More revised and extended remarks

I’ve said this before, although it’s been awhile: I don’t like wasting my good writing. Like odds and ends I collect in my e-mail box that I save for later comment, I need to get better at the habit of sharing what I say on someone’s social media to this audience because the Venn diagram of their readership and my readership doesn’t always intersect.

This is set up by a post that simply said “The Empire strikes back.” What the writer meant was that current Maryland governor Larry Hogan formerly endorsed the recently-resigned Maryland Secretary of Commerce Kelly Schulz as his successor – essentially in response to a now months-old endorsement of Delegate Daniel Cox for the same job by Donald Trump. Along with my belief that Hogan’s endorsement was already “baked into the cake” in this race based on Trump’s backing, it was a race I commented on the other day. But I wanted to expand on my thoughts after a post in response by longtime Maryland politico Carmen Amedori:

Lots of luck with that. 95% of MD GOP voted for Trump. Meaning 95% will not vote for an anti Trump endorsement. In a fair election Dan wins.

Carmen Amedori, former Maryland Delegate and (briefly) candidate for Lieutenant Governor in 2010.

Once that post went up, another longtime Republican, Scott Shaffer, responded:

You’re quoting a “news” site written by the LG candidate? Lol. Not to mention that a small group of Lincoln Day Dinner attendees is much different from primary voters as a whole.

Scott Shaffer, longtime Republican Party leader.

I think the website is written by the LG candidate’s husband but anyway, Scott’s a good guy – although we’ve been on opposite sides at times over the years. His claim to fame here was his unsuccessful bid to oust Louis Pope as Maryland’s National Committeeman in 2012.

So I felt I needed to add a couple pennies to this interesting race – better than much of anything going on in Delaware, that’s for sure.

Of the MDGOP who showed up to vote in 2016 and 2020, Carmen is probably pretty close when she says 95%. (I think the polling average was in the low 90s.) But that only counts the ones who weren’t discouraged enough by the candidates to stay home. The tell would be turnout % among Rs and Ds, but that doesn’t seem to be a number easily chased down for 2020 thanks to the unique nature of the election.

On the other hand, consider the poll Carmen cites was a DGA poll, so they’re trying to bump up support for the viable candidate they believe is easiest for them to beat. Unfortunately, in Maryland a lot of “independent” voters believe all the lies and half-truths told about Donald Trump, which is why the D’s try to tie all R candidates to him. (It also obfuscates their woeful record.)

The ones who were believers in the Trump “America First” agenda will most likely vote for Dan. Whether it will be enough to win a primary is an open question; however, the constantly changing primary date may prove to Dan’s advantage because I believe he has the more passionate voters.

“Not to mention that a small group of Lincoln Day Dinner attendees is much different from primary voters as a whole.”

You are aware these are the influencers in the local GOP, right? Obviously if Kelly won a straw poll at the AA Lincoln Day Dinner it would be presented as proof she’s the better candidate, despite the fact it’s still a miniscule number of voters.

I’d love to see a reputable poll of the race, but no one has really polled it according to RCP. This would document the amount of Hogan fatigue in the MDGOP.

My social media response.

Scott contended that Cox would be “Brian Murphy 2.0” because he doesn’t have a ton of name recognition and it’s possible he may be right. But I don’t think either of the two have a ton of name ID and the Maryland media is going to be vacuumed up by all the Democrats fighting for airtime prior to the primary. To me, it’s a race that’s Kelly’s to lose but if Larry Hogan keeps playing the RINO the association with Larry may hurt her.

Things aren’t always what they seem

I haven’t been paying nearly as much attention to Maryland politics the last few years but every so often I find something rather intriguing. In this case, it’s not too many miles away in Dorchester County.

I saw that over the weekend their county Republicans had their Lincoln Day Dinner. Initially I learned this thanks to a social media post by a locally noted political sign critic but then it went further when I noticed a promoted post on that same social media outlet that led to this blog post.

Apparently we are still far enough away from the primary that Republicans are coming to the Eastern Shore to solicit votes, and in this case the Dorchester LDD featured the two leading contenders for their gubernatorial nomination: Delegate Daniel Cox and onetime Delegate and Hogan administration official Kelly Schulz. In this particular retelling of events it was obvious that the writer was heavily favoring the Cox campaign, which is fine. What’s most interesting, though, is that the contact address for the Shore Times blog where the article came from is the exact same one used by Marc Schifanelli for his school board campaign in Queen Anne’s County. Of course, students of Maryland politics know that Marc’s wife Gordana is Cox’s running mate. So we’re not exactly being stealth here, and I will give credit for pointing that out in due time.

On the other side of the equation – and not being too stealth themselves – is The Duckpin, a site which seems to spend its time tearing down Cox, who they swear up and down isn’t much of a threat on par with the other two no-names in the race. Yet somehow Dan lives rent-free in their heads as they keep writing about him instead of promoting their endorsed choice in Schulz. (Apparently Brian Griffiths wanted to write about more than politics, so Red Maryland was put to bed and The Duckpin was born. He finally figured out what I knew over 16 years ago.)

Anyway, I was reading a piece on the race that made the claim about the link and indeed it’s true. So give the man his credit. But what’s the big deal?

Here’s the problem with being a Republican and running for governor in Maryland: you have to survive a GOP primary.

In 2010, Larry Hogan deferred to Bob Ehrlich, who then proceeded to lose even worse to Martin O’Malley than he did the first time. You may recall there was this phenomenon going around the country back then called the TEA Party…well, they liked this heretofore unknown businessman named Brian Murphy in the gubernatorial primary and enough of them tuned out the overly moderate Ehrlich once Murphy was dispatched back to anonymity to doom Bob to defeat in the general.

In 2014, there was an open seat and the Democrats decided to promote their bland, personality-free LG Anthony Brown to governor. Larry Hogan had spent the four years building up a grassroots group called Change Maryland and he parlayed that into securing the nomination then winning in November – thanks to a lot of the people who abandoned Ehrlich because he wasn’t conservative enough for them. This despite the fact Hogan’s website was about content-free and you couldn’t nail down what he was actually for, just what he was against based on Change Maryland.

Fooled you once… the next time in 2o18 Hogan only won because the Democrats went extreme left with their choice for governor; otherwise, the election was a disaster for Republicans on the order of 2006. (Had he run in 2018 instead of this cycle, we would be commenting on the prospects of Governor Franchot’s re-election. Or perhaps Governor Delaney’s.)

So here’s the problem with Kelly Schulz. In looking her up in the archives of the monoblogue Accountability Project, I had forgotten that she was relatively conservative by my standards – not enough to be a consistent Legislative All-Star (she was just one time in eight years I covered her) but she had an 85 average and that’s very good for a Maryland politician. (With an average that high, I would be hailing her as a savior in Delaware.)

But what I didn’t see when she went into the Executive Branch was a great deal of conservative innovation. It’s good that her “proudest accomplishment (at DLLR) was guiding Maryland’s youth apprenticeship program,” but I would have rather seen efforts to wrest the state from the grip of its unions by edging it toward right-to-work status or taking a hacksaw to regulations like Donald Trump did at a federal level. And the question I have: is this the record of a conservative?

Member, Maryland Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Council, 2019; Maryland Outdoor Recreation Economic Commission, 2019; Small Business Resources and Data Collection Work Group, 2019; Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission, 2019-20; P-20 Leadership Council of Maryland, 2019-21. Board of Directors, Maryland Agricultural and Resource-Based Industry Development Corporation, 2019-22. Member, Maryland Agricultural Education and Rural Development Assistance Board, 2019-22; Governor’s Intergovernmental Commission for Agriculture, 2019-22; Animal Waste Technology Fund Advisory Committee, 2019-22; Maryland Aviation Commission, 2019-22. Board of Directors, Bainbridge Development Corporation, 2019-22. Member, Coast Smart Council, 2019-22; Correctional Education Council, 2019-22; Critical Area Commission for the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays, 2019-22; Maryland Cybersecurity Council, 2019-22; Interagency Disabilities Board, 2019-22; Maryland Economic Development Assistance Authority, 2019-22; Maryland Economic Development Commission, 2019-22; Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative Fund Authority, 2019-22; Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities, 2019-22; Interagency Food Desert Advisory Committee, 2019-22; Maryland Green Purchasing Committee, 2019-22; Maryland Heritage Areas Authority, 2019-22; State Highway Access Valuation Board, 2019-22; Governor’s Commission on Hispanic Affairs, 2019-22; Maryland Industrial Development Financing Authority, 2019-22; Maryland Life Sciences Advisory Board, 2019-22; Maryland Manufacturing Advisory Board, 2019-22; Council on Open Data, 2019-22; Maryland Opportunity Zone Leadership Task Force, 2019-22; Maryland Port Commission, 2019-22. Board of Directors, Maryland Public-Private Partnership Marketing Corporation, 2019- (chair, 2019). Executive Board, Regional Additive Manufacturing Partnership of Maryland, 2019-22. Member, Governor’s Task Force on Renewable Energy Development and Siting, 2019-22; Renewable Fuels Incentive Board, 2019-22; Rural Maryland Council, 2019-22; Interdepartmental Advisory Committee on Small, Minority, and Women Business Affairs, 2019-22; Maryland Small Business Development Financing Authority, 2019-22; Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland, 2019-22. Board of Directors, Maryland Technology Development Corporation, 2019-22. Board of Regents, University System of Maryland, 2019-22. Member, Governor’s Workforce Development Board, 2019-22; Youth Apprenticeship Advisory Committee, 2019-22; Maryland Zero Emission Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Council, 2019-22.

