Stuff getting serious

As the General Assembly session – that annual event I have dubbed the “90 Days of Terror” – winds down, it’s looking more and more certain that a day of reckoning is coming. For Delegate Don Dwyer, the straw which broke the camel’s back was the House passage of a draconian new gun law by 78 Democrats, mainly those hailing from the I-95 corridor. In an unusual move, even reliable local Democratic stalwarts Rudy Cane and Norm Conway couldn’t bring themselves to vote for the bill, saving them from an act of pure political suicide in this part of the state. None of the nine Eastern Shore delegates voted for the measure.

But in Dwyer’s case, the result meant one thing: it’s time to unite in an act of non-compliance:

Dear Maryland Patriots, I was certain that the time would come when there would be a need to organize the “Voluntary Militia.” That time has come. The voluntary militia is recognized in the Maryland Constitution under Article 9, Section 1, and the Declaration of Rights under Article 28 that notes “a well regulated Militia is the proper and natural defense of a FREE Government.”

Please know that I am NOT calling for insurrection of any kind, I am simply calling for you to join me in establishing an organized effort to establish a Voluntary Militia in every county of the State.

MISSION STATEMENT

It is the intent of the Maryland Voluntary Militia to protect the law abiding Citizens of Maryland from any form of confiscation of firearms from April 3, 2013 forward. The Maryland Voluntary Militia members will not participate in any form of insurrection unless forced to do so to by the tyrannical acts of the Legislature, the Governor and of the federal government upon the Citizens of Maryland.

(Emphasis in original, although I took a small bit of editorial license with formatting.)

And when you add to that the declaration by our Sheriff Mike Lewis that, “I will not allow any deputies to go into any law-abiding citizens’ houses (to confiscate guns),” it’s clear the battle lines are starting to be drawn. Maryland was spared much of the fighting in the initial War Between the States, but seems to be ground zero in a battle over guns.

The worst thing, though, is how they determined the ends justified the means. Not enough people have seen this video of the joint Judiciary and Health and Government Operations committee meeting last week, where an amendment went from being passed to killed in just a few short minutes (and twisted arms.) It was almost criminal.

In fact, former U.S. Senate candidate and rising conservative media star Dan Bongino charged Delegate Joseph Vallario, who chaired the proceedings, with “thuggery and bullying tactics” in getting two Delegates to change their orginal votes to set up a scenario where he could vote to kill the amendment with the tie vote, as the video showed. As Dan explained:

First, political cowards in the Maryland Legislature scheduled a gun bill hearing on Good Friday to avoid media attention after a massive public outcry against this overreaching legislative firearm grab. Then, they crossed a line that should never be crossed in a civil society, and forfeited any semblance of dignity, ethics, or respect for their oaths of office by brazenly violating their own parliamentary procedures in order to punish legal firearm owners and protect criminals.

(snip)

We are moving into a dangerous place in both Maryland and national politics. One where a political end justifies an unethical and undemocratic means. Marylanders of all political stripes should be outraged at this naked display of political cowardice and legislative malpractice.

Unfortunately, too many of them either don’t know about these tactics or will shrug their shoulders because it doesn’t affect them because they don’t own a gun. These people forget that perhaps the next act of chicanery may affect them more directly, and that some of us are going to look out for their liberty whether they’re deserving of it or not. Yes, you are free to be an idiot and I would assess 78 members of the General Assembly qualify under that banner at the moment.

2A townhall draws over 500 citizens

The signs were pointing to a contentious night, but most of the anger was directed toward Annapolis and Washington.

2A meeting sign

I will grant that I arrived a little late because we had a truncated Wicomico County Republican Club meeting – one which literally lasted five minutes, long enough to swear the new officers in – so I did not hear any introductions or opening remarks from event host and Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis, who had a show of support from several other local sheriffs.

When I picked up on the proceedings, Congressman Andy Harris was speaking about the lack of NICS prosecutions at the federal level, with a particularly appalling lack of enforcement in Maryland. “States like Maryland will not enforce the law,” Harris charged. “Maryland is one of the worst states” in reporting mentally ill people to NICS.

“This is not about stopping Newtown,” Harris added. Instead, we should enforce the laws we have before adopting new ones.

2A meeting crowd

While Harris drew a very good response from the audience, it was no match for the reaction to always-outspoken Delegate Mike McDermott.

Senate Bill 281, he said, is “not redeemable…it needs to die on the vine.” McDermott added that “if it needed pulmonary resuscitation, I’d stomp on its chest.”

“This is about feeling like you’re doing something,” McDermott continued.

And while there have been “behind-the-scenes negotiations” on the “most intrusive” parts of the bill, the Delegate believed “this is the week to watch” regarding its fate. We still need a good display of public outrage every day the bill doesn’t advance, until April 8. He also noted the bill was assigned to two different House committees, a tactic occasionally used “to water down votes” of confirmed opponents who sit on a particular committee. Not only is the bill being heard in the Judiciary Committee McDermott serves on but it’s also been placed under the auspices of the Health and Government Operations Committee.

He also believed the bill sends “a mixed message” by creating criminals out of law-abiding citizens, and exhorted us to stand firm and make our voices heard.

Event host Lewis began by repeating his testimony on behalf of the Maryland Sheriffs’ Association on House Bill 294 (the crossfiled companion bill to Senate Bill 281 now being considered in the House.) He also repeated his oath of office, further pledging “we will fight for you to the end on this issue.”

“This is the right thing to do for the right reason,” Lewis added.

A representative from State Senator Jim Mathias’s office spoke on his behalf, saying he “sends his deep regrets” about not being able to attend due to the Senate session. While the statement contained his point about assisting with the abortive Senate filibuster of the gun bill and his hope that it would be defeated in the House, Mathias also swerved off-point a little by his boast about being “able to work across the aisle” on topics like the gas tax and death penalty repeal.

