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Monday, October 13, 2014




     I attended a candidate forum last week that was sponsored by the Hagerstown Chamber of Commerce. The candidates for U.S. Congress for the 6th District were in attendance: Dan Bongino (R), John Delaney (D), and George Gluck (Green Party). I was so excited to see Bongino and Delaney in the same room. I thought that watching an exchange of ideas between these two very intelligent, charismatic, candidates from different sides of the political divide would be an interesting experience. I thought that there would be some in the audience that resented how a Republican representative was gerrymandered out of our area.  I thought with the country, I'd dare say the world, afire the topics would be serious and riveting. Much to my disappointment, this had to be the dullest candidate forum I have ever attended! Before anyone thinks that a room full of business owners is certain to be dull, let me say that I have attended many of the Eggs & Issues events at the Chamber, and I can honestly say that they were never dull, particularly when there has been a political element. For instance, when Lt Governor Anthony Brown was the speaker, just as the campaign season began (wink wink), it was a packed house and the excitement was electrifying (see related link 1). There was a hustle bustle of handshaking and back slapping and the audience was full of expression. At another event where John Delaney was the solo speaker, also at the start the campaign season (wink wink), again it was a packed house and a very energized atmosphere (see related link 2). My favorite event was when the local Delegation was expected to submit to yet another pre-legislative bullying by a roomful of Liberals, and instead they completely took over the discussion and turned it back on the Chamber (see related link 3). Papers were rustling, people were whispering and snickering...I think someone at my table called it a bloodbath. I noticed immediately that this  event was going to be different. It was poorly attended, estimating that about 60 people were seated at tables, and I would guess that some of those people were part of the candidate's team or family members. I didn't see many of the familiar faces of those who normally attend, and the mood in the room was noticeably subdued. There was virtually little to no reaction to anything that was said throughout the entire event. Did they not care? Were they already decided? Maybe they missed Bryan Poffenberger. Even the questions for the candidates did not come from the attendees, being pre-decided by the Chamber, and some were too long with sub-questions. With current events in the news there were much more interesting questions begging to be asked. Dull...damn dull!

    We had three candidates in attendance. This was the first that I had seen or heard from Gluck. This is because apparently he decided to run a campaign without money, so that he would qualify for public money, after every one voted for him having never seen or heard of him. Make sense? It made no sense to me, but Gluck seemed like a decent and intelligent candidate and I enjoyed learning more about the Green Party, even though I disagreed more often than not.
    Dan Bongino was passionate about the issues. He presented as honest and straightforward, giving unrehearsed, unedited, and sometimes hard answers to the questions. John Delaney gave rehearsed answers that I have heard from him before, almost word for word. As usual, he continued to try to brand himself as non-partisan. He was asked 8 questions in less than an hour and he used the word non-partisan 14 times.

Delaney brands himself as nonpartisan.

    The three opening statements were so completely different that it would seem that they were not competing for the same office. Bongino asked who we want to be in control of our businesses, our children's education, and our healthcare, stating that government has gotten too big and intrusive. This was the first time that I finally heard a candidate for any office mention the failure of Obamacare, calling it a "disaster", because it put the decision-making process  into the hands of unelected bureaucrats. Delaney's theme was "I am one of you", claiming to know and understand first-hand their (business owners) challenges. He said he will focus on the competitiveness of Washington County, the 6th District, and the U.S. as a whole because if we can't compete we will not be able to create jobs, have a decent standard of living, or grow the economy. He also claimed that he is someone who gets things done by operating in a non-partisan manner. Gluck explained his journey from the Democratic Party into the Green Party, and asked everyone to vote Democrat, but to make sure it is the one with Green Party next to his name.

