2015 Maryland GOP Fall Convention in pictures and text (part 2)

A new day dawned yesterday after a night of partying I described in part 1. Too bad it was about the last time we got to see the sun.

Instead, I went down to grab breakfast and remarks fron three U.S. Senate candidates. It should be noted that a fourth, Anthony Seda, “has never reached out” to the MDGOP, according to Diana Waterman.

After an opening prayer where Delegate Deb Rey prayed that we “cruise to victory,” we did the speeches in alphabetical order. This meant Richard Douglas spoke first.

Richard noted the news was still filled with images from Paris, Belgium, and Mali, saying it underscores that “terrorism…remains a concern.” He added that the authorization to use military force passed after 9/11 remains in effect today.

He added that growing up abroad made incidents like the building of the Berlin Wall and Cuban missile crisis “indelibly etched in my mind.” But he assured us we are stronger than Russia – we just have a leadership problem. No one is pushing back on Russia, China, or Iran, he continued.

Douglas pivoted to domestic issues with a mention of the Bladensburg Cross, a court case he’s assisting on and one for which he predicted “we’ll take the wood to the humanists.” It led into his thought that the job of a Senator was not to pontificate, but to act. In Maryland, it meant not just doing what he could at the federal level to eliminate the rain tax and entice industry. One example of the latter was the Howard Street Tunnel, which is too shallow to accommodate double-decker rail cars. It’s a problem the current Senator has had 30 years to address.

“People who have three squares a day…don’t riot,” Douglas noted. With foreign policy experience and what could be described as a populist agenda, Douglas vowed “I intend to go to the Senate to make that place better.”

The son of Greek immigrants, Chrys Kefalas opened by saying, “I’m a story that’s brought to you courtesy of the American Dream.” He then detailed a life of precocious entrepreneurship as a teenage business owner who parlayed that success into law school and eventually jobs with Bob Ehrlich, both as Congressman and as governor. One of his accomplishments with the Ehrlich administration was pioneering criminal justice reform.

After a stint at the Eric Holder Justice Department working on a “smart on crime” initiative, Kefalas is now a vice-president at the National Association of Manufacturers. “Manufacturing is coming back,” said Chrys. America has the advantages of innovative and productive workers as well as affordable energy. Taxes and regulations were holding us back, he explained.

Yet he was quick to recognize “you are the ones who are going to make the party strong…the campaign is about you.”

Kefalas added that the task of the nominee is to win, and he would do so with his positive vision. In this “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to win the seat, Kefalas believed “I can get more Democratic crossover support than anyone else in the primary.”

“We need to expand the map in Maryland,” he continued. Through him “we have a path to victory.”

Kefalas concluded by noting his recent engagement, stating “I am a gay Republican.” But “we move our country in a better direction when we are together.”

Kathy Szeliga emphasized her working-class background and that she and her husband Mark “believed in the American Dream.” For most of her life she’d played the various roles working moms did.

But Kathy stressed her more recent past, talking about how she and fellow Delegate Nic Kipke “brought some new ideas to Annapolis.” She also learned how to work across the aisle there.

With a new governor, Szeliga added, things were moving in the right direction – for example, we “repealed that darn rain tax.” (Actually, we only eliminated the ‘shall’ but kept the onus on counties to pay for the improvements.)

As for her Senate run, Kathy believed “there was a time that Congress worked,” but now government is too big, too gridlocked, and too distant. Indeed, “now is the time to turn Washington around…the American Dream is fading.”

Her pet issues if elected would be quality of life, security, and schools. Most of her remaining time was spent discussing the security aspect, noting that “terrorism is real…we must remain vigilant.” She vowed to support law enforcement as well.

Addressing her prospective opponents Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards, Szeliga opined they don’t understand the dangers we face from “radical Islam terrorists.”

In closing, Kathy pointed out her initial run of 61 endorsements and stated, “together we’re gonna get this done in 2016.”

So after Diana Waterman thanked her “three amazing candidates,” I had some time to spend in the exhibit hall before the morning session.

There I ran into Tanya Tiffany from MDCAN.

It’s a good moment to remind readers about the upcoming Turning the Tides Conference coming up January 8-9, 2016. I asked her if they would have a Blogger’s Row as in past editions and she said they were looking for a sponsor. They’re also changing the format a little bit to be more like previous editions, so it should be informative and more like “Maryland’s version of CPAC.”

With the convention opening, we were welcomed by Senator Steve Waugh.

In his remarks, Waugh focused on the fact this part of Maryland “gave freedom of religion to the world” with the passage of the Tolerance Act in 1649. In the here and now, Waugh believed Governor Hogan “made the perfect call” regarding Syrian refugees, noting “you must ensure our safety.”

In another bit of history, Waugh pointed out that 15 years ago Calvert and St. Mary’s counties were about 2-1 Democrat but now both have a GOP majority.

Since Larry Hogan was at the RGA meeting and Boyd Rutherford had a previous personal engagement, it fell to Secretaty of Human Resources Sam Malhotra to extend the governor’s greetings. He went through a laundry list of accomplishments by the administration over its first year, but concluded with the remark “I can’t wait for the next seven years.” He believed we were in the process of changing Maryland from deep blue to “baby blue” to purple to red.

Congressman Andy Harris supplemented Malhotra’s remarks by saying he’d work hard to get five more Senators in Larry’s second term. “What a difference a year makes,” he added, also maintaining “this is not a deep blue state.”

As far as Congressional leadership, Harris believed it was the right time to change leadership. Paul Ryan can deliver our message, as opposed to John Boehner. “I don’t believe he communicated well,” said Harris. Andy also believed Speaker Ryan had his priorities in order, putting family first. “It doesn’t take a village, it takes a family,” said Harris.

Turning to the economy, the Congressman was waiting for the “last shoe to drop,” meaning an inevitable interest rate hike. If rates rise to their historical rate of 2 1/2% it would mean $500 billion a year in interest payments alone – more than we spend on defense. “The economy is not going to get better” under Barack Obama, he added.

Obama’s administration is also promoting the message that law enforcement “is our enemy.” Yet this is a time where we had a real enemy. “What Paris showed us is that 9/11 is not over,” said Andy. Add in the Russian airliner and the Mali attack, and it was no wonder France took action. Hollande “figured it out” that Obama wouldn’t take charge. “This is a setback to him,” explained Harris.

The narrative that ISIS is contained falls flat to Harris as well. “ISIS is here in the United States,” said Harris. “We have to declare war on ISIS.” Moreover, “we have to fight the war on ISIS as a war to win.”

Looking back to the state party, Harris believed we were on a roll and the Democrats were worried. Now we have to recognize the importance of local elections and raise money for the local Central Committees. “Only 350 days until Election Day,” Harris concluded.

We then heard from Steve Waugh again, who gave the Senate portion of the legislative update. “The magic number today is 19,” he said, referring to the number of Senators required to sustain a veto.

He predicted the next session “will be all about Baltimore,” adding that the budget will also come through the Senate this year. Other items to watch out for: paid sick leave, body cameras for police, K-12 education funding, a bottle tax, and “death with dignity.” We also have to figure out how to come up with over $1 billion to service O’Malley’s debt, Waugh added.

While the Democrats would try to sandbag Governor Hogan by laying traps for him to spring in 2018, Waugh advised us to “stay focused on the message.”

Wearing her Delegate hat, Kathy Szeliga urged us to join the Governor’s press list so we could spread the word about his successes. She harped on the $17,000 per pupil Baltimore City Schools spends, saying we were committed to education but also to accountability. How much is enough?, asked Szeliga.

She added there were some successes from the House on the Second Amendment as we ended ballistic fingerprinting, made it easier for armored car personnel to get permits, and removed some accessories from the SB281 ban list.

Finally, Kathy urged us to “answer back” to Democratic fundraising.

Shifting gears, we heard from Lucas Boyce of the RNC regarding their new philosophy to “engage, embrace, entrust” and the Republican Leadership Institute. Diana Waterman was working to bring some RLI graduates to work here in Maryland.

Boyce wrapped up the morning session, so we adjourned for two seminars and lunch. The first seminar I went to featured Nicolee Ambrose.

There we discussed two somewhat disparate but vital topics: grassroots organizing and public speaking. On the latter, we did a pair of “American Idol” style auditions where “contestants” were judged and advised on a two-minute speech. It’s really hard to talk for two minutes.

I didn’t take a photo at the second one, but Justin Ready spoke on some of these same topics and more.

Not taking Justin’s photo means I have a cleaner lead into the National Committeewoman’s report Nicolee delivered to start the afternoon.

