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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Frederick County, Maryland County Executive and Council Results


George Wenschhof

Turnout was indeed high for a midterm election with a 58.44% turnout with 101,049 votes cast out of 172,907 registered voters during early voting and the 2018 general election.  Early voting favored Democratic candidates and as I suspected unaffiliated and write-in candidates would fall flat.

Frederick County incumbent county executive Jan Gardner (D) won reelection against Republican challenger Kathy Afzali with 51% of the vote.  Gardner (14,682) would win by 6,678 votes over Afzali (8,004) during early voting and she would win after general election day with early voting added in by 7,184 – Gardner (50,974) – Afzali (43,790).  So, on general election day Gardner (36,292) would beat Afzali (35,786) by 506 votes.  Earl Robbins, the unaffiliated candidate for county executive would only receive 4,639 votes total of the 99,502 votes cast for county executive during early voting and the general election.

In the county council race where voters elect two countywide (at-large) and 5 by districts, several races are still to be determined by the count of absentee and provisional ballots

In the at-large race, Democrat Kai Hagen (43,002), Phil Dacey (R) (42,781) and Danny Farrar (R) (42,531) are lock in a close contest to determine the two winners.  Absentee and provisional ballots will determine this race.  However, Hagen with a 471 vote lead over Farrar is in a good position to be one of the winners with the other decided between the two Republicans where only 250 votes separate them.

Democrat Susan Reeder Jessee (40,545) would come in a close fourth and incumbent council president Bud Otis (12,450) who changed party affiliation from Republican to unaffiliated came in last.  Four years ago Otis received the most votes in this race as a Republican candidate and Jessee came in a close third.

The district 1 county council race is another nail biter with Republican challenger Kevin Grubb(10,876) holding a 57 vote lead over incumbent Democrat Jerry Donald (10,819). Interestingly, Donald would come from behind four years ago when he beat Ellen Bartlett (R) after absentee and provisional ballots were counted.

The write in ballot by Republican district 2 council member Tony Chmelik was a dud with him receiving only 749 votes out of the 22,694 total votes cast.  Republican Steve McKay (13,054) who beat Chmelik in the primary election would win easily against Democrat Lisa Jarosinski (8,891) in a heavy Republican voter registered district.

Democratic incumbent district 3 council member M. C. Keegen-Ayer(10,343) would easily win reelection against Republican challenger Joe Parsley (5,974).

In district 4, incumbent Democrat Jessica Fitzwater (11,023) easily beat Republican challenger Jimmy Trout (6,901).

Republican candidate Michael Blue (11,671) would easily win the district 5 council seat vacated by incumbent Kirby Delauter who would be beat by Kathy Afzali in the Republican primary election county executive race.  Democrat Shannon Bohrer  would receive 6425 votes.

Regardless of which party, after district 1 and the at-large races are determined following the absentee and provisional count, the animosity that existed between three Republican council members and Democratic county executive Jan Gardner will not continue.  Republican at-large council member Billy Shreve lost in the Republican primary election to Craig Giangrande in his bid for district 3 Maryland state senate.  Shreve, Delauter and Chmelik who were all antagonists against Gardner are now out of office.

Democrats will have two members on the county council with Fitzwater (district 4) and M. C. Keegen-Aeyer (district 3).  Republicans will have two members on the council with Michael Blue (district 5), Steve McKay (district 2).

The party makeup of the other three council members will be decided following the absentee and provisional count.  The odds favor Democrat Kai Hagen to win one of the two at-large seats.  Which means either Republican Dacey or Farrar will win the other at-large seat.

This means the winner of district 2 race between Grubb (R) and Donald (D) will determine which party will have a majority on the board.

If Hagen and Donald win for a Democratic majority look to see Hagen be made council president.  If Republicans win the majority and Dacey is elected at-large, he could be made council president.  That is unless, McKay, who is known to favor Gardner, votes to support Kai for president.  Who is made county council president will be interesting to watch.

Editor's Update: The first round of absentee ballots will be counted on Thursday Nov. 8 beginning at 10:00 AM by the Frederick County Board of Elections. In the District 1 race, there are presently 425 Democratic Ballots, 232 Republican Ballots and 135 "Others" Ballots to be counted. Democrat Jerry Donald is 57 votes behind Republican Kevin Grubb after the general election.

In the at-large council race where two candidates are elected, there are 3,592 ballots to be counted with the breakdown by party as follows: Democratic - 1953, Republican - 1,003 and Others - 654. After early voting and the general election the three candidates vying for the two positions are Kai Hagen (D) - 43,002, Phil Dacey (R) 42,781 and Danny Farrar (R) 42,531.

