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Sorting through Carroll’s loaded district 5 delegate race
RINOs, Insiders, and Grassroots-ers
Like the NBA’s Western Conference in the 2000s or the NFL’s AFC now, Carroll’s legislative district 5, which stretches from Taneytown through some of Westminster and into Eldersburg, is disproportionately loaded with political talent, where eight would-be state lawmakers are vying for just three available seats.
The race, which Maryland Matters calls “wide-open”, features three sitting county commissioners, one incumbent legislator, a former Carroll County Times columnist, an appointee of George H.W. Bush’s administration, a brewer of beer and hand sanitizer, and an Iraq War veteran turned veterinarian.
So which three of the eight will emerge from the pack and head down to Annapolis to represent most of Carroll come next January’s legislative session?
We’ll have to wait until July to get the final answer of course, but for now, with months of social media activity to scan, published candidate profiles to review, endorsements to consider, and roadway signage to see, a clearer picture of the crowded race is coming into focus.
And that focus reveals the office-seekers falling into three candidate categories: RINOs, Insiders, and Grassroots-ers.
“RINO” as a pejorative gets thrown around so loosely now that the term has basically lost all meaning, but in the case of sitting commissioners Dennis Frazier and Stephen Wantz, it is a legitimately applicable descriptor.
It is Frazier who has the dubious distinction of being the only delegate candidate to receive an endorsement from the Carroll County Education Association, in what is likely a recognition of his own extended teaching career, and a reciprocation from the lockdown hawkish teacher’s union for his outspokenness in keeping schools virtual long after it was even remotely conscionable to do so.
Similarly, in late 2021, amidst the third viral wave that had already proven to be less dangerous than the previous two iterations which themselves posed minimal risk, Frazier, in his capacity as commissioner, motioned that unvaccinated county employees be required to wear masks indoors, in what one could argue amounts to state sponsored medical discrimination, or at the very least a breach of healthcare privacy norms.
Wantz voted to affirm Frazier’s aforementioned motion, and in doing so demonstrated an inability to appropriately manage a balance between safety and infringing upon the liberties of county employees – leaving Ben Franklin to shake his head in disapproval somewhere out in the cosmos.
Frazier and Wantz were both endorsed by Carroll’s Fraternal Order of Police, this despite Frazier perpetuating a harmful stigma about law enforcement in The Baltimore Sun, forming a delegate coupling that would be a uniquely poor choice to represent Carroll in Annapolis.
The Republican Insiders
Now onto the Insiders, candidates who are indeed Republicans, but have already come up through the party’s established local institutions, including: incumbent delegate April Rose, former Carroll central committee member and columnist Chris Tomlinson, and the endearingly top hat toting commissioner Eric Bouchat.
In her handful of years as delegate, Rose has maintained a level of “conservative excellence” according to lawmaker scoring from CPAC, pulling a 95 rating in 2021 alongside an 89 lifetime score, numbers that are on par with fellow delegate turned Trump endorsed gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox, and state’s attorney aspirant Haven Shoemaker – all this despite the widely held notion that Republicans must moderate their point-of-view in Annapolis to play more nicely with the liberals that run the place, so good on Rose for standing firm.
Rose hopes to be joined in the state capital by Tomlinson, a formerly high ranking official in Maryland’s Republican Party, who she and senator Justin Ready have endorsed, and who also boasts an indirect endorsement from Trump for his service as a delegate at the Republican National Convention.
Despite his being able to leverage the inside track, as shown by high profile congressional candidate Yuripzy Morgan attending his kickoff event in Westminster, Tomlinson has been campaigning with a noticeable energy, a consideration not to be overlooked – all other things being equal, err on the side of he who works the hardest.
One thing that does not diminish Tomlinson’s candidacy, not even a little bit, would be a sophomoric 2018 exposé published by “The News and Times” that still sits unfortunately high in Google Search results.
Let combing through one’s apolitical personal profiles to grab ages old unflattering screenshots for purposes of smearing be a thing reserved for those lowest of figures on the left. On the authentic right we retain a higher standard of criticism.
Now potentially detracting from both Rose and Tomlinson’s conservative bonafides would their regular signage pairing with Ready, who despite probably being Carroll’s single most popular politician, has a voting record that seems to creep increasingly leftward, as evidenced by a 2018 corporatist Republican vote to lure Amazon to Maryland with tax incentives, and a 2021 progressive culturalist vote to expand the definition of a hate crime to include gender identity as a sort of protected class – both perhaps an indication that the senator aspires to a post beyond his currently provincial representative one.
Which then brings us to Bouchat, who scores serious points for his willingness to fight against the mandate mentality held by his commissioning counterparts, and for his masterful management of local leftist media, being one of few candidates to challenge the progressive premises baked into a biased line of questioning posed by The Baltimore Sun in their recently published candidate surveys.
