Almost two years ago, Harford County Executive David Craig sat down with bloggers from throughout the state to discuss Maryland politics and to introduce himself. As I wrote then,
Mr. Craig took questions for nearly two hours about his background, his views on the issues and the potential of his running for statewide office in 2014. Mr. Craig endured the interrogation with aplumb and, personally, I was impressed by the depth and breadth of his knowledge about Maryland politics. The event was also very professional, a testament to the quality of the staff that Mr. Craig has assembled. The Craig Camp demonstrated an understanding of what we bloggers do and how the landscape of media and campaign communication has changed.
Now an official candidate for Governor, County Executive Craig sat down again with bloggers last night to discuss his campaign. Again, he was pummeled with questions regarding the challenges he will face both in the primary campaign and the general election.
Here are some of the highlights on what he had to say.
Mr. Craig explained the announcement tour and how his initial travels throughout the state as a candidate were going. He stated that he was well received everywhere he went by local elected officials, party leaders and activists.
Mr. Craig was asked if the announcement of the “Brown-Ulman ticket” on the same day as the kickoff of his tour stole any thunder from his campaign. He said that it did not and rather showed that the democrats had “blinked” recognizing for all their show that the Lieutenant Governor was not going to have an easy road to victory.
When asked about his own pick for Lieutenant Governor, Mr. Craig stated that he plans to announce a pick by the end of the summer. He said that he had about five people in mind but has not spoken with any potential candidates yet. He informed us that his pick would likely be someone who has experience as an elected official, have some state level experience and would reflect the campaign’s tone. He stated that demographics or geography were not considerations and that his pick would not be an “attack dog” but rather someone ready to lead the state if needed.
Much of the questioning revolved around the campaign’s plan and strategies. While Mr. Craig understandably did not want to reveal any strategy, he did discuss some aspects of what the Craig for Governor campaign is going to look like. Mr. Craig will be active throughout the state attending events and is planning a number of statewide “listening tours” this fall on a wide variety of topics.
Most importantly, Mr. Craig said that his tone and tenor would be the same throughout both the primary and general campaign. He stated that any candidate has to be the same in the primary and the general. Given the current media landscape where every public event is recorded, providing ample video evidence of contradictory statements, this message discipline seems like a prerequisite for any successful general election candidate. Mr. Craig’s campaign, while not revealing anything about their media strategies, has demonstrated an above average understanding of new media, social media and traditional media and have to this point seemed to employ each effectively.
Which brings us to the most pointed questions Mr. Craig received. He will be facing a contested primary, a reality with which he seems familiar and comfortable. The likely avenue of attack from his primary opponents, most of whom will likely see Mr. Craig as the frontrunner, is that Mr. Craig is too moderate in his tone and that such moderation belies a moderate politically and that Mr. Craig is ill equipped or even reluctant to aggressively battle the tyrannical democrat monopoly running this state. Mr. Craig and his staff insisted that such attacks would be counterproductive and that Mr. Craig, citing the example of Ronald Reagan, would bring the party together in united opposition to the democrats and that such unity was essential for any chance of success. Mr. Craig also noted that a strength was his ability to work across the aisle and that he had the respect of leaders on both sides. (As if to prove this point, during our meeting State Senator John Astle (D-30) came by to say hello and to praise Mr. Craig.) Mr. Craig insisted that his tone would be more effective in both winning the election and governing the state than the more vociferous approach likely advocated by some of his primary opponents.
While such a response has its merits, I wonder if the movement and grassroots conservatives who have moved away from the MDGOP establishment and developed a deep mistrust of Republican candidates will find such appeals pursusive. The good news for Mr. Craig, though, is that unlike Bob Ehrlich or other prior statewide MDGOP candidates, he has a solid conservative record. He has balanced budgets, cut taxes, won elections against the odds, supported the second amendment and has firmly established pro-life and pro-traditional marriage credentials. Despite some attacks on his record, Mr. Craig stated that he has opposed Plan Maryland and the Rain Tax as county executive and as a board member of the Maryland Association of Counties, often being the sole voice of opposition. He is no political moderate if one looks at his record nor does he expect to take moderate positions on issues to broaden his support.
His perceived moderation is truly one of tone only, not philosophy. To my mind, that is a far more persuasive argument to conservative voters inclined to vote against the state’s democratic machine. As a conservative, there is no need to compromise either principle or pragmatism to vote for David Craig for Governor which is why he will be a formidable candidate in this race.