Announcing: the 2019-20 monoblogue Accountability Project

For the third time, I have graded all the legislators in the Delaware General Assembly based on their voting patterns on a number of key issues. The final product can be found in its usual sidebar location or through this direct link.

Last October I did an interim edition for this session, but because of the truncated 2020 portion it was adapted to a full-session edition with just 4 new votes. I dropped four votes from the 2019 portion to maintain my even 25 votes, with scores revised accordingly. (This actually helped a fair number of legislators.)

And if you were sharp-eyed over the weekend, you would have noticed I did the usual “soft opening” yesterday by updating the widget before this post was finished and set to be placed up at this early hour.

Without getting too much into it – after all, I want my friends in the First State to read and share the information – it was another discouraging session for the Delaware General Assembly. The nanny state and Trump Derangement Syndrome were out in full force this session, certainly driven in large part by a number of new faces elected in 2018 in both bodies.

The pandemic has radically changed our lives, but aside from a few knee-jerk bills we will probably rue later, the DGA continued our fair state’s march to the left. Unfortunately, no one took my advice last year and became primary opponents to the RINOs who occupy many of the GOP seats in Delaware, nor are most of these legislators going anywhere.

Consider that, out of the 52 seats available this time (10 Senators are in the middle of their four-year term), there are 31 held by Democrats and 21 held by Republicans of all stripes. Out of that group, only two legislators are not seeking another term – notably, Senator Harris McDowell is retiring after 44 years. That brings us down to 50 seeking to retain office (29 Democrats, 21 Republicans.)

On this year’s mAP I have a series of columns that show whether legislators have primary and/or general election opponents. I’m ashamed to tell you that, out of 50 remaining DGA members, 27 of them have no opposition on the ballot at all (11 Republican, 16 Democrat.) Take the remaining 23 and subtract 3 Democrats who only have primary opposition (no Republican opponent), and you’ll see there are only 20 seats in the DGA which could flip between parties.

Currently the DGA is 25-16 Democrat in the House and 12-9 Democrat in the Senate. As it stands right now, barring a miraculous write-in campaign, the House is already 17-9 Democrat and the Senate 9-6 Democrat, so the Democrats only need to win 6 of the remaining 21 elections to maintain control. Thanks to mail-in voting they can cheat their way to that, no sweat.

Moreover, look at who actually drew primary opponents. Eight legislators have one thing in common: all Democrats. Not a single Republican drew a primary opponent. Are you telling me that the GOP rank-and-file is satisfied with the pathetic, milquetoast opposition their legislators provide? Meanwhile, the Democrats who were primaried tend to either be first-term legislators or, more likely, the old guard who is being targeted by younger progressives. The Democrats are very successful at replacing centrists with radicals, but the Republicans just drift leftward to go with the flow.

It’s time for conservatives to put their money where their mouth is. 2022 is an off-year election but every seat is up due to redistricting. That will be the time to step up. And yes, I know the Democrats will be drawing the districts to present themselves the best advantage possible but that can be overcome. We need to right this ship of state because I’m sure you’ll see in two years when I revisit the mAP that things are even worse.

Bringing it into focus

Tonight I finally finished my political widget for 2020 with the races I intend to highlight. Nationally I have the Presidential race, of course, with those who will be on the ballot in Delaware. [I have spotted the Green Party this one; however, I may have to change Howie Hawkins to a write-in if they indeed don’t make the ballot – they were right on the bubble last I saw.)

The biggest amount of work I had was the Senate race, although the Governor’s race was a surprisingly close second. In both instances, not everyone has a website as some simply get by with a social media page – and are lucky to get 1% of the vote.

Indeed, we will have the largest GOP primary field for governor in the state’s relatively brief history of primaries – the most I found in my limited research was three, and this time we have a half-dozen thanks to Scott Walker’s late entry. He is one of two of those perennial candidates, the type I’m familiar with from Maryland thanks to their comparatively lax threshold for getting on a party ballot. It’s not quite “alive and breathing” but it’s not that far off, either. Walker and David Graham are serial candidates, although neither has always run as a Republican.

With businessman Neil Shea formally withdrawing on Thursday, the two outsiders are attorney Julianne Murray and business owner David Bosco, who was actually the first one of the remaining six to formally file after Shea got the ball rolling in late May. Add in the two sitting State Senators able to run from cover this time around (Colin Bonini and Bryant Richardson) and it’s a race where any of them would kill for 40% because that is likely sufficient. (In six-way Democrat primaries four years ago, Lisa Blunt Rochester won with 43% to 25% for her nearest competitor and Bethany Hall-Long prevailed with 29% to 22% for second place. So first to 40 almost definitely wins and 35 may be enough.) Right now Bonini would probably be the favorite simply based on name ID but he’s also lost statewide twice so one of the new faces may be a surprise winner.

By the same token, the Democrat primary is also worth watching because John Carney has a primary challenger from his left (just like U.S. Senator Chris Coons does.) There’s little doubt Carney will win, but a showing of 25-30% from the challenger would mean Carney’s support would be soft among progressives or could be construed as a protest vote against his draconian rule during the pandemic. I think the latter would be more true if the Democrat turnout was much lighter than the GOP’s or Carney’s race was significantly undervoted compared to the other statewide races. (This also applies to the Coons race.)

The U.S. Senate and House races are rather “meh” compared to the battle for governor. There are only two contenders on the Republican side for both House and Senate, and they both pit multi-time losers against fresh faces which have their own baggage. It’s actually possible that both members of Delaware’s Congressional delegation would have jail time on their resumes, although both claim to have been humbled by the experience. Both these races are older men against younger candidates roughly half their age – one a photogenic woman and the other a Log Cabin Republican.

Aside from that, the statewide ballot will be rather light in September. Primary voters will see a race for Insurance Commissioner on the Democrat side, but that’s it. On a local level, there is only one race for a Delaware General Assembly seat from Sussex County and that’s not decided until November. Out of ten possible contests, only one will be elected by other than acclamation.

Now that my field is pretty much locked in, my weekend project is to put the final bow on this session’s monoblogue Accountability Project – Delaware edition and begin working on a dossier series similar to those I’ve done in previous years. For those new to the website, the idea for the dossiers is to take topics of my choosing that I deem most important and take a deep dive into the candidate’s stance on them. (This includes asking them directly.) Each topic is assigned a point value and each candidate is given points based on how closely they fit my ideal, with the winner getting my endorsement. (They don’t get my primary vote because I’m still in the Constitution Party.)

