Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

On Line Candidate’s Forum

Posted by David Keelan on Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Kudos to Dave Wissing for compiling the responses for the Howard County Blogger Association forum.  I will begin posting my comments shortly.

Kudos to the candidates who took the time out of very hectic campaign schedules to respond and participate in this worthwhile experiment.  Most responses were directed to me and they all contained similiar preambles.  Thanks for taking the time.  I hope this is a success.  Looking forward to comments.  Even though I am busy I thought this was worth the time and effort to respond even though it meant something else had to slip.

As Dave stated:

All in all, our experiment was rather successful in my mind. We basically had 40 candidates running for local office in Howard County – County Executive, County Council, State Legislature and Board of Education. Out of the 40, we received feedback from 23 of the candidates. I was hoping for a 50% response rate and we got close to 60%. Interestingly, most of the non-responses came from candidates the Columbia area.


County Executive

Chris MerdonRepublican
Steve WallisIndependent

County Council

Tony SalazarRepublican – District 1
Gina EllrichRepublican – District 2
Jen TerrasaDemocrat – District 3
Donna ThewesRepublican – District 3
Tom D’AstoRepublican – District 4
Don DunnDemocrat – District 5
Greg FoxRepublican – District 5

State Senate

Allan KittlemanRepublican – District 9
Ed KasemeyerDemocrat – District 12
Sandy SchraderRepublican – District 13

State Delegate

Gail BatesRepublican – District 9A
Warren MillerRepublican – District 9A
David OsmudsonDemocrat – District 9A
Elizabeth BoboDemocrat – District 12B
Rick BowersRepublican – District 13
Mary Beth TungRepublican – District 13

Board of Education

Allen Dyer
Sandra French
Joshua Kaufman
Roger Lerner
Di Zou

Update:  Dave Wissing sent this to me.  It is from Courtney Watson.  I wasn’t copied on the original.

I was unable to respond to the blogger questionnaire due to time constraints within the campaign.  I have chosen to spend all of my available time knocking on doors and as a result, have had to prioritize all other activities.  I have an extensive website at that can be referenced by your readers.  I also invite and encourage interested readers to attend one of the upcoming forums – October 4th COPE forum at 7 p.m. at Miller Library; October 11th League of Women Voters at 7 p.m. at Howard Community College.  I will be available to answer any questions from the public before, during, and after the forum on those evenings.

Courtney Watson

Hmmm.  Now I would think that even Jen would agree that this is not within the spirit of this forum.  I see Tony Salzar out door knocking, putting up signs, and going door to door too.  I am glad he thought this was a priority as did 23 other candidates.  (Ian and Evan, did the Central Committee get together and boycott our forum?).  I do encourage everyone to attend the COPE forum tonight so they can compare and contrast the candidates.  BRING A LIST OF OUR QUESTIONS WITH YOU AND A COPY OF TONY’S ANSWERS so you can ask Courtney to respond.

Some observations about a few of the respondents.

Chris Merdon and Liz Bobo both use the web a lot to convey their messages and communicate with the public.  Liz Bobo often comments and provides updates on the HCAA community forum.  Chris Merdon’s web site is never out of date.

Also, David “Oz” Osmundson sees this as an opportunity to get his message out and suggested to me that the Democrats have narrowed the GOP voter registration majority in 9A to less than 1,500 and feels he has a real shot at taking a seat.

Steve Wallis sees this as another tool to convey his message and level the playing field.

Di Zou, given his age and familiarity with the technology I am only surprised he wasn’t the first to respond :=)  Mssrs. Lerner and Dyer – they are techies and I expected them to respond.  Sandy French has embraced technology and Josh Kaufman understands the value.  I think you will find the quality of the answers between each of these candidates to be revealing.

Mary Beth Tung (a.k.a. MBT) is a frequent visitor to all the blogs.  She has commented that she finds a lot of value in reading not only the posts but the comments.  She says she learns a lot about public opinion and perceptions.  I think she is right on.

Given Howard County’s adoption rate of technology I think our respondents exhibit good insight into the behavior of Howard County citizens search for news and unfiltered content.

Worst case, those who responded didn’t want to be counted among those who wouldn’t try this experiment and be classified as “No Response”.

As to those who did not respond.  I can’t speak for them.  I could not help but notice that Ken Ulman’s web site is way out of date.  He is still reminding visitors that the Democratic primary is September 12, 2006.  Nothing wrong with that.  His campaign just might not see the value of an internet presence.  If his campaign responds we will certainly post his responses.

Based on his comments in the press and his treatement of Evan Coren I didn’t expect Mr. Robey to respond.  I would have been pleasantly surprised if he had taken the opportunity to do so.

Just an interesting footnote.


