Impressions on the Mid-Shore AFP Senate forum

I’ve already done a down-and-dirty factual story (with pictures) on my Examiner page, so if you want to read there for some of the particulars feel free to do so…I’ll wait.

Here I wanted to review the statements and performance of each of the participants and make a few other general observations. I don’t have to be fair and unbiased at this site. In alphabetical order, Stephens Dempsey comes first.

Stephens Dempsey came across as a man who truly wants to restore the government to its Constitutional case, and for that some may call him harsh. In a question about illegal immigration, Dempsey noted, “First, they’re not ‘illegal immigrants,’ they’re illegal aliens…that is the definition we should use.” Indeed, that’s how the federal government actually defines them.

Regarding the jobs issue, Stephens points out that, “it’s not my job (as a Senator)…that’s the job of the state and local level (governments.) Obviously he has a clear definition of what the federal role must be.

But the problem I see with his approach is, while the message is clear, his explanations may be too clever by half. For example, his campaign literature features a three-triangle logo that baffles the average person as to its meaning. Being an “American Constitutionalist” is one thing, but making that have meaning to the average voter who will ask what that does for him is quite another.

It was nice to see his family and friends support him, but I fear that’s all the support he’ll get if he doesn’t simplify his message a little bit.

Democrat Chris Garner was perhaps the most pessimistic of the batch, gloomily noting, “what’s happening right now, we’re in a deep depression. It’s gonna get deeper.” Garner also bemoaned the lack of industrial might – “No industry, no economy.” He added, “we’re turning our country into a Third World country.”

His solutions may not be the best for free marketeers, though – among others he proposed a maximum 15% trade imbalance to keep the value of imports and exports in balance. “Right now we’re sending a half-trillion dollars overseas.” But would that work in a real world where we import a vast amount of oil, for example? Certainly we could use some fairer trade, but that cap doesn’t seem anything but arbitrary.

I also couldn’t believe he didn’t know what EFCA was. The way I look at it, passage of EFCA would do more harm to our trade imbalance because unionization would drive up the cost of business.

Samuel Graham was a curious sort of Republican. One of his platform planks was a “radical idea…let’s just give (the unemployed) a job.” And that extended to illegal immigrants as well – Graham supports a policy to stop immigrants at the border and ask them why they are seeking entry. “Give them an opportunity to register themselves,” he said. Needless to say, he was the lone Republican not to favor the Arizona SB1070 law.

But then he joined the chorus of those candidates who said, “let’s cut the taxes.” Samuel ticked off a list of possible tax cuts for groceries, department stores, and gasoline. Yes, those are good ideas but I think a better solution would be to eliminate taxes on the income side and maintain a low, one-time rate on the consumption side.

On the whole, something didn’t jibe with Graham’s presentation. I’m not sure he’s thought through the impact of simply creating make-work jobs – wasn’t that the point of the stimulus? And how would that work with the straight 25% cut in government he advocated?

Being in the middle of three consecutive Republicans, Daniel McAndrew was at something of a disdvantage. He just doesn’t seem to stick out well in a crowd as it is and always being the fourth to respond made the problem worse. In answering one question, he sighed, “well, it’s repeating time.”

And asked why he wanted to be Senator, he expressed that, “I’ve had enough, and I think you have too…quite frankly, they’re not listening to us.”

But he did make some good points in an otherwise mainstream conservative presentation, talking about the aspect of “birth tourism” when the question of anchor babies was brought up. His ideas for creating incentives for manufacturing and privatizing portions of government have plenty of merit.

Also placing him at a disadvantage was being the only hopeful to not have any literature there (at least that I noticed.) He does have a website, though.

Of all the candidates present, Jim Rutledge is probably the best known and leader of this pack. In terms of presentation, he had the smoothest and most eloquent answers which likely stems from his avocation as a “conservative” attorney. That would also come in handy if he were elected, as he could “translate those bills for you and give you the straight story on them.”

He was also unafraid to bring up the incumbent, labeling Barb Mikulski as the “chief culprit” of the largest expansion of government and attack on individual liberties this Republic had ever seen.

