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Maryland Fall GOP Convention 2008

This is a text-only summary of what I posted today (with photos) at my home site. I also did a post yesterday that showed the social aspect of the gathering which can be found here.

In the interest of space, I’ll continue below the fold.

We met at dawn. All right, those of us who had breakfast did, and we were treated to remarks from Harford County Executive David Craig.

Craig related that the GOP had “lost its way…its confidence…(and) its faith in ourselves” as a result of November’s election “setback.” But he also gave examples that showed the “phoenix will arise”, reminding attendees that the pundits wrote the GOP’s obituary after the elections in 1964 and 1976 as well.

But to win, noted David, we had to get “back to basics” like a good sports team does – registering voters, finding good candidates, and getting out the vote. A little shoe leather doesn’t hurt either, as Craig told us where he and 20 other dedicated volunteers knocking at each of the 4,500 households in Havre de Grace (where he served twice as mayor) five times apiece in the last month resulted in his being placed back in the mayoral chair with 68% of the vote. While the future wasn’t certain, concluded Craig, it was “promising” for the Republican Party in Maryland.

Before I rejoin the proceedings as we assembled for the convention session, it’s worth noting that much of what was said during the morning session was a repeat of remarks made the prior night to the Executive Committee. Generally I took the better notes on Friday night but the pictures came out better Saturday morning.

And while I didn’t take pictures of state party Treasurer Chris Rosenthal nor will I divulge exact figures, it’s also worthwhile to point out that through September 30th our revenues were about 10% ahead of projections while expenses were just about 1% under the amount budgeted. So the Maryland GOP’s finances weren’t the mess many have written them off as.

Now I’ll return to the convention floor beginning with remarks by State Senator Allan Kittleman, who was the first guest speaker introduced by Party Chair Dr. Jim Pelura.

The message Kittleman delivered could be boiled down to two simple requests: we “need to work together” and stand on our principles. Moreover, he added that even though we “all failed” in 2008, Allan predicted that 2010 would be a “good Republican year.”

As part of our working together, Kittleman was the first of a few speakers who cautioned Republicans to not air their dirty laundry in public. I hope that doesn’t mean we can’t be crtical where we feel it’s necessary, although Allan also said that we should come to them first with any issues we feel merit the Senators’ attention.

Republicans, added Kittleman, are the party of opportunity (as well as the party of ideas and the party of freedom) but not the insurer of success. It wasn’t enough to talk about Democrats – in fact Kittleman noted he was “tired of having the GOP talk about how bad the Democrats are” – but we needed to present good alternatives too.

Next, Delegate Anthony O’Donnell addressed the grassroots of the party, stating that “I understand the importance of Central Committees.” What he urged those assembled to do was “throw away the rear-view mirror” and encouraged the county-level chairs to access the resources of the Minority Leader’s office. Better communications and a better message would help us succeed, O’Donnell claimed, using Jessica’s Law as one example.

Looking ahead to the upcoming General Assembly session, the obvious issue was the FY2010 budget – as O’Donnell put it this wasn’t a budget “crisis” but simply “mismanagement.” But another issue where Anthony used a visual aid was driver’s licenses.

Obviously this will be addressed by our side in Annapolis next year but look for common-sense legislation to again be shelved or voted down by the Democrats. (And look for any such votes to be duly noted on next year’s monoblogue Accountability Project.)

Maryland GOP Chair Jim Pelura then delivered his Chairman’s Report.

While Pelura thought the recent election was “as bad as 2006 for Maryland”, he didn’t blame those in the room. Instead he noted that the Democrats energized their base, registered more voters, and repackaged their agenda in a palatable way – by the end of the campaign, Barack Obama was considered the tax-cutter.

However, the focus now shifted to doing things differently, starting immediately. First, the GOP has a need to “push (our own) agenda” in the upcoming General Assembly session. At the same time we have to make sure Martin O’Malley and the Democrats in the General Assembly “will be accountable for every dollar” spent.

One move toward that end Pelura has made was asking Charles County Chair Charles Lollar to head up the “Maryland GOP Anti-Tax Plan Commission”, tasking Lollar to analyze the FY2009 budget line-by-line to see where possible cuts could be made. (More on this momentarily.)

