Controversy erupts in U.S. Senate race

There is a key update (and additional commentary) at the end of the story.

At the eleventh hour before early voting begins, we have a war of words between conservative activist Andrew Langer and U.S. Senate candidate Richard Douglas, and something I reported is helping to stir the pot.

Yesterday, Andrew wrote the following on his Facebook profile:

Seriously, to my friends who are Richard J. Douglas supporters… are you aware that your candidate:

– believes the individual mandate in Obamacare to be constitutional; (he believes that Congress shouldn’t have enacted it, but that they have the power to do so)

– has not signed the Americans for Tax Reform “no new taxes” pledge;

– does not support the Balanced Budget Amendment.

I think Rich is a nice guy. I like him just fine. But a former congressional staffer who believes in expansive legislative powers at the expense of individual rights, who doesn’t think Congress needs to be reigned in with new rules to control spending, who won’t put his signature on paper that he won’t raise your taxes?

That’s not “new blood.” Not by a long shot.


Prior to that he had gone on and cited my reporting of the Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner as evidence Douglas “says that Congress HAS power to implement the individual mandate.”

Well, Richard Douglas didn’t take that lying down.

A social media activist posted false information about my record. Our campaign has provided this individual with a point of contact (a real live person to talk to) and we look forward to hearing from him in a timely manner so he can retract his comments.

This individual did not check his facts. I signed the Americans for Tax Reform pledge.

Moreover, more than any other candidate, I have been calling attention to taxation at both the federal and state level.

Political attacks and distortions of records are nothing new in campaigns. Outright falsehoods are another matter.

We will keep you posted.

And in my e-mail box this morning was an e-mail copy of an receipt, with the recipient number matching the number on the Pledge, dated last November 11.

On the surface, one can say what Langer did about Douglas and as a sound byte he would be correct. But there are reasons Douglas believes as he does, and in particular his defense of opposing a balanced budget amendment, or BBA, because it would remand the creation of the budget to whatever a judge says makes a lot of sense. Personally, I would still support a BBA but Douglas makes perhaps the best argument against the adoption of one I’ve heard. Besides, we shouldn’t need a BBA to have the gumption to spend no more than we take in. There truly is no such thing as a free lunch.

But one thing I’ve noticed about the Douglas campaign is the increased strain of populism, with a message more closely matching his main opponent Dan Bongino. And while Bongino has been closely cultivating the national profile he likely believes will assist him in knocking out an incumbent who’s politically long in the tooth – one example of that being his appearance on Sean Hannity’s show last night – Douglas is making his final push on a more local level with a series of radio appearances on the Shore yesterday and today. It’s likely he’s hammering incumbent Ben Cardin on his lack of support for the DeMint amendment to lower the federal gasoline tax and begin devolving the federal program to states, or Cardin’s reluctance to decry the “Annapolis tax-a-thon,” as Rich called it in a recent statement.

I’ve contacted Douglas for an update on this story today; since he was traveling and couldn’t follow the story he referred me to his press contact Jim Pettit. I contacted Pettit about 40 minutes before I put this post to bed and haven’t received a response; if events warrant I will update.

Douglas will also be a featured speaker at Monday night’s Wicomico County Republican Club meeting. Maybe Andrew Langer can come down here and get answers in person.

Update: I spoke to Pettit, who pondered whether Langer was working on behalf of Dan Bongino or on his own. But just now it was confirmed by Norquist’s chief of staff Chris Butler that ATR indeed has the pledge.

ATR’s Tweet at 4:42 p.m.:

Contrary to ATR’s first response to Andrew Langer, US Senate candidate Richard Douglas (R-MD) did sign the Pledge in Nov. 2011.

So now we can get back to our regularly scheduled debate on who best to oust Ben Cardin from our Senate seat via the issues and verifiable facts.

Update 2: Something I actually spoke with Pettit about, and an interesting thought topic: why now?

Let’s look at the timeline here. Richard Douglas started his campaign early last fall because one of his first campaign appearances was our Wicomico County Central Committee meeting on October 3, 2011. Apparently he signed this pledge sometime on or about November 11, with two witnesses from Montgomery County. Yet we went over four months without anyone noticing the ATR site had never added Douglas? Come to think of it, I couldn’t find anything on any Maryland candidate in my (admittedly cursory) search – one would think ATR would make a bigger deal of these.

Could this be a dirty trick? Perhaps, but I really don’t think so. There’s no question that Bongino and Douglas have ran their campaigns with contrasting styles, but I think the comparison is good. And say what you will about Andrew Langer, Rich Douglas has his overzealous supporters as well. Perhaps Rich could have verified this a little earlier, but when you get a fax receipt and don’t hear from the recipient that the fax didn’t arrive you generally assume there’s no issue.