Pessimistic part of the state

I said the other day that I wanted to look more deeply at a poll done by the Washington Post last week, and my focus is on how the outstate areas that overwhelmingly supported Governor Larry Hogan compare with the rest of the state on these issues.

For example, the right direction/wrong track polling showed statewide respondents had a 48-40 opinion that the state was on the right path, but those who answered from outstate were the most pessimistic by a 36-55 margin. It was eight points down from any other group.

Yet those who voted for him from the hinterlands were still not sold on Hogan’s efforts. Their 43-24 approval of Hogan’s performance was almost identical to the 42-24 statewide numbers. On the other hand, they were slightly more confident in his ability to turn things around, believing he would by a 61-30 margin compared to the statewide average of 58-33.

Tellingly, the number of outstate repliers who believed the state should be governed more conservatively was several notches above the average, with 44% agreeing we need a more conservative direction as opposed to 36% overall. Only 22% favored more liberalism among outstaters compared to 28% as a whole.

And when the polling turned to the performance of General Assembly Democrats, the 49-43 favorable margin among all voters melted down to a 36-58 disapproval outside the I-95 corridor. The strong disapproval of 35% from those polled outstate was by far the highest. Outstate voters also differed from the norm as they believed the hot issue the General Assembly needs to work on was the state economy (21%) followed closely by public education and taxes at 20% each. Overall, Maryland picked public education at 26%, with taxes at 18% and the state economy at 16%.

We on the geographic fringes also didn’t fondly recall Martin O’Malley, giving him a 37-57 approval-disapproval number compared to 49-43 for the state at large.

There was also a tendency to see particular issues in a more conservative way, which is to be expected from the regions of the state which aren’t urban or suburban. In general, the Post lays out its geographic regions to specifically cover Prince George’s, Montgomery, Anne Arundel, and Howard counties, along with Baltimore City and its suburbs. The rest of us are lumped into the “rest of state” category, which covers a wide swath of the state from border to border in both directions.

One thing the Post did not poll on was the Phosphorous Management Tool, the enactment of which Hogan delayed within hours of taking office last month. Naturally, counties where this was sold as another tactic to clean up Chesapeake Bay would likely be against this change, which the rest of the state (particularly the Eastern Shore) may be solidly behind Hogan’s action.

If you ever wanted real proof that there is more than one Maryland, this poll is a pretty good indicator of the differences.

A quick score for the good guys

January 21, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, Radical Green, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on A quick score for the good guys 

Facing a 4 p.m. deadline today, in the first few hours after Larry Hogan was sworn in as Maryland’s 62nd governor he found a few minutes to inform the Maryland Register that the proposed Phosphorus Management Tool regulations should be pulled from Friday’s edition. However, Phil Davis of the Daily Times notes there is some question about the legality of Hogan’s move, with the lack of precedent cited as a concern. I would rate the chances of a legal challenge from one or more of the state’s environmental groups as good, although Timothy Wheeler of the B’More Green blog noted yesterday:

According to an opinion issued last month by then-Attorney General Douglas Gansler, the rules can be withdrawn or simply held up by preventing them from being published in the register, which is printed and posted online every two weeks.

Naturally that doesn’t mean new Attorney General Brian Frosh wouldn’t side with environmentalists, but it sounds like Hogan has the legal leg to stand on.

So the attention now will turn to the General Assembly, where it’s expected legislation with the same goal will be introduced in the next few days. Because of the way regulatory language is written for the Maryland Register, it’s relatively easy to translate to bill form. And as the Eastern Shore delegation only makes up 9 House seats and 3 Senate seats, their objections mean little when suburban Montgomery County has 24 Delegate and 8 Senate seats by itself. (Out of 124 Democrats in the General Assembly, that county makes up over one-fourth.) Few, if any, of those General Assembly members have been on a working farm – for the most part, their impression of the Eastern Shore seems to be that of knowing where all the speed traps are on the way to the beach.

But just taking the delegations from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and Baltimore City – areas which range mostly from urban to suburban, with little in the way of agriculture – gives that side a bloc of 63 House members and 22 Senators, meaning that prospective PMT legislation has a very good chance of passing. Add in the fact that the relevant committee chairs and vice-chairs mainly represent the three areas in question, with the fourth from a similarly suburban section of Baltimore County, and the skids are probably being greased right now. The Democrats aren’t going to let Larry Hogan get away with an opening victory that easily; it’s in that spirit of bipartisanship that they’ll demand these rules be enacted, you know.

Since word came down on this Hogan action late in the day, the environmentalists didn’t get a chance to formally react but some took to Twitter.

I look at it as withdrawing overly punitive rules when we haven’t even figured out yet whether the last set had an impact. When the entity that grades the Bay also solicits donations based on its assessment, we’re not exactly dealing with an honest broker.

So Larry Hogan’s initial major action as governor was a step in the right direction. Let’s hope it’s the beginning of a moratorium on these environmental regulations so we can evaluate the effectiveness of what we already have and see if dealing with the sediment that periodically leaches out of the pond behind the Conowingo Dam will make a difference.

The big engine that needs to

January 6, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The big engine that needs to 

It was somewhat lost during the holiday week, but Larry Hogan made the case to the Baltimore Sun that the city of Baltimore needs to take its place once again as Maryland’s economic driver, rather than “declining.

I know that many, many people around here consider the city of Baltimore an economic sinkhole that sucks up an outsized proportion of our state’s tax money, and to some extent that is true. But once upon a time – just a generation or two ago – the city of Baltimore was thriving while the capital region of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties were still sleepy, relatively rural backwaters. Baltimore City was the state’s largest jurisdiction until the late 1980s, but now that distinction belongs to Montgomery County while Baltimore City is fourth. Combined, the capital region of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties is now nearly 30% larger than the combined Baltimore city and county.

Yet what made Baltimore grow was that people made things there, shipped them around the country and world from its railroad hub and its port, and settled in the region as middle-class workers who could raise families without necessarily securing a college education. In other words, it was a blue-collar city much like Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, or other Rust Belt towns. On the other hand, the fuel to the capital region’s growth is an ever-expanding federal government and some of its associated suppliers and contractors. While Baltimore took a lot of things and added value to them in some way, too much of the work done by denizens of the capital region amounts to pushing paper, metaphorically digging holes here to fill them up there.

I doubt that we will ever get to a point where thousands of Baltimore citizens are “makin’ Thunderbirds” as the old Bob Seger song goes – or even the GM minivans they cranked out there for over two decades at the former Baltimore Assembly plant. But with the right conditions, marketing, and incentives (but not subsidies) I think it is possible to put a lot of that region’s workforce back into positions where they add value, using the relatively inexpensive energy produced in the region to aid the process. I was also pleased to see that Larry Hogan was looking to revisit the weak charter school laws which saddle Maryland’s educational system, but there needs to be an emphasis placed on vocational and technical education to create the type of workforce needed to make things efficiently in the way a liberal arts major just can’t. These reforms can go hand-in-hand.

