Waugh dis­ap­pointed by more than elec­tion

Out­go­ing sen­a­tor, who lost in pri­mary, says Repub­li­can team aban­doned him

The Calvert Recorder - - Front Page - By DANDAN ZOU [email protected]­news.com

As the Calvert County del­e­ga­tion heads to An­napo­lis in Jan­uary for the 2019 Gen­eral Assem­bly, a fa­mil­iar face will be ab­sent.

Sen. Steve Waugh (R-St. Mary’s, Calvert) was de­feated in the June pri­mary, vic­tim of what he char­ac­ter­ized as a tidal shift in party loy­alty that ul­ti­mately over­whelmed his cam­paign.

Waugh has had five months to think about the rea­sons for his loss, and the im­pli­ca­tions of those rea­sons.

‘It is cer­tainly a blow to your pride’

Af­ter los­ing the June GOP pri­mary to Jack Bai­ley, who went on to de­feat Demo­crat

Thomas Brewer in the Novem­ber elec­tion, Waugh pulled out the mis­sion state­ment he wrote af­ter he re­tired from the U.S. Ma­rine Corps in 2006.

The goals he set for him­self were to be a good fam­ily man, to lead a pur­pose­ful life through ex­pe­ri­ence and to con­tinue ed­u­ca­tion. Pol­i­tics was not on that list. The 54-year-old out­go­ing sen­a­tor re­cently ap­plied to a doc­tor­ate pro­gram in en­gi­neer­ing, which falls un­der the ed­u­ca­tion cat­e­gory in the game plan he set out for him­self 12 years ago.

Waugh of­ten told peo­ple he is “lit­er­ally a rocket sci­en­tist.” With a de­gree of sci­ence in aero­space en­gi­neer­ing, Waugh stud­ied as­tro­nauts when he at­tended the U.S. Naval Academy. Since he was 5 years old, he dreamed of be­com­ing an as­tro­naut af­ter watch­ing Neil Arm­strong walk­ing on the moon in 1969.

Waugh en­tered pol­i­tics af­ter 2008 when he saw the coun­try take what he de­scribed as a “pretty se­ri­ous left turn.” He un­seated Demo­crat Roy Dyson, a long­time in­cum­bent and for­mer con­gress­man, in 2014, feuded with some of the lo­cal Repub­li­can politi­cians dur­ing his first term and lost his re-elec­tion bid to a po­lit­i­cal new­comer in a GOP pri­mary.

“It cer­tainly is a blow to your pride when you lose an elec­tion,” he said last week at his Lusby home that is dec­o­rated with many Ma­rine-re­lated items, fam­ily pho­tos, his diplo­mas, his Se­nate cer­tifi­cate and a pic­ture of the state house dome in An­napo­lis.

“But it doesn’t de­fine me in any way,” he said. “The real dis­ap­point­ment is I’m not go­ing to be there when the next thing hap­pens.”

In an elec­tion, some­one’s got to lose. In some cases, can­di­dates may never put their fin­ger on why they lost. In Waugh’s case, how­ever, there was lit­tle doubt Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R) was the sin­gu­lar rea­son be­hind his de­feat.

Ho­gan of­fi­cially an­nounced his en­dorse­ment of Bai­ley, a re­tired Mary­land Nat­u­ral Re­sources po­lice of­fi­cer, in April at a fundraiser many lo­cal GOP lead­ers and politi­cians at­tended. Bai­ley, of Me­chan­icsville, didn’t file as a can­di­date un­til Feb. 27, the fil­ing dead­line with the Mary­land Board of Elec­tions for the pri­mary elec­tion.

Win­ning a his­tor­i­cal sec­ond term this fall and en­joy­ing wide pop­u­lar­ity in the re­gion, the gover­nor cap­tured 76 per­cent of the votes in St. Mary’s and 75 per­cent of the votes in Calvert.

“The gover­nor went to great lengths to try to de­stroy my rep­u­ta­tion down here,” Waugh said. “When you have a gover­nor who’s will­ing to use his pop­u­lar­ity to lie and his au­thor­ity to co­erce, he’s got a $9 mil­lion bank ac­count, he was com­mit­ted, so it’s one of those things that’s very dif­fi­cult to get past.”

And he didn’t get past it. Waugh lost the pri­mary to Bai­ley by a mar­gin of 10 per­cent­age points, or 752 votes. To this day, Waugh says he is not sure why the gover­nor de­cided to work against him.

When con­tacted this week, Sha­reese Churchill, the gover­nor’s press sec­re­tary, said Ho­gan was out of town for a meet­ing and was unavail­able for com­ment.

