'We Have Only Just Begun to Fight'
Over the past month I have watched with fascination as various politicos have opined on the Maryland Republican Party – its direction and leadership. A small handful of people have even publicly renounced their allegiance and fled to the limbo of the unaffiliated – Godspeed.
My first reaction was thinking about these ‘citizens’ as deserters running from the heat of battle for some form of self-preservation. Now, however, I do not believe that is the case. They are leaving due to a historical lack of perspective combined with a disappointment of not achieving political goals as rapidly as anticipated.
We need to look back first before we can plan for the future. Firsthand knowledge recounts that the oft-regaled Reagan years are not as imminent as people with the last names of Sauerbrey, Hug, Ehrlich or Terhes; but here are a few GOP facts from the "good old days."
True we had a GOP U.S. Senator; however, in the Reagan years we only held two of eight seats in the House of Representatives in Maryland. We did not reach parity in the lower chamber with the Democrats until the Clinton years. Federal races, however, have different factors and every politico, who has been around the block, knows those factors have a different flavor and are influenced differently than state and local races.
Even though Maryland went for Reagan in 1984 and Bush in 2000, an argument can be made the Maryland Republican Party was at or near the lowest ebb from 1982 until 1994. Here are some historical low-lights to review:
1982 – Six GOP State Senators and 16 GOP Delegates
1986 – Nine GOP State Senators and 20 GOP Delegates
1990 – Nine GOP Senators and 22 GOP Delegates
1986 – GOP Gubernatorial Nominees of Mooney/Bilal garnered 17.63%
1990 – GOP Gubernatorial Nominees of Shepard/Shepard (Husband and
wife team) took 40.23%.
1994 – Former MDGOP State Party Chair, Alan Levee, becomes the
Chairman of Republicans for Parris Glendenning!
During part of this time, MDGOP's headquarters was on Forest Drive in Annapolis in a rundown office unit on the third story of a small complex, which was not even in sight of State Circle. We had state party chairman who was booted out at a convention leaving the party in a shambles. The annual Red, White & Blue Dinners were fortunate to have 100 people in attendance. The GOP in Maryland truly was sad.
Today there are many things within the Republican National Committee and MDGOP which can be improved. I understand that better than most having served as an officer and serving on national and statewide campaigns. Those changes will come with time and by people who desire to strengthen the party.
The reason for my confidence is we have made great strides since 1982 – the reason is that within our party there are those who choose to stay and fight. In 1986 who would have thought a school teacher from Baltimore County would have raised over one million dollars to make the Democrats sweat in 1994? Who would have suspected a young Republican delegate would have been elected governor in 2002? Or that the GOP would control the governance of so many county offices by 2012?
The people who had this dream were fighters. They worked from the inside out to make our party stronger and competitive. Joyce Tehres pieced together a party in shambles in 1988. Ellen Sauerbrey proved you could stand your ground, deliver a good conservative message, and win. Bob Ehrlich showed Maryland Republicans could win and govern. The recently departed Dick Hug showed us that Republicans could raise big money within Maryland.
Like many, I know each of these people personally. They each understand the end game is winning. They each learned from their losses and the "hard times." They started at the bottom, built grassroots, relationships and campaign skills. They each taught those who paid attention lessons of political science in Maryland.
These valiant Republicans are just a few examples of the many faithful who stood and fought, carrying the GOP banner even when we were out in the wilderness as a party.
I could never look any of them in the eye and say "I give up."