Sitting right next to square one: a postmortem, part three

I’m not patient enough to wait on the final Maryland results, but if they hold fair enough to form they will conform to a degree with my prediction.

Evan McMullin will get the majority of counted write-in votes, eclipsing the 5,000 mark statewide. I think Darrell Castle comes in next with around 1,100, which almost triples the 2012 Constitution Party candidates Virgil Goode and James Clymer (both ran under that banner as the party had split factions.) This would be astounding when you consider there were over 10,000 write-in votes cast in 2012 but most of those weren’t counted…Thanks to McMullin, though, this year the stigma behind write-ins will be broken somewhat.

On the Wicomico County level…Evan McMullin will beat (Jill Stein) by getting 0.6% of the vote. Of the other 100 or so votes, I figure Darrell Castle gets about 45.

If I had to make a living predicting write-in votes I would go broke in a week. However, there is something very instructive about how they did turn out.

Just based on the state results that are in, and making an educated guess about the remainder, it looks like Evan McMullin will handily exceed the 5,000 mark. Based on the number of votes left to be counted and where they come from, I wouldn’t be surprised if McMullin picks up close to 9,000 statewide. But compare that to the 34,062 Jill Stein received as the bottom on-ballot candidate. McMullin’s success comes in a field of write-ins that is far outshadowed by the “other” write-ins category they don’t count (that category is beating Stein so far but its numbers will dwindle as counties sort out the results.)

On the other hand, my expectations of Castle may be twice what he actually draws, as he’s looking at about 500 to 600 votes when all is said and done. However, there is a chance he may finish third among the group of write-ins depending on how many wrote in Michael Maturen of the American Solidarity Party – I would describe that group as having a left-of-center Christian worldview and the counties that remain to be counted would be more likely to support that than a conservative, Constitutional viewpoint. (99 votes separate the two.)

Here in Wicomico County I think double-digits could be a stretch, although the comparable Cecil County gave Castle 17 votes. (Proportionately, though, Somerset County cast 6 votes for Castle, which put him at 0.1%. So my vote for Castle may have quite a bit of company.)

But think of all the press coverage Evan McMullin received during his brief run of 3 months; by comparison we heard next to nothing about Darrell Castle accepting his party’s nomination in April of this year. I did a Bing search just a day or two before the election and found out that McMullin had five times the number of mentions that Castle did. Although that rudimentary measuring stick alluded to a large disparity, it doesn’t factor in the depth of coverage, either. McMullin got a serious number of pixels from #NeverTrump personalities such as Erick Erickson and Glenn Beck, so people had an awareness of a candidate whose campaign turned out to be more or less a favorite-son quest in Utah to deny Trump 270 electoral votes.

And there is a legitimate argument to be made for a very pessimistic point of view regarding this. My friend Robert Broadus remarked yesterday on Facebook that:

Considering that among all these choices, Castle was the only candidate representing a pro-God, pro-Family, pro-Constitution platform, I think it’s safe to say that conservatives are a negligible minority in the United States. Either it’s time for conservatives to adopt a new philosophy, or it’s time for a new party that can attract conservative voters, rather than abandoning them to liberal Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Greens, and all the other flavors of Communism that exist on the ballot.

Nationwide, Evan McMullin has 545,104 votes (with ballot access in just 11 states and write-in access in 31 others) while Darrell Castle is at 190,599 with ballot access in 24 states and write-in access in 23. If nothing else, this shows the power of media, but I disagree that conservatives are a negligible minority. Rather, they fall prey to the notion that the election is a binary choice and the two major parties aren’t exactly going to go out of their way to say, hey, we know you may not agree with us so you may want to consider (fill in the blank.)

But it’s also clear that ballot access makes a difference. In looking at the states where Castle was on the ballot and McMullin a write-in, the limited amount of data I could find (the state of Missouri and a sampling of Wisconsin counties – they report that way) suggested that a Castle on the ballot far outdistanced a McMullin write-in. Castle received nearly ten times the votes in Missouri, for example, and generally defeated McMullin by a factor of 2 to 4 in Wisconsin.

So if you are the Constitution Party (which, based on their platform, would be my preference as an alternate party) – or any other alternate to the R/D duopoly not called the Libertarian or Green parties – job one for you is to get ballot access.  Granted, the Constitution Party only received between .2% and 1.1% of the vote in states where they qualified for the ballot, but that was vastly better than any state where they were a write-in.

Maryland makes this a difficult process, and this is more than likely intentional. To secure ballot access, a party first needs to get 10,000 valid signatures to the Board of Elections stating that these voters wish to create a new party. To maintain access they then need to get at least 1% of the vote in a gubernatorial election or 1% of the total registered voters – at this point, that number would be about 38,000. The Libertarian Party maintained its access in 2014 by receiving 1.5% of the vote, while the Green Party managed to once again qualify via petition, so both were on the ballot for the 2016 Presidential race. The Constitution Party did field a candidate for Maryland governor (Eric Knowles and running mate Michael Hargadon) with ballot access in 2010, but did not qualify in subsequent elections.

I also looked up the requirements in Delaware:

No political party shall be listed on any general election ballot unless, 21 days prior to the date of the primary election, there shall be registered in the name of that party a number of voters equal to at least 1 0/100 of 1 percent of the total number of voters registered in the State as of December 31 of the year immediately preceding the general election year.

In the First State the same parties as Maryland (Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green) qualified for the ballot; however, the Green Party made it by the skin of its teeth as they barely broke the threshold of 653 they needed – they had fallen below that earlier in 2016. At this point Delaware would be adding the American Delta Party (2016 nominee: Rocky De La Fuente, who has 6 Maryland write-in votes so far) and maintaining the other four; meanwhile the Constitution Party sits at 311 of what is now a requirement of 676. (The Conservative Party is also in the same boat with 432. Perhaps a merger is in order? Also worth noting for the Constitution Party: Sussex County could be a huge growth area since they only have 36 of the 311 – they should be no less than Kent County’s 135.)

So the task for liberty- and Godly-minded people is right in front of them. While it’s likely the Republican Party has always been the “backstop” party when there are only two choices, more and more often they are simply becoming the lesser of two evils. Never was that more clear than this election, as most of the choices they presented to voters were the “tinker around the edge” sort of candidate who will inevitably drift to the left if elected.

Of course, Broadus may be right and those who are “pro-God, pro-Family, (and) pro-Constitution” may be a tiny minority. But so are homosexuals and they seem to have an outsized role in culture and politics. (I use that group as an example because they have successfully created a perception that homosexuals are 20 to 25 percent of the population.) It’s time for the group I write about to become the “irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.” It may be a stretch when most people think Samuel Adams is a brand of beer, but I choose to try.

Thoughts on Trump: a postmortem, part two

November 11, 2016 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off 

When I did part one I intended to wait until all of the write-in votes were counted and tallied before continuing, but it appears that process will be very time-consuming and drag out over the next couple weeks. So I will save the third part for that facet of the evaluation I wasn’t anticipating would take so long and carry on with what we do know to date, beginning with the rest of my predictions. I’m still working in reverse order.

On the Wicomico County level, Donald Trump will carry the county with ease, with 63.7% of the vote compared to 32.8% for Hillary. Gary Johnson will hover around 2.3% here and Jill Stein at 0.4%; in fact, Evan McMullin will beat her…

I keep making the mistake of thinking Wicomico County is more conservative than reality bears out. Trump won Wicomico County, but underperformed my expectations by a full 10.6 percentage points (53.1% vs. 63.7%.) Hillary received 8.8% of my overage, going from the 32.8% I guessed to the actual 41.6%, while Gary Johnson was the recipient of a small portion as well, outperforming with 3% against the 2.2% I predicted.

But it was the Green Party candidate Jill Stein who vastly outperformed, going from a cipher to a semi-cipher with 1%. She received 388 votes, and with 526 write-in votes to allocate – a total which presumably includes a batch for non-candidates like Larry Hogan or Mickey Mouse – I think Stein will end up beating McMullin after all. He needs nearly 3/4 of all the write-in votes and that’s a tall order.

