Ten Question Tuesday – June 11, 2013

As I noted in my original coverage last Wednesday, I received the opportunity to have a one-on-one interview with gubernatorial candidate David Craig after he concluded his public remarks. Rather than ask him strictly about his stump speech, I wanted to ask about some of the topics which may be more important to my fellow Eastern Shore residents.

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monoblogue: Just to ask you the first question, I know we’re the seventh stop or so on this tour…

Craig: Yes.

monoblogue: …so how’s your reception been?

Craig: It’s been very good. Started out good – a little rainy when we started out…

monoblogue: Yes.

Craig: …but good crowds everywhere we’ve been, the people who showed up have been very receptive (and) very happy about what was happening. Very impressive in Hagerstown, we got out there and did the walking tour of downtown and went in to see several businesses, went by the schools…a lot of people saw the bus, they saw me, and they started walking with us. Got a little reception afterward where people could just come in and talk about stuff.

We went to Silver Spring – how many Republicans are going to go to Montgomery County? But we drive through the neighborhoods and I think, “Why are these people voting for Democrats?” These people have their nice little homes, they obviously have nice jobs and stuff like that, paying income taxes

monoblogue: Well, the problem is they may have government jobs that depend on the government being large.

Craig: Well, they may depend on the federal government being large but not us. Anyway, it’s nice neighborhoods and things like that. The one in Prince Frederick was very good, Annapolis was Annapolis (laughs)…that was fun. So they’ve all been very interesting, you see the differences –  everybody says one Maryland, but there are slight differences.

monoblogue: Yeah, well, for example I come from a rural perspective – I grew up in a rural area – and I know you talked in your speech about the lost balance between environmentalism and that. How’s that going to affect our “outhouse” out here?

Craig: (laughs) You tell people that farmers were the first environmentalists that we ever saw. Farmers are usually pretty fiduciary – they usually don’t waste money.

monoblogue: No, they’re trying to make money.

Craig: They’re trying to make money, so they’re not going to do things that are bad. What I’ve found in doing this in Harford County is I do have an executive – I have an Agricultural Economic Advisory Board and I have an Agricultural Preservation Board that I work with, and one of my deputy chiefs of staff is the agricultural deputy chief of staff. What I’ve found is the best way is to actually listen to the farmers have to say and have them come up with solutions for what they think needs to be done, and then convince the other farmer this is the best way to go – it’s not government talking to you. (They’d say) I did this on my farm, it saved me money, it did this and saved me all these rules and regulations.

But we get all these people that are in environmental services, they have this job, they’re lawyers, they’re environmental – but they know nothing. I had a situation talking with the Maryland Department of the Environment, I said give me an example of this rain tax, I have two – or septic tax. I have two farms, tell me which one’s the worst. How will I be able to determine which one – one guy’s doing the good job, one’s a bad job? And the guy looked at me and said we can’t figure that out.

monoblogue: Well, that’s reassuring. After they passed the septic bill and they can’t tell you that? I know there was a bill – and it was one of our Delegates (Mike McDermott) put it up – to rescind that entire septic bill. Now, if it does somehow get through the General Assembly would you consider signing that bill rescinding the law?

Craig: I think there are many things that have been done over the last 20 years that ought to be rescinded, particularly when it comes – what was the one Parris Glendening did? I can’t remember, it was some kind of infectious disease thing…

monoblogue: I don’t know, it was before my time.

Craig: Anyway, they came up with all these ideas – for them it’s always about what’s the headline, what’s the media going to report in the next 90 days – after it gets done, do they ever go back and evaluate what the bill did, and whether it was effective? You know, William Donald Schaefer was the one who put the Critical Areas section in – I was the mayor, I had to adopt Critical Areas legislation in the city of Harve de Grace or no building was going to be permitted. I had to actually impose a tax, I was the first one to pay it because I was the first one to go for a building permit. And they kept saying, we need 1,000 feet from the bay to be doing this. And I would say we’re not the only ones polluting this, you think it’s just us, why are you doing this to us? And does it actually solve things? If I have someone who rebuilds something and fixes it up, isn’t that better than just letting it sit there the way it is? Let’s come up with real solutions for what needs to be done. Did the critical area and the critical area tax solve the Chesapeake Bay problem?

monoblogue: No. And the problem is they keep moving the goalposts…

Craig: Yes! And they’re made up – that’s the thing, the numbers are made up. Who came up with the idea a football field had to be 100 yards? Why couldn’t it be 120 yards, why couldn’t it be 90 yards? You know, it’s like – first they make a number up, I’ll give you this example. I was the mayor of Havre de Grace, we get hit with this issue with our sewage treatment plant that we have to do this change – $9 million it costs us to upgrade the sewage treatment plant.

A week later, the rules and regulations were changed. They came back and said, this is no longer functioning the way we need it to function, now you need to do this – $47 million. Here’s the problem, the analogy I use. Let’s say you decided to redo your kitchen – new refrigerator, new stove, new microwave, you buy new ones, you put them in there, spend $4,000 – and then you come back home, no I think we need to rip the whole kitchen out and you throw away those appliances. None of that $9 million was good enough to maintain the $47 million, so we wasted the $9 million. We’re still paying – the people of Havre de Grace are still paying…

monoblogue: Salisbury has the same problem, they’re messing around with their sewer treatment plant.

Craig: Yeah, so they keep changing the concept of what’s going on, and they don’t really look at real solutions. And if someone comes up with a real solution that’s not what the government wanted, then they ignore it.

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At this point, we were interrupted by a well-wisher. When we got back to the conversation, I changed the subject.

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monoblogue: You also talked about the – all the tax increases we had. I love how you used all the Change Maryland numbers, that’s great. I said I could tell Jim Pettit’s on his staff now…

Craig: Well, we’ve got them for a variety of things but when Larry Hogan started Change Maryland we talked about it and said, you know, I might run, I might not run, but if I don’t run Change Maryland’s going to go with you. And I’d like to admit that Larry’s done a good job getting that information out…

monoblogue: He does.

Craig: …and persuading people. I think in the long run Larry realizes that he’s making more money (laughs) being a private worker…

monoblogue: Oh yeah.

Craig: …and I think ultimately he stays there. But he can he huge in helping us reform the state party.

monoblogue: Right. But is there any chance we’re going to see some of that stuff rolled back if you’re elected?

Craig: I will look at all of them. But if somebody says “which tax first?” I’m going to look at all of them. There are certain taxes that probably haven’t been on the table that people said, would you ever get rid of this? If the state says that we’re going to make – we have a Public Service Commission to keep your BG&E rate as low as possible, why do we tax it? Why do we tax it? If we got rid of that, it gets rid of $5 on your BG&E bill every – well, it would save you 60 bucks. And guess what? You’re probably going to spend it somewhere else.

monoblogue: Well, that’s the idea. It’s where YOU want to spend it, not where the state wants to spend it.

Craig: You know, sales tax…I go back to that Calvin Coolidge thing with lowering the income tax, if you lower the sales tax more people would buy stuff here and it increases what gets sold. My wife’s not dumb – we live 17 miles from Delaware. You’re going to buy $4,000 worth of appliances times 6 – you do the math…

monoblogue: And seven miles from Delmar – if you go up 13 you’ll notice all the big-ticket items, furniture stores…

Craig: Yeah, look at the ads, look at the ads. I mean, I was looking at ads this morning on the TV when I was here and it was like – I forget what the particular issue was they were selling, and they go “in Delaware, no tax.” You know, it’s like – and how far away are you? Cecil County last month, in May, had twelve liquor stores give up their licenses…

monoblogue: Yes.

Craig: …and close. And they did it because, if you live in Elkton in five minutes you could be in (Delaware), you can buy your liquor, you can buy your gasoline, you can buy your cigarettes. All that tax is lower or non-existent and we got nothing. And so, I don’t know how many people but say each had three business people – so 36 to 40 jobs gone?

monoblogue: Right.

Craig: And all because “oh, it’s an alcohol tax, it’s okay to raise it.”

monoblogue: And the same thing is true (for cigarettes), because I go to Virginia for my job every week and driving back into Maryland the last convenience store I see – “Last Chance for Cheap Smokes.”

Craig: That’s right.

monoblogue: Because Virginia’s tax is, like, thirty cents and ours is two bucks.

Craig: And if I throw out the issue of the corporate income tax, people are like “oh, you’re only for the rich people.” All right, I’ll throw out other issues: Harford County, a lot of military people stationed there, when they get done they retire. They move to Pennsylvania because their military pension is taxed. We shouldn’t tax a military person’s pension, they already made their sacrifices. So let them live here in the state of Maryland.

monoblogue: I think they have tried to do that a few times, and the legislature just doesn’t go anywhere.

Craig: Well, they haven’t gone with it because they haven’t been told to go with it. If the governor had said go with it, they would have gone with it.

monoblogue: That’s true, it’s usually Republicans who bring it up.

Craig: Well, you know, I think if enough veterans were showing up and saying – what was this whole thing about the governor pointing out and bragging about what he was doing about creating jobs for veterans, about a month ago? Remember he was changing some policies, it was going to make it easier for them to get a job?

monoblogue: Right.

Craig: Why would they want to come here and get a job and pay a higher tax on their pension that they also get and then a higher tax on their income tax? So, we need to change the income tax…(also) the death tax is ridiculous, somebody in your family passes away, they pay taxes on that money for their entire life – why are you paying a tax to inherit it? If they were smart I guess they should sell everything and give you the money before they pass away. But people leave the state all the time, go to Florida, no tax, go to Pennsylvania, don’t have to pay that tax.

The gas tax – I do tell people I have to be cautious to (not) say I’m going to get rid of this tax or lower this right away because – I’ll have to use the septic tax for an example – when Ehrlich was governor the septics were all done through PAYGO, so he didn’t have capital projects. This governor turned it to bonding, so if I’m stuck with paying off a bond I’ve got to do that first before I can get rid of the tax.

monoblogue: Right, exactly. I’m sure he’s created a few mousetraps for his successor to deal with if they want to change things. It’s going to be harder to undo this Gordian knot then most people would think.

