Why the MDGOP Really Doesn’t Have an AG Candidate and How We Can Fix That

If you listened to last week’s Red Maryland Radio you heard our lengthy discussion about the failure of the Maryland Republican Party to, as of yet, recruit an Attorney General candidate and suggested how the state party can go about solving that problem.  I urge you to listen to that conversation, but let me give you some of the highlights.

First, what prompted our discussion was this article in the Daily Record.  The money quote was this
But no Republican has stepped up — at least publicly — to seek the job held by Douglas F. Gansler since 2007.

“It speaks to the sorry state of the Republican party in Maryland,” said Todd Eberly, assistant professor of political science at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. “You’re not going to have Doug Gansler … you’ve got an open race, the potential for a divisive Democratic primary.
“If they want anyone to ever take them seriously, they’ve got to win some statewide offices every now and then, which means trying to build a bench instead of running these throwaway challenges.”
The good assistant professor is right that a lack of a candidate even being discussed does reflect poorly on the MDGOP but he his so wrong about the state party not having a bench or plenty of qualified, potential candidates.  Of course, what the hell would the faculty of St. Mary’s College ever know about Maryland Republicans? They aren’t reported upon in the Huffington Post after all. But I digress.
On Thursday night, I shared a list of about 150 Maryland Republicans who would be qualified for the post of Attorney General.  As I explained then, I compiled the list in 10 minutes and it is far from comprehensive.  It included such well know names as Kendall Ehrlich, the 2006 AG nominee Scott Rolle, over half a dozen members of the General Assembly, a dozen or so sitting State’s Attorneys and literally scores of active Republican lawyers who hold some elected office, have run for office or are contemplating a run.  
So, yes, we have a bench and we have plenty of names.
That is not the problem.
So why don’t we have a candidate or even a public name of someone seriously contemplating an AG run?  The MDGOP Chairman told our friend Jackie Wellfonder the following:
 I am actively recruiting an AG candidate, having spoken with several individuals who are still thinking about entering the race. This is a very difficult position to fill. Most qualified candidates are engaged in private practice and either can’t or don’t want to leave it (understandably). I am consulting Central Committee members, attorneys, and elected officials to find a great candidate for the Republican ballot.
Essentially, the chairman is acknowledging there are plenty of potential candidates but the party cannot “close” any of them.  Why? 
It isn’t the reason the the chairman claims.  Why would a Republican candidate have to leave a private practice? Not to run, of course, though they would have to take time away from it like everything else? If they won? Sure, but does anyone really believe the MDGOP is getting “no’s” because potential candidates are afraid they might win? We should be so lucky and besides that wouldn’t be an issue for a sitting State’s Attorney or really for a member of the legislature.
As someone who got one of these calls, and no not from the Chairman, I can tell you why they are not getting a yes.  Any potential AG candidate knows that they would be on their own running statewide.  The state party is too much focused on creating a list of people to call and too little focused on what they are going to tell the person on the other end of the phone.
As I mentioned on Thursday night, candidate recruitment isn’t about finding candidates, that is candidate scouting.  Candidate recruitment, like recruiting for a college football team, is about selling the experience and making someone want to be a part of something.
This is exactly what the party isn’t doing.
So here is my suggestion.  Again, I detailed this last week and here are just the highlights. Rather than setting up committees to discuss who can vote in our primary, the MDGOP should set up a committee to make sure we have an AG candidate upon which to vote.  The committee should be tasked with putting together the following to use as incentives to a potential candidate.
  1. Get written commitments from every MDGOP elected official (and to the extent possible candidates) to support and, if requested, publicly endorse the party’s AG candidate.  This means using their networks to push social media contacts and encourage donations.  It means welcoming the candidate to all their events and making sure to introduce them to their supporters.
  2. Have a plan in place with every county central committee to coordinate an announcement and again push social media contacts when a candidate is announced.  A potential AG candidate shouldn’t have to spend months going to central committees to introduce themselves and ask local central committees to put the candidate in contact with local activists and clubs.  That should be standing by just waiting for someone to run.
  3. Get commitments from as many sources as possible to support the candidates fundraising efforts.  Host a fundraiser, sign a letter of support, send a letter to their network requesting that they contribute to the candidate.  The MDGOP has no money to give but it is full of members who should be standing by to help with fundraising for any candidate willing to step up to the plate.
  4. Coordinate with new media to maximize exposure of the candidate upon their announcement.  The state party has been doing a better job working with new media.  We obviously would want to talk to any MDGOP AG candidate.  This should be a no brainer.
  5. Have the MDGOP make available at the convenience of the candidate and his or her campaign all training resources.  If we are begging someone to run tell them that we will provide the training for them rather than just let them find their way to an already scheduled training.  This also means the state party makes a commitment to provide all the technical assistance they can.  
Putting this together would be difficult and not without challenges but it should be the minimum the party can do to incentivize someone to run statewide and I am sure there are plenty of other things the state party can add to this list.  

If the work was done putting it together, finding a candidate would be the easy part. There really is no excuse.

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