1. What is your vision for Western Maryland, and how should Washington County position itself for economic success, and what's your role in helping achieve this vision? I told you the questions were long! I think they got 90 seconds to answer, which means they talked fast. Delaney talked faster than I could take notes. Gluck, in contrast, took his time to use a lot of words, to say very little. I will paraphrase the answers.
    Bongino stated that the economic development problems in Washington County are the government's fault. The Federal corporate tax rate is too high, State taxes and regulations burdensome, and Obamacare a job killer, all causing a mass exodus out of our state, particularly in Washington County, as we are situated in a tri-state area. He would work to lower the corporate tax rate to 17-20 percent, which is closer to the international average, and then he is sure that people would return to the state. He did not indicate, however, what he would do about Obamacare.
    Delaney said that Washington County had some unique assets, naming the I-81 corridor because it runs between the "super-economy from Boston to Richmond", as it directly affects the logistics distribution and transportation industries in our area. However, I recall at his last visit to the Chamber he stated that we would NOT play a role in the economy of the super-region of Boston to Richmond (see related link 2). He plainly stated that we would never be a hub of any great importance in this region, but that we could build on transportation and logistics, in other words, trucking and warehousing. So he would work to get funding to expand I-81, agreed that the Federal corporate tax was too high (did not promise to push his party to lower it), and referred to his bill called the Partnership to Build America Act (HR 2084). This bill attempts to get people to bring their money back into the U.S. from overseas. For every $1.00 that they "invest" in infrastructure they can bring $4.00 back tax free. You can read about the bill at
    Gluck said that he would introduce worker co-ops so that people had  more money in their pockets to support businesses.

2.  Will you support funding for the widening of I-81, and how can you secure that money?
    Bongino said the direct answer is yes. He said that we cannot view I-81 in a vacuum, but we must also look at I-270, which he called "The Big Ugly". He said that the traffic backups on I-270 are productivity hours lost and feeding a smog atmosphere. He referred to Delany's bill, the Partnership to Build America's Act (HR 2084), as "The Crony Bank". He said that those companies had already been taxed and that money should go back into the businesses not infrastructure. He said $1T of stimulus money was to be spent on infrastructure and it was wasted because there was no accountability. The money should be pumped back into businesses and user fees paid by those who use the roads should pay to expand them.
    Delaney would make funding for widening I-81 top priority and claimed to have already been working on it. He said that he would work to get Federal and State funding, but he would also take advantage of his bill HR 2084.
    Gluck said that HR 2084 was a way to bring money into the U.S. barely taxed, which had been allowed to go overseas untaxed. He predicted that not much of the money coming back would be used for infrastructure. He did see the importance of I-81 and would support funding it.

3.  Do you think that compromise, consensus, or at least finding common ground on issues is a necessary function of governance, and how will your voice change existing dysfunction of the U.S. Congress?
    Bongino said that he will compromise, but not his core values. He referred to himself as a Conservative Libertarian, which was new to me. He said, " I will not ever vote to raise your taxes under any circumstances. If you want me to compromise on that it will never happen." He said that there were issues that he could compromise on, but the toxic atmosphere and outsiders with political leverage would make it impossible. He said that areas of agreement could be corporate tax, school choice, and revisions to Obamamcare. He knows elected Democrats who would agree to make changes to Obamacare, but it would be political suicide. He said it is time to do what's right and not worry about re-election.
    Delaney repeated two statements from previous forums that he says indicate the spirit that he brings to Congress: 1) The best business deals are those when everyone feels a little bad when they are done, and 2) You don't say bad things about people. You can factually correct them, but work in a constructive manner. He said that he would take really good ideas from the Progressive Movement and good ideas from the Conservative Movement--I wish I could have asked him to name one--and forge them together. He avoids the TEA Party like the Ebola Plague that no one mentioned. He would also like to see election reform so that Independents can run and have better representation in government. He just neutralized Bongino and Gluck.
   Gluck stated that there used to be overlap in the Parties, but that's not true anymore. He said that electing him would force compromise because everyone would take note that the voters are fed up.

4. What is your position on issues around immigration?
    Bongino said that this is very personal to him because his wife is a first generation immigrant from Columbia that came here legally as a child. It cost them a lot of money and time for her to become a citizen. Amnesty is not the solution. They have to follow the rules. He said that "amnesty is not benevolent and not compassionate. It inserts people into a black market economy that doesn't benefit us and doesn't benefit them. He would push for mandatory E-verify and work to secure the borders sooner rather than later.
   Delaney's grandfather was born in England, only had one arm, and came here to work in the factories. His other grandparents were from Ireland. He grew up in NJ with all first generation immigrants. He said that there is a bill in the Senate now that addresses every flaw in the system. He called illegal immigrants undocumented immigrants. He said the bill is stuck over ideology.
    Gluck has a green card! He came here from Prague when he was 16 months old. He said the American dream is not to be a millionaire, but only to be part of the middle class. He supports implementing E-verify and securing the borders. He said that we invited them in to work, so we are obligated to make them citizens.

