1st Dist. Congress: Harris Gets New Air Support from Outside Groups

October 4, 2010

(By Guest Blogger Lou Peck, Contributing Editor, Congress Daily)

   A newly formed committee, with the vaguely worded name of “Concerned Taxpayers of America,” late last week reported that it is putting nearly $47,000 into TV ads opposing the re-election of Maryland 1st District Democrat Frank Kratovil.

 But, thanks to a recent Supreme Court ruling, that’s about all the information the group needs to make public. Unlike traditional candidate and political party committees, groups such as the Concerned Taxpayers of America are not currently required to disclose who their donors are or where their money is coming from.

   A spokeswoman for Republican Andy Harris – the beneficiary of the Concerned Taxpayers of America advertising — said the Harris campaign does not know where and when the anti-Kratovil ads from the Concerned Taxpayers group are scheduled to run. The group’s treasurer, a Washington-based political consultant, did not return phone calls seeking comment.
According to limited information filed with the Federal Election Commission, Concerned Taxpayers of America has spent just under $225,000 since its creation on Sept. 1.  Of that amount, $178,000 has gone to support a Republican challenger in Oregon, with the balance of the moneyallocated for ads targeted against Kratovil.

   The emergence of the Concerned Taxpayers of America effort comes barely a week after a second little known group — the Commission on Hope, Growth and Opportunity – began running its own ad designed to boost Harris. The ad shows a caricature of Kratovil in a dance-line linking arms with President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. That ad, which has aired frequently on Baltimore TV stations, charges Kratovil with doing a “song-and-dance” with regard to his votes on federal spending.

   The Commission on Hope, Growth and Opportunity faces even less in the way of disclosure requirements than the Concerned Taxpayers of America: The commission is a organized under Section 501c(4) of the U.S. tax code, and therefore does not have to report its activities to the FEC. It is therefore virtually impossible to determine how much it is raising and spending, at least until it files its annual report with the Internal Revenue Service.

   Fueling this type of “independent expenditure” advertising is a recent Supreme Court ruling, Citizens United vs. FEC , which greatly loosened the restrictions on what corporations, labor unions and interest groups can do with regard to spending money to support or oppose candidates. Many of these interests have used groups similar to those working against Kratovil to spend political money in an anonymous manner.

    According to an analysis of FEC filings just published by the Washington Post, groups outside the Democratic and Republican parties have so far spent $80 million this year – a five-fold increase from the $16 million spent by similar groups in the last mid-term election in 2006. This year, the lion’s share of that funding is being spent by conservatives  to help elect candidates such as Harris.

     Regulations governing additional disclosure of funding sources by such groups are pending before the FEC, but it remains unclear whether that agency will reach a decision in the four weeks left before this year’s election.

   On Capitol Hill, legislation designed to close some of the disclosure loopholes created by the Citizens United vs. FEC ruling has been pushed by Democratic leaders. But the bill has been opposed by Republicans, who charge the measure would go well beyond disclosure issues and put their party at a disadvantage.

     Harris “supports campaign finance reform that levels the playing field” said spokeswoman Anna Nix, while adding that Harris believes the ability of labor unions to fund campaigns would need to be restricted along with that of corporations and other groups.

    Kratovil bucked his party by opposing the so-called DISCLOSE legislation last summer, declaring: “The goal of this legislation is to provide greater transparency for corporate political spending, but in fact this legislation captures many established, reputable organizations that are funded by individual citizens, not by corporations.”

   Meanwhile, with four weeks until Election Day, both Kratovil and Harris are getting help on the airwaves from more traditional sources – the campaign arms of House Republicans and Democrats.

   The National Republican Congressional Committee this past weekend launched a TV ad criticizing Kratovil for his support of the $700 billion economic stimulus bill in early 2009. The ad is running on broadcast television in Salisbury on the lower Eastern Shore and on cable TV stations in the Baltimore area, at a cost of just over $60,000. That follows nearly $48,000 that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent last week on pro-Kratovil advertising.

