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The presidential cycle elections are one year away, but Carroll countians are preparing now for 2020 — and beyond.

A year seems long, but we know that it is not where politics are concerned. The off-year elections this week demonstrated not only the Left’s relentless drive to undo 2016, but to begin retaking local and state control. While Republicans swept races across Kentucky, unpopular Republican Gov. Matt Bevin — down by double-digit points prior to President Trump showing up in support ― came within a few thousand votes of winning reelection.

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In Virginia, Democrats now control the state. Among those elected in Loudon County are a government employee who was fired for flipping off President Trump’s motorcade. Delaware County, Pennsylvania, which has been in Republican hands since the 1860s, was taken at the polls this week by Democrats. Their success in local races is a reminder that even these contests matter in immense ways.

Here, in Carroll, those local offices matter as well — and the county’s citizens and elected leaders know this. Sen. Justin Ready’s recent fundraiser featured Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, while Congressman Andy Harris held a town hall in Gamber — emblematic of how important Carroll is in the grand scheme of state elections. Harris will also be guest-speaking at Taneytown’s November business breakfast. On a similar note, to actively keep involved and keep informed about the communities he serves so well, Commissioner Stephen Wantz attended this month’s Mayor and City Council meeting for Taneytown.

Our county has become the conservative stronghold in the central part of Maryland, and we turn out to vote because both home, and commonsense values, resonate so deeply in our hearts. But many know it is not merely enough just to turn out to vote at election time.

Many Democrats have complained that, between President Trump’s rallies and his use of social media, it seems as if he never stopped campaigning for the presidency. That is true — and reveals the changed landscape of American politics.

The Democrats had long been better at organizing and preparing for elections. Their use of social media and the internet in 2008 to spread awareness and drive up turnout, for example, was something Republicans struggled to contend with, but under Trump, have surpassed. Even Democrats have conceded that the GOP is outdistancing them online at present.

Democrats have also long-held the upper hand in local organizing. It was a process that they expanded nationally in 2008 and again in 2012. But President Trump’s massive rallies, which consistently see turnout in the tens-of-thousands, have helped to even the odds. These rallies are always streamed on social media, which means that even when news networks do not cover them, countless more Americans are able to watch them in their entirety. It is a new way of keeping Americans informed and involved.

Since the Obama years, there has been a resurgence of political involvement on the part of the Right. That desire to keep working even in non-election years extends to Carroll Republicans, who have been galvanized by the reelection of Gov. Larry Hogan, and the election of President Trump. But what do Republicans do, now? And how do even more Republicans get involved?

Traditionally and importantly, Carroll’s elected officials have held fundraisers and events to keep those people involved, and to prepare for campaigns. Del. April Rose is one of them. “I think it’s a great way to meet with supporters and constituents to talk about current issues, and in my case, the upcoming session,” she explained to me. “It also truly has become a fun night to connect with friends, new friends and family. So many people you meet while in office and campaigning become great lifelong friends.” Delegate Rose’s perspective is well-taken: she, and our other elected figures, have always looked to that very human reason to serve and be involved.

Involvement, and taking nothing for granted, are things which have also been astutely recognized by Chris Tomlinson, one of the founders of recently formed Carroll Republican Victory. CRV has two goals: to keep Republicans informed about GOP events through social media and online platforms, and to keep Republicans involved through “Connections” — monthly social gatherings at Johanssons in Westminster which include guest speakers (such as State Sen. Johnny Ray Salling and WBAL Radio’s Yuripzy Morgan), and allow for education, networking, and good company. The District 5 delegation will be guest speakers at this month’s Connections.

Tomlinson explains that there “is a large group of local Republicans who want to be engaged and involved in local politics and government all year round — not simply during the presidential election and midterm elections.” And Tomlinson is determined to turn out even more of them in Carroll. “It may be money, time, or the general negativity surrounding politics in 2019 that keeps some locals from wanting to become more involved. CRV is providing an alternative and convenient platform for local Republicans who want to become more active. Through our organization, we hope to educate Republicans and encourage them to attend local events and meetings, volunteer for candidates, or possibly run for office themselves.”

Election days are never more than a year away, so now is the time to get involved. The reality is clear. There won’t be lulls in between elections, at least not for a while, and certainly not if conservatives want to win. The nature of participation in our American elective institution has changed: the mechanics remain sound but the approach is new. We cannot ignore it. We simply have to adjust to it and embrace it if we are going to keep what we love.

Joe Vigliotti, a contributor to The Flip Side and a Taneytown city councilman, writes from Taneytown. His column appears every other Friday. Email him through his website at www.jvigliotti.com.

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