Low-key event for a rising challenger

Well, they say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.

So perhaps it was a good way to introduce himself to those whom prospective 2014 gubernatorial candidate Blaine Young wanted to influence, as he held a meet-and-greet event in Ocean City earlier tonight. Aside from a couple signs on the wall, this was pretty much the extent of the campaign paraphernalia.

There was a handout I picked up, though – three pages of the “major accomplishments” the Frederick County Commission has achieved since Young came on board. This was likely an attempt to convince backers at the individual county level – which probably explains the timing, given that the annual Maryland Association of Counties summer gathering hit the beachfront resort this week – with the lead item on the first page titled “Budget Impacts.”

While the room was set for perhaps 100, I would say the crowd rarely exceeded half of that at any particular time as guests came and went. As I was told beforehand, this wasn’t a formal event – Young said he “will be talking to people individually as they mingle.” So he held court with an ever-changing group in the front of the room while others conversed in surrounding areas. Perhaps most notable among those circulating around was Harford County Executive David Craig, who’s also (okay, almost certainly also; I’ll leave that 1% proviso) running for governor. Craig and I actually talked a little about the recently-passed gambling legislation, though.

Speaking of gambling, Worcester County Delegate Mike McDermott was also one of the visitors. I told him I wasn’t happy with his vote on the gambling bill, but he pleaded his case as to why he was one of the five Republicans who said yes to O’Malley’s scheme. I’m expecting a more formal missive from him in the next couple days, which I’ll be happy to dissect. I did learn something interesting, though – from what I was told, a number of Delegates changed their votes to be against the bill in the final tally once the result was known. I’ll find out for sure when I do the research since it’s a vote for the monoblogue Accountability Project.

Thus far, though, I have found it interesting just how the three odds-on leaders in the Republican gubernatorial sweepstakes have conducted their campaigns:

  • David Craig has probably had his organization working the longest of the three, even including an overture to state political bloggers like me almost a year ago. As part of that event I got a thumb drive with everything I need to know about David (still have it, as a matter of fact.)
  • Larry Hogan is probably the furthest from making the official announcement that he’s in, but if Larry indeed is in the running he has a ready-made social media setup thanks to Change Maryland.
  • Meanwhile, Young is focusing more on raising both money and his profile – this event and getting 80 volunteers to come to Crisfield two years before the election have done a nice job with the latter, according to at least one veteran political observer (who I’ll leave nameless since we weren’t speaking on the record. But he was on the record here.)

So the meet-and-greet can’t necessarily be judged like other political events. Certainly I’m sure Young would have liked more people to show up, but if those who did got a favorable impression about his campaign then the event achieved its purpose. Later on, when there’s a need for money or manpower, the true measure of the event’s success would be known. And I had a good time catching up with some people I hadn’t seen in awhile while meeting a few nice new folks.

It wasn’t quite what I expected, but any time I can go to Ocean City and relax a little bit I’ll take it. Now I see why MACO does this every year.

Maryland activists hit 20k

Let me start right here and congratulate Change Maryland and its head Larry Hogan for cracking the 20,000 supporter mark on Facebook. Considering they were at the 12,000 mark just over three months ago, that’s pretty good for a nonpartisan political group. When you consider the lone statewide race this year pits Ben Cardin and his 3,833 Facebook ‘likes’ against Dan Bongino and his 3,335 Facebook ‘likes,’ having a total which far exceeds their sum is a pretty good accomplishment. If I sold a book to each of the Change Maryland supporters I’d be a happy (and modestly wealthy) man!

They also had their piece to say about it, but I’m not done yet so stick with me.

Change Maryland announced today that it surpassed 20,000 members as it emerges as the leading organization raising questions about Governor Martin O’Malley’s record.  The spike in growth coincided with Change Maryland’s research into the metrics by which state economies are judged – tax payer migration, employment statistics and retaining small businesses.

Since Governor Martin O’Malley’s term began in 2007, Maryland has dramatically lagged the region in all three indicators according to federal government data from the Internal Revenue Service, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau. These findings follow a report in which Change Maryland quantified the number of tax and fee increases since 2007 which total 24 separate revenue-raising measures that remove an additional $2.4 billion out of the economy annually. Such reports have caused the O’Malley Administration to lash out at the organization with ill-conceived attacks that have only assisted in gaining new followers.

“We’ve pulled back the curtain on the dismal results of this Administration, and Governor O’Malley doesn’t like it,” said Change Maryland Chairman Larry Hogan. “Losing 40,000 jobs, 31,000 residents of tax paying households and 6500 businesses coincides with the largest tax hikes in Maryland’s history.”


Change Maryland has more than twice as many Facebook followers as the state Democratic and Republican parties combined. It is the largest and fastest growing, non-partisan, grassroots organization advocating for government accountability and fiscal responsibility.

While I believe Hogan is correct about the Facebook numbers, I suspect that’s only in social media. Trust me, if either state party wanted to reach 20,000 people in a hurry they could. But support for a political party isn’t all that common for social media, which, by its very nature, caters more to the 90 percent who don’t care about politics much until Election Day is nigh than to the 3 of 100 who are junkies like me. If you want some idea of the political role in social media, take Change Maryland’s 20,000 and consider that the Baltimore Orioles have 389,621 – but they’re dwarfed by the Baltimore Ravens, who have 1,118,429 ‘likes.’

So as it turns out Change Maryland has a little room to grow. I’m not saying they’ll ever get to the level of the Ravens because if that were true Larry Hogan would be a shoo-in for Governor. He’s not.

But the political world is far more than social media. If Change Maryland is smart – and I suspect they’re pretty sharp – they are getting more contact information from these 20,000 Facebook friends and seeing how well particular messages respond. Change Maryland knows just where its bread is buttered, and it’s patently obvious that the narrative about Martin O’Malley being a tax-and-spend governor who’s driving businesses out of Maryland is a potential gold mine for any Republican candidate and pitfall for a Democrat – particularly Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, who O’Malley seems to be grooming as a heir apparent.

It would also be very interesting to find out what kind of crossover appeal the Change Maryland group has. They claim to be bipartisan, which anyone who wants to win elections wants to do, but the question which lingers with me is just how much Democratic support are they receiving? I’m not sure even Change Maryland knows the answer, since a lot of social media consists of anecdotal evidence about the impact of events and messages.

