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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Frederick Co. MD Democratic Buzz

George Wenschhof Bio

Today, after requests from many local Democrats, I start what will be a weekly post which will appear on Tuesday. It will cover whatever I happen to be hearing about Democrats in Frederick County, Maryland.

If you have some buzz to share with our readers, you can either post what you are hearing by clicking on the "Comments link" at the end of this post or you can send me an email to and I will try to include in a post.

Today, we will take a look at who may be the Democratic candidates in the City of Frederick Elections. Next week on Tuesday, we will look at what will likely be the issues in the City of Frederick election.

City of Frederick voters will be electing the mayor and five aldermen this year. Candidates can now file for office at City Hall and the deadline for filing is July 7. The primary election will be held on September 15 and the general election will take place on November 3, 2009.

For Mayor:

Jack Lynch has already filed after announcing his intentions six months ago on our website. Although he announced early and was the first to officially file, he is still working at putting together his campaign organization. He struggled a little getting out of the gate when he talked about moving the Fairgrounds which are not owned by the city government. Mr. Lynch is a nice gentleman who has some good ideas about future growth of the city and an overall vision for the future. Let's see if he can get his message out and have it resonate with the voters.

Marcia Hall, a two term Alderwoman, basically announced January 11, 2009 her bid for Mayor on Katherine Heerbrandt's Saturday morning WFMD AM radio show. Ms. Hall has been rumored to run for some time - she may as well go file and make it official. The old standard political advise of waiting to officially file when you are in office for fear people will scrutinize your every vote no longer holds in this case. Everyone is already looking at her every move. She is well liked and also managed to stay out of the "fray" during the Dougherty administration.

She will be a formidable candidate and her supporters will surely point out as the top vote getter among the Aldermen in the 2005 election, she received more votes than incumbent Republican Mayor Jeff Holtzinger.

Detractors will say she has not often been clear on her positions on an issue and will try to label her as wishy-washy. Her biggest challenge will be delineating the differences between herself and Republican Mayor Jeff Holtzinger (should he run again) on the issues. Her voting record as Alderman will be thoroughly examined and pointed out by her opponents.

I interviewed Jason Judd for three hours prior to a column I published on December 19, 2008. He is a thoughtful and deliberate candidate who has experience in community organizing. I have witnessed this first hand as city residents from many different "clicks" in the community have come to me to express their support of his run for Mayor. There is also a strong possibility former four term Mayor Ron Young will manage his campaign. Mr. Young raised over $100,000 in his campaign for Mayor in 2005. He beat incumbent Mayor Jennifer Dougherty handily in the Democratic primary but lost by a few hundred votes to current Republican Mayor Jeff Holtzinger.

The rap that will come up against Jason Judd will be his work for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) with detractors trying to make an issue they don't want union representation in the City of Frederick.

His close advisers have been offering ideas as to when to officially announce and I have heard closer to April is the preferred date.

Although Jennifer Dougherty was probably the only Democratic candidate for Congress who was unable to benefit from the enthusiasm generated by the Barack Obama campaign, do not discount the possibility of her running for Mayor again. The only demographic area Ms. Dougherty won in the 2008 congressional race was the City of Frederick. However, that was due to city Democrats being united against incumbent Congressman Roscoe Bartlett.

Ms. Dougherty has become the perennial candidate having now run five times and only winning once. It is obvious she enjoys the debate on the issues and being critical of other candidates. Unfortunately, after her disastrous one term as mayor, she reminds many of the character played by Robert Redford in the movie "The Candidate" when he said after winning the election; "What do I do now?".

Should she run again, she would further divide the local Democratic party more than she has already done as many will remember she did not support Ron Young after he defeated her in the primary. Many believe she urged her closest supporters to vote for Republican Jeff Holtzinger in the general election and therefore was a factor in Young's loss to Holtzinger.

Anyway, some other Democrats may join the race, but it is shaping up as another male-female battle once again in the Democratic primary. If Jennifer Dougherty can resist running against Marcia Hall as she was unable to do against Andrew Duck, this primary could end up being a battle of surrogates of the 2005 Democratic candidates for Mayor. Jason Judd will have Ron Young's support and Marcia Hall would have the support of Dougherty. Marcia Hall may actually be better served if she kept some distance from Ms. Dougherty.

Do not look for either aldermen David "Kip" Koontz or Donna Kuzemchak to enter the race for Mayor. Both three term incumbent Kuzemchak and first term Koontz will most likely file for Aldermen.

