As I hung up the phone with Congressman Delaney's campaign manager, Liz Jaff, I realized that after 3 months of telephone conversations and emails attempting to negotiate a date for a public forum with Incumbent Rep. John Delaney and Republican candidate Dan Bongino, I was being told in so many words, Don't call us...we'll call you.Many may not know that besides writing this blog, I am also the president and events organizer for the Hagerstown TEA Party (HTP). I have been attempting to organize a Meet the Candidates forum for candidates running for US Congress in Maryland's District 6. The HTP has hosted several such events in 2012 and also during the 2014 primary season, building a reputation for providing well-organized forums for a fair exchange of ideas among those with widely different opinions. Likewise, this event would be non-partisan, so we would be inviting the Democratic and Republican candidates, along with the two Green Party and unaffiliated candidates. It would be a monitored Q&A forum, with each candidate having equal time to answer the same questions. There is time before and after to mingle with the candidates. This is a public service to our community, providing an opportunity to meet with and learn about the candidates, and unlike other candidate forums in the area...our events are always free of charge. The HTP Board of Directors were particularly excited about the probable interest and attendance for such a rare opportunity for the citizens of Washington County to meet their Congressman in person and to hear first hand where he stands on issues that are important to them. It would be double the value to be able to see him compete with those who also want to represent them. Western Maryland deserves this opportunity!
IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED...
It all started the first week in April when I reached out to Congressman Delaney by a contact link on his website, by email, and by sending him a formal invitation via U.S. Mail. I received an email 14 days later from his campaign manager, Liz Jaff, stating that Delaney would not be able to attend. She offered no reason, but did tell me to "feel free to call with any questions." I instead responded to her email asking if there was a scheduling conflict for the tentative date of July 10th. I stated that we had started planning so far in advance (3 months), that we "have enough time for adjustments." She responded by email stating that "May is packed on the official side" (apparently not realizing that all three invitations clearly stated July 10th), but said she should be able to work something out and "would be happy to chat next week." Great! Right?
THIS WAS THE FIRST TIME THAT A CANDIDATE REQUESTED SO MUCH INFORMATION BEFORE (MAYBE) AGREEING TO PARTICIPATE
I waited for the following Monday to call Ms. Jaff. I was eager to set a date because I knew that I wanted as much time as possible to promote this event for a fantastic turnout. I shared with her how our candidate forums are conducted. She asked that I email her a preliminary agenda, the forum rules, and a bio on our moderator, Pieter Bickford. She was reluctant to set a date until she received everything and had time to meet with her team. I told her that I would email it that day and she told me to call back the following week. I emailed everything as soon as we hung up, from my iPhone, in my car.
I called the following week, and the following week, and the following week.
MEANWHILE .... BAM! BONGINO SAID YES
The primary season was winding down, and it was looking like Dan Bongino could not lose. I ran into him at another campaign event. We didn't know each other. I think we knew of each other. He did attend our candidate forum in 2012 when he ran against Cardin. Incidentally, Delaney did not participate in our candidate forum that year when he ran against Roscoe Bartlett. So I ran into Bongino, and I asked him about a forum with Delaney. Without a moment of hesitation he said that he would, but that I needed to call his campaign manager to set a date. He gave me the phone number. I called Sharon Strine the next day. I gave her the tentative date of July 10th, and it was done.
I BEGAN TO WONDER WHAT IT IS THAT TEAM DELANEY FEARED
I guess fearing Bongino and not caring about Western Maryland made it easy for Team Delaney to say, Don't call us...we'll call you. I hope that the voters of Western Maryland and all of District 6, who surely will have had the pleasure of meeting Bongino by then, say the same to Delaney in the voting booth.