Harris explains his vote for Boehner

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.

Back to normalcy

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?

The required renovation of Andy Harris

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.

Building ‘A Great Maryland’

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.

Campaign for…Republicans?

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.

(snip)

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.

The first real poll

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.

Case dismissed

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.

Download (PDF, 283KB)

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.

2013 First District Bull Roast in pictures and text

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?

Taking another shot

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.

Primary colors

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:

  1. As a conservative Democrat, you can spread that pro-liberty message to an audience which generally hears the word “Republican” and tunes out.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

‘A bullet in the back’

I probably gave Jackie Wellfonder short shrift late last night in updating my post on the Wicomico County Republican Club meeting. She did her own take on what was said by MDGOP First Vice-Chair Diana Waterman at the meeting, to which I responded with a lengthy comment I’m going to repost here, along with some other thoughts.

I read your message and mostly agree, particularly as it relates to the 2012 campaign. But my hope is that the MDGOP has learned from its mistakes because we left a LOT of cards on the table: not just Dan’s campaign, but the ballot issues as well.

Woody Willing of the Wicomico Board of Elections said last night we Republicans had 81% turnout and the Democrats had 75%. In rough numbers that means locally we turned out about 16,000 voters but the Democrats turned out 19,000. What we need to figure out by 2014 is how to get that turnout number up to 90% or 95% on our side in order to overcome a numerical disadvantage – statewide we need to get 100% just to be even with 50% of the Democrats. That’s the reality in Maryland in 2013.

I think the ballot issues are going to be key. Let’s look at the potential ballot issues for 2014 just from what’s been introduced in the General Assembly so far: onerous gun control measures and a tightening of the very petition process for starters. If we couch the gun control issue properly and don’t allow the other side the chance to seize the narrative (as they did on the illegal alien issue) we have a chance to turn out a high percentage of voters in an election where turnout is historically lower (I think it’s on the order of 15-20% less for a gubernatorial election than a Presidential.)

But the Republican Party in Maryland needs to be taken over further by those who love liberty. There’s still plenty of deadwood which needs to go.

As for Julie’s comment, I would like to point out that Nicolee Ambrose worked to scrap the terrible rules put in place at the national convention (she couldn’t vote there because she didn’t take office until the close of the proceedings.) I don’t think Audrey Scott would have taken that sort of leadership role since I perceive her as part of the problem. I appreciate the fact Audrey’s done a lot for the MDGOP but I think we made the better choice. If Audrey had been more honest in her campaign, she still may have prevailed.

We knew that change wouldn’t happen overnight, but the more quickly we can push the MDGOP in the RIGHT direction the better.

As it turned out my public school, quick and dirty math was pretty good since I didn’t have the actual totals in front of me – in accessing those numbers I found there were 19,359 Democrats and 16,798 Republicans who voted in Wicomico County (along with 6,291 who are unaffiliated or belong to minor parties.)

Yet there were other numbers of interest to me. Based on that number of Democrats voting:

  • Barack Obama received just 276 more votes than the total number of Democrats who voted. Presumably he got some percentage of the unaffiliated vote, so my bet is that at least 10 percent of the Democrats voted for Mitt Romney.
  • Ben Cardin’s percentage as relates to Democrats (87.7%) was less than the number of Republicans who voted for Dan Bongino (89.7%) – using my theory of 3/5 of the Sobhani vote being taken from Bongino, a two-person race would been practically a draw here. That’s somewhat disappointing, but name recognition being what it is maybe not a complete shock.
  • Combining the total of Wendy Rosen and write-in votes (which were almost exclusively for Democrat John LaFerla) would still leave the Democrats over 3,000 short of matching their voting total. Obviously plenty of Democrats and unaffiliated voters like the conservative Andy Harris, despite the constant barrage of criticism he gets from the Daily Times.

In short, the 2010 and 2012 election results belie the voter registration totals which would suggest that Wicomico County is, if not a Democratic stronghold, at least a place where they should hold a majority of the offices. But they don’t. We have attracted enough Democrats with a message of fiscal conservatism and sound government that either the Republicans win, or Democrats who manage to succeed have to do so by presenting themselves as the second coming of Ronald Reagan. (cough*Jim Mathias*cough) They have to hope people don’t look behind the curtain at their voting records and lists of special interest contributors from across the Bay.

So let’s talk about this “circular firing squad.” We really have three groups of Republicans in the state of Maryland:

  1. Those who believe that, in order to be “electable,” we have to appeal to soccer moms, metrosexuals, and other centrist or left-of-center groups. They pine for the days of a Connie Morella, Wayne Gilchrest, or “Mac” Mathias – Republicans who reached across the aisle. Well, guess what? These groups are voting Democrat now and that’s not going to change unless we give them a better option. All reaching across the aisle seems to accomplish nowadays is collecting bite marks from the attack dog across the way. Democrats take what little credit there may be for stealing GOP ideas, but when things go wrong – as they always seem to with these schemes – they figure out ways to blame the Republicans.
  2. There’s a group, perhaps the smallest of the three, which preaches fiscal conservatism but would dearly loves us to quit focusing on social issues. Who cares, they say, about how easy it is to get an abortion or whether two gay people get married. And why have this crackdown on illegal aliens – they have Republican values and just don’t know it. (If that were so, California would be a solidly Republican state. It’s not.)
  3. Finally, there is the group in which I count myself, one which realizes that fiscal conservatism isn’t truly possible without social conservatism. We would like to see the return to traditional marriage and a reverence for life and the law, free from onerous government interference in our lives. We would like to see counties be restored to their rightful primacy in the role of government rather than become meaningless lines on a map; moreover, that government should respect our inalienable rights, including the right to defend ourselves from threats ranging anywhere from a home intruder to a tyrannical government.

