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October 10, 2005

Wuzes and Wannabees

Norman M. Covert

Our former U.S. Rep. Beverly Butcher Byron (D., 6th) and former state Del. James E. (Doc) McClellan (D., 3rd) are living examples that politics can be fun and, if not profitable, a pretty big-time thrill. Who wouldn't desire to have been in their shoes, playing a role in history, enjoying frequent schmooze opportunities and having the thrill of overwhelming victory at the polls.

I have great respect for Mrs. Byron, who was appointed to complete the remainder of her husband's term when Rep. Goodloe E. Byron (D., 6th) died unexpectedly. She went on to multiple victories in our Sixth District because she was a first-rate legislator in the zoo that is the National Capitol. A moderate and smart Democrat, Mrs. Byron pleased her constituents on the right, and even some on her left.

Mrs. Byron, who last visibly served on the Congressional Military Base Closure Commission (I believe it was in 1995) also is a regular voter. We espied her crossing West Second Street September 13th presumably on the way to her precinct in the 29th Division Armory.

She was accompanied by Dr. and Mrs. McClellan, who also were headed in that direction. They were hailed warmly by the regulars who usually occupy that corner near Memorial Grounds Park on any polling day. It was clear Doc and Bev could still rally the vote, working the venue with facility.

Simply guessing, one would think that Mrs. Byron probably keeps her own counsel these days with her national party hell bent on its leftward path. No doubt, though, she has not lost touch and probably still gets in her opinions. She may have advised our two current senators to get out while they can.

The once-powerful Doc McClellan still wields some influence in local politics, but he has his hands full as chairman of the liquor commission in Frederick County. Still, Doc's advice would be much considered by both Democrat and Republican office seekers. He and his contemporaries served in happier times, it would seem, although the infighting was less public.

It is certainly the dream of many political wannabees to emulate the likes of these legends of local politics. Living the dream for some regular folks in today's political arena can amount to the Roman Forum where the Christians are slaughtered by the lions.

Local Republican Central Committee member Tim Brooks is probably destined for the political trash heap. His one disastrous bid for office was punctuated by unseemly comments and outrageous pronouncements. Most local Republicans offered Joe Baldi apologies after Mr. Brooks said the three-term alderman was "too liberal" for the party. The local GOP is in disarray with no influential leader in sight.

Consider the list of candidates sparring for municipal offices and you will see the old warhorse Ron Young. Yes, he has tasted the sweetness of victory since winning his first mayoral desk in 1973. However, the bitterness of defeat also set him adrift and on the dole of state Democrats. Ron, probably a moderate Democrat, was part of a winning political team for many years, but that cup of champagne ended with the ouster of his backroom buddies of the Glendening cabal in 2002.

Mr. Young has gained some measure of payback in defeating Mayor Jennifer M. Dougherty in the Democrat primary. Miz Mayor's most zealous supporters were Paul and Rita Gordon, who handed Hizzoner a stunning loss in 1989. No dummy, Paul forsook his Democrat roots and switched to the Republicans, who had no other viable candidate that year.

When the ballots don't add up in your favor, it is a stunning brace of reality.

Mr. Young's opponent for mayor of The City of Frederick is no spring chicken, but Jeff Holtzinger is certainly a rookie in this race. It may be that the West 40 pasture may be awaiting Mr. Young.

The local political pundits are touting Mr. Holtzinger's chances of winning handily, citing a mass defection of Democrats, perhaps even the Gordon duo, in voting against Mr. Young in November. That certainly is a possibility, but the mainstream Democrats may remember Mr. Young's loyalty to the party even when he was less than lukewarm about local, state and national candidates.

There is no great animosity between Mr. Young and Mr. Holtzinger to stir the local daily rag's pot each day. The former city engineer, however, has spoken plainly in every forum about a variety of issues, not the least of which is the water and sewer issue. It is a distinct possibility that Mr. Holtzinger's non-slick approach could be his ticket to office.

Nevertheless, political power has clearly not been invested on any of a today's local political office holders. There has been no rising tide for the struggling Feminist Caucus of former state Del. Sue Hecht, County Commissioner Jan Gardner, Miz Mayor, Alder-Persons Donna Ramsburg and Marsha Hall. Once touted as the Soccer Moms plus one, only Ms. Gardner may remain after the general election.

Dick Zimmerman, an enthusiast and tireless campaigner, lost his try for alderman in 2001. Now he is Mr. Young's campaign manager, longing to be a kingmaker. Surely he's had a cup of coffee with the "wuzes," Mrs. B or Doc. That would be the first step for any wannabee.

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