In the department of “okay, so…”

The other day I mentioned that I was so far out of the political loop that I didn’t even know who was running for state party chair – in elections past my e-mail box would be chock full of appeals from candidates, but not this time. So it took me to see something on Red Maryland to know who was in the running for the various positions. (I notice none of the RM brain trust is running to have their doors blown off once again, but I digress.)

At this point it looks like only two incumbents are running. We knew Chair Diana Waterman was not interested in another term, but it appears 1st Vice-Chair Mary Burke-Russell won’t be back, either, nor will 3rd Vice-Chair Eugene Craig III or Secretary John Wafer. (No more vanilla wafers when he’s running for something. Pity.) The only one assured of returning is Treasurer Chris Rosenthal, who’s been at it for at least a decade. (Maybe no one else wants the job.) Larry Helminiak is up once again for Second Vice-Chair, but this time he has opposition: Lee Havis (who ran the Cruz campaign in Maryland but became a strong Trump backer; he also heads the Maryland Grassroots Republicans group) and Tim Kingston, who I believe chairs the Queen Anne’s County party.

On the other hand, there are two other walkovers besides Rosenthal’s: Mark Uncapher is the lone candidate for Secretary and Michael Higgs is all by himself for First Vice-Chair.

This leaves two contested races: Maria Pycha vs. Shannon Wright for Third Vice-Chair and a four-way contest for Chair I’ll get to momentarily. Pycha is probably best known recently for managing Dan Bongino’s unsuccessful run for Congress, while Wright had a similar lack of success running for president of Baltimore City Council.

As has often been the case, the biggest race is for the Chair, and it has generally gone more than one ballot. But something tells me Dirk Haire is going to win on the first try, despite having three opponents. William Newton has been a political fighter in a thankless area, but that serves to his disadvantage because he won’t have a support base. Meanwhile, no one has ever heard of Sajid Tarar and Red Maryland already dug dirt up on him.

The race, then, basically comes down to two-time former Comptroller candidate William Campbell (who also unsuccessfully ran for Chair in 2010) and Haire. But if you recall my post about slates in the last convention I attended, you may recall they were a hit:

Having done this before and not been on any sort of slate, my advice to those of you wishing to try in 2020 is to get on one. Unless you have stratospheric name recognition in the party, it’s highly doubtful you’ll advance to the national convention based on past results. It’s a sad state of affairs that this process generally benefits the “establishment” but it is what it is, and the best way to combat it seems to be putting together a slate. Remember, the bottom half of this field was littered with non-slate hopefuls, distasteful as that may seem.

Insofar as I know, there is only one slate and that is the Conservative Club slate that found success in the spring. Haire is on that slate along with Higgs, Kingston, Pycha, Uncapher, and Rosenthal. It will be tough to defeat this sort of saturation bombing (although it can be done) but I think what actually hurts Campbell is the split vote among those who may not prefer Haire because he is a party insider (he has served as General Counsel to the MDGOP.)

Obviously I have no say in the matter, and what will drive the MDGOP through 2018 is the popularity of Governor Hogan to a point where it almost matters not who is Chair. Just smile and look pretty. But I think at this stage of knowing the players a little bit as I do my ballot would go Campbell, withhold, Helminiak (in the sense of leaning that way, with reservations), Pycha, Uncapher, Rosenthal.

But there was a reason why this is in the department of “okay, so…” – this and $5 might get you something at Starbucks. Hope you all have fun at the convention; luckily I have far better plans for the weekend.

Election analysis: how did the slates fare?

May 16, 2016 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2016, Campaign 2016 - President, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Election analysis: how did the slates fare? 

If you have read my site over the last couple weeks, you’ll know that I had a fascination with how the slates of delegates and alternate delegates to the Republican National Convention came together. As it turned out, there were four of them:

  • The Conservative Club slate, which was the first one out. It featured ten Delegate and nine Alternate Delegate candidates, of which only seven actually ran. Four of those on the Delegate ballot were state elected officials.
  • The Trump slate, which obviously featured more backers of Donald Trump to add to the total he has. Of the 22 they fielded, seven were state (or federal) elected officials. Both the Trump slate and Conservative Club slate featured the soon-to-be-elected as National Committeeman David Bossie, who was the overall top vote-getter among Delegates.
  • The Cruz slate, which as I was told was an unofficial slate but featured those who worked for and trusTed Cruz. Their 22 hopefuls had just one state elected official, but two others who ran unsuccessfully in recent elections.
  • And finally, the Unity slate, which was an effort to bring all of the camps together. It intentionally excluded current state elected officials.

Out of 96 who ran, 67 (by my count) were on one of the slates, and while it didn’t guarantee election it bears noting that only Steve Schuh, who had the advantage of hosting the convention, beat the odds and won without being on a slate. The other 21 victors were on at least one slate.

So how did the slates fare?

  1. The Trump slate. It was no surprise that this slate was built for success, as it was heavy on elected officials. All but one of those who ran for Delegate finished in the upper half of the field, with five of the eleven slots taken by Trump backers. Collectively they received a healthy 30% of the vote. The success was even more pronounced in the Alternate Delegate field, where the names were less familiar so voting was based more on the slate. Again, all but one finished in the upper half of the field and an amazing eight of the eleven were chosen, overwhelming the rest with 46.6% of the vote.
  2. The Conservative Club slate. Had they ran with a full field, they would have presented a decent challenge to the Trump backers. Still, all but one of their ten Delegates finished in the upper half and they won four of the eleven slots when you count Bossie. House of Delegates member Deb Rey would have made it five but she just missed the top eleven by an eyelash. They finished with 26.5% of the Delegate vote as a group. As for Alternate Delegates, two of their choices did not actually participate in the election. Of the seven who did, six finished in the top half of the field with one making it to Cleveland. Their 23% of the vote was solid for just seven participants – had they fielded eleven, they may have made the low 30s.
  3. The Unity slate. In a race based as highly on name recognition as this one, not taking elected officials was destined to cut into overall success. Their Delegate field ran the gamut from third overall to 60th (of 61), with nine finishing in the top half and three of the top eleven Delegates. Overall they picked up 23.6% of the collective vote. On the Alternate Delegate side they placed seven in the top half and advanced four to the national convention – Marcus Alzona just missed making it five – scoring 33% of the Alternate Delegate vote.
  4. The Cruz slate. Out of their 11 selections for Delegate, just six finished in the top half and only two in the top twenty – their best Delegate finisher was Deb Rey, who as I noted just missed the field in 12th. Collectively they picked up only 17.8% of the ballots. The news was a little better for the Alternate Delegates – although only three finished in the top 20, two of those made the Cleveland field. The Cruz crew got 23.8% of the Alternate Delegate vote overall.

So in terms of those going to Cleveland, the score was Trump 13, Unity 7, Conservative Club 6, and Cruz 2. This adds up to more than 21 because David Bossie was on both the Trump and Conservative Club slates, Kory Boone was on both the Conservative Club and Unity slates, Cynthia Houser was on both Trump and Unity, and Alirio Martinez, Jr. and Christina Trotta had the trifecta of Conservative Club, Unity, and Cruz. (No wonder Trotta finished third and Martinez eleventh.)

But how did the monoblogue Slate do? Here’s the list I voted for, which began with crossing out the Trump backers and most of the elected officials.

Delegates:

  • Don Murphy (3rd, Unity)
  • Deb Rey (12th, Cruz/CC)
  • Maria Pycha (14th, Cruz)
  • John Fiastro Jr. (16th, Unity)
  • Faith Loudon (19th, Unity)
  • Michael Smigiel (21st, Cruz)
  • William Campbell (22nd, Cruz)
  • Julie Brewington (27th, Cruz)
  • Gus Alzona (34th, Cruz)
  • Donald Frazier (40th, Cruz)
  • Patricia Fenati (43rd, Cruz)

Alternates:

  • Christina Trotta, 3rd (Cruz/CC/Unity)
  • Gloria Murphy, 6th (Unity)
  • Alirio Martinez, Jr., 11th (Cruz/CC/Unity)
  • David Dobbs, 18th (Cruz)
  • Chike Anayanwu, 21st (Cruz)
  • Daniel Lathrop, 23rd (Cruz)
  • C. Paul Smith, 25th (Cruz)
  • Samuel Fenati, 27th (Cruz)
  • Luis Puig, 29th (Cruz)
  • Nathan Weirich, 30th (Cruz)
  • Robert Charles, 34th (Cruz)

Combined the monoblogue slate received 22.6% of the total Delegate vote and 27% of the total alternate vote – not counting the 100% of the votes that mattered, which would be mine.

So I pray that these folks who are going to Cleveland make some wise decisions for us when it comes to the platform, rules, and even perhaps reconsideration of the presumptive nominee if he continues to drift away from what I’ve always understood to be Republican principles on all three legs of the conservative stool.

Having done this before and not been on any sort of slate, my advice to those of you wishing to try in 2020 is to get on one. Unless you have stratospheric name recognition in the party, it’s highly doubtful you’ll advance to the national convention based on past results. It’s a sad state of affairs that this process generally benefits the “establishment” but it is what it is, and the best way to combat it seems to be putting together a slate. Remember, the bottom half of this field was littered with non-slate hopefuls, distasteful as that may seem.

