Ten Question Tuesday: March 26, 2013

I really didn’t intend to have a month-long hiatus in this series, but it now returns with my chat with 2014 state Comptroller hopeful Bill Campbell. Campbell also ran for the job in 2010, and it appears that, should he be successful in the GOP primary, he will have a rematch against incumbent Peter Franchot.


monoblogue: Let me bring my readers up to speed here. You are already in the ring for Comptroller next year, 2014; you ran in 2010, and, assuming you get through the primary – which is not a given, but I would say you’re the odds-on favorite – you’re probably going to have a rematch with Peter Franchot, who thought about running for Governor and decided not to. I guess the first thing I want to know is, since you’ve already ran for the office, do you have any lessons you’re going to move into your 2014 campaign?

Campbell: Absolutely. If there was anybody who was ever a novice, it was Bill Campbell in 2010. I started way too late, I had no organization, I got into the race where the Governor’s race was sucking all of the donations out of the air – it was like there was no oxygen in the room – so when I talked to other candidates who were running for office they said the same thing: they couldn’t raise money because the Ehrlich campaign was basically sucking up all of the money that was available for Republicans, the Republican donors. I started way too late; I started in April or May (of 2010)…

monoblogue: Right.

Campbell: …and I only raised a few thousand dollars, I can’t remember the exact amount.

I spent most of my money in the primary, I think about $11,000 in the primary. Now some of the money I was able to get benefit of in the general election, like my signs, my palm cards, and so forth, but in the general election I only spent $4,000, give or take a few bucks, and I had to make up for that – money’s important, but it’s not the most important thing. The thing I really learned is that people have to know you, they have to like you, and they have to trust you. If you can get those three things, you get their vote.

monoblogue: Well, the question is, you’re running against guy who’s probably got – I don’t know how much Peter Franchot has in the bank, but I’m sure he’s got quite a bit…

Campbell: He’s got a little over $2 million.

monoblogue: …yeah. It’s almost certain, and this is true of almost any Republican in Maryland, practically, that you’re going to be -you’re going to have to work harder and smarter because you’re not going to have the money available to the incumbent.

Campbell: No, and I figured that if Franchot ran for governor I could probably beat somebody who wasn’t an incumbent by only raising about $125,000.  I think I have a good shot at Peter if I could raise $250,000. That’s one of the reasons I started early, I’m asking for money, I’m getting donations, it’s not a huge amount right now – at the end of the year when I filed I think I had just a hair under $2,000 – but I had just started asking people for money. So I’m going to get fundraisers this time.

You bring up a good point. Peter raised $1.9 million the last time – and got a million votes – but he spent $1.5 million. I didn’t see where he spent it wisely. Do you remember seeing anything about Peter Franchot except an occasional 4×8 sign?

monoblogue: No. The thing about this race, since it’s an open seat for governor, you’re going to have an all-out war in the primary on both sides.

Campbell: Right.

monoblogue: You’re going to have, most likely, a very competitive race as far as the general election goes, but it’s going to be a little bit like Question 7 was last year. I think it’s going to take up a lot of the available airtime, so you may be right – you may not have to raise a lot of money. Peter Franchot may have a lot left over at the end of this campaign because he’ll have nowhere to spend the money except maybe consultants and what-have-you, the professional political class that we have in Maryland.

Campbell: I like to say that he’s a twice-elected incumbent Democrat. He presently has $2 million in the bank, he beat me once – I have him right where I want him. He’s overconfident.

monoblogue: Yeah, I noticed when Franchot dropped out of the governor’s race, you said ‘good, I don’t have to face the junior varsity now.’ Obviously you knew what you were going to be up against.

Campbell: I was always – I plan on the worst-case scenario. If I didn’t think I had a fair chance – I’m not in this to make a point. I’m not in this to posture or try to get myself well-known for some higher office later on – I’m a pragmatist. I think that it’s very difficult to win as a Republican any time. But I got a lot of non-Republican votes the last time, and Mr. Franchot didn’t get very many non-Democratic votes – I think he got about 10,000 votes that weren’t Democratic. I can’t swear to it because it’s been two years since I looked at it, but I got well over 100,000 votes that weren’t Republican.

So, for one, his name recognition I don’t think is terribly good. He didn’t do a good job spending his money the last time, he’s fighting with people in his own caucus – you know, there are bills in the General Assembly right now to take some of his functions away. He doesn’t seem to be allied with either Mr. Gansler or Lt. Gov. Brown, so I think that he is more vulnerable than the other candidates that we’re going to have to put nominees up against.

And, to be perfectly honest with you, I think that our chickens are about to come home to roost. The reason I ran the last time I got in was the deficit in our state employee and teacher pension fund, and the retiree health care. It has gotten worse. We’ve gone from being funded about 64% to around 60%, and the deficit on the pension has gone from $18.5 billion to $20.5 billion. The retiree health care fund is still around $16 billion in the hole.

So I think that a lot of things are going to come home to roost, I think that the public may be numb after eight years of constant tax increases, taking the budget from about $29 billion – it will be well over 40 (billion dollars) by the time these clowns are finished. And I think that the realization that the Affordable Care Act is neither affordable nor does it provide good care – I think people, even in Maryland, may be at the point where they’re willing to try something different, and by that elect more Republican elected officials.

monoblogue: Well, in Franchot’s case, he’s always tried to portray himself as a fiscal conservative, but in this case – it’s kind of the opposite of the old saying where Republicans can’t win if they try to be liberal because there’s already a liberal party out there. Democrats who try to be conservative, maybe they can’t win because there’s already a conservative in the race and his name is Bill Campbell.

Campbell: Right, and the thing with Franchot – I like Peter, I’d like to have him as a brother-in-law, or a neighbor, or a lodge brother, or something – but he’s not a good Comptroller. He doesn’t have a grasp of the financial issues. And we’re going to need somebody who has  an excellent grasp of the financial issues to help get us through.

Part of that is, we’re probably, in my lifetime, going to have a Democratic-majority General Assembly. Thankfully, in Maryland, because of the way it’s constituted, to control the state you only need two offices: you need the Governor and you need the Comptroller so that you can control the Board of Public Works.

monoblogue: Right.

Campbell: If you control the  Board of Public Works, then you can control the spending, and you can control the priorities, and you can control the trajectory that Maryland is going to have economically. So whoever our nominee is for Governor, I am going to try to work as closely with them and try to come across as a tag-team that will improve Marylanders’ economic future, the future for their children and their grandchildren.

I think we can have, if we have a good gubernatorial candidate, I think I have more than a fair chance.

monoblogue: Yeah. The other thing that I actually – as I was listening to you, is that, we also need a strong (Republican) party, and it kind of brings me to the next area I wanted to get into. Now I know you ran for state party Chair…in 2010 – you didn’t win, you were third, I think, in the first ballot and then withdrew…

Campbell: Yes.

monoblogue: …Obviously you’re not going to do it this time because you’ve already announced for the Comptroller’s race and you can’t do both at once, but what’s your take on the candidates who are in it so far?

Campbell: You mean for party chair?

monoblogue: Yes.

Campbell: The only one I know who’s really been announced is Diana Waterman. Is there another one?

monoblogue: There are actually two: one is Greg Kline, who’s…

Campbell: Oh, I’m sorry, I did see Greg Kline. I don’t know an awful lot about Greg. I know that he’s been really active in – I read something that was posted, he had a position paper?

monoblogue: Right.

Campbell: When I ran, the reason I ran was, after campaigning statewide, I had been in every jurisdiction at least four times. I talked to people on all ends of the spectrum from the Republican party, and I was very concerned because I thought at the time we needed to replace an establishment figure, Audrey Scott, with somebody who was not in any one camp but could reach across the boundaries between the camps and make a cohesive, unified party. I’m afraid – I liked all of the people who ran before, I liked Alex, I liked Sam Hale, but I’m afraid that if you have somebody who is identified only with one faction, the other factions are going to withdraw and we’re not going to be very successful.

That was why I ran, but if somebody had come to me and said – and I had talked to Alex when he ran, and I am 99% sure he assured me he would stay for four years. That was one of the reasons I thought, well, okay, and then I saw where he was raising money, he was using the party imprimatur of the chairman to raise money for a potential run for Roscoe Bartlett’s seat, which I thought was improper.

monoblogue: Right. (laughs) Go ahead, I keep interrupting you.

Campbell: When I ran, I was going to make it a non-paid full-time job, because I think whoever our chair is, until we start to get on a roll, we need to have somebody who is going to work full time, who is going to reach outside the party to constituencies like the businessmen in Baltimore City who have property that’s being adversely affected by the Maryland State Center project – we need to go in and proselytize people that we don’t normally talk to. Whoever is going to run and be our Chair needs to do that, in my opinion.

monoblogue: Well, actually you’ve answered the next question I was going to ask. The other gentleman, by the way, who’s in the race is Collins Bailey – I think he’s out of Charles County.

Campbell: Oh, I know – I know Collins Bailey. I met Collins when he was running against Charles Lollar to be our nominee for the Fifth Congressional District. I like Collins, he’s a nice guy, he’s conservative, I don’t know what kind of support he has among the Central Committees, because as far as I know he’s just widely known in southern Maryland.

monoblogue: Yeah, that’s my impression of him, too. I mean, I know who he is, I’ve probably talked to him once or twice, but – any of those candidates, and I know Diana, too, has actually done this and Greg Kline is in the process of doing this – they need to get out and get to all 23 counties if they can before the race. That’s the key.