Craig: And then they brag about, oh, we’re going to do this private-public partnership, this 3P thing, it’s like – most likely that’s not going to work. If you look at something that’s going to be a good financial thing with some private company coming in and doing something, they probably could have done it if they didn’t have to pay the minimum wage, if they didn’t have to pay the union fee, if they didn’t have to deal with the minority business stuff – you could probably lower the prices of those projects by 35 percent. Stephanie Rawlings-Blake just gets a billion dollars for school construction, well, $300 million of that is going to be wasted and she could have had it – that would have done how many more schools for her?

monoblogue: Exactly.

Craig: So which is better? Is it better to have a good school for the kid, or you created this “fake” job?

monoblogue: Right. I remember, being from Ohio, when Ohio built all its schools they actually eliminated the prevailing wage for schools just to get more bang for the buck.

Craig: Yeah, that’s what you should do. Period.

monoblogue: Speaking of education, I liked how you tied in the lack of – lack of academic achievement with our so-called “number one” ranking. Now where do you – where do you prioritize your spending to bring up the actual achievement and not necessarily worry about being “number one” in the country?

Craig: A couple things. There’s a lot of duplication that we could…a lot of duplication. Here’s the situation in Harford County. Since I’ve been County Executive, the size of the school board employees has increased by 650 employees. The school population has declined by 2,500 students. Why didn’t the size of the working staff decline?

Now, if they had had 2,300 new students move in they would have come to me and said, “we need 100 new teachers.” But when 2,000 went down they didn’t say, “well, we didn’t need 100 teachers anymore.”

monoblogue: No.

Craig: So we have that situation, and I get teachers complaining to me all the time, “well, you know, the size of the class has gone up.” If you’re a good teacher, it doesn’t matter how many kids you’re sitting in the class. The first year I taught, 39 kids in the class. Second year, 42 kids in the class. Forty-two. I didn’t even have enough desks for the kids; one of them had to sit at my desk and one of them had to sit at a table. So when they say there’s 23 kids, the fact is, studies have been shown that the change does not occur until the size of the class falls below 15. So that’s what you’re going to do, if you say we’re reducing the size, we’re going from 24 to 23 – so what? If you’re a teacher, you can’t teach 24, can’t teach 25? That’s one thing.

But there’s duplication, so much duplication, in government – county government and school board government. I have a capital projects committee, they have a capital projects committee – why do we need both? I have the same guys that do the investigations, the inspections and all that stuff, I have a procurement department. I don’t buy chalk and all that stuff, but they have a procurement department. That’s duplication. I have a lawyer, a law department, they have a law department – duplication. They have a human resource department, I have a human resource department, duplication. Now, do I get rid of all those employees? No, but at least get rid of the top person. The person who’s making $150,ooo, instead of having two of them, you only have one. And you can probably merge a lot of things together and only have office – and none of that takes place in the classroom.

monoblogue: You need to think about that at the state level, and not necessarily the county level – I mean, if a county wants to do that, that’s fine and dandy, that’s their money. At the state level is where you’ll be concentrating…

Craig: Yes.

monoblogue: …I would think we need to rightsize the state Department of Education…

Craig: I agree.

monoblogue: …because the localities should control anyway.

Craig: Yes they should. Yes they should. And it has grown exponentially. And if you look at higher education, when I was in the House I was always assigned the higher education budget and you look at a college that’s got nine vice-Presidents – why? We only have one Vice-President in the country, yet nine in a college? Come on! And are they teaching? No. You know, all these different people, you have all these professors that are teaching one class, maybe two classes. I had someone, when I was doing a debate one time, who said “what are you going to do about the cost of higher – you know, how much my education’s going to cost?” We need to reduce it on our size – on our side, for one thing. We’re forced to spend this money on that, it doesn’t need to be spent.

So there’s a lot of duplication in both higher ed and elementary through high school at the state level that I agree we could change.

monoblogue: Okay, I appreciate it.

Craig: Thank you.

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Ideally, I wanted to come in about 15 minutes and with the interruption that’s about where I ended up. Hopefully this establishes some of where David Craig stands on various issues.

Ten Question Tuesday – April 9, 2013

I gave her somewhat short notice, but this week’s guest came through like the trooper she is and provided me with an enlightening TQT chapter. She’s Elizabeth Myers of MD Legislative Watch, a group I was happy to do a little volunteer work for during the recently-completed General Assembly session. I had the pleasure of meeting her at MDCAN in January as well.

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monoblogue: My interviewee today is Elizabeth Myers of MD Legislative Watch, a group which tried to make sense of this year’s General Assembly session. I believe this is the first year you have undertaken this venture, is that correct? What have you learned from the experience?

Myers: Yes, this is the first year (and) I learned quite a bit. First, this year before an election year saw the oppression of liberties and extraction of wealth from the people of Maryland at its peak. Of course, having a governor with eyes on the White House does not help matters and likely made this session one of the worst.

Second, I learned that some politicians respond to being called out publicly for not responding to e-mails.

Third, Assembly members don’t have consistent answers on how bond bills get into the budget – one Delegate voted for the operating budget because she wanted a “bond bill” for a pet project – these “bond bills” are in the capital budget, though. Bond bills in Maryland are similar to earmarks at the federal level. In order for one to find out how his or her Delegate voted on bond bills, one must hound the Delegate and county delegation chair since the delegations meet to prioritize the bond bill requests; that prioritization list is sent on for inclusion in the capital budget. While a Delegate may vote against the capital budget, (the question is) did he/she vote for the prioritization list?

Most Assembly members don’t receive emails from the people on bills that don’t make the news. For instance, many people sent emails about the proposed regulation of process servers, a bill which may have forced some of the smaller firms out of the industry. Delegate Smigiel said that when committee members receive a dozen or so emails about a bill, they start asking questions and pay attention. Emailing the committees is a very powerful and easy method of participating in and influencing the legislative process – once the bills are on the floor, it’s very hard to kill them.

Finally, it was confirmed that often, the rhetoric of most Republicans doesn’t match their actions – they vote for bills that increase the size and scope of government. Voting for bills that increase the size and scope of government, yet voting against the operating budget, is disingenuous. In Maryland, Republicans can vote their conscience – if the vote is to increase the size and scope of government, that is his or her conscience.

monoblogue: Having worked as part of the MDLW team and read a few of the bills, ones to which I was assigned, I know you tried to approach this from a pro-liberty perspective. How would you define your philosophy on this for my readers?

Myers: My perspective in this project is one of a Constitutionalist. We, the people, confer select powers to the government. We retain the rest. From the Maryland Declaration of Rights, Article 45: “This enumeration of Rights shall not be construed to impair or deny others retained by the People.”

I highly recommend the Institute on the Constitution – they teach courses on the U.S. and Maryland Constitutions and the proper role of the jury. The Maryland Constitution and the U.S. Constitution are not perfect documents, which is why both of them leave room for amendment.

monoblogue: And where did you get the idea to do such a study in Maryland? Was it based on something done in another state, or did you just decide to start this because you were fed up with the process?

Myers: Pure “fed up.” I got an email on October 1 about all of the new laws that were in effect that day and the idea was born. Originally, the idea was to recruit some volunteers to read legislation and alert those with mailing lists – when no one with a mailing list responded, the website was started.

I’ve long said that while most citizens are focused on one or two stories, few are watching what the other hand is doing. That is the focus of MLW – show the other bills that affect most Marylanders and extract our wealth, oppress our natural rights, or both. Tyranny does not typically march in wearing stormtrooper uniforms; tyranny creeps and creeps until it’s accepted as normal. We can’t fight some of the big stuff but we can fight much of the creeping tyranny – it’s the only way to reverse the tide.

monoblogue: I also noticed you did a triage of sorts on the bills, immediately eliminating the bond bills, for example. But what was the most egregiously bad bill to be introduced in this session? And what was the worst one which passed?

Myers: The easy answer is SB281 – begging government to exercise an inalienable, God-given right. However, more telling was HB1499, the Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2013. This act decreased transparency in candidate campaign finance reporting and enabled public campaign financing at the county level. This act was approved unanimously by the House of Delegates and only two Senators voted against it.

On the triage, that was born out of necessity – 1,500 bills were introduced in 2 weeks. There is no way I could ask people to read all of those in a short period of time, so I prioritized bills. This project was in its first year so I flew by the seat of my pants.

monoblogue: I also noticed you were a staple on local radio programs, such as Doug Gill’s WBAL show on Friday nights. Did you see the media as helpful to the cause?

Myers: Doug was exceptionally supportive and I’m so grateful for his time and the opportunity. As the Maryland Statehouse Examiner, Doug’s been fighting this fight for many years and he wanted to shed light on the legislation in Annapolis. By doing so, my website stats on Friday were better than those from most of the week. The aim of the project and my time on Doug’s show was to alert people to the legislation that might otherwise fly under the radar. Bills that increase regulations and fees on small businesses, bills that oppress liberties, and the few bills that reiterate our rights and interpose on unconstitutional federal legislation (e.g. anti-indefinite detention and anti-drone).

Through the session, it’s estimated that the website facilitated 15,000 – 22,000 emails to committee members about legislation. Many Assembly members complained about the volume of emails they received. I hope we were a good part of that.

monoblogue: Finally, now that the session is just about over, to where will you turn your activist energies during the next few months? And can we expect MD Legislative Watch 2.0, the sequel, next year?

Myers: I will continue the project. I and a few friends will meet, discuss lessons learned, how we can improve and automate things, and we’ll be back stronger next year. I’m undecided on my activist energies for the coming months but it is likely they will be directed at a more local level.

monoblogue: I appreciate the time, particularly since I gave you such short notice. Thanks, and I hope this keeps you in mind for new volunteers next year.

