Tuesday, December 19, 2006

O'Donnell Leadership Team Carries the Day

As predicted here earlier today, Del. Tony O'Donnell has been elected as the House Minority Leader defeating the challenge of Del. Wade Kach. The Gazette has the complete story here.

The vote comes a day after Senate Republicans also rejected the "go along, get along" alternative proposed by some moderates within the caucus.

As I opined here, this is great news for conservatives who will have dynamic, honest and passionate leadership to battle in the marketplace of ideas.

Congratulations, Tony and the new leadership team!

Today is the day

In about half an hour the Republican caucus in the House of Delegates will convene to begin debate on a new leadership team. A vote is scheduled for 2pm.

Sources within the caucus tell me that Tony O'Donnell has the votes to hold off the challenge from Wade Kach.

The Anne Arundel Delegation will be critical. In the prior race, all but one of the Anne Arundel Delegates voted for Kach. This time the delegation is more divided with a number on the fence, no doubt holding out for leadership positions.

After four hours of debate, cajoling and bribes we will have a new minority leader.

Stay tuned.

Today is the day

In about half an hour the Republican caucus in the House of Delegates will convene to begin debate on a new leadership team. A vote is scheduled for 2pm.

Sources within the caucus tell me that Tony O'Donnell has the votes to hold off the challenge from Wade Kach.

The Anne Arundel Delegation will be critical. In the prior race, all but one of the Anne Arundel Delegates voted for Kach. This time the delegation is more divided with a number on the fence, no doubt holding out for leadership positions.

After four hours of debate, cajoling and bribes we will have a new minority leader.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Sign of the Apocalypse

It is official today as noted here that Don Dwyer (R-31) has defeated Joan Cadden to complete the Republican sweep of District 31.

As noted weeks ago here, the challenge made by Cadden never had much of a chance and should have been abandoned earlier. Since the race was so close, however, we taxpayers get to pay the bill for this pointless exercise.

None of this is suprising, however. The shocking part of the article is the declaration by Del. Dwyer that he will be "kinder and gentler" and try to work better with his colleagues. This from the same guy a couple of weeks ago who warned that if he was re-elected "Katy bar the door."

If the hardest of hardcore conservatives can begin speaking the mush of bipartisanship and cooperation with a leadership he himself has demonized for years, what is going on with our Republican members of the House of Delegates? No doubt Don could always have been more subtle and picked his battles a little better but now, flush with victory, he is sounding more like a relieved incumbent wanting to never have another close race rather than the zealot who wanted to speak the truth regardless of the outcome. No good can come from this, can it?

On the campaign trail, Don would say "No one can do what I do and get reelected" Now that he has been proven wrong, he appears willing to give up what "he does".

I will wager that this statment is just Don getting caught up in the air of conciliation within the caucus and it will not last. Because if Don Dwyer can be a wishy washy Republican looking to "work with the other side" with full complicity in "how things are done in Annapolis" (read giving into the liberal Democrats) how can we ever change the culture in the General Assembly and give conservatives a reason to get excited again.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

A Respite for the Cynical

I had the opportunity yesterday to attend the swearing in of our recently reelected orphans' court judges, Gail Schaffer, Nancy Phelps and Gordon Witherspoon and our newly elected Register of Wills, Lauren Parker. The outgoing Register of Wills, George Nutwell, was also honored for his decades of faithful service. I was pleased to be invited and honored to attend.

These are four decent people dedicated to public service in jobs with little glory but more responsibility than most realize. They have and will serve the citizens of Anne Arundel County with integrity and fairness (neither of which is in overabundance in public life).

The event reminded me that there are still decent and honorable people in public life who are willing to enter the foray of politics (all had hotly contested races) in order to serve their neighbors. For all the reasons to be cynical in modern politics, at every level, it was a nice respite.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Another reason why we need an elected school board

In today's Sun there is an article about the debacle in deciding how to fix Severna Park Middle School. After a day long meeting and months of discussion, the board boldly determined to do nothing.

