Wednesday, July 31, 2013

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.

More below the fold.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Despite Federal Stimulus Spending Only 38% of Maryland Roads in Good Condition

Only 38 percent of Maryland’s roads are considered in “good condition,” while slightly more were found to be in “fair condition” according to a USA Today and TRIP transportation research group analysis of Federal Highway Administration data.

Forty percent of Maryland roads are considered in “fair condition” and 22 percent of the state’s roads are rated as in “poor condition.” Seven percent of Maryland’s bridges are structurally deficient according to the data.

The analysis looked at data for all roads eligible for federal highway dollars and found a slight increase (0.7 percent) in the percentage of miles in poor condition between 2008 and 2011.  USA Today notes that this increase came in the wake of $27 billion in infrastructure spending from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

In addition to revenue from the gas tax, Maryland received $771 million in federal stimulus spending.   

So why does Maryland have such a low percentage of roads in good or fair condition? Where did all that money go?

Governor O’Malley and the legislature raided the Transportation Trust Fund and the federal dollars to pay for other spending.  In total O’Malley and the Democratic controlled legislature raided $868 million from the trust fund.  Transportation spending actually decreased by $90 million.  The $868 million has not been repaid to the fund.

O’Malley’s gas tax—sold as a measure to pay for new roads and infrastructure maintenance—took effect earlier this month.

Remember that $868 million, when you’re paying more at the pump.  You’ve been taxed twice for roads not built and bridges not repaired. 

More below the fold.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Red Maryland' Election Focus 7-27-13

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For your listening pleasure, another installment of Red Maryland's Election Focus.  In this installment,

Communications Consultant Brandon Wright talking about the 2013 election in Annapolis

Dave Meyers of the Howard County GOP talking about the landscape for 2014 in Howard County

and Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman talking about her plans to run for a full term in 2014.

More below the fold.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Red Maryland Radio: 7/25/2013

It was another big episode of Red Maryland Radio tonight on the Red Maryland Network.

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On tonight's show:

This is why you can't afford to miss Red Maryland Radio each and every Thursday night at 8, on the Red Maryland Network.......and don't forget that you can subscribe to the Red Maryland Network on iTunes

More below the fold.

Red Maryland Radio Tonight

Join Greg and I tonight as we bring you another big episode of Red Maryland Radio tonight at 8.

On tonight's show:
All that and more tonight. Be sure to tune in tonight at 8, only on the Red Maryland Network.

More below the fold.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

O'Malley Plans to Raise Your Electric Rates...Again

The Washington Post is reporting that Gov. Martin O’Malley is expected to announce an increase in Maryland’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, as part of a new push to address climate change in Maryland.  The state’s RPS law requires state utilities to generate 20 percent of the retail electricity they sell by 2022.  O’Malley is seeking to raise the mandate to 25 percent.

Maryland ratepayers should be wary of O’Malley’s renewed attack on global warming.

It is not clear that the RPS mandate works. 
Maryland implemented its RPS program in 2004, and O’Malley significantly increased the mandate in 2007 to its current 20 percent by 2022 goal.  However, renewable energy generation in Maryland has decreased from 603,462 megawatt hours to 573,665 megawatt hours, according U.S. Energy Information Agency data.  In fact, renewable energy, as a percentage share of power industry generation, decreased from 1.6 percent to 1.3 percent between 2000-2010.  See Table 5. 

Non-transparent credit trading system/Wall Street speculation 
Under the RPS, state utilities like BG&E, PEPCO, and Delmarva Power do not need to generate new renewable energy.  Rather they satisfy the mandate through purchasing renewable energy credits or RECs from qualified producers. 

For example, a homeowner with a solar array on their roof or can qualify to sell the power they produce as a REC to state utilities, which in turn use the purchased REC to satisfy their RPS mandate requirements.  Utilities are entitled to pass on the cost of RPS compliance to ratepayers with customer surcharges.  The credit trading system is operated by PJM, which also controls Maryland’s electric grid.

