The Eastern Shore Victory Headquarters is christened

After a week’s delay caused by the untimely passing of Sylvia “Cookie” Harris, wife of our esteemed Congressman, we finally opened our local Republican headquarters to a crowd of about 75 people.

The old Mister Paul’s Legacy had been spruced up after several months of inactivity for a new purpose: to assist in getting local Republican candidates into office.

Of course, a number of candidates and elected officials were there, along with supporters. Inside there were signs and information for all the local hopefuls who had dropped anything off, as well as a table for the top of the ticket.

And while the star of the show was rightfully going to be gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan, local folks were indeed showing a lot of passion for their favored downticket candidates.

There was even love for our volunteers spread around inside with little messages like this.

Our presentation began, though, with an emotional update from Mark McIver on how Andy Harris was doing after the sudden passing of his wife. The “terminal optimist” was holding up all right and was getting ready to once again make himself available to help local Republicans emerge victorious. It led up to a moment of silence for both Cookie Harris and Dr. John Mautz, the father of District 37B Delegate candidate Johnny Mautz. The elder Mautz, an Easton dentist, died suddenly yesterday morning.

Wicomico County Republican Club president Jackie Wellfonder had the honor of introducing the guests of honor.

We actually went in reverse of the common political ceremony, because Larry Hogan spoke first.

Eschewing the safety of the podium, Hogan complemented the local workers for putting together the “nicest and most luxurious” headquarters in the state. Not bad praise from a guy who rides around in this:

(By the way, it does have a Maryland license plate. I checked.)

Hogan went on to stress that “this is a team effort” and that “this victory center is here to try and elect great Republicans.”

And while he called the reaction and response to his campaign “tremendous” Larry also pointed out the feedback from the minority community, noting that in Baltimore City he often heard the refrain “no one cares about us” and that politicians don’t come to the area for their input.

It led into his bread and butter message: that after 40 tax hikes and zero economic growth – a statistic Larry called “simply unacceptable” – things were so bad that the majority of Marylanders were fed up with the direction things were going. He cited a recent poll which stated 71% of Marylanders think taxes are too high and 62% would like the state to go in a different direction. His hottest giveaway item was “Democrats for Hogan” stickers, said Larry.

Our voters were angry, Larry explained, while theirs are complacent. “We’re driving some big turnouts,” he continued. And while he thought of his campaign as the air force, he realized that what we were doing was trying to provide the infantry for the fight. We can “send a loud and clear message” if we all work together, Hogan concluded.

We had heard a lot of what state party Chair Diana Waterman had to say when she appeared at our recent Republican Club meeting.

But Diana wanted us to get as much turnout as we could, even if it meant going against the principle of opposing early voting. “Embrace it and make it ours,” she said. Our candidates were “strong” and “ready to serve,” but “as Larry said it’s all about turning out our vote.” We needed to get past the old saying about not discussing politics with our neighbors and instead pester them to vote, and vote for our side.

Had David Warren alerted me to what he would do with the Coke can, I would have grabbed a shot of him with the visual aid.

But Warren made the case that he said no one else had adequately made. That can of Coke, he pointed out as he popped the top, was something not available on Howard County property because Howard County Executive (and Brown running mate) Ken Ulman had placed a ban on sugary drinks. “Imagine Ken Ulman and Anthony Brown doing your health care,” the Howard County native warned.

David focused on local races as well, bringing up a recent visit by three people from the Frederick area who had driven three hours here to help our folks out. As he pointed to the signs festooned on the wall behind him, he stated that “your guys represent you. The other guys represent Annapolis.” He also warned that “we don’t do this in 2014, we’re done.” It was also important to re-elect Larry in 2018 so we controlled redistricting, David added.

Today was a day to “eat, drink, and do selfies” but we had to step away from our comfort zone and work hard for the last 58 days of the campaign, Warren concluded.

Speaking of selfies, a number of candidates got to pose with Larry before he left. But first we had the official ribbon cutting.

The one shot of the several that I took that I decided to use here was the District 38 team. I encourage you to send these folks to Annapolis! From left to right it’s District 38C candidate Mary Beth Carozza, Delegate and District 38 Senate candidate Mike McDermott, Larry Hogan, District 38B candidate Carl Anderton, Jr., and Delegate Charles Otto of District 38A.

But the last one was special. Forty years ago, said Hogan, Blan Harcum helped Hogan’s father on his campaign, so he makes it a point to renew acquaintances when here in Wicomico County.

So the headquarters is off to a good start. But after the food, drink, and selfies we need volunteers to help run the shop but more importantly assist with the campaigns. The headquarters is open 10-8 on weekdays and 10-7 on Saturday, according to Warren.

To borrow a phrase from a local candidate, let’s get back to work.

WCRC Crab Feast 2014 in pictures and text

Every year I go to the WCRC Crab Feast I take this shot because I like it.

The same seems to be true about the Wicomico County Republican Club Crab Feast, as people come back year after year because they enjoy the event. Whether it’s the crabs…

…the company…

…or the chance to talk one on one with many of their elected officials, they line up to get their crabs when the event opens.

For those who didn’t care for crabs, Muir Boda was cooking up some mean burgers and hotdogs.

And it’s not like people don’t know where it is located. This was after David Warren put out a batch of Andy Harris signs.

As always, we had a silent auction table. It didn’t seem like we had quite as much as we have in previous years.

But they still lined up to put in last-minute bids. There was one rule, though: no hovering.

A trend the event has had the last couple years is the move away from candidate remarks, which used to be a staple of the event. Once upon a time, candidates would get a couple minutes but now we just figure they will mix and mingle. This was true last year and pretty much remained the same, with two exceptions.

One was a reminder from our county chair Dave Parker about the Patriot’s Dinner with Allen West on September 27.

We also heard from retiring Orphan’s Court Judge William Smith, who thanked us for 12 years of support and urged us to vote for the one Republican on the ballot, Grover Cantwell, as well as the two incumbents who opted to run again. They’re both Democrats, but one – Melissa Pollitt Bright – was at our event. Considering the good judge turns 91 soon, he’s earned a retirement.

Naturally, there were a lot of local candidates there for at least part of the event, so here are some shots I took. In the first example, here are two folks with a pretty good chance to be representing us in Annapolis, Johnny Mautz and Mary Beth Carozza.

Mary Beth was all over, speaking to a lot of voters and other candidates. Here she’s with County Council District 2 hopeful Marc Kilmer (center) and Central Committee-elect member Greg Belcher.

It must have been the shoes Mary Beth had on.

Under a tree, District 3 County Council candidate Larry Dodd was speaking to WCRC President Jackie Wellfonder.

Jackie also took the time to pose with District 38B Delegate candidate Carl Anderton, Jr. (left) and Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis.

Far and away, the most popular person there was our Sheriff, fresh from national headlines about his pro-Second Amendment stance. As Jackie would put it, Lewis was a “rockstar” and photos with him were in demand.

A candidate looking for a return to County Council after four years away, John Cannon (pictured with his lady friend) was talking to Lewis about recent shooting incidents.

So while it was hot, fortunately the rain didn’t hit until last night and the event went off without a hitch. Many of these participants will reconvene later today at the opening of the Eastern Shore Victory Headquarters here in Salisbury. The crabs? Well, we had just a couple bushels left to sell at the end and killed the beer kegs, so people must have been satisfied with the event.

Next year the event should take place in the midst of our municipal campaign and the early stages of a race for a 2016 U.S. Senate seat, so it will likely have a much different feel. But as long as the crabs are steamed just right, people will still be here to enjoy it.

WCRC meeting – August 2014

Safely ensconced in our new headquarters, the Wicomico County Republican Club held its first official meeting there, with the special guest speaker being State’s Attorney Matt Maciarello. Matt has the enviable position of needing one vote for another four-year term because he’s unopposed.

Before we heard from Matt, though, we had the usual Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and introduction of distinguished guests, a list which included our state party Chair Diana Waterman. We also received a brief update from Larry Hogan’s regional coordinator Joe Schanno, who was pressed for time. He noted the need for volunteer help for the Hogan campaign, and pointed out the recent poll results that showed the race within the margin of error.

We also learned Larry would be here on Sunday for a series of events: the official opening of our headquarters from 2 to 4 p.m. followed by a fundraiser for District 37B hopeful Christopher Adams at Perdue Stadium from 4 to 8 and an appearance at a fundraiser for County Executive challenger Bob Culver from 5 to 9 at a private residence. There may be some other visits with local businesses added to the schedule, said Schanno.

After Joe wrapped up, we introduced Matt Maciarello. He recounted that when he took office in 2011 it was about the same time as Salisbury police chief Barbara Duncan was selected, a time when “crime was out of control.” But with Duncan and Sheriff Mike Lewis, they planned a line of attack on the spiraling situation. Matt’s areas of interest in that regard, naturally, were the district and circuit courts, although there’s also a children’s advocacy center and drug task force.

