Del. Kathy Szeliga: 2016 elec­tion is about ‘or­di­nary peo­ple do­ing ex­tra­or­di­nary things’

Times-Record - - News - By ABBY AN­DREWS aan­drews@car­o­line­times­record.com

PRE­STON — The Car­o­line County Repub­li­can Cen­tral Com­mit­tee held its an­nual Lin­coln-Rea­gan Day Din­ner on Fri­day, Sept. 23, at the Pre­ston Vol­un­teer Fire Com­pany hall.

The big­gest fundraiser of the year for the cen­tral com­mit­tee, at­tended by sev­eral Repub­li­cans rep­re­sent­ing the county in elected of­fice at var­i­ous lev­els, aimed to raise money for more cam­paign sup­plies at the com­mit­tee’s head­quar­ters.

The evening’s key­note speaker was Mary­land House of Del­e­gates Mi­nor­ity Whip Del. Kathy Szeliga, R-7-Bal­ti­more County, who is run­ning for elec­tion in Novem­ber for the U.S. Se­nate seat that will be open when U.S. Sen. Bar­bara Mikul­ski, D-Md., re­tires.

The evening opened with a brief les­son on the two for­mer Repub­li­can U.S. pres­i­dents for which the din­ner is named, pre­sented by Chad Dean, a cen­tral com­mit­tee as­so­ci­ate mem­ber who teaches his­tory and so­cial stud­ies at Saints Peter & Paul High School in Eas­ton.

Dean said the Repub­li­can party was founded in 1854. Two years later, in 1856, John Fre­mont was the party’s first nom­i­nee for pres­i­dent, but it was not un­til 1860 that a Repub­li­can ran suc­cess­fully: Abra­ham Lin­coln.

Since then, Lin­coln has been im­mor­tal­ized in myr­iad ways across the coun­try, Dean said, in­clud­ing be­ing the name­sake for these Lin­coln Day fundrais­ers, held an­nu­ally by many Repub­li­can or­ga­ni­za­tions na­tion­wide.

Re­cently, Ronald Rea­gan, elected in 1980 and 1984, has been added to share the bill with Lin­coln, Dean said, as a nod to the more con­ser­va­tive ver­sion of to­day’s Repub­li­can party.

Fol­low­ing din­ner, the first speaker of the night was Russ Schriefer, a strate­gist who has worked on cam­paigns for, among oth­ers, for­mer Mary­land Gov. Robert Ehrlich and cur­rent Gov. Larry Ho­gan.

Schriefer said Ehrlich’s and Ho­gan’s cam­paigns were two of the more in­ter­est­ing ones he has worked on, for dif­fer­ent rea­sons.

He said when Ehrlich first ran for gover­nor in 2002, the Repub­li­can party was rel­a­tively pop­u­lar in Mary­land, as Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush had high ap­proval rat­ings fol­low­ing 9/11.

But when Ehrlich ran for a sec­ond term in 2006, Bush’s pop­u­lar­ity had plum­meted, and with it Repub­li­can can­di­dates’ in gen­eral.

Schriefer said sev­eral fo­cus group mem­bers said they thought Ehrlich had done a good job as gover­nor, but they re­fused to vote for any Repub­li­cans be­cause of their opin­ion of Bush.

“The mo­men­tum had shifted,” Schriefer said. Ehrlich lost the elec­tion to Demo­cratic chal­lenger Martin O’Mal­ley.

Schriefer said he first met Ho­gan to talk about a run for gover­nor as a Repub­li­can nom­i­nee in 2011.

“Mary­land is the first or sec­ond hard­est state to elect a Repub­li­can gover­nor in the U.S.,” Schriefer said. “You have to re­ally thread the nee­dle.”

Schriefer said as the cam­paign run fired up, polls re­ported 60 per­cent of vot­ers would not vote for O’Mal­ley if he were el­i­gi­ble for a third term. Of those 60 per­cent, 40 per­cent were very strongly against O’Mal­ley.

“We cast (Demo­cratic nom­i­nee) An­thony Brown as a third term of O’Mal­ley,” Schriefer said. “Mary­land is tough (to elect Repub­li­cans), but not im­pos­si­ble, with the right can­di­date and the right mes­sage.”

Schriefer said Szeliga is such a can­di­date, and can de­feat the Democrats’ nom­i­nee for the Se­nate seat, U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.-8.