Campbell: I think – isn’t there going to be in Montgomery County…isn’t there going to be a panel discussion with all of them?

monoblogue: There could be, I’m not sure. I know, for example, Greg Kline is coming to our Lincoln Day Dinner Saturday – I think Collins Bailey is trying to get there too. Diana Waterman will be there too, I’m sure, because she’s from the Eastern Shore. So I think – I don’t think anyone else is going to get in, I would be surprised if they did now. And you kind of answered my next question, I was going to ask what advice you had for the winner, but you’ve already kind of given that, so let me turn to one other thing real quick: I wanted to talk about – and I know you have a little expertise on federal matters because you used to run Amtrak, and you probably have a little bit of insight into the budget process…

Campbell: Yes, I had 30 years in the federal government, 19 as a career senior executive, and two years as a Presidential appointee as an assistant secretary for management at the VA. So I know a lot about the federal government.

monoblogue: So what do you think about all this talk about – obviously we started with sequestration, and now we’re talking about the possibility of some shutdown or other, and getting a budget out because they have to – they have to get a budget out or they don’t get paid. If you wave a magic wand, what does Bill Campbell do about this whole deal?

Campbell: Well, here’s the thing you have to remember. I’ve been looking at it through the lens of ‘how is this going to affect Maryland?’ I want to run for Maryland office, and – if I succeed and I win – I’m responsible for the finances of the state. And I look at it – Maryland, over the past four decades, has become a ward of the federal legislature. We get approximately 40% of our state revenue to run our government directly and indirectly from the feds. We get 27% directly, and then we get about another 13% indirectly through income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes from federal employees, federal retirees, and federal contractors and military retirees, and to some extent property tax from perhaps military – active-duty military.

So regardless of whether you call it sequestration, the fiscal cliff: no matter what you do any – any – reduction in federal spending will adversely affect Maryland. That said, we desperately need to cut back on the spending. That’s going to be painful, but if we don’t do with everybody, even the liberals agree that our spending is on an unsustainable path.

We are borrowing 42 cents on every dollar that we spend at present, and we – the debt service right now is, I believe 200 or 300 billion dollars and we are paying historically low rates on that debt. In a couple of years, when the fed stops doing quantitative easing, even Bernanke has admitted by about 2015 the interest rates that we are going to be paying – which are all pegged to the 10-year Treasury note – are going to jump up to the historic value of about 4 or 5 percent. What that means is that the largest single budget item to the federal government will be debt service. That will crowd out spending we need for infrastructure, defense, clean air, safe food, safe drinking water, public health – everything will become secondary so that we have to cut the spending.

And there are smart ways to do it and dumb ways to do it. Sequestration, when you look at it, isn’t that bad, particularly if you put, as they are right now, flexibility for the federal agencies in there. The Department of Defense’s budget this year is $711 billion – you think, oh my God, under sequestration we’re going to go to 522 (billion dollars.) Well, 522 might be absolutely fine because the difference between 521 and 711 is fighting two wars. As we get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and we avoid going into places like Iran and Syria, and Africa – then we can absorb that reduction well.

So I’m not afraid the sky is going to fall, I think what has happened is that the Obama administration has tried to make sequestration as painful as possible – you know, letting 2,000 illegal aliens loose that were in custody, closing down tours of the White House – they are doing everything humanly possible to make this appear a big problem. Well, I just came back from Florida and, you know, except for an occasional little mention of sequestration it’s not on anybody’s radar outside the Beltway, and it doesn’t seem to be having much of an effect because, rather than a cliff, it’s kind of a slow, gentle slope with the cutbacks and spending and you probably won’t really see it until next year and next year is when the Affordable Care Act costs are going to start to really hammer people, so I think 2014, because of these things, is going to be a decent year for Republicans, even in Maryland.

monoblogue: Well, that’s a good place to wrap it up. So I appreciate the time, Bill.


We actually talked a little bit more regarding the 2014 race, but for the purpose of this exercise I’ll keep that off the record. One thing I will share is his opinion that “Maryland’s finances are terribly broken.” Seems to me that’s a good reason to get into the race, and I wish Bill the best of luck in his uphill fight.

I should also note that I recorded this interview on Friday, so I had the opportunity to speak with all three Chair candidates at our Lincoln Day Dinner subsequent to recording this post.

Next week’s guest will be another Maryland political figure, with the question being which one of the two records his interview first.

Odds and ends number 70

More and more items pique my interest as the General Assembly session wears on, so you might find these continue to pop up on a regular basis. As always, these are items to which I devote anywhere from a sentence to a few paragraphs, so here goes.

I’ll begin with this pre-emptive strike by Delegate Justin Ready I learned about a few days ago. He’s planning to introduce a bill which will prohibit the state of Maryland from enacting user fees based on mileage driven to replace or supplement the existing per-gallon gasoline tax. The state of Oregon has, for several years, been exploring ways of doing this and the latest ties into existing onboard and smart phone technologies. But the Luddites out there should take this under advisement; this comes from the Council of State Governments piece Ready links to:

Importantly, the use of GPS also will not be a requirement. For those who reject all the private sector technology options despite being able to choose between them and despite their information not being transmitted to a government entity, another option would allow drivers to pre-pay for the miles they expect to drive at a rate based on 35,000 miles minimum annually. Those drivers will pay a substantially higher flat fee than what most drivers whose mileage is more closely tracked will likely average. Instead of paying at the pump as participants in the initial pilot program did, motorists will pay at the end of the three-month demonstration. State transportation officials foresee monthly or quarterly charges if the system were to be adopted on a statewide basis. (Emphasis mine.)

So the options are, in my case, either “voluntarily” allow the government into my personal car to see that I drive roughly 20,000 miles per year or pay a significantly higher penalty to keep my freedom. Some choice. It almost makes raising the gas tax more attractive, which may be the overall aim of Annapolis liberals. They constantly harp on the fact we haven’t raised the tax in 20 years or so – well, if you would spend it on what it’s meant for instead of wasting it on mass transit no one rides, we may accomplish the road repairs and construction for which the gas tax was intended.

Another pro-freedom push to free Maryland’s roads comes from HB251, a bill introduced by Delegate Michael Smigiel to repeal Maryland’s speed camera laws – a bill which has my full support and should have yours, too. (Locally, Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio is a co-sponsor as well, and should be thanked for that support.) Meanwhile, the Maryland Liberty PAC correctly notes that these devices comprise a large portion of “O’Malley’s War On Driving”:

Speed cameras are nothing more than the privatization of our due process rights and the contracting-out of law enforcement duties.

The Maryland Liberty PAC has an ongoing petition drive to dismantle the speed cameras once and for all; they also stress that pressure should be brought to bear on Environmental Matters Committee Chair Maggie McIntosh to give the bill a hearing (none has been scheduled yet.)

If speed cameras were truly about safety, the violation wouldn’t be a civil offense but a criminal one. Yet they know that, with a criminal offense, one has to be able to face their accuser and the evidence wouldn’t be admissible (because the speed camera can’t be a witness like a patrol officer can.) So they made it a civil offense based on the much lower standard of “preponderance of the evidence.” My judgment is that speed cameras should be banned.

There are also local steps which need to be undertaken, says Sam Hale of the Maryland Society of Patriots. Among them are:

  • Asking Wicomico and Worcester counties to nullify the “Septic Bill” and refuse to draw the counties into tiers,
  • Contacting Salisbury’s City Council and asking them to withdraw their membership in ICLEI, a group promoting anti-liberty incursions on rights such as PlanMaryland and the septic bill as an extension of the United Nations,
  • Asking Worcester County to join the Maryland Rural Counties Coalition.

So the liberty movement is well-represented here, but how about Washington, D.C.? Maybe not so much.

For example, take the debt ceiling. It was panned by both Americans for Limited Government and the Coalition to Reduce Spending. Bill Wilson of ALG reacted:

This is a partial repeal of representative government. Through the elimination of the debt ceiling, even just until May 19, the American people now have no say in the amount of debt the government contracts. The only say whatsoever representatives had on the some 60 percent of the $3.7 trillion budget that operates on autopilot, which includes Social Security, Medicare, and other forms of so-called ‘mandatory’ spending, was the periodic vote on increasing the debt ceiling.

“Now that it has been suspended, the debt ceiling may never be reinstated. All the Senate needs to do now come May 19 is again threaten default should the debt ceiling suspension not be indefinitely extended. Under those circumstances, House Republican leadership is likely to fold under even the slightest pressure.

Added Jonathan Bydlak of the Coalition to Reduce Spending:

Congress today again avoided its duty to be a responsible steward of the public trust. Stalling is not a serious solution to federal debt created by habitual deficit spending.

By delaying a vote on whether and at what cost the federal government should be allowed to borrow more money, House members chose to deny accountability to the public.

This move goes against the clear wishes of American voters. As a recent Rasmussen poll showed, 73% nationwide believe the federal government should cut spending in order to deal with the nation’s current economic problems.

The Coalition to Reduce Spending recognizes that choosing to increase the public debt is ultimately one of the most important decisions a legislator can make. It’s for that reason that this decision should never be pushed into the future haphazardly.

The only thing to like about the bill is that it holds Senators’ salaries hostage until they pass a budget, although our Senator Barbara Mikulski whined and cried poverty about the prospect. Well, all you need to do is your job.

Perhaps they can act on this measure which failed to get through the last Congress, something which could give the legislative branch a little control over regulators run amok. Ryan Young of the Competitive Enterprise Institute sums things up brilliantly:

There is too much regulation without representation in this country. In an average year, Congress will pass a little over 100 bills into law, while regulatory agencies will pass more than 3,500 new regulations.