The suspense will be much less in Maryland, where Trump will lose but not as badly as polls once suggested. Out of 2.6 million votes cast (again, down slightly from 2012) Hillary will get 56.1% and Trump 38.7%. Among the rest, Gary Johnson will get 3.3%, Jill Stein will pick up 1.2%, and write-ins the rest.

Turns out turnout wasn’t even as good as I thought, even knowing the high number who voted early. As of this writing, there were 2,545,896 Maryland votes for President, and you’re asking a lot for a 2% undervote on that part of the ballot (although it is possible.) But Hillary picked up an “extra” 3.5% in the state, a total that Trump exceeded by underperforming my estimate by 3.8%. (It is 59.6% for Hillary vs. 34.9% for Trump.) Gary Johnson also came up short, getting 2.8% vs. the 3.3% I projected, but Jill Stein came close with 1.3% as opposed to the 1.2% I predicted. But the write-ins I guessed would be less than 1 percent are (as a combined total) leading Stein 32,957 to 32,406. (Worth noting: over 6,000 absentee/provisional votes have been deleted from the write-in totals, so the final tally among them may be closer to 30,000 rather than the 40,000 I noted in part one. Still, that is over thrice the number of write-ins cast in 2012 at this point – although a high number will be non-official candidates as well.)

For the last part, I’m going to bring in my predicted electoral map.

The important race: Hillary Clinton will pull out a fairly close popular vote race by 1 or 2 points nationwide, but fails to eclipse 50 percent just like her husband. However, there is a highly distinct possibility we may live the 2000 election all over again: the Electoral College very well could finish 279-259 Trump and the straw that breaks Hillary Clinton’s back will be losing Florida. Trump will win 30 states but Florida will be the dagger the GOP regains to defeat Hillary. Also from the 2012 map Trump will regain Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Ohio for the GOP, plus one Electoral College vote in Maine. (That one vote in Maine could be key if Florida and Pennsylvania trade places, with the former going to Clinton and the latter Trump. If Trump takes one Congressional district in Maine he would prevail 270-268, but if that elector decides to go with the other three Maine electors it becomes a tie.)


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

The reasons neither candidate breaks 50 percent: about 4.5% for Gary Johnson, 1.5% for Jill Stein, and various write-in candidates will split roughly 2% of the vote. This means Hillary beats Trump by something like 46-45 or 47-45.

It does not look like Hillary Clinton will win the popular vote by more than a margin that would trigger an automatic recount in many states (0.5%.) Both Clinton and Trump are hovering in the 47 to 48% range; based on standard rounding rules it’s 48-47 Hillary right now. So I was actually correct on margin.

But I’m intrigued by the states I messed up on. Let me share a little secret with you: my prediction map was based on a very simple formula – take the last poll from each state and if it was anything less than Clinton +3 give it to Trump. After all, people tell me I barely know Maryland and Delaware politics, let alone the dynamics of swing states I have never been to. But I did sense there was a Bradley effect going in that people either wouldn’t admit to a stranger they were voting for Trump or they were convinced that where there was the smoke of allegations over dirty dealings by Hillary Clinton there was the fire of influence-peddling, despite the FBI clearing her twice.

So Donald Trump did not win Colorado, Nevada, or New Hampshire as I predicted (although there may be an automatic recount in New Hampshire based on margin.) But I think he will gladly trade those 19 electoral votes for the 46 he gets by winning Michigan (maybe, as that is also likely an automatic recount margin), Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin (!). Trump lost Colorado by 3 and Nevada by about 2, so they were close as were Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, both taken by Trump by about 1 percent. Even if they find a trunkful of votes somehow deposited under home plate where Tiger Stadium once stood, though, Trump wins the Electoral College by 290-248. (If Michigan holds it’s 306-232, not quite the 332-206 Obama was re-elected with, but a healthy margin nonetheless. Even without Michigan, though, Trump beats Bush’s 2004 re-election, let alone the 2000 race.)

Yet despite underperforming my expectations, the Libertarian Gary Johnson blew away his party’s previous best national showing with 3.3%. Jill Stein actually did worse than I expected, garnering just less than 1% nationally. On both sides of the spectrum, those who wavered in their support for alternative candidates fell prey to the siren song of the duopoly who continually tries to convince people a vote other than R or D is “wasted.” And that’s the way the establishment continues to reign. So let me digress for a moment to wrap up the prediction part of this post…

First of all, national turnout will be about 124 million votes, which will be down from 2012 but not as bad as I once predicted.

Turnout was better than I guessed, but it will still be down from 2012. (By the way, I thought someplace I wrote it was 128 million in 2012, but the undervotes pushed it beyond 129 million casting a ballot. So far they have counted 126.8 million ballots.)

…and pick up with my thoughts on why Trump did so well where he was expected to lose.

If you see a common theme in those three states (as well as Ohio) this election was all about trade and job creation. These are the voters who have seen their livelihoods taken away by NAFTA and the relocation of manufacturing to other nations like China, so they have a latent animus against the Clinton family to begin with.

Yet these were also the union voters who either went with their union leadership to support Al Gore, John Kerry, and Barack Obama, or (more likely) just said the heck with it and stayed home because they liked neither choice presented by the duopoly. And let’s face it: to these working-class people George W. Bush only became president because his dad pulled the strings,  John McCain wasn’t appealing because he was a Washington insider, and Mitt Romney was the subject of their class envy. But Donald Trump made the election about things they cared about with his populist, pro-America appeal, so they turned out for him.

And it’s worth adding that pollsters tend to call those they know are likely voters. As I noted, much of this group stayed home for the last several elections and they’re skeptical enough of the press to deceive the pollsters if they do happen to call – thus, all the pollsters overestimated the base of support for Hillary in these states.

If I have a perception of these Trump voters, they remind me of my dad: he was a union worker for over 35 years, was drafted into the Army and served his hitch (fortunately in the period between Korea and Vietnam), and he worked for several years at a friend’s greenhouse even after he “retired” from his longtime employer (a concrete block plant that is no longer in business.) I have no idea if he voted, but if he did he fits well the profile of one of those Trump supporters who came out of the woodwork.

So I’m left with the surprise and shock I received when I opened up my browser to the New York Times website where I was tracking the results and finding they were predicting a Trump victory was more and more likely. It was surprising because it was lining up with my EC prediction, and shocking once the results began rolling in from Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Conversely, I’m not shocked by the discord in the election’s wake, just saddened (remember, I didn’t vote for Trump either – but I’m not going to march in the streets about it.)

My last part is going to wrap up the predictions once I get the write-in results. Already Darrell Castle is at 180,000 votes nationwide and that will hopefully increase as states where he was a write-in tally their ballots. Considering the Constitution Party has never broken 200,000, it’s a start. I’m going to be interested to see how Castle fares in Maryland and Delaware.

I suppose the next great political event around these parts will be the runup to the Maryland GOP Fall Convention that I will miss (but only in the sense I won’t be there – as it turns out I have much better plans for that particular weekend) but will elect a new party Chair whose top job will be to re-elect Larry Hogan in two years.

In the meantime, I may do a little work on my book this weekend. I also found out there will be a change afoot with this site, so stay tuned.

Closing the loop: a postmortem, part one

I’m sure that many millions of people like me who stayed up until almost 3 this morning (yet had to get up and go to work) were of several minds: anything from watching a slow-motion trainwreck to openly savoring the bitterness coming from the hearts of the so-called “experts” who predicted a massive blowout loss for Donald Trump. And until the last maybe week to 10 days I was among that group, but it seems there is a reservoir of support Trump could keep tapping into that other Republicans could not.

That subject is one I will get to in due course (that being part two) but for the moment I just want to work through my series of predictions and see if my crystal ball has been fixed. Just as I reeled them out from national to local, I will wind them backward to wrap them up.

