The Smigiel 2A townhall

By Cathy Keim

Editor’s note: While I was off on my honeymoon, Cathy Keim took the lead and attended Congressional challenger Mike Smigiel’s Second Amendment townhall meeting Saturday. She filed this report on the proceedings.

I dropped by the 2A Townhall on Saturday, February 6, at Headquarters Live here in Salisbury. Former Delegate Mike Smigiel, who is running for Congress as a Republican in the First Congressional district, is holding 2A Townhall meetings around the district to address the ex post facto confiscation of guns for old offenses prior to the passage of the Firearm Safety Act of 2013 (SB 281).

First to speak at the Smigiel event, though, was Justin Trader, a former Marine who now runs D. I. Strategic, LLC, here in Salisbury. “The Second Amendment is the ultimate safeguard to protect our rights,” said Trader, adding that it is not just about hunting or collecting guns; instead the amendment’s main purpose is to safeguard us from tyranny amongst us. He quoted Abraham Lincoln that the enemy which destroys America would not be from far away, but from amongst us. Justin also believed that today we are under the government that our founders warned us about.

Next up was retired Maryland State Police (MSP) Captain Jack McCauley, who was the former commander of their Licensing Division. That agency is the one which oversees background checks for firearms in the state. McCauley spoke about being asked to testify before the House Judiciary Committee about SB281 back when it was being debated in 2013. Smigiel, who was a Delegate at the time, asked him if the ban of certain guns would have an effect on crime. But when McCauley tried to answer the question, Governor O’Malley’s lawyer advised him not to. McCauley was shocked because he thought the whole purpose of his appearance was to answer questions.

The hearing erupted in arguments, but Captain McCauley did not answer the question in order to obey the direct order of an agent of the governor’s office. Later, after the hearing, the agent told him that she directed him not to answer because the bill was “not about policy - it is just votes.”

This served as the wakeup call for McCauley, who realized the Firearm Safety Act was all politics and had nothing to do with the safety of the citizens. The Governor’s office was only interested in the number of guns seized, so it really didn’t matter whether manpower was wasted doing work that would not increase safety or decrease crime.

Had McCauley answered Smigiel’s question at the committee hearing, McCauley would have answered that the law would not decrease crime at all. For one thing, the banned weapons were rarely used in crimes. Secondly, the restriction on the magazines to only ten rounds would not stop people from buying larger magazines from out of state, but would only restrict which guns and magazines could be bought in Maryland by law-abiding citizens.

The O’Malley administration was only concerned with the political capital to be gained by passing the law, continued McCauley, and not whether it was a good law or whether it would actually achieve any reduction in crime. McCauley contends that by forcing the MSP to do three background checks on every citizen that wants to buy a handgun, valuable manpower is being wasted doing paperwork instead of being out on the streets.

McCauley concluded by noting that he resigned so that he could tell the truth. It was his belief that there was only one legislator working for the people and that legislator was Mike Smigiel.

Once those two speakers set the stage, Smigiel came up to present his concerns about Maryland’s treatment of the Second Amendment. Smigiel revealed that he had come to Headquarters Live at the request of Jeremy Norton, the man who runs both that venue and Roadie Joe’s, the location of the fundraiser that followed the townhall meeting.

Mike explained that Jeremy had contacted him in response to an event which had occurred to Norton, but one which was occurring all across Maryland. As a businessman and a gun owner, Norton was given clearance to own his guns. But after SB281 was passed the MSP began checking the records for prior offenses that would not have precluded legal ownership prior to SB281′s passage, but now would affect their legal right to own a gun. Smigiel alleged that the MSP was showing up at gunowners’ homes, without warrants, and asking for their registered guns.

In Norton’s case, a juvenile conviction for selling a small amount of marijuana was enough to give the MSP reason to confiscate his guns, alleging that under SB281 he was now disqualified. However, since it was a juvenile offense, he will be eligible to reclaim his guns when he turns 30. (Isn’t that just charitable of the state of Maryland?)

This provision of the law also traps those who may have committed a crime decades ago; when the penalty changed to require a longer sentence some were suddenly retroactively determined to be unfit to possess a gun according to the state of Maryland. Needless to say, Mike is concerned that this law will lead to an unnecessary tragedy because the MSP sends plainclothes police to confiscate guns. Smigiel has spoken to Governor Hogan’s office and asked him to intervene before a tragedy occurs.

Mike has also written an article in the Maryland Bar Journal that covers the issue, where he concludes:

In light of the Doe court’s position prohibiting the ex post facto application of the law against convicted sex offenders, it is unconscionable that the Maryland State Police could continue applying gun laws, ex post facto, against citizens who are merely wishing to continue exercising their Second Amendment rights.

Jack McCauley stated in the Q&A that followed that gun confiscation schemes are ineffective in reducing crime, so why waste time harassing law abiding citizens?

Yet the whole mindset of the progressives in their battle to disarm America seems to be their pure-hearted conviction that the only way to make us safe is to disarm everybody. Facts to the contrary do not impinge upon their plans.

Once again we see that the battle for our country is waged in the hearts and minds of citizens that have opposing views of reality. The progressive supporters have embraced the propaganda that is being churned out daily by the media, the leadership, the schools, and Hollywood. Just as they will believe in global warming despite the lack of evidence, they will confiscate guns in spite of the abundance of evidence saying it will not make us safer.

While he’s actively trying to win a Congressional seat, Smigiel really didn’t speak about his campaign at the townhall meeting. But his determination to follow his principles and to fight for our Constitutional rights came through loud and clear. From his record as a Delegate, one can see that he will stand his ground if elected to Congress. Personally I have no doubt that he would continue to be a Constitutionalist despite the pressures of the lobbyists and donor class.

A look ahead: 2016 in Maryland

Now that I made my thoughts on the fate of Wicomico County next year known, it’s time to expand the focus to the state as a whole. After the runup to the 2014 campaign and the transition of last year occupied the state over the last two years, it seems that the political class has settled in as we enter the second year of Larry Hogan’s term. His honeymoon was extended to some degree by his cancer diagnosis, but with a clean bill of health I suspect the gloves will be coming off as far as statewide Democrats are concerned. They need to position themselves for both the 2018 state election and, in some cases, the 2016 election as well. The surprise retirement announcement from Senator Barb Mikulski placed several Congressional Democrats into the race to succeed her, with House members Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen leading the charge. Elijah Cummings is also considering the race as well.

Of course, having these vacancies means ambitious state politicians are eyeing a move from Annapolis to Washington. So far five Democrats are considering the move, which in turn could create some vacancies by year’s end as it’s likely some of them emerge victorious. But on a policy note, these Democrats aren’t going to run from the political center so look for a serious turn to the left from the General Assembly this year – particularly if they succeed at overturning some of Larry Hogan’s 2015 vetoes in the opening days of this year’s session.

One place where Hogan can make a difference, though, is on the regulatory front. He doesn’t always need the General Assembly to make progress toward his goal of a more business-competitive Maryland, so look for him to try and do some pruning through his department heads.