It’s easy to see why members of Congress like agencies to do their job for them. If a regulation turns out to be unpopular, or more costly than expected, they can just shift the blame to, say, the EPA or FCC. It’s well past time for Congress to take its lawmaking responsibility seriously again. REINS is the first step in that process.

In general, there are those who favor a more militant approach, even with the belief we should learn from our opponents. I look at it this way: if conservative principles are as popular as we believe them to be, we should stick out our necks for their adoption on a daily basis. If not, it proves my point from yesterday about the need to educate, although we should be doing that regardless.

This lesson isn’t lost on professional golfer Phil Mickelson, who, as my friend Jim Pettit points out, is simply doing what’s best for his personal situation by contemplating a move out of high-tax California. I don’t think he’ll be looking to move to Maryland; instead states like Florida and Texas – which combine a more temperate climate with non-existent state income taxes – may be attractive. (Thousands of professional athletes live in Florida for that very reason.)

Another angle those who love liberty are pursuing is finding the right Presidential candidate for 2016. Those who favor Judge Andrew Napolitano, a group I wrote about late last year, are still actively seeking petition signers. But they updated their totals to say they have over 10,000 signers now, and the Facebook page now boasts 3,319 fans. Napolitano may well say no, but the backing behind him is slowly growing.

Finally, this story has a little local interest as well as a tie-in to a group I’ve supported. Move America Forward is holding their “Super Bowl Rally for the Troops”:

The Ravens fans have taken an early lead, but there’s still plenty of time for Niners fans to come back! Vote for which team you think will win by sponsoring a package full of goodies for the troops!

SUPERBOWL XLVII is only ten days away so time is running out to participate in our Super Bowl challenge to all of our pro-troops supporters out there. Whether you happen to be a 49ers fan, Ravens fan, or just a football fan, the whole mission at the end of the day is to support our TROOPS serving overseas. They are the real winners in this competition and they deserve our thanks and gratitude. (Emphasis in original.)

If the Ravens win this particular competition, additional items will be included for a fortunate group of troops from Maryland.

Ironically, MAF ran a similar competition last year in which Giants fans outpaced the Patriots faithful. It’s sort of a sad commentary that fans of a team named after our colonial forefathers couldn’t win this competition, and maybe that karma got them this season.

That’s plenty for now, but it probably won’t be long until my mailbox is full of interesting items once again.

Should Alex Mooney resign?

Let me note straight away that the guys at Red Maryland think so, and for some very valid reasons.

Something the Maryland GOP has seemed to lack in the time I’ve been involved is forward-looking leadership. I don’t really remember much about John Kane since his tenure was ending as mine was beginning, but there were two facets I gleaned in second-hand conversations: he was Bob Ehrlich’s handpicked candidate and he spent money like a drunken sailor – so much so that another supposed Ehrlich crony, Jim Pelura, had to take drastic action to save the MDGOP from insolvency. But when Pelura departed from the Ehrlich party line and took the party in a more conservative direction, contributor wallets snapped shut and Jim was soon the recipient of a no-confidence vote. (Losing one of two Congressional seats probably didn’t help Pelura’s cause either.)

Enter Audrey Scott, and while the MDGOP’s finances improved (albeit not to the extent she claimed they did) we still only caught a small piece of the TEA Party wave – while overall the GOP gained 63 seats in the House we only got one, and made just modest gains in the Maryland General Assembly. (Local races were fairly successful, but the state party rarely gets involved that deeply in county or municipal races.)

Scott’s year as a caretaker passed and the baton was handed to Alex Mooney after a five-person contest in the fall of 2010. Mooney came in promising to make fundraising a priority, but one convention in admitted he had a tougher time than expected filling the MDGOP coffers.

And while Alex is elected to a four-year term, in the spring of 2011 we passed a bylaws change changing the term of the Chair and executive officers to a two-year cycle, to agree more with the national party. (It becomes effective with officers elected in 2014.)

With that precedent, though, one of three things may happen: through December 1, Mooney could resign either immediately or effective as of the first of December (the date of the state convention) because the party bylaws state a vacancy in the Chair position must be filled within 60 days. In that case, First Vice Chair Diana Waterman of Queen Anne’s County takes over on an interim basis.

If not, Mooney would either have to wait until early next year or create the need for a special meeting specifically for filling the vacancy. That wouldn’t be popular among the rank-and-file and would cost the party several thousand dollars. We’d also fret about reaching a quorum.

Or he could attempt to weather the storm and stay on, but now that Roscoe Bartlett has been ousted from Congress after debating in the first place whether to run again (and leaving a lot of people twisting in the wind, including Mooney) that challenger’s seat is open. If Alex wants to campaign for it, he can’t be party chair once he files.

If Mooney decides to resign, the field for Chair would be wide open:

  • Would Audrey Scott accept a second caretaker term, and could she win anyway after the scorched-earth campaign between her and Nicolee Ambrose for National Committeewoman this spring?
  • Mary Kane was runner-up in 2010, but perhaps has the “establishment” tag that’s the kiss of death among a growing proportion of Central Committee members.
  • On the other hand, those who have been in the party a long time would probably not look twice at another Sam Hale candidacy; besides, he’s busy with the Maryland Society of Patriots.
  • William Campbell is planning a second run for Comptroller, so he would be ineligible to finish out the term.
  • Mike Esteve is another couple years older, but given his support of gay marriage, may not play well with the conservative base.
  • A couple other intriguing candidates who considered a 2010 Chair race and backed out: 2010 U.S. Senate candidate Eric Wargotz and Institute for Liberty head Andrew Langer.
  • Wild cards among the elected Vice-Chairs: Waterman, Larry Helminiak, and Eric Grannon.
  • And, of course, someone from among the hundreds in the state who might be interested. Sad to say, Daniel “The Wig Man” Vovak is no longer available.

And I thought we would have a dull, boring wake of a convention. It’s not the Maryland GOP without the long knives coming out from time to time.

Update: Fellow bloggers Richard Cross and Joe Steffen weigh in.

2010 MDGOP Fall Convention in pictures and text (part 2)

And now we resume coverage (Part 1 is here) with a cold, crisp Saturday morning. Actually, the cold felt sort of good since I needed to wake up a bit after just a few hours of sleep.

If I turned around 180 degrees I’d see something like this, as candidates greeted Saturday arrivals with their pitch.

We didn’t have a breakfast speaker this time, but during breakfast I did have the pleasure of finally getting to meet Ann Corcoran of Potomac TEA Party Report. She was there as a proxy for another in her county and to help man the table for the Conservative Action Network, which has an upcoming event.

I also ran into Chair candidate Mike Esteve, who was the lone hopeful I didn’t catch with my camera Friday night.

After breakfast we crowded into the main ballroom.

I must say whoever decided on this setup needs to return to Seat Arrangement 101. The worst part was not having a center row, although being placed in the back wasn’t all that great either. Guess it was our turn.

We had a very popular guest speaker, however. (Being in the back did no wonders for my photography.)

Congressman-elect Andy Harris praised Audrey Scott for being the “key to victories around the state” and reminded us of where we were just two years ago and how far we’ve come. We’re not a regional party as some predicted nor is Reagan conservatism dead. “87 freshmen are living proof that American conservatism is alive and well,” Andy said.

Yet we have to win back Americans’ trust by being innovative, efficient, and willing to listen, added Harris. “Government must first do no harm.”

He vowed to support across-the-board budget cuts, a total earmark ban, and no new taxes as his agenda. “We don’t want the government to put a limit on our hopes and dreams,” Andy concluded to a standing ovation.

While Delegate Tony O’Donnell named the names of all 16 new Republican members of the House of Delegates and applauded our six seat gain in his report, he set his sights higher. “It’s possible to get 28 seats in 2014,” O’Donnell opined. We have to start recruiting now to reach that magic 71 number for the first time since at least Reconstruction, Tony noted.

Senator Allan Kittleman was a little less optimistic about GOP hopes, but did state the case that, “there’s not a whole lot of trust in the (state) government.” In a veiled reference to a former chair, Allan added “we had a hard few years there (in the General Assembly.)”

Giving the county report, Harford County Executive David Craig compared our fate to that of a familiar team.

“Being a Republican in Maryland is a lot like being an Orioles fan,” he noted wistfully, but we were developing the farm team to win. We have a base to start from with all the local successes, even though they occurred in smaller counties. At this time (and Wicomico reflects this as I said the other day) there are more Republican elected officials at the county level than Democratic ones. Still, “we need to help those people out” in areas like Prince George’s County and other Democratic strongholds.

As seems to often happen, we had to do some shuffling around of the itinerary because the Credentials Committee had its hands full with latecomers and proxies. So we next heard the Chair’s Report.

While being Chair “wasn’t on her radar” about 16 months ago, Audrey Scott called the post the “experience of a lifetime” and a “labor of love.”

“We have come a long way” in her tenure, she said, but also believed that our message was sound. It was embodied in a recent experience she had with Newt Gingrich, who expounded on the theme of jobs vs. foodstamps. O’Malley and Obama “just don’t get it.” Speaking of O’Malley, she praised MDGOP’s Ryan Mahoney as being “solely responsible” for uncovering his jobs coverup last August.

And while she claimed to inherit a party a quarter-million dollars in debt and staff unpaid for months, she said the party raised $1.15 million this year, including ‘Victory’ money from the national GOP. (Later Chris Rosenthal said the non-Victory total was about $893,000.) It was fortunate we had Michael Steele as the RNC chair, she continued, saying “Steele deserves to be re-elected.”