It’s the latter item which creates much of our problem, said Maciarello. He claimed that there’s “one (fatal heroin) overdose a week in Wicomico County” and surmised that the appetite for opioid drugs “fuels a lot of crime.”

In combating crime, Matt also noted he’s been an advocate on the legislative level, monitoring legislation and providing input, both as testimony and direct discussions with legislators. After a bill is passed, his office provides roll call training to street officers to make sure they understand new and revised laws.

Much of his time of late, said Matt, has been spent compiling and writing reports on a pair of recent police-involved shootings, reports he personally wrote and took the time to talk with the families of the victims about the reports if they were inclined to discuss them.

But he concluded by stating that citizens have a choice on where to live, and the perception that a place is safe is important to an area’s well-being.

Matt then answered questions, many of which queried him about gun laws. A recent profile of Sheriff Lewis as one who would refuse to enforce federal gun laws led to a discussion on nullification, which he felt was “more symbolic than anything.” On that subject, “I want to be on solid legal ground” – for example, what exactly would be nullified? So while he felt parts of the Firearm Safety Act were “clearly unconstitutional,” he believed opponents should get the advice from a Constitutional scholar before proceeding in order to pick and choose the best points for a legal counterattack.

Asked for a definition of “good and substantial” cause, Maciarello said, “I personally believe the burden should be on the state.”

He also spoke about the relationship with the local NAACP given some recent tensions, explaining that “I see my role…as a public safety job. You have to represent justice.” He’s tried to be as transparent as possible in all his office’s dealings.

Jackie Wellfonder, who had attended the previous forum with several GOP candidates, noted that “we had an interesting dialogue.” The GOP presence was “a first step.”

After I gave the treasurer’s report in the absence of our regular treasurer, Jackie gave her formal president’s report, gushing that the headquarters has done “a complete 180″ from the state it was in when we took it over. She pointed out that donations would be welcome to help defray the expenses, and volunteers to man the phones and greet visitors would be great as well once we get the ball rolling on Sunday.

She also read a thank-you card from Elizabeth Mills, one of our two WCRC scholarship recipients.

David Warren, who is in charge of the headquarters, remarked again about the “once in a lifetime chance” we have to win seats in District 38.

He gave way to Diana Waterman, who commented about the ease of operating the “very user-friendly” phone system, and urged us to “step out of your comfort zone.” She also talked up the September 27 Allen West event and announced our Super Saturday would be October 4, just before the Andy Harris Bull Roast in Queen Anne’s County.

Dave Parker gave the Central Committee report, giving more details on the Allen West Patriot’s Dinner and repeating the information on the October 4th events.

It was then time to hear from some of the candidates in attendance.

Speaking on behalf of Larry Hogan’s campaign, Ann Suthowski revealed he would have a fundraiser featuring Chris Christie in Bethesda and there would be a day for LG candidate Boyd Rutherford in this area as well as for Hogan. She was looking for sign locations and letters to the editor as well.

Jackie Wellfonder spoke again, this time on Chris Adams’s behalf. She repeated the information about his Perdue Stadium fundraiser as well as the Bob Culver gathering that will also feature Andy Harris.

County Council candidate Larry Dodd acknowledged he took a little break after the primary, but pointed out while his opponent claims to be “moderate” he was really “100 percent Democrat.”

Johnny Mautz of District 37B introduced his local campaign coordinator and promoted three events: fundraisers for him in St. Michael’s and Easton on September 20 and 21, respectively, and a Larry Hogan event at Sailwinds Park in Cambridge on September 28. The Easton event he’s holding has as a special guest author and commentator S.E. Cupp.

Carol Rose spoke on behalf of Mary Beth Carozza and announced her fundraiser would be held at Frontier Town near Ocean City on September 7. She also noted a Worcester County TEA Party event featuring Carozza along with the other three Republican District 38 candidates was “fantastic.”

Marc Kilmer was pleased to have finally met his opponent. But on a more serious note, he was ready to resume doorknocking and was looking for volunteers to help at the Sharptown Heritage Days parade on September 20.

Muir Boda wasn’t a Republican candidate anymore, but revealed he was one of a dozen applicants for the vacant Salisbury City Council position. We will probably know Wednesday who will fill the unexpired term of Terry Cohen, he said.

We also heard from the unopposed County Councilman John Hall, who said his campaign was “going just swimmingly” and received an update on the September 6 WCRC Crab Feast.

So after one piece of new business, our formal meeting was done. But many stayed around for this. (Photo by Jackie Wellfonder.)

The Ice Bucket Challenge got another “victim” and this time it was MDGOP chair Diana Waterman. I guess “water” is appropriate in this case.

I’m not sure how we’ll top this in September, but someone else will have to let you know. I get a personal day from the next meeting, and those of you who know me well will know the reason why.

WCRC meeting – July 2014

We don’t always hold a meeting in July, but since it is an election year and we like to give candidates a chance to update us on their platform, the Wicomico County Republican Club heard from the guy who predicted “I’m going to be your next County Executive.”

Obviously the voters will have their say on this in November, but Bob Culver laid out a compelling case for himself once we got through the usual business of the Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and introduction of distinguished guests. The latter list was somewhat shorter now that the primary is over. We also heard the Treasurer’s report and got a quick update from our President Jackie Wellfonder.

Welffonder revealed that “we do have a headquarters, finally.” Once the building is turned over for our use and a few minor modifications made in the way of utilities, we should be up and running soon. It’s the former Mister Paul’s Legacy on North Salisbury Boulevard.

She also introduced the man who would be running the headquarters, David Warren. In this cycle he’s done work for the Ron George and David Brinkley campaigns, but instead of taking up an offer to go back to the Midwest (he worked for the RNC in Youngstown, Ohio in the 2012 election and had an offer to go work in Michigan this time) he came here because “I view this as a huge opportunity…(District) 38 is a very winnable district.” He was also complementary to Jackie, citing her as “one of the reasons I stayed.”

Wellfonder, for her part, called Warren “an asset to us because of his experience.”

We then turned the meeting over to Culver, who vowed to “bring back a government you can trust…government needs to work for you.”

If elected, his missions would be to sustain and diversify our local economy, improve workforce training and skills while recruiting within Maryland for new employers, and insuring the proper infrastructure – not just physical infrastructure, but including the environment and education as well. He also noted that our community is judged by how they take care of the elderly and less fortunate. And, as music to my ears, he wanted County Council to send him a proposal for an elected school board he could sign on to.

But while he won’t necessarily clean house, he did want to do things differently in various county departments. He would work more closely with Council on the budget, though, and try to change the “sense of entitlement” in certain quarters of government. Culver also promised to work toward a term limit for County Executive, believing two terms was plenty.

In Dave Parker’s absence, I read a Central Committee report he submitted. It talked at length about the upcoming Allen West Patriot’s Dinner on September 27, although we were also trying to work with the state on a Super Saturday the week before or after.

With fewer candidates because the primary weeded many of them out, we only had a few updates. A common theme was their door-knocking as most were getting out in the community. We heard from Circuit Court Judge candidate M.J. Caldwell, County Councilman Joe Holloway from District 5, County Council District 2 hopeful Marc Kilmer, County Council District 3 candidate Larry Dodd, and Delmar Mayor and Delegate aspirant Carl Anderton, Jr.

Another concern raised by some was how some opponents will get outside financial support, even on a more local level.

Tom Taylor brought up that candidates can take advantage of PAC-14, the local cable access channel, and discuss issues with host Phil Tilghman.

Shawn Jester mentioned some recent events Andy Harris was involved in, including the District of Columbia marijuana controversy and the Eastern Shore boycott that “fizzled out” as well as the possibility of housing illegal aliens in Westminster, which won’t happen. Harris also sponsored a well-attended event in Worcester County dealing with emergency preparedness.

Plans for the Crab Feast were moving along, but more volunteers were sought, said Joe Ollinger. The event will be held September 6 at Schumaker Pond.

With that and the reminder we next meet August 25, we broke into our usual post-game kibitzing. Most of the people stick around for that, so when you consider we have a pre-event social time at Cellar Door Tavern and linger for awhile afterward, it makes for a full evening. Those who are Wicomico County Republicans and want to get engaged in the local political scene should make a Monday night of it next time.

WCRC meeting – June 2014

It was perhaps one of the more uneventful WCRC meetings in some time, because we chose not to feature a speaker and not much business transpired. Sure, we had the usual Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and Treasurer’s Report, but most of the time was given to those final appeals from all the candidates in the room.

However, we were introduced to two bright and talented young Republicans, as Shadi Jahelka of Mardela High School and Elizabeth Mills from Delmar High School were introduced as our Wicomico County Republican Club scholarship winners. Jahelka plans to continue her studies at the Maryland Institute College of Art, while Mills will be attending Potomac State College in West Virginia.