Nicolee pointed out some of our engagement events featuring Alveda King and J.C. Watts in Baltimore City, adding that getting Republican totals to 25% there makes us a red state. She also announced the winners of our voter registration contest for various-sized counties.

Ambrose was happy about going “2 for 2” with her Super Saturdays, winning with both Michael Esteve in Bowie and Muir Boda right here in Salisbury. “This man was an animal” when it came to door-knocking, said Ambrose of Boda. She also praised Patrick McGrady for winning for mayor in Aberdeen.

A man who hosted a “phenomenal” house party, according to Diana Waterman, Louis Pope gave the National Committeeman’s report.

He focused more on the national scene, saying the RNC was “far more viable” than at any other point in history. And although this success wasn’t being picked up by the mainstream media, the ground game was “going exceedingly well…our turnout machine is working.” Now we had 32 GOP governors, added Pope.

Noting the CNBC debate showed “how unbelievably biased” the media is, Pope opined the primary season would be over by April 30. After that, it was “absolutely essential” that we come together. “Next year’s election will be a battle royal,” said Pope. The RNC has “a very deep playbook” on Hillary, Louis added.

On a local level, Pope urged the Central Committee members to raise money this year for the 2018 elections, since there’s not much competition for funding. This year’s campaign, though, will require “sweat equity,” said Pope.

We heard a quick report from College Republican Chair Christine McElroy, detailing their successes – including the Salisbury University CRs co-sponsoring our Lincoln Day Dinner. But she also revealed the sad fact that 77% of millennials could not identify even one of their home state Senators.

Party Executive Director Joe Cluster went over voter registration, pointing out the five counties (including Wicomico) where the GOP is closest to overtaking Democrats. “The numbers are moving in our direction,” said Cluster. He also touched on goals for precinct captains, opportunities to help Governor Hogan on boards and commissions, and the Baltimore city elections.

In her Chair’s report, Diana Waterman paid tribute to the late Frank McCabe, for whom the party would have a dinner later that evening. But she stressed the need to pass the first bylaws amendment, believing if we fail to adopt this the General Assembly will take the right away. “It is for your protection,” said Diana.

First we had to deal with one resolution in support of a Constitutional amendment to reform redistricting. It passed by a voice vote, with just one or two objections.

In introducing the first bylaw amendment, Mark Edney of Wicomico County stressed that “we have a problem with the process.” The proposal provides a process but is not specific.

While there was spirited debate on both sides, in the end the measure had enough votes to pass. On the weighted voting scale it was 369-170, which exceeded the 2/3 majority required. (In terms of actual people, the vote was 182-85. Only Baltimore City, Frederick, Queen Anne’s, and Washington counties had a majority objecting.) All nine in Wicomico County voted in favor, although I believe we will create our own specific guidelines.

On the “loser pays” amendment, an attempt to change it to cover both sides was proposed but was superseded by a motion to table the amendment, which passed with a resounding voice vote.

And then we had bylaw amendment #3. I thought it would pass with little objection, but the fireworks began right away. Most of the argument centered on whether the Black Republican group was established enough – those arguing against the amendment frequently referred to the Young Republicans, which reached a low point in chapters and membership shortly after getting an Executive Committee vote.

At first we voted on a motion to recommit to the Bylaws Committee, which drew the argument that it came from that committee. But Heather Olsen explained that the committee got this at the last minute and only checks for conformance, not on merits. In the end, the motion to recommit failed 217-324, or 114-156 in bodies. Wicomico was split 5-4 against recommitting.

Then we tried to table it, but that motion was rejected by voice vote.

The next move was to amend the bylaw to strip the voting rights from every one of the auxiliary organizations. That started new debarte, including a motion to continue debate that lost soundly in a voice vote.

The final motion to amend passed 359-178, with the amended bylaw change passing 408-83. (Body counts were 178-91 and 206-41.) Only Calvert, St. Mary’s, Wicomico, and Worcester voted against both.

Once that vote was in, the bylaws committee report was done “after 2 hours and 3 minutes.” Before we adjourned, Diana Waterman told us it should never be said we don’t allow enough debate.

But I suspect the debate will go on. I’ll have more thoughts later this week.

Oh, and another thing. We did a straw poll, with Ted Cruz the winner.

  • Ted Cruz – 62 votes (24%)
  • Marco Rubio – 52 (20%)
  • Donald Trump – 49 (19%)
  • Ben Carson – 26 (10%)
  • Carly Fiorina – 18 (7%)
  • Rand Paul – 15 (6%)
  • Chris Christie – 14 (5%)
  • John Kasich – 12 (5%)
  • Jeb Bush – 11 (4%)
  • Mike Huckabee – 2 (1%)
  • Rick Santorum – 2 (1%)

2014 Maryland GOP Spring Convention in pictures and text (part 1)

As has often been the case, I am splitting this into two parts. One will come out today and one tomorrow, since the news is of the sort that it will keep. Always leave them wanting more.

Anyway, my traveling companion Dave Parker and I arrived in Bethesda in the pouring rain, and after checking in I retreated to my room with a view…well, sort of I guess.

It was almost a three-hour trip, so when I got myself unpacked it was just about time to get registered for the convention and go to the Executive Committee meeting.

After MDGOP Chair Diana Waterman informed us she was “excited” about filling out the statewide ballot, she began on the subjects she would stress over and over during the event: turnout and unity. We would have had a Republican governor over the last four years if we had turned out our base, said Diana.

We also learned who would be the speaker at the annual Red, White, and Blue Dinner June 19 at Turf Valley. I Tweeted the news:

Diana then introduced party executive director Joe Cluster, who remarked “this state is tired of Martin O’Malley and Barack Obama,” based on their approval numbers sagging below 50 percent. He also predicted that, “incumbent Republicans will do very well in this election.” It was the “chance of a lifetime to really put a dent in the Democrats,” Cluster added. While the Treasurer’s Report was its usual depressing self, we were doing slightly better than expected on fundraising. It’s no secret the party is still carrying some debt, though. Waterman added that members could help by participating in the Old Line Club, where people could pledge as little as $8.25 a month to assist the party.

Diana also announced that there would be no open primary committee business on this convention agenda – we would address it after the 2014 election. She also announced the state Board of Elections denied a bid for online absentee ballots and same-day registration.

Cluster returned to the microphone later to talk about Andy Harris being “very supportive of the party” and began to speak about him not having a credible opponent. But Waterman cautioned that she would have a “very frank discussion” if Central Committees acted in a manner backing one contender over others. “We do not take favorites” in the primary, Diana warned. It was fine for individual members to do so, depending on local bylaws, but this cannot be done as a committee unless there’s only one contender. “I’d much rather have one candidate in every race,” she added, but conceded this wasn’t always possible.

We also discussed the proposed bylaw amendment for regional chairs and conventions. It was not recommended for approval by the Bylaws Committee, who held a conference call on it, but sponsor Kevin Waterman planned to bring it up from the floor. And while Diana Waterman believed it was “vitally important” to have regional chairs, the Bylaws Committee considered it a “distraction.” One county chair remarked, “if there was a call for (regional conventions), we would already do it.” Most of us already knew it was Diana’s birthday, but a surprise awaited as I Tweeted:

That pretty much marked the end of the open part of the meeting, as a brief closed session was held – it took place while I wandered one floor down to check this out.

They even had a two-piece band for entertainment, mostly classic rock from what I could hear.

I actually meant to take this photo of Charles Lollar hanging in the back meeting with campaign staffers, but it evolved into a conversation about engaging voters on the other side of the aisle after I noted he looked a little tired. You be the judge.

Charles told me he considered the event a success, and it was a lively affair while it lasted.

But before I went upstairs to see what else was up, I ran into another statewide candidate.

Not literally, of course – since Shelley Aloi is a karate expert that may be a sure way to get hurt. I just figured it was one way to document who was there among statewide candidates. (If you look closely at the second Lollar photo you’ll see his running mate Ken Timmerman and Comptroller candidate Bill Campbell also enjoying themselves, so they are covered.)

There were a number of interesting vendors in the lobby.

As you might be able to see, there were the usual campaign-related sellers there, but there was also a table of supporters for a draft Dr. Ben Carson for president movement as well as a table for First District Congressional candidate Jonathan Goff, who is running against the aforementioned Andy Harris for the nomination.

I also realized that the Maryland Liberty Caucus was holding their own party down the hall, although it appeared to be winding down as I arrived.

Yet there still seems to be a strong pro-liberty streak in our party.

So I finally went upstairs and decided to work my way up, which led me to find this in the elevator.