And just as an aside, while early voting had historically high turnout, the reason will end up being that people just wanted to wash their hands of this election.

I think that panned out to a fair extent. Turnout is lining up to be right around or perhaps slightly below where it was in 2012, depending on how many absentees or provisional ballots there were. Including early voting, Maryland brought out a little over 2.5 million voters. Considering the state has about 300,000 more voters in this cycle, I think the turnout percentage will decrease or stay about where it was – the timing of votes was what shifted.

Across the border, I fear Delaware will vote for more of the same then wonder why their state isn’t getting better. Basically the state will have the same political composition with different names on the nameplates in Congress and state executive offices – not that Sussex County agreed with it, but they will be outvoted as usual by the New Castle Democrat machine.

In the state of Delaware, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by a 53%-42% margin, Democrat Congressional hopeful Lisa Blunt Rochester won 56%-41% over Republican Hans Reigle. and in all three state government races, the Democrats won by almost identical margins: 58%-39%, 59%-41%, and 59%-41%. Aside from an extra 10,000 or so votes cast in the governor’s race to accommodate the Green and Libertarian candidates, the Democrats’ totals were all within 2,000 votes and the GOP within 2,500.

But if you break it down by county and the city of Wilmington, you find that Hillary won 84.8% in Wilmington, 59.4% in the rest of New Castle County, 44.9% in Kent County, and 37.2% in Sussex County. The problem is New Castle County’s Hillary votes were more than the combined overall total of either Sussex or Kent County. Sussex only went 41% for Rochester, 45% for governor-elect John Carney, 47% for lieutenant governor-elect Bethany Hall-Long, and 40% for new insurance commissioner Trinidad Navarro. Going forward they need to keep statewide Democrats in the 20s in Sussex County, but that may be a tall task as those who retire there generally come from Democratic core states and apparently don’t change their voting patterns.

On the questions, I believe Question 1 will get in the neighborhood of 80% statewide but maybe 75% here. The biggest controversy will be that Question A’s Option 2 will win a plurality of the vote but not quite a majority – a spirited Democrat effort will pull Option 2 down to 48% but Option 1 will get just 32%, with 20% opting for the hybrid. Otherwise, all the charter amendments will pass by healthy margins of 65 to 80 percent in favor.

Question 1 got 73.6% here (so I was close) but I underestimated the statewide wisdom to some extent, as the partisan measure passed on a 72-28 margin overall (as opposed to 80%.) I was just 3 percentage points off on Question A but Option 2 managed a slight 51% majority rather than a plurality. The Democrats probably got a late start in backing Option 1 because it underperformed my estimate by 7 points while the hybrid Option 3 outperformed by 5 points. The other questions ranged from 63 to 77 percent in favor, so I was in the ballpark. Maybe my public opposition brought them down 2 to 3 percent each.

Andy Harris will be returned to Congress, but not by as much as previous years. He will get 60.7% of the vote both overall and in Wicomico County, but Joe Werner’s 35.9% of the vote districtwide will shrink to 33.8% here. The Libertarian Matt Beers will have 3.2% districtwide but do somewhat better here, with 5.2% support in Wicomico County.

I was somewhat correct with Harris. He got 7% better than I predicted districtwide, but I was correct that he did decline slightly from 2014, when he was a shade over 70%. That extra came from Werner as he came up 7.9% short of what I thought he would and Matt Beers came in 1% better at 4.2%. Here in Wicomico, though, I was much closer: Harris underperformed my guess by 1.7% while Werner jumped 3.3%. The Libertarian Beers came in 1.5% less here. It’s worth noting, though, that the Libertarians’ share of the vote has increased slightly with each election they participate in – back in 2008 they had 2.5%, in 2010 3.8%, in 2012 3.8% (but Muir Boda came close to edging the write-in Democratic candidate here in Wicomico with 5.9% vs. 6%) and now 4.2%.

Looking at the U.S. Senate race, I think that Chris Van Hollen wins no more than eight counties but those will be enough to propel him to victory with 61.1% of the vote, compared to Kathy Szeliga’s 37.8%. Margaret Flowers will get 0.6% and various write-ins the rest. Wicomico will be one Szeliga wins, but not quite as strongly as Trump – she gets 59.3% of the vote while Van Hollen has 40.3% and Flowers 0.2%.

Van Hollen won just six counties, but unfortunately for Szeliga they included the four biggest so she was trounced. I gave Van Hollen about 1% more credit than he deserved, but Szeliga got no benefit as she was 1.4% short. All the underage went to Flowers, who grabbed over fivefold the share I predicted at 3.2%. Just as some on the right may give Libertarians the vote in a race they know is safe (I’ve done this several times in the past) I think those well out on the left figured it wouldn’t hurt to push the Flowers total up. But when Szeliga undercuts my modest expectations (to have a shot, she really had to be in the 75% range here and elsewhere on the Eastern Shore) by a full 5.7%, it’s a short wait for a concession speech. Van Hollen only lost our supposedly conservative county by 10.4 points (and beat my guess by about 3 points) but a shocker was that Flowers did about as well here as she did statewide. I thought she would be lucky to get 100 votes locally; she picked up 1,163.

I’m going to stop with that because I want to see the write-in votes for President before I comment on that race. But I will say that I am shocked at the number of write-in votes, as over 40,000 were cast statewide. I’m sure many of these won’t be counted, but it won’t be 85% of them like it was in 2012. I may have been overly pessimistic on Evan McMullin, Darrell Castle, Tom Hoefling, and so forth as they may split 15 to 20 thousand votes (although McMullin will get the lion’s share.) We won’t know for a few days, though, and when we do I will pick up with the second part regarding the Presidential race.

The wild guesses for 2016

In years past, our Central Committee used to make a gentlemen’s bet on the election results and I was often the one who prevailed. But I seem to recall I had a rough go of it the last couple times out and these days I have no idea if my crystal ball is broken or not. Undaunted, here are my slightly educated guesses on how this election will turn out locally, statewide, and nationally.

First of all, national turnout will be about 124 million votes, which will be down from 2012 but not as bad as I once predicted.

The important race: Hillary Clinton will pull out a fairly close popular vote race by 1 or 2 points nationwide, but fails to eclipse 50 percent just like her husband. However, there is a highly distinct possibility we may live the 2000 election all over again: the Electoral College very well could finish 279-259 Trump and the straw that breaks Hillary Clinton’s back will be losing Florida. Trump will win 30 states but Florida will be the dagger the GOP regains to defeat Hillary. Also from the 2012 map Trump will regain Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Ohio for the GOP, plus one Electoral College vote in Maine. (That one vote in Maine could be key if Florida and Pennsylvania trade places, with the former going to Clinton and the latter Trump. If Trump takes one Congressional district in Maine he would prevail 270-268, but if that elector decides to go with the other three Maine electors it becomes a tie.)


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

The reasons neither candidate breaks 50 percent: about 4.5% for Gary Johnson, 1.5% for Jill Stein, and various write-in candidates will split roughly 2% of the vote. This means Hillary beats Trump by something like 46-45 or 47-45. But if Hillary wins in the Electoral College by keeping Florida (or another close state like North Carolina or Ohio), by dawn on Wednesday the caterwauling about #NeverTrump begins, conveniently forgetting that not only was Trump a weak candidate propped up by initial incessant and fawning media coverage that (as if by magic) turned more negative when he won the nomination, but Gary Johnson and Jill Stein took enough from Hillary to deny her a majority, too.

