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BY COLUMNISTS

| Joe Charlebois | Guest Columnist | Harry M. Covert | Norman M. Covert | Ken Kellar | Patricia A. Kelly | Edward Lulie III | Tom McLaughlin | Cindy A. Rose | Richard B. Weldon Jr. |

DOCUMENTS


The Tentacle


October 30, 2006

Have you ever noticed..?

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

Have you ever noticed...how candidates who get endorsed talk about how important the endorsement is while those who don't question the value of endorsements?

Example: the Maryland Chamber of Commerce has endorsed a number of local candidates. Those candidates who were endorsed are all including their selection in their information. The candidates who did not receive the endorsement claim that the state chamber no longer represents the opinion of most local business owners.

Have you ever noticed that candidate commercials attacking the other guy for accepting special interest money are almost always paid for by special interest money?

Example: District 3 Senate candidate Candy Greenway is running an ad attacking incumbent Sen. Alex Mooney for accepting too much special interest money. The authority line of the commercial indicates that the ad is paid for by the State Democratic Slate Committee. Any reasonable person would define almost all of the money collected by this slate committee as special interest money.

Have you ever noticed that candidates who conduct polls - but refuse to release the details - are covering up the fact that the poll said they would lose?

Example: The U.S. Senate campaign of Congressman Ben Cardin has stopped releasing polling data in the last few days. Previously, Representative Cardin's team seemed to be issuing a poll a day. Republican challenger Lt. Gov. Michael Steele and his amazing ads have tightened that race to within the margin of error going into Election Day.

Have you ever noticed how many candidates for public office can speak at length on a question without ever giving an actual answer?

Example: If you've watched any of the televised forums over the last few weeks, you've seen dozens of candidates using well-rehearsed answers in an attempt to win votes. Especially in the race for county commissioner, those well-rehearsed answers don't really tell us much about how these candidates will vote if they are elected.

Have you ever noticed that the public clamors for more information about people running for office and then fails to attend public events featuring the same candidates?

Example - Again: If you were watching the televised forums, you probably had more people in your living room than actually attended some of these live events. At almost every forum I have attended this cycle, there have been more candidates and campaign workers present than unaffiliated voters; this in spite of the protests about a lack of information on - and access to - candidates seeking public office.

Have you ever noticed that you can tell a lot about a candidate for public office by the people they surround themselves with?

Example: Chuck Jenkins, Republican candidate for sheriff, has a very interesting campaign team surrounding him. His events feature current deputies, high-ranking Republicans, and the highest number of Democrats I've ever seen supporting a Republican candidate. Similarly, Bill Poffenberger, the Democrat candidate for state's attorney, seems to have the same base of support. In fact, their events have almost the same crowds, and their signs are almost always in the same locations.

* * * * * * * * *

We are a little more than a week away from the November 7 General Election. There are several big questions we will answer then. One of the biggest is how many of us will actually vote, and what method will we used to do that.

In past elections, one of the most exciting aspects is gathering with your friends and fellow voters to watch the tallies for your favorite candidate(s). I recall gathering with the GOP faithful at the Walkersville Fire Hall to watch election night results four years ago.

Every four years, politicos in the know have spent the early election night evening at Winchester Hall in the first floor hearing room. Frederick County Election Board members brought copies of updated results upstairs and got mobbed each time by the expectant crowd.

It isn't clear that this tradition will play out this year. For any race that's close, or at least within the margin of the absentee ballot count, we likely won't know the outcome of that race for several days. We may not know for as long as a week.

Thousands of dollars are spent on election night parties to either celebrate a big victory or to commiserate as a group for a particular candidate or slate. This year, at least in the governor's race and the U.S. Senate race, partygoers may leave with unanswered questions.

This delay may not be exclusively reserved for statewide races. I can see several seats on the Board of County Commissioners left up in the air pending the absentee ballot count. If the last several months weren't tense enough, imagine the campaigns that have to wait several days to find out if they were successful or not.

There are a number of races that have turned out to be different than the pundits originally predicted. Notable among those are the races for state's attorney, for clerk of the court, and for the register of wills.

In fighting for the office of state's attorney, Republican Charlie Smith finds himself in a true battle with Democrat Bill Poffenberger. In a county where Republicans outnumber Democrats, it takes a conservative or popular Democrat candidate to result in a tight race. Also, some people haven't forgiven Scott Rolle for taking on Congressman Roscoe Bartlett two years ago. Another factor creating a challenge for Charlie is having to establish a reputation separate and apart from Scott's.

Charlie is very well-liked, respected by his peers and the staff, and is leading a number of important projects and programs for the office. Candidate Poffenberger, on the other hand, counts the good old boys and his deep Frederick roots as his strong suits. This one appears too close to call a week before the election.

In the race for the clerk of the court and its big salary, very popular incumbent Sandy Dalton finds her integrity and professional affects under assault by attorney Richard Gibbs.

Mr. Gibbs in-your-face style may be helping him gain attention, but it is also giving Mrs. Dalton a great deal of sympathy. For him to allege that she was somehow complicit in a highly publicized theft of cash from the clerk's office blatantly ignores the fact that the perpetrator had 24/7 access to the courthouse.

Mr. Gibbs also alleges that Mrs. Dalton spends very little time at work. Her staff - and a number of high-profile attorneys and business people - dismisses his claim. Former Clerk Charlie Keller, who endorsed Mrs. Dalton several years ago, has now rescinded that support and has written a letter endorsing Mr. Gibbs, which is being used in a print advertisement.

Time will tell how much influence Mr. Keller still has with voters in Frederick County. We'll also find out if voters think Mr. Keller is credible given his flip-flopping endorsements.

In the register of wills contest, long serving Republican incumbent Virginia Fifer is facing Democrat Sarah Finefrock. A recent televised debate between these two challengers demonstrated some real animosity and hard feelings.

Mrs. Fifer went on the attack, questioning Ms Finefrock's knowledge, integrity, and veracity. Clearly, Ms. Finefrock's team had prepared her well for this grilling. While she rarely demonstrated the-deer-in-the-headlights phenomenon, there were a few questions that caught Sarah short.

Ms. Finefrock had done extensive research into technology applications for the register's office, and she made a case for that research as a reason to support her candidacy.

Sarah's team features a number of senior officials from the last Frederick City administration. Most notable among them are former Mayor Jennifer Dougherty and spokeswoman Nancy Poss. Ms. Dougherty knows a thing or two about running an aggressive campaign; just ask Jim Grimes or Ron Young.

The challenge facing Richard Gibbs, Sarah Finefrock, and to a lesser extent Bill Poffenberger, is the need to convince a majority of voters that the incumbent (or in Charlie's case, the Rolle team) has not done an adequate job serving the public.

Absent some egregious behavior or inappropriate conduct, it will be difficult for these challengers to make that case.

For those of you who doubt the Diebold touchscreen voting system, tomorrow is the deadline to apply for an absentee ballot. Your request must be in the Elections Board office by 4:30 P.M. However, faxed requests will be accepted until midnight. Remember, this time you don't need an excuse to vote by absentee ballot. All you need is the patience to await the outcome up to a week after Election Day.

(Editor's Note: Mr. Weldon suffered a serious broken left arm nine days ago. He was assisted in writing this column by voice-recognition software.)



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