Member, COVID-19 Small Business Task Force, Baltimore City, 2020; Task Force on the Economic Future of Western Maryland, 2020-22; Maryland Food System Resiliency Council, 2021-22; Historic St. Mary’s City Fort to 400 Commission, 2021-22; Maryland Semiquincentennial Commission, 2021-22; Work Group to Study the Transformation of Manufacturing in Maryland’s Emerging Digital Economy, 2021-22.

Maryland Manual online, accessed March 22, 2022.

Granted, I’m sure most of these are ex officio positions she gathered as the Secretary, but no one said she had to accept a position on the Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities or the Maryland Zero Emission Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Council. Her acceptance to me equates with support.

That’s not to say I’m the biggest fan of Daniel Cox, who has styled himself as something of a Trump fanboy. But if you drive around on the back roads of Dorchester County that I frequent on a regular basis on the way to my in-laws’ house, you see a lot of Trump paraphrenalia and a lot of Cox for Governor signs. (Not many people go through Eldorado or Rhodesdale, but I do.) It’s a slice of the electorate that probably won’t turn out for someone endorsed by Larry Hogan because they can’t stand what he’s become. While many were pushed over the edge by the bad blood between Larry Hogan and Donald Trump, they were placed at the precipice like I was after our side was quickly sold out by Hogan to the environmentalists who saddled farmers with onerous phosphorus regulations and later saw Larry kill a golden opportunity for economic growth with an ill-advised fracking ban. So Hogan’s support is electoral poison in those quarters.

Certainly there will be those who say that their staying home and not backing Kelly Schulz will ensure Democratic victory in November. But then again, the same prediction of GOP doom holds true if Cox wins so why not stand up for what you believe?

And people wonder why some of us are so fed up with the system?

The Free State speed bump

Since Delaware doesn’t have a U.S. Senate race on tap this time around, I haven’t been paying much attention to that aspect of the political world. But then I saw a name that, like a blast from the past, caused me to notice Maryland’s U.S. Senate race. Unfortunately, it’s sort of for the wrong reasons.

As is often the case in Democrat-dominated Maryland, the federal races are dotted with a collection of crackpots and perennial candidates. Some of them on the Democrat side are probably on the ballot with the thinking that, hey, maybe if the guy dies after the filing deadline but before the primary I could get into Congress. That makes a wee bit of sense when you think about it, but I’m not sure why there are those same type of candidates on the GOP side since they haven’t won a statewide federal race in over thirty years.

I have learned over the years that most of these guys who are on the federal ballot are running on a shoestring, and as such have no FEC account. That sort of bankroll may have worked for New Jersey’s Edward Durr in a small State Senate district, but that ain’t happening statewide – especially when the incumbent has a mid-seven figure war chest he probably won’t even have to tap. Thus, there’s not much you can argue about the chances of George Davis, Nnabu Eze (who ran before in 2018), or John Thormann, as none of them have an active FEC account at this time – and it’s getting a little late to start one.

And those who do? Hoo boy….

This piece is an introduction to Jon McGreevey, also spelled McGreevy, who apparently also goes by the name Ryan Dark White. All that was getting into tl:dr territory, so make up your own mind since he has defenders, too. Whatever he goes by, McGreevey has an FEC account with no reported receipts, disbursements, or cash on hand.

(Remember, the incumbent has, in order for the last reporting period, $5,363,914 in receipts, $1,910,932 in disbursements, and $3,932,023 cash on hand.)

And then you have John Berman, who comes from the Rocky De La Fuente school of running for Senate in several states at the same time – he’s running in Ohio and Wisconsin so Maryland must be a betting hedge. However, Berman has not actually filed in Maryland (but has the empty FEC account just in case.)

So, compared to all that, fellow GOP Senate hopeful James Tarantin sounds relatively sane. Naive – which may be a good thing – but sane. And his message is simple: “I wish to be a public servant because I want to Heal America.” He also has an FEC account and – surprise, surprise – there’s a little bit of money in it. Maybe enough for a good State Senate race, but you have to start somewhere. And that’s the state of play for the Republican Party in Maryland, which is why I saw the name Diana Waterman come across my e-mail. And this is what she said. (The e-mail has lots of ellipsis.)

Marylanders are looking for elected officials who can understand what they encounter in their day to day lives…someone who has struggled to make ends meet but through hard work has been successful….someone who understands and values the importance of family and the role of family in creating a responsible and caring future generation…and someone who will work hard every day to try to make a better world for all Marylanders. James Tarantin is that person.

James believes that it is time to retire career politicians and put our government back in the hands of the people. 

He truly wants to be the voice of the people so that he can help them to fulfill their dreams. 

I know James will work tirelessly to represent all Marylanders in DC.

Diana Waterman, former MDGOP state party chair and former MFRW president.

I can vouch for the first statement, since I don’t think he’s run for anything before. So why not run in a statewide election? After all, someone has to get that 35% of the vote a Republican with no money will automatically get in Maryland.

There is one other unique thing about that Senate race: insofar as I know, there is no “Trump-lite” candidate out there like there is in the governor’s race (Dan Cox.) So the Maryland Republicans can hash it out among themselves and see if they can somehow find lightning in a bottle.

The problem with this cycle in Maryland is that all the other statewide offices come up this year as part of the state’s rather unique four-year election cycle, so no one can run from the cover of holding office this time around. In order to run for the Senate you would have to give up what’s likely a rather safe seat and place in the minority. In presidential years you may see a popular GOP officeholder or two stick their neck out to run for federal office, but not in a state office year. Add to that the feeling that the state GOP was hoping in their heart of hearts that Larry Hogan would take a shot at the seat and it explains the shallowness of the field. If Hogan somehow decided to jump in tomorrow with a late entry, ninety percent of Tarantin’s endorsers would withdraw their statements to back Larry – we all know it.

And this goes back to the shallowness of the GOP bench in Maryland. While Larry Hogan managed to win two terms as governor, arguably the state party is worse off than it was when he began in 2015. That weakness is manifesting itself in a race like the Senate contest.

The perils of redistricting

I noticed on the news the other day that my home state of Ohio had its proposed Congressional redistricting map tossed out by a 4-3 Ohio Supreme Court ruling, with the Republican chief justice joining the three Democrat justices in claiming the map was, “a plan that is infused with undue partisan bias and that is incomprehensibly more extremely biased than the 2011 plan that it replaced.”

I’m going to be the first to admit that the Ohio Republicans in 2010, after being infused with the energy of the TEA Party, made it their mission to wipe out Democrat representation. One memorable piece of gerrymandering was shoestringing the Toledo-based Ninth Congressional District (my former home district) along the south shore of Lake Erie to the edge of Cleveland in order to place two Democrat representatives, Marcy Kaptur and Dennis Kucinich, in the same district. When both sought the seat in 2012, Kaptur prevailed and all but ended Kucinich’s political career.

So the Republicans have to go back to the drawing board, and in an interesting twist of state law, maps that pass without bipartisan support may only be left in place for four years. And the Ohio ruling gave yet more ammunition to Democrats to claim we need a national standard – enter my old uber-regressive friend Rick Weiland, who e-mailed me to say:

Republicans are only months away from rigging a decade of elections.

(snip)

In 2016, the Democratic governor of North Carolina won re-election with 51% of the vote, the same year Donald Trump won the presidency with slightly less than 51%. Yet, even though Democrats are winning approximately 50% of the votes statewide, they’re still ending up in a permanent minority in the state legislature.

Thanks to all of our hard work, Georgia has become a quintessential battleground state. But thanks to Republican gerrymandering, Republicans are expected to win 9 or 10 of Georgia’s 14 congressional seats. In Gwinnett County, Georgia, which has seen its demographics shift from 90% white in 1990 to 30% white today, this is not at all recognized by the maps drawn by the Republican-controlled legislature.

And, in Ohio, where Republicans win about 53% of the vote, the GOP is favored to win 80% of congressional seats.

“Freedom to Vote Act would ban partisan gerrymandering,” e-mail from Rick Weiland, January 11, 2022.

You can throw out that last sentence for the moment. But let’s talk about how people vote, and I’m going to take a look at Maryland for the moment because, unlike Delaware, they actually have Congressional districts.

In the last three Congressional elections, this is the share of the aggregate Congressional vote each party has received in the state of Maryland.

  • 2020: Democrats 64.7%, Republicans 34.8%, others 0.4%
  • 2018: Democrats 65.3%, Republicans 32.3%, others 2.4%
  • 2016: Democrats 60.4%, Republicans 35.5%, others 4.0%

In that time period, Democrats have held consistent around 55% of registered voters, while the GOP slipped slightly but stayed around 25%. Given that ratio one can assume unaffiliated voters split roughly 50-50, although in 2016 it looks like they tilted somewhat toward the GOP and slightly favored Democrats in 2018. (Another factor: there were fewer third party aspirants on the 2020 ballot, as the Libertarians and Greens didn’t field candidates. That may have had something to do with ballot access issues for the minor parties in Maryland, which has a stricter criteria for access than Delaware does.)