But when you consider that it took a group born in the spring of 2011 a year to reach 12,000 Facebook members but just three months more to add on another 8,000, you see there’s something brewing. Particularly for the perpetual underdogs in the Maryland Republican Party, grassroots are important. We haven’t heard Hogan make any 2014 announcement yet, but he may well have some boots on the ground already.

Odds and ends number 55

My e-mail box was flooded with interesting nuggets over the last few days, so on these topics I’ll devote somewhere between a few words and a few paragraphs. You’ve probably seen this enough that you know the drill; in fact the very first of this long-running series came in the first month of monoblogue’s existence. It’s been a fairly regular feature of late, typical for an election year.

Speaking of elections, our Congressman Andy Harris is up this year as are all 434 of his cohorts. His most recent radio address talks more about the failures of the President, though. That’s sort of like picking the low-hanging fruit but is still a good reminder.

The failure-in-chief, though, is playing the class envy card by creating a tax calculator which claims Mitt Romney will raise your taxes while Obama lowers them. Yes, it’s laughable on the face but the assumptions being made are even more hilarious:

Because the tax code is complex, the calculator makes a number of simplifying assumptions that may differ from the circumstances of any particular user. It assumes all income is from wages. For married filers, it assumes that income is split evenly between two earners. It assumes that income does not vary over the years analyzed. It assumes that taxpayers claim the standard deduction for the purpose of analyzing the impact of the expiration of the middle class tax cuts. The impact of Mitt Romney’s tax plan is based on an analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, which determines the tax increase or tax cut the average family in each income group would face if Romney paid for his $5 trillion tax plan by cutting tax benefits. The analysis assumes that Romney eliminates all tax benefits, except those for savings and investment, for households earning over $200,000, and reduces those benefits for households earning under $200,000 to cover the rest of the cost – resulting in a reduction by more than half. The Tax Policy Center uses income thresholds based on “cash income”, a measure broader than AGI commonly used by TPC. The calculator is intended for information purposes only.

In other words, this is complete fiction – we’re just going to lie like a rug to those on our e-mail list. Besides, I think people wouldn’t mind paying a little more in taxes if they were convinced the money they sent in wasn’t being wasted on bailouts, handouts, and crony capitalism. With Obama you have all three, and with Romney the chances are somewhat better of that not happening.

And it’s Democratic policies which are destroying the working class. This point is taken to an extreme by a Missouri Congressional candidate’s radio ad, the transcript of which follows:

Narrator: “We interrupt your regular programming for this breaking news.”

** Apocalyptic catastrophe sound effects**

Reporter: “I’m standing here at what remains of downtown St. Louis after the disaster.  It is complete and utter devastation.  A sad day for St. Louis indeed.

** Apocalyptic catastrophe sounds fade out**

Narrator: “Congressman Lacy Clay wants you to think the world will end if he isn’t re-elected, but the problems facing St. Louis after a decade under Lacy Clay are apocalyptic enough.  Under Lacy Clay’s anti-business policies, thirty thousand residents have left St. Louis.  The unemployment rate for African American males in Lacy Clay’s district is 20%.  That’s higher than the unemployment rate in Baghdad.  We deserve better.  We deserve a representative who will work for all of us, and not just sit in Washington DC collecting a lavish paycheck.  We deserve Robyn Hamlin for Congress.  Find out more at HamlinForCongress.com.”

Robyn: “I’m Robyn Hamlin and I approve this message.  Paid for by The Committee to Elect Robyn Hamlin.  Dwayne Hinch, treasurer.”

Hamlin sounds like a good TEA Party candidate but admittedly has an uphill struggle in a almost exclusively urban D+27 district not unlike our Seventh Congressional District. But she’s got some good ammunition to use against a Congressman who’s the second generation of a political dynasty that’s been in office for over forty years because it’s all true. Why should those people settle? But they do, and likely will continue to do so to their detriment.

Similarly in Maryland, Fourth District Republican Faith Loudon is the underdog against incumbent Donna Edwards – admittedly, Edwards isn’t as entrenched as the Clay family has been in Missouri and the district is a touch more friendly to the GOP. Still, it will be a slog for Faith but she’ll get a bit of help: Loudon is the second Maryland Congressional candidate to be backed by the Conservative Victory PAC:

Before a packed event hosted by Dr. Jim and Marianne Pelura at their Davidsonville home, CVPAC Treasurer Ruth Melson presented the endorsement.

Melson remarked: “We are here to help our friend Faith Loudon finish strong and win this November. Let’s congratulate Faith on running a strong campaign. We can win! We must win! Faith Loudon will bring honesty, integrity, and sanity back to Washington. That is why Conservative Victory PAC is endorsing Faith as the next United States Congresswoman from Maryland’s 4th District.”

Melson’s comments struck a chord with the audience disappointed by Faith Loudon’s opponent, incumbent Congresswoman Donna Edwards.

Conservative Victory PAC’s support of Faith Loudon for victory in November is to ensure that Maryland’s elected leaders in the US Congress represent the voters of Maryland and not the special interests catered to by Donna Edwards. Under Donna Edwards’ tenure: Maryland is ranked by the Federal government as the second highest in food stamps fraud, Maryland’s seniors have lost $500 million from Medicare to subsidize Medicaid that is rife with corruption and little or no verification of legal residency, Maryland’s small business has been impoverished by new taxes and regulations, and Federal stimulus funds have been sent overseas to China and funded crony capitalism for the likes of Solyndra.

Of course, one can make the argument against any incumbent Maryland Congressman of any party, including the GOP. But, particularly on the third point Melson makes about the new taxes and regulations, the GOP is trying to eliminate them while Edwards isn’t working to stop them.

You know, I could go on a real rant about all this. But there are others taking up the torch on the state and local level.

Witness Senate Minority Leader E. J. Pipkin and his tirade about the lack of a gambling bill to read. On Thursday, he demanded Governor O’Malley release the gambling bill immediately. Insofar as one can bellow in print, Pipkin bellowed:

The Special Session begins in less than a week. The Governor has had all summer to craft the proposal. Where’s the bill?

A week from now, after he crams his bill down the legislature’s throat, we will hear his platitudes about ‘tough decisions and working together.’ If we are going to work together, the Governor should present his bill today!