The noble ninety-eight

If you want to talk about an absolute scrum, look no further than the list of candidates for Delegate and Alternate Delegate to be presented to us at next Saturday’s Maryland Republican Party Spring Convention. Between the two races there are a total of 98 people vying for the 22 positions that will be available for Central Committee members and/or proxies to vote upon.

A lot of them are well-known names: 16 are current state or federal elected officials – Andy Harris is one of those trying for a spot – in addition, all of the party officers are on the ballot as well as a host of other elected officials, candidates, and familiar faces such as Anne Arundel County Executive (and former Delegate) Steve Schuh, two-time Comptroller candidate William Campbell, unsuccessful Congressional aspirants Faith Loudon and former Delegate Mike Smigiel, and even the onetime First Lady of Maryland Kendel Ehrlich. But there are several dozen activists and people who ran for the positions in the primary but failed to be successful. The insurgent campaign of Donald Trump vaulted a lot of unfamiliar names to the Cleveland convention because many of Maryland’s elected officials backed other candidates.

With so many in the race it’s only natural to see slates formed. Here’s one from the “Conservative Club” of Maryland:

I have no idea who runs the Conservative Club, where their meetings are, and whether I owe them any dues, but I can tell you a little about their slate:

  • I have previously endorsed their top two candidates for National Committeewoman and National Committeeman.
  • Six of their ten At-Large Delegates previously ran as Cruz delegates or alternates: Boone, Brewington, Loudon, McConkey, Pycha, and Rey. Two of the others were Rubio delegates (Cluster, Patel) and the other two did not run. Bossie is a natural pick as he’s trying to be National Committeeman.
  • Three of their At-Large Alternate Delegates previously ran as Cruz alternates: Alzona, Lathrop, and Trotta. O’Keefe was a Rubio delegate, while the others either did not run or were unaffiliated.

So this seems to be a combination of Cruz and Rubio supporters under the conservative banner. Fair enough, although I can question Patel’s conservative bonafides when I see a photo like this:

Silent majority of what? It’s not a majority of Republicans in the country, since Trump still has only a plurality. And to me, backing someone who’s not going to advance many conservative principles is not worthy of being in a Conservative Club. So I think I’ll skip that name on the ballot.

Obviously there are not any Trump delegates from April running in this election since the voters of Maryland blindly sent them to Cleveland. But out of the field who ran for the seats in April there are a number who are trying again, and it will be interesting to see how they fare in round 2. In my case, I’m looking to send as many Cruz delegates as possible to hopefully bring some sanity to the Maryland delegation – however, it is likely there will be a Trump slate as well and that group is to be avoided. I may have to bring my own list and check names off as I figure out their allegiances.

One other aspect of the race that fascinates me is the sheer volume of people and ballots that need to be created. When I ran in 2008 for a at-large post, there were only about 25 of us and I think the voting and tallying took about 45 minutes. One problem is that our voting system is a somewhat proportional one based on the county you represent and its relative voting strength – as I recall, the bulk of the modest amount of support I received came from Eastern Shore counties and their votes weren’t much in the scheme of things. It’s better now, but thanks to variances in the voting strength and number of members on a Central Committee, a member from Anne Arundel County has about four times the power as a Montgomery County member – or, for that matter, my vote from Wicomico County. Because their strength is diluted so much by having 48 members (the maximum allowed by law) each of the nine of us on the Wicomico County Central Committee are roughly at par with each member of Montgomery County’s CC – they just have a lot more bodies. Anne Arundel only has 13 members, so they each have a lot of say.

Long story short, I’m told they will have an electronic system in place for this so I hope it goes smoothly. I would like to be home before church on Sunday.

It’s just another aspect of what could be the most contentious convention in the ten years I have attended them.

The straight-ticket election

Most newspapers will use their Sunday edition before the election to either make the most key endorsement, such as for governor or president, or summarize their endorsements into a ballot guide for voters.

I’m not a newspaper, but I have a news source. And I’m urging you (all of you, including the ten friends you drag to the polls) to march right into that ballot box, look for every Republican name on it, and check that box right next to it – making sure, of course, that the ballot summary agrees with your steady diet of Republicans and doesn’t show a “calibration error.”

Let’s begin from the top. Does this state really need a third term of Martin O’Malley? Thought not.

I will grant that Larry Hogan wasn’t my first – or second – choice for the GOP nomination, but I also have to admit as well he has run about as good of a campaign as a Republican can run statewide in Maryland and picked up national attention for it. Yes, I would like him to be stronger on the Second Amendment and I cringed when I heard him say no to addressing social issues, but the overall electorate in this state is still conditioned to believe that there’s a right to privacy and gay marriage is no big deal. They need a little work yet. Let’s at least get someone who won’t be completely hostile to those interests like Anthony Brown would be.

(And yes, I hear the Libertarians caterwauling in the corner. When you get to double-digits with a candidate, we’ll talk.)

Actually, though, I must say some bloggers have a point about the Libertarian candidate for AG, Leo Dymowski. But the election is about more than the failed “war on drugs” – although I agree with that particular assessment, I would also like the AG to fight on other issues. Unfortunately, the late start Republican Jeffrey Pritzker got means the chances are good that we’ll have to endure four years of gun-grabbing Brian Frosh; however, every vote counts and stranger things have happened.

For 2018, though, I think a county-level State’s Attorney needs to make that step up. It’s something Matt Maciarello should consider.

And we have a more than qualified Comptroller candidate in William Campbell. My main mission in two festivals was, every time I came across a Maryland voter from outside our county, to push the candidacy of one Bill Campbell. Everyone knew who Larry Hogan was but not enough knew of this fine gentleman. If Maryland voters have a clue they will choose Campbell.

And then we have local races. Frankly, I’m not too worried about Andy Harris although it would be helpful for Sixth District voters to add Dan Bongino to the GOP roster at the federal level. But there’s a lot at stake on the General Assembly front.

Try as we might, we had to concede the District 37A seat for this term to Sheree Sample-Hughes. If she gets more than single digits on the monoblogue Accountability Project I will be shocked. Otherwise in District 37, you know its a conservative district when even one of the Democrats is running on a platform of lower taxes and less government. But why have conservative-lite when the real thing is attainable?

Even if we sweep those three District 37 seats, though, we don’t really gain anything because three of the four representatives are already Republican. But in District 38 we can reclaim the Senate seat lost in 2010 to a liberal Democrat and take over a seat in the House of Delegates to bring us closer to that magic number of 47, where, as I understand it, we can work around Democrat-controlled committees. (A Hogan win may make that necessary more often.) Aside from that splotch of blue in our county we can work on for 2018, I’d like the Eastern Shore painted red, gaining the one Senate seat and one House seat we can contribute to the GOP effort statewide.

And then we have Wicomico County, which needs a strong leader in Bob Culver. We’ve done eight years with the affable bureaucrat Rick Pollitt, but those eight years have seen our county backslide economically. We can blame the national economy to some extent, but other surrounding counties seem to be succeeding – so why haven’t we?

Unfortunately, the problem Culver has is that two of the Republicans who will likely be on County Council are already stabbing him in the back. With one Democrat assured of victory in Council District 1, it makes the County Council races very important. We know District 5’s Joe Holloway is a conservative who will win and Marc Kilmer in District 2 has an excellent chance to join him, but the John Cannon vs. Laura Mitchell race is a key along with Larry Dodd vs. Josh Hastings in District 3. Both Democrats are trying to convince voters they’ll be fiscal hawks, but don’t be fooled. We need the 6-1 Republican majority to have a potential 4-3 conservative majority behind Bob as he tries to right the ship. Finding good local candidates is a priority for 2018 as well.

As for the issues on the ballot, I’ve already urged a vote AGAINST Question 1 because it’s a weak excuse for a lockbox and Maryland taxpayers deserve better: send it packing and insist on a 3/4 majority provision to be voted on in 2016. On Question 2, I think on balance it’s a good idea but it will also demand vigilance, as Election Integrity Maryland’s Cathy Kelleher points out in a Sun editorial opposing the question.

Lastly, I must say this is the time for conservative voters to shine. The fact that early voting had as many Republicans as Democrats by percentage statewide and by raw numbers on the Lower Shore (despite a registration disadvantage of about 10 percent) indicates the GOP is more keenly interested in this election. But I want to run a few numbers, with the photo below telling the tale.

For this exercise, I used the voter proportions illustrated in the recent Gonzales Research poll, which is probably a fairly realistic model. I assumed undecided voters would remain in proportion with their trend (as opposed to breaking for the challenger) and left 1% for other candidates, write-ins, etc. (I also didn’t figure in the 50,000 or so registered to minor parties – if they vote they’ll not influence the result significantly.)

The sheet on the left is my calculations using a Bob Ehrlich Republican turnout from 2002, 68% of Republicans.

The sheet on the right is the same calculations for Democrats and the unaffiliated, but assuming a turnout like we saw in the Presidential election two years ago, when 78% of Republicans came out – even though Maryland was considered a lost cause for Mitt Romney.

Indeed, we turn from crushing disappointment to “winner, winner, chicken dinner” simply by getting an extra 1 in 10 Republicans to turn out.

If Republicans turned out like that for an election which was an almost foregone conclusion in this state, hopefully this simple calculation will provide the incentive to Maryland Republicans to come out in a gubernatorial election where they have a shot to sneak away with a close victory!

Early voting numbers were encouraging, but Tuesday it will be time to finish the job.

