Friday, November 30, 2012

MD GOP Chair Alex Mooney May Face "No Confidence" Vote // Did MoCo GOP Chair Mark Uncapher Want the Job?

UPDATE: In the comments below, Mark Uncapher denies that he is seeking to displace Alex Mooney. Our source may be full of it, or perhaps the mission may be aborted. We may never know.

BACKGROUND - Below Maryland Juice highlights several tidbits and opinions regarding the fate of the Maryland GOP and their current Chair Alex Mooney. Immediately after Maryland's November 6th elections results were announced, many GOP activists condemned Chairman Mooney and his leadership of the state party. The topic is particularly timely, because after getting their butts kicked at the polls this month, the Free State Republicans are heading into a statewide convention this weekend. Mooney provided details in an announcement message about the event (excerpt below):
ALEX MOONEY: I hereby call the Republican State Central Committee's 2012 Fall Convention to be held at the Turf Valley Hotel and Conference Center on November 30th and December 1st.... We are making great strides because of your efforts.

MOONEY FACING "NO CONFIDENCE" VOTE - In spite of Mooney's optimistic demeanor, it appears that numerous factions of the Maryland GOP will be hoping to influence the direction of the party at this gathering. More to the point, some disgruntled party members appear to be seeking a vote of "no confidence" in Alex Mooney. We previously noted, for example, that the libertarian-minded Republicans in the Maryland Liberty Caucus announced they would be mobilizing supporters at the convention (excerpt below):
MARYLAND LIBERTY CAUCUS: You and I both know that the Maryland Republican Party is run from the top-down. The Republican Establishment doesn’t stand for conservative principles. They don’t appreciate the diverse, energetic, and conservative arm of the Party....

Here in Maryland, the Maryland Liberty Movement will re-brand the Republican Party from the bottom up. We are going to go full-tilt into the Maryland Republican Party Convention on November 30-December 1, 2012 in Howard County....

MOCO GOP CHAIR MARK UNCAPHER MOUNTING A CHALLENGE TO MOONEY? - Even with all the visible anger, many GOP pundits have been wondering whether anyone would even want Mooney's job. One Maryland Juice source on the right commented (anonymously):
ANONYMOUS SOURCE: ...although people want to kick him out, there’s no one to replace him. It’s an unpaid position. So someone has to be retired or independently wealthy. It will be interesting to see what happens now with Mooney – he had been at State Party part time and part time on Bartlett’s congressional staff. Now he lost that job, how will he earn a living while volunteering at the State Party?
Today, however, a Maryland Juice reader sent us an anonymous tip alleging that there is at least one Republican willing to challenge Alex Mooney: Montgomery County GOP Chair Mark Uncapher. They sent us the following note about the Maryland GOP's internal battle:
ANOTHER ANONYMOUS SOURCE: Earlier this week the Montgomery County GOP Central Committee, led by Mark Uncapher and Katja Bullock, agreed that they will vote to remove Alex Mooney as the state chairman during the GOP Convention's "no confidence" vote this weekend.

In a private conference call with Frederick and Howard County Republicans and Audrey Scott, Mark Uncapher said he wanted the state chairman job. I was at the meeting.
For a little bit of background on him, we consulted his Linked In profile. Here are some brief vitals: Mark Uncapher is a Bethesda-based attorney who currently works in the Telecom in industry. He's chaired the Montgomery County GOP since 2008 and served as a Mitt Romney delegate to the Republican Convention earlier this year.

Mark Uncapher at a Maryland for Mitt Romney event - March 2012

MARK UNCAPHER FLASHBACK TO 2010: For more information, we also dredged up a 2010 interview with Mark Uncapher in the Republican blog Red State. At the time he was running for Treasurer of the Maryland GOP (excerpt below):
MARK UNCAPHER: I have been frustrated by the in-fighting among the State Party leadership during the past four years that has spilled in the press, including the contentious relationship for the Republican legislative leadership.....

We need to be honest with ourselves that Maryland Republicans did not perform as well as Republicans have done in other “Blue States” given the 2010 political environment. While we regained a House seat, the losses in the State Senate balanced by the gains in the House are essentially a push.

...from 1978 through 1990 I was a senior political operative for with the only person who has ever won four statewide elections in New York running on the Republican and Conservative Party lines. In 1993 and 1994 as Finance Chairman of the Brooklyn Republican Party, I was actively involved with the successful election of a Republican Mayor and Governor in New York.

