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July 7, 2006

Political Lunacy

Roy Meachum

As you've always suspected, an antic streak runs through the local political scene. But to quote Shakespeare's Polonius "Though this be madness, yet there is madness to it."

When first I heard on the street two weeks ago that former Mayor Jim Grimes was thinking about running for the Orphans Court, I simply could not believe it. My source expressed similar incredulity. Why a man with both his plate and pockets loaded, having been the chief executive of Frederick City why would such an individual shoot for a lesser job?

Other people confirmed they sensed rumblings of running again in Mr. Grimes; but they all agreed he belonged in Winchester Hall. Before the commissioners' races produced a battalion of GOP entrants, the notion somehow comforted that the irascible ex-mayor might tangle with incumbent John "Lennie" Thompson. The Board of County Commissioners' bully would certainly meet his match.

It was suggested the self-made millionaire might be hunting the dignity that comes with black robes and the honor of being called a judge. It still made no sense. And that's another way of saying irrational, which traditionally has been associated with lunacy.

Yet here we are: Unless Jim Grimes takes advantage of the July 13 "drop out" date, you and I could be standing in our respective booths in September staring at the former mayor's name on the video screen in association with incumbents Tim May and John Tregoning. Will the Lewistown "boy" endure until November's general elections?

Possibly. That doesn't make any more rational his getting down again in the electoral hurly-burly. He's much more comfortable operating person-to-person.

There was a similar pattern about Diane Dougherty-Zimmerman's brief political career. Choosing on the final day to join her fellow Democrats in the commissioners' chase, as reported Wednesday in The Frederick News-Post. Within 24 hours she reneged, citing some legalese about how her sister the teacher could present a conflict of interest. The county's budget funding basically is handed over to the Board of Education.

But over the past 20 years Frederick has had commissioners with close ties to the school system and the ethics panel found no need to declare a conflict of interest.

The more likely reason for Ms. Dougherty-Zimmerman's fast reversal is the possible impact her running for office might have on her sister's future. Her sister, as you doubtless know, is Jennifer Dougherty. There have been rumblings from the ex-mayor's coterie that she may try again to capture City Hall.

The lady herself has attempted to implant the false notion that incumbent Jeff Holtzinger declared going in that he was a one-time mayor. To the best of my knowledge, he has always indicated he would wait and see how his administration worked out.

Maintaining two residences must be a drag on both his pocketbook and his stamina; but, hey, he knew that going in. He and wife Pam have worked out a living arrangement that worked, the last time I heard.

Still, whatever the truth a former City Hall assistant said Ms. Dougherty, as mayor, recognized no truth except her own. She may very well decide to take on Mr. Holtzinger; she was dumped in the 2005 primary by former Mayor Ron Young.

At any rate, sister Diane on the campaign trail could prove an embarrassment to the Dougherty family's ambitions. All those who questioned the ex-mayor could expect counterattack from her clan, especially the father. Why give the critics' ammunition?

And there was little question Ms. Dougherty-Zimmerman had the potential of feeding the fires. I have heard nothing seriously derogatory but bringing up her name always elicits a knowing look along Frederick's restaurant row. It's not from the fact that she has worked in the family restaurant named for her sister. Not entirely.

However the matter slices, one politician in the Dougherty clan may be quite enough for both the community and the family. The defeated ex-mayor left behind hubbub and discord that are only now slowly dying down.

Those readers who find themselves with my Sunday column in The Frederick News-Post should know the candidate list may not be complete yet.

The head of the county's election office told me either central committee has the power to fill spaces left vacant: notably the Democratic slots in Dave Brinkley's District 4 race and the same party has no one contending for the House of Delegates in 4-A.

Mr. Grimes' entry forced Republican candidates for the Orphans Court into a primary; but on the other side there were only two names when the office closed Monday. The Democratic Central Committee has no representative for the race to elect a Register of Wills.

And of course, since Diane Dougherty-Zimmerman called a political career down the tubes, there are only four members of her party left on the ballot for county commissioner. The committee has the right to name a fifth, according to Stuart Harvey, who runs the county's Elections Office.

The deadline, Mr. Harvey said, falls July 18, some five days after Jim Grimes still has the legal right to withdraw his bid for the Orphans Court.

But don't hold your breath.

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