Yet he had a couple key issues which may have seemed a bit out there if you don’t understand the logic behind them. For example, one method of helping to sell Eastern Shore products would be to dredge the waterways in order for easier ship passage, since shipping by barge is very cost-effective. His (perhaps draconian) solution for illegal immigration involved jailing employer scofflaws and having visa holders post a bond when they entered the country – if they skipped bond, a bounty hunter could track them down. And why not a tax cut for homeschoolers? Yet these do make sense and at least represent a different manner of looking at problems not found inside the Beltway.

One observer afterward thought Rutledge had sort of an “angry” tone about him, and perhaps his passion can be taken that way. He had the largest group of supporters in the room, though.

And Jim’s ideas had some merit with Sanquetta Taylor as well. “I kinda don’t like sitting next to (Jim),” she said, “because we think alike and he’s a Republican and I’m a Democrat.” But some things are subject to bipartisan agreement and Sanquetta came across as a relatively moderate Democrat who thought “it’s time for the torch to be handed” to a new generation. She even explained that, “we have to go into government with good intentions.”

So what are those intentions? Well, Sanquetta does like lower taxes but she is protectionist, advocating “heavy fines” for companies which outsource jobs. She’s against the Arizona SB1070 law, believing “the President should step in and mandate something that should help them.” Yet she’s against anyone being here illegally. She wouldn’t come out and support Elena Kagan to be on the Supreme Court, but wouldn’t say no either.

Perhaps her and Rutledge do think alike on a number of fiscal issues, but the issues I pointed out suggest they’d have some strong differences as well. Certainly she brought an attractive presence to the forum as the most telegenic and youngest candidate.

For Lih Young, being on (and sometimes off) the ballot is a way of life.

In 2008 she ran as a Democrat in the 8th District Congressional primary and received 2.9% of the vote. Undaunted, she filed after the primary as a write-in and got 28 votes.

In 2006 Young ran for U.S. Senate as a Democrat and picked up 0.3% of the vote in a statewide race. Filing as a write-in for the general election ballot she got 120 votes.

In 2004, 8th District Congress, 2.4% of the vote in the primary, 79 votes as a write-in for the general election.

In 2002, it was Comptroller. She actually got 4% of the Democratic vote in the primary, so she figured a write-in candidacy was a lock – and got 1,375 votes.

This record, her reluctance to give a ‘yes or no’ answer on simple issues, and saying during the forum that, “law enforcement is a robbery machine” basically tells you what you need to know. If not, there is this gem from my archives.

As I mentioned, there were a number of “yes or no” questions during the forum which are helpful in assessing a candidate as well. Here’s how they went.

A ban on offshore oil drilling? Taylor and Young said yes, the others no.

Passing cap and trade? All said no, but Young wanted to study the issue.

Supporting Arizona’s SB1070? Dempsey, Garner, McAndrew and Rutledge all said yes; Graham, Taylor, and Young no.

Eliminating the death tax? All favored it, and all support the Second Amendment.

Would you sign a ‘no climate tax’ pledge? All but Young said yes and all did.

All seven favored term limits to varying degrees – all but Garner endorsed two terms for Senators (Garner just one.)  Garner, Graham, Taylor, and Young said two House terms; Dempsey and Rutledge three, and McAndrew six.

All would favor not repealing the Bush tax cuts, although Garner, “didn’t like the phrasing” of the question.

Repealing or replacing Obamacare was favored by Dempsey, Graham, McAndrew, Rutledge, and Taylor. Young wanted a single-payer system while Garner would not answer.

While most cited a lack of information, only Young was certain she’d vote to appoint Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. Taylor was unsure, the others gave her a thumbs-down.

Only Young was in favor of taxpayer-funded abortions.

Tax cuts for homeschoolers? Graham and Rutledge said no, the others yes.

Employee Free Choice Act (card check)? Taylor and Young favored it, Dempsey, Graham, McAndrew, and Rutledge were opposed, and Garner was unsure.

All thought NAFTA had a negative impact.

Finally, all were asked when they last read the Constitution.

