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GOP requires a new strategy in Annapolis

February 22, 2008

When Washington County's Republican Central Committee recommends someone to replace Del. Robert McKee, the committee should pick a person who's willing to work with Democrats to advance policies favorable to Western Maryland.

McKee, 58 and in his 14th year as a Maryland delegate, resigned after revelations of a police investigation into allegations of child pornography in his Halfway home.

He served in subdistrict 2A, which covers northern parts of Washington County, including Williamsport, Maugansville, Smithsburg and Cascade.

For McKee's replacement and Republicans in general, cooperation with Democrats in Annapolis is the only strategy that can succeed.

That's because in the Maryland House of Delegates, Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 3-to-1 margin. It's bit closer in the state senate, where Republicans are only outnumbered 2-to-1.

Republicans, especially those from rural areas, will not overcome this advantage by crying "foul" every time an issue doesn't go their way. Such an approach only highlights their lack of clout.

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One way to succeed would be to develop expertise that the legislature needs.

Former state Sen. Robert Neall of Anne Arundel County did it by becoming an expert on the state's budget and its often troubled pension system.

Ironically, Neall's own GOP party members felt he was not conservative enough. He eventually switched parties, telling party leaders that from time to time he had felt "uncomfortable and unwelcome" in the party.

We're not advocating that any local delegation member do that; the Democrat-dominated legislature needs a counter-balancing force.

That need is greatest when Democrats do things such as passing educational reforms such as the Thornton Commission recommendations, then failing to develop a funding mechanism for them.

That's something the average citizen can relate to. You don't buy a new car if you have no idea how you're going to make the payments. Average citizens also know that it would be unfair to expect someone else to pay for a purchase they've made.

Republicans could also gain strength if they could propose remedies for mistakes Democrats have made, such as pushing through a tax on computer services at the same time that the state is trying to attract high-tech industries.

Republicans would also be well-advised to call for another look at the report of the Mandel Commission, a panel appointed by former Gov. Robert Ehrlich to improve government efficiency that was led by former Gov. Marvin Mandel, a Democrat.

The panel included many from both parties, including state Sen. Donald Munson, R-Washington.

Refusing to revisit this would reveal the Democrats as overly partisan, not to mention showing disrespect to one of their party's elders.

In short, the General Assembly's Republicans are outnumbered, so they must be more clever than the Democrats.

To grow in numbers, Republicans, including McKee's replacement, must offer an alternative that says something other than "we're not them."

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