Montgomery County GOP Chair Mark Uncapher

ELECTORAL CHALLENGES FOR A NEW GOP CHAIR: It is worth noting that Maryland Juice has frequently proclaimed that the state's Republican Party has become a regional party incapable of winning statewide races. Only ten years ago Montgomery County was represented by moderate Republican Rep. Connie Morella, and the state GOP had at least a few figures capable of appealing to constituencies outside the rightwing base. But over time, the Maryland GOP's bench has been unwilling to "evolve" and has instead chosen to remain out of touch with the rapidly liberalizing social views of MD voters. As a result, the GOP's farm team of moderate candidates is almost non-existent. The state's sole Republican in Congress for the foreseeable future will be Tea Party extremist Andy Harris, who Democrats have segregated into MD's sole majority Republican district. So while the GOP easily wins in Harris' district, they lose pretty badly in most major population centers. Example: There are literally zero elected Republicans serving in Montgomery County's partisan offices.

LIBERAL PARTS OF THE STATE ARE GROWING AND SPREADING - None of this would be a problem for the GOP, except for the fact that significantly more voters (including many Republicans) live in diverse, open-minded places like Montgomery County. And as time goes on, the next ring of counties abutting Washington, DC is becoming more liberal every day. Note, for example, that a majority of voters in Frederick, Anne Arundel and Howard counties supported marriage equality. But in spite of this kind of evidence, GOP primary voters and activist organizations keep driving the party to nominate socially conservative candidates. This doesn't seem like a recipe for success. Alex Mooney himself should know this lesson better than others. After all, in spite of a national Tea Party wave, he lost his 2010 re-election bid in a district anchored in Frederick & Washington counties.  This month, Democrat John Delaney followed up on Mooney's loss by beating GOP Rep. Roscoe Bartlett in the Frederick and Washington County portions of Congressional District 6.

UNSOLICITED ADVICE FOR THE MARYLAND GOP - Will the Maryland Republicans finally understand that there isn't a problem with their phrasing, fundraising or campaign skills? No amount of minor or technical tweaking will revive the GOP. Their failures are fundamentally tied to their policies and philosophies, and any change in leadership will therefore be futile if they think they can start winning elections without adjusting their attitude on issues. Given Maryland's deeply blue nature, I've always questioned the GOP's decision to create a socially conservative brand for themselves. Its especially puzzling since so many players on their bench seem to have Congressional aspirations. Maybe they're not so good at electoral math. Are they really trying to campaign under the cloud of restricting contraception, student loans and civil rights? Meanwhile, it seems obvious that scores of voters will not hear the GOP's fiscal message while the Party persistently demonizes a rotating cast of Americans (eg: immigrants, LGBT families, women, minorities, urban residents, the poor, and on and on). In any case, hopefully the Republican convention will give us some hints about whether the Party's love of rightwing social views is up for debate.

That's my unsolicited two-cents on the state of the Maryland GOP, but below you can glance through a few random commentaries from journalists and voices on the right. Some are recent, and some are a few days old:

JUICE #1: "PRINCE OF DARKNESS" QUESTIONS SIZE OF ANTI-MOONEY VOTE  - Former Ehrlich operative Joe Steffen (aka "The Prince of Darkness") has written a few pieces about the Alex Mooney controversy. In his latest piece, he appears skeptical about how many anti-Mooney votes there will be at the GOP convention:
JOE STEFFEN: This weekend could be fun. Or interesting. Or both.... the threat Mooney is facing remains. I expect there will be much maneuvering and other measures brought forth this weekend in order to try to oust him from his position. The thing is, I don’t think the “Kill Alex” forces have the votes to do bring him down.  And, for the record, I don’t believe it’s necessarily a good thing to hang the whole election debacle around one man’s neck....
All in all, and regardless of whether I support any or all of the above named actions, I think that THAT – the current angst being felt by Party members – is a good thing.  It at least shows that the MDGOP, although beaten and down, ain’t quite ready to just roll over and die.

JUICE #2: FREDERICK NEWS POST THINKS GOP BETTER OFF WITHOUT MOONEY  - Last week, the editorial board at The Frederick News Post suggested the Maryland GOP might be better off without Alex Mooney. They too cited the need for the party to cultivate less extreme candidates (excerpt below):
FREDERICK NEWS POST: The problem ... lies with the conservative political philosophy of Maryland GOP members that elected Mooney -- by a large majority -- in the first place.