While she later joked, “I have lots of critics,” she asked that we “never, ever again…begin an election year in debt” because “the enemy is the Democrats.” (And, if I may add again, there is no bag limit.)

Later, we got other reports which basically repeated what was said Friday night to the Executive Committee from National Committeewoman Joyce Terhes, National Committeeman Louis Pope, and Treasurer Chris Rosenthal.

One issue I had was with the Rules Committee. Why some counties continue to slit their own throat is beyond me, but we retained the ‘compromise’ voting system which has plagued us over the last two years on a 196-69 vote, exceeding the 2/3 majority needed. Wicomico went 4 in favor, 5 against and was joined by Allegany County, Baltimore City, and Montgomery County as counties in opposition. I’ve got an idea to end that mess once and for all!

Thus, my counts (which are based strictly on ‘one man, one vote’) aren’t exactly correct, but should be reasonably close.

Which brings us to the Chair election.

It was a LONG process, as nominees and seconders had several minutes to speak before the candidates did. Notable quotes from each contender:

  • William Campbell believed that “all Republicans have the same values…we are conservative.” He also told us, “if we don’t unify we will be irrelevant” and alluded to his fiscal conservatism by alluding, “when I squeeze a nickel Jefferson ends up in the library in Monticello.”
  • Mike Esteve noted as a Prince George’s County Republican “I want my vote to count.” The Baltimore TEA Party he helped to organize was an “indication that things had changed forever.” He also suggested adopting charitable efforts in impoverished neighborhoods as they would pay dividends down the road as far as minority voting goes and chided the infighting among Republicans – “if you could measure infighting in blood the state would be red from end to end.”
  • Asking “are you proud to be a Republican?” Sam Hale stressed his grassroots background, but also had a good idea for subscription-based fundraising. If just 1/3 of 1% of the party’s registered voters pledged $25 per month the party could raise $75,000 per month – enough to cover expenses and salt some aside for candidates.
  • Mary Kane pointed out things we’re doing better than the Democrats and vowed, “I plan to be honest and transparent for each and every one of you.” Our “opinion diversity” defined the word and she would welcome all opinions. Moreover, no longer could the MDGOP be a “one-man show” and, if she was successful, “we will show up in places we’re not expected.”
  • Alex Mooney was raised to fight for freedom as the son of a Cuban refugee. He was frustrated by not only his close Senate race loss, but three other races where the GOP losers received 49% of the vote (including Michael James in District 38.) We can’t ask our candidates to devote a year or more of their lives to a race and not back them financially, Mooney said.

Our delegation split 7-1-1, with the seven being Mooney and one each for Kane and Hale (me.) Alex carried 12 counties (Allegany, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Charles, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, Montgomery, Washington, Wicomico, and Worcester) while Mary Kane won majority support in six (Calvert, Caroline, Howard, Kent, Queen Anne’s, and Talbot.) Meanwhile, Campbell won three (Dorchester, Prince George’s, and St. Mary’s) and Hale carried Cecil County. Baltimore City and Somerset ended up split between Mooney and Kane.

The ‘one man, one vote’ totals: Mooney 116, Kane 87, Campbell 25, Hale 24, and Esteve 13. Mooney was closest to a majority but couldn’t receive it through either tabulation.

Obviously, having won no counties and just a handful of votes, Mike Esteve dropped out after the first round and endorsed Mary Kane. Then William Campbell decided enough was enough and bowed out.

Despite impasssioned pleas of “no!!” from supporters, just before the second ballot Sam Hale also gave in and endorsed Alex Mooney.

With so few more votes needed the second ballot was relatively anticlimactic, with Mooney winning the actual count 164-97. Sixteen counties went for Mooney (Allegany, Baltimore, Carroll, Charles, Dorchester, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Somerset, St. Mary’s, Talbot, Washington, Wicomico, and Worcester.) We were a 7-2 group as I switched to Mooney but someone else switched from Mooney to Kane.

The next two races were relative walkovers: Diana Waterman was elected 1st Vice Chair with 160 votes, easily outdistancing Moshe Starkman with 57 and Debbie Rey with 47. (We all supported Diana in Wicomico.)

In the 2nd Vice-Chair contest, Larry Helminiak emerged victorious with 151 votes while Brandon Butler (the incumbent) had 78 and Debbie Rey finished with 30. (Wicomico split 5-3 for Helminiak over Butler, I voted for Larry – who I nominated.)

A controversy erupted in the already-crowded 3rd Vice-Chair race when a supporter of Eric Grannon claimed his paperwork was in order aside from a minor error. Chair Alex Mooney allowed him to be on the ballot, making it a six-way race.

Grannon was the leader after the first ballot, gathering 109 votes. Patt Parker was second with 55, followed by Brian Griffiths with 34, Adol Owen-Williams with 32, Debbie Rey with 21, and Collins Bailey with 11. The bottom three finishers all decided to withdraw after that ballot, leaving three for the second ballot. (We in Wicomico split four ways, with five votes for Grannon, two for Owen-Williams, and one each for Parker and Griffiths (mine.)

Eric easily won the second ballot with 191 votes to Parker’s 47 and Griffiths’ 19. We had seven Grannon votes with the Parker and Griffiths tallies.

But the addition of Grannon left a bad taste with at least one competitor, who fumed that the victor should have been left off the ballot. “It’s a story for you,” he said.

We had an easy ballot next since Chris Rosenthal was unopposed for treasurer – Mark Uncapher of Montgomery County announced he was dropping out Friday.

Almost as easy was John Wafer’s win for secretary, where he overwhelmed the field with 210 votes to 35 for Nora Keenan and 13 for Alfred Griffin. (We all went for Wafer.)

But we weren’t done voting yet – there were four resolutions on the table.

  • Somerset County was allowed to expand its Central Committee to nine by unanimous voice vote.
  • The most controversial resolution was to “highly encourage” the RNC to “highly recommend” that early primary states New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina close their Republican primaries or caucuses to registered Republicans only. Since the Chair couldn’t determine the intent of a voice vote, it passed a roll call 116-87, with Wicomico 6-1 in favor (I voted yes.)
  • We asked Chairman Mooney to appoint an ad hoc bylaws committee by almost unanimous voice vote. Our county chair Dave Parker submitted this resolution.
  • We honored Richard Taylor, former National Commiteeman from 1983-2004, by unanimous voice vote.

Finally, just after 3:00, we ate the lunch scheduled for 12:30. Louis Pope gave the edited presentation familiarizing the new Central Committee members with their duties – I caught up with an old friend while I ate.

So there you have it, the wildest and wooliest convention I’ve ever attended. Next spring we do it again in a time and place to be determined. Congratulations to Chairman Mooney and the other winners – feel free to stop by our county anytime!

2010 MDGOP Fall Convention in pictures and text (part 1)

It was such a big and exciting convention this time that I decided to return to the practice of making this post in two parts. Part 1 tonight will deal with what occurred Friday night and tomorrow I’ll review the convention itself that occurred today. (One spoiler – our new Chair is former State Senator Alex Mooney.)

Once I arrived and cleaned up, I went down to check out the Executive Committee meeting – the last chaired by Audrey Scott.

The first interesting portion of the meeting occurred with the reading of the Treasurer’s Report. I was thrilled to find our line of credit we’d had since 2007 or so had been paid off, but not so pleased to find out what our outstanding bills were.

With a number of new Chairs there, the questions came fast and furious during this portion of the meeting. One key point zeroed on the lease the Party holds on its current headquarters and why it’s so seemingly excessive. Perhaps a facilities task force is in order, opined Treasurer Chris Rosenthal.

It was also interesting to hear the impact of “Victory” money on the party’s finances; however, the 2011 budget is conservatively based on doing without help from the national Republican Party.

Yet for Audrey Scott it was “extremely satifying and gratifying to be Chair this year.” Our 40 seat gain in local and state races was a “phenomenal achievement” and she thanked all the candidates and their campaign workers.

In the future, our goal is “viability” and “instant credibility,” continued Scott. But “I’m not wearing rose-colored glasses” as Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and Baltimore City would continue to be issues.

While National Committeewoman Joyce Terhes remarked in her report that the newcomers are “embarking on a four years you’ll love,” Louis Pope said he couldn’t recall a 48% turnover in the Central Committees in his nearly 40 years he’s been active in the party. It’s an “incredible opportunity,’ said Pope.

It was comforting to hear from the party’s legal counsel Bob Ostrom that we have a “tremendously positive” relationship with the Maryland Board of Elections. We may not agree with the outcome, but he also stated this most recent election was the “most fraud-free election that Maryland has conducted in many years.”

Among the organizational reports, three stood out.

Moshe Starkman, who was in the running for 1st Vice Chair, gave the Young Republican report. While he talked about effective engagement and involvement, one observer was “very troubled” with the YR Network he set up. The two were encouraged to discuss these issues at a later time as it began to get a little heated.

Chair candidate Mike Esteve gave the College Republican report, noting “this has been a tough year for everyone.” But he pointed out the growth of the CRs from five chapters to eleven, with a goal of 15 by April. Mike also explained the process and discussion behind a controversial CR bylaw change that allowed them to support Bob Ehrlich pre-primary, stating that they had spoken with both candidates before making the decision.

