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November 7, 2005

Election Reflections

John P. Snyder

Be it duly noted. On September 19 my article in this space began: "Unless a paternity suit arrives with his name on it, I believe the mayor’s race in the City of Frederick is Jeff Holtzinger’s to lose.''

My assertion didn't require possession of a high definition crystal ball. I saw serious fault lines in his candidacy. Frankly, I was surprised that others, certainly more in tune than I am, didn't see what was clearly visible.

"Just a 15% defection of Democrat voters combined with a strong Republican turnout would pose a problem for Mr. Young,” I wrote, adding “he needs every Democrat vote, including the sore-headed [Jennifer] Dougherty supporters to win."

We will never know the exact number of "sore-headed Dougherty supporters" who voted for Mr. Holtzinger. I thought it reasonable that at least 400 voters, or roughly 30% of her primary vote totals, were dedicated enough to hop the fence to spite Mr. Young.

Considering that 5,000 votes, or thereabouts, usually wins, 400 swings Democrat votes was a huge liability for the Young campaign. I believed they started the race eight points down.

The ground also shifted under Mr. Young’s feet when the market for grand visions was overtaken by a need to fix what was already in place. It was awkward for Mr. Young to talk about the future, when he was such a living, breathing reminder of the past.

And city voters have shown in the past a willingness to vote in a relative newcomer, like a Paul Gordon or Jennifer Dougherty herself. City voters heard their message even though they were terribly outspent, as Jeff Holtzinger was.

Those who were around in 1989 knew that there was an ambivalence surrounding Mr. Young. Some loved him, others didn't want to be quoted.

Even a flawless campaign couldn't overcome the damaging undercurrents. I am sure a lot of people were touched by the ad Mr. Young ran with his extended family. He explained his happiness that they all had jobs in Frederick.

Employment opportunities in Frederick are an age-old concern for everyone, and the Young campaign captured it perfectly. If he began the campaign down eight points, his well-run campaign cut it down to three at the end.

Any hopes of a strong finish were dashed by the appearance of an endorsement letter from Del. Galen Clagett in the Sunday Frederick News Post. His words no doubt helped Undecideds to vote for Mr. Holtzinger.

Given the number of calls my Clover Hill neighbors and I – all unable to vote in city elections – received suggests the operative polling numbers used were spoiled and distorted.

I have no connection to Nostradamus. Having been on a short end of a losing campaign a time or two, I can spot winners and losers. This one wasn't hard.

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