    That’s on top of the barrage of ads being underwritten by the Kratovil and Harris campaigns themselves. And look for a lot more before it’s all over: Sources confirm the NRCC has reserved more than $530,000 in air time to boost Harris between now and Nov.2


Harris, Kratovil Attract Big Donors in Run-up to Primary

September 13, 2010

(By Guest Blogger, Lou Peck– Contributing editor, CongressDaily)

Democratic incumbent Frank Kratovil and Republican Andy Harris – likely to face off this year in a rematch for Maryland’s 1st District House seat — have been attracting big-dollar donors at a steady pace in the run-up to Tuesday’s primary election, according to new reports filed through Friday with the Federal Election Commission.

Harris, who outraised Kratovil in the reporting period that covered July and much of August, pulled in another $46,300 from big-money individual donors and political action committees (PACs) in the nearly three weeks since the close of the prior reporting period on Aug. 25.

That’s somewhat more than the $38,900 that Kratovil received from PACs and big-dollar individual donors during the same three-week time slot.

The latest fundraising statistics by Harris and Kratovil are based on an examination of so-called 48-hour reports, in which candidates for Congress are required to report contributions of $1,000 or more received 48 hours prior to the primary or general election. The next full accounting of contributions to – and expenditures by – the Harris and Kratovil campaigns will not be available until the next FEC filing deadline in mid-October.

Kratovil is unopposed for renomination Tuesday, while Harris faces a primary challenge from businessman Rob Fisher. Fisher, who has pumped nearly $500,000 into a largely self-funded campaign, is seen as the underdog in the primary – notwithstanding an 11th hour endorsement Sunday from former 1st Dist. GOP Rep. Wayne Gilchrest.

Gilchrest was ousted by Harris in the 2008 primary; Gilchrest later swung his support behind Kratovil, who narrowly defeated Harris in the 2008 general election..

Although Harris has criticized Kratovil for reliance on “inside the Beltway special interests,” and Kratovil has run TV ads boasting of his record of independence from his party’s legislative agenda, both men have benefited in recent weeks from contributions made by some key inside-the-Beltway players.

Harris last week took in $9,800 – four contributions of $2,400 each – from officials of the Washington-based Carlyle Group. Under federal law, contributions from individuals are currently limited to $2,400 per election, with the primary and general considered to be separate elections.

The Carlyle Group is one of the nation’s largest and best-known private equity firms. The four Carlyle Group officials who donated to Harris – Peter Clare, Francis Finelli, Ian Fujiyama and Allan Holt – are involved with managing the firm’s holdings in the defense, aerospace and technology sectors, according to Carlyle’s Web site.

For his part, Kratovil recently attracted contributions from officials of several of the capital’s major lobbying/consulting firms. These include $1,000 each from R. Scott Pastrick, a former treasurer of the Democratic National Committee who now heads Burson Marsteller, a public relations company; Oscar Ramirez of the Podesta Group, a lobbying firm; and Anthony Harrington, an Easton resident who is chief executive officer of Stonebridge International, a consulting firm whose principals include former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Sen. Warren Rudman, R-N.H.

Kratovil also reported receiving two $5,000 contributions last Friday from the American Federation of Teachers’ PAC. That total of $10,000 represents the maximum that a PAC can donate to a member of Congress during any two-year election cycle.

In addition, Kratovil last week received a contribution of $1,500 from the Philadelphia-based Comcast Corp. PAC, bringing the total he has received from the Comcast committee to the legal maximum of $10,000. According to figures compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, Comcast has donated a total of $1.4 million to federal candidates during 2009-2010, at a time when it is lobbying hard for federal approval of its proposed acquisition of the NBC television network.

Closer to home, Kratovil received a $1,000 contribution from Glenn Weinberg, a vice president of the Baltimore-based Cordish Cos. The Cordish enterprise is currently seeking passage of a referendum on the November ballot in Anne Arundel County allowing construction of a slots parlor at the Arundel Mills shopping mall.

[UPDATE: Kratovil’s congressional press secretary, Kevin Lawlor, said Kratovil has not taken a public stance on the Comcast/NBC merger. While final approval of the deal is up to the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department, some members of Congress have chosen to comment publicly in an effort to sway regulators at those agencies.

Lawlor also said that Kratovil has not taken a position on the referendum on whether to allow a slots casino at the Arundel Mills mall. While Kratovil represents a portion of Anne Arundel County, the mall itself is just outside the 1st District. In 2008, when a statewide referendum on whether to allow casino gambling in Maryland was approved, Kratovil “basically abstained” from that debate on the grounds that it was up to state and local jurisdictions rather than federal officials to determine how best to proceed, Lawlor added.]

