Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Re-Schurick-tion, Part II

So, my most recent Paul Schurick blog drew the attention of a reader who alerted me to something very interesting.

If you go onto the Maryland Judiciary Case Search site (you can plug in Schurick’s name for yourself if you want to verify what I mention here) and click on the file stemming from the robocall-related charges, you’ll see this:

In other words, it looks like the robocall-related convictions were stricken from Schurick’s record last April. Next to the notation in the file is “PBJ,” which I take to mean “probation before judgment.”

I’ve not seen this reported anywhere, so I figured it deserved a mention here.

So it looks like Schurick is free to assume his new career as the mollusk whisperer unencumbered by his past transgressions.

There’s something very Cameron Poe-like to the ending of this story (that's a Con Air reference, folks).

Of course, when a conviction is stricken from the court record, that doesn’t expunge it from the public record. Google “Paul Schurick” and the first items to pop up are some of the many news articles about his conviction and sentencing.

Unfortunately, a verdict rendered by the court of public opinion is more exacting, damaging, and enduring than one rendered by the courts.

A Poll Is a Poll Is a Poll

I was very amused by one commenter to the story, who dismisses me as a “tea party” Republican because this piece includes some gentle criticisms of President Obama (even as I question the usefulness and validity of a poll which found him to be the worst president in the post-World War II era).  

I’m not going to go line by line though this rant, but I did want to make a few points.

First, I am now “Unaffiliated,” having changed my registration back in April 2013.

Second, in the past I have been called a “RINO” by people of the tea party persuasion, which tells me that I must be doing something right if both liberal and conservative extremists find offense in what I write.

Third, the commenter does what a lot of people on the left do: Cast aspersions on the intellectual depth or substance of someone with whom they disagree. This is a common tactic employed by people who are so blinded by partisan loyalty that they have lost the ability to hear the other side’s arguments. In other words, if they can’t hear it, the person making it must be intellectually deficient or incoherent.

Five hundred words isn’t a lot of space with which to make an argument, so – as far as the ranking of presidents is concerned – here is my top ten. My assessments have not changed since I made this list.

Paul Schurick: A Pearl Among the Oysters?

So, for me, a familiar name recently popped up on LinkedIn: Paul Schurick.  

It seems the erstwhile political honcho and former Schaefer/Ehrlich aide is now ensconced at the Oyster Recovery Partnership in Annapolis, where he has worked as its “Director of Partnerships” since last January.

"Paul works with businesses, organizations and individuals to build partnerships to increase the environmental, economic and cultural importance of oysters. He has more than 30 years experience in policy, communications and partnerships. He has master’s and bachelor’s degrees in economics from the West Virginia University. He served as chief of staff for Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer and director of communications for Gov. Robert Ehrlich. In his free time, Paul enjoys kayaking and cooking. He lives in Annapolis."

Stephan Abel, the Partnership’s Executive Director and Schurick’s boss, was previously Communications Director at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, where he once reported to…Paul Schurick.

Hey, they call it “Smalltimore” for a reason.

Missing from his biography is the fact that Schurick was found guilty of four charges – including election fraud – related to the infamous robocall scandal which occurred during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign. The alleged purpose of the robocall was to trick black voters into not voting. At the time, my old boss, former Governor Bob Ehrlich, denounced what he called “the decision from a Baltimore City jury” (in other words, a jury made up of black people). Schurick’s co-conspirator Julius Henson was separately tried and convicted of a charge stemming from the same incident, and later served time in jail.

Before devoting his career to the betterment of bivalves, Schurick was CEO at Visitors TV Network, an Easton-based start up company that made those travel videos you see when you’re watching TV in your hotel room. Before that, Schurick made serious coin as a crisis communications consultant at the law firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge and Rice (where some members of Team Ehrlich temporarily landed after the governor’s 2006 loss) and at the doomed Ehrlich political comeback effort in 2010 (there he made $15,000 a month at one point, an unheard of amount for a campaign aide).

Hey, I think the idea of Schurick re-purposing as an environmental crusader and steward of the mollusks is certainly amusing, but I guess everyone deserves a second chance – including the one-time Henry Gondorff of Maryland politics (that's a reference to The Sting, folks).

Congratulations, Paul, upon your successful rehabilitation. Perhaps a crab or - better yet - sushi advocacy role is in your future. In the meantime, it's my pleasure to play you a song.