On Saturday, we all found a handout at our chairs detailing what Millennial Maryland really stood for:

We represent all Republicans, the old-white-straight-Christian males, and, well, all the others. We’re here to show that Republicans are listening to gays, to immigrants, to black and Latino Americans, to those concerned about the environment, education, and the poor. We represent the GOP in all its diversity, and while we may be more moderate at times than some, we would never advocate excluding someone for disagreeing with us. We’re here to make the tent bigger, more diverse, and more electable.

Judge for yourself whether that would be the case. Onetime MDGOP Chair candidate Mike Esteve is the head of this group.

My first stop after getting off the elevator was the MoCo suite. Very crowded.

So I went up two floors to find an equally lively David Craig suite.

But in the back corner I found Lieutenant Governor candidate Jeannie Haddaway and a man seeking to replace her, Dr. Rene Desmarais, having an enlightening discussion.

They were gracious enough to add to my collection of candidates, as did David Craig.

The mini-bank Craig was holding came with a few pennies inside so it would rattle. He was giving them away as trinkets.

After those good photos, I wandered upstairs to the last suite, that of Eugene Craig III and the Young Conservatives. Things were starting to wind down.

I think David Craig’s was the best suite, simply because it had the best food – had I made it to the Young Conservatives suite earlier, though, I may have been persuaded otherwise. With so few party suites, food was a little harder to come by as the night wore on.

So I made it to bed about midnight or a little after, which is about the time I’m wrapping up this post. For the evening I will complete part 2 detailing many of Saturday’s events.

Should Alex Mooney resign?

Let me note straight away that the guys at Red Maryland think so, and for some very valid reasons.

Something the Maryland GOP has seemed to lack in the time I’ve been involved is forward-looking leadership. I don’t really remember much about John Kane since his tenure was ending as mine was beginning, but there were two facets I gleaned in second-hand conversations: he was Bob Ehrlich’s handpicked candidate and he spent money like a drunken sailor – so much so that another supposed Ehrlich crony, Jim Pelura, had to take drastic action to save the MDGOP from insolvency. But when Pelura departed from the Ehrlich party line and took the party in a more conservative direction, contributor wallets snapped shut and Jim was soon the recipient of a no-confidence vote. (Losing one of two Congressional seats probably didn’t help Pelura’s cause either.)

Enter Audrey Scott, and while the MDGOP’s finances improved (albeit not to the extent she claimed they did) we still only caught a small piece of the TEA Party wave – while overall the GOP gained 63 seats in the House we only got one, and made just modest gains in the Maryland General Assembly. (Local races were fairly successful, but the state party rarely gets involved that deeply in county or municipal races.)

Scott’s year as a caretaker passed and the baton was handed to Alex Mooney after a five-person contest in the fall of 2010. Mooney came in promising to make fundraising a priority, but one convention in admitted he had a tougher time than expected filling the MDGOP coffers.

And while Alex is elected to a four-year term, in the spring of 2011 we passed a bylaws change changing the term of the Chair and executive officers to a two-year cycle, to agree more with the national party. (It becomes effective with officers elected in 2014.)

With that precedent, though, one of three things may happen: through December 1, Mooney could resign either immediately or effective as of the first of December (the date of the state convention) because the party bylaws state a vacancy in the Chair position must be filled within 60 days. In that case, First Vice Chair Diana Waterman of Queen Anne’s County takes over on an interim basis.

If not, Mooney would either have to wait until early next year or create the need for a special meeting specifically for filling the vacancy. That wouldn’t be popular among the rank-and-file and would cost the party several thousand dollars. We’d also fret about reaching a quorum.

Or he could attempt to weather the storm and stay on, but now that Roscoe Bartlett has been ousted from Congress after debating in the first place whether to run again (and leaving a lot of people twisting in the wind, including Mooney) that challenger’s seat is open. If Alex wants to campaign for it, he can’t be party chair once he files.

If Mooney decides to resign, the field for Chair would be wide open:

  • Would Audrey Scott accept a second caretaker term, and could she win anyway after the scorched-earth campaign between her and Nicolee Ambrose for National Committeewoman this spring?
  • Mary Kane was runner-up in 2010, but perhaps has the “establishment” tag that’s the kiss of death among a growing proportion of Central Committee members.
  • On the other hand, those who have been in the party a long time would probably not look twice at another Sam Hale candidacy; besides, he’s busy with the Maryland Society of Patriots.
  • William Campbell is planning a second run for Comptroller, so he would be ineligible to finish out the term.
  • Mike Esteve is another couple years older, but given his support of gay marriage, may not play well with the conservative base.
  • A couple other intriguing candidates who considered a 2010 Chair race and backed out: 2010 U.S. Senate candidate Eric Wargotz and Institute for Liberty head Andrew Langer.
  • Wild cards among the elected Vice-Chairs: Waterman, Larry Helminiak, and Eric Grannon.
  • And, of course, someone from among the hundreds in the state who might be interested. Sad to say, Daniel “The Wig Man” Vovak is no longer available.

And I thought we would have a dull, boring wake of a convention. It’s not the Maryland GOP without the long knives coming out from time to time.

Update: Fellow bloggers Richard Cross and Joe Steffen weigh in.

2010 MDGOP Fall Convention in pictures and text (part 2)

And now we resume coverage (Part 1 is here) with a cold, crisp Saturday morning. Actually, the cold felt sort of good since I needed to wake up a bit after just a few hours of sleep.

If I turned around 180 degrees I’d see something like this, as candidates greeted Saturday arrivals with their pitch.

We didn’t have a breakfast speaker this time, but during breakfast I did have the pleasure of finally getting to meet Ann Corcoran of Potomac TEA Party Report. She was there as a proxy for another in her county and to help man the table for the Conservative Action Network, which has an upcoming event.

I also ran into Chair candidate Mike Esteve, who was the lone hopeful I didn’t catch with my camera Friday night.

After breakfast we crowded into the main ballroom.

I must say whoever decided on this setup needs to return to Seat Arrangement 101. The worst part was not having a center row, although being placed in the back wasn’t all that great either. Guess it was our turn.

We had a very popular guest speaker, however. (Being in the back did no wonders for my photography.)

Congressman-elect Andy Harris praised Audrey Scott for being the “key to victories around the state” and reminded us of where we were just two years ago and how far we’ve come. We’re not a regional party as some predicted nor is Reagan conservatism dead. “87 freshmen are living proof that American conservatism is alive and well,” Andy said.

Yet we have to win back Americans’ trust by being innovative, efficient, and willing to listen, added Harris. “Government must first do no harm.”

He vowed to support across-the-board budget cuts, a total earmark ban, and no new taxes as his agenda. “We don’t want the government to put a limit on our hopes and dreams,” Andy concluded to a standing ovation.

While Delegate Tony O’Donnell named the names of all 16 new Republican members of the House of Delegates and applauded our six seat gain in his report, he set his sights higher. “It’s possible to get 28 seats in 2014,” O’Donnell opined. We have to start recruiting now to reach that magic 71 number for the first time since at least Reconstruction, Tony noted.

Senator Allan Kittleman was a little less optimistic about GOP hopes, but did state the case that, “there’s not a whole lot of trust in the (state) government.” In a veiled reference to a former chair, Allan added “we had a hard few years there (in the General Assembly.)”

Giving the county report, Harford County Executive David Craig compared our fate to that of a familiar team.

“Being a Republican in Maryland is a lot like being an Orioles fan,” he noted wistfully, but we were developing the farm team to win. We have a base to start from with all the local successes, even though they occurred in smaller counties. At this time (and Wicomico reflects this as I said the other day) there are more Republican elected officials at the county level than Democratic ones. Still, “we need to help those people out” in areas like Prince George’s County and other Democratic strongholds.

As seems to often happen, we had to do some shuffling around of the itinerary because the Credentials Committee had its hands full with latecomers and proxies. So we next heard the Chair’s Report.

While being Chair “wasn’t on her radar” about 16 months ago, Audrey Scott called the post the “experience of a lifetime” and a “labor of love.”

“We have come a long way” in her tenure, she said, but also believed that our message was sound. It was embodied in a recent experience she had with Newt Gingrich, who expounded on the theme of jobs vs. foodstamps. O’Malley and Obama “just don’t get it.” Speaking of O’Malley, she praised MDGOP’s Ryan Mahoney as being “solely responsible” for uncovering his jobs coverup last August.

And while she claimed to inherit a party a quarter-million dollars in debt and staff unpaid for months, she said the party raised $1.15 million this year, including ‘Victory’ money from the national GOP. (Later Chris Rosenthal said the non-Victory total was about $893,000.) It was fortunate we had Michael Steele as the RNC chair, she continued, saying “Steele deserves to be re-elected.”