  • For Stephens Dempsey, it was the day before.
  • Chris Garner said 4 or 5 years ago.
  • Samuel Graham said in high school.
  • Daniel McAndrew replied last week.
  • Jim Rutledge said a month ago.
  • Sanquetta Taylor told us two weeks.
  • Finally, Lih Young said two years ago.

It was a pretty long forum, taking nearly two hours to wrap up. But those in attendance are certainly more well-informed about the candidates who could be bothered to show up and face the public they aim to serve.

Wargotz wins beauty contest

Much as a straw poll is somewhat helpful in determining grassroots support – but isn’t necessarily an indication of how an election will turn out – U.S. Senate Dr. Eric Wargotz may have proven he has the best supporters for stacking a straw poll.

My U.S. Senate poll came to a close early this morning (by prearrangement) and the final results out of over 5,000 votes are as follows:

  1. Eric Wargotz   2,864  (56%)
  2. Corrogan Vaughn  1,436  (28%)
  3. Jim Rutledge   519  (10%)
  4. John Kimble    144   (3%)   
  5. Carmen Amedori     138   (3%)
  6. John Curran        5   (<1%)
  7. Daniel McAndrew      5   (<1%)


  • Eric’s campaign never stopped responding to the poll once it got underway. He led pretty much the entire way and kept increasing his percentage as other candidates and their supporters lost interest. The last time I did this (with just four candidates – Amedori hadn’t entered the race yet and I didn’t know Curran and Kimble had entered) Jim Rutledge picked up support toward the end but not this time.
  • I think Corrogan Vaughn’s camp exhibited the same phenomenon, as he and his supporters were probably the best at plugging the poll. But I’m hesitant to consider him as a real force in the race yet based on prior results. Even if you forget that the 2006 campaign had an all-but-annointed candidate in Michael Steele, Vaughn only drew 3.7% of the vote in 2004. Why is the support coming out now when the message didn’t sell before? Something doesn’t add up here.
  • Jim Rutledge has good supporters based on comments, but they didn’t stay for the whole poll. It makes me wonder if his backing is all that strong as I’ve found his campaign stays on message well but has spotty execution at times. Hopefully those videos are helping Jim with campaign financing too.
  • As for John Kimble, see Corrogan Vaughn. Most of his support came in the last day or two because prior to that he was a cypher. So my guess is that he or one of his backers caught wind of the poll and tried to make it sound like he had a little bit of backing. On the bright side, he did beat Vaughn in 2006 with 2.9% of the vote, finishing a very distant second in the primary.
  • I see Carmen Amedori as the “establishment” candidate based on her prior service in state government, and it sounds to me like she ignored the poll. I got a note from her that she was doing door-to-door instead, which makes sense. She’ll get far more than 3% in September, I’m certain of that.
  • On the other hand, McAndrew and Curran performed as expected.

At some point I’m going to do this again, perhaps later on this spring. But the next time I’m going to shorten the poll’s duration and see if I can dampen the repeat voting aspect to some extent. I had it set to one hour on my site but then again I don’t know if Polldaddy works that restriction through its site-based voting. (Now I know why I had 5,111 votes but not 5,111 readers! But readership did have a nice increase, thank you!)

I promised to put up some of the best comments for each candidate. There is no doubt that this poll was by far my best as participation goes, and I think I finally harnessed the power I envisioned when I started doing polling a few months back. These will be in order of finish, but most of the comments spoke about my top finishers and were cleaned up as needed for spelling errors and such.

“Sam” said about Dr. Eric Wargotz:

I don’t know. All are good people but very few really qualified to take a 6 year legislative hitch IMHO. I was quite taken with Dr. Eric Wargotz at the debate. Warm, comfortable, approachable style. Not stuffy and boring. Seemed to be right on with his responses. Came across very sincere and caring along with very knowledgeable. I have trouble supporting candidates for a 6 year legislative hitch if they have no elected legislative or constituent experience. I am also not a fan of politicians who are elected and then quit to take an appointed position. I feel that is a derilection of duty to the constituents who elected them. Just my view.

