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October 31, 2006

Will Democrats Gain? - Part Two

George Wenschhof

The Frederick County Board of County Commissioners has received the most media attention of any local race. Here the issue has been growth and political party affiliation has taken a back seat for some of the candidates.

Incumbent Democrat Commissioner Jan Gardner, wanting to have "no-growth" allies on the board, has publicly expressed support for incumbent Republican John "Lenny" Thompson and former Republican Commissioner David Gray along with Democrat candidates Richard Floyd and Kai Hagen.

Democrat Hagen has also held non-partisan events with Republican candidates Mr. Thompson and Mr. Gray realizing that he needs Republican votes to win a seat.

The voters elect only five commissioners; so where does this leave fellow Democrat candidate Ron Wolf? Maybe there was a reason the Frederick County Democratic State Central Committee did not name a candidate to the fifth slot as they were entitled to do.

As I mentioned in a previous article, the antagonistic approach of "growth" versus "no-growth" by candidates has not served the residents of Frederick County well over the years.

The issues surrounding growth have continued to receive the most attention since Ron Sundergill was elected board president in 1990.

Bickering has continued regardless of which "side" won the election. Building consensus among the community and all our local, state, and federal representatives has become a lost art.

It is time the county commissioners appoint a committee to write a charter document. This could result in the referendum on the form of our county government in a future election.

If passed, voters would choose a county executive and county council with the executive having strong administrative authority and the ability to work directly with the state legislature on matters pertaining to Frederick County.

On the Democrat side, Commissioner Gardner appears to have a solid lock on re-election. The other Democrats on the ballot, Kai Hagen, Richard Floyd, and Ron Wolf have all campaigned vigorously and it will be interesting to see the voter's choice.

Among this latter group of candidates, Mr. Hagen, who is never at a loss for words and loves the Frederick News-Post online Forums, has received the most media attention. He and Richard Floyd appear to have the best chance of joining Ms. Gardner on the board in December.

Mr. Floyd has spent many years supporting the local Democratic Party and served with distinction on the Frederick County Planning Commission. Mr. Hagen has spent recent years as a columnist with the Frederick News-Post and the Gazette, even here on The Tentacle. In addition, he served as the executive director of the non-profit Frederick Regional Area Network (FRAN).

A friend of mine recently opined that he felt that Mr. Hagen may suffer a similar fate as Ken Berlin in last year's City of Frederick aldermanic contest. Mr. Berlin ran an aggressive and well publicized campaign only to inexplicitly fall short when the votes were tallied.

On the Republican side, incumbents Mike Cady, John Lovell, and Board President Thompson are joined by Charles Jenkins and former Commissioner David Gray on the ballot. They have all campaigned hard with Mr. Thompson and Mr. Gray arguably being in the "no growth" category.

In spite of what many voters feel have been insensitive acts on the part of Commissioner Cady (in particular the much publicized "hat" and "puppet" incidents, he continues to receive strong support. He also recently received the endorsement of City of Frederick Mayor Jeff Holtzinger.

Commissioner Lovell has continued with his straight forward, low-key approach with voters. He has been featuring ads of support from fellow County Commissioner Bruce Reeder, local attorney Jerome Offutt, and former Delegate James E. "Doc" McClellan, all of whom are long-term Frederick County residents.

Charles Jenkins in his second run for county commissioner has been impressive and has also been known to post on the Frederick News-Post online Forums. He was highly visible at the recent "In the Streets" event where he was busy greeting voters.

This will be a very competitive race and although the Democrats have a chance to pick up one seat by having three elected, it is more likely that two will be elected. Republican incumbents Mr. Lovell and Mr. Thompson are best bets to be re-elected.

It would be ironic if the effort by two Democrat candidates to make this a non-partisan election results in voters choosing four Republicans and only one Democrat with the make up of the new board being "growth" as opposed to "no-growth."

Regardless of the political make-up, let's hope the new board will appoint a charter writing committee and work in a cooperative spirit to build Frederick County together.

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