A valid complaint?

As of Monday the on-ballot field for Maryland’s U.S. Senate seat was set. While three candidates set out to be placed on the ballot by petition, only one succeeded and that’s centrist independent Neal Simon.

One point that has been made about Simon’s run is that it’s eerily reminiscent of a similar effort the last time Ben Cardin was on the ballot. In 2012, as a Senator seeking re-election for the first time, Cardin was placed against a young, dynamic candidate in Dan Bongino who was a TEA Party favorite. Nearly three months after the primary, two-time GOP primary loser Rob Sobhani jumped into the race as an independent candidate. While polling data suggests Cardin would have won the race in either case (he received 56% of the final vote) there can be an argument made that having the third candidate, who was also running in a populist, change-oriented lane – Sobhani’s big idea was government investing in a series of public-private partnerships, perhaps because he saw an opportunity to help his investment firm – may have chopped Bongino’s already underfunded campaign off at the knees. FEC records show that Sobhani loaned himself nearly $8 million to run the race. That was 98% of his campaign income.

Fast forward six years and in comes another financial guru in Neal Simon. However, there are some differences – not the least of which is that Simon has “only” contributed about $550,000 to his own campaign so far.

Unlike the Sobhani effort, which was basically self-funded, Simon is getting a lot of outside help. But I found it interesting that many of the high-dollar, maximum donations come from out of state and from couples who are maxing out as husband and wife (or in one case, father and college-age daughter) where the woman’s occupation is listed as “homemaker” or (in the case of the daughter) “student” – yet they apparently have $5,400 lying around to donate to the primary and general campaigns. (That’s interesting as well, since Simon had no primary as an unaffiliated candidate. Yet it is perfectly legal.)

The theory floating around is, of course, that Simon is a Democrat plant whose purpose is to split the GOP vote. But after spending a few evenings poring over the contribution data from this subset of “max donors” – those who have added $2,700 or more to the Simon kitty – I tend to doubt this idea. Out of 91 donors who I checked via the OpenSecrets website, which categorizes donations to federal candidates, there were 17 who had no record of donating before. This only seems unusual because most people start out small and work their way up, not drop up to $10,800 as a couple into a political campaign as their first contribution.

But the political leanings of these more regular donors spanned the gamut, from huge donors to Democrats and their causes to a handful that could be described as staunch Republicans. (One of those is the wife of a social media friend I often see promoting the Hogan re-election campaign.) Overall I would describe the donor list as skewing Democrat, but there are a few who are big believers in the centrist advocacy group Unite America (whose logo and color scheme is very much like Simon’s) and a PAC called People Over Politics (not to be confused with a hardcore leftist advocacy website.) The People Over Politics PAC has several Simon donors as its main base of support and guess what they are spending on?

Now that pushes up a few red flags – as well as the question about working around individual donation limits given the amount this PAC has raised from just six donors. Out of the six, only one has been heavily into politics prior to this, and he’s been a relatively faithful GOP donor. So why the change? Let’s look at what Simon says. (Yes, I intended the pun.)

His top issue is – of course – one of unity, and bringing us together. Now I can’t argue with the idea but that doesn’t give me much in the way of principles.

Next up is the idea of changing how Washington works. I’m cool with the ideas of independent commissions to create legislative districts and term limits, but I have to know more about the concepts of the new Senate rules Neal favors. On the other hand, I don’t favor open primaries.

But the funny part to me is where he states:

The corrupting influence of money in politics is at the heart of congressional dysfunction. We can use this election to spur on campaign finance reform and make meaningful changes to the system. We can start by bringing transparency to election spending, making politicians reveal the sources of “dark money” campaign donations – donations that currently have no limit. I support the DISCLOSE Act, which requires all organizations spending money in elections to file reports that include donors of $10,000 or more.

Did I not just say the guy has a SuperPAC with six donors of $25,000 or more working on his behalf? Shouldn’t he take the leap and say this? I suppose that would be considered coordination (and that’s a no-no) but there’s more than a wink going on here.

