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Monday, September 20, 2010

Battle for Control of Frederick County MD Commissioners Intense

George Wenschhof

Across the country, the battle is between Democrats and Republicans over who will control Congress. This outcome of this battle will be determined in six short weeks when the mid term elections are held on November 2. The role of government, the level of taxation, and the economy are the major issues the two major political parties must convince voters that their positions are best for them and the country.

However, In Frederick County, Maryland, a familiar battle is taking place in the race for county commissioner. Five commissioners will be elected by the voters and has been the case for the last two decades, the race is not highlighted by political party affiliation.

Rather, it is one again, rightly or wrongly, best categorized as a contest between candidates who are members of a "pro-growth" slate or "no-growth" slate. Candidates who fall within these two designated camps may argue the designation or use of the term, but it is the main way voters identify them.

However, there are additional important issues for voters to pay attention to the positions candidates have on them.

It is time Frederick County changes to a charter government and for voters to elect a county executive and a council elected by geographic regions across the county with one representing the City of Frederick. The new Board should immediately appoint a charter writing committee and charge them with having a referendum on the 2012 presidential election ballot for voters to decide.

Whether the county should move forward on building the agreed upon 300+million waste-to-energy incinerator is another issue voters should zero in on.

The 300+ million is a lot of money to commit to handle the county waste. However, the anti-incinerator candidates led by Commissioner Kai Hagen have yet to propose a reasonable alternative.

Zero to no effort has been made to date at identifying potential landfill sites downsized appropriately recognizing increased efforts toward zero-waste will be implemented. This would result in huge savings with a compost facility and resource recovery center located on the same site.

How future commissioners will handle the sure reduction in future budgets is also important for voters to ask candidates.

Also, what efforts will be made by future commissioners to improve the frayed relationship between the county commissioners with town and cities across the county.

The "pro-growth candidates are led by incumbent Commissioner Blaine Young who is joined by fellow Republicans Billy Shreeve and Kirby Delauter.

The "no-growth" candidates are led by Commissioner Kai Hagen who is joined by Republican Commissioner David Gray and Democratic candidates Linda Norris, Janet Wiles and Ellis Burrus.

Two candidates who do not fit entirely into either of these groups, but who are more aligned with the "pro-growth" slate are Paul Smith (R) and Michael Kurtianyk (D).

In addition to the voters determining which side will hold a majority on the board, they will also be deciding who will be the next President of the Board of Commissioners. It is safe to assume this contest will be waged between Kai Hagen (D) (8,110 votes) and Blaine Young (R) (13,393 votes), both of whom are ensured reelection and both led their tickets in primary voting.

Mr. Young appeared on my show "All Things Political with George Wenschhof" prior to the primary and I was impressed with how he handled the interview. You can watch that interview here.

More Republicans voted in the Frederick County, Maryland primary, a trend which followed voter turnout across the nation. Whether Democratic voters will become energized and turn out for the general election remains to be seen.

Interestingly, as a result of actions taken by the Board after the last election, the Board President will be who receives the highest vote total. Previously, the president had been the top vote getter among the majority political party elected to office.

So, besides determining who will lead the new Board, voters will decide whether "pro-growth" or "no-growth" candidates will form the majority.

Both of these battles promise to be intense over the next six weeks.

Paul Smith (R) is considered a moderate and placed a strong second (8,847 votes) in the Republican primary. The former one term City of Frederick alderman is also an attorney. Blaine Young is reaching out to Mr. Smith and including him in the Republican ticket. Although, Smith was voted out after serving only one term as alderman, look to see him win a seat on the Board of Commissioners.

Linda Norris, who has tried hard to run her own campaign and not be lumped in with the Kai Hagen "no-growth" slate finished a strong second in the Democratic primary with 7,884 votes. Another moderate, look to see her also win a seat on the Board.

Ms. Norris also appeared on "All Things Political with George Wenschhof" prior to the primary. You may watch her interview here.

The top two finishers from the Republican and Democratic primaries do not always win in the general election. But, this year, look to see them be the favorites.

Who will win the fifth seat promises to be interesting with the outcome likely very close between Republicans Kirby Delauter who finished third in the primary with 8,420 votes, Billy Shreve who finished fourth in the Republican primary with 7,352 votes and Democratic candidate Janice Wiles who finished third with 6,506 votes.

Michael Kurtianyk who finished last in the Democratic primary will pick up Republican support in the general election. However, he will not be a part of the Blaine Young led Republican slate. While he will pick up Republican support in the general, it is doubtful he will be able to attract enough votes to finish in the top five.

Democratic candidate Ellis Burrus finished fourth in the primary with 4,790 votes and it will also be tough for him to climb up to finish among the top five in the general election.

Don't look to see incumbent Republican Commissioner David Gray repeat his performance from four years ago when he also finished down on the ballot in the Republican primary. Gray benefited four years ago of having the support of fellow Republican commissioner John "Lenny" Thompson and Democrat Commissioner Jan Gardner, both of whom are not on the ticket this year.

After rallying to finish as the top vote getter among a majority Republican Board, Gray relinquished the gavel and with it the president of the Board, as he voted to change the procedures in electing the Board President to the candidate with the most votes. Thus, giving the power of the gavel to Democrat Jan Gardner.

Although both Paul Smith and Linda Norris are moderate, they would most likely, in crucial votes, align their vote with Blaine Young and Kai Hagen, respectively.

Which makes who wins the fifth seat in the general election all the more interesting.

Six weeks remain for the candidates to campaign and "it is never over until it's over"; which sounds like a famous Yogi Berra quote.

Stay Tuned...


Editor's Note:
Voting numbers used are from Election Summary Report of Unofficial Results dated 9-14-2010.


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