In the last year, the Governor has waited to the last minute to release his legislative proposals for Special Sessions. Last October, before the Redistricting Special Session, the Governor waited until 36 hours before the session to release his proposed bill.  For the Special Session to increase the state income tax opening on Monday, May 14, the Governor waited until 3:30pm on Friday to allow legislators to see the bill.


The entire legislative process of careful debate and review should not be abandoned in a Special Session. The General Assembly membership must have ample time to examine the legislation before it is introduced on the floor.

Marylanders know that those whom the Governor wants to be informed already know and that the fix is in. Certainly MOM knows who’s in his pocket and who can be bought off with favors – releasing the bill early means no opportunity to add those goodies to sway recalcitrant members of the General Assembly who may have leaned against the bill at first glance. It’s sad but true, and the next chance to take care of this problem doesn’t come until 2014.

Yet there are those who are trying pre-emptive strikes. Witness the Maryland Liberty PAC, which is accusing three Carroll County commissioners of “spending like drunken sailors.” Of course, Carroll County is among the most heavily Republican in the state (one reason it was divided up in Congressional redistricting) so all five of the commissioners are Republicans. It’s likely they’ll be recruiting candidates for primary challenges to the so-called “drunken sailors.”

Similarly, in Harford County the Harford Campaign for Liberty is condemning the “Craiganomics” of granting a development loan to a British company:

On July 10th, 2012 the Harford County Council, at the urging and recommendation of County Executive David Craig, voted to hand over $850,000 of your hard-earned tax dollars to a foreign company!

Apparently County Executive David Craig and the County Council believe in Craigonomics, the idea that government should tax and spend – and then claim it as job growth and economic development.

You and I know better.  Government doesn’t create jobs and that government handouts do absolutely nothing to stimulate our economy.  Free markets and innovative entrepreneurs have and will always make our economy grow.

Obviously this is presented as a shot across the bow of David Craig’s nascent 2014 campaign for governor, and from the details given in this article by Bryna Zumer in the Harford Aegis the money is a required matching fund to a state grant. So Craig and his council were presented with a choice: take the state money or don’t, but the expansion is apparently already built. Realistically, is the company going to pull out now over $750,000? Certainly this will be something the Campaign for Liberty watches as local elections draw closer in Harford County.

Both the Harford Campaign for Liberty and The Maryland Liberty PAC share in the disappointment some feel locally when our 6-1 County Council majority doesn’t act in a conservative manner. I look at it this way: while I want a Republican to win, it doesn’t always have to be the Republican who’s already in office because I demand conservatism and limited government. Personally, I’d be happy with contested GOP primaries up and down the ballot – maybe that’s not what the party apparatus wants but I put my faith in voters to decide, not a tiny group of self-appointed elites who like the power of being kingmakers.

When those who claim the conservative mantle screw up, we should take note and call them out for it.

The end of a bad O’Malley month

Updated below, at end of post.

Before everyone goes on vacation and tunes out until Labor Day, Martin O’Malley’s worst Presidential campaign nightmare fired yet another salvo at the good ship S.S. O’Malley 2016. The 18,000-strong Change Maryland group found more interesting data to back up a new claim that 6,500 businesses have pulled up stakes and left the Free State in the 2007-2010 time period.

And I like this Change Maryland release because they added the context I’ve had to provide with their numbers over the last month. Someone has been doing his homework!

Here you go:

Change Maryland announced today that nearly 6,500 small businesses vanished or left the state since 2007 – more evidence of a sharp decline in the productive components of the economy.  As with other reports Change Maryland has produced, this publicly available data comes from government sources, namely the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Governor O’Malley says repeatedly the most important priority is ‘jobs, jobs, jobs,” said Change Maryland Chairman Larry Hogan.  “If we are to hold the Governor accountable to the standard he set, then by every objective measure he has failed miserably.”

This latest Change Maryland report draws on census bureau economic research that quantifies the number of firms from one to 99 employees during 2007 to 2010, the latest year for which numbers are available.  Confirming earlier Change Maryland findings, government data shows the state’s ability to support business, produce jobs and maintain its tax base is eroding. This report comes on the heels of Maryland leading the region in job loss this year and in out-migration of tax payers from 2007 to 2010.

Since 2007, in addition to losing 6,494 small businesses, Maryland has lost 31,000 residents of tax-paying households and 40,000 jobs. “The pattern here is unmistakable,” said Hogan. “In record numbers, taxpayers, jobs and small businesses are fleeing state government’s big-spending, over-taxed, over-regulated, anti-jobs agenda.”

Maryland’s loss of small businesses is statistically tied with Delaware as the worst in the region, as a percentage of such firms that existed in 2007.  Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia saw relatively smaller declines in a period of economic activity marked by pre-recession, recession and feeble recovery.   On a percentage basis of firms lost, Delaware lost 4.72%, Maryland 4.71%, West Virginia 4.51%, Virginia 3.66%, and Pennsylvania 2.64%, Washington D.C., on the other hand, experienced a 2.59% gain in small businesses.

That also seems to echo my findings regarding the most recent report done by Change Maryland in relation to the number of overall jobs and overall capital lost in each state over the time period.

So it’s obvious that an argument can be made that Martin O’Malley’s job creation policies aren’t working. Furthermore, because we happen to be so close to Washington D.C. we can gather that their modest successes come at the expense of the rest of the country – hey, pencil-pushers have to eat, shop for groceries, get haircuts, and conduct all the other economic activities of life, too. It’s just that their elite lives high off the hog while the rest of us struggle with the burdens of supersized government. Therein lies the true 1% vs. 99% argument.

Yet there are a couple legitimate questions asked by those who ponder Maryland politics. One is why the effort to hammer a politician who has nowhere else to go politically in Maryland politics? Unless he wants to return to office in 2018 after sitting out his mandated one term away, Martin O’Malley isn’t going to run again on a statewide basis unless he decides either he wants to be a United States Senator – and there has been a gut feeling from some who think he’s lining himself up to be appointed to the unexpired term of Barbara Mikulski should she decide to retire early – or, he’ll be on the Maryland primary ballot for President in 2016. While his record as Governor is a legitimate campaign issue in that case, there’s a statewide vote for many offices in between now and then.