The suspense will be much less in Maryland, where Trump will lose but not as badly as polls once suggested. Out of 2.6 million votes cast (again, down slightly from 2012) Hillary will get 56.1% and Trump 38.7%. Among the rest, Gary Johnson will get 3.3%, Jill Stein will pick up 1.2%, and write-ins the rest. Evan McMullin will get the majority of counted write-in votes, eclipsing the 5,000 mark statewide. I think Darrell Castle comes in next with around 1,100, which almost triples the 2012 Constitution Party candidates Virgil Goode and James Clymer (both ran under that banner as the party had split factions.) This would be astounding when you consider there were over 10,000 write-in votes cast in 2012 but most of those weren’t counted. (The actual top vote-getter among write-ins back in 2012 was Santa Claus with 625 – Goode was second.) Thanks to McMullin, though, this year the stigma behind write-ins will be broken somewhat.

On the Wicomico County level, Donald Trump will carry the county with ease, with 63.7% of the vote compared to 32.8% for Hillary. Gary Johnson will hover around 2.3% here and Jill Stein at 0.4%; in fact, Evan McMullin will beat her by getting 0.6% of the vote. Of the other 100 or so votes, I figure Darrell Castle gets about 45.

Looking at the U.S. Senate race, I think that Chris Van Hollen wins no more than eight counties but those will be enough to propel him to victory with 61.1% of the vote, compared to Kathy Szeliga’s 37.8%. Margaret Flowers will get 0.6% and various write-ins the rest. Wicomico will be one Szeliga wins, but not quite as strongly as Trump – she gets 59.3% of the vote while Van Hollen has 40.3% and Flowers 0.2%. Not backing Trump will give Szeliga a larger undervote than normal, while Van Hollen may actually exceed Hillary as independents split their tickets.

Andy Harris will be returned to Congress, but not by as much as previous years. He will get 60.7% of the vote both overall and in Wicomico County, but Joe Werner’s 35.9% of the vote districtwide will shrink to 33.8% here. The Libertarian Matt Beers will have 3.2% districtwide but do somewhat better here, with 5.2% support in Wicomico County. Because of the nature of the First District, don’t be surprised if Harris runs slightly ahead of Trump (mainly across the Bay.) The Maryland Congressional delegation will remain 7-1 Democrat, with Amie Hoeber and Mark Plaster coming the closest to ousting the incumbents but losing by single-digits.

On the questions, I believe Question 1 will get in the neighborhood of 80% statewide but maybe 75% here. The biggest controversy will be that Question A’s Option 2 will win a plurality of the vote but not quite a majority – a spirited Democrat effort will pull Option 2 down to 48% but Option 1 will get just 32%, with 20% opting for the hybrid. Otherwise, all the charter amendments will pass by healthy margins of 65 to 80 percent in favor.

Across the border, I fear Delaware will vote for more of the same then wonder why their state isn’t getting better. Basically the state will have the same political composition with different names on the nameplates in Congress and state executive offices – not that Sussex County agreed with it, but they will be outvoted as usual by the New Castle Democrat machine.

So that’s my take on how it will go – do readers have ideas of their own? And just as an aside, while early voting had historically high turnout, the reason will end up being that people just wanted to wash their hands of this election. Voting a week early enabled many to tune the election out – they did their civic duty and now could get on with life.

We will see on Wednesday how shocked and surprised I am. I was certainly shocked with the state-by-state figuring I did to predict a 2000 repeat.

A potential power grab?

In 2004, Wicomico County voters adopted a system of government that would be led by a county executive, scrapping the former system where County Council had both legislative and executive powers. One reaction from this: all four of the incumbent Democratic members of County Council opted not to run for re-election in 2006; however, the first County Executive elected was Democrat Rick Pollitt.

In 2014, we had the first transfer of power between parties as GOP standard-bearer Bob Culver ousted Pollitt, who was running for a third term. At the same time, County Council maintained the 6-1 GOP edge it had received in 2010 – that was an increase from the 4-3 control they won in 2006 with only two members from the previous Council surviving the election.

So you can perhaps chalk it up to management style, or maybe the turnover on County Council over the last eight years has placed a crop of people on there who long for the old system, but Wicomico County voters are facing a bewildering array of issues on their ballot. So let’s start with the no-brainers.

Question 1 is a statewide issue that compels the Governor to appoint a new Comptroller or Attorney General from the same party as the one most recently elected and provides for a special election in a Presidential year if the vacancy occurs soon enough.

You’ll notice that this was never a problem until a Republican was elected to the governor’s chair. In fact, the last time the state had a Republican AG was in the term of Republican Governor Theodore McKeldin (1951-1959), who appointed Edward Rollins to the post to finish out the term of Hall Hammond, a Democrat elected in 1950 and promoted to the state Court of Appeals. As for Comptroller, it has exclusively been a Democrat’s position for well over a century. But maybe we could use a Libertarian as Comptroller or a Constitution Party member as Attorney General – until either can break the two-party duopoly, though, we would likely be stuck with liberal Democrats.

So because of the cynicism in addressing a problem (that really wasn’t) for strictly partisan reasons, I urge a vote AGAINST Question 1.

Question A, for Wicomico County voters, addresses the composition of the Wicomico County Board of Education. For years I have advocated for an elected school board, and after eliminating the political obstacles in the 2014 election, the path was cleared for voters to address the issue in the first three-way referendum in recent memory. Option 1 is to maintain the current appointed system, Option 2 is for a fully elected board, one each representing the five County Council districts and two at-large elected by all county residents (the same makeup as our current County Council), and Option 3 is for a hybrid board of five elected (one from each Council district) and two appointed by a locally-created board with confirmation from County Council.

Once again the cynical local Democrats have cast their lot with the fully-appointed Option 1, which provides no shortage of irony considering it’s the least democratic process. It seemed more logical that they would be for Option 3, which was the fallback position many preferred in the hearings conducted in the summer of 2015, before the enabling legislation passed earlier this year. But to maximize accountability, the best choice by far is Option 2 – a Wicomico County Board of Education with five members elected by district and two members elected at-large.

Now it gets very confusing. There are nine county charter amendments on the ballot, and to me their net effect seems to be that of reducing the power of the county executive and shifting it to County Council. I wasn’t here for the 2004 vote, but it seems obvious to me that the county wanted a strong leader and a legislative County Council.

Let’s begin with Question B and its related cousin, Question D. Both would require a special election: Question B to fill a vacancy in the County Council, and Question D for the County Executive. However, either vacancy would only be filled in this manner if it occurred within the first year or so of the term, which seems to me a rather pointless change. Having gone through this process as a Central Committee member back in 2011 (to fill the vacancy created by the passing of Bob Caldwell) I can tell you that a special election would do no better and cost the taxpayers money to boot. Thus, the proper vote is AGAINST both Question B and Question D. (Editor’s note: Councilman Marc Kilmer clarifies the intent of these questions in comments below, but I still think the ballot language is misleading. Their idea of a “special election” coincides with the scheduled primary and general elections, which is not made completely clear in the ballot summary.)

Question C deals with vacancies as well, but it’s a common-sense measure to extend the time allotted for filling positions from 30 to 45 days and have them submitted at a legislative session. This extension makes sense as County Council only meets twice a month, and having gone through the Caldwell vacancy the extra time is good for getting things right. Vote FOR Question C.

Question E removes the authority of the County Executive to select a temporary successor and assigns the task automatically to the Director of Administration. While it’s likely he or she would do so anyway, the option should remain open for the head of our government to choose. We do not have a vice-executive here, so why create one? Vote AGAINST Question E.

Question F deals with the idea of “acting” appointments, and limits their term to 90 days unless Council chooses to re-appoint them. Since the idea of “acting” is that of being temporary, this proposal makes more sense than most of the others. Three months is generally suitable to find a permanent replacement, or determine that the “acting” head can handle the job, so go ahead and vote FOR Question F.

The final four questions seem to me very nit-picky, and obviously County Council’s reaction to not getting their way on various issues.

For example, Question G gives a specific definition to “reorganization” which is much more restrictive toward the County Executive. As I see it, this is a separation of powers issue and it’s strange that we went nearly ten years without ever having to deal with this problem. So I call on voters to say they are AGAINST Question G.

