Montgomery Republicans striving to turn county purple in 2014

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By Glynis Kazanjian

Republican National Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose addresses Montgomery County convention.

Republican National Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose addresses Montgomery County convention. (Photos by Glynis Kazanjian)

With the help of state party leaders and a lot of data, the Montgomery County Republican Party – which boasts the largest number of registered Republicans in the state – launched an all out ground game Saturday at their annual convention in Rockville.

Their goal in this targeted effort is to change Montgomery County from blue to purple by the 2014 election.

“We are not going to get where we want to be with just Republicans,” said Montgomery Republican Chairman Mark Uncapher. “We need to go after Independents and soft Democrats.”

Touting “Super Saturday” statewide voter registration drives, community outreach grassroots strategies and the state party’s new “Pathfinders Program,” a candidate and organizer recruiting tool, Maryland Republican National Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose laid the groundwork for an intensive party conversion plan in 2013.

Turning MoCo purple

“Help us turn Montgomery County purple,” Ambrose told the crowd of about 125 people. “We want to be effective. We want it laid out in 2013, so by 2014 people will know us. I’ll take red, but let’s get to purple first.”

Republicans used the theme “125,000 STRONG.” Featured speakers included potential 2014 candidates Larry Hogan, chairman of Change Maryland, and Washington County Sen. Chris Shank. Both addressed their party faithful with rousing speeches that often led to applause and standing ovations.

The unusual venue was the Rockville meeting room of the Montgomery County Council, and time after time speakers used the nine empty Democratic chairs behind their podium to make their point.

No elected Republicans in the county

Sen. Chris Shank speaks at Rockville GOP convention.

Sen. Chris Shank speaks at Rockville GOP convention.

Montgomery County’s 23-member state delegation and nine-member County Council are exclusively Democratic. But changing the landscape from a minority party to a majority party where Republicans can often be outnumbered by as much as 3-to-1, may not be the ultimate end game for the county or state party.

Del. Jean Cryor was the last elected Republican official from Montgomery County, defeated by 152 votes in 2006 by Craig Rice, a Democrat now on the County Council. Cryor died in 2009.

Political contests that cross county lines and statewide elections and referendums may be more of what party strategists have in mind.

“I want to leave you with one number for Montgomery County,” said Shank, a potential 6th Congressional District candidate. “47%. That is the number our presidential nominee Mitt Romney got in the 6th Congressional District . . . If I were John Delaney, I really wouldn’t get too comfortable.”

According to calculations by the Daily Kos, Romney got 42.6% of the vote in the redrawn 6th Congressional District.

Democrats dispute claim

Justin Schall, Senior Political Advisor to Congressman Delaney, said in an email:

“Math is important after all, if only so you can figure out that in the 6th District Romney received 137,744 votes out of the 323,326 total cast for president – and that’s actually only 42.6%.”

“Congressman Delaney is focused on the issues that matter to everyone here in the 6th district, regardless of party,” Schall said. “That starts with getting our financial house in order so the private sector can create jobs and lower unemployment. That is the statistic John cares about and for the sake of families that are still struggling we can only hope that the state senator agrees with him.”

Hogan on O’Malley

Hogan sounded like the candidate for governor that most Republican and Democratic activists presume he is.

“We cannot just sit back and allow an arrogant and out of touch monopoly to run this great state into the ground,” said Hogan, a former Ehrlich administration cabinet secretary who almost ran for governor in 2010 but stepped aside for Bob Ehrlich.

“31,000 taxpayers have fled the state of Maryland [under Gov. Martin O’Malley] taking with them $1.7 billion a year out of our economy,” Hogan preached. ”Enough is enough. It’s time for us to stand up together and fight back for change. We need checks and balances and the competition of a healthy, two-party system.”

GOP director optimistic

Maryland Republican Party Executive Director David Ferguson conceded that Montgomery County was a tough county to win, but he was confident that other, overall goals could be met.

“I am more optimistic now than I’ve ever been,” Ferguson said in an interview. “We will have an individual approach to all races in every county and jurisdiction in Maryland. We’re going to meet our benchmarks, which helps the team. We are one organization. We need to start acting like it.”

On Saturday, State Republican Chair Alex Mooney announced he was resigning March 1 after two years in the unpaid post.