Posted by: Ann Corcoran | March 25, 2012

MD GOP internal squabble mirrors national Republican campaign

That is what this story by C. Benjamin Ford in the Southern Maryland News says anyway.

In Maryland, I don’t think it’s so much a case of “moderate” Republicans vs. Tea Party Republicans split over policy as it is a case of old style machine politicians trying to hold on to power against a new wave of activists who frankly just want to try something new and see politics free of backroom deals (or as free as possible that is!) and corporate cronyism.

Here is how the competition is shaping up for the job of RNC State committeewoman.

From Southern Maryland News:

An internal fight is raging within the Maryland Republican Party as a former state party chairwoman and the former chairwoman of the Young Republican National Federation vie to serve as the state’s representative on the Republican National Committee.

The election to choose a RNC committeeman and committeewoman is scheduled for April 28 at the state GOP’s convention on Solomons Island.* Joyce Terhes, the state’s longtime committeewoman, announced she was not seeking re-election.

Unlike in the past, this year’s election by the state’s county central committee members is hotly contested, with both sides accusing the other of running smear campaigns.

Scott v. Ambrose:  Settling scores?

Audrey Scott, who served as Maryland Republican Committee chairwoman when former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. sought re-election in 2010, is seen as the establishment pick, while Nicolee Ambrose, 37, has campaigned across the state to meet with grass-roots activists.

Scott said some party activists are using the election to support Ambrose to settle old scores with her, particularly for invoking the national party’s Rule No. 11 that was viewed as a backdoor way of supporting Ehrlich in his primary contest against tea party favorite Brian Murphy.

The party prohibits providing funds and other resources to a candidate unless the candidate has no primary challenger or the party chair agrees to waive the prohibition.

Here Scott perfectly demonstrates her complete misunderstanding of the circumstances.  By calling this a dispute involving “settling scores” it just shows what kind of old school pol she is and why some Republicans in Maryland are looking for new leadership.

If she had been completely above-board in 2010 when she and her cohorts signed a letter to Michael Steele** asking that the RNC waive Rule 11 and send money for Ehrlich before the voters had spoken in the primary and debated it openly at the MD GOP convention that spring, the controversy would never have gotten as far as it did—to a near civil war within the party.  By the way, as far as I know that letter has never been made available to her fellow Maryland Republicans.

For new readers who wish to review what happened.  Here is a post from someone who was present at the MD GOP convention where Scott introduced Ehrlich as “the next Governor of Maryland” while Brian Murphy, a primary contender, was in the audience and not permitted to speak.   Then here, Scott tells us that party comes before principle (anathema to a new breed of political activists).

And, then to remind readers what Scott’s counterpart in Florida did when confronted with the same problem—RNC money in the contest to Charlie Crist while Marco Rubio was in the primary race, go here.  Sharon Day refused to sign the letter, she said the voters should decide on their candidate and not the RNC, and the rest is history!

Then there was that horrible lack of leadership and judgment (here) that allowed the State Attorney General and likely future gubernatorial candidate Doug Gansler to go unchallenged.  There has never been an adequate explanation of who dropped the ball with that one.  The man who did want to represent Republicans on the ballot was interviewed by Ford:

Among those supporting Ambrose is former Montgomery County GOP chairman James F. Shalleck, who was unable to get on the 2010 election ballot for attorney general after being blocked by one county chairman. Shalleck blames Scott for letting Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) run unopposed and for not fielding candidates for every office.

Again, we are talking about a question of leadership.  I have no idea how Ambrose would do in the job, but we have a track record for Scott.  And, I will remind readers that all this is not just old history, but only a few months ago in Hagerstown, Scott was back appearing to be “settling” her own scores by undercutting Brian Murphy’s US Senate candidate, Dan Bongino, before the Maryland Federation of Republican Women shocking attendees with her tactics.

There is no question that there is a split in the Maryland GOP, that there are policy differences of great magnitude.  The old Ehrlich establishment and the Kanes in Montgomery County (the ruling class) are trying to hold onto power although they have not moved the party forward in the state with any real success.   But, I’m just not so sure this race perfectly represents a policy difference as much as a leadership style difference—or, at least the prospect of a new leadership style represented by Ambrose.

I’m guessing that Ambrose’s supporters see this as an opportunity to try something new—after all the old team sure isn’t winning much—and the party is in desperate need of openness, transparency and a welcoming attitude to prospective new Republicans.  There is hope that Ambrose would put those things at the top of her agenda.

You will have to judge for yourselves whether this is a “miniature” of the on-going national GOP Presidential race:

In some ways, the fight between the two sides is similar to the struggle going on in the Republican Party at a national level, said political science professor emeritus Matthew Crenson.

“It’s a fight between the tea party wing of the Republicans and the rest of the Republicans — only in miniature,” Crenson said.

Read the whole article here.

I think there is an overall feeling that this is the Republican establishment’s last chance, both at the state and national levels.  If we don’t get good and honorable conservative candidates elected, if all the good ol’ pols stay in place running the party, if new young leaders like Reps Michelle Bachmann and Allen West are held back, it will be bye-bye to the GOP from Tea Party-minded people.

Update:  Story I should have linked at Global Rhetoric on the Scott v. Ambrose race.

* Only GOP Central Committee members from each county get to vote, so after reading this, if you have an opinion please contact your Central Committee in your county and tell them what you think.

** Michael Steele, through some financial shenanigans, had caused the MD GOP to pay some fine, so I always wondered if this was a way to get some money back into the MD GOP coffers.  This is purely speculation on my part!



  1. What you forgot to mention is that now, when Audrey is supporting Sen. Brinkley’s insurgent campaign in the 6th, she’s got a letter to the editor in the Gazette, saying the voters should decide, and the party should stay out of it. After everything she did in 2010, she says that with a straight face? That’s rich!

  2. Jane, I guess I did see that letter, but forgot about it. In some ways some good did come out of the Rule 11 debacle because I’ve noticed there is a heightened sensitivity among party officials and central committee members about not showing (in their official capacity) a preference for a particular candidate in the primary.

  3. So far they have passed my litmus test on Roscoe Bartlett, although I haven’t really checked into the finances yet. You may recall that was something I opined about sometime back when we were discussing the resolution Heather Olsen and I tried to get passed last fall.

    Maybe the state party has learned its lesson. I think I’ve made my decision in both races, but I won’t reveal it until after the primary.

  4. […] you in the 6th District got that robocall yesterday from that doyen of Republican campaign tricks, Audrey Scott (who is herself campaigning to be one of three top leaders of the MD GOP), fuming and fusing in her […]

  5. As a very longstanding member of a central committee, I will be supporting Scott for Committeewoman. She has the track record of solid accomplishments and is ready to serve. Ambrose has been doing nothing but throwing grenades. She will destroy the party just like Mooney is currently doing.

  6. […] reported several times on the hot MD GOP campaign—Ambrose v. Scott (here and […]

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