With the economy recovering ever-so-slightly and the state addressing the structural deficit to the degree that it ran a small surplus this fiscal year, another bone of contention will be how the state’s budget is set up when it comes out next month. Having reached $40 billion last year, even the $500 million reportedly in surplus only allows the state to increase spending by a little over 1 percent – of course, the Democrats have a wish list twice that large and then some. Being used to the 4 to 5 percent annual budget increases common during the O’Malley era, Democrats consider Hogan’s smaller increases as cuts and that attitude is already in effect as we get ready to see the FY2017 budget.

Conservatives, though, probably aren’t going to see a lot of progress toward cutting the O’Malley excess on other issues. Short of a rejection to Maryland’s 2013 gun law in federal court (not likely), Hogan isn’t going to push very hard to restore Second Amendment rights or bring more school choice to the state. In year one, Hogan hasn’t really used his bully pulpit very much – granted, he was ill and undergoing cancer treatment for a large portion of the year but if you’re expecting Hogan to be another Ronald Reagan you may be disappointed. Besides the toll and fee decreases we were given last year, there’s not been much of a push for overall tax relief either thanks to the continuing structural deficit that Hogan’s predecessors have granted to him.

To the extent that Maryland has a large majority of Democratic voters, perhaps the best a conservative can expect is to slow down the leftward slide into the abyss. Bringing real change to the state is perhaps a multiple-term effort – not just the two Hogan may be fortunate enough to receive, but also with the hope that he paves the way for a more conservative successor. With the exception of one Bob Ehrlich term, the state has shifted leftward more or less continuously for decades so it will take time to undo the damage.

With the national election and the real prospect of conservative change in mind, the Maryland Republican agenda should be one of working the state away from its reliability on Uncle Sam as both employer and provider of funding. Since the Democrats are going to make 2016 about laying some ticking time bombs to go off just in time for them to come save the day in 2018, the GOP needs a plan to defuse them.

Maryland probably won’t make the same kind of news in 2016 as it did in 2015 – given the Baltimore riots and tremendous murder rate, we sure hope not. But the year has a lot of potential for this state, in my opinion more so than we’ve had in a decade. Leadership will be the key: if Larry Hogan emerges as the leader, we should be all right. But Heaven help us if it’s one of those on the loony left.

A bit of an extreme reaction

December 6, 2015 · Posted in National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

It may be a little over the top, but if radio host and writer Erick Erickson wanted some attention he got it.

Erickson explains:

The United States suffered its worst terrorist attacks since September 11 and the New York Times’ response is that all law-abiding citizens need their guns taken away. Screw them. The New York Times wants you to be sitting ducks for a bunch of arms jihadists who the New York Times thinks no doubt got that way because of the United States.

It should be striking to every American citizen that the New York Times believes the nation should have unfettered abortion rights, a right not made explicit in the Constitution, but can have the Second Amendment right curtailed at will though it is explicitly in the Constitution.

Again, we have suffered the worst terrorist attack in more than a decade and the New York Times believes now we must have our rights taken away as a response to terrorism.

While it’s not as blatant as another New York paper that screamed that God isn’t fixing this, the same leftist philosophy applies. The idea behind being armed is that of self-defense, and slapping up a sign that makes some place a “gun-free zone” simply means those inside are ripe for the taking. Surely the San Bernardino shooters were aware that it was unlikely any of their victims would be armed, making their firepower more imposing. Had they chosen to, they could have massacred many more in the building beginning at the lobby (the shooting scene was actually a second-floor conference room.)

I will not claim an armed resistance among the group would have eliminated casualties, just like having armed resistance in Paris may or may not have saved dozens of lives. In the chaos of such a situation, innocent people would likely have died in a crossfire. But these “lone wolf” terrorists only seem to hit soft targets where they can reasonably figure everyone is unarmed – you wouldn’t see them raid a police station because their odds of survival long enough to kill multiple police officers in exchange for their lives would be relatively slim. As the San Bernardino pair found out in their final seconds, they can’t outgun a gauntlet of officers who fired almost 400 shots into their rented vehicle.

So the only thing I have to say about Erickson’s little stunt is that his grouping could have been somewhat better. Otherwise, he is right on target.

Catching up the stragglers

August 3, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

As you likely know, we have added two more to the GOP presidential field in the last two weeks: Ohio governor John Kasich and onetime Virginia governor Jim Gilmore. Since I did dossiers on some issues without them, now is the time to get them caught up. I’ll also add these to the original articles.

Let’s begin with education, which was worth 5 points.

Unlike most of his opponents, John Kasich supports Common Core. But he almost makes up for it by being one of the better school choice governors in the country despite some hiccups. The problem is he not only backs Common Core, but doesn’t even accept arguments against it, calling opposition “a runaway internet campaign.” He also is a “very big believer in public education,” and that worries me a bit as well.

Total score for Kasich – 1.6 of 5.

I don’t have a lot yet to go on for Jim Gilmore, but he is against Common Core, for local control of education, and once called for a voucher program for Virginia schools when he was running for governor. So it’s a decent start.

Total score for Gilmore – 2.0 of 5.

Now on to the Second Amendment, worth 6:

Once John Kasich supported an assault weapons ban, but he’s been contrite on that front since and the NRA forgave him. He’s been good on concealed carry and expanding gun rights in the state, too. I would place him at about the level Bobby Jindal is at, if only because of the 1994 misstep.

Total score for Kasich – 5.2 of 6.

All I could find for Jim Gilmore so far on the Second Amendment is that he’s a life member of the NRA, was on their Board of Directors, and Virginia gun owners backed him. I suspect he would be fine but has been out of the game awhile.

Total score for Gilmore – 4.0 of 6.

Looking at energy for seven points:

Jim Gilmore seems to be in favor of an “all-of-the-above” energy scheme. While he was more for conservation in his previous runs, I think he understands the impact fracking can make. If the left isn’t too far down on him, though, he must be doing something wrong.

Total score for Gilmore – 3.5 of 7.

Catching up with Walker

July 14, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

Since Scott Walker is joining my presidential sweepstakes already in progress, I need to catch him up with the areas of education and the Second Amendment. So you’ll read them here, but I will also add them in their proper rank in the category at large, since I will come back and refer to it later.

Early on, I really liked Scott Walker and figured he would rank near the top of my choices. That may indeed happen, but how does he fare on these two issues?

I’ll begin with education:

Scott Walker has a mixed record on the important subject of Common Core. He will say he’s against it, but hasn’t gone out of his way to eliminate it in Wisconsin. And while his state has gone farther than most to install a measure of school choice, there are a number of restrictions and only certain families qualify, so it’s not always a case of money following the child.

Like Huckabee and Graham above him, Walker is a strong backer of homeschooling. He also has shown the teachers’ unions he’s the boss, but has been silent on what he would do with the Department of Education and doesn’t speak a great deal about local control. This puts him more squarely in the middle of the pack.

Total score for Walker – 2.5 of 5.

On the Second Amendment:

Like Bobby Jindal and Jeb Bush, Scott Walker has loosened the gun restrictions in his state over his time in office. But while he has claimed on separate occasions that he is “a firm defender of the Second Amendment” and is “proud to stand up” for it, I don’t see the forceful advocacy and bully pulpit ability that we need, so he ranks a little below the upper tier.

Total score for Walker – 4.8 of 6.

