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The Tentacle


October 14, 2005

Keep A'nockin, You Might Get In

Norman M. Covert

Tom Slater, Esq., came to my door the other evening, and we talked briefly about progress in his campaign for alderman of the City of Frederick. He said he had knocked on lots of doors since beginning his quest, and his effort that day was blessed with a warm reception and a pleasant evening. He had more people to see before November 1.

Many new residents don't know Mr. Slater has been a viable presence in local politics for many of the nearly 30 years I've lived here. Democrats have elected him as a Central Committee member, but this is his first attempt to gain paid public office in more than 20 years.

Mr. Slater has pushed and prodded many a local Dem and learned a few things from their successes and failures. He knows it takes face time with the voters to gain familiarity. His team is pushing signs and media advertising, but being in the precincts, admiring the occasional baby and pressing the flesh is a huge part of the fight.

That moment at the door we saw Tom Slater allowing himself to be "Tom," instead of the formal lawyer in his uniform suit and staring back from his one-by-three commercial advertising.

He is one among many candidates who know they must visit my Frederick neighborhood. It was built as Villa Estates on former farmland in 1951, primarily to attract scientific personnel at the expanding Camp Detrick. Likewise, the Kemp Farm, on the north side of old West Seventh Street, was just beginning its construction and now encompasses Rose Hill Estates, the Seventh Street Shopping Center and east to the Fairview Avenue strip mall.

One would guess there was as much discussion in 1950 about taking farmland as there is now; and every candidate had to address it. But the new neighborhoods gave them the chance to bring in more opinions than the confluence of voters in the high cost neighborhoods downtown. More voices were entering the debate, much as it is now; and the diversity of voter opinions is still the wild card for any candidate.

We've seen the likes of no-growth Republican Jim Joyce, who came early and left late, touting his platform and pushing the neighbors to post his sign. He did well that first weekend, but he's part of the pack now and hasn't made a return visit. There are, after all, more than enough neighborhoods he needs to work.

Joanne Ivancic, the local Green candidate, came to the door one evening and was perky and pleasant as she introduced herself. She handed out her nice little brochure with the gentle ideas she has for improving our community. She won't garner many votes, but we appreciated her effort.

My neighborhood also saw the likes of defeated Mayor Jennifer Dougherty, who came while we were worshiping at church. Sunday morning before noon is not a good time to leave your card on the door. Protestants attend most predictably at 11 a.m. for Morning Worship. It's a lesson for any candidate.

When Ron Young canvassed the neighborhood early in his primary campaign to defeat Miz Mayor, he was warmly greeted and spent lots of time that hot and muggy Saturday having a proffered glass of cold water and a seat on a porch swing. It was old-time politics at its best.

This is a mixed political neighborhood running the gamut from Leftist Bush haters to old-school Republicans, who don't fit the far right label. There is at least one "Green" plus a couple of vociferous "FemiNazis," to borrow an apt label for fiery, male-hating femmes fatale.

There also is the balancing act of independent residents. Once "Declines," these now are "Unaffiliated" folks who vote the candidate they feel best fits their likes and dislikes. They vote both sides of the fence and generally welcome with open arms any candidate who comes to the door.

You won't find many signs here, except the occasional leftover "Bush/Cheney" bumper sticker balanced out by the neighbor's "Not Bush" admonition on a Soccer Mom vehicle. Some neighbors view the signs as clutter, which must be removed in order to trim the lawn properly.

A check at this writing reveals a "Smith Alderman" at both ends of the block with one leftover "Jennifer" hanging on a fence and "Young Mayor" in the middle. Interestingly, one long-time resident displayed Young and Joe Baldi signs together with those touting several aldermanic candidates. The Baldi sign is gone, replaced by "Jeff Holtzinger for Mayor."

Traditionally no candidate could win who never found time to knock on doors in any but his or her own neighborhood. In Frederick, a candidate better have the good will of lots of regular folks to win and that means personal contact.

Hard work and a winning personality can carry the day. Miz Mayor had that once, but lost it once she was inaugurated. Ron Young had it once and appears to have it again, but the question lingers if voters do more than give him a drink of water?

As far as Mr. Slater, we appreciated his caring enough to stop by, not staying long and foregoing refreshment. "I've got a lot to do before it gets dark," he said. I'll have the cool drink as my reward when I get home tonight."

There are two-plus weeks to go and the neighborhood looks forward to more visits, perhaps even from those who last came by four years ago - we forgot their names.



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