Update: Hey, I missed a key set of races. It’s not a partisan race, but M.J. Caldwell is a far more qualified jurist than the guy Martin O’Malley picked based on his last name. And speaking of O’Malley picks, there are two others on our ballot who we can remove from office and perhaps allow for the first crop of Larry Hogan appointees. So vote “no” on continuance in office for Kevin Arthur and Andrea Leahy.

Time to do the deed

October 23, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Time to do the deed 

Today is the day that tiny percentage of Maryland registered voters who actually do this begin going to the polls for early voting. I know some of my party cohorts will be out at the Civic Center campaigning for the Republican ticket, and needless to say it’s a straight R year for me.

But there are races I’m much more passionate about than others, so let’s go through the list and I’ll tell you what I think. That IS why you come here, isn’t it? If my number 16 race doesn’t come out I won’t be all that upset, but if the top half-dozen or so go the wrong way I’ll be pissed. These are the 16 items on my specimen ballot – I live in House District 38B and Wicomico County Council District 3, which is one of only two of the five districts to have a contested race.

  1. Carl Anderton, Jr. for Delegate, District 38B. I am really tired of my poor representation in Annapolis from Norm Conway. He votes for every bloated budget, (almost) every conformity with Obamacare, every accommodation to Big Labor, and a number of other dreadful things as well: in 2011 he voted for the Congressional redistricting that made our state a laughingstock but in committee he helped kill provisions to allow referendums on tax increases and proof of lawful presence before collecting benefits. In 2012 he voted to saddle new homeowners with the added expense of sprinklers, but he saddled the rest of us with the rain tax, tier maps, and the key to getting around our county’s revenue cap by mandating maintenance of effort spending. Granted, once in awhile he votes the right way but why lose on three or four issues to gain one? Republicans and pro-Wicomico Democrats: don’t fall for the hype of potentially losing a committee chair – even though Norm is a fairly nice guy, if he were all that powerful we would be the richest county in the state and we are far from that. It’s definitely time for some new blood to get us back to work. Chances of success: about 50-50.
  2. Mike McDermott for Senate, District 38. Really, this should be 1-a but my function won’t let me do that. Jim Mathias may vote a little better than Norm Conway, but I would rather have someone who’s a thorn in the side of the current Annapolis majority – who went out of their way to lump him into a district with another sitting Delegate – than a backbencher. What better way to thumb your nose at those who believe the Eastern Shore is the state’s “shithouse” (in more ways than one) than to foil their political intentions? If I can pick up 60 points on the monoblogue Accountability Project by changing my representation, you know the answer is yes. This is another race where conservatives need to come home and not cross the aisle, because Jim’s few blind squirrel votes aren’t worth the overall pain. Chances of success: about 50-50.
  3. Bob Culver for County Executive.  Our county has stumbled and staggered through this so-called recovery with the incumbent Rick Pollitt, a self-described bureaucrat, in charge. Don’t forget that Rick whined about the revenue cap for the first three years in office and promised a zero-based budget I haven’t seen yet. After eight years, it’s time for a change in tactics and Bob can be a fresh set of eyes to address our declining number of employed. I know Bob may rub some the wrong way but I’m willing to overlook that because, to me, re-electing Rick Pollitt is the definition of insanity for Wicomico County. Chances of success: I would say about 40-50 percent.
  4. M.J. Caldwell for Circuit Court Judge. To me, this is a perplexing case. Here you have an experienced attorney who knows his way around a courtroom taking on a person whose claim to fame is his last name – if it were Swartz, he’d still be at his old firm. But because people still know the Sarbanes name in this area, the newly-appointed “incumbent” got the gig. I was extremely disappointed and somewhat disgusted to see that Caldwell only won the Republican primary with 57 percent of the vote – people, do your homework! Caldwell would be a good judge. Chances of success: about 1 in 3 unless Republicans shape up.
  5. William Campbell for Comptroller. You’ll notice Peter Franchot has played up his fiscal watchdog tendencies in this campaign, but I think that if Larry Hogan becomes governor we need Bill to keep him grounded and make the Board of Public Works work in a conservative direction for the first time in…well, ever. Unfortunately, Bill has little money to get his message out and Franchot’s too scared to debate him. One problem with Larry Hogan taking public financing is that the Maryland GOP is spending maximum time and effort fundraising for Larry instead of helping these downballot races. Chances of success: alas, probably less than 1 percent.
  6. Larry Hogan for Governor. All politics is local, so I think the state race can take care of itself. But I hope that Hogan has enough coattails to bring in a dozen Delegates and half-dozen new Senators, including the two mentioned above. While I hated his primary campaign, I have to admit Hogan’s done a good job in the general election round. But will it be enough? Polls suggest it might. Chances of success: about 50-50.
  7. Larry Dodd for District 3 Council. The thing that bothers me about his opponent is that, for all his “aw, shucks” demeanor, he’s been exposed to a large number of anti-property rights zealots. He worked for Joan Carter Conway, the Senate’s EHEA Chair, and not only does she have a lifetime mAP rating of 4 (yes, that’s really bad) but she has passed a lot of bad legislation through her committee over the last several years – something Josh fails to mention. But I will give Josh Hastings his due: he’s campaigning hard, knocked on my door and has worked harder for the seat than Dodd has. It would be a shame to succeed a good, conservative Councilwoman in Gail Bartkovich with a liberal who may have grown up on a farm but has spent his politically formative years more readily influenced by Baltimore City and Annapolis. Chances of success: about 35 to 40 percent.
  8. John Cannon for at-large County Council. While his voting record has often been a disappointment, he was one of the two who got through the primary. I have more hope for him becoming a conservative stalwart, though, than I do for his fellow Republican. Chances of success: around 60 percent.
  9. Voting against Question 1. I’ve stated my reasons for opposition before, but most of the money is backing it and referendum items rarely fail. Chances of success: less than 10 percent.
  10. Jeffrey Pritzker for Attorney General. We are really in trouble, folks. We could have had one of our good county state’s attorneys (or my personal favorite, Jim Rutledge) step up but instead we got Pritzker, who I have never met. When I see prominent conservative-leaning bloggers backing the Libertarian in the race, it can’t be much of a campaign. That’s a shame, because there’s more to the campaign than legalizing pot. And losing this seat means the gun-grabbing Brian Frosh will be our Attorney General. Chances of success: even less than Campbell’s sub-1 percent shot.
  11. Matt Holloway for at-large County Council. There are many holes in his voting record as well, but winning the primary makes him the odds-on favorite to not be third on November 4. So I guess I’ll have to wonder how often he’ll cave for another four years. Chances of success: over 80 percent.
  12. Andy Harris for Congress. No muss, no fuss. Have you heard a word about Bill Tilghman? The one thing you can say about Bill is that at least we haven’t caught him voting twice. This race is perhaps the closest thing to an automatic win for our side – when even the Daily Times has to endorse you, it’s a good sign. Chances of success: over 95 percent.
  13. Voting against Andrea Leahy as a Special Appeals Judge. Similar to the election involving Jimmy Sarbanes, Judge Leahy is up for election because she was appointed by Martin O’Malley in March. I looked at her profile and wasn’t impressed, but it’s rare a judge is tossed out. I would love to see who Larry Hogan would appoint, but if Leahy lost Martin O’Malley would rush another appointee through – and he or she would sit until 2016. Chances of success: in the single-digits.
  14. Voting against Kevin Arthur as a Special Appeals Judge. His profile is better than Leahy’s but, still, he is an O’Malley appointee. Chances of success: in the single-digits.
  15. Grover Cantwell for Orphan’s Court Judge. I have never met the guy, yet he wants my vote. This is a part of the ballot where those who get listed first (the Democrats) have the advantage because they’ve all been on the ballot before. Chances of success: perhaps 1 in 3.
  16. Voting for Question 2. I can get behind this proposal, which allows charter counties like Wicomico the option to have special elections to fill County Council seats. Having gone through the process of filling such a vacancy, I think it should be opened up despite the risk of losing a GOP seat to a Democrat. Chances of success: over 90 percent.

So this is how I think my local election will go. As for some other contested county races I’m supporting, in order of likelihood of success:

  • Addie Eckardt for Senate, District 37. The hard part for her was winning the primary. Sure, there may be some diehard Colburn supporters out there but their other choice is a guy he beat by 20 points last time around. Chances of success: 95 percent.
  • Mary Beth Carozza for Delegate, District 38C. Having an opponent who wears a “Ban Assault Weapons” t-shirt to an Andy Harris townhall event provides an immediate advantage in this area. But Mary Beth has been working since the summer of 2013 on this race, and that hard work is on the verge of paying off. Chances of success: 95 percent.
  • Marc Kilmer for District 2 Council. When your opponent threatens to go to court for winning, you know you’re in good shape. But Marc has taken nothing for granted, works hard, and has a fairly solid Republican district. Chances of success: at least 80 percent.
  • Christopher Adams for Delegate, District 37B. He wasn’t the top vote-getter in any county, but he’s run a solid campaign and the dynamics of the race give him a better path to victory than fellow Republican contender Johnny Mautz. Chances of success: a solid 75 percent.
  • Johnny Mautz for Delegate, District 37B. By far the top primary vote-getter, the one drawback is that he has to finish ahead of Keasha Haythe because both hail from Talbot County and there’s a limit of one per county. If he were second to her in the overall voting, he would lose and the third-place finisher moves up. With that in mind, I give him just ever-so-slightly less favorable odds. Chances of success: a solid 74.9 percent.