To make a long story short, in a given election between two candidates statewide in Maryland the split should run 65-35 in favor of the Democrats – in fact, 2020 was a perfect example of this. However, when you split the state into districts you’ll find that there are pockets of heavier Republican registration, and in 2010 the Democrats (who control redistricting) chose to pack as many Republican stalwarts as possible into the First District by switching portions of GOP-dominated Carroll County into the First and burying the rest in a tide of MoCo Democrats by placing it in the Eighth. This was done in order to swamp the formerly-Republican Sixth District in a separate crush of MoCo Democrats by eliminating its Frederick and Carroll county portions and instead thrusting it further into MoCo. (And as I’ll note momentarily, it worked.)

In the 2010 district map, centrist Anne Arundel County was mercilessly jigsawed into four different districts, while the more populous Democrat enclaves of Baltimore City and Montgomery County were sliced into three and Prince George’s into a hacksawed two based on the party’s need for dominance, maintaining through the decade a 7-1 advantage gained when the Sixth District flipped from Republican to Democrat thanks to the additional leftist MoCo voters. Once the map was approved, all but one of the changes in Maryland’s Congressional delegation during the decade came from retirement or death, as the only incumbent to lose at the ballot box was Sixth District Republican Roscoe Bartlett in 2012 – the chosen victim of Democrat redistricting. The same occurred in 2002 after that round of Democrat-controlled redistricting, when the Second District seat previously held by Bob Ehrlich (who won his run for governor) and Eighth District seat held by Connie Morella (who lost a re-election bid) flipped, changing Maryland from a 4-4 state to a 6-2 Democrat state. Aside from the Democrats gaining the First District for a term with Frank Kratovil in 2008 before he lost to Andy Harris, that’s the way it stayed.

This time around it’s the aforementioned Republican Andy Harris who is the target of Democrats, as they opted to not pack Republicans into the First and instead brought it back close to the configuration that gave the First District Kratovil in 2008 as part of Anne Arundel was once again placed in the First. (Additionally, Harris no longer lives in the district, which is now completely outside his home in Baltimore County.) Anne Arundel gets a slight break this time, though, as they are only in three districts, as is Baltimore City. MoCo now has the distinction of being cut in jagged fourths by the map.

By comparison, the map presented by Governor Larry Hogan’s redistricting committee (made up of equal portions Republicans, Democrats, and independents) came up with a Congressional map that respected county boundaries as much as possible. No county was chopped into more than three districts: in Baltimore County, only the extreme southern tip was placed in the city-centric Seventh District while the rest went into a Second District exclusive to the county and the First District. Meanwhile, Montgomery County had its own district in the Eighth, with a little piece of the western end of the county staying in the Sixth District (as has been traditional) and the rest – a slice along its eastern border – joining the northern half of Prince George’s County in the Fourth District. But since that would likely be a 6-2 Democrat split, it wasn’t good enough for the rabidly partisan General Assembly – never mind that a truly representative state of Maryland would probably shake out as a 5-3 Democrat majority based on their voting pattern.

(As you’ll see in its 160-plus pages, this Hogan redistricting committee proposal also covered state legislative districts, with the key change the elimination of multiple-member Delegate districts. The Democrats hated that, too.)

In circling back to Weiland’s plea – which echoes that of the most rabid Congressional Democrats – one has to wonder where the energy for leading by example went to. What happened to criticism of states like Maryland, Illinois, or California, where Republicans are gerrymandered out of any semblance of power? This is particularly true when Marylanders were presented with an alternative that was more fair.

The problem with pretty much any district map done geographically is that keeping things compact and contiguous means that you get urban areas that vote 90% Democrat (and have enough population for a district of their own) surrounded by suburban and rural areas that swing 70-30 or more the other way. To take a state like Ohio, you could easily get a 10-5 Republican split by just keeping the large three-C (Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland) urban counties in their own districts, plus maybe one that combines the Akron/Canton/Youngstown area and one based in Toledo. Just divide the rest of the state 10 ways, and it could pass muster geographically. Move north into Michigan: give the city of Detroit its own district and split up the suburbs into thirds or fourths – those are your D districts in Michigan. Given the size of the other cities in the state, there’s not enough urban area for a Democrat-dominated district.

(Turns out they were pretty close, giving Detroit two districts and the suburbs three, including combining the downriver Detroit suburbs and Ann Arbor area for a third strong D district. But the state is being sued by the “Detroit Caucus” because the city lost a seat from the hack job previously in place.)

Perhaps the best example of this approach is in Nebraska, where one district is basically the city of Omaha and close-in suburbs, another is the Omaha exurbs and the college town of Lincoln, and the third is everything else. In theory, all three representatives could now live within about 25 miles of Omaha – but one would have a heckuva district to cover. (The change from before is that the “rest of the state” district now comes close to Omaha – prior to this year the Lincoln district completely surrounded the Omaha one.)

What I do know is that the solution doesn’t lie in Congress. When the hypocrisy of ignoring the beam in your eye to focus on the speck in your brother’s eye (as described in Matthew 7:3) is so rampant there, they aren’t the answer. If the regressives had their way, districts would pinwheel out of urban areas in just such a manner that centrist and Republican voters would be shut out by their urban counterparts – who would also be in charge of counting the votes, and since urban areas always seem to report last, they would know just the margin of “mail-in votes” they need to create.

This is why Congress should not be in charge of their own elections – it’s bad enough what we sometimes have to put up with at the state level.

Total recall

While the final result wasn’t unexpected, the political news over the summer was the fate of California Governor Gavin Newsom, who survived an effort to recall him Tuesday by gathering over 60% of the vote so far – enough to safely assume he will stick around to finish his term next year and perhaps help propel him to re-election against whichever hapless candidate the California GOP will throw on the ballot. Interestingly enough, had Newsom somehow been recalled, the overwhelming winner of the race to replace him would have been black Republican, columnist, and talk show host Larry Elder. Larry received nearly half the vote in an exceptionally crowded replacement field with one caveat: it did not boast a major Democrat, probably because no connected Democrat would risk crossing the state’s political machine. (Yet the field did have the athlete formerly known as Bruce Jenner, who ran as a Republican.)

But the reason I’m bringing this up is the theoretical one: here in Delaware, Governor John Carney has led his state in much the same way that Newsom has governed California, using the heaviest of hands last year to browbeat individuals and businesses into attempting to stop the spread of the CCP virus. While things have eased up somewhat in recent months, Carney is running a state that is fat and happy with federal largesse at the moment but one that doesn’t seem to be sharing in the economic recovery from COVID all that well. While recall isn’t an option that’s available to Delaware voters, the question is whether such a bid could succeed if it were.

In California, the Newsom recall (which, by the way, was the 55th such effort, with success coming only in 2003 when Gray Davis was recalled in favor of Arnold Schwarzenegger) needed about 1.5 million signatures on a petition drive. (The number is 12% of the number of voters who participated in the previous gubernatorial election.) Based on the 2020 election, such an effort in Delaware would need a little over 59,000 signatures – and I think we could pick up a lot of that in Sussex County. One thing that would help is that Carney is not too far along in his term, so whoever succeeds him would have a long time to be in office.

But the question would be twofold, just as it was in California: could a Delaware recall vote of John Carney succeed, and who would run to replace him?

If you listen to the political pundits, they will say that the reason the recall failed (after looking somewhat promising initially) was that once Larry Elder emerged from the field as a contender, the contest became less on Newsom’s record and more like a standard election, which in California accrues a huge advantage to Democrats. If the system were set up in such a way that the Newsom recall would have been done first, then the election to succeed a few weeks later (with the lieutenant governor stepping in for the interim) it may have had more of a chance to succeed. Chances are that, in the end, the LG would have run for the top spot in the second election and won, but the key goal of getting rid of Newsom would have been achieved.

Here in Delaware, there are no shortage of Republicans who would have likely thrown their hat into the ring for such an election, with the top-tier candidates being the last two who the GOP has nominated for governor, Julianne Murray and Colin Bonini. But I suspect there may have been a high-profile regressive Democrat who jumped in as well, figuring he, she, or they would motivate their far-left voters to join in the recall effort and rid themselves of a more centrist Democrat. That would make things a lot more interesting and give a whole bunch of heartburn to the Delaware Democrat Party.

In a best-case scenario, the two forces combine with independents who are sick to death of “Governor Carnage” and push him out of office – say 35% of the total are Republicans and independents and 20% are those far-left Democrats. Assuming the GOP didn’t shoot itself in the foot and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by running enough people to split the vote, it would put a Republican in the governor’s chair even if he or she had to face a strongly Democrat General Assembly.

The more likely outcome, though, would find the Democrats having enough party discipline to prevail. That’s one thing they do pretty well, given the fact both their incumbent U.S. Senators have run against a “progressive” candidate recently and crushed that opposition. (By that token the regressives must be happy with LBR because no one with any significant bankroll or support base opposed her in the last two primary elections.) It would probably be something on the order of the California outcome, with over 60% voting against their best interests to retain.

Now if I were still in Maryland and recall were possible, THAT would be an intriguing coalition trying to recall Larry Hogan. I’ll just leave it at that.

Patriots Day version 2.0?

This has become the season of discontent.

Weary of restrictions spawned by a virus we imported from a nation which has generally meant us harm – one which has continually underperformed extreme expectations insofar as hospitalizations and deaths are concerned – Americans are beginning to bristle at their restrictions as a federally-imposed April 30 restoration date approaches.