I’ve already suggested that we jumpstart business in Maryland by doing away with the corporate income tax, which only provides for a small piece of the budget and could help create an environment where the returns from other taxes and economic activity from those who find work in the state could easily justify the “investment” in our businesses. But why not try another experiment?

As a general rule, unemployment is higher than the state average in Baltimore City, the Eastern Shore, and the western counties of Maryland. All of these areas could use an economic shot in the arm, but the influence of Big Labor is felt most in Baltimore City. I think it would be a good idea to write a bill creating “right-to-work zones” in these three areas of the state that have higher unemployment than the state average, with the law being written in such a way that it sunsets in ten years – unless it works so well that it could be expanded to the rest of the state and made permanent, as I’m confident it would. Think of it as at least a small temporary incentive for employers to create jobs in these areas, based on the success right-to-work states have in attracting industry.

All of Maryland should be putting out the impression that we are open for business, but it’s only natural that with its existing transportation infrastructure and available industrial land, Baltimore can lead the effort. Too much of our state’s money falls into the category of wealth transfer as opposed to wealth creation. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and in order to create a more economically viable Maryland I agree: we need to get Baltimore’s economic engine back on track.

Team players

I’ve heard a lot of talk about nominees who are RINOs and sitting out the election because so-and-so won the primary and they don’t want to vote for the “lesser of two evils,” and it always amazes me because this doesn’t happen on the other side. Here’s a case in point from a fawning AP story by Steve LeBlanc about Senator (and potential Presidential candidate) Elizabeth Warren.

Now, Warren is continuing her fundraising efforts, with a planned Monday event with West Virginia Democratic Senate hopeful Natalie Tennant. Tennant, West Virginia’s secretary of state, is vying with U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito for the seat held by retiring Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller. Capito is favored and holds a hefty cash advantage.

Capito’s campaign has also been quick to target Warren, calling her “one of the staunchest opponents of coal and West Virginia’s way of life.”

Warren has conceded that she and Tennant — who, like (Kentucky Democrat Senate nominee Alison Lundergan) Grimes, has criticized Obama’s plans to limit carbon emissions from the coal industry — don’t agree on everything, but can come together on economic issues facing struggling families.

So it’s obvious that the Democrats have their own 80/20 rule, but unlike some on our side they don’t take their ball and go home based on the non-conformance of the 20.

We had our primary, and at the top of the ticket there were 57% who voted for someone else besides our nominee – many of those live here on the Eastern Shore, where David Craig received 49.6% of the vote and carried seven of the nine counties. There can be a case made that Craig’s running mate, Eastern Shore native and resident Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, was a huge factor in his success here, but the fact remains that this area I live in was one of the two areas Hogan was weakest (the other being southern Maryland, where Charles Lollar resides.) These are votes Hogan will need, and surely many will migrate his way because he’s the Republican nominee.

On the other hand, Anthony Brown got a majority of the Democratic vote and carried all but a few counties. Those three on the Eastern Shore, plus Carroll County, aren’t places Brown would expect to win in November anyway – except perhaps Kent County, which was the lone county Heather Mizeur won and which only backed Mitt Romney by a scant 28 votes in 2012.

The path to victory for any statewide Republican candidate is simple, because Bob Ehrlich did this in 2002 – roll up huge margins in the rural areas and hold your own in the I-95 corridor. Ehrlich won several rural counties with over 70% of the vote in 2002, and got 24%, 38%, and 23% in Baltimore City, Montgomery County, and Prince George’s County, respectively. When that formula didn’t happen in 2006, he lost.

Granted, demographic changes and other factors may not allow Larry Hogan to pick up 65% of the vote in Anne Arundel County, 61% in Baltimore County, or 56% in Charles County, but it’s possible he does slightly better in Prince George’s and may hold some of those other areas. Turnout is key, and we know the media will do its utmost to paint Anthony Brown as anything other than an incompetent administrator and uninspiring candidate – as the natural successor to Martin O’Malley, who has done a wonderful job further transforming this state into a liberal’s Utopian dream at the expense of working Maryland families, one would have expected Brown to have picked up at least 60% of the Democratic primary vote.

Yet you can bet your bottom dollar that even the most diehard Mizeur and Gansler supporters may hold their nose but will still push that spot on the screen next to Anthony Brown’s name. They may have several points of contention with Brown on key issues, but the other side will push those aside to maintain power.

Perhaps Natalie Tennant over in West Virginia had misgivings for a moment about inviting Elizabeth Warren for a fundraiser, but she realized that there is a segment of her would-be supporters who would gladly contribute more to her campaign to meet Senator Warren, despite the fact they are on opposite sides of a particular issue. To Warren, the end goal of holding that seat in her party’s hands and maintaining a Democrat-controlled Senate was more important than conformity with the one place where Tennant may go against leftist orthodoxy.

If we’re to upset the apple cart here in Maryland, we have to deal with the obvious flaws in Larry Hogan’s philosophy and platform at the most opportune time – when he takes office.

The great debate

Last night (because by the time I finish this it will be Sunday) the four Republican gubernatorial candidates got together at Salisbury University to discuss their vision for the state, an event which was televised locally and will be made available statewide at a future time.

With only one hour to discuss issues, a 2-minute time limit on answers, and questions written by the local Chamber of Commerce – the event was moderated by their executive director, Ernie Colburn – the questions were somewhat predictable given the bread and butter of these campaigns deals with their perception of the state’s sluggish economy. The time constraints only allowed for five questions after a two-minute opening statement and prior to a 70-second close. The five questions had to do with the tax increases and structural deficit, creating a business-friendly tax code, addressing the challenges in attracting jobs, a seat at the table for the Eastern Shore, and restoring highway user funds. I would have liked one more directly addressing agriculture, but we didn’t get the opportunity to write the questions.

One other weakness with the format of the debate is that the candidates were placed in alphabetical order, which is fine, but initial responses were not properly rotated. Charles Lollar either answered questions first or last, as did David Craig, while Ron George and Larry Hogan had the benefit of hearing at least one answer. In this narrative, I will discuss the candidates in order of their opening statement, which happens to be alphabetical order beginning with the Harford County Executive.

First of all, David Craig perhaps had the best-organized presence there, which included running mate Jeannie Haddaway. Some of Craig’s blue-clad staff were there, but many others had Craig lapel stickers advocating his support of concealed carry. They all sat in one section of the audience, a section which I sat immediately behind. They also had an event close by the University beforehand, so David made a day of it.