My advice to every contender in the last two weeks: run like you are five points behind. See you at the polls!

2014 Good Beer Festival in pictures and text

October 13, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on 2014 Good Beer Festival in pictures and text 

Plagued once again by poor weather on its bigger day (Saturday) nonetheless hardy beer enthusiasts from around the region gathered to sample a few swigs and generally celebrate all things beer.

Did I mention the weather was subpar? At least we salvaged one decent day, unlike last year.

Unlike last year’s effort, though, there weren’t a whole lot of new wrinkles. Coming back for another year, for example, was the home brewer’s competition and dedicated area.

Another old favorite kept around was the TV lounge, where people cheered on the Ravens and Orioles on Sunday.

Close by were the cornhole games and that maddening peg hook test of skill.

Once the skies cleared for Sunday, those in attendance could (and did) express themselves.

Those chalkboards were mounted aside the local beer garden, which had an interesting occupant.

Perhaps Backshore Brewery (from Ocean City) was here last year but I don’t recall the old VW Microbus.

They also win the monoblogue prize for the best beer name. That and $4 would have secured a pint, I guess.

Yes, I did try it and I thought it was pretty good. But their Boardwalk Blonde Ale was one of my two favorites along with the Shotgun Betty Ale from Lonerider Brewing, which I think came from North Carolina.

Perhaps pale ales weren’t this guy’s style, but it’s what I prefer. I just wanted the shot of his hat, a style I saw on a couple people over the two days. I didn’t notice anyone selling them.

Another local brewer, though, was angling for donations to a different cause.

Burley Oak is doing a Kickstarter campaign to enable the canning of its beer – as it turns out, they achieved their goal. But the coasters were a nice reminder and quite useful, since that coaster is under my drink (alas, diet Pepsi) as I sit here.

Oh, did I mention I was there for political reasons?

It wasn’t quite dripping with political types as the last time we were in a local election year (the first rendition of the GBF back in 2010) but some of the local political incumbents came to cut the ribbon Saturday.

Doing the honors in this instance were four members of County Council: Bob Culver, Matt Holloway, Stevie Prettyman, and John Hall. Culver was around on both days to press the flesh for a County Executive run, but he was pretty much the only one there.

Yet the reception at our tent was quite good and I handed out a lot of items. My emphasis, particularly with out-of-town people who were interested in Larry Hogan items, was on promoting William Campbell for Comptroller and Jeffrey Pritzker for Attorney General. Those statewide downballot races are very important as well.

And despite the rain attendance held steady, described as just under 3,000. It’s good exposure and this year there wasn’t much obnoxious behavior. In short, a good time was had by all.

Oh, and about that top picture? I’m not averse to bartering advertising space for a monthly supply…just saying.

A dose of economic reality

Bear in mind the following words are written by a Democrat in Maryland. It’s an extremely long blockquote of an entire release but I thought readers deserved full context.

We convene today to write down our already cautious revenue projections for Fiscal Years 2015 and 2016 by more than $405 million. Far more important than what a $405 million shortfall means for the state budget is the painful reality that it indicates for the budgets of Maryland families and small businesses.

We’re writing down individual income tax receipts – the largest individual source of state revenue – by over $350 million, between the shortfall in individual income tax receipts carried over from Fiscal 2014 and our write down of expected revenues for Fiscal Year 2015.  Six years removed from the economic collapse, and far too many families and small businesses are still waiting for the recovery they keep hearing about.

We can classify a year or two outside the ordinary as simply abnormal. But more than a half decade later, we need to accept that sluggish growth and challenging economic conditions have become our new normal. It feels like we sit at these meetings every quarter, hopeful and determined that ‘next year will be the year’ when the recovery takes hold and is felt broadly throughout the economy. Yet, another year has passed, and ordinary families and small businesses haven’t even recovered to where they were before the financial collapse, much less made up for the wages they’ve lost over the past six years. We need to recognize that hope is not an economic strategy.

The same challenging conditions I’ve discussed in past meetings haven’t substantively improved. Wages and salaries are essentially stagnant. Local, independent businesses are struggling to meet payroll, cover their costs and turn a profit. Working families have cut back their spending because they just don’t have the money, they’re scared of losing their jobs, or, in many cases, both.

In a consumer-driven economy, it should come as no surprise that when consumers are struggling, businesses inevitably feel that pain, particularly in an environment where margins have often already been trimmed down to the bone. Add that to Maryland’s unemployment rate – traditionally a major strength – not keeping pace with improvements seen in the country as a whole.

Maryland’s 6.4 percent unemployment rate is higher than the national rate of 6.1 percent – something we’ve only experienced twice in the past three and a half decades – during the tech boom of the late 1990s and the 1980 recession. In terms of wages – the oxygen working families need to survive – Maryland’s average wage growth was just 0.4 percent in the first quarter of 2014, far below the rate of inflation for the same period.

Essentially, workers perceive that their take-home pay is headed in the wrong direction and the purchasing power for Maryland families is, in reality, diminishing. The housing market has failed to rebound in a sustained and meaningful way, particularly with Maryland second worst in the nation in home foreclosure rates.

Combined, these economic indicators led to a Maryland economy that didn’t grow at all last year – with a 0 percent GDP growth for 2013. As we know, an economy that isn’t growing is actually retracting. This all means uncertainty for families and businesses. They are unsure about their prospects and, as a result, unwilling to make the purchases and investments our consumer-driven economy needs to grow. As great a state as we are and as robust an economic system as we have, uncertainty serves as a serious deterrent to economic growth.

Whether it’s sequestration, unpredictability in the tax and regulatory environment or an inability to make long-term federal budgeting decisions, most of the uncertainty is based on political problems and decisions, as opposed to global economic conditions. While the federal government has always been and certainly remains a major economic advantage, our over reliance on the public sector carries significant risks. We can embrace our proximity to Washington as a strength without depending on it as our sole basis for economic stability.

We simply can’t assume that we’re around the corner from returning to the way it was, and back to the decisions we could afford to make in Maryland as a result. The fact remains that we’ll only see the economic growth we’re accustomed to when we get the private sector economy growing. We can only make that happen if we provide a sense of predictability for Maryland families and small businesses.

As state policymakers, we need to be smart in how we spend taxpayer dollars, recognizing that to invest in the things we need, we have to forego many of the things we simply want. We have to be more forward-looking about how we borrow money as a state.  We simply can’t sustain our current patterns of debt accumulation without provoking actions that could do further harm to an already fragile economy — amplifying the significant fiscal and economic challenges we already face.

As we all know, a sustained economic recovery is going to come down to jobs, both here in Maryland and throughout the nation. As long as we see continued weakness in wages and job growth, consumers will inevitably pull back, causing businesses to struggle and the economy to underperform.

We simply cannot create any unnecessary road blocks that would make employers reluctant to invest, grow and hire. But if we maintain a cautious mindset and provide a sense of predictability to Maryland families and small businesses, our economic bones are strong enough and our people are resilient enough to withstand this write down and the economic challenges it represents. (All emphasis mine.)

That’s the entirety of a press release put out by state Comptroller Peter Franchot as the Board of Revenue Estimates calculated our state would yet again be short on revenues to the tune of $405 million, or slightly over 1% of the current budget.

But let’s read between the lines, in the passages I highlighted.

(W)e need to accept that sluggish growth and challenging economic conditions have become our new normal.

No we don’t. What we need to do is realize our policy prescriptions over the last eight years or so have done little to help the local economy. States are succeeding in this country, whether it’s through ambitious exploitation of energy resources like North Dakota or smart, pro-business policy such as the sort Texas seems to use. (Heck, Rick Perry even encouraged Maryland businesses to relocate to his state.) To attain growth, it has to be encouraged and the only thing we’re encouraging the growth of in this state is government.

The same challenging conditions I’ve discussed in past meetings haven’t substantively improved. 

Peter Franchot became Comptroller in the same 2006 election we elected Martin O’Malley as governor. Perhaps that should give an indication as to why these conditions persist.

Essentially, workers perceive that their take-home pay is headed in the wrong direction and the purchasing power for Maryland families is, in reality, diminishing.

This is reflective of national conditions, since real household income has declined since reaching a peak anywhere from 7 to 15 years ago, depending on income quintile. And with wage-earners having to string together a series of part-time jobs to make ends meet thanks to the impact of Obamacare and a higher cost of living, the budgets of Maryland families are indeed stretched to the breaking point.

(M)ost of the (economic) uncertainty is based on political problems and decisions, as opposed to global economic conditions.

Families continue to wait for the other shoe to drop. Spend over $100 million on a botched website? Don’t worry, we’ll make up the shortfall by figuring out some new revenue stream. This is the state that experimented with the “tech” tax some years ago before the computer business threatened to bolt, so they decided to tax millionaires instead – and watched many move out of state. Even taxing rain to supposedly help clean up Chesapeake Bay has become a boondoggle as different counties decided on different approaches, while a select few counties (including Wicomico) figure they are next on the firing line to be stuck with the “rain tax” like 10 other Maryland counties.

While the federal government has always been and certainly remains a major economic advantage, our over reliance on the public sector carries significant risks. We can embrace our proximity to Washington as a strength without depending on it as our sole basis for economic stability.