While she later joked, “I have lots of critics,” she asked that we “never, ever again…begin an election year in debt” because “the enemy is the Democrats.” (And, if I may add again, there is no bag limit.)

Later, we got other reports which basically repeated what was said Friday night to the Executive Committee from National Committeewoman Joyce Terhes, National Committeeman Louis Pope, and Treasurer Chris Rosenthal.

One issue I had was with the Rules Committee. Why some counties continue to slit their own throat is beyond me, but we retained the ‘compromise’ voting system which has plagued us over the last two years on a 196-69 vote, exceeding the 2/3 majority needed. Wicomico went 4 in favor, 5 against and was joined by Allegany County, Baltimore City, and Montgomery County as counties in opposition. I’ve got an idea to end that mess once and for all!

Thus, my counts (which are based strictly on ‘one man, one vote’) aren’t exactly correct, but should be reasonably close.

Which brings us to the Chair election.

It was a LONG process, as nominees and seconders had several minutes to speak before the candidates did. Notable quotes from each contender:

  • William Campbell believed that “all Republicans have the same values…we are conservative.” He also told us, “if we don’t unify we will be irrelevant” and alluded to his fiscal conservatism by alluding, “when I squeeze a nickel Jefferson ends up in the library in Monticello.”
  • Mike Esteve noted as a Prince George’s County Republican “I want my vote to count.” The Baltimore TEA Party he helped to organize was an “indication that things had changed forever.” He also suggested adopting charitable efforts in impoverished neighborhoods as they would pay dividends down the road as far as minority voting goes and chided the infighting among Republicans – “if you could measure infighting in blood the state would be red from end to end.”
  • Asking “are you proud to be a Republican?” Sam Hale stressed his grassroots background, but also had a good idea for subscription-based fundraising. If just 1/3 of 1% of the party’s registered voters pledged $25 per month the party could raise $75,000 per month – enough to cover expenses and salt some aside for candidates.
  • Mary Kane pointed out things we’re doing better than the Democrats and vowed, “I plan to be honest and transparent for each and every one of you.” Our “opinion diversity” defined the word and she would welcome all opinions. Moreover, no longer could the MDGOP be a “one-man show” and, if she was successful, “we will show up in places we’re not expected.”
  • Alex Mooney was raised to fight for freedom as the son of a Cuban refugee. He was frustrated by not only his close Senate race loss, but three other races where the GOP losers received 49% of the vote (including Michael James in District 38.) We can’t ask our candidates to devote a year or more of their lives to a race and not back them financially, Mooney said.

Our delegation split 7-1-1, with the seven being Mooney and one each for Kane and Hale (me.) Alex carried 12 counties (Allegany, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Charles, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, Montgomery, Washington, Wicomico, and Worcester) while Mary Kane won majority support in six (Calvert, Caroline, Howard, Kent, Queen Anne’s, and Talbot.) Meanwhile, Campbell won three (Dorchester, Prince George’s, and St. Mary’s) and Hale carried Cecil County. Baltimore City and Somerset ended up split between Mooney and Kane.

The ‘one man, one vote’ totals: Mooney 116, Kane 87, Campbell 25, Hale 24, and Esteve 13. Mooney was closest to a majority but couldn’t receive it through either tabulation.

Obviously, having won no counties and just a handful of votes, Mike Esteve dropped out after the first round and endorsed Mary Kane. Then William Campbell decided enough was enough and bowed out.

Despite impasssioned pleas of “no!!” from supporters, just before the second ballot Sam Hale also gave in and endorsed Alex Mooney.

With so few more votes needed the second ballot was relatively anticlimactic, with Mooney winning the actual count 164-97. Sixteen counties went for Mooney (Allegany, Baltimore, Carroll, Charles, Dorchester, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Somerset, St. Mary’s, Talbot, Washington, Wicomico, and Worcester.) We were a 7-2 group as I switched to Mooney but someone else switched from Mooney to Kane.

The next two races were relative walkovers: Diana Waterman was elected 1st Vice Chair with 160 votes, easily outdistancing Moshe Starkman with 57 and Debbie Rey with 47. (We all supported Diana in Wicomico.)

In the 2nd Vice-Chair contest, Larry Helminiak emerged victorious with 151 votes while Brandon Butler (the incumbent) had 78 and Debbie Rey finished with 30. (Wicomico split 5-3 for Helminiak over Butler, I voted for Larry – who I nominated.)

A controversy erupted in the already-crowded 3rd Vice-Chair race when a supporter of Eric Grannon claimed his paperwork was in order aside from a minor error. Chair Alex Mooney allowed him to be on the ballot, making it a six-way race.

Grannon was the leader after the first ballot, gathering 109 votes. Patt Parker was second with 55, followed by Brian Griffiths with 34, Adol Owen-Williams with 32, Debbie Rey with 21, and Collins Bailey with 11. The bottom three finishers all decided to withdraw after that ballot, leaving three for the second ballot. (We in Wicomico split four ways, with five votes for Grannon, two for Owen-Williams, and one each for Parker and Griffiths (mine.)

Eric easily won the second ballot with 191 votes to Parker’s 47 and Griffiths’ 19. We had seven Grannon votes with the Parker and Griffiths tallies.

But the addition of Grannon left a bad taste with at least one competitor, who fumed that the victor should have been left off the ballot. “It’s a story for you,” he said.

We had an easy ballot next since Chris Rosenthal was unopposed for treasurer – Mark Uncapher of Montgomery County announced he was dropping out Friday.

Almost as easy was John Wafer’s win for secretary, where he overwhelmed the field with 210 votes to 35 for Nora Keenan and 13 for Alfred Griffin. (We all went for Wafer.)

But we weren’t done voting yet – there were four resolutions on the table.

  • Somerset County was allowed to expand its Central Committee to nine by unanimous voice vote.
  • The most controversial resolution was to “highly encourage” the RNC to “highly recommend” that early primary states New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina close their Republican primaries or caucuses to registered Republicans only. Since the Chair couldn’t determine the intent of a voice vote, it passed a roll call 116-87, with Wicomico 6-1 in favor (I voted yes.)
  • We asked Chairman Mooney to appoint an ad hoc bylaws committee by almost unanimous voice vote. Our county chair Dave Parker submitted this resolution.
  • We honored Richard Taylor, former National Commiteeman from 1983-2004, by unanimous voice vote.

Finally, just after 3:00, we ate the lunch scheduled for 12:30. Louis Pope gave the edited presentation familiarizing the new Central Committee members with their duties – I caught up with an old friend while I ate.

So there you have it, the wildest and wooliest convention I’ve ever attended. Next spring we do it again in a time and place to be determined. Congratulations to Chairman Mooney and the other winners – feel free to stop by our county anytime!

2010 MDGOP Fall Convention in pictures and text (part 1)

It was such a big and exciting convention this time that I decided to return to the practice of making this post in two parts. Part 1 tonight will deal with what occurred Friday night and tomorrow I’ll review the convention itself that occurred today. (One spoiler – our new Chair is former State Senator Alex Mooney.)

Once I arrived and cleaned up, I went down to check out the Executive Committee meeting – the last chaired by Audrey Scott.

The first interesting portion of the meeting occurred with the reading of the Treasurer’s Report. I was thrilled to find our line of credit we’d had since 2007 or so had been paid off, but not so pleased to find out what our outstanding bills were.

With a number of new Chairs there, the questions came fast and furious during this portion of the meeting. One key point zeroed on the lease the Party holds on its current headquarters and why it’s so seemingly excessive. Perhaps a facilities task force is in order, opined Treasurer Chris Rosenthal.

It was also interesting to hear the impact of “Victory” money on the party’s finances; however, the 2011 budget is conservatively based on doing without help from the national Republican Party.

Yet for Audrey Scott it was “extremely satifying and gratifying to be Chair this year.” Our 40 seat gain in local and state races was a “phenomenal achievement” and she thanked all the candidates and their campaign workers.

In the future, our goal is “viability” and “instant credibility,” continued Scott. But “I’m not wearing rose-colored glasses” as Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and Baltimore City would continue to be issues.

While National Committeewoman Joyce Terhes remarked in her report that the newcomers are “embarking on a four years you’ll love,” Louis Pope said he couldn’t recall a 48% turnover in the Central Committees in his nearly 40 years he’s been active in the party. It’s an “incredible opportunity,’ said Pope.

It was comforting to hear from the party’s legal counsel Bob Ostrom that we have a “tremendously positive” relationship with the Maryland Board of Elections. We may not agree with the outcome, but he also stated this most recent election was the “most fraud-free election that Maryland has conducted in many years.”

Among the organizational reports, three stood out.

