So, I did go to the Montgomery County Republican Party Open House this evening, and I’m glad I did. As with another attendee, I had expected a big room, people milling about and socializing, maybe one or two people addressing everyone, and then more socializing. You know, an Open House. I suppose since Republicans in Montgomery County MD are such a rare bird, we got something even better– comfy chairs around a long table (three put together), with a few addresses and the main item being Jim Rutledge presenting himself and his ideas and why we ought to help him kick Mikulski out of the US Senate.
I deliberately did not bring in my notepad, or even a pen, as I wanted to avoid being so busy scribbling down words that I didn’t get a chance for impressions. Tonight was about looking the candidate in the eye, watching his body language, and trying to get a feel for who he is as a person (and likewise for his staff). So, my impressions:
1) I do hope they update the pic on the website– he’s shaved and gotten a haircut since those pictures, and looks a lot better. A rather shallow observation, but voters can be shallow people, and sadly in our fallen, imperfect world, looks have a lot to do with many things. So, yes, much better looking in person.
2) Jim really focused his address on the need to have less government interference in people’s lives. He noted all the spending that Mikulski has voted for in this year alone, capping everything off with that horrid vote to raise the debt ceiling. He then contrasted this with “And what has this done for Maryland?” Answer: Not a whole bloody lot. He noted the unemployment in Ocean City (11%) and other places in Maryland that are farther from DC. He noted too, the skyrocketing foreclosure rate in Maryland, and how none of the spending Babs has voted for has helped Western MD, Southern MD, or the Eastern Shore.
3) In answer to a question, he affirmed that he was personally in favor of term limits, but realized that as it would need a Constitutional Amendment, that it would be a tough sell.
4) Jim, like everyone else in the room, was clearly energized by the recent Scott Brown victory in MA. Almost all of what he talked about were topics that would appeal to the Tea Party folk– fiscal conservatism, small government. Twice, he did say “I am a Reagan Republican.” Granted, saying it doesn’t make it so, but the Tea Party people clearly who he’s trying to market himself toward.
5) He really seems to believe it’s possible for him to win the Senate seat, but he also has no illusions about how very difficult it will be. I’m not sure if he actually said this, but I got the impression, that was the very reason he was coming to Montgomery County so early– Winning the Montgomery Country precincts would be a total coup.
6) Although he did have some notes on the table in front of himself, he mostly spoke freely. No teleprompters, no reading off the sheets. He seems to be new to this, in that his delivery didn’t flow forth in a torrent of eloquence– but this isn’t a bad thing. It’s the beginning of February, for one thing, when most people in the state aren’t even thinking about elections. I suspect with a little more time in front of people, he’ll get it all ironed out. He devoted half his time to taking questions from attendees, and doing his best to answer clearly and honestly.
All in all, at this point in time, I’d say this is a man I can support for this seat. Granted, I haven’t met any of the other candidates yet, and I’d like to do so before throwing support to one or another. But, should Jim Rutledge win the primary, I don’t think I’ll be disappointed. I did receive a little campaign brochure that is basically a very abbreviated version of his website.
In addition to hosting Candidate Jim Rutledge, the MC Repubs also spoke on some local issues of importance. Robin Ficker got up and spoke about his new initiative to institute term limits for the Montgomery County Council, and passed around petition sheets for folk to sign to get the language on the ballot in November. Sadly (or perhaps happily?) there were more people in attendance than he had forms, so I ended up without one.
Betty Kuck also presented a short briefing on the state of the Maryland Budget (2 billion dollar deficit, 8.3 billion dollar long-term structural deficit), and the way teachers unions are blocking education reforms that would help us get Race to the Top funding. And, current Governor O’Malley has already been endorsed by the Maryland State Education association–even though his opponent is yet unknown. [Although, as a side note, we’re all pretty sure Erlich will be running again].
Finally, I also picked up a bumper sticker that says “Loose your freedom? Enough Taxes? Vote ALL Big Spenders OUT”
Some AFP attendees took video, so if I get ahold of it, I’ll post so you can see and decide about this Rutledge fellow for yourself.
All in all a good evening. The Young Republicans will be hosting a debate in a week or two, so I’ll try to get to that so I can see the candidates all together, do a compare/ contrast.