Patriots for Delaware meet at Range Time

I’m sure there are critics who would believe it was appropriate for a conservative-leaning group to meet at the extreme edge of the state, and indeed if you walked across Bethel Road from Range Time you would find yourself in the wilds of Maryland. But the local (and relatively new) indoor gun range was the locale for a tent meeting for the Patriots for Delaware on Tuesday night.

The space owned by Range Time afforded it plenty of room to set up the tent and a few tables, and park a batch of cars aside from its own parking lot. The owners of the firing range have become enthusiastic backers of the Patriots for Delaware.

I said a few weeks back that if the Patriots for Delaware found themselves out Laurel way I may have to stop by and see what the fuss was about. Gumboro is close enough, plus I wanted to check out the building anyway. (Alas, I never made it inside.)

One thing I found out is that this group is very creative. I should have taken a couple steps closer to this sign table, but this was meant to be sort of an overall test shot because of the long shadows. Turns out it makes my point.

(Notice they had quite a bit already in the donation box, too.)

It’s hard to read at this level of detail, but here is what some of these signs say:
“Patriots for Delaware: United in Liberty” (Pretty evergreen.)
“Defund Police? Disarm Citizens? Empower Criminals? No thank you! Vote NO on SB3 & SB6!” (These are “gun control” bills before the Delaware General Assembly.)
“Office Space Available: Contact your Representatives and Senators for Details.” (This refers to the virtual meetings the General Assembly has held since last March.)

They have a lot of good ones besides those for supporting small business, reforming education, and so forth.

One thing I was remiss in capturing was the presence of a couple vendors there as well as a hot dog stand. So there was dinner available if you didn’t mind hot dogs, chips, and a pop.

Here’s another sign that, if the print weren’t so small and the photographer was thinking about it, would give you an idea of where the Patriots for Delaware stand. This was my shot to check lighting in the tent, and unfortunately that was about as good as I was going to get.

It’s definitely unfortunate I didn’t get a closeup of the sign; then again it’s the same objective as you see on their website.

Truly, what they had to say was more important than whether I took good photos or not – after all, there were probably 75 to 100 people who took time out of a Tuesday night to attend.

This was an initial shot of the crowd. They took the back flaps off the tent so the people outside could see better. By the way, the gentleman in the blue seated next to the pole is Sussex County Council member John Rieley, whose district we were in (it’s also mine.) He spoke briefly during the Q & A portion at the end, or else I wouldn’t have known him.

After an opening prayer which beseeched His help for “a nation in need,” we we introduced to the group’s concept by its co-leaders, Glenn Watson, Jr. and Bill Hopkins. This is made necessary because each meeting has such a high proportion of new faces, in part because they move around the state.

The group was “brought about with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in mind,” said Hopkins, who added that the government was not doing its job of guaranteeing it. “If we don’t do something, we’ll have nothing,” Bill continued, noting as well that “we have to forget about this party thing.” Patriots for Delaware was out to attract members from all the parties who agreed on their core concepts.

When it was Glenn’s turn he added that earlier that Tuesday the group was active at the Legislative Hall rally, where they called on our General Assembly to resume public meetings instead of the Zoom meetings that are held inside the hall, with the public locked out. Reopening the legislature was just one of its current priorities, but it also went along with a list of bills they were working to favor or oppose – mostly the latter. (We received a handout of their legislative agenda.)

An interesting sidebar was learning that State Sen. Dave Lawson has been doing the Zoom meetings from his legislative office, with Tuesday’s meeting having the added feature of sign bearers in his background calling on the state to return to “Leg Hall.”

The Patriots for Delaware approach was that of working from the bottom up, which made the slew of school board elections ongoing around the state a key point of interest. The group was in the process of sending out detailed questionnaires to candidates around the state with an eye on endorsing ones they saw fit. There were about three candidates already so endorsed, although none locally.

But there was more to the school boards than just elections. As a rule, their meetings are lightly attended by the public (perhaps by design) but members were working to ferret out waste and abuse of taxpayer dollars. “We need people to make this happen,” said Glenn, so the group was looking for volunteers to attend school board meetings. Something I learned from the chair of their education committee is that the big roadblock to fully opening up schools is the limit in bus capacity.

It should be noted that the first third to half of the meeting was going through committee reports from several of their seven committee chairs. There were actually four other scheduled speakers: the well-received and popular 2020 GOP gubernatorial candidate Julianne Murray, Mike Jones of the U.S. Concealed Carry Association (naturally, since the event was being held at a firing range), Jim Startzman of the Delaware State Sportsmen Association (ditto), and Larry Mayo of the Institute on the Constitution.

Murray, who announced last week she was filing suit in federal court to get the Delaware General Assembly back to meeting in person with public access, noted that while she was glancing behind her to the 2020 election and questions about it, she was more focused on 2022 – an election where we will need hundreds of volunteer poll watchers.

In the meantime, she urged those assembled to beseech the Republicans in the Delaware House to stop HB75, which would allow the DGA to set election terms (basically, codifying a repeat of 2020.) “We’ve got to be smart going into 2022,” she said, “and HB75 is huge.”