“Kathy Szeliga is a real per­son, not a phony politi­cian,” Schriefer said.

Schriefer said Szeliga, who with her hus­band owns a con­struc­tion com­pany, be­lieves in the pri­vate sec­tor and how to solve prob­lems at home.

“We need a big, dra­matic change in Washington,” Schriefer said. “She will gov­ern with an eye to­ward fis­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity and com­mon sense, let­ting busi­nesses ex­pand and cre­ate jobs, by get­ting gov­ern­ment out of the way.”

Szeliga opened her own re­marks by say­ing how well-rep­re­sented Car­o­line County is at the state level by their del­e­ga­tion, all of whom at­tended the din­ner.

She said Schriefer cre­ated her TV ad, which ad­dresses the two ques­tions she gets asked the most: How to say her name (sha-lay-guh) and why she is run­ning for Se­nate.

“I’m run­ning be­cause of the en­cour­age­ment and help of many peo­ple in this room, in­clud­ing (U.S. Rep.) Andy Har­ris (R-Md.-1st), who said we need peo­ple like me, who have signed the front of a check and know how to run a small busi­ness,” Szeliga said. “Ca­reer politi­cians don’t.”

Reg­u­la­tions are the big­gest hur­dle for small busi­nesses, Szeliga said.

She said more than $743 bil­lion worth of reg­u­la­tions have been adopted un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion; her own con­struc­tion com­pany had to let go full-time em­ploy­ees and start work­ing with con­tract em­ploy­ees be­cause of Oba­macare.

Szeliga said vet­er­ans’ men­tal and phys­i­cal health care needs are not be­ing met.

“It is a moral im­per­a­tive to get the Vet­er­ans Ad­min­is­tra­tion fixed,” she said.

“I am run­ning for the for­got­ten man and woman, sick and tired of Washington not tak­ing care of busi­ness for us,” Szeliga said. “Andy is do­ing a great job there, but he can’t do it on his own.”

Szeliga said this elec­tion is about or­di­nary peo­ple do­ing ex­tra­or­di­nary things. She en­cour­aged those there to reach out to peo­ple, through email, phone calls and so­cial me­dia, to spread her mes­sage, and to put cam­paign signs in their yards.

She said her cam­paign staff’s salaries are fully funded; every dol­lar do­nated will go to buy­ing TV ad space, some­thing that proved crit­i­cal to help­ing Ho­gan win his bid for gover­nor.

Del. Jeff Ghrist, R-36, said Szeliga, as Mi­nor­ity Whip in the Mary­land House of Del­e­gates, is clear and con­cise and al­ways pre­pared to go head-to-head on the is­sues with other del­e­gates on the floor.

But she will need more voter sup­port to win, Ghrist said. He said he wants to see Car­o­line County vot­ers lead the way in Novem­ber, turn­ing in at least 90 per­cent of its Se­nate votes for Szeliga.

“Let’s do this for Car­o­line County,” Ghrist said.

The evening con­cluded with the pre­sen­ta­tion of ci­ta­tions from the Mary­land Gen­eral Assem­bly to two hon­orees.

First to be hon­ored were all of Car­o­line County’s law en­force­ment of­fi­cers. The ci­ta­tion was ac­cepted by Ridgely Po­lice Chief Gary Manos and Capt. James Hen­ning of the Car­o­line County Sher­iff’s Of­fice.

The sec­ond ci­ta­tion went to Kenny Wood, of Life­time Well Drilling, based in Den­ton, who has made 36 trips to Ghana and Tan­za­nia, drilling wells and lay­ing miles of pipe­line, to de­liver clean drink­ing wa­ter to more than 1 mil­lion peo­ple.

Fi­nally, Steve Stouf­fer, chair of the Repub­li­can Cen­tral Com­mit­tee, rec­og­nized two elected of­fi­cials in Car­o­line County, Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Wil­bur Le­ven­good and Reg­is­ter of Wills James Phelps, and their wives, Sherry Le­ven­good and Jill Phelps, for their many hours vol­un­teer­ing for cen­tral com­mit­tee func­tions.

PHOTO BY ABBY AN­DREWS

Car­o­line County Com­mis­sioner Larry Porter, left, and Del. Kathy Szeliga, R-7, right, pose for a pic­ture at the Car­o­line County Repub­li­can Cen­tral Com­mit­tee’s Lin­coln-Rea­gan Day Din­ner, Fri­day, Sept. 23, in Pre­ston.

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