While it’s the proper method Constitutionally, states which have clamped down on their populace based on the Wuhan flu’s effect on certain urban areas now exist cheek-by-jowl with states using a more laissez-faire approach. Yet as the pressure mounts to restore liberty, governors in several states have adopted a more regional approach: the three West Coast states of California, Oregon, and Washington are planning a more concerted (and more restrictive) reopening, as are governors in seven northeastern states including mine in Delaware – the other states are Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. Of that group, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker was the last to join and is the first Republican.

Chances are these ten states will exhibit a slothful, “go-slow” approach designed (at least to the public) to enhance safety. In political terms, some cynics would counter that the slow movement is designed to tank the economy further, extending any possible recovery beyond the November elections. (It’s interesting to note that, of the ten governors involved, only two are on the ballot this year – Jay Inslee in Washington state and John Carney here in Delaware. But both are considered safe Democrat seats nonetheless. I’m not even aware if the GOP has a contender here in Delaware.) On the other side, a handful of non-allied states have never provided more than just limited restrictions and Texas is leading an effort to quickly start things back up from a restrictive state.

At noon today in Annapolis, Marylanders were scheduled to hold a protest imploring Governor Larry Hogan (aka “Lockdown Larry”) to move quickly in bringing Maryland back. The morning’s rain should have cleared out in time, so we will see what develops out of this protest – I expect maybe a couple hundred people will show up. (There are two separate protests planned thus far in Delaware – one on Wednesday and one on May 1.)

But what concerns me are the people I see on social media who have traded their liberty for a security the government can’t assure regardless of whether we have masks on, close all the so-called non-essential businesses, or practice social distancing. (If I never hear that phrase again after this is over, it will be too soon.) When the governor puts cops on the side of the road to pull over cars with out-of-state license plates, they’re the ones who say “go for it, we want more!” I wouldn’t be surprised if those who advocate for this are secure in their jobs – after all, those who aren’t working have the most time to protest.

The other day my friend Bob Densic asked me if this could be the resurrection of the TEA Party movement. After I pondered it a moment, this is what I said:

“You know, that thought DID cross my mind. There are two big differences though. First off, you’re going to have a more “purist” group, although we will see just how well they know the Constitution when it comes to federalism and rule of law. One key thing to watch is the reaction to these compacts between (mostly Democrat) governors, one of which involves us here in Delaware.

The other aspect that I would like to see is the absence of hypocrisy. You would have TP people complain about the stimulus but then turn around and warn, ‘don’t touch my Social Security (and/or Medicare),’ not realizing it was a large component of the problem! This one isn’t so much financial – an argument can be made that the stimulus is, in part, repayment per the Takings Clause since the government shut down – but is more rights-based, sort of like the civil rights movement.”

If it takes a virus to remind us of our rights, so be it. (I’m also heartened by the uptick in Bible reading since this all began.) But it’s time to turn talk into action as we commemorate the first Patriots Day on Sunday.

The clash of the titans

I saw an interesting e-mail and release cross my desk the other day, reminding me of my halcyon days in the Maryland Republican Party. But before I get to that, allow me to explain my extended absence.

Back about two weeks ago, the company which handles my website as part of a shared server had a major problem with said server, which knocked me offline by itself for a couple days. Once the server was restored, however, there was an issue with the database – which is why you may have seen a lot of oddball text where my header photo would go and all of my links and posts were no longer categorized – the links were in an alphabetical jumble. It was really bad on the back end where I do my handiwork.

So finally I got tech support to fix that issue, only to find out I had yet another database error which occurred after I added a plugin which allowed me to back up this website to a remote place. That was what you may have seen yesterday evening when I noticed I couldn’t access my site. I finally repaired the database on my own – I found the instructions on a WordPress help side and lo and behold, it actually worked! So I also took the moment to upgrade to the latest version (now we are up to WordPress 5.4) and update the other plugins and themes. Hopefully I can keep this thing afloat for awhile longer.

Now that I have begged your indulgence and you (hopefully) stuck with me, allow me to speak my little piece.

I know I’m trying to focus on Delaware, but I have a lot of Maryland friends and a few days ago I received word that Nicolee Ambrose, who has been Maryland’s RNC National Committeewoman for the past eight years (elected in a convention that may have been one of my all-time favorites for the drama and successes, but one which – alas! – the post’s photos haven’t yet been restored which destroys my narrative) is trying for term number three. That’s not a surprise, as she seems to enjoy the job.

In fact, the surprise came from a blog for which I’m an “erstwhile” contributor, Red Maryland. This deeply slanted piece came from Brian Griffiths, who has no love lost for Ambrose, and announced that former party Chair Diana Waterman has decided to seek the position. It’s rather funny to me because politics makes strange bedfellows – Griffiths’ dislike of Ambrose led him to support “party over everything” matron Audrey Scott during that fateful 2012 convention. He may have one more vote than I do on the matter, though.

Truth be told, I think Nicolee has done a reasonably good job, but the argument that eight years is long enough in office is a compelling one, too. Unfortunately, I think the idea is that of getting new blood into the office, not using the position to be a cushy golden parachute because life gets boring when you’re not the leader. (I think that was Audrey Scott’s intent.) I’m not going to lose any sleep over it should Diana prevail, but I don’t see it as a vast improvement.

At the time she was elected, Nicolee was exciting and new while Audrey Scott represented the old guard that seemed to be happy with the Republicans being a perpetual (and not very principled) minority party in Maryland, save for the more rural parts of the state. (In that respect it reminds me of the current Delaware GOP.) I’m not going to paint Diana Waterman with that same brush I used for Audrey Scott, but what I will say is that she’s not exactly going to take things in a new direction, either. Diana reminds me a lot of Larry Hogan, and not just in the fact both of them took on cancer and won.

Speaking of the governor: as I see it, the Ambrose-Waterman race is interesting enough for me to write about as a horserace, but what I want to know is what they would do about the real problem with the Maryland GOP: its titular head, Governor Larry Hogan.

What we saw in the 2018 elections was embarrassing: Larry Hogan lost what mojo he had as the opposition leader to Martin O’Malley with Change Maryland because he decided not to change the state that much from how it was the several terms before him. First he sold out the Eastern Shore farmers, then he sold out the people of Western Maryland, and finally he sold out two good conservative Republicans with the singular focus of a “drive for five” that fizzled badly. Given Larry’s distaste for Trump, I’m sure that Maryland has already been written off by the national GOP for 2020 so the Democrat majority in the House of Representatives isn’t going to be addressed in this state.

To be quite honest, if John Delaney had opted out of his quixotic bid for President and opted in to the 2018 governor’s race, we would be talking about Governor Delaney’s prospects for re-election two years hence. Despite Hogan’s poll-based popularity, I’m sure 30 percent of Democrats would not have crossed party lines to vote for Hogan because they were repelled by the far-left Ben Jealous if the more moderate Delaney were the 2018 standardbearer. (The Democrats may learn their lesson as the 2022 frontrunner seems to be Comptroller Peter Franchot, who is a progressive wolf in moderates’ clothing. He talks a good centrist game.)

Maryland as a state, though, faces a unique problem. Notwithstanding the recent Wuhan virus and government-caused economic meltdown, a Donald Trump who is more successful in draining the swamp leads to economic pain to certain regions of the state – regions which contain about 40 percent of the state’s voters. It’s become a statewide company town, and that company is the federal government. I’d love it, sitting here in Delaware as I do, if the federal government cut its budget in half, but those who toil for Uncle Sam would be staring at a financial pit not unlike the one workers at suddenly-shuttered businesses face at this very moment. It’s a case where the 60 percent in Maryland need to feel a little less empathy for their brethren at the ballot box but a little more at the collection box to help those who would be in need.

So it really doesn’t matter which Titanic deck chairs go where, because in my humble opinion the problem is more than either Ambrose or Waterman can address by themselves. They’re just there to pick up the pieces when the Maryland GOP game is up in 2022.

Hogan takes a pass…on 2020

It’s no surprise that Larry Hogan, the now term-limited governor of our fair state of Maryland, decided to disappoint the #NeverTrump whisperers in the moderate wing of the Republican Party and skip his chance at being cannon fodder for Donald Trump on The Donald’s way to the Republican presidential nomination in 2020. As CNN put it:

“I truly appreciate all of the encouragement I received from people around the nation urging me to consider making a run for President in 2020,” Hogan tweeted Saturday. “However, I will not be a candidate.”

Hogan said that he would instead focus on his second term as governor and his upcoming role chairing the National Governors Association.

“That work is important, and I believe both of those roles will give me the opportunity to make an impact on the direction of my party and our nation,” he added.

“Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan says he won’t challenge Trump in 2020,” Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN, June 1, 2019.

I’m sure Larry won’t be voting for Trump next year given our governor’s track record, and truth be told he’ll have the advantage of a fairly dull campaign year in 2020. Barring a heretofore unexpected vacancy in the U.S. Senate, there are no statewide races on the 2020 docket, and aside from the possibility of a spirited race in a redrawn Sixth Congressional District, the House races will likely be decided in their respective primaries. So Larry won’t have to demean himself by campaigning for any of those icky conservatives – not that he has much in the way of practice.

