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Gregory Kline: the MDGOP’s best or only hope?

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“If there is dissatisfaction with the status quo, good,” Democratic senator and frequent presidential candidate Hubert H. Humphrey once said. “If there is ferment, so much the better… then let there be ideas and hard thought and hard work.”
Edited for length, the full Humphrey quote also contains a section that – arguably - echoes the mood of many members of Maryland’s Republican Party and its fractured factions.
“If there is restlessness,” Humphrey added, “I am pleased.”
Well, non-Democrats in Maryland these days that fancy themselves Independents, Moderates, Libertarians, Constitutionalists, Conservatives, Tea Partiers, Federalists, non-Statists, normal taxpayers, etc. should be delighted, because the increasing agitation and exploding impatience with the current state of the state GOP is obvious.
“What’s most obvious,” Gregory Kline says over the phone from his Severna Park law office, “is that we can’t keep going down the road we’re on.”
Kline, not only an attorney but also a long-time political activist, former General Assembly candidate, talk radio regular and one of the founders of Red Maryland, applies dual meanings to his wrong road observation.
Not only is the state he loves plummeting into an abyss of high taxes, lost liberties and hostile business climates, but his political party is teetering on the edge of extinction - or even worse, irrelevance.
Both trajectories played major roles in Kline’s latest venture: seeking the chairmanship of the Maryland Republican Party; a chair that will be filled this weekend when the neighborhood Red Team gathers to elect a new state central committee leader.
“There has been an abdication of leadership in the party,” Kline explains. “And the evidence of that was quite clear after the last election.”
In the wake of the whoopin’ taken by Republicans, conservatives and any other ‘right’ thinking portion of the electorate last November, the Maryland GOP began its final descent deep into the drain it has been circling for more than a decade.
“It was the perfect example of putting lipstick on a pig,” Kline says. “Just the former chair trying to save face.”
“It” was a Republican Party that immediately distributed press releases that led with the totally irrelevant fact that Maryland now has over one million registered Republicans, more locally elected Republicans than locally elected Democrats, and a Republican voter registration majority in 12 jurisdictions.
The face-saver was one Alex P. Mooney, who should have been knee-capped at the last gathering of the Lost Election Hall of Fame this past winter.
Alas, the establishment – the previously mentioned purveyors of the status quo – didn’t have the Berries to whack him.
“All of these actions, all of these events,” Kline adds, “have resulted in the current lack of confidence in the state party. So have recent actions by the leadership.”
Mooney dodged the equivalent of Tuddy and Vinny’s made-man ceremony, but turned around two months later and fell on his own sword – okay, threw himself on a pile of cash being readied for a run at elected office – not even 30-days into the 2013 General Assembly Session.
As both predicted and expected, Republican election failure led to a session filled with a Democratic pummeling that made last November’s beating look like slap and tickle night at Heather’s Happy Ending Hotel.
And while elected Republicans were being ignored like they were illegal immigrants crossing our borders, the party machine slogged along with then-First Vice Chairman Diana Waterman taking the helm.
Waterman, who served in the First Vice role for more than two years (go ahead, do the math), also tossed her chapeau into the chair race – a nod to the same-old-same-old, and Kline is quick to acknowledge.
“She is the status quo candidate,” Kline says, “which makes this her race to win. But after more than two months on the job we’ve seen no signs that the Party plans to move in a different direction.”
Kline questions the few initiatives Waterman has embraced; such as summarily dismissing Nicolee Ambrose from her post on the Republican National Committee’s Rules Committee, tripping over statements regarding MDGOP Executive Director David Ferguson’s decision to cancel a candidate training session and become a traveling heckler for Gov. Martin O’Malley’s Presidential comedy tour, and generally performing in a manner unbecoming of a party in desperate need of a Ty Pennington-sized makeover.
“There is a group within the establishment that wants to keep their exclusive hold on the party,” Kline explains, “they want nothing more than to hold on to their fiefdom.”
As the notable endorsements of the candidates came drifting in, those feudal lords – naturally - lined up behind Waterman. The RNC’s Louis Pope (a Romney rube who should no longer be allowed within 100 feet of the state line), John Wafer (Maryland Republican Party secretary), Chris Rosenthal (MRP treasurer), other MRP stalwarts (beginning to see a pattern here?), numerous (and familiar) county central committee representatives and state GOP Grande Dame Ellen Sauerbrey.