In a brief President’s Report, Jackie Wellfonder noted we were still looking for a headquarters. And “headquarters is a mess,” said Dave Parker to open his Central Committee report. A couple places we were interested in have fallen through, so we could have to move off the Route 13 corridor we’ve been on for several cycles.

In better news, Parker attended the state Red, White, and Blue Dinner with a mixture of people from Wicomico and Worcester counties. He also pointed out that he had tickets to the Tawes Crab and Clam Bake next month.

Dave also put in his plug for Circuit Court Judge candidate M.J. Caldwell, correctly pointing out “the difference is experience.”

At that point, we made the rounds of over twenty candidates and representatives, who we gave just 2 minutes to make their case. Many of them were those sharing the ballot with me for Central Committee, so let me take this opportunity to wish them good luck. Mark McIver said it best in his remarks: “I can’t say enough about how well our committee ran,” adding it was considered by others to be “very functional.”

Representing David Craig’s campaign, Joe Schanno made an important plea himself: “After tomorrow, we’re all on the same team.”

Essentially the only other business was the announcement by Joe Ollinger that he had tickets for the WCRC Crab Feast September 6 and was looking for volunteers to help out, and a point I brought up about integrating social media into our solicitations for help for upcoming events such as the Farm and Home Show, Good Beer Festival, and Autumn Wine Festival.

In fact, we were done in less than an hour, although many stayed around to work on distributing signs for tomorrow’s election. There are 31 polling places in Wicomico County, so the goal was to cover all of them with the appropriate signs.

We have five weeks until our next meeting, which will be on July 28.

WCRC meeting – April 2014

We didn’t have our president, who got struck in traffic returning from across the Bay, and our slated speaker had a conflict and sent his regrets. Even the treasurer had to take a rain check on the meeting. Yet the remainder of us persevered and we had our last meeting until the day before the June 24 primary hearing from a number of candidates who may well reach the end of the electoral road that day.

But Shawn Jester did a fine enough job running the meeting – with a little help from his right-hand man – that we learned a few things along the way and made a couple decisions.

With no speaker, once the formalities of doing the Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and welcoming of guests were out of the way, we immediately cut to Dave Parker’s Central Committee report.

Parker told us that one of our own received an award from the state party, and as if on cue our Charles Carroll Award winner strode in the door. For a half-century of service, the state GOP honored Wicomico County’s “Mr. Republican” Blan Harcum. It was the “highlight of the convention,” said Parker. Harcum later added that it was “invigorating” to see so many new people in Bethesda.

But a lot of other things went on as well: the resolution condemning HB1513 was approved by unanimous consent, which was a rare time the procedure was done correctly, said Dave. He added that Diana Waterman helped play a part in the bill’s demise. Dave also assessed the bid for regional chairs as “not ready for prime time,” although it had been tried on a couple prior occasions. All in all, Parker called it “a good convention.”

Dave then passed out the flyer for the Allen West event in September, and explained how things would work that day – at least tentatively. We don’t know the sequence of West’s events before and after ours, so those details need to be firmed up.

Although it was not as well attended as we would have liked, Parker also called our Lincoln Day Dinner “successful.” It highlighted the “best crop I’ve ever seen” running for office.

I interrupted the flow a little bit by asking a question whether we should try to schedule a Super Saturday based on the West visit, figuring it would be a draw for other counties. The reason I brought it up at this meeting was that I knew we wouldn’t have a WCRC meeting for almost two months, so they should be aware if it comes up as a Central Committee issue.

Yet there were a number of events on the horizon for the post-primary summer, said Dave: the Tawes Crab and Clam Bake and our Farm and Home Show topped the list, with the WCRC Crab Feast coming in the weekend after Labor Day (as we were reminded later.) We also needed to set up our headquarters with some new volunteers. Before the primary, the MDGOP is sponsoring a forum on May 31, to be televised by WMDT-TV, Channel 47.

One other missing ingredient we needed to begin work on, concluded Parker, was a “get people to the polls” plan. Woody Willing pointed out early voting was June 12-18 at the Civic Center.

From there, we heard from all the candidates in the room regarding their campaigns. Among the door-knocking, fundraisers, and events, there were a few highlights.

Dr. Mark Edney, who is running for Central Committee and was one of our proxy carriers, remarked about his “great weekend at the convention” and the “ton of energy” there. He also raved about Sunday’s event for Mary Beth Carozza that he attended.

Delegate Charles Otto, who serves with scheduled speaker Mike McDermott in the House of Delegates, asked us to remember he still represents Wicomico County until the second Wednesday in January. He noted that at least 56 of the 141 Delegates next year will be new, as the others either retired or sought new positions, also assessing the state faced “challenging times” because they were increasing spending 4.8% while revenues were only increased 1.8%.

Dr. Rene Desmarais, a candidate for Delegate in District 37B, remarked on his interesting weekend as well. He was at the convention Friday night before departing to a medical conference on Saturday where he heard from four gubernatorial candidates, plus Jeannie Haddaway representing David Craig. While he said the Republicans all did a very good job, Desmarais called Doug Gansler “incoherent” and noted Anthony Brown made promises for the next 8 years he couldn’t keep over the last 8 – Brown also refused to answer questions, added Rene.

Circuit Court candidate M.J. Caldwell was late – he had come from a First Baptist Christian Church meeting with over 600 people on police concerns. He pointed out the vast gulf of experience between himself and his recently-appointed opponent, and stated he was “highly recommended” by the state bar – a distinction his opponent did not share.

(Personally I think if the guy’s last name were Jones he wouldn’t have sniffed a judgeship.)

Introducing himself to the group, District 37B hopeful Allen Nelson made the case that Martin O’Malley was a “scary individual” who was painting industries as villains. He brought up what he thought was a better idea – in Delaware, farmers have significant input in creating regulations.

Two events brought up by candidates will be held the same day, May 10: District 38B candidate Carl Anderton, Jr. is hosting a meet-and-greet at Main Roots Coffee and County Council District 2′s Marc Kilmer will have his event later at the residence of Bob Laun. Anderton also touted the new balanced budget for Delmar, which came with no tax or fee increases.

Carl also believed his leadership of the Maryland Municipal League was a “great experience.” And when challenged later about what to tell a Republican Norm Conway supporter, Carl pledged to speak with this gentleman himself.

Speaking for the David Craig campaign, Ann Suthowski said that the gubernatorial candidate will kick off a day in Salisbury Thursday at the annual Prayer Breakfast before meeting with public safety officials and granting a pair of media interviews.

With the candidates covered, we reviewed some past events.

Shawn Jester believed the Salisbury Festival was “a fantastic event” but it brought up the need for a new party banner to replace one that’s several years old and looks it. We voted to do just that.

And on a question which was brought up by membership, we decided not to take a formal position on city redistricting, although a few members who spoke up (including me) supported the five-district idea. It brought up a brief discussion about candidate recruitment, with Larry Dodd conceding “we fell asleep at the wheel” for a couple cycles. Our next chance will be the fall of 2015.

First, however, we have to get through this cycle. Because our usual fourth Monday falls on Memorial Day next month, as is common, we will not meet again until primary eve June 23. Attendance may be back to normal as candidates will be working the streets hard for last-minute votes.

2014 Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner in pictures and text

It wouldn’t be a Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner without the guest of honor, now would it?

But it was that and much more as about 100 people enjoyed the festivities last night in Salisbury. I was a little disappointed in the attendance, but those who missed the affair missed some stirring words from both our four featured speakers – the GOP gubernatorial candidates – save Jeannie Haddaway pinch-hitting for David Craig, who was in Frederick tonight – and Delegate Mike McDermott.

Our event is set up so guests have an opportunity to talk to candidates before and after the proceedings. So before dinner was underway, acquaintances were made and renewed, such as Delegate Ron George speaking with the newly-goateed Delegate Charles Otto.

I like that look on Charles. Meanwhile, Larry Hogan and wife Yumi spoke to Wicomico County Council member Joe Holloway. I believe fellow Council member Bob Culver is back to camera.

As I noted earlier, Jeannie Haddaway was taking the place of David Craig and visiting her alma mater. In the background is Larry Hogan’s LG pick, Boyd Rutherford.

Candidates were also taking advantage of the space provided for literature and signs.

Things began to get going when the Union troops and band arrived in the room.

This heralded the arrival of our sixteenth president, who is a popular subject. In this case, it was with Senator Rich Colburn (left) and John and Gail Bartkovich. Gail is the outgoing Council member from District 3, while the good doctor John was our county chair for several years.

One new wrinkle we added this year was a Union band, described by Lincoln as “the Eastern Shore detachment of the 3rd Maryland Irregular Regimental Band,” which played traditional music during the prelude to the ceremonies.