However, Larry has established an eerie parallel to his abortive 2010 campaign for governor; a campaign that barely got out of the starting block before he pulled the plug, deferring to his old boss Bob Ehrlich. Out of that came Hogan’s Change Maryland organization, which served as a foil to the governorship of Martin O’Malley and paved the way to Hogan’s 2014 victory – a victory he gloats about.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan is not a career politician. He spent nearly his entire career as a small businessman. Fed up with high taxes, politics as usual, and decades of a one-party monopoly, he started Change Maryland, the largest non-partisan grassroots citizen organization in state history. In 2014, out-numbered in party registration by more than 2-1, and outspent by more than 5-1, Governor Hogan pulled off the biggest upset in America to become only the second Republican Governor elected in Maryland in 50 years.

Governor Hogan quickly got to work and set an example for the nation, accomplishing what many believed was no longer possible: reaching across the aisle, and working together to achieve real bipartisan, common sense solutions.

As Hogan was taking the hard pass on a 2020 run, he traveled a familiar road in setting up an organization primarily dedicated to keeping his name in the limelight. Dubbed An America United, Hogan is obviously setting this group up to prepare for a centrist run for the GOP nod in 2024 – basically the same lane John Kasich had in 2016 and held prior to that by guys like John McCain and Jon Huntsman. When most of the news glowingly featured on the site comes from the Washington Post, New York Times, or CNN – the farthest right source of his front-page news is the now-defunct home of #NeverTrump establishment Republicans The Weekly Standard – it’s a pretty safe bet that the group is not going to venture too far right of center.

Naturally the group has its goals, expressed in the standard bromides about “bipartisan, common-sense solutions to create more and better jobs, cut taxes, protect the environment, build our infrastructure, and improve education.” Unfortunately, based on his record in Maryland, what he considers “common sense” is just slowing the long-standing drift away from the ideals that made the nation great. After all, he turned his back on creating jobs in the energy industry (private-sector jobs), squandered opportunities to cut taxes further by asking for ever-larger budgets, and contracted the Democrat disease of believing that to “improve education” is to spend much more money on it rather than allowing the billions that’s already there to follow the child.

In 2024 the nation will be in a quandary: either facing an uncertain political future after eight years of Donald Trump or dealing with the backsliding which will be occurring should one of those in the Democrat “clown limousine” be running for re-election. I honestly suspect that’s what Larry is hoping for, knowing that only once in the last 90 years has a Republican president been elected to succeed a fellow Republican (Bush 41 after Reagan.) John McCain in 2008, Gerald Ford – who served as President but was never elected in his own right – in 1976, and Richard Nixon in 1960 were the last three to try, but you have to go back to Herbert Hoover winning in 1928 after Calvin Coolidge chose not to run to find the previous example before the late George H.W. Bush.

(However, the string is even longer for Democrats: the last time a Democrat succeeded a Democrat, aside from death in office, was 1856 as James Buchanan served one term after fellow one-termer Franklin Pierce. To tell you how long ago that was, Pierce in 1852 succeeded the last Whig to be President, Millard Fillmore. Your Presidential tidbit.)

So don’t think Larry is uninterested in the 2020 race. He’s just choosing to bide his time, perhaps believing that America electing a far-left President will allow him to escape the crocodile that will call any Republican “extremist.” But I have news for Larry: even if he became a “blue dog” Democrat to run, he would still be on the menu regardless.

Odds and ends number 93

There’s been a lot piling up in my e-mail box as I prepared The Rise and Fall of the TEA Party, so now that I have that wrapped up I can move on to a few long-overdue things, like this one. As always, it’s things I can speak to in a couple sentences to a few paragraphs, wrapped up in a rhetorical bow.

On the Maryland front

I’ve received a number of items from my old friends at the Maryland Public Policy Institute but these few stuck out at me. First was Marta Mossburg’s assessment of our governor’s Presidential election chances:

If Gov. Larry Hogan decides to challenge Donald Trump for the presidency, he will lose before stepping into the ring.

A man who in the State of the State and at his second inauguration tried to out Roger Mr. Rogers with calls for bipartisanship has no chance outside the small neighborhood of Maryland. Anyone with an R beside their name is evil to those on the progressive left throughout the nation even if they never don a MAGA hat. And what in his record will speak to the national Republican base so loudly they would be willing to dump Mr. Trump for him?

“I lowered tolls!” isn’t a rallying cry to stir the masses. Neither is “I stopped Democrat overreach!” And “I supported the most expensive public transportation project in the world” won’t win him an invitation to break bread with wealthy Republican donors who want to shrink government.

“Maryland needs to win for Gov. Hogan to win higher office”, MPPI blog, February 5, 2019.

Not to mention we already have a socially-liberal #NeverTrump in the running for losing the GOP nomination. But the point remains: Donald Trump, for all his faults, is probably more conservative than Larry Hogan is. A conservative Larry Hogan would veto practically everything the Maryland General Assembly passes (instead of caving in to some of their worst proposals) because how often do they even consider his sponsored bills? Add to that the fact that Trump will actually campaign for conservatives (unlike what happened to a certain Maryland U.S. Senate candidate last time around) and the thought that Hogan would be wise to concentrate on Maryland makes more sense.

And if that wasn’t enough, MPPI scored big with their assessment of Maryland’s spending problem and long-standing alternatives to a job-killing $15 per hour minimum wage.

A fast-growing industry

Speaking of Governor Hogan and caving in: despite Maryland’s foolish refusal to get in on the game, extraction is the nation’s fastest-growing industry. But even Andy Harris has been reluctant to advocate for offshore drilling despite its potential benefits, as this op-ed suggests. As I often say, the reason environmentalists oppose seismic testing isn’t the harm to creatures but is truly that of what we may find is out there now that testing methods have improved over those of 30 years ago.

On the other hand, those trying to kill industry in the country are hard at work trying to fool people. Two cases in point come from the Capital Research Center, which posted a couple good pieces on union influence in politics these days in left-leaning states as well as the federal government. But if you really want to take the cake, just listen to what Slow Joe Biden said a few days ago:

It’s time we told the truth about what unions have really done for America.

With the dues they paid, the picket lines they walked, the negotiations they sweated through, those union workers weren’t just standing up for other union workers.

The rights they fought for benefited every American worker.

Minimum wage. Overtime pay. The 40-hour workweek. Safer working conditions. The elimination of child labor, for crying out loud. The list goes on and on.

This country wasn’t built by a few Wall Street bankers, CEOs, or hedge fund managers. It was built by the American middle class.

“It’s Time To Tell The Truth About Unions.” e-mail from American Possibilities.

Here’s a little more truth: I was often told by a relative – who was a union steward, for crying out loud – that “unions are for the lazy man.” When the incentives become perverse, like intentionally slow-walking a task so the productivity expectation remains artificially low, it’s apparent that unions provide a floor level of benefits but also create a ne plus ultra of accomplishment. The most productive and innovative have no place in a union.

Good news for the Constitution (party)

Did you know the Constitution Party has 110,000 registered voters around the country? It doesn’t seem like much but worth remembering is that not all states specifically allow registration to any party but the big two.

But I love the contributions being made by an unknown person who goes by the nom de plume “Digital Paul Revere.” In one statement, DPR said a lot about the type of person the Constitution Party should attract:

I am writing to you because I have witnessed firsthand the absolute horror of socialism. These essays are not newsletters. They aren’t meant to bring you recent Party news. They are long-form commentaries on current events happening in our country. They are viewpoints, seen through the lens of a Millennial American who has lived for a significant length of time under a true socialist dictatorship: China. These essays are meant as an olive branch to young Americans, frustrated by the perversion of the political process today, alienated by the major political parties, crushed under unimaginable debt with little hope of ever having the means to repay it, and “politically homeless”. They are also meant to give older generations of Americans a glimpse into the future that awaits your children and grandchildren, should you fail to act now.

In these essays, I hope to provide a point of view that will help fellow American patriots see the danger that our nation is in and call to action all who wish to see the situation improve. I can tell you with absolute conviction that many Americans do not know the extent to which socialism has corrupted our systems and institutions. I didn’t know either. It is only after having lived under true socialism that I can see the telltale signs of its growing influence on our country.

“Introduction to a Reformed Millennial,” DPR.

In a similar vein, DPR writes that it’s better to be an American. I like that.

The Constitution Party also gained a couple more officeholders thanks to partisan switches – one from Republican and another from a conservative Democrat who was elected based on their votes in a North Carolina race. In looking up the results, though, I found this gentleman was an incumbent county commissioner who turned out to be a primary election loser that took advantage of the CP’s newly-won ballot access to avenge his primary loss. In most cases, “sore loser” laws would prevent this, so his victory comes with an asterisk, too. It’s tough to compete with the duopoly, though.

The Kochs of the Left

The penultimate piece before I go is a groundbreaking report from the Capital Research Center on a left-wing dark money entity called Arabella Advisors. If you ever wonder how these left-leaning “grassroots” groups suddenly pop up out of nowhere, this piece may help you to understand that it’s some serious Astroturf. And they had the nerve to call the TEA Party “Astroturf?” Sorry, I know some of the TEA Party founders and believe me, they are legit. If you’re still not convinced, read this.