(note: as this column was being posted Congressman Andy Harris also endorsed Waterman)
Sauerbrey recently authored a letter that seemed to support Diana Waterman for two reasons: she has “worked tirelessly on campaigns and party building activity” and because “showing up counts for something.”
Reminds one of the Seinfeld stand-up routine about the qualifications for a New York City cabbie’s license: all one seems to need is a face.
“I have nothing but respect for Ambassador Sauerbrey,” Kline says, addressing the former gubernatorial candidate’s endorsement of one of his competitors, “but the party doesn’t benefit when its leaders just ‘show up.’ What the party needs is renewed energy and a different direction.”
The course Kline has charted for the MDGOP promises both; invigorating the current Red Team voter rolls - and their checkbooks - through actual inclusion (as opposed to simply paying lip service to the disgruntled blocs), and implementing a path that includes the actual winning of meaningful elections.
Kline’s golden goose – his “1914 Plan” – is a strategy to, at the very least, elect enough Republicans to the state senate so a filibuster can be maintained.
“Look,” Kline emphasizes, “we’ve identified nine districts where the last [state] senatorial races were within five points. It is not impossible to net seven of those nine. ‘1914’ is ambitious; but it is also achievable.”
Having an immediate, achievable plan and an effective message – lacking under both past and current leadership – should also help when it comes to replenishing the coffers.
“If you are a current donor,” Kline asks, “or are considering making a contribution, would you feel more willing to do so if you knew you might be seeing a return in 2014 or would you rather wait for the Party to make progress in 2018, 2020 or 2022? Our donors, voters, activists and grassroots have to start feeling like their state party hasn’t abandoned them.”
Eliminating that state-wide feeling of neglect is also a front-line issue for Collins Bailey, the third candidate seeking the party chair.
“It is important for our party to come out of the wilderness,” Bailey told Raging Against the Rhetoric’s Jackie Wellfonder. “We’ve been in the wilderness for about 40 years… I see us getting further and further from shore.”
Just when he was ready to win the award for chair candidate with the most mixed of metaphors, Collins delivered this little gem: “And I believe we can be a Red State.”
Let’s start with just getting an attorney general candidate with an “R” next to his name, Mr. Bailey, then we can fantasize about Santa Claus poopin’ us a basket full of little chocolate Easter Bunnies.
Kline, too much of a gentlemen to follow me into the bathroom humor stall, praised Bailey’s spirit but quickly noted the difference between his plans and those of the former Howard County school board member.
“My plan is detailed; my plan is complete,” Kline adds, “and my plan involves utilizing ‘new media’ in every possible manner.”
Today, long after this interview took place, the MDGOP handed down an edict that effectively told citizen journalists to shove it up their blog. Yep, the Maryland Republican Party has been so damn effective and significant these last, I don’t know, 700 election cycles, that they now feel confident in alienating not only the non-establishment voting blocs, but also those who chronicle the frustrations of the estranged.
We’re the Maryland Republican Party, and we couldn’t find a parking space in an empty lot.
In spite of the MDGOP’s determination to prove that evolution can indeed go in reverse, Waterman, Bailey and Kline will clash this weekend for the right to wear this Darwinian crown.
While it seems as if Greg Kline is lagging behind the other two candidates when it comes to endorsements, former senate-candidate and rising party star Dan Bongino is solidly in his corner.
“I believe the best choice to turn this Party around and put us on a path to future electoral successes is Greg Kline,” Bongino’s endorsement read. “Greg’s plan for Maryland is detailed, visionary, strategic, and avoids repeating the mistakes of the past.”
Maryland’s dwindling Republican voters will most assuredly take any one of the four – as long as a new chairman does not continue making the folks who do the work and write the checks feel like they no longer have a voice.
And if the weekend comes to a close and Greg Kline is not the new state party chairman?
“I’m going to continue to fight for all of these things,” Kline admits, “because the real danger is that we – as a party – are going to turn off and turn away all the people who make this party run.”
Now, turning away voters is the one thing the current leadership can securely tuck in its “success column.”
“What the new chairman has to provide is a ray of hope…,” Kline concludes, “… something that Republican supporters can glom on to.”
Putting Greg Kline in that chair is the right thing to do… the fear here is that the only thing the MDGOP does consistently well is always being reliably wrong.

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