Briefs: Bongino wants out of Afghanistan; House GOP leadership fight; the Iowa Poll

Dan Bongino talks to woman at Sunday picnic.

Dan Bongino talks to woman at Sunday picnic.

There’s no mistaking Dan Bongino for a liberal Democrat in his race for the Senate. But he sure sounded like one Sunday as the special guest for the annual picnic at the Davidsonville home of Jim and Marianne Pelura, former chair of the state GOP.

After laying out his fiscally and socially conservative views, someone in the audience of about 60 people asked Bongino about Afghanistan.

[CLARIFICATION: Marianne Pelura reported:  “Actually there was 82 adults and 12 little people who braved the weather and came to our event.  About 50 others paid, but I do believe the rain played a factor in their not making it.”]

The former Secret Service agent had spent about a week there in 2009 making advance preparations for President Barack Obama’s first visit.

“What are we doing in Afghanistan?” Bongino asked. “It’s a fool’s errand at this point. There is no ‘they’” U.S. forces are fighting against. “There is no concept of Afghanistan” as a nation, but simply a collection of tribal areas.

“The more we send over there, the more they will kill,” he said, calling it “an assembly line of death. We’ve got to get out of there. We’ve got to bring our kids home. They’re dying on foreign soil for people who don’t care.”

Safe to say that the crowd was fairly conservative Republicans, including a sprinkling of ex-military. But they applauded loudly, even as Bongino apologized for his blunt talk. The politics of Afghanistan from both right and left looks pretty clear: Get out now.

Kipke lining up support

Among the smattering of elected officials at Pelura’s event was Del. Nic Kipke of Anne Arundel County, who is trying to line up votes to challenge House Minority Leader Tony O’Donnell, as reported by Red Maryland last week. Del. Mike Smigiel of Cecil County hopes to knock off House Minority Whip Jeannie Haddaway.

Kipke said they plan on meeting with three wavering delegates on Wednesday. He said if he actually does take on O’Donnell, any changeover won’t take place before the October special session.

The bylaws of the House Republican caucus call for votes on leadership in December, O’Donnell said. He was reluctant to comment as they prepare for a special session in October at which Gov. Martin O’Malley might propose tax increases, in addition to congressional redistricting. “There’s a proper time and place for everything under the sun and we have not arrived at that time or place yet,” O’Donnell.

The intraparty fight stirred a comment from a new political blogger on the scene, David Moon at “The party’s seeming decision to further align itself with fringe elements bodes well for their continuing irrelevance in our state,” said Moon.

Moon plans to take up the slack left by last year’s retirement of Adam Pagnucco from Maryland Politics Watch when he took a job with the Montgomery County Council. Moon freely admits he’s a liberal political consultant who’s worked for a number of Montgomery County candidates.

Moon confirmed an earlier story that House Majority Leader Kumar Barve is “all in” in the race for comptroller if Peter Franchot runs for governor, and then had a later posting about all the potential Democratic candidates for comptroller.

Forget about Iowa

Brian Harlin of the GOP Shoppe in Linthicum, supplier of a wide range of campaign memorabilia to political candidates, decided to skip the Iowa Straw Poll vote and advised fellow Republicans in the Howard County Republican Club discussion group on Facebook to not give much weight to it.

“I’ve been going out to Ames, Iowa since ‘95 to work the event and I’ve learned that the winner is the one that buys the most votes and buses in more of its Iowa supporters,” Harlin said. “Forbes spent a small fortune in 1999 and came in second to Bush. All the candidates give away shirts, hats etc. They bring in famous people to work the crowds and live entertainment and great food. It is more of a show and a big fundraiser for the state party. Mitt won last time and didn’t win Iowa.”

For a moment, I thought Harlin was in Iowa this year, but instead I tracked him down in Key West, Fla. He’s already lined up Mitt Romney as a client, and “the Romney stuff is going well.”

“Basically, Iowa picks the conservative,” he said. “If I had my way, Iowa and New Hampshire would not be the first states to vote,” since they have open primaries in which voters from any party can participate.

But the poll “takes its toll,” knocking off weaker candidates, as it did former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

–Len Lazarick

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.

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