Myers: Michael, I appreciate your activism and very much appreciate your volunteer time on and promotion of the (MDLW) project. Your monoblogue Accountability Project is wonderful; at a minimum, this is something that all Marylanders should read before they vote.

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Obviously my goal in doing the mAP was for voters to learn how their legislators represented them and soon I will start working on the 2013 version. But speaking of seat of the pants, I haven’t nailed down my guest for next week. Be assured I’m working on him.

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.

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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.

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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.

Ten Question Tuesday – February 26, 2013

Today is primary Election Day in Salisbury, so I thought it would be appropriate at this time to reveal the answers to questions I posed a few weeks back in this space. But I have to be quite frank and tell you I’m disappointed in the lack of response I received as a potential constituent of these lawmakers. Out of those who received these questions in an e-mail I only received one set of answers back, from Jake Day. Cynthia Polk also responded, but did not directly answer the questions – instead she referred me to her website and literature. Sorry, I don’t answer the questions for others – no one is interviewing me.

Since I would rate Jake’s chance of advancement after today as relatively good, keep this handy for the general election April 2.

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monoblogue: From personal experience, I can tell you the building industry has been decimated in Salisbury. We’ve had a few opportunities to redevelop various properties in the city but nothing has come to fruition. While I’d prefer private investment, the question really is how do we get people building again?

Day: First of all, you’re right. The building industry has been decimated. It will come back, though. The question is: will it come back in the City or its periphery? This has more to do with what kind of place the City is to do business. I propose dramatically changing the way government presents itself to citizens, investors and businesses. First of all, each department should develop and deliver to the Mayor and Council a ‘Business Friendly Action Plan’ to better improve customer service. This has been accomplished in many cities with a profound effect on culture in the government. Second, the City should physically present itself as open for business by opening a storefront downtown Development Office. Donations and grants should fund the space and the staff should simply consist of a rotating representative from each of the following departments: Neighborhood Services, Public Works and Planning & Zoning. This space would be a ‘first stop’ for anyone wanting to build/renovate in Salisbury. The express objective of the office would be customer service; to help shepherd people through the development and permitting process. Third, the City must create a cheerleader and a foreman for economic development projects. I am not a proponent of growing our government (and think we can work with the County over time to shrink it), but I propose in this instance that we create an Economic Development Officer position and recruit a person from the business community to become the dedicated City recruiter/cheerleader for business development and expansion. Fourth, the Mayor and Council should host a quarterly Real Estate Breakfast, simply to build relationships and determine ways to reduce barriers to investment. Fifth, the City should convene an informal discussion group of local banks to determine what the City can do to free up capital for investment. Sixth, the City must reduce economic barriers to investment. The first thing the City can do is to reduce the high cost of land by surplusing downtown City parking lots. The second task is to reduce the cost of connecting to water and sewer services by creating a bank of EDU credits downtown and in other high-priority areas. Third, impact fees should be related to economic activity. While building is down, impact fees should be kept low and no new impact fees should be approved. Seventh, we must lobby the County to eliminate (phase out) the inventory tax. This is a barrier to investment and building in the manufacturing/industrial sectors. I see that our County Council has already begun to discuss this action. Eighth, we should provide tax credits to those who improve their land in the City (especially commercial and mixed-use development) by phasing in property taxes on improvements. There are many other programs and incentives I believe can be offered to increase building activity, including: Small Business Incubator + Startup Space Locator.

monoblogue: And speaking of building, we hear a lot about how to redevelop downtown. But the city is far more than just downtown; neighborhoods are important as well. If you were to assign a percentage of importance that redeveloping downtown merits when compared to the overall picture, what would it be and why?

Day: It is impossible to assign a percentage of importance to downtown; the various measures we could use – population, assessable tax base, commercial sales – are all inadequate to paint a picture. As a mixed-use (but largely commercial) district, it is very important. That said, its importance is derived from the fact that it is the geographic center and the historic hub of our City. I can tell you that no City in America has thrived while turning its back on its downtown. It isn’t just the dogma of New Urbanists or city planners – it’s an economic fact. Increased density of economic activity has an ever-increasing multiplying effect and decreases the cost of building and operating public infrastructure. With regard to the business of the City, property taxes per acre are dramatically increased in downtown and denser areas (especially when the starting point is $0). More importantly, jobs, residents and economic activity per acre are all dramatically increased. All of this leads to the long-term ability of a government to function sustainable with minimal interference with private development and minimal (and hopefully diminishing) tax burden. So, my plan for downtown is to a) link it (reduce barriers) to other neighborhoods so that commerce can happen more freely between them; b) reduce barriers to investment (cost of land and water/sewer connection); c) create design guidelines and other tools that architects and developers can use to create more beautiful buildings; d) get the City out of the business of squatting on valuable land that could be developed by private interests. (Rather than keeping land at its lowest and worst use, the City should seek the highest and best on the property that any owner/developer in real estate would seek); and e) seek the long-term goal of opening up the plaza with a more open design, clearly delineating traffic lanes while maintaining a safe pedestrian experience, just like 95% of pedestrian plazas in the US did 20 years ago when they saw what economic failures they were.

monoblogue: In the last few years we’ve seen a number of national chain businesses open in Salisbury; some examples are Hobby Lobby, Longhorn Steak House, Party City, and Dunkin’ Donuts. Yet there’s always been a group talking about “shop local” even if it means less selection at a higher price. What are your thoughts on the local vs. chain controversy?

Day: I don’t think this is really a controversy. The argument for “shopping local” is that dollars spent at local businesses and jobs created by local business have a higher multiplier effect for economic activity. Of $100 spent at local independent stores another $45 of secondary local spending was generated, compared to $14 for a big-box chain store. Additionally, 65% of new jobs created in the past 17 were by small businesses – not all retail, but inherently rooted in community. As a Commissioner on our City/County Planning Commission I have voted in favor of many of these national chain businesses (Longhorn Steak House, Dunkin Donuts, Party City, Ulta Beauty, Men’s Wearhouse, Dairy Queen, Buffalo Wild Wings to name a few). I don’t think our desire for local businesses to succeed has to come at the expense of our community’s openness to outside investors. However, we must emphasize through marketing and other tools the importance of those local businesses. Those are the investors that will stay for generations. The evidence is there: look at the Knorr brothers, Pete Roskovich, the Hanna family and Rob Mulford.

monoblogue: We’ve already heard the contention about crime statistics in this campaign. Do you think the police department has the optimum amount of resources and manpower?

Day: Absolutely not. In conversations with our State’s Attorney’s office and the Police Department I have learned in no uncertain terms that the relationship between our ability to keep cutting crime and the resources of our Police Department are proportional. We need more officers and when we have more officers we can then re-establish the Safe Streets team, give the Criminal Investigations Division the staff it needs and then determine what other tools our department needs to be the first rate unit it should be. We must seek federal and state funding for more officers.

monoblogue: So where will we get the funding to pay for them?

Day: Fair question and the right answer is challenging to find. I believe that a 1-year extension in the cycle of vehicle replacement can afford at least one new officer’s salary in a sustainable fashion, but I am told that the true deficiency is in the dozens of officers. I would rely on Chief Duncan and the Mayor to assess the precise needs for the Council, but believe the sources are likely going to be from federal and state coffers. In the 1990’s the Federal government recognized the national shortage in officers and invested in putting new officers on the street. Barring another revolution in thinking, we need to vigorously pursue and make a case for the new officers we need from the USDOJ COPS program, Maryland’s Safe Streets (GOCCP) grants and from private foundations.

monoblogue: The subject of annexation came up at a recent forum. In my (admittedly limited) experience with the topic, my recollection is that extending city services comes with the requirement of being annexed into the city. Yet we also want to avoid the “pipestem” annexations which have given the city a very irregular shape. What incentives would you recommend to “fill in” the city’s footprint and eliminate pockets of non-incorporated land surrounded by the city?

Day: Great question. While this is not as urgent an issue as others you’ve asked about – the City does need to clarify its borders. Ultimately, it is most economically sustainable and environmentally sustainable to build infrastructure and structures in a compact way. We can do that without building like we live on Manhattan Island. That said, when we’re building, it should be on shared utilities, like City water and sewer services. That is the ideal. In developed areas adjacent to the City, we should begin a dialogue with property owners about what would incentivize incorporation into the City. Obviously, some incentives could include a reduced or phased tax burden with additional services provided (like waste collection). That said, there are likely additional incentives (representation and tax differentiation) that could be considered. If we are going to make headway in this area – we must begin conversations. Community workshops should be held around the region to discuss the relationship between service duplication, boundary resolution, tax differential and increasing incentive to live in the City. The City cannot and must not approach this issue as a City issue – it is inherently a regional one and one that will only find resolution by listening to and providing benefits for residents and business owners outside of the City’s confusing boundaries.

monoblogue: More and more, the state of Maryland is dictating how local governments operate: to me, a prime example is the Tier Map demanded from counties thanks to last year’s Septic Bill. How much interference are you willing to tolerate in city affairs from bureaucrats in Annapolis?

Day: Well, on this particular issue you reference (Tier Map) it has absolutely no effect on the City of Salisbury. 100% of the City and its growth areas are in Tier 1 and 2 and will be no matter what. That’s good news for the City. I think to get what we want from the State without losing what control we want to maintain, we must build relationships. I presume that that happens at the Mayoral level, but I know it is limited at the Council level. Only one Council member attends a majority of State and peer-municipality group events. I think we must lobby our Delegates, Senators and State officials to give us the space to determine our own destiny while giving us the resources to achieve that success. That will take relationship building.

monoblogue: As a follow-up, do you see yourself as an activist for the city at the state level or will you just concentrate on what you believe you can control within the city limits?