In his opening statement, Craig made sure to mention his running mate and her ties to SU, from which she graduated. “Jeannie and I are very much alike,” said Craig, referring to their respective families’ long history in Maryland. “I want the twelfth generation (of Craigs) to still live in Maryland,” said David.

He stressed his experience in balancing nine budgets when addressing the structural deficit, pointing out that he had reduced taxes and cut spending during his tenure. Craig would not kick pension or health care benefits down the road as he implied the current administration has done, instead proposing more “paygo” projects funded from existing revenues rather than bonding, specifically noting casino proceeds as one source. (It bears noting that it would take a legislative act to do so, as casino proceed percentages are set by the General Assembly and the plurality of nearly 50 percent is supposed to go to education. So this could be construed by others as “cutting education.”)

In adopting a more business-friendly tax code, David pointed out we shouldn’t be taking the dollars in the first place. He proposed slashing the business tax rate from 8.25% to 4% in stages, but also explained that many businesses such as S-corps use a personal tax form to report their business income. He also wanted to address the sales tax, gasoline tax, and tolls.

Craig also remarked that Harford County had gained 8,000 jobs at a time the state was losing them, but his focus wouldn’t be so much on bringing jobs in as it would be keeping them here. “Just 25 percent of businesses are hiring” right now, said Dave, and he would address this by getting a more proactive Department of Economic Development and expanding broadband capabilities. We would not be Silicon Valley, said Craig, but we could be “Silicon Bay.”

In terms of giving the Eastern Shore a seat at the table, Craig played up his decision to secure Jeannie Haddaway as his running mate. “The Craig-Haddaway ticket is going to have someone (from the Shore) who will always be on the second floor, not just at the table.” He continued by saying Haddaway gave up a safe seat in the House of Delegates to try and benefit her region.

Craig also vowed no money to the Red Line or Purple Line and promised that counties will get their highway user funds back in the first year of a Craig administration.

He closed by taking a subtle jab at opponent Larry Hogan, saying that we didn’t need to change Maryland, “just change what’s on the second floor.” Between him and Jeannie Haddaway, they were 14-0 in beating Democrats, he concluded.

Overall, I thought Craig gave a solid, steady performance. He rightfully played up the presence of Haddaway on the ticket, although I suppose if you were watching from other parts of the state it could be seen as pandering to some extent. Yet of all the running mates, she’s probably the most qualified to succeed David if the unthinkable should happen.

Ron George was blunt in his opening statement: “This is about the economy…the other side has not solved one problem.” The facts were ominous, as he told us about 73,000 unemployed Marylanders and a manufacturing sector “still stuck in the recession.” He was a working man, with a career and business he interrupted to serve his fellow citizens.

Ron would address the structural deficit by combating waste through independent audits and putting together a Spending Affordability Commission that doesn’t paint such a rosy outlook – they predicted 4.5% GDP growth in FY14 and 6% next year. “These rosy forecasts have got to stop,” said Ron. He would also address the state’s bond situation, where debt service costs the state over $1 billion a year.

But he was realistic enough to realize “I can’t go in there as a king,” meaning he can’t just change government overnight. But what we could change, he would – “I’m guaranteeing you the things I’m saying,” said George. Yet he made an excellent point about the challenges to attracting jobs by asking why we look down on the tradesman, instead emphasizing the four-year degree? There’s no focus on that sort of education, Ron added. Being a guy who has an interest in “made in America,” this was one of the two highlights of Ron’s night insofar as I was concerned, with the other coming in the next question.

After Ron talked about the Eastern Shore being “in my blood,” he addressed such items as more state money for tourism (with a proposed slogan – “the Maryland Eastern Shore: life as it should be” – bringing back the canning business, protecting farms, expanding broadband, and reducing sales tax on this side of the Bay. But the best idea went back over 50 years, to a time when each Eastern Shore county had its own State Senator. “I think we need to have a Constitutional Congress in this state and go back to something that makes it fair for the Eastern Shore and the rural areas,” said Ron. And while I said 48 Senators (two from each county) I still think it’s an outstanding idea.

Ron used the highway user fund question a little differently, making the case that he would be “a governor for all of Maryland” and that helping Baltimore City would assist the rest of the state. But he would repeal the automatic increases in the gasoline tax and instead of a “reactive” transportation plan his would be proactive.

He concluded by promising to be a “hard worker” as governor and to treat all fairly, while also mentioning a little about running mate Shelley Aloi, who was also at the event.

Something I’ve observed about Ron, though, is that he comes across as ill at ease in a public speaking situation. He also rattled off a lot of numbers in his presentation, and perhaps sealed his image as a policy wonk because he’s also the only candidate who wears glasses. I noticed him looking down reading a lot, instead of looking at the camera. He also had very little presence at the event, which led to his only getting a smattering of applause after questions rather than a rousing ovation. I have no doubt he would be a hard-working governor – and as a policy wonk type myself I loved a few of his ideas and goals – but he’s going to have to overcome a lot to get there.

I was surprised that Larry Hogan didn’t have a larger presence there as well. In his opening he alluded to three recent visits to Salisbury University before settling into the familiar bromides of not desiring to be something, but to do something and being fed up with politics as usual. He also brought back the oft-repeated refrain of the state being on the wrong track and the emphasis on jobs, the middle class, and restoring the economy.

Of course, in the first question Larry brought up the $9.5 billion in new taxes, but pointed out that he worked for an administration which finished with a cash surplus that’s now once again a structural deficit eight years later. He would cut spending first, then roll back taxes where he could. Recently, Hogan added, he put out a plan to address $1.75 billion just by enacting existing recommendations.

Another familiar Hogan theme was that of our state being 41st of 50 in business-friendliness. Our corporate tax rate was “not competitive,” personal taxes were too high, and regulations too stringent. He would eliminate the hostile attitude and vowed “Maryland will be open for business again.”

After another regular reprisal of those things we’ve lost in terms of businesses, Larry made the case that there’s been “no discernible response” from Annapolis. He asked how an administration could be pro-jobs yet anti-business?

As far as the Eastern Shore goes, Hogan called the current administration “openly hostile” to the Shore, adding that he spoke to Jim Perdue, who told Larry he “feels like they are attacking our business.”

“There’s been a war on rural Maryland,” Hogan added.

Larry then made a statement some have already jumped on, saying “I agree with David; I think Jeannie (Haddaway) is terrific. I actually appointed Jeannie to the legislature and if I’m lucky enough to be governor then I’d think she’d make a terrific ombudsman and maybe liaison for the Eastern Shore.” He then added that the Shore is “not the only place neglected.”

In that respect, Larry is probably correct because each area of the state has needs not being addressed, But as a whole our part of the state is the poorest and tends to have higher unemployment. It could easily be argued we’re already in a recession.

