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As Long as We Remember...

March 11, 2013

Handicapping a City Horse Race Part 2

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

Last week we talked about the Frederick City incumbent, Mayor Randy McClement, and his highest profile announced opponents from the opposite party. Mayor McClement also faces possible opposition from within his own party.


Alderman Shelly Aloi has openly speculated about her own plans. She's non-committal right now, but she has some strong pockets of support around town. Shelly may be interested, but she may also opt to run for another term on the board, or possibly throw her hat into the county executive ring in 2014.


Former Mayor Jeff Holtzinger is tossing about hints regarding one of the more divisive issues of his one-term administration. It appears he has relocated inside the city boundary, making a candidacy possible without relying on the courts to justify his ballot placement.


Jeff had some real success when it comes to infrastructure projects, he got some key roads designed and built and improved water and sewer facilities. He also pushed through arguably one of the most controversial public sector benefit issues in recent memory, the city's employee buyout program.


Looking back, he acknowledges that advice he was given hasn't panned out in the manner it was forecast. Unfortunately, chief executives rarely get a do-over, and are forced to live with, defend or apologize for their misjudgments. This one was a doozy, and he'll need to face the consequences throughout an election cycle.


Jeff Holtzinger isn't the only former office holder contemplating a return to the mayor's office. Former Mayor Jennifer Dougherty says she's weighing a run as an unaffiliated candidate, gathering signatures she'd need to get onto the general election ballot.


Bypassing the primary is an attractive idea for a candidate who would have obvious trouble negotiating a field crowded with candidates, especially one with a slightly turbulent past and record.


As with Mr. Holtzinger, Ms. Dougherty cannot escape her own history, as much as she probably wishes she could. While she was adept at blaming her aldermanic opposition for every bad thing that happened, voters are smarter than that, and the historical record doesn't do much to bolster her claims.


She did accomplish some very important goals, though. As far moving the Carroll Creek Linear Park project forward, Jennifer established a very impressive record of doing what she said she would. That should matter to voters, and she has right to remind us of that.


Ms. Dougherty claims she would run as an unaffiliated candidate to give a voice to all of those city voters who are not aligned with a political party. She tries to sell it based on the fact that most city issues are non-partisan. In that, she's right.


Where she's dead wrong is in the belief that she would govern as a politically independent public servant. She is a fundamental progressive, pro-union liberal politician. Make no mistake, independent progressives would appreciate her particular brand of governance; independent conservatives would despise it.


As the city's electoral cycle begins, voters have a bevy of potential candidates to consider, and more will likely join the parade.


Rumored potential candidates include current County Commissioner Billy Shreve. Based on the level of speculation, one has to assume Mr. Shreve is interested in the job. He's also interested in running for county executive in 2014, so count on Billy to wait for Blaine Young, current president of The Board of County Commissioners, to settle on his own political goals first.


Whoever files the necessary paperwork, expect this to be a real horserace featuring experienced campaigners who are not afraid to raise money and knock on doors.


None of these announced or speculative candidates can rest on past laurels or assume a base of support. The electoral math in the city precincts favors Democrats over Republicans. For a GOP candidate to win, they'll need major cross-over support, like Randy had in 2010 and Jeff did in 2006.


Jennifer running unaffiliated also changes the dynamic, saving her from the primary field while allowing her to marshal resources for the general election. All she needs are signatures, count on her to get them.


This one is going to be fun!


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