Wicomico County State’s Attorney Matt Maciarello made the case that “armed thugs in Salisbury don’t care about these laws.” He advocated for an armed deputy in each school to keep them from being “soft targets” and asked us to “hit the pause button on emotion.”

“If you want to protect yourself, the government shouldn’t stand in the way,” concluded Matt, who later called the event “a very cathartic night for me.”

While the opening remarks took around an hour, the bulk of the meeting – which lasted well over three hours – was taken by a number of citizens engaging in a question and answer session with the participants.

Right off the bat, questioners were accusatory in tone toward the state and federal government. “We need to cut (Governor O’Malley) short…he is dangerous,” the initial questioner said. On his mind was the most recent ammunition shortage, to which Congressman Harris responded “we’re not getting a good answer” on Congressional inquiries. He was trying to speak with various ammunition manufacturers to see whether the large government orders were curtailing general consumer availability.

Others were adamant about maintaining their rights in other ways. Here’s a selection of quotes from citizens I jotted down.

“Law-abiding citizens don’t want to be outgunned.”

“Anyone who is naive enough to believe registration doesn’t lead to confiscation is out of their minds.”

“The issue has nothing to do with public safety…(it’s) subverting the Constitution.”

“Once the defensive weapons are gone, you can kiss everything else goodbye…the Second Amendment is our final reset button.”

Another questioned why we don’t adopt the Eddie Eagle program in our schools, with many speakers relating their early introduction to guns.

Yet schools held another manifestation of the problem. A thirty-year veteran teacher recalled the days when kids would come to her class prepared for hunting after school, including being armed with hunting knives inside the school and loaded weapons in their vehicles outside. Now, however, convicted felon juveniles given the choice between “school or prison” are in her classroom without her knowledge. Delegate McDermott chimed in to note he had drafted bills addressing this concern, bills which would have allowed armed school guardians (whether with weapons or tasers) and permitted off-duty officers to carry their guns on school property.

McDermott added his own dig at the gas tax as well, quipping we should use the new funds to “pay for the roadways leaving Maryland, because that’s where the congestion will be.”

There was one well-dressed gentleman who disagreed, believing assault weapons should be banned. However, he was “willing to compromise,” in part because “I don’t understand guns.” Lewis was among many who would be happy to make that introduction.

Matt Maciarello may have believed he would get away without some questioning, but I wondered, knowing that Lewis had pledged not to send his deputies on what he later termed a “suicide mission” at our Lincoln Day Dinner, whether Matt would refuse to prosecute anyone charged with violating the law. Obviously I put him on the spot because he couldn’t make such a blanket promise – I can understand the reasoning since all cases are different, and hopefully the question will be moot.

Another asked him about when civil disobedience was appropriate, which brought up another response Matt had to think about.

One final statement I want to relate was one made by Sheriff Lewis in answer to a question, as it’s also answering something I’ve brought up here. Said Lewis, “I don’t aspire to be a Delegate, I don’t aspire to be a Senator. I aspire to be a sheriff.”

Well, Mike, if you plan on continuing to be my first and last line of defense against tyranny and supporting my right to keep and bear arms against the overreaching arm of the state, brother, you’ve got my vote. One less office for the local Republicans to worry about.

One disappointing aspect of the night, though, was how few local politicians attended. However, Salisbury City Council member Debbie Campbell came after the conclusion of the Council meeting and I was told County Councilman John Hall was also there. But that was it, and that’s really disheartening.

2013 Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner in pictures and text

Certainly it wasn’t quite a full house, but after a series of false starts with our list of speakers, the 2013 Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner still drew around 80 people last night.

Billed as an event focusing on the Second Amendment, it was that and more. For one, it was an opportunity for all three aspirants for the state party Chair race to meet the most active Republicans in Wicomico County. While I have Greg Kilne (right) in the photo below with fellow Red Maryland writer Brian Griffiths (left) flanking Andy Harris’ local liaison Bill Reddish (in the center), Collins Bailey and current interim Chair Diana Waterman were present as well.

It’s worthy of noting that Kline and Bailey were there well before the event began, while Waterman arrived closer to time. Perhaps she wasn’t thrilled about being questioned right out of the gate, but I don’t believed she stayed long after the event to mingle, while Bailey was among the last to leave.

While one of the two featured speakers, Charles Lollar, is being mentioned as a possible candidate for governor – more on that in due course – another prospective candidate for Maryland’s top job was making his rounds as well.

Craig was being introduced around the room by local supporter Ann Suthowski. He also stopped to greet Lollar and his lovely wife Rosha.

But the bulk of the time was taken up by our featured speakers, including the President in question himself.

Art North has made somewhat of a cottage industry out of his admiration for our 16th President, since he now regularly appears at other local Lincoln Day dinners. For ours, he had two re-enactors posing as Civil War troops and his photographer, Matthew Brady.

Hopefully none of these men consider a run for Congress, because re-enactors tend to attract unwanted attention.

But Lincoln’s message was one more tailored for the modern day. He made the point that to give up on the fact man can make himself in a free society like ours would be to give up on prosperity. “In your era,” he continued, Saul Alinsky camouflaged his intent with deception “foisted upon the general population.”

In his day, though, the tendency for class warfare was kept in check by the knowledge that hard work, diligent study, and striving for success were possible in America. A shoemaker’s son didn’t have to follow in his father’s footsteps, said Lincoln.

Honest Abe also decried the evolution of our educational system from the dictate of the Northwest Ordinance, which led to the introduction of state control of schooling in the affected states (Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota) to the modern “massive federal control of our education system.”

Who knew Lincoln was such a political animal?

Bill Reddish was called to the microphone to make an announcement about the townhall meeting called by Sheriff Mike Lewis and attended by Congressman Andy Harris tomorrow night at 7 p.m. at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center.