He then promised to restore the highway user fund cuts that were “devastating” to local governments, perhaps by chopping away at the 53% of transport dollars spent on mass transit.

Hogan warned in his close that this was the “last chance to turn this state around,” this being “a fight for Maryland’s future.”

As a whole, Hogan’s performance came across to me as “meh.” The problem is that I’ve heard it all before, and this particular debate format and questioning lent itself to Hogan’s perceived strengths. Yet he never hit anything out of the park.

Although he appeared a little tired and troubled, Charles Lollar spoke with the most passion, generally motioning with his arms as he spoke. (Since I couldn’t watch the feed, I don’t know if this was seen at home.) Once he made the case that the state is going in the wrong direction, he mentioned that even the Democratic strongholds of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and Baltimore City believe “the course is wrong.” He claimed his economic plan had the approval of Dr. Arthur Laffer and his health care plan won favor from Dr. Ben Carson, but vowed to “aggressively look for non-partisan solutions.”

So when Lollar stated that spending had jumped 36% over the last eight years (including $2.3 billion this year), he announced his intention for a taxpayers’ bill of rights (or TABOR) law to hold spending in check and to phase out the income tax in five years. “How would you love to wake up in five years, in 2019 in Maryland, and not have a personal income tax that you have to pay?” he asked.

He repeated the Laffer endorsement in his next answer, as well as the TABOR reference, but added that our legislature and governor doesn’t understand business. “We have a governor who hasn’t had a job in 28 years,” Lollar quipped. But he also dropped a bombshell on the group by proposing term limits. “It’s time for us to get rid of the career politicians,” he opined. Me? I love the idea, but it also has to come with the discipline of keeping the non-elected regulatory state in check.

Lollar pledged his running mate, Ken Timmerman, would address the challenge of attracting jobs by using his investigative skills to focus on waste and the 84 new taxes and fees. He also made the case that the biggest challenge to business is simply staying in business.

Charles wanted to “make the Eastern Shore a priority,” noting that we don’t get a good return on our tax dollars and would rather just be left alone by regulators. They’re “tired of being picked on,” said Lollar. He also brought up the Hudson lawsuit.

As for the highway user funds, Charles promised to stop the Red and Purple Lines, which were enacted under “reckless leadership.” He also wanted an “enforceable lockbox” over the funding.

Lollar got the last word in the debate, saying the job calls for real leadership. So he urged voters to “think this thing through” and that he had “found nonpartisan solutions…and already has ‘Democrats for Lollar’ organizations in Montgomery, Prince George’s, and Baltimore City.”

I’m sure Charles may have gained himself some converts around the state with his performance, which was surprisingly strong. Unlike Ron George or even Larry Hogan, Charles seems to thrive in a debate format such as this because he is a passionate speaker. He did fall into the Hogan trap of repeating some points several times, but overall it was a strong, compelling performance.

However, there were a few issues with Lollar’s day today. I happened to be sitting amid a few Lollar backers and they were disappointed by the lack of local support at his earlier gathering. Others I spoke to earlier today bemoaned his campaign’s lack of direction. But he’s the only one who has brought concepts like a TABOR and term limits into the conversation – these are broad-based conservative points of view, as is lowering the income tax to extinction.

So as for who “won” the debate, I would say it’s Lollar and Craig who did best, with George and Hogan lagging behind. But now I’m a little closer to determining who I will endorse and it will probably be made public in one week.

The problem with Lollar

There are a lot of people who are sticking a fork into Charles Lollar’s gubernatorial campaign. Some have been doing it for several months, while others are more recent converts. Assuming the latter piece by Jackie Wellfonder is true – and there’s no real reason to believe that it’s not – it’ll be interesting to know who will pay for Lollar’s pre-debate event tomorrow.

But there is something I want to bring up regarding how Charles has conducted his campaign; not in a financial sense but the target audience. There have been several occasions where I’ve heard Lollar talk about the locations he’s campaigned, and they’re not Republican strongholds. Places like Baltimore City or Prince George’s County, where the minority populations rarely hear a GOP viewpoint because they’re areas written off by the strategists. Yet we often hear that on certain issues, particularly school choice, the minority audience is very receptive to the GOP viewpoint – unfortunately for Republicans they tend to reflexively vote Democrat.

There are many who feel that Lollar has wasted his time in such areas, but I think he’s provided a good service to the party as a whole. Certainly he’s probably not in a position to secure the GOP nomination because he’s not going to reach many voters with a positive message when all the news about him seems to be bad, but it behooves us to act in such a manner to keep him on the team if he loses. I have no idea how well David Craig, Larry Hogan, or Ron George get along with Charles, but hopefully it’s well enough to both to allow him to remain unified with the eventual primary winner and keep the Lollar supporters on the Republican team in an election where all hands are needed on deck. Unfortunately, I keep hearing that if one particular candidate wins, a fair number will stay home or leave the gubernatorial ballot blank in November. Remember, it’s very likely that our nominee will be elected by plurality based on polling results.

When the smoke clears on June 24, there will be three losers and just one winner when it comes to the nomination. Everyone believes they have a path to victory, but in reality it’s probably a two-man race at this point. As always, the trick with contested primaries is to make sure the losers stay unified with the winners. If the supporters of the losing Democrats want to take their ball and go home, that’s up to them, but I want to win as many elections as possible in Maryland for the conservative team.

So Charles should be commended for his work taking the message to places where it’s not normally heard. Win or lose, I hope he keeps on doing so.

A cross is still a sign of the times

May 6, 2014 · Posted in National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · 1 Comment 

The wheels of justice slowly roll on. Back in February I noted that the American Humanist Association filed a lawsuit seeking the removal of the Bladensburg Peace Cross in Prince George’s County, and it came to my attention through the efforts of former Maryland U.S. Senate candidate Richard Douglas, who is acting as counsel for eleven Prince George’s County residents for whom he filed legal motions in late April.

Douglas was also kind enough to provide a timeline of how the case is proceeding:

Feb 25 — AHA and three individual plaintiffs filed a lawsuit to remove the memorial.

April 25 — Ten individuals and I filed a motion for leave to appear as friends of the court, along with a memorandum in support of defendants. I reached out to both the atheists and the MNCPPC — the atheists would not agree to our filing. The MNCPPC raised no objection. I was on the phone for a while with MNCPPC and came away with a positive impression. The Court said that answers to our motion must be filed by 12 May.

April 28 — The defendants/MNCPPC filed their answer to the complaint.

May 1 — The American Legion (represented by a Washington DC law firm) has filed a motion to intervene. Liberty Institute is also on that motion. The motion indicates that plaintiff atheists also oppose the American Legion intervention.