Perhaps distracting if not actually detracting from Bouchat’s candidacy would be a curious affinity for the institution of a charter government in Carroll, which most seem to either not fully comprehend or not be in favor of, citing Frederick County as an example gone wrong.
Bouchat also endorsed the more middling Kelly Shulz for governor instead of Dan Cox, and it would have been refreshing to see him cut against the grain in that regard – but that only barely blemishes what is an otherwise sterling recent record.
If Carroll were ever to have a Trump or a Ron DeSantis of its own, it would be Bouchat. And to see him verbally spar with the leftist chamber dwellers in Annapolis would be appointment worthy viewing.
Lastly we have the grassroots-ers, those who are also too Republicans but have not yet been anointed as chosen ones by the local electorate or powers that be, and would have to blaze a separate path to Annapolis.
First is Scott Willens, the veteran turned veterinarian who openly refers to himself as an outsider, but who nonetheless is drawing on a robust set of campaign resources, having amassed a somewhat sizeable Facebook following, and having almost $20K on hand as of mid April, more even than Rose who had $17K available at the same time, while no other candidate’s bank exceeded $10K.
In keeping with his outsider quality is an admirably yeoman’s willingness to comment on politically divisive subjects, having recently remarked on everything from Dinesh D'souza’s “2000 Mules” to the importance of preserving the second amendment in the wake of a spate of horrifying mass shootings.
Willens did take issue with some of his competition, likely Bouchat and Tomlinson, for campaigning on the sidewalks during the apolitical Westminster Memorial Day parade. But then again, Willens marched in that same parade with his own campaign sign draped over the car that accompanied he and David Ellin, a sign which basically just had “for delegate” taped over.
With due respect for the sanctity of Memorial Day and in total reverence for Willen’s own service, it would seem fair to ask – are sidewalk campaigning and parade marching with “for delegate” taped over really all that different?
Willens has sign waived with Sallie Taylor, a tenured conservative with an intellectual streak and a deep strength of conviction, who has served a variety of conservative Republican political figures over the years including George H.W. Bush, and Cox more recently.
Taylor has come out strongly against Maryland’s broadeningly lenient abortion laws, and received the praise of Carroll’s Mom’s for Liberty chapter as a result. She is feistily pro-life and willing to act on it, a compliment that cannot be paid to Schulz who as a matter of position is pro-life but as governor would be unwilling to interfere with Maryland’s existing termination friendly regulations.
In terms of being grassroots in the literal sense, Taylor was recently endorsed by the Maryland Farm Bureau, an accolade it does not appear is shared by Tomlinson whose signage has the likeness of a farm on it.
Running what would seem like a comparatively lethargic campaign is brewer Scott Jendrek, whose efforts at office are seemingly characterized by a few large signs, having hosted a fundraiser for the Battaglia-Miller-Whisler Board of Education candidate slate, and securing the endorsements of former delegate Krebs and sitting commissioner seeking re-election Ed Rothstein – the latter of which is much more a negative than a positive, which applies to Tomlinson too, whose signage also sometimes appears next to Rothstein’s.
How the race will be decided
Of the original eight candidates, five emerge as being suitable: Rose, Bouchat, Tomlinson, Taylor, and Willens.
If this were just a ho-humly normal election year, and Vegas oddsmakers were to rank the candidates based on win probability, it might look something like this:
But as the president of the Republican Women’s Club of Carroll County Mercedes Moebuis points out, this is in fact no normal election year at all. Not even close.
Thousands of Carroll’s previously politically dormant parents have been animated by what’s happened here and across the country in the public school system. And though their energies will be most acutely invested into the BoE race, it will extend into the other races as well.
Tis the age of the momma bear. The matriarchy struck back.
And the grassroots energy originally catalyzed by these moms, and dads too, has been harnessed by new local institutions that emerged suddenly relative to their legacy counterparts, like the the Concerned Parents of Carroll County and the Carroll chapter of Mom’s for Liberty.
These organizations and the throngs of parents that make up their rank and file have been able to exert an extraordinary amount of influence in a short period of time. Influence that has already translated into real local policy and national headlines.
If that same energy coalesces around a slate of specific candidates in this district 5 delegate race, it has the potential to turn the entire thing on its head.
With that said, all eyes now turn towards Carroll Citizens United, the recently formed electioneering entity behind the unanimously Republican supported BMW candidate slate for BoE, which is helmed by Concerned Parents chair Bryan Thompson, and which notes on its website that “delegate picks” are “coming soon”.
Thompson was unable to say when those endorsements are coming, but if and when they do come, it could just be that it is those candidates who will carry the day in the end.
Maryland Muckraker is a completely independent and fearlessly conservative blog covering local issues by me, Ethan Reese. After spending nearly a decade in corporate Baltimore in marketing technology, figured I’d have a go at writing. Since then I’ve contributed articles to FOX’s OutKick, PJ Media, and Rare Politics, as well as being named a Writing Fellow with the America’s Future Foundation.
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