Flogging the scamPAC horse

That’s not to say that the TEA Party didn’t eventually sell out, though. Call it flogging a dead horse, but the TEA Party Express is coming off like a scam PAC with an appeal that claims:

The recent polls coming out are showing President Trump behind many of the Democratic candidates.  Now, as financial disclosures are due for the first quarter of the year, we see that these Democrats are raising unheard of millions of dollars – over $70 million and counting.  So Trump is behind in both the polls and in the critical fight for financial resources to communicate with the American people.

We launched the “Tea Party for Trump” to get conservatives off the sidelines and back in the field to preserve the tremendous gains we have made over the last two years and achieve even more victories ahead in a second term of Trump-Pence.

“Fight back for Trump” e-mail from Sal Russo of the Tea Party Express.

There are no less than seven different linked appeals for donations.

Now I’m not sure if the TPX (as I called it for shorthand in my book) ever ran a bus tour for the 2018 midterms – if they did it was nowhere near my radar and I think I have a decently attuned one. But if Lloyd Marcus is to be believed they may get the band back together for Trump 2020. We will see.

Still. it’s a shame how far the TPX has fallen. Luckily my friend Mark Williams isn’t dead or he may be rolling in his grave about this one.

Now that I have pretty much cleaned out my e-mail, I think we can put odds and ends to bed for a few weeks.

Why $15 is the wrong fight

I have seen reports all over social media and the “real” media that the Maryland House of Delegates has passed an increase in the minimum wage that will eventually lead it to $15 per hour by 2025. I’m not up on just who is who in the House these days but I presume a 96-44 vote is pretty much party line – there may have been a Democrat who voted against it, but I don’t know and it likely doesn’t matter in the scheme of things because it’s a vetoproof majority and the way Democrats are ramming this through it will be passed at a time when the veto can be overridden in session. (With Larry Hogan’s record, I can no longer say “inevitable veto.”)

It should be pointed out first of all that the “fight for $15” is sort of a misnomer because the raise from the current $10.10 per hour – a rate established last July – to $15 an hour would not be complete until January, 2025. This is a significant change from the original bill, which mandated the raise be in place by July, 2023. (The House bill has been amended while the cross-filed Senate bill remains as it was originally intended, so it works well for comparison.) But since the state began regularly raising its minimum wage in January, 2015, workers have already received a 26.3% bump in four years – well beyond the rate of inflation and a far cry from the normal 2-3% annual raises many workers receive if they are lucky. Whether it takes eight years or ten years, a salary increase of 87.5% for gaining absolutely no skills is far more than the market would naturally allow.

I’ll circle back to that point in a moment, but it’s also worth considering that union workers who have their wage rates tied to a point above the minimum wage will also get a raise. And when workers get a raise, guess who else does?

In today’s climate of dramatic minimum wage increases of 50% or more, unions — predominantly in the service sector — can also directly benefit from minimum wage increases because their members’ pay is less than the new minimum. Take California, for instance, which passed a $15 minimum wage last year. The Employment Policies Institute (EPI) usedCensus Bureau data to estimate that roughly 223,000 union members in the state will receive a direct pay increase by the time the law is fully implemented.

It’s bad news for taxpayers, but a solid investment for unions. A powerful California-based SEIU local spent about $1.6 million to collect the signatures needed to qualify the $15 ballot measure that forced Gov. Jerry Brown to back such a mandate. EPI estimated that California unions can expect a return on investment of roughly $9 million in additional dues per year.

“Why Do Unions Fund The Fight For $15 Minimum Wage? Because They Gain A Financial Windfall In Return,” Ed Rensi, Forbes, January 19, 2017.

You can bet your bottom dollar that Big Labor here in Maryland has similar deals with business owners held hostage to these union contracts.

Now circle back with me if you would and think about who earns minimum wage from a job. Generally they are people just entering the job market or those who don’t develop their skills beyond the point of being barely hireable. My first “real” W-2 job was working in the on-campus dining halls at college, and it was a minimum wage job – just as my roommate who snagged a cushy library job made. Since I was essentially a temporary worker, it didn’t matter to the school that I was making $3.35 an hour to run a dishwasher. And since most of my money went to the local sub shop or to buy the occasional 12-pack when I became legal, I didn’t much worry about it, either. In fact, my first job out of college at a department store was minimum wage – but this college graduate quickly parlayed his degree into a 49% raise when the architectural firm I interviewed with a few weeks earlier offered me a position less than a month after I started working at the store. More skills and a little bit of work experience = higher wages. I created more potential value from my labor.

This is the problem with minimum wage as I see it. Do you think Maryland workers are going to instantly create another 75 cents to a dollar’s worth of value to their employers each hour just because the calendar flipped from 2020 to 2021 or 2024 to 2025? Of course they won’t – but if a business owner had 20 minimum-wage employees who worked an average of 20 hours a week, it’s an extra $300 or $400 they need to clear.

I’ll grant there’s a bit of merit to the argument that raising the wage creates people with more money to spend, but what are the chances enough people will take their extra money and spend it at the business in question? When the percentage of workers who make minimum wage hovers in the low single-digits, there’s not enough of an impetus for that so-called “extra” money to make much of an impact on the economy at large but, at the same time, it can be devastating to a business that requires a lot of unskilled labor.

There’s also the impact on workers who make slightly to significantly more than minimum wage to consider. They won’t get an automatic raise, but their standard of living declines by the amount that businesses have to raise their prices to cover costs. It may only be an extra percent or two in scattered businesses, but eventually that adds up. Note that amendments to Maryland’s most recent minimum wage bill not only slowed down the increase by 18 months but also scrapped the automatic increase based on inflation – probably to make it an issue for the 2024 or 2026 elections.

I have often said, and will continue to say because it’s true, that the real minimum wage is zero – the amount you make when the job you may have secured when the minimum wage was $8 an hour and you weren’t a significant risk to the employer if you didn’t work out is the job that’s no longer available at $10.10 an hour.

Regardless, it’s all but certain that a minimum wage increase will pass in Maryland this year. The Left needs that victory and many others in order to try and tank the state and national economy for the 2020 election. (Notice the lack of enthusiasm over the 2.9% GDP increase despite the fact it’s our best since 2015 – losing by a fractional .0009% – and close to the first 3% annual calendar year growth rate since 2005. One could argue the Schumer-Pelosi-Trump shutdown may have cost us that 0.1 percent.) Apologists for the Obama economic record (“Analysts have called into question just how much a particular president actually impacts the economy during his tenure”) now expect a recession to hit by the next election (“While the fourth-quarter cooling isn’t quite as extreme as some economists feared, the metric does little to placate existing concerns about a global economic slowdown.”)

But someone believes in magic, as in that people will magically produce more value through an arbitrary wage increase. Cue the pixie dust and unicorns.

Odds and ends number 91

It’s amazing how much stuff one thinks is newsworthy at the time and thus collects in an e-mail account, but by the time they think about writing on it the moment is gone. In this case, it’s items I thought were important enough at the time to keep around and still hold enough interest to me to make the cut days or weeks later.

As usual, it’s a sentence to a few paragraphs. So here goes…

Obama goes all-in on redistricting

Back in December I (along with millions of others) received an e-mail from our most recent past President telling us he’s joining forces with Eric Holder:

Next year, OFA is fully combining forces with the redistricting effort of my former attorney general, Eric Holder. We’re going all-in on the fight against gerrymandering — because for all the hard-fought progress we’ve achieved together, the lack of truly representative government has too often stood in the way of change.

Now, that structural gridlock has been frustrating, no doubt. But if we capitalize on the opportunity to reverse these undemocratic and unrepresentative maps, the bounds of what is possible will fundamentally change.

With maps that deliver on the promise of equal representation, our political leaders will be forced to actually prioritize the will and well-being of the American people on the most pressing issues of our time.

“What’s Next,” e-mail from Organizing for Action, December 20, 2018.

Traditionally the federal government has pretty much left states alone in how they apportion their given number of representatives, which means you get diametrically differing results: some states have it done by a commission, others by their legislature, and Maryland has the governor do it. (Obviously it’s no issue in Delaware as they get just one at-large House member.)

Since attaining office in 2014, Larry Hogan has tried to reform redistricting to no avail. Perhaps this is because Democrats have controlled the process for every redistricting since 1960, a census that led the state to having an “at-large” representative until the shape and placement of an eighth district could be agreed on. (The state was allotted an eighth representative in the 1960 census.) The dirty work of reform could be carried out by the Supreme Court, too, which is the hope of Democrats (like Obama) who think the GOP should blink first because they control more states.

But it’s certain Maryland’s situation is closer to the Obama-Holder idea of “fairness” than other, Republican-drawn states are. I notice they haven’t made a big deal about our state’s blatant attempts at shifting districts from Republican to Democrat – a case that led to the district court ruling mandating a redraw of our Sixth District before the 2020 election.

An Indivisible shutdown

Not surprisingly, the left-wing Astroturf group is taking credit for egging on the Schumer-Pelosi shutdown and calling on the Senate to consider no legislation until a “clean” continuing resolution is sent up for approval.

Just (Tuesday), Senate Democrats, lead (sic) by Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), backed our strategy to refuse to proceed with business as usual until Mitch McConnell brings a bill to the floor to reopen the government. They played hardball, and they won – blocking the first bill that Mitch McConnell tried to bring up.

“When autocrats abuse the tools of democracy,” Indivisible e-mail, January 9, 2019

But listen to the rhetoric they are using: did you know concrete and steel are racist? This is from the “Republican Senator” call script (there’s one for Democrats, too.)

