My final primary endorsement comes in a race that, for me, has come down to the wire: do I go for the known conservative quantity that’s part of one of the most unpopular institutions in the country or do I go for one of the upstarts in a hope to bring about change or a more libertarian direction?
Well, the answer became a little easier as I looked into two of the four GOP candidates. Both Jonathan Goff, who challenged Andy Harris in 2014 and got the 22% of the anti-Harris vote in that primary, and Sean Jackson have expressed their support for Donald Trump so that eliminates them automatically as not conservative.
Yet despite the entry of Goff and Jackson, the Congressional race has been figured all along as a two-man contest between Harris and former Delegate Mike Smigiel.
We pretty much know the backstory on Andy Harris: he served in the Maryland State Senate for a decade before challenging incumbent Republican Congressman Wayne Gilchrest in 2008. The problem with Wayne, as Harris and many others saw in the district, was that Gilchrest was too centrist for a conservative district. Harris ended up winning a contentious primary, alienating enough Gilchrest supporters in the process that Democrat Frank Kratovil (who Gilchrest eventually endorsed) won by a narrow plurality in the Obama wave election of 2008. (A Libertarian candidate took 2.5% of the vote, denying Kratovil a majority.)
Harris finished out his term in the State Senate as he plotted to challenge Kratovil, who served as a “blue dog” Democrat (case in point: he voted against Obamacare.) Winning a far less acrimonious GOP primary in 2010 over businessman Rob Fisher, Harris went on to defeat Kratovil by 12 points in the first TEA Party wave election of 2010. Since then Harris hasn’t been seriously challenged in either the primary or general elections, winning with 63.4% of the vote in 2012 and 70.4% in 2014 after Goff challenged him in the primary.
While Democrat Jim Ireton may think he has a shot against Harris, it’s very likely that Tuesday’s election is the deciding factor in who will be our representative to the 115th Congress. But Mike Smigiel is the first serious candidate with a pedigree to challenge for the First District seat since Harris and State Senator E.J. Pipkin, among others, both took on Wayne Gilchrest in 2008.
Like Harris, Smigiel served for 12 years in the Maryland General Assembly but he served in the House of Delegates, representing the upper Eastern Shore. This factor is an important one in determining who will be the better candidate, as their terms of service overlapped from 2003-2010. Smigiel ran for re-election in the 2014 primary, but finished fourth in a seven-person field. It’s worth noting that four of the District 36 contenders were from Smigiel’s Cecil County, which may have sapped his electoral strength – or reflected a dissatisfaction with Mike’s approach. Only one of them could have advanced, so in effect they cannibalized the primary vote.
Mike’s case for unseating Harris has evolved from an undertone of dissatisfaction from those who supported Harris for the seat. They say that Andy is not a fighter or a leader in the conservative movement, and long for a more libertarian Congressman perhaps in the mold of Justin Amash or Thomas Massie. To that end, Smigiel has advocated his case for a Constitutional, limited government, often waving his copy of the Constitution in a debate or forum session. His campaign has focused to a great extent on a number of Congressional votes that Harris has cast, particularly the 2014 CRomnibus bill.
In looking at this race, it should be pointed out that I saw Smigiel’s libertarian approach as an asset; however, I felt the strong emphasis on Harris’s voting record masked some of the real truth.
A key difference between the legislative process in Maryland and the federal sausage-grinding we find in Washington is that Congressional legislation is not limited to a single issue as Maryland’s is. You can take the CRomnibus bill as an example, as it was a compromise hammered out between the various factions of Congress. That’s not to say Harris made the correct vote, but Smigiel is counting on a bit of ignorance in how the system works. I could say the same thing about Smigiel since he voted for the first O’Malley budget while Harris voted no.
So let’s talk about voting records, shall we? Because voting in a federal legislature is not the same as voting on state matters, we have an apples-to-oranges comparison between Harris and Smigiel. But over the eight years both men served in the General Assembly, a more apples-to-apples approach is possible.
Since 2007, I have done the monoblogue Accountability Project, so it covers the last four years that Harris and Smigiel served together. As an aggregate, I found that Smigiel voted as I would have 77.7% of the time, or 101 times out of 130. On the other hand, Harris was “correct” 89.1% of the time, or 122 times out of 137.
I even went back and found three years’ worth of data on the old Maryland Accountability Project that mine continued. While the author perhaps had a different standard of what he considered “conservative,” in each of those three years (2003-2005) Harris had a higher score: 84%-60% in 2003, 80%-75% in 2004, and 84%-83% in 2005. (The 2006 results were not available for the House, but Harris only scored 65% in the Senate – so Smigiel may have prevailed that year.)
Yet these are not “clean” comparisons, either, because in my case I hadn’t streamlined the process of doing the mAP yet. (Since 2011, both House and Senate ratings are based on the same bills.) So I went back and tried to locate the cases in my work where Harris and Smigiel voted the opposite way. There were a handful that over time have mattered less, but I would like to point out a few items that Harris favored and Smigiel opposed, since Mike has attacked Andy’s record:
- Smart, Green, and Growing – Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission (2010) – replaced a task force with the MSGC, an O’Malley-sponsored bill.
- Higher Education Investment Fund – Tuition Stabilization and Funding (2010) – a spending mandate O’Malley also sought.
- Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act of 2009 – this was a horrible bill that established and codified carbon reductions into state law.
One can definitely argue that Harris was trying to soften his image with these votes, since they came after his unsuccessful 2008 run.
But there is another side: those bills that Smigiel favored and Harris opposed:
- Other Tobacco Products Licenses (2010) – required separate licenses for those who sell cigars, snuff, or pipe tobacco. Harris was one of just 7 in the MGA to oppose this.
- High Performance Buildings Act – Applicable to Community College Capital Projects (2010) – required LEED Silver or above ratings.
- Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – Maryland Strategic Energy Investment Program (2008) – an O’Malley bill to spend RGGI money.
- Environment – Water Management Administration – Wetlands and Waterways Program Fees (2008) – established a fee of up to $7,500 an acre for certain developments.
- Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Critical Area Protection Program – Administrative and Enforcement Provisions (2008) – additional mandates on local government.
- High Performance Buildings Act (2008) – the precursor to the 2010 act above.
- Maryland Clean Cars Act of 2007 – an O’Malley bill requiring California emissions for Maryland cars, which added cost to new cars.
- Higher Education – Tuition Affordability Act of 2007 – another O’Malley bill that extended an artificial tuition freeze.
- Electricity – Net Energy Metering – Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard – Solar Energy (2007) - a good old-fashioned carveout, picking a winner.
It seems to me there’s a major difference on environmental issues between Smigiel and Harris, and while that may not matter so much at a federal level my belief that “green is the new red” leads me to think that Smigiel’s pro-liberty case isn’t as airtight as we are led to believe.
I can go all night looking at voting records, but there is one other thing I’d like to point out.
