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December 22, 2006

Doing Alex Mooney Wrong

Roy Meachum

My recent column ("Mooney wins, Frederick loses" Dec. 12) was based on long-time observations of Alex Mooney before he became state senator; but it may have done him wrong.

His courting of the Bartlett family, with the purpose of being boosted into Congressman Roscoe Bartlett's seat, is scarcely news. I've written about it before. More was at stake, in this week's selection by Republican state senators of David Brinkley as minority leader. To paraphrase that original column: Mooney loses, Frederick wins. We did! So did the state.

Mr. Brinkley offers a reasonable approach to politics: giving away no principles and approaching each issue on a non-confrontational basis. The gentleman from New Market is no firebrand. He can flare up; I've seen his eyes ablaze, but not very often.

Mr. Brinkley's rival for the top Republican job in the state Senate was Sen. Andrew Harris, who believes - with Mr. Mooney - the pot must be kept boiling. That's how the gentleman from Baltimore County works.

Frederick's senior senator said he supported Mr. Harris because "850,000" Marylanders would be deprived of the voice and leadership provided the past four years by ex-Gov. Robert Ehrlich. My comment: Thank goodness. I've had partisan politics jammed down my throat, since 2002. The Democrats provided their share, particularly in the more recent years.

But in my eye the governor and his GOP squad never let slip by any chance to exercise their executive muscle. Their target always: making Democrats look bad, if in no one else's view but their own. I understand, but disagree strongly with the tactic; it presumes all the world loved their GOP man and what he stood for. Life didn't work out their way.

As I've said in my columns, the first Republican governor elected in more than 30 years owed much of his victory to Democrats disgusted with Parris Glendening's manipulations; Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's hopes got caught in a landslide let loose by her party's leaders.

Fear of their turning against him, once the ballots had all been counted, Mr. Ehrlich and his clique struck first and frequently. The political wars never let up. In my view they were a major facet in how the recent election turned out.

I've said this before but let me repeat: The general public wants to hear only good things from politicians once they're elected. Constant kvetching wears out very quickly with people who have fragmentary fascination with most things political. Those who insist on forcing politics down uninterested voters' throats find themselves outside the pale, unless their bitching resonates with general opinion. As an example, running up to the recent mid-term elections Democrats emphasized Iraq. (Where were they three years ago when the invasion was planned and launched?)

Even with incumbency and pockets bulging with money, Mr. Mooney barely squeaked back into office this November. He managed to keep his office by only 1700 votes over Candy Greenway, a relative newcomer to county political wars. More than 80,000 votes were cast. He went into the final weeks of the campaign declaring $120,000 in his war chest, while she said she had raised only $28,000.

While readers may assume journalists like officials fussing - it makes good copy - but it can turn into acid quickly; our wear-out rate is lower than the general public, but we reach a point when certain charges and phrases make us want to regurgitate.

Sue Hecht's attempt to take out Mr. Mooney four years ago failed primarily because she seemed to be part of a feminist gang, which included Frederick Mayor Jennifer Dougherty. Ms. Greenway dodged the conspiracy label even though she received backing from the same crowd.

Interestingly enough, Senator Brinkley's first call of congratulations came from Martin O'Malley. The incoming governor signaled strongly he wants to operate his administration in a bi-partisan atmosphere. I certainly hope so. You can deeply doubt Senator Harris would have received a similar call had the 7-7 stand-off had tipped his way.

To paraphrase that original column's headline: Mooney lost, Frederick won. So did the state.

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