The troops sat behind Lincoln as he made his remarks, with a little banjo accompaniment toward the end.

As he always does, Lincoln made remarks which tried to use the words of yesterday to relate to today’s world, leading off with a tale about General George McClellan, one which he concluded by stating the case “the lunatics are running the asylum.”

“Our greatest enemy is voter apathy,” he continued. “It cheats honest citizens.”

And just as the British Empire sparked a revolution by resorting to tyranny, Lincoln called the modern situation “mental torture.” Now, “A lying tyrant is in control,” Lincoln added, “We need to be a stumbling block to tyrants.” But he ended on a hopeful note, believing “America shall not pass away.”

Our county Chair Dave Parker then secured the floor for a number of announcements as well as praise for one outgoing member of our Central Committee.

First of all, we learned that there will be a gubernatorial debate among the GOP candidates here on May 31, at Salisbury University. Once the June 24 primary is history, we will convene for the Wicomico County Republican Club Crab Feast on September 6.

But the huge event was the one slated for September 27. After twice being unsuccessful at getting a Lincoln Day date, we got the next best thing: Lt. Col. Allen West will be appearing in Salisbury for a series of events September 27. Those who attend Central Committee or Wicomico County Republican Club functions already know this, but we put out the formal word tonight at Lincoln Day.

Before we heard from the gubernatorial candidates, we also took a few moments to honor one of the few Republicans in Maryland whose Presidential vote has truly counted – this man served on the Electoral College from Maryland in 1972 for Nixon and 1984 for Reagan. For the better part of five decades Blan Harcum has been a fixture in Wicomico County GOP politics, but after this election he will take a well-deserved retirement from the Central Committee. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” said Blan about his tenure.

And as it turns out, Larry Hogan has known Blan “for a long, long time.” He drew the opening slot among our four, and in doing so decided to play up his experience in both the private sector and executive branch under former governor Bob Ehrlich. “I’ve spent a lifetime challenging the status quo,” Hogan said, accusing our current leaders of “actually causing the problems.” Rather than “be something,” he wanted to do something about them and that was why he decided to run.

Naturally, Hogan spoke about Change Maryland, noting that it “successfully changed the dialogue in this state.” He could sense the frustration with the “huge disconnect” between the people and their government as well as the belief the state was heading in the wrong direction. Regarding the “arrogant, out of touch monopoly” in Annapolis, he believed it was “about time the politicians in Annapolis listened to the rest of us.”

As he has often done in his stump speeches, Hogan returned to three main points: creating jobs, helping out the middle class, and getting government off our backs. He related his day in Salisbury, with stops in several area businesses as well as a Little League opening day and the downtown Easter Egg hunt.

Charles Lollar also told us about his day, one spent taking the fight to Democratic strongholds and crossing paths with Democrat Anthony Brown on three occasions, debating him once. He was inducted into the 100 Black Men of Prince George’s County, heard Brown say at a Howard County forum that “Maryland is doing fine” – while 1 out of 3 in portions of Baltimore are jobless – and went to a Veterans for Democracy meeting back in Charles County where he was “disinvited” to speak because of “political pressure” his name has brought. On top of that, his second daughter is going to her first prom tonight. “I’m not doing this for me…we’re doing this for you,” said Charles.

But his message to the Republicans was that whoever the nominee for governor may be, he has to have the “intestinal fortitude and integrity” to speak our convictions. His basic agenda would be one of economic solvency, installing a Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights to slow budget growth, and eventually eliminating the personal income tax – a proposal which got him the support of economist Arthur Laffer.

He knew it would be difficult, but concluded that “I don’t play politics very well, but I do enjoy a good fight every once in awhile.” Whoever wins the primary has to care about the ideals of the minority community to earn their votes, Charles stated in closing.

Representing David Craig, who couldn’t be here tonight but was instead over in Frederick County, was his lieutenant governor candidate Jeannie Haddaway. We’re out “covering the state as much as we could,” she explained. Reflecting on the recent General Assembly session, Haddaway remarked that “there are people in Annapolis fighting for you.” Some of the more controversial bills only passed by slim majorities, added Jeannie, because Democrats are reluctant to vote for them but have to contend with their “top-down agenda.” Thanks to what’s gone on the last few years, “our state is in really bad shape,” said Jeannie.

She corrected Larry Hogan’s remark about private sector experience, noting David Craig worked in a factory when not teaching and her own work as a small business owner. Their priority would be to straighten out the budget then “put money back in your pocket” through elimination of the income tax.

Haddaway pointed out 40 percent of Democrats were undecided, perhaps because they didn’t like the options and may consider a Republican who would “try something different.” And even in heavily Democratic districts, Craig had won. “We have won collectively 14 general elections,” she said. “Whoever turns out is going to win this election.” She promised that if Craig won and she became the state’s first Eastern Shore lieutenant governor, “the Eastern Shore will be forgotten no more.”

While he was holding up the flyer for an upcoming event in Ocean City in the photo above, Ron George opened up by discussing running mate Shelley Aloi – like many of us, I met her for the first time tonight. (She and Ron happened to sit at our table, along with our next speaker and his wife and the Parkers.)

Ron spent much of his time talking about the General Assembly: “I felt like I needed Rolaids constantly,” remarked George – but considered it an “honor” to serve with our Republican “warriors.” His pitch was combining his business experience with time served at the “front line” of issues as a member of the General Assembly – one who formed the Doctor’s Caucus “to build consensus” and a related group called the Physician’s Advisory. That group had uncovered waste within the exchange and the failures of health care contractor Maximus early on.

Ron also spoke about his work on the electoral process, closing a loophole for the next cycle so a donor couldn’t form multiple LLCs just to circumvent campaign finance limits. Audits, too, were another major part of his platform since he’d found where Prince George’s County “totally misused” $400 million. “That kind of waste has got to stop.”

George went over a couple parts of his ten-point promise, one which “will fix the drain that Baltimore is” and strive to rebuild the state’s manufacturing base in small communities like ours. “I cannot cut welfare payments unless I have those entry-level, mid-level jobs,” said Ron.

He also made an announcement about a Monday event to be held in conjunction with Dan Bongino and David Craig, endorsing Anthony Brown for governor…of Connecticut. “How’s that (health care) working out for us?” added Jeannie Haddaway.

But the rhetorical storm was brewing.

You knew Delegate Mike McDermott was working on a stemwinder when he noted, “the problem with Democrat math is that they follow Common Core logic.” This after he noted losing the two GOP Senators in 2010, including the seat he seeks, “opened up the floodgates of hell on the social side.” This didn’t count the pilfering of various trust funds or the “blank check” to uncovered patients for the budget.

But once he got going on the “outrage” on the bathroom bill, it was on. “It should be unacceptable to all Marylanders,” he said. We gave each gubernatorial candidate ten minutes – Mike was still going strong after fifteen.

“The tragedy of Maryland politics can be turned around,” he said. “Don’t send a governor to the governor’s mansion without sending them reinforcements” of five Senators. His voice rising, McDermott made the case that North Carolina “worked on making government work for the people” after the GOP took over and raised its business friendliness rating from 46th to 17th in two years. “They’ve brought that state back! It can happen here.”

“If we can’t make the case for change this year,” Mike thundered, “the Republican Party can never make it.”

“We can take Wicomico County by storm! If there was ever a county which needed good leadership and change, it’s this one. I’m tired of being up there, and being in a welfare county…I challenge you to take it back,” an emotional McDermott concluded. He had to dial it back some for the benediction that he delivered.

Our friends in Worcester County have the chance to have a great team in Annapolis: Mike McDermott in the Senate, and Mary Beth Carozza and Charles Otto in the House.

So ended another Lincoln Day Dinner. It wasn’t quite what we bargained for when we started planning it last year, but those who were there were treated to a good event nonetheless.

WCRC meeting – March 2014

While tonight’s meeting was pretty much standing room only, the oddity was (by my count) there were in the room more candidates and those who are helping out campaigns than what one termed ‘regular people.” Of course, with 13 running for Central Committee (including yours truly) that was going to increase the odds a little bit as 9 of those 13 hopefuls were present, as were many seeking other positions. Once we did our usual club business of reciting the Lord’s Prayer (yes, we still do that and not one person is offended by it), Pledge of Allegiance, and treasurer’s report, we got a number of campaign updates.

But amongst all those who spent a couple minutes relating their stories about doing door-to-door or announcing their upcoming fundraisers as we went around the room for campaign updates, there were two candidates who we asked to speak. Both are seeking the District 3 Wicomico County Council seat currently held by Gail Bartkovich, who chose not to seek another term.

