On Monday May 23, The Tri-District Republican Club of Carroll County hosted a candidate forum for the 2nd Congressional District in Maryland, which encompasses most of the deep red Carroll County under the new map. Between the team here at Evangelical Dark Web, it was we who personally compiled the questions for the candidates to answer at the forum. The questions were designed to be open ended and reveal the character of the candidates beyond a surface level without asking simple questions that are unrelated to their duty as a congressman or trivia questions any trained seal can answer. Now let us provide a recap and analysis of the forum so that others might apply these principles in the future.
The candidates in attendance were Nicolee Ambrose, who is heavily tied to the Maryland RNC and possesses the most national profile. Then there was Bernie Flowers, veteran and DOD public servant for over 33 years, retired FBI agent Lance Griffin, and Carroll County biologist Dave Wallace, who has previously run for Congress.
The first round of questioning was designed to reveal what type of Republican each of the candidates is and how they relate to the voters. That is why they were asked of their opinion of Governor Larry Hogan’s performance. All the candidates were critical of the lockdowns. Wallace revealed that he was disappointed in Hogan’s performance during his first term, citing his mishandling of the Freddie Gray Riots, and Flowers would grade him with a C overall. Ambrose focused her response on the need to elect more republicans in Maryland, while defending Hogan’s handling of the riots. The three male candidates all favored Dan Cox in the primary while Ambrose dodged the question, citing the need for Republicans to unify regardless of who wins.
The next set of questions was designed to determine where they align in a congressional setting. Candidates were asked if they would support a Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who in Congress they thought did a good job, and whether they would join the Freedom Caucus. Wallace suggested Chip Roy for speaker and was fond of Newt Gingrich. Maryland Republican Andy Harris was favored by the remaining candidates. Ambrose also cited Elise Stefanick. As an aside, Stefanick leads efforts to assist women running for Congress. All the candidates claimed they would join the Freedom Caucus.
The next series of questions focused on policies, relevant to Congress or conservatism. The candidates were asked on their thoughts on the Federal Reserve. Each of the candidates discussed the correlation between federal spending and inflation and the need to get America’s fiscal house in order. Personally, this might have been Ambrose’s strongest answer. None of them delved too deep against monetary policy, preferring to stick to fiscal policy. Officially speaking, auditing the fed is part of the RNC platform from 2016.
On the question of whether America should be funding Ukraine’s war, all the candidates except Flowers articulated that America was obligated to assist Ukraine. Only Bernie Flowers expressed reservations, beginning with referencing George Washington’s address before retelling his experience in the military where US equipment that landed in the hands of enemies was fired at him in a Chinook. He cautioned against supplying arms to nations as we do not always know who the end user of those weapons will be.
When asked about whether DREAMer’s should be offered a pathway to citizenship, all the candidates were against the notion. This is a moment where Flowers stood out as he previously worked with DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
There were several questions where we found disappointment in all the candidates. The biggest of which being the pro-life question. We asked them what the next step in the pro-life movement is and what the endgame for the movement is and they all underwhelmed on their answers. Ambrose played the “personally pro-life” card while Wallace articulated that while he was pro-life, America needed to provide support so women would not seek abortion—that is welfare spending to not murder babies. Flowers said that while abortion was unthinkable for him, he perceived the Texas Heartbeat law as the acceptable line in the sand that the country can get behind. Behind the scenes, the answer Flowers gave was most surprising. Griffin started off strong by declaring his pro-life stance before articulating that it is a human life except in cases of rape and incest.
Then on the question January 6, they were asked a broad question of what happened and what should be done. Ambrose played it safe by articulating that there were two different groups of people that day and emphasizing the timing of Trump’s speech versus the protest. Flowers answered similarly but emphasized that he was working during the event. He did allude to certain nefarious government involvement but did not overtly suggest it. Griffin was the only candidate that outright condemned the mistreatment of the January 6 arrestees, but also proceeded to say that those who assault law enforcement should be charged. To that latter portion there was some crowd enthusiasm. This question was designed to be broad and allow them to say what they really think. Perhaps they could have discussed election integrity or the involvement of the FBI in instigating these sorts of events. Overall I found the answers weak and was hoping for there to be a desire to find out what really happened that day and demand justice for the maltreated political prisoners.
They were asked to review Trump’s pandemic response. All the candidates praised Operation Warp Speed, which is the means the clot shots were rushed to market. Given that the forum was hosted by a very conservative club, Operation Warp Speed is not praised nor are the vaccines thought highly of, so they all played poorly to the crowd. Griffin was perhaps more disappointing as in his answer he ironically cited Scott Atlas’s A Plague Upon Our House, which is highly critical of Trump’s response. It is almost as if they all accept the premise that the jabs are safe and effective or are themselves vaccinated.
To conclude the forum, each of the candidates was allowed to pitch how they expect to win a Democrat leaning district as well as make their closing statements. Wallace emphasized his ability to draw Carroll County to the polls. Ambrose played into her appeal with suburban mothers, and Flowers played into his experience as well as his ability to make inroads with urban residents (Flowers is black).
Overall, I think the attendants most identified with Bernie Flowers and Dave Wallace. In Carroll politics, Flowers comes across as the new hotness whereas Wallace, while well liked and well known, is also seen as reliable. Likely, the race is between the two of them. Establishment types will probably favor Ambrose, just as they favor Schulz.
Whether dealing with political candidates or pastoral candidates, asking the right questions matters. Across America, there are political clubs or parent clubs, so it is possible for forums to be hosted to which potent questions are asked and candidate’s characters are exposed and revealed.