Last week I criticized Smigiel for spending part of the weekend before the primary at a cannabis convention, a stance he took exception to in a private message to me. Without divulging the full conversation, which I assumed was just for my private use, the upshot was that he argued there were going to be fundraising benefits for him as well as possible job creation in the 1st District. I can buy that argument, but if it hinges on him winning the primary Job One has to be getting the votes.
So it was interesting that a friend of mine shared a card her daughter received, which looks like the one below.
My friend speculated the card was targeted to a certain age group of Millennials since her daughter was the only one in the house to receive it. Yet the card isn’t from Mike’s campaign but instead an organization called 420 USA PAC, which advocates for cannabis legalization.
Of course, my personal stance is not all that far from Mike’s, but we also have two laboratories of democracy in Colorado and Washington state to see how the legalization of marijuana plays out. Smigiel argues the District of Columbia cannabis initiative is a state’s rights issue but should know that in the Constitution Congress is responsible to “exercise exclusive Legislation in all cases whatsoever” over the District per Article I, Section 8. So Harris performed some oversight.
On the other hand I can vouch for Andy being in the district over the weekend. Perhaps this is a classic conservative vs. libertarian matchup, although both men are well-accepted in the pro-life community.
This has been an endorsement I have had to think long and hard about; luckily it’s a case where I could easily work for the other gentleman if he will have me.
But I have decided that Andy Harris deserves another term in Congress. Saying that, though, it’s obvious people will be watching and if I were Mike Smigiel I wouldn’t dismiss trying again in 2018 because we could use his kind of voice in Congress as well. Think of the next two years as a probationary period for Harris.
So allow me to review my three endorsements for the major races.
For President, I urge you to vote for the remaining true conservative in the race, Ted Cruz. He has six people running for Delegate and Alternate Delegate who need your votes as well (although my friend Muir Boda is on the ballot, too.)
For U.S. Senate, I had a hard time deciding between Dave Wallace and Richard Douglas, but the backbone Richard Douglas has shown earned him my endorsement and vote.
And finally, retain Andy Harris as our Congressman.
Just don’t forget to vote Tuesday. It’s up to us to begin turning Maryland into a more conservative state – not just trying to teach the benefits of conservatism to an audience charitably described as skeptical but making sure we vote in the right manner as well.
In the First Congressional District, winning the Republican primary is tantamount to winning the race: the latest round of gerrymandering by Maryland Democrats made sure it would be by creating an R+13 district in a state that’s nominally D+26. So what do I make of an announcement by upstart former Delegate Michael Smigiel that he has a 2-to-1 lead over incumbent Andy Harris in a pre-primary poll?
If you read between the lines, you’ll see a few interesting tidbits. And my readers may recall that my co-writer Cathy Keim talked about a survey she took a few days ago. Chances are this was the same Gravis Marketing survey Smigiel is referring to in his work, which leads me to believe this was a push poll Smigiel did to build up his support. If you’re a relative unknown in much of the district, a tactic often used is that of driving up the negatives of the established politician.
Ironically, it’s much the same tactic Harris used to win the nomination in 2008 against a well-known incumbent, Wayne Gilchrest. Wayne’s biggest issue was the leftward drift of his philosophy and voting record, so much so that a clearly upset Gilchrest later rejected his party’s nominee and endorsed the Democrat challenger, Frank Kratovil. That and the Obama wave election led to Kratovil being a one-term Congressman before Harris defeated him in the TEA Party wave election of 2010.
As Cathy described it – a manner which isn’t reflected in Smigiel’s narrative – the issue questions came first:
Calls were made to over 20,000 voters with over 600 individuals answering the poll, and results indicate that when voters were informed that Rep. Harris had voted to fully fund Obamacare, 82 percent (82%) of the Republican primary voters surveyed would not vote for Harris.
When voters were aware that Rep. Harris had voted to fully fund President Barrack (sic) Obama’s unconstitutional use of executive power to grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens, 85 percent (85%) of Republican voters said they would not vote to re-elect Harris.
Likewise, 80 percent (80%) of those surveyed reported that they would not vote to re-elect Rep. Andy Harris if they knew he had made the statement that it was “just fine” for Planned Parenthood to sell baby parts as long as they did not use federal money to do so.
Nationally, Rep. Harris is known as the most outspoken critic of D.C. and states which have chosen to allow medical marijuana, decriminalization or legalization. In the 1st District, fifty-nine percent (59%) of the Republican voters surveyed reported they would be less likely to vote for Harris because of his anti-marijuana, anti-state’s rights stance.
In that context, it’s hard to believe Harris got 29% when over 80% of Republicans disagreed with him on one or more issues.
But there are two advantages Andy still enjoys in this race. While the FEC data is still from back in September, Harris had over a half-million dollars in cash on hand while Smigiel barely registered. Certainly Harris has been fundraising since then, and incumbents often enjoy the largest share of PAC money. In the 2015-16 cycle Harris had already amassed over $166,000 from various committees, a large portion of them in the medical field.
The second advantage is the IOUs Andy has built up through donating to local candidates. Here’s just a few that I noticed on his 2013-14 FEC report:
- Bob Cassilly (Senator, Harford County) – $4,000
- Matt Morgan (Delegate, St. Mary’s County) – $1,000
- Theresa Reilly (Delegate, Harford County) – $1,000
- Mike McDermott (former Delegate, Worcester County) – $4,000
- Bob Culver (Wicomico County Executive) – $4,000
- Carl Anderton (Delegate, Wicomico County) – $4,000
- Christopher Adams (Delegate, Wicomico County) – $1,000
- Jay Jacobs (Delegate, Kent County) – $1,000
- Jeff Ghrist (Delegate, Caroline County) – $1,000
- John Cluster (Delegate, Baltimore County) – $1,000
- Johnny Mautz (Delegate, Talbot County) – $1,000
- Justin Ready (Delegate and now Senator, Carroll County) – $4,000
- Kathy Szeliga (Delegate, Baltimore County) – $4,000
- Kevin Hornberger (Delegate, Cecil County) – $4,000
- Mary Beth Carozza (Delegate, Worcester County) – $4,000
- Nic Kipke (Delegate, Anne Arundel County) – $4,000
- Rick Impallaria (Delegate, Baltimore County) – $2,000
- Robin Grammer (Delegate, Baltimore County) – $1,000
- Steve Arentz (Delegate, Queen Anne’s County) – $1,000
- Susan Krebs (Delegate, Carroll County) – $4,000
- Addie Eckardt (Senator, Dorchester County) – $1,000
- Michael Hough (Senator, Frederick County) – $4,000
- Herb McMillan (Delegate, Anne Arundel County) – $4,000
- Ric Metzgar (Delegate, Baltimore County) – $1,000
- Johnny Salling (Senator, Baltimore County) – $4,000
- Maryland Republican Party – $49,500
Well over $100,000 went from Andy’s campaign coffers to help build the GOP state bench with several new legislators being the result. I don’t look for a lot of those folks jumping ship to support (in several but not all cases) a more recent former colleague. That’s a significant part of the state GOP delegation, including all three who defeated Smigiel in the 2014 Republican primary. And electability is a legitimate question mark for Smigiel.
