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March 31, 2009

Gathering "Lennie" Storm

Roy Meachum

As "everyone" could clearly see, Jennifer Dougherty was going to have another go for the only office she won in a fair election. Equally the nose on my face could not be more obvious than Commissioner John "Lennie" Thompson's hunger to better himself.


The last time the commissioner attempted to escape the all-too-familiar halls of Winchester Hall he crashed and burned. Circuit Court Judge Terry Adams handed the man from Walkersville a resounding defeat. That was the election when many country residents learned for the first time Mr. Thompson is a lawyer. Later we heard how he conducts his private business in public-owned space.


After considerable turmoil the issue cleared up, or did it? Whoever sits in the county biggest chair, Mr. Thompson manages to get his own way with staff. Current President Jan Gardner has trimmed his extraordinary powers, but not entirely, I'm told. Old habits are impossible to break entirely.


But give Ms. Gardner great credit. She managed to drop the temperatures in Winchester Hall more than several degrees; the peace and quiet have been very good for the business of government. In or out of Frederick's biggest office, Mr. Thompson has a talent shared with the former mayor; he and Ms. Dougherty firmly believe entertaining the masses is what voters really want. In neither case has what the Romans called "bread and circus" been justified.


A recent column enumerated the string of Ms. Dougherty's overwhelming losses at the poll. In addition to the losing encounter with Judge Adams, Mr. Thompson breathed very hard making it back to office the last time around. He and new commissioner Charles A. Jenkins were only 11 votes apart, and Mr. Jenkins was virtually an unknown. After counting the ballots, Lennie Thompson came in last.


On Frederick's political Rialto, it's taken for certainty that the once champion vote-getter commissioner will file against State Sen. David Brinkley in the GOP primary. Don't laugh. Not yet. Mr. Thompson's secret weapon shapes up as Mr. Brinkley's colleague, State Sen. Alex Mooney. While Lenny's history might give Mr. Mooney pause, he could put up the muscle and money to weaken Mr. Brinkley.


At stake is the Sixth Congressional District chair. The pair of Republican state senators must be considered the front runners for Rep. Roscoe Bartlett's seat. In personal moves, son and State Delegate Joseph Bartlett demonstrated he did not want to succeed his father. Senator Mooney once shamelessly courted the younger Bartlett, obviously looking for the U.S. Representative's approval.


On the other hand, many Sixth Congressional District voters – especially Republicans – seem to favor Senator Brinkley's cooler head and no nonsense approach to public business. They also have noted how the senator from New Market receives great respect from state leaders, both Democrats and Republicans.


John Leonard Thompson, Jr., could care less how he reaches Annapolis, especially since another four-year term in Winchester Hall is no longer a certainty. And, of course, Alex Mooney wouldn't mind seeing the rambunctious commissioner succeed or damage David Brinkley's stature. Given fair warning, you might want to keep a close eye on the race as it develops.


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