To begin the series, I’m going to lay out one ground rule: the first round through the topics will focus solely on the GOP candidates. I don’t have to worry about the IPOD or Libertarians until after the primary and the Democrats won’t score well with me anyway, so there’s no need for me to score Carney vs. Williams or Coons vs. Scarane. Doesn’t matter which of them win because they’re Lenin to me.

Here are the proposed topics for the 2020 races. If you were here in 2016, these will sound familiar for the federal races:

Federal races: Education, Second Amendment, Energy, Social Issues, Trade and Job Creation, Taxation, Immigration, Foreign Policy, Entitlements, Role of Government, and Intangibles. (Intangibles is sort of a catch-all of other stuff.)

Governor: Agriculture/Environment, Transportation, Social Issues, Law Enforcement/Judicial, Education, Second Amendment, Job Creation, Taxation, Role of Government, Intangibles. Notice the order shifts around somewhat at the state level.

Once I get the mAP up next week, I’ll begin posting my dossier series. It’s going to be a busy couple months here at monoblogue.

Odds and ends number 97

You know, I figured just as soon as I put old number 96 to bed that my e-mail box would fill up with interesting tidbits, so it wouldn’t be nearly as long before I got to number 97. So let’s see what I have here.

A look at theology

People tend to think of Erick Erickson as just a radio personality and pundit, but it’s not as well known that he’s studied divinity. So when he talks about religion it makes my ears perk up, and this recent column of his was one of those times.

Christians need to be preaching Jesus, not Christianity. We need to preach about the end and the return and the world made new. It is fantastical and supernatural and unbelievable for so many. But it is real and right and true and will give the hopeless hope.

Erick Erickson, “Groaning for Justice: The Theology of What is Happening”, June 25, 2020

It sounds a lot like my church. But it’s worth remembering that on one side is the world and on the other side is God, expressed in the Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Perhaps I have a simplistic perspective about it all, but then again I came to the game later in life than a lot of other people so my flaws were more apparent.

I believe that when Jesus said no one comes to the Father but through him that He was absolutely right. There’s nothing wrong with trying to make the world better but there should always be that end goal in mind, too.

Is there any reason for college?

This may seem strange to say as an alumnus of Miami University, but insofar as career preparation I learned as much in a year of work as I did in securing my four-year degree. (However, I did manage to consume many “Gobblers” and adult beverages from various eating and drinking establishments around Oxford, Ohio, and I got to go see Division I sports for free. So there was that.)

By the same token, Victor Davis Hanson has toiled in the academic field for decades – yet he delivers a scathing critique of college life and educational achievement in 2020, 34 years after I walked away from Millett Hall with my diploma case in hand.

31 years later I was witness to a similar scene but under wildly different circumstances, as my wife received her bachelor’s degree from a nationally-recognized college after taking online courses tailored to the working world. For these folks, their campus was the Washington, D.C. area and beyond, and hundreds of them were in what was then the Verizon Center for their big day. They received their degrees after enduring a lifestyle of trying to juggle work, kids, and other responsibilities with their academics as opposed to being cloistered on a campus and shuttling between academic halls, student centers, and their dorms. That was my world in the mid-1980s as a snot-nosed kid from a small Ohio town.

Yet many kids still do the same thing I did four decades ago, and the problem with that approach is that it’s rapidly becoming an information silo. Kids learn a lot about things of little importance in real life then wonder why it bites them in the ass. I remember pounding the pavement for a job right out of college then finally taking something outside my field to tide me over – turns out I was there less than a month before I got the break I needed; then again I was in an avocation where there was demand in the real world so it finally needed my supply.

And my alma mater wonders why I ignore their pleas for alumni donations.

More from smart people

How this guy ever got to be governor of his state – and then re-elected – often mystifies me. IMHO he was really too smart for the job, and the same went for being President. I think Bobby Jindal could have been the next Calvin Coolidge, a President who exhibited admirable restraint of his powers and led the government to do the same.

Recently he penned an op-ed for the Washington Examiner where he focused on some items he saw as long-term trends accelerated by the onset of the Wuhan flu. This one was the one that piqued my interest the most:

De-densification: Elevators, mass transit, and air-conditioned spaces, all critical components of urban living, will be rendered safe again one day. Yet, the nation’s most successful cities were already victims of their own success, with the rising cost of living pushing working families to the suburbs and exurbs. Workers are going to demand more flexible work arrangements and less time wasted commuting. Remote work and virtual meetings will allow many office workers to be productive in the exurbs and in the country. Wealthy families will join them with getaway homes, and companies will require less-dense and smaller offices. Smaller communities near urban centers will benefit and become more economically viable for their permanent residents. The economic efficiencies that have driven urbanization will still continue to be compelling, and first-tier cities especially will reinvent themselves and continue to attract immigrants and new businesses.

“How the COVID-19 pandemic will change us”, Bobby Jindal, Washington Examiner, June 24, 2020.

The initial push to the suburbs in the postwar era was fueled by the surge of new families looking for room to grow, coupled with the inexpensive cost of gasoline and car maintenance and expansion of highway construction allowing commuters to bypass mass transit. Suddenly small towns that were once on the outskirts of metro areas and surrounded by cornfields became the loose center of dozens of subdivisions looped together by beltway interstates surrounding the city core. My parents did this in spades, bypassing suburbia altogether to buy five rural acres for three active boys to play ball on and dealing with a half-hour or more commute.

Being in the design world, I’ve seen the push for a new urbanism. For example, in nearby Salisbury their mayor Jake Day has pushed for a new style of downtown revitalization, attempting to bring in mixed-use development accessible by multiple modes of transportation. Surface parking on city-owned lots downtown is rapidly becoming a thing of the past as lots are sold to developers.

Fortunately for Day, Salisbury is still a small enough city that it doesn’t suffer from the maladies of Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia, and others which have seen their urban core rot away from a toxic combination of crime, poverty, and lack of opportunity. It could yet go that way, or it could become a destination precisely because it’s been small enough to escape these issues – the sort of small town Jindal envisions succeeding thanks to the remote technology we now have.

