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September 2, 2013

Prepare Yourself: The City Election Is Near

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

Consider this a call to arms for registered voters in the City of Frederick. You are one week and a wakeup call away from the Primary Election Day for mayor and the Board of Aldermen.


For the uninformed, and at this point there's little reason to be, you should immediately get to work and find out as much as you can about each of the crowded field of candidates clamoring for your vote and your attention.


If you lack any sense of curiosity regarding the people who seek to lead Maryland's second-largest city, maybe you should just skip the polls on September 10. Better you not vote than go in and just make your willy-nilly selections. Judging by past outcomes, that's apparently been done before.


If, however, you really want to get a sense of who these people are and what truly motivates them, there are a few resources out there to assist you.


The Frederick News-Post has produced its Voter Guide, a review of the candidates along with answers to a set of similar questions. In order to respect publishing limits, the News-Post has word limits that tie the hands of the candidate responses. Still, you get a good idea of who you're dealing with and what motivates them. Follow this link:


This year, the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce has solicited feedback from both mayoral and aldermanic candidates on a number of "hot" local topics. Unlike other groups that provide this service, the Chamber has included the entire, unedited response from each candidate. The answers are there in their full glory, just as the candidate responded (when they did, of course). Go here for the Chamber survey responses.


A few things leap out immediately.


1. The incumbent mayor and aldermen seeking re-election to their posts don't see nearly as much wrong with the city as do the aldermen seeking the top job or the outside candidates running for office.


2. The two aldermen running for mayor leave one with the impression that only they possessed solutions for systemic problems if only the incumbent mayor had bothered to listen to them. In spite of the fact that they have served for four years, just as he has, they are much better prepared to lead than he is (at least, that's the claim).


3. Two former mayors seeking re-election are ready to hit the ground running if voters give them the chance. Their policy prescriptions suggest that they would function as polar opposites, but both claim that they have solutions to vexing problems, and all they lack is the office.


4. The crop of aldermanic candidates is an exciting development, as a number of these people are brand new to the electoral process. Too often in the past our elections featured a rehash of well-known names and voting records. The GOP side of the ballot includes a number of fresh faces, which might translate to some brand new ideas.


One really exciting issue in this campaign is the question of affiliation. For decades, the two political parties have argued without merit to maintain a partisan identity in the electoral process. They say there's no proof that shifting to non-partisan elections will make things "better," but that a specious argument.


More worthy is the argument that points out that of the 157 municipal corporations in Maryland, only four elect local officials on a partisan basis. Baltimore, Hagerstown, Annapolis and Frederick cling to this system mostly because the currently elected officials fear reprisal from their handlers.


There is absolutely nothing uniquely Republican or Democrat about potholes, playgrounds, water lines, or sewer treatment.


This time, we have several candidates who state that they'll support non-partisan elections, including incumbent Mayor Randy McClement. At least one aldermanic candidate, Katie Nash, is making this a central issue of her campaign.


Speaking of central issues, no matter which two candidates the partisan process produces for mayor, former Mayor Jennifer Dougherty has already qualified as a candidate on the General Election ballot.


In spite of a rumored deal between Ms. Dougherty and Mr. Clagett that she would drop out of the race as long as Karen Lewis Young doesn't prevail in the primary, smart money is on a three-way General Election race to pick the next mayor.


Make yourself a well-informed voter. Read the candidates own words, and try to find those that share your values and ideology. Otherwise, the ballot process becomes like Russian Roulette, your vote is a bullet and a bad choice could shoot you in the foot.


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