Campaigning In The Age Of COVID-19 Lockdowns

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In case any of us need reminding, Frederick County Public Schools have not held classes in school since March 13, 2020.

If you think distance learning is hard for parents, students, and teachers, imagine how hard it is to campaign for public office.

On March 30, Governor Larry Hogan ordered Maryland residents to “stay at home.”  Only essential personnel were exempt.  Even if political candidates were exempt, how do you run a political campaign when you can’t have groups larger than 10, and you need to remain six feet part?  It’s hard to “connect” with people when you don’t have access to them.

On April 2, The Tentacle emailed all seven Board of Education candidates.  Each was asked if they were still actively campaigning during the statewide shut down, and what that was like.

Separate from that was a Questionnaire with 19 questions.  Each candidate was given until April 17 to respond.  A reminder was sent out a few days before the 17th.  Only Sue Johnson was respectful and professional enough to both respond and answer the questions.  Remember that.

The remaining candidates: Andrea Artman, David Bass, Rae Gallagher, Lois Jarman, Jason Johnson, and Dean Rose weren’t even considerate enough to send an email saying they would not participate.  Ms. Gallagher and Ms. Jarman are current sitting members on the Board.

You need to think about that when you cast your vote.  How many times have you heard that phone calls and emails have gone unanswered?  How many times have you heard a parent say they don’t feel respected by Frederick County Administrators and members of the Board of Education? 

Here is the first step to vetting a candidate.  If they won’t respond to you now, while they need your vote, how responsive will they be after they are elected? 

Some of you are thinking, well, they just don’t like you so they didn’t respond.  Fair enough, but is that how an elected official is supposed to respond to the people they represent?  They represent everyone, not just the people they agree with or like. 

We have enough sitting members of the Board of Education who lack the professional temperament to represent everyone in the county.  They are going to be appearing on a new section of The Tentacle we are going to call the Wall of Shame.  More on that later.

Starting Monday, The Tentacle will post questions and answers provided by Ms. Johnson.  They will be unedited.  This will be a several day process since The Tentacle and the parent participants didn’t ask your average questions.

Today, we will start with Ms. Johnson’s answer to the question: “Explain in under 250 words, how or if you are campaigning and getting your message out in the current statewide shutdown.”

“Fortunately, prior to the shutdown, I had a good start to my campaign with a well-attended launch. I had been attending educational and community events along with meeting community leaders where I had opportunities to listen to constituents and share my vision for FCPS. I was phone and email canvassing and had many requests for yard signs. Once the dramatic changes were put in place, and with the knowledge that the other six candidates running all have qualities that would be an asset to the Board of Education, I essentially pressed the pause button on my campaign and requested campaign contributions be redirected toward the immediate need of feeding students who might be going hungry. As a professor at Frederick Community College since 1997, I along with hundreds of full time and adjunct faculty members had four days to move our courses to an alternate format which was, by all accounts, very successful given the circumstances. Changing formats mid-semester has been time consuming and an abrupt change for us and our students. I can relate to what our FCPS teachers have faced and are facing.  Like other parents, I have had to become teacher to my FCPS second grader so his education continues. As a volunteer Firefighter/EMT we have had to get up to speed on protocols that were changing every few days to keep the public and ourselves safe.  My campaign will be mostly digital and start ramping up again shortly since the Primary Election is now June 2nd.”

More information on Ms. Johnson can be found here.

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Cindy A. Rose began writing for the Tentacle in 2011 trying to raise awareness over things happening within Frederick County Public Schools. She began keeping a close watch on FCPS when she learned there were not enough air conditioned buses for special needs children during the hot Maryland summers. The Tentacle offered her a place to share her concerns with her community when local newspapers didn’t always. Cindy had the opportunity to buy the Tentacle from creator/owner John W. Ashbury in 2019, so she did. She believed then, as she believes now, our communities, friends and neighbors have important things to say that needs to be shared with those living around them. Large corporate news companies don’t always share in those passions and concerns. The Tentacle is a local news, commentary and community website run by citizens, for citizens. Its success depends on your participation.