But these urban escapees have another close-by alternative which is also retiree-friendly – if we don’t screw it up.

Picking too many losers

The state of Delaware lags the field in state-level GDP growth these days, one survey placing the First State last in the nation.

Perhaps a reason for this, argues the group A Better Delaware, is that our state government is terrible at determining winners and losers. As it has often turned out, the well-connected are the winners and taxpayers are the losers, and the group goes through some examples in this recent piece.

As I see it, job creation is about filling needs. An entrepreneur sees a market void and figures out a way to fill it, then once that venture is a go he or she may find the work is too much for one person to handle. Suddenly they’re signing the front of a paycheck, and the measure of a business-friendly state is just how easily that employer can get to that point without feeling violated from the anal rape of a corrupt system installed to grease the palms of a thousand bureaucrats. Somehow Delaware seems to believe that making life easier for those who promise scores of jobs without figuring out the market void is a good thing to do. I tend to like my strategy better.

The library

I was recently introduced to an interesting website in a unique way: one of its employees requested to purchase a paper copy of The Rise and Fall of the TEA Party. So I autographed it and sent it to Tennessee for his enjoyment. (By the way, I have several more available.)

So while Ammo.com sells – as you may guess – many different varieties of ammunition, they also feature what’s called the Resistance Library: a collection of articles on many and varied topics. (Actually, the whole site is worth exploring.) The post my newfound friend was dying to share with me, though, was on “Policing for Profit.”

Civil asset forfeiture is a popular concept with the “if you don’t do anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about” crowd; the same ones who shout “blue lives matter!” (And they do, but so does the law.) In reading this lengthy, well-written treatise on the subject I found out that Delaware is a state which is one of the worst in that regard.

And civil asset forfeiture laws are difficult to change because there are two large lobbies already stacked against these efforts: law enforcement and local government. Imagine what $200,000 seized could do for a local government’s bottom line when they may spend $2 million on a police department annually. Never mind it’s not their property and they have only suspicion that it was gathered illegally. It’s like crack cocaine to an addict: wrongly or not, they can’t pass it up. We need to send our state to a proverbial NA meeting next year when the General Assembly reconvenes.

More bad advice

I like to end on a light-hearted note when I can, and what better way than to poke fun at those who tell me how to run this place?

Hello monoblogue.us team:

As you know because of Global pandemic, the world has shut down and a big question mark on sustainability of business.

We are connecting the business owner to create a high standard for their business website and marketing strategy. To start this, we recommend to upgrade the website to more customer friendly.

If you have same idea in your mind, Let’s discuss about redesign of your website in economic cost.

A really badly written e-mail.

I can’t decide whether this came from China, India, or some other third-world country where English is taught as a second language. (In this case, maybe third.)

Fortunately, I didn’t shut down during the pandemic. Now I won’t say that I was terribly productive during the time span, but the college degree I alluded to way above led me to a job deemed “essential” so I have been working my usual full-time hours. Even so, I sustain into my fifteenth year of this site. (I even outlasted Red Maryland.)

My site is not really a business site, but I do have a marketing strategy: write good sh*t. It’s even customer-friendly because I kept out the offending letter.

And, in case this guy missed it, I redesigned my website a couple years ago, finally retiring old “Black Lucas” after nearly a decade of service. I still miss that theme sometimes but I like the back end that goes with the current “Twenty Sixteen” theme much better.

So I think I have flogged the dead horse of my inbox enough for one visit. I didn’t even get to the silliness that’s the Delaware governor’s race, but maybe I’ll hold onto that for a standalone post after all.

Programming note

Once we clear the filing deadline this coming Tuesday I’m going to add my Delaware political sidebar with all the primary and general election candidates and then the following Monday or Tuesday release the 2019-20 monoblogue Accountability Project – Delaware edition. The delay is because I have to determine whether the legislators involved get a free ride in November or not.

Because the Delaware session was truncated this year, I decided to simply amend the 2019 edition to use four votes this year and drop the least impactful four votes from last year to maintain 25 separate votes. You’ll see what I mean when I put it up later this month.

Announcing: the 2019 monoblogue Accountability Project – Delaware Edition

For the third time, I have graded all the legislators in the Delaware General Assembly based on their voting patterns on a number of key issues. The final product can be found in its usual sidebar location or through this direct link.

This year is a little different as I have decided to do an interim edition given there were enough bills of interest with divided votes to have 25 scoring opportunities. (Spoiler alert: way too many were not taken advantage of; however, my average scores in both chambers were up slightly this year.)

Without getting too much into it – after all, I want my friends in the First State to read and share the information – it was another discouraging session for the Delaware General Assembly. The nanny state and Trump Derangement Syndrome were out in full force this session, certainly driven in large part by a number of new faces in both bodies.

But because of the mix of bills I used, the partisan divide narrowed significantly this year, as both parties had their highest aggregate score ever but Democrats increased theirs at a faster pace.

And if you were sharp-eyed last night, you would have noticed I did the usual “soft opening” by updating the widget before this post was finished and set to be placed up at this early hour.

So, Delaware, here is the voting guide you need – use it wisely in considering which members need primary opponents. (Hint: pretty much all of them.) If you want to change the state in the right direction it’s a good place to start.

Beginning from my little corner

There are some who will likely appreciate the symbolism in this post.

I’m standing in Maryland but pretty much everything you see in the photo beyond the fence is Delaware.

On Friday I took a little side trip on my way home. I’ve passed by this place a few times over the years, but since I’ve moved to the First State I drive by this monument every day on my way to work. But until the other day I’d never stopped to look at it despite its historical significance.

The plaque explains the significance of the monument.

On my way into work one day it dawned on me that the monument is the perfect symbol of a new beginning, a staking out of a starting point and a redirection for this site. For many years I’ve been known as a Maryland-centric political blogger, but since I left the political game as a participant I had ceded the field to others who have done their level best to monetize their work and proclaim themselves as some sort of kingmaker in a Republican governor’s office. And that’s fine, more power to them – they live closer to the seat of power and apparently have to time to invest in those activities.

