If at first you don’t succeed, run, run again

Apparently it’s tough being a Republican in Delaware, because it’s not easy to find good candidates who want to spend months on the road all over the state only to lose by 20 points, give or take, on Election Day. Last year that was the fate of every statewide candidate the GOP put up, although three of the six (including Donald Trump) won the machine voting only to be swamped by the mail-in ballots.

Aside from LG candidate Donyale Hall, the other winner of machine votes was Lee Murphy. Of the sextet, Murphy came the closest to winning – that is, if you consider 17.41% close. (Lauren Witzke had the largest margin of defeat at 21.54%, which tells me people voted pretty much straight ticket. Even the Delaware House and Senate results fairly resembled that 60-40 ratio.)

He’s trying it again. The question is who will go with him.

Given that modest success – and the fact that 2022 will be a midterm election and won’t have Joe Biden on the ballot – Lee Murphy announced today on social media that he is giving a Congressional run yet another go. It will be his third straight Congressional run, having lost in the 2018 GOP primary to Scott Walker before winning the Republican vote over Matthew Morris last year. (Morris has since moved out of state, likely eliminating a second try for him unless he gets homesick.)

It’s hard to believe we are a little over 16 months away from the 2022 midterms, but no one knows what the state of the nation and electorate will be. Obviously any Republican in Delaware has an uphill battle, and surely Murphy knows that. But will voters clamor for a guy who’s become something of a perennial candidate since he’s basically run continuously for the last four-plus years and has already lost one race to the incumbent?

Because there is no Senate race and the only other statewide elections are for the more minor positions in state government – not saying AG and Treasurer are unimportant, but they aren’t a gubernatorial race – the House race may be the highest profile contest this time around for the first time in a long time. The last time this confluence of events occurred was 1998, since 2016 and 2004 were gubernatorial elections and in 2010 there was a special election for the Senate. (We all know what happened on that one. By the way, in 1998 the GOP won all three positions up for grabs, telling me that the DEGOP has changed for the worse.) So it would seem to me we would get more of an All-Star cast for the election, except that no one will be running from cover this time around because all 62 General Assembly districts will be new and no one will get a pass.

No disrespect to Lee Murphy, but here’s hoping he’s not the only one eyeing the seat. The Republicans have some good candidates (like the aforementioned Donyale Hall) who I think may give LBR more of the challenge she deserves for running solely on the basis of her melanin content and gender.

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.