Questions H and I most likely are a reaction to the County Council’s desire to have its own lawyer. Currently the County Attorney represents both the County Council and County Executive, but Council wanted to change that. I see no reason to do so, nor do I see the logic behind forcing the County Executive to recognize a personnel system established by Council as authorized by this change. Thus, we should vote AGAINST Questions H and I. (Editor’s note: Again, see Kilmer’s comments below. By charter my assertion is correct in who the County Attorney represents; but in the county today there is an “acting” County Attorney while Council retains its own, which they are entitled to do. I see no reason to change the system if Question F is passed.)

Finally, we have Question J, and that’s the one I was most on the fence about. But what weighed my decision in the end was that the County Executive is responsible for the budget, so if County Council decides to cut something out it should be the County Executive’s call as to where the money goes rather than simply placed in a particular account. For that reason, a vote AGAINST Question J is the appropriate one.

So this is the monoblogue-approved ballot for Wicomico County voters. We all face the same questions and issues.

  • For Presidentwrite in Darrell Castle/Scott Bradley
  • For U.S. SenatorKathy Szeliga
  • For Congress – I did not make a formal endorsement. If you like Andy Harris, vote for him; if not, vote for the Libertarian Matt Beers.
  • Judge – Based on the fact Dan Friedman was an O’Malley appointee, vote AGAINST his continuance in office.
  • Question 1 – AGAINST
  • Question A – Option 2, the fully elected school board
  • Question B – AGAINST
  • Question C – FOR
  • Question D – AGAINST
  • Question E – AGAINST
  • Question F – FOR
  • Question G – AGAINST
  • Question H – AGAINST
  • Question I – AGAINST
  • Question J – AGAINST

For those of you across the line in Delaware, I weighed in on your state races as well.

Before I wrap up, I just ask that you all pray we make the best choices. We all have to live with what we decide, so choose wisely. After the election, it will be time to create the understanding many among us lack when it comes to making these selections because, in a lot of cases, we all have botched the process badly.

A nation divided against itself cannot stand.

The right idea but with the wrong approach

September 4, 2016 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off 

I find the controversy over Governor Hogan’s executive order mandating that Maryland public schools begin classes after Labor Day and wrap up by the following June 15 to be a good opportunity for commentary, so I decided to add my couple pennies.

First of all, this isn’t a new idea. In 2015 and 2016 legislation was introduced in the Maryland General Assembly to create a similar mandate. As proof of how Annapolis works, the 2015 versions only got House and Senate hearings but the 2016 versions picked up the remaining local House delegation as sponsors (only Delegates Mary Beth Carozza and Charles Otto were local co-sponsors in 2015) and got a Senate committee vote. (It failed on a 5-5 tie, with one of the Republicans on the committee being excused. The other two voted in favor.) There was a chance this legislation may have made it through in 2017, but apparently Hogan was unwilling to take the risk. He took the opportunity to make a news event at a perfect time – when most local districts were already a week or two into school, Larry announced this from the Ocean City boardwalk on a pleasant beach day – and showed he was willing to stand up for one of his principles, that being improving opportunities for small business. (At a minimum, with Hogan’s edict kids are off for 11 weeks for summer vacation.)

In reality, what Hogan has done is shift the calendar backward by about a week: for example, Wicomico County public school kids had their last day of school June 9 and returned August 29 and 30. But the thought process is that families are more likely to take a vacation in July and August than they are in June, so because Ocean City is a great tourist attraction the state should follow Worcester County’s lead and begin school after Labor Day. (They simply went an extra week into June, concluding on June 17 this year.)

Granted, our family has enjoyed a post-Labor Day start for a number of years since parochial schools have more calendar flexibility: our child began her summer vacation after classes ended June 3 and returns on Tuesday the 6th. Growing up, I seem to recall the city schools I attended began after Labor Day and went into June but the rural school I graduated from began classes in late August and was done by Memorial Day. (We had a longer Labor Day weekend, though, because our county fair runs that weekend and the Tuesday after Labor Day was Junior Fair Day. Thirty-odd years later, it still is.) The point is that each of these localities knows what works best, so I can understand the objection from those who advocate local control of school schedules. And talk about strange bedfellows: I’m sure many of those praising Hogan’s statewide mandate locally are also those who have fought for local control of our Board of Education - after at least ten years of trying, we finally have a chance for local control (as opposed to appointments by the Governor) over our Board of Education through a referendum this November. (I recommend a vote for the fully-elected Option 2 on Question A.)

So I agree with the objections on those grounds, even though I personally think a post-Labor Day start is a good idea based on the school calendar typically used. (If I truly had my way, though, we would adopt a 45-15 style plan so that summer break is somewhat shorter and kids spend less time relearning what they forgot over the break.) What I don’t see as productive are those who whine about how this would affect preparation for particular tests – that shouldn’t be the overall goal of education. Obviously they would be the first to blame the calendar (and by extension, Larry Hogan) if test scores went down. But Hogan’s not alienating a group that was squarely in his corner anyway, as the teachers’ unions almost reflexively endorse Democrats, including his 2014 opponent, and mislead Marylanders about education spending. It’s increased with each Hogan budget - just not enough to fund every desire the teachers have.

Come January, it will be interesting to see if the Democrats attempt to rescind this executive order through legislative means, daring Hogan to veto it so they can override the veto and hand him a political loss a year out from the election. While most Marylanders are fine with the change, the Democrats are beholden to the one political group that seems to object and those special interests tend to call the tune for the General Assembly majority.

Yet the idea that the state feels the need to dictate an opening and closing date to local school districts is just another way they are exerting control over the counties. We object when they tell us how to do our local planning, so perhaps as a makeup for this change our governor needs to rescind the PlanMaryland regime in Annapolis.

The seduction of good intentions

In yesterday’s Salisbury Independent, County Councilman Marc Kilmer discussed his concerns about a tuition assistance program proposed by community leaders and supported by County Executive Bob Culver. The aim of this Wor-Wic College proposal would be to assist Wicomico County high school students by supplementing their available financial aid, with an estimated cost once the program is underway of $665,000 annually.

One of the examples cited by the backers of the Wor-Wic Economic Impact Scholarship is that of Garrett County at the far western end of Maryland, which has a similar program. I’m sure those on County Council have seen this document, but the Garrett County Commissioners have produced a (somewhat dated) report on the Garrett County Scholarship Program, which they began way back in 2006 – so the 2014 report had several years’ worth of data to evaluate its success.

A couple things to bear in mind are that Garrett County is not one of the wealthier counties in Maryland, and in terms of its economic strength it would fit in well with the rural counties of the Eastern Shore. As the report authors note, the county is in a transition “from an economy traditionally based on agriculture, forest products, and mining to a more diversified economy based on tourism, commerce, light industry, and construction.” But it is also far smaller than Wicomico County in terms of population, with just over 30,000 people – imagine the city of Salisbury (but not the outskirts and densely populated nearby incorporated and unincorporated areas) spread out in a far larger geographic area, as Garrett is the second-largest county in the state when it comes to land area. It doesn’t have a large populated area, either, as the largest towns of Mountain Lake Park and Oakland (the county seat) hover around 2,000 residents apiece.

According to the commissioners’ report, between 1/3 and 2/5 of the eligible students in the county took advantage of the program, but in raw numbers the total was less impressive: from a fall 2008 peak of 138 recipients, the number declined over the next several years to a low of 79 in the fall of 2013 (the last year detailed by the report.) Yet the program comes with a significant cost due to some of its qualities: for FY2013 the price tag was $427,365 and for FY2017 the county has budgeted $500,000. However, the county also assists students who are dual-enrolled in one of its two high schools and Garrett College as well as a handful who are enrolled in non-degree certificate programs, as well as encouraging students to take more than the minimum 12 credit hours to maintain eligibility. They pick up that tab.