In the 2014 Republican primary, Smigiel was fourth among seven candidates, four of whom hailed from Smigiel’s Cecil County portion of the district – those four finished fourth through seventh. (Mike finished third in Cecil behind fellow resident Alan McCarthy, who finished a distant fifth overall, and Jay Jacobs of Kent County, who was second overall.) Smigiel was third among five candidates in 2010 (all three winners were Republican) and while he kept the seat in 2006 based on the overall district vote he actually lost in his home Cecil County to Democrat Mark Guns. Smigiel was barely second out of five when he won his first term in 2002, so he’s never been overwhelmingly popular at the ballot box – just good enough to win three terms in a very safe GOP district. The fact that three other people challenged Smigiel from Cecil County – knowing only one of them could win due to an election law stating only one person could advance from any particular county – indicates there was some dissatisfaction with him, just as many are now displeased with Harris.
That anger toward Harris attracted Smigiel to the race and produced a poll result like this. Since he won the election in 2010, Harris has had little in the way of a challenge from either party until now. It’s a race perhaps reminiscent of the 2004 primary between Wayne Gilchrest and then-Maryland Senator Rich Colburn – the fact Colburn got 38% against a sitting Congressman may have opened the race up four years later when state officials could run from cover again without having to risk their own seats.
If I were to handicap the election today I would put it around that 60-40 range with Harris prevailing. A lot can occur in 3 1/2 months, though, and it’s probably good for Harris that there are a couple of other lesser known hopefuls in the race to split the protest vote.
This may be a good time to point out that Andy has a couple of townhall meetings slated for the Eastern Shore. On Monday night the 18th he will be at the Black Diamond Lodge in Fruitland for a 6 p.m. meeting. (Right next door is the site of Andy’s chicken suit affair of a few years back.) Then Tuesday at noon he will be the host at the Easton Volunteer Fire Department headquarters on Aurora Park Drive.
Unfortunately, I already have a commitment for Monday night so I will have to hear second-hand about what the Congressman has to say. It will be interesting to hear how all that goes down.
Needless to say, many conservatives around the country are disappointed (but not surprised) that the House of Representatives they elected to be the counterweight to Barack Obama decided to elect as its Speaker an insider who has shown little fortitude in fighting for the cause of limited government.
Included in that number who re-elected Boehner as Speaker was our own representative, Andy Harris. He took to social media to explain why, but I think it’s relevant to express my thoughts on why his assessment was incorrect by dividing his statement into portions.
In November, Speaker Boehner was re-nominated by the Republican House Conference without a single opponent stepping forward. That was the appropriate time for an alternative to step forward and be considered by House Republicans.
A lot changed in two months. The House vote occurred on November 13, before Barack Obama followed through on his pledge to take executive action on immigration and before the CRomnibus bill was voted on – in fact, the idea was hatched around that time. It was his handling of these two events and unwillingness to take a stand which included any slim prospect of a government shutdown which angered a number of conservatives. Too many things were taken off the table.
So the timing argument isn’t one which holds water with me.
Today’s vote on the House floor was simply whether Nancy Pelosi or John Boehner was going to be Speaker of the House.
Wrong. There was no chance Pelosi was going to be Speaker. The idea was to bring a second ballot in the hopes that Boehner would see the light, withdraw his name, and allow a compromise candidate to emerge. As Erick Erickson wrote, fellow Ohioan Jim Jordan may have been that guy.
I hope that we can now move forward and work with the Senate to pass common-sense conservative policies. If Speaker Boehner does not deliver on his promises, a Republican House Conference can be called by 50 members and I would join in that call.
Color me extremely, extremely skeptical on that one. We have a four-year track record of a lack of leadership and of kicking multiple cans down the road. And I can already see the excuses.
Over the summer: “We can’t call a conference now – we’re in the middle of working on the FY2016 budget and it would be a distraction.”
Come next fall: “We can’t call a conference now because it would handicap our nominee in 2016. The media would have a field day.”
In 2016: “It’s too close to the election, we can’t risk the infighting and distractions.” And so on. It would be a waiting game where they would hope to outlast our side.
I have no problem standing up for conservative principles to the Speaker and Republican leadership, such as my vote against the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, as well as my votes against the Ryan-Murray budget deal and debt ceiling increases.
But you voted for the CRomnibus, while civil libertarians dislike your vote for CISPA and FISA, so both these items you cite are somewhat mixed bags on the whole.
Please know that I will continue to fight for conservative values and Maryland’s First District in the 114th Congress.
You’re not off to a good start.
I go back to something I highlighted in a previous post on this subject, which reprinted a letter from the Wicomico Society of Patriots:
I am aware that it is potentially politically dangerous for Andy Harris to vote against Boehner. If Boehner were to win anyway, then he can retaliate by removing people from their prestigious positions. Andy Harris is on the appropriations committee, one of the most powerful committees. However, we did not vote for Andy Harris so that he could protect his political power in DC. We voted for Andy Harris to stop the Obama agenda. Boehner has been completely ineffectual in stopping Obama.
Sadly. John Boehner is the kind of leader who would be so petty as to punish conservative opponents – whose constituencies are the backbone of the Republican Party – so he’s no leader at all. If only he would exhibit the same backbone to the opposition. It will be worth checking out what happens to the 25 Republicans who did not support Boehner – locally Rep. Scott Rigell, who represents the Eastern Shore of Virginia, was among those opposed.
As for Harris, the questions have to be asked: is this the first major signal of the slide toward the center exhibited by those who have become comfortable inside the Beltway? And how much of an effect will it have on his 2016 prospects? It’s early but if there’s a sentiment underneath the surface that says a more conservative alternative would get the grassroots support that is needed to overcome Andy’s financial advantage – basically, that campaign would have to begin in the next few weeks given the 2016 primary is tentatively scheduled for April 5.
It’s clear that in its current configuration the First District is a Republican stronghold as Harris won in 2012 with 63% of the vote only to breach the 70% threshold in November – yet against a completely unknown, underfunded, and outclassed opponent Harris got just 78% of the primary vote in 2014. (Harris was unopposed in the primary in 2012 and beat Rob Fisher with 67% in 2010.) So Harris does have his detractors and hasn’t faced a “name” Republican opponent since his primary win (with 43%) over then-Congressman Wayne Gilchrest and fellow State Senator E.J. Pipkin.
There’s also been the sentiment that the Eastern Shore needs “one of ours” in the House. While Harris is not a stranger to the Eastern Shore, one part of the reason we were represented by Frank Kratovil for two years was Frank’s successful case that he had “Eastern Shore values” because he lived here (albeit as a come-here who lived almost within sight of the Bay Bridge.)