Day: Absolutely. We must all be advocates at the County, State, Federal (and beyond) levels to grow Salisbury’s resources and investors and to ensure we have a policy context within which to operate that sets Salisbury up for success. To ignore the role that outside investors and higher levels of government have in influencing Salisbury is to do so at our own peril. I have relationships in the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, Maryland Department of Planning, Wicomico County and advisors nationwide and globally in the realm of development and design. I would absolutely work every day to put Salisbury and its needs on their radar.

monoblogue: City finances are always in a state of flux, and one bad revenue year can mean drastic cuts the next. But let’s say your economic plans are a success and the city is suddenly flush with cash. What do you do with the surplus?

Day: First of all, I would take a look at our budget to make sure we weren’t collecting more than we needed to conduct the business of the City. Second of all, I would ensure that our surplus is invested in an operating reserve of 10% of annual general fund operating expenses. This is a standard adopted by many communities. Once this reserve is met (and maintained year-on-year), I would first invest in public safety: police officers and fire infrastructure (see FY13-FY16 CIP).

monoblogue: Finally, we hear a lot about transparency in government and communications with the citizens. I know one candidate is a member of the “new media,” for better or worse. But how would you use technology to assist in creating a more informed citizenry?

Day: I love this question. First of all, I would enlist a volunteer Digital Team to help identify how to make the city’s web site a better hub for two-way communication with citizens and visitors. Second, I would shift the city’s antiquated domain (currently at http://www.ci.salisbury.md.us) to http://salisbury.md. In fact, I’ve already purchased the domain and I will (regardless of the outcome of the election) donate it to the City after the election. Third, I would encourage the Mayor and other council members to join me in blogging about City issues on the web site. This would have to be a space free of political grandstanding, but open to reflection and sharing about very specific constituent needs and City projects. Lastly, I believe we should (like Chestertown and Cambridge) have a public WiFi network downtown. We need to be – and can be – leading the way on accessibility and transparency.

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Will these answers and his campaign at large be enough to push him into the final showdown with either Debbie Campbell or Jack Heath? We’ll likely know that answer before 11:00 tonight as voting proceeds all across Salisbury.

Ten Question Tuesday: February 12, 2013

February 12, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Bloggers and blogging, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism, Ten Questions · Comments Off on Ten Question Tuesday: February 12, 2013 

Today’s guest is a rising star in the new media, in part because she’s an entrepreneur who’s not afraid to get involved. And while I have not met her in person, I wanted to get her insight on the new media and her part in it.

I first heard of The Brenner Brief around the time my friend Jackie Wellfonder became one of her contributors, a point just after Sara Marie greatly expanded and relaunched her website as a new entry into the media wars. Given her goal is “working to render the mainstream media useless,” I believe she’s well on her way to doing just that.

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monoblogue: I wanted to introduce my readers to you as an example of how to grow a conservative media outlet, as I learned of you through a good friend of mine who happens to be a Brenner Brief contributor, Jackie Wellfonder. So let me ask you first: what inspired you to create The Brenner Brief? Was it based on any particular model, or did you come up with a new idea all your own?

Brenner: I come from an entrepreneurial background, so I’m always creating new things – especially when they deal with my passion for politics. TheBrennerBrief.com (TBB) is a right-of-center, conservative news and opinion platform. However, we do it in a way that it can be attractive for moderates to read, as well. In my opinion, unless we expand the conservative base – not by thumping people over the head, but by slowly convincing them that the conservative principles are best for this nation – we will not win future elections. TBB is meant to be a place where conservatives and right-leaning moderates can get their news, read opinion and hopefully come to believe what we do.

monoblogue: Another thing I’ve noticed is that you are both creating your own intertwined entities (PolitiGal Network, The Brenner Brief, etc.) and running them across multiple platforms (the website, radio show, membership drives, in-person events, and so forth.) Obviously you want all of them to succeed, but which venue do you think has the highest ceiling?

Brenner: TBB is accessible to everyone, so that one will always have more followers and readers, I believe. We had 800,000 web site hits in January and thousands of people listen to the radio show each week. However, PolitiGal Network (PGN) has nearly 20,000 members, and there we are geared toward working with women on messaging, education, support, campaign assistance, and networking. They are two very different entities.

monoblogue: On the idea of contributors: I have written for a number of sites as one over my time on the internet – some have succeeded and grown (PJ Media, for one) while many others have withered and died due to lack of interest from either (or both) organizers and/or contributors. How will you motivate contributors to keep on going?

Brenner: We do our best to work as a team, and really make sure that all of the contributors are a part of something exciting. We share site stats with contributors, we highlight different contributors on the radio show, and we are always coming up with new ideas as a group and discussing those options together. For example, several of us will be attending CPAC this year with media passes to cover the events and speakers. For some of the contributors, this is their first time having such an opportunity, and they’ll be doing it with TBB. It’s really just about implementing basic team motivation concepts.

monoblogue: And because most contributors have other interests, will the day come when you branch out into professional writers doing the bulk of the work with a few others added in?

Brenner: We launched TBB with its current format on Nov. 26, 2012. After another month or two, we will begin branching out to gain revenue sources. However, right now, we’re just focusing on content, the contributors, and getting our system perfected.

monoblogue: I’d also like to know your thoughts on where “white knight” financial supporters can play a role for the conservative alternative media. I ask this because a number of those on our side has always held the suspicion that far-left power brokers, particularly George Soros, are financially backing left-wing bloggers.

Brenner: Venture capitalists have the ability to support whomever they wish – left or right. Soros has built an enormous web of businesses and outlets to serve his interests, more so than any conservative. We don’t think of taking over the world, because we believe in freedom and liberty – not tyranny. So, the concept is foreign to our intrinsic core beliefs. However, I do believe that there has to be a separation in the media between the source of the money and the reporting; otherwise, the reporting will be swayed from what the “white knight” wants to have covered.

monoblogue: Let’s look at another topic. You are an elected official (a city council member) and, as such, you could be considered as being in the “belly of the beast.” Where do you see that perspective as being most useful for the conservative political cause? And do you have any higher political ambitions? I think of Sarah Palin’s example when I ask this, and obviously creating a network like you’re seeking to can be of great assistance down the road if you take that route.

Brenner: My husband is a State Representative in Ohio and we met in politics. I have been working on campaigns, running campaigns, and especially focusing on new media and communications in politics since college. I have learned more about government and the inner workings of government since 2009 (when I was elected) than during any other similar length of time in my life. I’ve also learned how to go up against the government giant, and win. For example, in 2010, our city placed on the ballot a measure that would have doubled our city income tax. The way it was structured, those who lived and worked in the city would have seen their taxes double, hurting the city’s businesses owned by residents. All others would not pay any more in taxes, including the other six members on city council (only I would have paid more in income taxes of the seven of us). Despite the city’s “educational” materials and the committee formed by those supporting the increase, we formed our own committee and defeated the measure with approximately 71% voting against. The polling originally showed that only 49% were against, so we moved 22% of the voters over the course of only a few months with simple, targeted messaging. While I do not know what my personal elected future may bring, my interest-area is helping conservatives with new media, political communication, running for office and strategically defeating the left. We are doing this both through TBB and PGN, just in different ways.

monoblogue: Finally, if you would, alert my readers on how to get involved with your organizations and listening to your show. Do you have any other words of encouragement for those who would like to get off the sidelines?

Brenner: The TBB site is TheBrennerBrief.com, and simply click on “Radio Show” in the menu for all of the show information. If you miss it live, we have iTunes podcasts and the show is on Stitcher Stream, as well as an online archive link. Our twitter handle is @TheBrennerBrief and we are on Facebook at facebook.com/TheBrennerBrief.

PGN is PolitiGalNetwork.com, and if you contact us through the site to let us know how we can assist you, someone will connect with you. We especially are looking for people who are interested in being a leader in their state or city, and you can contact us through the web site. Our twitter handle is @PolitiGalUSA and we are on Facebook at facebook.com/PolitiGalUSA.

My personal twitter handle is @saramarietweets, and I’m on Facebook at facebook.com/saramariebrenner and Tea Party Community at teapartycommunity.com/saramariebrenner.

If someone is wondering how to get involved, usually the most frequent comment I hear is that the individual contacted their local Republican party and never heard back. The party can sometimes be skeptical of new people coming into the fold, rather than encouraging their involvement and welcoming them with open arms. While that’s unfortunate, you don’t have to rely on your party to get involved. Anyone who would like to email me directly may do so at TheBrennerBrief.com/contact, and I will be happy to help you get involved in either one of our organizations, or guide you to the right place. You can also search meetup.com for events and groups in your area.

The first step to getting off the sidelines is to simply get off the sidelines! Sometimes, people just need a little bit of direction and encouragement, and we are happy to provide that. Our nation depends on it.

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I appreciate Sara Marie taking the time out of her schedule to do this interview, and look forward to seeing how her ventures develop over the coming months.

In the meantime, my guest for next week will be Tom Fitton, author of The Corruption Chronicles: Obama’s Big Secrecy, Big Corruption, and Big Government, and President of Judicial Watch. We discussed a lot things about Maryland, the nation, and what you can do to help bring accountability.

Ten Question Tuesday: February 5, 2013

This format of TQT is going to be a little different. I decided the other day that, rather than secure an interview for this week, I would follow my inspiration from the NAACP forum the other day and ask the questions they perhaps should have asked. I heard one participant complain he didn’t have enough time to elaborate on the questions presented – well, here’s your chance. You can take all the space you want to answer. The same questions can be asked of everyone on the ballot, whether for Mayor or City Council.

I look at it this way: these questions should be on everyone’s lips anyway.