I’m working on the next segment for later this week, although I’m finding the information is coming in a slightly different format than in the first two parts. Regardless, the hard part is looking for similar information on 15 (soon to be 16 or maybe even 17) candidates. But that’s what you pay me for. (Oh wait, I’m working for free? Call it a labor of love, I guess – although there is a tip jar to rattle.)

Tomorrow, though, I take a break for state politics. See you in Crisfield.

A look ahead: 2015 in Maryland

While many of the fiscal issues that dogged the state in 2014 are still around – and have continued to worsen with each revelation of another revenue shortfall – the personnel in place to address the problem has undergone significant changes thanks to a wave election which pulled Maryland into its tide.

At this time in 2013 when I wrote the look at 2014, the election seemed to be the molehill Anthony Brown thought it would be as the Maryland GOP was divided and despondent. But Larry Hogan’s Change Maryland movement was enough to overcome the built-in advantage in Democrat voter registration; meanwhile, Brown ran a highly uninspiring campaign that led to the lowest Democrat turnout on record. The drag from the top of the ticket allowed Republicans to pick up seven House seats and two Senate seats despite the gerrymandered redistricting done by Democrats after the 2010 elections.

November was the easy part, though – now Hogan has to govern. Job one will be finding $420 million to squeeze from this year’s budget, while the gap for next year is an estimated $750 million. While that number is daunting, it should be pointed out that the FY2015 state budget was $1.886 billion higher than the FY2014 version. That’s a 5.1% increase, so being $420 million short equates to a 1.07% cut. Simply holding the line on the budget for FY2016 and keeping it under $40 billion (in essence, level funding) should cover a lot of the problem. In fact, holding the budget to $40 billion rather than another 5.1% increase to match last year’s would net a difference of $1.224 billion – more than enough to cover the shortfall.

I realize it’s not as easy as I make it sound, but the budget is in Larry Hogan’s hands. The other key is a bill normally introduced immediately after the operating and capital budgets each year called the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act, or BRFA. This is where the mandated spending that makes up over 80 percent of the budget is tweaked, and this is the bill for which Larry Hogan will have to sharpen his pencil and will want to keep a close eye on. Generally it is introduced by the administration’s request in the body which considers the other budget items. Although a version goes to both the House and Senate, by tradition budget consideration alternates yearly and 2015 will be the House’s turn.

And starting it in the House is important because a significant number of members are freshman legislators, many of whom were elected by receiving the message that voters were looking for change and fiscal responsibility. Over half of the Republicans in the House are newly-elected, with at least one appointee as well to replace Delegate Kelly Schulz, who was tapped to lead the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation. This process will be a sidebar story as two current members of the General Assembly have already been chosen for positions in the new administration (Schulz and Senator Joe Getty.)

On a local level, the entirety of Wicomico County will be, for the first time in memory, represented in the House by a delegation entirely made up by freshmen. A combined 83 years of experience among six members was wiped out by a combination of redistricting, retirements, promotions, and electoral losses, leaving the county with five freshman representatives – Christopher Adams, Carl Anderton, Jr., Mary Beth Carozza, Johnny Mautz, and Sheree Sample-Hughes all begin their tenures next week. It’s perhaps a situation unique to the state; fortunately, the combined legislative experience of the county’s Senators is 28 years (20 for Addie Eckardt in the House and 4 years apiece for Jim Mathias in the House and Senate.)

Yet the change in leadership in the state could make things easier on the counties as well, provided Hogan makes the right departmental selections. As I pointed out yesterday regarding Wicomico County, a change at the Department of Planning could make county-level tier maps become more suited for local needs rather than state mandates. (Certainly counties with approved maps should consider tweaking them to address perceived inequities.) Hogan has also promised steps to allow fracking in western Maryland, to consider a plan to clean the Bay by addressing the sediment trapped behind the Conowingo Dam, and will maintain strident opposition to phosphorus regulations which would affect poultry production on the Eastern Shore. All these endeavors can be assisted with prudent selections at the departments of Environment and Agriculture.

All through the state government there’s an exciting potential for reform – if the right choices are made. Hogan’s early picks have been of a bipartisan nature, which may frustrate GOP activists who saw the same practice help to undermine the Ehrlich administration, but could be argued to be necessary with the political reality that a lot of Democrat votes went to electing Hogan. (Statewide Democrats down the ticket, on the other hand, were selected by comfortable margins.) That also becomes the price to pay for having a majority-Democrat General Assembly.

Something else to watch in Maryland will be how much more Second Amendment erosion takes place under newly-elected Attorney General Brian Frosh. A gun grabber in the Maryland Senate, Frosh now takes a bigger role and it will be up to Hogan to prove his Second Amendment bona fides by championing the eventual repeal or overturn in court of the ill-considered Firearm Safety Act of 2013 – although the law may see its day in federal court first.

Another probable line of demarcation will be how to deal with the certainty of more illegal aliens thanks to Barack Obama’s policies of amnesty. With Maryland’s reputation as a sanctuary state, anything short of a localized get-tough approach will be a further drain on the budget and another headache for Hogan.

All this and I haven’t even touched on economic development or educational reform, which will also be items to watch in 2015 but currently have far too many known and unknown unknowns, to borrow a phrase. On the latter, Hogan has made it known he’ll work to strengthen charter schools but true reform is probably some years away.

The story of 2015 in Maryland will be the story of how Larry Hogan leads after he takes the oath of office January 21. By then we’ll have some idea of what the priorities of the General Assembly will be as they’ll have already put a week of session under their belts and the hearing process should be underway on the highest-priority items. Success may be as simple as plugging the financial hole by tightening the state’s fiscal belt and the faster that happens, the more of the conservative agenda could be debated.

The straight-ticket election

Most newspapers will use their Sunday edition before the election to either make the most key endorsement, such as for governor or president, or summarize their endorsements into a ballot guide for voters.

I’m not a newspaper, but I have a news source. And I’m urging you (all of you, including the ten friends you drag to the polls) to march right into that ballot box, look for every Republican name on it, and check that box right next to it – making sure, of course, that the ballot summary agrees with your steady diet of Republicans and doesn’t show a “calibration error.”

Let’s begin from the top. Does this state really need a third term of Martin O’Malley? Thought not.

I will grant that Larry Hogan wasn’t my first – or second – choice for the GOP nomination, but I also have to admit as well he has run about as good of a campaign as a Republican can run statewide in Maryland and picked up national attention for it. Yes, I would like him to be stronger on the Second Amendment and I cringed when I heard him say no to addressing social issues, but the overall electorate in this state is still conditioned to believe that there’s a right to privacy and gay marriage is no big deal. They need a little work yet. Let’s at least get someone who won’t be completely hostile to those interests like Anthony Brown would be.

(And yes, I hear the Libertarians caterwauling in the corner. When you get to double-digits with a candidate, we’ll talk.)

Actually, though, I must say some bloggers have a point about the Libertarian candidate for AG, Leo Dymowski. But the election is about more than the failed “war on drugs” – although I agree with that particular assessment, I would also like the AG to fight on other issues. Unfortunately, the late start Republican Jeffrey Pritzker got means the chances are good that we’ll have to endure four years of gun-grabbing Brian Frosh; however, every vote counts and stranger things have happened.

For 2018, though, I think a county-level State’s Attorney needs to make that step up. It’s something Matt Maciarello should consider.