Meanwhile, Harris – an anesthesiologist by profession – continues to benefit significantly from out-of-state contributions from medical interests. Non-Maryland physicians donated a total of $6,400 in individual contributions to Harris in recent weeks, on top of nearly $25,000 in similar contributions that Harris received in July and August. A couple of medical PACs chipped in another $1,000 each last week.

There are a couple of well-known Maryland names on the latest filings. Chicken magnate Jim Perdue, head of the Salisbury-based Perdue Farms, gave $2,400 – the maximum an individual is allowed for the primary – to Harris.

In Kratovil’s camp is Mayo Shattuck, chief executive officer of Constellation Energy – the parent company of Baltimore Gas & Electric. Shattuck donated $1,000, while another $2,400 came from Jonathan Thayer, Constellation Energy’s chief financial officer.


1st Dist. Congress Race: Harris Outraises Kratovil, but Incumbent has More Cash

September 3, 2010

( By Guest Blogger: Lou Peck, Contributing Editor, CongressDaily)

Seeking a rematch against Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil this year, Republican state Sen. Andrew Harris outraised the incumbent during July and August – but Kratovil still has more money in his campaign treasury, according to campaign finance reports filed in advance of the Sept. 14 Maryland primary.

According to reports filed late Thursday with the Federal Election Commission, Harris raised just over $172,000 in contributions during the period from July 1 through Aug. 25, in comparison with about $134,000 for Kratovil. In addition to the contributions, Harris loaned his campaign $20,000 during the latest reporting period.

But Kratovil – who narrowly defeated Harris in the 1st District in 2008 and is considered one of the nation’s most vulnerable members of Congress in this year’s election — had almost $1.35 million in the bank as of the end of the filing period,  in contrast to about $945,000 for Harris.

Businessman Rob Fisher, who is opposing Harris in this month’s GOP primary, reported just $410 in contributions during the latest filing period. But Fisher reported spending almost $219,000 during July and August, while Harris spent $145,000 on his campaign.

Fisher is largely self-funding his campaign: He has invested $475,000 of his own money to date, including a $60,000 loan during the latest filing period. He had about $80,000 in his campaign treasury as of the Aug. 25 filing deadline.

Fisher, widely seen as an underdog in the primary race, tried to raise his visibility with an ad that ran on Baltimore TV stations throughout much of August. Harris, apparently conserving his resources for the general election, has yet to run broadcast TV advertising.

Kratovil, who is unopposed in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary, went on television this week with a widely noticed ad that downplays both his status as a Democrat and an incumbent legislator. Lettering that appears at the bottom of the screen identifies him as a “former Eastern Shore prosecutor” rather than a member of Congress. He also boasts of having voted against healthcare reform legislation that President Obama and Democratic congressional leaders regard as their signature achievement over the past two years.

Throughout the current 2009-2010 election cycle, Harris has raised a total of $1.65 million, which is approximately $250,000 less than the $1.9 million taken in by the Kratovil campaign.

In terms of outside donations, Harris reports that about 85 percent of his funds have come from individual contributors, with the balance coming from political action committees, or PACs. Kratovil, on the other hand, has raised a slight majority of his donations during this election cycle – 53 percent – from PACs and other political committees.

In a dig at Kratovil’s fundraising patterns, Harris declared in a press release: “Maryland’s First District is ready for a new Congressman, one who doesn’t receive most of his money from inside the Beltway special interests.”

But while he is drawing primarily on individual donors, Harris is relying heavily on out- of- state fundraising from one group – his fellow anesthesiologists.

Harris, a physician by profession, is an anesthesiologist associated with the Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore and in the past year has worked part-time at the hospital in Salisbury, on the Shore. He received just under $124,000 in itemized individual contributions during the latest reporting period, and at least 20 percent of this money — $24,172 – came from non-Maryland residents who are physicians, with most of the donors in that group identifying themselves as anesthesiologists.

In addition, a national committee representing anesthesiologists has begun broadcasting ads for Harris on Baltimore radio stations.

Meanwhile, several Cecil County residents contributed to Harris during July and August. E. Ralph Hostetter of North East, retired publisher of the Cecil Whig, donated $1,000; Carol Hunter, of Rising Sun, whose family owns the well known auction barn, $250; and real estate broker Patrick Ulrich of Elkton, $20 (Ulrich has donated a total of $800 to Harris in the course of the campaign).

