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August 19, 2013

Different Race, Same Old Horses Part Two

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

So, the winds of change will blow across Frederick County in 2014. The big question is: Will we see new faces and hear new voices?


The most frequently mentioned names are David Gray, Jan Gardner, Billy Shreve and Blaine Young. Depending on the outcome of the upcoming election in Frederick City, you can also count on one or two of the candidates who lose in the mayor’s race to cobble together a campaign for county executive.


David Gray has spoken openly of his desire to run. When you ask him why, you get a curious answer. David doesn’t mention his executive leadership skills (wonder why?), nor does he immediately define a clear vision for the future. He focuses instead on his current and ongoing disputes with fellow Commissioner Blaine Young as his primary motivation.


He mentions that he cannot abide the thought of Mr. Young being the first county executive of Frederick County. It’s as if only Mr. Gray can stop that.


Ignoring the fact the Blaine Young is currently raising money for a gubernatorial run, David Gray seems to consider Commissioner Young the only serious executive candidate out there. When asked recently what would happen if former Commissioner Jan Gardner were to run, Mr. Gray indicated that she’d also be a good candidate, but that her entry into the race would not necessarily deter his plans.


Current Commissioner Billy Shreve hasn’t really made any sort of announcement yet. He’s in a kind of a pickle. It’s not hard to surmise that Mr. Shreve would very much like to be the first county executive, but he could never beat Blaine Young in a head-to-head matchup. Setting aside gaffs and misstatements (everyone makes them), Mr. Shreve just has to sit on his hands and see what Blaine decides to do.


The aforementioned Jan Gardner represents an interesting challenge for opponents and for voters. The only public sector executive experience she has comes from her three terms as a commissioner, where she had no more actual executive decision-making authority than the others with whom she served, including Mr. Gray and Mr. Young. She does boast some private sector corporate experience, but that is now decades old, and time weakens the claim.


One word of advice to Republicans who scoff at the chances of a Democrat winning a countywide race: Go back and check Ms. Gardner’s vote tallies in heavily GOP precincts. In some cases, she got more votes than the GOP candidates in the same races, in several key precincts.


Finally, the big kahuna: Blaine R. Young. The decision to run for governor in Maryland has always raised some eyebrows among the political pundit class. He knows a lot about politics and elections; he’s studied them for decades. He has to know that with his brand of Tea Party-influenced politics, a general election victory statewide is basically impossible. Remember Gov. Bob Ehrlich? He went into the 2006 election with a 58% approval rating across the state, and he got crushed by Martin O’Malley. Santa Claus couldn’t win if he ran as a Republican for governor in Maryland.


So, where does that leave Blaine Young? For one thing, he’s recently announced his acceptance into a prestigious local MBA program. Obviously, a sitting governor would not make a world-class MBA candidate. Kind of fun, though, to picture the undercover state trooper in the back of the lecture hall with the earpiece in his ear while Governor Young is taking class notes.


No, this pundit sees a much more logical path to the county executive race for Mr. Young. He has begun to mention it as a possibility, a slight revision of his earlier rhetoric dismissing the very thought. Very recently, he has sounded a little like his key antagonist, David Gray, when Blaine says that he might have to consider it if Jan Gardner runs.


If a Blaine Young vs. Jan Gardner race doesn’t get your political juices flowing, you need to check your political juice level, you’re probably a few quarts low. The debates alone would make this a race for the ages.


Toss in a few other names, and this really gets interesting. Imagine a Lennie Thompson or Jennifer Dougherty “unaffiliated” candidacy? Either one or both of those two would be like throwing a lit match into a gas can as far as a campaign goes.


If either Blaine or Jan (or both) decide not to run, the floodgates of candidates-in-waiting will break like the dam in the great Johnstown flood.


Unfortunately, that puts the rest of us townspeople in the path of the floodwaters!


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