He commented that a similar event in Worcester County split about 80-20 toward a pro-Second Amendment crowd. Originally they expected 75, but 250 attended that event so one would expect the WYCC to be similarly crowded.

(As an aside, we will hold a very brief, almost pro forma Wicomico County Republican Club meeting tomorrow so those attendees can get to the townhall meeting and speak if they desire.)

Because Charles Lollar needed to return to the Washington area to do his job, we allowed him to speak first.

It was a long day for Lollar, who had spoken to a men’s conference early in the morning in Baltimore, at the New Antioch Baptist Church; an event at which he was “well received.” They “embraced” his strong Second Amendment stand, Charles added.

“I am convinced our greatest days are in front of us,” he noted, but pointed out we are at a “pivotal crossroads” in our history. Referring to the state of Maryland, Charles warned “we can’t afford our lifestyle,” claiming that $9.2 billion of a $35 billion state budget comes from various federal grants and stimulus money. We bring in only $26 billion of a $35 billion expense tab, said Lollar.

And he made the case that “sequestration is taking its toll, one step at a time” because Congress isn’t doing its job.

He laid out a stark choice for our nation: either a “national revival of our Constitution and Declaration of Independence” or the “beginning of the end of a great nation.” He was heartened, though, by the 5,000 Marylanders who showed up at the pro-Second Amendment rallies, and when it was mentioned by one observer that he didn’t know there were 5,000 Republicans in Maryland Lollar pointed out “these aren’t just Republicans.”

“The biggest fight is for our dollars and our amendments,” said Charles, who believed as well that “losing our freedoms” wasn’t just a Maryland problem, but a national malady. Working for a dollar and only getting fifty cents from it thanks to taxes was “a form of slavery,” opined Lollar.

But it wasn’t just financial issues for Lollar. There’s a danger “when you start messing with the base of the stool” that our nation was built on: morality, ethics, and God. Charles pointed out that, over our nation’s history, it’s been responsible for more evangelicals than all other nations combined.

It’s that moral foundation which makes it necessary to defend freedom “by any means possible,” and the Second Amendment “is the lifeline of your freedom.”

Charles also reacted to the concept that he takes things so seriously. He grew up in a home which stressed taking responsibility for his actions, he explained, which led him to plead that we “stop playing (political) games with each other in 2013.” “Take some things seriously,” he continued. “My concern is for my country and my concern is for my state.”

Lollar went on. “There are nations salivating for our demise.” He urged us to be like the signers of the Declaration of Independence and “put your name on the document.”

Charles was even serious enough to remark on the standing ovation he received at the end of his remarks, “I haven’t earned that yet.”

Lollar has always had a gift for public speaking, though, and while he hasn’t yet tasted electoral success he’s been in the trenches with his New Day MD PAC and past leadership of AFP Maryland.

I also spoke with Karen Winterling, who’s been pushing the “Draft Lollar” movement. I learned that, due to the Hatch Act, Charles couldn’t make an official announcement on the 2014 governor’s race until June. But Winterling already had an army of 250 volunteers around the state and was hoping for “another 30 tonight.”

Someone else who could get thirty volunteers in a heartbeat was the evening’s final formal speaker.

Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis has emerged as a leader in opposing Governor Martin O’Malley’s draconian gun law proposals.

“I don’t work for Martin O’Malley,” explained Sheriff Lewis. “I work for the 100,000 people of Wicomico County.” He clearly stated that the county sheriff is the “first and last line of defense against tyranny,” and pointed out a number of his counterparts from around the state will be present for Monday night’s townhall meeting here in Wicomico County.

He also made the case for the right to bear arms. “Who am I to tell a citizen they can’t defend themselves?” Lewis asked. He also expressed his admiration for America’s most famous sheriff, promising that “Sheriff Joe (Arpaio) will be here when I run for re-election in 2014.”

And not only did Lewis take a lead role in the fight to preserve the Second Amendment, he stood in opposition to doing away with the death penalty as well. There’s a framed picture of Sarah Foxwell in his office to remind his deputies of why they do their job.

But Lewis saved most of his remarks for his defense of the Second Amendment. “We’re going to fight hard” against the gun bill, said Lewis, but if it passes “I will not allow any deputies to go into any law-abiding citizens’ houses (to confiscate guns),” Lewis promised.

This legislation will “do nothing” to stem crime in Maryland, Mike continued. It’s our “right, duty, and responsibility” to protect ourselves. Lewis also warned that the Obama administration is “trying to disarm Americans,” and vowed on Monday “we will show everyone the real Obama administration.”

After Delegate Addie Eckardt closed us out with a rendition of “God Bless America,” the formal portion of the event concluded and people had the chance to speak one-on-one with various attendees. I took some additional time to speak with my tablemates from Strategic Victory Consulting, who had come down for the day, and also further renewed acquaintances with my “partner in crime” Heather Olsen of Prince George’s County. (The below photo was taken by Dwight Patel.)

Heather Olsen and Brian Griffiths and I

So the Maryland YRs were well-represented, too. It seemed like we had as many or more people from outside Wicomico County as we did locals.

Still, it was interesting to have the attention of the state party on our little corner of Maryland for a day. We may only make up 1/60 of the state in terms of population, but I daresay we make more than our share of political headlines and intrigue. Must be that thriving blogosphere.

A cast of followers

Originally my plans for this Saturday were pretty much set: get up early (by my standards) and go to the Pathfinders seminar here in Salisbury, then scoot on over to Salisbury University for the Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner. Both of these have changed over the last few days, though.

I was surprised to find out last Wednesday that the Pathfinders seminar in Salisbury had been postponed to April 6, with the Maryland GOP not giving us a specific reason for the postponement. I understand things happen and plans can change, but the reason for the delay that I’m hearing now has me scratching my head. This is from Brian Griffiths at Red Maryland:

I had to do a doubletake when I read about this totally insane plan coming from the Maryland Republican Party today:

David Ferguson, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, vowed Tuesday that he or someone else affiliated with the state GOP will show up each time O’Malley attends an out-of-state event, starting this weekend in South Carolina.

