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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Familiar Names Highlight County Executive and Council Race

George Wenschhof
Frederick County Council president Bud Otis was the only familiar name left off as the filing deadline for candidates closed at 9:00 PM Tuesday.  After receiving angst from Republicans for consistently supporting Democratic county executive Jan Gardner during his first term, Mr. Otis changed his political affiliation from Republican to Undeclared.  Undeclared candidates have until July 2nd to file a Declaration of Intent and must turn in the required signatures to be certified by the local board of elections by August 6th.  He would also be spared the primary election held on June 26th this year.

There have been some unconfirmed rumors, should he obtain the required signatures, he may file for county executive.  Interesting to note, no Undeclared candidate has ever won a countywide position in a Frederick County election.

Should Otis file to run in the at-large county council race, where voters choose two council members, he will join a crowded field filled with well known candidates.

Democratic voters will have 5 candidates to choose from and Republicans will have four.

Former county commissioner president and state delegate Galen Clagett is the most familiar name among Democrats.  In a press release Susan Reeder Jessee said “My deep desire to serve the citizens of Frederick County never left since my candidacy in 2014”.   Her parents Bruce and Odette held office in Frederick County for a combined 28 years.

Kai Hagen suffered a humiliating loss to Blaine Young and company eight years ago after serving one term as county commissioner.  He and Jan Gardner ran with Republicans John “Lenny” Thompson and David Gray 12 years ago as the Dream Team”.  They won with an anti-growth message highlighted with Thompson’s “If Developers Win, You Lose” slogan.

After losing in the 5th district race four years ago to Republican Kirby Delauter, Mark Long is trying again, this time in the countywide at-large race.

The one newcomer is Kavonte Duckett, who I met a few years ago at a Frederick County Young Democrats Meeting. I was impressed with him and am not surprised to see him running for office.

Republicans won both at-large positions four years ago with Bud Otis and Billy Shreve.  This year, Philip Dacey a former City of Frederick alderman, is perhaps the best known Republican in the at-large race. However, also known are Justin Kiska, who is running again after losing in 2014 and Jason Miller, a columnist with  They are joined by Danny Farrar.

District 1 incumbent Democrat Jerry Donald will not face a primary.  Four years ago, he won by a handful of votes and helped give county executive Gardner a majority on the board.

The Republican primary will be Kevin Grubb facing Dylan Diggs.  Grubb is a former City of Frederick police officer and previously ran for county sheriff.

District 2 incumbent Republican Tony Chmelik will face competition in the primary.  I have interviewed Steven McKay numerous times and he is best known as president of Residents Against Landsdale Expansion (RALE). Cedric Cole is the third Republican in the race.

The lone Democratic candidate in district 2 is Lisa Jarosinski and she will face the winner of the Republican primary.

In District 3, a heavily Democratic voter registered district, incumbent Democrat M.C. Keegan-Ayer does not have any opposition and as a result will be elected on November 6 in the general election.

District 4 is another heavily Democratic voter registered district and will not have a primary.  Incumbent Democrat Jessica Fitzwater will face Republican Jimmy Trout in the November 6 general election.

District 5 is an open seat after incumbent Republican Kirby Delauter filed for county executive.  This heavily Republican voter registered district will have a Republican primary with Michael Blue facing William Valentine. 

The lone Democratic candidate is Shannon Boyrer.

The county executive race will see a heavily contested Republican primary.  Kirby Delauter, who is presently a council member from district 5, has made no secret of his distaste of Gardner and her policies.

However, before he will have the opportunity to face Gardner, he will have to beat two formidable Republican candidates in the June 26 primary.  Both Regina Williams and Kathy Afzali are well-known to Frederick County voters.

Afzali served as state delegate in district 4 after proving her strong campaign skills by upsetting sitting and popular Republican Paul Stull.

Williams served as budget officer for Frederick County government and settled a lawsuit with the county after being fired by Gardner.  Williams was dating Blaine Young who ran against Gardner for county executive, at the time of her firing.  Her mother Debbie is well connected in Frederick County.  She established and has run the Patty Pallatos Fund for years.  Originally started in memory of a close friend who died of cancer, this fund has helped countless families in Frederick County.

Look to see the Republican vote be split in the primary, resulting in a very close contest.  Although Delauter has had the bully pulpit to express his disdain for Gardner, it would not be surprising to see one of the women win the primary.

The Republican winner will face incumbent Democrat Jan Gardner who will not have a Democratic challenger in the primary.  Gardner has received mixed reviews as the first Frederick County executive, following the passage of charter government.

The decades long battle on how best to manage growth continues with many of the candidates for county executive and council.

If he submits the required signatures and even though he received the most votes of any council member in 2014, don’t look to see county council president Bud Otis be the first undeclared candidate elected in Frederick County.

In addition to the Republican county executive primary, one of the fiercest primary battles will be among Democrats in the at-large race.  It is too early to handicap this race.  However, Susan Reeder Jessee, a relentless campaigner who prides herself with getting along with all political factions, has an excellent chance of moving onto the general election.

It is no secret Clagett and Hagen are not on the same page when it comes to politics or how they view county executive Gardner and her policies. So it will be interesting to watch the dynamics here. Also, watch to see if Mark Long, a good man who probably should have run again in district 5, aligns himself with Hagen or tries to be his own man in the primary campaign.  As the newcomer in the contest, it will be fun to keep an eye on Duckett.

Look to see Dacey, who has proven his fundraising prowess, be the odds on favorite in the Republican at-large primary with Miller and Kiska battling for the second slot.

Another close primary will be in district 2 among Republican incumbent Tony Chmelik and challenger Steve McKay.  McKay has been aligned with Gardner on growth issues. As RALE president, he has shown he understands campaigning and working hard on issues he cares about.

In the Republican district 1 primary, look to see Kevin Grubb prevail over Dylan Diggs and face Democrat Jerry Donald in the general election.

It will also be interesting to see if the primary date of June 26 impacts voter turnout.   

Stay tuned.