Neal’s next priority is jobs, which is fine. But this line is priceless, too, given my context:

As a CEO who has led five companies, I have extensive experience connecting and persuading other business leaders,

He’s persuaded a lot of them to pony up $2,700 or more, that’s for sure. And Neal is a little behind the curve: why eliminate just one existing regulation for every new one when we have a President axing twenty or more per new one? That’s more my speed.

And then we come to health care, where Simon says:

First, we have a moral obligation to provide adequate, affordable health care coverage to its citizens.

Actually, no we don’t – at least not at the behest of government, because government is not the solution to the problem. I would argue that government is causing many of the problems, particularly when it comes to costs. To make health care affordable we have to create the conditions where it can become more affordable – unfortunately, government does a poor job of that on a national level.

Simon then addresses an 800-pound gorilla in our room:

If we don’t get our debt and spending problems under control, inflation will have a disastrous effect on jobs and the economy. Currently, our interest payments alone amount to $310 billion—the fourth largest budget item after Social Security, defense, Medicare and Medicaid.

The last I checked, only one of those items is mandated in the Constitution, and it’s not the entitlements. Yet, starting at the top, no one wants to do anything about any of those EXCEPT cut defense spending. I can agree to that to a point in that we don’t need bases in practically every nation, but the sad truth is we don’t know where the next hotspot will be and we’ve taken it upon ourselves to be the world’s cop. So there we stand.

Where Simon truly loses me though is where he’s part of the “path to citizenship” crowd and gets into the realm of what he calls “common sense gun safety laws.” Basically if you were mad at Larry Hogan for flouting the Second Amendment you won’t be much for Simon either.

So to me it’s rank hypocrisy for Simon to say on his website, “Government should represent ‘We, the people’ – not the party bosses or those who can buy access to power,” (my emphasis) yet have the donor list he has and a PAC working for his cause. It’s just more politics as usual. Neal is a guy I wouldn’t mind sitting down with for a political discussion (at least he seems down-to-earth judging from a brief chat we had at the Tawes event) but I don’t think he has much in common with anyone politically right of center. This is especially true when you look at his own donation record, which is very left-leaning: out of $11,000 Neal has donated over the years, $8,000 has gone to Democrats and left-leaning PACs, with $2,500 going to fellow independent Craig O’Dear and an almost random $500 donation to Mitt Romney in 2011.

Having said that, though, I still wish Neal all the success in the world – in taking votes away from Ben Cardin. Wouldn’t it be funny (and great for Maryland and the nation) if his campaign splits the Democrat vote enough to send a Maryland conservative – who would all but kill to have the bankroll the People Over Politics PAC has, let alone nearly 100 max donors – to the United States Senate?

Considering the alternative is Tweedledum with a D or Tweedledee with an I (who, based on political philosophy, will probably caucus with the Democrats anyway), you may as well elect someone who has principles.

42nd annual Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in pictures and text

And away we go…

Thanks to the much better interface of photo captioning I’ve adopted since my WordPress update awhile back, this one can literally be handled with photos, captions, and text. You get all three in one gooey, chewy, oh-so-sweet and ooo-ey mishmash of photos that will basically take you through my day – except for the tired feet.

This was the scene when I arrived about 10:45.

Local supporters of Jom Mathias were coordinating their efforts at the gate, Quite a few of those shirts found their way onto people at the event.

I Tweeted this next photo the day of, as I recall.

I wonder who pulled the strings to get Jim Mathias the plum spot up front. If you were coming this way to a corporate tent or the Crab Trap, you had to walk by.

Inside, people were getting set for the show to begin.

This is almost like a class photo. I’m sure 20 years from now, these runners will be looking at this, laughing, and wondering whatever happened to some of these nice folks.

Runners assigned here had a LONG way to travel.

The Crab Trap is a relatively new idea. It’s sort of a cross between a corporate tent and an after-party, and for a $20 premium you could enjoy the day from there.

Before I get too much farther, I could kick myself for not getting a photo of those doing the cooking. They are the heroes of the day and don’t get thanked enough for a hot, nearly thankless task for which they still willingly volunteer.

Speaking of thankless, volunteer roles…

You know, it’s a good thing this truly isn’t up for election. Could you imagine a split ticket winning that one?