Utilities that don’t meet the required number of RECs must pay an alternative compliance fee or pay a penalty.  The alternative fees and penalties are directed to the Strategic Energy Investment Fund, which is managed by the Maryland Energy Administration.

Maryland’s RPS operates on a graduated scale that increases utility compliance percentages each year for Tier 1, Tier 2, and a solar carve out.

State law requires the Public Service Commission submit reports to the legislature regarding utility compliance with the RPS.   That report is based on compliance reports submitted by the utilities detailing the RECs purchased to comply with the RPS.  

With more than 30 states implementing some form of RPS, the government mandated markets have attracted Wall Street investors for years.  Like carbon markets, investors looking for a quick profit see renewable energy credits. 

There is even a Wall Street Green Summit, a convention that includes sessions for investors looking to cash in on the renewable energy credit trading market

The PSC denied a Watchdog Wire public records request for BG&E, PEPCO, and Delmarva compliance reports stating, “your request covers records that were filed confidentially because they contain confidential financial information.”  In other words the Public Service Commission is denying the public the right to know who sold our utilities the renewable energy credits, the cost of which are passed on to us.

Previous PSC reports have noted “upward pressure” on RECs due to the solar mandate and that the O’Malley administration’s manipulation of the law reduced supply, increased demand, and thereby increased the price of RECs.  Furthermore, the graduated percentage increases act as automatic price hikes.  Indeed, the 2011 PSC Report found that renewable energy credit owners were banking 90 percent of their RECs for sale in future years. 

Given that the RPS allows utilities to recover compliance costs, ratepayers should be concerned that their bills will be used to, in part, finance a renewable energy asset bubble for Wall Street.

RPS correlates to higher electricity prices
A 2012 study by the Manhattan Institute compared the costs of electricity in RPS states with non-RPS states and found “a pattern of mostly higher costs in states with RPS mandates.” 

1.     In 2010, the average price of residential electricity in RPS states was 31.9 percent higher than it was in non-RPS states. Commercial electricity rates were 27.4 percent higher, and industrial rates were 30.7 percent higher.
2.     In the ten-year period between 2001 and 2010—the period during which most of the states enacted their RPS mandates—residential and commercial electricity prices in RPS states increased at faster rates than those in non-RPS states.
3.     Of the ten states with the highest electricity prices, eight have RPS mandates.
4.     Of the ten states with the lowest electricity prices, only two have RPS mandates.
5.     Sixteen of the 18 states with residential rates that are higher than the 2010 U.S. average residential rate are RPS states.
6.     Nineteen of the 21 non-RPS states have residential rates that are below the U.S. average.

The report noted that Maryland’s residential electricity rates increased 87 percent from 2001-2010.  In O’Malley’s time in office residential electric rates have increased 54 percent.

Of course, RPS is not the sole cause.  Other O’Malley energy initiatives like EmPower Maryland have pushed rates upward.  Utility customers, who enjoyed the privilege of paying for power they didn’t use during storm related outages, can thank the rate stabilization clauses in O’Malley’s EmPower Maryland law.

More below the fold.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Inadvertent Admissions

How many times have you heard it? The idea that Maryland leads the nation in public education. Just take a look at the Governor's education website:

In 2013, Education Week named Maryland's public schools the best in the nation for the 5th straight year...

However, the story today regarding the drop in test scores on the Maryland School Assessment puts a few chinks in the armor of that story, and inadvertently admits several key components to the modern public education infrastructure, both in Maryland and beyond.