  1. From personal experience, I can tell you the building industry has been decimated in Salisbury. We’ve had a few opportunities to redevelop various properties in the city but nothing has come to fruition. While I’d prefer private investment, the question really is how do we get people building again?
  2. And speaking of building, we hear a lot about how to redevelop downtown. But the city is far more than just downtown; neighborhoods are important as well. If you were to assign a percentage of importance that redeveloping downtown merits when compared to the overall picture, what would it be and why?
  3. In the last few years we’ve seen a number of national chain businesses open in Salisbury; some examples are Hobby Lobby, Longhorn Steak House, Party City, and Dunkin’ Donuts. Yet there’s always been a group talking about “shop local” even if it means less selection at a higher price. What are your thoughts on the local vs. chain controversy?
  4. We’ve already heard the contention about crime statistics in this campaign. Do you think the police department has the optimum amount of resources and manpower?
  5. If not, where will we get the funding to pay for them?
  6. The subject of annexation came up at a recent forum. In my (admittedly limited) experience with the topic, my recollection is that extending city services comes with the requirement of being annexed into the city. Yet we also want to avoid the “pipestem” annexations which have given the city a very irregular shape. What incentives would you recommend to “fill in” the city’s footprint and eliminate pockets of non-incorporated land surrounded by the city?
  7. More and more, the state of Maryland is dictating how local governments operate: to me, a prime example is the Tier Map demanded from counties thanks to last year’s septic bill. How much interference are you willing to tolerate in city affairs from bureaucrats in Annapolis?
  8. As a follow-up, do you see yourself as an activist for the city at the state level or will you just concentrate on what you believe you can control within the city limits?
  9. City finances are always in a state of flux, and one bad revenue year can mean drastic cuts the next. But let’s say your economic plans are a success and the city is suddenly flush with cash. What do you do with the surplus?
  10. Finally, we hear a lot about transparency in government and communications with the citizens. I know one candidate is a member of the “new media,” for better or worse. But how would you use technology to assist in creating a more informed citizenry?

These are ten questions I’d like to have answered by those running to represent me, the citizens in Salisbury’s other City Council district, and the city’s chief executive.

Next week I promise to get back to a regular format, with a guest to be announced.

Update: My guest next Tuesday will be editor and creator of the Brenner Brief, as well as founder of the PolitiGal Network, Sara Marie Brenner.

Ten Question Tuesday: January 29, 2013

My guest today is Patrick McGrady, who wears two hats: he’s a member of the Harford County Republican Central Committee, but more importantly for our chat today he’s also the Chair of the Maryland Liberty Caucus. That and the affiliated Maryland Liberty PAC are pro-liberty groups taking their fight to the key issues affecting all of us in Maryland.

This edition was done a little differently than my previous TQT efforts and more like older incarnations of the concept. It was based on a series of e-mails exchanged between Patrick and I over the course of several days. Obviously this makes it easier on me, but the question will be whether you find it as informative. I believe you will.

Full disclosure aside, here’s what McGrady had to say.

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monoblogue: My first question regards the Turning the Tides 2013 event. Several conservative PACs were represented and it seemed to me like a natural fit for your PAC to attend. So why did you skip the event as a sponsor?

McGrady: Yes, the MDCAN group and the Turning the Tides 2013 are noble events and we appreciate the serious efforts undergone to make them successful. Our PAC was solicited for a sponsorship, but at the time we were not able to commit the financial and human resources required to make the event worth the cost of sponsorship to our donors and supporters.

I would like to have attended the conference, but I was giving an activism training in Prince George’s County to some
very excited conservative activists that Saturday. Perhaps next year.

We have been in communication with Tonya Tiffany and I hope to connect with her this week about how of our conservative and liberty-focused groups can work together on important projects going forward.

monoblogue: I think that is a key, working together. How do you feel you complement some of the other groups, and where do you expect to find your niche?

McGrady: The Maryland Liberty PAC has a focus on identifying and training supporters of liberty in how to win, how to govern, and how to rise through the ranks. We don’t believe that anybody should get off the couch and seek statewide or Congressional office – we don’t have the ground game to make that happen yet.

And so, we believe in the Major League Baseball strategy: start with the minor leagues, than work your way to the major league. This way, we have ample opportunity to discover how our candidates will govern at the Town Council or Council Commissioner level before they can advance to County Executive or State Senate. We strongly believe that having a strong farm team of candidates and supporters is much better than putting all the money, time and energy on the line every four years.

We can work together on limited government ideas, even when the goals look less than possible. I am more than willing to work with anybody who is trustworthy and principled. We can develop the knowledge and skills needed to win, but you can’t fix those two items – I have learned this the hard way.

I have never been accused of being a pragmatist on matters of liberty. For example, I don’t want to fix speed cameras, I want them eliminated from our state. I don’t want to fix SB236 (the Septic Bill from 2012), I want to repeal it. I don’t want Republican big government or Democratic big government – I want Constitutionally-limited government.

And when elected officials vote wrong, the Maryland Liberty PAC will be sure to cause political pain during the election season. If we have to (we will) replace the Republicans and Democrats who vote the wrong way with those who will vote the right way.

monoblogue: I can see the benefits of that strategy. But there’s still the process of finding the people to run for office in the first place. Are you recruiting candidates yourself or are they coming to you asking for the help?

McGrady: Both – we have been soliciting for people to run and they have been approaching us.

For endorsed candidates, we offer top-to-bottom campaign management services. We write the literature, we send the mail, order robocalls, and help with fundraising – at no cost to the candidates. We ask only that they govern as they promise they will. With each applicant, we have a serious weeding-out program, and we assure them that if they choose to govern opposite their commitment, we will exercise the same efforts to remove them from office.

monoblogue: So you’re a one-stop shop, and it sounds like you go beyond the simple function of a PAC in terms of backing candidates beyond the monetary. I know you had one successful candidate last November – is there a goal you have for 2013, a number of candidates who achieve victory you’d consider a success?

McGrady: More than a specific number of candidates, we are planning to expand our level of influence across the state. We hope to find some candidates in Prince George’s, Frederick, Harford, Cecil, and Montgomery counties to start and build a foothold for freedom in Maryland.

We cannot afford to overlook any single local race. And party races either – it’s all on the table.

monoblogue: I’ve already seen evidence of that. You’re publicly backing the effort to repeal speed camera laws (“Repeal O’Malley’s War on Driving”) as well as last year’s SB236. When you add that to the post-Sandy Hook push for more gun laws, would you consider your plate already pretty full? And how do you think that will affect your group’s 2014 plans?

McGrady: We plan to achieve these legislative goals. We surely have a lot of work ahead of us.

We will find out which legislators represent the views of their constituents,  and then we will tell their constituents. There is a lot of room in primaries of both parties to impact who serves in the legislature. We will build over time, but I predict success for our model.

monoblogue: I noticed you made your first splash back at last fall’s MDGOP convention, and I know you serve on a central committee. Are you finding the MDGOP is being responsive to your goals, or is it a matter of educating them as well?

McGrady: As an organization, the Maryland Liberty PAC is non-partisan. With some projects, we are working within the Republican Party for change.

There has been some great response from the MDGOP, and some lukewarm. Maryland GOP elected officials don’t take kindly to having their records exposed, and that has caused some tension.

But the fact is that our motives are not biased toward or against any individuals or party affiliations. We care about freedom and respect for (both) the Constitution of the United States and of Maryland. On that front, there is always room for “education.”

monoblogue: I completely agree. Hopefully the “liberty” label isn’t giving people the impression that you’re way out on what they call the “Paulbot” wing of the party.

Then again, I took some time at the MDGOP convention and visited your Liberty PAC suite, finding that a good percentage of those there were younger faces I didn’t recognize from other traditional party events. Is this something you’ve done intentionally or are you finding the message just happens to resonate among that crowd?

McGrady: We are very reasonable and pragmatic people in the liberty movement. Our ideas are positive and will benefit society as a whole, instead of just pockets of either “rich” people or “poor” people. Under economic freedom, individuals can prosper and therefore society can prosper.

The future of the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, for that matter, hinges on people who seek to be independent-minded. We are people who realize that our rights come from God, not government.

People don’t like to be fooled, and young people are drawn the ideas of liberty.

We put the call out to all of our membership, and that was who attended the GOP Convention. I don’t think it is a stretch to say that our Maryland Liberty PAC organization brought the most new people “under the tent” of the GOP.

monoblogue: Great! Anything else you’d like to add before we’re through: contact information, future events?

McGrady: We are excited to be working on so many projects and we hope people will visit our website at www.MarylandLiberty.org. If people have questions for me, I can be reached at 410.357.1234.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to answer these questions– and I hope to see everyone on February 6 in Annapolis for Testifying on the HB106 bill to repeal SB236 and against all the gun bills!

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I’d like to thank Patrick for agreeing to the interview. As I read it over, I found out I learned something and I thought I was already pretty familiar with the group. Yet they are one of many proactive groups in Maryland trying to save this once Free State.

Ten Question Tuesday: January 22, 2013

January 22, 2013 · Posted in Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism, Ten Questions · Comments Off on Ten Question Tuesday: January 22, 2013 

After several days of trying to nail this busy lady down, I finally had the chance to speak with writer and author Diana West. You may recall her from the recent Turning the Tides 2013 conference, although I’ve actually linked to her website for some time.

The Death Of The Grown UpShe is the author of The Death of the Grown Up: How America’s Arrested Development is Bringing Down Western Civilization (2007) and the forthcoming American Betrayal: The Secret Assault On Our Nation’s Character. Diana is also a syndicated columnist whose work appears in dozens of outlets around the country.

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monoblogue: We actually met last Saturday – I’m going to bring my readers up to speed – you and I met last Saturday at Turning the Tides and you did a talk on “Toward a Conservative Foreign Policy.” I noticed this morning that it’s now up on your website, which is very convenient for the readers. I guess the question I would start out with is that you’re more known as a cultural speaker, so how did you get put into talking about foreign policy?

