- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
ANNAPOLIS — Some Republicans are unhappy with GOP Chairman Alexander X. Mooney after he raised more than $100,000 for a campaign that he didn’t end up running while leading a state party that continues to face debt.
Observers say there is not a groundswell to unseat the former state senator who was long considered a candidate for the 6th District congressional seat, but that unrest among grass roots organizers is evident.
For some in the party, which is roughly $122,000 in debt, Mooney’s campaign cash might be “causing heartburn,” said Brian Griffiths, a blogger for the conservative site Red Maryland and Northeast regional vice chairman for the Young Republican National Federation.
“I’m hoping the chairman is able to turn this into a positive, call these contacts that he’s made and pay off the state party’s debt,” Griffiths said.
Mooney did nothing illegal by exploring a congressional campaign and raising money for his federal account, although under party bylaws he would have had to resign his position if he officially filed in the race.
He announced last week that he would not seek the GOP nomination in an already-crowded primary in which more than a handful of Republicans are vying to oust Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-Dist. 6) of Buckeystown, who has held the seat for two decades.
Activists within the party are frustrated because they say Mooney, typically a fundraising rainmaker, has not lived up to his promise to replenish the party’s coffers, said Mark Newgent, also an editor for Red Maryland.
“I know there’s a lot of grass roots dissatisfaction,” Newgent said. “A lot of it stems from he put out this plan to raise $500,000 [and] nothing came out of it.”
That fundraising promise was part of Mooney’s platform when he was elected to the chairmanship in 2010. He and party Executive Director David A. Ferguson said fundraising in the past year totaled that $500,000, but the money was used to pay ongoing operational costs and could not be applied to chip away at debt.
Renting office space, paying taxes and utilities were costing the party as much as $90,000 a year, Mooney said, although he pointed to attempts to save money through moving GOP offices to a new, cheaper Annapolis location, and bringing on additional fundraisers instead of hiring a new communications director.
Mooney admits that the party’s debt, which was at $50,000 when he took over the chairmanship, has increased under his watch.
He also points to fundraising failures of the past year, like the party’s Red White and Blue dinner, which fell $80,000 to $90,000 short of its goal.
“That would have wiped out most of our debt last year,” Mooney said.
He points to a gain of 40 Republican seats statewide in the last election among recent party accomplishments, but also notes the party suffered from former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich’s loss in the 2010 gubernatorial election.
“I have called a lot of people for money in the last year, and for the people that will actually take my call I have to explain that to them,” he said.
Mooney is unapologetic about exploring a congressional campaign and said he expects to consider running for the seat again as soon as 2014.
“Being party chairman does not preclude me from raising money for other causes,” he said.
Observers and party insiders say there isn’t much that would stand in Mooney’s way if he tries again to pursue a congressional seat.
“I don’t think he’s eliminated politically,” Newgent said. “[But] it hurts him a bit; he’s rubbed people the wrong way.”
Mooney will emerge relatively unscathed, said Donald E. Murphy, a former Maryland delegate who is running the congressional campaign of Sen. David R. Brinkley (R-Dist. 4) of New Market.
“If he knuckles down, writes a big check, focuses on electing Republicans [in 2012], stays neutral in this District 6 race, most of his transgressions will be forgotten,” Murphy said.