Now let's read carefully some of what the Sun has reported on this:

Admission #1: Maryland having the best schools in the nation is a myth
Maryland test scores declined significantly for the first time in more than a decade, a drop officials attributed to the beginning of a tumultuous time in public education that will bring changes to what is taught and how teachers are evaluated. 
The test score decreases in both elementary and middle schools were seen in nearly every school district and at nearly every grade level and were as great in the higher performing districts of Howard and Montgomery counties as they were in Baltimore City. Students did worst in math, with state scores dropping an average of 4 percentage points at both the elementary and middle school grades.
Now this clearly belies the idea that Maryland's schools are "the best in the nation for the 5th straight year." Regardless of whether or not they really are the best schools by whatever half-baked criteria that Education Week decides on schools that are the best, schools that are at their optimal level of performance, schools that do not need serious restructuring of curricula and spending priorities, do not see across the board reductions in performance, certainly not a reduction of four percent from 2012 to 2013. If that's the case, if that is acceptable, then the State of Maryland and Governor Martin O'Malley are asleep at the ship and abdicating their Constitutional responsibilities to provide "a thorough and efficient System of Free Public Schools."

Now the inadvertent admission of the myth that our schools are the best is backed up by the inadvertent admission # 2...

Admission # 2: Maryland's Education System is focused only on teaching to this week's test

How is that an admission, well for starters....
Maryland State School Superintendent Lillian Lowery said that she believed a variety of factors contributed to the decline, chiefly the gradual introduction of new standards called the common core.
Now there are a number of things that we learned from that sentence:

  1. Maryland schools are not the best in the nation; otherwise, why would we switch from the current curriculum to Common Core?
  2. The current Maryland School Assessment is not a valuable tool for assessing knowledge or skills that students need in order to succeed in college or in the workforce. If it was, why would the shift in curriculum see such a reduction in test performance, particularly in the math section among elementary and middle school students?
  3. With the introduction of new standards leading toward Common Core, the standards shifted away  from the current MSA standards toward the new Common Core standards. Because of that shift in standards, students (apparently) were incapable of adequately performing on the MSA test because the entire focus of the school year was not on the acquisition of skills and knowledge but on test performance.
No quote better sums up this point than this gem from Baltimore County Superintendent Dr. Dallas Dance:

In an unusual twist, Dance said he is most concerned this year not about schools that have shown major declines, but those whose scores have remained the same or increased. Those schools, he said, are the ones that have not yet begun the transition and will face the greatest hurdles in the next year. 
"For me the individual school results tell a story," Dance said. "For schools that have the larger declines, they are definitely on the right track. ... I would say keep doing what you are doing."
Emphasis mine. It takes an amazing level of chutzpah for Dr. Dance to give an "attabaoy" to those schools with the largest declines, but he does. It seems to be that the emphasis of this year's MSA testing and the interpretation of this year's results has nothing to do with student and school performance, but everything to do with evaluating where schools are in their transition to this newfangled curriculum. 
Admission # 3: Protect the Narrative Over Everything
If Dr. Dance's quote wasn't bad enough, let us take you to what Governor O'Malley had to say:
Reacting to the declines, Gov. Martin O'Malley said in a statement that gains over the years had been "tremendous."
"Our new curriculum asks teachers and students to dig deeper into core skills and concepts. A drop in scores does not represent a drop in student achievement," he said. "We will continue to support our students and educators during the next few years as we make a transition that better prepares them to compete globally."
Talking about tremendous gains over the years while facing down a huge reduction in student performance helps keep the narrative on track, but it seems not at all indicative of what is happening in public schools. 
The Sun, in addition to reporting the news, is doing its part to keep the narrative on track:
It's not time to panic quite yet over Maryland's plummeting elementary and middle school assessment scores. To be sure, they're not good, showing widespread declines in performance for the first time in years. But the declines are so systemic and sudden as to suggest a single culprit could be responsible for most of the change, and this year, there's an obvious answer. Maryland's test scores went up year after year as its districts aligned their curricula and teachers their lessons with the Maryland School Assessments. Now, though, as part of a national effort to improve academic standards, the state is in the process of adopting a new curriculum, but it is stuck for the moment with the old assessments. Ironically enough, it's possible that test scores went down this year in large part because students are being taught at a higher level.
To top it off, the Sun endorses US Education Secretary Arne Duncan's proposal to delay implementation of new assessments:
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced last month that state superintendents could apply for waivers that would allow them to delay the impact of the new assessments for a year. The evaluations would still be given, but they would not be used for personnel decisions. That's a reasonable accommodation, and it could help with low teacher morale, which local and state officials said may have been a factor in this year's test scores. Seeking such a limited waiver would serve the purpose of making clear that the state is committed to simultaneously improving its curriculum, assessments and teacher evaluations but would reinforce its commitment to do so in a fair way.
The bigger issues, through all of these inadvertent admissions, through this discussion of curricula, is the need for parents and taxpayers to really understand what the purpose of the Maryland education system is. Oh sure, Constitutionally speaking the purpose of the school system is to provide a "through and efficient" system of education for all Marylanders, but along the way that process has been warped to an educational system that is built primarily not to serve students, but to serve the system of the educational establishment itself. This has little to do with Common Core (which has been widely discussed elsewhere) but has everything to do with the system serving itself for its own continuation. While Common Core gets the publicity as the latest thing to be opposed, it is merely the latest in a series of curriculum revisions and implementations to be the "next big thing". A curriculum can be changed overnight, but it takes years to reform a school system, to reform educational tendencies, to reform union leadership. If that doesn't change, what will?
Common Core is a symptom. In this instance, the educational establishment is the disease. And the inadvertent admissions through today's release of the MSA Results tells us everything we need to know about it.