Editor's Update:  Vote counting is continuing with the Frederick County board of elections issuing a statement they will finish on Friday Nov.9 and post results in the afternoon.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Frederick County Election Buzz (county council District 1 and 2, state delegate district 3-A and 3-B, state senate district 3)


George Wenschhof
The county council district 1 race, that favors Republicans in voter registration, will likely be close but not as close as it was four years ago when Democratic incumbent Jerry Donald beat Republican Ellen Bartlett (the wife of former 6th district congressman Roscoe Bartlett) when the absentee ballots were counted days after the general election.
 I have known Republican candidate Kevin Grubb for decades and interviewed Jerry Donald during the campaign.  I published a question and answer piece in the Urbana Town Courier.  Both candidates would be a good member of the council and I expect this race to be close again with Donald, who exhibited solid decision making in his first term, securing a second term on the council.
The district 2 county race was made more interesting when Republican incumbent Tony Chmelik, who lost to Steve McKay in the Republican primary election, decided to conduct a write-in campaign.  Lisa Jarosinski is the Democratic candidate in this three person race.

It is no secret Steve McKay and Democratic county executive Jan Gardner are aligned in regard to growth issues. I have interviewed McKay on numerous occasions and find him to be a thoughtful and reasonable person. He would not participate in the Republican Team Hogan effort that is endorsing Kathy Afzali for county executive and Gardner, while not directly supporting McKay, did not go out of her way to help Jarosinski.  This district has a Republican voter registration advantage and they are favored to win. 
Now, with Republican Chmelik conducting a vigorous write in campaign, Jarosinski who was originally considered a long shot, now has an opportunity to win what would be an upset.  While it is late, it is better than never, the Democrats are mailing a slate campaign brochure that includes Gardner and Jarosinski. 
McKay(R) remains the favorite in this race, but do not count out Jarosinski(D) who has campaigned hard throughout the district and would make an excellent council member. I published a question and answer piece with McKay and Jarosinski in The Urbana Town Courier.  Chmelik had not announced his write in campaign at that time.
The state senate race in district 3 will likely be close with the state Republican Party targeting it as a pick up seat for them following Democratic incumbent Ron Young’s narrow victory four years ago.
Republican candidate Craig Giangrande, owner of Frederick County Burger King franchises has received the support of the Republican state Party that has included what has now become the “normal” sleazy attack mail and video ads.
Ron Young, who has worked effectively with a Democratic controlled state legislature, won 4 years ago during the vote conducted during early voting and may do so in this election as well.  
We will not know how the early votes were cast until the general election is concluded.  However, Democrats outvoted Republicans during Frederick County early voting by 3,300 votes with many of these votes cast in district 3.
In district 3 for the state delegate races, voters elect one from district 3-B and two from district 3-A.  Look to see the two Democratic incumbent delegates in 3-A be reelected.  Carol Krimm and Karen Lewis Young have both displayed exceptional constituent service and have developed strong relationships in Annapolis that is helpful to Frederick County.
Out of the two Republican candidates, Mike Bowersox has the better opportunity then James Dvorak for an upset over Karen Lewis Young, who received an ethics complaint from a disgruntled former employee toward the end of the campaign.
The district 3-B race should be one to watch with Democratic challenger Ken Kerr conducting a very dynamic and energetic campaign against well-known incumbent Republican William Holden.
The General Election is Tuesday Nov. 6 and polls are open 7:00 Am – 8:00 PM.
Races are always determined by voter turnout - Go Vote!

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Frederick County Election Buzz (Governor, County Executive, At-Large Council)


George Wenschhof

With only three days until General Election Day Nov. 6, the following includes some musings on local elections in Frederick County, Maryland.

One thing to look for as the ballots are tallied is the coattails by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) and County Executive Jan Gardner (D) on positions down ballot in Frederick County.

Governor Race

Ben Jealous, the Democratic candidate for Governor is trailing significantly (double digits) in polling and has to hope for a much higher Democratic voter turnout than four years ago.  Jealous will be looking for higher Democratic turnout in Prince George’s County, Baltimore City and Montgomery County.  Their campaign goal has been one million more voters than 2014. If they get it, look to see a Jealous win.

Four years ago Republican Larry Hogan beat Democratic Lt. Governor Anthony Brown by 65,000 votes (51%-47.2%).