I didn’t see Yumi at Tawes (not that I would necessarily be able to pick her out in the crowd) but I saw her husband make the rounds. More on that in a bit.

Luckily it was still before 11 when I took this – whoever was in charge of slapping up signs had a lot to do!

As the 11:00 hour rolled in, people were still busy getting ready for the crowds.

The Somerset County GOP was getting their tent space set up with plenty of signs and stickers.

It was at that point I realized that even 13-year veterans can make rookie mistakes: I left my box bottom in the car. A box bottom is a key component for Tawes because it serves as your food tray and (for some) a place to festoon with campaign stickers.

So on my way out I got a shirt. First time ever.

They had a good selection of shirts this year. I picked out a nice blue one.

By the time I trudged my way back in after a good half-mile round trip, I saw that food was already being served.

These seem like long lines, but most of them went fast and I have seen longer. I think having the runners has cut down on wait time.

So I found my way to the Somerset GOP tent and crashed their party. While I was there, Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford was already making the rounds. I took a few photos but with a bright background from a tent in the shadows they didn’t work well.

After I finished eating, I spied these two guys – part of a modest contingent backing unaffiliated U.S. Senate hopeful Neal Simon. They were circulating petitions at Tawes to get Simon on the ballot.

Backers of U.S. Senate hopeful Neal Simon fish for petition signatures.

Now this photo is nowhere near as important as a photo Neal put out Wednesday with the aforementioned Governor Hogan. And I’ll get to that in a little bit, too.

But first I ran into a guy who’s in the catbird seat – my Delegate, Carl Anderton.

With no election opposition, Delegate Carl Anderton can afford to give the thumbs-up.

He was just the first of a whole host of political and semi-political folks I got to chat with over the next 3 hours or so as I wandered around. There are some people who take “all you can eat crabs” as a challenge, but I’m to a point where I can barely make it through what I’m given in one trip to four lines, none of which are crabs.

Yes, it is campaign season. And since Wicomico County (and its media) are prominent there, you see a lot from our candidates.

In an indication of what was to come, Boyd Rutherford was rather popular.

The crowd of supporters surrounds Boyd Rutherford. I wonder if he will be here in 2021 as a candidate, and whether it will be to succeed his boss or upend the socialist?

Smaller groups chatted with the more local and regional politicians.

While Delegate Chris Adams (on the left in white) has one general election opponent for the two seats of District 37B, even that guy admits Adams and Johnny Mautz (who was also there) are prohibitive favorites to return to Annapolis.

Because State Senator Jim Mathias had his own tent, the group at the main Democrat tent was smaller. It wasn’t exactly a blue wave.

Regarding the Democrat tent: I did get to meet and say hello to Jesse Colvin, who is the Democrat opposing Andy Harris. He had his wife and baby boy with him (he was the holder) so I opted to skip the photo of Colvin. I will say he doesn’t seem to have the spunk and gift of gab that Allison Galbraith – who I met at Tawes 2017 – does, but perhaps that’s a military trait. Still, I would be interested to see debates between Harris, Colvin, and Libertarian candidate Jenica Martin. (I’m not sure if she was there – I know Andy was a little busy, as were federal counterparts Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin.)

There were a number of business tents as usual, but they didn’t seem to draw a lot of interest. It seems anymore that the Tawes event is used as a company picnic of sorts.

I’m going to return to the subject of business tents later as I wrap up, but in taking the photo I saw a person I wanted to meet. In fact, in speaking to him I found out he’s visited this site a time or two.

This is one of the few times you’ll see someone to the right of me, if only in a visual sense. Actually, Neal Simon and I had a nice conversation.

In speaking to Neil I found out he had gotten the Hogan signature I alluded to above at the event and that he was going to make the announcement about having the sufficient number of petition signatures the next day, which was yesterday. He just told me to keep it under my hat until the time came, which wasn’t a problem since I had other things to write on and it was pretty much a fait accompli anyway.

Next up, though, is my favorite picture.

You just gotta like Carol Frazier. That’s all there is to it.