O’Malley, frequently mentioned as a potential 2016 presidential contender, is planning to make an appearance Saturday at an “issues conference” in Charleston at the invitation of South Carolina state Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D), a 2014 gubernatorial hopeful.

Ferguson said he will counter with a press conference with GOP leaders in Columbia on Friday and be at the event site Saturday in Charleston.

“Anytime O’Malley goes and makes a stop on his presidential parade, we’re going to follow him and let people know who the real Martin O’Malley is,” said Ferguson.

Ferguson said the effort — dubbed the “No Left Turn Tour” — is an outgrowth of previous work to arm Republicans in other states with background material on O’Malley, the former chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, when he visits.

This is really nothing new; in fact the lunch speaker at our Fall Convention last year was Brent Littlefield, who helped to orchestrate a Twitter takeover of a Maine Democratic Party event O’Malley was attending. But that was done by local people who didn’t follow Martin O’Malley wherever he went, and the reason Wicomico’s Pathfinders session was bumped is because O’Malley’s trip is on Saturday.

Griffiths makes a good argument: instead of building up the state party, we’re chasing Martin O’Malley around. He can’t run for office in Maryland anymore anyway and if South Carolina has a conservative new media worth its salt they will take care of making sure the right people get access to a video of Martin O’Malley’s appearance there.

In turn, this brings up another sound point, one which was brought up during a conference call I participated in tonight featuring MDGOP Chair hopeful Greg Kline. In that call, Kline stressed that there’s been no systemic effort to coordinate with the new media in Maryland. He sensed a “lack of trust” from the state party toward an outlet which is growing in both reach and influence.

Blogger Hillary Pennington brought up the South Carolina affair, and Kline agreed with Griffiths’ assessment in Red Maryland that the excursion to track O’Malley was “disappointing” and “sends the wrong message.”

Obviously one can take this whole line of inquiry as a campaign stunt by Kline and his allies at Red Maryland; Griffiths concludes in his piece that:

At the end of the day, this is Diana Waterman’s plan. She gave the go to execute it, and I believe Republicans across Maryland are owed an explanation as to why money is being spent on a plan that won’t help elect a single Republican next year.

Personally I’m not so sure Diana had all that much to do with it aside from saying yes; it’s unclear who came up with the idea in the first place. In my dealings with Diana, she impresses me as a leader only in the sense of doing things within a certain comfort zone and this would be a little bit outside of that range. To put it in another way, I see her as closer to a Bob Michel than a Newt Gingrich – that may be fine for some, but I’m not sure this situation dictates that laid-back style of leadership.

I noted at the top there was a change in both March 23 events. While our Lincoln Day Dinner goes on, we learned a few days ago that Dan Bongino regretfully had to withdraw. In his place we’d like to welcome another dynamic speaker in former Congressional candidate, possible 2014 gubernatorial hopeful, and AFP Maryland head Charles Lollar. He may not be as well known locally as Bongino is, but I can assure you he will be a fine Lincoln Day speaker when combined with Sheriff Mike Lewis.

Our focus will remain squarely on the Second Amendment issue, and there’s still a short window to secure reservations by contacting Bob Laun at (410) 543-2116. We’d like to have a count for the venue as soon as possible, so time is of the essence.

Update: Maybe Legal Insurrection is subconsciously in the Kline camp after blasting the RNC 2012 postmortem. There’s something missing there…

Wicomico County GOP sets 2013 Lincoln Day Dinner

The Wicomico County Republican Central Committee and Salisbury University College Republicans are pleased to present their annual Lincoln Day Dinner on Saturday, March 23 (flyer below):

[gview file=”http://monoblogue.us/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/2013-LDD-Flyer.pdf”]

There are a couple changes to the overall program as Matt Maciarello has another commitment and cannot attend, we are recruiting another local speaker to take his place on the panel. We have, however, confirmed Dan Bongino and Mike Lewis will participate in what should be an entertaining and enlightening affair. Mike McDermott is also likely to participate but we haven’t confirmed him as of yet.

You should also note the earlier starting time – past events have began at 7:00 but this year we wanted more time to get through the program yet finish by 9 p.m.

So get your reservations early. We don’t actually print tickets for the event but if your name is on the guest list we can determine just how many seats to set the room up for.

If the local NRA or Gun Owners of America representative were smart he or she would show up with plenty of application forms.

A gun control story

This story, as I continue on the subject on the Second Amendment, almost writes itself – in fact, it fell together when I received an e-mail from an acquaintance of mine who recently relocated for his job to a warmer locale down south:

There is feel good gun control and then there is real life. This is our story.

Our family lived on the east side of Salisbury, Maryland for over 10 years. The last 3 years we had lived there every convenience store within a few miles had been robbed at gun point. One shop owner had two fingers of his hand blown off during the robbery. These were the stores we went to get gas; we didn’t have much of a choice. Every time we got gas we never knew if we would be in the wrong place at the wrong time. We were effectively victims waiting for a crime to happen.

The police departments, including the sheriff’s office, were doing their best however, their hands were tied. With budget constraints the county, state and city could not offer the citizens the level of support the city needed. You may have heard that, “When seconds count the police are only minutes away.” This was truly the case for us.

We have since left Maryland and in our new state we have gotten our carry permit and I can hardy describe the feeling now that I don’t have to be scared my family will be the next victim.

It just so happens I frequented some of the same convenience stores for gas as I literally drove by this family’s house every day to and from work. Sure, you would see the headlines on the local news when these and other convenience store tragedies happened (particularly this 2009 murder, which remains unsolved) but life would continue on for the rest of us who had to buy our gas and other needed items. With the difficulty many in Maryland will have in getting a gun should the O’Malley gun bill pass, the situation will get even worse for law-abiding citizens.