If anything, the national election results indicate voters are beginning to lean in the opposite direction. Maryland's constituency skews even further left than that. If the Maryland GOP continues to demand the kind of ideological purity from its candidates and leadership that elected Mooney, their relevance will continue to diminish....

We don't see Alex Mooney -- a poster child of no-compromise conservatism -- being able to lead the party to a more centrist orientation that would appeal to right-of-center Democrats or growing body of independents. His brand of politics will never build a bench of candidates who will effectively compete in the jurisdictions that count in a Maryland election -- Montgomery, Baltimore and Prince George's counties, and Baltimore city. ...

JUICE #3: EXAMINER COLUMNIST SAYS MOONEY SHOULD RESIGN - J. Doug Gill, a columnist in The Examiner, recently came out in favor of a resignation from Alex Mooney. He seems to think anyone (even a dead bird) could do as well as Mooney (excerpt below):
J. DOUG GILL (VIA EXAMINER): Fresh off a beating that makes baby seal clubbing look humane, the Maryland Republican Party – or what’s left of it – is in full mop-up mode desperately trying to convince both its members and the public at large that it is not as dead as Monty Python’s parrot....

Mooney, whose ears must be burning daily given all the calls for his resignation, has been the target of grumblings and rumblings since he ascended to the chair position a scant two years ago.... And, for the most part, the on-going dissatisfaction is Mooney’s own fault....

Of course, there are a number of Party faithful who have spoken on Mooney’s behalf, clinging to the mistaken notion that the ‘strides’ the MDGOP has made are notable and questioning whether or not there is a viable replacement waiting in the wings....

Who would serve the MDGOP in a more respectable fashion? At this critical moment in its history a dead bird might be just as effective – and at least the laughs wouldn’t be accompanied by such a foreboding sadness.

JUICE #4: RESPONSES TO RED MARYLAND'S CALL FOR MOONEY'S RESIGNATION - In many ways the conservative bloggers at Red Maryland really got the campaign against Alex Mooney going. A few Republican activists have therefore issued responses to their litany of complaints about Mooney. Below you can see excerpts from two defenses of Alex Mooney. The first comes from Antonio Campbell at the "Right of Center Maryland" blog. He begins his piece by turning criticism on Red Maryland itself:
RIGHT OF CENTER MARYLAND: Did Red Maryland volunteer any of their resources to work against any of the referendum issues?  I know personally that Red Maryland chose to accept payment for my ballot initiative campaign against Question 5.  Instead of being Conservatives first, and offering their help to get the word out to Republicans to vote against Question 5, they solicited advertising funding from us.  Our ad ran for 1 week and Red Maryland finally decided to say they were against Question 5 on the day before the election.

Finally, if we are to have a circular firing squad this weekend, it should be pointed at all of us across the board.  We, yes even I, thought that we would win Questions 6 and 7 because we believed it would happen.  We ALL (from elected Republican office holders, to Central Committee members, to financial contributors and to all of our great volunteers) chose to focus on Republican candidates rather than four issues that had cross party support.  We simply took it for granted that we won a small battle to get these issues on the ballot but we forgot about fighting the war.
The second response to Red Maryland was posted at Red Maryland itself. They published a rebuttal to their calls for Mooney to resign from Anne Arundel County Central Committee Vice-Chairman  Scott Shaffer:
SCOTT SHAFFER:  ...while I find the calls for [Alex Mooney's] resignation to be an understandable knee-jerk reaction, I don’t believe our party will get to where it needs to be by following knee-jerk reactions.... First and foremost, consider this:  if Mooney resigns, who will replace him?  Who would both want the job, and be able to perform it better?

...Alex Mooney in fact did the best thing he could for these initiatives:  he quietly whipped support among the party’s base, while not becoming a figurehead on the issues that the Democrats could rally against.  Had he been more vocal on them publicly, it would have only driven away more non-Republican votes.

The recent blog posts on Red Maryland, Monoblogue, and Cross Purposes concerning Alex Mooney’s status as Chairman have all made excellent points.  I don’t disagree that the criticisms are valid.  However there is no shortage of blame to go around at the moment, and replacing the Chairman at this time will not solve the larger problems of our party – it just kicks the can down the road for someone else to deal with....

More on the future of GOP Chair Alex Mooney soon!

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