Monday, July 21, 2014

RJC's Top Ten Favorite Movie Scenes

When I started this blog I promised it would have a pop culture as well as a political component. And, while pop culture references are frequently interwoven into my political observations, it’s been years since I did an entry centered on pop culture.

Well, today, that changes….

Here is the definitive list of my all-time favorite movie scenes. For the longest time, not all of them were available on YouTube. But now I managed to find them all, which I post here for your review and perusal.


10) "Go home and get your shine box" – Goodfellas (1991)

9) Roy Hobbs destroys the clock - The Natural (1984)

8) Batman returns after an 8 year absence - The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

7) The Nazis open the Ark of the Covenant - Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

6) Ferris Bueller “sings” Twist and Shout  - Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986).

5) Hit Girl kills drug dealers - Kick Ass (2010)

4) The Bride versus O-Ren Ishii - Kill Bill Vol. One (2003)

3) The Barrow Gang robs a bank - Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

2) Michael Corleone confronts his treacherous brother in law - The Godfather (1972)

1)    Hannibal Lecter escapes - The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

2014 Primary Season: Five Disappointments, Three Blessings

I have been pondering the results of the 2014 primary elections here in Maryland. So much has been said about it already that I questioned whether I wanted to enter the din myself.

I had lunch with two connected Democrats a few weeks ago, and between the three of us we pretty much agreed on all the outcomes. I experienced the same phenomenon when I went on WYPR on election night and found that my fellow panelists and I pretty much all came to the same conclusions as to who would win which race.

For me, there weren’t very many surprises, but there were both disappointments and blessings. So, I decided to focus on them here, starting with the disappointments.

1) Steve Schuh defeating incumbent Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman. From a party building standpoint, Laura Neuman was the GOP’s candidate of dreams: Wife, mother, entrepreneur, rape survivor, and talented administrator who amassed a creditable record during her tenure in office.  Nonetheless, the Republican voters in Anne Arundel County reverted to form when they nominated the next rich white Republican male in the queue, Delegate Steve Schuh.

Schuh’s victory demonstrated the clannish, insular nature of Anne Arundel County Republican politics, where being part of the club is more important than one’s record on issues such as the rain tax, which Schuh voted for twice. It also demonstrated the triumph of sleazeball politics, as demonstrated by the Schuh campaign's attempts to win the election by calling rape survivor Neuman a liar.  

I think Schuh is more than capable of being a good county executive, but he lacks the upward mobility of his charismatic opponent. As David Craig demonstrated, able service as a county executive doesn’t automatically guarantee you a promotion.

2) Abysmal voter turnout. I had been expecting a twenty percent voter turnout, but the actual number was closer to 22 percent. OK, so it was better than I expected, but still remarkably bad. Some of the blame goes to the Democratic establishment’s decision to park the primary in June – an attempt to build in some healing time for what they expected would be a divisive Democratic primary. But I think the uninspiring nature of the choices in the governor’s race is a culprit as well. 

The biggest shock to me was the fact that turnout in good governance-minded Montgomery County – which had two current and former local officials running for governor, a contested county executive’s race, and a state senator who ran for, and ultimately won, the Democratic nomination for Attorney General – was only 16.2 percent, the lowest in the state. Anyway, Dan Rodricks and Josh Kurtz already articulated what a freaking embarrassment this is, and all I can do here is to concur with both of them.

3) Outgoing Delegate Wade Kach defeating Councilman Todd Huff in Baltimore County. Wade Kach was elected to the House of Delegates in 1974, back when I was beginning the second grade. During forty years of undistinguished service, Kach developed a reputation as a loner as well as an ideologically pliable doofus who often did the will of the Democratic establishment. 

My former boss, then-Congressman Bob Ehrlich, once told me a hilarious story of how Kach broke down in tears on the House floor one night while paying an emotional tribute to a recently deceased house cat, and was roundly mocked by many of his hardscrabble colleagues as a result of this girly-man behavior. 

Anyway, Kach’s House career was effectively killed when he flip flopped on marriage equality, so this career pol went shopping for another elective job. After pondering a state senate run, Kach decided to challenge freshman Councilman Todd Huff. Though a DUI incident and some controversial zoning decisions undermined Huff’s popularity, he had otherwise amassed a solid record in office. A previous councilman, Sam Moxley, experienced two drunken driving incidents during his tenure in office, in effect turning his county vehicle into a missile of doom barreling down area highways, yet still managed to win. Kach and his wild-eyed wife waged a campaign founded upon bitter personal attacks and improper use of state resources. He won by a resounding 2-1 margin.