At the end of early voting Democrats are outvoting Republicans (423,562-155,685) and in Prince George’s County (Dem: 90,120 – Rep: 4,933), Baltimore City (Dem: 42,176 – Rep: 2,055) and Montgomery County (Dem: 81,388 – Rep: 14,518).

Democratic registered voters outnumber Republican registered voters in Maryland 2-1, yet Hogan won 4 years ago.  Again, polling indicates an easy Hogan win.  However, keep an eye on voter turnout on Election Day.  A Blue Wave could propel Jealous to victory.

As a result, in this election, many local Republicans have been running with a “Team Hogan” slogan where Frederick County voters in the 2014 general election went for Hogan (Hogan: 50,715 – Brown: 27,682)

Frederick County Executive

I interviewed all three candidates for county executive and published a question and answer with them in an article in The Urbana Town Courier.

Democratic incumbent county executive Jan Gardner has clearly demonstrated over the last four years and throughout the numerous campaign forums during this campaign, she is the most competent candidate for county executive.

Kathy Afzali, the Republican candidate for county executive has extensively used “Team Hogan” throughout her campaign hoping Hogan, who is favored to win Frederick County, will help her to victory as well.

However, the unaffiliated run by Earl Robbins, an experienced businessman who has been active in the community for years who is hoped by some political insiders to have a negative impact on Gardner in this race, could actually boomerang and help Gardner.

The local Republican Party is fractured with the old guard favoring councilman Kirby Delauter who ran for county executive and was beat in the primary election by Kathy Afzali. He has been urging his Republican supporters to vote for Robbins over Afzali.

How to best manage growth continues to be the main issue in countywide Frederick County elections and ironically both Afzali and Gardner are running ads saying they have the best answer for runaway growth in the county.  Interestingly, Afzali who was a Maryland state delegate when Republican Blaine Young was president of the board of commissioners, never opposed the growth policies enacted by his board who I labeled “Blaine and Company”  resulting from their pro-growth and business friendly policies they passed while in office.

In a recent article I point out voter registration in the county shows Democrats (37.2%) and Republicans (38.7%) are essentially tied. Over the last 16 years Republican registration has dropped 7.6% and Unaffiliated gained 7%.  Democratic registration stayed at 37.2%.  So, it can be expected unaffiliated voters will vote more Democratic than Republican and with an unaffiliated county executive candidate, some will vote for Robbins.  However, unaffiliated is not a political party so do not look for them to automatically vote for Robbins.  Look, instead for unaffiliated voters to break Democratic.

Look to see the most qualified candidate Jan Gardner win the county executive race with Earl Robbins receiving less than 15% of the vote – Kudos to him for being the first African American and Unaffiliated candidate to run for countywide office in Frederick County. However, Afzali could run a close race with Gardner resulting from an effective campaign ad blitz and if Hogan wins big in Frederick County.  Afzali, with her last name starting with “A”, is also at the top of the ballot and this positioning often results in additional votes for a candidate.

At-Large Frederick County Council

In this race, voters will be picking two out of the five candidates on the ballot.  The two winners will be part of the seven member council with the other five members elected by districts. I asked these candidates, “What are the two most pressing issues facing Frederick County, and what you would do to address them?” and their answers were published in The Urbana Town Courier.

Danny Farrar and Phil Dacey are the two Republicans running and out of these two, Dacey, a former one term City of Frederick alderman, is likely to run a competitive race.  Four years ago both Republican candidates Billy Shreve and Bud Otis won these two positions.  With the change in voter registration I pointed out earlier, Republican candidates are no longer favored to win countywide races.

Incumbent council president Bud Otis is running for reelection, but this time as an Unaffiliated candidate.  As a result of his often siding with county executive Jan Gardner and the Democratic council members and the often 4-3 vote outcome on growth issues, he came under fire from fellow Republican council members Tony Chmelik, Billy Shreve and Kirby Delauter.  This would lead Otis to change his political affiliation mid-term to unaffiliated.  No unaffiliated candidate has won a countywide election in Frederick County.  However, look to see well known Otis be competitive.

If General Election voting mirrors the turnout in early voting where Democrats out voted Republicans by 3,360 votes, look to see the two Democratic candidates be at the top out of the five candidates for these two positions.  Kai Hagen, a former one-term county commissioner, is looking to reunite with Gardner who he ran successfully with 12 years ago with Republican candidate John “Lenny” Thompson and David Gray with what they coined the “Dream Team”.  The Dream Team victory aided by the Thompson slogan “If Developers win, you lose!”

