United We Stand, Divided We Fail
The Frederick County Republican Central Committee (FCRCC), hereinafter referred to as "committee," is experiencing internal turmoil which threatens to undermine its core mission: To promote all Republican candidates. Apparent ineffectiveness – if not incompetent – leadership by current Chairman Mary Rolle threatens to stall, if not reverse, any momentum generated by former Chairman Kelly Schulz.
Most of the cause for infighting can be traced back to the Michael Hough vs. Charles Jenkins debacle, though recent attempts to form candidate slates has further strained unity.
My recent vacation was briefly interrupted by a late night phone call from a concerned committee member. Bryan Smith had spent that day defending the committee's record against perceived inadequacies and deviation from the committee's mission. He wanted my opinion as to why people felt disenfranchised.
To understand the current displeasure of many with the current committee, one must first understand the initial discord created by the committee's mishandling of the selection for the state delegate seat vacated by Rick Weldon when he opted to leave in favor of serving as Frederick Mayor Randy McClement's executive assistant.
To make a long story short, the committee fractured trust with insiders when it allowed then-committee member Michael Hough to vote for himself to be appointed state delegate, and when then committee member Mary Rolle was permitted to vote via text message in favor of Michael Hough despite her absence from – and without benefit of – the interviews of both Mr. Hough and Mr. Jenkins.
Many within and outside the committee were astounded by the impropriety of both allowances.
The eventual appointment of Delegate Jenkins created two distinct camps: (Alex) Mooney/Hough due to Senator Mooney's loyalty and political maneuvering and behind the scenes support of understudy Mr. Hough and those supporting then County Commissioner Charles Jenkins.
Strife was compounded with disregard for an ambiguously interpreted rule of the committee's adherence to party unity: No committee member shall endorse any one Republican candidate over another prior to the primary. Katie Nash and Mary Rolle have been implicated in numerous instances, most notably in their explicit support of Mr. Hough over Delegate Jenkins in this election's District 3-B primary.
The committee has not yet unified the two camps, nor has it reconciled perceived endorsement improprieties through by-law amendments or universal acceptance of right from wrong.
It has been alleged – and a case can be made – that Senator Mooney has controlled the committee since his 2006 slate, of which all but one candidate earned a seat on the committee, was elected. It appears that Mr. Mooney is responsible for construction of 2010's slate as well.
Senator Mooney's polarizing presence is cause for concern: Those in the Mooney/Hough camp yearn for his praise and are awed by his ability to raise funds. Those in the Jenkins camp are disgusted by Mooney's annual ranking as one of the least effective legislators in Annapolis and his out-of-state fund raising. They view Mr. Hough as a Senator Mooney clone.
Fast forward to an email drafted and sent by committee member Katie Nash (Mooney/Hough) on August 31, 2010, addressed to "Fellow Republican Candidates" requesting money for eight committee candidates on the grounds that "we are a solid investment in your future as an elected official." The "God's chosen 8" included author of email Ms. Nash, Mary Rolle, Joe Cohen, Kevin Grubb, Carol Powell, Fred Propheter, Bree Rettig, and Michelle Stanton.
Incredibly, Ms. Nash failed to fully disclose the nature of this slate to the satisfaction of several named, and shortly after the email made its rounds, Fred Propheter, Michelle Stanton, and Joe Cohen requested to be removed from the slate. Bryan Smith explained that he asked to be removed from the slate prior to publishing of the email.
The infighting among committee candidates began.
Remarkably, just days later a second attempt at slate formation commenced. This one was arguably more incendiary than the first.
The Republican tent at Frederick's "In the Streets" on Saturday was ostensibly a place where all voters could obtain information on all Republican candidates vying for election to positions from local to national. Those who stepped into the tent were greeted by Mary Rolle and her lone adhesive endorsement: A "Dino Flores" sticker.
That's right. Mary Rolle, chairman of the Frederick County Republican Central Committee, an organization charged with supporting all Republican candidates was adorned with one candidate's advertisement for your vote. Admittedly, this is merely symbolic of her lack of understanding or appreciation for the fractured segments within the local party.
However, her handing out bright yellow fliers to passers-by titled "Sample Ballot for Frederick County Republican Central Committee" was egregious. This ballot was wrought with examples of her failed leadership and the slate's complete disregard for its alleged mission of supporting all Republican candidates.
On the left of the sample ballot in bold 30-something font was this: "The Anti-Tax Team," Endorsed by Senator Alex X. Mooney, Mary Rolle, Chairman of the Frederick County Republican Central Committee and Sallie B. Taylor, President Maryland Republican Assembly. On the right was a list of all 14 central committee candidates with a slate of seven easily identifiable by its 30-something font, bold check-marked names towering over all other candidates. At the bottom, "paid for by Mary Rolle, Authority." Bryan Smith was bewildered to find his name on the slate, inclusion he was never asked about.
We should interpret the yellow handout as a caution.
Continued attempts to divide the candidates through slates manipulated by Senator Mooney for his benefit of not having to "work with people against him" are selfish and short-sighted.
Ms. Rolle, her quest for re-election and her willingness to be manipulated by Senator Mooney are quickly turning off party faithful. Private talk of her ineffectiveness as a leader is becoming public.
Before Chairman Schulz stepped down to pursue election to state delegate representing District 4-A, she had established an informative line of communication with her monthly "Chairman's Chronicle," which was last published in July. We have not seen anything similar under Ms. Rolle's chairmanship.
The Maryland state party sent a message to Ms. Rolle and all the other county chairs requesting that she be present for an early voting strategy conference call. The request was misinterpreted as a request from Bob Ehrlich's campaign team, which Ms. Rolle surmised was Mr. Ehrlich's responsibility, not her committee's. The result was a haphazard effort by the committee to be represented at the early voting polls.
Committee candidate Michelle Stanton finds it "wildly frustrating that we are wasting time with messy controversies instead of working on a central focus of getting Republicans elected."
Committee candidate Eric Myers thinks "the backbiting is hurting our ability to help Republicans get elected."
Committee candidate Bryan Smith explained: "I don't want to be a part of a slate. I want to run on my name and my accomplishments."
Even if one sets aside Ms. Rolle's tendency to damn others in her party, committee members, former members and candidates are beginning to recognize her inability to marshal volunteers, follow simple directives from the state party and keep open lines of communication with local Republicans.
Our county and state face incredible challenges. Ms. Rolle would be wise to put the party's goals ahead of her own and resign her chairmanship in favor of someone with the skill set needed to unite a divided membership.