On Thursday, June 17, I attended the Maryland Society of Patriot's June meeting. It was a good event that had all the makings of a Republican candidate forum. As such, and I was able to meet and hear US Senate candidate Jim Rutledge, Gubernatorial candidate Brian Murphy, and Congressional candidate Troy Stouffer (who I interviewed here in March) speak on the issues. What follows are some highlights from the event and my thoughts on the candidates.
The event opened with pizza, soda, and mingling with the candidates and other citizens in attendance. All the candidates left fliers for people to review. GOP US Senate candidate Stephens Dempsey showed up at the beginning - dropped off some literature, and left soon thereafter.
After the mingling, Bill Hale, the founder of the organization's father, introduced us to the goal of MSOP, talked about how conservative values matter and how great it was to meet everyone. Bill Hale was incredibly charismatic and the room seemed to really enjoyed him. Following this introduction, Hale led the group in a prayer. It was refreshing to hear and meet those who openly live by the adage from Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians - "Pray without ceasing." The 25 year old founder, Sam Hale, then introduced us to the format of the evening and an update on the organization.
The first speaker was Jim Simpson. Simpson is a writer for the Examiner online. He came to talk about...giving talks. Simpson is a former Office of Management and Budget economist and budget analyst. Simpson wrote a "Patriot's Handbook" and offers to give talks about it. While there was some interesting content here - Simpson was mostly there to advertise his speaking tour as opposed to give an actual speech on the issues. The speeches were reserved for the candidates.
Before I get into the specifics about the candidates there were a few important commonalities. They were all very open about their Christian faith. They all mentioned how the most important goal was to defeat the Democratic nominee in the fall. They were all focused on traditional conservative principles.
The first candidate was my GOP Congressional candidate Troy Stouffer. Stouffer discussed that he came from a Christian household which helped define his values, but made a point to say that he is not out to impose his faith on anyone. His goal, he said, would be to fight to defend and uphold the Constitution. Stouffer said, "We have our current crop of career politicians [who's] only focus...[is] what do I have to do to get elected in November." Stouffer is a Navy veteran and said that both he and members of Congress were required to take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. He said that the enemies of our Constitution aren't just foreign, but domestic - many of which are in Washington ignoring the Constitution to get themselves reelected. Stouffer really knew he wanted to run for office after he called our incumbent Congressman, Dutch Ruppersberger (D), about the healthcare reform bill that passed recently. What was Dutch's response? "There is no perfect piece of legislation, but this met my expectations." If this met his expectations, Stouffer feels that his expectations are in the wrong place. Stouffer feels that "...we can't send the same people back to solve the problems they caused in the first place." He wants to be a citizen legislator to change Washington. If he doesn't win? Stouffer says he'll put back on his steel toe boots and go back to work. Politician is not his job description - it's something he felt he could do to help our country. Stouffer was relaxed in front of the group and generated some decent responses. He also said that if he didn't win the primary - he would support Marcelo Cardarelli.
After Stouffer came US Senate candidate Jim Rutledge. Rutledge gave a fiery and impassioned speech. He began by stating that his primary goal is seeing Barbara Mikulski defeated in November. Rutledge said that Maryland is "...occupied territory" and that those at the event were "part of the resistance." We're standing up with him saying that "...enough is enough with the machine, machine politics." Rutledge then began to discuss his childhood - his first job was picking rocks. Why was he picking rocks? Pick the rocks to free up the field, to plant the seed, and then pray to the Lord for rain so that your crops would grow. Rutledge said that his challenge would be difficult as he's chosen in the primary, he will be facing the "Queen of career politics." He said that our creator gave us inalienable rights, not man, and that the patriots of the American revolution stood up when man tried to take those rights away from them. He said that we all need to stand up boldly today. He's sick of being referred to as the party of no - the Republican party is "...saying yes to individual freedom." Rutledge pointed out that 8 out of the 24 counties in Maryland have unemployment rates above 10%. Are we better off than we were when Mikulski first entered office in 1977? Nope. As Rutledge said, "Mikulski has sat on the throne of Maryland longer than the queen of England." Rutledge is a Constitutional conservative who referred to the Constitution as a "...beautiful cage created by our founders..." to reign in our government. I could not have worded it better. Rutledge commanded the room during his speech and got a great response from the crowd. His were, perhaps, the strongest applause of the evening.
The third candidate was GOP Gubernatorial candidate Brian Murphy. Murphy is an Easton resident and a former employee of Constellation Energy - joining the firm in its early days before it was a Fortune 500 company and managed assets. In 2008, he left with a severance package and founded Plimhimmon Group. The group's first investment? A bakery on Smith Island, the Smith Island Baking Company. It grew exponentially in its first year in business. Murphy was soft-spoken and full of self-depreciating humor. He began by describing what he called the four governments - civil, individual, family, and church. He said that each of these governments come from God. He then went on to describe his background. He came from a humble upbringing saying he's been poor and he's been rich. "...[R]ich is better, but you never forget being poor." He always loved economics, which he referred to as "...people making decisions in a world of scarcity." He studied economics and early on, was a conservative Democrat - fiscally conservative, socially conservative - but a Democrat. He was not welcome in the party. He worked at Morgan Stanley early on in the World Trade Center. He managed risk and people trusted him to handle all their risk. They may not have agreed with his views - but they trusted him with their money because they knew he would do the right thing. He's an executive by trade - that's why he decided to run for Governor. That and because as Murphy puts it, he disagrees with Ehrlich on everything. He says that Ehrlich is not pro-life and says that he increased government by 40% and increased taxes. He said Ehrlich "...raised taxes $3 billion, called them fees...[that's like saying] I didn't hit you, I just poked you." Murphy says that he wants have the lowest possible taxes possible. Capital gains tax - gone within 3 years. He says it's 8.25%, hurts business, and doesn't bring in nearly enough money to make it worthwhile. He wants to apply a property tax cap in Maryland. He believes in this campaign, he's not a career politician. Murphy says there's two years for politicians - "...election year and next year." He isn't running to make a point - he said why would he run to be "...overworked, underpaid, and have his name dragged through the mud..." if he didn't believe in what he was doing. Murphy ended by saying that he wanted our prayers, support, endorsement, and money.
After the speeches - all three candidates hung around and talk individually with whomever wanted to come up and ask them questions. Rutledge was willing to sit down with me after the event for a few interview questions, which will be posted later this week.
In the end, the event was great and provided a wonderful forum for people to meet candidates, learn about their thoughts on the issues, and to meet like minded conservatives in Maryland. Hopefully another event comes local - because I'd like to join them again.
Cross-posted to Old Line Elephant.