Larry Dodd was familiar to all of us because he had served as the president of the WCRC from 2011 to 2013, immediately before our current president Jackie Wellfonder. (Dodd is still a club officer.) He pointed out that he was the father of 12-year-old twins that were in public school, which he stated “aren’t all bad.” Larry may share a little of those plaudits because he’s been on the Wicomico County Board of Education since 2009, and was reappointed for a five-year term in 2013. Prior to that he served as a County Council member from 2002-06, in the district now represented by Joe Holloway. Redistricting shifted him to District 3, which was good because “I was going to run anyway.” He conceded, though, it would be tough to follow “one of the best” in Gail Bartkovich.

Before a serious injury sidelined him, Larry was an active firefighter and EMT, acquiring “all the certifications I could get” and earning a master’s degree in the field. He is planning to resume teaching in the EMT field in the next few months.

Larry took a somehat different approach to his presentation, though. While he pointed out a couple of his key issues, stating that “crime is the biggest issue” in the county and calling for “more cohesion” between city and county. he also stated the case that living in Salisbury “has its issues.”  Other bullet points for Larry were – naturally – education and agriculture, where he felt “we need to protect farmers.”

But he also asked what we felt were significant issues, and brought up a few possibilities: a countywide water and sewer district, teacher’s pensions, hughway user funds, and reducing overall spending.

Larry also beseeched us, saying “everybody needs to work together” and that we need to hit the streets and work for candidates. “You can’t vote for third party candidates” in this election, he concluded.

Tom Taylor is no stranger to running for office, either. In 2006 and 2010 he ran for County Executive on the Democratic ticket, making his appeal to the most conservative part of the Democratic party – as a result, he only got a small percentage of the vote. Now as a Republican, he’s running for the Council seat despite the fact “I feel like the County Council is becoming irrelevant” due to the influence Annapolis policies have on the county. But he also warned that he’s “not afraid of shaming anyone to do what’s right.” Our County Council has to stand up to Annapolis and needs to draw “a firm line in the sand” at times, Tom added.

One of his key issues was crime, but he made it plain that “we need a way to protect ourselves” and that the right to carry is “a proven deterrent.” He also advocated zero-based budgeting, which would force us to make the “hard decision” to ask ourselves whether we could afford something rather than the easy choice of raising taxes yet again. Taylor wrapped up his remarks by saying “admitting there’s a problem is the first step to recovery.”

Dave Parker gave the Central Committee report, which mainly focused on the Lincoln Day Dinner but also touched upon a September event we are planning as well. Our plan to invite all four remaining gubernatorial candidates to the LDD was coming together nicely, with all but David Craig confirming their attendance. (To me that’s a surprise.)

As I mentioned earlier, we had a lot of candidates in the room, but one newcomer who got to say a few words was Karen Tolley, who is running for the District 37B seat. Once Johnny Mautz, Jr. arrived we had four of the five would-be Delegates in the room – Allen Nelson was the lone exception. She briefly got to introduce herself, saying “this really is grassroots,” and plugged her campaign site.

Some of the key upcoming events mentioned:

  • Circuit Court judge candidate M.J. Caldwell will have a fundraiser on Wednesday, March 26 at La Tolteca in Salisbury. (I can tell you the food will be good.)
  • The NAACP candidate forum will be held this Thursday, March 27 at the Chipman Center in Salisbury.
  • On Friday, March 28 District 38B hopeful Carl Anderton, Jr. will host a fundraiser at the Evo Public House in Salisbury. (Thumbs up to the Primal Pale Ale there.)
  • District 37B candidate Dr. Rene Desmarais will be holding a Talbot County event on April 3.
  • Gubernatorial candidate David Craig will be hosting an event on April 13 at Sailwinds Park in Cambridge.
  • And of course, our annual Crab Feast will be September 6, so save the date.

We will also have a presence at the Salisbury Festival, although I won’t be there this year because I’ll be at our state convention. Immediately after that weekend will be our next meeting, which will be April 28 with a speaker to be announced.

WCRC meeting – February 2014

Tonight’s gathering wasn’t exactly the one we had planned, but it turned out all right. Considering our outgoing first vice-President Marc Kilmer was placed in charge by the late arrival of president Jackie Wellfonder and that our speaker, District 38B candidate Carl Anderton Jr., was late due to mayoral duties in Delmar, the agenda was reshuffled a few times but we got through in one of the speedier meetings we’ve had recently.

Yet we began the meeting in much the same way many previous meetings have commenced, with the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer and Pledge of Allegiance. And while I don’t read the minutes anymore (because they’re posted on the website), we still had the Treasurer’s Report to file.

But because of the absences, we actually led off with Dave Parker’s Central Committee report. He assessed the election as “shaping up rather nicely” as he reported on the candidates who had filed, with a couple last-minute updates from those in attendance. Parker also had some lighter fare as he recited a number of observations based on the thought that “you might be living in a country run by idiots.”

He invited all local Republican candidates to our next Central Committee meeting on March 3, and updated us on the Lincoln Day Dinner where we are still working with our desired speaker on a date – however, if only a midweek event is possible we may have to change the venue.

A number of candidates (or their surrogates) gave updates and reports.

John Hall, who is running for a full term in County Council District 4, noted that “next year will be a very difficult year” financially for the county, and that needed future school projects may have to wait. Hall was appointed to fill out the unexpired term of the late Bob Caldwell in 2011.

Mary Beth Carozza spoke about being an advocate for several causes in Annapolis, particularly against the “chicken tax.” And while she was still out knocking on a lot of doors, she was still finding she needed to educate voters about the new district setup and the June primary.

Larry Dodd, who’s in the ring for County Council District 3, gave a shortened stump speech highlighting his experience and time at the Board of Education. If elected he woould work to reduce crime and make sure farmer’s rights are protected, along with making sure government lives within its means.

This was important because the next to speak was Dodd’s recently-filed primary opponent, Tom Taylor. After reaching over and shaking Dodd’s hand, Taylor stated his case that the GOP should have a choice and that he was committed to fiscal conservatism and “better government through being smaller.”

County Executive hopeful Bob Culver told those gathered that “this was the best time we have to take Rick (Pollitt, current County Executive) out of office.,,it’s time for a change.” He called on us to give him a strong primary showing.

On behalf of District 37B candidate Christopher Adams, Marc Kilmer said Adams was busy meeting voters, but was also testifying in Annapolis on a number of business bills. Kilmer then went on to discuss his own camapign, with an April fundraiser in the works.

Fellow District 37B hopeful Johnny Mautz Jr. had a surrogate as well in Shawn Jester. Shawn passed along word that we were invited to a Mautz campaign event March 2 in Cambridge, from 4 to 6 p.m.

Dr. Rene Desmarais, who was a little late but is also a District 37B contender, assessed his campaign as “going great” and raising a lot of money. He invited us to an event March 12 in Fruitland. He actually spoke after our featured speaker, who came in about a half-hour late.

But Carl Anderton, Jr. had a good excuse as he was at a meeting involving the two commissions which run their respective sides of Delmar. (Part lies in Maryland and part in Delaware; however, they strive to coordinate efforts as one entity where possible.)

He led off with his meeting with the governor as head of the Maryland Municipal League. catching Martin O’Malley by surprise when he told him about the proposed “chicken tax” and its potentially devastating effect on the Eastern Shore. That led to the O’Malley “read my lips” veto threat a few days later. And when Carl confronted House sponsor Delegate Shane Robinson with the fact that 40% of Eastern Shore jobs have some reliance on the poultry industry, Delegate Robinson backed off, saying that he “just wanted to have a conversation” about the idea.

Yet this played into a significant part of Carl’s campaign: the premise that we have great educational institutions locally but no jobs to keep the graduates here. Even the potential explosive growth at the Wallops Island space complex just across the Virginia line may be squandered by Maryland’s poor business climate. Anderton’s was a “we need to get back to basics” approach, charging that part of the Eastern Shore delegation was working against us. Not only could we not attract business, continued Carl, but we can no longer attract retirees either because of our punitive income and estate taxes. “It’s time for a whole lifestyle change,” concluded Carl.

We finally got around to a little business once Carl finished, most importantly the election of officers. For 2014, they will be almost the same group as last year’s, with one exception.

  • President: Jackie Wellfonder
  • First Vice-President: Shawn Jester
  • Second Vice-President: Larry Dodd
  • Third Vice-President: Sean Fahey
  • Fourth Vice-President: Cathy Keim
  • Treasurer: Deb Okerblom
  • Secretary: Michael Swartz

Jester is the newcomer, replacing Marc Kilmer.

We also made and passed motions to secure a table at the Salisbury Festival and potentially one at Pork in the Park as well. There’s also the prospect of needing a headquarters for this fall’s election, and some members are already chomping at the bit to secure a location – unfortunately, we have several of our old ones to choose from because they are still vacant after all this time.

All told, we were through in less than an hour, but we accomplished quite a bit. It’s also worth noting that a man who’s perhaps one of Maryland’s longest-serving elected officials announced his retirement tonight. After close to a half-century on the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee, Blan Harcum will not seek another term. We applauded him for his efforts tonight.