More below the fold.

The Broadside 7-22-13

The latest edition of The Broadside is up.

With Andrew Langer on assignment, friends of the Network Bryan Gambrill and Dennis the Cynic join Mark for the first Broadside broadcast from the new house.

They guys talked Detroit's bankuptcy and how that affects Maryland and Baltimore.

The $400 million in taxpayer subsidies involved in Baltomore's Harbor Point development.
Betting on the royal baby name.

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More below the fold.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Red Maryland's Election Focus 2013 Tawes

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Election Focus featuring interviews from the 2013 Tawes Clam and Crab Bake including: Delegate Ron George, candidate for Governor, Harford County Executive David Craig and his running mate, Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, Larry Hogan, Chairman of Change Maryland, Deb Rey, candidate for Delegate in District 29B, Hillary Pennington, fundraiser for the George for Governor Campaign, Maryland Republican Party Chairman Diana Waterman, Kevin Waterman, candidate for Queen Anne's County Register of Wills, Michael Swartz, Wicomico County Central Committee member and proprieter of

More below the fold.

Not the Time to Declare for Independents

You probably saw earlier this week that once again the idea of allowing independents to vote in Republican primaries has reared its head. It's something that we discussed at length on this week's episode of Red Maryland Radio, but I believe that it merits additional and further discussion.

First, a little background on election law in the state of Maryland. Here is § 8-202 of the Maryland Election Law as it relates to Primary Elections:
§ 8-202. Political parties using the primary.
(a) In general. — A principal political party, as determined by the statement
of registration issued by the State Board:
      (1) shall use the primary election to:
            (i) nominate its candidates for public office; and
            (ii) elect all members of the local central committees of the political party; and
      (2) may use the primary election in the year of a presidential election to elect delegates to a       national presidential nominating convention.
(b) Requirements for nominees.— Except for a nominee for President or Vice President, the name of a nominee of a principal political party may not appear on the ballot in a general election if the individual has not:
      (1) been nominated in the primary election; or
      (2) been designated to fill a vacancy in nomination in accordance with Subtitle 5 of this title.
(c) Process to allow voting by persons unaffiliated with party. — If a political party chooses to permit voters not affiliated with the party to vote in the party’s primary election, the chairman of the party’s State central committee shall so notify the State Board at least 6 months before the date of the primary election. (An. Code 1957, art. 33, § 8-202; 2002, ch. 291, §§ 2, 4; 2003, ch. 22; 2006, ch. 44; 2008, ch. 118.)
That's why the parties have the ability to decide who may and who may not vote, and the decision is up to the State Central Committee. The State Party, regardless of how they go on this issue, has to make a decision allowing independents to vote in our primary at the Fall Convention; as noted in § 8-202 (c), the Chairman has to notify the State Board of Elections by December 24th, the six-month date prior to the primary election.

