By Ryan Miner
Note: A Miner Detail occasionally breaks from the news side of Maryland politics and editorializes on local issues. This following opinion piece should not be considered news.
I’ll preface this article with three points:
1) I like and respect Mike McKay and believe he’s a fundamentally decent human being, father, and husband. In fact, I consider him a close, dear friend. Sometimes, though, your friends are wrong.
If I ever had a problem that needed to be resolved – personally or professionally – I’d feel comfortable calling Mike if I needed help. And help he would.
2) I volunteered for Mike’s campaign in 2013 because he was, at that time, the best candidate to represent District 1C; and
3) Mike McKay is a hands-on representative. Gov. Hogan likes him. He’s respected among his Republican and Democratic colleagues in the General Assembly. He shows up to do his job. His constituents like him; most believe McKay has represented them well since his election. There isn’t a rubber chicken dinner or local community event where McKay doesn’t somehow participate.
That said, McKay is guilty of doing what typical politicians do: He gambled his political future on a losing endeavor and reneged on his political promises.
Citing family responsibilities as reason for not returning to Annapolis as a state delegate – McKay and his wife, Kimberly, have eight children, five of whom are elementary-aged – McKay, a first-term delegate, decided he would seek a local office instead – one that would allow him to spend more time with his family in Cumberland and one that pays more than a Maryland state delegate’s salary.
After former Allegany County Register of Wills Rebecca Drew resigned after being criminally indicted, McKay affirmatively committed to running for the register of wills job.
Most Western Maryland politicos and political insiders had McKay as the odds-on favorite of being chosen by the three Allegany County Orphans’ Court judges to fill the seat Drew vacated.
It came as a shock to most when the three judges passed over McKay and instead chose former Cumberland City Councilwoman Mary Beth Pirolozzi.
McKay, knowing that Pirolozzi – whom he considers a “personal friend” – would be an implacable primary opponent, flip flopped on his decision not to seek re-election in District 1C, announcing yesterday that he’s now decided to run for re-election in District 1C.
Most Cumberland political insiders I’ve spoken with told me McKay would have lost badly to Pirolozzi in a two-way race.
What has changed since July when McKay pronounced his family obligations as primary reasons for not seeking re-election to the House of Delegates? We can only hope McKay has resolved his family obligations.
It’s not the public’s role or business to question McKay’s reasons for not seeking re-election to the General Assembly – especially for choosing to spend more time at home with his family – but McKay made it the public’s business in July when he explicitly stated he wasn’t running again for District 1C because he wanted to spend more time with his family.
So, what has changed for McKay?
Obviously, McKay’s political calculus changed when he was not selected to fill Drew’s remaining term. Knowing he couldn’t beat the appointed former city councilwoman, he bowed out of the race and took the second-best option – running for re-election to an office that he may not even be fully committed to.
Soon after McKay announced he wasn’t seeking re-election to the House of Delegates, two prominent Republican women – Nicole Alt-Myers and Jordan Lyzczek – filed to their candidacies to succeed McKay in 1C.
There is no such thing as fairness in politics. We’ve grown to understand politicians make politically expedient decisions when their first option doesn’t work out for them. McKay wasn’t going to be the register of wills of Allegany County any time soon. District 1C is his fallback option.
Alt-Myers and Lysczek will undoubtedly prove to be formidable opponents in a Republican primary with McKay. It would be a mistake to underestimate Alt-Myers and Lyzczek. I know both women well. Both have advantages that McKay doesn’t, but McKay still has an incumbent’s advantage – name recognition, the ability to raise money and support from local officials.
District 1C shouldn’t be any candidate’s second-best option.
If I were advising McKay, I would have told him to run for the register of wills job and see how he fairs. After all, nobody would have faulted him for wanting to return to Cumberland full time to make more money – certainly, more than a state delegate’s salary pays – and for wanting to spend more time with his family.