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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Politics is personal Repeat three times

Jack Lynch

While it may be the issues, or public interest you hear spoken about in groups or the papers – clearly, what really gets the blood flowing is personality and personal problems between politicians.

It doesn't even have to begin with a direct attack. Or mud. Just a disagreement over an issue, especially when the background consists of a local challenger who may have a broad base and the experience to easily dispose a long serving Delegate.

The slightest comment in the newspaper, or online forum, or in a speech, becomes fodder for rampant mistrust and hatred and envy and attack. The politicos know that the power of an idea, or symbolic affront, can have great effect, and affect.

Let us gaze into the crystal ball.

In Frederick County, Maryland the 2006 House of Delegates election brought a bit of a surprise in district 3-A where two delegates are elected to office. This district encompasses the City of Frederick and some adjoining areas. Sue Hecht (D) returned to office replacing incumbent Patrick Hogan (R). Ms. Hecht was a former two-term delegate from the district who ran unsuccessfully for state senate against incumbent Republican Alex Mooney in the 2002 election. Incumbent democrat Galen Clagett narrowly won reelection, capturing the other delegate seat with a 200 vote advantage over republican Patrick Hogan.

Interestingly in the district 3-A democratic primary, incumbent Galen Clagett won only 45%, to Sue Hecht's 55% of the 8700 votes cast.

Jan Gardner easily won reelection to the Frederick County Board of Commissioners (BOCC) with 45,000 votes. Having served not only as BOCC chair, but Chair of Maryland Association of Counties (MACO), and now on the Governor's Growth Task Force, Jan is clearly poised to rise to state politics, if she so chooses. A local wag suggested that she had already parked her yacht in Annapolis. As an original 'Mommy Monger' she has a base of activist female voters, coupled with those men like myself who admire her even handedness and clarity and responsiveness in office, and her growth and infrastructure views bringing her to a state task force on growth.

While the writing may not yet be on the wall, it is clear that Delegate Clagett should be feeling the heat from Winchester Hall – and you can bet that's very personal. There's clearly a history there.

There is a clear contrast between Delegate Clagett and Frederick County Commissioner Jan Gardner. It is not just powerful man of state versus an up and coming, powerful woman. It is not just the tension of contrasting positions or issues, or allegiance to development over managed growth, yet it is that too.

In addition to his being a Democrat, I was drawn to Clagett for his environmentalist record. It contrasted with everything he seemed to support regarding his interests in the development community. He scored a perfect ten on the Maryland League of Conservation Voters scorecard, and always seemed to favor Bay issues. I wondered how he supported his thinking, that contradiction.

Now I'm thinking that the League's scorecard is missing one of its most important elements – the decisions about local growth and development issues. There Gardner wins hands down, and Clagett's positioning seems more a shill rather than a defining issue.

Then, even more directly in the limelight, is the still burning issue of Maryland slots. Clagett a slots supporter and promoter, wants slots here in Frederick County. Gardner opposed placing them here, and led the BOCC to zone them out of the county. She worked with Weldon to amend the authorizing bill and keep them out of consideration in Frederick County.

Charter government – Clagett for it, Gardner, maybe only guardedly supports it.

Delegate Clagett clearly overplayed his hand with the interference into the county process by his text amendment bill. He purported to fix a problem that wasn't evident, and cover his tracks with unnamed petitioners and no examples. His bluff called, he saw his legislation watered down until it looked like a codification of the existing process. Its final fate is still undetermined, but a county body opposing a local privilege bill will look pretty weak, even if it sails through. Luckily for him, the majority attention will fall elsewhere in the final days of the session.

So it would seem to come down to – who is champion of the ballot box in Frederick County, and how will that affect the legislative positions at the next election. Clagett hears those footsteps coming up from behind and is running scared. If it came down to himself versus Gardner, he stands to lose – his toughness would look like further bullying, and his accomplishments would fade against his negatives – it's a brave new world in Frederick County, and much of his positioning appears out of sync with voters.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mr Lynch, you're obviously in touch with society. I'm surprised you're able to be so in sync considering the time you waste in athletic endeavors.