Her Own Worst Enemy
It is not a surprise to readers of The Tentacle that Mayor Jennifer Dougherty lost; my column "Lame Duck Mayor" (March 24, 2005), predicted it almost six months ago. The reason she lost is easily demonstrated by how the mayor acted when the returns came in. Instead of being gracious and dignified, the mayor responded with the same scorched earth politics that typified her administration. Upon hearing the results, Ms. Dougherty complained that she had lost because she didn't get out "her" voters.
I disagree. The poll results show that she never had that many supporters to start with. Her days of supporting Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Sue Hecht were ones where she showed her real left of center beliefs. She apparently had forgotten that she campaigned as a moderate to get elected.
She certainly did not attempt to unite or govern from the center and should not have been surprised when that came back to hurt her. I suspect that inside her close circle of friends there were no dissenting viewpoints and no one suggesting that "dear, if you want to win re-election you have to be polite, even to those that disagree with you." I doubt that would have allowed her to win; but it might have left her in a position to run again for elective office.
Civility, while admired by most voters, is not valued highly by many on the far left. They regard it as an outmoded code of cultural conduct of a nationalistic, imperialistic, white-Anglo-Saxon culture. It is only useful as a tool and may safely be ignored as they fight to bring us towards a progressive paradise.
Because they know they are right (their political beliefs are akin to religious faith), they can freely rail at "evil," which is easily determined to be anything that does not agree with them; the gloves are off and zealotry is a mark of their faith.
Those that follow this path don't even allow dissent within their own ranks and drive diversity out (see Howard Dean). This is a blueprint for political disaster. Mayor Dougherty marked her left-of-center positions with her language and actions. Self assured of her own motives and actions, she drifted well inside the culture of progressivism and out of sight of moderate and mainstream voters.
Or you might explain her loss as simply because she had become a distraction and an annoyance at a time when voters wanted quiet competency. The left may be out of touch with reality but they do know that as elections roll around it is time to hide their beliefs and pretend to be "moderates." For one example take Sue Hecht's failed attempt to unseat Sen. Alex Mooney (she even claimed to be a "conservative."). Voters did not buy the deception because they knew her.
Just look at Hillary Clinton's desperate attempts at positioning herself as a "moderate" for 2008; she isn't doing it because she changed her political views but because she has learned to do the math. With 27-29% of the vote you can not win elections.
Once elected as a moderate Mayor Dougherty reverted to her leftist beliefs. Had she run the mayor's office quietly and sensibly without fireworks or posturing, she might well have earned re-election. What happened instead was that voters quickly grew sick of the fighting and constant headlines and just wanted a competent mayor and civility back in City Hall. Moderates were driven off by Ms. Dougherty's fawning public support for Sue Hecht and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. That left only her core supporters; not nearly enough to win re-election.
What about the winner, Ron Young? Is he a shoe-in to win in the general election? It might surprise you to hear me say no. Ron Young can win, but he has some problems. Will Ms. Dougherty's voters come out for him? I know a number of Democrats who only voted for Ron because they couldn't stand the incumbent. For them it was not a vote for Ron but a vote against Jennifer.
Will they stay home, or vote Republican? Will the Dougherty supporters stay loyal to her or stay away from the polls? Ron Young had close ties to the Glendening Administration. Will that make him a target and vulnerable in the general election?
One thing is certain, while Mayor Dougherty might delude herself into believing that she can run a write-in or independent campaign to stay in office, the truth is that it is over; she has lost and there is no way back. The political scars left by the incumbent mayor will take a long time to heal and will haunt her if she ever seeks to run again.
We can but hope that our next mayor will ignore national and state politics and concentrate solely on returning good government to the citizens of Frederick; they deserve nothing less. Until then you may watch the antics of Mayor Dougherty with calmness, they merely serve to demonstrate that voters made the right choice in rejecting her.