The second is why only pick on O’Malley? Certainly he has more discretion than most state executives in the country, but Martin O’Malley has never voted on a tax or fee increase. That task has been left to the Maryland General Assembly, and because there’s a wide enough Democratic majority there to pass anything O’Malley wants – even without the need for some of the center-left members of the dominant party who come from more conservative areas of the state to participate – perhaps the blame needs to be shifted away from the governor’s office. However, my guess is that there is a risk of alienating the portion of Change Maryland which is registered Democratic and may happen to agree with some of their party philosophy.

But there is one thing to be said about the Change Maryland group. At the GOP convention in late April, they celebrated attaining the 12,000 member mark (although the cake originally reflected a much higher number.)

Three months later, thanks to some outstanding marketing and usage of free media, that number is 50 percent higher. At this pace of exponential growth, come 2014 they might well be at 120,000.

Yet there is context to be had here, too. In 2010 the upstart conservative Brian Murphy picked up just under 1/4 of the GOP primary vote in losing to Bob Ehrlich. But his actual vote total was 67,364. Furthermore, even Michael James, my local GOP candidate for State Senator who lost a close race to Jim Mathias, received just under 23,000 votes in a single State Senate district. When you look at things that way 18,000 is nice but there’s a long way to go to become a powerful movement.

In my heart of hearts, I think Larry Hogan has an eye on Government House in January, 2015, and he’s laying out some of the parameters of his campaign via the Change Maryland vehicle. There’s nothing wrong with that, just as there’s no problem with David Craig getting cozy with the conservative blogosphere or Blaine Young looking to meet local conservative leaders at a Ocean City meet-and-greet next month during MACO. (I just received that note.) And certainly there’s no shortage of schadenfreude in watching O’Malley flail about trying to combat the slings and arrows launched by Change Maryland.

In the end, though, the key to really changing Maryland will be in supporting good, conservative candidates at all levels. Unfortunately, the other side is smart as well and they know that some of these ticking time bombs will go off at the county level, particularly in counties otherwise ably run by the GOP. Once we get everyone pulling in the same direction, it’s only then my adopted home state can deliver on its promise.

Update: Jim Pettit of Change Maryland responds:

Governor O’Malley is pursuing the Presidency – the last thing we want to see is a continuation of the same irresponsible fiscal policies pursued on the state level that would only cause further damage to our entire nation in the years ahead.

In the meantime, Change Maryland is focused on stopping more bad things from happening within our state, and we’re too busy leading the fight against the anti-jobs agenda of the incumbent governor to worry about who the next governor might be in 2015.

Gambling on our fiscal future

It appears the Maryland General Assembly will be working this summer after all, as Governor O’Malley announced there will be a Special Session beginning Thursday, August 9. A few observations:

First of all, beginning the Special Session on a Thursday probably means they’ll try and wrap things up in two days. It’s doubtful the General Assembly will want to be working over the weekend and it’s probable that the session has the single-minded goal of getting authorization for a sixth casino in Prince George’s County and offering table games at existing facilities before voters. The rumors I’ve been hearing make it sound as though the change from a 67% tax rate may be dead for now – but don’t be surprised if that issue is revisited in the regular session next year.

But the question is what people like us get in the deal. I understand the proponents are making all sorts of claims that counties will see a bounty of cash flow into their coffers, but any and all of the financial components are subject to change at the whim of the General Assembly. Since the Eastern Shore only has nine House votes (seven of which are minority Republicans) and three Senate votes (2 of the 3 are GOP), it’s more than likely that any sweetheart deals will be made to entice General Assembly members from Baltimore City and Montgomery County to vote for the plan at the expense of other parts of the state. That claim of $4.9 million for Wicomico County may end up being 4.9 thousand by the time all is said, done, and horse traded.

(Also worthy of note regarding the Eastern Shore delegation: the only three who voted for the bill in 2007 were Democrat Delegate Norm Conway and two Republicans: Senator Rich Colburn and the late Delegate Page Elmore. As it stands now, Senator Jim Mathias – who was a Delegate then – may be a vote against in the Senate, leaving Conway and Colburn as the lone gambling supporters of the Eastern Shore delegation.)

Oh, and speaking of horses: I thought the intention of the original gambling bill was to prop up local racetracks by allowing them to be slot machine locations. Yet I believe Ocean Downs is the only racetrack which doubles as a slot location – the other sites are standalone sites with no racing. Nor would it shock me to see at least some part of a prospective tax cut for casino operators come out of the 9.5% the equine industry is guaranteed in Maryland. The 48.5% for education will be the last thing they touch.

We all have to concede that, compared with the rosy predictions of $1.36 billion dollars in revenue by FY2013 – the year we are in now – slot machines have been an utter failure in Maryland. The reasons for this are legion:

  • Not all of the expected locations are up and running yet – locations in Baltimore City and Allegany County (Rocky Gap) won’t be open until 2013 and 2014, respectively. The Maryland Live! casino in Anne Arundel County just opened this year.
  • Because other states weren’t shackled by the poorly thought-out system of needing voter approval to make technical changes, they have already put table games in place, making them more attractive to gamblers.
  • Entertainment options are limited at the Ocean Downs casino by state law. This puts them at some disadvantage to nearby Delaware locations in Harrington and Dover which permit live music.
  • Finally, a poor economy has limited people’s “fun money.” On a personal level, I used to go to Harrington maybe once or twice a year with the bowling prize money I received at season’s end or other “mad money” I came across. But that’s no longer possible when there are more bills to pay and less income being made; certainly I’m not the Lone Ranger in that particular situation.

So don’t look for gambling to be a cure-all, and take any predictions of revenue from the state with a significant grain of salt. It’s clear that those in charge of Maryland didn’t think things through when they sold us the bill of goods known as Question 2 four years ago, and now that potential big-money campaign contributors and Big Labor are beckoning to build a casino in Prince George’s County just outside Washington, D.C. (talk about regressive taxation there) it’s suddenly enough of an emergency to call our legislature in.

I know Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin was not amused:

The real crisis in Maryland is not whether there should be a sixth casino location, but rather the trend of recent job losses. The state lost 11,000 jobs in June and has witnessed 4 straight months of job declines.  Gaming expansion won’t create jobs for at least another year, and then at most 3,000 jobs.  Marylanders need help today.

