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A Year in Advance, Mayoral Competition

Possible Challengers Take Aim at Dougherty's Style

By Fredrick Kunkle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 31, 2004; Page C05

With just 366 days to go until Election Day, the intrigue, political feuding and behind-the-scenes maneuvering in the city of Frederick are intensifying.

Oh, sure, there's this Bush vs. Kerry thing Tuesday.


Frederick Mayor Jennifer P. Dougherty, the city's first female mayor, could be facing competition from several sources, including Alderman Joseph W. Baldi, above right, and former four-term mayor Ronald N. Young, who is now town manager for Indian Head in Charles County. (Photos Ricky Carioti -- The Washington Post)

But people in Frederick, or at least the political set, already are fixating on next year's mayoral election involving Mayor Jennifer P. Dougherty, the city's first female mayor. And the line of possible challengers from both parties -- inspired mainly by the iron-handed style that has earned Dougherty admirers and foes -- is growing.

On the Republican side, Alderman Joseph W. Baldi, who has practically trademarked his bow tie and a genial, "aw-shucks" approach to governing, has all but made his candidacy official in recent weeks. But even admirers who contrast his style with Dougherty's suggest that Baldi also can appear indecisive. He sounded, however, as if he had made up his mind about running, even if he has not filed.

"I'm the only person I know that's really serious about putting together a group and trying to do it," he said last week.

Among the Democrats, the possible roster is longer. Former four-term mayor Ronald N. Young, who assumed the office in 1973 when he was 32, acknowledged that he is seriously considering running.

Del. Galen R. Clagett (D-Frederick) and Alan E. Imhoff, a former vice chairman of the Planning Commission who has thrice run for city office without success, also have sent out feelers. Also rumored to be interested is James S. Grimes, whom Dougherty ousted from office.

Standing in the wings, meanwhile, is Alderman William G. Hall, who has had frequent dust-ups with the mayor, including a tempestuous meeting at which he called her a "dictator." Likewise, Michael L. Cady, vice president of the Frederick Board of County Commissioners, has adopted a wait-and-see approach. Alderman David G. Lenhart, Dougherty's chief foe and long considered a possible rival for the office, is said by members of both parties to be thinking about state office.

"I think there is an element in Frederick that would love to see Mayor Dougherty defeated next year," said Thomas G. Slater, chairman of the Frederick County Democratic Central Committee. Slater dismissed the Republicans as plotters from the ousted Grimes faction.

As for the Democrats, Slater, saying he must remain neutral as party head, also acknowledged that Dougherty can be seen either as someone hard to work with or "a tough broad who gets things done."

Said his Republican counterpart, Chuck Jenkins: "My read is, there's going to be an attempt by both parties to get her out of there. I think it's because of the way she conducts business in City Hall."

Some say the keen interest in next year's mayoralty campaign right now is a symptom of the political fever gripping the country over the campaign between President Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.). Others say the city's political jockeying is nothing unusual at least 18 months before an election.

Dougherty, in a telephone interview, dismissed the political maneuvering as part of the "silly season" before a big election. She also embraced her reputation as a battler, saying she has no regrets fighting for what she believes.

"Is it combative to speak up when things are wrong?" she asked, citing her efforts to force the Army's Fort Detrick to clean up long-buried toxins on the Frederick base. "My style is demanding. There's no question about that. I'm proud of that."


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