The numbers are interesting. The three options presented, revitalization, modernization and building a new school came with price tags of $46M, $56M and $58M respectively. Astronomical to be sure but, as the article points out, there was little serious discussion of the last option and getting a brand new state of the art school which, according to the plans I have heard, would be built without disruption to the current facility.

The article also related the bizarre episode of a senior member of the County Council promising (and in every position to deliver) funding for any option chosen and yet rendered seemingly powerless by an unelected, unaccountable schoold board who could not even make a decision.

If we had an elected school board, issues like what to do with Severna Park middle would have been the subject of public debate leading up to the election and the parents would have some recourse for such inaction.

To his credit, the member from Severna Park, Vic Bernson, did a great job trying to inject some sanity into the process. That is little solace to parents and taxpayers who have their voices ignored, their elected representatives stymied and see poor management abound in the public schools.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A Good Start

An interesting article in the Sun today about new county executive John Leopold's directive to department heads to come up with 5-10% cuts in next year's budget. Leopold, who ran as the stronger anti-tax candidate, is planning for expected revenue reductions by cutting spending rather than, at least for the moment, raising taxes.

What a concept!

Compare how a county run by a Republican County Executive and a majority Republican County Council handle a potential deficit with what the state run by a Democratic Governor and Democratic legislature is planning. O'Malley is talking about all kinds of spending (including a $800 Million increase next year for education) and raising revenue, slots and taxes.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Anne Arundel Republicans Drive MD GOP

The elections are over and here are the new slate of Maryland GOP officers:

Chairman: Dr. Jim Pelura, Anne Arundel County
1st vice Chairman: Chris Cavey, Baltimore County
2nd Vice Chairman: Chuck Gast, Anne Arundel County
3rd Vice Chairman: Mike Geppi, Harford County
Treasurer: Chris Rosenthal, Anne Arundel County
Secretary: Rex Reed, Montgomery County
Legal Counsel (Appointed): Dirk Haire, Anne Arundel County

As you can see, Anne Arundel Republicans have a great deal to be proud of as 3 of the top seven positions (3 of 5 in which someone from Anne Arundel was eligible) made the list. A great deal of credit goes to our central committee for setting the example for Republican success in Maryland and for translating that into excellent leadership within the state party.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

A message from our next MD GOP Chairman?

As the votes are being counted, the election of Dr. Jim Pelura as the next state party chairman seems a fait accompli. Here is Dr. Pelura's pitch in his own words.

"Dear Fellow Republicans,

As we are all aware, recent election results have put a pall over our party and Maryland Republicans. As I see it, we have two choices; crawl back into our caves for another 36 years or recognize our problems, face them head on and fix them!

My philosophy during Governor Ehrlich's initial campaign, during my stint as Maryland State Chairman for Bush/Cheney '04 ,during the Governor's recent campaign and countless other races I have worked on has been predicated on the notion that:

1) The majority of Marylanders are basically conservative,

2) The Republican Party of Maryland must reach out to the actual voter and make them feel proud to be Republican.

3) The Republican Party should simply promote Republican ideals which will benefit all candidates on the ticket.

4) There should be active and open cooperation between the Republicans in the House and Senate and the State Party.

5) Most voters want to vote for something or someone and not against something or someone.

Those who know me and have worked with me know that during my political life in Maryland, there is little I have not done to advance the Party. It is for this reason that I have decided to put my hat in the ring for the Chairmanship of the Maryland Republican Party.

Please help me take the Maryland GOP back to the voters!

I would be honored if you would support my run for State Party Chair.

Jim Pelura DVM, MS"

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Plot Really Thickens

Two days before the vote on a new MD GOP chairman, the landscape appears to be changing radically.

The plan to elect Louis Pope as a "transitional" chairman has been running into a greater resistance from members of the state central committee who want to "get it right from the start."