It gives me a chance to say thanks to one of my biggest fans and supporters. And speaking of such, I had the opportunity to see someone I hadn’t seen since Turning the Tides five years ago. It’s just a shame I neglected to get a picture of Cecil County Council member Jackie Gregory, a longtime friend and supporter of monoblogue. Even Delegate Kathy Szeliga saw me and gave me a greeting hug.

But when it comes to big fans and supporters of Tawes, I’m not sure anyone beats Bruce Bereano.

If this guy ever stops coming, I suspect they could have Tawes in the Food Lion parking lot.

For those politicians whose district doesn’t include the region, this is the place to hang out and eat. I think the Crab Trap idea was inspired by Bruce’s tent since people could see the political in-crowd live it up and wanted a version for their own.

That guy in the center with his hands up – he’s the governor. Larry Hogan always draws a crowd.

He may have pissed off various swaths of the Maryland electorate for various reasons, but the people don’t seem too upset at Governor Hogan here. Maybe a little bit of a smaller group circling him, but still significant.

Even the host city welcomed him.

The City of Crisfield tent. Since everyone in town who could afford a ticket was down here anyway.

I shouldn’t pick on Crisfield, since our former County Executive Rick Pollitt is their city manager. He stopped and said hello with a warm handshake.

This is one of the strangest sights, although I’m sure it’s the way of the news business these days: talking to a camera on a tripod.

It didn’t seem like the media was all over like before, but I saw all three local stations: WBOC channel 16 (and their associated FM radio station) and WMDT channel 47 out of Salisbury as well as WRDE channel 31 from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware – now that was a trip from one side of the peninsula to the other. I also saw channel 7, which I think is out of Washington, D.C. I know there were print and radio reporters as well, but they did their jobs in places I wasn’t, aside from WRDE who wanted to speak with Simon as I was talking to him.

I took this photo a little after 2:00.

The tall guy in black in the center, that’s Ben Jealous. He’s trying to take Hogan’s job.

In the last three Democrat campaigns for governor (2006, 2010, 2014) I witnessed their favored or chosen gubernatorial candidate walk into Tawes surrounded by a posse of supporters clad in campaign shirts to help rouse support. However, Anthony Brown skipped Tawes in 2014 since it was by then post-primary – his blue shirts came the year before.

Regardless, the lack of campaign savvy on the Jealous team was very apparent – few supporters and not much engagement. It was almost like Ben used the event as a photo-op but the optics weren’t nearly as good as they should be in an area that’s heavily minority and majority Democrat. Even I quickly worked my way up to say hello and express a concern I had, as I did later to Governor Hogan.

Finally, I’m glad I helped convince this guy into coming – or maybe he already made up his mind and likes to humor his supporters.

Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford on the left, U.S. Senate candidate Tony Campbell on the right. Wait a minute, I thought the GOP was exclusively for white people.

Hopefully Tony followed a little bit of my advice: I told him to not just concentrate on the circle of tents in the back but go and speak to the people in the pavilions up front. And this is where my commentary on Tawes begins.

Earlier I alluded to the business tents, and in the last few years I’ve noticed it’s been pretty much the same businesses and entities are present at Tawes, and they bring a particular group of people to the event. Needless to say, the political entities also bring their own supporters and hangers-on as well. All of them stay pretty much within an area that’s bounded by the tents and the food lines up front. Of course, with the Crab Trap and addition of food runners over the last few years, Tawes has gotten to a point where one doesn’t have to come out from under the tent to partake in the event.

On the other side, behind the AFSCME local that always camps out by the restroom building and the City of Crisfield tent, is the portion of the main pavilion where those who are there simply to eat and socialize with their friends go and sit. They have their own DJ, they’re not far from the bathrooms, and in my travels I notice it’s more of a minority gathering – it’s almost like that’s where the locals stay and they let the out-of-towners have the other side. That’s where I advised Tony to go, and it’s not a bad idea for any candidate. (Toward the end I found Mary Beth Carozza over there doing a radio spot so I presume she had been through there, too.)

