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May 11, 2007

Political Lull

Roy Meachum

Matters have been reduced to muttering on the local political scene. For all its quietness, the atmosphere retains a charge that might bring a storm, in the media anyway. In my years as an observer, I have never seen or sniffed anything like this.

The most flagrant abuser of the general public tranquility was once found in City Hall. The Civil War-era glorious building no longer erupts in daily blood-letting. After her defeat, Jennifer Dougherty removed her quarrelsome nature along with other personal effects.

Successor Jeff Holtzinger scarcely takes up the slack. None of the aldermen elected with him, in 2005, appears sufficiently irate; they don't bad-mouth him. They say he gives no cause. His fundamentally non-emotional approach to city business keeps it business, and that's all. How strange, after the preceding administration.

Having barely managed last year to retain a seat on the Board of County Commissioners, John "Lennie" Thompson operates these days surprisingly low key. Maybe it is that gathering support for his punitive measures against Frederick's business community has simply mollified Winchester Hall's enfant terrible, in a white suit. Who can say?

On the other hand, occupying Mr. Thompson's once-throne, Jan Gardner deploys powerful manners to make even the most unruly "ruly." That talent apparently helped in the ex-commissioners' president's case. Something there is about her schoolmarm-ish look, I guess.

His fellow Katzenjammer Kid's departure from the state senate has accomplished much the same thing with Alex Mooney. He has calmed down considerably since Tim Ferguson was sent packing by voters. His publicized alliance with Joe Bartlett came a cropper on the delegate's growing ambition to succeed his father, Frederick's U.S. congressman.

In answer to my question about helping Mr. Mooney take over his chair, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett replied with another question, this one rhetorical: "I like Alex, but why should I support anybody against my son."

Without Mr. Bartlett's enthusiastic backing, Mr. Mooney's lack of political muscle comes into play; he's singularly weak among Democrats and moderate Republicans who don't cotton to his radical politics or showy style.

There's no outright and nasty contest on the horizon at present. As I said, things are weirdly quiet; it could be all concerned are worn out from last year's races, resting up for the coming presidential push that gets closer and closer.

There should be no tussle on the county's legislative delegation. Delegate Rick Weldon's GOP majority shapes up as party loyal. The same can be said for Sue Hecht and Galen Clagett; they are only waiting for the Democrats to nominate their choice.

This is not a mood that observers like. We would much rather entertain a fuss. The danger here is that, lacking juicy material, political columnists can make up some of their own. That happens.

Egg rarely sticks to faces in this trade; it is speedily replaced in time for tomorrow's deadline. Of course, an explosive scandal could be hovering over the horizon. We'll see.


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