Wade Kach, keepin' it classy. I would have preferred he answer what's perhaps the biggest mystery in Maryland politics: What did this man do in Annapolis for 40 years?

This result leads me to two conclusions. 

First, I’m glad I no longer live in that part of Baltimore County. 

Second, if they hadn’t chosen politics, Wade and Evelyn Kach would likely be the top AMWAY salespeople of the Mid-Atlantic region.

4) The Ehrlichs won’t go away. As the Baltimore Sun reported, former Governor Bob Ehrlich can’t seem to help himself when it comes to interjecting himself into local political matters. In 2014, he broke out of his political tomb in order to use candidates’ fundraising events as platforms from which to peddle his latest book. 

I wrote about the Ehrlich phenomenon in a recent piece for the Frederick News Post.  The reality is, Ehrlich still carries weight with some primary voters, as the Schuh – Neuman result demonstrates (both Ehrlichs were loud and active Schuh supporters). 

But, it also reinforces the perception that the MDGOP’s future – such as it is – is being driven by personalities from its past. Consequently, The Daily Record’s Bryan Sears and others in the media have come to speculate whether Anthony Brown versus Larry Hogan is actually Ehrlich versus O’Malley III, only this time it is being waged by surrogates.

Despite Ehrlich’s cache among GOP primary voters, it’s hard to see how the support of a governor who ended his career amid a 15 point loss and a voter suppression scandal will help any state Republican in November.

5) Heather Mizeur comes in third in the Democratic governor’s race. Delegate Heather Mizeur’s political philosophy is very different than mine, but I concur with Professor Todd Eberly of St. Mary’s College, WYPR’s Fraser Smith, and other political observers who dubbed her the most interesting gubernatorial candidate during this cycle. As her rivals tore into each other, she ran an issue-focused campaign, and came across as likable, well-informed, substantive, serious, and passionate. 

As Attorney General Gansler stumbled and Mizeur seemed to surge in the final week of the campaign, I thought she might actually come in second. While she came close, she missed the mark as Gansler polled 24.3 percent to Mizeur’s 21.6 percent. Still, I think she emerges from the race with options.

As for the blessings…

1) Bad guys lost.  During the past few months, voters were treated to the antics of pols that thoroughly embarrassed themselves and their constituents through their own bad behavior, yet still would not relinquish the stage. Drunken driver/boater Don Dwyer refused to give up his Anne Arundel County-based delegate seat. On the Eastern Shore, man about town Senator Richard Colburn was seen by many as a lock for reelection despite a salacious divorce scandal. In the end, both members of the miscreant caucus lost, with Dwyer registering a minuscule 7.1 percent of the vote and Colburn receiving a 14 point beat down from Delegate Addie Eckhardt.

Seeing voters step in and flush the toilet has always affirmed my faith in the political system, even in one-party dominated Maryland. And for soon to be former Delegate Dwyer, there is a silver lining: At least he now has time to pursue a pilot’s lessons.

2) Good guys won. There are a lot of hard-working, talented legislators on both sides of the political aisle serving in Annapolis. Fortunately, many of them were re-nominated last Tuesday. I was personally glad to see Delegates Kelly Schulz, Sue Aumann, Justin Ready, Kathy Szeliga, and Herb McMillan win their races, as well as Senators J. B. Jennings (who was unopposed) and Jim Brochin (who easily dispatched former Ehrlich foe Connie Galiazzo DeJuliis).

3) People who didn’t deserve comebacks didn’t get them. Once upon a time, I had a spooky encounter with former state delegate and Maryland Parole Commissioner Carmen Amedori. So I was amused to see that she decamped from exile on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and returned to Western Maryland in an attempt to reclaim her old delegate seat. Unfortunately, her former constituents dropped a house on her ambitions, and Amedori came in last with 6.7 percent of the vote.  I’m sure that, in reprisal, there is a bunny rabbit simmering in a pot somewhere. Meanwhile, Julius Henson, convicted and jailed for conspiring to violate Maryland elections laws pursuant to the infamous robocall scandal, lost badly in his quixotic challenge to Senator Nathaniel McFadden.

At least we’ll be able to take a sabbatical from politics for the rest of the summer until this fall. Then the dance will start anew. Does Larry Hogan have a chance? Will there be any surprises among state and local races? Stay tuned, folks.