Mike also had complementary words for Fiona Moodie, who ran for office in Prince George’s County at the tender age of 18 – “imagine what she’ll be like at 28,” said Esteve. (She was the only Republican to run for their County Council, getting 21.5% of the vote in her district.) It was apt as Moodie gave the Teenage Republican report. They were working with the CRs on getting a vote on the Executive Committee.

The county reports were waived – everyone wanted to party, and I’m sure you want to check out the pictures!

Some Chair candidates had their own setup, with Mary Kane’s being the most elaborate. She even had an elephant.

Here she is with a couple supporters inside her ballroom.

On a more moderate scale was Alex Mooney’s hospitality suite, where he held court.

His main issue, of course, was fundraising, and he reminded those who dropped by of his plan.

The other candidate who had his own suite was Sam Hale.

Someone showed off their baking ability there.

But perhaps the most anticipated party was sponsored by someone who had no dog in the Chair fight whatsoever. It was dubbed the ‘Renegade Room’ and Joe Steffen (a.k.a. the ‘Prince of Darkness’) was the man with the plan, plastered on the wall to see and sign.

The “Renegade Revolution Resolution” went with the room’s ‘speaking truth’ theme – Joe and Don Murphy only had to kick a couple people out, none named Bill Campbell. The Chair hopeful stopped by to chat with Red Maryland‘s Mark Newgent.

They even had an honor roll out in the hallway.

You may have noticed the text of the document behind Joe Steffen. The signature in the upper-left hand corner is mine, but a number of other people signed too. We don’t hate the party, we’re just concerned.

But the election of Alex Mooney may go a long way in assuaging our concerns, and that’s the subject of tomorrow’s post on the events of today. (A good host leaves ’em wanting more!)

And there is a LOT more of the inside scoop. Part 2 is here.

The final MDGOP line

Well, I’m sitting here at the Doubletree Hotel in Annapolis having spoken with all the contenders for the crown, however briefly. Apparenly many are big fans but we’ll see how they feel after this post. Here’s the morning line as the racers enter their stalls (well, sort of…actually I’m getting ready for breakfast.) Previous odds are below.

  • Mary Kane (3-1): She has the biggest suite and the most money. I’ve seen a lot of the “establishment” people wearing her red lapel stickers, and she was very pleasant to me when we spoke yesterday evening. Still, the question remains whether she has the amount of support to go all the way or will she fade going through the backstretch. It’s going to be a long morning for her.
  • Alex Mooney (5-1): Having listened to Chris Rosenthal go through the financial state of the party at the Executive Committee meeting, surely many of those present will be receptive to Alex’s pitch and his lofty fundraising goals. But a lot of how he does depends on who is installed under him, and he may or may not have all the detail work down – only time will tell. There’s also the question of his future plans out there. He had the liveliest and most well-attended suite of the three I stood in, given size and location.
  • William Campbell (10-1): I still think Campbell could be a compromise choice when the time comes, or he could get the endorsement of one of the other also-rans to push him onward. He’s become sort of a dark horse, but his independent streak and reputation as a newcomer will garner him some support – and you can’t beat his fiscal acumen. He’s not spent his money wining and dining would-be voters on hospitality suites and paraphrenalia, which could either boost his outsider image or relegate him to also-ran status.
  • Sam Hale (10-1): The question for Sam is very simple: will the Maryland GOP go with a person who mainly receives his support from a number of TEA Party members who haven’t been involved in the MDGOP political process all that long. If the answer is yes, he beats the odds with a fairly captive audience. If not, he’s out after the first round of voting. Rural areas tend to support him more, but with that he bumps into the same support base that Alex Mooney has.
  • Mike Esteve (20-1): He deftly answered questions last evening regarding the College Republicans’ endorsement of Bob Ehrlich over Brian Murphy, but the group seems to prefer experience over youth. It hurts Sam Hale but hurts Mike moreso. And not having a base of operations (but instead roving around between parties) seems to reduce his legitimacy moreso than it does Bill Campbell.
  • The field (100-1): It’s just the five of them, and I believe we will have our winner from the group – no matter how excited or not the outside observers believe it is.

So there you have it, at least my strictly amateur prognostications. Later tonight I’ll let you know how it all shook out!

Pelura: Mooney’s my guy

Unlike his immediate successor, Audrey Scott, former GOP Chair Jim Pelura weighed in on the race to former supporters. While it may be the kiss of death to some, Pelura has remained engaged with the party he once headed but has gone against conventional wisdom on at least one occasion as an early backer of insurgent gubernatorial candidate Brian Murphy.

Part of what Pelura sent out follows:

When I decided to run in 2006 for Chairman, I did so because I saw a void in our Republican Party that had been unfilled for some time.  I believed that Conservative Republican values could win in Maryland if only we had the opportunity to govern by those values.  I believed that those who  thought  Republicans could not win in Maryland were wrong, and that we only needed to convince Marylanders that Republicans would govern according to the traditional Republican ideals of smaller government, low taxes, faith in the private sector and faith in the individual.

My plan as Chairman was simple…….promote traditional Republican ideals and convince our fellow Marylanders that elected Republicans would govern likewise.

America just witnessed an amazing resurgence of conservatism and a rejection of liberalism.  Why did this tsunami miss Maryland ?  I am convinced we lost because we still have not convinced enough of our fellow citizens that Republicans in Maryland can govern and more importantly, will govern according to the conservative ideals that we profess. 

We cannot continue to rely on Democrat failures to send voters to our Party.  We must offer real solutions to Maryland ’s problems and not wait for voters to vote for Republican candidates simply because they are not Democrats.

There are numerous questions that those who desire leadership positions in the Maryland Republican Party must ask themselves:

§         Being out of power in a one-party state, what reasons can the Party offer to disaffected Republicans, Independents and conservative Democrats to register Republican?

§         Being out of power and in such a minority, what reasons can the Party offer to attract the financial support of large donors?  I believe we must stand up for our principles.

§         Serious consideration must be given to expenses.  Can we stay at the current location or should we move?

§         What will the Party’s relationship be with the RNC?  Can we expect as much support as the outgoing Chairman received in the form of personnel, field offices, etc.?  Our newly elected Chairman will also vote for the new RNC Chair in January.   What direction will the outcome of that vote take for our Party nationally?

§         How will you handle the hypocrisy of verbally promoting the core Republican values while supporting those elected Republicans that do not?  How will you convince the voters that we Republicans “say what we mean and mean what we say”?

§         Why would voters believe in our Party when the MDGOP interferes in the Primary process under the guise of RNC Rule 11 and not give Republican voters the opportunity to choose their nominee?

The Maryland Republican Party is the leadership center for all Maryland Republicans.  It is, and must be, a very partisan political office.

I think that a slate of officers that represent former elected officials, former Party members, activists and those associated with the Tea Party would best serve our Party. 

With that in mind, I would like to see the following slate of candidates run as a united team:

  • Alex Mooney            –     Chairman
  • Sam Hale                  –     1st Vice Chair
  • Larry Helminiak       –     2nd Vice Chair
  • Collins Bailey           –     3rd Vice Chair
  • Nora Keenan             –     Secretary
  • William Campbell     –     Treasurer

I wish all the candidates the best and applaud their desire and willingness to step up and sacrifice their time and talents for a worthy cause, the Republican Party of Maryland.

While I saw no need for Jim to justify his intentions for his late term of office, the slate he presents also would require a few breaks to occur. First, we have no idea if Campbell or Hale would be willing to take their demotions – on the other hand, Mooney originally expressed a willingness to be 1st Vice-Chair. Obviously the floor would have to be opened up for nominations as well unless a last-minute nomination is made through normal channels (would-be nominees have until close of business Friday to secure a spot on the ballot.)

Yet if you ignore the slate and look at the criteria he used it makes a lot of sense. (Maybe that’s why I turned out to be one of his most diehard supporters since he walked this walk as best he could.) Sometimes a ‘party uber alles” attitude can get us in trouble when the rank-and-file don’t buy what we’re trying to sell.

Ronald Reagan is the perfect example – in 1984 he proved he could govern as a conservative and Maryland voted for him over Democrat Walter Mondale. Four years later, the promise of continued governance in the Reagan tradition carried George H.W. Bush to victory.

Obviously some will let me know that this happened over 20 years ago in a different era and different demographic. But when has a good, conservative alternative been presented to Maryland voters? Ellen Sauerbrey? (We saw what gymnastics the Democrats had to undergo to win that 1994 race.) 

My contention is that, had the national GOP placed its time and resources behind a candidate like Brian Murphy as it had Bob Ehrlich, we would have done no worse and perhaps even better. Martin O’Malley didn’t exactly run as a full-flegded liberal except when he palled around with Barack Obama – and even then they had to carefully select a location (Prince George’s County) where he was simply making sure his base turned out.

You moderates have tried it your way for most of the last decade and we can see the stunning successes you’ve had. Our victories on a local level came from tried-and-true conservatives, and even the Democrats who won had to play our game.

It’s time to try conservatism on a state level and quit being the nice guys.

Questions for the MDGOP Chair candidates

Last week I sent a questionnaire to all of MDGOP Chair hopefuls; a list that at the time had eight names. Of the five remaining I got direct written responses from three (William Campbell, Mike Esteve, and Sam Hale) while a fourth (Mary Kane) phoned me. I also have a letter Mrs. Kane sent out to all the candidates so her answers will be a hybrid of that information and what I recall from the phone conversation.

Since I have received no similar information from Alex Mooney he’s not included. (However, he answered a longer and somewhat different set of questions for Ann Miller yesterday, so maybe I took this to press a bit sooner than he would have liked.) Order of presentation is more or less random.