Meanwhile, this has been the ‘Summer of Union Handouts’ with teachers’ unions getting their own special session in May and now the trade unions getting their own special session in August.  Curiously left out are the close to 2,000 union steelworkers laid-off last month at the Sparrows Point plant. The state is bleeding jobs at a rate of tens of thousands on a monthly basis, and the best the Governor O’Malley can muster is, ‘If you give me another casino, I can get you 3,000 jobs in a few years.’  How is that relief?

The Governor should know that economic development is more than just bio-tech and casinos.  Instead of a special session for a single casino, we should be taking this time to develop policies benefiting all of Maryland’s working families – not just those with powerful unions.

Five years ago, Governor O’Malley called a Special Session which dealt not just with gambling but also raised taxes and spent big money on providing coverage to a small fraction of those Maryland residents who didn’t have health insurance. All this was supposed to solve our state’s structural deficit once and for all.

But a half-decade later, buffeted by damaging economic winds created in no small part by Democrats just like those who run Maryland’s government with an iron fist, we still struggle with financial hardship as a state – unfortunately, these troubles also affect the federal and local governments as well as many millions of Americans who by no means are better off than they were four years ago.

In short, there are two key problems with Martin O’Malley’s Democratic approach to state finances: rich people don’t stay to be hosed by higher taxes and broke people don’t gamble. Other than that, things are just going swimmingly.

Maryland keeps leading the way – in losing jobs

Another dismal unemployment report continued a bad month for Governor Martin O’Malley as he tries to regain his early momentum for a probable 2016 Presidential run. Unfortunately for both the governor and those who were more directly affected, Department of Labor estimates peg 11,000 as the number of jobs lost by Marylanders in June, although the DOL also revised the number in Maryland who lost jobs in May downward from 7,500 to 2,900, according to Jamie Smith Hopkins at the Baltimore Sun. The state’s topline unemployment rate ratcheted upward to 6.9 percent, although Hopkins was careful to add this was still below the national average. Obviously that’s cold comfort to those whose personal unemployment number reached 100 percent.

While the GOP is sympathetic to the plight of these newly jobless, they are also using this new data to point out the ineffectiveness of the state’s Democratic majority to address the problem. For example, O’Malley’s favorite new whipping boy and subject of “juvenile attacks” Larry Hogan of Change Maryland commented:

Something isn’t working here. Now would be an excellent time to re-evaluate our tax-and-spend approach to governing and start developing policies that increase private sector job growth.  It’s unacceptable to have increases in the unemployment rate month after month.

Fellow gubernatorial hopeful and Harford County Executive David Craig chimed in:

While the state of Maryland has raised taxes, our debt has also increased.  This is a dangerous formula and it is the wrong direction for our great state.

Added U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino – a man of succinct words:

Absolutely inexcusable. The time for real change is now.

Yet there are those on the Left who seem to think this isn’t such a big deal. One is House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, a Washington insider who believes that economists think food stamps and unemployment insurance are two of the “most stimulative (things) that you can do,” as quoted in CNS News. Hoyer goes on:

Why is that? Because those folks who receive those resources must spend them. And they’ll spend them almost upon receipt. Most economists with whom I talk believe that those with significant discretionary income, that that’s not the case.

Well, of course that’s not the case for those with “significant discretionary income” because they either have steady jobs which give them a paycheck every week or two or they are successful business owners. Congressman Hoyer, those are the people who create jobs, so why “reward” them with higher taxes? That’s what Maryland does on a state level and we’ve seen the results.

If anything is plain to see regarding our economic situation, it’s that people need jobs. There’s an honest difference in political philosophy between that expressed in President Obama’s “If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen” speech in Roanoke, Virginia; an approach which presupposes government needs to step in to “spread the wealth around” in the name of fairness, versus one where job creation is encouraged by allowing employers more freedom to keep their own capital and invest in ways they see fit, like expanding their workforce, building or securing new facilities, and raising the wages of deserving employees as a means of profit sharing. (And yes, I understand there are some business owners who keep the profit for themselves.) But you can’t share a profit if none is to be made.

My adopted home state has a number of assets: good location in relation to markets, a well-educated workforce, and the advantage of having the seat of federal government nearby. But so does Virginia, and we see them gaining jobs at Maryland’s expense. As a third gubernatorial candidate, Frederick County Commissioner Blaine Young, states on his 2014 campaign website:

(N)orthern Virginia just doesn’t talk the talk about being business friendly, they walk the walk.

Sometimes it seems like those in Annapolis just assume that Montgomery County will continue to pay the state’s bills in much the same way that heavy manufacturing and industry in and around Baltimore did a half-century ago, a time when the land which now consists of newer Montgomery and Prince George’s County developments was still cropland and forest. But that golden goose of government may stop laying its eggs, as the brain drain shown by the Change Maryland study could evolve from a trickle to a torrent if reforms aren’t conducted.

Part of the advantage of the American system is that those who don’t like something about a particular state or locality have the freedom to move to a place they feel is more advantageous to their interests. But what that says about a place productive people leave in droves is that something is desperately wrong; revisions need to be made and lessons learned. Maryland isn’t quite the East Coast version of California yet, but we’re working on it and making a course correction should be priority one for 2014.

36th Annual Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in pictures and text

I know a lot of people have been waiting with bated breath for this, so let me tell you that if a picture is a thousand words this will be a post upwards of 32,000 words. And I didn’t think I took all that many pictures.

Nor did it seem like this year’s edition had the crowds that previous recent Tawes gatherings did. Perhaps this falls in the category of anecdotal evidence, but I climbed up to the top of the bleachers and took this panoramic photo just before 1 p.m. – a time you would think there would be huge, long lines.

And it also seemed like fewer businesses were there this year, too. Of course, you had the regulars:

Both of these entities are there every year, with Eddie Heath providing the tent “fencing” for another longtime client, the Hebron Savings Bank. And it goes without saying that this event is an important part of Somerset County’s economic development.

But I spied a couple new entities I was unfamiliar with, too.

The Great Bay Wind Energy Center is being pushed by Somerset’s economic development team, as they seek a 65-turbine complex. Despite its name, the wind farm is planned for an inland site near Marion Station.