Jim Duncan pointed out the Facebook aspect – analytical like me:

Before you go too far in questioning the fairness of this poll, as the creator (of the poll) points out, it does appear to be consistent with each candidate’s level of support. At least with respect to the current order of finish, when you look at each campaign’s number of fans/friends on Facebook, where the candidates have pushed this poll. As best as I could tell, Eric Wargotz has by far the most support on Facebook with exactly 5000 friends. He has additional sites ranging from 126 to 1853 friends, but I will assume that most are duplicates. A distant second appears to be Corrogan Vaughn with 562, Vaughn has two other sites with 197 and 373 friends, Jim Rutledge with 514 and Carmen Amedori with 292, neither appeared to have other sites. I’ll bet there are some cross overs here as well…

Corrogan Vaughn had a number of passionate defenders for his cause. “JPS” liked his stand on the issues:

I agree with some of the above posters that we need someone who can take Baltimore city, and to add to that Vaughn can not only win Baltimore city, but he can win on solid principles. He has called for (abolishing) the IRS in place of sensible fair and simple taxation, abolishing the Department of Education because the education of our children comes from the states, and he’s serious about reining in spending. I know many have called Corrogan Vaughn the most Conservative candidate because he is deeply committed first and foremost to fiscal responsibility while maintaining social conservative values that will win over black conservative Democrats, a large voting bloc in Maryland fyi.

“Maryland Patriot” also chimed in for Vaughn:

I have worked in Maryland politics for several years on both sides of the aisle and have yet to meet an individual more honest and sincere than Corrogan Vaughn. The others are nice people, but seem to share the same disregard for the needs of everyday Marylanders as our present senator. Mr. Vaughn offers genuine solutions and ideas to the problems faced by our state and nation. He seems to be in this race out of sincere concern for Marylanders and Americans. Go Vaughn!

“Jasmine” was quite succinct:

I’m not familiar with politics here in Maryland but I will say that as a lifelong Democrat I’m switching to Republican this election to vote for Vaughn!!! Go Corrogan!

As Rush Limbaugh would say, “welcome home.” Meanwhile, Jim Rutledge supporters were in force early on. Here’s some of what they had to say, beginning with “libertypatriot”:

If you want a conservative candidate then the best candidate is Jim Rutledge. The other candidates do not possess the Constitutional knowledge and understanding that Jim possesses. While I don’t have anything personal against anyone in the race, conservatives know that Ehrlich is considered a moderate and what I’m hearing from people is Carmen is a reflection of that. Again, not making any judgment, just passing that on. Lastly, Tea Party people are tired of people already in government. We want an outsider, not an insider.

I think we all agree though… whomever ends up winning the Republican primary… needs to take down Mikulski. That’s the real end game.

In looking at her record, Amedori isn’t particularly moderate compared to some of her peers, regardless Wayne Ehrensberger said:

I have talked with Jim Rutledge at length on a wide range of topics. I can assure everyone that he is a staunch constitutional conservative, of solid moral character, knows the issues and fully articulates well thought out responsive plans and ideas. These same traits cannot be applied to Dr. Wargotz. Jim is a successful, experienced businessman. He is well versed in the politics although admittedly not a “veteran” politician. And that is certainly a good thing. What we obviously don’t need are more long term politicians. We need to put in place those that are in tune with the private sector that most of us work in and who understand, appreciate and will honestly adhere to the Constitution.

I am closely associated with several of Jim’s support staff. We knew each other before any of us were even aware of Jim Rutledge. These individuals would never align themselves with someone who isn’t a pure Constitutionalist. That of course also goes for me. I don’t possess any great incite into the remaining candidates, but I don’t really need to. The simple fact is that they are not Jim Rutledge. He is the individual that must win the seat currently held by Mikulski. Then we will finally have someone that truly represents We the People.

If anyone is interested in learning more about the Constitutional Conservative/Tea Party movement, I offer you two “Groups” based here in Maryland that you should check out and consider joining – and You will find yourself in company with many Maryland Patriots as well as the same from across the Nation.

