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November 5, 2008

A Tale of Two Campaigns

Tom McLaughlin

This election, I was proud to be a part of two Democratic congressional campaigns. The First District in Maryland, mostly on the Eastern Shore, was where I lived while in Ocean City. I moved to the Sixth District when I relocated to Middletown.


Although Jennifer Dougherty had few volunteers, the ones that she had were dedicated and hard working. I watched them give their all. Volunteers pushed themselves to the limit and then pushed some more.


I asked myself why. Why did these few try so hard and give so much?


Former Frederick Mayor Dougherty herself spawned the movement. She worked 18-22 hour days driving herself. If she could do it, then they could, too.


Her example as a leader was also a motivating force. In this era of change and “drag down the establishment,” volunteers all knew she tried it as mayor. She was just too early.


Her “raise hell” attitude and her “damn the torpedoes full speed ahead” approach was too soon for Frederick City, but now it spurred on those from Garrett County to the small lobes of Montgomery and Baltimore County. Even if she comes close to beating Congressman Roscoe Bartlett and his $325,000 war chest, in this Republican district, it will have been a major victory.


She squeezed Mr. Lincoln on the penny until he jumped off his monument and ran for cover. She micro-managed the money to make it stretch – and then stretch some more. It wasn’t until the very last of the final seconds of the campaign that the state Democratic Party threw her, not a bone, but a small piece of marrow within the bone.


A grass roots campaign is where the people support, finance and dictate the issues for candidate. In this sense, Ms. Dougherty, win or loose, achieved that true grass roots effort.


The opposite was true of Frank Kratovil’s run in Maryland’s First District. He was hand picked by the Martin O’Malley camp. Every senator and congressman raised money for him to the tune of $1.3 million. His ads ran around the clock.


His campaign was not so much for someone but against someone. We have to elect Frank Kratovil – or Andy Harris will be elected – was the mantra. I have the feeling anyone could have been the candidate.


The entire campaign seemed scripted. Only a select few could reach Mr. Kratovil. He had a wall of gatekeepers around him that made him seem more aloof and unreachable. Even county coordinators were frustrated. Loyal party workers seemed to go through the motions with little fury and intensity.


The appointment of Republicans to policy making positions also didn’t help. These were employees of Wayne T. Gilchrest (whom I liked) and stood to loose their jobs come term’s end. They hoped for one with Mr. Kratovil.


Mr. Kratovil's campaign lacked this thing called heart, whatever it is.


Two different races, and two different candidates. One a hell raiser with fury and passion, another mild mannered lackey of the Democrat machine. One with money, one without. One with virulent hate spewing opponents; the other with Clark Kent-type opposition


Both in gerrymandered Republican districts.


I wonder who won?


            (Editor’s Note! In case you haven’t figured it out yet, Mr. McLaughlin wrote this column before Election Day.)


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