This is a very prescient statement, but Franchot is only looking at it in terms of tax revenue from federal workers. Surely he’s less inclined to speak out about the fact that it’s actually Uncle Sam – not income tax receipts – that is the largest source of state revenue. I know the unsuccessful campaign of Charles Lollar made overtures about slaying that beast, but it’s just as bad to be dependent on the federal government for operating revenue as it is to make it as much as a significant economic driver as it tends to be for the Capital region. Meanwhile, jobs which create real value – whether it’s extracting natural gas in Garrett County, making steel in Baltimore, or growing chickens on a rural Somerset County farm – get short shrift from an administration which has tried to thwart that sort of growth at every turn.

Whether Peter Franchot wants to admit it or not, the damning economic statement made by a Comptroller who still endorsed the candidate who most represents this failed status quo in Anthony Brown makes the case that a new broom needs to sweep Maryland politics clean. If you haven’t heard about GOP candidate for Comptroller William Campbell, it’s time you did.

And Anthony Brown? I’m sure he knows that Franchot is pretty much correct in this assessment, which is why he’s trying to paint Larry Hogan as a Republican extremist (there is no such thing) and not talk about his own accomplishments or plans. “More of the same” just won’t sell for a large number of Maryland’s working families.

2014 Maryland GOP Spring Convention in pictures and text (part 2)

In case you missed part 1, which dealt with Friday night, you can catch up here.

I was in bed reasonably early for a convention, in part because there weren’t a whole lot of hospitality suites to be found and in part because I wanted to cover breakfast with this immediately recognizable guy.

The former GOP national chair is always a welcome guest at MDGOP proceedings, and as a breakfast speaker he set a good mood for the day by predicting “we’re going to be back in our winning ways this year.”

But his message went back a few years, to when Michael took over the national party, which had become too “comfortable and cozy.” He saw his mission as one “to rebrand a party which had become moribund,” one where the gap between rhetoric and principles had become so large it snapped. “I’m so sick and tired of people blaming our principles for their failure to lead,” said Michael. “What we believe in is time-honored and true.”

Similarly, Steele noted that the state party had gone through its share of “definitional moments” and was ready to do so again. We needed to avoid being a party defined by what we are against and not what we are for, as we’ve “often found ourselves at odds with the very people that we want to represent.” We need to “talk about freedom but connect it to life.”

Taking that to a more local level, he noted that people are expecting leadership from the Central Committee members in the effort to “turn the elephant.”

“We’re not looking back, we’re looking forward,” said Michael. “Revolutionizing the (Maryland Republican) Party is our number one priority.” People are hungry for authenticity, leadership, and vision, he added. He got a token of our appreciation, too.

The wine is a Maryland red wine from Linganore called Black Raven. Diana thought it was a “providence” that she was thinking about how to thank our speakers as she drove by the winery. I had a shot of the bottle but, alas, I was too close and it came out way too bleached out. After breakfast, I had to gather my things and check out as well as make one other stop.

Instead of having a Friday evening suite, Larry chose to host a breakfast suite with Chick-fil-A items. Of course, all I was hungry for was information, so I spoke to Hogan about his experience on the Eastern Shore with our farmers. I found he has a fairly good idea about what they stand to lose should phosphorus regulations go through, so that was a plus. And I added to my weekend collection, a shot which included Larry’s wife Yumi.

It’s a bit askew because I was looking at two cameras at once. So I grabbed a Hogan-labeled bottle of water as I walked out and headed back down. With the stops, I missed much of what – from the part I did hear – was an interesting panel discussion by conservative black Maryland Republicans.

After that finished, I checked out some of the displays in the lobby. This one was new that morning.

As I understood it, my Worcester County cohort was selling “Benghazi bracelets,” which will be gray and black. Obviously that’s still on the minds of many people to whom it does make a difference. I also spied a more modest display that morning from the Lollar team.

I was remiss in not getting a photo of Ron George’s table, although I think it’s visible in the lobby photo in part 1. Of the four candidates, though, Ron had the least presence with just the table. Craig had a table and suite, as did Lollar, while Hogan had his breakfast suite, a folder at each table place, and hallways festooned with these.

In due course, you’ll understand why I thought it was important to make that comparison. Once that mini-tour was complete and I was checked out, it was time to begin the convention proper.

The first report was a legislative report from Delegate Gail Bates, who’s now running to become a Senator. She pointed out we don’t get our way much, but did achieve some good things: recoupling the estate tax to federal law, pieces of election reform – particularly on voter rolls – and straightening out the pit bull mess to place responsibility on dog owners regardless of breed. These, however, were outweighed by a litany of bad: a budget which continues a pattern of overspending revenues, increasing the minimum wage despite outcry from small business, decriminalization of marijuana, the “bathroom bill”, and the health exchange, said Bates.

We next received the bad news of the treasurer’s report from Executive Director Joe Cluster. The one positive note was that we were “right on course to meet our goals this year” after a slow start. This wasn’t her convention podium, but I wanted to show a shot of Party Chair Diana Waterman to signify her Chairman’s report.

She had one key announcement:

She also recounted recent events like the Reagan Ball and Johns Hopkins gubernatorial forum, but her message stressed the needs for turnout on Election Day and unity after the primary.

In an extension of the forum he moderated, Tony Campbell decried the lack of credibility the party had built in the 16 years he had been involved, and stressed that we needed to find issues that people connected with. This election was the combination of time and opportunity we had been waiting for, though.

Brian Griffiths gave a brief Young Republican report mainly focused on upcoming events, while the College Republicans gave no report because their incoming president, Christine McEvoy of Johns Hopkins, was studying for exams. Thus, the morning continued with National Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose and her visual aids.

While Ambrose talked briefly about what the national party is doing, her focus has been on grassroots work in Maryland, particularly the Super Saturday program. Next Saturday, May 3rd, that program comes to Ocean City just in time for Springfest. A second one is in the works for June 21 in Montgomery County. Further ones for the fall will be determined over the summer, as there is an application process. She also stressed that every county should be looking into an absentee ballot program, particularly the larger ones.

But I thought this slide of upcoming events was cool.

It’s not just on the Eastern Shore, though, it’s right here in Salisbury. Do we need a better excuse to have a Super Saturday for Wicomico County? After all, the good Lt. Col. West shouldn’t arrive until the afternoon.

Louis Pope piled on to what Ambrose said as he gave his National Committeeman report, but also believed the June primary was an advantage to Central Committee members – those who win have a four-month period to learn the ropes, while the returning/retiring members could mentor the newbies.

Turning to the 2014 election, Pope quipped, “if you liked 2010, you’ll really like 2014.” The national GOP’s goal was to take the Senate, and with the recent Florida special election showing “it’s all about turnout,” coupled with the McCutcheon decision by the Supreme Court, the potential was there for a great year.

On a state level, Pope believed Wisconsin is a “model” for us – similar size, and a state controlled by Democrats until the last cycle. It all comes down to turning out Republicans.

Finally, we were through most of the reports, and we found out we had a quorum of 236 of 303 members present. But it was troubling that several counties were well short of their allocation. We’re used to this from Baltimore City, which, try as they might, has a hard time getting people to serve. But there were over half the members absent from Allegany, Calvert, Caroline, Dorchester, and Talbot counties as well. Granted, it was the last convention of the term and not much was on the docket but that’s still a concern to me.

The last item we dealt with before lunch was a resolution condemning the introduction of House Bill 1513, sponsored by both the Harford and Baltimore County Central Committees. Thanks to a parliamentary maneuver, the resolution passed by unanimous consent in a voice vote.

We were actually well ahead of schedule, even with lunch, so Diana Waterman added two speakers to the agenda: Attorney General candidate Jeffrey Pritzker and Comptroller hopeful Bill Campbell.

Pritzker was blunt: “Maryland is in trouble.” He reminded us he was the first to call for a special prosecutor in the health exchange debacle – a position Doug Gansler would prefer to do away with. “The people need a lawyer,” Jeff said. He promised to create a task force to address the laws, seeking to prune away the unnecessary and redundant.

Campbell made the case that we needed to go to places where we were uncomfortable in order to win. For example, he addressed the Maryland State Education Association – not expecting their endorsement, but to make his case nonetheless. Reportedly he got 40% of the teachers’ votes, which Bill considered to be very good impact.

We also had the Executive Director’s report from Joe Cluster, who told us to focus on four numbers: 6, 19, 48, and 16. These weren’t for Powerball, they were 6 of 10 County Executive seats, 19 of 24 county councils or commissions, 48 Delegates, and 16 Senators. “It would make us relevant in this state” if we achieved all these milestones, said Cluster. Joe continued by pointing out both Barack Obama and Martin O’Malley had approval numbers under 50 percent. “People are tired of what they’ve done to taxpayers,” Cluster said. “I don’t see any incumbent Republican losing.”

He also announced there were plans for Victory Centers in Towson for District 42, and in the District 38 area – Salisbury is in District 38, as is Ocean City. We then got to new business.

The Tweet tells you the result, but how we got there was interesting. I was one of perhaps four who spoke in favor of moving it to the floor, but by the crowd reaction to myself and other speakers I knew the effort was doomed. By the time the roll call got to Baltimore County (only fourth in) the result was obvious: just Caroline County (and its one representative), Dorchester, Howard, Kent, and Queen Anne’s favored it (Wicomico was 6-3 against) and the motion died by a weighted vote of 385-91. (In terms of bodies, it was 192-42, with one abstention.) Ten counties were unanimously against it. I thought it would get between 1/3 and 1/2 of the vote, so less than 20% was shockingly low.