All of that being said, the idea of allow independents to vote in a Republican primary is categorically bonkers for any number of reasons, but I think the best way that it has been described was by Greg on Thursday's show when he described it as a "gimmick", one of many gimmicks that have been floated over the course of the last few years to change the way the Party does business for the sake of changing something instead of changing the way that the party does business towards a defined goal or outcome. Lots of "people" say that the entire reason we should open up the system to independents is that it will somehow (magically) increase votes for Republican candidates at the general election. However in 2000 (the one year that this cockamamie idea was tried) this is what the numbers reflected:
  • 1996: Clinton 54%, Dole 38%, Perot 7%
  • 2000: Gore 57%, Bush 40%, 
  • 2004: Kerry 56%, Bush 43%
Basically, if you account for the placement of a major 3rd-party candidate on the ballot in 1996, George W. Bush underperformed in the General Election in 2000 when independents were allowed to vote in our primary.

There was no U.S. Senate race to compare to in 1996, but let us now compare the 2000 U.S. Senate general election results to the 2004 results and 2006 results:
  • 2000: Sarbanes 63%, Rappaport 37%
  • 2004: Mikulski  65%, Pipkin 34%
  • 2006: Cardin 54%, Steele 44%, Zeese 1.5%
Once again the highest performing year among these three races was the year in which there were no independents voting in the Republican Primary. (And that of course says nothing of the fact that the only statewide election that we have won in the last twenty-five years, Bob Ehrlich's 2002 election as Governor, there were no independents voting in that primary, either).

So basically, anybody promising that allowing independents to vote is going to turn into Republican results at the ballot box is basically talking out of their backside; the numbers do not lie folks.

Here's the problem with this entire cockamamie idea; it is an admission of surrender. In the Sun article, Don Murphy is quoted as saying "If we continue with the status quo, we're going to get the same outcome. … What's the point of winning the primary if you're going to lose the general?". As a general statement, I agree with that. However the issue with doing the status quo in this regard doesn't mean that you change the rules of defining what is and what is not a Republican, and you sure as heck do not dilute the ability of registered Republicans to decide who the candidate of our party is going to be in a general election. Where the status quo has to be changed is in the fields of fundraising, of message development, of candidate recruitment, and of tactics. Because it really doesn't matter who votes in the primary, if we don't improve those areas none of it will make a difference at the ballot box in November 2014.

The damn shame of all of this, however, is the fact that this entire discussion about letting independents vote in the primary is distracting from those very issues that actually will define what is electoral success in 2014.  We can't worry about fundraising, message development, candidate recruitment, or tactics when we are distracted by this kind of stuff. Roughly an hour was spent at last week's State Party Executive Committee meeting on this issue, and not even the main point of this issue but the idea on whether or not a committee should be formed to study this issue. Furthermore, even if a committee did go forth and provide a recommendation to open the primary up to independents, the issue is almost certainly dead on arrival when it arrives on the floor of the state party convention because it does not have nearly enough support from Central Committee membership for serious consideration.

This entire discussion about opening up the primaries to independents is a colossal waste of time. No matter what the Executive Committee discusses, no matter how Chairman Diana Waterman decides on the formation of a committee, no matter what the Central Committee decides to do at the Fall Convention, all of this discussion about it will ultimately be a waste of time. We do need to come up with better ways to reach out to independents. We do need to come up with strategies that better highlight our opposition to the Democratic machine in Annapolis and show how Republican governance is both better and different than the nannystatism that is coming out of our state government. But here's the bottom line folks; this entire discussion of opening the primaries will ultimately not move one single voter into the Republican column. None whatsoever. We are less than a year from the Republican primary, and we are 472 days until the General Election. Why is so much time being spent talking about something that distracts us from the important work that will actually help us next November 4th?

I would invite those folks who are championing this idea to return from Fantasy Island and join us back here trying to come up with actual solutions that will help Republicans win next November.

More below the fold.