West: Well, really it goes back to 9/11. That’s really when I started writing about how our culture was being changed by this conflict with Islam. And most writers, most thinkers, most pundits and politicians, (they) continued to look at the last decade as a decade of terrorism. Most of the voices you hear discussing how to keep America safe, defend American interests, and so on are really looking at this as how to combat attacks (such as) terrorist attacks (or) military attacks – and while those are, of course, important because no one wants to be attacked at an airport or a stadium – coming from a more cultural lens I started looking at this in terms of how we were being changed culturally by this conflict.

I guess the first part of my writing career definitely had a focus on culture, although I did cover politics as well, but again with a definite cultural emphasis. This past decade I have definitely been looking at the war as a cultural event, and that’s why I’m so interested in things like what’s known as “civilization jihad,” which is, again, the turning from within of our civilization.

monoblogue: Right. And as I read your book, which I did finish – it’s very good – I noticed in The Death of the Grown-Up you started out in the vein that you described, just talking about our culture, but then as the book wrapped up you interspersed a look at the Islamic effect on our culture. The book’s evolution mirrors what you just said…

West: Yes.

monoblogue: …where you started out as talking about culture but then wrapped in the element of Islamic terror after 9/11.

West: Yes. And there’s a backstory to that book, really, which I’m glad you brought up. It explains the way of thinking about some of these problems. I was actually thinking about that book and working on it before 9/11, and it would have been a very different book. It would have definitely outlined the cultural decline as I saw it in terms of this increasing emphasis on youth and this increasing fear and denial of adulthood, and what went with it.

After 9/11 – I was living outside New York at the time, in Westchester County about 45 minutes from Manhattan – after 9/11 happened I shelved the book because I thought ‘who cares, what does it matter?’ We’re in this terrible fight, we’ve been attacked, and trying to understand these new issues I put that project aside. A year or so later, it suddenly became very apparent to me that the cultural decline that I had been trying to work through had a terrifying application in the post 9/11 age. That was how the book became a description of where we had come in terms of an infantile culture and how dangerous that cultural development was for our chances in battling this totalitarian threat which, if you look back through Islamic history, the hallmark of non-Islamic populations living under Islamic law is really one you could describe as infantilized in the sense of not having full rights, not being allowed to speak out, being afraid – these are the hallmarks of non-Islamic populations across centuries, across cultures, across continents.

I looked at this and said, oh my gosh, we are ripe for this kind of takeover and indeed, I ask your readers to look at our speech codes that we willfully put on ourselves. We are afraid to discuss Islam in any kind of rational, logical, and truthful manner. I would ascribe that to this very infantilization that I tried to see in the culture. The book is an argument to see this development and understand how  we have to overcome it if we’re going to withstand this.

monoblogue: Well, 9/11 kind of synthesized and crystallized your thesis then is what you’re saying.

West: Yes, I’m glad I didn’t write the book beforehand because I really felt that application was much more compelling – for me, anyway – and certainly seemed to have more significance for our future.

monoblogue: The other thing that’s interesting, and it’s a matter of how they paired the speakers up at the Turning the Tides Conference, was that you spoke right after Pamela Geller, and Pamela got most of the attention – and she’s the lightning rod for…

West: Sure.

monoblogue: …for pro-Islamic protests. But your message is almost as powerful as hers in the fact that, yes, this Islamic influence is not a good thing for America.

West: Well, I suppose that’s true. Of course, Pamela is a well-known activist at this point, and I think that as an activist she is certainly going to draw the attention of the CAIR demonstrators and things like that. I work strictly as a writer, journalist, and author, so I move in a different track although I would say we have similar goals and very often discuss similar topics so there is a commonality of theme here, but we have different roles and different careers.

monoblogue: That’s fine, but it seemed interesting to me – they’re actually out there protesting her and not you for your message, which – you kind of get to fly under the radar in a way.

West: I suppose so (laughs.) I work, perhaps, in more of the journalistic milieu – maybe it just doesn’t rile them up quite as much.

monoblogue: That’s all right (laughs), sometimes it’s good to be stealth. I’ve found that out myself. But when we heard you last Saturday, I noticed that you were coming in and saying ‘this isn’t really my forte, I hadn’t been thinking about that sort of thing as a broad foreign policy.’ And like I started out, it was interesting to hear you talk about that when you’re more known for culture. So how long did you have to prepare for this speech?

West: Oh, I guess I worked it out over about a week. I mean, in terms of – if you go to my website and comb through some of the back archives I have not written on culture per se for, really since 9/11. And while I definitely examine the cultural impact of war, I have also been looking very minutely and intensively – for example, in war policy, in military doctrine, in examining the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – so I wasn’t quite the fish out of water that I may have made you think in terms of thinking about a foreign policy address.

What I was trying to say was, when I was asked to come up with a conservative foreign policy for the conference, I think I was asked because I’d been thinking through jihad, the Islamization of the United States military, which is something I write a great deal about (and) my sense of the futility, and indeed dangers, of nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan. So what I was trying to explain was that I had not put these things together in the sense of a comprehensive political policy.

I think with that address, I kind of wish that Mitt Romney had made such a foreign policy address as mine, in terms of putting these various cultural and national security concerns together because I don’t think you can talk about – you can successfully talk about and battle the threats to our country in terms of terrorist events, in terms of a bad man with a bomb getting into a building, what we tend to do – and this gets back to what Pam is so good at, and others in this field, is understand that these actions (like) bringing bombs to a building are the expression of an ideology, and this ideology goes back to classical mainstream Islam. It is jihad, it is Islamic law to the entire world, to the caliphate – which is something else that I write about a lot – it is jihad to exert Islamic law over the world and everyone in it, including non-Muslims. And this is where we come in, and I’ve always felt that Islam itself doesn’t interest me, except insofar as the nexus between expansionist Islam and our life.

Where you come in to understand this is the impact of jihad and something called dhimmitude. Dhimmitude is the condition of the dhimmi, which are Christians and Jews living under Islamic law, and it is in effect a third- or fourth-class degree of citizenship. That’s where I’ve become interested in Islam; it is a cultural interest but, again, it also becomes a national security interest. In trying to knot this all together in a talk for a whole foreign policy address, of course it also involves things like border security and the importance of Congress becoming more involved in foreign policy. At this point, I think we have a very dictatorial foreign policy that is set at the White House, mostly, and Congress is merely there to rubber-stamp funding for whatever it is the President wishes to do.

These were some of the things I was trying to bring together into a more macro sense than I was accustomed to doing as a weekly columnist and almost daily blogger.

monoblogue: Right. And that’s something – I just happened to look (yesterday) morning and here’s the speech that you happened to give at Turning the Tides, which is very convenient. The website, by the way, is dianawest.net – I’ll plug that for you – and you also have the syndicated column.

West: Yes. I have the syndicated column and the speech actually was published at American Thinker as well. But mostly I write my column, which runs in something around 100 papers at this point, and I also write books. I have my new book coming out in May, which is called American Betrayalwhich, again, is a foray into history, actually, and how we got into this condition we’re in. I think of it as a prequel to The Death of the Grown-Up, really; it goes deeper and back a little farther to kind of set things straight.

monoblogue: That’s good, I’ll be interested to see how that does when it comes out. Obviously you’ve been working hard on that because, I recall as I was getting this set up and talking to you for (this interview) that you originally had this coming out in April, but now it’s going to be May.

BetrayalWest: Yes. (laughs) It’s been done for quite awhile. It’s a long book, and in talking about the old-fashioned way of doing things (referring to our small talk prior to the interview) publishers are doing things somewhat old-fashioned. It turns out that getting everything straight, typeset, and properly footnoted and everything just simply takes more time, so we had to push it off to May. But I do not believe there will be any further delays.

It’s been done – actually it was turned in back in May of 2012, and we’ve been editing over the months and so on. Books just take time, especially a large book that is very heavily footnoted.

monoblogue: Chock full of information.

West: Yes it is! Definitely value for the dollar. (laughs) A heavily researched book; it’s no cut and paste job here.

monoblogue: And I would expect no less. It sounds like you’re a very thorough-type person, and that’s good. We need more of those on our side. We have to put up with a lot of lies from the other side, people who just make it up as they go along and don’t check their facts. It’s refreshing to see our side portrayed in that way. You’re crafting.

West: Thank you. Yes, I try very hard and try to be thorough and try to be correct because it is very important. And I also try to admit when I change my mind or make a mistake – I think that’s equally as important. That’s one complaint I have with general journalism is that there is very little interest in correcting mistakes, and also changing minds. Sometimes the facts appear and there is reason to reconsider, and that is actually, I think, a sign of human growth and not anything less.

People tend to get very entrenched in their views of the world and vested in them so it becomes very difficult to reconsider and reformulate policies, which is one of my complaints with, for example, the Bush administration over its period in Iraq and Afghanistan, and certainly the military over these many years of fighting the same war, even as it became more and more apparent that “winning hearts and minds” in the Islamic world was not going to happen short of conversion to Islam. It’s that clear-cut; there’s no room for wiggle here. It is an absolute brick wall in terms of trying to persuade or win over an Islamic culture to a Western way.

You would think after a decade of trying there would be some reconsideration here, but I think there’s even less willingness to consider  a larger picture, much to the detriment of our country and just too many of our fellow citizens from the military.

monoblogue: Right, and in a way I can tie this to together to conclude it, this gets to be a battle between infantilization and maturity. We’re not showing the maturity to evolve our thought process as situations dictate.

West: That is certainly one way to think of it; it does seem to be that way. I think there’s also people with careers in mind, and reputations they’re too vainly wed to – these are some of the very human characteristics, yes, but I would say they are not of the more mature side. Certainly the ideal to which we aspire – and of course, we’re all human so there’s not some super standard that we all hit all the time every day – these are very serious problems and none of it is theoretical, none of it comes from an academic milieu where a theory can be argued.