The second could be an exciting development on the entertainment front.

The first concert at The Amphitheater at Heron Ponds will be a free show featuring local ’80’s bands on August 24; a shakedown cruise if you will for its first major event featuring country singer Kellie Pickler on August 25.

They also win the creativity award for keeping the beer cold.

If you’re scratching your head as to why I found it humorous, here’s a wider view.

But the reputation of the Tawes Crab and Clam Bake was built on the perception that it was the place for Maryland politicians to see and be seen. Despite the smaller crowds, this year was no different.

Of course, you had the two party tents. I’m biased, so the GOP goes first.

The Democrats had a smaller rendition, but I think part of the reason is, as I found out, there’s only two counties represented there. (The Republicans generally pool Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester into theirs.)

One advantage the Democrats had was a little grassy area for easy sign placement.

They had the usual fare: Obama, Cardin, Rosen, Conway. Norm Conway? He’s not up this year, is he?

Nor is Blaine Young of Frederick County. But he is planning a 2014 run for Governor on the GOP side so he secured his own tent.

But the granddaddy of all political tents didn’t belong to a party or a candidate. Instead, it belonged to a lobbyist.

It even had fans stationed along one side of the perimeter.

Unfortunately, you cannot read the cards, but various politicians had reserved tables inside the tent. These two were saved for Delegate Cheryl Glenn and State Senator Joan Carter Conway. They weren’t the only ones.

However, I must say that Bereano is bipartisan – a goodly number of the pictures below were shot in front of his tent, which was conveniently across from the GOP tent.

And as I said above, those who wanted to see and be seen were in Crisfield, the southernmost city in Maryland. (Bet you non-locals didn’t know that.) I have a lot of these photos, so I suppose I’ll begin with statewide races and work my way to local ones.

Since I already revealed Blaine Young had a tent for his 2014 gubernatorial bid, I’ll start with him enjoying his lunch within.

To be honest, this was the biggest splash his nascent campaign has made, as he has a little catching up to do with two of his fellow presumptive GOP contenders. Larry Hogan (right in photo below) was in the house, sporting his Change Maryland logo with Red Maryland blogger and state YR head Brian Griffiths.

Griffiths is apparently an equal opportunity gladhander, since he’s also here with Harford County Executive David Craig, the unofficial-official candidate for Governor in 2014.

On the other side, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman is thought to be considering a run for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. He’s on the right, Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt (who introduced me) is to the left. I’m also told Peter Franchot, who may run in 2014, was there as well but I didn’t see him.

There was one other statewide candidate there, at least that I’m aware of.

Let’s just put it this way. I arrived at 11:00, and Dan Bongino was there 15 minutes later (note that the event officially started at noon.) The photo below was the second one I took. He stayed and sweated it out (literally) until almost the bitter end.

And while I show him by the GOP tent in this picture, he was all over the Somers Cove complex getting votes.

And they didn’t forget to get more volunteers, as the Bongino signup sheet was prominent on this table.

An advantage Bongino and other challengers had was the fact the incumbents were working today in Washington. So Ben Cardin couldn’t walk the grounds gathering votes, and nor could Andy Harris in the local First District race. But Harris had a good volunteer turnout.

Opponent Wendy Rosen had her own small posse of backers, too.

I had never met Rosen before today, so I wanted to put a face to a name. She’s a nice enough lady, but when she remarked something along the lines of Republicans selling their souls to the Koch Brothers, well, let’s just say the class envy card isn’t accepted here.

The Second District could have much better representation with this lady, who obviously approves this message.

It was nice to see her get some airtime, although the local TV station isn’t in her district.

I wish I had gotten a better photo of Third District hopeful Eric Knowles (on the right) but this will have to suffice.

While most state and local politicians aren’t on the ballot for awhile, there is one exception. Salisbury Mayor Jim Ireton is up for re-election in early 2013. Here he’s on the left (which seems to be the norm) but being bipartisan is Delegate Charles Otto, on the right.

General Assembly members from near and far came to participate. Delegate Mike McDermott was rolling up his sign as the day wound down.

State Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin had one of his supporters in tow.

Here’s that Brian Griffiths guy again, in front of the Bereano tent with Delegates Kathy Szeliga and Justin Ready. Truly, though, it’s better Griffiths be in front of the camera and me behind it than the other way around.

And maybe politics is in the future of these two lovely young ladies – after all, they’ve won one contest already. The outgoing Miss Crustacean and Little Miss Crustacean will turn over their crowns at the Hard Crab Derby in September, but Hannah Adkins (left) and Jessica Wilson (right) seem to be having fun with their titles for now.

They definitely have winning smiles.

And by next week those who normally frequent the Somers Cove Marina can have their facility back.

So with that another Tawes Crab and Clam Bake is in the books. Next year should be a little more active since the 2014 campaign will be in full swing.

Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of my local blogging cohorts there. Since Jackie Wellfonder was busy coordinating Dan Bongino’s effort she may not put anything up on her Raging Against the Rhetoric site, but Julie Brewington of Right Coast Conservative was snapping a number of shots for herself while Jonathan Taylor of Lower Eastern Shore News has his observations as well.

Promises, promises

You know, I hate to say this because I’m generally not one to talk badly about people – but why is Pat McDonough even mentioning the idea of running for Governor in 2014?

I received this press release from him yesterday evening, from which I reprint the following (it’s the meat of the story) verbatim, with emphasis of original included:



Since Delegate McDonough and his team have been contacting Republicans and others around the State to organize his state-wide tour, people have been enquiring about his future intentions.  Some have speculated that Delegate McDonough may be interested in running for Governor.

The 2016 election will showcase, for the first time, an open seat for the state’s highest elective office.  Delegate McDonough, a three-term legislator, displayed an interest in the Governorship in 2010, but announced he would withdraw if former Governor Robert Ehrlich entered the election.  Mr.  Ehrlich did eventually enter the Governor’s race.  Keeping his word, Delegate McDonough withdrew and supported Ehrlich’s bid.

Delegate McDonough would be the only Baltimore area Republican entering the race since all of the potential candidates mentioned are from other parts of the state.

Delegate McDonough said, “2014 is too far in the future to speculate. Right now, I am interested in helping to defeat in-state tuition.”  (Delegate McDonough was the Honorary Chairman of the state-wide petition campaign to place the Dream Act on the ballot).

