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June 16, 2015

Bud's Dilemma

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

Maybe you saw his commercial? There he was, looking very fatherly, sitting sideways with his hands in lap, gazing at us – full of sincerity and seriousness – in his open-collared shirt and blue blazer.

He promised us he was a fiscal conservative. He told us he knew about good government, the kind we actually liked. How he'd be working for us, not for special interests.

At the end, he flashed a bright smile, with a sincere twinkle in his eye as he told us that he's Bud Otis, a Republican running for an at-large seat on the County Council.

Those commercials weren't his only campaign appearances, though. He also attended candidate forums, meet-and-greets and appeared on local radio. Bud ran as a conservative Republican, often mentioning his old boss, former Representative Roscoe Bartlett, by then banished to his zombie apocalypse prepper compound in West Virginia.

One familiar refrain followed candidate Otis around during that campaign. He found much he liked in the administration of County Commissioner President Blaine Young. He agreed with the last County Commission's budget, growth philosophy and pro-business strategies. He didn't support taxpayer giveaways, no matter how compelling the special interest.

To hear Bud tell it at political events, we needed to be concerned about tax-n-spend liberalism, looking at how it was ruining Montgomery, County, Annapolis and Washington. In Frederick, things would be different if we voted for guys like Bud.

Well, it would seem as though we bought that story. Mr. Otis, along with former Commissioners Kirby Delauter and Billy Shreve, accompanied by fellow newcomer Tony Chmelik, all cruised to a comfortable Republican majority on the new County Council.

And then politics reared its ugly head, as is often the politics.

Billy Shreve aspired to serve as the first President of the County Council. He probably felt pretty good about his chances, given his 4-3 majority and vast (okay, not so vast) experience. Billy makes no bones about his aspirations and political objectives. Maybe a little too much.

What he didn't anticipate was that someone else shared his aspiration.

Namely, Bud Otis.

Now Bud probably wasn't in a position to cajole and arm-twist amongst his fellow Republicans, so he did the next best thing. He took his one vote over to the other team. His vote, combined with the three newly elected Democrats, fashioned a politically convenient majority, even if only for the purpose of obtaining the council presidency, and therefore the ability to control the agenda.

That, my friends, is how a politician works!

That's not meant to say that Bud Otis is a bad guy. He's actually very likable. It speaks more to political opportunism than it does evil intent.

Poor Billy Shreve didn't even see the truck that ran over his own political dream, much less get the license number.

If that had been the end, if Bud had then aligned himself according to all of his campaign promises and literature, this might have been a one-and-done story.

But that isn't what has happened. Instead, Bud has found frequent occasions to align with his Democrat colleagues, and against his fellow Republican members of the council.

On ethics, appointments, land use and most importantly, the budget, Bud Otis has voted to support the interests and desires of County Executive Jan Gardner, leaving the triumvirate of Shreve, Delauter and Chmelik to fuss and fume.

It hasn't always been clear where Bud's thinking is before voting, either. He obviously learned a lot about the legislative process in those years as Chief of Staff for Congressman Bartlett. He knows a thing or two about when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. Call it the Kenny Rogers approach to governing.

And it isn't just the specific issue votes, either. Bud had a lot to say about the Blaine Young years. Something happened between the fall campaign and the organization of the County Council. Mr. Otis is not nearly as supportive as he once seemed to be.

The dilemma for Bud is that his Republican colleagues on the Council aren't the only people fussing and fuming. A lot of Republican voters, people who put Mr. Otis into office, seem to share that sense of frustration.

Is it all bad? Heck no! Bud finds himself the darling of the anti-Blaine Young movement, a hero in the eyes of those who fought against everything Mr. Young tried to do. That group represented a significant aspect of County Executive Gardner' recent electoral success. They're a prolific bunch, too.

It appears that Young Derangement Syndrome (YDS for short) is a lasting illness. It causes otherwise rational people to lose their emotional center and act like petulant children in public. It also causes elected officials to blame everything from climate change to the drop in milk prices on Blaine Young.

Usually, after a local election, the letter-writers disappear back into their holes until they're asked to start writing again by a campaign before the next election. This time, they've continued to punch out their rants.

Steve McKay, of the hyper anti-growth group RALE, seems ready to nominate Bud for sainthood, if for nothing other than voting opposite Delauter and Shreve. Vast legions of well-known names behind Executive Gardner are submitting weekly and monthly letters to the editor touting Mr. Otis' "independent" voting record.

I guess independence DEPENDS on what it is you hope to accomplish!

So, Bud Otis has a dilemma. For now, he's the darling of a crowd that probably didn't even vote for him. On the other hand, those who did just view him as a traitor.

If he aspires to serve more than one term in office, he'll have a tough choice to make over the next three years. If he continues to buck the Republicans on the council, he will have a very difficult time getting through a primary election.

Of course, he doesn't just have to run as a Republican. There's at least two other options on the ballot. Just look at former Commissioner David Gray, proof that if one’s voter registration doesn't work for you, keep trying until you find one that does!


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