not having Salisbury’s answer to “Sideshow Bob” drawing attention to himself and his well-publicized feud with one of the local AFP co-chairs.

An overflow crowd made it to last night's Americans for Prosperity meeting, including nearly a dozen local candidates.

We had sort of an unusual start, as Joe Collins talked about and played the Martin O’Malley radio advertisement which accused Bob Ehrlich of being a friend of Big Oil. He then played Ehrlich’s video response and also introduced the audience to fellow GOP hopeful Brian Murphy through another video.

Joe also addressed one critic as he said, “I’m not going to tell you who to vote for.” Instead we should do our own research and come up with our own comclusions.

A number of candidates then were asked to come up and introduce themselves briefly.

While Mike Brewington told us briefly his campaign was about taxes, Rob Fisher took a couple minutes to introduce himself and tell us he was “outraged” by the scope of government. He definitely took advantage of the “few seconds” asked of hopefuls.

Dustin Mills noted the “state of the state is deplorable” and that Rudy Cane has “nothing to show” for 12 years of service. Fellow Delegate candidate Mike McDermott told us “you deserve better” in Annapolis, while Mike Calpino explained we “need a philosopical change in the government.”

I also found out Orphans Court Judge Bill Smith was seeking another term, which surprised me since I was under the impression he was retiring.

Giving brief reports on Wicomico County and Salisbury City Councils were Matt Trenka and S.J. Disharoon, respectively.

While Trenka spoke about the “success” of getting one night meeting per month for County Council, there was also the disappointment that Council’s budget amendments failed to pass so the County Executive’s budget proposal stood as the FY2011 spending plan for Wicomico County. Trenka also called a letter from Delegate Rudy Cane regarding the Council’s cuts as “inappropriate” because it cast the cuts in a race-based light. “(We’re) not racist, not hateful, just no longer silent,” concluded Trenka.

Disharoon spent much of his time lamenting the spending at the city’s wastewater treatment plant, which may end up costing taxpayers as much as $130 million to repair as promised – the newly-hired engineers were “pretty sure” this would work, explained a dismayed Disharoon. He also stated that annexation “has got to stop,” at least for residential areas.

The featured speakers were Bill Satterfield of Delmarva Poultry Industry and Joe Ollinger, who’s running for County Executive.

Bill Satterfield of Delmarva Poultry Industry speaks at the Americans For Prosperity meeting, June 23, 2010.

Satterfield made two key points during his remarks.

First he explained the economic impact of the poultry industry on Delmarva – the 14,700 jobs which are directly created by poultry producers lead to 100,000 jobs indirectly. Just the feed bill for these birds is $850 million, noted Bill.

Yet legislation which singles out the poultry industry seems to be all the rage in Annapolis and Washington. Laboring under “nutrient management plans” and a “pollution diet” already, the growers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed may find life even harder due to special regulations affecting only them (as compared to other regions like the Carolinas.) But agriculture was the only sector making progress toward the goal of cleaning up Chesapeake Bay – urban and suburban areas were lagging behind.

Ollinger went through a brief biography, some history of his community involvement, and the five planks in his platform (being a taxpayer advocate, pay for performance, safer and more disciplined schools, appointing the Board of Education, and combining the county’s law enforcement agencies.) One thing I didn’t know is that he’d worked in the mid-1990’s on a study to consolidate various county functions, including law enforcement. Joe has also spent nearly a quarter-century on the Mayor’s Roundtable discussion group.

Joe Ollinger, candidate for Wicomico County Executive, makes his pitch before the Americans for Prosperity meeting, June 23, 2010.

He answered a number of audience questions, with the most contentious being the prospect of a school board being appointed by the County Executive vs. elected by the voters. Ollinger saw it as an extension of his function of creating the overall budget, but when John Palmer asked for a show of hands on the issue supporters of an elected school board far outnumbered those in favor of Joe’s approach.

With regard to a “hands-on role”, Ollinger said the incumbent, “missed the boat on what the County Executive’s job is,” using the job to be an administrator rather than as a leadership role.

As far as combined law enforcement, Joe believed that the debate would have to occur as a community; for example, Salisbury Mayor Jim Ireton is against the idea because Salisbury prefers its own police force. “I think one law enforcement agency would better serve and better protect the citizens of this county,” said Ollinger.

The key to getting jobs in this county, answered Ollinger to another question, is improving certain areas of our infrastructure (electricity, natural gas, fiber optics, and wireless accessibility) and our school system. While he doesn’t have control over jobs, he does have control over those aspects which attract businesses.

Ollinger also promised to attend more County Council meetings than the incumbent, particularly when the budget was being discussed.

Afterward, those candidates who had attended held an impromptu meet-and-greet. Included in that group were Ollinger along with Congressional candidates Rob Fisher and Andy Harris, Delegate hopefuls Mike McDermott and Dustin Mills, Maryland Senate hopeful Michael James, and County Council aspirants Mike Brewington, Joe Holloway, Mike Calpino, and John Cannon. Karla Graham, who represented Brian Murphy, was also there.

Harris and James were a little late because previous to the AFP meeting was a fundraiser for Maryland Senate candidate Michael James, which featured Senate Minority Leader Allan Kittleman.

It looked like well over 75 people were in attendance for Michael James's fundraiser last night.

Allan stressed the importance of getting 19 Senators – “we fight hard, but it’s just not doable sometimes (with 14 Senators)…(Bob Ehrlich) doesn’t want to be Governor with less than 19 Senators.” It was a case of either being at the table or on the menu.

Current Senator Lowell Stoltzfus, who is retiring, broke his silence on endorsing his successor until after the July 6th filing deadline – “I’m here.” He also related a story Jim Mathias told about himself and his first vote, leading to a question of whether Mathias would follow his principles based on his thought process prior to that initial vote. (It’s nothing new, I’ve heard the story from Mathias too.)

James himself felt the seat needed to be filled by someone “who had created jobs,” noting that under his management the Carousel Hotel had gone from 10 employees to 300. He also harped on a regular theme of being proactive rather than reactive. As for measures to help local business, “one thing we ought to focus on is knocking that sales tax to where it belongs – or lower.”

Brewington enters County Council race

This afternoon the field for at-large County Council on the Democratic side will be filled with a second aspirant. But Mike Brewington, who revealed to me he’s making his first run for elective office, is not your typical Democrat.

For the remainder of the story, see my Examiner.com page.

I also have an exclusive audio interview with Brewington here.

I’ll have another new development in Wicomico County politics later today. (Nope, later this week.)