Also, David K. Williams of Chesapeake City – who operates the Williams Family Auto Mall – donated $500, while another family member, Nancy Williams of Elkton, gave $1,000.

Kratovil received $100 from Charlestown Mayor Robert Gell, the retired president of Cecil College; $100 from Jobeth Bowers of North East, a law office employee who is currently a candidate for Cecil County’s Democratic Central Committee; and $50 from Sue Fuhrmann, an Elkton-based retiree.

One well-known Maryland name on Kratovil’s latest list of donors is Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, a wealthy Baltimore attorney,who gave $2,300.


36th Delegate Seat: With GOP Friends Like This, Who Needs Democrats?

July 28, 2010

   Queen Anne’s County Democrats have taken a pass on fielding a candidate for that county’s resident Delegate in the 36th District but incumbent Republican Richard Sossi got a last-minute challenge from an unexpected source: the former campaign treasurer for fellow 36th District Republican Sen. E.J. Pipkin’s failed race for Congress two years ago.

   Stephen S. Hershey, Jr. of Queenstown, an unsuccessful 2002 candidate for Queen Anne’s County commissioner and a political appointee in former Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s administration, filed his candidacy for the Delegate seat on July 6, the last day to file. No Democrat filed by that deadline to seek that party’s nomination for the seat and the county’s Democratic Central Committee had until July 21 to appoint a candidate to run.  But state election records show no such candidate was put forward.

   Hershey, a commercial real estate executive, served as an assistant secretary of the state Department of Planning and also as an assistant secretary in charge of state property management in the Department of Natural Resources in the Ehrlich administration. The Baltimore Sun reported at the time that Hershey was one of three “political appointees'” named by Ehrlich to newly created top positions at the planning agency. ( http://www.latimes.com/features/bal-jobs061603,0,5461236,full.story )

   In the 2008 election season, Hershey served as the campaign treasurer for E.J. Pipkin’s failed attempt to obtain the Republican nomination for the First District Congressional seat.  Federal Election Commission records show that Hershey, as treasurer, was cited for failure to file a required campaign finance report for the Pipkin campaign account and the campaign was fined $250 in September, 2009.

   In an interview with The Cecil Times, Hershey said he “had a lot of conversations,” including with Pipkin, about filing in the GOP primary for the House of Delegates seat. Since there was a period of uncertainty over Pipkin’s plans and whether he would run for his Senate seat again, “there were a number of us discussing the Delegate’s seat,” Hershey said. (If Pipkin had given up his Senate seat to run for another office, possibly state Comptroller, Sossi was expected to seek the Senate seat and give up his House seat.)

  Pipkin filed for re-election to his Senate seat on June 30, a week before Hershey filed for the Delegate’s race. Sossi filed for re-election to his House seat nearly a month before Hershey filed.

  “I think the timing was still correct” to run for the Delegate’s seat, Hershey said, adding that “most people I talked to about it” did not oppose his getting into the race. ( He did not speak to Sossi before filing.)

   “Everyone who knows me knows I’m a hard worker,” Hershey said.

    Hershey, 46, a native of Bowie, MD, has lived in Queenstown for more than ten years. He graduated from Catholic University and holds an MBA degree from George Washington University. He has been active in Queen Anne’s County GOP groups, including the Republican Central Committee and the county’s Republican Club. He has also done volunteer work and coached youth football.

   State campaign finance records show he donated $500 to Ehrlich’s gubernatorial campaign in 2006, a modest amount to have been rewarded with a plum assistant secretary’s job paying more than $74,000. Hershey said he worked hard as a volunteer for Ehrlich’s campaign. The state records also show Hershey donated $300 to Pipkin’s 2006 Senate re-election campaign. He has also made donations to the county Republican Central Committee but not to Sossi’s campaigns.

    Sossi, who has been aggressively fund-raising for more than a year in anticipation of a possible state Senate seat run, is well-positioned financially for a re-election bid  to the House and the fact that Democrats chose not to challenge him means he can aim most of his considerable warchest at Hershey in the GOP primary.   

     Sossi didn’t seem particularly concerned about Hershey’s late entry into the primary, telling The Cecil Times, “Well, he paid his filing fee, that’s his right.”  But, Sossi added, “I still haven’t heard why is he really running.”

