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As Long as We Remember...

March 24, 2005

Lame Duck Mayor

Edward Lulie III

Her Honor, Mayor Jennifer Dougherty, has been frantically staging public evidence of support via obviously contrived shows using every political (i.e. leftist) supporter she can find.

She has the backing of the Sue Hecht socialists' network; a well organized left of center, ad-hoc base of friends and government workers/teachers who have been industriously working to bring Frederick to the sort of progressive paradise Montgomery County has become.

However, in Frederick the voter base consists largely of those who still operate on the level of planet earth and not San Francisco Modern. The left may control most of Maryland, but Frederick, despite its leftist mayor, is still a red-state-kind-of-place.

Why is the mayor so frantic? Obviously she is well aware that her chances of winning re-election are extremely small; shall we say non-existent? Now she sees former Mayor Ron Young suing to run for her seat and is panicked.

When she defeated Mayor Jim Grimes, it was much more of a voter's choice of "anyone but Jim" than a vote for Ms. Dougherty. Mayor Grimes ran Frederick like his own business. He had a very successful business but couldn't make the mental transition from private CEO to public CEO; in reality, what is acceptable for one is not for the other.

The result was a series of public relations disasters that created a desire for a change. It was nothing to do with a political position; Ms. Dougherty did not win by being a leftist superstar. She ran quietly, on a pledge for good government. Had she continued to run moderately and quietly, she might have earned a second term.

Instead she used her position to try to bolster the campaigns of fellow leftists; for example, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. The other major issue that doomed Mr. Grimes was growth.

Mayor Grimes worked tirelessly to promote growth. Residents watched the results - not with appreciation, but with horror.

Since Mr. Grimes lost, builders have now recognized that "growth" has become a dirty word. Now when they work with candidates they employ the term "sensible growth."

If that term actually meant a rational approach to future growth, it might work. Yet voters view the term as a polite way of saying unlimited growth. The over-crowding and sprawl has produced a backlash. That was another issue that helped Mayor Dougherty to win election through a public rejection of Jim Grimes.

Now we have a new world. Republicans have the governorship in Maryland as well as the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. George Bush won re-election.

For devout leftists like Sue Hecht (who lost her race for state senator in 2002), it is a time of desperation. Suddenly government patronage jobs, for decades a Democratic perk of office, have shrunk in numbers. Now the mayor's job in the second largest city in Maryland is important; hence the desperation and urgency behind the mayor's quest to be re-elected.

If Ron Young gets to run in the primary, it seems likely he will easily win. I should disclose that I have a personal regard for Mr. Young. I have supported him and voted for him in the past.

Ron was someone that welcomed my wife and me to Frederick and who always made time to talk to us. He was first and foremost someone dedicated to Frederick. He worked passionately to bring the town into a future worthy of it.

He lost when a series of things happened, not least of which was his focus on Annapolis and state politics. The city and county began changing over from Democrat to Republican. In reality it actually marked a shift away from the center by Democrats and that moved many local moderates into the Republican column.

On most issues, Ron Young has been a moderate.

The real question here is can he win the right to run? Being an attorney, I have less than a high regard for those giving cast iron assurances of outcomes. No one can be certain of an outcome; confident perhaps, but certainty in a law suit is nonexistent in real life. Many times outcomes are fashioned in bluffs and bullying that occurs outside the realm of the courtroom. If Mr. Young runs against Her Honor in the primary, he will win.

Can I be positive of that? Of course not! But no one will give you odds on the mayor being re-elected. Her supporting cast of ideologues will sing and carry signs, but won't bring enough votes to win on Election Day.

Of course, Ron Young might not get the chance to run at all, what then lies ahead in November? In any scenario I see, it seems almost impossible to envision Mayor Dougherty winning.

Whoever wins gets the fun and joy of cleaning up City Hall's numerous problems. Yet it seems that residents are desperate for someone to quietly and competently run the government. They don't want a mayor campaigning for the right or left. They don't want to see the mayor on the front pages of the paper. They want to see a mayor who is comfortable behind a desk and who looks for talented employees, not political hacks; someone that is neither dazzling or reclusive but confident and approachable; a mayor who can accept criticism with composure and listen to opposing points of view without erupting into screaming tirades.

Residents just want civility. That means that this election will be another "anyone but" election; an election Her Honor is almost certainly going to lose.

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