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February 27, 2009

Matters Mayoral at this Stage

Roy Meachum

Frederick’s Mayor Jeff Holtzinger formally announced he's in and city aldermanic President Marcia Hall says she's out. There's no way Jennifer Dougherty can (could) easily sit out Frederick elections this fall.


As reported earlier, Democratic wannabe Jason Judd said he was tentatively promised help to win City Hall. Del. Sue Hecht made the offer, but on the condition Ms. Hall did not file. Logic demands Ms. Hecht pull her resources together, both state and local, and give a thumbs-up to Mr. Judd.


But not so fast.


As far as I can tell, there've been no links broken with the former mayor from the time the delegate tried and failed to unseat GOP state Sen. Alex Mooney. At Ms. Hecht's fund raiser that year, Ms. Dougherty's speech took more time – and stirred less empathy – than the candidate. I was there. Although not present, I was told the two Democratic leaders drew boos at that year's Brunswick Fourth of July parade. In any event, Ms. Hecht spent four years absent from the halls of power, in Annapolis. She returned to the House of Delegates, shoving aside first-term Republican Patrick Hogan.


It is difficult to see on what bases the ex-mayor hopes to get back the office that represented her single electoral win in six tries. The fact, as I see it, she did not triumph so much as James Grimes faltered; he ran the strangest campaign I've seen in 25 years of watching Frederick politics. He did not lose; he gave City Hall away.


And so it goes.


A recent Frederick News-Post letter writer seemed like a shill for Ms. Dougherty. She said the ex-mayor's tremble-and-fear policy was not her doing, as the media unanimously agreed, as the writer noted. She faulted "two and a half" men, presumably adding Joe Baldi to his fellow Aldermen Bill Hall and Dave Lenhart. The writer seemed acting on the version peddled by Ms. Dougherty and allies. I will not repeat the letter writer's name, but she was not active in the Frederick political arena then.


By contrast, the current mayor's announcement, made to WFMD's Bob Miller, brought support from his fellow county Republicans, with few exceptions. Jeff Holtzinger spent the bulk of his first term trying to undo the serious mistakes made by predecessor Jennifer Dougherty. For example, she sold off most city properties acquired by Jim Grimes. The prices were low so she could make a political point about the previous Republican incumbent's lack of business sense. In fact, Mr. Grimes founded and sold at least a pair of very successful enterprises.


Mr. Holtzinger restored city employees' lack of confidence, which made them more relaxed and confident in dealing with the public – you and me. Meanwhile, he was forced to deal with a malevolent gossip machine that asked him to answer questions never raised. But repeated frequently enough, as Joseph Goebbels proved, lies can be taken as the truth by many people.


The Nazi propagandist's thesis was proved right, in the last election. The ex-mayor's backers maintained a heavy general elections barrage against Ron Young, who had the temerity to beat Ms. Dougherty in the primary. There's little doubt, in contradicting their party's plea for unity, the so-called Democrats handed Republican Holtzinger City Hall.


At this stage of the race, from where I sit, Jason Judd's in the best position to regain the mayor's office against the incumbent, considering the other Democrat filed: Jack Lynch's indolent actions and loss of words do not argue well for the party's success. I am not predicting Mr. Judd will win the primary. But he brings impressive credentials and experience. His credentials will matter little if Jennifer Dougherty and her angry cabal take him on in the primary, kicking at his groin.


This county and state have seen dirty politics before.


Meanwhile, Jeff Holtzinger can run on his record and the goodwill he created in what was four years with an angry fractious community, his legacy from Ms. Dougherty.



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