“I intend, at this time, to seek re-election to the House of Delegates,” concluded Delegate McDonough.

So…you’re going to gather a “large group of supporters” and begin a statewide tour to oppose the DREAM Act (while, coincidentally, promoting yourself), not to mention (oh wait, yes you did mention it) you’re the only Baltimore-area politician who would be considering a bid for Governor – even though you’re simply running for Delegate “at this time.” (Isn’t Harford County, home of David Craig, just next door to Baltimore? I may not be from Maryland but I can read a map enough to know the counties are adjacent.)

This from the guy who in 2012 originally was going to run for the Second District Congressional seat, balked, considered a U.S. Senate run, and then punted to simply backing the DREAM Act petition to referendum while doing a statewide tour. Shades of Carmen Amedori!

Until I see his name on the Maryland State Board of Elections ballot summary, it’s hard telling just what Pat will do besides grab as many barrels of ink as he can while doing it. It’s getting harder and harder to take him seriously, though, particularly when whoever wrote his release makes the elementary mistake of talking about the 2016 election when Maryland next votes for governor in 2014.

Then again, that’s the next time one of Maryland’s two U.S. Senate seats becomes available after 2012 so maybe Pat’s covering the bases yet again.

O’Malley keeps shooting his foot

Since the beginning of July, Governor Martin O’Malley has made nationwide news in a number of ways, but not necessarily with the headlines he may have preferred.

First we had the Change Maryland tax exodus report that I’ve talked about at some length – and so have a number of others. (Yes, there are eight different links in that sentence.) That begat other statements like this one from GOP U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino, who also made a swipe at opponent Ben Cardin – who is not my friend, by the way:

Sensing the futility of having to defend our worsening national and local economy, Senator Cardin, absent a few well-scripted photo ops, has been missing in action as a public face for the current administration. Happily filling in is our Governor, who prefers television appearances to actual governing. Never more than a breath away from a mimed sound bite, fed to him by the current administration, he continues to intentionally mislead the American people and Marylanders regarding the perilous state of the U.S. and Maryland economies, perpetually stating that both are “moving forward”.

Governor O’Malley, take off your blinders and put aside your Presidential aspirations. The U.S. economy is in the midst of the worst recovery in modern times and our great state has become an economic joke. We currently rank 42nd out of 50 in a recent report on state’s business environments, followed by another report showing a mass exodus of successful Marylanders avoiding our punishing tax load. (Emphasis in original.)

Even better was this from radio talker Mark Levin, who’s not known for mincing words (h/t to Jackie Wellfonder):

And the guy who started this whole news cycle, Change Maryland head Larry Hogan, himself on Wednesday dismissed O’Malley’s response as “a childish lashing out” on WBAL radio.

So what did O’Malley do yesterday? Double down on stupid. (Again, thanks to Jackie for this one.) This is from his Facebook page:

A new report conducted by the Hilltop Institute at the University of Maryland, finds that implementation of the Affordable Care Act will benefit the state’s budget by more than $600 million through 2020, generate more than $3 billion in annual economic activity, and create more than 26,000 jobs. This is more great news for Maryland’s families.

Naturally I had to respond:

If the group being cited has as part of its stated mission “Developing, implementing, and evaluating new delivery and financing models for publicly funded health care systems, including preventive health, behavioral health, oral health, and long-term services and supports” do you honestly think they would have some other conclusion?

The Left loves to jump on research when its funded by a particular industry and seems to conform with their word view, so how is this different?

But the most humorous thing I find about the study is that they project there will STILL be uninsured Marylanders. I thought the idea was to insure everyone? (Never mind the rose-colored glasses on economic impact, unemployment, etc. the report assumes, nor should we mention the $300 million a year state employers will have to pony up.)


And why should O’Malley care? The impact will mainly fall on his successor; meanwhile he’ll be warming a U.S. Senate seat in preparation for his sure to be ill-fated Presidential run.

By the way, a summary of the report projections can be found at the Hilltop Institute site. I sort of suspect they know which side of the slice their bread is buttered on.

And here’s the rub: Does the governor honestly think that taking all these millions out of the private sector and redistributing it to the mobs who will be expecting their “free health care” for every sniffle, toothache, or paper cut will make money for the state? It didn’t work in Tennessee or Hawaii, and the jury is still out on Massachusetts.

Out here in the real world, we know the score. And while Martin O’Malley is trying his best to become a leading contender for the 2016 Democratic nomination by pandering to the causes liberals hold dearest, such as green energy and gay marriage, he’s forgetting that he’s also building a record of budget-busting failure to be used against him by the GOP. Quite honestly, stupid statements and “childish lashing out” are unbecoming of any governor, let alone who who fancies himself a prime-time candidate for the Oval Office.

Entitled to their own facts

There are two sides to (almost) every story, and after being raked over the coals by a Change Maryland study which received national attention and offended the sensibilities of our governor – you know, the one who’s already mentally measuring the drapes in the Oval Office? – the empire struck back today with a meaningless bunch of mumbo-jumbo about “partisan organization,” “decisive actions taken,” and “third lowest state and local tax burden adjusting for income.”   Shoot, at least I parsed the actual study instead of picking out items which have little to do with Change Maryland’s point, although I thought it was telling that the O’Malley retort conveniently forgot to mention that those 2007 tax increases came with millions of dollars of additional spending.

Now that I’ve managed to get a breath in after that first paragraph, allow me to decipher what this really means: it was a direct hit to the O’Malley 2016 battleship. Obviously, the Change Maryland piece making it to CNBC – which, coincidentally, today put out their annual ranking of the top business-friendly states where Maryland only ranked 31st (a decline of 2 spots from last year) – had to be interpreted as a shot across the bow by O’Malley and Maryland Democrats. That’s why they had to make sure to paint Change Maryland as a “partisan organization.”

Yet it’s no surprise that Virginia and North Carolina, two states that Change Maryland highlighted as recipients of Maryland’s tax base loss, ranked #3 and #4 respectively in the CNBC survey. (Texas and Utah were first and second, while North Dakota rounded out the top 5. I also found it telling that right-to-work states comprised the top 7 in the rankings, 9 of the top 10, and 14 of the top 16; meanwhile, closed-shop states comprised the bottom 4 and 7 of the bottom 10.)

