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After defeat, Mooney gets a shiny new platform

December 19, 2010|By TIM ROWLAND | timr@herald-mail.com

Local Democrats who thought they had some small ray of sunshine to hold onto last month with the defeat of Frederick/Washington county state Sen. Alex X. Mooney might want to review the axiom about keeping friends close and enemies closer, as well as the one about being careful what you wish for.

Mooney landed on his feet this week when he was picked to lead the state GOP, a beleaguered outfit that is perpetually short of ideas and cash.

With Mooney, the GOP can at least scratch that last issue off its list. Mooney has, and will, raise gobs of money, mostly from out-of-state special interests, if history is a guide.

On his Linked-in Web page, Mooney says he specializes in “fundraising” and “campaign strategy.” One might yearn for a state senator who specializes in helping people or being a good public servant, but those days appear to be gone.

But fundraising and strategy are precisely the chores in which a good party chairman will excel, so Democrats might discover it would have been better to have the erstwhile loose cannon in the Senate chamber, where — if he didn’t contribute much — at least he never did them much damage outside of being a side-poking thorn.

At the state level, he will swell the party’s bank account, but how this money is spent — and on whom — remains problematic. Mooney has insisted that Republicans don’t win in Maryland because they are not conservative enough.

Presumably, however, there is no one more conservative than he is, so how would Mooney explain his loss last month to a moderate Democrat in a historically conservative district?

That will be a problem for Republicans, seeing as how they seem to be sweeping the Ehrlich centrists off the main stage, replacing them with Palinesque players who make up in volume what they lack in substance.

Certainly that’s a good strategy for the hinterlands, as the most recent election proved, but it’s less clear how this is supposed to win over Maryland as a whole. Statewide, conservatives turned in a disappointing State House performance last month, considering the national, conservative mood.

Mooney’s new, high-profile job also re-clouds the gathering GOP race to replace term-limit champion U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, who theoretically cannot serve forever, although he has shown us no overt evidence of that presumption.

Before his defeat, Mooney was seen as a possible roadblock to state Sen.-elect Christopher B. Shank’s designs on Bartlett’s seat. Now, Mooney has emerged with a statewide platform that will afford him more publicity than a country senate seat could have provided.

Further, Mooney will not face a major distraction that threatens Shank this coming session — redistricting.

Shank’s stock in trade is making the lives of Maryland Democrats miserable (not that there’s anything wrong with that), so there is little reason to think that they, given the chance, won’t do the same to him. And redistricting offers a tremendous opportunity, particularly if the numbers allow the district of Garrett/Allegany/Washington county Sen. George Edwards to ooze eastward.

If that happens, state lawmakers could have ever so much fun with Washington County, stretching the line(s) to the point that everywhere we look, we will have a senate district dominated by voters from neighboring counties.

And by rubbing respected Sen. Donald F. Munson’s face in the mud this fall, Shank alienated a chunk of Republican voters in Washington County that he cannot afford to lose should he find his district suddenly inundated with Frederick Countians.

It might be an unlikely outcome, but it is not too much of a reach to think that Senate Democrats will force Shank to spend so much time defending his own turf that he won’t be able to stick his nose into more bothersome affairs.

The escape clause for Shank would be if Bartlett retired before Shank’s own Senate term is up, allowing him to move up the ladder before the redistricting chickens came home to roost. For Washington County, this might be seen as a double win, since it would give us a resident representative in Washington, while removing him from state office, where he does us more harm than good by routinely biting the hand that feeds — or in this case, funds.

Of course, with a shiny new platform to speak from, Alex Mooney might once again have something to say about this would-be rosy scenario.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or by e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. Tune in to the Rowland Rant video on antpod.com or on Antietam Cable’s WCL-TV Channel 30 at 6:30 p.m. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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