Today, there is an announcement that Mr. Pope is stepping aside and endorsing Dr. Jim Pelura, a late entrant in the race, for the job. Dr. Pelura is a long time activist from Anne Arundel County and served critical roles in both Ehrlich campaigns as well as the 2004 Bush campaign. He and his wife, Marianne Pelura, have both served as members of the Republican State Central Committee for Anne Arundel County.

Jim is obviously a great choice and certainly will work hard for the party. He has a particular commitment to grassroots development and, although a significant donor himself, is less enamored of the money end of the game. As a member of the Arundel central committee he always preferred low cost events to generate as many participants as possible over high dollar events that would raise more money.

Here is what Mr. Pope had to say:

Central Committee Chairs and Members:

"I am honored and humbled by the positive reaction I have received from you concerning my candidacy for the next Chairman. Serving as Chair would have been an honor and I know we could have moved the Party forward in a new direction to retake the Governor’s mansion, pick up more seats in the General Assembly, and ultimately restore a two party government in Maryland. I have also been honored to serve as your National Committeeman since 2004, and I look forward to continuing in this capacity. I cannot however serve as both a National Committeeman and Chair of the Party; therefore, I am withdrawing my name as a candidate for Chairman. The state is fortunate to have many qualified leaders to direct the Party for the next four years. As such, I am fully endorsing Jim Pelura as the next Chairman of the Maryland Republican Party. Jim has been an active leader in the Party for many years and I am fully confident that he is the best person to serve as the next Chair. I humbly ask you to cast your vote for Jim Pelura this Saturday.

Louis Pope"

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Plot Thickens (Pt. 2)

A source close to the Montgomery County state central committee members confirmed the growing concesus that I reported here for current National Committeeman Lewis Pope to serve a one year "transitional" state party chairmanship. In addition, the source indicated that current state party counel, Dirk Haire, had the inside track for the next full chairman's term.

Stay tuned.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Plot Thickens

I have been reporting on the leadership struggles within the Republican party. With the national and local leadership established, the only outstanding decisions regard who will lead Republicans on the state level.

The leadership hierarchy in the Maryland Republican Party has changed somewhat with multiple vice-chairman being replaced with regional vice chairman.

In speaking with a number of the members of the state central committee, the overall chairmanship remains wide open with some consensus forming for Louis Pope to serve as a one year "transitional" chairman.

Of interest to Anne Arundel Republicans, sources indicate that former county chairman Chuck Gast has the inside shot at the regional vice-chairmanship which includes our county. Preliminary discussions also indicate that Erik Robbey, current state First Vice Chairman, may be on the way out with other central committee members from other counties refusing to discuss the position or Erik with Anne Arundel members lobbying on his behalf.

The state party convention will be held next weekend in Annapolis.

No doubt there will be more to report on these issues.

End of Story?

The certified vote totals show that the Republicans in Anne Arundel county have kept their numbers with Ron George and Don Dwyer being certified as winners.

I mentioned here that the Democrats have been very aggressive in their challenges during the process and may take legal action. The Baltimore Sun reports here that the Democrats are still considering challenges and refuse to concede.

Sources close to the counting, however, informed me that Democrat attorneys have advised against a challenge by Delegate Cadden. These sources have first hand knowledge of the advice given and are not revealing any confidence by informing this blog that attorneys supervising the count determined that the election was "clean" and that the possible avenues of challenge would have little or no legal viability.

Of particular note, the Dems are challenging rejected provisional ballots by voters who assumed they were registered. In addition, they may try to retroactively challenge certain absentee ballots.

The law, however, is very clear on the registration issue and the Dems have already passed a deadline for further challenges to absentee votes. It is also uncertain what, if any, impact those challenges would have on the final outcome.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The latest on the tight races

With all provisional and abseentee votes counted, here is where we are:

District 30 Delegate

George 21811
Samorajczyk 21758

53 vote lead for Ron

Dist 31 Delegate
Dwyer 17557
Cadden 17529

28 vote lead for Don

Sources very close to the count indicate that the Democrats are planning court challenges.

