New Captains of the MDGOP
Last weekend was the Spring Convention of the Maryland Republican Party. For me it was the first time in 19 years that I did not have a role or a vote at the semi-annual meeting. From this unique position, I observed many things.
Having been recently trampled with highly partisan gerrymandering in the past year, there has been a constant buzz about needed change. Everyone at this convention wanted some type of change. From my vantage point the real argument was: What is change and how is it implemented?
The focal point was the election of a new chairman. Former Chair Alex Mooney stepped down about two months ago leaving 19 months for someone new to finish his term. With MDGOP bruised from the 2012 elections and looking with expectations of hope to 2014, the party faithful seriously pondered direction in leadership as one agent of the needed change.
Friday evening was positively surreal. While the candidates for chairman all campaigned in a positive manner, their minions were dealing the dirt of how if the "other person" wins the party will be going to "Hell in a hand basket." These conversations were, in many cases, occurring within the hospitality suite of candidates vying to be that same party's next nominee for governor – pessimism holding hands with optimism.
Asked several times during the evening my opinion of who should be the next leader of the MDGOP, the answer was always the same. All three candidates are well qualified and each in a different aspect. I would not have been surprised if there would end up a three way tie.
I told everyone who asked – if they felt all were equal and they could not make up their mind, they should pick the person they consider a friend… or the one they thought would return their phone call. Doubtfully anyone was persuaded, but in the end who really wouldn't vote for a friend as a tiebreaker?
The outcome of the election, however, will likely serve MDGOP well. The interim chairman, Diana Waterman was elected and Collins Bailey, a hard working former congressional candidate, was elected first vice chairman, giving the "liberty-wing" of the party a much needed seat at the table. A team with good mix, that of stability combined with a potential agent of change who has first hand campaign and fundraising knowledge, was selected. The party faithful sent a message that calculated change was what they wanted.
I consider Mrs. Waterman and Mr. Bailey both to be my friends and have known each for years. Each has strengths they bring to the team and are people of good character, who have the best interest of the MDGOP at heart. The election outcome was not what I would have predicted a week ago – but it made sense as I watched the weekend unfold.
The upcoming months will have to prove to current elected officials, potential candidates, would-be donors and Republicans registrants that MDGOP is heading on a correct path as it lurches toward the 2014 election season. Having previously been an officer of the party during an election cycle, I know it will be all hands on deck. There will be little time for any continuous bickering and an intense focus on winning will be needed by all.
Politics, in general, but elections test the character of all persons involved especially. There are few things worse than sore losers, something many times candidates know, but a lesson, which typically escapes their passionate campaign workers. True leaders can keep the troops focused on the goals needed to win rather than allowing them to destructively feed on the negative – especially when it involves cannibalism.
Two years ago my son Jason ran for the Hampstead Town Council and won. On election night 2011 as the polls closed, I sent Jason a text, which read: "I want you to remember tonight; be gracious in either winning or losing – it shows character." He replied: "You know I will, that's not an issue." Yeah, I knew it...but it was a good reminder from a father to a son and a good reminder during a contentious election.
Over the next few months, we will see the character of the MDGOP. Not winning or not seeing change go your way stings at first and adverse reactions are human. However, we will soon see who keeps the wounds open and who is serious about winning 2014 elections.
After almost two decades of sitting within the ranks of the party faithful, I know there is always a passionate desire to win – I feel sure character will prevail.