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April 3, 2009

Shenanigans and Common Sense

John W. Ashbury

For years now it has been said that the Republican Party lost touch with America and the values that made her great. When in control of both houses of Congress and the presidency, party members elected to those offices acted like the Democrats are now, spending like there is no tomorrow.


How stupid was that?


Well, stupidity doesn’t seem to rest solely in the minds and actions of our federal and state legislators in either party. Now, there is a crisis of common sense – or should I say a lack thereof – befalling the local Republican Central Committee. The reports of the death of common sense have been widely circulated via emails for years, but the reality has now struck too close to home.


When Del. Rick Weldon (R., Frederick Washington) announced that he was not going to seek re-election, Michael Hough, an Alex Mooney clone, stepped forward immediately and said he would seek the vacant seat. His purpose in announcing so early was to allow him to raise money. Candidates for state office in the 2010 election cycle can’t file until July 1.


Not too long after Mr. Hough’s announcement, Republican County Commissioner Charles Jenkins threw his hat into that same ring. Both men have been successful in raising funds. Mr. Hough is said to have a campaign war chest in the $30,000 range already, while Mr. Jenkins is approaching $5,000 after only a few weeks with his hand out.


The crisis of common sense arises because Mr. Hough is a member of the Republican Central Committee, having served for a time as its chairman. He is working the campaign trail hard, including posting a web site (


In his list of supporters on the website are the names of four other members of the GOP central committee: Mary Rolle, Dino Flores, Bryan Smith, and Carol Powell. Only recently did Mr. Hough post a disclaimer: Titles are for identification purposed only and do not constitute the organization’s endorsement unless specifically noted.


Despite this disclaimer, the public will read this list as an announcement of support for Mr. Hough by the Republican Central Committee. In fact, a majority of this body, five of them if you include Mr. Hough, are supporting him.


It has long been held in the public’s mind that central committees do not endorse candidates in their party’s primary election. What appears on Mr. Hough’s website will – without any doubt – signal that tenet of local politics has taken a holiday. At least as far as Republicans are concerned.


There have been lengthy discussions of this situation at recent meetings of the central committee. In fact, one of the people who is supporting Mr. Hough argued heatedly that because the “rules and regulation” governing this body do not specifically prohibit this action, then the members are free to do what they have done.


Does it really matter that the rules don’t address this specifically? Won’t the public view it as an endorsement by the committee as a whole?


At least one member of the state Republican Party hierarchy agrees with the local decision and even promotes it. He argues that obviously central committee members “endorse” party members in a general election, but they should do so in the party’s interest in a primary as well.


This action is clearly a violation of Common Sense. Maybe I didn’t get the memo saying we were suspending it for the duration of this election cycle.


Republicans have been beaten about the head and shoulders with a bloody stump at the state and national level for long enough. You’d think that on the local level in particular proponents of the tenets of the party would have the intelligence to see how the public will perceive their action in endorsing Mr. Hough – even before other candidates had a chance to come out of the woodwork.


For as long as politics has been a part of our society, the appearance of wrong doing is far more damaging that the wrong doing itself – even if it is just perception.


Not too long ago in Frederick County history, three county commissioners were charged and tried in the courts with selling positions in county government. Though they were acquitted, the stigma remained and many voters still thought they were guilty.


If for no other reason than the application of Common Sense, and for the sake of party unity as Republicans seek elected office in the future, the four members of the Republican Central Committee whose names appear on Mr. Hough’s website should insist they be removed. And immediately!


            But then again, maybe, just maybe, crow will be served following the September 2010 primary if Mr. Hough loses then to Mr. Jenkins, or some other highly qualified Republican.

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