For Aldermen:

Donna Kuzemchak won for the first time in 1997, campaigning loudly about the need for a stop light on a street near her neighborhood with her concern about the safety of school children. In the last election, she was the fifth leading vote getter among the Aldermen candidates. The one thing about Donna is you do not have to wonder how she feels on an issue - she will let you and everyone else know. She will be a strong candidate for reelection.

David "Kip" Koontz - while he may really want to run for mayor, he is a strong candidate for being reelected as alderman. He ran for elected office several times unsuccessfully prior to being elected. His supporters will probably urge him to stay as alderman. He will be another strong candidate and is likely to be reelected.

Both David and Donna have to consider the "what if question" - that is, if I run for mayor and lose, where do I go from there. Losing a city race and trying to run for county or state office in 2010 is not a promising proposition. Waiting to run again in the next city election is too long of a wait.

Kelly Russell - Is she a Republican or a Democrat is the question most voters are asking me. She is the only Democrat to officially file for aldermen to date. Those who know her well are confused in regard to where she stands. She openly gave her support to Republican Harold Domer in the 2006 race for Frederick County Sheriff. Mr. Domer's supporters could easily be classified as former Republican City of Frederick Mayor James Grimes supporters.

Just recently, Ms. Russell supported Democrat Jennifer Dougherty in her bid for Congress. In the only race she won, Dougherty defeated Grimes in the 2001 City of Frederick election. There is no secret the Dougherty and Grimes camps do not support each other. Many voters have expressed a distrust of Ms. Russell so her campaign at present looks to be a tough one.

Carol Krimm - She presently works for state delegate Galen Clagett. She had worked for delegate Sue Hecht until Sue was defeated soundly by Alex Mooney in her attempt to win the state senate seat in district 3 in the 2002 election. Ms. Krimm would be competitive in this race if she filed.

Stephen Slater - He recently moved into the City and will meet the residency requirement by the time the election is held. He is the son of Tom Slater who lost two races when he ran for state delegate and city aldermen. He is an attorney who currently works with his father's law practice. Stephen helped a start-up of the Frederick County Young Democrats prior to when his father ran for alderman in 2005. He was instrumental in them helping his father in his failed bid for alderman. That chapter of the local Young Democrats faded shortly afterward.

Although the name may give him some recognition, his father did not win an election and voters do not know Stephen's position on any city issue so his work will be cut out for him. However, he could easily make the primary cut with his challenge being the general election.

Both Slater and Krimm are members of the Frederick County State Democratic Central committee. This may be a dubious distinction as no one from the central committee has been elected to another office since the 1997 election when the then chair of the committee, Blaine Young was elected as Alderman. Blaine Young is now a Republican.

Sarah Finefrock - the only reason I mention this name is her friend Jennifer Dougherty mentioned it when she recently hosted Katherine Heerbrandt's local radio talk show. Jennifer said Finefrock had just moved back to Frederick (I wonder if she meets the residency requirement) and would make a good candidate. Jennifer talked her into running for Register of Wills in the 2006 election and she was thumped. She would be a long shot in this election.

"Trish" Cunningham - She ran for alderman in the 2005 election and lost but has become known as a city watchdog ever since often challenging decisions on issues. It is likely she will file, but she will once again have difficulty in winning election.

Ken Berlin - Another one who ran for alderman and lost in the 2005 election. His bitterness surrounding that loss continues to be exhibited in his acerbic remarks he often leaves at the end of articles of the online edition of the Frederick News Post. Unfortunately for him, his idea of a land value tax in the 2005 election did not catch on with the voters. Mr. Berlin does have ideas to consider concerning the city and if he could get over his loss in the 2005 election, would be a competitive candidate for alderman.

Others are likely to come forward and file as the July filing deadline is so late.

Look to see Republican incumbent aldermen Alan Imhoff and Paul Smith run again for alderman in spite of some who would like to see Mr. Imhoff run for Mayor. They will both be competitive as aldermen candidates. If local Deli owner Randy McClement runs for anything, it will most likely be alderman. It is very doubtful he could beat incumbent Mayor Jeff Holtzinger. Randy ran for alderman in 2005 and lost and would be competitive this time. If Jeff Holtzinger decides to run for reelection as Mayor, he will easily win the Republican primary.

As of now, it looks like all of the incumbents will run again with Marcia Hall leaving her alderman position to run for Mayor. Unless strong arguments are made to the voters by the candidates to unseat incumbents, there will only be one open alderman seat.

Stay Tuned, we'll look at the issues next week.


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