The court has scheduled a conference call for May 8, Thursday. I’m not sure we will be invited to participate. We’ll know more about whether our friend of the court motion will be accepted, and how the court will proceed. So far, we are the only ones to file a detailed memorandum on the law.

In case you’re curious about what the hubbub is about and not familiar with Prince George’s County, the town of Bladensburg prominently features the Peace Cross on its website. While it’s indeed a cross shape, to me it’s more in the vein of the crosses used as headstones than a religious symbol. It’s stood on the site for nearly ninety years, yet now three (!) plaintiffs have decided its offensive?

As Douglas points out, the battle has attracted the attention of the American Legion and Liberty Institute. The involvement of the American Legion is natural given their position as a veterans’ organization, but this release from the LI indicates they are acting on the American Legion’s behalf. (They are also trying to save a similar memorial in California.)

This seems to be another battle on a nationwide war on religious conscience. Obviously this local issue is of smaller scope than the argument whether it’s within the rights of a conscientious business owner to refuse service to gay couples or to not cover abortifacients on their health insurance plan, but on all fronts we seem to be laboring under a tyranny of an easily-offended atheist/agnostic minority. “Live and let live” only seems to work in one direction anymore.

I’m sure Richard will be keeping me updated on the progress of the suit, but it’s refreshing to find men of conscience who voluntarily labor to maintain that which is good about our society. Back in 1925, a cross seemed to be an ideal symbol for a memorial, even as the concept was bastardized by certain racist groups of the era. Anymore, it seems that those defending the symbol are being shunned by society like those who burned crosses in an earlier time, but only because they’re standing up for traditional values which made us a great and good nation.

An aggressive approach

Say what you will about the Maryland Liberty PAC, but it appears they will maintain an aggressive approach to the upcoming General Assembly session. They and an affiliated group called the Maryland Pro-Life Alliance are already sounding the alarm against prefiled legislation.

This is in response to a minimum wage bill prefiled by Delegate Keith Haynes of Baltimore City, which would more than double the state’s current $6.15 minimum wage (which is superseded by a higher federal law) to $12.50 per hour. Efforts to raise the minimum wage are nothing new, though – this bill from 2013 didn’t even get a committee vote.

My guess is this bill meets the same fate; however, there is a move in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties to create a regional minimum wage with the District of Columbia. This isn’t a surprise given the far-left orientation of the local governments there. This may also be a way of staking a position so far out of the mainstream that a bill like last year’s, which increased the minimum wage in several steps, looks like a common-sense compromise. In either case, though, the effect on small Maryland businesses would be devastating.

But while the Maryland Liberty PAC wants HB72 killed, their affiliated Maryland Pro-Life Alliance group is looking once again to get the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (PCUCPA) to receive a committee vote.

The “Mac” in question is State Senator Thomas “Mac” Middleton, who the Pro-Life Alliance claims “completely stonewalled” the bill last year. They note that:

Right now, your Maryland Pro-Life Alliance is running ads to pressure Senator Middleton in his district.

He alone holds the key to allowing for an up or down vote on SB-34 in the Senate Finance Committee.

Of course, not only is this a call for pro-life voters in his district and beyond to contact Middleton, but an appeal for money to run ads in his State Senate district. At this point, no Republican has filed to oppose Middleton.

The bill, SB34, was prefiled this year by Senator Ed Reilly. At this point, no companion House bill has been introduced. If and when one is introduced, it will be interesting to see whether Delegate Ron George signs on as a co-sponsor as he’s running for governor. I guarantee if he doesn’t, the Maryland Pro-Life Alliance will be on his case despite an impressive pro-life resume and support.

It’s an aggressive approach, and one which doesn’t have fans everywhere in the Maryland Republican Party. But it’s said that in war the aggressor sets the rules, and we need to change the playbook.

Clearing the air and getting back to basics

Over the last couple days, a segment of the Maryland Republican Party is scratching its head over the absence of gubernatorial candidate Charles Lollar from several high-profile events: last month’s Andy Harris First District Bull Roast, the Conservative Victory PAC Ken Cuccinelli fundraiser (which was sponsored by several Maryland politicians), the Prince George’s County Lincoln Day Dinner with Lt. Col. Allen West, and most recently the state party’s Oktoberfest gathering in Timonium Saturday night. The conventional wisdom argument is that these were lost opportunities to impress the party brass.

But this may also presuppose Lollar wasn’t out meeting with “regular Joe” voters, and some say a lot of these gatherings would be time better spent knocking on doors or making phone calls. So which is it? I don’t know, but my feeling is that we all need to get back to basics and begin to compare just where each of the three major declared candidates stand on important issues facing the state.

A year and a half before the 2012 Presidential election, I began a process of grading the candidates in the race at the time on a number of issues. I think it’s time to repeat the process, with some different parameters because the issues aren’t always congruent between state and national elections – for example, I don’t have to worry about trade or the Long War but I do have concerns about agricultural issues and necessary changes to the state political system, meanwhile, some issues grow or contract in importance because of recent state developments. But I like the 100-point system so I will adapt it to suit.

So the 2014 monoblogue endorsement will be based on the following formula:

  • Election/campaign finance reform (3 points)
  • Illegal immigration (5 points)
  • Dealing with Obamacare (7 points)
  • Energy policy (8 points)
  • Education (9 points)
  • Second Amendment (11 points)
  • War on Rural Maryland (12 points)
  • Role of government (13 points)
  • Job creation and transportation (14 points)
  • Fiscal conservatism/taxation (15 points)

Once I add or subtract three points for various intangibles of my choosing, I’ll come up with the candidate who I think will best serve Maryland. Granted, my endorsement will only be worth the pixels they’re darkening but at least some thought will be put into why this candidate is the best one for Maryland. (Keep in mind that any of these three would be vastly superior to Anthony Brown, Doug Gansler, Heather Mizeur, or anyone else Democrats put up.) Otherwise, I come in with no preconceived notions with the exception that the other declared GOP candidates in the race don’t have the campaign or the presence to achieve any more than a tiny percentage of the vote so they’re not included; also, this is subject to update if/when Larry Hogan enters the race.