Even the few Amedori supporters got their points across, with the best being “NRAD”:

I was at the debate in MoCo and by no fault of the YR’s the venue was pretty lousy for all the candidates. There was no PA system and there were barriers in the middle of the room. So by all standards ALL the candidates did a pretty decent job considering they had to shout at the top of thier voices so the people in the back and behind the walls could hear. By no means, should that be a gauge of anything. I will note that in all my days in politics it is always the front runner who takes the worst beating. May I suggest, however, that we not beat up on the GOP candidates. I bet Ronald Reagan would be turning in his grave by such antics.

Now, my candidate is Amedori for many reasons. And her experience is in the private and public sector – such a fabric upon which sound and wise decisions can be made. It is going to take that fortitude to take on the corruption in D.C. She has never shied away from a good fight. I remember her when she confronted then Lt. Gov Townsend and the way she always took on Joe Curran in Judiciary Committee. This woman is relentless. And, in my opinion, it is going to take a strong woman to take the fight to Babs. Amedori will surely do that. She has a conservative voting record to reflect her positions. Seems to me that anyone can say what they will do but we really need to look at what has been done. She is 100% pro life, 100% small business having been a recipient of The Shaw Award with MD Business for Responsive Government. And she is a fiscal conservative. All of that is reflected in her voting record. That is why Amedori has my vote.

The poll and comments are available here. While I’m changing my poll today, I must say this version was a memorable one!

Poll update – day 3

It looks like two candidates’ supporters are taking this seriously.

As of about 3:00 this afternoon, it’s become a two-way race:

  1. Eric Wargotz     1,785  (49%)
  2. Corrogan Vaughn    1,156  (32%)
  3. Jim Rutledge     499  (14%)
  4. Carmen Amedori     128  (4%)
  5. John Kimble     43  (1%)
  6. Daniel McAndrew     5  (<1%)
  7. John Curran   4  (<1%)

Let’s look at what happened in the last 24 hours or so:

  1. Eric Wargotz     948  (54%)
  2. Corrogan Vaughn     783  (46%)
  3. Jim Rutledge     23  (1%)
  4. Carmen Amedori     2  (<1%)

No one else got a vote, so it’s obvious that this poll may have run its course as a useful exercise.

The percentage changes are as follows:

  1. Corrogan Vaughn  +12 (20 to 32)
  2. Eric Wargotz  +4  (45 to 49)
  3. Daniel McAndrew  0  (stays at <1)
  4. John Curran  0  (stays at <1)
  5. John Kimble  -1  (2 to 1)
  6. Carmen Amedori  -3 (7 to 4)
  7. Jim Rutledge  -12  (26 to 14)

The poll will end on Tuesday, and I’ll have the final totals and the conclusions I draw from them that night.

By the way, the “Eric” you see on the comments is not the candidate Eric Wargotz. I figured you’d know that but he took the time today to point out it wasn’t the case. I can moderate these comments to some extent, but only after the fact.

I think when I wrap this exercise up I may post some of the better comments and cases for some of the candidates.

Poll tracking – day 2

Well, things haven’t slowed down with my U.S. Senate poll, as the total response closes in on the 2,000 mark.

Again, I stress this isn’t a strictly scientific poll as there is the opportunity for multiple responses from the same person – but there is a time-out period built in. Yes, the system can be gamed but my theory is that the gamesmanship will occur roughly in proportion with actual support.

Here are the results I had shortly before 4:00 this afternoon:

  1. Eric Wargotz     837 (45%)
  2. Jim Rutledge     476 (26%)
  3. Corrogan Vaughn    373 (20%)
  4. Carmen Amedori     126 (7%)
  5. John Kimble    43 (2%)
  6. Daniel McAndrew    5 (<1%)
  7. John Curran     4 (<1%)

The other key number is tracking the daily totals as opposed to the overall totals. It was just about 24 hours since my first update, and the change since then has been most meaningful for Wargotz and Amedori. The percentage is the share of the votes cast in the last day or so.