Before heading out to tend to a family matter, Murray hinted that her next campaign may not be a second try for governor in 2024, but running against incumbent Attorney General Kathy Jennings next year.

Jones introduced those attending to the USCCA, which provides legal representation to its members in the case of a self-defense incident, while Startzman detailed that his group would be gearing up for lawsuits against the gun grabbing legislation being considered in the General Assembly. For that, they need members and donations.

Mayo revealed that his latest class of IotC graduates would matriculate this week and a new 12-week course would begin next week in Milford. (It’s also available online and on DVD. I guess you don’t get the fancy graduation ceremony.)

Lastly, we had the Q and A portion, which featured an interesting revelation from the aforementioned Councilman Rieley.

Recently Sussex County settled a lawsuit where the plaintiffs contended the county was shortchanging schools because they had not reassessed property since 1974. Rather than fight it, the county agreed to do a three-year assessment at a cost of $10 million.

Of course, people worry about their taxes increasing, but Rieley told those assembled that the goal was revenue neutrality as rates would be reduced. The “maximum” one’s taxes could increase was 10 percent, although he noted some in the western portion of the county may see a decrease. (The increase would likely fall on those in the rapidly-developing eastern half of the county.) Additionally, he promised, “we are not going to be raising taxes anytime soon.” (Then again, for the most part Sussex County simply serves as a pass-through for the state, so they can be blamed.)

I gotta admit, I was a little rusty on the note-taking part of the meeting, but it was an interesting hour and a half that went by quickly. (I couldn’t sleep anyway – it got a bit nippy in that tent once the sun went down.) The next meeting (set for next Tuesday, April 27) isn’t too far down the pike from me in Greenwood, so if my calendar is clear I may head that way. If you are a Delaware resident “barely left of militia” like I am, or even somewhat closer to the center, this is an interesting grassroots group to follow.

How the First State stacks up

I happened to notice a map in doing some other research that showed states which would be gaining or losing Congressional seats thanks to the 2020 census. As one might expect, Texas and Florida will be big winners while the biggest losers will be Ohio and New York – and for the first time in decades (if not ever) California will not gain a seat this time.

Of course, Delaware, which is still checking in with fewer than a million residents, will remain a puny three electoral vote state since the representative population per district is roughly 750,000 and we’re nowhere close to a million and a half. (Now add in the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia to create a greater Delaware and we are right there. That reminds me of a post I need to do, too.)

But this will also be the time that we re-apportion our state into its 41 House and 21 Senate districts. It’s not a clean division, as a handful of districts cut between county lines.

In the Senate, however, New Castle County has 12 full and one partial Senate district after the 2010 count, while Kent County has three full and two partial (sharing one apiece with New Castle and Sussex) and Sussex has four full and one partial. In 2010 one district moved from New Castle to Sussex, and this time Sussex should be due again to have five full districts as they have almost exactly 1/4 of the state’s population. Between Sussex and Kent counties they should have nine full districts, as a small portion of Sussex could be folded into the large fraction of a district Kent should get along with three full districts. That leaves New Castle with 12 full districts, and ideally only the one should be split between Kent and Sussex.

In the House, New Castle has 24 full and one partial district, but that number should decline by one based on the population trends. Sussex should return to 10 full seats (where they were for the previous decade) while Kent will retain the last seven seats.

So like the federal redistricting seems to be shifting southward, so should the state’s. It may help a little in 2022, although the interesting question is which Democrat machine politicians in New Castle will be lumped together in a district created because they gained population more slowly than the rest of the state. (Or, will they finagle the districts to keep an extra one they don’t deserve, which may well be the case.)

I don’t think they’ll do too much with my district since I live close to the corner of the state in a rural area, but it will be interesting to see how they subdivide the more populated section of Sussex County.

A new local grift?

Among the many reasons I have never run for higher office is that I don’t much like begging for money. (Says the guy who has a “Donate” button on his website – but notice it’s not near the top.)

But one thing I have found in common about a number of failed politicians is their propensity to try and keep their name in the limelight by creating their own political action committee, often with a name which defines its purpose. Such is the case with the perpetual campaign of 2020 U.S. Senate candidate from Delaware Lauren Witzke, who has recently announced the formation of the Hold The Line PAC.

Shouting in ALL CAPS, “Join us as we hold the line to help elect conservatives and defeat the establishment! No compromise!” Lauren’s site currently has a few rotating news stories but its primary page asks for donations, stating:

Hold the Line PAC exists to stop Democrats from making advances in Red states and imposing their radical agenda on conservative Americans.

Focusing on key issues like immigration, the Second Amendment, abortion, and religious liberty, Hold the Line PAC is the voice for Americans who want to keep their traditional values, and not be crushed under the tyrannical boot of “progressivism.”

As the left becomes more radical in its pursuit to bring communism to America, Hold the Line PAC is here to ensure that the Bill of Rights and the Constitution remains the law of the land.

We will NOT sit idly by and let the radical communist Democrats abolish the electoral college, the Second Amendment, and cancel half of the country. Instead, we will fight to preserve the America that we know and love for future generations.