While I don’t have the utmost in time, in scanning the situation here in the First State I’ve found that there aren’t any active conservative blogs here. (If there are, they are pretty well hidden.) Truth be told, there aren’t a whole lot of liberal ones either but they do exist and I can’t abide that sort of situation. It’s something which needed to be addressed, so I will make up the hedge for the time being – assistance is encouraged!

So here I begin, almost literally from square one because I don’t yet know the players aside from studying the voting records for the Delaware General Assembly for the last couple years. (More on that in a bit.) The way I look at it is that I have staked out this corner as a beginning spot. Yes, it’s symbolic but in actuality I don’t live all that far from this point. (I think as the crow flies it’s about 5 1/2 miles, but I live less than two from the northerly extension of this line.) If you took in the territory between our home and this point, there are probably only a few hundred people living there in scattered homes and one development. And right now that’s probably about all I have to go to war with in this state – a state that is rapidly changing, and not necessarily for the better.

I wonder how they divvy up all this coin. By blind chance, 3/4 of it would fall in Maryland.

I suppose, then, that step one of this process is to announce the 2019 edition of the monoblogue Accountability Project for Delaware, which I finally got to wrap up this weekend. I’ll formally announce it tomorrow morning although the soft opening will be this evening once I create the PDF and add the link. (And no, I did not do a Maryland one this year, nor will I. That can be someone else’s baby, maybe some red-colored site.)

I think it’s a start to rally the liberty-lovers in this state, who I’ve found to be really, really, really poorly served by the Delaware GOP. I have more thoughts in mind on a number of First State issues, but this will be the first in what should be a few significant changes regarding this website. Stay tuned.

Dealing with facts in Senate District 38 (last of four parts)

Late edit: Need to get up to speed? Here are parts one, two, and three.

In this final installment comparing the differences between District 38 State Senator Jim Mathias and his challenger, District 38C Delegate Mary Beth Carozza, we have the second-smallest number of voting differences between them for this term. But as I wrote in my wrapup of the legislative year for the monoblogue Accountability Project (mAP):

Turning to this year’s session, one conclusion is inescapable: the last four years have been a steadier and steadier test of wills between a governor who is trying to promote a particular agenda and a state majority party that had its apple cart upset and is being begged by the special interests that control it to put those apples back and bring back the regular order of things where everyone was fat and happy except the private-sector working families and taxpayers. We’re at the point now where political victories are more important than improving the citizens’ lot, on both sides of the aisle.

In 2018, Mary Beth got just 12 votes correct out of 25, although she stumbled into the twelfth by changing her incorrect vote on HB1302, the “red flag” gun bill. Jim Mathias may have always intended to vote the correct way, but the 22-day hiatus between Mary Beth’s vote and Jim’s tally was punctuated with a loud outcry from the 2A community that Mathias had to hear. [However, despite the NRA support Mathias joined Carozza on a vaguely-written ban (HB888/SB707) of so-called “bump stocks.”] Jim’s only other instance of getting a vote correct (a term-low 2 correct out of 25 votes) was sustaining the veto for HB694 – but that was the “ban the box” bill he originally voted for!

Is it any wonder that people like me can be cynical about Jim’s record?

A major bill that the pair parted ways on will also be decided in this election – same-day voter registration is already in place during early voting, but HB532 established a referendum for this year that mandates its inclusion on Election Day, presumably beginning in 2020. Jim Mathias may not mind this extra work for poll workers and increased risk of voter fraud, but Mary Beth stood against it.

That government we elected last time around kept trying to usurp power from the executive branch, and they succeeded with a pair of measures that Carozza and Mathias voted opposite ways on: Mary Beth was correct in attempting to stop HB230/SB290 (a bill requiring legislative approval to pull out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative scam) and the sour grapes represented by SB687, laughingly referred to as “state vacancy reform.” Unfortunately, Jim Mathias backed an effort that succeeded in creating an unelected board to distribute school capital funding, removing the duty from the partially-elected (2 of 3 members) Board of Public Works – a slap at Democrat Comptroller Peter Franchot, who apparently votes too often with the Republican governor. (To his credit, Mathias voted for a floor amendment to restore the BPW to its place, but its failure was not enough to either dissuade him from voting for final passage or overriding the veto.)

The Big Labor interests that have supported Jim Mathias to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars over the last twelve years got their money’s worth this term – bills that dealt with making new hires opt out of being harassed to join the union rather than having to opt in (HB1017/SB677), another allowing disgruntled employees disputing prevailing wage decisions being allowed to take their suit directly to court (rather than to a state arbitrator, part of HB1243/SB572), and a huge gift as the precedent was set (with Jim’s support) for paid parental leave in SB859. This was on top of getting the veto override of HB1 from 2017, in part thanks to Mathias.

Mary Beth stood with providers by opposing a bill written by the insurance companies (HB1782) establishing a re-insurance program through a renewed assessment (formerly on a federal level, but being shifted to a state one) on those same insurers. Jim Mathias obviously isn’t into fee relief.

Finally on the environmental front, Mary Beth was on the right side of a proposal (HB1350/SB1006) that mandates certain state-funded construction projects be adapted to conform with weather conditions brought on by supposed global climate change. It may be prudent in some instances, but will certainly bust the budget elsewhere.

Because District 38 is my home district, I have been paying particular attention to the race. But it’s worth noting that a similar race exists in Senate District 8 which pits Senator Katherine Klausmeyer against Delegate Christian Miele.

While the differences aren’t as stark between those two as they’ve been between Carozza and Mathias, they are still there: over the last four years where they have served together, Klausmeyer has racked up annual mAP scores of 32, 2, 24, and 4 for an average of 15.5, while Miele has scored 58, 44, 60, and 26 for an average of 47. On the average, then, Miele would get 7 to 8 more mAP votes correct than Klausmeyer each term, which can mean more money in your pocket and more opportunity for businesses to thrive and create good-paying jobs. The records are there for inspection on the sidebar.

One final word. We can talk about voting records all day, but there are those who swear by Jim Mathias because he “works hard for the district” or some variation of that remark. As proof they can point to social media, where Jim is often going live at some event or gathering – even if it’s walking in a parade 100 miles outside his district. Look, I’m into hometown pride as much as anyone given my affinity for particular sports teams and number of my friends still hailing from mine, but the whole “look at me” attitude seems a little artificial and contrived after awhile.