What will you do to encourage new candidates to step forward and avoid putting all our electoral eggs in one basket as the party seemed to during the last decade? 

William Campbell (WC): I will use the Central Committees, Clubs, and activists to encourage highly qualified individuals to become Republican candidates for elected office. Many interested individuals have a misconception that we have lots of potential candidates waiting to run for office. In addition, many potential candidates are frustrated by the lack of information to help them become candidates. We should run training courses on critical skills that successful candidates need to master. My one day candidate training course was inadequate, and far too late to be helpful. At a minimum we should teach the regulations covering ethics (how to file a personal financial disclosure statement), election laws and filing requirements (including a using the financial reporting software), and basic campaign operations.

We should also make a commitment to our successful nominees running in the General Election that they will receive funding and other meaningful support from the MDGOP. Our current “every candidate for themselves” approach discourages many potential candidates, and frustrates our nominees. They should also know that there will be a level playing field where all candidates are treated equally. In closing, we should not preselect our nominees. Each nominee should compete to win their nomination.

Mike Esteve (ME): My philosophy is where you can’t beat them, bleed them. Not putting up a candidate against Doug Gansler has allowed him to continue to build a two-million dollar war chest to use in two years. It is the role of the State Central Committee to ensure that there is as viable as possible of a candidate running for every statewide office. Likewise, it is the role of the County Central Committees to ensure every local Democratic candidate has a Republican challenger. Even just a name on the ballot, where we can’t find a strong Republican, forces the Democratic incumbents to spend money otherwise sent to more vulnerable candidates.

Sam Hale (SH): In a mailer to central committee members, I recently wrote:

“My top priority will be installing a Republican grassroots network across Maryland. As a conservative grassroots activist myself, I believe my biggest contribution to the party will be my ability to involve and relate to the increasing number of conservative grassroots groups in Maryland.”

I plan on installing grassroots networks and empowering central committees to grow the party on the local level. With that in mind, I will encourage those involved to win the registration battle, and elections on the local level first. This will allow us to build the party from the ground up, find viable candidates for every race and avoid placing “all of our eggs in one basket.”

Mary Kane (MK): In her letter, Mary wrote that, “A strong MDGOP means hard work. We must raise money, continue to build a strong grassroots organization, assemble a very strong media response presence throughout the state, and employ these efforts to recruit candidates and increase voter registration. These are basic functions of party building everyone understands and can agree upon.

We will do voter outreach, send new resident mailings, grassroots training, and candidate recruitment to grow our party. And we will work closely with our local committees and elected officials to solidify a strong crop of up and coming leaders.”

Describe your grand plans for fundraising – is it better to look for a few large donors or many smaller ones, and are you already scouting for new sources?

MK: Mary wrote: “We must have a state party that can raise money every week, every month, and every year. We cannot again allow for an MDGOP on the verge of bankruptcy a year and half out from statewide elections. We have donors that will support us. We have to assure them that their investment is an investment in a better future for our small businesses, our economy, our families, and our state.

We can and will have success in our fundraising efforts. Working with the Executive Committee as partners we can put a strong structure in place and develop a long term plan to fill our coffers for 2012, 2014 and beyond. We must actually utilize the talents of our Republican officials and a new Finance team. Our counties and MDGOP will be working together, not undermining and competing for every dollar. Fundraising plans should be coordinated in order to maximize support and to avoid overlap.”

SH: There are close to 1 million registered Republicans in the state of Maryland. In that pool I see 1 million potential donors. The average Marylander spends well over $100 a month on cable, internet and phone. Let’s ask them to spend 1/10 of that on saving their state.

One of my opponents recently said average people do not donate because they hope to gain something from the contribution; they donate because they believe in a cause. He was exactly correct, but the MDGOP is not currently a cause a traditional Republican can “believe in.” Once we restore principal and values to our message, we will restore our competitive advantage as a fundraiser.

I do not believe, however, that big donors and a large pool are mutually exclusive. The Obama campaign recently showed it is possible to be very successful on both levels. Once we restore contrast to our message, principal to our party and clear goals for success, the MDGOP will be something we can sell to every potential donor.

WC: There are two facets to MDGOP fund raising that need to be addressed; raising funds for general operations, and for election support.

The funding for MDGOP operations is relatively modest. Our annual budget is only about $500,000. The Chair is expected to raise approximately $125,000 from donors. This is a modest amount and with our existing donor list should be achievable. I would like to keep our existing pool of donors engaged, and reach out to many small donors. This increases our overall funding, and increases the commitment and influence of the wider Republican community. We are not currently set up to be effective in increasing grassroots support of MDGOP. We would have to greatly improve our information technology suite, and increase our use of social media. I am committed to making these improvements.

The funding requirements for election support are more difficult to address at the moment. First, what is the MDGOP going to do to support our candidates and win elections, and how much will that cost? In the 2010 election cycle, it appeared that the party was competing with the candidates for scarce campaign dollars. Many of the candidates, including myself, were frustrated over the lack of financial support from the MDGOP. I would like to develop both a 2012 and 2014 campaign budget quickly, and then commit to placing all funds collected over those budget levels into a candidate fund that will be disbursed directly to our nominees for the General election.

ME: Fundraising is, by far, the most important role of the State Party Chairman. There are three main points on fundraising:

1. Over the last year, the State Party has rightly expanded and shallowed their donor base. In other words, rather than being dependant on fifty donors for ten-thousand dollar donations, we’re moving in the direction of receiving fifty dollar donations from ten-thousand donors. This creates a much more stable and reliable donor base and that is precisely the direction in which I want to take our State Party – more in the direction of grassroots fundraising.

2. It is not unhistorical that the State Party appoints fundraising directors to reach out to a broader donor base. I have spoken with numerous such potential fundraising directors since my announcement, and it is clear that we have the opportunity to tap into previously uninterested donor sources given our traditional flagship candidate is no longer in the limelight. Potential supporters, particularly wealthier gun owners, who stand to lose many of their rights under another four years of the O’Malley regime, and worse yet, under an additional eight years of an O’Malley successor, are far more willing to support the Party knowing what they stand to preserve. This is the type of outreach we must conduct. 

3. For every successful business, institution, and campaign in the world, there are numerous failed ones. Just in the realm of politics, candidates run and parties form with little chance of success, yet manage to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. When it comes to major donors, individuals don’t contribute their money strictly on the mathematical basis of seeing a return in dividends, but because they believe in the cause. What I offer that no other candidate offers is a fundamental change in belief that this State Party can be successful and can close the chapter of the last ten years. We can rebuild and reform to be more competitive in this state, and stand on the values of our Party. What I offer is faith in the organization and a clear vision forward – that’s what donors want when considering contributing to the cause: vision, direction, and faith.

Our current chair is known for saying, “it’s party over everything.” Is it? Or do principles truly matter to you? 

ME: We have the potential to get conservatives elected in most Maryland counties. The key is to campaign on issues that matter to local constituencies and be mindful of the political makeup of every demographic. Stand on your principles, but market what sells to the electorate.

MK: Mary did not address this directly but wrote: “we will develop the statewide campaign to demonstrate the synergy of the core principles and values of the Republican Party with all Marylanders.”

SH: This type of statement brings up the question: What is the purpose of a political party? Is it solely to win elections for its namesake, or to move the country/state in a positive direction?

I recently wrote in a blog for marylandpatriots.org:

“I believe the purpose of a political party should not be solely to win elections, but rather to move the country in a positive direction. Therefore, if the GOP witnesses the social/political tide moving to the left, its objective should be to “turn the tide” rather than “go with the flow.” In “going with the flow” the GOP will not only lose its identity; but ultimately become obsolete, as the electorate’s mindset shifts further left.”

Not only is party over principle wrong morally, but also a ridiculous strategy for long term victory. If nothing is done about the social/political tide moving left the GOP will cease to exist in the long term. As Republicans, we need to fight for what we know is right and refuse to sell ourselves out in the hopes of stealing one or two elections.

WC: I believe that principles are the bedrock for our party. A party, organization, business, or individual without principles is not serving our citizens well, and would not have my support. I am running because I believe that the appearance of compromised principles is just as damaging as the actual commission of unprincipled acts. Many Maryland Republicans believe that we are compromised at present and need to change course immediately. I have a distinguished record of public service, and I will not compromise my principles for political gain.

Regarding internal party business, we have fought over regional chairs and other small county vs. large county issues for some time now. How will you address these internal disputes?

WC: I am amazed that we continue to waste valuable convention time to debating the voting weights of the jurisdictions. I would establish a working group to present an array of proposals to the various Central Committee members for their consideration and approval. In addition, it seems counter-productive to elect the Chair, Vice Chairs, Treasurer, and Secretary to four year terms. We should make these two year terms so we can evaluate their effectiveness after the 2012 General Election and not have another crisis if we need a leadership change. I am also, concerned about the prerogative we grant to Republican Governors to appoint the Chair. We need to have checks and balances between the party itself, and our elected Republican office holders. Otherwise the MDGOP could become an extension of a future Republican Administration, and do their bidding rather than protect the interest of the party.

MK: Mary wrote: There are also internal issues to be discussed. First, I will advocate that the term of office for the state party chair be reduced from 4 years to 2 years. Second, I will form an Ad Hoc Committee immediately to determine the appropriate permanent voting process for our MDGOP meetings to be presented at the spring convention. 

SH: It makes sense that those who represent a larger amount of Republicans should carry a larger weight to their vote. That is the way the Founder’s framed the House of Representatives.