Moshe Starkman, who was in the running for 1st Vice Chair, gave the Young Republican report. While he talked about effective engagement and involvement, one observer was “very troubled” with the YR Network he set up. The two were encouraged to discuss these issues at a later time as it began to get a little heated.

Chair candidate Mike Esteve gave the College Republican report, noting “this has been a tough year for everyone.” But he pointed out the growth of the CRs from five chapters to eleven, with a goal of 15 by April. Mike also explained the process and discussion behind a controversial CR bylaw change that allowed them to support Bob Ehrlich pre-primary, stating that they had spoken with both candidates before making the decision.

Mike also had complementary words for Fiona Moodie, who ran for office in Prince George’s County at the tender age of 18 – “imagine what she’ll be like at 28,” said Esteve. (She was the only Republican to run for their County Council, getting 21.5% of the vote in her district.) It was apt as Moodie gave the Teenage Republican report. They were working with the CRs on getting a vote on the Executive Committee.

The county reports were waived – everyone wanted to party, and I’m sure you want to check out the pictures!

Some Chair candidates had their own setup, with Mary Kane’s being the most elaborate. She even had an elephant.

Here she is with a couple supporters inside her ballroom.

On a more moderate scale was Alex Mooney’s hospitality suite, where he held court.

His main issue, of course, was fundraising, and he reminded those who dropped by of his plan.

The other candidate who had his own suite was Sam Hale.

Someone showed off their baking ability there.

But perhaps the most anticipated party was sponsored by someone who had no dog in the Chair fight whatsoever. It was dubbed the ‘Renegade Room’ and Joe Steffen (a.k.a. the ‘Prince of Darkness’) was the man with the plan, plastered on the wall to see and sign.

The “Renegade Revolution Resolution” went with the room’s ‘speaking truth’ theme – Joe and Don Murphy only had to kick a couple people out, none named Bill Campbell. The Chair hopeful stopped by to chat with Red Maryland‘s Mark Newgent.

They even had an honor roll out in the hallway.

You may have noticed the text of the document behind Joe Steffen. The signature in the upper-left hand corner is mine, but a number of other people signed too. We don’t hate the party, we’re just concerned.

But the election of Alex Mooney may go a long way in assuaging our concerns, and that’s the subject of tomorrow’s post on the events of today. (A good host leaves ’em wanting more!)

And there is a LOT more of the inside scoop. Part 2 is here.

The final MDGOP line

Well, I’m sitting here at the Doubletree Hotel in Annapolis having spoken with all the contenders for the crown, however briefly. Apparenly many are big fans but we’ll see how they feel after this post. Here’s the morning line as the racers enter their stalls (well, sort of…actually I’m getting ready for breakfast.) Previous odds are below.

  • Mary Kane (3-1): She has the biggest suite and the most money. I’ve seen a lot of the “establishment” people wearing her red lapel stickers, and she was very pleasant to me when we spoke yesterday evening. Still, the question remains whether she has the amount of support to go all the way or will she fade going through the backstretch. It’s going to be a long morning for her.
  • Alex Mooney (5-1): Having listened to Chris Rosenthal go through the financial state of the party at the Executive Committee meeting, surely many of those present will be receptive to Alex’s pitch and his lofty fundraising goals. But a lot of how he does depends on who is installed under him, and he may or may not have all the detail work down – only time will tell. There’s also the question of his future plans out there. He had the liveliest and most well-attended suite of the three I stood in, given size and location.
  • William Campbell (10-1): I still think Campbell could be a compromise choice when the time comes, or he could get the endorsement of one of the other also-rans to push him onward. He’s become sort of a dark horse, but his independent streak and reputation as a newcomer will garner him some support – and you can’t beat his fiscal acumen. He’s not spent his money wining and dining would-be voters on hospitality suites and paraphrenalia, which could either boost his outsider image or relegate him to also-ran status.
  • Sam Hale (10-1): The question for Sam is very simple: will the Maryland GOP go with a person who mainly receives his support from a number of TEA Party members who haven’t been involved in the MDGOP political process all that long. If the answer is yes, he beats the odds with a fairly captive audience. If not, he’s out after the first round of voting. Rural areas tend to support him more, but with that he bumps into the same support base that Alex Mooney has.
  • Mike Esteve (20-1): He deftly answered questions last evening regarding the College Republicans’ endorsement of Bob Ehrlich over Brian Murphy, but the group seems to prefer experience over youth. It hurts Sam Hale but hurts Mike moreso. And not having a base of operations (but instead roving around between parties) seems to reduce his legitimacy moreso than it does Bill Campbell.
  • The field (100-1): It’s just the five of them, and I believe we will have our winner from the group – no matter how excited or not the outside observers believe it is.

So there you have it, at least my strictly amateur prognostications. Later tonight I’ll let you know how it all shook out!

Questions for the MDGOP Chair candidates

Last week I sent a questionnaire to all of MDGOP Chair hopefuls; a list that at the time had eight names. Of the five remaining I got direct written responses from three (William Campbell, Mike Esteve, and Sam Hale) while a fourth (Mary Kane) phoned me. I also have a letter Mrs. Kane sent out to all the candidates so her answers will be a hybrid of that information and what I recall from the phone conversation.

Since I have received no similar information from Alex Mooney he’s not included. (However, he answered a longer and somewhat different set of questions for Ann Miller yesterday, so maybe I took this to press a bit sooner than he would have liked.) Order of presentation is more or less random.

What will you do to encourage new candidates to step forward and avoid putting all our electoral eggs in one basket as the party seemed to during the last decade? 

William Campbell (WC): I will use the Central Committees, Clubs, and activists to encourage highly qualified individuals to become Republican candidates for elected office. Many interested individuals have a misconception that we have lots of potential candidates waiting to run for office. In addition, many potential candidates are frustrated by the lack of information to help them become candidates. We should run training courses on critical skills that successful candidates need to master. My one day candidate training course was inadequate, and far too late to be helpful. At a minimum we should teach the regulations covering ethics (how to file a personal financial disclosure statement), election laws and filing requirements (including a using the financial reporting software), and basic campaign operations.

We should also make a commitment to our successful nominees running in the General Election that they will receive funding and other meaningful support from the MDGOP. Our current “every candidate for themselves” approach discourages many potential candidates, and frustrates our nominees. They should also know that there will be a level playing field where all candidates are treated equally. In closing, we should not preselect our nominees. Each nominee should compete to win their nomination.

Mike Esteve (ME): My philosophy is where you can’t beat them, bleed them. Not putting up a candidate against Doug Gansler has allowed him to continue to build a two-million dollar war chest to use in two years. It is the role of the State Central Committee to ensure that there is as viable as possible of a candidate running for every statewide office. Likewise, it is the role of the County Central Committees to ensure every local Democratic candidate has a Republican challenger. Even just a name on the ballot, where we can’t find a strong Republican, forces the Democratic incumbents to spend money otherwise sent to more vulnerable candidates.

Sam Hale (SH): In a mailer to central committee members, I recently wrote:

“My top priority will be installing a Republican grassroots network across Maryland. As a conservative grassroots activist myself, I believe my biggest contribution to the party will be my ability to involve and relate to the increasing number of conservative grassroots groups in Maryland.”

I plan on installing grassroots networks and empowering central committees to grow the party on the local level. With that in mind, I will encourage those involved to win the registration battle, and elections on the local level first. This will allow us to build the party from the ground up, find viable candidates for every race and avoid placing “all of our eggs in one basket.”

Mary Kane (MK): In her letter, Mary wrote that, “A strong MDGOP means hard work. We must raise money, continue to build a strong grassroots organization, assemble a very strong media response presence throughout the state, and employ these efforts to recruit candidates and increase voter registration. These are basic functions of party building everyone understands and can agree upon.

We will do voter outreach, send new resident mailings, grassroots training, and candidate recruitment to grow our party. And we will work closely with our local committees and elected officials to solidify a strong crop of up and coming leaders.”

Describe your grand plans for fundraising – is it better to look for a few large donors or many smaller ones, and are you already scouting for new sources?

MK: Mary wrote: “We must have a state party that can raise money every week, every month, and every year. We cannot again allow for an MDGOP on the verge of bankruptcy a year and half out from statewide elections. We have donors that will support us. We have to assure them that their investment is an investment in a better future for our small businesses, our economy, our families, and our state.

We can and will have success in our fundraising efforts. Working with the Executive Committee as partners we can put a strong structure in place and develop a long term plan to fill our coffers for 2012, 2014 and beyond. We must actually utilize the talents of our Republican officials and a new Finance team. Our counties and MDGOP will be working together, not undermining and competing for every dollar. Fundraising plans should be coordinated in order to maximize support and to avoid overlap.”

