State Republicans elect Mooney to lead party
New chairman promises to prioritize funding for GOP races
ANNAPOLIS Outgoing state Sen. Alexander X. Mooney, a Frederick County conservative, will lead the Maryland Republican Party as members move forward following former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich's defeat in last month's gubernatorial election.
Central committee members from 23 counties and Baltimore city elected Mooney and other leaders Saturday during the party's quadrennial convention.
Promoted as a powerhouse fundraiser by his nominators, Mooney, who lives in Urbana and will represent District 3 until January, promised to train candidates and capitalize on his ability to bring in cash.
"We can't ask candidates to not see their families for a year (during campaigning)," Mooney, 39, said. "As your chairman, I will raise the money, I will work with these (candidates)."
Leading up to the November election, Mooney had more than $128,000 in the bank, more than four times that of his opponent, Frederick Democrat Ronald N. Young.
During the convention Mooney defeated Ehrlich running mate Mary Kane and three other candidates and began his four-year term immediately.
Donald E. Murphy a Baltimore County Republican who represented District 12A in the Maryland House of Delegates for two terms in the 1990s, said Mooney's election was a referendum on the Ehrlich campaign, not an indication of party members' faith in his leadership.
Murphy, who would have supported Kane if he had a vote in the convention, said the chairmanship helps Mooney stay relevant in politics until he can run for the 6th District congressional seat occupied by Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett of Buckeystown, a move widely anticipated.
"I believe Alex is using this as a lifeboat to get to the nomination for Congress," Murphy said.
Bartlett has previously said that he intends to run for reelection in 2012.
Democrats criticized the party's vote, saying Mooney's conservatism would splinter the party.
"The Maryland Republican Party confirmed in today's election that they are bankrupt of new ideas and out of touch with most Marylanders by choosing someone who will move the party further away from the mainstream," chairwoman Susan Turnbull said in a statement released Saturday afternoon.
Registered Democrats in Maryland outnumber Republicans roughly two-to-one.
In addition to Kane, Mooney faced challenges from three other Republicans who all removed themselves from the ballot following the convention's first round of voting.
Kane, who served as secretary of state during Ehrlich's administration, told the crowd packed into a ballroom at the Annapolis Doubletree Hotel that under her leadership the party would focus on outreach to new members and voters.
"People think honesty and politics are not usually combined in the same sentence. I want you to know that I plan to be honest and transparent with each and every one of you," Kane said.
Mooney replaces Audrey Scott, planning secretary under Ehrlich, who was elected last November to pull the Maryland GOP from mounds of debt and lackluster fundraising.
Under her leadership the party raised almost $1 million in the last year and is now debt free, Scott and other leaders announced Saturday.
"Never ever again should a Maryland Republican party begin an election year in debt," Scott said.