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As Long as We Remember...

August 18, 2011

County and State Fairs Lively for GOP

Chris Cavey

This past week saw excitement in the Republican Party with the Ames Straw Poll, plus the addition and subtraction of Republican presidential candidates. However, you do not have to travel to Ames or the Iowa State Fair for your GOP can be found right here in the Old Line State!


What? GOP excitement in the dark blue State of Maryland? Sounds impossible, but it's true. There are glimmers of "hope and change" as the presidential primary season begins and President Barack Obama's popularity numbers plunge, gasping for recovery.


Last week at the Howard County Fair, the GOP booth was a constant buzz with excitement while the Democrats, who were just across the midway, were practically deserted. A perpetual flow of interested people bellied up to the GOP booth to cast a vote in the local version of the Ames Straw Poll.


Pictures of 13 Republican hopefuls were mounted proudly atop the booth and buttons for each were available for supporters to proudly wear while enjoying the fair. Conversely, the Democrat booth did not feature a likeness or even the name of their sitting president, the leader of their party. When asked why – there was no response.


Overall fairgoers were very interested in presidential politics. It would have been a good opportunity for the Howard County Democrats to help repair their damaged president's image instead of hiding it. There was no apparent effort made to help anyone in their party's national leadership.


Perhaps Howard County politics is fading from the light blue of the past election, moving back to the mixed-opinion, purple colors of before. By the end of the week in the GOP booth there was a huge stack of applications for newly registered voters and change of party affiliation requests. Is this a sign of change? Should the Howard GOP have a renewed hope? You betcha!


Next week will see the start of the Maryland State Fair in Timonium, while not the magnitude in size or depth of agricultural prowess of the Iowa State Fair, it is still the best 12 days of summer. I have attended – or participated – virtually every year since I was nine. The last several years I’ve worked in the Maryland Republican Party's booth... mostly in-charge.


The Maryland GOP booth will feature 2011 current top topics – redistricting and a GOP Straw Poll.


By coincidence the Gov. Martin O’Malley's Redistricting Commission will be holding hearings during the fair, so chatter should be hot and heavy inside and outside the GOP booth. Testimony for Baltimore County will actually occur during the afternoon of the second day of the fair, just five miles away at Towson University.


The booth will feature information about testifying, handouts about gerrymandering, current legislative and congressional maps – plus MDGOP's version of equal and fair congressional redistricting published for all to see. Wouldn't it be wonderful if Governor O'Malley would stop by the Exhibition Hall on Governor's Day? He will definitely have opportunity for a visual...and polite, intelligent opinion.


The other highlight will be Maryland's GOP version of the Ames Straw Poll! Well, almost.


We won't be charging candidates $15,000-plus for booth space or patrons $35 for a meal. Doubtful that there will be hundreds of thousands of dollars spent bussing supporters from the far corners of our state to Timonium to vote and eat before returning home for the next load.


We won't have dozens of pretty college girls handing out thousands of T-shirts and buttons; and there will be no dipping thumbs in ink, but we will proudly feature pictures of our candidates. We will have a ballot box where anyone (regardless of party affiliation) can sign up and vote for their favorite GOP candidate without being bused in for their vote or buying a meal.


In 2007 when I organized the straw poll at the MD State Fair, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul took first place. His campaign was well planned, sending emails to supporters telling them to look for our booth and vote. It was his Maryland campaign's version of Ames, Iowa! Hopefully a similar excitement will happen this year with each GOP presidential hopeful’s campaign.


GOP presidential committees are starting to call and request information. It may not be Ames, but it will be lots of fun crammed into a 10-foot by 10-foot space in the nicely air conditioned Exhibition Hall.


Bottom line is this: The MDGOP is all atwitter about the future and the prospect of choosing a presidential candidate. If the trend seen at the Howard County Fair holds true, the booth in Timonium will be busy and political conversation will be rampant throughout the building.


I can't wait to see if Maryland Dems feature "their" president...or if they nonchalantly pretend he doesn't exist, the way they did in Howard County. You should stop by their booth – check it out and tell them of how well ‘hope and change’ has been working for you!


See you at the fair.


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