The other action item was revamping a Maryland GOP website that was simply “not acceptable.” Starting today (Monday), the website is updated and being made more user-friendly. (It even has links to blogs, including mine and the Red Maryland site. How’s that for influence?)

In the near-term future, Pelura stated that 2009’s municipal elections would be “taken very seriously” as these candidates are the farm team for future regional and statewide races. He also encouraged us to talk up our principles to the younger voters and voters-to-be, engaging them wherever possible such as asking to be invited to speak to a high school or college class. “We need a face to our message”, noted Jim.

A few moments ago, I brought up Charles Lollar, the Chair of Charles County’s GOP.

While he humorously brought his youngest daughter’s desire to see Uggs under the Christmas tree and that she thought perhaps the family needed a bailout, in that was a parable for our state’s budget. In fact, Lollar brought up an interesting comparison, stating that two of our more-populated neighbors have budgets similar in size to our $31 billion behemoth – Pennsylvania’s checks in at $28 billion while Virginia’s is $33 billion. More importantly, Lollar claimed that in the first 13 pages of the budget there was $127 million which could be cut. On the whole, he wanted to “welcome (us) to the state where less will be more” – more money in our wallets and more personal freedom.

As always, we also got reports from our National Committeewoman Joyce Terhes and National Committeeman Louis Pope. Terhes exhorted us to “hold true to Republican principles” and presented a laundry list of to-do items for 2009, while Pope looked at some of the voting numbers and selected polling for 2008. While it’s probably common knowledge that 97% of the black voters picked Barack Obama, 69% Hispanics also went for the Democrat and the under-25 set was 2-to-1 in Obama’s camp. Meanwhile, 68% of Americans held a negative opinion of the GOP, so the need to “rebrand” and “resell” ourselves by being solution-oriented was apparent.

Finally, we got to a number of resolutions presented to us. It was fairly simple to approve Talbot County’s request to expand its Central Committee ranks from seven to nine and establish study committees to weigh the pros and cons of instant runoff voting and the merits of a pre-primary caucus for 2012. But the other two proposed changes drew plenty of debate.

One was the issue of regional chairs, which has been debated over the entire time I’ve been on the Central Committee. While it passed easily in 2006, a procedural error nullified the decision. Having rectified the problems and rewritten the language to adapt to the revised by-laws from 2007, the issue was brought to the floor.

While 13 of the 23 jurisdictions present (Kent County had no representatives to this convention) voted unanimously in favor of the idea, three others were split in its favor, and the LCD voting came out as a majority (68.19 to 51.82) the measure finished 3 LCD votes short of the required 3/5 majority for passage. The counties which voted against the idea were Anne Arundel, Carroll, Caroline, Dorchester, Montgomery and Prince George’s. I’m particularly disappointed in my Eastern Shore brethren for voting no, although even had they switched the effort would have still fallen barely short.

The same style of parochialism was exhibited on another proposal which would have switched the LCD voting method from a basis in registered voters to that of actual votes in the most recent election for Governor or President. (I posted an explanation of this concept last Wednesday.)

This time only eight counties voted unanimously in favor, while two others split in the affirmative direction. Not surprisingly, of the counties where the McCain vote fell short of the number of registered Republicans (ones who would have received the steepest penalties), only Frederick County had the courage and foresight to vote for passage. In all, the measure failed handily by a 47.23 to 72.78 LCD count.

As a resident of a county who was one of seven to lose on both propositions, it’s quite worthy to note that the a large part of the opposition to these measures came from two of the three counties who hold more votes themselves than the Eastern Shore does in toto – Anne Arundel and Montgomery. (Prince George’s County also was against both.) Our group of seven was Baltimore County, Cecil, Frederick, St. Mary’s, Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester – so the Lower Shore was whacked badly. I also would be remiss to not point out that both of these changes which were defeated were sponsored by Eastern Shore Central Committee members, including two of my fellow Wicomico County members who sponsored the registered voter to actual votes cast change in LCD voting composition.

With that said, there’s going to be a certain level of frustration expressed in the near future around these parts. However, local Republicans will soon have the Chair’s ear as Jim Pelura will be the speaker at our Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner on February 7, 2009.

We also had an informative luncheon session, but I’ve decided in the interest of time and space to leave that for another post since I’ve asked to get a copy of the presentation.






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