Enter the lawyers.

Bob Michel or Newt Gringich?

One of the reasons I started this blog was to provide readers some insight into local Republican politics that you would not get anywhere else. Here is the first installment.

Here is the reporting.

I reported here about the coming leadership struggle within the House of Delegates Republican caucus. The struggle is a rematch of the fight a couple of years ago between Del. Wade Kach and his team and that of Del. O'Donnell (who served as minority whip). That was won by the O'Donnell forces by a single vote.

An anonymous source within the caucus informed me that the the single vote that made the difference a couple of years ago came from Delegate Bob Costa (R-33B) who split with other Anne Arundel House members to support the O'Donnell team. For his efforts he was made an assistant whip. A year or so later, Costa resigned his leadership position and left the caucus entirely although he did not cease being a Republican.

Now Costa is leading the charge to replace O'Donnell with Kach, who he personally kept from having the position previously.

Now for the opinion.

Costa's cynical and unabashedly opportunistic efforts remind me of Italy during the First World War. It is a despicable act by a Delegate uninterested, it would seem, in the good of the party or any principle beyond himself.

Tony O'Donnell is a solid conservative leader and would not bring the "moderate voice" Wade Kach has been seeking to bring for the last few years. O'Donnell is solidly pro-life, led the fight against spending taxpayer dollars for embryonic stem cell research, was the primary supporter of "Jessica's Law", opposed the huge tax increases urged by the Democrats, led the fight against early voting, the "Wal-Mart Bill" and other unconstitutional legislation, all while carrying the water for the Ehrlich administration and heroically standing up to the ironfisted rule of Mike Busch.

Tony O'Donnell has earned his stripes and deserves to keep them.

We have been here before. The O'Donnell/Kach fight is the Bob Michel/Newt Gringich fight of the early nineties. Do we content ourselves as Republicans to being docile backbenchers or do we unite behind a leadership that will demand accountability and fight for a clear alternative agenda which can lead to political victory in future elections. The latter choice was Newt Gringich and is Tony O'Donnell.

No curse after all

I posted here my predictions concerning the potential Repbulican leadership on the county, state and national level. Soon after, as I noted here, my prediciton about Michael Steele was proven wrong.

Locally, however, Mike Collins was elected last night as chairman of the Anne Arundel Republican Central Committee and Eric Flamino returns to the role as vice-chairman. Both Mike and Eric are veteran members and have been important parts of the Republican successes in Anne Arundel County over the last few election cycles.

The entire RSCCAAC leadership team is as follows:

Chairman--Mike Collins
Vice Chairman--Eric Flamino
Treasurer--Tonia Miller
Recording Secretary--Victor Henderson
Corresponding Secretary--Pam Scarbro
Legal Counsel--Doug Thiessen

Congratulations to them all!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

And So It Begins

With talk of "structural deficits" and possible tax increases, here comes the first real indication of the negtive impact of the incoming O'Malley administration.

The Examiner reports here that the first eighteen months of the O'Malley administration will include the replacement of three of the seven member Court of Appeals, Maryland's highest court for those who did not pay attention in school.

While the issue was raised during the campaign, the story today hits two key points many may not have fully appreciated. First, an objective review of the retiring justices shows that they are the most conservative on the court. Second, the O'Malley people are unabashed in their desire to pick justices who will fall into the liberal mold of social activists with little regard for "plain language" or "original intent".

Having argued the PSC case before the Court of Appeals, which led to the first of many rebukes of the Busch/Miller General Assembly, I know all too well what we are losing and the stakes at issue. When you look at what the Court did over the past few years to reign in democratic excesses and the looming issue of gay marriage, it is easy to see how such a transformation of the Court of Appeals could remove what few barriers exist keeping Maryland from becoming the most liberal state in the country.

God help us.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Don't Throw the Baby Out With the Bathwater

The Washington Post reports here that there is a move afoot to oust Delegate Anthony J. "Tony" O'Donnell as leader of the Republicans in the House of Delegates.