We’ve been battle-testing these theories, which have led to loss of life, loss of limb, and tremendous losses to our national treasury, to our fitness of our fighting forces – I mean, it’s really been a cataclysmic decade and there’s really no end in sight (nor) any interest in looking back and actually saying what went wrong and how can we make it better for the future. I hope that that changes.

monoblogue: I hope it does too, and that actually turns out to be a good spot to wrap this up. Your book comes out in May, and I wish you the best of luck with it. I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me.

West: Thank you, Michael, I enjoyed it.

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We actually chatted for a few minutes after the interview, comparing notes on the conference and other topics. A thought we extended on during the impromptu conversation was regarding the process of writing her book since I obviously chose a different path in getting my book to market because I wanted it out before the 2012 election. It boggles my mind that her manuscript has taken so long in the editing process, although I’m sure verifying the footnotes is a tedious batch of work.

The key thing was that I learned a lot in speaking with Diana, and hopefully you did as well in reading this. I haven’t determined next week’s guest quite yet, so stay tuned.

Ten Question Tuesday: January 8, 2013

Welcome to the debut of my newest feature, Ten Question Tuesday. This interview segment may or may not feature exactly ten questions, but the intent is to learn a little more about those personalities who help shape local and national politics.

Today’s guest needs no introduction to Maryland Republicans. Dan Bongino survived a ten-man Republican primary to easily win the U.S. Senate nomination last April and ran a spirited race against incumbent U.S. Senator Ben Cardin. The entry of independent candidate Rob Sobhani altered the race and blunted Bongino’s momentum; still, as we discuss here there were a lot of lessons to learn and useful information to be gathered for future GOP efforts in Maryland.

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monoblogue: The first thing I want to know is: have you even rested since the election?

Bongino: (laughs) For about four hours or so. The day after the election there’s always that feeling of, ah, you lost. There are no silver medals in politics – although there are different degrees of success and failure, of course – there is only one Senate seat and only one person sitting in it. It wasn’t me, and I felt like we worked really hard. But I didn’t take any time off…I had a workout the next day, which was something I wasn’t able to do on a regular schedule during the campaign which kind of cleared my head. My wife begged me at that point to take some time (yet) I don’t think there’s any time to take. This isn’t the time for pity, this is the time to find out what went wrong and fix it. So I haven’t taken any time – I’ve got a number of different things I’m working on right now; it’s a pretty extensive list.

monoblogue: I noticed you have a consulting business; in fact, when I arranged the interview I went through Karla (Graham) and she’s one of your (consulting firm’s) employees.

Bongino: Yeah, I think the consulting business…it was obviously slow, intentionally, during the campaign, because I just didn’t have any time to take it on. So there were things I could do and things I couldn’t do; I immersed myself completely in the campaign. That’s now picked up pretty well for me, we jumped right back in on that.

But we have a PAC we’re starting. Contrary to some rumors spread by some within the party who I think are more aligned with political positioning rather than political philosophy, my campaign didn’t finish anywhere close to in the red. We were actually cash-positive by a significant margin – well over $60,000 and it’s coming in more by the day. You don’t want to finish a campaign cash-positive – or cash-negative – but with us, we were relying on donations. I wasn’t Rob Sobhani, who funded it with my own money, or Ben Cardin, who had a steady stream of donations due to 45 years in politics. I had to rely on the money as it came in, and toward the end, the last four months we were out-raising Sobhani and Cardin combined by really heavy margins. We did not want to run a fiscally irresponsible campaign like our government, so we budgeted our money to be responsible – to ensure we had enough to pay our salaries at the end, to pay off the printing company, the internet management company…it’s like running a business. It came in so heavy in the last week that I think we would up with roughly $70,000 left over, which we’re going to use to fund Republican causes. It’s one of those initiatives now as well.

monoblogue: So basically you’ve become the Bongino PAC.

Bongino: Yeah, you can call it the pro-growth alliance, because it’s going to be a very targeted PAC. Everybody understands I’m a conservative – I don’t think that’s a mystery to anyone – but I want the PAC to focus exclusively on job growth and the economy. I’ve said all along the Republican Party, in my opinion, we don’t have a messaging problem – we have a marketing problem. I could not be clearer on that.

Our message, when you think about it, the President of the United States ran on our message. “I want to cut the deficit and control spending…I’m only going to raise taxes on people who won’t get hurt by it.” These are all messages that the Republican Party uses, that the President stole. Of course, he was disingenuous about it, but it just accentuates my point further that our message won a long time ago. We have a very serious marketing problem, and we have what I perceive in Maryland to be a lack of a short- and long-term plan politically.

When you ask some in the party “what’s the plan going forward?” like you would ask in a business “how will you launch this new product line?”…a business runs on three simple principles: how do you find new products for your markets, new markets for your products, and how do you shut down inefficiencies in your business. You can apply those principles to any business on the planet, including politics. Now we have to find out how we get our message to new markets, because we’re not reaching black voters, we’re not reaching Hispanic voters…I would debate we’re not reaching Montgomery County or Baltimore City voters at all, and we have to do that.

monoblogue: Well, here’s the one thing that I’ve noticed, and this has been true of almost any race statewide since I moved here, and I’ve been here since 2004. We seem to have a barrier of 40% we just can’t break, and the question is: if you have a message that sells, how come we can’t break the 40% barrier? What is the deal where you can’t swing the extra 10 percent plus one over to our side?

Bongino: I see it strategically, there’s a number of problems…it’s a big question. I’ll be talking about this at the MDCAN as well. There is no plan…let me give you an example because it’s easy to say that… Here’s some things we’ve been doing wrong with the swing voters.

The Democratic Party, despite literally a decade with Governor O’Malley – we’re closing in on the end of his term (and) ten years of really consistent monopolized Democratic rule – and I would debate even in the Ehrlich administration as well, and that’s not a knock on Ehrlich; I’ll explain that in a second – that’s nothing to do with him. (Despite the) monopolistic Democratic rule, the Democratic Party in Maryland has managed to out-register voters in contrast to the Republican Party, 400,000 to 100,000. How is that? How is that with BRAC, people moving into the state, frustration with the bag tax in Montgomery County, frustration with the income tax just about all over the state, frustration with the bottle tax in Baltimore City, that we as a Republican Party have had no consolidated effort to register voters at all?

And if you dispute that, I ask you where you saw the plan? Where did you read the blueprint on how to register voters? Now, there are counties out there that are doing a fantastic job, but there is no statewide…St. Mary’s County as an example. Carroll County registered five times as many Republicans than the Democrats have registered Democrats. Harford County, three times. I use St. Mary’s as the blueprint; they doubled the number of registrations compared to Democrats because it was a very consolidated, targeted, guided effort by the Central Committee and the clubs to get a mission done, which they accomplished. So that’s problem number one, registration.

The second problem: we’ve absolutely forfeited the black and Hispanic vote. I’ll give you an example from my campaign: I had actual donors – very few, but some donors – they asked me to not attempt to spend a lot of time in those places, deeming it a “lost cause.” Now they’d been beaten up there before with candidates who’ve gone down there to communities we should be in, and the results just haven’t been there. But that’s not an excuse to give up; because we haven’t found the right formula doesn’t mean we stop searching for the potion. Forfeiting the black and Hispanic vote is political suicide.

monoblogue: I completely agree. And that’s one thing that I know, we’ve paid lip service to that for years and I’ve been in the Republican Party here since 2006. Now there’s one other aspect I wanted to get into, and maybe it kind of goes in with your role as an outsider, but I want to back my readers up to the first time you and I met.

We first met when you came to our Republican club meeting down here in Wicomico County in the summer of 2011, and you brought (2010 gubernatorial candidate) Brian Murphy with you, which immediately piqued my interest because I was a Brian Murphy supporter in that primary.

Bongino: Right.

monoblogue: So given that as a starting point, the other portion of the question is: did that help you…how did it help you raise a national profile? I know Sarah Palin came into Brian Murphy’s campaign at a late date and endorsed him and that probably at least put him on the map – and I noticed she did the same thing with you. There seems to be a linkage between you and Palin because I just happened to hear a little podcast you did on a very Palin-friendly website. Obviously you’ve used Sarah Palin and people like that to build more of a national profile than any other Republican candidate in Maryland…I would say that even Bob Ehrlich doesn’t have nearly the national profile that you do. So how do we leverage that?

Bongino: Money, media, and volunteers are a campaign, so the question is how do you leverage a national profile, which is really just name recognition nationally. How do you leverage that to getting media, to getting extra money into the campaign, into getting volunteers? I think we did that quite well. A lot of…some insiders on both sides took shots at us afterward…saying we’d lost by a good and healthy margin. But I don’t think anybody took into account was the successful operation we’d put together considering we were only funded, really for the last four months, to finish second out of three candidates despite being outspent by a factor of almost 20:1.

Now we did that by using the national profile, and what I think is important and is an operation that has largely been lost on some of us – quite a few Republicans in the state – is a mastery of the media message. I think what our campaign did – and this isn’t me trumpeting my campaign on any kind of pedestal, I’m just speaking to the fact we got a lot of national media – we were very careful to manage the message. We understood the ideas that had punch, and Karla and I had what we called the “hook” – what was an angle to put Maryland on the map, to put this Senate race on the map? In some cases it was my Secret Service experience as a federal agent commenting on “Fast and Furious.” There were other cases, there were scandals, and unfortunately those scandals, I thought, took on a life of their own – Colombia scandal of course – but there was an opportunity there to defend an agency that I loved being a part of. I thought they were getting a bum rap – there were a few bad eggs and I didn’t appreciate that, so we took an opportunity there to defend the Service, that certainly helped.