And we have a more than qualified Comptroller candidate in William Campbell. My main mission in two festivals was, every time I came across a Maryland voter from outside our county, to push the candidacy of one Bill Campbell. Everyone knew who Larry Hogan was but not enough knew of this fine gentleman. If Maryland voters have a clue they will choose Campbell.

And then we have local races. Frankly, I’m not too worried about Andy Harris although it would be helpful for Sixth District voters to add Dan Bongino to the GOP roster at the federal level. But there’s a lot at stake on the General Assembly front.

Try as we might, we had to concede the District 37A seat for this term to Sheree Sample-Hughes. If she gets more than single digits on the monoblogue Accountability Project I will be shocked. Otherwise in District 37, you know its a conservative district when even one of the Democrats is running on a platform of lower taxes and less government. But why have conservative-lite when the real thing is attainable?

Even if we sweep those three District 37 seats, though, we don’t really gain anything because three of the four representatives are already Republican. But in District 38 we can reclaim the Senate seat lost in 2010 to a liberal Democrat and take over a seat in the House of Delegates to bring us closer to that magic number of 47, where, as I understand it, we can work around Democrat-controlled committees. (A Hogan win may make that necessary more often.) Aside from that splotch of blue in our county we can work on for 2018, I’d like the Eastern Shore painted red, gaining the one Senate seat and one House seat we can contribute to the GOP effort statewide.

And then we have Wicomico County, which needs a strong leader in Bob Culver. We’ve done eight years with the affable bureaucrat Rick Pollitt, but those eight years have seen our county backslide economically. We can blame the national economy to some extent, but other surrounding counties seem to be succeeding – so why haven’t we?

Unfortunately, the problem Culver has is that two of the Republicans who will likely be on County Council are already stabbing him in the back. With one Democrat assured of victory in Council District 1, it makes the County Council races very important. We know District 5′s Joe Holloway is a conservative who will win and Marc Kilmer in District 2 has an excellent chance to join him, but the John Cannon vs. Laura Mitchell race is a key along with Larry Dodd vs. Josh Hastings in District 3. Both Democrats are trying to convince voters they’ll be fiscal hawks, but don’t be fooled. We need the 6-1 Republican majority to have a potential 4-3 conservative majority behind Bob as he tries to right the ship. Finding good local candidates is a priority for 2018 as well.

As for the issues on the ballot, I’ve already urged a vote AGAINST Question 1 because it’s a weak excuse for a lockbox and Maryland taxpayers deserve better: send it packing and insist on a 3/4 majority provision to be voted on in 2016. On Question 2, I think on balance it’s a good idea but it will also demand vigilance, as Election Integrity Maryland’s Cathy Kelleher points out in a Sun editorial opposing the question.

Lastly, I must say this is the time for conservative voters to shine. The fact that early voting had as many Republicans as Democrats by percentage statewide and by raw numbers on the Lower Shore (despite a registration disadvantage of about 10 percent) indicates the GOP is more keenly interested in this election. But I want to run a few numbers, with the photo below telling the tale.

For this exercise, I used the voter proportions illustrated in the recent Gonzales Research poll, which is probably a fairly realistic model. I assumed undecided voters would remain in proportion with their trend (as opposed to breaking for the challenger) and left 1% for other candidates, write-ins, etc. (I also didn’t figure in the 50,000 or so registered to minor parties – if they vote they’ll not influence the result significantly.)

The sheet on the left is my calculations using a Bob Ehrlich Republican turnout from 2002, 68% of Republicans.

The sheet on the right is the same calculations for Democrats and the unaffiliated, but assuming a turnout like we saw in the Presidential election two years ago, when 78% of Republicans came out – even though Maryland was considered a lost cause for Mitt Romney.

Indeed, we turn from crushing disappointment to “winner, winner, chicken dinner” simply by getting an extra 1 in 10 Republicans to turn out.

If Republicans turned out like that for an election which was an almost foregone conclusion in this state, hopefully this simple calculation will provide the incentive to Maryland Republicans to come out in a gubernatorial election where they have a shot to sneak away with a close victory!

Early voting numbers were encouraging, but Tuesday it will be time to finish the job.

Update: Hey, I missed a key set of races. It’s not a partisan race, but M.J. Caldwell is a far more qualified jurist than the guy Martin O’Malley picked based on his last name. And speaking of O’Malley picks, there are two others on our ballot who we can remove from office and perhaps allow for the first crop of Larry Hogan appointees. So vote “no” on continuance in office for Kevin Arthur and Andrea Leahy.

From heckler to friend of hunters?

The other day I came across an interesting photo of District 38C Delegate candidate Judy Davis. In case you were wondering, she’s running as the Democrat against Mary Beth Carozza in the newly-created district that covers northern Worcester and eastern Wicomico counties. Given that some portion of the district comes under the jurisdiction of Sheriff Mike Lewis and his wildly popular (at least in a local sense given the national attention) stance on the Second Amendment, this photo says a lot. Reportedly the thumbs-down was on an answer which expressed Harris’s support for gun rights.

The person alerting me to this wrote:

In February 2013, Congressman Andy Harris held a town hall meeting in Ocean City to show support for this nation’s 2nd Amendment. A heckler was among the crowd sitting in the first row. The lady introduced herself as a teacher and showed her disdain for the right of Americans to own guns by disrupting the entire proceedings.

Attached are photos of this heckler (Judy Davis) and now she is running for the House of Delegates on the Democratic ticket.

While I trust my source, I wanted a little more information. As it turns out Judy Davis is a blogger too, and she has a photo page with this photo which places her at the event in question. In her photo you can clearly read her blue “Assault Weapons Ban” shirt, which she was wearing in the above photo. On her page the caption reads:

Dr. No Town Hall Meeting, Ocean City, Feb. 22, 2013 – Ron Pagano and Judy Davis, Lower Shore Organizing Committee members.

“Dr. No” is the local liberals’ pet name for Andy Harris, and in the above photo Pagano, who ran for a Wicomico County Council seat this year before withdrawing from the race post-primary, is two seats to her left. Her photo page also shows her and Pagano at another gun control rally in Annapolis later that spring.

The Second Amendment is not something Davis discusses on her site; to be fair neither does opponent Mary Beth Carozza. Yet while Carozza mentioned her appearance at a Second Amendment rally earlier this year, Davis wrote this in a response on her campaign Facebook page on September 22:

Citizens are entitled to own a gun, however, I support the requirement of a criminal background check prior to the purchase of a weapon. Anyone who works with children is required to have this screening. Also other positions , such as, Taxi Drivers, Fire Fighters, Security Guards, Special Police Officers, etc., submit to a Background Check. Significant Mental health issues can be identified this way. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System allows gun buyers to make a purchase within a few minutes of completing the application… I recognize the importance of hunting and recreational target practice to our community.

Thus, Davis completely misses the point about the true function of the Second Amendment. It’s not about hunting or target practice, it’s about a check and balance on powerful forces, up to and including a tyrannical government such as our Founding Fathers fought against. A handgun is the equalizer between Davis, who’s not a large woman, and a potential attacker who is larger and stronger than her. By the same token, a semi-automatic weapon (commonly miscast as an “assault weapon”) is an equalizer between being able to defend your property and family or being helpless.

