Maryland Republican Party rallies at convention, elects Scott as chair
Maryland’s Republican Party, buoyed by GOP victories in nearby states, elected on Saturday a spunky, 73-year-old activist and politician as the new chairwoman who pledged to reunite the fractious organization and capitalize on what many see as a shifting national tide.
Convention delegates voted overwhelmingly to install Audrey E. Scott, whose long political resume includes stints as mayor of Bowie, Prince George’s County Councilwoman, and Cabinet secretary under former Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. More than 200 delegates crowded a ballroom at the Comfort Inn Conference Center in Bowie, as several speakers predicted a Republican resurgence in 2010.
“It’s lonely being from the bluest of the blue states, and that needs to stop in 2010. We are committed to that,” said Ehrlich, who has not decided yet whether he plans to challenge Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat he lost to in 2006. “The stakes are big time in 2010.”
The excitement and accord at the convention marked a stark contrast to months of infighting that culminated with the resignation of Chairman James Pelura, who was criticized by state lawmakers as the party suffered financially. Party leaders now say they are united by the chance to make gains next year, citing voter unease about the economy and doubts about Democrats.
“The Maryland Republican Party is not on life support, and it is not second class,” Scott said. “This is not a time for finger-pointing, dissension or disagreement.”
Many Republicans at the convention pointed to New Jersey and Virginia where GOP candidates prevailed in recent gubernatorial elections. They contend that voters are ready to reject the kind of change that President Barack Obama promised when he swept into office on a Democratic wave last year.
But the GOP must contend with some disadvantages in Maryland.
Democrats outnumber Republicans two-to-one in voter registration, and the Democratic State Central Committee reported nearly $600,000 in cash on hand in January, the latest report.
In contrast, the Republican State Central Committee reported to the convention that it had $5,613 in a checking account as of Friday, a $20,000 line of credit and tens of thousands of dollars in debt. The Republican committee also must repay $75,000 to former Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele’s state account. Elections officials found a transfer from Steele, now the national GOP chairman, to be improper.
The only other candidate for party chair was Daniel “the Whig Man” Vovak, who often wears a white wig, though not on Saturday. Only a handful of delegates voted for Vovak, and most county delegations voted unanimously for Scott.
In what some called another sign that the party has unified, the convention voted overwhelmingly to change the party’s system for apportioning delegate votes among the counties, an issue that has been controversial for years. The delegates adopted a compromise that doled out a set number of votes to each county plus votes based on how many voters in that county turned out for presidential nominee John McCain last year.