Perhaps the two saving graces that Andy will have is distance from the election and the slight chance that Boehner figures out the reason we elected more Republicans to the House. But that light you might see looking toward Washington is that of a whole lot of bridges burning.
It’s not quite as momentous as the 1920 election, where Warren G. Harding made my title part of his post-World War sloganeering, but today the holidays are now behind us, we return to the five-day workweek, and the political world awakens from its slumber later this week as Congress returns to session. (Maryland politicians will wait another week, as the second Wednesday in January falls at its latest possible date, the 14th.) Soon we will begin to see if the solutions that were promised to the voters will be the agenda for the new sessions.
But there are other aspects of “normalcy” we are beginning to see as well, as the power brokers jockey for position in the Republican Party. Case in point: the hue and cry put up by supporters of the next-highest primary vote-getter in the process of selecting a replacement for Delegate Kelly Schulz, who was tapped by Governor-elect Hogan to be his Secretary of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation. It was up to the Frederick County Republican Central Committee to select three people for a final interview process out of the sixteen applicants, and the three they selected were Barrie Ciliberti, a former delegate from Montgomery County who finished fifth in the primary (the top three advanced); Paul Stull, a former delegate who lost to Schulz in the 2010 Republican primary, closing a 16-year run in the House, and Chris Glass, Sr.
Wendi Peters, who finished fourth in the primary, did not get the nod to move on. Her sin? Not being on a slate with Senator-elect Michael Hough, Delegate Kathy Afzali, Delegate-elect David Vogt, and Ciliberti. Instead, she was a supporter of losing Senator David Brinkley – yet she had the backing of Schulz for the seat. A Central Committee chaired by JoeyLynn Hough made the selections.
I’ve been around this block a time or two. As a member of a Central Committee, our focus in selecting replacements was on whether the new person would be relatively conservative and also electable for the next term. Admittedly, we’ve had at least one swing and miss in this regard but the County Council chose not to select our committee’s top vote-getter for a 2011 vacancy. In the instance of picking a Delegate – which we had to help Somerset County do when Page Elmore passed away in 2010 – it occurred at a time when we didn’t want to influence a primary campaign in progress, so we agreed to select his wife Carolyn to finish the term.
In Frederick County’s case, an argument could be made for the former Delegates but personally I would have preferred someone younger than their late seventies, which is the case for both Ciliberti and Stull. But ignoring the voters who picked Peters as the highest vote-getter that didn’t advance – as well as the choice of the Delegate who is leaving the seat to replace her – seems to me a slap in the face to those voters over petty politics and a disservice to the Republicans they purport to represent. It’s a battle which reminds me of the entirety of the District 36 fiasco back in 2013 when Senator E.J. Pipkin resigned.
On a national level, this is reflected in the grassroots movement to dump John Boehner as Speaker of the House. Take as an example an e-mail I received from the Wicomico Patriots:
Now it is time to engage again as Congress returns on Tuesday to swear in the members and to vote for Speaker of the House. Please call or write an email to Andy Harris encouraging him to vote for a new speaker. It only takes 29 congressmen to block Boehner’s re-election as speaker. Once he is blocked, the opportunity is there for a new person to step up.
I am aware that it is potentially politically dangerous for Andy Harris to vote against Boehner. If Boehner were to win anyway, then he can retaliate by removing people from their prestigious positions. Andy Harris is on the appropriations committee, one of the most powerful committees. However, we did not vote for Andy Harris so that he could protect his political power in DC. We voted for Andy Harris to stop the Obama agenda. Boehner has been completely ineffectual in stopping Obama.
So, Andy Harris, will you listen to the people who got you elected and take the difficult step of voting against Boehner or will you continue to follow him?
Your CRomnibus vote was very discouraging to your conservative base. Do we really think that you and Boehner will suddenly get the courage to block the funding of Homeland Security in February? Do you think that blocking funding for that is easier than refusing the whole 1000 page monstrosity called cromnibus?
No, the excuses keep coming as the can is kicked down the road over and over again. Now is the time for you to stand up and fight for us.
Please do contact Andy Harris at: (202) 225-5311. (Emphasis mine.)
And here’s my own message to the Congressman:
For too long we have heard excuse after excuse from your leadership, accompanied by the promise to fight at the next critical juncture. If the Republicans want to be the opposition party they were elected by We the People to be, then they need to show some opposition on Obamacare, on securing the border and addressing executive actions further encouraging the torrent of illegal immigration, and on spending beyond our means. Collectively, you will be painted as a “do-nothing Congress” by the President, Democrats, and media (but I repeat myself) anyway so just pass those common-sense measures and dare Obama to veto them.
In short, we want a Speaker of the House with the backbone to stand up to Barack Obama so we demand you withhold your vote from John Boehner. It’s worth pointing out that a 2016 Congressional run from a conservative member of the Maryland General Assembly is possible and doable – just as you did against a sitting Wayne Gilchrest when you were first nominated in 2008. Certainly there would be a monetary disadvantage for the challenger, but in my opinion no one should be immune from a serious primary challenge – particularly if he or she isn’t listening to the wishes of the district being represented. A poll cited by Jim Geraghty of National Review Online shows 60% of Republicans would “probably” or “definitely” replace Boehner as Speaker. Even as an Ohio native, count me as a “definite.”
These are two stories to keep your eye on in the coming days. Why do I get a sinking feeling they won’t end well for the good guys?
For the four years he has been in office, Andy Harris has generally enjoyed the support of his conservative Eastern Shore constituents. He’s not had a serious primary challenge since he was elected and garnered over 70% of the vote in 2014 against Democrat Bill Tilghman, whose centrist posture was well right of mainstream Democrats but far out of step with the district.
But since that resounding November victory, Andy’s actions in Congress during the lame duck session have earned him further enmity from the strong libertarian wing of the party and alienated conservatives as well.
By inserting a provision into the so-called CRomnibus bill preventing the District of Columbia from enacting its Proposition 71 marijuana legalization, Harris again became the target of District residents and leaders who demanded a tourism boycott of Andy’s Eastern Shore district earlier this summer. Accusations of being in the pocket of Big Pharma followed, but Harris defended the role of Congress spelled out in the Constitution [Article 1, Section 8] as overseer of the District’s affairs.
Yet while the libertarians of the Shore make up a small slice of the constituency – a Libertarian candidate ran in the First District for three successive elections from 2008-12, but never received even 5% of the vote – the conservatives are upset about Andy’s vote in favor of CRomnibus. That segment of the electorate is Andy’s bread and butter.
In the TEA Party community, there are whispers about who could challenge Andy from the right, as several feel he is on the same glide path that Wayne Gilchrest took during his long Congressional career. His 2008 primary defeat (by Harris) came after a bitter campaign where Andy stuck the “liberal” tag successfully on the longtime pol as well as fellow Maryland Senate opponent E. J. Pipkin.
