Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tony Campbell: OUT

Last night, embattled Baltimore County GOP Chairman Tony Campbell did something I did not expect him to do: resign.

Campbell, whose tenure as chairman has been highlighted by gaffes and controversy, has dared his critics in the party to impeach him in the past. I expected this kind of obstinacy to continue.

I also expected the Central Committee’s remaining members – six have stepped down since Campbell took over – to find creative ways to bypass Campbell’s influence, just as Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie did when coping with another in-over-his-head GOP chairman.

But in the end, that wasn’t necessary. After yet another fractious Central Committee showdown, Campbell quietly agreed to take his ball and head home.  

A party chairman should always serve as an agent of unity for the party he serves. Campbell could not do that. He deserves some credit for belatedly recognizing that fact, and for putting his ego aside and doing the right thing.

So, now that the Campbell era has ended for Baltimore County Republicans, who is the best person to take the party forward?

I surveyed a few activists, and they all seem to agree that the race to succeed Campbell comes down to three names: Al Mendelsohn, Tom Henry, and Steve Kolbe. Each potential chairman’s strengths – and weaknesses – can be summarized in a single term.

For Mendelsohn, that word is “veteran.” Mendelsohn is a longtime, sometimes shoot from the hip party activist who ran unsuccessfully for party chairman twice before. People who know him say he has matured in recent years. His biggest selling point is his experience. But will that experience make him sensitive to new opportunities or limit his focus?

Tom Henry was described as a “bomb thrower.” Every party needs a bomb thrower now and again, especially when dealing with an entrenched majority party.

Yet county Republicans did respectably during the last election cycle, doubling their representation on the County Council and fielding a County Executive candidate who won five out of seven councilmanic districts. Would county Republicans be better served by a bomb thrower who challenges the majority, or someone willing to offer programmatic alternatives on budget, taxes, and other matters?

Steve Kolbe is the “businessman.” His supporters tout his Main Street savvy. Indeed, most of the people I surveyed were leaning towards Kolbe as the strongest candidate.

At this point, I don’t really have a preference among these three. But I do hope that the central committee will do two things before they make their selection.

First, I hope they recruit a few more candidates into the race. Former Delegate and County Executive nominee Ken Holt would be a great choice, as would former Councilman Doug Riley. Even if neither of these individuals is interested, they represent the experience and level of ability the new chairman should possess.

I also hope Baltimore County Republicans will keep the chairman’s race from becoming a choice between white men. Central Committee Member Hillary Foster Pennington represents the kind of woman who would make a strong candidate. She’s young, has hands-on campaign experience, and is a marketing professional as well as a wife and a mother. Her relevant real-life experience would be a breath of fresh air.

Second, I hope the Central Committee will hold a full-fledged interview process. Candidates should each make a formal presentation on their ideas to foster two-party competition in Maryland. In the end, the Central Committee should choose the winning candidate based on their ideas and not simply on charisma or personal relationships.

I look forward to watching this process play out. Baltimore County Republicans have an opportunity to hit the reset button after a fractious couple of months. They need to make the most of it.


  1. You are too kind Richard. Though I have absolutely no desire to take on that role right now. I really do appreciate your affirming and uplifting words. Well written blog.

  2. As an outside observer and a third-party member, I can tell you that the Republican party suffers from an image problem: too often the GOP stray from common sense items like fiscal responsibility and small government and opt instead to just lean on hot-button issues like gay marriage, abortion, and immigration (specifically punishing illegal immigrants). I think you'll draw more third-party independents like myself--people who are fiscally conservative and socially more liberal--if you'd just focus on the basics of jobs, jobs, jobs, smart and inobtrusive government, and jobs. The GOP has for WAAAAAY too long been pandering to its evangelical base and you've completely lost folks in the center like myself.

    Whomever you should choose as your next Chair--veteran, bombthrower, or businessman (or veteran bombthrowing businessman), I do hope the Maryland GOP can pivot from radical religious extremism toward a sane, compassionate, fiscally conservative and socially libertarian political party. Should that happen, I might just change my mind about the GOP.