5. Do you support a path to citizenship for immigrants? [The question did not specify legal or illegal.]
    Bongino said we already have a path to citizenship! We have a legal process to come here legally. He said that this is the only crime where it is discussed in terms of sympathy or compassion for the lawbreakers and not for those who suffer the consequences of it. He knows an Ecuadorian business owner who said that his business was being destroyed by illegals undercutting his business. Ignoring the laws provides incentive for others to break our laws. He asked, "How fair is that to my wife? Do we get our $10,000 refunded and compensated for two years of hard work? I don't agree with Obamacare, but I don't get to ignore it. Why do others get to ignore a law and get rewarded for it?" 
    Delany supports amnesty with the conditions contained in the Senate bill. Criminals should not be offered citizenship. He stated that it is our fault that immigrants are here illegally because we did not enforce our immigration laws or secure our borders. Since it is our fault, we must offer them a pathway to amnesty. They can get in the back of the line for approximately 13 years and go through the process. Deporting 11 million people would be immoral and a bad bottom line for the U.S.
    Gluck agrees with Delaney because he believes we invited the illegals here to work, so we must offer amnesty. However, he thinks that E-verify should be strictly enforced.

6.  What proposals do you have on environmental issues related to business and agriculture? 
    Bongino stated that the agriculture community is vital, yet it is being suffocated by over-regulation at the state level. At least at the Federal level he could be a microphone to affect state policy. He said there should be a hard cost benefit analysis for every EPA regulation, with a sunset provision to reevaluate over time. This should be done without social cost using only hard metrics like capital cost.
    Delaney said that Federal and State level regulations overlap making it hard to do business in Western Maryland, and that farmers have not had a sufficient  voice in Annapolis. He is creating a Western Maryland agenda for the next legislative session in Annapolis. He noted that it is not a part of his job, but he can use the position to shine a spotlight on issues. He too thinks a cost benefit analysis would be useful and would ensure that there are no overlapping regulations.
    Gluck is aware of a farm that uses about 200 solar panels to power the entire farm, and he personally uses it to heat his water and half of his electric. He would encourage more of that and the use of wind farms.


7.  What is your opinion on term limits for U.S. Congress?
    Bongino publicly committed to only 3 terms (6 years). After 6 years he has seen that people become tempted with fame and fortune and could sell out to lobbyists. He would support a Constitution amendment.
    Delaney said that when he first ran for Congress he ran on an ethics platform that included term limits for Congress to 6 terms (12 years). He read somewhere that it takes 4 years to become an expert on something, so he believes 12 years would be most efficient and effective.
    Gluck said that we already have term limits in the form of elections. He believes that we need election reform, allowing run-off voting to better enable Independents to be elected.

8.  It has been stated that the proliferation of safe districts, which almost guarantees either Democratic or Republican control in each district has effectively eliminated bi-partisan cooperation and has contributed to the gridlock in Washington. What are your views on this issue?
   Bongino said that Delaney's Open Our Democracy Act is ironically an incumbency protection program. He thinks the Republican Party has been destroyed using gerrymandering, and like the Republican Party or not, we need both parties represented. "We can't operate under a one-party monopoly. This region needs a voice, and you don't have one right now. You are being ruled, not governed, and I intend to change that."
    Delaney agrees that it has contributed to the gridlock and referred to his Open Our Democracy Act, which he claims opens up the primaries for everyone to run and for everyone to vote.
    Gluck again said he would like to institute run-off voting. He believes that Delaney's bill will make it virtually impossible for a third-party candidate to get elected.    

    Bongino's said in his closing statement that he has knocked on thousands of doors and the most common theme was "I'm moving". He said that for sale signs out-number campaign signs and Halloween decorations. You have no voice in this state. There was a time when Marylanders would never leave their homes, but this one-party state is driving you out. "If you want to change that there is only one way to vote."