Yesterday I told you about Sheriff Mike Lewis of Wicomico County and his actions against the bill, but another group is speaking out as well against a Democratic legislator. On Saturday the Cecil Campaign for Liberty organized a protest at the office of local Delegate David Rudolph, a Democrat thought to be in the gun-grabbing camp. Over 300 turned out for the “pre-emptive” event, which is a good turnout for a local gathering and allowed it to succeed in bringing local attention to the problem.

It bears noting as well that neither of the local Democratic delegates list a district office address (all four local Republicans, on the other hand, show a district address of some sort.) So it would be a little more difficult to hold a protest at the district office of these two who may well vote for the gun control legislation – my bet is that both Norm “Five Dollar” Conway and Rudy Cane will vote against the interests of their district and the Constitution they swore to uphold. We won’t forget in 2014.

Raising a statewide profile

As the highest-ranking law enforcement officer in a given county, the sheriff is often the go-to person in matters of crime. But out of the thousands of sheriffs across the county, few are well-known – perhaps the best example of a sheriff with name recognition is Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona.

Here in Wicomico County, though, Sheriff Mike Lewis has been known in the law enforcement community for a number of years as an expert and sought-after instructor in drug interdiction, allegedly so much so that smugglers take pains to avoid traveling through the county on U.S. 13, the preferred north-south alternative to Interstate 95 through Virginia and Maryland. Yet Lewis is also becoming more well-known to the public at large as a leader for Second Amendment rights, such as this speech last week (h/t Andrew Padula at Eyes for the Prize):

It’s worthy of noting all six Sheriffs represented there hail from the Eastern Shore. But the ringleader of the group is Lewis, and some may be wondering if he has his sights on a higher office.

Lewis was first elected Sheriff in 2006, defeating three other candidates in the Republican primary and handily dispatching Democrat Kirk Daugherty in the general election. Even though he wasn’t my initial choice, Mike has done a good enough job that no one bothered to challenge him in 2010 and he received the highest vote total of all those running. Nor is Lewis a stranger to the harsh glare of the spotlight after the abduction and murder of Sarah Foxwell made national headlines in December 2009.

But now he’s making waves for taking a stand for the Second Amendment, testifying against the effort of the state to dramatically restrict private ownership of certain weapons. The front page of the Wicomico Sheriff Department’s webpage makes this plain.

And while Lewis is quoted as noting, “I represent 100,000 people in this county and if (testifying and speaking at the protest) causes me to lose the next election than (sic) so be it,” the chances of him losing an election in this county for Sheriff reside in the neighborhood between slim and none, and slim is packing up for a move.

So the real question is whether this is a prelude to a higher office or not? Let’s face it: at the age of 48, Lewis could easily spend another two productive decades as the Wicomico County Sheriff if he wanted to. It’s doubtful Democrats would bother to put up a serious challenger to the popular incumbent, who succeeded longtime Sheriff Hunter Nelms after the latter’s 22 years in the post, mainly as a Democrat.

There’s always been a rumbling beneath the surface, though, that Lewis could be interested in a higher office, particularly County Executive. But it’s not unknown for law enforcement officers to become legislators either, as freshman Delegate Mike McDermott of Worcester County was a longtime member of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Department. Lewis also happens to live in a newly created legislative district with no incumbent – the Democrats’ redistricting scheme placed current Delegate Norm Conway in a different single-member district and placed two Republican Delegates, Charles Otto and the aforementioned McDermott, in the same single-member district. So the new District 38C has no apparent favorite; however, the majority of its population lives in Worcester County. But in raising his profile, Lewis may be gaining name recognition there.

But could Lewis deal with the legislative grind? Certainly he has to remain popular with voters to keep his job, but barring a scandal of the sort which would equate to the old saw about being found in bed with a dead girl or a live boy, Lewis should be able to hold on to his office for a couple decades and I think that’s where he will stay. His recent bully pulpit, though, has been quite useful in changing the narrative that law enforcement is behind restrictive gun control.

WCRC Crab Feast 2012 in pictures and text

Never let it be said that Republicans are a fair-weather party.

A rainy day certainly dampened the area surrounding Schumaker Park as the Wicomico County Republican Club held its annual Crab Feast yesterday, but it didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits. The picture below was taken at one of those rare points where the rain died down to a light shower, rather than the torrential downpour which plagued the event.

We still had our usual solid crowd of about 250, who I am convinced would come out in a hurricane for crabs and camaraderie. If you added a little wind I think we would have had a nice tropical storm like this same weekend in 2011 because there was a point it rained to beat the band.

One casualty of the weather was the silent auction, which for many items had to become a live auction because the tally sheets got all wet under the tent. Some items stayed out of the rain, though.

And the weather played havoc with the roster of speakers as well. I think this was the result of having to do a live auction, but in most years several elected officials will make remarks. This time the bulk of the talking was done by Congressman Andy Harris.

Harris only made brief, somewhat boilerplate remarks about his race and the need to change the regime in Washington beginning with the removal of Barack Obama but continuing with the urgency of putting Dan Bongino in the United States Senate. (Unfortunately, Bongino couldn’t represent himself at the event; his county coordinator Shawn Jester filled in.) “Party today, but work for the next 73 days” to the election, Harris admonished us.

We also heard quite briefly from Delegate Addie Eckardt, who reprised her message delivered at the GOP headquarters opening last week about the need to “turn this ship around.” Also expressing his thanks for continued support was Wicomico County State’s Attorney Matt Maciarello.