  3. What about Chris Cavey? Would he concider moving back into the position?

  4. I certainly am fond of and grateful for all that each of the three prospective candidates mentioned in this post has done for my party. Between my own involvement in the party, and from attending a handful of central committee meetings, I can say that my assessment of them is just as sound as any of the activists that you could have surveyed. Given this, I am particularly disappointed with the characterization of Tom Henry as a “bomb thrower.” Perhaps Tom’s skillful use of satire to expose what is wrong with the committee, politics, government, etc. is the basis for this narrow epithet. However, to reduce the scope of Tom’s talents, past efforts, and future potential to “bomb thrower” undermines all that Tom has done for the party thus far. Tom is a hard worker who is generous and unrelenting with his efforts. He is creative, passionate, and sensible. I hope that the characterization of him in this post does not present issues for him later. -L. Thomas

  5. Paul Schurick and Julius Henson were indicted for election fraud. Check out MD Casesearch.

  6. Baltimore County GOP is infested with several several of their own "Weiners" who are ass kissers for the Don Murphy regime and Kolbe, who sounds like more of a slimeball used car salesman , and that little troll Henry are surely among them. Al is a good choice and an honorable guy , and Ken or Doug or even Ellen would be a good consideration until the next (2012 special? ) Primary election to fill the spot

  7. I think it's deplorable and counterproductive to establish and maintain unity in the local GOP when ad-hominem attacks are leveled at myself and others in the party. I guess it's easier to hide behind "Anonymous" from some dark corner than to be an adult and use their name when posting their comments. Here's hoping that this individual is not a member of our current body of elected members.

    Further, that anonymous poster doesn't seem to know that Ken Holt, Doug Riley and Ellen Sauerbrey could not be considered, as any new Chairman is elected by the members of the sitting Central Committee. So unless they are members, they cannot run.

    As for the term "bombthrower", I have NEVER been publicly characterized as such. I'm not personally hurt by it at all, in fact, I think it's almost funny. If people are misunderstanding my willingness to take a contrary position in a passionate fashion as controversial, then so be it. However, I know when to "throw bombs" and when to plant seeds, and I am strategic and smart enough to know which strategy to employ.

    Tom Henry
    2nd Vice-Chair, BCRCC

  8. Mr. Henry:

    You make the following statement: "Ken Holt, Doug Riley and Ellen Sauerbrey could not be considered, as any new Chairman is elected by the members of the sitting Central Committee. So unless they are members, they cannot run."

    What's your source for this statement?

    In 1998, Kent Swanson stepped down as county chairman, and the central committee appointed Chris West, who I don't believe was a member of the central committee at the time.

    Additionally, in his news coverage of the Tony Campbell resignation, Bryan Sears - the expert on Baltimore County politics as far as I am concerned - referenced the hypothetical possibility of Chris Cavey attempting a comeback if he so chose (he was not interested). Cavey is not a member of the central committee.

    You're correct - the central committee picks the new chairman. But I believe that it is free to appoint whoever it wants. If you can produce bylaws demonstrating otherwise, I'd like to see them.


  9. Richard,

    I refer you to Section 1, subsection H, no 4. In the BCRCC bylaws:

    4. Vacancy in the Office of Chairman.
    In the event that the office of Chairman becomes vacant by resignation, the First Vice Chairman shall serve as temporary Chairman and preside over the election of a new Chairman by the remaining members of the Central Committee. The election shall occur within thirty (30) days of the Chairman’s written resignation at a regular or special meeting of the Central Committee, provided due notice in accordance with Article I, Section 3, B, 1 is given to all members of the Central Committee in the case of a special meeting. The new Chairman shall be elected from among the remaining members of the Central Committee by a simple majority of those present and voting.

    Hope this helps.

    Tom Henry
    2nd Vice Chair, BCRCC

  10. Thanks for the information. Still, there are ways to elect a so-called "star" chairman
    candidate while still respecting the bylaws.

    One possible scenario is that, were a star candidate to emerge, a present central committee member from the candidate's district could resign, the candidate could be appointed in his/her place, and the original committee member could be appointed to his/her old seat once the candidate became chairman.

    So, it would still be possible. RJC