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Md. GOP picks Scott to guide cash-strapped party

Republican Party

Maryland Republicans on Saturday overwhelmingly elected Audrey E. Scott, a Cabinet secretary under former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), as their new party chairwoman.

Scott, a former member of the Prince George's County Council who later served as Ehrlich's planning secretary, promised to bring "renewed vigor and excitement to our party" during an address to more than 200 delegates at a state party convention held in Bowie.

Audrey Scott.jpgScott takes over at a time when Maryland Republicans are feeling buoyed by the national mood but face serious financial problems and other hurdles heading into an election year in a state where Democrats enjoy a 2-to-1 advantage in party registration.

As of Saturday morning, the state GOP had less than $6,000 in the bank and more than $100,000 in outstanding bills and loans, according to a report delivered to convention delegates.

"The Republican party in Maryland is not on life support, and it is not second class," said Scott, who pledged to make fundraising and use of new technology among her leading priorities.

Scott succeeds James Pelura, an Anne Arundel County veterinarian, whose three-year tenure was marked by anemic fundraising, a slippage in party registration and infighting among state GOP leaders. In a farewell speech, Pelura urged GOP candidates to reject appeals to move toward the center, saying: "Moderation gets you nowhere."

Scott faced only nominal opposition from Daniel "the Whig Man" Vovak, a party eccentric who often appears at events in a white wig. Under a weighted balloting system, Scott won nearly 610 votes to Vovak's roughly 45.

Another candidate, Chris Cavey of Baltimore County, dropped out of the race recently, saying he wanted to avoid a divisive vote. Cavey will remain as the party's first vice chairman, a position he held under Pelura.

The party's voting methodology provoked more drama Saturday than the race for chairman itself. Delegates adopted a compromise plan that guaranteed small counties a minimum number of votes while rewarding counties with additional votes based on the strength of Republican presidential nominee John McCain's performance there last year.

After hearing speeches from Scott and Vovak, the convention supported a motion to select its new chairman by voice vote. Delegates reversed course after some chaotic debate and used ballots as originally planned.

After her victory was secured, Scott acknowledged the "tight times" the party has faced and was treated to parade of delegates bringing checks written to the state GOP account.

"I can stand down in the front with the basket, like they do in church," an effusive Scott said. "This is phenomenal. ... I don't care if it's a dollar. It's a dollar that we don't have now."

By John Wagner  |  November 14, 2009; 1:21 PM ET
Categories:  John Wagner , Republican Party  
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