  1. Eric Wargotz    582 (54%)
  2. Jim Rutledge     247 (23%)
  3. Corrogan Vaughn     220 (20%)
  4. Carmen Amedori     31 (3%)
  5. John Kimble     3 (<1%)
  6. Daniel McAndrew     2 (<1%)
  7. John Curran    0 (0%)

I did some checking on my Facebook page among the universe of friends I have and those associated with the Corrogan Vaughn campaign (including the candidate) plugged the poll twice, while a Wargotz ally did it once. Now here is the precentage difference from yesterday to today – you can see who benefitted at whose expense.

  1. Eric Wargotz    +12 (33 to 45)
  2. Corrogan Vaughn    0 (still at 20)
  3. Daniel McAndrew    0 (still at <1)
  4. John Curran    -1 (1 to <1)
  5. Jim Rutledge     -3 (29 to 26)
  6. John Kimble    -3 (5 to 2)
  7. Carmen Amedori    -5 (12 to 7)

This is what I mean by depth of support – Wargotz’s supporters continue to flood the poll and perhaps distort it somewhat. But the last time I did this Wargotz held a large early lead only to see Jim Rutledge supporters close the gap at the end, so perhaps this may play out again.

Tomorrow I’ll do another update – I expect the pace to slow down some during the weekend but a big share from someone could have a significant impact on the results. The poll continues for a few more days (I have an end date set for it but I won’t say when it is) so we’ll see whether the supporters can keep going – it determines depth of support and also helps me determine whether my theory is validated or not.

Poll tracking – day 1

With the huge interest in my poll regarding who should face Barbara Mikulski for the U.S. Senate seat she currently occupies, I thought it would be a good idea to keep a daily track of it for the duration.

Most of the major candidates have posted about it on their Facebook pages multiple times, so the sampling size is extraordinarily high. As of 3 p.m. this afternoon there were 779 total votes cast, and the interim results follow:

  1. Eric Wargotz     255 (33%)
  2. Jim Rutlegdge     229 (29%)
  3. Corrogan Vaughn    153 (20%)
  4. Carmen Amedori    95 (12%)
  5. John Kimble     40 (5%)
  6. John Curran    4 (1%)
  7. Daniel McAndrew    3 (<1%)

Obviously this is a very tight race and I encourage people to stay involved! I’ll try to keep this tracking going for the duration of the poll, which will continue for the next few days.

Republicans united?

As the Church Lady would say, isn’t this conveeeeeeenient? I talk about Republicans divided in an op-ed then talk about uniting hours later. But Daniel Vovak makes a good point at a time when unity would be necessary.

The Republican Primary on September 14, 2010 has produced a spirited contest for the office of U.S. Senator, facing the probable Democratic primary winner, Barbara Mikulski. According to official reports and announcements, on the Republican ballot will be seven candidates, including: Carmen Amedori, John F. Curran, John B. Kimble, Daniel W. McAndrew, Jim Rutledge, Corrogan R. Vaughn, and Eric Wargotz.

Daniel “The Whig Man” Vovak has proposed a “Statement of Unity” for the Republican candidates to sign, and has pledged $250 to the primary winner, should that person sign his form. Vovak says, “Although I will not be a candidate for U.S. Senate in 2010, I was a candidate in 2006 and I remember perfectly well how Michael Steele treated the primary as a mere formality, never reaching out to any of his nine primary opponents, which hurt our Party in November 2006. In 2010, it’s a different situation because the Republican primary is a wide-open contest. It’s not that Maryland Democrats have been successful, it’s Maryland Republicans who lose statewide seats through internal division. Once these candidates unify behind the primary winner, any Democrat can be defeated.”

Vovak says that following last week’s U.S. Senate candidates’ debate in Montgomery County, every Republican candidate sought his support.


In spite of losing statewide (among Central Committee members who selected a new party chairman in the wake of Jim Pelura’s resignation last year), Vovak sincerely congratulated (current MDGOP Chair Audrey) Scott following her decisive win and offered his help. Vovak says this “Statement of Unity” is something he practices and believes. He says, “If I had won the chairman vote, I would have proposed this same Statement to position Republicans for winning, long before Election Day. I have no doubt Audrey Scott shares the same goal.”