Over this campaign I’ve pointed out the perceived flaws in Jim’s record in both the votes and money he takes for and from special interests, groups that seemingly are more concerned with combating the good things Governor Hogan does (yes, there are a few) and keeping the state as the East Coast’s answer to California and Chicago than they are with the needs of our diverse district. It’s telling that the latest charge by the Annapolis Democrats against Mary Beth is that she’s a “Washington insider” because she’s worked for several members of Congress and in the George W. Bush administration. If the party roles were reversed, they would call that “a career of public service.”

I noted four years ago that many of Mary Beth’s former cohorts provided the seed money for her campaign, but in this round it’s become far more local as she has gained the confidence of those who donated to her. Mary Beth wasn’t someone I knew well prior to her 2014 campaign: I met her years ago when she worked for the Ehrlich administration, but it’s not like our paths crossed a lot.

One thing I’ve noticed as she’s run her two campaigns, though: that woman is everywhere. But she isn’t one to plaster it all over social media, opting to be more of the work horse than the show horse. Maybe that costs her a few votes among those who like glamour and popularity, but the thoughtful voters notice.

I saw Jim on Sunday at the Autumn Wine Festival, just as Kim and I were leaving. While he probably shook more than a few hands while he was there, the reason he came was to sing with the band that was playing to close out the event – more on that band in a future post. It’s nothing new, as Jim has sung with On The Edge before at the AWF and, in general, has been around the local music scene as long as I’ve been aware of it. Obviously that’s something he enjoys doing, and I don’t see a thing wrong with that – in fact, I wouldn’t mind him having more time to sing after this November.

In short, the reason I’ve been on this race so much and for so long is that I think Jim’s a fine enough and likable fellow, but is also a political mismatch as a representative of this district – he seems to be much more suited for a district across the bridge, a place from where a significant portion of his financial support comes. Here we have a district that is much more right of center than he is.

So while she’s not as far to the right as I would prefer, I think that in order to make a better team for local success throughout District 38 we need to promote Mary Beth Carozza to be our next State Senator. I urge you to vote accordingly, whether at early voting beginning tomorrow and running through next Thursday or on the traditional November 6 date.

Dealing with facts in Senate District 38 (third of four parts)

In this third part of a four-part series, I’m reviewing votes in the 2017 monoblogue Accountability Project (mAP) where Mary Beth Carozza and Jim Mathias landed on different sides. (If you need to catch up, here are parts one and two, covering 2015 and 2016 respectively.) In 2017 Mary Beth Carozza dropped slightly to a score of 74 on the mAP despite 19 correct votes and just 6 incorrect ones because she changed her vote to be correct on one bill – a bill which happened to be one Jim Mathias got right the first time. Unfortunately, those instances were few and far between for Jim Mathias as his score of 12 on the mAP was unchanged from 2016. He had just 3 correct votes out of 25 cast.

Besides the bill Mathias got correct the first time and Carozza didn’t (SB355, which had to do with gas companies being able to recoup certain environmental remediation costs), the only instance where he was correct and Mary Beth was not was a measure to require licensing to sell vaping products (HB523.)

On the other hand, Mary Beth fought at times against a broadly liberal agenda that was a reaction to the era of Trump. Meaningless resolutions such as protecting Obamacare (HJ9) and repealing votes for common-sense Constitutional amendments such as a balanced budget or gerrymandering prohibition (HJ2/SJ2) were coupled with real far-left agenda items that were even too radical for the centrist Governor Hogan like paid sick leave (HB1) and a “ban the box” bill (HB694). These drew vetoes that were voted on in 2018, but in the initial case they weren’t too far left for Mathias to support while Carozza held the line closer to the center and opposed them.

Another vetoed bill that was sustained was the cynical Democrat attempt to hold off a gerrymandering ban until other states did one (SB1023), as that was too hot for even the Democrats to handle in an election year. But Jim Mathias was fine with it in the first place, while Carozza was correct in seeing through its hypocrisy. Vetoes of two other bills, the 2016 version of HB1106 that revised the renewable energy portfolio and the attempt to make failing schools less accountable for their problems (HB978) by taking the prospect of school choice off the table – a teacher’s union wet dream if there ever was one – were sustained by Carozza and overridden by Mathias. The MSEA got its money’s worth on their $6,000 in campaign contributions to Mathias (in just the last four years) there.

Unfortunately, our governor didn’t have the stones to veto some other far-left pipe dreams that Mary Beth Carozza opposed but Jim Mathias was perfectly willing to support. Worst of all was a bill in reaction to the proposed cutting off of federal funds to Planned Parenthood embodied in HB1083/SB1081.

Another example: the “Maryland Defense Act” (HB913) that has allowed AG Brian Frosh to run wild, filing frivolous lawsuit after frivolous lawsuit against the Trump administration. In 2017 we also got commissions to counter the potential dismantling of onerous Dodd-Frank financial regulations (HB1134/SB884) and the effects of repealing Obamacare (SB571). Yet no one suggested a commission on how to deal with the effects of illegal immigration, did they?

Further reaction to the twin elections of Hogan and Trump were broadly written screeds on coordinated election expenses (HB898) and PAC compliance (HB1498), coupled with the aspect of allowing a change in voter address to be updated during early voting without verification (HB1626). All these were supported by Jim Mathias and opposed by Mary Beth Carozza, almost as if Jim saw he would have significant opposition this time around.

For all the controversy about Mathias supporting facilities “where drug users can consume preobtained drugs” (as written in the bill he co-sponsored) it should have been foreshadowed by his support of repealing drug testing requirements as a condition of receiving SNAP benefits for those previously convicted of drug distribution (HB860/SB853). This was an “opt-out” to federal law Carozza opposed.

On the mundane side was a bill to allow mass transit to gain more subsidies by requiring less of a farebox recovery to avoid a large fare increase (HB271/SB484). As I noted then, no one seems to worry about that happening to the gas tax.

Last but not least was perhaps the most galling betrayal from the first term of the Hogan administration: reversing course on fracking in Western Maryland. The fracking ban (HB1325) was properly opposed by Mary Beth Carozza – who obviously believes in an “all of the above” energy solution where prudent – and opposed by Jim Mathias, who I guess must like high electric rates and Maryland being a net importer of reliable energy because that’s what we have now.

