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April 28, 2004

It's Official: Bill Hall is a Republican

Joe Volz

What's it all about, Bill?

A Republican?

Alderman Hall, ex-Democrat, made it official on Blaine Young's WFMD radio show last Saturday morning. He said: "I am joining the party of Lincoln."

That makes Bill one of the few elected black city officials in the country who is a Republican although previous black Frederick aldermen have been GOP members.

Although the Republican Party was the party of Lincoln almost 140 years ago, in the 20th century, it was the party of legislators like the late Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. I knew Thurmond and he was no Lincoln.

In fact, he was an ardent segregationist. Oh, there have been Eastern moderate Republicans like Frederick's own Mac Mathias, a former U.S. senator, who tried to talk some sense into the hotheads on the angry and bigoted far Right to no avail. That was in the days before compassionate conservatism arrived.

Still, it's a bit hard to understand why Bill would defect from the Democrats.

He told Blaine, who jumped parties himself a few years ago, that if he wanted to continue to help people, the Republican Party was the place to go.

But, Bill also emphasized another reason for departing. He feels he has been disrespected by the local Democratic establishment, which has not asked his advice on too many things. He didn't mention Mayor Jennifer Dougherty's name but he and she have clashed so repeatedly over just about everything that a mediator was called in last year. The mediator failed to ease the tension.

Veteran political pundits say Bill's farewell from the Democrats won't mean much when it comes to running the city government. Although the majority of the five-member board of aldermen will shift from Democrat to Republican. Results will be the same when the aldermen vote. Bill was siding with the Republicans much of the time anyhow.

In many places, there is some sort of party unity, but, in Frederick, who you know is more important than what party you are in. One of the first people to call in when Bill announced he was a Republican was Blaine's father, Ron, the former mayor who is still a Democrat and has no plans to change.

"You're always welcome back in the party," said Ron Young. Former Frederick Mayor Young, who says some of his best friends are Republicans, might jump into the mayoral race next year in the Democratic primary against Mayor Dougherty.

His last official comment was that it was "very unlikely." But a source close to Ron said he is going to run. And he sounds like a candidate, asserting that people in both parties are urging him to run. Once a Jennifer supporter, Ron now says she has made a shambles of running the city.

So what does Bill's defection mean for next year's election? Suppose Ron defeats Jennifer in the primary. Will he have to battle a GOP candidate backed by new Republican Hall? Maybe, just maybe Bill, himself, who led the field in votes in the last election, will be the mayoralty candidate himself.

That's where Frederick politics gets a bit tricky. Personalities rather than party seem to play the big role. Who will run against Young? Not clear. Some aldermen, like Joe Baldi, have been making noises. Joe says he is definitely going to run for something next year but he doesn't know what at this point. Mayor, alderman, and state delegate are all possibilities.

Jennifer, who won three years ago as a reformer against Mayor Jim Grimes who was mired in the black book fiasco among other mishaps, is of the impression that she won because of her popularity with the populace. Ron says she doesn't understand that people were voting against Grimes, not necessarily for her.

It seems to this political novice that the best thing the mayor could do for herself at this point would be to try to diffuse Bill's anger towards her.

Here's my plan: She should invite Bill over to Jennifer's Restaurant for some lamb stew and talk turkey. Maybe, the scenario would start off with Jennifer apologizing for not giving Bill the chairmanship of the planning commission, which he wanted badly. And Jennifer could say that she has the greatest admiration for Bill despite past skirmishes and she wants to work with him, no matter what party he is in.

In fact, she could add, that maybe Bill could help the city win some more state aid from his new GOP buddies in Annapolis - Gov. Robert Ehrlich and Lt. Gov. Michael Steele.

Wouldn't it be pretty if such a Dougherty-Hall meeting took place?

But don't bet on it. We have some pretty strong-willed people in local government.

What is more likely is that the two will continue to battle each other right down to the election.

Is this any way to run the state's second largest city?

You will have a chance to answer that question at the polling place next year

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