But it is typical of the party’s “we’ve always done it this way” mindset.

Before adjourning, we heard yet another plea for unity and turnout from Diana Waterman, who was stalling a little bit because there was a full hour before the afternoon seminars were scheduled. But we finally received the results of the straw poll conducted at the convention.

Brian Griffiths, a confirmed Hogan supporter, came over to Jackie Wellfonder and I and huffily said, “that’s the last thing (Lollar’s) going to win.” He chalked up the loss to proxies who were in the Lollar camp.

Here are the actual vote numbers:

  • Lollar – 68 votes (29.8%)
  • Hogan – 62 votes (27.2%)
  • Craig – 60 votes (26.3%)
  • George – 29 votes (12.7%)
  • undecided – 9 votes (3.9%)

I remember looking quickly at Wicomico’s ballots before I handed them over and we split among the four candidates. I think it was 3 Hogan, 3 Craig, 2 Lollar, and 1 George.

But look at what was put into the convention by the candidates. Granted, Charles Lollar had a large and very visible party and David Craig had a lively suite of his own. All but Larry Hogan had lobby tables, with Ron George having very little other presence. I didn’t even see him there, although I did see Shelley Aloi frequently making the rounds.

Yet Larry Hogan spent a lot of money for sponsoring the programs, the folders at each seat, the breakfast suite, and the multitude of signs only to come in second by just two votes. (I have it on good authority that one Hogan supporter I know may be switching to Craig – had that person came to that conclusion a little sooner, there would have been a second-place tie.) I would have expected Hogan to get 35 or 40 percent based on the hype.

Unfortunately, my traveling companion needed to get back to Salisbury so I couldn’t stay for the seminars. It never fails – had we started at lunchtime, we would have argued the bylaws change clear through dinner. But out of the seventeen conventions I’ve now attended, this was one of the more quiet and non-controversial. I guess we’re fairly united despite the straw poll vote.

It was definitely time to go home and get to work.

2014 Maryland GOP Spring Convention in pictures and text (part 1)

As has often been the case, I am splitting this into two parts. One will come out today and one tomorrow, since the news is of the sort that it will keep. Always leave them wanting more.

Anyway, my traveling companion Dave Parker and I arrived in Bethesda in the pouring rain, and after checking in I retreated to my room with a view…well, sort of I guess.

It was almost a three-hour trip, so when I got myself unpacked it was just about time to get registered for the convention and go to the Executive Committee meeting.

After MDGOP Chair Diana Waterman informed us she was “excited” about filling out the statewide ballot, she began on the subjects she would stress over and over during the event: turnout and unity. We would have had a Republican governor over the last four years if we had turned out our base, said Diana.

We also learned who would be the speaker at the annual Red, White, and Blue Dinner June 19 at Turf Valley. I Tweeted the news:

Diana then introduced party executive director Joe Cluster, who remarked “this state is tired of Martin O’Malley and Barack Obama,” based on their approval numbers sagging below 50 percent. He also predicted that, “incumbent Republicans will do very well in this election.” It was the “chance of a lifetime to really put a dent in the Democrats,” Cluster added. While the Treasurer’s Report was its usual depressing self, we were doing slightly better than expected on fundraising. It’s no secret the party is still carrying some debt, though. Waterman added that members could help by participating in the Old Line Club, where people could pledge as little as $8.25 a month to assist the party.

Diana also announced that there would be no open primary committee business on this convention agenda – we would address it after the 2014 election. She also announced the state Board of Elections denied a bid for online absentee ballots and same-day registration.

Cluster returned to the microphone later to talk about Andy Harris being “very supportive of the party” and began to speak about him not having a credible opponent. But Waterman cautioned that she would have a “very frank discussion” if Central Committees acted in a manner backing one contender over others. “We do not take favorites” in the primary, Diana warned. It was fine for individual members to do so, depending on local bylaws, but this cannot be done as a committee unless there’s only one contender. “I’d much rather have one candidate in every race,” she added, but conceded this wasn’t always possible.

We also discussed the proposed bylaw amendment for regional chairs and conventions. It was not recommended for approval by the Bylaws Committee, who held a conference call on it, but sponsor Kevin Waterman planned to bring it up from the floor. And while Diana Waterman believed it was “vitally important” to have regional chairs, the Bylaws Committee considered it a “distraction.” One county chair remarked, “if there was a call for (regional conventions), we would already do it.” Most of us already knew it was Diana’s birthday, but a surprise awaited as I Tweeted:

That pretty much marked the end of the open part of the meeting, as a brief closed session was held – it took place while I wandered one floor down to check this out.

They even had a two-piece band for entertainment, mostly classic rock from what I could hear.

I actually meant to take this photo of Charles Lollar hanging in the back meeting with campaign staffers, but it evolved into a conversation about engaging voters on the other side of the aisle after I noted he looked a little tired. You be the judge.

Charles told me he considered the event a success, and it was a lively affair while it lasted.

But before I went upstairs to see what else was up, I ran into another statewide candidate.

Not literally, of course – since Shelley Aloi is a karate expert that may be a sure way to get hurt. I just figured it was one way to document who was there among statewide candidates. (If you look closely at the second Lollar photo you’ll see his running mate Ken Timmerman and Comptroller candidate Bill Campbell also enjoying themselves, so they are covered.)

There were a number of interesting vendors in the lobby.

As you might be able to see, there were the usual campaign-related sellers there, but there was also a table of supporters for a draft Dr. Ben Carson for president movement as well as a table for First District Congressional candidate Jonathan Goff, who is running against the aforementioned Andy Harris for the nomination.

I also realized that the Maryland Liberty Caucus was holding their own party down the hall, although it appeared to be winding down as I arrived.

Yet there still seems to be a strong pro-liberty streak in our party.

So I finally went upstairs and decided to work my way up, which led me to find this in the elevator.

On Saturday, we all found a handout at our chairs detailing what Millennial Maryland really stood for:

We represent all Republicans, the old-white-straight-Christian males, and, well, all the others. We’re here to show that Republicans are listening to gays, to immigrants, to black and Latino Americans, to those concerned about the environment, education, and the poor. We represent the GOP in all its diversity, and while we may be more moderate at times than some, we would never advocate excluding someone for disagreeing with us. We’re here to make the tent bigger, more diverse, and more electable.

Judge for yourself whether that would be the case. Onetime MDGOP Chair candidate Mike Esteve is the head of this group.

My first stop after getting off the elevator was the MoCo suite. Very crowded.

So I went up two floors to find an equally lively David Craig suite.

But in the back corner I found Lieutenant Governor candidate Jeannie Haddaway and a man seeking to replace her, Dr. Rene Desmarais, having an enlightening discussion.

They were gracious enough to add to my collection of candidates, as did David Craig.

The mini-bank Craig was holding came with a few pennies inside so it would rattle. He was giving them away as trinkets.

After those good photos, I wandered upstairs to the last suite, that of Eugene Craig III and the Young Conservatives. Things were starting to wind down.

I think David Craig’s was the best suite, simply because it had the best food – had I made it to the Young Conservatives suite earlier, though, I may have been persuaded otherwise. With so few party suites, food was a little harder to come by as the night wore on.

So I made it to bed about midnight or a little after, which is about the time I’m wrapping up this post. For the evening I will complete part 2 detailing many of Saturday’s events.

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 look ahead: 2014 in Maryland

Yesterday I looked at how 2014 looks in Wicomico County, but much – too much, as I see it – of their decision-making is truly made in Annapolis. And with current governor Martin O’Malley attempting to burnish his credentials for a position inside Hillary Clinton’s administration – oh wait, he’s supposedly running himself, isn’t he? – it’s important to him that he establish himself with the progressive crowd.

What this means for us is that no tax increase is off the table, but it’s more likely we will see renewed efforts at green energy, gun control, and salvaging the failed Obamacare rollout in Maryland – but if worse comes to worse, it’s Anthony Brown who will be thrown under the bus. In the decision between a Maryland legacy and a White House bid, well, no lieutenant governor has succeeded his boss anyway.

Brown is probably the conventional wisdom favorite to succeed O’Malley and become Maryland’s first black governor; of course there are other main contenders on both sides. Attorney General Doug Gansler seems to be the Democrats’ backup plan but has endured a rocky start to his campaign; meanwhile Delegate Heather Mizeur seems to be the one establishing a number of truly far-left issues in the campaign – witness her idea for marijuana legalization.

On the Republican side, three top contenders seem to be out to appeal most to the conservative crowd, with a fourth joining the field in January. Harford County Executive David Craig obviously has the most well-rounded political resume, but Delegate Ron George represents a more populous area around Annapolis. Charles Lollar is running the most populist campaign, but he may receive a run for his money once the social media-savvy Larry Hogan formally enters the race next month. His Change Maryland Facebook page claims over 70,000 supporters of all political stripes – in a four-way Republican race, 70,000 votes might be enough.

There are only two other statewide races this year, since there’s no Senate race this cycle. With Attorney General Gansler abandoning his post to try for governor, there are four Democratic members of the General Assembly out to succeed him – Aisha Braveboy, Jon Cardin, Bill Frick, and Brian Frosh all seek the seat, and all but Cardin have officially filed. No one has yet filed on the GOP side, but 2012 U.S. Senate candidate Richard Douglas seems to be leaning toward a run, allowing the Republicans to avoid the ignominy of whiffing on a statewide race for the second cycle in a row.

