Rascovar Commentary: Is the end near for Maryland Republicans?

MarylandReporter.com welcomes Barry Rascovar as a regular contributor. We have been linking to his columns in the daily roundup for years, but we will be publishing his columns simultaneously with his own blog, PoliticalMaryland.com. Rascovar has been reporting and commenting on Maryland and national politics and government since 1971, first for the Baltimore Sun, then the Gazette of Politics and Business and The Community Times.

In the future, we hope to add commentary from other writers, from the right, left and center, in addition to the many editorials and op-eds we link to in the daily State Roundup.

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Barry RascovarBy Barry Rascovar

It’s hard to tell how things can get worse for Maryland’s Republican Party:

Maryland delegation chairman Louis Pope and Mike Pappas hold the Maryland floor sign.

Maryland delegation chairman Louis Pope and Mike Pappas hold the Maryland floor sign at 2012 GOP convention in Tampa.


  •   A nasty civil war is raging on the Upper Eastern Shore over replacing one of the GOP’s few bright lights, state Sen. E. J. Pipkin, who opted to pursue a master’s degree in sports management in Texas.
  •   The Lower Eastern Shore’s GOP senator, Richard Colburn, is trying to explain to auditors (and the public) why he reimbursed himself from his campaign fund for $4,600 worth of Oriole baseball tickets, $23,000 in meals, $3,900 in lodging, $3,400 in gas and $600 for flowers.
  •   An Anne Arundel County delegate got himself arrested yet again for potentially lethal intoxication, this time while driving a weaving car at 70 mph with an expired license. Don Dwyer refuses to take the hint from colleagues to resign. He’s got a serious addiction he needs to address before he’s fit for elective office.
  •   The latest state GOP staff director to resign is David Ferguson. His sudden departure fueled reports Ferguson was fed up with the new party chair, Diana Waterman, who won her job in a disputed, internecine internal election. (She replaced ex-Sen. Alex Mooney, who left Maryland to run in a Republican-friendly congressional district in West Virginia.) The state party once again is short on cash and lacks the kinds of candidates to filed a viable statewide ticket next year.
Maryland Republican Chairman Alex Mooney speaks at party convention.

Maryland Republican Chairm Alex Mooney speaks at a 2012 party convention. He has since resigned.

What a pathetic situation.

Bickering Eastern Shore Republicans are so torn they could hand their hated foe, Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley, the power to name the next Upper Shore senator. Not only is the GOP losing its most articulate Senate spokesman, the party could end up losing this seat in 2014.

Indeed, Senate Republicans might well find themselves greatly diminished next year. Democrats could pick up Sen. Allan Kittleman’s seat in Howard County when he runs for county executive, the seat of retiring Sen. Nancy Jacobs in Harford County and possibly Pipkin’s old seat if the squabbling Upper Shore Republicans savage each other in a brutal primary, as seems likely.

You have to wonder why the commotion. Republicans have made themselves irrelevant in Maryland’s populous midsection. The chances of electing a Republican in Baltimore City or Prince George’s County, for instance, come down to Slim and None — and Slim left town decades ago.

Shrinking Voter Appeal

Except in rural counties and a few suburban outposts, the state GOP is Maryland’s incredible shrinking party.

GOP elephant Democratic donkey logos by DonkeyHotey

By DonkeyHotey on Flickr

Ten years ago, 30% of Maryland voters registered Republican. That is now down to 25%. Even independents outnumber Republicans by 9,000 in Montgomery County, 13,000 in Prince George’s and 19,000 in Baltimore City.

The news isn’t much better in important Republican strongholds. Since 2003, Frederick County  Democrats have added nearly twice as many voters to its rolls as did Republicans. Independent voters increased twice as fast as new GOP registrants, too.

In Harford County, independent registrants since 2003 equal the number of new GOP voters.

In Anne Arundel County, Democrats, not Republicans, registered more new voters in the past 10 years; both parties were eclipsed by a wide margin by new independent voters.

In Baltimore County, which contains the largest number of Republicans, independent voters registered at twice the rate as Republicans; the number of new Democratic voters grew three times as fast.

Grand Old Party no more

The state’s Grand Old Party is no longer grand, is not aging well and is not much of a political party. The battle between pragmatic conservatives and ideological purists looks like a bunch of vultures fighting over the scant remains of an unrecognizable skeleton.

This follows a trend in many other urban states where the GOP no longer has a message that resonates with voters. It seems lost on a stormy sea.

More and more it is turning into a party of neo-Dixiecrats — hostile to minorities of all stripes; hostile to immigrants; hostile to the poor; hostile to government spending regardless of its purpose; hostile to federal authority of any kind, and incendiary in its seething hatred of a president who is both black and liberal.

It is not a pretty picture. Look around the country where Missouri Republicans voted to outlaw federal gun-law enforcement. Look at North Carolina and Texas where Republicans voted to deter blacks and Hispanics from voting. Look at Arizona and other Republican states that voted to nullify federal immigration policies.

Today’s Republican Party, both in Maryland and nationally, lacks a coherent set of values and beliefs that can capture statewide offices in Annapolis or the national presidency.

The upcoming insanity in Washington over raising the nation’s debt ceiling (let’s not pay our IOUs) and notching up sequestration’s budget screws could come to symbolize the growing futility and disintegration of the GOP.

It’s no longer the Party of Lincoln — and that’s the greatest tragedy.

Barry Rascovar can be reached at brascovar@hotmail.com, or post a comment on www.politicalmaryland.com this site.