So now that you have the basic concepts, how about some specifics of what I’m getting at for each point? These are questions I may be able to find answers for within the candidates’ own websites, but it’s more likely I need further guidance. I have had the chance to hear all three declared candidates speak on at least two occasions apiece so I might have a decent idea where they’ll go, but it never hurts to ask. With that, here goes:

  • Election/campaign finance reform: Will you aggressively pursue the redistricting revision case in court; if we succeed can we have 141 single-member districts? Where do you stand on current reporting requirements: too tight, too loose, or just right? What about getting after local boards of elections and telling them to clean up their voter rolls?
  • Illegal immigration: Will you take the 287 (g) program used in Frederick County statewide? How about rescinding recent changes to drivers’ license laws in Maryland? And what about in-state tuition – do you revisit this issue? What about withholding a portion of state funds from sanctuary cities? Cooperation with the federal E-Verify program? What about policies allowing status checks such as those in Arizona?
  • Dealing with Obamacare: Do we eliminate the state exchange? Would you pursue a waiver for the state if one becomes available? Are you in favor of defunding or letting the law go into effect and watching it collapse? What steps would you take to encourage more insurance competition in the state? What about returning Medicaid limits to minimum levels?
  • Energy policy: When can we expect fracking to begin in Western Maryland? And what will you do with the renewable portfolio standard? Will you move to re-regulate Maryland’s electrical utilities? Can Martin O’Malley’s offshore wind scheme work? What about offshore oil drilling – is that an option for you? Will you maintain Maryland’s membership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative?
  • Education: Will Common Core be the law of the land in Maryland, or will you eschew Race to the Top funding? How about school choice, or money following the child regardless of school? How will you protect homeschooling? Instill more local control? What about promoting elected school boards in those counties still without them? Emphasis on vocational education? How do you message against the certain opposition of the teachers’ unions?
  • Second Amendment: Will you work to repeal the so-called Firearms Safety Act? What about concealed carry, and making licenses easier to get? If the federal government gets too onerous, will you fight them? What’s your interpretation of the Second Amendment?
  • War on Rural Maryland: Can we count on you to repeal the Septic Bill and tier mapping? Will nitrogen-removal systems still be required? Will the Hudson family be made whole by the state, since it was with the state’s assistance they were legally harassed? How will you assist the poultry industry in the state and keep them here? What about cleaning up behind the Conowingo Dam and fighting the mandated burden on rural counties, as well as the rain tax on urban ones?
  • Role of Government: Where do you stand on a regulation moratorium, and would you veto new mandates passed through the General Assembly? Are there any agencies you’d work to abolish? What about divestiture of surplus state land? Is a consolidation of primary state government functions in Annapolis on your agenda? Can we count on you to repeal as many laws as you create? Where do you stand on public-private partnerships? Do you support citizen-based petition to referendum for new laws (as opposed to those passed by the General Assembly)? What about the right to recall elected officials?
  • Job creation and transportation: We know you’ll lower the corporate tax rate – what about eliminating it entirely? What about reform of unemployment insurance? What other steps will you take to make it easier to do business in Maryland? As far as infrastructure goes, will you kill the Red Line and Purple Line in favor of more useful means for transporting goods, such as expanding the interstate network in Maryland and surrounding states? Will you hold the line on tolls? What about another Bay crossing – where would you put it? What non-tax code incentives would you offer for rural area job creation? What policies would you adopt from other states?
  • Fiscal conservatism/taxation: Can Marylanders expect a flatter income tax system? How about eliminating it entirely as some states have done? Or would you prefer a sales tax decrease or elimination? Would you agree to a TABOR, or at least a budget utilizing those principles? Can we get per-capita spending closer to the national norm? And how will you deal with the outcry of the press, such as the old “tax cuts for the rich” saw?
  • Intangibles: Positions on abortion, expansion of gambling and/or return to legislative control (as opposed to Constitutional amendment), protection for religious objections to gay marriage, your perception of the TEA Party and pro-liberty movement, and so forth. Mainly social issues.

Yes, that’s a hell of a lot. But somewhere, someone else is asking some of the same questions and if I’m going to make a decision I want it to be informed. And while I’d like to make these issue posts on about a weekly basis, that’s probably a quite aggressive timetable.

But I’m sure that a) people from the respective campaigns read my website, and b) they will bend over backwards for new media. (At least that’s what I’m counting on.) And it’s likely they haven’t even pondered some of these queries, so I don’t expect miracles – but I’ll take them anyhow.

Yet I’m sure that some high-dollar Beltway Republican consultant will tell their candidate that he’d be nuts to get into specifics this far out because all it would provide is fodder for the Democrats and the press (but I repeat myself) to harp upon as the campaign heats up. News flash: they will do that anyway, even if they have to make stuff up (e.g. “a fee is a tax.”) So get it out now and I’ll take those clowns on myself, even as I point out that it’s not like I don’t have a few allies in this fight.

Just let me know you have the balls to stand for something, okay?

WCRC meeting – July 2013

For the first of two consecutive months (at least), a gubernatorial candidate graced our Wicomico County Republican Club’s presence – and he brought his running mate along. It meant the attendance was much better than usual, as over 40 crammed into a Salisbury Chamber of Commerce meeting room to hear both David Craig and running mate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio.

So after a brief opening to recite the Lord’s Prayer and Pledge of Allegiance and introduce a number of distinguished visitors from near and far, David and Jeannie were introduced by campaign manager Paul Ellington. We sort of pressed him into that service, but Paul remarked that this election reminded him of two others he was intimately involved in: 1994 and 2002. He also made the point that “when you get to be governor, it’s nice to have a friendly legislature.”

That idea would return in Craig’s remarks, but he first noted that Maryland “has done good things” for ten generations of his family, dating from the late 17th century. Unfortunately, the state governmental monopoly seems to be all about maintaining itself and not about what David called the “forgotten Marylanders” from rural and suburban areas. For them, the last General Assembly session was “one of the most challenging.”

And while Craig was out to “give people a choice in 2014,” he told those assembled that he wouldn’t refuse $4,000 checks, but he would rather each person out there bring 40 voters apiece. Republican turnout in 2002 when Bob Ehrlich won, said Craig, was great – 68% – but speaking as a teacher, “that would have been a failing grade.”

After telling the group this was his 21st election – because Havre de Grace had balloting every two years – he introduced running mate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, who as David mentioned was the first Eastern Shore resident on a major statewide ticket in two decades. Of course, she really needed no introduction to us as many of those present were represented by her in the General Assembly.

Jeannie talked about cutting her political teeth as a political science major at Salisbury University and being involved in student government there, also bringing up the fact later that she strives to preach political involvement to area youth groups such as Girls State, which is annually held at SU.

Haddaway-Riccio also spoke about working in the House of Delegates, “fighting until we barely had an ounce of energy left” against some of the bills presented by the present governor and Democratic leadership. The implementation of that “leftist agenda” has led to “degradation,” Jeannie added.

Once both had spoken and David added a quip about needing a couple good Senators – looking at Delegate Mike McDermott, who was in attendance and has been gerrymandered into sharing a single-member House district with another delegate – Craig opened up the floor to questions.

Topmost on the mind of those attending was the idea of an open GOP primary, as the idea has reemerged as a discussion topic over the last few days. Craig was noncommittal on the concept, stating he would be satisfied with letting the state party make its decision this fall. There are “a lot of frustrated Democrats” who may welcome the idea, though, added David.

