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Is Rep. Andy Harris meddling in a local race?

Reports indicate Maryland Congressman is involved in pushing a candidate to fill State Senate vacancy

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Cross-posted from The Quinton Report.

After my last post on the 14 candidates vying to be selected for the seat vacated by Senator E.J. Pipkin, I was going to point out some things from Michael Swartz’s great post delving into all the details on all the candidates that only he could provide. Swartz also discussed the race on J. Doug Gill’s show last night.

I’ll hit a couple of those now and move on to more pressing matters. Swartz surmised that Audrey Scott might be a caretaker if she got it. He also said he thought Del. Mike Smigiel was the frontrunner. Swartz also mentioned that Andrew Langer might be able to pick a delegate’s seat up if one of the delegates got into the Senate. Of course, if Langer got into it he would presumably be a caretaker not running for office next year as well, since he told Swartz earlier this year that there is “100% certainty” that he and his wife would be out of Maryland by July 2014 due to her military service.

My original plans were to also consider making an endorsement in the race and that might still be on the table. I don’t know that I necessarily like doing that as someone who doesn’t live in the district. It is always a bit presumptuous and potentially off-putting to the people who live there when someone hours away sticks his nose into the situation and tells them who to vote for. With that being said, I think both Andrew Langer and Michael Smigiel would both make great senators if they were to be selected.

Tuesday afternoon, Brian Griffiths posted the following information at Red Maryland:

As first reported on Red Maryland, sources indicate that the Kent and Queen Anne’s County Cebtral Conmitees have thrown their support to Audrey Scott to full the vacancy created by the resignation of EJ Pipkin. Kent through an informal caucus, and Queen Anne’s by committee vote.

Unconfirmed reports Cecil County has thrown their support to Mike Smigiel.

More on this as it develops, but this paves the way for Martin O’Malley to name Scott to the seat.

Smigiel made this post on Facebook later.

If you notice in the comments on the above, Smigiel later posted last night that “Audrey Scott was selected by Queen Anne’s on a contingency that there is no tie vote.”

Langer also commented on Smigiel’s post:

So I’d like to get your thoughts on this… should the Chair of a Central Committee (and the Chief of Staff to one of the Candidates) take to the airwaves if the vote doesn’t go her candidate’s way?

Langer’s comment is obviously making reference to Andi Morony, who is Smigiel’s Chief of Staff and the Chair of the Queen Anne’s County Republican Central Committee.

I’ve heard the Kent County “informal caucus” may not have been the formal vote and I also heard mixed reports on when such a vote may actually take place.

During last night’s new media conference call for the MD GOP, Chairman Diana Waterman commented on the selection process when asked about it. After pointing out that there is no set process due to the lack of guidance in the party’s bylaws or state laws, Waterman indicated that she personally encouraged the central committees involved to make the process consistent for every candidate and to make that process known from the beginning. She also said that she encouraged the central committees to interview every candidate before making their decisions.

There was also discussion of whether some bylaws or guidelines could be established in the future, and, when questioned, Waterman said no legal opinion on the matter had been sought out. She also said that there may be some people who didn’t think the state party should be involved at all.

Waterman also said, when questioned, that she hopes the central committees come up with one name to submit to Governor O’Malley. She said that it is not preferable that multiple names be submitted to O’Malley and echoed what many others have said – that O’Malley would likely pick the candidate he thought would be the easiest for Democrats to defeat in next fall’s election.

Later last night, Len Lazarick and David Menefee posted a story at Maryland Reporter discussing the fact that Scott is the surprising frontrunner. Their article made no mention of the Red Maryland post that broke the news in the first place (and their previous coverage had made no mention of Scott at all despite my coverage last week):

Two of the central committees in the four counties of District 36 have voted for her, dissing the campaigns of current Dels. Mike Smigiel and Steve Hershey.

Scott won the vote by the Kent County Republican Central Committee on Wednesday night and she captured the support Tuesday of the GOP committee in Queen Anne’s County, where Hershey lives and Smigiel’s chief of staff chairs the committee.

Smigiel won the vote of the Cecil County Republican Central Committee where he lives. The vote was 8-1 Wednesday night.

The story went on to say that Smigiel said that a majority of central committee members in Queen Anne’s County had pledged their support to him ahead of the vote that he lost 8-1. Also mentioned is the fact that Scott, who has been on vacation in Alaska, has only lived in the county for five years and is a native of Boston. Scott’s career in elected office was at the local level in Prince George’s County going back to the 1970s.