I hope that the Republican caucus rejects this effort. First, unlike Republican leaders in Washington, Tony O'Donnell has been an effective, ethical and principled conservative leader. The setbacks in this year's elections, which have been lessened with Republican pickups post election day, are simply not Tony's fault.

Del. Koch, who is gunning for the job, wants the caucus to be more moderate. Do Republicans really believe we lost because we were too conservative? Do they really believe being more moderate (read be more like the Dems) is the way to make gains?

I do not think so.

Tony O'Donnell was a great minority whip and deserves the minority leader job. He can do far more to help bring the caucus together and be an effective minority in preparation for greater gains in 2010.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Do you Believe in Miracles?

Here are the latest counts

Dist 30 Delegate

George 21788
Samorajczyk 21722

66 vote lead for Ron

Dist 31 Delegate

Dwyer 17527
Cadden 17516

11 vote lead for Don

After a tough election night, it appears AA Republicans are holding their numbers in the House of Delegates while adding a Senator and a County Executive to their council majority.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Best Laid Plans

I hope it is a mistake and not a curse but my prediction about Michael Steele heading the RNC appears to be wrong. News reports now report Sen. Mel Martinez will head the party while remaining in the Senate.

What is the advantage of having a sitting Republican Senator? Are the reports that Karl Rove wanted Steele in the cabinet true?

Let the speculation commence.

A great team

With the election winding up and Republicans on the losing end, the speculation for who will control the Republican party on every level begins.

On the national level, speculation is high that our own Michael Steele is being considered for the RNC spot. Given the lack of any other candidates and the announcement that the current chair Ken Mehlman, also a Marylander, is stepping down the momentum for a Steele chairmanship is approaching unstoppable. I think he did a great job as Maryland's party chairman and is the perfect man for the RNC job.

At the state level, current chairman John Kane is stepping down in time for the state convention in December. The Washington Times reports here that Anne Arundel's own, and current state party counsel, Dirk Haire is one of the finalists for the job.

Dirk is an excellent choice. In addition to being exceptionally bright, he has been involved with the operation of the state party, is a proven fundraiser and will bring the right approach to holding together a party that very easily could disintegrate into a million pieces after this year's election.

Locally, Thursday is the first meeting of the newly elected county central committee. Mike Collins, as the highest vote getter for central committee, will serves as chairman pro temp. Mike has made it no secret, however, that he wants the chairman job for good and appears to be the main contender for the post. Mike is a sold choice but with so much new blood on the committee it will be interesting to see how things play out.

For Anne Arundel Republicans, the Republican Party at all levels is likely to be controlled by people we have known for years and who will give great deference and influence to the engine that is driving the party in Maryland.

Razor Thin

The final countdown of the 2006 election begins today with two critical Delegate seats up for grabs. The parties are mobilized for the counting of approximately 3000 provisional ballots and a second round of absentee ballots from overseas.

As reported here, the Democrats are throwing everything they can into controlling these counts. The Republicans will also be out in force with the lawyers, led by our capable central committee counsel (how is that for alliteration) Doug Thiessen.

Here is where we are. Don Dwyer is about 30 votes short of completing a clean sweep in District 31 and Ron George has a lead of less than 100 votes for a seat in District 30. I ran into a bleary eyed Don Dwyer on Saturday who simply said he was "waiting for Thursday" when the vote would be finalized.

The conventional wisdom is that many provisional ballots are from those who sought absentees but ended up going to the polls. The overseas absentee ballots are largely from military personnel. Given the absentee results in general and other trends, this should favor Republicans.