So it wasn’t like the event in other years where a number of candidates seeking election locally or statewide were there to speak and press the flesh – while most made their rounds, they chose to be acknowledged but not make remarks. I don’t know if Matt Holloway or John Hall came, but I saw the remaining four GOP members of County Council there (Stevie Prettyman, Gail Bartkovich, Joe Holloway, and Bob Culver) along with the other three local Republican officials – Maciarello, Sheriff Mike Lewis, and Orphans Court Judge Bill Smith. We also had Delegate Charles Otto come up from Somerset County to join us. (Update: WCRC officer Marc Kilmer assured me that John Hall was there. Maybe I didn’t hear him being introduced.)

In that respect, look for next year’s event to be chock full of would-be aspirants for office because the 2014 event will be after the state election primary for the first time in several years unless they make it a spring event. (Once a late-September gathering, the Crab Feast migrated forward about a month beginning in 2010 to a late-August date – last year was an exception thanks to Hurricane Irene.)

I can say that I made the Republican Club a few dollars myself since I donated two copies of my book to the auction, and they sold for above face value. Then again, my contribution paled in comparison to how these buttons did, as well as the 50-50 drawing.

So after two years in a row of a late-August downpour (at least this year the hurricane was down in Cuba) chances are next year should be a beautiful afternoon like we’ve had in the past. In the meantime, the beer was cold and by many accounts the crabs delicious, so what’s a little rain?

Odds and ends number 40

It’s no secret that the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is traditionally a slow news week, so this is more of a reminder about a couple upcoming events which will sandwich a somewhat local news item.

On Saturday, January 7th the 18th Annual Rich Colburn Brunch takes place at the Holiday Inn here in Salisbury at 11 a.m. Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis is the master of ceremonies, and tickets are $25 (or 5 for $100.) Colburn noted that, “It is a great honor to again have Sheriff Lewis serve as Master of Ceremonies for this event. Since being elected in 2006, Sheriff Lewis has worked hard to reorganize and restructure the Wicomico County Sheriff’s department.  The dedication he has shown to this community show his commitment to Wicomico County and the citizens who live here.”

If interested, reservations may be made by January 3rd by calling (410) 924-0098.

This is more of a big deal than one may think as Colburn will gain a larger chunk of Wicomico County for his district in the next go-round. Obviously we Republicans are familiar with Colburn from his work in the Maryland Senate, where he’s among the busiest pre-filers in the state – he was first to the post with a bill to allow for a specialized “vintage” license plate similar to one Delaware allows on certain vehicles, which will be SB1 in the 2012 session. Perhaps that’s not a bill of great import, but Rich is one of the harder workers in the body.

The more newsworthy item is the repercussion from Gary Johnson’s withdrawal from the GOP Presidential sweepstakes to seek the Libertarian nomination. Because Johnson is changing parties, Gary’s Maryland campaign director Kevin Waterman had to step down. Since Kevin sits on the Queen Anne’s County Republican Central Committee and party bylaws prohibit publicly supporting anyone but Republican candidates, he decided to resign from the Johnson campaign. In a note I received, Waterman writes:

My decision to step down as state chairman is not an easy one. I fully support Gov. Johnson’s platform and his message of liberty, and it has been an honor and a pleasure to serve as a part of this campaign and to work with all of you. I’m not leaving because I disagree with any of the moves the campaign has made. But I still hold out hope that even if the RNC has proven itself wanting that there is hope of moving the Maryland Republican Party in a more liberty-oriented direction and I can’t continue to work towards that end without remaining within the Party.

Some also paint me as an anti-establishment rebel within the MDGOP fold, and it sometimes drives me crazy when we try the same old centrist approach and wonder why we keep losing in this state. Obviously there are issues that Kevin and I don’t see eye to eye on, but I respect his efforts and think his decision and stated reasons are the correct ones. Indeed, we need to push this state in a more liberty-oriented direction.

And that explains my final item – a new TEA Party group is forming in Worcester County.

On January 13, 2012 their first meeting will be held in the Assateague Room of the Ocean Pines Community Center at 6:30 p.m. with Congressman Andy Harris as their featured speaker. With a mission statement like this…

We exercise, protect, and promote the principles embodied in The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights through attracting, educating, and mobilizing the people to secure public policy consistent with these core values; fiscal responsibility, open and constitutionally limited government, and free markets.

…the visit from Congressman Harris may not necessarily be the slam dunk he thought because of a couple of his votes.

But since Harris won’t have to worry about a third-time grudge match against Frank Kratovil, the atmosphere should be relatively cordial and ripe for a frank (no pun intended) discussion about what will happen in 2012. It’s a conversation which needs to occur for the TEA Party to be most effective.

The Leggs legacy

As most of my local readers know – unless they’ve just crawled out from under a rock seconds before they read this piece – Thomas Leggs confessed to killing Sarah Foxwell in 2009 as part of a plea deal which spared him the death penalty.

The reaction to this development seems to be one of bitter disbelief, but I’m going to look at this from a political standpoint. We have to fast forward to 2014, when both Wicomico County State’s Attorney Matt Maciarello and Sheriff Mike Lewis will presumably once again face the voters. If that comes to pass, Maciarello would be seeking a second term and Lewis a third.

Obviously the key question is: how long will voters’ memories be? Ramming through a series of tax increases in the first year of his term didn’t seem to hurt Martin O’Malley in 2010 as he defeated Bob Ehrlich for the second straight time and by a wider margin. But local elections are a little different.

We also have to assume that the Democratic Party won’t be in the historically bad straits they were in 2010. As it so happens, several of their existing longtime officeholders may decide not to seek another term so it’s worth believing that they will fill out ballot spaces three years hence – it’s doubtful Mike Lewis will get a free ride for sheriff next time, for example. Maciarello is already vulnerable, with some observers believing he got a great gift in the campaign with Davis Ruark losing a bitter primary fight on the Democratic side. (If Ruark were to try again, he would have to re-establish his registration as a Democrat; I believe he’s switched to unaffiliated since the election.) And surely there are a number of ambitious Democrat lawyers for what would be an open nomination process without Ruark.