   Delaney said that two years ago he promised to represent this district and stand up against special interests in Annapolis and work in a bipartisan way to get things done. He said that he has done all of these things and has been honest and transparent. His focus will be on jobs and growing the economy.
    Gluck said that he will sit with the Progressive Caucus. He will be a catalyst for change as the first Green Party member of Congress.

    As soon as the meeting ended Delaney quickly ran out the nearest exit, giving no one a chance to speak to him one-on-one.

Bongino hung around to answer questions.

 I too ran for the exit.

Related Links:

1. Democratic Candidate for Governor, Lt Governor Brown, Speaks to the Chamber,

2.  Congressman Delaney: First Impression

3.  Washington County Delegation Rebukes Chamber of Commerce,  

4. Herald Mail Editorial, Delaney’s voting record shows strong partisanship,

5. Hey Delaney: Don't Call Us...We'll Call You!


Tuesday, October 7, 2014


     I just watched the Hogan-Brown Gubernatorial Debate sponsored by Baltimore news station WJZ-TV and the Baltimore Sun newspaper. To be honest, I thought that Hogan may choke, being in the bowels of O'Malley-Brown territory. I have not been a fan of Hogan's because I simply did not think he was electable. I didn't think that he could possibly win the voters of Baltimore City, Montgomery County, and Prince George's County, which everyone knows are key to winning this race. Larry Hogan convinced me tonight that he can win this race! 
   Larry Hogan's presentation was flawless. He appeared calm, honest, prepared, confident, and ready to rumble, while never coming off as aggressive or arrogant. He answered all accusations emphatically and without hesitation. He was not phased at all by being in "enemy territory." He is not one of those guys who only feels comfortable talking to a crowd of supporters. 
    While I was impressed with how he presented himself, I was even more impressed with what he had to say and not just how he said it. He answered each question without avoiding any topic, only going off topic once briefly to defend himself against a Brown accusation that was not allowed a rebuttal. 


     It began with Anthony Brown's opening statement where he immediately talked about he and O'Malley's accomplishments ("we've accomplished"). He did not shy away from his connection to the governor and the policies of that administration, mentioning specifically that Maryland is leading the nation in Education and also the states' AAA bond rating. He then quickly veered away from O'Malley saying that he is not looking to the past, but wants rather to talk about the future. He mentioned his military experience and then said that he was "on a different mission." He finished with what seemed to be his mantra for the evening: He will get up every morning and fight for working families and middle class values, claiming that Hogan was for favoring a small group of the wealthy and large corporations. This was repeated word-for-word several times. Hogan was not having it.
     Hogan's opening statement was about why he was running and it basically was a list of what he called "the failures" of the O'Malley-Brown administration. He said that he was fed up with the politicians in Annapolis, stating that he is not a politician, but rather a small business owner. He mentioned the over-40 tax hikes, $10B out of the pockets of working families, the 8,000 businesses that left the state, the high unemployment rate compared to the rest of the country, and the "mass exodus" of people leaving the state to relocate elsewhere with less regulations and taxes. He got my attention. BAM!


    Brown said, "Let me be clear [where have we heard that before?], there will be no new taxes." He stated that everything that the administration has done has been to attract businesses. He said that his tax relief will start with the middle class, while he accused Hogan of planning to give $300M in tax giveaways to wealthy corporations. He again stated that he will be fighting for working middle-class families. 
    Hogan said, "It sounds good, but it is the opposite of your record of failure." He again pointed to the over-40 tax hikes "crushing the middle class, especially those at the lower end of the scale." He stated that 71percent of Marylanders think taxes are too high. He said, "You did that! Are you going to roll them back?" He accused Brown of giving tax credits only to specific corporations [crony Capitalism]. He reminded Brown that he said he was going to reform taxes in 2007 and did the exact opposite. BAM!

     Brown's rebuttal was to warn voters not to "go back" to raised college tuition and congested streets, implying that Hogan was somehow responsible for these problems, which he and O'Malley corrected. He then named one success story, Armor All, which he claimed is now second in the world in their industry thanks to he and O'Malley's business policies.  


    Hogan conceded that they were doing a "good job" in building schools, but said that they doubled the spending with mixed results. He said we may have the best schools, but we are the lowest in performance, with the performance gap between blacks and whites still too large. He said he would like to push money down to the local level, and to also have the decision-making at the local level. He said that he would put a pause on Common Core, calling it an abject failure. He would push for more charter schools. BAM!