Stay tuned.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Hang on Tight

Here is the latest missive from our leaders on the county cenral committee: "At present, Republicans have gained the County Executive seat, held the County Council, gained a Senate seat, and may keep our strength in the House, albeit with a shift of a Republican seat from 32 to 31.Provisional ballots will be counted Monday with overseas absentee ballots counted on Wednesday. Mike Busch’s campaign manager was reported to have been yelling into a cell phone that they need a team down there Monday to challenge every ballot. Apparently they do not want EVERY vote to count, or to count EVERY vote. They will do ANYTHING to erase our gains. Fasten your seatbelts. It is just getting interesting." Mike Collins

Here is just how close the count is:

John Leopold 92,088 and George Johnson 88,099

Bryan Simonaire 19,230 and Shandrowsky 18,622

Don Dwyer 17,291 and Joan Cadden 17,321.. A 30 vote difference, Don can still pull it out with Provisional Ballots on Monday.

Ron George 21,414 and Barbara Samorajczyk 21,386

Dusting Ourselves Off

This will be one of the few posts where I will look back at what happened on Tuesday. While a post mortem and a lot of reflection is called for, I would much prefer to look ahead. There is a good article today in the Sun which quotes other Republicans with whom I agree.

But, while the votes are still being counted, here are my thoughts. The sludge from the Congressional Republicans failure to govern effectively and manage themselves motivated democrats and demoralized at least a few conservatives. This created a glass ceiling here in Maryland that Ehrlich and Steele, despite solid records, high approval ratings, plenty of money and well run campaigns, could not penetrate. It is too bad because, despite all the sniping you will start to hear, they bucked the national trend and in a normal year both would have won.

A clear example of this is Anne Arundel county. We kept our council majority, not a great accomplishment considering four incumbents faced only two drafted challengers, and appear to have elected a Republican county executive. If Leopold's lead holds, as I think it will, Anne Arundel Republicans accomplished something extraordinary despite the national trend, despite Johnson's million plus dollars and despite our inability to do it four years ago in a banner year.

The legislative races prove my point as well. It appears, if the numbers hold, that we lost two house seats but gained a Senate seat.

In 32, my good friend Terry Gilleland was targeted long ago and had difficulties while facing what was, in essence, a solid incumbent democratic slate. He really had no chance and many people, not me, wrote the seat off months ago. By the way, Mark Chang deserves kudos for a very well run campaign for a first time candidate and now has to be considered a bright star in a very tough district.

In 30, however, we opened up an incumbent seat, always a risk, and had what was an enormous drain from the Whitney campaign. The 2000 votes Whitney got would have certainly put George, another pro-life, pro-family, pro-constitution conservative, over the top and may have gotten Smarick over as well. With all due respect, Pastor Whitney did great harm to everything he professes to believe in and was running to protect by guaranteeing three liberal, pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage legislators who have no regard for the constitution got elected. We still had a great chance of gains despite the environment and despite again running against a de facto incumbent slate.

In 31, a two to one democratic district, it appears we held in the House and gained in the Senate. It is nothing short of extraordinary and without the "anti-Republican headwind" emanating from Washington it may have been an easy clean sweep. Nic Kipke, also a good friend, deserves particular kudos for his race as does his campaign manager Erik Robbey (our "Karl Rove"?). They really accomplished what many observers would have called an impossible feat.

In 33, our majority Republican district, all the candidates won easily despite little to no general election campaigning and the smears against Del. McConkey.

So it was not 1998 and if we had the same environment as 2002 we would have won just about everything. We have a great deal to work with in this county and we can reverse fortunes and make gains in four years as we did in 2002.

Despite being in the wilderness on the state and national levels, the future really is bright for us here in Anne Arundel county. We just need to dust ourselves off, roll up our sleeves and plan our way back.

It will not be an easy task but nothing is worth having that is not worth working to get.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Welcome to the Refuge

I hope you enjoy and visit this blog often. I am joining, and hope to bring together, the nascent conservative blogosphere here in Anne Arundel county and share information as well as news and opinions about local politics.

Consider this a "happy place" for conservatives in Anne Arundel county to view the news, debate the future and plot our way out of the wilderness after the setbacks (and successes) of 2006.

Share your comments, links of interest, etc. and thank you for visiting.