   However, the political signs going up all over the 36th District might tell the tale.  In southern Cecil County, individual Hershey signs have been posted in clusters with joint  signs touting the candidacy of Pipkin and his comrade-in-GOP-arms, Del. Michael Smigiel, R-36. Our spies in Kent and Queen Anne’s counties tell us the same thing is going on there. Hershey’s small signs are brown and look like the candy bar of the same name, but with a few modifications to probably keep the trademark lawyers at bay.

   Individual Sossi signs are showing up in the company of joint Ehrlich for Governor and Andy Harris for Congress signs in Kent and Queen Anne’s, our spies tell us.  

   Sossi has been carving out an increasingly independent course from the Pipkin-Smigiel duo. He refused to co-sponsor their attempt to impose from Annapolis a  mandated Cecil County property tax rate on the county commissioners.  The Pipkin-Smigiel legislation was killed in Annapolis– an embarassing outcome for local lawmakers’ sponsorship of a local bill– after the Cecil County Commissioners hired a lobbyist and commissioners personally appeared in Annapolis to oppose the Pipkin-Smigiel gambit.

 (On their own, the Cecil County Commissioners cut the local property tax rate and potential revenues to the county in the new Fiscal 2011 budget, cutting the past rate to the “constant yield” tax rate. But, to meet their bare bones budget, the Commissioners then cut popular services such as free recycling of plastic bottles and cans at the county landfill.  Smigiel and Pipkin have attacked the Cecil County Comissioners repeatedly on tax issues but have been notably silent on the recycling and trash “fee” increase imposed by the majority Republicans on the five-member county board. One Democrat opposed it and the other Democrat abstained.)

     Sossi was the top vote getter in the 2006 House of Delegates races in the district. Under the arcane system for voting in the district, three Delegates are elected but each must be a resident of Cecil, Kent OR Queen Anne’s Counties. Residents of each county, as well as three precincts in Caroline County, cast ballots for three Delegates to represent the District. (In Cecil County, about half of the county is in the district, including southern Cecil, Elkton and a few westward precincts.)

   Sossi  is a graduate of the University of Colorado and served five years in the U.S. Navy, including duty in Vietnam. He also served his country as a deputy branch chief of the super-secret National Security Agency and received advanced training in Chinese language studies and cryptology.  Before running for political office, he owned and operated a military antiques store.


36th Senate: Democratic Dances with Pipkin

July 9, 2010

 Comparing the two Democrats who have filed to run against incumbent Republican Sen. E.J. Pipkin in the 36th District Senate race is like comparing the 1960’s Bristol Stomp to a courtly minuet, or the classic English “contra dancing” performed professionally by one of the candidates.

  Former Elkton Mayor Robert Alt gets right to the point: “I would improve communications between the local municipalities and the county with our state delegation. It’s hard to get the state to hear our voices in Annapolis with our state delegation the way it is now.” (How does that old song go: “the kids in Bristol are sharp as a pistol when they do the Bristol Stomp…”)

   Steven Mumford, of Chestertown, making his first bid for elected office, said in an interview with The Cecil Times: “I don’t want to say anything bad about Senator Pipkin.”  (Cue the violins for a courtly rendition of Eighteenth Century ballroom dancing in a country castle…)

   The two Democrats will square off in the September primary for the expected chance to oppose Pipkin in November. Pipkin has a GOP primary challenger, Donald Alcorn, who is considered a longshot against the always well-financed (and usually largely self-financed) Pipkin campaign.

  Mumford is a political newcomer but members of his family are firmly planted in the Kent County political soil. His mother, Mabel Mumford-Pautz, is a  long time member of the Chestertown town council from Ward 3 and his brother, Mark Mumford, is Clerk of the Court.

   Mumford currently operates a business offering walking tours of historic houses in Chestertown and with his family has restored historic properties in the area. He has been a professional dancer, appearing in the movie “Wedding Crashers,” and currently dances with English contra dancing groups that peform at historical properties such as Mount Harmon in Cecil County. He has also coached youth swim teams. His Washington College Class of 1986 reunion profile is posted here:  http://1986.washcoll.edu/stevenmumford/

    Alt,49, grew up in Chesapeake City and attended Salisbury State. He was elected to the Elkton town council in 1994 and was elected mayor in 1998 and served until 2002.  He is also a former member of the Cecil County Democratic Central Committee. Alt was named “Outstanding Marylander of the Year” by the Jaycees in 2000 and he was a member of the Maryland Municipal League and served on several committees of the organization.