Ironically, a politician long allied with Pipkin could be a prospect to make that challenge. Michael Smigiel, a delegate who was defeated in the 2014 District 36 GOP primary, is popular among the TEA Party community for his strong Second Amendment stance. But it would be difficult for anyone to raise the money Andy has at his disposal and Harris has bolstered his profile among local elected officials and the state Republican party by being generous with his campaign funds through A Great Maryland PAC.
It’s also worth mentioning for context that CRomnibus is probably roughly the same deal which would have been made if the budget were completed in regular order, given the partisan divide between the House and Senate.
Instead, while most functions of the government will continue through next September, the Department of Homeland Security budget has a February expiration date. This sets up a showdown between Congress and Barack Obama regarding the latter’s executive actions to give de facto amnesty to millions of illegal aliens; however, some hardliners already feel the damage is done.
In response to a lengthy Facebook post by Harris explaining his CRomnibus stance, though, local activists summed up the frustration TEA party activists felt, noting:
- “(Harris) does a nice job of listing those riders and amendments that might seem to gain the approbation of the conservative and Republican audiences, while omitting anything that might serve as a balance – what effectively was the PRICE paid for what was had, the PRICE of ‘compromise.’”
- “It is rather sad that Andy thinks that he can list a few paltry gains and that will make us overlook the whole thousand page monstrosity. The obvious question is that if he got in a few tidbits that he wanted, then who else got in their tidbits and what are those? I would imagine that they will far outweigh any small gains that he is bragging about.”
These activists agree one way Harris could help to restore his image would be to take the lead in the conservative grassroots push to replace John Boehner as Speaker of the House. Bear in mind that this could come at some cost as Andy serves on the Appropriations Committee and a Boehner victory over any challenger for whom Andy shows support could bring repercussions such as the stripping of his position there, but on balance I believe a potential sacrifice such as that is worth the opportunity to have a stronger conservative leader as Speaker. It’s a sentiment shared by commentators at American Thinker, WorldNetDaily, and RedState.
On November 4, people hungry for real change went to the polls to reject the Democratic Senate and place Republicans firmly in control of Congress. The events leading to the CRonmibus, though, shook the confidence that Washington would depart from its business-as-usual benefits to the ruling class by allowing the outgoing defeated members one last hurrah. While all of this blame cannot be laid at the feet of John Boehner, there is a mood in this country that a strong counterbalance is needed to the increasing use of Executive Branch power by Barack Obama, particularly on immigration and Obamacare. The fear of many conservatives, particularly those in the First District, is that John Boehner doesn’t have the spine to rein in the executive.
Just like in 2008, when Andy Harris first ran for Congress, the potential is there in 2016 for state elected officials to “run from cover” as their Delegate or Senate seats aren’t on the ballot. During the similar 2012 election, 7 members of the Maryland General Assembly ran for Congress – one for the Senate and six for various Congressional seats. While none were successful overall, two won their party primary and ran through November.
No member of Congress is universally loved, and being a representative at any level of government means you won’t please everyone. But there’s a growing number who want Andy Harris to be a conservative leader and not just talk a good game.
On Saturday I was alerted to a story by John Fritze in the Baltimore Sun regarding Andy Harris and his attempt to level the playing field a little bit in Maryland politics by creating a superPAC called A Great Maryland PAC. According to the Sun, Harris donated $150,000 to the PAC, which turned right around and put out a commercial depicting Jim Mathias, Norm Conway, Martin O’Malley and Barack Obama as “liberal peas in a pod.”
I don’t have a copy of the spot to show you at the moment, but the theme seems similar to one Harris used in the 2008 primary against former State Senator E. J. Pipkin and onetime Congressman Wayne Gilchrest.
What’s funny to me, though, is the Democrats’ reaction, like from Jim Mathias:
“I don’t think it’s right,” said Mathias, who said he had no idea who was behind the television spot. “People’s freedom of speech — I support that with my every breath — but if you’re going to make these kinds of accusations, I think there should be accountability.”
Funny you should talk about that, Jim – I’ve been holding you accountable for your votes for years, and I’m glad to finally have a little help. So come clean about where you received your campaign funding (hint: it’s a lot of special interests.)
Harris has been a savior to Republicans around the state, with significant donations to several candidates as well as the state party – in total, including the seed money for the A Great Maryland PAC, Harris is over $300,000 in campaign contributions – and that’s good news for conservatives around the state.
Hopefully he’ll need to collect more to give to more incumbent recipients next time around.
Sometimes politics makes strange bedfellows. Take, for instance, the Cecil County Campaign for Liberty and the Cecil County Republican Party.
On Friday I received separate e-mail messages from Bob Willick of the C4L and the county’s Republican Chair Chris Zeauskas imploring me to attend a town hall meeting in Bel Air featuring our Congressman, Andy Harris. In no uncertain terms, though, the two political leaders were upset that Harris voted for the omnibus budget bill. (I’m not thrilled about it, either.)
But what I noticed about the dueling e-mails was their reliance on a single set of themes. Notice that both used the examples of Rep. Barbara Lee and Paul Riechoff of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America to make their case, and they share a lot of similar bullet points.
Of course, I didn’t get to the townhall meeting last night to find out what was said – perhaps some of my readers from in and around Bel Air can clue me in because this coverage was rather tepid – but one point Harrishad previously made in his defense was a provision for the Eastern Shore’s seafood industry.
Even one of Andy’s Democratic opponents was skeptical. Bill Tilghman posted on his Facebook page:
Tonight the House of Representatives passed a bipartisan Omnibus appropriations bill that funds the government through September. This is a good thing, but it will be only temporary if partisanship reigns supreme in the future. A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.
Yet, while these e-mails use a lot of the same rhetoric, there is a point made in both which bears repeating. Willick lamented the changes Washington seems to make:
Andy Harris pledged to us that he would change Washington. Instead – it changed him.
Zeauskas, though, was far more lengthy in his criticism:
The last thing this Country and the State of Maryland needs is another politician that will place their political aspirations over principle.
And it doesn’t matter whether it’s a Republican or Democrat.
If our Republican Party stands for nothing, that’s bad.
But what’s worse?
A Republican Party that stands for exactly the same thing as the Democrats.
The greatest lie ever told in politics is that good people are obligated to support the lesser of two evils.
I joined our Republican Party because I was inspired by our principles and ideas.
Freedom is an inspirational idea.
When we don’t fight for our principles we drive people away from our Party.
Think about it.
After this vote for Obamacare, how many people are motivated to put everything on the line to help Andy Harris next election?
How many Tea Party activists will be motivated to donate and volunteer for Rep. Harris?
As an elected Republican official, how am I going to rally the troops to fight for a Big Government Republican?