SH: There are close to 1 million registered Republicans in the state of Maryland. In that pool I see 1 million potential donors. The average Marylander spends well over $100 a month on cable, internet and phone. Let’s ask them to spend 1/10 of that on saving their state.

One of my opponents recently said average people do not donate because they hope to gain something from the contribution; they donate because they believe in a cause. He was exactly correct, but the MDGOP is not currently a cause a traditional Republican can “believe in.” Once we restore principal and values to our message, we will restore our competitive advantage as a fundraiser.

I do not believe, however, that big donors and a large pool are mutually exclusive. The Obama campaign recently showed it is possible to be very successful on both levels. Once we restore contrast to our message, principal to our party and clear goals for success, the MDGOP will be something we can sell to every potential donor.

WC: There are two facets to MDGOP fund raising that need to be addressed; raising funds for general operations, and for election support.

The funding for MDGOP operations is relatively modest. Our annual budget is only about $500,000. The Chair is expected to raise approximately $125,000 from donors. This is a modest amount and with our existing donor list should be achievable. I would like to keep our existing pool of donors engaged, and reach out to many small donors. This increases our overall funding, and increases the commitment and influence of the wider Republican community. We are not currently set up to be effective in increasing grassroots support of MDGOP. We would have to greatly improve our information technology suite, and increase our use of social media. I am committed to making these improvements.

The funding requirements for election support are more difficult to address at the moment. First, what is the MDGOP going to do to support our candidates and win elections, and how much will that cost? In the 2010 election cycle, it appeared that the party was competing with the candidates for scarce campaign dollars. Many of the candidates, including myself, were frustrated over the lack of financial support from the MDGOP. I would like to develop both a 2012 and 2014 campaign budget quickly, and then commit to placing all funds collected over those budget levels into a candidate fund that will be disbursed directly to our nominees for the General election.

ME: Fundraising is, by far, the most important role of the State Party Chairman. There are three main points on fundraising:

1. Over the last year, the State Party has rightly expanded and shallowed their donor base. In other words, rather than being dependant on fifty donors for ten-thousand dollar donations, we’re moving in the direction of receiving fifty dollar donations from ten-thousand donors. This creates a much more stable and reliable donor base and that is precisely the direction in which I want to take our State Party – more in the direction of grassroots fundraising.

2. It is not unhistorical that the State Party appoints fundraising directors to reach out to a broader donor base. I have spoken with numerous such potential fundraising directors since my announcement, and it is clear that we have the opportunity to tap into previously uninterested donor sources given our traditional flagship candidate is no longer in the limelight. Potential supporters, particularly wealthier gun owners, who stand to lose many of their rights under another four years of the O’Malley regime, and worse yet, under an additional eight years of an O’Malley successor, are far more willing to support the Party knowing what they stand to preserve. This is the type of outreach we must conduct. 

3. For every successful business, institution, and campaign in the world, there are numerous failed ones. Just in the realm of politics, candidates run and parties form with little chance of success, yet manage to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. When it comes to major donors, individuals don’t contribute their money strictly on the mathematical basis of seeing a return in dividends, but because they believe in the cause. What I offer that no other candidate offers is a fundamental change in belief that this State Party can be successful and can close the chapter of the last ten years. We can rebuild and reform to be more competitive in this state, and stand on the values of our Party. What I offer is faith in the organization and a clear vision forward – that’s what donors want when considering contributing to the cause: vision, direction, and faith.

Our current chair is known for saying, “it’s party over everything.” Is it? Or do principles truly matter to you? 

ME: We have the potential to get conservatives elected in most Maryland counties. The key is to campaign on issues that matter to local constituencies and be mindful of the political makeup of every demographic. Stand on your principles, but market what sells to the electorate.

MK: Mary did not address this directly but wrote: “we will develop the statewide campaign to demonstrate the synergy of the core principles and values of the Republican Party with all Marylanders.”

SH: This type of statement brings up the question: What is the purpose of a political party? Is it solely to win elections for its namesake, or to move the country/state in a positive direction?

I recently wrote in a blog for marylandpatriots.org:

“I believe the purpose of a political party should not be solely to win elections, but rather to move the country in a positive direction. Therefore, if the GOP witnesses the social/political tide moving to the left, its objective should be to “turn the tide” rather than “go with the flow.” In “going with the flow” the GOP will not only lose its identity; but ultimately become obsolete, as the electorate’s mindset shifts further left.”

Not only is party over principle wrong morally, but also a ridiculous strategy for long term victory. If nothing is done about the social/political tide moving left the GOP will cease to exist in the long term. As Republicans, we need to fight for what we know is right and refuse to sell ourselves out in the hopes of stealing one or two elections.

WC: I believe that principles are the bedrock for our party. A party, organization, business, or individual without principles is not serving our citizens well, and would not have my support. I am running because I believe that the appearance of compromised principles is just as damaging as the actual commission of unprincipled acts. Many Maryland Republicans believe that we are compromised at present and need to change course immediately. I have a distinguished record of public service, and I will not compromise my principles for political gain.

Regarding internal party business, we have fought over regional chairs and other small county vs. large county issues for some time now. How will you address these internal disputes?

WC: I am amazed that we continue to waste valuable convention time to debating the voting weights of the jurisdictions. I would establish a working group to present an array of proposals to the various Central Committee members for their consideration and approval. In addition, it seems counter-productive to elect the Chair, Vice Chairs, Treasurer, and Secretary to four year terms. We should make these two year terms so we can evaluate their effectiveness after the 2012 General Election and not have another crisis if we need a leadership change. I am also, concerned about the prerogative we grant to Republican Governors to appoint the Chair. We need to have checks and balances between the party itself, and our elected Republican office holders. Otherwise the MDGOP could become an extension of a future Republican Administration, and do their bidding rather than protect the interest of the party.

MK: Mary wrote: There are also internal issues to be discussed. First, I will advocate that the term of office for the state party chair be reduced from 4 years to 2 years. Second, I will form an Ad Hoc Committee immediately to determine the appropriate permanent voting process for our MDGOP meetings to be presented at the spring convention. 

SH: It makes sense that those who represent a larger amount of Republicans should carry a larger weight to their vote. That is the way the Founder’s framed the House of Representatives.

On the other hand, I understand the argument that certain counties that elect zero or few Republicans to office should not drive the ideology for the state party.

I think the long-term solution is to raise awareness among voters as to who they are electing to central committee. Republicans need to realize who is representing them on the party level and the vital role they have on the direction of the party and the state. Sadly, I believe that most Republicans do not know what a central committee is. If this can be solved rank and file Republicans take a role in these elections and elect people who share their values, I feel much of the infighting will dissipate.

ME: Our State Party Constitution is clear that every County Party should have an equal vote in State Party Conventions, yet we suspend the rules every time. This needs to stop. No one county deserves more of a say than another.

How will you deal with the TEA Party influence given its mixed record?

ME: As a co-founder of the Baltimore Tea Party Coalition, I appreciate the energy that the Tea Party has generated. If we as a Party are to succeed, we need to bring together all elements, be them establishment, Tea Party, etc. Only together can we hope to rebuild as an organization.

WC: In running a statewide campaign I met many TEA Party and other Conservative voters. I admire their commitment and passion. They could bring a great deal of energy to the MDGOP, but I do not believe that many of them want to become Republicans. They are fiercely independent and are equally critical of Democrats and Republicans. I would certainly reach out to them whenever possible to find common ground. We have much in common and could work together to elect our candidates.

SH: I don’t think their record in this state is mixed. I believe on the state level their influence was completely disregarded due to the record of our governor candidate and pre-primary shenanigans. In the first district, where the tea party was able to play an active role in providing grassroots for Dr. Harris, he won by 13 points. On the state level where they were either not empowered or not comfortable supporting certain candidates, we lost by about the same margin.

My goal as chairman will be to correct this discrepancy by providing principal to our message and reaching out to the tea party on a state-wide scale. The state party cannot be successful without the enthusiasm and grassroots prowess of the tea party. The MDGOP needs to not only reach out to local leaders and empower them to grow the party, but most importantly gain their trust. They need to know that if they give their time and money, we will support their conservative values. I believe electing a chairman who is one of their own, will send that message.

MK: I don’t recall what Mary said regarding the TEA Party during the phone conversation and she didn’t address this in her letter.

In what rank order would you put the concepts of candidate recruitment, fundraising, fealty to party principles, addressing the needs of smaller counties, and dealing with the TEA Party?