    Brown repeated his ad statement that every child deserves a good education. He said that they have made progress in closing the achievement gap. He asked Hogan what resources he is willing to invest? Brown is promising a free pre-K education for every child. He accused Hogan of opposing that, and also of opposing new school construction, claiming Hogan will cut $450M in construction funding. He warns the voters that Hogan will take them backwards. 

     Hogan said that he is for a pre-K education, but not free, not for everyone. He accused Brown of not telling the truth about this issue in his ads. He said that he is for free pre-K only for those who are 300-percent above poverty level (roughly $75,000 family income) or below. He stated that Brown's plan would not be instituted until 2022, and that he has no viable plan to pay for it. He said that Brown already increased spending by $10M and that we
can not afford it. He said the issue was an election ploy. BAM!


    Brown does not agree with Franchot, and again stated that he will not raise taxes. Instead he will give targeted tax credits to small businesses, he will look at spending, vehicle fee management, and Medicaid savings. He accused Hogan of planning to raise property taxes by $300M. 

    Hogan said that everything Brown said in that answer was not true. He said that Brown does not want to talk about almost 8 years of failure including increased spending and increased taxes."You said that during the last election and you raised taxes! He wants a promotion, but doesn't want us to look at his record." BAM!

   Brown said that his record will show that he created $40,000 jobs, and through a private-public partnership (P3) created 5,000 jobs at the port. Again, accused Hogan of wanting to cut $450M in school construction and increase the tax base by $300M in property tax. 


    Hogan said that the Bay is a valued asset and top priority, but he would not blame the farmers or the rain. He stated that no one has looked at management of sediment (43-percent) from the Conowingo Dam. He would look to the Federal government, the EPA, and Army Core of Engineers, along with the states of Pennsylvania and New York to pay their share of the cleanup. He then accused Brown of raiding $460M out of the Open Space Fund along with $1.3B from a trust fund meant for the Bay cleanup. He promised not to raid these trust funds. He said that Marylanders hate the Rain Tax and are disgusted with them for passing it. BAM!

    Brown said that Maryland has a tradition of a "balanced approach" to environmental issues. He said that Hogan shouldn't blame other states, and said that he would work with local governments on these issues and also on reducing new septic systems. 


    Hogan said that was nonsense, because Brown robbed the money that they could have used to clean up the bay, and that he blamed it on the recession. He said that Brown did not cut spending, but that he had increased spending and taxes. "You are making things up! We are not recovering." BAM!


   Brown said that his ads are a conversation with the voters. Voters have a right to know where Hogan stands on important issues. He said it is fair to show the contrast in issues. He specifically named SB 281 and said that he opposed the bill in total and each piece of the bill including the banning of "assault weapons," limiting magazine size, background checks, and fingerprinting. He accused Hogan of secretly planning to overturn or not enforce SB 281 and called it dangerous. 

    Hogan said that he will not repeal SB 281. He actually felt that the bill didn't go far enough concerning mental illness and Federal background checks. It is set into law. He said that Brown has been running untrue ads trying to scare the public and as a distraction from his own record. "The ad shows an assault weapon on a playground! It is 100-percent false." He said that Brown keeps referring to Hogan's "long record" when he has no long record. He is not a politician. He also said that abortion is set into law and he does not intend to revisit that issue. He said that Brown ran more untrue ads about abortion meant to scare women into voting for Brown. 


    Brown spoke about "extreme gun owners" and again claimed that Hogan plans to not enforce SB 281. He said that Hogan has been a "political operative."


    Hogan first went off topic to rebut the accusation in Brown's last rebuttal. "I don't have a record. You are using an article from decades ago that was actually about my dad. You should apologize to women for trying to scare them." BAM!
    About immigration, my wife is a first generation immigrant from South Korean. I am obviously welcoming to immigrants, but we are a nation of laws. I actually blame the president and both the Republicans and the Democrats in Congress and the Senate for the situation at the border. BAM!

