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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Who Will Win Mayoral Race?

Randy McClement
Jennifer Dougherty
Karen Young

The question I am asked multiple times a day is; “Who is going to win the mayoral race?” and I have always answered “I don’t know it looks like it is going to be close”.

With under a week to go to The City of Frederick election on November 5, I will offer my thoughts, based on observations over the years of many city elections.  However, there is no survey, poll or data I am relying on to make my assumptions, so that is what they will be; a best guess on my part and nothing more.

In fact, as people would ask me, who I thought was going to win, I would always end up asking them and receiving their thoughts on whom the next mayor will be.

First of all, there is no loud deafening cry coming from city voters to “throw the bums out”, as was the case in the last election when a whole new board and mayor were elected. So, this becomes a plus for incumbent Republican mayor Randy McClement.

Staying with this thought, a little further, is the added dynamic that both incumbent Democratic alderman; Kelly Russell and Michael O’Connor have performed in an exceptional manner, are well liked, and will certainly be reelected.

Leading me to give Randy another boost as voters will be tempted to vote for both popular incumbent aldermen and then add another incumbent as their choice for mayor.

However, Randy’s biggest negative is he is just not the leader or strong mayor the voters of The City of Frederick deserve.

The recent announcement from city hall there had been a $2.3 million accounting error in the city budget may also impact on the reelection of McClement.

Karen Young was quick to state "Wasn't the accounting error really $5.1million? We thought that we would start FY 2014 with a $2.8mm surplus. Then a $2.3 deficit for the Rainy Day Fund was identified. The two total $5.1mm."

She added "I find it totally unacceptable that there was a $5.1 million accounting error with little or no explanation, no apologies and no accountability."

The entry into the race by Jennifer Dougherty has made this a first time ever three way contest for mayor of the city and this also is another plus for the incumbent as it will certainly split the vote.  The incumbent typically receives a plus in a multiple candidate race.

I have known Jennifer for twenty years and like most friends and family members, we have had our differences over the years.  But, she remains a friend and someone I respect very much.

She ran her first of what will be five races for mayor in 1993, losing to Gary Hughes, the first city African American mayoral candidate, in the Democratic primary.  Former four term Democratic mayor Ron Young backed Hughes in that election.  Republican Jim Grimes would win that election.

After losing in the Democratic primary for Frederick board of county commissioner, Jennifer won the 2001 election, becoming the first woman elected mayor. She defeated two term Republican mayor Jim Grimes, who had been damaged by the infamous “Black Book scandal”. The scandal involved a local Madam and some of Frederick’s notables, with one name released being Democratic alderman Blaine Young.

Blaine did not run for reelection, reinvented himself as a conservative Republican radio talk show host and parlayed that into being elected president of the Frederick board of county commissioners.

Two big accomplishments of Dougherty’s term in office were the creation of the Neighborhood Advisory Councils and the hiring of popular and effective Kim Dine as Chief of Police.

However, her term was marred with constant battles with a less than cooperative board of aldermen and a confrontation played out in the media with Karen Korrell, president of the board of directors of the Weinberg Center, over city funding levels.

Karen Korrell, would later marry Ron Young.

The many political battles encountered during the Dougherty administration led to a challenge in the 2005 city Democratic primary by Ron Young, who after overcoming residency issues, defeated Jennifer, before losing himself to political neophyte Republican Jeff Holtzinger.

In 2009, after witnessing a stumbling Marcia Hall bow out and a youthful inexperienced Jason Judd enter the race for mayor, Jennifer would run for the fourth time for the Democratic nomination.

She would lose one more time and Judd was upset by Republican Randy McClement; the owner of a downtown Bagel shop.

Speculation was rampant after the 2005 and 2009 elections; it was disgruntled Dougherty supporters who were responsible for the narrow victories won by Republicans Holtzinger and McClement.

In 2013, Jennifer decided against trying for the Democratic Party nomination and instead gathered the necessary signatures to run as an Unaffiliated candidate for mayor.