While the percentage of single-issue voters who base their vote on the Second Amendment is not high, many thousands in that district own one or more firearms. Their concern about state and federal imposition on their rights has driven many of these residents to protest in Annapolis or simply show up at the Harris town hall to state their opinion. It’s Davis’s opinion that’s out of step with the district, and the fact she’s trying not to dwell on it makes me wonder what else she would hide until it came for a time for a tough vote in the House of Delegates.

Bye bye Beretta

We were warned about this all along, but everyone seems shocked that gun maker Beretta has followed through and decided to relocate its production to a new plant in Tennessee next year. The loss of 160 manufacturing jobs from its Accokeek plant will be the gain, once production ramps up, of Gallatin, a town which is a few miles outside Nashville and is about the same size as Salisbury. Here’s what Maryland is losing, from Beretta’s release:

Beretta U.S.A. anticipates that the Gallatin, Tennessee facility will involve $45 million of investment in building and equipment and the employment of around 300 employees during the next five years.

It’s worth noting that Beretta is not the only gun manufacturer potentially leaving Maryland. LWRC of Cambridge said last year “we simply couldn’t do business here” if the gun law passed, with 300 jobs at stake. Rumors of a purchase of LWRC by Colt were rampant earlier this year,  yet while no formal announcement has been made the Bob Owens piece I’m citing is useful as a reminder of what such a company means to a rural area.

Needless to say, Larry Hogan had the expected reaction on Beretta’s plight. Yet the question isn’t one of “high taxes and punitive regulations” so much as it’s a question of repealing a knee-jerk law passed in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting – not that any law was going to stop Adam Lanza anyway, nor does this law stop a single homicide in Maryland. It was all feelgood legislation from the start; unfortunately, the powers that be chose not to back the referendum route which would have placed the law on the ballot at the same time as many who voted for it.

To change Maryland’s fate in this respect, not only does the state have to improve on its business friendliness but it also has to find the political will to overturn its onerous gun laws like 2013′s Senate Bill 281. Elections mean things, and not only do we need a governor willing to backtrack on this mistake but also enough of a General Assembly coalition to get a bill through the legislature. That part may be the most difficult, because getting to just 50 Republicans in the House and 19 in the Senate would be a minor miracle – yet Republicans need 71 and 24, respectively, to actually control the chambers. It’s mathematically doable but the odds of hitting the Powerball are probably much better.

So say goodbye to Beretta’s production, and know that it won’t be missed at all by the Democrats in Annapolis.

For Governor

Every two years we hear the shopworn sentiment that “this is the most important election of our lives.” Okay, I wouldn’t go quite that far for Maryland in 2014, but the choice we have is clear: we can continue on a path where our fair state continues to become lock, stock, and barrel a ward of the federal government, conducted for the benefit of those who exist solely to suckle from the government teat, or we can turn our state around by diversifying the economy, restoring agriculture to a prominent position instead of favored environmentalist whipping boy, and making ourselves more prosperous by having government reach its grubby hands into our collective pockets less often.

I think any of the four Republicans can take steps in the right direction, but there are a large number of issues I care about and this is where Larry Hogan fails my test. His single-minded devotion to staying on an economic message is one thing, but it leaves me scratching my head about how he would govern when it came to other important issues. Even in its endorsement of Hogan for the GOP nod, the Washington Post noted that:

Given the time he’s had to plan his run, his campaign is glaringly short on policy specifics, and his views on education, health care and the environment are gauzy at best.

In other words, we just know that he wants to change Maryland. Well, so do I, and I have the little oval sticker on my car to prove it. But I’m just a writer and I’m not in charge of much of anything – he wants to run the state. Yet I’ll bet I’ve proposed more policy specifics than he has.

Another troubling aspect of a potential Hogan administration is that it would be the long-lost second term of Bob Ehrlich. Yes, Bob was a Republican governor, but he took pride in his bipartisanship, and Larry Hogan was instrumental in that because he helped to appoint all the Democrats who helped to undermine the Ehrlich term. Why is it only our side is called upon to be bipartisan?

There’s no doubt that Hogan has the best financial situation of any GOP challenger, but it came at a steep price. And why do I sense there’s a smoking gun someplace in the transition between Change Maryland – which was an outstanding foil to Martin O’Malley, bringing a lot of valuable economic data to public scrutiny – and the Hogan for Governor campaign? Obviously there was the wink and a nod from early on that Change Maryland was the vehicle for the eventual Hogan campaign but it really seems more and more like his organization was just a Potemkin village, bought and paid for out of Hogan’s back pocket.

I don’t want to elect the governor before we know what’s in him – we tried that once on a national scale and see how successful that was.

And then we have Charles Lollar, whose stance on many issues is quite appealing to me. I like the idea of eliminating the income tax in particular, but I notice in the interim he’s backed off his onetime priority of cutting out all federal grants – $10.557 billion worth in FY2015 – into Maryland’s budget.

But that’s not all he’s backed away from. On the NRA front, he blamed a lot of factors before throwing an unnamed campaign staffer under the bus. Listen, I understand Charles is for the Second Amendment and this seems fair enough to me, but some of the conspiracies I’ve heard on this issue from his staunch supporters boggle my mind.

Yet on the campaign trail he’s revealed a populist (as opposed to conservative) strain and tendency to pander to the audience in front of him. Take these two examples:

In an interview in September 2013 with Real Clear Markets, it was said about Charles that:

Lollar is opposed to the Purple Line, a $2.2 billion 16-mile rail project that even the richest Maryland residents are not prepared to pay for. It can only be built with substantial federal and state subsidies, as yet unappropriated: $900 million from Uncle Sam, $400 million from Maryland, and the rest from who knows where. The Purple Line is disliked by some residents because it would displace a popular walking and bike trail, but supported by developers because they think it would enhance the value of commercial property. Instead, Lollar favors small buses, which have high per-person pick-up rates.

Yet just a few months later at a Montgomery County transportation forum:

Of course we want better opportunities, better modes of transportation – a diverse collection of different ways to get back and forth to work. Livable, workable, playable communities where you can actually live, work, and play in the same place and have a legitimate conversation with yourself in the morning whether to walk or drive your bike to work and get there on time.

I think (the Purple Line) is absolutely doable. The question is – is it affordable? If it is, let’s push forward.

So which is it?

Now I definitely commend Charles for making the effort to go where Republicans fear to tread – even though he’s also been quoted as saying:

He said he is frustrated with “the Republican brand,” but chose to run as a Republican because his character and ideals most align with that party, he said.

As a whole, while he’s eliminated most of the missteps from his early campaign, I’m not sold on the hype that Lollar is the “only candidate who can win.” He has strong grassroots support in some areas, but very little money to get out his message, On Friday I received an e-mail from the Lollar campaign which claimed that:

We already have pledges from the Republican Governors’ Association and other outside groups to throw millions more into the race.

It’s not so much the RGA, which I would expect to remain neutral in a primary, but if those outside groups are so enamored with Charles, why aren’t they donating to get him through the primary? In a nutshell, it’s the story of the Lollar campaign: over-promise and under-deliver.

Early on, it seemed to me the choice was going to come down to David Craig or Ron George. So let’s run down an issue-by-issue comparison.

