Save 75% - Only $49.99 for 1 full year! digitalPLUS subscription offer ends 12/1
NewsOpinionEditorial

For Maryland Republicans, new messenger, same message

ElectionsRepublican PartyNational GovernmentGun ControlPersonal Weapon ControlInterior Policy

Maryland's House Republicans decided this week to jettison Del. Anthony J. O'Donnell from the leadership of their caucus on the grounds that a new messenger is needed to revitalize the party's prospects and pick up seats in the 2014 election. We wish new Minority Leader Nicholaus Kipke and new Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga the best of luck; Maryland is better when it has two functioning political parties. But color us skeptical that rearranging the deck chairs in the House GOP caucus is going to accomplish much.

Mr. Kipke, who represents Anne Arundel County, said the change was needed because the party hasn't been good enough at getting its message out.

Really?

Who, exactly, is unaware that the Maryland Republican Party opposes higher taxes, increased government spending, in-state tuition for immigrants who are in the country illegally, gun control, same-sex marriage, subsidies for offshore wind farms, and whatever else Gov. Martin O'Malley might support? A show of hands, please.

The state of the Maryland GOP surely has little to do with Mr. O'Donnell's ability to deliver the party's message. He did so with eloquence, passion and conviction. Nonetheless, the party remains outnumbered by a more than 2-1 margin in the House. The problem was not Mr. O'Donnell's salesmanship. It's that the people of Maryland — two-thirds of them, anyway — weren't buying what he was selling. The party can change the messenger if it likes, but it's not likely to make much difference because the message will be almost exactly the same.

Mr. Kipke's record in Annapolis diverges little from Mr. O'Donnell's. Both are deeply conservative and unfailing critics of the Democratic leadership in Annapolis. The new minority leader says there will be little philosophical difference between the two regimes but that he will dedicate himself more fully to outreach through town hall meetings and greater coordination with GOP central committees and conservative groups like Change Maryland and Americans for Prosperity. If people understand what Republican policies have to offer them, Mr. Kipke said, the party will succeed. "We still believe Maryland to be a more moderate state than where the legislature has taken us in recent years."

The evidence for that is dubious. Republicans lost all three initiatives they put on the ballot in 2012, including high-profile fights over marriage equality and Maryland's version of the Dream Act. And polls show that the gun control measures the GOP has fought are strongly supported by the public. Mr. Kipke predicts that Democrats will be punished for the tax increases of the last few years, but that's not certain either. In 2006, Gov. Martin O'Malley defeated Republican incumbent Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. by about 7 points. In 2007, Mr. O'Malley enacted the largest package of tax increases in Maryland history. In 2010, he beat Mr. Ehrlich in a rematch by almost 15 points. The GOP lost two seats in the state Senate that year, too. (A bright spot was the Republican gain of six seats in the House under Mr. O'Donnell's leadership.)

Even if it is true that Marylanders are more moderate on some issues than the Democrats in the legislature, it is certainly the case that voters are more moderate than the state GOP. Marylanders may not like higher taxes, but they also, as a whole, understand the proposition that when it comes to government services, you get what you pay for. Over a long period of time, they have shown a willingness to invest in good schools, good roads and a clean environment — and a lack of interest in the reflexive anti-government rhetoric that Maryland Republicans too often parrot from the national party.

But rather than seeking to unite behind a moderate platform — the kind that led the likes of Wayne Gilchrest, Connie Morella, Helen Bentley and even Mr. Ehrlich to success — the state GOP seems more keen on damaging internal struggles. Like the selection of new party Chairwoman Diana Waterman last month, the election of Mr. Kipke and Ms. Szeliga has divided a party badly in need of unity. Already, a blogger at the site Red Maryland is complaining that Mr. Kipke is insufficiently conservative.

Gerrymandered congressional and legislative districts make it next to impossible for Republicans to make significant gains if their strategy is to try the same message, only louder this time. Infighting doesn't help either. But there is certainly a need for a meaningful alternative voice in Maryland's public policy debates. We can only hope that Mr. Kipke and his fellow Republicans will find it.

  • Text NEWS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun local news text alerts
  • Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
    Related Content
    ElectionsRepublican PartyNational GovernmentGun ControlPersonal Weapon ControlInterior Policy
    • House GOP deposes O'Donnell, chooses Kipke as leader

      Vastly outnumbered and constantly thwarted by Democrats, Republicans in the House of Delegates ousted longtime Minority Leader Anthony J. O'Donnell Tuesday and replaced him with Anne Arundel County Del. Nicholaus R. Kipke.

    • Fracking moves forward
      Fracking moves forward

      A week ago, a failed switch in a home along the shores of Deep Creek Lake caused 1,700 gallons of raw sewage to accidentally spill into the water, enough that health officials had to monitor local water quality and post warning signs nearby after the cleanup. The episode was uncommon, but it...

    • Who's next?
      Who's next?

      What Marylander had the biggest impact on the state in 2014? The Sun is asking for your nominations for the 2014 Marylander of the Year. Please send them to talkback@baltimoresun.com and include "Marylander of the Year" in the subject line. We'll announce the finalists in mid-December and a...

    • Ferguson impact [Poll]
      Ferguson impact [Poll]
    • Report concludes Maryland can safely 'frack'
      Report concludes Maryland can safely 'frack'

      Maryland agencies have concluded that natural gas production from the Marcellus Shale by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) can be accomplished without unacceptable risks, but only if a suite of best practices is required, monitoring and inspections are rigorous, and enforcement is ironclad. The...

    • Acknowledging climate change in GOP's best interest
      Acknowledging climate change in GOP's best interest

      November has been a good-news/bad-news month for the climate struggle.

    • Feed a 'Silent Guest' this Thanksgiving
      Feed a 'Silent Guest' this Thanksgiving

      This Thanksgiving put an extra chair at your table and make room for a "silent guest." That guest can be one of the world's 805 million hungry people.

    • Man's (and woman's) best friend
      Man's (and woman's) best friend

      My friends and I have been saying for years that when it comes to genuine caring, to loyalty and to good judgment, many dogs actually behave better than many people. For example, one cannot buy a dog's love and loyalty with toys and treats, but, sadly, there are some people who can be bought...

    Comments
    Loading