Voting for Obamacare and spending hikes isn’t the way to grow the Republican Party.
I can’t look someone from Cecil County in the eyes and explain away Andy Harris’s vote.
How could any elected official, especially a Republican, vote to fund a bungled roll out of Obamacare, to continue the destruction of the American healthcare system?
I’m embarrassed today for our Party.
As an elected Republican Party official, it’s my job to promote our Republican Party, but I won’t promote Obamacare or give cover to a Republican who votes for this.
Too many families are being hurt by this radical government action.
We deserve better.
And we expect better from our only Republican Congressman here in Maryland.
Now this point I can completely see, since there are times our elected Republican officials in our county seem to lose their way. But unless and until they draw a primary opponent, we are pretty much stuck with them. In the case of Harris, do you honestly think Tilghman or fellow Democrat John LaFerla would vote no to this?
I think a big part of the problem with the Republicans in Washington is that they are scared of the wrong thing. I can almost guarantee you that, in the back of Andy’s mind, there’s that memory of how much Republicans were blamed for the government shutdown last October and all the supposed ill effects of the sequester before that. So when the deal was made, his calculation (with the inclusion of the seafood worker provision) was that it was the best deal we could get and the country would not have to go through this whole nightmare for a second time next month.
Now I’m sure the political junkies are yelling at their computer that I’m wrong, but I also realize that 90-plus percent of voters aren’t that much into politics and they get their news from sources who are quick to blame Republicans for all the nation’s ills. In that respect, I think Andy has gone Washington but he’s still a long way from Wayne Gilchrest territory – as the de facto leader of Maryland Republicans, I believe the thinking was he’s going to have to appeal to the center a little bit to help his fellows out come November.
I don’t think this justifies the poor vote, but since we have no other options our best course is to give him the courage to return to the form he had in the Maryland Senate, where he would occasionally stand alone on the side of right. Perhaps giving him some Republican company from Maryland next year will be of assistance.
And if Andy wants my space to explain himself, I can always use guest opinion.
Yesterday the latest Maryland Poll from Gonzales Research came out (h/t Maryland Reporter), and it suggests that we have a long way to go in educating the voters of this state about the real facts at hand. But there are a few encouraging signs, I suppose.
In the nine months since a similar sampling in January, we can now determine that Barack Obama’s job approval has gone down six points in the topline, from 64% to 58%. But the difference between “strongly approve” and “strongly disapprove” has plummeted in that span: it was +19.4 in January but is now just +6.7. A 13-point swing in that demographic suggests the national economic situation of an ongoing sluggish “recovery” is taking its toll.
By the same token, the 54% job approval Martin O’Malley enjoyed in January was a mirage, too. O’Malley now finds himself in a statistical dead heat, with 48% approval and disapproval in the October poll. But that difference between “strongly approve’ and “strongly disapprove” has once again moved more than the six-point decline on the topline, going from a +0.2 in January to a (-15.1) now. That’s an even more pronounced 15-point swing not shown by a 6 point drop in the headlines. Tellingly, nearly 3 of 10 Democrats now disapprove of O’Malley.
But that doesn’t seem to reflect on Anthony Brown, who leads the first non-campaign poll by a fairly similar margin to the Garin-Hart-Yang poll released by Brown’s campaign last month. The Maryland Poll has Anthony Brown/Ken Ulman at 41%, Doug Gansler/Jolene Ivey at 21%, and Heather Mizeur at 5%. (Maybe she can have Wayne Gilchrest as a running mate. As an aside, Mizeur also got the endorsement of Salisbury City Council member Laura Mitchell.)
Unfortunately, the numbers trend the wrong way on some key issues. While 49% of Marylanders polled favored the death penalty and 44% opposed it in January, those numbers are now reversed in that 49% favor the law rescinding it and 44% said no. Then again, its support was rather soft all along because it had a strong approve/strong disapprove ratio of (-3.2) in January while the repeal now has a +5.5 ratio. In part, this is probably because of the state’s reluctance to use the death penalty and the over-sensationalized Kirk Bloodsworth case. However, I would wager that if you put a name and a victim to a case (e.g. Thomas Leggs and Sarah Foxwell) the support for rescinding the death penalty repeal declines drastically. (In that case, Leggs pled guilty to avoid the death penalty, while the family agreed because of the probability of endless appeals.)
Meanwhile, those who responded to the poll must have believed the onerous gun laws passed by Martin O’Malley and Democrats would actually curb crime. When asked in January, support for an assault weapons ban in the immediate wake of Sandy Hook was 58-40 (with a +17.5 intensity of strongly support/strongly oppose), while background checks passed muster by an 88-11 figure overall. But the gun law as passed maintained its 58-40 support (with only a slightly lower +16.7 intensity.) That, my friends, is a sadly bamboozled and gullible public.
Yet when it comes to the pocketbook, people get it. When asked whether a 10 cent per gallon gasoline tax was acceptable in January, just 26% favored in with 73% opposed. The intensity of opposition was just as stiff, with a factor of (-50.8) strong approve/strong disapprove.
So now that the reality of a 21 cent per gallon increase spread out over three years has smacked Free Staters in the pocketbook, they hate it even more. 22 percent approve of the tax hike, while 76 percent oppose it. Intensity remains as strong, at a factor of (-50.7). Most telling to me is that the Democrats don’t tout it as a success.
Knowing that, where do we go from here? It appears to me that the emotional appeals of Democrats have worked on the above non-fiscal issues because those polled are probably not affected – the chances are small that someone knows a person who’s been heinously murdered by someone who would receive the death penalty, and for those who do too many are blaming the tool used for the victim’s demise.
I can sit and stare at a gun with a 30-round magazine all day, but as long as I don’t pick up the weapon and make the physical motion to fire it, the gun is inert and harmless. Thousands of Marylanders have access to a gun, most have never fired it outside the confines of a closed gun range. Those who use the tool of a handgun otherwise are more often than not breaking enough laws already that the so-called Firearm Safety Act of 2013 won’t prevent them from carrying out their mayhem. However, another person with a weapon just might.
Someone out there probably collects the rare news stories of crimes prevented by the presence of a gun, but the narrative of “if it bleeds, it leads” plays into the hands of those who would usurp our Second Amendment rights. Yet if the hapless victim of random violence had his or her own weapon, things may have played out differently. Instead, the state is placing a burden on those who simply wish to defend themselves, and I thought government was supposed to be about empowerment. That’s what liberals tell me, anyway.
Liberals like Anthony Brown, Doug Gansler, and Heather Mizeur.
And by the way, where is the Republican poll? I think the Gonzales pollsters have fallen into the same “one-party state” trap Doug Gansler did. I’d like to see something more scientific than a blog poll on that race.
Since I didn’t get a GO Friday feature this week, I added my own two cents as I told you I would. This place doesn’t go dark.
But if you want to be considered for GO Friday next week, just let me know.
