MDGOP Fall 2016 Convention Coverage

A Miner Detail Podcast

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 a conference center that received $0 from taxpayers to be built.

Friday Night

As with all conventions, Friday night is the party night; assorted groups host 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 about her alleged past transgressions of leaking false information to the Frederick News-Post to slam the central committee; this was also about any future efforts to remove her from the committee.
  • Multiple central committee members from around the state expressed their support for my exploratory committee that I formed to run for Frederick County executive in 2018.
  • Someone tried using against me the 28 months I spent at a torture camp for teenagers as a 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 behind the failed diss.

Saturday Morning Kickoff 

The real meat and potatoes happen on Saturdays; it was definitely a pleasure to sleep in my own bed and come to the convention refreshed.

Sen. Michael Hough (R-Frederick) gave the first speech of the convention. I heard one person clap when he was introduced; most of the convention was pretty mum. I found most interesting at the start of the speech: Hough took credit for leading a filibuster in the Maryland Senate to stop some gun control laws.

Sharon Day

Ms. Day is the co-chairman of the Republican National Convention.

She praised David Bossie’s performance on the Trump campaign, stating that Bossie was doing “God’s work.” Regarding 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 I have seen little action to back it up personally. The MDGOP does spend time and resources on a handful of larger municipal elections (e.g., Annapolis City elections).

After Day stepped off the dais, Waterman quipped, “See, the RNC does know we exist!”

RNC State Party Director Matt Pinnell.

A younger fellow with an Oklahoma accent, Pinnell went straight into the deplorable red-meat that I was expecting. His story interested me, as he was the chairman of the Oklahoma GOP, and he was under the age of 40.

Pennell 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 has been doing for the last two years, specifically Hayden Duke and Team Schaff. He also mentioned the need for local activists to get more involved in the party in 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 eight-hour root canal.”

Chris Rosenthal

Mr. 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

The Baltimore state delegate thanked the Central Committees for their support. She echoed a newly formed Republican talking point: 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

Mr. Volke of the Rules Committee fielded 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.

Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) 

As you can imagine, the first thing he dove into was the rumors that he would be appointed into Donald J. Trump’s administration.

“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 ran through the Trump cabinet appointments. The most enthusiastic reaction was for 4-star General James “Mad Dog” Mattis. It was pretty obvious who the veterans were in the crowd.

Redistricting, the bane of Maryland Republicans, was brought up. Harris brought up the need for Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to be re-elected – so that we can write a geographically compact map for fair representation.

National Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose

Ms. Ambrose provided an overview of the grassroots achievements and future plans. Some notable notes:

  • Based on the 2014 and 2016 elections, 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 grassroots campaigners. Five of them were in Baltimore City.

Senate Minority Whip Steve Hershey

Mr. Hershey is one of 14 Republicans serving in the Maryland Senate. He echoed the earlier speakers’ statements about electing an additional five Republican senators. State Del. Jason Buckle (R-Cumberland) said the same for the House of Delegates, except they need seven delegates to prevent a veto override.

The Parliamentarian

Garrett County requested nine Republican Central Committee members instead of seven, which passed via a voice vote with one nay.

A proposal came out of Wicomico County’s central committee to propose a bill in Annapolis that would award the state’s electoral college votes by congressional district – the same way Maine and Nebraska have done.

There are some pro/con discussions: 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 the table right before I had to leave the room, so I missed the result of the motion.

Afternoon Session

Now came the Executive Board elections.

Chairman Candidates 

First up was the speeches for Bill Campbell, nominated by Lee Havis, who cited the need to be realistic about the dire Republican situation in Maryland.

Havis said he believed Campbell was the guy to modernize the party. Campbell himself gave a brief overview of his vision for the party, which involved “treasurer training” for candidates and bringing back voters alienated when Rule 11 was suspended from endorsing former Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich over Brian Murphy 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary.

Dirk Haire

Del. Szeliga nominated Harie based on his legal acumen and the legal assistance he performed for her.

Hair said, “I suppose I am here to ask you to have me as the legal counsel.” His entire speech revolved around his desire to retire Democrats through elections.

William Newton

Mr. Newton spoke briefly about election integrity and doubling down on the Trump campaign before withdrawing from the chairman’s race and throwing his support to Bill Campbell.

Sajid Tarir

A former Trump campaign official or volunteer (unclear). Tarir withdrew his name from nomination and threw his support to Mr. 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 to run for this party office; he was elected by unanimous voice vote. Interestingly, I was asked by multiple central committee members my opinion of Higgs.

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 all-male contest was between Lee Havis, Larry Helminiak, and Tim Kingston.

Havis spoke about party unity and bringing the various factions together. Helminiak pulled out the classic “I will not hold my opponents’ youth and inexperience…” line, and Kingston touted his efforts to defeat a ballot measure Queen Anne’s County.

The first ballot failed to produce a winner.

Larry Helminiak won the race 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,  making false claims about political donations. When I first heard the rumor, 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 party treasurer, and Mark Uncapher ran unopposed for secretary.

Wrapping up the convention 

The convention ended with a slideshow set to the music of the last few years with Diana Waterman as chairman of the MDGOP.

After the convention speaking with various central committee members, I also spent some time ascertaining their thoughts and input on how the convention went.

Eric Beasley is Deputy Editor of A Miner Detail. He can be reached at

About the Author

Eric Beasley
After a year fighting bears and chopping wood in the forest, a Cancer has emerged in Frederick County. The only way to kill Cancer is with fire, and casting a ballot.

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