In my years doing the Tawes event, one of the benefits I enjoyed about it was the opportunity to speak with people from the other side. For the ten years I sat on the Central Committee and was active in the local Republican club, I obviously saw the local Republicans once or twice a month and my GOP friends from around the state twice a year at the convention. On the other hand, if you were a Democrat and a friend of mine (or a candidate with whom I wanted to place a face with the name, such as Jesse Colvin or Ben Jealous), just about the only time I got to see you was at Tawes. And even though I haven’t been nearly as active on the GOP side of late, the same still holds true on the Democrats’ side. For the most part I have no animus with them aside from their short-sighted political views.

Unfortunately, there isn’t the mixing of people on a political level like there used to be and a similar phenomenon is beginning to take place at Tawes as groups become more insular. Surely there are people who never set foot outside the Crab Trap or Bereano tent from the time they arrived to the time they went home, and that’s sort of a shame. I have no idea on the attendance figure, but I think it may have been lower than in past years – on the other hand, there may have been people I never saw hiding in their safe spaces.

Unfortunately for a person like me, 2019 looks to be a year dull as dishwater politically. Sure, we may have some Presidential campaigns underway on the Democrat side but you don’t see a lot of them represented at Tawes and it would be a shock to see a Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, et. al. walk through those gates. It’s not a statewide office election year, and in 2020 Maryland will have no Senate race. All that leaves is Congress, and whatever Democrat opts to step up. It’s pretty thin gruel.

I don’t want to say the event is past its prime, but I suspect there are diminishing returns for a politician who isn’t statewide or represents an area outside the 37th or 38th District. To make things a little better there, we need to recall what we have in common, not what divides us.

  • I haven't. Have you?
  • 2018 Election

    Election Day is November 6 for all of us. With the Maryland primary by us and a shorter widget, I’ll add the Delaware statewide federal offices (Congress and U.S. Senate) to the mix once their July 10 filing deadline is passed. Their primary is September 6.

    Maryland

    Governor

    Larry Hogan (R – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Shawn Quinn (Libertarian) – Facebook

    Ben Jealous (D) – Facebook Twitter

    Ian Schlakman (Green) Facebook Twitter

     

    U.S. Senate

    Tony Campbell (R) – Facebook Twitter

    Ben Cardin (D – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Arvin Vohra (Libertarian) – Facebook Twitter

    There are three independent candidates currently listed as seeking nomination via petition: Steve Gladstone, Michael Puskar, and Neal Simon. All have to have the requisite number of signatures in to the state BoE by August 6.

     

    U.S. Congress -1st District

    Andy Harris (R – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Jenica Martin (Libertarian) – Facebook Twitter

    Jesse Colvin (D) – Facebook Twitter

     

    State Senate – District 37

    Addie Eckardt (R – incumbent) – Facebook

    Holly Wright (D) – Facebook

     

    Delegate – District 37A

    Frank Cooke (R) – Facebook

    Sheree Sample-Hughes (D – incumbent) – Twitter

     

    Delegate – District 37B (elect 2)

    Chris Adams (R – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Johnny Mautz (R – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Dan O’Hare (D) – Facebook

     

    State Senate – District 38

    Mary Beth Carozza (R) – Facebook Twitter

    Jim Mathias (D – incumbent) Facebook Twitter

     

    Delegate – District 38A

    Charles Otto (R – incumbent)

    Kirkland Hall, Sr. (D) – Facebook Twitter

     

    Delegate – District 38B

    Carl Anderton, Jr. (R – incumbent) Facebook Twitter

     

    Delegate – District 38C

    Wayne Hartman (R) – Facebook

     

    Delaware

     

    U.S. Senate

     

    Republican:

    Rob ArlettFacebook Twitter

    Roque de la FuenteFacebook Twitter

    Gene Truono, Jr. –  Facebook

     

    Libertarian (no primary, advances to General):

    Nadine Frost – Facebook

     

    Democrat:

    Tom Carper (incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Kerri Evelyn HarrisFacebook Twitter

     

    Green (no primary, advances to General):

    Demitri Theodoropoulos

     

     

    Congress (at-large):

     

    Republican:

    Lee MurphyFacebook Twitter

    Scott Walker

     

    Democrat (no primary, advances to General):

    Lisa Blunt Rochester (D – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

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