By Eric Beasley
I had the pleasure this weekend of both having the free time and desire to attend and cover the complete 2016 MDGOP Fall Convention right here in Frederick. It was really great to see what a conference center that received $0 from taxpayers to be built.
As with all conventions, Friday night was the party night, with assorted groups hosting hospitality suites in different parts of the building. Generally, the people who spend the most time in these hospitality suites are the ones who use the MDGOP as a social/party club instead of an organization to get Republicans elected.
Some interesting scuttlebutt that my correspondents and I heard over the course of the night:
- JoeyLynn Hough stated unequivocally multiple times that she would sue the Frederick County Republican Central Committee if they tried to remove her. This was not just in reference to her alleged past transgressions of leaking false information to the Frederick News-Post to slam the Central Committee, this was also in reference to any future efforts to remove her from the Committee.
- Multiple members of Central Committees from around the State expressed their support for my exploratory committee that I have formed in order to run for Frederick County Executive in 2018.
- Someone tries to use the 28 months that I spent at a torture camp for teenagers against me as some sort of personal insult. Considering I have spoken about this at length, written about it, testified on Capitol Hill about it, and advocated non-stop against these places based on my own stories that would make your stomach turn, I found the insult nothing but hilarious. You can guess the moral caliber of the person who said it.
The real meat and potatoes happens on Saturday’s. It was definitely a pleasure to sleep in my own bed and come to the convention refreshed.
The convention started out with State Senator Michael Hough giving the first speech. I heard one person clap when he was introduced, most of the convention was pretty mum. What I found most interesting was at the start of the speech, Hough took credit for leading a filibuster in the Senate to stop some gun control laws, then went on to lament about needing 5 State Senate seats to actually filibuster.
Next up was Sharon Day, Co-Chairman of the RNC. She praised David Bossie’s performance on the Trump campaign, stating that Bossie was doing “God’s work.” In regards to the RNC, she discussed the $175 million that was spent on voter data and the importance of down ballot races. This is frequently mentioned at conventions, but personally I have seen little action to back it up. The MDGOP does spend time and resources on a handful of larger municipal elections, like Annapolis.
After Day stepped of the dais, Waterman quiped “See, the RNC does know we exist!”
Next speaker was the RNC State Party Director, Matt Pinnell. A younger fellow with an Oklahoma accent, he went straight into the deplorable red-meat that I was expecting. His story interested me, as he was the Chairman of the Oklahoma GOP but under 40. He spent a large portion of his speech talking about the millennial vote and reaching out into communities that are not traditionally Republican. Translation: Do exactly what the Republican Club of Frederick County, specifically Hayden Duke and Team Schaff, have been doing for the last 2 years. He also mentioned the need to local activists to get more involved in the form of precinct captains. To end his vision for the party, he summarized nicely, “I’m all for making our party great again, but let’s also make our party gun again. Not an 8 hour root canal.”
Chris Rosenthal delivered the Treasurer’s Report. Overall the MDGOP is still out of the financial hole left by Alex Mooney and has funds to dedicate to 2018. You can read the financial disclosures on MDCRIS if you want specifics.
Kathy Szeliga addresses the convention, essentially thanking the Central Committees for their support. She echoed a newly formed Republican talking point, that she won 18 out of 23 counties in the state.
Due to some scheduling problems and existing bylaws, Waterman asked the convention to suspend the bylaw which mandates the Fall Convention occurs 30 days after the election. Voice vote is unanimous.
Nathan Volke from the Rules Committee fields a proposal from Al Mendelsohn concerning candidates running for the Executive Committee unopposed. The proposal would prevent nominating and seconding speeches. All such candidates informally agreed to this proposal.
Congressman Andy Harris checked in with the Convention. As you can imagine, the first thing he dove into was the rumors that he would be appointed into the Trump Administration. As he stated on the dais, “I would prefer to be on the appropriations committee of the majority party.” The Congressman covered everything from the Trump campaign to Obama’s green energy policy to Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. There were some noticeable grumbles when it was mentioned that Baltimore County received federal funding to enforce immigration law, but refuses to do it. Hopefully, this funding is suspended on January 22nd.
Harris runs through the current Trump cabinet appointments. The most enthusiastic reaction was for General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, myself included. It was pretty obvious who the Veterans were in the crowd.
