So the first MD-6 debate happened. Ryan Miner has the full video. (I lost a segment.)
First, Griffiths did buy himself a panel seat at the debate, but he didn’t pay with cash. He just plugged the debate on his webcasts. (You know, what everyone else plugs as a service to the community.) For that, he got himself a seat on the panel and an official sponsorship. But at least it wasn’t completely free.
But the Montgomery County Republican Party should ask for a refund anyway. On the basics, the microphones and other equipment Red Maryland apparently provided didn’t work very well. The panel provided for the use of the panel was simply non-functional, and the two microphones they provided for the eight candidates didn’t even reach them all - Scott Cheng had to take Harold Painter’s seat when he asked a question in order to use the microphone. The debate organizers did not even make sure the microphones could reach each chair, let alone provide enough of them. The room itself was too small for the crowd - people packed in and even spilled out in to the lobby. Maybe that was the result of unexpectedly high turnout, but more likely (given the poor quality of everything else) it was the result of poor planning. I don’t know if Griffiths had a hand in selecting a venue, but given his previous choice of venue for the YR convention, I would not be surprised.
The debate format itself was also a disaster. The format had each panelist ask a single question of a single candidate, who answered and the next question was asked. There were no questions directed at multiple candidates and no cross-talk permitted. Candidates asking to answer questions directed at other candidates were shut down hard. With three panelists, eight candidates and these rules, the panelists got more time than the candidates. But that’s to be expected with a Griffiths panel.
Worse than that, most of the questions were directed to the lower-tier candidates. Scott Cheng seemed to get the lion’s share of the questions, especially early on. Unfortunately, Mr. Cheng does not have a good grasp of English, and was largely incomprehensible. Robin Ficker, resident crank, and Harold Painter, who is running a 1950’s-era protectionist campaign, got the second-largest volume of questions each, in my estimation. Chris Mason, running a fairly standard quasi-anarchist campaign received perhaps an average. None of these people have a real shot at winning the primary. But the two people who actually hold elected office currently, Terry Baker and David Vogt, were basically written off for a large portion of the debate, receiving the fewest questions. Amie Hoeber and Frank Howard, who are both leading the currently based largely on the strength of their personal money and political connections, received a reasonable share of questions given their position in the race, but even then, many of Howard’s questions were perfunctory and Hoeber’s questions were confrontational.
Which leads us to the story that came out of the debate - the abortion question that was directed only at Amie Hoeber. (Other candidates fought to state their position on abortion) Of course the question came from Brian Griffiths, and was premised by Hoeber’s membership in a Democratic-controlled pro-women organization. The primary thrust of the question was to accuse Hoeber of not being a genuine Republican, using the abortion issue as a vehicle to that end. Hoeber’s answer left a lot to be desired. She essentially dismissed the question by saying that she respected “Settled law”. Conceding ground is a huge problem among Conservatives, but Griffiths clumsily pressed her on the question again and shot himself in the face. The audience take-away was that Griffiths was an asshole, not that Hoeber was interested in the pro-life issue.
Given Griffiths’ past conduct, plugging his advertising services by claiming access to the Baltimore Sun (which never gave him access to ad space, implying that he’d slant content instead), to concealing active conflicts of interests within his editorial board, it remains an open question as to whether the attack on Hoeber was at the request or direction of another campaign. If another campaign did pay, I hope they got a refund.
Generally, the candidates acquitted themselves well, despite the technical difficulties. Even Mr. Cheng managed to communicate his passion and patriotism, despite the language barrier. But the debate reflected poorly on Red Maryland, Brian Griffiths and the Montgomery County Republican Party.