Donate page, Hold the Line PAC

This all sounds really good, but the reality of PACs tends to be far different: most of the revenue accrues to the pockets of various consultants and vendors connected to the PAC, with only a small portion going to assist candidates. We saw this for several years with the TEA Party, as “scam PACs” parted gullible people with their money – funding that, if donated directly to candidates, could have made the difference between victory and defeat. (Note: writing a book on the subject really helps with finding links for later use, and self-promotion never hurt anyone.)

In Lauren’s case, though, having a PAC tied to her is a direct and logical extension of something I was pleased that she did as an underdog candidate: nationalize her race. In fact, out of the 600-plus individual contributions to her campaign itemized in her FEC report, only about 30 percent came from Delaware. And that number was somewhat consistent as the campaign wore on; however, out of the last 100 contributions I counted only 21 coming from people listed as being from the First State. While she came nowhere near the war chest amassed by incumbent Chris Coons and all his PAC money, she still raised nearly a half-million dollars through (mostly) individual donations. Of course, a good deal of it went to various political vendors and consultants.

And that’s the weakness of the PAC approach, because they will also have their vendors and consultants that get their cut before the candidates ever do. Much like Lauren’s political philosophy – which didn’t seem to mind big government as long as the money was spent in the proper fashion – a PAC just adds an extra layer of bureaucracy to what should be a simple transaction. I didn’t need a PAC to make the two donations I made during the last cycle; I did one through the candidate’s website and the other via a check to the candidate. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve even donated to a PAC, although someone who wanted to find little ole me on the various state and federal campaign finance websites may find the truth is that I did – heck, I don’t know with all the (small-dollar) contributions I’ve made over the years.

I suspect that when we look back at this in 2023, we will find that Hold The Line PAC raised a few thousand dollars and spent most of it chasing money via the website and consultant fees. What little they give to candidates will be a drop in the bucket.

I think there are times and races where a PAC would be super useful, but it’s up to Lauren to prove my instincts wrong on this one.

*Postscript: It should be noted that only about half of Lauren’s intake was reported, which means the other half was likely smaller donations that fell under the reporting threshold and I believe those were more likely to have come from Delaware. I don’t want people to get the idea she had no financial support in this state.

The first of many bad ideas

It’s sort of hard to believe, but we’re basically a couple holidays away from the beginning of a new legislative year – and in Delaware, the commencement of a new session of the General Assembly. (Unfortunately, it will be at the behest of the same old governor, John “Governor Carnage” Carney.)

While the recent election was relatively good for the Republicans on a national level in terms of keeping or gaining control of state legislative bodies, Delaware bucked that trend to a point where the Democrats now have a solid 2/3 majority in the Senate (14-7) to go along with the 26-15 margin they kept in the House. Despite that success, Democrats want to make some ill-advised changes to the electoral system instead of useful ones like photo voter ID and scrapping their previously-passed foray into early and often voting come 2022.

One proposal that quickly drew my ire is a bill (I believe this will be HB30) to move the primary date from September to April. To me, this is a terrible idea for several reasons – first and foremost, it’s because the duopoly party establishment wants it. (Of course, if it were up to them we wouldn’t even get a primary – they would simply emerge once the smoke turns white and tell us who the candidates will be.)

We went through this in Maryland about a decade ago, basically because the Democrats HATED protracted primary fights. So they moved the state’s primary up from September to the spring and, first chance they got, selected someone in the 2014 gubernatorial primary they absolutely hated by Election Day. They then doubled down and did it even worse in 2018.

As far as the Republicans went, the chances of an insurgent campaign went right out the window. An early primary gives the media more time to dig (or conjure) up dirt on the GOP hopeful once nominated and also advantages those who have name ID.

My second objection is how it would stretch out campaign season. Admittedly, this is nothing compared to the perpetual campaign for 2024 we will see from Donald Trump if the 2020 election is heisted away from him, but look at how this year’s Delaware campaign played out. The eventual Republican nominees didn’t begin campaigning a great deal until the spring – in fact, had Delaware had its primary in April with its Presidential primary, the GOP nominee would have likely been the same nominee who lost in 2016. None of the “new blood” candidates were viable in the early spring.

If it were up to me, the state of Delaware would be the trendsetter with the late primary. I honestly see no need to begin the Presidential campaign until April, with six weeks of regional eight-state primaries in June and July leading to national conventions running the week before and after Labor Day. (Iowa and New Hampshire can still go first, but having a succession of “Super Tuesday” primaries concentrated in one region beginning a week or two later means a candidate could forgo those contests and still be viable.) Regions can take turns being first.

I will say that there is one part of HB30 that should be stripped out of the bill and allowed to be its own proposal, and that’s the part about changing parties. Since I happen to be in a non-principal party, I could not change my registration to vote in a primary thanks to an absurdly early deadline for switching affiliation (something like four months prior to the election.) This would change it to 60 days, which is fair. Certainly there will be more party switching if this occurs, but sometimes that’s a good political strategy when your party has no primary.

But if I have to toss that baby out with the HB30 bathwater, so be it. This idea is a bad one, which means it will probably be on Governor Carnage’s desk by early March. Such is the political idiocy in Delaware, and we blew our chance at changing that last month.