11 Responses to “On Line Candidate’s Forum”

  1. Freemarket said

    Although I would like to see Ken Ulman’s responses, I do not think it would be fair to Merdon or Wallis to allow Ulman, or any other procrastinator for that matter, to slide in after the due date. I believe that seeing your opponents’ responses prior to submitting your own is an unfair advantage and disrespectful to those candidates who take citizen inquiries seriously. These folks had two weeks to get this done. That should have been more than enough time.

  2. Ann said

    Where does Ulman stand on the issues? Does he even know what the issues are? How does he plan on leading the county if he doesn’t have an plan, with an desirable outcome defined – Leadership 101.

    His lack of a plan (let me know if he has one, I haven’t seen it), and response to the fair questions presented indicates to me that he is not prepared be responsive to the citizens and lead Howard County for the next 4 years.

  3. Ann said

    FYI – This morning Ken Ulman updated his website, 10/4/06. I wonder if he read the comment you posted yesterday about his website not being up to date, hmmm…

    Also, he is taking credit on his website for both Columbia AND Ellicott City being desirable places to live. EC is Merdon’s district.

  4. And despite his “update”, he is still reminding us on the front page that September 12th is the Democratic Primary Election. Thanks for the reminder….

  5. hocomd said

    Now come on. You have to love that picture of Jim and Ken relaxing at the diner reading a copy of Money magazine.
    Ken looks so relaxed.
    Ken is obviously trying to link the EC/CMD ranking to Robey, himself to Robey.
    I don’t think it will work.
    Anyone can raise taxes and fees practically every year in order to pay pay pay one’s way to success. Tie your wagon to that star. The fact is that the article does not give Robey or Ulman credit for our ranking. Accepting credit is silly. Our top performing schools would have been top performing under Dennis Schrader or Steve Adler because they would have spent the money on schools too (as will Merdon). Ken is saying Government (Robey/Ulman) deserve credit for our ranking while the credit belongs to the residents and small business people who keep this place what it is.

  6. Bubba said


    Queen Tax Courtney at her best….Let the poor blog readers suffer without her answer! I guess none of us want to read about how She proposes to save District 1 taxpayers money? HA….


  7. Freemarket said

    I can’t help but notice that out of the 18 non Board of Education related responses to the forum, only 6 were not Republican. I do not think that this is because only Republicans have any interest in the issues or only Republicans care about citizen inquiries. I think any fool who reads the 4 major Howard County blogs can see that the two Republican blogs are very active and heavily partisan, while the 2 Democratic blogs are laid back and not as feisty. Since a candidate knows that the majority of responses will be from anonomous fire breathing Republicans, I do not blame the Democrats from shying away. In the future, I think a vast increase in candidate participation could be achieved if the candidate responses were posted to an independent site set up specifically for the forum. Additionally, anonymous comments should not be allowed. Readers who wish to comment should somehow register beforehand to get a user ID that is their real name. These two steps would make the online forum more like the actual community forums that all the candidates participate in.

  8. While your point about an indepednet site for the responses has merit, and maybe we should have done this originally, I will point out I stripped all partisan related items that normally appear on my site in the side bars to at least remove this conflict. But I do understand your point

    As far as anonymous fire breathing Republicans, I think if you stayed at my site for any period of time, you will see that I try my best to kept commenters who are only interested in partisan mudslinging, whether from the right or left, to a bare minimmm to the best of my ability. In fact, of all the commenters I have banned, nearly 40% are probably on the conservative side of the fence.

  9. Freemarket said

    I agree, Mr. Wissing, that you may be able to regulate your own blog to some degree. However, the online forum should be a little more regulated for bi-partisanship than the ordinary political blog. The anonymity of blogging is not conductive to a responsible and productive dialog, which is what the online forum is about. A segregated online site where participants are accountable for their posts is the way to go. Maybe the GOP and Democratic Central Committees would be willing to provide assistance in registering folks to post using their actual names.

  10. hocomd said

    I don’t think it can be done with certainty.

    People are going to make up names, email addresses, and go to great lengths to remain anon.
    I understand where you are coming from. I think whether this works or not will come down to the credibility of the blogger. I try not to censor commentary – I threaten to a lot. But for this purpose – yes. I can throw out the firebombers.
    The credibility of the blogger determines how well the site will do and how well this experiment will do. Mr. Wissing has built a great deal of credibility across the political spectrum. That is why his blog does so well. Dave, you inspire me 🙂

  11. Freemarket said

    Another improvement would be to allow comments to be posted directly beneath candidate responses. I would like to point out why I believe that Gail Bates is not living on the same planet as the rest of us (abstinence- really?) but I don’t know where the best place to do that is with the current configuration. The candidates did put a lot of effort into responding, some kind of organization would be helpful to encourage responses.

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