Anti-tax advocate Norquist says GOP can ‘change Maryland’

By Len Lazarick

Grover Norquist (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Grover Norquist (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, is the man Democrats blame for partisan gridlock in Washington stemming from the no-new-taxes pledge he has gotten most Republican lawmakers to sign.

He brought his conservative message to Queen Anne’s County Republicans at their annual Reagan Day Dinner Thursday night and praised the party for emphasizing electing officials at the local level as a way to counter Maryland’s Democratic leanings.

“Focusing on local elections is the right idea,” Norquist said, citing the example of Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin, which “is a different place than it was two years ago.”

“You can change Maryland,” Norquist told the dinner guests. “You can make real changes in the demographics of the state.”

Red at the local level

David Ferguson, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, said the state has already gone “red” at the local level. Ferguson said there are now 158 local GOP elected officials, compared to 157 elected Democrats in county governments. Here is an Excel spreadsheet of the list prepared by the party.

Ferguson said they gained the slim majority in January when Queen Anne’s State’s Attorney Lance Richardson switched parties to become a Republican. Eleven of the 12 elected officials in Queen Anne’s are now Republicans.

“The Democratic Party, especially on the national level, has begun to embrace more liberal values and policies than I am comfortable with,” Richardson said at the time. “I believe my political ideology and values are much more aligned with the Republican Party.”

Democrats still control five of the six largest jurisdictions in central Maryland, but Republicans run the local show in the most of the rest of the state. The GOP is still overwhelmed in the legislature, where Republicans hold 43 of the 141 seats in the House of Delegates, having picked up six in 2010. And they hold 12 seats in the 47-member Senate after losing two.

Ironically, Richardson became state’s attorney after his boss, Democrat Frank Kratovil, was elected to Congress in 2008. Kratovil lost his re-election bid to Andy Harris in 2010, but last year was appointed a district court judge by Gov. Martin O’Malley. Richardson also had applied for that post, according to a story in the Easton Star-Democrat.

Most GOP legislators sign anti-tax pledge

Norquist has persuaded most Republican state legislators in Maryland to take his “Tax Protection Pledge” in which they promise the people in their districts and the rest of the state that they “will oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes.”

According to the pledge website, half of the dozen Republican senators have taken the pledge and 30 of the 43 Republican delegates. Only three State House Democrats have signed the pledge: Sen. Roy Dyson and Del. John Wood, both of St. Mary’s, and Sen. Norman Stone, of Baltimore County.

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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