In a spectacular flameout, the allegations of wrongdoing in the controversy over Cecil County Executive Tari Moore’s sudden affiliation change and subsequent appointment of a candidate not on the list submitted by the county’s Republican Central Committee were dismissed in the county’s Circuit Court via a seven-page decision by visiting Judge Thomas E. Marshall, a retired Harford County Circuit Court judge.
Also dismissed in the suit due to a lack of standing was a claim that the county’s Tier Map was unlawfully submitted to the state.
The controversy closes another chapter in the ongoing war between supporters and opponents of former State Senator E.J. Pipkin and current Delegate Michael Smigiel. (Opponents have generally had the backing of former State Senator and now-Congressman Andy Harris, who defeated Pipkin as well as former Congressman Wayne Gilchrest in a bitter 2008 GOP Congressional primary.) Those allied with Smigiel control the county’s Republican Central Committee, and it was Chair Chris Zeauskas who filed the complaint. On the other hand, Tari Moore was backed by Harris in her quest to be Cecil County’s first executive.
Just before assuming office as the incoming County Executive last December, Moore suddenly changed her party affiliation from Republican to unaffiliated, making the switch because she wanted to bypass the county’s GOP Central Committee in selecting her successor. By becoming unaffiliated, she retained the right to pick once County Council became deadlocked in a 2-2 tie between Smigiel supporters and Harris allies. Eventually Moore picked Joyce Bowlsbey, a Republican. (The Republicans control all five seats on Cecil County Council, so this was an intraparty fight.) Judge Marshall agreed that, despite the GOP’s backing in the 2012 election, Moore’s status as unaffiliated at the moment of her resignation from County Council complied with the method of selection prescribed in the county’s Charter and eventually followed.
Yet there is one other piece of business on the table, notwithstanding the possibility of an appeal by Zeauskas. At last fall’s state GOP convention, a motion was made to censure Tari Moore for her “corrupt and reprehensible decision“; a motion which had support from some quarters but was tabled via a fairly close vote. Because of the abrupt cutoff of our Spring Convention this year, we did not revisit the Moore controversy but it may return next month at this year’s Fall Convention in Annapolis.
But now that the court case is settled, the question will be whether Moore rejoins the GOP fold. Those calling for her censure had a point in that Republicans backed her election in the primary; had she gone the independent route in 2012 she would have likely lost badly. Yet I’ve been assured by Moore’s backers that the decision to be unaffiliated was just temporary and would be rectified once the court case was settled. Obviously it would be to her benefit in 2016 to run as a Republican, although this episode has probably assured her of a primary opponent. She would have a hard time in a three-way general election race if the county GOP stays loyal to its nominee and the Democrats run someone, too.
So the clock is ticking. If she changes back before the state convention, the question of censure may be moot in a “no harm, no foul” sense. But if not, even the assurances of Andy Harris may not spare her the state party’s wrath.
For many years, local Republicans in Wicomico County had to make a choice: support the local Republican Club by attending their annual Crab Feast or show their backing of our Republican Congressman – at the time, Wayne Gilchrest – by making it up to the Upper Shore for the annual Bull Roast. Now that Wicomico Republicans have settled on a date closer to Labor Day, though, it opens the field up for us and several of us from our local Republican party attended the annual First District Bull Roast. If one more Central Committee member had shown, we would have had a quorum.
The venue was impressive, so I made sure to follow the rules.
This sign was actually in a side building which, I was told by volunteer E. Dee Monnen, serves as a dorm for inner-city kids who spend time on this working Schuster farm – on this day, though, it served as the venue for a VIP gathering. This mini-tour was one advantage of our timing: because Kim and I did an event with her side of the family earlier in the morning, we arrived somewhat early.
Not two minutes later my fellow blogger and radio host Jackie Wellfonder arrived for her stint as Red Maryland Radio co-host for the day, with Andrew Langer as her sidekick.
But the real stars of the show were those elected officials and longtime Republican fixtures who came to speak to us. (Best Supporting Actor, though, has to go to whoever made the beef, which was flavorful and nicely seasoned for my sandwiches. If I were more of a foodie you’d have had the pic, horseradish and all. But I’m not.)
After he renewed acquaintances with friends and volunteers, Andy Harris pointed out he couldn’t initially answer questions for the day because of his boss, who served as the opening speaker.
Ellen Sauerbrey served to introduce the large number of elected officials and candidates who attended the event. The room was set up for about 150 and as you’ll see later it was pretty full. As she spoke, the next two in line waited in the wings.
I have to give an assist to my fiance Kim for the great photo. Most of my readership recognizes Congressman Andy Harris, but the gentleman on the left would be far more familiar if you heard his voice – our featured speaker was WCBM morning radio co-host Sean Casey.
First up to speak was the host himself.
The key point of Andy’s message was that our side was beating back the Obama agenda and had done so for the last three years, since the election of 2010. He predicted the next three weeks would be “a wild ride” for the House majority as pressure will be brought to bear from the White House and Senate Democrats to cave on defunding Obamacare and not risking a government shutdown.
It will be interesting to see what this reporter has to say about what Andy said. I believe she’s from the local Easton Star-Democrat newspaper.
The next speaker was less kind to the media, particularly the “Maryland Democratic Party house organ” known as the Baltimore Sun. Yet we were told that Sean Casey arises each morning by 3:15 to review items for use on the Sean and Frank morning show. He had the attention of those who came to the event.
Casey spoke on a number of current events – the Navy Yard shooting, Benghazi hearings, the incident in Baltimore at a Common Core townhall meeting – but the most intriguing part of the program was his moderation of a mini-debate between two of the contenders for governor, David Craig and Ron George. Casey came up with the questions and the candidates gave their answers.
I actually caught up to both of them before the impromptu debate began, as they were preparing to work the crowd.
David Craig wasn’t by himself, but was assisted by a member of his team clad in the same familiar blue Craig color. Meanwhile, Ron George was chatting up old General Assembly friends – he’s pictured here with former Delegate and 2014 State Senate candidate Richard Sossi, who is on the right.
In general, David Craig leaned heavily on his experience as mayor and Harford County Executive in spelling out his vision for Maryland, while Ron George referred a lot to his newly-expanded ten-point plan for the state should he win election to the governor’s seat.
Worth noting as well was that the third gubernatorial candidate, Charles Lollar, also planned on attending but had a scheduling conflict and couldn’t arrive from Harford County in time. He was speaking before a women’s group there, according to Julie Brewington, a Lollar campaign coordinator from Wicomico County.
So my first Bull Roast is in the books. Not bad for leaving the camera and notebook at home, eh?
No, this post isn’t about Dan Bongino, whose non-announcement announcement was much less interesting than the fake press release from yesterday announcing the ersatz Bongino/Alan Keyes gubernatorial ticket.
Instead, we learned yesterday that in 2014 we have the potential for yet another rematch in Congressional District 1.