WCRC meeting – January 2014

It’s a new year, and apparently people are pent up with political desire. Benefitting from this enthusiasm in particular were Comptroller candidate William Campbell and District 37B hopeful Dr. Rene Desmarais, both of whom were our featured speakers tonight.

So once we handled the usual opening of reciting the Lord’s Prayer and Pledge of Allegiance and introducing the growing number of distinguished guests, we heard mainly from Campbell and Desmarais about their proposals if elected. We began with the second-time Comptroller candidate, who ran for the same post in 2010.

The reason he ran, said Campbell, was that he met the incumbent. But Comptroller was the “second most important vote you’ll make” behind the governor’s race. The Comptroller, Campbell continued, acts as the watchdog over the “rapacious” actions of our governor and legislature.

He also has a vote on the Maryland Board of Public Works, and if Republicans are elected to both the governor and comptroller posts they could “end the lunacy” in Maryland’s spending.

Chief among those flaws was pension funding. Campbell explained that a program which was fully funded just 12 years ago was only 65% funded when he ran in 2010 and is down to 60% now – although William argued that new accounting standards could prove that number to be closer to 50% funding. It’s a $40 billion unfunded liability.

Finally among the Comptroller’s chief duties is regulation of alcohol, fuel, and tobacco in the state of Maryland.

He went on to outline his qualifications, which were more than sufficient for the job: 9 years as chief financial officer of the United States Coast Guard, a stint as CFO of the Department of Veterans Affairs – where he oversaw a $65 billion budget and 225,000 employees; figures which dwarf the state of Maryland – and two years at Amtrak, which is still a money pit but “lost less money with me.” His planning to address the shortfall enabled Amtrak to buy locomotives for the first time in decades.

After leaving Amtrak, he did pro bono work for NASA, making their books auditable for the first time in years. Campbell did it for free because “I believe in good government.”

Speaking to his 2010 run, he conceded that he started late and ran a campaign with no more than 4 figures in the bank and 30,000 miles on his truck. Yet he outpolled U.S. Senate candidate Eric Wargotz, who spent far more money, garnering 691,461 votes and only trailing Bob Ehrlich by about 85,000 votes (Ehrlich had 776,319, which translated to 3% more.) He learned that you have to get voters to know you, like you, and trust you, so he started running last year for 2014. “I know the things to fix,” concluded Campbell.

When asked about how he would deal with Annapolis Democrats, Campbell’s initial inclination would be that of “quiet persuasion,” but it would escalate to that of a bully pulpit if needed. “I see a lot of ignorance in Annapolis,” said Campbell.

He was also asked if marijuana would fall under his supervision if legalized. It would, but the $150 million projected annual revenue was “a rounding error” in a budget of $40 billion. More important was the lack of attention to the pension fund, which should ideally be replenished to the tune of $500 million a year but was getting $350 million or less under Martin O’Malley. He charged current Comptroller Peter Franchot with “not living up to his fiduciary responsibility” by his handling of the pension funds, including coming in way short of the 7.5% annual return projections are based on.

Turning things over to Dr. Rene Desmarais, he began by stating the obvious: “Health care is a mess.” If elected, Desmarais added, he would be the only Republican doctor in the House of Delegates.

Desmarais was more brief, given a tighter time constraint, but spoke about three distinct themes: vision, connection, and opportunity.

The lack of vision in Annapolis was apparent in that there was no help in getting from point A to point B – government was just asked to solve the problem. This was true, not just in health care, but in a broad array of subjects like education, phosphorous regulations, and even the Second Amendment, Desmarais argued.

Connections abound from health care to a number of political topics, added Rene, but he spent part of the time discussing the connections to Obamacare, which has “22 missing things” and “done harm to people.”

Yet we also have opportunity because of a unique hospital payment system which can be the foundation to making needed changes. It would take a “message of clarity”for Republicans to succeed overall, but it can be done. Moreover, Maryland “can push the reset button” on the health insurance market, providing a better alternative than the current system where Eastern Shore residents get to choose from a whopping two insurance providers through the state exchange.

That concluded the portion of the program devoted to our guest speakers, but the treasurer’s report was brief and club president Jackie Wellfonder recounted a breakfast held with Delegate Addie Eckardt a week ago Saturday before yielding her time to County Council member Joe Holloway.

Holloway wanted to remind us that the County Council would meet next Tuesday evening (February 4) and discuss the recently-discovered $3;7 million revenue shortfall in the county’s budget, along with raises for various county officials and the allocation of $25,000 to the Clean Chesapeake Coalition.

In a Central Committee report which was more brief than usual, Dave Parker pointed out a candidate conference call slated for Tuesday and that the deadline for candidates was approaching quickly. “This could be a very good year for Republicans,” said Parker. We also heard plans for the Lincoln Day Dinner, which promises to be a memorable event if we can pull off getting our preferred guest speaker.

Turning to club business, we nominated new officers for 2014 – a simple process as all but one current officer volunteered to stay on. So we nominated one person to fill the vacancy and nominations were closed.

After that, we heard quickly from a number of other candidates who updated their campaign status. John Cannon, who served from 2006-10 on County Council, has decided to return to the at-large position he vacated to run for Delegate. He praised the current Council for making sure tha county didn’t tax its way out of the recession, and said his campaign would be based on business and job growth. Businesses “can’t find educated and drug-free workers in Wicomico,” said Cannon.

District 37B hopeful Johnny Mautz, Jr. invited people to a campaign kickoff in St. Michaels on February 9 from 4-6 p.m.

Matt Maciarello, our State’s Attorney, pointed with some pride to the fact that Salisbury has improved from the 4th most dangerous city per capita in the country to 52nd most over his tenure, although he was disappointed to find we were still on the top 100 list. Matt was more pleased, though, with the renovation of an old downtown building into new offices for his department along with space for the Maryland State Police, Sheriff’s Department, Salisbury city police, Children’s Services, and room for therapy for abuse victims.

Larry Dodd was another interested in a return to County Council, where he served from 2002-2006. He praised outgoing Council members Stevie Prettyman and Gail Bartkovich as being a “hard act to follow” – he’s running for the District 3 seat Bartkovich is vacating – and stressed his tenure on the Board of Education (where he’s a current member) as an advantage.

District 38B hopeful Carl Anderton, Jr. spoke about how he’s already “made a mark” in Annapolis, where the traditional introduction of the Maryland Municipal League president at the opening ceremony of the Maryland General Assembly was somehow skipped this year – coincidentally, he’s running against longtime member Norm Conway. Anderton also quipped that the state “wasted $100 million on a website that doesn’t work” but he spent $20 on his and it runs just fine. Carl’s having a meet-and-greet at Main Roots Coffee on Saturday from 11-1, added campaign manager Bunky Luffman.

Marc Kilmer, running for District 2 County Council, stated that the coverage of the $3.7 million county shortfall ignored a key fact – the budget went up by $10.9 million from the year before. We need fiscal discipline and not the “sky is falling rhetoric” the county seems to employ.

Touching on that, Joe Holloway praised local activists Johnnie Miller and John Palmer for trying to bring that shortfall to the county’s attention. “We were warned” that the county was being overly optimistic on revenue projections, Joe said.

On behalf of Christopher Adams, Jackie Wellfonder let us know he was still out knocking on doors and talking to people.

Finally, we were asked if any Democrats were in any of the races. At this point, the only Democrats who have filed are the incumbent Clerk of the Courts and Register of Wills, along with two seeking the District 1 County Council seat.

It really wasn’t a lengthy meeting, but it turned out to be chock full of information. The next meeting is February 24, with a speaker to be determined.

A monoblogue year in review

Having a holiday schedule based on Wednesday holidays seems to play havoc with the news cycle, as there’s not much going on with Maryland politics right now. By the time the holiday hangover is done, it’s the weekend.

So over the next four days I’m going to provide for you a look back and look forward. As part of that, tonight’s post will be the look back, with some of the highlights of my political coverage – and a couple other items tossed in for fun as well. This is the first time I’ve tried this, so I’ll see how it goes.

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The year began, as it always does, in January. As will be the case even moreso this year, political fundraising was in the news as there was a surprise leader in the gubernatorial money race on the GOP side. Another highlight of the month was a spirited and enlightening discussion of state issues at the Wicomico Society of Patriots meeting – something all too infrequent this year, unfortunately.

But the highlight of the month was my two-part coverage of the Turning the Tides conference in Annapolis. which had a plethora of good speakers and discussion. It was so good I had to post separately on the morning and afternoon events.

In February my attention was turned to several topics, particularly providing coverage of the financing and the events surrounding the Salisbury municipal elections, for which the primary was February 26th. A key issue brought up was a state mandate for the city to help pay for cleanup of Chesapeake Bay, to the tune of $19 million a year.