    Alt sees the problems in Annapolis from the perspective of the towns and counties in the 36th District, which includes about half of Cecil County, part of Caroline County, and all of Kent and Queen Anne’s counties. “I’m a municipality guy,” he said, adding that the towns, and in turn the counties, are suffering in difficult economic times and face dwinding aid from the state. That directly impacts local citizens, he said.

    The delegation could do more to promote local economic development, Alt said, and pointed to his own partnership role in re-developing the old Pirelli building in Elkton into a small business “hub” that is now about 40 percent occupied despite the current economic climate.

   Alt said the state delegation should work more co-operatively, both with each other and with the counties and towns on a wide array of issues.  But the current leadership of the delegation,  now chaired by Pipkin ally Del. Michael Smigiel (R-36), “doesn’t want to meet and they really don’t want to hear from anyone else,” Alt said. “They only want to have their own way and I believe that is being driven by Sen. Pipkin.”

    Alt said he was concerned with environmental issues and protection of the Bay and noted that Sen. Pipkin has had low scores from the Maryland League of Conservation Voters. Alt said he would actively seek support from environmentally-concerned voters. (The League has already endorsed Pipkin’s opponent, Alcorn, in the Republican primary.)

    Until finally filing for re-election a week before the deadline, Pipkin did a few dances of his own:  first tangoing with Andy Harris for a potential re-match in the GOP primary for a shot at the 1st District congressional seat, and then performing a dosie-do over whether to jump into the statewide race for comptroller against incumbent Democrat Peter Franchot. Finally, he decided to dance with the voters who first brought him to the 36th District Senate seat in 2002 and re-stamped his electoral dance card in 2006.

    “I’m not sure Pipkin knows what job he really wants,” Alt observed.

     Mumford said the biggest difference between himself and Pipkin is “I’m from here, the Eastern Shore, and he is not.” Pipkin grew up in Dundalk, in Baltimore county, and moved to Queen Anne’s County after retiring from a career as a junk bond trader in New York. Several years ago, Pipkin sold his waterfront estate and moved to Elkton, but he filed for re-election using a Queen Anne’s County mail box address.

    Mumford grew emotional as he talked about his love for the Eastern Shore, crying a bit as he spoke about growing up swimming in the Bay and “playing in the dirt” of the Shore. “I’m a passionate person,” he said.

    If Pipkin can recall whatever dance was popular in his Dundalk youth, this year’s 36th Senate contest might be a contender for broadcast on the TV show, “So You Think You Can Dance…”


ANALYSIS: PA House Race Signals Path for Kratovil

May 19, 2010

   The victory of Democrat Mark Critz in a special Congressional election in southwestern Pennsylvania’s 12th District may signal some trends that bode well for Maryland’s Rep. Frank Kratovil, D-1st, in the November general election, but only if the vulnerable Eastern Shore incumbent takes a few pages from Critz’ playbook.

   The key lesson? Run your own race based on your district’s needs and resist the temptation, or the pressure from your party and donors, to nationalize what is essentially a local contest based on local issues. And say the word “jobs” in every speech and plaster the word, and the issue, on your website and campaign flyers.

  Critz defeated Republican Tim Burns by a comfortable 53-44 margin, with a Libertarian candidate taking 2 percent of the vote in the special election to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Rep. John (Jack) Murtha, D, who held the seat for nearly 36 years with a steely mix of conservative and populist positions on issues. The district includes Johnstown and spreads west to the outskirts of Pittsburgh in a region that has faced chronic economic problems. (Read the local report on the outcome of Tuesday’s special election here: http://www.ourtownonline.biz/articles/2010/05/18/somerset_news/news/local/news097.txt

  In our previous life, we traveled the Murtha district in presidential political campaigns in the past, meeting with a coffee klatch of retirees at a local fast food restaurant, veterans at the VFW hall and working moms at the grocery store. It is a district that in many ways is similar to the Eastern Shore of Maryland (minus the Bay and crabs) with many small towns, rural areas and a feeling of being forgotten and/or betrayed by the economy and the promises of government.  A Volkswagen assembly plant that provided good manufacturing jobs fled to Mexico, small businesses closed down and were replaced by rows of fast food restaurants.