Craig was then asked what functions he would assign to Haddaway-Riccio. While he chided Democrats for “picking for an election.” David said of Jeannie, “she should be at the table all of the time,” meaning ready to take the reins if needed. He praised Haddaway-Riccio for her practical experience, common sense, and knowledge of rural Maryland.

Asked about business, Craig intended to hold quarterly business roundtables. Because it affected local businesses in advance of consumers, we knew about the recession back in 2008, said Craig, and Harford County made budgetary decisions in a proactive fashion based on that knowledge.

When queried about social issues, particularly being pro-life, Craig related that he didn’t push the issue with his children, but was pleased that they turned out as pro-life as they did. David also pointed out that he voted in a pro-life fashion during his time in the General Assembly. But he would rather have 5 million Marylanders decide than 188 in the General Assembly. Jeannie echoed the overall stance, adding for her part she was “conservative, Christian, pro-life.”

Similarly, when asked about the Second Amendment, David took the conservative line of being “a strong supporter of all amendments.” In fact, he added that the American Revolution wasn’t fought over taxation but the move by the British to disarm the colonists. David also joked that there should be a regulation: red doors for all gun owners and blue ones for those who don’t – “so they know who to rob.”

An interesting question was how he would deal with the federal government. Craig would lean on the Republican Governor’s Association which, as he noted, had grown from 13 states when he was first elected in 1979 to 30 now. But then he asked, “why don’t we have 60 Senators?”

On the other hand, when it comes to local government David vowed to be mindful of county interests. When asked “where will you stick PlanMaryland?” Craig answered back with, “where do you want me to stick it?”

“We created local government for a reason,” continued David, revealing there were now more planning and zoning mandates on his county now than there are public safety ones. That same philosophy guided David on education, where he made the case “money should follow the child” and that teachers should be allowed to teach to something other than a test. David cautioned against expecting sweeping changes right away, though, noting the state Board of Education is appointed in five-year terms.

Lastly, a concern on the mind of one observer was how David would run in traditional Democratic strongholds like Baltimore City and Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. “It’s all about reaching out to the people,” said David. He also noted that he’d beaten four Democratic incumbents over the years, but over time a couple became among his strongest supporters because “I didn’t get petty” and advised would-be candidates to “be the person you are.”

After Craig finally finished speaking, we returned to our normal order of business, with one exception: we sang “Happy Birthday” to the man we call “Mr. Republican” locally: Blan Harcum turned 90 years young.  In turn, the June meeting minutes were read and approved, treasurer’s report was given, and WCRC president Jackie Wellfonder reminded us of upcoming municipal elections in Annapolis and Frederick which could use our help if interested and the August 1 joint meeting with the Republican Women of Wicomico on Agenda 21, featuring Grant Helvey.

In his Central Committee report, our David – county Chair Dave Parker – stated that “Tawes was fun” but we had business to attend to now: the question of opening the primary would come down to Central Committee members so those interested should express such to these local representatives. “Give us grief” if you don’t like our position, said Parker; however he added, “I remain to be convinced” on the merits.

After decrying the “truly disgusting” media treatment of the Trayvon Martin case, Dave shifted gears and cajoled those attending that we are still looking for candidates for next year. Some incumbents have alerted us to their intentions, but others have not.

Finally, we heard from a number of those attending on various pieces of business: Joe Ollinger reminded us that Crab Feast tickets are now on sale (in fact, I have some to sell if you want one) for the September 7 event.

County Councilman Joe Holloway rose to counter a report made by a local media outlet about fee increases for local restaurants, stating they were included in the County Executive’s budget (see “Health Department” on pages 20- 21 here.) County Council approved them as part of the overall budget. (Seems like $150 shouldn’t make or break a local eatery, though.)

Finally, Delegate Mike McDermott declared that Craig/Haddaway-Riccio was “a great ticket” and hinted at his own announcement in August. “We’ll take that Senate seat from Jim Mathias,” McDermott promised.

Speaking of local eateries, it should also be mentioned that the pre-meeting happy hour – this time at Evo – was our most successful, with several tables of Republicans enjoying the camaraderie. Our next happy hour may or may not be there, but we already have the second in what could become a monthly series of gubernatorial hopefuls joining us during our regular meeting as Charles Lollar drops by on August 26.

The declaration of (courting) independents

It doesn’t seem like this issue will ever die.

You might recall that after our Maryland GOP Spring Convention earlier this year I posted a piece critiquing the thoughts of Don Murphy, a former Delegate and longtime party activist who has been fighting a crusade for many years to open up the Republican primary to unaffiliated voters, perhaps with the idea of welcoming them to the party eventually. His reasoning seemed sound: a number of like-minded Northeastern states open their primaries because they have a plurality of unaffiliated voters.

But the MDGOP appears to be interested in revisiting the process, as Erin Cox writes in the Baltimore Sun, and it may set us up for yet another contentious convention this fall in Annapolis. And while Brian Griffiths uses the evidence of past election results in his post on Red Maryland today, I honestly believe that’s a little bit of a red herring argument.

In Maryland today, the registration numbers lay out as follows (from the June report):

  • Democrats: 2,073,619 (55.6%)
  • Republicans: 959,120 (25.7%)
  • minor parties – Libertarian, Green, Americans Elect, and other unrecognized: 59,644 (1.6%)
  • unaffiliated: 636,716 (17.1%)

Four years ago at the same point in the cycle, the percentages weren’t a lot different. There are now 300,000 more voters in Maryland, but numerically they line up similarly:

  • Democrats: 1,942,336 (56.9%)
  • Republicans: 909,848 (26.7%)
  • minor parties and other unrecognized: 80,034 (2.3%)
  • unaffiliated: 478,817 (14.0%)

A number of the unaffiliated are likely former Independents, which is no longer a separate category.

And I’m sure some fret that eventually the unaffiliated will catch up to the Republicans – a 3% gain every four years coupled with a 1% loss in Republicans would put that date sometime early next decade. My contention, however, is that there are a significant proportion of Democrats who are so because their primary is the only race they can vote on.

But opening up the GOP primary to unaffiliated voters isn’t going to be enough of a draw for voters who have no local Republican candidates on the ballot for whom to vote. For example, in Prince George’s County’s 2010 primary – perhaps the most unbalanced in the state – once you departed the federal and statewide races there were exactly zero contested GOP races at the legislative level and just two local races (both for Central Committee seats) where the GOP had more contenders than winners. I admire the Prince George’s GOP for their efforts (my “partner in crime” Heather Olsen hails from there) but what would help them more than anything are candidates willing to stand up and hoist the GOP banner. Allowing unaffiliated voters into the GOP primary wouldn’t change the game.