Moreover, while Matt laid out his reasoning for taking the plea deal, many who demanded more will feel sold out. Certainly it will be an issue resurrected in 2014 by the Democratic candidate, whoever he or she is. Trust me.

On the other hand, Mike Lewis could be blamed if later digging reveals a weak evidence chain. However, the fallout shouldn’t be as severe for him as it will be for Maciarello – that will bring a sigh of relief to the local GOP brass.

Yet there is one more person affected, and while he’s not exactly political he’s claimed to bring a lot of influence to the local political scene in the past. Why, it was way back in the 2006 campaign where one candidate claiming that local blogs were a “cancer” on the political scene placed him squarely in the limelight. I bet he found that spotlight a trifle harsh today after this diatribe.

Of course, he defended himself from the accusations – but who’s really going to write that book?

So it’s the classic case of he said/she said. Yet Joe Albero could come out of this with the popularity he so craves. While Roberta Wechsler stated a good case in her portion of the press conference, she laid it on way too thick and in a tone that was far too vindictive to a point where some may not take it seriously – certainly Matt Maciarello was caught off guard. Meanwhile, if the case goes to court guess who gets more publicity?

There’s no question that Albero has taken far too much advantage of what has been a tragic situation hanging over Delmarva’s head for the last 15 months – in fact I daresay this case took him away from what he used to do best, which was a somewhat passable version of investigative journalism. Sure, he used it just to take on his enemies but there were things which needed to be said and he said them.

But the bright lights of national attention stemming from the Foxwell case were going to be his ticket to respectability. I recall the frequent citation of Alexa numbers and claims to be ‘mainstream media’ in the immediate aftermath of the search for Sarah but both have faded from the front pages of his site. Certainly he’ll get a bounce from this latest development, but can he keep the audience or have we just seen another patented Albero trainwreck in living color? Only time will tell.

One may ask where this affects me. I didn’t follow the Foxwell story developments closely within these pages, choosing to allow others to do so. My beat is politics, which is why I started this post writing on the speculative angle.

But just like the case in 2006 with Ron Alessi, I know that this saga will affect all of us who toil daily trying to write useful content to a local or regional audience. Having that laundry list of accusations thrown at one Salisbury blogger is sure to reflect on the rest of us and it diminishes our influence.

I have used the content of my site – words I stand behind and would stack up against any other journalist in the media – to get other writing jobs, including Liberty Features Syndicate and the national website Pajamas Media. Certainly in some aspects I exist in a vacuum insofar as someone looking here on a national level isn’t going to care much about my so-called local competition. But I’ve found about 2/3 of my audience resides in the state of Maryland and half of that is local. A casual observer who goes to Joe’s site and is repelled by what he reads may not be as likely to give me or the rest of us locals a shot. There are some talented writers about, and others who make a good run at it. And while ads on monoblogue don’t bring me a lot of revenue – although I’m always willing to sell space – this effect can take food out of my mouth. (Maybe I don’t need that much to eat anyway, but the point remains.)

If Matt Maciarello and Mike Lewis aren’t reelected in 2014, it’s pretty likely they can find regular jobs in the private sector. We local bloggers have a little more difficult time rebuilding an audience when our reputation is tarnished from without, through no fault of our own.

Someday we will be far enough removed from the Foxwell saga that it will lie on the fringes of our collective memory. Thomas Leggs will rot in prison, probably never tasting another breath of freedom the rest of his days. But the words we write and the electronic images we make will live on for awhile. My fear is that our history will be defined by a man described as the leader of a ‘cultlike’ following while the truth is forgotten.

The winners write the history, so we have to make sure the truth ends up on the winning side.

Adding to the agenda

Counting comments by members and the public and a scheduled work session, there were fifteen items on the agenda for last night’s County Council meeting. But much of the discussion from the two dozen or so members of the public who attended had to do with an item not mentioned – the prospect of an elected school board.

I’m not planning to do a blow-by-blow report on each upcoming County Council meeting as my work and personal schedules probably wouldn’t allow me to attend them all. But last night’s was an exception because I wanted to see just how amenable the new Council will be to this idea; meanwhile, another item piqued my interest for the work session.

I’ve found it intriguing just how little Council disagrees on most issues they face, even before the split went to 6-1 Republican. In fact, out of the nine resolutions which were voted on last night only one had any sort of opposition. As it turned out, the East Side Mens Club only received its property tax exemption for this fiscal year – their original proposal of forgiveness for fiscal years 2009 through 2011 was rejected because County Council President Gail Bartkovich thought it a poor precedent and most agreed – only Bob Caldwell and Stevie Prettyman objected to the deletion of the 2009 and 2010 tax abatement while Joe Holloway abstained.

Otherwise, most of the discussion centered around a contract for food services at the county jail, and that was mostly technical questions about paying for new equipment should one side or the other back out of the deal.

A new proposal which may be quite contentious is the county’s effort to exempt one- and two-family residential dwellings from new provisions in the International Building Code and International Residential Code requiring fire sprinklers. The legislation will have a hearing on February 1st, with Bartkovich stating this should be discussed at an evening meeting to promote more public input.

The fun part of the Council session came in public comments, where a series of speakers pleaded with County Council to get moving on adopting an alternative to the currently appointed school board.

Leading off the parade was local political activist Matt Trenka, who stated, “I would like to see some leadership” on the issue. It was the “obvious answer” to the lack of responsibility he perceived from our current appointed body.

Joe Collins followed up with a detailed analysis of the various methods other counties use to select their school boards – while most Maryland counties have fully elected school boards, Caroline and Harford counties employ a “hybrid” of elected and appointed members. He also pointed out an alternative similar to that Joe Ollinger unsuccessfully campaigned on, where the County Executive selects the board with the advice and consent of County Council.

