Campaign Journal 2006 - Part Three
It's time to unlock the top-secret journal for the third entry. I mentioned candidate surveys and questionnaires in an earlier entry. Here's a short list of the surveys received to-date.
Smoke Free Maryland;
The Gazette Newspapers;
The League of Women Voters of Frederick County;
The Frederick County Teachers Association (FCTA);
The National Rifle Association (NRA);
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU);
Maryland Trial Lawyers;
The Frederick County Sportsmen's Council;
Healthcare For All;
The Maryland Catholic Conference;
Maryland Right to Life;
The Maryland Nurses Association;
The Maryland Medical Society; and
Maryland Farm Bureau.
Each of these "surveys" is - in truth - a detailed questionnaire, or a strict "Yes or No" fill-in-the-blank examination of views. The fundamental or radical groups are the ones seeking a simple yes or no answer.
Here's what I mean. In questionnaire from Maryland Right to Life, question number one reads: "Would you support the complete and immediate reversal of the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions, thereby allowing state legislatures and the Congress to once again protect unborn children?"
Yes____ No ______
In another example, this time from the left, The Maryland Citizens Health Initiative offers each candidate a resolution, complete with a signature line, the opportunity to commit to voting to raise the state tobacco tax by $1 per pack. According to this bi-partisan (principally Democrat) group, the revenue from the new tax could give insurance to thousands of poor families, while at the same time reducing teen and adult smoking.
Each of these groups offers candidates the promise (or curse) of a broad distribution of the results of the survey, pledge, or questionnaire. The Maryland Catholic Conference promises to distribute their survey through the church's network. Maryland Right to Life makes the same commitment, just not isolated to one faith group. The NRA and Sportsmen's Groups offer access to hunters, conservationists, and outdoor enthusiasts.
The Maryland Trial Lawyers Association offers to chum the blue waters for their members (oops, sorry); the ACLU will look under rocks to inform their members (again, my sincere apologies); and the news media promises to post candidate responses on their websites.
Two of the more sought-after endorsement come from the FCTA and the Farm Bureau. The teacher's endorsement has a lot of additional outreach and media that accompanies their thumbs-up, such as newspaper ads, union-sponsored mail distribution, and those famous (or infamous) Apple Ballots, the handout offered at polling places by local teachers. Many an Apple Ballot has been carried into a polling place by a voter, so their power cannot be discounted.
The Farm Bureau has a less sophisticated, but no less powerful, communication strategy. Farmers actually talk to one another, through Granges, Ruritan Clubs, and around the co-op loading dock.
Each of these surveys is accompanied by a deadline, many driven by the need to post results in time to affect the primary election.
Surveys and pledges aren't the only way to assess a candidate's ability to do a job. Forums are another method, and these public performances are as varied and unpredictable as the surveys.
Pre-primary forums are the least effective of these meetings, mostly because of the large number of candidates. Case in point was the recent forum held by the Urbana Civic Association.
The filed candidates for all local and state offices were invited to a forum this past week at the Urbana Fire Hall. The format was driven by the number of candidates (49 in all); one minute for each candidate to make a statement, followed by an hour-long meet and greet.
Candidates were encouraged to bring literature, signs, and paraphernalia from their campaigns.
The speeches were interesting, if not a little predictable. Several candidates, notably the more seasoned campaigners, focused their message and made great little one-minute commercials. Others stumbled and stammered their way to the buzzer, almost appearing grateful for the imposed limit.
By race, here's my synopsis for those who were otherwise involved and missed the show.
Judge of the Orphans Court: Current Chief Judge Tim May was there, and Tim is good at what he does and as a professional preacher, the guy can work a crowd. Tim was the only Republican candidate to show, current Judge John Tregoning, Adrian McC. Remsberg, and former Frederick Mayor Jim Grimes weren't there. Fern Hines and John Norman, the two Democrats, both showed and took advantage of their minute in the spotlight.
Register of Wills: Gini Fifer hasn't faced opposition like this in years. She has two serious primary opponents, Pat LeGrange (a current Orphans Court judge), and Irene Weddle, who works as a paralegal in Montgomery County.
All three did well, but the challengers have to prove to voters that they can do the job better than Ms. Fifer. The Democrat, Sarah Finefrock, was a little nervous, but this is her first big-time run for office. She has strong family backing, and her former boss, past Frederick Mayor Jennifer Dougherty, was there to support her former employee. Sarah is running unopposed in the primary, so she can sit back and let the others fight until September 13.
In the state's attorney's race, Republican Dino Flores lit into current Deputy State's Attorney Charlie Smith right off the bat. In fact, Dino opened with a classic ploy. He said: "My opponent will come up here and tell you that everything is fine in the state's attorney's office. It isn't." He then proceeded to tick off a number of concerns. He used his minute to highlight his background, but focused a good 20 seconds on how badly run the office is.
As soon as Mr. Smith took the stage, he tilted his head, flashes a sly smile, and said exactly what Mr. Flores predicted he would say. Charlie got a big laugh from the crowd, and more importantly, he caused them to forget almost everything Dino had said. Democrat Bill Poffenbarger didn't show, but was smart enough to send a top-notch stand-in, local attorney Richard Bricken. He did very well, but he wasn't Poff!
County Commissioners performed as predicted. Newsflash: Lennie Thompson hates developers! Newsflash II: So does David Gray! Newsflash III: In a GOP trifecta, Ed Lulie hates developers as much as Lennie and David. If you despise development, there's your three-man front in the war on new development!
Richard Floyd gave a similar message, but couched it in technical terms related to the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance. Mike Cady tried to debunk the idea that things aren't going very well here in old Frederick County. It didn't seem like the audience was buying it based on the reaction after Mike finished.
Jan Gardner did well, sounding very confident in her accomplishments. Kai Hagen came across as he has in other venues, thoughtful but cautious. Billy Shreve was good until he suggested that the commissioners could use bond authority as a way to build new schools. Unfortunately, that is how most of our new schools have been built.
Ron Wolf suggested it was time to slow things down until we catch up the infrastructure, Charles Jenkins wants to be the roads commissioner, and Samie Conyers says we need new development for economic development. Planning Commissioner Joan McIntyre demonstrated her knowledge of process. I'm still not quite sure about Tom Henderson's message, but political newcomer Elaine Kessinger did a good job of describing her qualification in one minute.
Delegate District 3B featured Democrat Paul Gilligan and the incumbent, yours truly. My primary opponent, whom I've yet to meet, failed to show for the only pre-primary forum in the largest voting precinct in our entire district. Now how in the world could I fairly analyze my opponent's remarks or even my own? I wouldn't stoop so low as to use my ability to write in this web venue to score cheap points in my own race. Can you say "mopped the floor with him?"
Senate District 3 offered the only other light-hearted moment. Following a strong performance by incumbent Sen. Alex Mooney, where he essentially campaigned for Gov. Bob Ehrlich, Democrat Candy Greenway suggested that she thought Alex should be given the opportunity to spend a lot more time at home with his young children, and that she hoped voters would help him achieve that goal.
Oh, yeah! Another newsflash: Hugh Warner loves slot machines!