A breath of fresh air in Maryland GOP politics

Last month, Alex Mooney ’93, my comrade in the Dartmouth alumni wars, was elected chairman of the Maryland Republican Party. Alex, who also directs the invaluable National Journalism Center, ran for the chairmanship as the unabashed conservative he is. Among those he defeated was Mary Kane, a more moderate Republican who ran unsuccessfully for Lieutenant Governor in 2010.
Alex isn’t just about ideology, though. He’s a tested politician who was elected to the Maryland State Senate three times before losing by fewer than 1,000 votes this year. Based on my experience with Alex, I expect him to bring new energy to the Party, including more active use of social networking and a more robust fundraising operation that will gear up much earlier in the four-year state cycle than it traditionally has.
Meanwhile, the local liberal media is already gearing up to attack Alex. An editorial in his hometown paper, the Frederick News-Post, claims that he is using the position of state party head as a springboard for his real ambition – election to Congress in the seat now held by 84 year-old Republican Roscoe Bartlett. “It’s personal ambition,” the paper declares, while fretting that he will drive the party to the right in an effort to promote his status in a conservative district.
The Washington Post piles on, providing, in effect, a megaphone for the Frederick paper’s claims. To fuel fears that Mooney will drive the Republican Party to the right, the Post tells us that “Mooney. . .did not vote for a single tax increase and railed against abortion during his legislative tenure.” Do liberal politicians ever “rail” in MSM accounts of their speeches?
The accounts of the Frederick paper and the Washington Post don’t quite manage to strike fear into the heart of this Maryland Republican. Mooney’s ambition isn’t a problem – his current job won’t be much of a springboard for future office unless he performs it well. Moreover, as the Post admits late in its article, Mooney wouldn’t be the first state party chairman to run for office following his tenure. Michael Steele did it. So did Montgomery County Executive Issiah Leggett, a Democrat.
Nor do I fear that Mooney’s conservatism will hurt the party in elections. The party’s ideological stance is determined, in the main, by its candidates, not its chairman. In any case, the party isn’t exactly knocking them dead as it is. Robert Ehrlich, an attractive center-right candidate for governor lost by 14 points in what was, elsewhere, a good Republican year. Meanwhile, the Democrats hold 35 of 47 Senate seats and 98 of 141 seats in the House of Delegates.
What our state party needs most is energy and dynamism. A strong conservative like Alex is likely to provide this. The byproduct, I hope, will be improved fundraising. The beneficiaries, I hope, will be strong conservative candidates running in conservative jurisdictions and center-right candidates running in moderate to liberal ones.
And if Alex ends up in Congress, I’ll count that as a bonus.

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