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September 18, 2009

Jenniferís Last Hurrah

Roy Meachum

Jennifer Dougherty’s defeat Tuesday resulted not from a single cause but a number of political crimes, all of them self-inflicted. One by one, she managed to offend her fellow Democrats – from Ron Young to Andrew Duck and all the faithful in between. All by herself, she managed to make seeking office tediously boring; primarily because of the way she inevitably lost – time after-time.


Ms. Dougherty received my column’s backing the first time around. She fumbled 1993’s mayoral Democratic primary to Gary Hughes who received the energy and organizational skills of long-time City Hall incumbent Ron Young. There followed her lackluster stab at a county commissioner seat, before trying again for Frederick’s top job.


It’s important to understand she did not beat out incumbent mayor Jim Grimes, as Jenniferites still think; he threw the game away with a combination of petulance and arrogance, epitomized by a videotape that portrayed 9/11 as being really about Mr. Grimes and the leadership he provided on that horrible day. (I’ve never seen a worse campaign flick.)


To prove the point, Ms. Dougherty became the first sitting mayor – at least in modern times – to be thrown out in the party’s primary; it happened four years later. She whistled up revenge by exhorting her troops to cross to the Republican candidate; surprised but delighted, Jeff Holtzinger came on to edge Democratic candidate Ron Young in the November general election. (Ms. Dougherty’s success in splitting Democrats did not pass unnoticed.)


Capturing always the victim facade, the ex-mayor threw her bungled career before the feet of such Democratic leaders as former Rep. Beverly Byron and pleaded to run against the GOP incumbent. Dr. Roscoe Bartlett had “replaced” Mrs. Byron in 1992; actually, she was deleted in that year’s primary by Tom Hattery. Topping the former state delegate was ever so much easier for the scientist who had bowed to the sitting congresswoman two years earlier.


Even with Ms. Byron’s boost, Ms. Dougherty failed to improve on the percentages gained by Andrew Duck’s earlier efforts, testifying to the ex-congresswoman’s total lack of power. Even when bolstered by state Delegate Sue Hecht, a one-time state Democratic Party official, her lackluster performance generated new hostility within party ranks. (Mr. Duck, not incidentally, filed very early for the 2010 run against Dr. Bartlett, hoping to stave off any future Doughertys.)


Under the circumstances, the wonder about the 34 percent she received among city residents voting must be that she received so many; more of a surprise is that triumphant Jason Judd garnered only 60 percent. (Fellow candidate Chris Simpson pocketed the rest.)


A direct rebuke to the ex-mayor could be found in the leader among Democratic aldermanic hopefuls; Karen Young is not only the ex-mayor’s wife but was personally attacked by Ms. Dougherty in the 2005 race. When Independents and Republicans are added to Ms. Young’s mix, she can be expected to gain more muscle, perhaps to the level of becoming City Hall’s next president pro tem; her rival for that post will probably turn out to be Carol Krimm who has an enviable record gained by working closely with state Delegate Galen Clagett.


Incumbent Donna Kuzemchak, running second in Tuesday’s primaries, cannot be counted on to gain on an open ballot; she shares with her acknowledged leader, Ms. Dougherty, a negative reputation of using her official status to “hurt” painfully City Hall staff and employees.


Most of all, Tuesday’s pitiful turnout thunders the obvious: ordinary people are sick to death of politics, as I’ve written before. Rather than watch voters continue to dwindle, significant moves must be made to integrate city elections with state or national races, as Democratic columnist George Wenschhof advocates.


Democracy itself is at stake.


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