Thursday, September 16, 2010

Your Modern Stone Age Politico

According to Merriam Webster, the term “harmonize” means “to bring into consonance or accord.”  But in Ehrlich world, the word has taken on an entirely new and different meaning.

In 2006, the Ehrlich campaign hired political hired gun Bo Harmon to be its campaign manager. Harmon was best known for running the rough and tumble Georgia senate campaign of Rep. Saxby Chambliss, who defeated wheelchair-bound Vietnam veteran Max Cleland in a race that received national attention. Everyone expected that the Ehrlich-O’Malley race would be competitive, so bringing in a political pit bull like Harmon to run Ehrlich’s reelection bid seemed to make sense.

Over time, though, Harmon became an increasingly marginal figure in the campaign. The actual decision-making was made by gubernatorial aides Paul Schurick, Ed Miller, Chip DiPaula, and others who ran the campaign by remote control from Annapolis.

Bernie Marczyk, a junior member of Ehrlich’s gubernatorial staff, was sent to the campaign to serve as its Political Director.  Marczyk originally served as Ehrlich’s Capitol Hill receptionist, and was a special favorite of Communications Director Paul Schurick.  The campaign role of the Fred Flintstone-like Marczyk was to serve as Schurick’s eyes and ears as well as his man on the ground.  

During his tenure, the wisdom of many of Marczyk’s personal decisions was questioned. These include:

  • Angering a room crowded with Western Maryland voters by arrogantly and unpersuasively lecturing them about the alleged difference between taxes and fee increases;
  • Intervening in a contested Carroll County delegate race by persuading Bob Ehrlich to tape a robocall message in support of the incumbent over a long-time Ehrlich supporter– a move that resulted in the resignation of Ehrlich’s entire Carroll County campaign staff;
  • Refusing an opportunity to wage a cost-effective door-to-door effort on behalf of Bob Ehrlich and other Republican candidates, alienating a national Young Republican organization while requiring others to step forward and fund this no-brainer of an idea out of their own pockets;
  • Implementing the doomed “Where else are they going to go” campaign strategy which focused on naïve outreach efforts to strong Democratic constituencies while ignoring GOP base voters (GOP turnout dipped five percent in 2006 compared to 2002 as a result).
But when Ehrlich lost, Marczyk largely sidestepped the blame for these missteps. Instead, the whispering campaign focused on the campaign manager of record: Bo Harmon.  Despite having no autonomy whatsoever, Harmon shouldered most of the blame for the loss – or at least the portion not attributed to George W. Bush.

Bo Harmon left Maryland years ago – but the practice of harmonizing others with unearned blame continues.

When Ehrlich announced his bid for reelection in April, Marczyk was again installed in the Political Director’s role by his friend and patron, Paul Schurick. Sources tell me that Marczyk’s effectiveness has been questioned because of his inability to boost turnout among Ehrlich supporters during the primary election.

True to form, Marczyk is quick to find blame anywhere but in his own ample lap. This time, my tipster tells me, the intended victim of harmonizing is Marczyk’s subordinate, Field Director Chris Cavey.

Cavey is a long-time Baltimore County Central Committee member finishing up a stint as party chairman. He is a seasoned grass-roots campaign organizer well-respected by Republicans across the state. In anyplace but the bizarro world that is Team Ehrlich, Marczyk would be reporting to Cavey, rather than the other way around.  

By contrast, Marczyk is friends with Paul Schurick, and went to Princeton and played football just like Bob Ehrlich did. Do these qualifications add up to a successful Political Director? As far as I'm concerned, they yabba dabba don't.

When the blame game starts even before the election occurs, that’s usually not a good sign. Please, no more harmonizing, guys. Protecting your friends – or yourselves – at the expense of the candidate isn’t the point of the game. Stop the excuses and blame shifting. Just win this time.  And, if that means sending Bernie Marczyk to another assignment in Bethesda, or even back to Bedrock, so be it.

1 comment:

  1. The column is so funny and the situation so pathetic.