Currently, three of the seven candidates have indicated they will sign the Statement. Because Vovak has not been able to speak directly with all of them, he said he will wait until all have been given ample time to respond before releasing their names, though those candidates can speak freely at any time with their supporters and the media, should they desire to do so.

Within the Maryland Republican Party Constitution, under Article 11, Section 2, d(2), Maryland’s Republican Chairman must show no “partiality or prejudice” towards any Republican candidate before a primary. Article 2, Section 2 states that the Party “works towards the election of Republican nominees.”

It’s an admirable goal, and perhaps we will see all of the contenders sign this agreement before all is said and done September 14.

But this election is somewhat different than Steele’s 2006 campaign as there is no de facto favorite. A couple have run previous bids for the Senate that drew little support (Kimble and Vaughn, both also-rans in the ’06 race with Vovak) and a couple others are perhaps dark horses due to lack of name recognition or fundraising prowess – I’d put Curran and McAndrew in that category. The other three (Amedori, Rutledge, and Wargotz) to me are the leading contenders, with Amedori perhaps being the “establishment” candidate based on her tenure in the House of Delegates.

I happen to agree that the Maryland GOP shouldn’t take a stand to support any candidate pre-primary. I know some disagree with me because they fear the voters may select some David Duke-esque radical as the party’s representative but I place a lot more faith in the party electorate than apparently these officials do. I already lived in one state which tried to bribe and cajole good Republican candidates like Ken Blackwell out of the race to avoid primary fights and I don’t want a repeat in Maryland.

Since the reports of Barbara Mikulski retiring were apparently premature, it looks like whoever survives the primary has the uphill fight of knocking out the entrenched, reliably liberal incumbent who may be keeping the seat warm for Martin O’Malley once he’s through being governor.

I believe there is a scenario possible where, if Mikulski wins and O’Malley loses in November, Barbara could retire in early January and Martin O’Malley could name himself  successor (or a placeholder to keep the seat warm) just before his term were to expire – leaving the possibility of two new Senators from the state in 2013 as Ben Cardin also runs for re-election in 2012 and the seat held by Mikulski is opened up for a special election by current state law. I think Martin O’Malley has aspirations beyond being Governor and this would be an opportunity for him to go national.

All that has yet to be seen but in any case it’s good for Republicans to put up a united front as they campaign to upend the Democrats’ apple cart this November.

In the department of “I’ll believe it when I see it” – Mikulski out?

Update 3 8:45 a.m. – Sean O’Donnell of the Baltimore Examiner cites Cillizza and two other sources to quash the rumor – for now. Certainly this is a case study on the power of the internet – now the question becomes who the original source was.

It’s also worthy of noting that The Vail Spot, which had just over 200 readers in the previous week, has had over 20,000 readers since 2 p.m. yesterday when the rumor was picked up. (He has an open Site Meter – for now.)

Update 2 7:30 p.m. –  Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post tweeted earlier this afternoon: “Rumors that Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) is retiring are NOT TRUE, according to informed D source.”

We’ll see. This means it’s the word of an “impeccable” source vs. an “informed” source. More below.

Update 1 5:45 p.m. – I spoke briefly via phone with fellow candidate Dr. Eric Wargotz who agreed with me – he’ll believe it when he sees it too.

Senate candidate Daniel McAndrew notes that this rumor isn’t really new, but “if true, then the next question will be who, in the Democrat party, will have the better chance trying to keep the seat from flipping. This is likely to be very interesting given the rash of others retiring.”

Another source who preferred to be unnamed cautioned me that Mikulski looked healthy and was getting around fine at the recent MACO conference, so the foot injury has apparently healed.

I’ve also been told that there’s a high possibility Rep. Chris Van Hollen may jump in if Mikulski quits – he’s been “gearing up” for a Senate run. Obviously if the Democrats lose dozens of seats in the House Van Hollen could be a fall guy as DCCC head.

Main story:

A blogger heretofore unknown to me by the name of Rich Vail may have dropped a bombshell on Maryland politics and created a gamechanger movement by citing an “impeccable source” who says Senator Mikulski will not seek another term.