  • On election reform, Ron George has done more to work out issues with LLC contributions and increased the allowable individual contribution limit to a particular campaign for the next cycle. David Craig will look into voter fraud.
  • Both are willing to fight to overturn the law allowing illegal immigrants to have Maryland driver licenses, and Craig added his support of E-Verify.
  • While Craig would tweak around the edges of Obamacare, George has promised to join other GOP governors in fighting it.
  • Both candidates support opening up the western end of the state to fracking, but George also wants to build a single demonstration wind turbine off Ocean City as Virginia has proposed. I would let Virginia have its boondoggle.
  • With his background in education and opposition to Common Core, that area is perhaps Craig’s strongest. Originally Ron George was against Common Core; he still is but concedes “a repeal ain’t going to happen” in Maryland. I say that’s why we need a leader who concedes nothing. On the other hand, Ron has some good proposals to help private school students and I love his emphasis on vocational education.
  • Both would work to repeal 2013′s Senate Bill 281, although Craig is more vocal about supporting concealed carry.
  • Personally I would love to see David Craig repeal the Critical Areas Act and other overly restrictive environmental measures – as far as I’m concerned the Chesapeake Bay Foundation needs to be put in its place. I sincerely hope this is not a case of running right for the primary and tacking back to the center, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if this wasn’t a hit piece from the Sun that quoted him out of context. (This is especially true when Harford County was in ICLEI for a time.) Unfortunately, Ron George assisted in putting a lot of bad law in place during his first legislative term, but he’s also correctly noted much of the Bay’s problem lies in the silt stuck behind Conowingo Dam. He’s also refrained from supporting more recent O’Malley bills.
  • Craig would lean heavily on the Republican Governors Association in terms of initiative to limit government, but he would prefer to bring more of it back to the county level. George agrees, but would lean heavily on independent audits to better define government spending (and its role). Then again, David Craig would get rid of speed cameras.
  • Craig would center his job creation strategy on the state’s economic development office, but would also prefer each county set its own minimum wage. George’s strategy employs tax cuts on business, but also would employ regional-level planning with a focus on Baltimore City and additional incentives for manufacturing jobs in smaller cities such as Salisbury.
  • The two candidates differ on their taxation strategy, though. While Craig wants to eliminate the income tax (along with reducing the corporate tax), George doesn’t take it as far.

In both cases, there’s a lot to like although the strengths and weaknesses are slightly different. To be perfectly honest, it’s too bad we can’t have these two rolled into one super-candidate with the good ideas and aptitudes from both. But we each only get one vote, so I have to look at two other factors.

It’s truly unfortunate that state law prohibited Ron George from raising money during the legislative session, because it’s a law which has crippled him to this day. I’m sure he went into this with eyes open and was hoping to do better on fundraising last year before the session began, but it is what it is. With just a low five-figure amount in the bank at this juncture it’s going to be exceedingly hard for him to get a message out, although hopefully the other three losing candidates will assist the winner financially as much as possible. While he’s not in the catbird seat financially, David Craig should be in a good enough position to be competitive.

But perhaps the decision which sealed it for the man I’m endorsing was made early on. As we have seen with the current administration, the office of lieutenant governor can be useful – or it can be a hindrance. The rollout of the state health exchange proved Anthony Brown was a hindrance, and that’s why I think the early decision by David Craig to secure Jeannie Haddaway as a running mate makes the difference. Shelley Aloi is a very nice and gracious lady, but I didn’t get the sense of confidence she could handle the job when voters in Frederick rejected her mayoral bid. I just got the feeling she wasn’t Ron’s first choice, but he made the best decision he could at such a late juncture.

This campaign has been one of attrition – I’ve been a fan of Larry Hogan’s Change Maryland since its inception, and love the passion Charles Lollar brings to the stump. But in examining them over the course of the campaign, I’ve been left wanting. And if Ron George had made one or two decisions during the campaign a little differently, I may have been writing his name a few sentences from now. The overall decision was really that close, and if things work out that way I could enthusiastically support Ron as well. It reminds me of the 2012 GOP Senate race between Dan Bongino and Richard Douglas as, despite my eventual support for Bongino, I would have been quite comfortable if either had won because they both brought great assets to the table.

Two years ago, I saw David Craig as a moderate, establishment choice. Sure, in many respects he still is, but when it comes down to where he stands on the issues and the position he’s currently in, I think he could be the first of two great leaders for Maryland. 2014 is a good time to start the ball rolling on a new, improved Free State.

David Craig for Governor.

Dossier update number 1

Back in December, once I finished the original dossier series, I noted this would be an ongoing process. To that end, here are further statements made by the three contenders at the time, with the addition of items from Larry Hogan.

Each of these subcategories will be revisited, with changes in score noted.

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

Election/campaign finance reform (3 points)

Larry Hogan: As a practical matter, seeking public financing made sense for Mr. Hogan, who entered the Republican primary race relatively late and was unlikely to raise as much privately as he may qualify for publicly. But he also noted that his decision ‘sends a great message’ about his grass-roots efforts. (Baltimore Sun, February 4, 2014)

Ron George has also talked about taking public financing, although he’s made no formal decision on the matter. He had no points anyway, nor will Hogan receive any.

Illegal immigration (5 points)

No candidates have made significant public pronouncements on the subject, so no changes and no points for Larry Hogan.

Dealing with Obamacare (7 points)

David Craig: Craig has previously called on O’Malley and Brown to stop wasting money and hindering access to health care and to promote direct enrollment options through insurance carriers and brokers. The Administration then took a modest step in that direction by working with insurance industry leaders to develop a telephone help line. (press release, February 10, 2014)

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Craig, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, said the O’Malley administration should instead be helping people get coverage directly through the insurers. He wants to reallocate $150 million, originally earmarked in part to market the problematic exchange, toward promoting alternative enrollment options.  (Fox News, January 7, 2014)

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Craig’s proposal would seek an HHS waiver to re-program funds to launch a public awareness campaign informing consumers of their right to obtain health insurance directly through carriers. A complimentary awareness campaign would inform people of their rights to utilize Maryland insurance brokers who are licensed and experienced in helping individuals with health insurance. Utilizing call centers for those needing assistance with the website would remain in place. Craig, however, would re-examine the navigator model in which people having problems with the website must set appointments with temporary workers disbursed among several organizations.

As for the vexing issue of low-income individuals seeking subsidies, Craig supports U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski’s proposal to HHS to enable a direct data hub allowing people to obtain financial assistance without going through an exchange. (citybizlist, January 7, 2014)

Charles Lollar: Lollar advocates making hospital costs “much more transparent” by posting the prices. “Until we control the costs we’re not going to get our arms around the health care issue.”

“I’m all for a moratorium on the Affordable Care Act.” (Fox 45 debate, January 16, 2014)

I had previously chided Craig for not offering up solutions (although he had done a nice job identifying the problems) but I’m not sure I like much of the approach he’s taking besides the idea about promoting alternative enrollment options. I’ll give him 1.5 points, up from none.

Lollar seems to have a better idea as far as approach, although it’s still very vague. The moratorium alone, though, is worth 2 points (he had none as well.)

Larry Hogan hasn’t addressed this, so no points.

Energy policy (8 points)

No candidates have made significant public pronouncements on the subject, so no changes and no points for Larry Hogan.