On the other hand, I understand the argument that certain counties that elect zero or few Republicans to office should not drive the ideology for the state party.

I think the long-term solution is to raise awareness among voters as to who they are electing to central committee. Republicans need to realize who is representing them on the party level and the vital role they have on the direction of the party and the state. Sadly, I believe that most Republicans do not know what a central committee is. If this can be solved rank and file Republicans take a role in these elections and elect people who share their values, I feel much of the infighting will dissipate.

ME: Our State Party Constitution is clear that every County Party should have an equal vote in State Party Conventions, yet we suspend the rules every time. This needs to stop. No one county deserves more of a say than another.

How will you deal with the TEA Party influence given its mixed record?

ME: As a co-founder of the Baltimore Tea Party Coalition, I appreciate the energy that the Tea Party has generated. If we as a Party are to succeed, we need to bring together all elements, be them establishment, Tea Party, etc. Only together can we hope to rebuild as an organization.

WC: In running a statewide campaign I met many TEA Party and other Conservative voters. I admire their commitment and passion. They could bring a great deal of energy to the MDGOP, but I do not believe that many of them want to become Republicans. They are fiercely independent and are equally critical of Democrats and Republicans. I would certainly reach out to them whenever possible to find common ground. We have much in common and could work together to elect our candidates.

SH: I don’t think their record in this state is mixed. I believe on the state level their influence was completely disregarded due to the record of our governor candidate and pre-primary shenanigans. In the first district, where the tea party was able to play an active role in providing grassroots for Dr. Harris, he won by 13 points. On the state level where they were either not empowered or not comfortable supporting certain candidates, we lost by about the same margin.

My goal as chairman will be to correct this discrepancy by providing principal to our message and reaching out to the tea party on a state-wide scale. The state party cannot be successful without the enthusiasm and grassroots prowess of the tea party. The MDGOP needs to not only reach out to local leaders and empower them to grow the party, but most importantly gain their trust. They need to know that if they give their time and money, we will support their conservative values. I believe electing a chairman who is one of their own, will send that message.

MK: I don’t recall what Mary said regarding the TEA Party during the phone conversation and she didn’t address this in her letter.

In what rank order would you put the concepts of candidate recruitment, fundraising, fealty to party principles, addressing the needs of smaller counties, and dealing with the TEA Party?

MK: The part of our discussion I recall best is our discussion of this point. We agreed that perhaps a better analogy than the one I presented would be as in a wheel, where fundraising is the hub and six spokes extend out to the other facets, which form a circle.

SH: This is a difficult question as I feel the areas are intertwined. I feel someone who shares traditional party principles will be able to relate to, and inspire, the tea party. And a principled candidate should have the common sense approach to weigh the needs of individual counties. . A candidate who cannot inspire grassroots support will not be an effective fundraiser.

1) Principles
2) Fundraising

ME: The most important job of the State Party Chairman is to fundraise. I don’t see why any of these other elements would have to be separated, or contradictory from that. We fundraise when we stand on our principles. We fundraise when we tap into grassroots Tea Party energy. We fundraise when we represent the needs of all counties. Frankly, we have bigger problems than the feelings of individual Central Committees. We are facing redistricting, which could cost us the first and sixth congressional districts, and trim are already dwindling minorities in the State Senate and House into oblivion. We are facing the crisis of a 35 billion dollar pension and health plan liability that will force 17 billion dollars of unfunded pensions onto the already burdened counties. We have bigger problems than “party fealty.” We, as Maryland Republicans, offer our state something that few other Republican State Parties can offer: the hope of accountable, transparent government. If we are not marketing a clear vision to this state; if we are not acting as whistleblowers and calling out the corruption of the arrogant House and Senate majorities, and their governor; if we are not taking the issues of this state seriously, and offering the voters of Maryland a genuine and clear alternative, then we are simply wasting our time.

WC: This would not be my choice for a priority list. Mine priorities would be (in order of importance) party unity, financial solvency, candidate recruitment and development, and increasing Republican voter registration and participation in Baltimore City, and Prince Georges and Montgomery Counties. However, to answer your question I would rank you issues in the following order: 1. Principles, 2. Candidate recruitment, 3. Fund raising, Smaller County needs, and 5. dealing with the TEA Party. While some may object to ranking the TEA Party relationship last, the reality is that (unlike the first 4 issues) we do not have complete control over that relationship.

Also, please assess the strengths and weaknesses of your last two predecessors as chair, Audrey Scott and Jim Pelura.

WC: I only got active in MDGOP politics in April of this year. I had not known either Audrey, or Jim before then, and have only spoken to them briefly on a few occasions. They have both been courteous to me and I personally like them. I am unable to judge their strengths and weaknesses, and I don’t believe that the past performance of MDGOP Chairs is relevant to the current election. We need to focus on the future of our party and not re-plow old ground.

ME: I have nothing but sincere respect and admiration for the Chairman. She came into a mess of a Party that was deeply in debt and highly divided. She united the Party, dug us out of debt, established a fulltime fundraising and political staff, raised seven victory centers statewide, and left us in the black when it was all said and done. As far as I’m concerned, she met all of her campaign promises and did a phenomenal job. I did not agree with all of her decisions; I did not support all of her methods. She was the best possible Chair at the right time. Now that chapter has come to a close and the Party has different needs. I believe the Chairman recognizes this, which is why she is not pursuing reelection.

I have no comment on Mr. Pelura.

SH: Scott – I admire Audrey’s strength as a fundraiser, her ability to remain positive and upbeat, and her work-ethic and resolve. But she conveyed a lack of adherence to party principles (and rule 11) which alienated the party’s base. She also was unable to innovate and improve on party strategy which led to a continued decline in statewide elections.

Pelura – Jim is a great man of character who was unable to work with the party apparatus to get things done. Much of things said about him simply are not true. Regardless of personal opinion, his term was not an effective one.

I would like committee members to think of my candidacy as the opportunity to start a new chapter of Republican Politics in Maryland. This November proved that we cannot afford more of the same and drastic change is required. I hope to provide that change if elected.

MK: Mary did not address her predecessors.


After reading these questions and compiling this post, I hope this helps – whether you have a direct stake in the decision as a Central Committee member or just happen to be a rank-and-file Republican or conservative concerned about the state of the party in the Free State.

I look forward to a spirited contest culminating sometime Saturday morning.

MDGOP horserace: the update

It’s beginning to look like there will be five candidates for Chair; at least that’s how many are actively campaigning at this time.

Today we had a quad-county Central Committee meeting (Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester) and close to two dozen committee members were present. While we had no candidates visit us directly, we heard briefly from three candidates for Chair (Mary Kane, Alex Mooney, and William Campbell.) And while Mike Esteve and Sam Hale did not contact us directly, it’s by happenstance that I have received their answers to my questions and I have also gotten an advance copy of what Mary Kane is sending out to the rest of the state. Furthermore, I am told that Campbell will also be answering my questions in the next few days, so hopefully mid-week I can put together a debate-style presentation featuring at least four of the candidates.

One advantage of getting together a group as we had today was getting a real live sounding board for reactions, which helps in determining who is a favorite and who has less of a chance.

Previously I had placed the odds and race synopsis here; consider this post an update of that one.

Reposting the odds:

  • Mary Kane (4-1): I spoke with her at length yesterday and she answered several of my questions. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of her platform is changing the Chair term to be two years, and I can’t say I disagree with that idea. But I still hear the perception that she’s too tied into the old guard which did little to improve the party over the last eight years since Bob Ehrlich was elected, and obviously as a previous member of his administration and running mate she’ll be part of that legacy. Still, she remains the favorite and having fewer people to contend with helps her.
  • Alex Mooney (7-1): The factor affecting his rise most is his decision to go ahead and go for party Chair (although he would accept 1st Vice-Chair if he loses, and saying that he could be first out if he’s an also-ran on the first ballot, even if it’s not fourth or fifth place.) Yet if you look at party building strictly from a fundraising standpoint, Alex has a lot on his side as he was a rainmaker for state Republicans. Also, he is a known quantity to a number of supporters and his conservative stances on most issues (except perhaps illegal immigration) would bring him favor among movement conservatives. (His 88.49 term rating for the monoblogue Accountability Project placed him second in the State Senate, trailing only Congressman-elect Andy Harris.) His conversation today assuaged a lot of concerns about how much time he could devote to the job as well.
  • William Campbell (8-1): I have heard a few rumblings that the state party was a little less than forthcoming with information he requested, so his effort has been more of a face-to-face one. Yet he seems to be impressing those he talks to, and his late-blooming campaign may be hitting its stride at the proper time. Since it’s highly unlikely anyone will secure a first-ballot win I still think Campbell could be a compromise choice when the time comes, or he could get the endorsement of one of the other also-rans to push him onward.
  • Sam Hale (8-1): Certainly there are those in his corner, but the odds don’t improve for him as much as they do for fellow conservative Alex Mooney because Mooney attracts many in the same wing of the party Hale draws from – but with Alex accruing the added benefit of perceived fundraising ability. In addition, there are still a number of people skeptical that a man Hale’s age would have the connections necessary to build the party’s coffers. (By comparison, Mooney is 39, Kane 48, and Campbell 63.) Yet Hale has boundless energy and a background in grassroots organizing so you can’t count that out completely among the nearly half of Central Committee members who are new and may be new to politics.
  • Mike Esteve (20-1): Consider the problem of age and experience that Hale faces and you get the reason Mike faces the longest odds, since he’s even younger. Granted, Esteve has some ability in convincing a voting population that he’s leadership material as the head of Maryland’s College Republicans, but the perception is that the CRs are minor-league while the game that’s being played at this level is the big leagues. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s nominated for a Vice-Chair position from the floor.
  • The field (75-1): As always, we could have the darkest of horses being nominated from the floor. Daniel Vovak has written me (no, he’s not running) that there may be another candidate – Mike Phillips of Montgomery County – but Phillips may decide to run for one of the lesser positions as well. At this point, I would put Phillips among the ‘field.’