His post on The Vail Spot, if true, sets a lot of machinery into motion.

Obviously having another open Senate seat (a second in four years) could convince a number of prominent Maryland Democrats to leave the safety of their offices for a run – one name mentioned in the comments was Attorney General Doug Gansler, with another being Governor O’Malley. This could also convince any of Maryland’s seven Congressional Democrats to move up as well.

If you go back and look at the 2006 race for the seat eventually won by Ben Cardin (to replace the retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes), Cardin’s main competition came from onetime NAACP head Kweisi Mfume – no other Democrat secured double-digit support. But Mfume has laid low politically since his 2006 defeat, making it questionable whether he would try again.

Most of the Democrats’ Senate seat bench, then, comes from the ranks of already-elected Congressman and state officials, with only Gansler, O’Malley, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, and Comptroller Peter Franchot haviing run statewide. Of that group, Brown might be most likely to make an attempt, perhaps couching it as a bid to place a black person back into the ranks of the Senate (Roland Burris of Illinois, who was appointed to succeed President Obama, did not stand for election this year.)

While the Democrats’ bench isn’t the largest one around, the side with an even more shallow bench is the GOP. Their group of elected officials who have run statewide is exceedingly small: former Governor Bob Ehrlich and the man who ran against Mikulski last time, State Senator E.J. Pipkin. Pipkin could well decide to go again if Mikulski retires and not worry about the First Congressional District race which he’s been rumored to consider entering.

The more intriguing possibility is Ehrlich, who’s not officially entered the GOP race for governor but has had the field essentially cleared for him by the withdrawal of three people previously interested, most recently onetime Congressional candidate Larry Hogan. Since the latest polls have Ehrlich trailing a governor in Martin O’Malley who’s only marginally popular statewide and Ehrlich doesn’t want to be placed in a position where he’s likely to lose, the open Senate seat could pique his interest.

Obviously that prospect would dim the hopes of the five people who have already entered the Senate race and would get a boost from not having to run against an entrenched incumbent. I’m going to ask them for comment and update the post if I get any.

However, before we get too far along and despite the fact Vail has laid out a good case for Mikulski’s retirement, it remains to be seen whether this is rumor or scoop. Yet given the other political news of Senate retirements (with the most recent shoe to drop being Mikulski’s fellow Democrat Evan Bayh of Indiana) it’s not out of the question that Mikulski may feel it’s her time to go. On the other hand, though, Bayh faced a much tougher potential re-election fight than conventional wisdom pegged for Mikulski – so the health issues she’s faced lately may indeed be taking their toll.

Obviously this is a developing story I’ll stay on top of.

The Senate survey says…

Over the last couple weeks I’ve ran a survey of who readers prefer to face Barbara Mikulski this fall. Here are the results of my very non-scientific poll.

Out of over 100 responses, Dr. Eric Wargotz had 49% of the vote (with 58 votes), with Jim Rutledge being his closest competitor. Jim garnered 37% of the vote with 44 supporting him. Corrogan Vaughn trailed with 15 votes (13%) while Daniel McAndrew had 1 vote for him.

It was interesting how the count transpired as Wargotz, Rutledge, and Vaughn started out fairly even through the first 40 to 50 tallies. But once each competitor had about 12 to 15 votes apiece (aside from McAndrew), the Wargotz total started surging to a point where he had a significant lead (over 60% of the total) before Rutledge came on at the end to even things out somewhat.

In truth, though, this survey may have been a little premature as word has leaked out of a fifth competitor, former Delegate Carmen Amedori of Carroll County. Since Wargotz seems to be the frontrunner, it would appear that he has the most to lose from her candidacy, but he noted that it’s “not for me to judge ones qualifications. Others will do that. May the ‘best’ candidate prevail.”

I’m thinking this will be a three-way race if Amedori gets in, but it’s anyone’s race among the three with Wargotz as the frontrunner. Since I’m not aware of any scientific poll on the race yet, mine could be the closest idea of just how the candidates are faring with campaign organization and name recognition.