First, here is my latest op-ed piece in the Frederick News Post detailing another potential liability interim MDGOP Chairman Diana Waterman faces – namely, her questionable decision to name a black cow on her Queen Anne’s County farm “Oprah.” Now, this isn’t news in that the story broke more than two years ago on a Queen Anne’s County blog, and was then picked up by the Baltimore Sun shortly thereafter. But since Mrs. Waterman threw her hat into the chairman’s race, it has received new attention and new relevance.
Why do I think this story matters? Well, the media is dominated by people who are generally looking for opportunities to characterize Republicans as, at best, venal idiots or, at worst, racists. Minimally, Mrs. Waterman’s bovine misadventure, which reeks of poor judgment and insensitivity, provides the media with yet another example of GOP buffoonery. Perhaps more seriously, this episode compromises Mrs. Waterman’s ability to broaden the party’s outreach to minorities. In other words, will the African American voters who make up 30 percent of the state’s population take anything a woman who equates an African American icon with a black farm animal says seriously?
Second, I attended the MDGOP Chairman Candidate Forum organized by Dwight Patel and the Montgomery County GOP last Thursday. All in all, the forum itself was a drama-free affair typified by differences in style as much as substance. Mrs. Waterman was very much the status quo candidate; she tried to bring every answer back to initiatives in which the party was presently engaged. Collins Bailey, whom I’d never met or heard speak before, projected as the glib substitute teacher at times. He was the only candidate to stand and try to engage members of the audience through body language. During his presentation, he described himself as being a “salesman” by profession, which explains why I felt like he was speaking to a roomful of sales trainees at times. Red Maryland’s Greg Kline, an attorney, came across as thoughtful, well-prepared, and erudite.
The most memorable moment of the forum came, as you might imagine, when the issue of Nicolee Ambrose’s removal from the RNC Rules Committee was raised. Seeming nervous yet rehearsed, Mrs. Waterman (who admitted not having been politically active prior to 2005) launched in a defense of her decision to replace Ambrose with National Committeeman Louis Pope. Rather than discuss why she felt Pope was a better fit, her defense centered more on process than substance. At one point, she likened herself to a president who exercised her right to withdraw a Supreme Court nomination prior to Senate confirmation. Kline sharply rebutted her points in what was perhaps the most contentious moment of the rather polite affair.
The event wasn’t without fireworks, however, as fellow blogger Brian Griffiths engaged in a heated exchange with MDGOP official John Wafer. Wafer, who reportedly called Joe Steffen and me “character assassins” in a Facebook posting, is the self-appointed defender of the faith of the MDGOP establishment.
(With all this talk about pit bull legislation going on in Annapolis, based on his Facebook comments and behavior the other night, I see Wafer as a “Pit Yorkie” – in other words, someone who yaps a lot in defense of others, but ultimately make no substantive contribution to the debate).
Anyway, Diana Waterman and her disproportional minion left the venue before her opponents did. They stayed and mingled with a crowd which, as far as I can tell, was more inclined to be friendly to Bailey or Kline. I’m not a member of the Central Committee, but if I was I’d vote for Greg Kline based on last Thursday’s performance.
Lastly, during my post-event conversation, I happened upon the following interesting bit of information regarding Diana Waterman, Louis Pope, and the RNC Rules Committees.
Yes, that’s right, there are TWO Rules Committees. According to my well-informed source:
“The RNC Standing Committee on Rules is composed of one RNC member from each state, elected by the 3 RNC members from that state by majority vote. They are chosen after the national convention, and serve until the start of the next national convention. This is the committee that Nicolee was briefly on. Louis served on this committee for the 2004-2008 and 2008-2012 terms.
“Prior to each national convention, the convention delegates from each state elect one man and one woman to serve on each of four committees: platform, credentials, permanent organization, and rules. In 2012, the Maryland convention delegates elected Louis Pope and Diana Waterman to serve on this committee.”
So, in addition to his regular service on the RNC Rules Committee, Louis Pope also served on the one that convened at the convention – and supported the new party rules anathema to so many activists. And, Diana Waterman personally worked to pass them as well.
For me, this changes the tenor of the entire Pope/Ambrose Rules Committee controversy. Originally I assumed that Mrs. Waterman removed Ambrose from the Rules Committee for reasons of personal animosity (Ambrose defeated Waterman bestie Audrey Scott during last year’s national committeewoman’s race) and loyalty to fellow establishmentarian Pope. But in light of this new information, it is clear that Waterman’s choice was for philosophical as well as personal reasons.
The choice for MDGOP comes down to this: If you like the new RNC rules then support the people who passed them (Waterman and Pope). If you don’t, support those aligned with Ambrose, who is working to repeal them (Kline or Bailey).
Anyway, the RNC meets in Hollywood, California later this week. I’ll keep you posted on what happens next.