Another state mandate took center stage in February, as the Wicomico County Council held a Tier Map forum to find out citizens weren’t exactly enamored with the idea. As part of that I read from my written testimony on a Tier Map repeal bill, which wasn’t the only testimony I wrote – I also put in my two cents on the gun grab bill.

We also found out that month that the Maryland GOP would get new leadership following the resignation of Chair Alex Mooney.

March found me continuing my coverage of the Salisbury city elections, but only backing one candidate. More important were local developments on the state level, where the Second Amendment was a hot topic for a local townhall meeting and our county’s Lincoln Day Dinner.

But the highlight for me, by far, was my day at CPAC. That turned out to be a two-part set of posts.

As the area began to wake up from a winter slumber in April, so did the political world as it turned from the General Assembly session to the 2014 campaign. The Salisbury city elections went as expected, so I turned my attention to the race for state party chair. Interim Chair Diana Waterman ran a campaign which was at times embroiled in some controversy, but prevailed on enough supporters to make it through the lengthy grind of campaign forums (including one in Cambridge on the eve of the state convention) and win the remainder of Alex Mooney’s unexpired term. But even the convention itself had its share of ups and downs, particularly a chaotic ending and a rebuff to new media.

While that was happening, the 2014 election was beginning to take shape, with familiar names both trying their luck again and trying for a promotion. Others had interesting endorsements as feathers in the cap.

But it wasn’t all political in April. The outdoor season began with two local mainstays: Pork in the Park and the Salisbury Festival. I also found out I was immortalized on video thanks to Peter Ingemi, better known as DaTechGuy.

Those things political slowed down in May, with just a little reactionary cleanup to the state convention to begin the month, along with other reaction to the recently-completed General Assembly session. In its wake we also had turnover in Maryland House of Delegates GOP leadership.

But one prospective candidate for governor announced other intentions, leaving another to confirm what we knew all along.

On the fun side, I enjoyed Salisbury’s Third Friday celebration with some friends and stopped by to see them at another barbecue festival, too.

June began with a visit from gubernatorial candidate David Craig, who stopped by Salisbury and in the process gave me an interview. And while he didn’t make a formal tour, fellow Republican Ron George made sure to fill me in on his announcement and establish tax cutting bonafides. We also picked up a Republican candidate for an important local seat and found out political correctness pays in the Maryland business world.

A local doctor gave us his perspective on Obamacare and our area celebrated the chicken in June, too. I also learned of a special honor only a handful of political websites received.

As is often the case, our wallets became a little lighter in July. In the aftermath, we found out who David Craig picked as a running mate and welcomed both of them to our Wicomico County Republican Club meeting. I also talked about another who was amassing a support base but hadn’t made definite 2014 plans at the time.

On the other side of the coin, we found the Democratic field was pressing farther away from the center, a place the GOP was trying to court with the carrot of primary voting. Meanwhile, the political event of the summer occurred in Crisfield, and I was there.

There were some interesting developments in the new media world as well – a plea for help, a shakeup in local internet radio, and my annual monoblogue Accountability Project all came down in July.

The big news in August was the resignation of State Senator E.J. Pipkin, and the battle to succeed him. And while one gubernatorial candidate dropped out, another made his intentions formal and stopped by our Wicomico County Republican Club meeting as well. Even Ron George stopped by our fair county, although I missed him.

It seemed like the gubernatorial campaign got into full swing in September – Charles Lollar announced in an unusual location, the Brown/Ulman Democratic team came here looking for money, Ron George tangled with Texas governor Rick Perry and showed up to make it three Wicomico County Republican Club meetings in a row with a gubernatorial candidate, and Doug Gansler decided to drop by, too. On the other side, Michael Steele took a pass. I also talked about what Larry Hogan might do to fill out the puzzle.

Those up the Shore made news, too. Steve Hershey was the survivor who was appointed State Senator, and I attended the First District Bull Roast for the first time. I’ve been to many Wicomico County Republican Club Crab Feasts, but this year’s was very successful indeed.

September also brought the close of our local baseball season. As is tradition I reviewed the season, both to select a Shorebird of the Year and hopefully improve the fan experience.

October was a month I began considering my choice in the gubernatorial race. That became more difficult as Larry Hogan took an unusual trip for a businessman and Charles Lollar’s campaign worked on self-immolation, while Doug Gansler needed his own damage control.

I also had the thought of going back to the future in Maryland, but a heavy dose of my political involvement came with the tradtional closing events to our tourist season, the Good Beer Festival and Autumn Wine Festival.

Most of November was spent anticipating the Maryland GOP Fall Convention; in fact, many were sure of an impending announcement. Honestly, both may have fallen into the category of “dud.” But all was not lost, as the month gave me the chance to expound on manufacturing and share some interesting polling data.

Finally we come to December. While the month is a long runup to the Christmas holiday, I got the chance to again expound on manufacturing and come up with another radical idea for change. We also got more proof that our state government is up for sale and those who are running for governor place too much stock in internet polling. My choice is still up in the air, even after compiling an 11-part dossier on the Republicans currently in the race.

Locally, we found a good candidate to unseat a long-time incumbent who has long ago outlived his political usefulness. And the incumbent will need to watch his back because Maryland Legislative Watch will be back again to keep an eye on him and his cohorts. I’ll be volunteering for a second year,

And while I weighed in on the latest national diversion from the dreary record of our President and his party, I maintained two December traditions, remarking on eight years of monoblogue and days later inducting two new players into the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame.

You know, it was fun going down memory lane for 2013. But tomorrow it will be time to look forward, beginning with the local level.

2014 Maryland dossier: part 11 (intangibles)

Finally we have arrived at the end – well, sort of, as I’ll explain.

Basically what this part is about are those other issues which don’t rise to the level of a full portion of this vetting, but I think are worth mentioning. Unique among the sub-portions of my evaluation is that I can add or subtract up to three points in this section, so it makes a pretty good difference. Another difference is in format, as I will respond to each point in turn.

**********

David Craig:  I will fully fund Program Open Space, stop raiding the funds and stop spending the money on pork barrel projects like artificial turf fields for high school sports stadiums. (campaign website)

Sorry, David, I can’t support this. Program Open Space is a great way for the state to take up more land it doesn’t need at a loss to both the local entity the parcel is part of (via lowered taxable area) and remaining taxpayers who take up the slack. If anything, Program Open Space should be defunded and excess state property returned to the private sector. Bob Ehrlich tried this and was pilloried, but the concept was sound.

*

When queried about social issues, particularly being pro-life, Craig related that he didn’t push the issue with his children, but was pleased that they turned out as pro-life as they did. David also pointed out that he voted in a pro-life fashion during his time in the General Assembly. But he would rather have 5 million Marylanders decide than 188 in the General Assembly. Jeannie echoed the overall stance, adding for her part she was “conservative, Christian, pro-life.” (WCRC meeting, July 22, 2013)

Being pro-life isn’t as much of a litmus test for me as it is some others, but I brought it up because I thought it was important.

*

While on Steiner’s show, Craig sidestepped a question about whether he would have vetoed a bill passed last year legalizing same-sex marriage.

He noted that as county executive, he has rarely used his veto powers and said that he thought it was good for Marylanders to have a chance to vote on the measure.

The marriage law was petitioned to the ballot by opponents after O’Malley signed it last year.

“I think it’s important that the people of Maryland spoke on that,” Craig said.

He also took issue with the state’s repeal of the death penalty, which he said prosecutors see as important tool. (Washington Post, May 31, 2013)

Here is a place where I disagree with the philosophy of Craig.

If you’re going to make a stand on an issue, it’s entirely appropriate to use the veto pen. If he wouldn’t have vetoed the bill, I’m led to assume he supports it. By the same token, where was he in supporting the death penalty when something could have been done? This could have gone to referendum but the effort died.

I’m fine with civil unions, but not gay marriage. Yes, it’s more or less a question of semantics but to me marriage between opposite genders is an apple and a union between those of the same gender is an orange. They shouldn’t share the same term. Just because the slim majority of voters supported it on a day when disillusioned conservatives stayed home because they didn’t care for their presidential nominee doesn’t mean it’s really settled. What if there had been a special election on the matter – would conservatives have been the ones to show up and vote it down?

Furthermore. I pointed out when the bill passed committee that legislators may not have wanted it on the ballot with them in 2014.

There’s a reason we have 188 legislators to represent 5 (actually 6) million Marylanders. If they do their job wrong, it’s up to you to correct it, not leaving it to the whims of 5 million Marylanders. That referendum backstop is for the times when the General Assembly gets it egregiously wrong with the governor’s approval, such as gay marriage.

Ron George: Demanding the highest standards of ethics and conduct creating a government that is more responsive to individuals regardless of income or party affiliation.

