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Sunday, November 24, 2013

An Early Look at 2014 Frederick County Election

George Wenschhof

Winchester Hall
The 2010 election year was a bad one for Democratic candidates in Frederick County, Maryland and for Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The surge in Republican conservatism, led by tea party zealots, resulted in a net gain of 60 seats for Republicans in the House.

Locally, where Republicans have held a voter registration majority for a long time, only two Democrats would be elected out of twenty-one elected seats on the ballot.

They were Ron Young, who beat three term Republican state senator Alex Mooney in district 3 and Galen Clagett who won reelection to state delegate in district 3-a.

Ron, who won by about 1,000 votes, was aided by the like number of vote advantage he received through the early voting from the poll conveniently located in The City of Frederick, which has a strong Democratic voter registration.

The Young-Mooney contest went against the national trend as Mooney was a right wing “tea party” conservative way before the tea party existed, although the district had been gerrymandered to have a majority of Democratic registered voters.

In none of the other 19 local races did Democrats even come close.

The inability to field a candidate for several of the top races in the county certainly hurt Democrats as did the failure of the Democratic candidates running for board of county commissioner to come together to form a slate.

County Sheriff and State’s Attorney headline the ballot and are two prominent elected positions in the county.  The failure to have a candidate on the ballot for these two positions as well as the high paying Register of Wills position did not help the other Democrats who were running for office in 2010.

The race for the board of county commissioners was a disaster for Frederick County Democrats in 2010 and a major focus of the 2014 election will be the race for county executive and the council, as the change to charter government is implemented.

All indications are the over 24 year local struggle over how to best manage growth in Frederick County will continue with the announcement by Democrat Jan Gardner she is running for county executive.

Present at her announcement, were the former members of the 2007-2010 board who made up the managed growth “dream team” during the 2006 election; John “Lennie” Thompson(R), David Gray(R) and Kai Hagen(D).

There has been a lot of talk about Democratic candidates challenging Gardner, so it will not be surprising if there is a contested primary.

Whether board president Republican Blaine Young, who has angered many voters by spending his term in office pursuing privatization of government services, will run for the county executive position remains a question, putting on hold, the much anticipated struggle between two candidates with opposing ideologies.  During a recent chat on the street, Young told me he would be announcing his intention next year.
Republican county commissioner Billy Shreve, who rode Blaine Young's coattails to election in 2010, has also been in the rumor mix for county executive, but is not considered a strong enough candidate for the position.  If he decides to run for office, look to see him either run for one of the two at large positions on the council or state delegate.

The new seven member county council will have five members representing districts and two members who are elected countywide.

It will remain a difficult contest for a Democrat to be elected countywide, due to voter registration, but a solid candidate, like a Jan Gardner, will be competitive and can surely win. 

Democrats will have a little easier go in several of the council member districts, especially the two made up primarily of voters from The City of Frederick and the district that includes The Town of Brunswick.

The Charter defines the council as part time members who earn only $22,500 and this will surely impact the strength and the number of candidates who will run for these positions.

The combination of at large and district elections for council members will also make it difficult for growth oriented candidate slates to develop, but look for the opposing ideologies in this area make an effort to do so.

The county sheriff position is another high profile position and interestingly, two term sheriff Republican Chuck Jenkins has been rumored as a candidate for the county executive position, should Blaine Young choose not to run.

If Jenkins decides to run again for sheriff, it will not be a free ride this time.  Republican Kevin Grubb, a former City of Frederick police captain who has established a candidate committee and Democrat Karl Bickel, who was unsuccessful in raising the needed signatures for an independent run in 2010, are both expected to run.

Whether Democrats will have a candidate for state’s attorney remains a mystery.  Republican Charlie Smith is expected to run for reelection.

The state delegation comprising of two state senators and six state delegates elected by Frederick County voters have been redistricted with the demarcation line being just north of The City of Frederick.

Due primarily to voter registration, look to see Republicans elected in district 4 with state senator David Brinkley and delegate Kelly Shulz a lock for reelection.  Republican state delegate Michael Hough, who was redistricted and delegate Kathy Afzali will be favored in the other two delegate positions.

In district 3, state senator Ron Young should win reelection, but expect a challenge to come from Republicans who are angered by his votes in Annapolis supporting same-sex marriage, the gas tax and the dream act.  

With the announcements by state delegates Galen Clagett(D) and Patrick Hogan(R) they will not be running for reelection and with redistricting creating a new seat for district 3-b, all three seats will be considered “open seats” and as a result, will be competitive.

City of Frederick aldermen Carol Krimm and Karen Young, Stephen Slater and Ryan Trout are among the Democratic names being mentioned with county commissioner Paul Smith and city alderman Shelley Aloi among the Republicans being mentioned at this time.

Look to see Democrats win at least 3 of the four seats in district 3 with a strong possibility of a sweep that would balance the Frederick County state delegation.

Early indications are 2014 will be a better year than 2010 for Democratic candidates running for election in Frederick County.

Stay tuned.
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Unknown said...

Didn't the gerrymandering take place after Ron Young was voted in? When Mooney ran, the district expanded into Washington County. The new boundaries condensed Senator Young's area in hopes of a shoe in. The aforementioned Senator voted on this redistricting; that is why I will be voting for Corey Stottlemyer.

Unknown said...

Didn't the gerrymandering take place after Ron Young was voted in? When Mooney ran, the district expanded into Washington County. The new boundaries condensed Senator Young's area in hopes of a shoe in. The aforementioned Senator voted on this redistricting; that is why I will be voting for Corey Stottlemyer.