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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dougherty Win Doubtful in MD 6th District

George Wenschhof

November 4, 2008 will mark the ninth election since Republican Representative Roscoe Bartlett was elected in the 1992 election to represent the residents of the 6th District in Maryland. His Democratic opponent that year was Thomas Hattery who had defeated seven term incumbent Beverly Byron in the Democratic primary. Byron's defeat in the primary was due in part to some Democrats feeling she was too moderate along with criticism directed at excessive overseas travel made by the incumbent.

Jennifer Dougherty is the eighth Democratic candidate (Don DeArmon ran twice) to have challenged Roscoe Bartlett since that 1992 election. Bartlett has survived all of the challenges easily since defeating Hattery with 54% of the vote in the 1992 election. In fact, the strongest showing by a Democratic candidate was by Stephen Crawford, who received 43% of the vote in the 1996 election.

I wrote about the Maryland 6th District race prior to the 2006 election when Andrew Duck was the Democratic candidate. I pointed out the local Frederick County Democratic Party was splintered, bruised and battered as a result of the 1992 election and that many maintain it remains so today. I also pointed out how Andrew Duck was working to build bridges and unite the Democrats in that 2006 election.You can read that column here.

Mr. Bartlett is now 82 years old as we near his attempt to win his ninth consecutive term. This, after pledging in his first race for Congress that he believed in term limits for members of the House. Over sixteen years in office, Mr. Bartlett has little to note in accomplishments, yet he has received positive feedback for his constituent services.

Nonetheless, the chances for a Dougherty win remains slim, in spite of all the elements of a "perfect storm". I published a column on this back on July 17. In case you missed it, you can read it here. All of the essential elements are in place to remove an incumbent as the financial meltdown on Wall Street continues along with the continued U.S. presence in a unpopular war in Iraq. This, combined with the enthusiasm generated by the Presidential campaign of Senator Barack Obama has resulted in increased voter registration across the district showing a marked advantage to Democrats.

Unfortunately, the Dougherty campaign has been unable to raise the needed funds to get the message out. Consequently, it is difficult to determine what is the message of the campaign, other than to piggyback on the Obama campaign "Change" theme. The September 30 - Third Quarter Financial Reports showed the campaign with only $27,000 cash on hand compared to $374,000 for the Bartlett campaign. You can read that report here.

The Maryland 6th district includes all or parts of 8 counties and money is needed for direct mail, cable TV, radio and overall media buys.

Dougherty will benefit from new Democratic voters, many of whom will undoubtedly vote Party as they are voting for change and Barack Obama for President. However, many Democratic voters remember her one term as mayor of the City of Frederick that was filled with acrimony and the inability to work with the Board of Aldermen. This led to the Democrats losing a majority on the Board when popular Alderman Bill Hall left the Party to become a Republican. They will also remember her ill advised challenge of former Mayor Ron Young's right to run for Mayor based on a eligibility question.

Her decision to challenge the eligibility of Ron Young not only contributed to her defeat in the Democratic primary in 2005, it also led to more division within Frederick County Democrats that remains today. Unable to accept her defeat, she blamed the Frederick County Democratic State Central Committee for allowing Ron Young to challenge her in the primary.

The local state central committee has never had any power over who may decide to run for office. In addition, there is no reason why they would attempt to dissuade a former multi-term and popular Democratic Mayor from entering the race.

After losing the Democratic primary, Ms. Dougherty made no visible effort to support the election of Ron Young and many speculate she encouraged supporters to vote for the Republican candidate, Jeff Holtzinger. Holtzinger won a close race against Ron Young and is mayor today.

Months after the election, many say she encouraged supporters to attempt to oust Bob Kresslein as Chair of the Frederick County Democratic State Central Committee. That effort, by a few extremists in the Party failed and ironically, Dougherty is now seeking and receiving support from Mr. Kresslein who is still chair of the local central committee.

Seven years ago, after spending two years helping to rebuild the Frederick County Democratic State Central Committee organization, I managed the committee's efforts in the 2001 City of Frederick campaign.

Many firsts were achieved as we put on the first formal primary debate which was held at Hood College which I had asked Al Weinberg to moderate. The questions came from precinct chairs who had been recruited in the preceding two years. I had intensified fund raising efforts resulting in $10,000 earmarked for the city campaign. An amount that was not spent previously or since by the committee on the City of Frederick campaign.

In addition, we held the first campaign rally the Sunday before the election to generate enthusiasm among Democratic voters. I was able to secure as headline speakers Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley and Maryland Attorney General Joseph Curren. The entertainment was O'Malley's March who were joined by Martin O'Malley when they performed. A good time was had by all who attended this rally.