Will [Senator] commit to passing the House funding bills that would reopen our government instead holding our government hostage over Trump’s racist wall?

Indivisible action page

Look, I get the argument about how more of our illegal immigrants are those overstaying visas than those sneaking across the border. So I know a wall is not a one-size-fits-all solution to the problem, since there also needs to be enforcement personnel put in place as well as measures to make being here illegally less attractive, such as an end to “birthright citizenship” and punishment for businesses that routinely hire illegal aliens. I would listen to an argument that allows those here illegally to become citizens, but it would involve them starting the process from within their home country.

First things first, though: pony up the $5 billion and build the wall. (Dude, in the grand scheme of our overly-bloated federal government budget that’s a rounding error.) The last time I checked the Constitution – you know, that document public officials swear to uphold – common defense was supposed to be provided for, and to me a wall would be part of common defense, even if it’s not in the actual defense budget. Every day the Democrats obstruct is a day they putting politics above safety.

Meanwhile, in news being ignored…

Americans keep getting hired to build things. Remember a few years ago when the Alliance for American Manufacturing had a monthly count comparing the actual number of manufacturing jobs created under Barack Obama to the million he promised? I think that ended about 700,000 short. But instead of giving Donald Trump credit for eclipsing the half-million mark in that category in less than two years, they want more trade enforcement. Stop and smell the roses, guys.

But can the good times last?

There’s going to be a two-front war on prosperity conducted by the Left. On the public front there’s the so-called “Green New Deal,” which has been ably dissected by Hayden Ludwig of the Capital Research Center. Corollary to that is the contrarian advice to Democrats given by Bobby Jindal in the Wall Street Journal. I won’t take you behind the paywall, but the upshot is that “(a) more effective strategy (than impeachment threats, abolishing ICE, or installing “Medicare for All”) would be for House Democrats to take Mr. Trump’s populist campaign rhetoric seriously and seek to divide him from his more conventional Republican colleagues on the Hill.”

I don’t know just how far Jindal’s tongue is in his cheek, but I have to question how serious he is when he says:

Populist Democrats can help the president make good on his promises – and make Republicans shriek – by proposing a financial-transaction tax and a revenue tax on tech companies. They’d be following Europe’s lead. Democrats can force the issue by ending the carried-interest tax break, another of Mr. Trump’s campaign promises.

That new revenue would reduce annual deficits and make a down payment on another Trump campaign promise: eliminating the nation’s debt in eight years. Contrasting themselves with supposed small-government congressional Republicans, who presided over a $779 billion budget deficit during the last fiscal year, Democrats can be the party of fiscal responsibility, expanding government while reducing the deficit. There is no law mandating they spend all the new revenue they raise.

“If Democrats Were Shrewd…”, Bobby Jindal, Wall Street Journal, December 30, 2018

Wanna bet they won’t spend the revenue? See “Green New Deal” above.

Behind the scenes, though, the die has been cast for a rerun of 2007-2008, when a Republican President saddled with an unpopular war let a Democrat Congress that promised to be reformers walk all over him. To that end, the first thing the Democrats did when they got the reins of power was change the rules. This link came courtesy of my old friend Melody Clarke – longtime fans of the site (like her) may remember her as Melody Scalley, who twice ran for Virginia’s House of Delegates and used to have a conservative talk radio program I guested on back in the day. (Geez, that was almost a decade ago. *sigh*)

But the House rules are important because previous incarnations made it more difficult to raise taxes or create new spending without offsetting it somewhere else. Now they favor bigger, more intrusive government for the well-connected special interests that attach to Democrats like ticks to hound dogs.

Creating more choices for Maryland

If you recall my postmortem coverage of the most recent past election, you will note I was corrected in one of my assertions by state Libertarian Party Chair Bob Johnston. I thought it was any statewide candidate who could get 1% to keep a party on the ballot, but he said it had to be governor (or President) and despite my last-minute support Shawn Quinn got well less than 1% of the vote.

But, thanks to a previous court case brought by an independent candidate for statewide office, the threshold for statewide ballot inclusion is now 10,000 signatures. (That helped Neal Simon run for U.S. Senate.) Using that logic, the Maryland Libertarian Party is suing the state to further relax ballot standing rules:

Maryland law requires smaller parties – all those other than the Democrats and Republicans – to renew their official status every four years either by attracting more than 1% of the gubernatorial or presidential vote or by filing a petition with the signatures of 10,000 registered voters.  In 2014 the Libertarians became the first smaller party in Maryland to reach the 1% goal, but in 2018 they fell short.  Now state law requires them to collect 10,000 signatures—even though the state’s own records already show that there are 22,338 registered Libertarians.

“The state’s interest in ensuring that there is a significant modicum of support within Maryland for the Libertarian Party is simply not advanced one iota by requiring Maryland’s 22,000 Libertarians to petition their non-Libertarian neighbors for permission to participate in the political process,” say the plaintiffs in their complaint.

Maryland Libertarian Party press release, December 27, 2018.

If the Libertarians are successful, they would qualify for the 2020 and 2022 ballots – although I’m not sure how they don’t qualify for 2020 when Gary Johnson received well over 1% of the Maryland vote in 2016. (Perhaps it’s only for the remainder of the state’s four-year electoral cycle?) This would certainly make the game easier for the Libertarian Party as they don’t have to spend money chasing petition signatures nor would they have to convince another 18,000 or so voters to join their ranks to get them to 1% of the registered voters. (Getting a percentage of registered voters is a criteria for both Maryland and Delaware, but the numbers are easier to achieve in Delaware, which only requires 1/10 of a percent – and subsequently has seven balloted parties.)

And with 9,287 registered voters and a “Green New Deal” to support, it’s certain that Maryland’s Green Party is watching this case (Johnston v. Lamone) as well.

Coming up…

As I mentioned in yesterday’s piece I have a special record review coming. I was actually listening to it as I did this post, so it was good background music I’ll take another spin at this week before posting.

I’ve also been putting together a short series of posts – ones that are long on number-crunching and research, which make them even more fun for me – on something I enjoy. My friends watching the Hot Stove League should really appreciate it, too.

It all beats the political, which has degenerated to me almost to mind-numbingly boring because it’s so, so predictable. When it strikes my fancy I’ll delve into it again, but in the meantime it’s the other stuff.

Coattails tucked into his pants

So let’s talk about Larry Hogan, shall we?

I’m going to start way back in 2009. People tend to forget Larry actually had his eye on running for Governor back then and was briefly in the running until he deferred to his old boss and allowed him to get his doors blown off by Martin O’Malley. (Of course, I chose better in that primary, too.)

After the 2010 Ehrlich debacle – an election where the TEA Party wave somehow missed all of Maryland except for the Eastern Shore – you just had to know that Hogan, a vocal critic of Martin O’Malley during his brief time in the race, would figure out some way to stay in the headlines; thus, Change Maryland was born. I thought it was a great idea.

But when Hogan actually completed the fait accompli of getting into the 2014 open seat Governor’s race, I found he was great at articulating what he was against but not so much what he was for. Given a good field to choose from and one where all the contenders (save Hogan) spelled out their agenda, I supported someone else in the Republican primary but we got Larry. Of course, the rest is history.

I’m going to talk about two memories of Hogan from the campaign and how those issues were resolved.

As the O’Malley administration was heading out of town, one last-minute priority of theirs was an attempt to saddle our farmers with new phosphorus management rules that were basically written by the environmentalist wackos of the state. Hours after being sworn in, Hogan beat a deadline and pulled the regs – much to the chagrin of Radical Green.

But barely a month later, Hogan basically put the same thing into effect with a little bit of window dressing. I will grant that it was in the face of a bill with those same regulations in them but it also put the General Assembly on notice that Hogan could be rolled. And boy, was he ever when he reneged on a promise to eliminate the MOM-imposed moratorium on fracking in Maryland and sold the panhandle of the state down the river by endorsing a ban.

Aside from eliminating some tolls and reallocating money that could have been needlessly wasted on a light-rail boondoggle in Baltimore known as the Red Line, it’s really hard to compile a list of quantifiable, significant Hogan accomplishments but easy to find where he capitulated. We still have to pay for the Purple Line (not to mention a huge subsidy for the D.C. Metro), the “rain tax” repeal really wasn’t one, we got stuck with competing versions of paid sick leave (from a supposedly “business-friendly” governor) and on and on. Even at the end of this term, when he was free to use his veto pen because the terms of legislators were ending and there would be no override votes, he still let a lot of bad stuff through.

But I was still planning on holding my nose really, really tight and voting for Hogan, until he sold Tony Campbell out. That was the last straw. So I looked into Shawn Quinn. Lord knows there is a lot of his platform I didn’t agree with, but there is one key philosophy where Quinn and I are in complete agreement: when it comes to education, money should follow the child.

So thanks to all the betrayals and broken promises, Larry Hogan managed to lose my vote and Shawn Quinn received it – a little bit of unexpected help. No doubt Larry doesn’t really care because he won and now he’s a lame duck until he decides to run for something else (U.S. Senate in 2022?) but look at what he lost. He may blame Donald Trump, but I think Hogan’s reliance on Democrat votes bit him in the behind when it came to downballot races like the ballyhooed “Drive for Five” with state senators. Cases in point:

In District 3B, Bill Folden won with 7,522 votes in 2014 but lost with 8,775 votes this time.

