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The chairman of the Maryland Republican Party announced on the weekend that he is stepping down by the end of the month, ending a two-year tenure that some observers say did little to advance the cause of the state’s minority party.

Alex X. Mooney, a former state senator from Frederick who has been party chairman since 2010, wrote in a letter to state Republican Central Committee members Saturday it was “time for me to pursue other ventures,” and he would offer his official resignation by March 1.

Mooney wrote he was proud of the party’s achievements under his tenure, including rasing $1.1 million in 2012 and helping petition three “of liberal (Gov.) Martin O'Malley's agenda items” to the ballot.

But observers say Mooney’s tenure hasn’t left the party any better off than it was, and the state GOP remains unable to appeal to both its rural base and the more moderate suburban voters it needs to win elections.

“Finding someone to make the party more attractive in the I-95 corridor without alienating Western Maryland Republicans is difficult,” said Todd Eberly, professor of political science at St. Mary’s College of Maryland in St. Mary's City.

One former GOP member said the party has been trying to sell an “ultra-right-wing agenda” that’s pro-gun, anti-abortion and anti-undocumented immigrant in moderate counties such as Prince George’s, Montgomery and Howard with little success.

Mooney was not interested in distancing the party from his conservative principles, the former party member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said, adding that trying to take credit for getting same-sex marriage, the Maryland Dream Act and the state’s new congressional district map on the ballot was a mistake.

Not only were the petition efforts largely led by MDPetitions.com, an organization headed by Del. Neil C. Parrott (R-Dist. 2B) of Hagerstown, rather than the state party itself, but all three failed at the ballot box, which can’t be spun as success, the former member said.

Still, it’s difficult to identify the tenure of any state GOP chairman in the past 40 years or so as having been particularly successful, Eberly said.

Even when Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. won the gubernatorial election in 2002 after running more as a libertarian, it did little to build the GOP’s base, and he was defeated in 2006 and 2010, Eberly said.

Mooney drew fire from some conservative commentators, such as the Red Maryland blog, who argued he was focused more on a possible run for the 6th Congressional District seat than he was on raising money for the state party.

Whether the end of Mooney’s tenure will have any effect on the state party will depend on his successor, Eberly said.

“If it’s a committeed social conservative in the mold of the national party, it will mean they’ve learned nothing from their recent losses,” he said. If the party chooses someone with broader appeal, it could be a sign of change, he said.

Until then, observers say the party is likely to continue electing county officials but failing to elect statewide candidates.

“Unfortunately, what they stand for, the rest of the state is not interested in buying,” said former state GOP Chairman John Kane.

Former U.S. Senate candidate Daniel Bongino, who challenged incumbent Benjamin L. Cardin (D) in 2012, told The Gazette on Monday he will not seek the GOP chairmanship, after his name was mentioned as a possible successor to Mooney.

dleaderman@gazette.net