Sunday, January 13, 2008

Stop Slots Maryland Promises Aggressive Campaign

Aaron Meisner, Chairman of Stop Slots Maryland, promised a group of MoCo activists today that his organization would wage an aggressive campaign to defeat the slots referendum. What is his plan and will it work?

Meisner made his remarks at a public meeting of Progressive Neighbors, a liberal group based in Silver Spring and Takoma Park. He started by noting that most recent slots referenda have failed, a point previously demonstrated by Free State Politics blogger Eric Luedtke. So while slots have a 60%+ favorability in Maryland polls, victory is possible.

"We can win, but it won't be easy," Meisner said. "It's not easy to transform a grass-roots lobbying organizations into a statewide campaign. It's taking time to shift gears." Meisner indicated that the organization is recruiting political operators with statewide campaign experience in Maryland and is in heavy talks with several religious groups. He described the evolving coalition as a group of "strange bedfellows" including secular progressives, rural values voters and religious organizations. "It's a big challenge to get organized," he admitted.

Meisner did not get into specifics, but upon reading a hard copy of this blog post, he indicated that the new plan would resemble what we have outlined. Overall it seems that Stop Slots Maryland is just getting moving. As he says, they have a real challenge: radically changing the organization in the midst of waging its most critical and difficult campaign yet. It is very, very tough for any organization to change so much while on the move, but that is what has to happen for them to win.

Right now, the big questions on this issue are:

1. Will the Governor campaign in favor of the referendum?

2. How will Stop Slots Maryland raise the money needed to win?

3. How will the organization liaison with the street-level activists who will be critical to victory?

Elbridge James, President of Progressive Maryland, hinted at the answer to a fourth big question at the same meeting. When asked whether Progressive Maryland would "help lead the fight against slots," James said that the issue would be decided at a board meeting of the group in late January. "The question is will we oppose slots vigorously, oppose slots passively or not oppose them," he said. While James declined to provide a hard prediction of what Progressive Maryland would do, few of us left the meeting believing that the group would fight hard against slots. Several of the group's union affiliates may in fact support slots because of hopes to unionize casino workers, perform the construction work, or gain more public funding. This creates a significant possibility that Progressive Maryland will sit out this fight, thus lessening the chances of slots opponents.

Pay attention to this one, folks. The fighters are still in their robes, bouncing in their corners. Michael Buffer is only now reaching for the mike. I'd advise you to place your bets, but ah... maybe that's the wrong metaphor.

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