An article in the Sept. 8 Montgomery Extra incorrectly reported that Frederick Mayor Jennifer P. Dougherty was elected last November. She was elected in November 2001. The article also misidentified the former occupation of Ronald N. Young, Dougherty's Democratic challenger in Frederick's primary election. Young served as deputy secretary and acting secretary of the Maryland Department of Planning, as well as deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. (Published 9/15/2005)
For the past few weeks, campaign signs have been popping up in front yards, on car bumpers and in shop windows. Pollsters' telephone calls have interrupted evening meals, mailboxes have been spilling over with political brochures and candidates have been pounding sidewalks and rapping on doors.
And this is just the primary election in the city of Frederick.
With the mayor's office and all five seats on the Board of Aldermen up for grabs, a large field of Democratic and Republican candidates has entered Tuesday's primary. The field includes five contestants for mayor.
And 15 major-party candidates -- seven Democrats and eight Republicans -- are seeking slots on the ballot in November to become aldermen. They include experienced politicians and several newcomers, including a minister and a bagel shop owner, two schoolteachers and a retired police officer.
Their race unfolds in a city preoccupied with finding a balance between growth and the burdens that it can bring, and with restoring a sense of camaraderie to City Hall.
"You could take almost every candidate, and they're talking about the same things," said Thomas G. Slater, a lawyer who has stepped down as chair of the Frederick County Democratic Central Committee to run for alderman.
The city's current population of about 59,000 is the result of a one-third increase during the 1990s, which included many newcomers seeking affordable housing or trying to escape the inner-suburban ills of the region. This has transformed the former industrial hub of a rural county into an exurb increasingly known for its restaurants, art galleries and locally owned shops.
Frederick County's property tax assessments, including the city of Frederick's, rose 18.7 percent in 2004, compared with the previous year, according to the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation, which does not break out municipalities when giving assessment data. Jon Angel, the city's budget director, estimated that the value of properties in the city rose about 20 percent. However, the county has a 10 percent cap on the taxable amount of rising assessments, and the Board of Aldermen has further voted to cap the taxable amount on rising assessments at 5 percent, thereby limiting the impact of the increases.
Businesses, too have felt the pinch, with some complaining about higher parking rates. Others worry about rising rents in downtown Frederick.
"They're trying to gear the city more for the ones that's coming from Montgomery County, and they're forgetting about the ones who are already here," said William L. Bowie, who operates a taxi company in the city but does not live there. "Everything that they're doing, it's all about money."
For a place that still cultivates its small-town charms, the past four years have provided Frederick with a bruising experience in big-city politics. The city's government -- split along gender and party lines -- seemed only to have grown more divided since the last election.
And almost everything became personal. Name-calling -- and even an extraordinary shouting match between some aldermen and members of the public during a recent meeting this spring -- has not cast the city in a favorable light.
"I know a lot of the candidates are harping on civility at City Hall. It takes six to tango, but I think it's fair to expect the legislators to improve on the combative relationship this board has had with this mayor," said Dino Flores Jr., a member of the Republican Central Committee. "But I think people will vote their pocketbooks before they'll vote on whether their political leaders will get along."
What has perhaps made the campaign an even more wide-open affair than usual is that only two incumbents on the Board of Aldermen -- Marcia A. Hall and Donna K. Ramsburg, both Democrats -- are seeking reelection, and both are expected to prevail. Two Republican aldermen -- William G. Hall, who is the board's only black member, and David G. Lenhart, who has moved out of the city -- chose not to run again, while a third, Joseph W. Baldi, is running for mayor in the GOP primary.
In a city where Democrats hold an edge in voter registration, however, attention has been riveted on the struggle between incumbent Mayor Jennifer P. Dougherty and former four-term mayor Ronald N. Young, both Democrats.
Both are well-known in the city, and both have made history. Young became the youngest mayor in Frederick's history when voters first sent him to City Hall at age 34 in 1974. Dougherty became the city's first female chief executive after defeating former mayor James S. Grimes in November 2004.
Dougherty, 44, owns a restaurant and an Irish boutique in the city.
Dougherty has built her campaign on her administration's work kick-starting development along Carroll Creek, revitalizing business on Route 40, the so-called Golden Mile, and guiding the city through the 2001-02 drought and building moratorium. She also touts her administration's efforts to hire more police officers, improve ties between the police department and the public and cultivate broader participation in civic life through the creation of Neighborhood Advisory Councils.
Defending tough new measures intended to link new buildings to available infrastructure, Dougherty has accused her predecessors, including Young, of willy-nilly planning and being pushovers for developers. She has also argued that her administration has tried to keep up desired services while limiting the impact of higher costs on residents. For example, higher fees have shifted some of the burden to developers.
Young, 64, a former four-term mayor of Frederick, is the part-time administrator in the town of Indian Head in Charles County. He also has served in state government where, as deputy secretary and then acting secretary in the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, he helped promote former governor Parris Glendening's Smart Growth initiatives.
He has portrayed the mayor as a micro-managing generalissimo in City Hall. Her severe style, he said, has inflamed relations with other political leaders in the city and beyond, prompted talented employees to quit and alienated the public. Young also has accused her of spending and taxing too much. Young says that the mayor believes she is always right and that this stance has caused her to go to court too often, driving up the city's legal fees.
Democrats predict a tight mayoral race. Although money is not as key in local races as in state or national elections, Young has raised more than 2 1/2 times as much money as Dougherty, according to Aug. 15 campaign finance reports. (The reports are available on the city's Web site at www.cityoffrederick.com/election/index.htm.)
The mayoral race already has been quirkier than most, too, thanks to a federal judge's ruling that struck down the city charter's three-year residency requirement for mayoral candidates, thereby temporarily opening the field to nonresidents who wished to enter the race.
Through that opening rushed two GOP candidates who lived outside city limits. One is William Jefferson "Jeff" Holtzinger, 41, who grew up just outside the city on farmland, worked for the city as an engineer and recently moved to a rented home within its boundaries. The other is Stanley C. Mazaleski, 71, a former Environmental Protection Agency scientist who lives in Emmitsburg and said he plans to move to the city if he wins.
Though the Republican establishment appears to have gathered behind Baldi -- and has treated Mazaleski as a curiosity -- several members of the party have been impressed with Holtzinger's first try at elective office, said Del. Richard B. Weldon Jr., a former city official who lives outside the city but is pulling for Baldi.
The Gazette, a local newspaper, surprised some party stalwarts by endorsing Holtzinger. The weekly -- which is owned by The Washington Post Co. but whose news and editorial departments are separate from The Post's -- also endorsed Young.
As for the alderman candidates, most have worked to stand out by old-fashioned politics -- knocking on doors and by calling in friends and associates.
"I think name recognition is going to play a huge role in the alderman race, no matter how you slice it," Flores said.