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As Long as We Remember...

June 11, 2018

Playing the hand we’re dealt in state Senate races

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

It’s almost as if the best description of our local political scene is the Mos Eisley bar scene in the first Star Wars movie. An odd and slightly scary collection of characters, many new to the scene, some funny, some familiar, some appealing and some off-putting.


Regardless, as voters, we have to play the hands we’re dealt.


Starting with candidates to the state senate, we have our District 3 races. For the Democrats, two big personalities face off in a familiar contest.


Incumbent Sen. Ron Young seeks what he calls his “last” race for the Senate. Despite the fact that we’ve heard that claim before, there’s reason to believe his statement. Serving in the state legislature places physical and mental challenges on anyone, with the 90-day session especially demanding.


Senator Young is a particularly prolific bill generator, and that adds substantially to the stress of a legislator. Besides, leaving aside the downtown hotel (a subject I avoid for professional reasons), there won’t be much that Mr. Young won’t have accomplished of his fairly progressive agenda with another four-year term.


His opponent is former Frederick mayor and very successful downtown business owner Jennifer Daugherty. Since she’s been both mayor and a candidate in several election cycles, it seems as though she’s appeared frequently in these writings.


The knocks are familiar:


·         She insists on things being done her way

·         She’s intolerant of disloyalty

·         She’s impatient with the slow pace of government change

·         She has a high sense of self-worth


Reading this list back, these are actually the traits of almost every successful leader! She has a daunting challenge as she faces a Frederick legend, but that single fact won’t intimidate her. She’s been there and done that before.


On the Republican primary ballot, two men square off with very different approaches. At-Large County Councilman Billy Shreve is seeking a seat in the Senate after eight years in Winchester Hall.


Mr. Shreve cites his experience on the last Board of County Commissioners as reflective of his view of government’s limited role in the lives of its citizens, and his experience in the first four years of charter government as indicative of the evils of concentrated power. His primary role has been to serve as a voice of opposition to County Executive Jan Gardner, and the jury is still out on the effectiveness of that approach.


It’s not entirely Councilman Shreve’s fault, though. A solid and consistent voting majority of the Council has enabled that which Mr. Shreve has consistently opposed.


His opponent is a political novice, but highly-qualified co-owner of several local fast food franchises. Craig Giangrande describes himself as motivated by the frustration of trying to run a successful Maryland business in the face of an arrogant and out-of-touch state legislative majority. Sound familiar? That’s the same message Gov. Larry Hogan rode to victory four years ago. It works!!


Mr. Giangrande must have some good advisors, because so far, he’s run a nearly perfect campaign. Suspecting an opponent with Billy Shreve’s name recognition might enter the race, he started out early and hit the streets. He’s attended small and large events, put up a lot of signs, and has generally handled himself quite well.


This one will be a race. Give the slight advantage to Mr. Shreve on name recognition alone, but remember, not all name recognition is good name recognition!


On the District Four race for state senate, the story is much less complex.


For the Democrats, two newcomers to politics make for an interesting primary election.


First, Jessica Douglass, a career educator in the Montgomery County school system, is running a fairly progressive issues-based campaign. She would like the state to educate farmers to operate their farms in a more sustainable manner (bet they’ll be excited about that), she thinks Frederick County school teachers are paid too low (and they probably are), and she wants to encourage alternative and sustainable energy development.


Her opponent in the primary is Sabrina Massett, a social worker with the state Department of Social Services. Ms. Massett also espouses progressive themes in her campaign, but her career providing for vulnerable populations and victims of the scourge of illegal drugs gives her some interesting local issue hands-on experience. It also doesn’t hurt that she has a built-in political base, as she served in Thurmont town government as a volunteer on the Planning and Zoning Commission.


Both Ms. Douglass and Ms. Massett seem to be credible candidates with excellent chances in a race for the state senate, if only they were running in Montgomery County. Unfortunately for them, they aren’t!


They find themselves running against one of the most consistently conservative senators in Annapolis, incumbent Michael Hough. They’re also running in one of the most conservative districts in all of Maryland.


Mr. Hough isn’t just popular in this district, he’s wildly popular. He has established a reputation for thoughtful policy and debate in Annapolis that is substantially more credible than even his mentor (and employer), West Virginia United States Representative Alex Mooney.


Senator Hough is considered a bi-partisan leader on criminal justice reform, an important issue across the country.


So, while Ms. Douglass and Ms. Massett will become better candidates through their contested primary, it isn’t going to matter much in November. Mr. Hough will win by a substantial, if not overwhelming, margin.


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