Mooney resigning as MDGOP Chair

In a letter set to Central Committee members, Maryland GOP Chair Alex Mooney announced his resignation effective March 1 to “pursue other ventures.”

Mooney outlined a number of accomplishments in his tenure:

First, the MDGOP is in a strong financial position. According to Treasurer Chris Rosenthal’s report distributed today at the executive committee meeting, the MDGOP raised $1.1 million in 2012, far exceeding our budgeted plan.

Second, we have experienced staff focused on grassroots, party building and supporting candidates. Your executive board team remains in place… Therefore, the party will be in good hands.

Finally, grassroots activism is at an all-time high. Over 300,000 people signed a petition to stop three of liberal Martin O’Malley’s agenda items. While the vote was not successful on Election Day, we must not overlook the fact we conservatives working together have the power to put the final vote to the people. MDGOP was a partner in this effort with, the church community and other activists.

Our new office offers a convenient downtown Annapolis location walking distance from the Capitol for legislators and Republican clubs to use. And we cut rent expenses in more than half compared to our previous location.

With the resignation of Mooney, it will automatically elevate First Vice-Chair Diana Waterman to the leadership post on an interim basis until the next state convention April 20. Waterman drew fire from conservative activists after comments last month at a Wicomico County Republican Club meeting, so it is unclear whether she would want the post on a more permanent basis.

Naturally the talk around the MDGOP will be who takes over for Mooney, and this places yet another opportunity for rising star Dan Bongino to cast his footprint on state politics – assuming he doesn’t instead secure the newly-created vacancy in the Anne Arundel County Executive post. Conversely, appointing Bongino would also either eliminate him from seeking an office in the 2014 cycle, or create another Chair vacancy in the spring of 2014, once the filing deadline for the 2014 election arrives. (Party rules stipulate a Chair cannot be a filed candidate for an elected post.)

Yet the decision will also be fraught with peril as yet another tug-of-war between the “establishment” and TEA Party activists – one obvious choice for the former group would be a second go-round as Chair for Audrey Scott, who took over the state party in 2009 after Jim Pelura’s resignation and, more recently, lost a bitterly-contested battle for National Committeewoman to Nicolee Ambrose.

The Mooney departure comes at an interesting time for the state party, which is fighting tooth-and-nail against a number of measures in the General Assembly like expanded gun control and an additional sales tax on gasoline. It will put Waterman in charge during a time when many of these bills come to a vote, meaning grassroots activists and groups may have to take more of a lead than usual.

It also leads to speculation on what Mooney is planning for 2014, whether it’s another run for Congress as he began to in the 2012 campaign before withdrawing just before the filing deadline, or a bid to retake his seat in the Maryland Senate. It’s not likely he will try for statewide office with an already-crowded field in the governor’s race and lack of qualifications for any other statewide contest (Attorney General or Comptroller.) Barring an unexpected vacancy, there will be no U.S. Senate election in Maryland in 2014.

And while Mooney leaves with a number of accomplishments under his belt, it’s worth noting that his grandiose plans for financial help for the state party failed to pan out. Yes, the state party has made a number of moves in the name of efficiency, but monetary numbers are still insufficient for the party to offer much in the way of help to 2014 candidates. Mooney’s successor will have a lot on his or her plate and a short time to put the pieces together before the 2014 campaign really gets underway.

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