   Murtha dominated the district for years, although he had a close call in his last contest, with a mix of hawkish views on defense and attention to bringing home the bacon, as in jobs, to the economically depressed district. Even a small ball bearings plant had a military contract to keep the machines and employees working. Critz, the winner of Tuesday’s special election, worked for Murtha for many years as  district director and director of economic development.

   The district, while nominally Democratic in registration, voted for Republican John McCain in the last presidential election, as did Maryland’s 1st District. But the PA district narrowly supported Democrat John Kerry over Republican George W. Bush in 2004, while Maryland’s 1st overwhelmingly supported Bush.

   The national Democratic and Republican parties invested heavily in the special election, with each side sending in heavy hitters to campaign in the district and pouring money into TV ads. Republicans tried to make it a referendum on Washington and voter anger while Critz and the Democrats played it more locally: “It’s about jobs, it’s about the economy,” he said in his victory speech. Jobs and the economy dominated his campaign and website.

   His Republican opponent, a wealthy businessman, promoted a platform that sounded like the national GOP playbook with some cribbing from the Tea Party folks, pledging to “take back the country” and “reduce government spending,” balance the federal budget and end “corruption in Congress.”

   In the Maryland 1st, Andy Harris, the expected Republican nominee, is so far running a more balanced campaign than his failed run against Kratovil two years ago. Most of that campaign focused on attack ads dubbing Kratovil a ‘liberal’ while this time Harris is talking about tax cuts, repealing the new federal healthcare law, cutting government spending and mandatory term limits for members of Congress.

  But Kratovil, at least on his website, seems to be running a national rather than local campaign– with the exception of Chesapeake Bay issues. On his list of issues, his priorities are “balancing the budget,” touting his opposition to the Obama healthcare bill, a get-tough on immigration stand, support of gun rights and, in last place, protecting the Bay. Jobs didn’t make the cut!

[UPDATE: Kratovil recently updated his campaign website to put "jobs and the economy" at the top of his issues list. Guess he reads The Cecil Times? Here is the link: http://kratovil.com/p/wfc/web/candidate/issue/public/ ]

   In appearances around the district and press releases, Kratovil has indeed highlighted steps he has taken to bring jobs to the district and help small business, including his sponsorship of a bill to protect local car dealerships from being forced out of business by financially strapped manufacturers. But for the most part, Kratovil– a prime target of the Tea Party people– has been playing defense and playing it on the Republican end of the field.

   The PA special election indicates that voters with a similar profile to the MD 1st can be won with a laser-like focus on jobs and the economy and other local bread and butter issues.

  Kratovil had an early fundraising lead and is expected to continue to receive campaign assistance from the national Democratic party. However, Harris has made inroads in fundraising in recent months and is pulling closer to Kratovil’s warchest. But so far the deep pockets of the conservative Club for Growth that fueled Harris’ last race have not materialized. Indeed, the Club’s PAC has not even endorsed Harris yet and the group is expected to be devoting much of its resources to the Pennsylvania Senate race, in which Pat Toomey, the former president of the Club, is the Republican nominee.

   As the Maryland campaign cranks up in the next few months, the candidates would be smart to take a look at the PA special election and some lessons learned.


Upcoming News: Cecil Sheriff Race, Kent Co. 36 Delegate Race

January 25, 2010

UPCOMING NEWS:

  Just to let our Cecil Times readers know what we are working on:

 — State Delegate Mary Roe Walkup (R-36)  has done no fundraising, despite the fact that she is facing serious opposition in the Republican primary and a credible Democratic challenger in the general election.

–In Cecil County’s Sheriff’s race, incumbent Republican  Barry Janney has not complied with state election laws requiring financial disclosures that were due on 1/20/10.

–Rival Republican Dan Slater did obey the law and file his campaign finance report. But he is woefully poor.

–Democratic Sheriff Candidate Chris Sutton has done a super job of fundraising: BUT he has spent a ton of his donations on fundraising expenses, leaving him with a pittance in cash on hand in his campaign fund.

–READ The CECIL TIMES for more indpendent news reporting on Maryland and Cecil County politics and news issues!


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