One memory I hold from that election is on her victory night, she stood up on her bar at Jennifer's Restaurant to inform everyone she had won. When she had stepped down she had not thanked any of the central committee members, precinct chairs, and volunteers who had worked on her behalf. I walked over to quietly suggest a thank you was in order and she then climbed back on the bar to do so.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) which raises millions and sizes up House races across the country is hoping for gains of as many as 40 seats come November 4. In Maryland, they have targeted the 1st district race which is classified as "open" due to Republican Wayne Gilchrist's defeat by Andrew Harris in the primary. Frank Kratovil, the Democratic candidate has made it to the DCCC's coveted "Red to Blue" List, which will ensure funds added to the $173,000 cash on hand reported by the campaign as of September 30. The total raised by Kratovil has been 1.5 million compared to his Republican opponent Andrew Harris who has reported 2.6 million raised with $586,000 cash on hand. You can read the details here.

To date, Jennifer Dougherty has not received the same designation from the DCCC or any significant funds from them. A rumored "snap poll", not a totally reliable source, was recently released with headlines stating Dougherty was within 6 points of Bartlett. The numbers were Bartlett 45%, Dougherty 39% with 16% undecided. The numbers in the poll curiously mirror the voter registration numbers for Republicans, Democrats, and Independents in the district. At this late date, it is very doubtful 16% of the voters are undecided. These type of "snap polls"are sometimes released with the hope media will publish them and some enthusiasm for the trailing candidate will be created.

While there is no doubt it is time for a change in the 6th District, doubt remains among many Democratic voters in the abilities of Jennifer Dougherty to build consensus and create needed positive change. In order to win, Dougherty needs a high turnout of Democratic voters who will vote for her, a majority of the Independent vote along with some Republican crossover vote. This is a daunting task.

There is no doubt Maryland will vote overwhelmingly for Senator Barack Obama for President. In fact, for weeks now, Maryland volunteers from across the state have been canvassing in Pennsylvania and Virginia to help in these battleground states.

However, it is doubtful Obama's support in the 6th District will be strong enough to carry Dougherty to victory on Election Day.

Yet, it is not over until the close of the polls on Election Day. Remember to vote on November 4th!


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Anonymous said...

We're left to wonder, given the Obama phenomena, growing Democratic registration in Frederick and Frederick County - when will the party pull together and make some of the types of organizational and community building moves that you conducted alongside the Dougherty mayoral run...?

Anonymous said...

anonomous II:
I am a good Democrat and voted yesterday, held my nose and marked Bartlett -- because he is the lesser of two evils...
Unfortunately, Jenifer is too mean spirited for me to put up with for the many terms to come, and Roscoe will not be around near that long -- in all actuarially!

Sherry said...

count me as another democrat voting for Bartlett. Jennifer is too mean spirited for me.

Anonymous said...

At 17 I may be too young to understand past disagreements, but I'm dumbfounded to see these opposing alliances build up within our own party.

When I see a democrat on the ticket, I see a vote that represents (for the most part) my opinions on the issues. And because I can't vote it'll take a lot more than a "mean-spirited" candidate to make me want to pass up a congressional seat.

I'm terrified when I think of what my generation will have to inherit in terms of debt, foriegn enemies and environmental threats. When you vote, please vote for whoever you think will be best for me and my future because there are a lot of us that cannot. A lot of us that care, a lot of us that have an opinion, yet cannot vote.

Herman said...

I am an Independent and I vote for the person, for whom has my best at heart. I have witnessed as a City of Frederick resident, the character and actions of Jennifer and even talking and attempting to work with her. She is the last person in this District that deserves anyone's vote, she has demonstrated the most irresponsible horrible ill mannered prejudice person I have ever known. I am not talking about mean spirited, I am talking about her management lack of skills. We would be better served by anyone, and I do mean anyone rather than her. Her shop, her restaurant and now I hope her political career is gone!

Jack Lynch said...

Anon. young Democrat, I understand how the personal reactions against Dougherty sounds like poor party decisions to you, but I think you should distinguish those comments from the larger issue of how well the Dem. party is doing locally. It can be much more organized, responsive, activated, and effective.

And herman, I hope you'll consider my campaign for Mayor in 2009.

Anonymous said...

Apart from running against Jennifer, one good reason to vote R. Bartlett, is that he was one of the few senators, To vote against baling out those crooks and fat cats in with the 750 billion, let the market place decide who stays and who goes,. the sky will not fall down

Anonymous said...

regardless of whether you are 17 or 70, you should vote for a competent representative. jennifer has showed she was not up to the task of being a represenative by failing miserably in her four years of mayor - count me as another democrat not voting for her.