MK: The part of our discussion I recall best is our discussion of this point. We agreed that perhaps a better analogy than the one I presented would be as in a wheel, where fundraising is the hub and six spokes extend out to the other facets, which form a circle.

SH: This is a difficult question as I feel the areas are intertwined. I feel someone who shares traditional party principles will be able to relate to, and inspire, the tea party. And a principled candidate should have the common sense approach to weigh the needs of individual counties. . A candidate who cannot inspire grassroots support will not be an effective fundraiser.

1) Principles
2) Fundraising

ME: The most important job of the State Party Chairman is to fundraise. I don’t see why any of these other elements would have to be separated, or contradictory from that. We fundraise when we stand on our principles. We fundraise when we tap into grassroots Tea Party energy. We fundraise when we represent the needs of all counties. Frankly, we have bigger problems than the feelings of individual Central Committees. We are facing redistricting, which could cost us the first and sixth congressional districts, and trim are already dwindling minorities in the State Senate and House into oblivion. We are facing the crisis of a 35 billion dollar pension and health plan liability that will force 17 billion dollars of unfunded pensions onto the already burdened counties. We have bigger problems than “party fealty.” We, as Maryland Republicans, offer our state something that few other Republican State Parties can offer: the hope of accountable, transparent government. If we are not marketing a clear vision to this state; if we are not acting as whistleblowers and calling out the corruption of the arrogant House and Senate majorities, and their governor; if we are not taking the issues of this state seriously, and offering the voters of Maryland a genuine and clear alternative, then we are simply wasting our time.

WC: This would not be my choice for a priority list. Mine priorities would be (in order of importance) party unity, financial solvency, candidate recruitment and development, and increasing Republican voter registration and participation in Baltimore City, and Prince Georges and Montgomery Counties. However, to answer your question I would rank you issues in the following order: 1. Principles, 2. Candidate recruitment, 3. Fund raising, Smaller County needs, and 5. dealing with the TEA Party. While some may object to ranking the TEA Party relationship last, the reality is that (unlike the first 4 issues) we do not have complete control over that relationship.

Also, please assess the strengths and weaknesses of your last two predecessors as chair, Audrey Scott and Jim Pelura.

WC: I only got active in MDGOP politics in April of this year. I had not known either Audrey, or Jim before then, and have only spoken to them briefly on a few occasions. They have both been courteous to me and I personally like them. I am unable to judge their strengths and weaknesses, and I don’t believe that the past performance of MDGOP Chairs is relevant to the current election. We need to focus on the future of our party and not re-plow old ground.

ME: I have nothing but sincere respect and admiration for the Chairman. She came into a mess of a Party that was deeply in debt and highly divided. She united the Party, dug us out of debt, established a fulltime fundraising and political staff, raised seven victory centers statewide, and left us in the black when it was all said and done. As far as I’m concerned, she met all of her campaign promises and did a phenomenal job. I did not agree with all of her decisions; I did not support all of her methods. She was the best possible Chair at the right time. Now that chapter has come to a close and the Party has different needs. I believe the Chairman recognizes this, which is why she is not pursuing reelection.

I have no comment on Mr. Pelura.

SH: Scott – I admire Audrey’s strength as a fundraiser, her ability to remain positive and upbeat, and her work-ethic and resolve. But she conveyed a lack of adherence to party principles (and rule 11) which alienated the party’s base. She also was unable to innovate and improve on party strategy which led to a continued decline in statewide elections.

Pelura – Jim is a great man of character who was unable to work with the party apparatus to get things done. Much of things said about him simply are not true. Regardless of personal opinion, his term was not an effective one.

I would like committee members to think of my candidacy as the opportunity to start a new chapter of Republican Politics in Maryland. This November proved that we cannot afford more of the same and drastic change is required. I hope to provide that change if elected.

MK: Mary did not address her predecessors.


After reading these questions and compiling this post, I hope this helps – whether you have a direct stake in the decision as a Central Committee member or just happen to be a rank-and-file Republican or conservative concerned about the state of the party in the Free State.

I look forward to a spirited contest culminating sometime Saturday morning.

MDGOP horserace: the update

It’s beginning to look like there will be five candidates for Chair; at least that’s how many are actively campaigning at this time.

Today we had a quad-county Central Committee meeting (Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester) and close to two dozen committee members were present. While we had no candidates visit us directly, we heard briefly from three candidates for Chair (Mary Kane, Alex Mooney, and William Campbell.) And while Mike Esteve and Sam Hale did not contact us directly, it’s by happenstance that I have received their answers to my questions and I have also gotten an advance copy of what Mary Kane is sending out to the rest of the state. Furthermore, I am told that Campbell will also be answering my questions in the next few days, so hopefully mid-week I can put together a debate-style presentation featuring at least four of the candidates.

One advantage of getting together a group as we had today was getting a real live sounding board for reactions, which helps in determining who is a favorite and who has less of a chance.

Previously I had placed the odds and race synopsis here; consider this post an update of that one.

Reposting the odds:

  • Mary Kane (4-1): I spoke with her at length yesterday and she answered several of my questions. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of her platform is changing the Chair term to be two years, and I can’t say I disagree with that idea. But I still hear the perception that she’s too tied into the old guard which did little to improve the party over the last eight years since Bob Ehrlich was elected, and obviously as a previous member of his administration and running mate she’ll be part of that legacy. Still, she remains the favorite and having fewer people to contend with helps her.
  • Alex Mooney (7-1): The factor affecting his rise most is his decision to go ahead and go for party Chair (although he would accept 1st Vice-Chair if he loses, and saying that he could be first out if he’s an also-ran on the first ballot, even if it’s not fourth or fifth place.) Yet if you look at party building strictly from a fundraising standpoint, Alex has a lot on his side as he was a rainmaker for state Republicans. Also, he is a known quantity to a number of supporters and his conservative stances on most issues (except perhaps illegal immigration) would bring him favor among movement conservatives. (His 88.49 term rating for the monoblogue Accountability Project placed him second in the State Senate, trailing only Congressman-elect Andy Harris.) His conversation today assuaged a lot of concerns about how much time he could devote to the job as well.
  • William Campbell (8-1): I have heard a few rumblings that the state party was a little less than forthcoming with information he requested, so his effort has been more of a face-to-face one. Yet he seems to be impressing those he talks to, and his late-blooming campaign may be hitting its stride at the proper time. Since it’s highly unlikely anyone will secure a first-ballot win I still think Campbell could be a compromise choice when the time comes, or he could get the endorsement of one of the other also-rans to push him onward.
  • Sam Hale (8-1): Certainly there are those in his corner, but the odds don’t improve for him as much as they do for fellow conservative Alex Mooney because Mooney attracts many in the same wing of the party Hale draws from – but with Alex accruing the added benefit of perceived fundraising ability. In addition, there are still a number of people skeptical that a man Hale’s age would have the connections necessary to build the party’s coffers. (By comparison, Mooney is 39, Kane 48, and Campbell 63.) Yet Hale has boundless energy and a background in grassroots organizing so you can’t count that out completely among the nearly half of Central Committee members who are new and may be new to politics.
  • Mike Esteve (20-1): Consider the problem of age and experience that Hale faces and you get the reason Mike faces the longest odds, since he’s even younger. Granted, Esteve has some ability in convincing a voting population that he’s leadership material as the head of Maryland’s College Republicans, but the perception is that the CRs are minor-league while the game that’s being played at this level is the big leagues. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s nominated for a Vice-Chair position from the floor.
  • The field (75-1): As always, we could have the darkest of horses being nominated from the floor. Daniel Vovak has written me (no, he’s not running) that there may be another candidate – Mike Phillips of Montgomery County – but Phillips may decide to run for one of the lesser positions as well. At this point, I would put Phillips among the ‘field.’

For reference, here were the previous odds so you can see how candidates have moved over the last week:

Original odds 11/30/10: Kane 5-1, Wargotz 8-1, Campbell 10-1, Andrew Langer 12-1 (withdrew), Hale 15-1, Amedori 18-1, Mooney 20-1, Esteve 25-1, field 50-1.

First revision 12/2/10: Kane 5-1, Eric Wargotz 7-1 (withdrew), Campbell 10-1, Hale 12-1, Amedori 15-1, Mooney 15-1, Esteve 20-1, field 75-1.

Second revision 12/3/10: Kane 4-1, Mooney 10-1, Campbell 12-1, Hale 12-1, Carmen Amedori (withdrew) 15-1, Esteve 20-1, field 75-1.

Of course, any new developments will be brought to you as I’m able to bring them to you. Watch for my questions and answers provided back to me to be posted around mid-week.

The MDGOP horserace

(This post has been entirely updated here.)

