Friday, November 11, 2011

Aberdeen Mayor Survives Tea Party Assault, "Dirtiest Campaign Ever" // Uh Oh: No Authority Lines on GOP Materials

Earlier this week, Maryland Juice discussed some of our State's municipal elections. But we've now learned about the unusual political backstory to the nonpartisan Mayor's race in Aberdeen, Maryland. The Aberdeen Patch reported:
Beating his opponent by only 26 votes, Aberdeen Mayor Michael Bennett was reelected to his third term on Tuesday night after what he called "the dirtiest campaign" he had ever experienced. Bennett received 764 votes, barely ahead of the 738 votes cast for challenger Patrick McGrady....

McGrady, a Republican, mounted a serious challenge against the Democratic incumbent in the nonpartisan election that took a bizarre last-minute twist when the city's ethics commission acted on a complaint McGrady filed against Bennett. On Oct. 14 the commission agreed with McGrady's complaint and stated that Bennett had violated ethics code by accepting a trip to Georgia paid for by Ripken Baseball.

"This is absolutely the dirtiest campaign I've ever been involved in, and I am dismayed that I have to go through the process of repairing damage to my name that an unscrupulous opponent wanted to put out there," Bennett said after the results were announced....

He said he will begin legal action on Monday against the city's ethics commission because "they've violated the process" and did not give him a hearing about McGrady's complaint.
Ironically, Tea Party Congressman Andy Harris was out stumping for Mr. Bennett's attacker while similar news was circulating about his own travels on Delmarva NOW:

Three weeks after being sworn into office, Rep. Andy Harris and his wife left behind a January blizzard in Washington to attend a retreat for conservative members of Congress in sunny California.

The Heritage Foundation picked up the $2,032 tab for travel expenses and the couple's stay at the Four Seasons Hotel....

Here's how Aberdeen's website describes the town:
Aberdeen is located in Harford County, the “Gateway to the Chesapeake Bay.” Here, you’ll find beautiful neighborhoods, family oriented communities, a wealth of natural resources for outdoor recreation, a relaxed lifestyle and an abundance of friendly people....

Aberdeen is the home of the U.S. Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG). It also is the home of leading businesses, including Frito-Lay, Clorox, Saks Fifth Avenue, Rite Aid, Pier 1 Imports, which value Aberdeen’s proximity to U.S. Route 40, interstate 95, Amtrak and Chessie rail lines.
Yes, even this neo-Rockwellian environment was not immune to Tea Party shenanigans. It started with seemingly inane stunts like Mr. McGrady filibustering at a City Government meeting about his Mayoral campaign:

But when that stunt didn't work, Mr. McGrady tried opening a shameless new line of attack. The Mayor of Aberdeen, it turns out, is also the President of the Maryland Municipal League (MML) -- a group which represents dozens of Maryland's cities and towns with the following mission:
A voluntary, non-profit, nonpartisan association controlled and maintained by city and town governments, MML works to strengthen and support municipal government through advocacy and the development of effective leadership. Through its membership in the National League of Cities MML offers legislative representation in Washington, urban research programs, and a national municipal government information exchange.
The GOP challenger wanted to make an issue of the Mayor's leadership of the MML and nearly sabotaged Aberdeen's leadership role in the group through these kinds of attacks:

The Mayor defended the city's relationship with the Maryland Municipal League in a video interview with the Aberdeen Patch, noting some benefits he felt the organization provided. But the bizarre and desperate GOP tactics shouldn't be surprising, given that the party is having increasing difficulty winning in Maryland. In fact, Mr. McGrady lost a previous run for Delegate (with the full backing of former Gov. Bob Ehrlich), even in the GOP's high-watermark 2010 election cycle:

So what is Patrick McGrady's alternative vision to Aberdeen Mayor Bennett? According to his campaign video (which you can watch below), these are his priorities:
"Last spring I helped collect signatures to get the question of in-state tuition rates for illegal immigrants on the ballot.... Together, we can prove that prosperity comes from our families, communities and churches working together, not through strongarm governments and ever-increasing taxes."

His website further clarifies "his vision" as follows:
  • As Mayor, I will work ... to resist mandates, excessive regulation
  • Affirmation of Our Values: I will open City meetings with a Prayer, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag and the Republic. 
  • Aberdeen citizens want smaller, less intrusive government....  I will work to restructure government to focus on these accordingly; and encourage private sector solutions and/or partnerships to fulfill community needs whenever possible. 

Indeed, if this all sounds familiar to you, that's because its the same rhetoric the Tea Party and GOP politicians have been preaching for months. The voters still aren't buying it. You can hear the full pitch straight from Mr. McGrady below:

But wait! Something's wrong with this video. What is it? It doesn't appear to have an authority line of any type. Hmm. Maybe that's because Aberdeen doesn't have such a requirement? Wait! What's this?
City of Aberdeen Section 36-4

The candidate shall name a treasurer who will be responsible for receiving and disbursing all campaign funds. The treasurer's name must appear on all campaign materials, advertisements, etc. No other individual or group may spend money directly to aid the candidate unless the person/group is identified and so states that information; all such support should be directed through the treasurer.
Section 36-9
Any person who violates any of the provisions of this chapter shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be fined not more than $1,000 or be imprisoned for not more than six months, or both, in the discretion of the court. [Amended 8-23-2010 by Ord. No. 10-O-12]
Mr. McGrady designated a Treasurer, but her name appears nowhere on his materials:

I see an (old?) disclaimer on his Facebook page, but I don't see any such disclaimer on Mr. McGrady's campaign video, or his Youtube channel, or his website. See sample screencaps below:

No authority lines on any of this stuff, eh? I always find it strange when candidates launch malicious administrative complaints at their opponents, but don't stop to make sure they haven't exposed themselves to similar complaints.

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