    Brown said, "I am a first generation American, my parents came here from Jamaica. This is a land of immigrants." He blamed the Republicans in Congress for the situation at the border, but stated that we can't fix that in Maryland. He feels we are obligated to protect the children at the border. He feels that we should reunite them with their family here in the states and return them to their country of origin "eventually, if possible." He said that the Federal government should reimburse us for our foster care services. 


    Hogan said that the issue is a humanitarian issue and that we should feed, clothe, house and give them a medical exam. He does not think that we should take more immigrants per capita than other states, especially since they have to be bused hundreds of miles to get them here. 

    Brown said again that he lost a cousin to gun crime and that he supported SB 281. He said that crime is at an all time low, but there is more to do. He said we must not rollback or not enforce SB 281. We need to build on the success of our new gun safety laws. 

    Hogan said that we have some of the toughest gun laws in the country, but we are in the top ten in violent crime. He stated that our number one problem is heroin. It is an epidemic all over the state no matter how small the community. Yet, there has been no action. Hogan would call a state of emergency and address the heroin problem immediately.


    Brown claimed that they have driven down crime rates and also recidivism. He said that Hogan just doesn't understand the problem.


    Hogan said that he is nonpartisan and offered proof by pointing to his organization, Change Maryland, which he claims is half Democrats and Independents. He said that we need to take the redistricting out of the hands of the monopoly Party in Annapolis and let it be handled by a nonpartisan independent commission. 

    Brown said that he agrees with Hogan, however, he blames the extreme Right in Congress for the problem. He thinks it ought to be handled at the Federal level with an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.


     Hogan said, "You just refuse to take responsibility! Your administration did this and it was the worst in the nation." He agreed that there is dysfunction in DC on both sides of the aisle with rabid partisanship. 


    Brown stated that when he is elected his first strategic act will be to move that goal to position one. He said it is debatable that the state is actually hostile to business, so he doesn't want to discuss it. He would rather talk about successes and then he named  4 or 5 businesses that are expanding. 

    Hogan asked, "Then why haven't you? You have had 8 years to do this." He said that Brown needs to take responsibility for driving 8,000 businesses out of our state. He said he has lost 200,000 jobs, and our unemployment rate is higher than the national average.  He said that we have 3 problems: 1) we are 41st out of 50 in business friendliness, 2) the burdensome regulation environment created by Brown-O'Malley, and 3) we have the fourth highest corporate tax in the country. BAM!

     Brown again accused Hogan of planning to give huge tax breaks to large corporations, even some that are out of state. "I support tax relief to small businesses." 


    Brown  said that the average person on minimum wage is a 33 year old woman, and she cannot raise a family on it. Raising the minimum wage would help to raise her out of poverty. He said that he led the effort to reduce domestic violence, and that he would find a way to increase education opportunities. 

   Hogan conceded that they did a good job regarding domestic violence. He said that woman are worried about the economy. Women typically do the budgeting. The over-40 tax hikes are crushing them. Raising the minimum wage will do nothing, but there will be drawbacks. The minimum wage was never meant to support a family. "It was meant for kids! If you have a better economy it becomes a non-issue." BAM! He believes in unfettered birth control available over the counter. He will not revisit abortion, and again, states that Brown's ads regarding abortion are nothing but lies.

   In closing, both candidates restated their opening statement. 

    In summary, Hogan won the debate, my vote, and I think the vote of my 80-year-old mother who is Democrat. With the condition of this state, and with the complete dissatisfaction with the tax and spend O'Malley-Brown administration, voters are more open to listen to another perspective. Larry Hogan delivers a message that makes sense with an honesty that can't be denied.  
    I think he needs to iron out where he stands on SB 281 and courageously declare the truth of his intent...whatever that is. Making a firm statement and sticking to it will mean more than a wink and a nod to either side. Somebody is going to  be mad or disappointed. I think he needs to realize that and accept it. This election is about the economy first. His strengths are in fiscal financial policies, so in my opinion, he should stick to those.  I personally am disappointed that he isn't more forthright about gun rights, but I will take the 95 percent that we agree on instead of the maybe 9 percent I might agree on with Brown...just so I can stick it to Hogan for the gun issue. It doesn't make sense and I'm not going to do it. 
    I wonder if anyone noticed that there was no mention, from either side, of the failed ACA website and the huge loss of taxpayer money?