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January 3, 2006

Politics in the New Year – Part Two

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

Picking up where we left off yesterday, here are some predictions for the political landscape in 2006 in the county races.

County Commissioner

In spite of three years of ruminating, Commissioners President John L. “Lennie” Thompson will likely seek another term. Lennie is a studious politician, and his reading of the tealeaves will tell him that two slow growth organizations, called Friends of Frederick County and the Frederick Regional Action Network (FRAN), will have ballot box influence.

He will see that amalgamation of anti-growth voters as strength for his non-traditional approach to campaigning. He doesn’t raise and spend money, so a network of rabid supporters who’ll burn shoe leather to stop development will convince him to give it a go. If he runs, he’ll get re-elected.

Commissioner Jan Gardner is likely to make the same observation, but her re-election bid is less certain than that of Commissioner Thompson. Given that the compensation for commissioner is increasing ($45K versus the current $30K), and Jan believes that at least two other commissioners might get elected who will share her philosophy, her name just might be on that ballot.

Commissioner Mike Cady is already running, as is Commissioner John Lovell. Cady has been a controversial figure, from his high profile hat/pledge incident to the overblown ethics flap over the Olympic weightlifting event.

The way the Cady re-election story breaks down is that those who support him will turn out for him. Those who don’t will work to elect someone else. Mike Cady gets re-elected, since there are five seats, and his name is well known. One little tidbit: Commissioner Cady attends town meetings in all of the county’s municipalities. If you want to know how people feel about him, just check with the municipal leaders.

Commissioner Lovell’s future is a little harder to predict. John has worked as hard on the BOCC as he did when he served as chair of the Board of Zoning Appeals. No one, not even his detractors, question his commitment to the job. John ran for election as a fiscal conservative in 2002, and his supporters included some very high profile Republicans, like Blaine Young and barber W. T. Mills.

Flashing forward three years, many of those who enthusiastically supported Commissioner Lovell are mute on his chances for re-election. In a recent conversation with Mr. Mills, he indicated that he wouldn’t be supporting either Commissioner Cady or Commissioner Lovell, but at least Mr. Cady had voted to constrain spending. If he wants to repeat his past electoral success, Commissioner Lovell will need to reconnect with his base and remove some tarnish from his image.

Most don’t expect Bruce Reeder to run again. Bruce has distinguished himself as a man of his word, balancing fiscal conservatism and social awareness. He’ll be missed.

There are a number of GOP names being bandied about for the BOCC. Billy Shreve, a Realtor® with Frederick Land Company and chair of the county’s BZA, developed a thoughtful solution to an impasse over the Impact fee versus tax debate. Billy is the past president of Habitat for Humanity, so he will draw on a wide and diverse base.

If no growth advocates try to attack his connection to real estate and development, they’ll look like fools when he talks about helping low income Frederick County residents achieve the American dream.

Myersville Mayor Wayne Creadick is weighing a bid for commissioner. In addition to his work with Myersville, Wayne works in the financial services sector. He has done an outstanding job in his hometown, and looks to be a strong candidate if he runs.

Perennial GOP candidate Sam Conyers is talking about a run for commissioner. Sam has been a part of most races in the last several election cycles, so at least some voters know his name. The problem is that Sam isn’t well known outside the city, and campaigning countywide is a real challenge.

Rumors swirl about a return to politics by Frederick’s youngest Good Ol’ Boy, former Alderman and Clear Channel Executive Blaine Young. Blaine might be thinking about the BOCC, and if he ran, he would win.

His personality enamors him to everyone, including his detractors. His radio show has honed his humor and political observation, and his countywide supporter network would be better than any other candidate, including the incumbents.

The question will be whether he can balance the demands of running a very successful career in commercial radio management with the daily workload of a county commissioner. My guess is probably not.

The party clubs and auxiliary organizations are starting to develop a backbench. At least one candidate, Elaine Kessinger, may emerge from the GOP Women’s Club in the upcoming commissioner’s race. She’ll need to run a very well organized campaign, because name recognition is everything in a countywide race.

While Democrats are keeping their powder dry, a few past candidates will likely give it another go. Richard Floyd, of Jefferson, still pines for a seat on the Winchester Hall dais. Dick is a smart guy and has been involved in several groups with broad membership.

His leadership of the Committee for Frederick County established his ability to lead a consensus-based group, but that will do little to get him elected. He’ll need to depend on the emerging no growth movement, although his connection with those same folks didn’t give him the boost he needed the last time he ran.

Kai Hagen, of the Thurmont area, is leading the Frederick Regional Action Network. FRAN uses an email newsletter to inform and criticize the BOCC and developers for things they disagree with. They do a very good job and have had some success in dealing with both the Planning Commission and the BOCC. Kai is a smart, eloquent, creative thinker who understands how to use language and communication techniques to get his message out, whether you agree with the message or not.

There were several strong Democrat aldermanic candidates that didn’t make it through the primary or general election cycle last year in The City of Frederick. I anticipate one or two of them will run for commissioner. Most likely would be Ken Berlin, a guy who everyone thought would do better than he did in November.

Running for commissioner is nothing like running for alderman, though. Ken will have to stake out a much clearer position on growth to have any success in a commissioner’s race. Ken was talking about balance in the city race, but that song won’t play in the BOCC race.

Rumors abound about at least one Democrat State Central Committee member contemplating a run, but no confirmation was available by the time this column was written (probably because the writer is a Republican office holder).

County Sheriff

Sheriff Jim Hagy has not announced his plans. At one time, people were speculating that Jim might not run for re-election. Jim has historically been one of the most popular political figures in Frederick County, running unopposed in his most recent election.

If Jim were to decide to go for it, you’d have to consider him a strong frontrunner. Historically, no one in the GOP wanted to tangle with the popular top cop. This time, a challenge might emerge from within his own department and party.

Detective Chuck Jenkins has been rumored to be weighing a bid for sheriff. Not unusual, as Mr. Jenkins is also the very popular chairman of the Republican State Central Committee for Frederick County. What’s a little odd is that Chuck may not wait for Sheriff Hagy to retire; he might give it a shot regardless.

Chuck has a lot going for him in addition to his central committee service. He is a longtime volunteer with the Lewistown Fire Company, a volunteer youth sports coach, and he has deep community roots.

Chuck Jenkins represents the most serious challenge to Jim Hagy’s tenure in recent memory. Another interesting aspect to this story is the frequently repeated rumor that former City Police Chief Harold Domer, now the head of the county’s Animal Control Department, is being groomed to replace Sheriff Hagy.

It would be interesting to see how folks would react to the concept of a hand-picked successor. Hank Domer did a good job as acting chief, but there might be a negative reaction to the idea of a coronation.

In the end, it will come down to Sheriff Jim Hagy. If he wants to keep his job, and is willing to work a little harder than he’s had to in order to keep it, he probably will.

As with most political prediction columns, you can probably best use this by printing it out and wrapping fish in it. It is fun to speculate, though.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these things, especially your own predictions. You can email me at

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