While the last two sessions featured a lot of differences between Mary Beth Carozza and Jim Mathias, the final installment covering this most recent session is a bit shorter insofar as voting is concerned. But it’s still worth pointing out in my final part tomorrow.

Dealing with facts in Senate District 38 (second of four parts)

Today’s second part of a four-part series goes over the 2016 monoblogue Accountability Project (mAP) and the votes where Mary Beth Carozza and Jim Mathias have parted company. 2016 turned out to be the final year I included committee votes in the 25 that made up the annual assessment of the Maryland General Assembly; however, Jim could have voted on a bill in his Finance Committee that the House voted through but he missed the opportunity by being excused from the vote. (It’s worth pointing out that neither Carozza nor Mathias were absent from an mAP vote this term.)

In 2016 Mary Beth Carozza reached her all-time high score of 76 on the mAP by being credited with 19 correct votes and just 6 incorrect ones. Meanwhile, in the Senate Jim Mathias plummeted to a score of 12 on the mAP by making just 3 correct votes and 21 incorrect plus the excused vote, which goes down for my record as incorrect but not penalized.

As a bit of foreshadowing, Jim’s low score is representative of his last three sessions as the partisan lines have hardened in the Maryland General Assembly – that score of 12 ties for his highest score in the last three sessions. It’s reflected in his scores over the years: while he scored out to an average of 16 in the House from 2007-10, his last three sessions there drove down a reasonably centrist average established in his first two sessions (2007 Regular and 2007 Special Session.) His initial opposition to Martin O’Malley’s radical policies melted down to compliance by the end in MOM’s first term, and Jim followed the same trend in MOM’s second: a 36 score in 2011 eroded to 34 in 2012, 24 in 2013, and 19 in 2014. (By comparison, Jim’s shotgun 2014 opponent thanks to gerrymandering of the local districts, former Delegate Mike McDermott, had respective scores in that same term of 88, 88, 82, and 80. Talk about a missed opportunity!)

In a case of blind squirrel, Jim’s three correct votes were also Mary Beth’s correct votes. And since none of the six committee votes between the two were common votes, it leaves a total of 13 votes where Mary Beth voted the right way and Jim incorrectly.

We already discussed the “travel tax” yesterday in the 2015 review, but I added the veto vote to 2016’s total. It created a bit of confusion on my chart as the SB190 designation was also given to the FY2017 budget voted on in 2016 – both voted incorrectly for the overly generous budget in that case.

One theme in 2016, though, seemed to be a partisan reining in of the executive branch. It began with a measure – sent to voters in a slightly amended form – dealing with the replacement of the Attorney General, Comptroller, or United States Senator mandating he or she represent the same party as the departed official (HB260). Voters approved the change to Attorney General and Comptroller succession in 2016, but as I noted at the time, “It’s amazing how these types of bills come up when there’s the slightest chance someone other than a Democrat could be placed in a statewide position.” If it were truly an issue, where was it in 2012 or 2014? Similarly, the two parted ways on a bill (SB973) placing a prohibition on certain types of political donations on behalf of departmental secretaries (who are appointed by the Governor.) It wasn’t an issue before Larry Hogan arrived?

A more important front on the war against Larry Hogan, though, were multiple bids to increase mandated spending. In the mAP’s case, it was requiring additional capital spending on schools with increased enrollment (HB722/SB271), expansion grants for preschools (HB668/SB584), shelter and transitional housing facilities for homeless individuals (HB1476/SB797), additional debt or a toll increase to replace the U.S. 301 bridge over the Potomac River in Charles County (SB907), college early commitment programs which duplicate private-sector efforts (SB1170), and two new programs: a new Maryland Corps program based on the federal Americorps (HB1488/SB909) that immediately secured about $2 million a year for state funding, and a second (HB1402/SB1125) that established a $7.5 million annual fund to expand school time into off-hours and the summer but required local matching grants. All these may be worthy efforts and many were already well-funded on a discretionary basis, but Jim Mathias voted to tie Larry Hogan’s hands and Mary Beth Carozza did not.

There were also environmental bills that seemed to be overly restrictive yet broad-based: a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides (SB198) that was based on a theory they were eradicating bee colonies was one such bill, while the state’s market-bending renewable energy portfolio (read: solar energy-promoting boondoggle that, in practice, fattens state coffers) came up as HB1106 – both were supported by Mathias and rightly opposed by Carozza. In the latter case, in 2017 Mathias voted to override Governor Hogan’s veto of the bill while Carozza tried to sustain it.

Businesses were basically spared in the 2016 session, but one provision the Big Labor-friendly Mathias supported over Carozza’s opposition was on significantly increased liquidated damages for employers who, in the parlance of the bill, “reasonably should have known” it was a (so-called) “prevailing” wage job (yeah, that’s a clear statement there) yet fail to pay that wage (HB689/SB1009). It was funny to see that the employee would get the wage shortfall but the state gets the damages, even though they weren’t harmed.

They always say the third year of a General Assembly term is the one that has the most ambitious agenda from members seeking election, and 2017 was no different. I’ll look at that in tomorrow’s third series installment.

Dealing with facts in Senate District 38 (first of four parts)

You’ve seen some of the flyers that have come to my mailbox: trust me, more have arrived and there’s probably more to come. But between the claims and counterclaims there’s one thing that is real – and it’s the very reason I created the monoblogue Accountability Project (mAP) eleven years ago.

Over the last four years, both Mary Beth Carozza and Jim Mathias have had the opportunity to vote on most of the 100 bills I selected to be part of one of the four editions of the mAP from 2015 to 2018. (A handful were committee votes, which seldom overlap – but did in one case in 2015.) So over the next few days I’m going to illustrate just what the differences were, beginning in this installment with the 2015 session of the Maryland General Assembly – their first as a team.

In 2015 Mary Beth Carozza received a score of 56 on the mAP by being credited with 14 correct votes but having 11 incorrect ones. Meanwhile in the Senate Jim Mathias reached his term high score of 40 on the mAP by making 10 correct votes and 15 incorrect. (Jim’s all-time high was when he scored a 53.12 rating in the 2007 Special Session, done in the days before I standardized the number of votes. That session was based on 15 total votes in the House of Delegates, where Jim served at the time.) Three of Jim’s ten correct votes, though, were at the committee level, and two were not common votes. They both voted against HB1094, Mary Beth on the House floor and Jim as part of the Senate Finance Committee.