Education (9 points)

Ron George: He acknowledged that a repeal of Common Core “ain’t going to happen in the state” of Maryland. But he argues for putting the educational focus back on what he calls a “local locus of control” rather than a one size fits all federal mandate. George also believes it is important to teach entrepreneurship and financial literacy in schools in an effort to help minorities and low-income Marylanders understand how to be successful in a free enterprise system. (In The Capital, January 15, 2014)

Charles Lollar: Lollar wants to stress internships for high schoolers, with the help of corporations. (Fox 45 debate, January 16, 2014)

Let me talk about Ron George first. It’s interesting that he has gone from “I intend to fight it with all my energy” in September to “(repeal) ain’t going to happen” just four months later. I have a problem with that change of heart because if you’re elected as governor you have an automatic bully pulpit.

Look at how we were saddled with gay marriage. It didn’t happen until Martin O’Malley decided to burnish his 2016 credentials and made it an issue in 2012 (with an assist from Barack Obama, who needed the gay vote.) If you want to get rid of Common Core, you browbeat the legislators who oppose you until you get your way. So I took him down from 4 points to 3.

On the other hand, I think Lollar’s idea is pretty good so I bumped him from six points to seven.

Second Amendment (11 points)

David Craig on Rodricks show tells Dan Yes I SUPPORT concealed carry! (Facebook page, February 10, 2014)

Larry Hogan is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and is opposed to SB 281. He will work to keep guns away from criminals and the mentally ill. Hogan supports tougher mandatory sentencing for criminals who commit crimes with a gun, but he is against taking away the rights of law abiding citizens. (Facebook page)

I added a half-point to David Craig (from 8 to 8.5) for the clarification. Conversely, I think Hogan’s canned response is somewhat wishy-washy and political. He may be opposed to SB281, but will he repeal it? The time for opposition is over – the word is “repeal.” So he gets 4 points of 11.

War on Rural Maryland (12 points)

Charles Lollar: Leadership in Annapolis needs to craft a regional solution to this problem that requires all states that pollute the Bay to “pay their fair share” to keep it clean. We must not allow legislators in Annapolis to “hurt Maryland first” by bankrupting hard-working farmers with a “Chicken Tax” and putting the future of Maryland’s number one economic industry at risk. (press release, February 5, 2014)

Lollar picks up a half-point for this, from 5 points to 5.5 points. It’s pretty easy to oppose the chicken tax but Lollar did it quite forcefully.

Role of government (13 points)

Larry Hogan: Job one will be to get the government off our backs and out of our pockets so we can grow the private sector, put people back to work and turn our economy around.

Every decision Larry Hogan makes as governor will be put to a simple test – Will this law or action make it easier for families and small businesses to stay in Maryland and will it make more families and businesses want to come to Maryland?

If something comes across Hogan’s desk as governor that doesn’t pass this test, he’ll veto it. (campaign website)

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We’ve got to be able to run the government, provide the services that are important and necessary to people as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible, so it’s not like let’s lop off this department or stop providing these services – I think it’s just looking at zero-based budgeting and doing outside audits of every state agency and saying how do we use those tax dollars more effectively.

I think we need to focus on – these aren’t Republican problems or Democrat problems, these are serious problems that our state has. We’ve got to reach across the aisle and work together between the parties to come up with common-sense solutions to solve these things. (NewsTalk with Bruce DePuyt, January 21, 2014)

Charles Lollar: A government should serve its citizens, not burden them. It must also provide for citizens truly in need without trapping them in an endless cycle of dependency on government programs that erode their self confidence, human dignity, and a chance to live the American dream.

The answer is not to grow bigger government.

The answer is to empower people with the skills and opportunity to grow a better future for themselves, and not allow government to stand in the way of these goals. (Facebook page, January 12, 2014)

Okay, as far as Larry Hogan is concerned, I get it. You want to work with Democrats. Good luck with that, because we will likely have four years of gridlock unless the voters of Maryland come to their collective senses and elect a Republican majority in the General Assembly. You will have a LOT of vetoes otherwise.

I have yet to be convinced there is such a thing as a broad centrist coalition, since to me all it means is we walk further away from truly being a Free State rather than sprint headlong as we are now. But I will allow 4 of 13 points for the smell test and the zero-based budgeting.

Lollar loses one point for that answer, from 6 to 5. Where is it government’s role to provide for those truly in need? Shouldn’t that be more of a function of the faith-based community? The very definition of government standing in the way is to have government programs one can become dependent on – to me the continuing spiral of unemployment benefit extensions is a perfect example.

Job creation and transportation (14 points)

David Craig: I think that each individual county should establish its own minimum wage. It just makes sense that local officials make laws and the State doesn’t simply dictate what should be done. (Facebook page, February 11, 2014)

Ron George: We must focus on expanding opportunities for entrepreneurs and technical training for our unemployed to protect and grow our middle class for generations to come. (Press release, January 23, 2014)

Charles Lollar: Of course we want better opportunities, better modes of transportation – a diverse collection of different ways to get back and forth to work. Liveable, workable, playable communities where you can actually live, work, and play in the same place and have a legitimate conversation with yourself in the morning whether to walk or drive your bike to work and get there on time.

I think (the Purple Line) is absolutely doable. The question is – is it affordable? If it is, let’s push forward. (2014 gubernatorial candidate transportation forum, February 18, 2014)

The idea David Craig has is a good one, and would have raised him a full point if he had allowed counties to do away with the minimum wage altogether. Yes, this would be a fight with the federal government but it’s a Tenth Amendment fight worth having. I’ll give him a half-point so he goes from 9 to 9.5 points.

Ron George already had a very solid approach, so there wasn’t a lot of room for imporovement there. The statement is a little bit generic.

Suddenly, though, I think Charles Lollar caught his populist, pandering disease at an inopportune time. I know Red Maryland nailed him for one statement (which brought this gem to my attention) but I remembered that Lollar was opposed to the Purple Line last September – now he says it’s “absolutely doable”? He wasn’t pushing the bus alternative in front of that crowd.

And the phrase he was looking for insofar as “livable…communities” is (so-called) Smart Growth. Don’t encourage the idiots, Charles. I took off three points, from 7 to 4.

Hogan misses out on this category so far.

Fiscal conservatism/taxation (15 points)

David Craig: Under Craig’s plan, tax brackets would be lowered across the board to 4.25 percent as of 2016. Couples now pay a basic rate of 4.75 percent on most of their income. Wealthier Marylanders pay a higher percentage on a sliding scale that tops out at 5.5 percent on income above $300,000.

Craig said he would couple that with an increase in the personal exemption from $3,200 to $5,000. He said that will provide relief to middle-class that would help offset the face that the greatest benefits under his plan would go to the higher income brackets, which would see the highest percentage drop.

In the second phase, Craig said he will call for a further reduction to a maximum rate of 3 percent — with a bump in the exemption to $6,000.

Craig said a third phase in his plan, which would come sometime in what he hopes will be his second term, would eliminate the tax entirely. He said his proposal would not affect county piggyback income taxes, which the state would continue to collect.

