State Senator Andrew Harris kicked off his 2010 campaign for the District 1 Congressional seat last Thursday night with an interesting, no, intriguing fundraiser at the Rockfish Restaurant in Eastport. In attendance were the usual crowd of Anne Arundel County GOP acolytes; current and former members of the General Assembly and primary challengers for those seats.
Also in attendance were the President and at least one member of the board of directors of the Republican Women of Anne Arundel County (RWACC). Joyce Thomann is still President of RWACC despite the efforts of others in attendance to throw her under the proverbial bus.
Just as intriguing was the attendance of certain vigorous supporters of E.J. Pipkin and his 2008 primary campaign against Sen. Harris for the District 1 seat. And lurking just beneath the surface were elements of the Citizens for Better Government political action committee. The PAC was the brainchild of Del. James King (co-owner of the Rockfish venue) whose own relatively recent experience in Maryland GOP politics left him with a bad taste in his mouth and revealed to him a need to somehow make things a little easier for Republican hopefuls in this state, within their own party. There was concern in the room that the PAC, the management of which had been criticized for its lack of accountability two years ago (see Annapolis Politics), may seek to benefit from this election cycle's GOP campaigns beginning with Andy Harris.
So the event was typical of GOP politics in Anne Arundel County. Even former MD First Lady Kendel Ehrlich who was on-hand to rally the troops, sensed that the troops were not quite unified in their purpose. "We need to see a greater commitment," in order to win this time around, she said. And, taking a cue from party wags hoping that former Gov. Ehrlich will challenge Martin O'Malley in 2010 she urged Republicans work at the grassroots to get more involved. She said she and her husband would need to see a GOP with broad support before committing the time and resources of their family for another gubernatorial campaign.
She was justifiably skeptical. Ehrlich won the election because not enough Democrats wanted Townsend to occupy the governor's mansion. O'Malley may face these same Democrats and independents next Fall, with or without a grassroots GOP opposition.
So the fundraiser attracted true supporters as well as those who saw other opportunities beyond the defeat of the Democratic incumbent. I think that the new Harris campaign manager should be mindful of this.