In April, Ho­gan crit­i­cized Waugh as the only Repub­li­can in the Gen­eral Assem­bly who voted to over­ride his veto on leg­is­la­tion that would have pro­hib­ited col­leges from ask­ing about crim­i­nal his­tory on stu­dent ap­pli­ca­tions.

At the time, Ho­gan said he read in the news­pa­per about talks of lap­dogs and bull­dogs, re­fer­ring to Waugh’s com­ment that “South­ern Mary­land has a choice between a lap­dog or a bull­dog.”

“I can tell you that Jack Bai­ley is not go­ing to be a lap­dog for Mike Miller and the far-left folks in An­napo­lis,” Ho­gan said, re­fer­ring to Se­nate Pres­i­dent Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert, Char­les, Prince Ge­orge’s). “He’s go­ing to be a bull­dog fight­ing on be­half of the peo­ple of South­ern Mary­land.”

In Novem­ber 2017, long be­fore the veto over­ride vote took place, Waugh said he was told that Ho­gan was an­gry about some things he said back in the district. He never found out what that was. The only thing he could think of that might have crossed the gover­nor was his sup­port be­hind the new shock trauma cen­ter in Prince Ge­orge’s County, which started as a piece of leg­is­la­tion spon­sored by Miller.

Miller said by phone this week he never asked Waugh to vote on a bill. “Not once,” he said. “He voted his own con­science and every­thing. … He paid a con­se­quence for that.”

“It is still a strange story, I think, all in all,” Todd Eberly, a po­lit­i­cal sci­ence as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at St. Mary’s Col­lege of Mary­land, said this week. “It’s in­cred­i­bly un­com­mon for a leader of a party to in­volve him­self in a pri­mary against an in­cum­bent.”

Eberly, who openly sup­ported Waugh’s re-elec­tion bid, said Waugh’s vote to over­ride the gover­nor’s veto was the most clear ev­i­dence of his vot­ing out of step with his party and con­trary to the gover­nor. But that was a sin­gle vote.

“No­body could look at his record and not con­clude he’s a con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­can,” Eberly said.

In a state leg­is­la­ture heav­ily con­trolled by the Democrats, Eberly said Repub­li­cans need to be on the same page to create a uni­fied mes­sage. “The story changes if you’ve got even one Repub­li­can vote sid­ing with the Democrats,” he said. “It’s hard to create an us-against-them nar­ra­tive when you have one mem­ber vot­ing with the other party.”

To Waugh, his be­ing pun­ished for pur­su­ing bi- par­ti­san­ship didn’t make sense. He didn’t think it was the rea­son, ei­ther.

Ho­gan’s “en­tire cam­paign is based upon him say­ing, ‘hey, I work across the aisle; I’m not a par­ti­san guy,’” Waugh said. “But I’m gonna be ut­terly in­tol­er­ant of some­one who is will­ing to work across the aisle?”

It also didn’t make sense to him from a math­e­matic point of view, given no Repub­li­can can pass a bill with­out Demo­cratic sup­port. “So you have to work across the aisle. So how can it be an of­fense?” Waugh said. “I don’t re­ally un­der­stand it. I have no idea what mo­ti­vated him to do what he did.”

As a Ma­rine pi­lot who flew com­bat mis­sions over­seas, Waugh said this elec­tion taught him a lot — es­pe­cially, that politi­cians aren’t Marines.

“I don’t con­sider my­self any­thing other than an av­er­age Ma­rine. … You’ve got to know who’s on your side, and you’ve got to take care of your peo­ple on your side,” he said. “That was the men­tal­ity I brought to An­napo­lis and then was ‘ed­u­cated’ on how few peo­ple feel that way,” he said with a self-dep­re­cat­ing laugh.

‘It’s ev­ery man for him­self’

Not too long be­fore the pri­mary on June 26, Waugh said this year’s cam­paign had been “more per­son­ally painful” com­pared to his up­hill fight to chal­lenge an in­cum­bent sen­a­tor four years ago.

In 2014, Waugh de­feated Dyson, who had held the seat for two decades and had fended off sev­eral Repub­li­can chal­lengers over the years. Waugh him­self tried for the first time in 2010, and lost by a nar­row mar­gin.

On elec­tion night four years ago, Waugh ex­pected to lose to Dyson, but was sur­prised to learn he had won by 13 per­cent­age points dur­ing a red tide when St. Mary’s Repub­li­cans took over three seats in the leg­is­la­ture that were pre­vi­ously held by Democrats.

“Repub­li­can can­di­dates came to­gether [this time], and we helped each other re­lent­lessly from Day One,” Waugh said in 2014. “The team at­mos­phere al­lowed us all to lever­age one an­other. … [We] un­der­stood what it meant to be part of a team.”