While the programs as envisioned here in Wicomico County and the Garrett County program have somewhat of an apples-to-oranges comparison to them, I think it’s fair to say that the local proposal is probably going to cost more than envisioned. Expanding the Garrett scholarship to non-degree certificate programs, while a sound idea, is an example of the mission creep that often occurs with the government getting involved. It’s also worth pointing out a spike in costs came when Garrett College tuition increased significantly in 2009.

Unfortunately, the one relevant piece of data we don’t have is whether these scholarship recipients remained to take (or create) jobs in the Garrett County region. According to state records, though, the workforce in Garrett has actually declined from 15,666 to 14,475 over the last decade (April 2006 – April 2016) for a drop of 7.6%. Conversely, Wicomico County declined from 49,566 to 47,504 in that same period, for a decrease of 4.2% – so by that measure the Garrett County program may not be very successful. (Yet the Garrett unemployment rate has only risen from 4.7% to 5.7% in comparison to a jump from 3.7% to 6% in Wicomico.)

One way of expressing the cost of this program is to equate it to property taxes. For each penny of property tax, Wicomico County collects about $570,000 (this is assuming I am reading the budget correctly, of course. But it sounds about right based on my experience.) So this would be a little over a penny out of the 95 cents or so the county collects out of every $100 of property valuation. The owner of a house assessed at $200,000 would pay about $20 a year toward this goal. If that seems worth it to give students a break, then support the scholarship program.

But if I may make a couple suggestions: I think the total expenditure should be capped and given out on a first come, first served basis. I understand not everyone makes snap decisions well, but in order to be fiscally responsible we can’t let this mushroom beyond its small percentage of the county budget. I would also reserve a number of slots for certificate programs Wor-Wic offers, similar to that element of Garrett’s program. Since a P-TECH school is not yet in the cards for Wicomico County, this can be the next best thing if done correctly.

It’s not likely any member of my family will take advantage of the program, but Kilmer is right to be a little skeptical of it at this stage. The county did set aside the money to begin the program once the questions are answered, though, so it’s possible an upcoming high school class will be the first to have this option.

A weekend to remember, 2016 edition

May 30, 2016 · Posted in Delmarva items, Personal stuff · Comments Off 

Once again I spent a significant portion of my Memorial Day weekend honoring both the living veterans and those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Unlike last year, the vibe was quite a bit different this year due to threatening skies and an occasional rain shower. But the show went on at the eleventh annual Concert for a Random Soldier up in Long Neck, Delaware. I think this is about the eighth or ninth I’ve attended, and it seemed the threat of rain brought the attendance down a bit.

There have been several years where all the rows of picnic tables were full and another few dozen scattered around the perimeter (as Kim and I did for most of the show.) It was a shame that more weren’t there, although the silent auction still seemed to be a moneymaker.

It continues to be the case that the Chad Clifton Foundation is the presenting sponsor and the beneficiary is Guitars for Vets. Chad Clifton is the “random soldier” in question, as he was killed in Iraq in 2005.

With a lot of help, Chad’s mother Terri Clifton has spearheaded the event.

Obviously it’s a tribute to her fallen son, but she also intended the event to increase the awareness for living veterans and assist them as she could through the charity side of it. All of the food, shirts, and silent auction items were donated and the bands volunteered for the gig – many have done so for several consecutive years. (I’m going to cover the latter half of the program in an upcoming Weekend of Local Rock segment.)

But for seven hours the area around Long Neck was rocked and rolled by bands that ranged from acoustic cover artists to those performing the oldies to some heavy metal artists playing great original music. It’s certainly a different style of Memorial Day weekend tradition than the event Kim and I attended this morning.

The somber mood of this annual Wicomico County observance was matched this year by somber weather that forced the event indoors for the first time since I began attending it in 2005. The event program remained pretty much the same except for not being able to lower the colors (usually performed by members of a local JROTC unit) and the honor guard needing to step right outside the door to do the volley of arms.

As you may be able to tell from the photo, something I brought up last year still rings true: this event is being organized and coordinated by an ever-graying generation of soldiers, sailors, and airmen. For most of the last decade, our fighting forces have been the subject of budget cuts, accusations of barbaric acts from the left side of the aisle, and social engineering – all while seeing their mission change on the capricious whims of those in office. There’s still a generation that supports the military, and I don’t think we’re to the nadir of respect for the military those who returned from Vietnam endured.

Yet it’s worth considering that the clear majority of the 191 names on Wicomico County’s list of war fatalities were killed during World War II, and there are precious few of their brothers in arms remaining among us. (If you signed up the day after Pearl Harbor on your eighteenth birthday, you would be 92 years old now.) Korean War veterans are perhaps a decade younger, and those who served in Vietnam are mostly at retirement age. While the sacrifice is a burden to bear for any family that lost a loved one in combat, the simple fact that the death toll from Vietnam is roughly eightfold that of the engagements since means Memorial Day is a little less in mind for the bulk of Americans, even as much as some of us try to goad people into remembering.

So it may be that the ranks of those who are asked to stand because they lost a family member in combat get a little smaller year by year, but those who have gone generations before still deserve to be remembered as if it were yesterday. Let’s remember that for next year.

WCRC meeting – May 2016

The fact that Memorial Day occurs on a somewhat rare fifth Monday of the month this year provided the WCRC with an “extra” meeting this year, and they took advantage by scheduling something that’s becoming a tradition: the annual Legislative Wrapup. All six Republican members of our local delegation (from Districts 37 and 38) were invited – but thanks to a number of calendar conflicts, only two of them came. It was ladies’ night for the delegation as Delegate Mary Beth Carozza and Senator Addie Eckardt gave their accounts of the recently completed session. (Delegate Chris Adams made the attempt to stop by, but came just after we wrapped up.)

So once we did our usual Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and introduction of distinguished guests, Eckardt got the meeting underway by praising the state’s $42 billion budget, which needed no new taxes for balance. The reason for this was that the Hogan cabinet was finding more efficiencies in their respective departments, enabling the state to become more business-friendly. One way they were doing this was through fee reduction, although Eckardt noted that some Democrats were fretting that fees were getting too low. Yet the budget allowed for a reduction in the structural deficit and did not feature a BRFA, the omnibus bill where spending mandates are often buried. This year’s spending had “full transparency,” said Addie.

But the push to reduce taxation was one goal of the Augustine Commission, explained Addie. Sadly, the broader tax reform package could not pass thanks to the question of passing a package mandating expanded paid sick leave - despite the fact changes to the earned income tax credit would have helped thousands of working Maryland families that I thought the majority party deigned to represent.

On the other side of that Augustine coin, Addie continued, was the idea of being responsive to constituents; to “change the tenor of government.” This went with a drive to bring things to the county level, as Addie noted “local control is important to me.”

One complaint Eckardt had about the session was the “crusade to get the Red Line back.” It led to the passage of what’s known as the “Maryland Open Transportation Investment Decision Act of 2016.” (I call it the “Revenge for Not Funding the Red Line in Baltimore” Act.) While the bill overall is terrible, Eckardt noted it was amended somewhat to give local jurisdictions a little more priority.

And while she was pleased Wicomico County would be receiving an additional $8.7 million from the state for various projects, Addie was more passionate about a series of initiatives to bolster mental health and combat addiction around the state. She was also happy to see the Justice Reinvestment Act pass, which was a bipartisan effort at criminal justice reform. The state was also doing more to address mental and behavioral health, particularly since she claimed later in the evening it took someone who was addicted and incarcerated two years to re-integrate fully. This led to a discussion about what the state and local governments were doing to deal with the issue of homelessness, to which Muir Boda revealed the city of Salisbury would be embarking on a Housing First program modeled after one in the state of Utah.

Between Eckardt’s main presentation and the later discussion about mental and behavioral health issues, we heard Delegate Carozza’s perspective. She began by praising the club for being a group of workers and doers when it came to advocacy, with the optimistic view that “this is our time…Governor Hogan is turning the state around.” But that was a process which would take at least eight years, said Mary Beth. As an aside, she also believed that Kathy Szeliga was “the candidate that can win” the U.S. Senate seat, which would also lay the groundwork for Larry Hogan’s re-election campaign.

