St. Mary's GOP Ready to Rumble

Commentary by Ron Miller

Commentary by Ron MillerThis past Saturday, I attended my first political event since my decision to withdraw from the race for the Maryland District 27 Senate seat. Dave Willenborg, the chairman of the St. Mary's County Republican Central Committee, graciously extended to me an invitation to their annual Lincoln/Reagan Dinner, and it was an opportunity for me to take the pulse of at least one southern Maryland county going into this election year.

Of note was the turnout, the highest in the history of this annual event. 214 people were there to enjoy the ambiance of the J.T. Daugherty Conference Center in Lexington Park, and hear an impressive lineup of speakers.

Audrey Scott, current chairman of the Maryland GOP and one of the grand dames of the Maryland Republican Party, was the headliner, but former Governor Bob Ehrlich, and his wife and better (and much prettier) half, Kendel, were also in attendance. While Governor Ehrlich was booked before he announced his intention to run again and reclaim Government House, where he and his family resided for four years, his return to the fray had the room abuzz with excitement.

There were several local candidates in attendance, but the two GOP candidates for the 5th Congressional District seat currently occupied by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Mechanicsville, Collins Bailey and Charles Lollar, were each given their time in the spotlight. Each spoke to the audience about their hopes for southern Maryland, the state and the nation, and the urgency of purpose in this year's election.

I've heard Charles Lollar speak on numerous occasions, and his dynamism and charisma were on full display as always. Collins Bailey gave probably the strongest speech I've heard him give, speaking with great clarity and conviction. I was particularly impressed by his flawless recitation of the preamble of the Declaration of Independence, all from memory, in a steady, clear cadence and without a single waver or stutter. The GOP has put forward two fine men to challenge the arrogant career politician who sits in judgment of us in Washington.

Governor Ehrlich was also excellent in his presentation, and I'd forgotten how compelling he is on the stump. He exuded confidence and displayed a wicked sense of humor, and he challenged us to take the extra steps to encourage more people in St. Mary's County to select the GOP in November.

St. Mary's County has been friendly territory for Governor Ehrlich, but he told the audience that even if he matched his vote totals from 2002, the year he was elected the first Republican governor of Maryland in over 40 years, he would still lose the election.

The reason? Record voter registration numbers for the Democrats during the 2008 presidential election, spurred primarily by enthusiasm for the candidacy of then-Senator Barack Obama.

He emphasized the importance of reaching out to Democrats and independents who share our concern for runaway government spending, taxation and over-regulation that cripples small businesses and takes money out of our pockets in a tough economy. He promised to unveil several ideas during the course of the campaign to revive Maryland's economy, but the one he highlighted, and which brought him sustained applause, was a rollback of the 20% sales tax increase imposed on us by Governor O'Malley and the General Assembly back in 2007.

He also stressed the importance of sending Republican delegates and senators to the State House. Adding just five GOP senators, he said, would give the Republicans the ability to stop legislation, and force the one-party monopoly in Annapolis to sit down at the table with us and negotiate.

Audrey Scott has always been a woman of great vigor and strong voice, and she didn't disappoint. She spoke of the tremendous progress the party has made under her brief tenure. The relationship between the party and its elected officials has improved dramatically, and she brought in Kim Jorns, former finance director for Bob McDonnell's successful gubernatorial campaign in Virginia, to serve as the Maryland GOP executive director and finance director.

Fundraising has picked up considerably; Ms. Scott gave an example where she was assigned a fundraising target of $25,000 for the month of January, only to raise three times that amount. She is rebuilding the Maryland GOP just in time for it to be a major factor in this critical election year.

Everyone in attendance was well aware of the opportunity this election year presents to a party that was on the ropes after the 2006 and 2008 elections. Governor Ehrlich was particularly pointed in his admonition to us not only to achieve victory in November, but to govern ethically and effectively to regain the people's trust.

In the midst of all the excitement about the upcoming election, I must confess I felt quite melancholy. I imagine it's like being a player on injured reserve, cheering for and exhorting his team to victory from the sidelines, but unable to get into the game.

Don't get me wrong; everyone was very kind and understanding about my decision to put my family's needs before my political aspirations, and no one pressured me about it. Although I know for a fact I made the right decision - would-be employers wouldn't give my resume a second look had I still been engaged in a political campaign - that doesn't mean I didn't feel a tinge of regret.

There is a great sense of anticipation among St. Mary's County Republicans. The enthusiasm gap is now on the other side of the aisle, and it is the conservative movement, buoyed by the rise of the Tea Party grass-roots revolt of 2009-2010, that has reason to be confident.

A recent Pew Center poll revealed 80% of Americans do not trust their government, and a desire for wholesale change is sweeping the nation. For a state where the incumbents are overwhelmingly Democratic, this anti-incumbent mood is unwelcome news. It is still an uphill battle in what is arguably the "bluest" state in the nation, but the environment makes it seem like it will be more of a fair fight.

Ron Miller, of Huntingtown, is a military veteran, conservative writer and activist, communications director for the Calvert County Republican Party, and executive director of Regular Folks United, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.  Ron is a regular contributor to, American Thinker, and You can also follow Ron on his website, as well as Twitter and Facebook.

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