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'Party faithful' gather at GOP picnic

August 23, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

SMITHSBURG - The skies were gray, but the hundred or so Republicans who gathered Wednesday night at Smithsburg Community Park for the annual GOP picnic were optimistic about their chances of staying dry.

"We usually get pretty lucky here. I don't think we'll have any problems," said Maryland state Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, who attends the event every year.

As workers from Hoffman Catering rushed to get dinner ready early to avoid the impending storms, Munson moved slowly around the picnic area, shaking hands and chatting with anyone who wanted to talk.

"This is a great event," Munson said. "It's a wonderful chance for the party faithful to get together and have a good time."

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The picnic, which was hosted by the Washington County Republican Club, drew about 100 people this year. Most gathered near a pavilion to eat fried chicken and chat up fellow GOP members, though politics was not the only topic of conversation.

"It's not an election year, so we're talking about anything and everything," said Del. LeRoy Myers, Jr. R-Allegany/Washington. In fact, the picnic seemed to be a welcome diversion for some eager to avoid talking about Maryland's GOP.

"The party has seen better days," said Michael Hern of Boonsboro. "We've got a lot of work to do."

Myers said Republicans are in a state of hibernation.

"We suffered a huge defeat," said Myers, referring to former Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich's defeat in last year's gubernatorial race to Democratic challenger Martin O'Malley. "We need to regroup, re-evaluate our mistakes and move forward."

Munson said the GOP's problems were compounded after Ehrlich's loss by poor party management, which resulted in a financial deficit for the state Republican Party.

The deficit, which was reported by The (Baltimore) Sun earlier this month, left the party more than $40,000 in debt, Munson said.

"It has really caused us to have to play catch-up, both in terms of money and public perception," Munson said.

But even so, Munson said he thinks Republicans are poised to gain ground this year. He said Democrats in Annapolis have suggested raising taxes to fix the state's $1.5 billion structural deficit, a move Munson predicted will prove wildly unpopular.

"If taxes go up, Democrats will have to face that," Munson said. "There are other ways."

Republicans released their own plan to reduce the state's deficit last week. It hinges on bringing slots to Maryland, a move many Democrats oppose. Munson said he understands the opposition, but said he is "frankly thrilled" about the possibility of the bill's passage.

"We need it," Munson said. "If Democrats want to raise taxes instead, that's fine. But wait until election time comes rolling around again."

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