For reference, here were the previous odds so you can see how candidates have moved over the last week:

Original odds 11/30/10: Kane 5-1, Wargotz 8-1, Campbell 10-1, Andrew Langer 12-1 (withdrew), Hale 15-1, Amedori 18-1, Mooney 20-1, Esteve 25-1, field 50-1.

First revision 12/2/10: Kane 5-1, Eric Wargotz 7-1 (withdrew), Campbell 10-1, Hale 12-1, Amedori 15-1, Mooney 15-1, Esteve 20-1, field 75-1.

Second revision 12/3/10: Kane 4-1, Mooney 10-1, Campbell 12-1, Hale 12-1, Carmen Amedori (withdrew) 15-1, Esteve 20-1, field 75-1.

Of course, any new developments will be brought to you as I’m able to bring them to you. Watch for my questions and answers provided back to me to be posted around mid-week.

Wargotz: ‘I will forgo this unique opportunity’

Certainly, some movement conservatives and GOP purists will rejoice at this news but this also helps pave the way for the favorite in the MDGOP Chair race. Eric Wargotz had this to say yesterday:

“I am both humbled and honored to have many central committee members, and supporters rallying me to run for the Chairman position.  The past couple of weeks have been spent carefully considering this opportunity to lead our State party.

The upcoming term presents much opportunity for the Maryland Republican Party to focus its message and thus make substantive gains. Hopefully, a sharpened one carefully crafted based on traditional Conservative values with a goal towards truly achieving a two-party system in our great State. 

In conjunction with family, friends, supporters and trusted advisors I have reached the conclusion that although I am up for the challenge of leading this effort as Chairman, I will forgo this unique opportunity at this time as I continue to strongly consider a run for elected office in the near future.

Thus, I offer my sincere congratulations to all nominees for Chairman of the Maryland Republican Party.  I pledge my support, time and energy in assisting the new Chairman and the incoming Officers and Executive Board. Furthermore, I will continue to work with the Republican Party and others to promote core Conservative values in Maryland and throughout the Nation.”

In the short term, this probably helps the chances of Mary Kane more than anyone since my suspicion is that much of Eric’s support will gravitate toward her. But I think this will also give Alex Mooney the excuse to make his final decision whether to go for Chair or 1st Vice Chair. I’ll certainly be reviewing the odds later today.

Yet there is a longer-term implication to this. The MDGOP bylaws clearly state “(n)o individual may either hold or seek elected public office while serving as an officer of the party.” While Eric has more statewide name recognition and theoretically wouldn’t need to spend time introducing himself to voters, the 2012 campaign beckons and again there’s an U.S. Senate seat up for election, held by Ben Cardin. (In theory, he could also run for Congress if he wants to take on a GOP incumbent, but I doubt he would do that.) With the primary held somewhere in February or March, Eric would probably only be Chair for a matter of months before resigning to seek office.

To me, it’s the clearest indication yet that he’s going to try again, and perhaps it’s a shot across the bow at competition – remember, members of the General Assembly can run ‘from cover’ in 2012, not risking their seats should they be unsuccessful.

In any event, I can scratch another name off the list.

In other news, I just got off the phone with Sam Hale and he told me I’ll have his answers to my questions for the new Chair later today. What sayeth the rest of you in the race – are you chicken? Afraid to answer queries from a voter?

Be aware I meet with a pretty significant voting bloc in the race tomorrow. I know one other contender will be at this meeting in person, so you might wish to take some time today to gather your thoughts. Just saying.

The MDGOP horserace

(This post has been entirely updated here.)

I’ve had enough people ask me who I think is going to be chair that I’ve decided to lay odds on what I think would happen. (Odds are for amusement only, no wagering please.)

Here is the race as I see it and why. I’ll update this in a week or so before the race; by then we should have a pretty good idea of the field. (Now updated to reflect two withdrawals – Andrew Langer and Eric Wargotz.)

  • Mary Kane (4-1): The early favorite based on name recognition and the number of Ehrlich loyalists still in the state party. But this probably won’t be a two- or three-horse race in the beginning, and the question is just how much support she can muster beyond this core constituency. Will she have enough in the tank if the race turns out to be a marathon? And are party regulars ready to give the Republicans back to the Kane family? However, her odds improved once Eric Wargotz withdrew since they seemed to me to be drawing from the same voter bloc.
  • Alex Mooney (10-1): The longer he waits to decide whether to get into the race (as of 12-2 he’s still oscillating between Chair and 1st Vice-Chair), the less chance he has of winning it. He has two strikes against him: a perception that he’s simply doing this to keep his 2012-2014 options open and the similar geographical disparity which also would have hurt Eric Wargotz. However, his odds can vastly improve if he decides to get in and pledges to use the position as a conservative bully pulpit – I think the withdrawal of Wargotz will push him into the Chair race, thus his odds got much better. And with the withdrawals of the other ‘outstate’ candidates he can now play the ‘us vs. them’ angle.
  • William Campbell (12-1): Probably the most low-key among those in the field, Campbell could be the compromise candidate the party turns to in an otherwise deadlocked race. While he has run for statewide office, he’s a political outsider who may get the nod based on the perception he’s not taking the position to climb a career political ladder. In terms of fiscal expertise, though, Campbell is hard to top.
  • Sam Hale (12-1): Hale represents the Brian Murphy wing of the party, and will likely have a lot of support among the most conservative in the party. Yet the questions which will nag him will be those of his young age and his fundraising ability, particularly since he’s likely the most unknown quantity among the contenders. They may not wish to take a flyer on this unproven rookie unless he can press the flesh and impress. He’s unafraid of questions, though, and that could help.
  • Carmen Amedori (15-1): Another candidate who wouldn’t win on the first ballot, but could emerge as a compromise choice. However, she has to overcome the perception of flakiness based on her behavior during the 2010 campaign – her explanation made sense to some but left other supporters of both Brian Murphy and Bob Ehrlich fuming. She will need to mend fences quickly to have a chance.
  • Mike Esteve (20-1): He’s already in charge of a state operation, but the Maryland College Republicans are a far cry from their parent organization. Like Sam Hale, there’s going to be the question of youth used against him, except that Mike is even younger. While the group as a whole needs to get younger, I can’t see how he succeeds – on the other hand, he only needs to convince about 150 people.
  • The field (75-1): Since nominations can be made from the floor (if a 2/3 majority chooses to do so) any number of names could surface at the convention, including past chairmen or other GOP luminaries. Highly unlikely but possible nonetheless.

On Sunday I submitted a list of questions to the contenders whom I know of; as of the time I wrote this last night no one had replied. (As of 12-3 Sam Hale is the lone reply.) Obviously I’m taking a dim view of those who won’t answer simple but direct questions about how they’ll change the party.

Original odds 11/30/10: Kane 5-1, Wargotz 8-1, Campbell 10-1, Andrew Langer 12-1 (withdrew), Hale 15-1, Amedori 18-1, Mooney 20-1, Esteve 25-1, field 50-1.

First revision 12/2/10: Kane 5-1, Eric Wargotz 7-1 (withdrew), Campbell 10-1, Hale 12-1, Amedori 15-1, Mooney 15-1, Esteve 20-1, field 75-1.

A key endorsement

One of the first big-name endorsements in the MDGOP Chair race came last night.

In a note to his supporters on his Facebook page, Jim Rutledge laid out some of the reasons he supports Maryland Society of Patriots head Sam Hale:

  1. He “is a proven leader at the grassroots, people-to-people level of persuasion.” Jim recounts how Sam founded the Maryland Society of Patriots and that it became a favorite stop for conservative candidates courting votes.
  2. He is “honest and transparent” and gives “straight talk from an intelligent mind.”
  3. He “has a work ethic second to none…his energy is badly needed to move us forward in Maryland.”
  4. He “is an optimist and visionary” who is “not daunted in his passion for turning the tide of freedom” despite living in the liberal enclave of Montgomery County.
  5. He “is a Christian who understands the call to civic activism,” and who “puts his faith into action.”
  6. He “is young and well-educated…youth and energy attract youth and energy.”
  7. Finally, he “is independent from the influences of the Washington, D.C. establishment.”

Truthfully, it’s not surprising Rutledge would place his backing behind a party outsider, as Hale may be the only aspirant to not either have been a 2010 candidate (Amedori, Campbell, Kane, Mooney, Wargotz) or involved with the Maryland GOP in some other fashion (Esteve is head of the Maryland College Republicans and Langer is on the Queen Anne’s County Central Committee.)

I haven’t taken the opportunity to speak to Sam yet, but as I noted yesterday he did an interview for RedState with Matt Newman. Later this week I’m thinking about sending out my own set of questions to see who has the guts to reply – after all, I’m one of the few people who are discussing the issue publicly to actually have some say in the matter.

It’s important to me that I make the best-informed decision I can to advance the conservative principles I believe in. Unlike some party chairmen, I put principle over party as much as I can (granted, it can’t always work that way – I do have some pragmatism.) So, those of you I think are in the running should be on the lookout.