This time around, Waugh was largely cam­paign­ing alone as many lo­cal Repub­li­cans in both coun­ties — state del­e­gates and county com­mis­sion- ers — pub­licly en­dorsed his ri­val.

Waugh said he mis­tak­enly as­sumed loy­alty from those for whom he re­peat­edly left skin on the floor.

“I’ve never seen a group of peo­ple so will­ing to aban­don a ship­mate,” he said. “That was ex­traor­di­nar­ily dis­ap­point­ing to dis­cover that all these peo­ple who I had been help­ing and fight­ing for felt ab­so­lutely no loy­alty at all to­ward me.”

The real fault line in the state leg­is­la­ture, he con­cluded, is not whether you are a Demo­crat or Repub­li­can, but that “it’s ev­ery man for him­self.”

“Hon­estly, I felt like he kinda aban­doned us to­wards the end of his term,” Del. Matt Mor­gan (R-St. Mary’s) said Thurs­day by phone. “He was putting out stuff say­ing he is the most ef­fec­tive leg­is­la­tor. I re­mem­ber that email. He acted like he didn’t need or want our help.”

In a Jan­uary email to sup­port­ers an­nounc­ing his run for a sec­ond term, Waugh wrote: “Last year I was the most ef­fec­tive leg­is­la­tor in An­napo­lis, pass­ing over 20 bills and gain­ing record fund­ing for St. Mary’s and Calvert Coun­ties.”

“He made that state­ment. The ma­jor­ity of those bills are del­e­ga­tion bills,” Mor­gan said, adding other law­mak­ers should share equal credit.

Dur­ing the pri­mary when many of his fel­low Repub­li­cans pub­licly en­dorsed Bai­ley, Mor­gan en­dorsed nei­ther. Both Waugh and Bai­ley were his friends, so he said he de­cided to stay out of it.

When con­tacted this week by phone, Del. Ger­ald W. “Jerry” Clark (R-Calvert, St. Mary’s) called Waugh “a pa­triot” who served his coun­try and his con­stituents well.

“When you en­ter the po­lit­i­cal world, you have to ac­cept the joy of win­ning and the mis­ery of los­ing,” Clark said. “You pull your­self up by your boot­straps, and you move on with your life.”

Look­ing back on his time at the Se­nate, Waugh is most proud of the school safety leg­is­la­tion that started at his desk fol­low­ing the fa­tal shoot­ing at Great Mills High School on March 20.

“We went af­ter real prob­lems and put to­gether, I think, some re­ally com­pre­hen­sive changes that are gonna make sub­stan­tial dif­fer­ences,” he said. “I hope it will make peo­ple feel safer when they put their kids on the bus.”

As a for­mer Ma­rine colonel, the well-be­ing of vet­er­ans has been an is­sue dear to him. Waugh, who did not at­tend nearly as many pub­lic events as other lo­cal leg­is­la­tors did, spoke last year at the Vet­er­ans Day ob­ser­vance pro­gram in the He­len com­mu­nity, and at­tended an event cel­e­brat­ing the 100th an­niver­sary of the end of World War I in Prince Fred­er­ick this month. He also worked to pass a vet­er­ans sui­cide pre­ven­tion bill.

“I’m des­per­ately afraid my son will suf­fer what I clearly still do,” Waugh said, re­fer­ring to his son, Nick, and his own strug­gle with post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der.

Of his four-year ten­ure, Waugh is con­sid­ered one of the most ef­fec­tive Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tors in the Gen­eral Assem­bly. The num­ber of bills he in­tro­duced and the num­ber of his bills that went into law re­flect that record.

Eberly said last year that “Waugh is a leg­is­la­tor that came in and learned the game very quickly and be­came ef­fec­tive very rapidly.”

Waugh thinks what made him ef­fec­tive early on was one sim­ple step he took in his first year as a state sen­a­tor. He co-spon­sored a bill with ev­ery sen­a­tor ex­cept for one, a ges­ture he be­lieves proved to his fel­low law­mak­ers that they can work with him.

“No one has done that be­fore,” he said. “When I brought a bill in, I wasn’t seen as this far-right-wing crazy guy, even though I’m a pretty con­ser­va­tive guy. They saw me as a real per­son, and they ac­tu­ally would try to agree with what­ever I was try­ing to put for­ward.”

As the elec­tion has been won and lost, ev­ery­one moves on but the record stays.

“He should be proud of the record he amassed,” Eberly said. “Noth­ing can take that record away.”

STAFF PHOTO BY DANDAN ZOU

Sen. Steve Waugh (R-St. Mary’s, Calvert), who lost in the Repub­li­can pri­mary in June, stands last week on the deck at his Lusby home over­look­ing the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay.

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