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Saturday, July 12, 2014


As I hung up the phone with Congressman Delaney's campaign manager, Liz Jaff, I realized that after 3 months of telephone conversations and emails attempting to negotiate a date for a public forum with Incumbent Rep. John Delaney and Republican candidate Dan Bongino, I was being told in so many words, Don't call us...we'll call you.
     Many may not know that besides writing this blog,  I am also the president and events organizer for the Hagerstown TEA Party (HTP). I have been attempting to organize a Meet the Candidates forum for candidates running for US Congress in Maryland's District 6. The HTP has hosted several such events in 2012 and also during the 2014 primary season, building a reputation for providing well-organized forums for a fair exchange of ideas among those with widely different opinions. Likewise, this event would be non-partisan, so we would be inviting the Democratic and Republican candidates, along with the two Green Party and unaffiliated candidates. It would be a monitored Q&A forum, with each candidate having equal time to answer the same questions. There is time before and after to mingle with the candidates. This is a public service to our community, providing an opportunity to meet with and learn about the candidates, and unlike other candidate forums in the area...our events are always free of charge. The HTP Board of Directors were particularly excited about the probable interest and attendance for such a rare opportunity for the citizens of Washington County to meet their Congressman in person and to hear first hand where he stands on issues that are important to them. It would be double the value to be able to see him compete with those who also want to represent them. Western Maryland deserves this opportunity!


      It all started the first week in April when I reached out to Congressman Delaney by a contact link on his website, by email, and by sending him a formal invitation via U.S. Mail. I received an email 14 days later from his campaign manager, Liz Jaff, stating that Delaney would not be able to attend. She offered no reason, but did tell me to "feel free to call with any questions." I instead responded to her email asking if there was a scheduling conflict for the tentative date of July 10th. I stated that we had started planning so far in advance (3 months), that we "have enough time for adjustments." She responded by email stating that "May is packed on the official side" (apparently not realizing that all three invitations clearly stated July 10th), but said she should be able to work something out and "would be happy to chat next week." Great! Right?


     I waited for the following Monday to call Ms. Jaff. I was eager to set a date because I knew that I wanted as much time as possible to promote this event for a fantastic turnout. I shared with her how our candidate forums are conducted. She asked that I email her a preliminary agenda, the forum rules, and a bio on our moderator, Pieter Bickford. She was reluctant to set a date until she received everything and had time to meet with her team. I told her that I would email it that day and she told me to call back the following week. I emailed everything as soon as we hung up, from my iPhone, in my car.
     I called the following week, and the following week, and the following week.


   The primary season was winding down, and it was looking like Dan Bongino could not lose. I ran into him at another campaign event. We didn't know each other. I think we knew of each other. He did attend our candidate forum in 2012 when he ran against Cardin. Incidentally, Delaney did not participate in our candidate forum that year when he ran against Roscoe Bartlett. So I ran into Bongino, and I asked him about a forum with Delaney. Without a moment of hesitation he said that he would, but that I needed to call his campaign manager to set a date. He gave me the phone number. I called Sharon Strine the next day. I  gave her the tentative date of July 10th, and it was done.


Is it the TEA Party?
    It is possible. I know that the media has done a good job branding the TEA Party as a bunch of wild-eyed, racists with pitchforks. Surely by now those who are as well-informed, well-read, and as educated as the Congressman know that is not the true TEA Party. It certainly isn't the HTP. We have a proven record and a great reputation for being inclusive, fair, and respectful of others. If Delaney had attended our forum in 2012 he would have seen that for himself. At that event we had one lone Democrat that participated. At the other forum that year for U.S. Senate we had four Democrats who participated. They were treated with respect. There was not one heckler. There was not one person out of line for either event, nor were there any at our events this year. We even asked that those in attendance wait to clap at the end of the forum after each closing statement. Our moderator, Pieter Bickford, is a professional and beyond reproach. For someone who makes a real effort to brand himself as a moderate non-partisan politician you would think he would be comfortable with the TEA Party. Nothing to fear here.

Is it me [the blogger]?
     I guess it is possible that he saw my blog post entitled Congressman Delaney: First Impression ( and thought he might not be treated fairly. Each of us who belong to the HTP, yes even the board members, are entitled to our individual opinions. I just happen to write about mine. However, when acting as a representative of the HTP it is a different story. We have a mission statement that we must represent. I don't write the opinion of the HTP. If I did I would need to get the approval of the Board of Directors before submitting it to a public forum. So when I wrote about my first impression of Congressman Delaney after attending a $30 breakfast at the Chamber of Commerce, it was just that, my opinion. Considering that Delaney and I are on different sides of most issues, I think that I wrote a fairly positive opinion piece. If you doubt it, read what I wrote about Brown. But even if I had written a scathing opinion piece, it had nothing to do with the HTP and how he would be treated at a HTP-hosted forum. I clearly described our forum rules. Nothing to fear here.
Does he care about Western Maryland?
      I think we are getting closer to the truth here. He was willing to travel to Western Maryland to speak at the Chamber of Commerce breakfast at $30 a plate. These events are usually attended by Democrats and Liberal-leaning Republicans. He would never be challenged or have to work for their votes. He knows this is a Conservative area in our Liberal state and that he does not have to work for our votes because he doesn't need them. It doesn't matter to his campaign. He doesn't have much of a vision for our part of the state either. It was here that I heard him plainly state that we would never be a hub of any great importance in this region, but that we could build on transportation and logistics. Our role would be distribution and fulfillment. In other words, trucking and warehousing. That left me feeling a little cold. 

Is he afraid for a stand off with Bongino?
    Bingo! If he isn't, he should be. Bongino is willing to work for your vote! He doesn't just go where his base is and sing Kum Ba Ya. He is everywhere talking about everything. I don't care where I go I see Bongino. It's like he has clones or a superpower that lets him be in multiple locations at the same time. Then you turn on the radio or the TV and there he is. He is working it! He isn't just doing it to win. You can sense the sincerity a mile away. I've attended many events where I have seen him across a large room talking to a regular Joe about what his concerns are for this country, or his business, or his family. If I was Delaney I'd be leery about talking issues in the same room with Bongino. He knows the issues and can talk about them, any of them, without a seconds notice and do it with intelligence and passion. Delaney is a smart man and he can talk a good game, but he can't fake the sincerity or passion for the individual and for this country. Bongino gets it. He has that gut-level feeling and understanding about what is happening to our country from the top down and  could express it in his sleep in a way that anyone can understand. Yes, there is  something for Delaney to fear here.

    I guess fearing Bongino and not caring about Western Maryland made it easy for Team Delaney to say, Don't call us...we'll call you. I hope that the voters of Western Maryland and all of District 6, who surely will have had the pleasure of meeting Bongino by then, say the same to Delaney in the voting booth.