After losing the 2012 primary by a scant 57 votes only to watch the Democratic nominee, Wendy Rosen, withdraw in disgrace after allegations of voting fraud, John LaFerla announced he would file Wednesday to try again in 2014. LaFerla waged an eleventh-hour write-in campaign last fall but only received about 4% of the overall vote – Rosen picked up 27.5% despite dropping out in September, which leads me to believe that most of the people who voted Democrat just reflexively looked for the (D) behind the name on the ballot and did no other homework – the prototypical “low-information voter.”
While LaFerla hasn’t established his own issue page on his reborn Congressional campaign website, he has posted a letter in which the writer claims Andy Harris is from the “Timothy McVeigh” wing of the Republican party. It appears that he will reprise his oh-so-successful portrayal of Harris as “Doctor No”; unfortunately for him most voters in this district are looking for someone to say that exact two-letter word.
But it looks like the mainstream Democrats are lining up behind John, given that Kim Kratovil (Frank’s wife) is listed as the person in charge of “special event planning”, former state candidates Chris Robinson and Arthur Hock are in charge of signage, and former GOP Congressman Wayne Gilchrest is listed as the “Republicans for LaFerla” head. (Which means they’re still looking for a Republican.) While the renewed Gilchrest endorsement isn’t a surprise considering how far left the ex-Congressman has gone in his personal jihad against all things Andy Harris, it’s worth remembering that last time around LaFerla was also endorsed by Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America. If you’re into killing babies, I guess John is your guy. (Ironically enough, Andy Harris’s wife Cookie is Director of Special Events for Maryland Right to Life, so the choice there is crystal clear.)
Locally, the LaFerla effort will be spearheaded by the feisty Ron Pagano, who stated recently that Andy Harris “endorsed the violent overthrow of the government.” There’s a mainstream, thoughtful Democrat for you.
So the battle line would seem to be drawn, as a far-left wing partisan who promises (like they all do) to put “people above politics” will do the opposite in a bid to get elected. The First District is a conservative district, so it may be time for a real conservative Democrat (and I know we have a lot around here) to try and get on the ballot in the race. There may as well be a choice for local Democrats – hopefully their winner only remembered to vote once this time.
I came across this nugget and it got me to pondering. One would think we don’t have this issue in Maryland with just one Republican Congressman who was supported by the group, but read on.
For a bit of context, let me refer you to another Congressional scorecard put out by the Club for Growth. In it, our Congressman Andy Harris received a respectable (but not outstanding) score of 86 percent. He easily outdistanced the other state Republican, now-former Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, but finished outside the top 10 percent of Congress and didn’t crack the top 50. That’s a departure from his 2011 score of 95 percent and 22nd place ranking.
Yet there’s probably not a lot of danger that we’ll see Andy Harris’s face plastered on this site, called Primary My Congressman! This is another Club For Growth project, complete with the picture of the rhino (for RINO) in the heading. Their reasoning for the site:
Many of these RINOs represent districts that are heavily Republican where it would be difficult for the right Republican candidate to lose. In fact, the nonpartisan Cook Report, a political handicapper, found that in 2012, 190 Congressional districts were considered “Strongly Republican,” meaning that they were not even competitive in the general election. In 96 Congressional districts, 2012 Republican nominee for President Mitt Romney received more than 60% of the vote. Romney received more than 55% of the vote in 159 districts!
On the flip side, according to the 2012 pro-free market, limited government Club for Growth’s Congressional Scorecard, only 39 members of Congress have lifetime scores of 90% or above on their voting records relating to economic freedom and pro-growth policy.
This means that in districts that are heavily Republican, there are literally dozens of missed opportunities to elect real fiscal conservatives to Congress — not more “moderates” who will compromise with Democrats to just increase spending and grow government a little bit slower than usual.
While I see the Club for Growth’s point, it bears mentioning that the aforementioned Harris had to overcome a bloody and bitter primary in 2008, not to mention the stiff headwind presented by the combination of an uninspiring Republican Presidential candidate, a Democrat with a populist message, and a vanquished primary opponent who turned traitor and endorsed the Democrat – yet Harris only lost by less than 3,000 votes in an election where the Libertarian garnered over 8,000. The 2010 primary was much less eventful and the final tally much more reflective of the actual composition of the First District.
In defeating any or all of these targeted Republicans, the conservative has to be aware that, in many cases, the party establishment won’t be happy about the unwelcome guest. Being on a Central Committee, I can understand the notion of trying to avoid divisive primary fights due to the common misconception it would harm them in the general election. One can point to the Andy Harris example in 2008 as a case study in the effect of a contested primary, but bear in mind that had Republicans electorally stayed home and not followed the advice of the turncoat Wayne Gilchrest Harris may still have pulled it out. Having a fairly serious primary opponent in 2010 didn’t hurt Harris; meanwhile, Frank Kratovil had both the power of incumbency and no primary opponent, so in the eyes of conventional wisdom Kratovil should have had an advantage.
But if you want to help the conservative movement in a different way, why not turn the Club for Growth’s advice on its head?
If you are a conservative in what may be considered a hopelessly Democratic Congressional district, why not turn the tables on the establishment liberal and primary them as a Democrat? Obviously the chances of winning in this quest are quite remote, but there are several good things which can happen:
- As a conservative Democrat, you can spread that pro-liberty message to an audience which generally hears the word “Republican” and tunes out.
- If enough people begin to question the incumbent plantation liberal, he or she has to start paying attention to the district rather than being able to assist other Democrats in their election.
- And of course, if a conservative Democrat happens to win, they have two choices: either switch parties to their more natural home or be an absolute thorn in the side of the Democratic leadership in Washington. I don’t have nearly the problem with DINOs as I do with RINOs.
I’m sure there are some TEA Party types who are Democrats, but may not be active ones. Obviously we have made inroads in the local Republican Party but it may be time to do some more stealth movement into the Democratic side. (Arguably, there were at least three Democrats on the 2010 Wicomico County primary ballot who could pass for Republicans – none of them won, but unfortunately two ran for the same seat.)
The local test case for this may be Wicomico’s Council District 1. I’d love to see a good conservative Republican run for this post, but I would love it even more if a conservative minority Democrat ran for the office as well. I’m sure there are a lot of voters there who look solely at the party label at the ballot box, but if presented a choice would agree with pro-liberty principles – especially when it comes to education and the economy.
While it may be heresy to say this as a member of the Republican Central Committee, I will admit there are some conservatives who simply won’t join the Republican Party as a matter of principle. There have been possible matchups in the past where I would have voted for the Democrat over a more moderate Republican, but the conservative Democrats didn’t get out of the primary. I encourage them to keep trying, though, because I would rather have a choice between two conservatives in whom I have confidence to lead the pro-liberty movement than my usual option of either voting for a speed bump on the highway to tyranny or slamming down the hammer on the road to serfdom.