What I’m going to drill down into are the featured floor votes where they parted company – in the case of the 2015 legislative session there are a total of 10 such votes out of the 25 I used for the mAP. Of those ten, there were eight which were correctly voted upon by Mary Beth Carozza but not Jim Mathias, and two that were voted on correctly by Mathias and not Carozza. Those two in Jim’s favor were both in the realm of civil liberties: one (SB651) was a provision to allow expungement of a crime if it’s no longer on the books (tailored for those convicted of possession of small amounts of marijuana, which was on its way to becoming a civil offense as opposed to criminal) and the other (HB360) a reform of civil forfeiture laws. Yet while Jim was good on those two, he still opted to maintain the possession of small amounts of marijuana as a criminal offense rather than converting it to a civil offense (HB105). Jim was one of just three Senators saying no, even as the law did not pass in 2015.

Jim also voted badly on a number of measures that should have been left out of state law. Since health care has been a hot topic in this campaign, it should be noted that one of them (HB838/SB416) raised insurance rates significantly in order to allow a handful of same-sex couples coverage for in vitro fertilization.

Public records were a key topic in that session as well. Jim supported a measure which would allow those who undergo treatment for gender changes to also change their birth certificate without it being noted that this wasn’t an original document (HB862/SB743), but more importantly for most he also supported a $5.2 million annual fee increase for the public through court filing fees rather than allowing it to be charged to the attorneys (HB54.)

Another tax Mathias supported, even over the veto of the governor he swears he’s working with, was the so-called “travel tax” that allowed the state to collect full-rate sales tax on rooms where the rates were discounted (SB190.) And that’s not all the anti-business law Jim supported: no longer could employers and employees agree to waive certain types of paid leave (HB345) – of course, the state was kept exempt.

But perhaps the most misunderstood differences were in HB70 and HB72. HB70 was that year’s state budget, and it’s been the subject of one Mathias mailing already. So to recap: Mary Beth was fine with that budget until it was amended by the Senate and backroom dealings.

It appears the same thing happened with HB72, which was that year’s BRFA act. In order to make things work fiscally and keep a balanced budget as required by law, sometimes previous laws need to be changed, and the favored vehicle for that is generally called the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act, or BRFA. In that session Carozza voted for the original House version but once the Senate got hold of it she didn’t like the changes and voted no. Meanwhile, her Senate opponent was just fine with doing as much as possible to thwart Governor Hogan’s intentions.

And to think: this is only the first of four years. Here is the second.

The District 38 battle is joined

It took a few weeks, but the Maryland GOP has finally begun countering the barrage of full-color mailers that the Democratic Senate Caucus Committee has sent to my house (and presumably those of other 4x Republican voters) trying to portray Jim Mathias as the willing follower of Larry Hogan and Mary Beth Carozza as the pawn of special interests – basically accusing the enemy of what they themselves were doing.

Yet on the Republican response there are a whole slew of votes cited. Finally, perhaps, someone has picked up on the reason I have done the monoblogue Accountability Project for all these years. In this case, the race is a direct compare and contrast since both have voted in the Maryland General Assembly since 2015 – however, the mAP spans the entirety of Mathias’s legislative career, which began in 2006 when he was appointed to finish the brief unexpired term of the late Delegate Bennett Bozman and won the office outright in the election that November as the top vote-getter. Four years later Mathias ran to succeed the retiring Senator Lowell Stoltzfus and won his current post.

So I can tell you that, looking at the record from my conservative, limited government perspective, over his legislative career Mathias has made 71 “correct” votes out of 336 cast. If it were a batting average .211 might keep you around if you were a defensive superstar and would be really good for a pitcher who has to hit in the National League, but getting 21.1% of the votes right for the interests of the district isn’t so good.

On the other hand, out of 100 votes cast by Mary Beth Carozza she has been correct on 62 – not the greatest of records, but a vast step in the right direction. The difference is even more apparent when you compare her total to 18 Mathias got right in that same span (and only 8 in the last three years, when he was supposedly helping out Larry Hogan.) Those 44 votes cast differently are going to be the focus of a series of posts I’ll do leading up to the beginning of early voting October 25.

I’ve already noted Jim’s subservience to special interest PACs across the state, so it will become more clear when you see what he votes for compared to Mary Beth.

Odds and ends number 88

As you might guess, the mailbox groans with new items when it’s election time. So this is a fresh edition of stuff I can deal with in a sentence to a few paragraphs.

I regret not bringing one of these items up a few months back when it came out, but as we get ready for state elections there are two key pieces from the Maryland Public Policy Institute that voters should not miss.

First of all, you all know that I have done the monoblogue Accountability Project for several years, with this year’s intention to wrap up that work.** While it doesn’t evaluate individual voters or bills like my evaluation does, their 2018 Annapolis Report is a useful, broad look at the overall picture and where it can stand some improvement in the next term, It’s nice work by Carol Park and our own Marc Kilmer.

It seems like a new Democrat strategy (besides cutting and running to Virginia) to combat Larry Hogan’s effective campaign is to talk down the state’s economy, but Park puts the lie to that in a more recent piece. Notes Park:

(I)t may be more helpful to look at Maryland’s future economic prospects than to focus on the historical figures to assess the validity of Jealous’s claim. After all, 2015–2017 was a period of strong growth nationally, so it may not be fair to attribute every aspect of improvement of Maryland’s economy to Hogan, nor may it be fair to criticize him for perceived shortcomings relative to other states.

There are a number of indicators that macroeconomists consider important for predicting a region’s long-term economic growth prospects: wage, entrepreneurship, innovation, and income inequality. We can look at these figures one-by-one to assess whether Maryland is in fact faring poorly compared with other states in the Mid-Atlantic region under Gov. Hogan.

It turns out Maryland isn’t doing so bad after all according to the selected figures. Now I know the whole deal about lies, damned lies, and statistics, but if you ask almost any Marylander whether he or she is better off than they were four years ago, the answer would likely be yes – unless you work for the federal government, in which case times may be a bit difficult. If – and this is a really, really big if considering we are over two years out – the Republicans can maintain their grip on Congress for the next two cycles and President Trump is re-elected – we may see a significant rightsizing of government that will likely put Maryland into recessionary status given our addiction to the federal crack pipe of taxpayer money and government jobs. (I’ve said it before – if not for the federal government, Maryland would be *pick your chronically high unemployment state.*) It will be painful, but it is necessary.