Kay Gibson, another frequent commentor at County Council meetings, chimed in that she “had very little say” on the school board as currently comprised because she has little effect on the Governor’s race. She, too, favored an elected board of education.

The question was “what is best for the children of the county?” suggested local GOP Chair Dave Parker when he spoke. Why should it be up to the Central Committee to do the job of sending the applicants they prefer up to Annapolis?

G.A. Harrison echoed these other speakers and urged the County Council to consider this quickly since the 2011 General Assembly session is about to start and bills introduced late have to go through the Rules Committee.

Perhaps the most cautionary proponent of change was Marc Kilmer, who asked us to keep in mind the purpose of a school board and noted that elected school boards don’t always create positive change – some of the country’s worst schools are saddled with poorly-performing, partisan school boards.

On the other hand, there was one voice who made clear her opposition to the concept. Mary Ashanti, head of the local NAACP, fretted that certain groups and economic classes would be disenfranchised and that an elected school board “would never have the balance” of party and racial makeup to be successful. The NAACP is against the idea, she added.

Personally, I don’t care if those elected are black, white, male, female, or polka-dot – I just want the best people elected. That was part of my statement before the Council, where I also told Ashanti that “good people can disagree.”

I have my own ideas for a proposed school board, which I’m going to save for a later date. (It’ll come in handy as I anticipate perhaps a minor break in the action on this end.)

In their comments, four members of County Council spoke at least somewhat favorably toward the idea, with Joe Holloway clearly stating “I would like to see us move ahead” on this process. He asked how people would feel if the County Council itself was appointed in a similar manner, an analogy Bob Caldwell liked. Also agreeing were newly elected at-large members Bob Culver and Matt Holloway, who added that “he hadn’t seen a good argument against” the concept.

After this discussion, Council President Bartkovich promised the idea will be on the agenda. For me it’s a case of “trust but verify” and we’ll see when that happens.

The second part of the meeting was a Council work session dealing with two subjects: a presentation by the county’s auditors and a measure legally known as Legislative Bill 2010-12. That bill would be enacting legislation to bring speed cameras to county roads. As you should be aware I’ve visited this subject here on a previous occasion or two and I spent a good portion of my public comment speaking about how Fruitland abuses their privilege.

Well, the folks from RedSpeed and both Sheriff Mike Lewis and his deputy Gary Baker tag-teamed the County Council trying to convince us that “we can use 21st century technology…to protect our children” as Lewis said during the presentation.

Now, I have no doubt that having a very attractive brunette on the sales force could turn some heads in a male-dominated arena like the Sheriff’s office. (Since I was sitting diagonally behind Lewis, I couldn’t help but to notice that during the preceding auditor’s report this lady either quietly conversed with Mike on some subject or checked her Facebook page with her mobile phone. I doubt she and I will be Facebook friends after this post!)

But I think Mike was sold a little bit of a bill of goods by the RedSpeed team. If Sheriff Lewis has an issue with the state not returning any of the money collected when a ticket is written for any traffic offense, that’s a problem he should take up with the state instead of having Big Brother looking over our shoulder. As I noted back in July, this is a process ripe for abuse.

In fact, the RedSpeed team admitted that “they’re not sending anyone to court (to collect) $15, nor do they have any idea what sort of revenue we could expect. (The state mandates a fine of $40 for an offense, which means the company and county would have a $15/$25 split, respectively.) One problem they faced was that there was no applicable contract to review, as the company used Fruitland’s contract as a template for their presentation to Council. Meanwhile, no one could answer the question about the time and effort required for, say, a deputy to drive out and fetch a vehicle daily because to do otherwise could incite vandalism.

Another concern expressed by County Council was that this would be a backhanded way of funding LEOPS, as Fruitland apparently does. While Lewis protested that “what you decide to do with the money is entirely up to you,” it’s obvious that Council saw Fruitland’s example and the declining revenue they’re getting.

If RedSpeed and the county do come to an agreement, it would likely be a 2-year term with up to three automatic renewals.

And while it was alluded to that the city of Salisbury may follow Fruitland’s lead and adopt speed cameras, I have a number of objections to not just the concept but to the practice. Of course I think we should drive safely and be careful around school zones, but while Lewis cited the number of accidents which had occurred over the last decade in these areas, I had no context of whether they actually involved excessive speed – more likely the cause was inattention. That’s not solved with a speed camera, and seeing the warning sign could lead to even more accidents like those which happen at intersections with red-light cameras.

Yet my biggest fear is that, as the county or municipality begins to get used to a revenue stream from scofflaws, these amounts will start to fall short of expectations for both the local government and for RedSpeed. (Also, there will eventually be market saturation as more and more localities get the cameras.) Naturally, both entities will put pressure on the state to:

  • expand the area where speed cameras can be used from school and work zones to anywhere along a roadway;
  • increase the fine from $40 to $50 or more, and;
  • reduce the leeway speed from 12 mph over the limit to 10, 8, 6, etc. Pretty soon they’ll be nailing you for one mile per hour over – and I know from experience my speedometer varies by a couple miles per hour from posted radar sites. So it’s hard to know just how accurate the cameras would be and if they’ll be properly calibrated.

I think I know how the Council will be receiving this legislation when it comes to a vote, but I’m not going to tip my hand on which members are leaning toward approval and which ones oppose. I’ll keep my poker face on for that because, frankly, I don’t want Mike Lewis or RedSpeed to know.

I’m very disappointed that a Sheriff who is sworn to uphold the law in a nation founded on the rule of law can embrace a technology which presumes guilt rather than innocence. The system is flawed in that they can only provide a photograph of a car’s license plate and make the owner liable, even if he or she wasn’t driving. To get out of the ticket, the owner has to narc on the actual driver if he or she knows. That’s some example to set – anyone else see the Orwellian aspect here?

They’re not called “scameras” for nothing. Let’s stop Big Brother in his tracks.