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As Long as We Remember...

November 3, 2005

Election Post-Mortem

John W. Ashbury

So, William Jefferson Holtzinger is the mayor-elect of The City of Frederick. What a refreshing change is blowing in the wind.

All the pundits, besides chasing their tails over the past few weeks, have seen a tightening of the race. Most thought the contest between Mr. Holtzinger and former, four-term Mayor Ronald N. Young would be close. And it was.

But polls conducted by some Democrats indicated that Mr. Young would capture more than 53 percent of the vote. Without absentee ballots counted, Mr. Holtzinger won the race with 4,553 votes (51.85 percent) to Mr. Young's 4,228 (48.1 percent).

The campaign surprised just about everyone after the primary. The divisiveness that was rampant until September 13 was gone. Mr. Young soundly trounced incumbent Mayor Jennifer Dougherty in the Democratic primary. And every observer, with the exception of those in the Holtzinger camp, saw three-term Alderman Joe Baldi willing the Republican preliminary. It wasn't to be.

The morale in City Hall had descended to its lowest level in recent history. The current mayor was partially responsible and the voters took out their frustrations on her and on Mr. Baldi, whose waffling on major issues lead to some of the disharmony.

Tuesday's victor would not have been on the ballot if it hadn't been for the arrogance and political maneuvering of MS. Dougherty.

When the three Republican aldermen passed a charter amendment reducing the residency requirement from three years to one, the mayor vetoes the measure, an action many deemed illegal. That issue was never decided by the courts.

It would seem that the reason for her veto was not so much to thwart the aldermen, but rather to keep Ron Young off the ballot. The mayor most certainly had heard that Mr. Young was going to challenge the residency requirement in court, where she thought the city would prevail. Shortly after her veto, Mr. Young went to Frederick County Circuit Court.

The mayor finagled a trip to federal court and suffered an ignominious defeat when the judge ruled the residency requirement for mayor in the City of Frederick "unconstitutional" under both Maryland and federal law.

So, with that ruling, the mayor "rescinded her veto (another improper, if not illegal, action), opening the door for anyone to file for mayor because for a period of 50 days there was no residency requirement to seek the city' s top job. Jeff Holtzinger, the former city engineer in the James Grimes and Dougherty administrations, took advantage.

Now that the election is over, the city's residents are the likely beneficiaries. Ron Young and Jeff Holtzinger conducted a "gentleman's" campaign, sticking to the issues. It is an atmosphere that is likely to spill over into the next administration in City Hall.

It came down to a decision by the voters to select either a man whose vision 30 years ago had led to a vibrant inter-core downtown, or a man whose reputation for getting things accomplished was widespread. They chose the latter, figuring that Mr. Holtzinger would solve the infrastructure problems facing them on an everyday basis - and would do so quickly.

They weren't saying that Mr. Young would not solve them; just that they thought Mr. Holtzinger had a better grasp of those issues and those were the important ones to them at this time. They also weren't saying that Mr. Holtzinger didn't have a vision for the future; just that it wasn't what was important right now.

Election night brought some surprises. Hearing that Mr. Young had conceded just 45 minutes after the polls closed and before even a trend in official results could be discerned shocked everyone. Mr. Young had people at every polling place who gathered the numbers and phoned them to his headquarters.

To his credit, Ron Young didn't dilly-dally. He took this disappointing bull by the horns and conceded immediately. Another surprise was the fact that his supporters remained at his "party" headquarters for several hours afterward commiserating with each other, but confident that Mr. Holtzinger would be a benefit to the city.

Throughout the battle season both candidates lauded the others while distinguishing themselves for their civility on their differences. It was such a remarkable campaign that almost to a person voters felt the city would be the winner no matter which candidate prevailed.

The voters who supported Jennifer Dougherty in the primary may well have been the deciding factor. Shortly after the September vote, Mr. Young said in a conversation at The Village in downtown Frederick that he felt about 25 percent of the people who voted for Ms. Dougherty in the primary would cross party lines and support Jeff Holtzinger in November.

How prophetic can one get? Mayor Dougherty received around 1,600 votes on September 13, and the difference, so far, between Mr. Young and Mr. Holtzinger is 325, about 20 percent.

Over on the aldermanic side there was only one real surprise from this chair. That was the solid finish by Alderman Donna K. Ramsburg, who drew nearly 4,000 votes to place third. Rumblings have been heard for weeks that her close and vocal ties to Mayor Dougherty would do her in. That sentiment was everywhere - except among those who went to the polls.

The showing by David 'Kip' Koontz was expected in some circles because he has worked hard over the years to make Frederick a better place to live. And now he will have a real voice and the power to do something about improving the quality of life in our fair city. He deserves what he has worked so hard to achieve. Anyone who knows him can appreciate his vision of Frederick.

Alderman Marcia Hall repeated her primary victory by again placing first with the voters. On inauguration day, January 12, she will become president pro-tem. Now she will have to be a bit more vocal in her response to issues.

Alan Imhoff has coveted an elected position for a generation and now he has achieved one. Of all the candidates in this year's campaign, Mr. Imhoff has the broadest knowledge of both city and county government details and he can draw on his vast experience serving on all those commissions through the years.

Mr. Imhoff had arguably the best print ad of the campaign. It ran during the last week before the election, stating quite simply that taxes and assessments had risen dramatically and the city's fund balance had gone down. He asked were all the money went. Then he said he'd find out. Let's hold him to that promise.

C. Paul Smith came in fifth, but only 43 votes separate him from Samie Conyers, the only African-American candidate on the ballot. The absentees will be counted this morning and could alter the outcome. However, absentees usually follow the trends set by those who voted on a regular election day.

Mr. Smith is an unknown quantity despite the fact that his personal convictions expressed in a Letter to The Editor of The Frederick News Post four years ago became somewhat of a campaign issue. However, he drew strong support from the church-going community and will likely survive today's absentee ballot count.

The six candidates who were unsuccessful should be commended for an outstanding campaign. They all left the acrimony at home and conducted themselves as ladies and gentlemen.

Those who were elected should review the positions and ideas of those who will go home without the brass ring. There were some sound proposals that should - and need to - be analyzed.

So, as Bob Miller said in signing off the election coverage on WFMD - "Keep those promises."

Woodsboro - Walkersville Times
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
The Covert Letter

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