Things are shaping up as a rematch of 2010 in the Comptroller’s race, as Republican William Campbell is again challenging incumbent Peter Franchot.

With so many members of the General Assembly attempting to move up to higher offices, it creates a cascading effect in the various General Assembly races. While the GOP is probably not going to see a General Assembly majority in the 2015-18 cycle – and has the headwind of being redistricted in such a manner to try and cut their minority – being on the wrong side of a lot of issues may make it tricky for Democrats to not lose seats. Republicans have a goal of picking up seven Senate seats, giving them 19 and allowing them to filibuster, and wouldn’t be unhappy with picking up the four House seats required to possibly bypass committee votes on key issues.

As I noted above, though, the key issues will be revealed once O’Malley introduces his legislative package to the General Assembly in mid-January, shortly before his annual State of the State address. Last year he got his gas tax increase to build the Red Line and Purple Line, authorization for offshore wind, and his onerous gun restrictions in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, so this year’s agenda will probably pivot back to measures he believes will help the state’s economy but in reality will probably redistribute even more wealth from the productive to the slothful, growing government at an even faster pace. Many of those dollars will address perceived shortcomings in education and health care.

That seems to be how O’Malley’s last package of revenue enhancements has worked, because the state once again is facing a structural deficit despite rosy predictions to the contrary. Old chestnuts like increasing the cigarette tax or combined reporting of business income will probably jostle for primary position with new initiatives like a mileage tax, additional penalties for cell phone usage, or a higher toll for being caught by speed cameras.

It’s somewhat difficult to predict the direction of the General Assembly before it begins, as items not on the radar in early January become bills introduced late in the session, some of which pass muster. The gasoline tax in its adopted form was one of those last year, since conventional wisdom predicted a straight per-gallon increase rather than the adoption of a partial sales tax which will increase regularly. Another dynamic which will affect timing is having the filing deadline for the 2014 ballot come during session – surely some will wait and see what their path to re-election looks like before introducing certain controversial bills. In previous elections the filing deadline occurred well after the session was over.

Once we get beyond the session in April, the primary campaign will ramp up immediately because of the new experience of a June primary. The Democrats tried to change this eight years ago, fearing a bruising primary fight between Doug Duncan and Martin O’Malley, but succeeded this time because of changes in federal law requiring longer lead times for overseas military voters. Instead of pushing the primary back a couple weeks to comply, though, they decided on a full 2 1/2 months.

At this point there are three main contenders on the Democratic side, and I think that number will stay the same – my thought is either Dutch Ruppersberger will pass up the race (more likely) or, if Dutch gets in, the damaged goods of Doug Gansler will drop out. Obviously there will be more than three on the ballot but some fall under the auspices of perennial candidates who I think are just working on that line in their obituary where it says so-and-so ran for governor five times.

For the GOP, the same is true. In their case, I don’t think there’s enough money out there for four main contenders and whoever raised the least in 2013 is probably the one who exits the race after Larry Hogan makes it formal. In Hogan’s 2010 gubernatorial bid he lent his campaign $325,000 so presumably Hogan has the personal wherewithal to use as seed money; perhaps the dropout will agree to be the running mate of another contender.

It’s interesting, though, that the problems Maryland faces – at least the ones not of their own making, a category in which I’d include the overregulation of local county and municipal governments – are very similar to those faced right here in Wicomico County. Maryland has the “benefit” of being the host state for thousands of federal government worker bees, but little industry to speak of. It’s notable the campaigns are now paying lip service to the concept of re-establishing a manufacturing base, but the process will take at least a couple terms of office and will certainly be at odds with the stated goals of some among the Radical Green who desire a pristine Chesapeake Bay. Development and a reasonably clean Bay can co-exist, but if you want circa-1600 conditions that won’t happen.

And because there are so many who depend on government for their livelihood as workers – or survival as dependents – the concept of “One Maryland” is laughable on its face. The needs of Baltimore City or Somerset County residents don’t often coincide with the desires of your average denizen of Takoma Park or Chevy Chase, but supposedly they are all “One Maryland.” I think there are at least four Marylands – the energy-rich areas of the state’s panhandle, the I-95/I-270 corridors stretching from Harford County on the north to the Beltway suburbs hard by the District of Columbia and back towards Frederick, the bedroom suburbs of southern Maryland which are rapidly changing in political posture, and the Eastern Shore, where agriculture and tourism coexist, but in an occasional state of hostility. One can’t even say that their needs are similar because jobs are plentiful around D.C. but tougher to come by on the Eastern Shore and in Baltimore proper.

It’s not likely one man (or woman) can unite these areas, but the question is which coalitions will hold sway. Finding the right combination will be the key to success for the state in 2014.

Ten Question Tuesday: March 26, 2013

I really didn’t intend to have a month-long hiatus in this series, but it now returns with my chat with 2014 state Comptroller hopeful Bill Campbell. Campbell also ran for the job in 2010, and it appears that, should he be successful in the GOP primary, he will have a rematch against incumbent Peter Franchot.

**********

monoblogue: Let me bring my readers up to speed here. You are already in the ring for Comptroller next year, 2014; you ran in 2010, and, assuming you get through the primary – which is not a given, but I would say you’re the odds-on favorite – you’re probably going to have a rematch with Peter Franchot, who thought about running for Governor and decided not to. I guess the first thing I want to know is, since you’ve already ran for the office, do you have any lessons you’re going to move into your 2014 campaign?

Campbell: Absolutely. If there was anybody who was ever a novice, it was Bill Campbell in 2010. I started way too late, I had no organization, I got into the race where the Governor’s race was sucking all of the donations out of the air – it was like there was no oxygen in the room – so when I talked to other candidates who were running for office they said the same thing: they couldn’t raise money because the Ehrlich campaign was basically sucking up all of the money that was available for Republicans, the Republican donors. I started way too late; I started in April or May (of 2010)…

monoblogue: Right.

Campbell: …and I only raised a few thousand dollars, I can’t remember the exact amount.

I spent most of my money in the primary, I think about $11,000 in the primary. Now some of the money I was able to get benefit of in the general election, like my signs, my palm cards, and so forth, but in the general election I only spent $4,000, give or take a few bucks, and I had to make up for that – money’s important, but it’s not the most important thing. The thing I really learned is that people have to know you, they have to like you, and they have to trust you. If you can get those three things, you get their vote.

monoblogue: Well, the question is, you’re running against guy who’s probably got – I don’t know how much Peter Franchot has in the bank, but I’m sure he’s got quite a bit…

Campbell: He’s got a little over $2 million.

monoblogue: …yeah. It’s almost certain, and this is true of almost any Republican in Maryland, practically, that you’re going to be -you’re going to have to work harder and smarter because you’re not going to have the money available to the incumbent.

Campbell: No, and I figured that if Franchot ran for governor I could probably beat somebody who wasn’t an incumbent by only raising about $125,000.  I think I have a good shot at Peter if I could raise $250,000. That’s one of the reasons I started early, I’m asking for money, I’m getting donations, it’s not a huge amount right now – at the end of the year when I filed I think I had just a hair under $2,000 – but I had just started asking people for money. So I’m going to get fundraisers this time.

You bring up a good point. Peter raised $1.9 million the last time – and got a million votes – but he spent $1.5 million. I didn’t see where he spent it wisely. Do you remember seeing anything about Peter Franchot except an occasional 4×8 sign?

monoblogue: No. The thing about this race, since it’s an open seat for governor, you’re going to have an all-out war in the primary on both sides.

Campbell: Right.

monoblogue: You’re going to have, most likely, a very competitive race as far as the general election goes, but it’s going to be a little bit like Question 7 was last year. I think it’s going to take up a lot of the available airtime, so you may be right – you may not have to raise a lot of money. Peter Franchot may have a lot left over at the end of this campaign because he’ll have nowhere to spend the money except maybe consultants and what-have-you, the professional political class that we have in Maryland.

Campbell: I like to say that he’s a twice-elected incumbent Democrat. He presently has $2 million in the bank, he beat me once – I have him right where I want him. He’s overconfident.

monoblogue: Yeah, I noticed when Franchot dropped out of the governor’s race, you said ‘good, I don’t have to face the junior varsity now.’ Obviously you knew what you were going to be up against.

Campbell: I was always – I plan on the worst-case scenario. If I didn’t think I had a fair chance – I’m not in this to make a point. I’m not in this to posture or try to get myself well-known for some higher office later on – I’m a pragmatist. I think that it’s very difficult to win as a Republican any time. But I got a lot of non-Republican votes the last time, and Mr. Franchot didn’t get very many non-Democratic votes – I think he got about 10,000 votes that weren’t Democratic. I can’t swear to it because it’s been two years since I looked at it, but I got well over 100,000 votes that weren’t Republican.

So, for one, his name recognition I don’t think is terribly good. He didn’t do a good job spending his money the last time, he’s fighting with people in his own caucus – you know, there are bills in the General Assembly right now to take some of his functions away. He doesn’t seem to be allied with either Mr. Gansler or Lt. Gov. Brown, so I think that he is more vulnerable than the other candidates that we’re going to have to put nominees up against.