I daresay group #3 are the leaders, and we take the fire from both sides – at least Democrats are facing us, though. The bullets we get in the back are from those groups behind us, the ones who belong to GOP groups #1 and #2.

I’m going to paraphrase something Rush Limbaugh is noted for saying, which goes along the lines of those who the Democrats talk most about are the ones they’re most afraid of. Notice they really didn’t badmouth Mitt Romney too much until he secured the nomination, and they were in love with John McCain almost as much as they were Barack Obama – until Sarah Palin became McCain’s running mate. They’re still hounding Palin one whole election cycle later, in a race she didn’t run or compete in. (They were considerably more kind to Paul Ryan, although we heard a lot about how awful the Ryan budget plan would be. Obviously that was a move in the right direction, though.)

Without conceding the vote entirely, I will say that there’s perhaps 1/3 of the Maryland electorate which is so far left that they would literally vote for Lucifer himself if he had a “D” beside his name and promised to keep the spigot of government goodies intact regardless of cost. (Just raise taxes on the rich, he’ll say.) Perhaps they’re not Left politically, but if they work for Uncle Sam in that cesspool on the Potomac they may as well be. Still, that leaves about 35 percent of Maryland voters in play and we only need to capture half of that group while maximizing our loyalty and turnout.

But going back to my previous paragraph where I alluded to Rush, one has to ask: how often do you hear the Democrats talking about Republicans in this state? I don’t really hear them talking about us too much, which seems to indicate to me they’re not really scared of us.

And when they do talk about us, they generally say that we shouldn’t be as strident on social issues. How often would you take advice from someone who wants to beat your brains in? Sounds to me like they have no answers for the logical arguments we give for these issues, so they’re just going to tell us we shouldn’t bring it up.

Well, I want to start being a topic of conversation among them, and the milquetoast Maryland GOP better start holding their fire until they see the whites of the Democrats’ eyes, not the backs of those who would like to lead them in the RIGHT direction.

Pipkin relives 2008 campaign in Cecil County

I was tipped off to a developing situation in Cecil County which involves their State Senator, E. J. Pipkin. Rather than allow the voters of Cecil County to make their choice or making a simple endorsement in their local races, he’s jumped into the proceedings by violating Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment.

The two flyers pictured here are part of a barrage of mailings and robocalls that Pipkin is using in Cecil County against Robert Hodge, a candidate for County Council, and Tari Moore, who’s running for the newly-created County Executive position.

But the Cecil County Patriots group objects to Pipkin’s interference, charging that the candidates he and Delegate Michael Smigiel are backing – Jim Millin for County Council and Diane Broomell for County Executive – were handpicked by the state officials as puppets for their agenda. One local observer added “this all goes back to the unionization issue that he tried to force on our local government, and the teacher pension shift…(Pipkin’s) attacking two candidates who he despises because they are very popular, very conservative, and very independent of him.”

The Pipkin tactics remind me of how he conducted the 2008 primary battle between he, Andy Harris, and then-Congressman Wayne Gilchrest. In that race, Pipkin spent over a million dollars – almost all his own money – on glossy mailings and flyers which promoted his conservative record while calling opponent Andy Harris a “dishonest Baltimore politician.” Harris has returned the favor in this race by endorsing Hodge and Moore.

Hodge has taken to the media to respond to Pipkin’s negative attack, while Moore is apparently above the fray.

But there is one area where I can agree with the Cecil County Patriots. For example, in Mullin’s case he’s a proponent of “sav(ing) literally thousands of acres of our Eastern Shore from sprawl and development.” As I’ve often pointed out, if an area doesn’t grow it shrivels and dies so Mullin seems to be throwing his lot in with the zealots who would tell people where they can live and work, knowing that’s just the start of government control.

On the other hand, it’s interesting that the Cecil County Patriots object to a candidate who “organized the first two TEA Parties in Cecil County” and was the impetus behind an elected school board as Broomell claims. They’ve managed to get through the Byzantine process of getting an elected school board for their county as opposed to our efforts here in Wicomico, which seem to have run into a brick wall.

But the real question is why Pipkin is using such scorched-earth tactics in a primary, a strategy which could damage Hodge and Moore should they survive to the general election. The GOP contest for Executive is already a seven-person scrum, with three running on the Democratic side; meanwhile, the council district Hodge is running for already has a Democratic opponent in place for November who’s unopposed in the primary. While I’ll grant there’s not the strong Republicans serving in the General Assembly from Wicomico County that Cecil County can boast, I would be floored if any of our local Republican elected officials carried on in this manner in a contested GOP race here – of course, none have the means that Pipkin does.

There’s probably something to like about most of the GOP hopefuls in Cecil County, and this year is a key election in their history because they’re electing their first County Executive. Yet this interference in the Cecil race may mean both Senator Pipkin and Delegate Smigiel draw primary opposition in 2014. (Pipkin got 72% of the vote in his 2010 primary against one opponent, Smigiel was unopposed.)

I think in closing it’s worth noting something E.J. Pipkin wrote back in 2007, a paragraph in a lengthy e-mail I used for a post:

The “right” to put oneself forward for office, to be judged by voters, and to represent your friends and neighbors is a basic fundamental component of our representative government. This system relies upon individuals being willing to discuss their ideas, their backgrounds, their strengths and weaknesses as leaders, and their vision for how to improve the lives of those they wish to represent.

It seemed like the Cecil County race was doing just fine until Pipkin decided to put his thumb on the scale and alienate a number of voters for no good reason. Senator Pipkin, you should let these individuals have the necessary discussion, back the winner against the Democratic challenger, and save your money for your own next race.

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