I’ve had enough people ask me who I think is going to be chair that I’ve decided to lay odds on what I think would happen. (Odds are for amusement only, no wagering please.)

Here is the race as I see it and why. I’ll update this in a week or so before the race; by then we should have a pretty good idea of the field. (Now updated to reflect two withdrawals – Andrew Langer and Eric Wargotz.)

  • Mary Kane (4-1): The early favorite based on name recognition and the number of Ehrlich loyalists still in the state party. But this probably won’t be a two- or three-horse race in the beginning, and the question is just how much support she can muster beyond this core constituency. Will she have enough in the tank if the race turns out to be a marathon? And are party regulars ready to give the Republicans back to the Kane family? However, her odds improved once Eric Wargotz withdrew since they seemed to me to be drawing from the same voter bloc.
  • Alex Mooney (10-1): The longer he waits to decide whether to get into the race (as of 12-2 he’s still oscillating between Chair and 1st Vice-Chair), the less chance he has of winning it. He has two strikes against him: a perception that he’s simply doing this to keep his 2012-2014 options open and the similar geographical disparity which also would have hurt Eric Wargotz. However, his odds can vastly improve if he decides to get in and pledges to use the position as a conservative bully pulpit – I think the withdrawal of Wargotz will push him into the Chair race, thus his odds got much better. And with the withdrawals of the other ‘outstate’ candidates he can now play the ‘us vs. them’ angle.
  • William Campbell (12-1): Probably the most low-key among those in the field, Campbell could be the compromise candidate the party turns to in an otherwise deadlocked race. While he has run for statewide office, he’s a political outsider who may get the nod based on the perception he’s not taking the position to climb a career political ladder. In terms of fiscal expertise, though, Campbell is hard to top.
  • Sam Hale (12-1): Hale represents the Brian Murphy wing of the party, and will likely have a lot of support among the most conservative in the party. Yet the questions which will nag him will be those of his young age and his fundraising ability, particularly since he’s likely the most unknown quantity among the contenders. They may not wish to take a flyer on this unproven rookie unless he can press the flesh and impress. He’s unafraid of questions, though, and that could help.
  • Carmen Amedori (15-1): Another candidate who wouldn’t win on the first ballot, but could emerge as a compromise choice. However, she has to overcome the perception of flakiness based on her behavior during the 2010 campaign – her explanation made sense to some but left other supporters of both Brian Murphy and Bob Ehrlich fuming. She will need to mend fences quickly to have a chance.
  • Mike Esteve (20-1): He’s already in charge of a state operation, but the Maryland College Republicans are a far cry from their parent organization. Like Sam Hale, there’s going to be the question of youth used against him, except that Mike is even younger. While the group as a whole needs to get younger, I can’t see how he succeeds – on the other hand, he only needs to convince about 150 people.
  • The field (75-1): Since nominations can be made from the floor (if a 2/3 majority chooses to do so) any number of names could surface at the convention, including past chairmen or other GOP luminaries. Highly unlikely but possible nonetheless.

On Sunday I submitted a list of questions to the contenders whom I know of; as of the time I wrote this last night no one had replied. (As of 12-3 Sam Hale is the lone reply.) Obviously I’m taking a dim view of those who won’t answer simple but direct questions about how they’ll change the party.

Original odds 11/30/10: Kane 5-1, Wargotz 8-1, Campbell 10-1, Andrew Langer 12-1 (withdrew), Hale 15-1, Amedori 18-1, Mooney 20-1, Esteve 25-1, field 50-1.

First revision 12/2/10: Kane 5-1, Eric Wargotz 7-1 (withdrew), Campbell 10-1, Hale 12-1, Amedori 15-1, Mooney 15-1, Esteve 20-1, field 75-1.

A key endorsement

One of the first big-name endorsements in the MDGOP Chair race came last night.

In a note to his supporters on his Facebook page, Jim Rutledge laid out some of the reasons he supports Maryland Society of Patriots head Sam Hale:

  1. He “is a proven leader at the grassroots, people-to-people level of persuasion.” Jim recounts how Sam founded the Maryland Society of Patriots and that it became a favorite stop for conservative candidates courting votes.
  2. He is “honest and transparent” and gives “straight talk from an intelligent mind.”
  3. He “has a work ethic second to none…his energy is badly needed to move us forward in Maryland.”
  4. He “is an optimist and visionary” who is “not daunted in his passion for turning the tide of freedom” despite living in the liberal enclave of Montgomery County.
  5. He “is a Christian who understands the call to civic activism,” and who “puts his faith into action.”
  6. He “is young and well-educated…youth and energy attract youth and energy.”
  7. Finally, he “is independent from the influences of the Washington, D.C. establishment.”

Truthfully, it’s not surprising Rutledge would place his backing behind a party outsider, as Hale may be the only aspirant to not either have been a 2010 candidate (Amedori, Campbell, Kane, Mooney, Wargotz) or involved with the Maryland GOP in some other fashion (Esteve is head of the Maryland College Republicans and Langer is on the Queen Anne’s County Central Committee.)

I haven’t taken the opportunity to speak to Sam yet, but as I noted yesterday he did an interview for RedState with Matt Newman. Later this week I’m thinking about sending out my own set of questions to see who has the guts to reply – after all, I’m one of the few people who are discussing the issue publicly to actually have some say in the matter.

It’s important to me that I make the best-informed decision I can to advance the conservative principles I believe in. Unlike some party chairmen, I put principle over party as much as I can (granted, it can’t always work that way – I do have some pragmatism.) So, those of you I think are in the running should be on the lookout.

Amedori jumps into Chair race

Update 10 a.m.: Another entrant into the race is 2010 Comptroller candidate William Campbell.

Add a Lower Shore name to the Maryland GOP Chair mix, and Mary Kane won’t be the only woman seeking the post.

Carmen Amedori, who served in the House of Delegates from 1999-2004 representing Carroll County and had abortive runs for both U.S. Senator and lieutenant governor in the past year, is now setting her sights on the party’s top post. She joins a growing field of aspirants for the job, many of whom are campaign veterans themselves.

Carmen, who recently relocated to Ocean City, didn’t remain on a political hiatus too long after a whirlwind spring which saw her featured in two statewide races. She won a spot on the Worcester County Central Committee in September and lent her expertise to the campaign of House of Delegates candidate Marty Pusey. Pusey finished third but drew a respectable 25% of the vote in a four-person field.

Yet the former Ehrlich appointee drew fire for a withering criticism of her former boss upon joining the Murphy campaign, only to re-endorse him upon dropping out. In part, she claimed, it was to deflect blame from Brian should Ehrlich lose (as he eventually did) – “if there was going to be a loss to O’Malley, let it be Bob’s loss.” This probably won’t endear her to Bob’s strongest backers.

However, Carmen thinks she can overcome this:

We need to build this party. That means, someone like me who has African American conservative and soft Democrat friends who would go door to door to with me to help convert membership and also someone who will not be percieved by the press as someone who is so far right that we will never see light of day in Maryland. I am a strong conservative. But I do have friends on both sides and many who are attracted to my ability to communicate with everyone.

She joins a rapidly growing field that may include fellow U.S. Senate candidate Eric Wargotz along with Kane and two other less-known hopefuls who have already announced their candidacy, Mike Esteve and Sam Hale.

MDGOP: the intrigue continues

Well, well, well…yesterday was an interesting day. Pretty soon we won’t be able to tell the players without a scorecard.

With the interest in taking over what I thought was an irrelevant, moribund party who was shellacked in all four statewide races (oops, three since they didn’t even have a candidate for Attorney General) now beginning to peak, the rumor mill of who’s in and who’s out is beginning to grind out a few names we might recognize.

I don’t know for sure who will end up on the ballot come December 11 in Annapolis, but this is how I understood the process as it was when I went to bed last night:

Looks like they’re in:

  • Mike Esteve (Maryland College Republicans/Baltimore TEA Party Coalition)
  • Sam Hale (Maryland Society of Patriots)

Leaning that way:

  • Mary Kane (2010 LG candidate, former Secretary of State and onetime House of Delegates candidate)

Once in, then out, but maybe in again:

  • Andrew Langer (Institute for Liberty and frequent TEA Party speaker)

The good old ‘considering it’ group that’s testing the waters beneath the surface:

  • Alex Mooney (State Senator who was defeated in 2010)
  • Eric Wargotz (U.S. Senate candidate in 2010 and outgoing Queen Anne’s County Commission president)

Thanks, but no thanks:

  • Larry Hogan (former Congressional candidate who may be positioning himself for a 2014 run)

Feel free to add changes, new names, and dropouts to the comment section. I’ll stay on the rumor mill as I work today.