But there’s something that Governor O’Malley and his administration cannot paint over, and that’s the mounting frustration of many of Maryland’s working families who continue to see tax and fee increases to support higher and higher spending on those they see as not contributing to society, especially illegal immigrants. All around them, they see their cost of living going up with one exception: the value of their homes, which continues to plummet.

Maybe it’s not so acute in other parts of Maryland, like downtown Annapolis, but out here there’s a lot of worry. And the numbers don’t lie: on much of the Lower Shore – where good-paying jobs are hard to come by in a roaring economy, let alone the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) economy we’re under now (h/t to Tom Blumer of Bizzy Blog for that acronym) – those who left Wicomico, Dorchester, and Somerset counties had higher incomes than the arrivals did. I would also bet that if the northeastern quadrant of Worcester County (Ocean City, Berlin, and Ocean Pines) were excluded that county’s numbers would be similar.

My fellow Salisbury blogger Julie Brewington took less than 3 minutes while driving back from Ocean City to explain the quandary many thousands of not-so-Free Staters find themselves in. She well represents the producers of this economy:

I would guess that she and her husband, if they left, would tilt the income scale of the outgoing a little bit upward from the $37,000 or so figure that I gleaned for Wicomico County from the Change Maryland study. And it’s not just that, as her family has fairly deep roots in the area.

But if people don’t feel economically welcomed to a place, they will leave. Of course, that’s only my opinion but it seems to be an option more and more of those private-sector job creators in Maryland seem to be considering, to the detriment of those of the rest of us who choose to stay and fight. Who can blame them, though?

Initial impressions

Already there has been occasion for me to write about possible 2014 races, and I noticed via my Facebook feed that political blogger Richard Cross is putting up his thoughts about the Democratic nominee who would succeed Martin O’Malley. I told you we were getting to the silly season, and quite frankly there’s not much to learn about the 2012 race at this point since we know who the nominees will be and no one but junkies are paying a whole lot of attention anyway.

But we all have to have something to write about, so I wanted to bounce off Richard’s post with a couple thoughts in general.

We all have heard the saying that the 2012 election is the most important one in our lives, and to the extent that it represents a break in the direction our nation is heading, that’s true. Granted it’s not as clean of a break as many might prefer, but above all fears is the fear of the unknown. Sadly, much as I would have liked it, no radical conservative was going to win after the runaway liberalism we’ve experienced over the last three years. Pendulums rarely swing that quickly.

Having said that, however, it’s interesting to reflect on just how sharply the 2010 election served as a repudiation of the so-called “wave” election of 2008. And remember, 2006 was considered payback for the conservatism which had run its course over 12 years, since the Gingrich-led takeover of the House. I would argue that the 2006 theory is incorrect simply because there wasn’t all that much conservatism exhibited by the House after 1995, and even when we had a supposedly conservative President in George W. Bush it’s not like the era of big government came to an end by any means. Instead, we got more federal control over schools and a new permanent entitlement in return for a ten-year tax rate cut. At any rate, given the recessionary economy and the financial panic of the fall of 2008 people were probably more willing for – and less thoughtful about – a change of any sort than in any election over the last 80 years.

So the obvious question for 2012 is whether the push back will come at the expense of the Obama regime or the TEA Party-led Republican majority in Congress. Through my admittedly colored viewpoint I would suspect the former, and let’s say for the sake of argument that indeed occurs – on November 6 Barack Obama and Harry Reid are handed their walking papers as President and Senate Majority Leader, respectively.

And let’s further assume that under a Romney administration the economy comes roaring back to an extent where, even if federal jobs are cut, the growth in the private sector in and around Washington means that part of the state doesn’t suffer as much as many fear should a conservative takeover put a lot of useless pencil-pushers out of work.

Given those two assumptions, the question for 2014 would become the following: do Maryland Democrats get credit for the likely budgetary success which would come from prosperous times?  While their tax hikes were made retroactive so certain wage-earners will be giving the state a larger chunk of their income next April, it’s quite possible that a Romney win in November may make the Christmas shopping season unlike any other in recent memory, as confident shoppers once again decide to splurge. (Martin O’Malley would be cursing his bad luck at not sweet-talking the General Assembly into a sales tax increase at that point.) With a grand Christmas the state would make up for any income tax losses created when they decided a “soak-the-rich” policy was the way to go, rather than prudent spending cuts.

Obviously the majority party in Maryland banks on short memories. Martin O’Malley, who raised taxes more than any governor in our state’s history, still won re-election in 2010 – a terrible year for Democrats elsewhere – because he could state the claim about Bob Ehrlich that he did it too because “a fee is a tax.” Voters had nearly three years to “get used to” the higher taxes so there was no real complaint by the time O’Malley’s re-election rolled around.

Similarly, the increased taxes passed over the last two years will be part of the cost of doing business by the middle of 2014, so if the economy really improves it would be a dead issue. In essence, Republicans then would have to nationalize a state election by comparing the muddled mess of Maryland government in 2014 to our federal government in 2012. Sure, things are prosperous now, they would say, but we can make them even better.

At this early stage, though, we don’t know what the future will hold. If I were to lay odds at the moment I would think the 2014 race for governor would pit Peter Franchot vs. David Craig – a pair of technocrats well-versed in the levers of government as Comptroller and Harford County Executive, respectively. It’s not likely a legislator would be successful in seeking the job since in the last fifty years, only Bob Ehrlich has been elected governor without some sort of executive experience. But all that can be changed if the conditions were right, and the horses who break out front early on rarely lead wire-to-wire.

The other key factor is where the O’Malley fatigue certain to occur will be expressed. Democrats will be hoping that it’s extinguished after the primary election, while the GOP would dearly love to see it carried out all the way through November and be so rampant that a GOP winner has broad coattails. Few would predict the GOP takes over the General Assembly, but getting a minority of 55 to 60 in the House and 20 or so in the Senate would be a milestone for the Maryland Republican Party. They could use that to help a GOP governor enact needed reforms.

But we have to remember we are 2 1/2 years away. It’s fun to handicap a state race, and those who run statewide – particularly as Republicans – need to make an early start, but don’t forget matters closer at hand.