Josh Kurtz: To the Mooney

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Alex Mooney doesn’t get the respect he deserves.

In Annapolis, only Republicans who try to get along and go along with state Senate President Mike Miller (D) seem to be taken seriously. Mooney never was like that. In fact, he swept into office in 1998 by ousting a moderate and mild-mannered Republican, pipe-smoking Jack Derr, in the GOP primary.

Maybe being a bomb thrower was the right strategy for Mooney. Or maybe it kept him on the fringes and diminished his ability to serve his constituents. His tactics certainly prevented some smart Annapolis insiders from considering him very effective.

But even the go-along, get-along Republicans –- and there are hardly any left these days –- aren’t terribly effective. They are too deep in the minority to really matter. If they don’t tick Miller off, they get some crumbs thrown their way –- which is more than you could say for the likes of Mooney -– but that’s about it.

Did Mooney care? He never seemed to. Alex Mooney came to Annapolis with an agenda, determined to be a provocateur. And by that standard, he did very well –- and the critics be damned.

For these and other reasons, Mooney looks like a good choice to lead the Maryland GOP as it attempts to reinvent itself once again –- and for the first time in more than a decade without the faint promise of Bob Ehrlich to pick them up off the mat.

Mooney is certainly far to the right of the state electorate and maybe even to the right of most Maryland Republicans –- Mary Kane would have done a better job of steering the party to the political middle. And she’d have done it with charm and class.

But when a party is battered, it’s the base that must first be energized, and Mooney has displayed a great talent for doing that. He’s smart and articulate. He’s young and energetic. He’ll be combative and in the media constantly. He knows how to raise a lot of money and has already shown –- for better AND worse –- that he can infuse his political operations with D.C.-style tactics and sophistication. He’s already got a long list of supporters –- around the state and around the country. If he puts even a fraction of them to work in service of the state GOP, he’ll be doing the party a big favor.

Some Republicans fret that Mooney is using the state party as a way-station, a place to keep his name in the headlines as he prepares to eventually run for Congress whenever Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R) steps down. Don’t hold your breath. Even though he’s 84, Bartlett hasn’t shown any inclination to retire –- some Western Maryland Republicans have already gotten old waiting for Bartlett’s seat to become vacant; other would-be Congressmen, like Mooney, could be in for more of the same.

But even if Mooney is trying to use the state chairman post as a springboard to Congress, it wouldn’t be the first time that a state party chief has had higher political ambitions (see Steele, Michael, among others). Mooney won’t spend the time idly; he may be making a name for himself, but he’s got the grass-roots organizing skills to make a difference for his party as well.

Through it all, even with his stunning defeat last month, Mooney proved to be very, very shrewd. Democrats underestimate him at their peril.

Josh Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily, a Capitol Hill publication. He can be reached at .

Previous Center Maryland columns by Josh Kurtz:

Can Baker Cook Up Real Change?

Preppies at the Gate

Marylanders (Still) on the National Stage

We Don’t Know Jack: Fallout from Johnson Arrest Could be Far-reaching

After Ehrlich

Tomorrow Never Knows

To Be Frank (Part 2)

The More Things Change....

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

Polls Apart

Van Hollen's Burden

Not Rhee-a-listic

Tomorrow’s Headlines Today!

20th Century Comes to Baltimore County

Primary Colors

Murphy the Smurf

A Gene for Public Service

No Agnew Here

The Full Montgomery

Shock and Tawes

Uly's Gold

Death and Deadlines

Bad News for Democrats From Washington to Washington County

Mr. Smith Goes ... Where?

End of the Line for Vallario?

Mission: Control

Post Plays Favorites

Red Storm Rising

Michael & Me

Wanted: Fresh Blood

Taylor-Made

Black and Blue?

Slugfest

Take Me Back to Old Virginny

The Political Lives of Peter Franchot

Bob and Weave

How to Make Prince George's County King

Kane is Able

To Be Frank

Gay Rights and Political Wrongs?

The Washington Post Goes to War

Snow Job

Unsolicited Advice for Ehrlich — Wait Till 2014

The Early Bird Gets the Worm?

Wayne's World May Be Another Planet

Miller Time Comes Early

Owings Owes an Explanation
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Josh Kurtz has been writing about Maryland politics since late 1995. Louie Goldstein, William Donald Schaefer and Pete Rawlings were alive, but the Intercounty Connector, as far as anyone could tell, was dead.


But some things never change: Mike Miller is still in charge of the Senate. Gerry Evans and Bruce Bereano are among the top-earning lobbyists in Annapolis. Steny Hoyer is still waiting for Nancy Pelosi to disappear. And Maryland Republicans are still struggling to be relevant.


The media landscape in Maryland has changed a lot, and Kurtz is happy to write weekly for Center Maryland. He's been writing a column for the website since it launched in January 2010.


In his "real" job, Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily down on Capitol Hill. But he'll always find Maryland politics more fascinating.


Kurtz grew up in New York City and attended public schools there. He has a BA in History from the University of Wisconsin and an MS in Journalism from Columbia University. He's married with two daughters and lives in Takoma Park, Md. He hopes you'll drop him a line, or maybe go out for a meal with him, because he's always hungry -- for political gossip.