Now I’m sure those who favor the idea will argue I used the most extreme example. Yet even if every single voter not connected with the Democratic Party decided to become a Republican, AND we could attract the 10 percent or so of Democrats statewide who are affiliated that way because their daddy was a Democrat but vote straight-ticket Republican – we’re still a minority. Barely, but still looking at a deficit and up against the hardcore elements of a power-drunk party.

Personally, though, I think the idea seems to come up when the Republicans are threatening to run conservative candidates for office. When I was living in Ohio, their Republican Party always seemed to anoint the most moderate candidate and overtly try and eliminate any more conservative primary competition for that person. And what did we get? Sixteen years of ruining the Republican brand with tax-and-spend governors, particularly Bob Taft. (Unfortunately, John Kasich isn’t doing much better now that he’s been spooked by the unions.)

Here in Maryland, the talk of opening up the primary died down when Bob Ehrlich won and through the three cycles where he was the all-but-endorsed choice of the Maryland GOP apparatus there was no chatter about adding unaffiliated voters to the mix. But now that we have a more spirited competition between several good candidates, the powers-that-be are presumably trying to make sure the most moderate, “electable” candidate prevails. As a conservative, pro-liberty Marylander who would like to see a governor tell the Democrats it’s his way or the highway, I would like a leader and not someone who sticks his finger up to see which way the wind is blowing. Mitt Romney and John McCain were supposed to be “electable” in a way that Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, et. al. were not.

If unaffiliated voters want to vote in a primary, it’s very easy to change your registration to Republican. Get good candidates worth voting for and they will come.

Update: A non-scientific poll by Jackie Wellfonder at Raging Against the Rhetoric found that support was perfectly mixed: 44% for, 44% against, and 12% undecided out of 75 who responded.

Common sense on Common Core

July 1, 2013 · Posted in Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Education, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Common sense on Common Core 

I haven’t featured a whole lot from the draftee into the gubernatorial race, Charles Lollar, but I thought his brief commentary on Common Core was worth delving into. Here’s what he wrote:

What I always find interesting is if we conservatives oppose a certain program, liberal interest groups and politicians attempt to distract and dissuade the public on the real issue at hand. Take for instance the Common Core agenda for education that Maryland recently adopted. On the surface it appears to focus heavily on the positive educational outcomes in the areas of math and reading for our children. But in reality, as much as we all want to have strongly positive educational outcomes for all of our children, we know that this system will not work. When we oppose this potentially failing agenda for our children, we are instantly labeled as either racist, not caring for children, or any other form of hatred they can think of.

We don’t rely on platitudes of promises and false educational standards that the current O’Malley/Brown administration adhere to. No, we conservatives rely on history and experience of the failed promises of a “one-size-fits-all” government. We’ve tried this before, both as a state and a nation, but we know that it never works. We tried No Child Left Behind and we are trying Race to the Top, but have you visited the schools in Baltimore City or Prince George’s County lately? How are these programs working out for those precious children and their hard working parents?

No, we shouldn’t continue down this road of failure because we should learn from our experiences. What we should try to do is reward teachers whose students comprehend the subject matter. We should give more local control to teachers and parents, while taking it away from the educational bureaucracy. We should allow parents to choose the schools they want to send their children to and not punish them for doing so. We should allow a stronger voucher program offering them the chance to compete with public institutions. We conservatives want what’s best for all of our children and have learned from experience what we shouldn’t do. Having blanket standards in a “one-size-fits-all” approach is NOT what we should do.

I can name that tune in four notes: money follows the child.

Think about this: for all that Charles pointed out about the failure of federal programs which provide a small fraction of the money invested in education – most funding in Maryland comes from the state, with counties spending a varying fraction followed by the federal government – they sure seem to have an outsized role in calling the tune. Unfortunately, local districts are so hooked on money from higher government sources that they can’t resist its siren song, regardless of the strings which are attached.

If Baltimore City, Prince George’s County, or hundreds of other failing public schools truly had to compete on a level playing field with parochial schools or homeschooling, they would be forced to adapt or perish. Why do you think parents in the District of Columbia annually jump at the chance for Opportunity Scholarships to send their children to parochial schools?

Nearly a year ago, I made many of the same points Lollar did in one chapter of my book. But I went farther, noting that the idea of for-profit schools made sense because they could reward teachers appropriately:

(I)t’s my contention that if we can get money to follow the child we would also solve another issue which bedevils the educational world. Teachers who are really good at their craft would have more demand placed for their services; theoretically it could be possible for them to create their own cottage industry blending the best aspects of homeschooling and school-based education by becoming independent contractors. In fact, using this concept I could easily see a private or charter school attracting the best teachers in a particular area, or even teachers becoming entrepreneurs by leasing their own space in a larger school building where the teacher could educate in a way they see fit while reaping full rewards for their excellence.

Imagine a news story along the lines of a star athlete signing a new deal, but instead it’s your state teacher of the year making headlines by signing a long-term big-money contract with some charter school. Even a public school could do something like this, but it would likely take a complete streamlining of administration and decertification of the union that bends over backwards to have teachers treated equally regardless of ability or results. I realize this free market idea that doesn’t rely on a large union is a stunning concept, which is why the National Education Association and other teachers unions fight against these sorts of proposals tooth and nail.

The problem with Common Core isn’t just the wretched educational failure it’s sure to become, but the idea that all of us can be taught in the same way, to regurgitate the same platitudes about whatever the politically correct mantra of the time will be. Teaching to the test doesn’t teach critical thinking, which was one thing I lacked until I reach maturity. I could easily pass all my academic classes in elementary and secondary school (and even much of college) but I really didn’t learn a lot until I enrolled in the University of Hard Knocks and saw how life worked. One needs a moral compass to guide his or her way, but public schools fail to provide such direction.

In fact, I would argue that the lack of such restraints is commonplace among the students who slide through these failing schools – the generally single parent is too tired or overwhelmed to care, the teachers are in it for the paycheck after dealing with class after class of kids meaning more to socialize or to be disruptive than learn, and administration simply needs the excuse of poor parenting to maintain their cushy sinecures and salaries – otherwise, if they try to discipline or suspend too many of a particular group, all hell breaks loose in the press. Once the bloom comes off the rose, it’s hard to keep a good teacher motivated to stay in these schools – they’d rather escape to the relative safety of a suburban school district.

There’s no question that wholesale reforms to our public (and to some extent, private) educational system are needed. But it’s going to take more than one governor to accomplish the needed change. Charles has a reasonably good grip on the problem, but the solution will be elusive and it will likely take another generation before we know if we’re on the correct path.

Next Page »

  • 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

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Link to Maryland Democratic Party

    In the interest of being fair and balanced, I provide this service to readers. But before you click on the picture below, just remember their message:

  • Part of the Politics in Stereo network.