Both she and Eckardt, added Carozza, were in the position to support the budget thanks to their respective committees. They could succeed making suggestions for “walling off” funds for supplemental budget proposals, of which there were two or three each year. And while this budget allowed for what Carozza termed “a well-rounded tax package,” only a minor tax break for Northrop Grumman made it through. But the “good news” out of that was that it was making Mike Busch and Mike Miller talk about tax relief, making it a stronger possibility we may see some in 2017.

As for some of her priorities, Carozza was happy to see the bomb threat bill she sponsored make it through the General Assembly in its second try. (A similar proposal was introduced by then-Delegate Mike McDermott in 2013, said Mary Beth.) She commented about how the broad community support, combined with the “sense of urgency” provided by a series of bomb threats making the news earlier this year, allowed the bill to pass easily. Another bill she was happy to shepherd through was the ABLE bill, which allows the disabled to save money for dealing with their medical-related expenses without jeopardizing their means-tested benefits.

She also stressed that killing bad bills was a part of the job as well, citing the defeat of the poultry litter and “farmer’s rights” bills where she praised Delegates Carl Anderton and Charles Otto as they “led the charge” against those measures. Mary Beth also took the unusual step of personally testifying against the assisted suicide bill and worked to amend the sick leave bill to exempt more seasonal employees. On that bill, she predicted “we’re going to see it again next session.”

Even after hearing all that information, we had some business to do, like the treasurer’s report and Central Committee report that Dave Parker delivered. He called the recent state convention the “get over it, people” convention, noting the party seemed pretty well unified afterward. Even local radio host Don Rush had difficulty finding disunity among a group of Republicans who were his guests last Friday, Parker added. On the other hand, “Hillary can’t close the deal” on the Democratic side.

I added my two cents about the convention to his report, pointing out the National Committeeman race was perhaps the biggest bone of contention and that was relatively minor. But the Fall Convention may be interesting because we will be electing a new Chair, and the question is whether it will be someone who will work more for Larry Hogan’s re-election or to bolster the GOP numbers in the General Assembly. A Hogan win, I added, would make redistricting the key focus for the second term – personally, I think we should strive for single-member districts and Eckardt agreed based on its impact to minorities.

Shelli Neal updated us on the Greater Wicomico Republican Women, who would be holding their next meeting June 16 at Adam’s Taphouse. They had two tickets to the Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in Crisfield to raffle off as part of a membership meeting for the newly-christened organization.

Another fairly new creation was the Wicomico Teenage Republicans, which had “a great start of a club” according to Nate Sansom. While their next meeting was slated for this coming Friday, they planned on taking a summer break and reconvening in August once school started back up. With a group of “passionate people, happy to be involved,” Sansom believed his group would focus on statewide campaigns like Kathy Szeliga’s as well as the local We Decide Wicomico campaign for an elected school board.

Representing the statewide College Republicans, their Chair Patty Miller was hoping to reach each county Central Committee at one of their meetings over the next few months and “see what they need from us.” Her first stop will be this week in Calvert County.

Jim Jester reminded us the Crab Feast would be September 10, but stressed the need for more volunteers – particularly to handle admissions and the silent auction.

Shawn Jester pointed out the WCRC Scholarship winners had a brief story in the Daily Times. But, since the subject was volunteering, he was also looking for people to help out at Third Friday, which we missed this month because no one was available. On that note, a signup sheet was passed around. (We will also need help for upcoming events such as the Wicomico County Fair, Good Beer Festival, and Autumn Wine Festival.)

After all that discussion, and seeing that we had a legislative update where the topic wasn’t addressed, I added one thing to the conversation. General Assembly Democrats sponsored a large number of bills this year that mandated spending. To me, this is an effort to handcuff Larry Hogan when it comes to budgeting but also leaves less room for tax reform. Many of these bills may become law without Hogan’s signature, but they will be law just the same. It’s an issue that I think needs a strategy to address, perhaps a reverse BRFA to eliminate mandates.

We are going to try and get the guys who didn’t show up this month to come to our June meeting, so stay tuned. It will be June 27.

Thoughts at large

I guess you can call this a stream of consciousness post. I actually have three to four things I want to write on and a couple things I need to write about, but the mind is a little fuzzy this evening – a stroll at 3rd Friday and dinner with the family will do that. So I’m just going to begin typing and see where it takes me. (Actually I do a lot of writing like that anyway, but in this case I will admit to it.) The things I need to write about can wait until morning.

One reason I like 3rd Friday as an event is that chances are good I’ll see several people I know there. Most of them I know through my political life, so the topic tends to be on issues or candidates. So it was I had a nice discussion about the Senate race on the other side of the fence and a long conversation about why I’m dead-set against Donald Trump. Since I don’t want to get bogged down in minutia, suffice to say that I find Trump is neither conservative nor trustworthy.

There was also a bit of controversy locally about The Donald insofar as our Central Committee goes. As a body we are supposed to stay neutral, but a report on the opening of the local Trump headquarters seemed to lead some to believe our Central Committee was down with Trump, and I can guarantee you we’re not all on the Trump train. Supposedly it’s all been straightened out, but I would be willing to bet that out of nine members we have at least seven or eight different combinations of who we favor for President, U. S. Senate, and Congress.

Yet we all seem to get along – in the three terms since I was elected we only turned over members midstream three times: Bob Laun was a midterm appointee for another gentleman who moved away, we appointed two members when authorized to expand from seven members to nine about eight years back, and I was reappointed to fill a vacancy last October. Yes, that’s it in almost a decade – meanwhile, other county Central Committees seem to change on almost a weekly basis. I may not like who others support, and it may be good to remind folks that we are not a monolithic body in this primary for any candidate.

But there is something I noticed about early voting. Granted, one day is a small sample size but for all the excitement they tell me this presidential primary beings, turnout on day 1 wasn’t a whole lot better than it was in 2012, the last Presidential cycle. On day one four years ago (which was a Saturday) there was 13,512 voters, or 0.43%. The Thursday of early voting, which was the final day, had 16,408 (the highest total), for 0.52%. Overall just 2.4% of voters came out early over six days in 2012.

Yesterday, we had 36,657 voters, which is 1.07%. As a total, yes that is quite a bit larger, but I would have expected twice that given the excitement we were told was in the air. There were 326 Wicomico voters, or one about every two minutes the polls were open. I still haven’t figured out why we do this exercise, particularly now that they are letting new same-day registrants vote. (Three took advantage in Wicomico County – all Democrats.) We will have a room in the Civic Center, pay several people hundreds of dollars to sit around, and marvel that maybe 1,500 people came over the eight days. Seems a waste of time and money for something an absentee ballot can achieve.

Well, I think I got enough off my mind. I still have a couple toss-up races to decide on for endorsement so look for one Sunday.

Odds and ends number 81

It’s Leap Day, so why not use the occasion to put up the odds and ends cluttering up the mailbox? After sifting through the stuff I thought might be useful but is now pretty much irrelevant, I’ve still come up with a post’s worth of things that take a sentence to a couple paragraphs to deal with.

As you may know, here in Maryland we have passed the halfway point of the “90 days of terror” I call the General Assembly session. While several of the items I cite aren’t on the agenda, I think you can file them under the “bright idea” category, as in “don’t give them any bright ideas.”

While the first idea (one of many Daily Signal items that caught my eye) isn’t really on the table in the state, locally they are kicking around the thought of assisting local students who want to attend Wor-Wic Community College. But Louisiana’s program is breaking the state, so it may be a cautionary tale for the county.

Look, you begin with one college campus and recent high school graduates but then the folks at Salisbury University will want in, then there will be a clamor to include other groups and schools. With any government program, mission creep is a concern and this is no exception. It’s a natural lead-in to an excellent piece by James Bovard at Mises Daily (for this the hat tip goes to my friends at Americans for Limited Government.) Once we set the precedent of free tuition, will the county ever get off the hook?

