She certainly has a way about her. The sometime saloonkeeper and Irish gift merchant that came up from Washington to attend Mount St. Mary’s and decided she liked what she saw. Jennifer Dougherty has been a heavy factor in Frederick’s elections the last eight years.
Some people will not remember Ms. Dougherty’s first local win was scored over Meta Nash, in the 2001 primary. Ms. Nash had been around City Hall a while, was then the mayor pro tem, which means she had racked up the greatest number of votes in the last election. Ms. Dougherty seemed likely to fall; she didn’t. What we were hearing in the campaign was that Ms. Nash would be nothing but a mouth piece for Jim Grimes.
In all my time at the keyboard I’ve never seen a politician more intent on purging himself. First there was a feud with the local paper, climaxed by a statement along Nixonian lines, implying that the News-Post would not have Jim Grimes to kick around again. That was early summer; by the July deadline the mayor was filing. Confusing, at the least. By November’s general vote, it was obvious that Ms. Dougherty was not alone.
The would-be mayor drew support from what could be considered as the Neo-Feminists in Frederick; they belonged primarily to the generation that burned their bras. These were not blushing teens, but ladies of a certain age that knew they had been wronged in their youth, because their personal plumbing was wrong. Their justifiable cause combined with Mr. Grimes’ political foibles to put their “queen” on the City Hall throne.
Ms. Dougherty’s True Believers would not be deterred by the facts. In fact she did a terrible job running Frederick. She went through people like oranges crushed by a juicer – including the very capable assistant “borrowed” from Sen. Barbara Mikulski. One day Eva Rosvold was sitting in on City Hall decisions; and all of a sudden, she showed up on North Market Street walking her dogs.
Among the people who failed to “get along” with the city’s first female chief executive; Jeff Holtzinger was the municipal engineer, but roused himself up to resign under Ms. Dougherty’s demands and pressure. But he was not alone; her “borrowed” right arm beat an exit too, as I said. Her single term was characterized by controversy, including yelling. The True Believers accepted her version that president pro tem Bill Hall and his fellow alderman Dave Lenhart were entirely to blame. Her fellow registered Democrats differed. By the way, both gentlemen left politics in reaction to her nitpicking.
In 2005 Jennifer Dougherty became the first sitting mayor to be dumped by voters in a party primary. She blamed Ron Young, the record holder for keeping to that job; also the target of her invective was his wife: Karen Lewis Young who turned out to be the champion among Tuesday’s constituency. Having lost the primary, the ex-mayor did everything within her power to get her True Believers to back Republican Holtzinger who won barely. She set out the county commissioners’ races the following year. (She had tried for Winchester Hall before winning the mayor’s seat, and lost out in the primary.)
Filing for the congressional seat held by Roscoe Bartlett gave her something to do during 2008’s presidential race. She was not deterred by major statements of support for Andrew Duck who had organized a well-run campaign in 2006; he made it known he wanted to try again, which is why the Democratic nabobs had come out for him. When Ms. Dougherty appeared on the congressional election scene, they silently backed her.
In any event, alienating Mr. Duck’s support, the former mayor proceeded to corral votes on the lines he earned in 2006. It was amazing, but the percent was almost identical. With that race never considered more than a seat-warmer for her in the battle for City Hall, she spoke up early for the office Ron Young had denied her. Her erosion of faith in her political future was resoundingly echoed by her primary loss.
But comparable to the Holtzinger contest, she let her name be forwarded for “write-in” on Tuesday’s ballot. Neal Wirth paid for recorded telephone messages called in around the city; I received mine Sunday. He asked I write her name. She received less than one hundred write-ins. But as in 2005, there was a parade of Democrats voting GOP, led by former Congresswoman Beverly Byron, who’s acted as mentor to Ms. Dougherty.
On the other hand, a candidate that Republican leaders had written off as “only a nice guy” captured City Hall by 281 votes in the early official results. Considering Democrats registered about 14,000 voters against a GOP count of some 9000, it’s possible to believe Jennifer Dougherty and her True Believers were manipulating returns to punish her fellow Democrats who rejected their idol. Again!