In District 9B, Bob Flanagan won with 8,202 votes in 2014 but lost with 8,311 votes this time.

District 29B’s Deb Rey won last time with 5,334 votes but this time had 6,281 and still lost. That one sucked because Deb was always in the running to be one of my monoblogue Accountability Project Legislative All-Stars and achieved that goal twice, 2016 and 2017.

Glen Glass led all of District 34A with 10,779 votes in 2014 and may lose as the third-place finisher with 11.564 this time. He’s 19 votes out of second.

Glass was a Legislative All-Star way back in 2012 but was more comfortably average of late – still, a significant loss. Senate seat loser Gail Bates was also an All-Star as a Delegate in 2011 – I lost a total of three. One piece of great news, though: two-time mAP Legislator of the Year Joseph Boteler is back in the fold as he was one of three winners in District 8 (and the lone Republican, a net loss of one from the three-seat district), squeezing out Cluster.

Meanwhile, Hogan ran ahead of his 2014 pace in every county. Ironically, Anthony Brown would have killed for the 917,484 votes received by Ben Jealous, as that total would have won it for him four years ago – instead Jealous lost by over 300,000 votes.

But if you do a top 6/bottom 6 list of Hogan gains, it’s rather telling about the electorate.

Top 6 gainers:

  1. Prince George’s – up 13.3 percentage points
  2. Baltimore City – up 10.0 percentage points
  3. Kent – up 9.1 percentage points
  4. Talbot – up 8.0 percentage points
  5. Allegany – up 7.9 percentage points
  6. Montgomery – up 7.9 percentage points

Out of all those counties, though, there was not one Republican gain in the General Assembly because among these are the three most dominant Democrat counties in Maryland – only Allegany, Kent, and Talbot had GOP representatives prior to 2018 and all were re-elected.

Bottom 6 gainers:

  1. Cecil – up 0.4 percentage points
  2. Harford – up 0.9 percentage points
  3. Carroll – up 1.4 percentage points
  4. Baltimore – up 2.7 percentage points
  5. Charles – up 2.9 percentage points
  6. Anne Arundel – up 3.0 percentage points

In those six counties, the GOP lost Delegate seats in several districts: 8 (appointee Joe Cluster lost his election bid), 30A (Herb McMillan retired), 34A (Glen Glass lost his re-election), and 42B (Susan Aumann retired). St. Mary’s County (Delegate Deb Rey, District 29B) fell just outside this bottom 6 list and she paid the price, too. Also losing: Frederick County’s Bill Folden (District 3B) and Bob Flanagan from Howard County (District 9B) – epitomes of suburbia.

The GOP did grab Jim Brochin’s old Senate District 42 seat in Baltimore County as Delegate Chris West vacated a District 42B seat to move up, but that was tempered by the loss of the Senate District 9 seat held by Gail Bates, who was defeated in Howard County. That seat also has a small portion of Carroll County, one of my bottom 6. And of course everyone knows that MBC won in District 38, which I will get to in due course.

As more proof that Larry Hogan was the most popular Democrat in the race, let’s compare federal offices from 2014 to 2018:

  • Andy Harris (District 1, Maryland’s only GOP representative) fell from 70.4% of the vote in 2014 to just 60.3% this year. On the other hand:
  • Dutch Ruppersberger (District 2) gained from 61.3% to 65.7%, a 4.4 point increase.
  • John Sarbanes (District 3) gained from 59.5% to 68.6%, a 9.1 point increase.
  • Steny Hoyer (District 5) gained from 64% to 69.9%, a 5.9 point increase.
  • Elijah Cummings (District 7) gained from 69.9% to 76.1%, a 6.2 point increase.

In the apples to oranges category as there was a change in the office between 2014 and 2018:

  • District 4: Donna Edwards had 70.2% four years ago, Anthony Brown (running for re-election) got 77.6%.
  • District 6: John Delaney had 49.7% four years ago, but this time David Trone was elected with 57.6%. Republican Amie Hoeber lost to Delaney with 40.1% in the Presidential year of 2016 (typically high turnout) and only had 39.4% for an open seat this time.
  • District 8: Chris Van Hollen had 60.7% in 2014, Jamie Raskin (running for re-election) got 66.8%.

We always knew a Republican needed Democrat votes to survive statewide in Maryland, but the lack of coattails Larry Hogan had for his titular party was more than ridiculous. Their only two wins were in districts that were already primed for the GOP – District 42 had 2 of 3 GOP Delegates and a moderate Democrat Senator, while District 38 was all Republican aside from the Democrat Jim Mathias, who succeeded a longtime Republican Senator. I’m sure local Democrats are kicking themselves for not challenging Carl Anderton because they may well have won the seat back in this climate.

Indeed, the victory of MBC and the fact our other state legislative incumbents were unopposed or drew token, underfunded opposition was perhaps the only thing local Wicomico County Republicans could cheer about. Out of all the Delegate races locally, the only semi-constant was District 38A’s Charles Otto. While he had more votes this time around, he lost 1 percentage point and fell below 60 percent. Despite the fact his district no longer includes Wicomico, he is often present at local party events.

Looking at District 38, Jim Mathias actually drew more votes than he had in 2014 overall, although it appears he will be right about even in Somerset County. (As of this writing, Jim is 71 votes shy of his 2014 total there.) MBC playing Mathias nearly even (six votes’ difference) there in Somerset was one key, and her domination in Worcester County was the other. Compared to his 2014 race against former Delegate Mike McDermott, Mathias lost 1.6 percentage points in Wicomico, but plummeted 6.3 points in Worcester and 5.8 points in Somerset.

Locally, perhaps the biggest mistake Democrats made was not convincing Jack Heath to run in their primary. For all the angst about his independent bid, you have to call it a failure when Heath outspent his Democrat opponent by a margin of $20,556.63 to $1,266.66. (Bob Culver spent $21,616.99 through the final reporting cycle so financially the race was even between Heath and Culver.) Yet the race wasn’t even close between Culver and Democrat John Hamilton, as Bob won by 19 points with Heath barely breaking into the twenties with 21% – 28 points behind Culver. In other words, Democrats were so determined to elect their own they didn’t inform themselves about qualifications or readiness for office – they just saw the word “Democrat” and filled in the oval. Had he run as a Democrat, Jack could have won (or come much closer) since I suspect he split the Democrat vote.

Yet the GOP has to take some blame locally, too. I’m not sure their candidate recruitment was up to par this time around: two of their primary candidates had scrapes with the law, and while one of them was defeated in the primary the other was unopposed. I know that party preference is to avoid primaries, but I don’t think voters were served well when Julie Brewington didn’t withdraw prior to the primary, allowing the Central Committee to select a candidate with less baggage. She was one I withheld my vote from; instead I wrote in my friend Cathy Keim – who should have been on County Council in 2011 to succeed the late Bob Caldwell because all of us on the Central Committee except the one also running for the job, who recused herself, voted for Cathy. That was a County Council seat needlessly lost, and they were already looking at a tough district race in a heavily D district that, predictably, went for the Democrat. (And a loony-tunes lefty he is, too – grab a hold tight to your wallet and private property rights.) So the previous 6-1 margin for Republicans is now a scant 4-3, with one less-than-trustworthy vote on the R side and a Board of Education lackey there to boot, too. The only two R’s I can trust to generally look out for my interests now are Marc Kilmer and Joe Holloway. (Funny, but things never change.)

Then we had another candidate who refused to knock on doors, and I told him that’s how you win votes. (Ask Carl Anderton or MBC.) Great guy, very qualified for what is essentially an administrative post, but lost by about 2,300 votes (or doors he didn’t knock on.) Now that his opponent is in, good luck winning that office until he retires, just like Mike Lewis or Karen Lemon are lifers where they are at.

And for all that work we did to have an elected school board, I can’t say I’m pleased with the results. Out of seven spots, the two at-large winners were the ones on the teacher union’s “apple ballot” – an automatic vote for their opponents in my book – and we also got a longtime board member when the Republican who was on that ballot could no longer campaign because she took a county job. So right there are three votes for the status quo – or worse. I believe, however, that Gene Malone was the last Republican BoE appointee and, having served with both John Palmer and Ann Suthowski on the Central Committee I think they will be relatively conservative (although Ann may be a squish on the wasteful mandatory pre-K idea.)

The fate of the school board, then, is coming down to District 3. David Goslee, Sr. (who I also know from serving with him on the WCRCC) is literally hanging on by the skin of his teeth – 9 votes separate him and his opponent, who is another mandatory pre-K supporter. I’m putting out the bat-signal to my friend and cohort Cathy Keim – watch that race like a hawk, I don’t want them to “find” another box of provisional votes someplace.

That pretty much covers my ballot. It wasn’t a straight R ticket, since there were a couple Democrats who were unopposed that were worth my vote to retain. (Same for the unopposed Republicans, by the way.) I just wish the person at the top would not have broken the little trust I had in him.

Two more quick thoughts: for all we heard about the “progressive” movement locally, they mainly got spanked at the ballot box. But it could be worse: they could be Republicans in Delaware – who now have literally no statewide offices after the lost the couple they had and saw their deficit in both House and Senate increase by one seat, a casualty list that included both their Minority Whips. Hey, maybe Larry Hogan can move there in time for 2020 and that election.