Politicians Gone Wild

Commentary by Ron Miller

Ron MillerLast week, I excoriated Governor Martin O'Malley for his lying ad about former governor Bob Ehrlich which attempted to link him to the oil industry and the BP oil spill. Inappropriate or unethical behavior isn't necessarily confined to Democrats, however, and in recognition of that fact, I present to you "Politicians Gone Wild, GOP Edition."

Exhibit A in our trip to GOP Bizzaro World is Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Eric Wargotz, one of 12 people that have filed and are actively seeking the nomination to take on Senator Barbara Mikulski in the fall.

A press release landed in my email inbox last week trumpeting the headline, "Wargotz leads Mikulski by 3% in recent poll." Reading the press release revealed that a poll by the Tarrance Group placed Wargotz at 34%, Mikulski at 31% and "a little known independent candidate" at 9% in Baltimore County. This would be a significant development since the Baltimore area is Sen. Mikulski's home base.

Except all was not as it appeared. The Tarrance Group was livid about the press release and accused the Wargotz campaign of misleading the public. They put out the following statement:
Dr. Eric Wargotz' campaign for U.S. Senate released a poll on Wednesday June 30, 2010 with the headline "Wargotz leads Mikulski by 3% in recent poll." This caused some observers to believe that Dr. Wargotz maintained a 3-point lead statewide, when in fact the poll was only conducted in the 1st Congressional District of Maryland, and even then the campaign cited the ballot in Baltimore County alone. We regret this miscommunication on the part of Wargotz campaign. We can only conclude that the campaign, which is not a client of The Tarrance Group and falsely transmitted data from another proprietary survey, is attempting to mislead the public.

Although the campaign statement itself explains that the numbers cited were strictly from Baltimore County, we feel that this headline did not make this point clear enough and instead misrepresents our data.

The Tarrance Poll cited was conducted in Maryland's 1st Congressional District and included only those parts of Baltimore County contained within the 1st District, comprising N=41 interviews. The Wargotz campaign, which is not a client of The Tarrance Group, neither coordinated with nor received The Tarrance Group's permission to release the data. If consulted on such an option, we would have advised the campaign to not release the data due to the small cell size and large margin of error associated with it, and for the fact that the entirety of Baltimore County is not represented.

The Tarrance Group has requested that the Wargotz campaign either revise their campaign communications to reflect these realities, or remove them from their website altogether.

One of the partners of the Tarrance Group, Ed Goeas, is a long-time and respected Republican pollster, and I wouldn't presume to misrepresent his poll data for fear of angering him. If you're a Republican aspiring to higher office, you wouldn't like Ed Goeas when he's angry - he is a powerful and influential person in his own right.

On the surface, it would appear that Wargotz or his campaign operatives are taking the chance that their press release will be more widely read and accepted than The Tarrance Group's stinging rebuttal. It's calculating, cunning, and perhaps par for the course for Maryland politics, but like O'Malley's duplicitous Big Oil ads, it's a lie.

It's particularly bothersome because reliable sources have reported other questionable behavior by him and his staff, to include refusing to pay consultants for work performed on the campaign's behalf.

This is yet another reason why public trust of politicians is virtually non-existent, and voters this year are particularly tired of the manipulations and the games. I've met Eric on a number of occasions, and I don't believe this is how he wants to be perceived by the public. I hope he will step forward soon and apologize for misrepresenting The Tarrance Group's poll data.

The other "politician gone wild" is right here in our own backyard. Many of you by now know the story of Republican candidate for the District 27B delegate seat, Bob "Slugger" Schaefer, who at a recent meeting of the Southern Maryland Young Republicans club, took exception to opponent Mark Fisher's alleged rude behavior and sucker-punched him in the gut after the meeting, with his children and other attendees looking on.

I have no intention of belaboring the point that this isn't considered acceptable behavior by a prospective or current public servant. I guess someone forgot to brief him that you have to be a firmly ensconced incumbent with lots of friends before you can haul off on someone, and that you need to have sympathetic witnesses to vouch for you…but I digress.

Schaefer has apologized for his actions, and he has chosen to remain in the primary, as is his prerogative. I know this episode is hard on him and his family, and I can't imagine this not having an adverse impact on his electoral chances, or his future with the party.

I'm a little surprised, however, at the people who want to rationalize his actions, saying "Fisher shouldn't have been setting up projection equipment while Bob was talking", or "the club shouldn't have invited two opponents to the same meeting." Well, then, let's not have debates since that would mean inviting two or more opponents to the same meeting!

Please, folks, some perspective is in order here. Unless it's in the boxing or mixed martial arts ring, or it's an act of self-defense if you're in danger of immediate physical harm, there is no justification for punching anyone, anytime, anywhere. Our mothers didn't teach us to behave that way; as my wife always asks when she sees some famous figure acting like a jerk, "Where is his mother?"

Well, that's our "Politicians Gone Wild, GOP Edition" for this week. Personally, I'm hoping there are no other episodes forthcoming, but Maryland politicians are the gift that keeps on giving. I can't wait for next week!

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 RegularFolksUnited.com, American Thinker, and RedCounty.com. You can also follow Ron on his website TeamRonMiller.com, as well as Twitter and Facebook.

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