Redistricting, the bane of Maryland Republicans was brought up. The Congressman brought up the need to get Hogan re-elected so that we can write a geographically compact map for fair representation. The Beer Brothers in Annapolis (Miller and Busch) have effectively suppressed the votes of hundreds of thousands of Marylanders.
National Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose gave an overview of the grassroots achievements and future plans. Some notable notes:
- Based on the 2014 and 2016 election, Maryland is a swing state during gubernatorial elections.
- Four main goals for the MDGOP – Re-elect Hogan, elect 5 State Senators to gain the ability to filibuster, elect 7 Delegates to prevent veto override, and develop the GOP bench.
- Nicolee present 7 awards to grassroot campaigners. Five of them were in Baltimore City.
Next up was Senate Minority Whip Steve Hershey, one of our 14 Republican State Senators. He echoed the earlier speakers’ statements about electing 5 State Senators. Delegate Jason Buckle said the same for the House of Delegates, except they need 7 delegates to prevent a veto.
Now started the parliamentarian portion of the morning. Garrett County requested 9 Central Committee members instead of 7, which passed via voice vote with 1 nay. A proposal came out of Wicomico to propose a bill in Annapolis that would award the State’s electoral college votes by Congressional district, the same way Maine and Nebraska implemented. There’s some pro/con discussion. The most logically consistent comment made by a member stated that this is the same thing we are complaining about Democrats doing, trying to change the rules of the game for our own benefit. There was a motion to table right before I had to leave the room, so I missed the end result of the motion.
Now came the Executive Board elections.
First up was the speeches for Bill Campbell. Lee Havis nominated him, citing the need to be realistic about the overall dire Republican situation in Maryland. He believed Campbell was the guy to modernize the party. Campbell himself gave a brief overview on his vision for the party, which involved Treasurer Training for candidates and bringing back the voters alienated when Rule 11 was suspended to endorse Bob Ehrlich over Brian Murphy for the 2010 Gubernatorial Election.
Second was Dirk Haire. Kathy Szeliga nominated him based on his legal acumen and legal assistance he has performed for her. To start with, Haire said “I suppose I am here to ask you to five me as the legal counsel.” His whole speech revolved around a desire to retire Democrats through elections.
Third was William Newton. Spoke briefly about election integrity and doubling down on the Trump campaign before withdrawing and supporting Campbell.
Fourth was Sajid Tarir, formerly of the Trump campaign. He withdrew his name from nomination in favor of Dirk Haire.
Dirk Haire won this vote overwhelmingly. Campbell, true to his word, did not demand a recount.
First Vice Chair
Michael Higgs was the only candidate for this position, elected by unanimous voice vote. Interestingly, I was asked by multiple Central Committee members my opinion on him in this position. At the end of our conversation, each one decided to abstain from voting. Hopefully, he will do better at the State GOP than he has done in Montgomery County.
Second Vice Chair
This was the most interesting race. This three-way race was between Lee Havis, Larry Helmeniak, and Tim Kingston. Havis spoke about party unity and bringing the various factions together. Helmeniak pulled out the classic “I will not hold my opponents youth and inexperience…” line. Kingston’s efforts to defeat a ballot measure out in Queen Anne’s County was also touted.
The first ballot ended up with no nominee. Larry Helmeniak won on the second ballot.
Third Vice Chair
This was the closest and most contentious race of them all. Brandon Cooper nominated Maria Pycha for the position. Blaire Reed nominated Shannon Wright.
Multiple sources told me at the convention that a week ago, someone made a fake Facebook page for Shannon Wright and was harassing members of the Central Committees and making false claims about political donations. When I first heard it, it sounded like something an employee of the National Security Agency would do.
Wright narrowly edged out Maria Pycha for the seat, 266 to 249.
Scott Rosenthal was unopposed for treasurer, and his speech was essentially “thanks for letting me do this shit-job.” Mark Uncapher was unopposed for secretary.
The convention ended with a slideshow set to music of the last few years with Diana Waterman as Chairman of the MDGOP.
I also spent some time after the convention speaking to the various members of the Central Committee, getting their thoughts and input on how the convention went. Those will be published later, as I have to get driving down to Fort Bragg for my best friend’s Change of Command ceremony.