The MPPI also pointed out that small businesses will be able to take advantage of a modest tax break made necessary by the adoption of paid sick leave. (I say modest because it’s a pool of $5 million – as originally envisioned, the pool was far larger and assisted more employers. Both those provisions were killed or watered down in committee.)

Sliding over to another campaign, Dr. Ben Carson called him “a true patriot who has served our nation and made personal sacrifices for its well being.” But before he debated his two most prominent foes for the U.S. Senate seat on Sunday (more on that in a few paragraphs) Tony Campbell had one simple request: Pray.

This campaign is David vs. Goliath.  As a dear friend of mine told me this week, our job is to be in position to take advantage of God’s providential miracle.  Your prayers are crucial for our campaign’s success.

Now before the anti-“thoughts and prayers” crowd has a cow, they need to explain to me what harm comes from prayer. If it’s in the Lord’s plan to give Maryland a far more sane representative than that which we have now, why not give encouragement that thy will be done?

From calling on the Lord to calling out larceny: that’s the segue I make for the next item.

One minor topic that takes up a couple pages in my forthcoming book on the TEA Party is a look at the “scam PACs” that started up in the wake of Citizens United, conning well-meaning small donors into supporting the lavish consulting fees of companies related to the overall PAC rather than the candidates or causes they purported to support. A three-part series from the Capital Research Center called Caveat Donator delves into that topic as well, and is worth the read.

Back to that Senate debate. I have found my way onto Neal Simon’s mailing list, and his spin doctors were ready:

Throughout the one-hour debate, Simon focused much of his criticism on Cardin’s lack of leadership in moving forward legislation that focuses on Maryland’s interests. Simon went on the offensive right out of the gate, painting a picture of a career-focused politician focused on placating the party leadership and cow-towing to establishment donors in order to keep his job. Cardin’s voting record is the most partisan of all current sitting senators as he has voted with Chuck Schumer more than 97 percent of the time.

When referring to the numerous internal threats and dangers facing America today, Simon said, “I’m not sure which is most dangerous, Trump’s Twitter feed or Ben Cardin’s rubber stamp.”

As I watched the debate, I noticed it was Simon who was the more aggressive toward Cardin, which is to be expected because he really has to swing for the fences now. There’s a month to close what’s a 40-plus point deficit between him and “our friend Ben” (who’s no friend of common-sense voters.) To that end, Simon is emphasizing Cardin’s fealty to Democrat leadership based on voting record.

But we need to pray for Tony to get another bite of the apple because his debate performance was “meh…” Whoever prepped him needs to step up his or her game because there were a couple “deer in the headlights” moments for Tony – on the other hand, while Simon seemed scripted he was very personable. Cardin was his normal low-key self, almost like “okay, I have to do this debate, let’s get it over with.” But he was more or less prepared for what he would get.

The best possible scenario for this race involves Republicans staying loyal while slyly inviting their Democrat friends to send a message to Cardin by voting Simon – after all, what Republican ever wins in Maryland? I don’t care if it’s one of those 35-33-32 deals: as long as our guy has the 35, he has 6 years to build up the next campaign.

You may remember in the last Presidential go-round that the most centrist of Democrat candidates was onetime Reagan administration official Jim Webb of Virginia. While his campaign didn’t gain much in the way of traction, Jim landed on his feet nonetheless: he now draws a paycheck from the American Petroleum Institute and advocates for offshore energy exploration, to wit:

The United States can increase these advantages (in energy exploration) through renewed emphasis on safe and technologically advanced offshore exploration, which is increasingly in use throughout the world. Ninety-four percent of federal offshore acreage is currently off limits to energy development. The Trump administration’s National Offshore Leasing Program for 2019-2024 would change that by opening key areas off the Atlantic Coast and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Recent advances in safety solutions, plus improvements in business practices and tighter government standards, guarantee that offshore exploration can be safe, targeted and productive.

Maybe that’s why Ben Jealous had the commonwealth on his mind the other day. But that’s the place I’ll use to bring this post home, and I have an old friend of mine to credit. My old “Rebeldome” cohort Bob Densic spied this in the Daily Signal and knew I’d be interested – it’s a piece on the current state of the TEA Party in Virginia.

So that will (almost) be a wrap for now. I might get enough to do another one before Election Day, but we will see.

**I’m thinking of getting the band back together, as it were, for a limited engagement. To me, it may be a useful exercise to maintain the Maryland edition of the mAP, but restrict it to the three districts (36, 37, and 38) on the Eastern Shore. Anyone else can do their own research on their members of the General Assembly.

Announcing: the 2017-18 monoblogue Accountability Project – Delaware Edition

For the second time, I have graded all the legislators in the Delaware General Assembly based on their voting patterns on a number of key issues. The final product can be found in its usual sidebar location, or right here.

One new feature because Delaware has staggered elections is an indicator of whether the legislator is running for another term, and if so what sort of opposition he or she faces. Some have a free ride through the primary, while a select few have no general election opponent.

Without getting too much into it – after all, I want my friends in the First State to read and share the information – it was another discouraging session for the Delaware General Assembly. But even the darkest sky has a few stars in it, and one shone very brightly as a beacon of conservatism.

The 25 votes I used were split with nine being dealt with in 2017 and 16 having final action this year. At least one of these bills took nearly the full two sessions to be finalized, but most of them came along earlier this year. In truth, I had the tallying completed several weeks ago but, like in Maryland, I had to wait for the prescribed post-session signing deadline to come and go. It’s my understanding that bills not signed within thirty days of the end of the second-year Delaware legislative session are pocket vetoed, and two of the mAP – DE bills were in that category. By my count, thirty days (excluding Sundays) from the end of session fell on this past Saturday: hopefully I won’t have quick editing to do.

And if you were sharp-eyed last night, you would have noticed I did the usual “soft opening” by updating the widget before this post was finished and set to be placed up at this early hour.

So, Delaware, here is the voting guide you need this fall – use it wisely.