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March 21, 2006

Taking Tim Seriously

Roy Meachum

Along for what passes for Frederick's political reality, opinion reigns supreme that perennial Republican candidate Tim Brooks takes much too seriously his challenge to State Sen. Alex Mooney.

That prompted the comment: "Good thing, nobody else does."

In seeming desperation to achieve elected office, Mr. Brooks has yelled what a Frederick News-Post headline summed up as "foul play."

Tim Brooks first burst onto the public stage in a confused and confusing bid for the House of Delegates, in 1998, with an ad that caused considerable talk: The layout showed "cowboy" Brooks sitting in a chair, a rifle lying across his knee; the caption read, to the effect: Seen any liberals lately?

The "joke's" impact was less than blood-curdling among his announced targets; the lame attempt at humor turned against the virtually unknown candidate. He dumped to the bottom of the GOP's primary slate.

But the hope that springs eternal brought Mr. Brooks right back; and in the next Republican primary for the House of Delegates he edged both Patrick Hogan and Samie Conyers. The general election, however, belonged to Mr. Hogan.

Mr. Brooks wound up, at least, on top of the nine members of the 2002 GOP central committee, normally the reward for service to the party. For example, Democrats Bob Kresslein and Tom Slater rest in the same safe harbor, free to enjoy the fruits of political activism, without the hurly-burly of waging a contested campaign.

Mr. Slater came off the shelf last year and nearly made the new Frederick Board of Aldermen; he didn't but deserves great credit for a good try, marked with intelligence and moxie learned all that time in his party's vineyard. Throwing his "cap" into this year's fracas doesn't figure.

To democracy's benefit, political animals rarely submit to reality. Which is why every election poses the possibility of genuine surprise.

Tim Brooks' decision to take on Alex Mooney rated a four-horn shock. It seemed too many in the category of his hunting liberals' ad; designed to get attention and little more.

Seeking his third term in the state senate, Mr. Mooney has to be considered nearly invulnerable against another Republican like Mr. Brooks. The senator not only has two-term incumbency on his side but also the advantage of a war chest that approaches the highest in the entire state.

With all the resources of the state Democratic Party behind her, former Del. Sue Hecht went down to bitter defeat. Mr. Mooney's fellow Republicans tend to feel his money was not as much an advantage as the lady's disadvantage as a liberal in this conservative county.

Such talk may have given Mr. Brooks the "Dutch courage" to jump into the ring; he boasts his conservatism matches the incumbent's, as if that were enough. He was counting on a two-man race, hoping he might win the GOP primary on a simple personality contest. I guess. I can't say for sure.

Confirming that view however dim he was left to howl when Hugh Warner entered the race, claiming the new candidate was somehow inveigled and lured to run by the incumbent with the intention of robbing Mr. Brooks of votes.

Since Mr. Warner does not offer a completely fresh face to local politics, the charge stands absurd. After all, the senator certainly played no role in that gentleman's past runs for the House of Delegates and the Board of County Commissioners.

If anything, Hugh Warner has been much more politically active than Mr. Brooks, ask Ms. Hecht. In her last attempt to unseat Mr. Mooney, the county's best-known flags' merchant worked notoriously hard to keep the Democratic lady out of Annapolis.

The trick to getting publicity, for anything, is to hit the media on a slow news day. And that seems Tim Brooks' principal accomplishment in venting his charge, which seems to me to serve better his competitors.

Crying this particular "wolf," if I might borrow an expression, gave front-page Sunday exposure to Mr. Warner's candidacy; it was better than that direct mailing that had Mr. Brooks so bent out of shape.

The two-term senator should feel obliged for the opportunity to deny with dignity the allegation that makes him appear a great manipulator in local political circles. Certainly his war chest holds the dough to put him in the cat's bird's seat for "buying" allies.

If Tim Brooks meant to imply Hugh Warner took Alex Mooney's money for the expensive mailing, why didn't he simply say so?

Otherwise the brouhaha strikes me as fairly ridiculous, an indication of what shapes up as less than exciting campaigns for the General Assembly.

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