Require the automatic forfeiture of retirement benefits for any elected official that is convicted of abusing their office for political gain.

Reforming our prisons to make them true rehabilitation facilities with drug and alcohol rehab, education and financial literacy courses.

Create and enforce drug free zones around community recreation centers, schools and public housing with stiffer penalties. (campaign site)

I can live with points one and two, but the third and fourth points seem to work at cross purposes with each other. Not only will it cost a lot more to run our prison system if the additional features are included, the additional drug penalties will create more inmates. The more I see the effect of the so-called War on Drugs, the more I tend to favor decriminalization, if not legalization.

*

“Don’t believe a Republican can’t get anything done,” George said. “People think the enemy is the Democratic Party. It’s not. It’s apathy.”

He added that in a legislature controlled by Democrats, it is important for Republicans to not be ambitious. George said Democratic lawmakers will kill Republican legislation that they like, only to then introduce and pass a near-identical version with their own names on it. He added that it’s happened to him several times, and said he still would testify in favor of the bills if he supported them.

“It doesn’t matter if your name is on the bill or not. I don’t care,” George said. (SoMdNews, June 26, 2013)

To me, that doesn’t exactly scream Reaganesque leadership. If something is a good idea, we should be ambitious about it; after all – to use a recent news headline – if a small fraction of the population can get a television show cancelled, a tireless minority can turn this state around as well with the proper inspired leadership.

*

“I bristle at how much partisanship gets in the way of getting things done,” George said. “I have no problem working with people.” (Washington Post, June 5, 2013)

Then you should be ambitious about attaining your goals. Seize the bully pulpit and make the public demand the opposition fall in behind you.

*

“I never ran to the middle,” Ron reminded us, “I spoke to the middle.” (WCRC meeting, September 23, 2013)

In other words, you brought the other side to you. Now I definitely disagree with some of the ways you accomplished this – particularly the “Green Elephant” phase of your first term – but at least you have some street cred to use for better purposes.

*

And the outcry for Dwyer’s resignation is strong – particularly from fellow Anne Arundel County Delegate and gubernatorial candidate Ron George, who advised, “out of concern for others who could be harmed and for Don Dwyer himself, I call on him to resign and get help. His constituents deserve good representation.”  (monoblogue, August 21, 2013)

Since Dwyer wasn’t convicted of a crime which requires his dismissal from the General Assembly, I have to disagree. The voters of his district will probably speak just as loudly and have a more final decision.

Charles Lollar: Charles Lollar believes in human dignity and recognizes the importance of religious freedom to the people of Maryland.  The State of Maryland was founded to enable its settlers to practice their religion free of government interference.  It is our heritage and Maryland’s gift to the nation. (campaign website)

I have a little trouble reconciling that statement with the one in the second part below about not running to be a priest.

*

“It’s a tragedy what partisan politics is doing to this country.” (appearance at Mike Blizzard fundraiser, September 16, 2013)

This is a favorite straw man to burn. There’s a distinction between partisan politics based on principles and partisanship based on power. The debates of old between Republicans and Democrats centered on the former, but Maryland as a one-party state for so many decades is an example of the latter, where politicians join the Democratic machime to help themselves and not their fellow man.

*

“I’m not running to be your priest. I’m running to be your governor.”

“I think that every Marylander should have the right to be with whomever they want to be with….I don’t think government should be involved in marriage at all – that’s not government’s business.”

“I’m not going to propose any legislation centered around marriage; that’s not my job…nor would I lead a charge to change what the people have already done.”

“The people of the state have already voted to pass the law.”

“I am an advocate of helping organizations that help women sustain their lives…What I would not fund is money to provide an abortion.” (blogger interview, June 24, 2013)

I guess I have a problem with this picking and choosing which laws to advocate, unless the idea is to disengage entirely from all these personal decisions, which is a very libertarian approach. If government shouldn’t be in the arena of marriage, then I suppose we can bring back common law marriage. Moreover, there is also the aspect of taxation based in large part on deductions married couples are allowed to take, child custody, and many other issues where government has involvement in marriage. Do those go away as well?

I also have an issue with the lame excuse “the people of the state have already voted to pass the law.” That doesn’t stop activist courts from overturning a vote, which was done in California. Nor did it stop Obamacare, which the people didn’t want but Congress passed anyway. If you want the people to pass laws, then there should be a push to have citizen initiatives like other states do. Unfortunately, the masses aren’t always proven to be correct and we may rue the votes we took in 2012 a decade or two down the line.

*

“It’s very important that I’m non-partisan. We’re not going to win with Republican bully politics in this state. You’ve got some folks that want to win that way. We can’t win that way, we won’t win that way.”  (interview, Raging Against the Rhetoric, July 2013)

*

He said he is frustrated with “the Republican brand,” but chose to run as a Republican because his character and ideals most align with that party, he said. (SoMdNews, November 1, 2013)

These two actually go well together, so I will comment on both at the same time.

The first step in winning any election in Maryland is to win your party’s nomination, and in Lollar’s case that is the GOP. We saw what happened the last time an unaffiliated candidate tried to win statewide – he spent a lot of money to get 15% of the vote, and 15 percent isn’t going to cut it.

So maybe this is reality according to Charles Lollar, but that’s not the way to get party activists on your side. Granted, there are many who are fed up with the GOP brand but that’s because they look for conservative principles while many among the party regulars believe the MDGOP should be a pale pink pastel in a deep blue state, so as not to offend anyone in the middle. All that does is disillusion the base, which is why we don’t always get better turnout than Democrats – something which we must have to succeed.

I don’t think Republican principles equate to “bully politics.”

**********

In looking at these various factors, I end up deducting a little bit of score from two of the three candidates. Ron George is pretty much a wash as far as I’m concerned.

David Craig ends up losing one point because he’s just not willing to lead on social issues, even a little. They’re not the most important issues, but damn it, take a stand.

I deducted the full three points from Charles Lollar; not only for the unwillingness to run as a Republican and falling into the “non-partisan politics” trap, but also for running an abysmal campaign which has squandered the good will of a lot of potential activists, made a lot of unforced errors (the lack of a website for over a week was fairly glaring), and exhibited a terrible lack of discipline among staffers and supporters. Some of these have been straightened out, but tremendous damage is done. It’s a shame because the presentation by the candidate is generally good, which is why I initially supported him.

But when I added up all of the totals, even without the three-point deduction, Lollar was trailing badly. At this point, the totals are as follows:

  • Ron George, 61.5 points
  • David Craig, 58 points
  • Charles Lollar, 49.5 points
  • Larry Hogan, 0 points

Frankly, none of these totals are all that great. I realize I’m a difficult taskmaster, but I would have hoped for at least a couple scores in the 70s. But as more and more is learned about the candidates and their positions – particularly on some of the more esoteric issues I used, like the impact of Obamacare – perhaps one or more will reach the 70 to 80 point range and I can get behind him. At this time, I can’t be like the folks at Red Maryland and do the Larry Hogan pig in a poke. I tried that once already and was disappointed.

What I think I will do instead is make this an ongoing process. I really didn’t mean for this to be a one-shot deal as I have done before because I suspect the race will be in flux for awhile yet. Moreover, I’m not convinced I’ll see four main contenders on the June ballot, just like Blaine Young’s exit from the race after Charles Lollar got in. Sooner or later, once Larry Hogan gets in someone probably has to get out because there’s only so much money out there.

So I want to revisit the process around the first of February, the first of April, and the beginning of June. This way I can review what the candidates have said over the preceding 60 days or so and adjust accordingly. I might like a lot of what Larry Hogan says and it may vault him into the lead, or Lollar could stage a comeback with some subtle policy changes. It seems fair to all, and there’s no real rush for a monoblogue endorsement.

Put me down as still undecided.

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    First District - Congress

    Andy Harris (R)
    Bill Tilghman (D)

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    Maryland General Assembly (local)

    Senate District 37

    Addie Eckardt (R)
    Christopher Robinson (D)

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    House District 37B

    Republican

    Christopher Adams (R)
    Johnny Mautz (R)
    Rodney Benjamin (D)
    Keasha Haythe (D)

    ___

    Senate District 38

    Mike McDermott (R)

    Jim Mathias (D)

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    House District 38A

    Charles Otto (R)
    Percy Purnell, Jr. (D)

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    House District 38B

    Carl Anderton, Jr. (R)

    Norm Conway (D)

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    House District 38C

    Mary Beth Carozza. (R)

    Judy Davis (D)

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    Wicomico County

    County Executive

    Bob Culver (R)
    Rick Pollitt (D)

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    County Council at-large

    John Cannon (R)
    Matt Holloway (R)
    Laura Mitchell (D)

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    Council District 2

    Marc Kilmer (R)
    Kirby Travers (D)

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    Council District 3

    Larry Dodd (R)
    Josh Hastings (D)