Maryland GOP: home for interesting electoral action?

At the risk of playing a little too much inside baseball again, it’s interesting to note that the Republican primaries for various Maryland Congressional seats (all but the First District) and U.S. Senate post aren’t the only games in town this April, at least not for those who serve on the various county Central Committees.

The race for the Republican National Committeewoman seat which opened up when Joyce Terhes opted not to seek another term has already made news around these parts, but there was no counterpart on the National Committeeman side, where Louis Pope is presumably seeking another term. Until today.

Anne Arundel County Central Committee member Scott Schaffer is taking on the challenge of unseating the incumbent. In a statement on the newly created Facebook page for his campaign, Schaffer said in part:

“Like the movie Groundhog Day, the Maryland Republican Party keeps repeating itself over and over:  same strategies, same tactics, same candidates, same results,” said Shaffer.  “If we want a different outcome, then we need new ideas and new blood.”  Shaffer’s vision for the Republican Party includes a strategic focus on younger generations of voters, which he believes are essential to the party’s long term survival.  Shaffer was also critical of the incumbent’s endorsement of a candidate during the 2010 gubernatorial primary election, including steering RNC funds to the candidate before his nomination was secured.  “We need a leader who embraces the primary process, not one who sabotages it.  Contested primaries make our party stronger.  Voters should be the ones deciding elections – not party officers.

So it’s obvious Scott agrees with me on the Rule 11 controversy from two years ago; however, Louis also expressed his support for our resolution last November to address this. I think that’s sort of a wash at this point.

The last time we had this exercise four years ago, the elections for this post were walkovers, as neither Pope nor Terhes were opposed to continue in their positions.

Obviously Pope is a known quantity to me, but while I’ve certainly had the opportunity to interact with Scott I don’t really know anything about him. So it was interesting to me to find that which he wrote in seeking his current Central Committee position in 2010. Again, a short excerpt:

The inept leadership in the Maryland Republican Party cannot continue. We need a new state party chairman. We need new Central Committee chairmen. And most of all, we need Central Committee members who will work hard to make our party competitive again in Maryland.

And something else he said at the time could make a potential working relationship interesting. The comment he was responding to said, “Don’t forget that our Party Chairman claimed it was Party over Principle. The MDGOP needs new leadership that understands that without principles we have no party or we are the Democrats.”

Schaffer responded:

Audrey Scott has never put Party before anything. She became chairman only because her predecessor was forced to step down amid party infighting, and she’s done nothing to mend the rift and unite the party. Principles are important, yes, but conservatives and moderates need to realize we have much more in common with each other than with the Democrats. The only way we win is by working together. Let’s build our party’s membership among both voters and elected officials…all the bickering over who’s more conservative than whom detracts from the work we should be doing. It’s much harder to defend our principles from the sidelines, while the Democrats govern our state without us.

I definitely agree that there is still some simmering bitterness over the whole Pelura situation, especially when the former Chair bucked the party orthodoxy to endorse upstart Brian Murphy in the governor’s race.

But while it’s true that conservatives and moderates have quite a bit in common, it seems to me that we on the conservative side are always told to sit down, shut up, and let the experts who know these things anoint the proper candidate – who is almost always the more centrist one. A prime example: Bob Ehrlich, and we see how well he did in 2010. Honestly, I suspect Brian Murphy would have gotten 40 percent and at least he would have stood up for a more clearly defined conservatism. I suspect the votes Murphy would have lost from the center – at least according to conventional wisdom, anyway – would have been made up by those who stayed home because they were uninspired by Ehrlich. So we lose by 16 or 18 points instead of 14 as we did – big deal! Maybe those who stayed home because Ehrlich wasn’t conservative enough would have put a few more GOP Delegates and Senators over the top had they voted.

At least we would have known where true conservative principles stood in this state and how much education we really need to succeed. But instead the MDGOP put a weighty finger on the scale and gave its backing to Ehrlich.

On the whole, though, I’m pleased that Schaffer entered the race and now we have a choice in the matter. Maybe this can start a trend inside the Maryland Republican Party since we vote on the other party leadership after the election later this fall.

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