According to Craig, elimination of the income tax would put Maryland in the company of nine states that have no income tax, including Texas, Florida and Tennessee. (Baltimore Sun, February 18, 2014)

Ron George: When asked what policies he will put in place to foster job creation, George said lowering the corporate tax rate is a necessary first step. “We have to lower the corporate tax rate,” he said. “I would like to get it down to 5.75 percent and I think that sends a strong message out there that we’re open for business.” This, he argues, will help bring businesses back to Maryland thereby expanding the tax base and creating more revenue for the state. (In The Capital, January 15, 2014)

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In addition to the expansion of jobs, George is planning on cutting income tax by 10 percent, building a tax base in Baltimore, and putting in place what he is calling the “Buy Maryland Program.”

In this program, if Maryland residents itemize purchases over $100 on their tax returns, then they will receive 20 percent back. That way, George said, people will have a lump sum in the spring that they can then use for a down payment on a house or car. (Easton Star-Democrat, January 9. 2014)

Larry Hogan: When Hogan is governor, we’ll repeal the rain tax. That’s one change you can count on.

Charles Lollar: Our plan is to take a look at every regulation out there – all 74 of them. We want to peel this thing back. People are tired, here in Maryland, with this bait-and-switch tax scheme. So we’re going to compose independent audits annually. We’ll determine how the monies are collected, how they’re being spent, and whether this spending demonstrates an efficiency of how we use taxpayer money. And this audit will be published online…In addition, I am not going to sign any tax bill that’s void of an enforceable lockbox provision. (Bill Bennett Show, January 23, 2014)

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In addition, Lollar pointed out on the Fox45 debate that this would be all taxes, not just the ones passed under Martin O’Malley.

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In a fundraiser with economist and advisor Arthur Laffer, he supported the Lollar idea for eliminating the state’s income tax but gave no details. (Press release, January 28, 2014)

David Craig followed the lead of another with his tax plan, but the timing is a little more specific. I think it’s a great idea, though, and he seems to have the understanding that, because he controls the budget, that the idea is doable. He gained three points from 11 to 14 with one (somewhat) bold move.

Ron George is restating previously noted material, so there’s no bold moves there.

Larry Hogan will repeal the rain tax. That’s a start, but really it’s only an entry-level gambit in this race so he gets just 5 points.

Charles Lollar was first to the post with the idea to eliminate the income tax, but hasn’t elaborated on the details. But because he was so close to the maximum point total already with 14, I could only bump him up to 14.5 because I think eliminating the income tax is a splendid idea.

Intangibles:

Larry Hogan: Phony political spin, questionable donations, cronyism, and backroom deals pervade the current culture in Annapolis. We need more transparency in our government, more truthfulness and tougher ethics and disclosure laws that will begin to clean up the mess in Annapolis and restore integrity to our state capital. (campaign website)

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It’s time to engage every citizen who wants to get involved in the policy process. Policymaking should not be left exclusively in the hands of an oligarchy of anointed Annapolis lobbyists and lawmakers. (Capital Gazette, January 17, 2014)

Charles Lollar: First and foremost, I would do all I can to get rid of comments like the one I just heard. It’s unfortunate, but I do take a bit of offense to that because the idea that all Republicans think the same way is probably about as similar as all blacks thinking the same way – it’s not true – or all whites thinking the same way, it’s not true. I want to be the best governor of Maryland I can be – not the best Republican governor I can be, and not the best Democrat governor I can be, I want to be the best Maryland governor I can be.

And I’m sick and tired – no matter where I go or who says it, I attack it the same – of people using partisan politics, skin color and gender, to separate us from real solutions that are at hand. (Purple Line Forum, February 18, 2014)

I’m not quoting him on anything here, but because he’s been the most open and responsive candidate to me I added one point to Ron George’s intangibles.

For Hogan’s part, I agree with the sentiments for the most part. But they are belied by the way his campaign is conducted – missing opportunities to discuss issues with fellow candidates and instead uttering many of the same campaign mantras in one-on-one interviews with generally friendly questioners. It’s not enough of a change from the current culture he decries, and until I start seeing and hearing answers on issues above and beyond the Change Maryland mantra, I have to deduct two points for intangibles.

Charles Lollar, though, has really cleaned up his campaign, and the statement I included is apt because he was responding to Democrat criticism. So he went from a -3 score to a wash – his campaign isn’t firing on all cylinders yet but it is improving.

If you’ve been keeping track, well, more power to you. But unlike other bloggers, I’m not ready to make a choice yet because there’s still a lot of information I’d like to have before making my choice.

What I can tell you is that David Craig and Ron George seem to have an edge over Charles Lollar, with Larry Hogan far behind simply because he’s not addressed many of my key issues yet. His is a one-note samba so far. It turns out that the Craig tax plan has now vaulted him slightly ahead of Ron George – very surprising because my initial perception was that David was the most moderate of the four candidates.

But above all, my main complaint is with the Larry Hogan campaign. Stop skipping debates where everyone else shows up! You may have 40,000 Democrats and unaffiliateds in Change Maryland, but there’s one problem with that: they get no Republican primary vote and you probably won’t win with 40,000 votes (assuming all Change Maryland ‘likes’ = Hogan supporters, a very dubious assumption.)

So my plan is to revisit this sometime in April, with perhaps a final decision in early June. I don’t think an early endorsement will do me a lot of good here because no candidate is standing out in this race.

Making vassals out of veterans

January 7, 2014 · Posted in National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

For this piece I have to credit my uncle Jay.

Pretty much every day he sends me a number of things he finds interesting, mainly in the fields of aviation and guns. It makes sense because he’s a licensed pilot and owns firearms. So I checked out the link he sent me yesterday morning to a story in The Gateway Pundit.

While author Jim Hoft rightly castigates the VA for its assault on the Second Amendment rights of those who served, I read through more of the letter and to me it reflects a worrisome trend in government. To the veterans who receive this letter, the VA is becoming more and more like the IRS, declaring someone guilty and demanding they prove their innocence.

Most troubling is how the VA determined the recipient was incompetent – “We received a report from Portland VA Medical Center…This evidence indicates that you are not able to handle your VA benefit payments because of a physical or mental condition.” Later on, they note that the VA will be judge and jury as to whether the recipient is competent.

What’s interesting is that the letter describes in one paragraph that a fiduciary will be appointed, but takes another to specifically point out the prohibition on possessing firearms based on the Brady Act, also stating that the appeal process will go through the very same VA office which declared the veteran incompetent!

Circling back to Hoft’s main point, it bears consideration that among the groups which most strongly believe government has overstepped its bounds are our veterans. They made up the original three percenters in our heritage and many would likely fight what they consider a tyrannical federal government as currently comprised. In short, Hoft sees this as a subtle disarmament of our veterans and I can’t say I disagree with that sentiment. Perhaps the “evidence” of a mental condition to the VA is a veteran’s belief in limited government.

While this is not really a new story, I think it continues to bubble beneath the surface because there’s no shortage of mistrust between the government and the governed. Look at the corruption report I detailed last night, and ask yourself if this isn’t a different case of misfeasance – one set of entities makes legal political donations, but with the expectation of gain, while another uses the law to disarm potential opponents who may be no cause of concern except to a tyrannical state bent on maintaining power.

In 2014 there will be grievances to redress; the only question is whether ballots or bullets will end up sufficing. Obviously the preference is for the former so we can avoid the latter.

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