The story has one “source close to the Caroline Republican Central Committee” saying that they are likely to go for Smigiel now while “another Caroline County source” said they might go for Steve Hershey or anyone else besides Smigiel because Smigiel allegedly “hadn’t shown the county much love until recently.”

Also from the story:

A source close to U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, who represents the area, said he is remaining neutral in the nomination process but other sources say Chris Meekins, Harris’ deputy chief of staff, has been exerting influence on the central committees all week.

I later heard someone refer to Meekins lobbying for Scott and said that he served as the “prince of darkness” for Harris. To my knowledge there is only one person in MD GOP circles with that nickname, and I seriously doubt Meekins is even worthy to carry his jockstrap, to borrow a sports metaphor.

All of the above scenarios will result in exactly what Diana Waterman has publicly said she does not want. I can’t find too many people that would disagree with the fact that giving O’Malley any choice in the matter would cause him to make the worst choice possible for Republicans. I think it’s pretty obvious that the worst option for Republicans would be Audrey Scott. I haven’t heard anyone other than Swartz say that Scott would likely be a caretaker who didn’t run for the seat in 2014. However, if that is indeed true for her (or anyone else for that matter) then it’s probably best that a caretaker not get it.

As I said before regarding my reluctance to endorse anyone in this process, I don’t think people in District 36 would think too highly of an outsider messing with this process. I mentioned before when Audrey Scott’s name first came up that there was a lot of buzz about who was behind her candidacy. A lot of the buzz then indicated it was Diana Waterman, who actually lives in District 36 in Queen Anne’s County, pushing it while there was also whispering that Andy Harris was behind her. However, since then the buzz has shifted to Congressman Harris being the force behind Audrey Scott’s campaign. The news that Meekins, a congressional staffer, has been lobbying the central committees on her behalf seems to be confirmation of that. Additionally, Scott has been heavily involved in Harris campaigns for Congress.

I discussed some of Audrey Scott’s problems as a candidate last week as well and I’ve included some excerpts below.

Andrew Langer blogged about a Cecil County situation last December at Red Maryland that mentioned Scott and Hershey:

Nevertheless, Mooney was initially seen as a welcome change from outgoing chair, Audrey Scott—Scott, who has deep ties to the Pipkin camp (including her family’s decades-long relationship with Steve Hershey, whose campaign, again, underhandedly mudsucked a sitting Republican delegate while she was chairing the state party. There were no cries for her head in all of this, you might recall, despite her close relationship to all involved in the Hershey campaign).

Richard Cross blogged about Scott’s baggage as a reason for her loss in the race for Republican National Committeewoman:

Mrs. Scott’s brief stint as MD GOP chairman was not without its controversies. The Rule 11 controversy simmered in many activists’ minds, as did the party’s failure to recruit an Attorney General candidate even though Montgomery County activist Jim Shalleck offered to run. Later, Mrs. Scott’s decision to intervene in the Sixth District congressional primary angered supporters of the incumbent and eventual winner Roscoe Bartlett. In other words, running for National Committeewoman and working to defeat the state’s senior GOP congressman by portraying his reelection prospects as “impossible” proved to be mutually contradictory goals.

Cross also mentioned Scott’s gaffes in that race:

First, she kicked off her campaign by attending a pro-gas tax rally in Annapolis, and misrepresented the event’s real purpose in a message to central committee members when her actions were questioned. Next, she made false claims as to her fundraising results while chairman, and refused to budge when confronted with the actual numbers. Indeed, Mrs. Scott seemed to following the following pattern for much of the campaign: She made statements demonstrably contrary to the facts and, when confronted with the facts, chose to ignore them, instead repeating the false claim with increased volume and fervency. In the end, her own words proved to be her biggest liability.

Summing things up: it would appear that a sitting Congressman from Baltimore County is getting involved this process to benefit a local candidate on the Eastern Shore. This is not only not going over well in some circles on the Eastern Shore, it is also causing an outcry among grassroots activists in the rest of the state from everything I have seen. I also have seen more than one of the other candidates saying that it’s not over yet. All of this really shows the need for something concrete to be done by the state party about the process – not just exploring the matter.

Things have been really crazy in MD GOP circles this week with this story, the Dwyer story, and the Ferguson story. I’m wondering if the Blue Moon had something to do with it. Which leads me to pose a question, have you ever danced with The Old Gray Mare in the pale moonlight?

Cross-posted from The Quinton Report.

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