Hagen, who has been out of office for eight years, received the top votes in the primary election which makes him favored in the general election.  However, Republican supporters of Billy Shreve and Kirby Delauter who both lost their primary election races will not support Hagen.  Again, look to see who has the stronger coattails in Frederick County.  If, Gardner wins easily, this will aid Hagen.  However, with Afzali also running a campaign to stop runaway growth, this will help Hagen as well.

Susan Reeder Jessee ran for at-large four years ago and barely lost, coming in a close third.  A candidate whose parents were actively involved in Frederick County politics, she is well respected across party lines and if elected would exhibit traits many voters long for today.  As a result, Susan will receive Republican, Democratic and unaffiliated votes.

Susan has run hard throughout the campaign going to events across the entire county and would be a positive addition to the Frederick County Council.

This race will likely be very close.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Republicans Drop, Unaffiliated Voters Gain in Frederick County

Illustration | Melanie Douez
Data comes from the Maryland State Board of Elections.
George Wenschhof

Voter party affiliation in Frederick County, Maryland, has shifted over the last 16 years, with Republicans showing the smallest gain. Out of 56,807 registered voters over the last 16 years, Republicans received (12,981-22.8 percent), Democrats (21,059-37.1 percent), and unaffiliated voters (21,193-37.3 percent).
Frederick County voter registration numbers as of end of September 2018 show Democratic registration is within 2,695 voters of Republicans. Sixteen years ago, Republicans had a 10,773 voter registration advantage over Democrats heading into the 2002 gubernatorial election.
Voters who decline to affiliate with a political party are the fastest growing number of voters in Frederick County and follow a trend that extends across the country. Unaffiliated voters in Frederick County have more than doubled in size from 16 years ago, increasing from 18,718 to 39,911 today.
Out of 174,636 total registered voters today, Republicans make up (67,637-38.7 percent), Democrats (64,942-37.2 percent) and unaffiliated voters (39,911-22.8 percent). Libertarian, Green and Other make up less than 2 percent of the registered voters.
Sixteen years ago, out of 117,829 registered voters, Republicans made up (54,656-46.3 percent), Democrats (43,883-37.2 percent) and unaffiliated voters (18,718-15.8 percent).
Maryland is a closed primary election, which means unaffiliated voters cannot vote in the primary election when voters of political parties determine their candidates who will appear in the general election. Unaffiliated voters can participate in nonpartisan primary elections such as the Board of Education race in Frederick County.
Deborah Carter, chair of the Frederick County state Democratic Central Committee, reflected on how Democrats have narrowed the gap with Republicans. “These things do tend to go in cycles,” she said. “Once upon a time, Frederick County Democrats outnumbered the Republicans, and it looks like it’s on track to happen again. However, the party is also evolving. Many old-school Democrats were what we now call ‘Dixiecrats,’ while today’s Dems are younger, smarter and more  progressive than ever before. We’re not only gaining on the Republicans in registrations. Democrats also saw much higher turnout in the primary than the Republicans did, and absentee ballot requests are almost two-to-one Dem. What this says to me is that Dems are more active, more energized and more excited about our candidates.”
Hoda Zaki, Virginia E. Lewis professor of political science at Hood College, noted, “The rise in unaffiliated voters is a sign that voters do not want to commit to one party, but wish to leave the door open to changing their vote depending on the particular election. This fluidity in political identification is related to the changes in both parties’ platforms. As political parties change and shift, voters respond in similar ways. Political parties and voters both are responding to very real challenges in the national and global economy.
“I’m not sure how to explain the drop in Republican voters, unless it can be explained by looking at the age and demographics of voters moving to Frederick County in recent years,” she added.
The chair and vice chair of the Frederick County Republican Central Committee did not respond to a request for comment before publication deadline.
If unaffiliated voters turn out, they will certainly have an impact on many local elections.
An unaffiliated candidate has never won a countywide election in Frederick County. However, two unaffiliated candidates are running in this election. The county executive race features three candidates for the first time: Kathy Afzali (R), Jan Gardner (D) and Earl Robbins (U). Also, the at-large (countywide) County Council race where voters elect two council members has five candidates: Susan Reeder Jessee (D), Kai Hagen (D), Phil Dacey (R), Danny Farrar (R) and Bud Otis (U).
Frederick County Elections Supervisor Stuart Harvey said, “Based on the turnout in the primary election and the increase in voter registration, I expect voter turnout to exceed 60 percent in the General Election Nov. 6, 2018.”
Early voting runs from Oct. 25 through Nov. 1. The General Election is Nov. 6.