Thursday, June 26, 2014

My Journey into Politics

Are you okay? How are you feeling? As one might expect, I have heard those questions a lot over the last day and a half. Generally speaking, I have kept the answer consistent; I have no regrets and my previous opponents have my full support. In other words, I am not upset that I lost this race. It's my hope that people will understand my peaceful mindset after reading my experiences in world of local politics.

Back in April 2006, Senator Phil Jimeno announced that he would retire from the Maryland State Senate. Though Phil would have likely cruised to another term in November of that year, he decided that he wanted to spend more time with his family. As I would later learn, political life separates a candidate from their loved ones. Brian Simonaire, the front-runner and eventual Republican nominee, immediately took over as the favorite to win in a district that shifted decidedly right over the previous decade. I got to meet Brian a couple times since I volunteered on Nic Kipke's campaign. Meanwhile, my father Walt Shandrowsky, asked my thoughts on a possible run for Senate. For those that know, my father won a seat on the House of Delegates back in 1978. In the next election cycle, he chose to challenge the Democratic incumbent. He narrowly lost that contest but went on to have a very successful career in the private sector. I knew my dad would face an uphill challenge against someone who had already campaigned about three years in a Republican-leaning district. Still, I believed in my father. I encouraged him to get in the race. I then made the decision to switch from Republican to Democrat because he faced a contested primary.

On September 12, 2006, my father's 58th birthday, I showed up to vote at Ft Smallwood Elementary. Turns out, the computer still showed me as a Republican. Apparently, the local Board of Elections never processed my change of affiliation. Undeterred, I cast my ballot as I have in every election since I registered to vote in 1995. Over the next couple of months, I worked hard to help elect my father. On Election Night 2006, my dad held a 198 vote lead over Brian Simonaire. I knew that would not hold up after the absentee count. During that cycle, then-Governor Bob Ehrlich convinced many Republicans to vote absentee because of some wild conspiracy over the reliability of voting machines. In the end, my dad lost by 600 votes. I took the loss hard. Incidentally, a new voters card reflecting my change from Republican to Democrat arrived in the mail that January. I tossed it aside and gave it little thought at the time. In 2008, I voted in the contentious primary between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. No doubt, that stands out as the most competitive presidential primary of this generation.

In 2009, my dad let me know that Charlie Parks would likely run as a Democrat for the council seat in District 3. By now, Republicans built a stronghold in Pasadena. Nonetheless, Charlie has deep roots in this community. He retired from Anne Arundel County Fire Department. During his tenure, he ascended up the ranks from Fire Fighter to eventually Deputy Fire Chief. In the absence of Fire Chief, Charlie represented Anne Arundel County Fire in our local command center on September 11, 2001. Charlie also spent time coaching girls soccer at both Chesapeake and Northeast High. In the interest of full disclosure, I consider Charlie a member of my family. Technically, we share no blood, but we've known each other forever. Charlie is a great guy period. Without hesitation or apology, I supported him as well. Because of the registration numbers though, Charlie lost to Derek Fink.

In December 2012, I went to the Annapolis MVA and renewed my driver's license. The attendant asked me about updating my voter registration. By now, I wanted out of the Democratic Party. Really, I share very little in common with them. I am for smaller government. I am a member of the National Rifle Association. Likewise, I despise my taxes getting raised without a direct benefit. At the same time, I couldn't stand the blatant hypocrisy of our elected Republicans. They bemoan taxes and government spending, yet even the local GOP establishment expensed hotel rooms, meals and mileage at taxpayer expense. Moreover, they voted against state budgets and then took credit for the money from it that got allocated to their respective districts. Think about it; they went on the record and opposed that money yet cheered it when others took the bullet gave it to them anyway. Sorry, such actions are disingenuous at best. There are other issues I chose not to talk about publicly, but I will say it doesn't reflect well on the character or values of certain local Republicans. Long short, I told the lady to mark me as unaffiliated.

Have I bored you yet? If not, fast forward to February of 2014. As a political junkie, I refresh the Maryland Board of Elections website several times daily in advance of the February 25th filing deadline. As races filled up, I noticed couple remaining empty: namely Democratic and Republican Central Committee. I started wondering if I should get involved and put my energy into making some political changes. Now, I never seriously considered the Democratic Central Committee. Bottom line, I disagree with their philosophy. And while I am not enthusiastic
about our Republican establishment, I am more ideologically compatible with them. If this were about getting elected to something, I would have opted for the Democratic Central Committee. Between my family name and familiarity with a lot of the voters, I knew I could likely pull off a victory.

I became the first 2014 candidate for District 31 Republican Central Committee. On the night of the filing deadline, current Central Committee member Nathan Volke and I enjoyed dinner and a drink together at Texas Roadhouse on Mountain Road. We refreshed our phones every five minutes leading up to the 9pm filing deadline. For the record, Nathan and I were not working in cahoots. Rather, we both discussed our vision for the local Republican Party. Most notably, we both left the dinner and agreed not to go negative on one another. It's a promise neither of us reneged on. By the time we left that evening, eight people entered this race.

In the meantime, I am convinced that the Republican establishment scoffed at my candidacy. As they soon realized though, I play to win. That rattled the cage whereas some felt that I didn't "wait my turn" to run for office. Word also got back to me about some of the things said behind my back by guys I otherwise considered friends. Someone famous even told people that I "have no business in this race." Sorry, I let voters make that call.

After setting up my website and Facebook fan page, I started to sign wave at intersections and knock on doors of voting Republicans. I preferred and relied on the latter. I have always viewed sign waving as a superficial way to reach the voters. I prefer to talk to people and earn their votes by looking them in the eye. Yes, that consumes a lot of time and it's unrealistic to hit every home in a short period of time. Regardless, I favor grassroots politics.

When knocking on doors, the responses run the gambit. For the most part, the interaction lasted less than ten seconds. People politely took my literature literature and then shut their door. Often, people weren't home or they outright refused to answer the door. I always left a personal note on my literature and left it at their door. In this day and age, I can't say I blame them for opening up the door for a stranger. Every now and then, people would tell me to get off their property. By and large though, people seemed receptive as soon as they realized I didn't want to sell them something. About 10% of the time, the people wanted to know my stances on issues.

Voters have an absolute right to know a candidate's views on the issues. At the same time though, candidates have a duty to inform voters about the scope of their desired office. Keep in mind, Central Committee members receive no compensation and they work to build the party. They have no legislative authority whatsoever. I know for a fact that some of my opponents purposely mislead voters about this. I have morals and I'd rather lose being me than win as a snake like most of the crowd in Annapolis.

If the absentee and provisional counts follow the trend of the race, I will end up losing to Michael Anthony Peroutka, the Constitution Party nominee for United States President in 2004, by about 300 votes. By a large margin, Faith Loudon and Nathan Volke took first and second place respectively. With the name recognition these three automatically had among Republican primary voters, I am satisfied and at peace with the results. As mentioned on my Facebook account, they have my full support.

I leave this race humbled by the support of my family, friends and complete strangers. If nothing else, I got to meet some great people along the way. Tonight, I will attend the GOP unity event in Severna Park. Believe it or not, it's not a difficult thing to do. I am truly happy for the winners of all the county races. Going forward, the Maryland Republican Party needs to stop their inner bickering. Such tactics help embolden the dangerous Democratic machine in Maryland.

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