Here’s a thing a lot of folks forget as well, and it’s one of the most important points here; the most salient that I can take out of this – when you get an opportunity to get in front of a national audience, whether it’s on Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity multiple times – you have to be interesting. Not sensational, not scandalous – interesting. You have to say things that give people a reason to listen, or else you’re just another voice coming out of their car radio. And I was very careful to come in there very prepared about what I wanted to say and what I wanted to speak, so that then led to more media. Media begats more media, it is a virtuous cycle. When we did Hannity, then we went to Beck. When we did Beck, we went to Levin. When we did Levin, we would get on Fox.

monoblogue: It established credibility.

Bongino: Yes, and you get into a cycle, and then the contacts start to see you as a reliable, exciting guest that brings energy to the show and I think we did twelve or thirteen different appearances on Hannity. If you’re interesting, not only does that begat more media but that begats donors. Those donors…the way I would leverage that is if you donated $25 after I did an appearance on Hannity, I’d call you. Sometimes I’d spent half an hour on the phone with people, talking about issues that mattered to them – they weren’t even Maryland citizens. But those $25 donors became $250 donors, who became $1,000 donors, who despite the poll numbers continued to support me. Someone sent me an e-mail, as a matter of fact – I don’t think he wants me to give up his name, but he’s an out-of-state donor – who started very small and wound up donating a substantial amount of money to my campaign. He said, “I’m not investing in the Maryland Senate race, I’m investing in you.” And that’s how we built a database of over 20,000 donors. That’s a substantial list, a very credible list – nationally speaking, not just in Maryland.

And finally, volunteers. When you’re on television and radio it’s an obvious force multiplier. In the case of the Hannity show during drive time you’re speaking to 14 million people. I would always get out the website and we would get people on the mailing list, which grew into 10,000-plus names and 3,000 volunteers. And I would make sure with the volunteers – and I encourage other candidates to do this as well – your volunteers don’t work for you, they work with you. That’s not a soundbite; you have to act that way and portray that on your campaign.

When I would ask volunteers to show up for a sign wave, which a lot of people didn’t like the approach, they have no idea what went on in the back end. We would sign wave, and I had consultants who had never won anything telling me, yeah, that’s a waste of time. What they didn’t understand was, on the back end of our website I could analyze how many people went to our website after we’d go to a neighborhood and sign wave with twenty or thirty people – the exponential growth in volume in donors, volunteers, and traffic to our website was usually singularly located to that area I was the day before sign waving. But the genius consultants didn’t know any of that. I’m glad they don’t because they recommend other people don’t do it.

…I would show up with the volunteers, this was a really hot summer. We had something like a month straight of 90-degree weather; I’d show up there in my suit and I would stand out there an hour and a half, breathing in smog in Montgomery County, waving at cars as they came by with the volunteers who understood that it wasn’t just talk. I would talk, I would ask them about their families and how things were going, and it became a family atmosphere where it wasn’t just banter…that’s how we did that, leverage that whole model into something I think very special.

monoblogue: I think you would be a very good speaker on just getting media attention, and how to be interesting in front of the media. That’s something a lot of our candidates could use because we’re trying to get elected here. We have a message, but we need – that is the missing link. It’s hard to be interesting to people sometimes – it’s not always my strong point either.

Bongino: I’ve been watching a lot of our locals; some are very good and some of them I’ve watched, I think there’s a tendency to speak to a canned soundbite with the fear that, if you get off this script, you’re going to say something you don’t want to say. I would say if that’s the case you shouldn’t do media – you shouldn’t. You can win without it, you can do print interviews, but – not to knock him now – Rob Sobhani was the perfect example. I mean, Rob Sobhani essentially stopped doing serious live interviews at the end because every time he got on the air he would say something ridiculous – you know, the famous “I hit the jackpot” quote…the DREAM Act, he would say four or five different things, sometimes not realizing that obviously these interviews were going to be broadcast and cataloged and people would catch him on it – you have to go out there and be confident you’ve done your homework and you’re ready to go.

monoblogue: Here’s one thing… I’m curious about this, and I know I’ve seen media about this since the election. (Regarding) 2014, and I know – I’ve been in politics long enough to know you don’t want to rule anything out or commit to anything at this point. But is there something that you would not necessarily rule out, but you would favor as far as an office to run for?

Bongino: I’ve got a list together that a couple of trusted confidantes on the campaign and I are going through – best options, worst options, me being a business mind and a rational maximizer like any good economist would be – do a cost/benefit on each and a cost/benefit’s not just for me, but it’s for the party. I’ve said over and over that I don’t want to run for something that I think would be good for me but bad for the party; I think that would be hypocritical. But, yeah, there’s a number of things I’m looking at – I mean, I don’t think it’s any secret that the Governor’s race, the (Anne Arundel) County Executive race, there’s some other options out there as well that I’ve been considering. And there’s also the option of not doing anything electorally but staying involved in the process through the PAC. I’m writing now for Watchdog Wire, and I do pieces on RedState that are getting some really good traction, so there’s that possibility as well.

I really don’t know, but I’m going through the numbers and at the presentation at MDCAN I’m doing I’m going to be very deliberate, too, about what needs to get done numbers-wise because I don’t know if some of the candidates running now for some of these positions understand how difficult a statewide race is going to be. Not unwinnable – I ain’t never believed in that, and I believe in fighting the fight – but a statewide race in Maryland right now is going to be very, very tough, and it’s going to require a lot of money, a significant media profile that can bypass our local media, and a number of volunteers that is just going to be absolutely unprecedented.

monoblogue: Well, that makes sense because there is not a big, broad base of experience in the Maryland Republican Party on how to win a statewide race. The only person that’s done it in the last 40 years is Bob Ehrlich, and he lost two of them after he won one. So he’s not exactly got a great track record, either.

Bongino: Right. And one of the more disturbing aspects – and I’m not talking to the candidates we have now for governor, I’m talking about some others…you look at the Rumsfeld book, the “known knowns,” “known unknowns,” and “unknown unknowns” – the unknown unknowns are always the most dangerous thing because you don’t even know what you don’t know. I was very aware of that when I ran, I had no political resume and was very careful to start slowly. That’s why I got in so early, because I knew there were intra-county dynamics, there were party dynamics, and I wanted to be careful to avoid any significant controversies that would derail a campaign.

I’ve spoken to some who just don’t seem to understand that there are things going on in the state that they’re just completely not aware of…I’ll give you an example: I was at an event, one of them, it was in Montgomery County, and a woman walked in who was a very prominent, active Montgomery County Republican – donor, hosts events, is a terrific person – and he looked at me and said, “who’s that?” And I thought to myself, “wow, that’s not a good sign.” (laughs) It was one person, and I’m certainly not going to extrapolate too much from it, but that’s not the first time that happened.

I’ll bring up some specific county dynamics – the compressor in Myersville, that was a big deal. Water contamination on the Eastern Shore; I didn’t know about that, (it’s a) big deal. SB236 hurting the farmers: (another) big deal. The fact (some candidates aren’t aware) that there are farms in southern Maryland: a big deal…The fact in Calvert County, we have some struggles getting votes in Waldorf. These are things that a statewide candidate – you’re not going to have time anymore to learn this. I mean, I was two years out and I didn’t have a primary. These are things I’m more than happy – even if I decide to run, it’s not in my interest for any of my primary opponents to do poorly at all. I would be more than happy to share this information, and I mean that. I’m looking to do what’s best…if I did decide to run I know I can win on my merits and I don’t need to win by hoarding information. There’s just so much going on around the state and it’s not like Oklahoma (where) there’s just really a breadbasket of issues and that’s about it. Maryland is not like that; there are very regional problems; natural gas in western Maryland. These are all very important things and they need to know it all.

monoblogue: It’s not exactly “one Maryland” like our governor likes to claim.

Bongino: No, it’s not.

monoblogue: That’s a good place to wrap this up. I appreciate the time!

**********

Honestly, I could have spent another hour on the phone and there were other items I didn’t check off my list. But this lengthy read will have to do for now. Perhaps when Dan makes up his mind about 2014, I can arrange a return visit.

Next week’s guest will be Jonathan Bydlak, who heads the Coalition to Reduce Spending. It’s a recent addition to the advocacy groups which inhabit Washington, but professes a more unique angle and focus on their pet issue. Look for it next Tuesday.

A new beginning for an old project

January 1, 2013 · Posted in Ten Questions · Comments Off on A new beginning for an old project 

If you’ve been around since the beginning of this website, you may recall I have done posts off-and-on in a category called “Ten Questions.” It began as a method of getting interview-style answers out of candidates in the 2006 election, a segment which comprises most of the 49 entries in the category. I then used the format occasionally from 2007-2009 to interview local and national people of renown, with the last “Ten Questions” post being an interview of then-Senate candidate Robert Broadus in 2011.

Well, my intent this time is to have “Ten Question Tuesday” as a regular feature each Tuesday. While most of the interview subjects will be political, the focus won’t strictly be on Maryland politics. Going forward in 2013, I’m going to eventually try and bring a little more of a national profile to this site just as my first subject did to his political race: I thought I would begin with perhaps the most popular Republican currently living in Maryland, recent U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino.

I’m not sure just where this effort will take me, since it will be quite a bit of work securing interviews and putting them together. But in order to improve this website and provide a service to readers, hard work is often necessary.

So look for this to debut at noon next Tuesday. Due to its length – Dan and I (well, mostly Dan) spoke for over 20 minutes – I haven’t decided whether to make it a two-part interview or distill it down to one part. (I look at it this way: you’re not coming here in that instance to read what I have to say!) But I can tell you that Dan should have a dynamic presentation at the MDCAN Turning the Tides 2013 conference on January 12 in Annapolis. I’ll be there, and if you’re trying to bring conservatism to its rightful place atop the Maryland political ladder, you should be too!

But ultimately the ball is in the court of you, the readers. I’m well aware of my readership trends over the years so if I see Tuesday readership is surging I’ll know I have a hit on my hands. As Dan told me in the interview, “media leads to more media,” so I’m going to find out if readership of this feature leads to more readership overall.

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