“(Politicians) realize that addicting citizens to government handouts is the easiest way to breed mass docility and stretch their power,” writes Bovard, and he is absolutely correct. Why do you think I advocate so much for starving the beast? It’s the only way out of this mess we have created.

But as the Daily Signal adds in another great piece, Republicans who want limited government find it a tough sell in minority communities despite the evidence that shoveling money into the welfare system isn’t helping. Perhaps this is because conservatives are losing the battle for debunking the lies being sold to the minorities and youth, despite Dan Bongino’s best efforts to change the narrative at the Conservative Review.

Then again, when you have the dissent-free atmosphere of college campuses these days (again from the Daily Signal), it’s easier to see why the “skulls full of mush” remain in their state.

Something that is on the docket in Maryland once again is a “death with dignity” bill. But my final piece from the Daily Signal points out that if you took Oregon’s assisted suicide rate and extrapolated the numbers nationwide, 10,529 people annually would take their own lives. By comparison, in 2013 just over 33,000 people died as a result of vehicle accidents and roughly the same number perished in firearm-related deaths. But the majority of those firearm deaths were suicides, with 11,208 being homicides. (Table 18 way back in this government report.)

So what we would be doing is likely reducing the firearm death figure by a little bit, but increasing the suicide rate by giving it less of a stigma. I’m not sure I agree with this because in this day and age it’s easy for the greedy grandkids to convince their rich grandma she is bound any day to catch Alzheimer’s and struggle on for years afterward. Why not save us, uh, we mean yourself the trouble, they would ask.

I wanted to bring up one more seeming juxtaposition in Maryland politics before I switch gears. A couple weeks back there was a candidates’ debate for the Republicans seeking the U.S. Senate seat (way too) long held by Barbara Mikulski. I believe there were five candidates present of the fourteen who filed, but the most notable absentee was Delegate Kathy Szeliga. As she noted, there was a Maryland GOP event held that same night. Under the heading of “An Amazing Event!” she wrote:

Thursday night, I was able to attend an event with three great governors… Bob Ehrlich, Charlie Baker (Mass. GOP Gov.), and Larry Hogan even stopped by! These men know how to win and govern in blue states.

We will win our U.S. Senate campaign the same way – by being authentic and showing voters that we truly care about our state and nation. Our ideas work and empower people over big government.

It’s interesting she points this out since we didn’t get to hear her ideas in the debate. On the other hand, fellow candidate Richard Douglas chided Szeliga indirectly by stating:

I am delighted to be participating in the Goucher College Republican candidate’s debate for the U.S. Senate on February 18, 2016. Only a serious family emergency could keep me away. Over many weeks, College Republicans and some of Maryland’s most devoted grassroots Republican activists have devoted enormous effort to this useful event. I warmly commend them for this effort, and from the beginning, my participation was never in doubt. Service in the armed forces and with two U.S. Senate committees teaches a vital lesson: people come first. I took that lesson to heart in Iraq, on a Navy submarine, and in the U.S. Senate as it reacted to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. If elected to the U.S. Senate, I will never make party or President higher priorities than the people of Maryland.

As you recall, there were a series of questions I sent out to 12 of the 14 candidates (two had bad e-mail addresses so their mail bounced.) I mention this because I received Douglas’s answers yesterday as the second response to come in – haven’t heard from Szeliga yet.

Finally, if there were a third person I would like to add to monoblogue (at least on a weekly basis) it’s this lady. Each time I read Marita Noon’s posts on the political aspects of energy I nod my head in agreement, and this one was no exception – it even ties in to the lunacy on college campuses these days because this is what some of these crackpots do after college. I give you the movement to “keep it in the ground”:

“Keep it in the ground” is the new face of environmental activism. If those who understand the role energy plays in America and our freedoms don’t engage, don’t attend meetings and send statements, and don’t vote, the policy makers have almost no choice but to think these vocal few represent the many.

For example, there’s the case of Sandoval County, New Mexico, which has potential to be a wealthier county but can’t even give permission to drill an exploratory well without angst:

In the past few years, when oil prices were higher, Encana and WPX drilled some 200 wells in the same geology, 70 of them in Sandoval County. Not one single instance of any interference, damage, or invasion of fresh water aquifers has occurred. For that matter, over the past 50 years of production in Sandoval County, even with technology and safety standards that were not as advanced or rigorous as todays, there has not been one instance of aquifer harm.

(snip)

One “small drilling well” outside of a community on the edge of Albuquerque that could create jobs and help the local and state economy could be blocked because of a few dozen agitators who could cause the county to “keep it in the ground.”

When I read this it makes me think of the short-sightedness of several regional governmental bodies that have expressed their opposition to the simple act of seismic surveying of the waters off the coast, citing harm to marine life. (This didn’t seem to be a problem in 2013 when it was done to place wind turbines, though.)

I suppose they would rather wreak havoc on the migratory bird population with wind turbines, but I think both oil platforms and wind turbines can co-exist – an “all of the above” strategy if you will. It’s just that one will prove to be a boondoggle without subsidies and one won’t.

So as we wrap up this Leap Day, here’s hoping Donald Trump is the first to take a flying leap – to where I don’t care.

Let the terror begin

For years I have dubbed the annual Maryland General Assembly session the “90 days of terror,” and with good reason: no wallet or personal liberty is safe when the statists who inhabit most of the seats therein get together. Over the eight years of the previous two terms we endured tax increases, spending boondoggles, and enough new regulations to choke a horse, not to mention three measures which were petitioned to referendum by angry citizens.

While a new broom swept the governor’s office clean last year, Larry Hogan needed to get his sea legs under him as he took the helm of the ship of state so he didn’t create a huge legislative agenda last year – in a broad sense, it was about easing some of the tax burden Marylanders had been subjected to over the O’Malley administration, including repeals of the rain tax and automatic increases in the gasoline tax. Other items Hogan focused on were charter school reform and public campaign financing, which were among the few items Hogan had passed.

So since Hogan didn’t get his tax relief last year, it’s the front and center item on his 2016 agenda that kicks off later today. Democrats, of course, believe shoveling money into a bloated public education system is more important than giving hard-working Marylanders a tax break.

Something else to keep an eye on, though, are the department-sponsored bills, which now will bear the stamp of Hogan’s departmental appointees. Just like the governor, this is their first full legislative session as well and I’ve noticed a number of interesting measures coming from various departments that have already been pre-filed.

But the tension will be thick as Hogan tries to enact the agenda he promised while Democrats strive to make sure he’s another one-term Republican governor. As of 2018, it will have been 64 years since a Republican was re-elected as Maryland governor; however, Hogan has began his term as one of the most popular governors in the country and this session will occur with the backdrop of a Presidential race in which the Democrats aren’t utterly sold on their potential nominee. (Tellingly, the previous governor couldn’t even be a “favorite son” Presidential nominee from his own state.) In a contest over pocketbook issues, Hogan may have the public on his side.

We will know quickly just how the session will go as several of Hogan’s vetoes will be up for override. This was a rarity in the previous administration, but it’s worth recalling that the Democrats didn’t give Bob Ehrlich much of a honeymoon so I expect there to be at least one Hogan veto rebuffed. Democrats want to raise taxes, give felons the right to vote before completing their full sentences, make some reforms on civil forfeiture, and decriminalize marijuana paraphernalia. Out of those four vetoes, only the civil forfeiture bill originally had enough House votes to override a veto.

On a local level, we will be very interested to see what becomes of our elected school board bill. Will this finally be the year the state relents and lets the voters of Wicomico County decide its fate?

With a projection that we will have a large increase in filings over last session, it should be a year worth watching. I suspect I will have a difficult time keeping it to just the 25 votes I use for the monoblogue Accountability Project given that the veto votes will likely be included. But with a little help from my friends I look forward to the challenge.

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