Karen Young, a Democrat, with an impressive resume in the banking industry in marketing and financial services management, decided to run for alderman in the 2009 election. After, receiving the most votes, she became mayor pro tem.

It did not take long for Karen to assert herself on the board of alderman and it was obvious early on she was frustrated with the lack of leadership and management skills displayed by Mayor Randy McClement.

Her announcement earlier this year, she was running for mayor came as no surprise.

What wasn’t anticipated was the entry by Maryland state delegate Galen Clagett in the run for the Democratic Party nomination for mayor.

Galen, a long time local politician and successful business owner proved to be a formidable opponent for Young.

Karen matched him in campaign donations and outworked him during the primary campaign which led to her 10 point win over Galen in the Democratic primary.

You are probably asking yourself about now, “I thought George said he was going to give us his best guess on the mayor’s race”.

And, I am.  I just felt a little of the history leading up to this vote would be helpful in understanding the dynamics at work.

I, of course, just scratched the surface, understanding you might lose interest in reading a novel or long essay on the subject.

However, let me also mention, the long anticipated “cat fight” between Jennifer and Karen never materialized.  Most likely due to both candidates being aware that is what some were expecting to happen between two strong willed women.

Okay then, another reason for the short narrative is with a small voter turnout, history and interpersonal relations have an impact on who wins.

First, the turnout is not expected to exceed 22% of the registered voters and will be around 8,000 votes.

As I stated in an earlier column about moving the city election to coincide with the presidential election cycle “I can confidently predict 10% or less of the 36,539 registered voters (as of January 1, 2013) will determine who the next mayor will be on November 5 and the mayor elect will not receive a majority of the vote.”

There is no run-off provision for The City of Frederick, so the winner will become mayor by winning only a plurality of the vote. Also disconcerting is there is no vote recount procedure which may have an impact in a close election.

The voter party registration breakdown in the city (as of January 1, 2013) is Democratic – 17,299, Republican – 10,749 and Unaffiliated – 8,164.

Out of the total registered voters, Democratic registration in the city makes up about 46%, Republican 32% and Unaffiliated 22%.

Now, at first blush, you would be correct to say, this favors the Democratic candidate for Mayor; Karen Young.  You would be right, if Democrats vote party line.

But, with Jennifer in the race, it is likely she will draw more Democratic votes than Republicans.  Also, remember Democratic Maryland state delegate Galen Clagett was defeated by Karen in the primary and was known to have supported Randy over Jason Judd in the 2009 election.

Galen has stayed out of the spotlight since losing a bitter primary election against Karen and it would not be surprising if behind the scenes, he supported Randy again.

This makes it important for Karen to pull Republican voters to counteract anticipated defections from the Democratic voters.  Not surprisingly, influential Republican leaders in the city, who are frustrated with the lack of leadership displayed by mayor McClement have held meet and greet events for Karen after she won the Democratic primary.

I believe it is highly unlikely Jennifer will pull any significant Republican votes, leaving her to have to receive enough Democratic and Unaffiliated votes to win.  This is an uphill struggle for the Dougherty campaign and why I am guessing she will receive between 20% - 24% of the vote.

Long time city election observers have told me they would be surprised if Jennifer won more than 10% of the vote.

They will be surprised, but Jennifer will lose her bid for mayor for the fourth time in five tries.

It appears Randy and Karen will be locked in an extremely close contest with both receiving between 37% - 41% of the vote.

The get out the vote effort by both campaigns will be critical in this election.

Past experience has me predicting there will be about 2% under votes resulting from people who go to the polls, vote for alderman candidates, but choose not to vote for mayor.

Who will be the next mayor?  The odds favor the incumbent in a close race and combined with all the twists and turns in this election, it is Randy’s race to lose.

However, Karen has proven to me to be a hard campaigner and a strong closer, so I have her winning by a nose.

It is the voters who make the final decision - Make sure you cast your ballot on November 5!

Stay Tuned.


George Wenschhof is Publisher/Editor of, a political news and commentary Blog.

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