And, to be perfectly honest with you, I think that our chickens are about to come home to roost. The reason I ran the last time I got in was the deficit in our state employee and teacher pension fund, and the retiree health care. It has gotten worse. We’ve gone from being funded about 64% to around 60%, and the deficit on the pension has gone from $18.5 billion to $20.5 billion. The retiree health care fund is still around $16 billion in the hole.

So I think that a lot of things are going to come home to roost, I think that the public may be numb after eight years of constant tax increases, taking the budget from about $29 billion – it will be well over 40 (billion dollars) by the time these clowns are finished. And I think that the realization that the Affordable Care Act is neither affordable nor does it provide good care – I think people, even in Maryland, may be at the point where they’re willing to try something different, and by that elect more Republican elected officials.

monoblogue: Well, in Franchot’s case, he’s always tried to portray himself as a fiscal conservative, but in this case – it’s kind of the opposite of the old saying where Republicans can’t win if they try to be liberal because there’s already a liberal party out there. Democrats who try to be conservative, maybe they can’t win because there’s already a conservative in the race and his name is Bill Campbell.

Campbell: Right, and the thing with Franchot – I like Peter, I’d like to have him as a brother-in-law, or a neighbor, or a lodge brother, or something – but he’s not a good Comptroller. He doesn’t have a grasp of the financial issues. And we’re going to need somebody who has  an excellent grasp of the financial issues to help get us through.

Part of that is, we’re probably, in my lifetime, going to have a Democratic-majority General Assembly. Thankfully, in Maryland, because of the way it’s constituted, to control the state you only need two offices: you need the Governor and you need the Comptroller so that you can control the Board of Public Works.

monoblogue: Right.

Campbell: If you control the  Board of Public Works, then you can control the spending, and you can control the priorities, and you can control the trajectory that Maryland is going to have economically. So whoever our nominee is for Governor, I am going to try to work as closely with them and try to come across as a tag-team that will improve Marylanders’ economic future, the future for their children and their grandchildren.

I think we can have, if we have a good gubernatorial candidate, I think I have more than a fair chance.

monoblogue: Yeah. The other thing that I actually – as I was listening to you, is that, we also need a strong (Republican) party, and it kind of brings me to the next area I wanted to get into. Now I know you ran for state party Chair…in 2010 – you didn’t win, you were third, I think, in the first ballot and then withdrew…

Campbell: Yes.

monoblogue: …Obviously you’re not going to do it this time because you’ve already announced for the Comptroller’s race and you can’t do both at once, but what’s your take on the candidates who are in it so far?

Campbell: You mean for party chair?

monoblogue: Yes.

Campbell: The only one I know who’s really been announced is Diana Waterman. Is there another one?

monoblogue: There are actually two: one is Greg Kline, who’s…

Campbell: Oh, I’m sorry, I did see Greg Kline. I don’t know an awful lot about Greg. I know that he’s been really active in – I read something that was posted, he had a position paper?

monoblogue: Right.

Campbell: When I ran, the reason I ran was, after campaigning statewide, I had been in every jurisdiction at least four times. I talked to people on all ends of the spectrum from the Republican party, and I was very concerned because I thought at the time we needed to replace an establishment figure, Audrey Scott, with somebody who was not in any one camp but could reach across the boundaries between the camps and make a cohesive, unified party. I’m afraid – I liked all of the people who ran before, I liked Alex, I liked Sam Hale, but I’m afraid that if you have somebody who is identified only with one faction, the other factions are going to withdraw and we’re not going to be very successful.

That was why I ran, but if somebody had come to me and said – and I had talked to Alex when he ran, and I am 99% sure he assured me he would stay for four years. That was one of the reasons I thought, well, okay, and then I saw where he was raising money, he was using the party imprimatur of the chairman to raise money for a potential run for Roscoe Bartlett’s seat, which I thought was improper.

monoblogue: Right. (laughs) Go ahead, I keep interrupting you.

Campbell: When I ran, I was going to make it a non-paid full-time job, because I think whoever our chair is, until we start to get on a roll, we need to have somebody who is going to work full time, who is going to reach outside the party to constituencies like the businessmen in Baltimore City who have property that’s being adversely affected by the Maryland State Center project – we need to go in and proselytize people that we don’t normally talk to. Whoever is going to run and be our Chair needs to do that, in my opinion.

monoblogue: Well, actually you’ve answered the next question I was going to ask. The other gentleman, by the way, who’s in the race is Collins Bailey – I think he’s out of Charles County.

Campbell: Oh, I know – I know Collins Bailey. I met Collins when he was running against Charles Lollar to be our nominee for the Fifth Congressional District. I like Collins, he’s a nice guy, he’s conservative, I don’t know what kind of support he has among the Central Committees, because as far as I know he’s just widely known in southern Maryland.

monoblogue: Yeah, that’s my impression of him, too. I mean, I know who he is, I’ve probably talked to him once or twice, but – any of those candidates, and I know Diana, too, has actually done this and Greg Kline is in the process of doing this – they need to get out and get to all 23 counties if they can before the race. That’s the key.

Campbell: I think – isn’t there going to be in Montgomery County…isn’t there going to be a panel discussion with all of them?

monoblogue: There could be, I’m not sure. I know, for example, Greg Kline is coming to our Lincoln Day Dinner Saturday – I think Collins Bailey is trying to get there too. Diana Waterman will be there too, I’m sure, because she’s from the Eastern Shore. So I think – I don’t think anyone else is going to get in, I would be surprised if they did now. And you kind of answered my next question, I was going to ask what advice you had for the winner, but you’ve already kind of given that, so let me turn to one other thing real quick: I wanted to talk about – and I know you have a little expertise on federal matters because you used to run Amtrak, and you probably have a little bit of insight into the budget process…

Campbell: Yes, I had 30 years in the federal government, 19 as a career senior executive, and two years as a Presidential appointee as an assistant secretary for management at the VA. So I know a lot about the federal government.

monoblogue: So what do you think about all this talk about – obviously we started with sequestration, and now we’re talking about the possibility of some shutdown or other, and getting a budget out because they have to – they have to get a budget out or they don’t get paid. If you wave a magic wand, what does Bill Campbell do about this whole deal?

Campbell: Well, here’s the thing you have to remember. I’ve been looking at it through the lens of ‘how is this going to affect Maryland?’ I want to run for Maryland office, and – if I succeed and I win – I’m responsible for the finances of the state. And I look at it – Maryland, over the past four decades, has become a ward of the federal legislature. We get approximately 40% of our state revenue to run our government directly and indirectly from the feds. We get 27% directly, and then we get about another 13% indirectly through income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes from federal employees, federal retirees, and federal contractors and military retirees, and to some extent property tax from perhaps military – active-duty military.

So regardless of whether you call it sequestration, the fiscal cliff: no matter what you do any – any – reduction in federal spending will adversely affect Maryland. That said, we desperately need to cut back on the spending. That’s going to be painful, but if we don’t do with everybody, even the liberals agree that our spending is on an unsustainable path.

We are borrowing 42 cents on every dollar that we spend at present, and we – the debt service right now is, I believe 200 or 300 billion dollars and we are paying historically low rates on that debt. In a couple of years, when the fed stops doing quantitative easing, even Bernanke has admitted by about 2015 the interest rates that we are going to be paying – which are all pegged to the 10-year Treasury note – are going to jump up to the historic value of about 4 or 5 percent. What that means is that the largest single budget item to the federal government will be debt service. That will crowd out spending we need for infrastructure, defense, clean air, safe food, safe drinking water, public health – everything will become secondary so that we have to cut the spending.

And there are smart ways to do it and dumb ways to do it. Sequestration, when you look at it, isn’t that bad, particularly if you put, as they are right now, flexibility for the federal agencies in there. The Department of Defense’s budget this year is $711 billion – you think, oh my God, under sequestration we’re going to go to 522 (billion dollars.) Well, 522 might be absolutely fine because the difference between 521 and 711 is fighting two wars. As we get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and we avoid going into places like Iran and Syria, and Africa – then we can absorb that reduction well.

So I’m not afraid the sky is going to fall, I think what has happened is that the Obama administration has tried to make sequestration as painful as possible – you know, letting 2,000 illegal aliens loose that were in custody, closing down tours of the White House – they are doing everything humanly possible to make this appear a big problem. Well, I just came back from Florida and, you know, except for an occasional little mention of sequestration it’s not on anybody’s radar outside the Beltway, and it doesn’t seem to be having much of an effect because, rather than a cliff, it’s kind of a slow, gentle slope with the cutbacks and spending and you probably won’t really see it until next year and next year is when the Affordable Care Act costs are going to start to really hammer people, so I think 2014, because of these things, is going to be a decent year for Republicans, even in Maryland.

monoblogue: Well, that’s a good place to wrap it up. So I appreciate the time, Bill.

**********

We actually talked a little bit more regarding the 2014 race, but for the purpose of this exercise I’ll keep that off the record. One thing I will share is his opinion that “Maryland’s finances are terribly broken.” Seems to me that’s a good reason to get into the race, and I wish Bill the best of luck in his uphill fight.

I should also note that I recorded this interview on Friday, so I had the opportunity to speak with all three Chair candidates at our Lincoln Day Dinner subsequent to recording this post.

Next week’s guest will be another Maryland political figure, with the question being which one of the two records his interview first.

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