Frederick voters rejected Mayor Jennifer Dougherty, the city's first female mayor, in a primary yesterday, handing the Democratic nomination instead to a former mayor with a long history in city politics.
Ronald N. Young, who served four terms as mayor, received 56.5 percent of the votes cast with all 12 precincts reporting last night.
"I had a really great number of old friends and supporters who wanted what they used to have here in the city," Young, 64, said last night. "There were just a lot of people who were dissatisfied."
Republicans appeared to favor newcomer William J. Holtzinger by the narrowest of margins over Alderman Joseph W. Baldi to represent the GOP in the November mayoral election. Both parties also chose a slate of candidates for the Board of Aldermen.
Holtzinger, 41, who was leading by 25 votes, must await the opening of absentee ballots before his victory is assured. "I guess people want change," he said, acknowledging an uphill campaign ahead.
Neither Young nor Holtzinger could have run for mayor if not for a judge's decision to strike down the city's strict three-year residency requirement for candidates.
"It sure seems like a strange result," Dougherty noted last night.
Two issues have dominated the race for mayor: growth and good manners.
Like other exurbs, Frederick faces more traffic, more demands for city services and higher taxes and fees that arrived with an influx of people that increased its population to an estimated 57,000. A drought forced the city to declare a temporary building moratorium, and its effects are still being felt.
Dougherty, 44, who won election in November 2001, championed her handling of the drought, including the creation of a stringent ordinance for allocating water. She also said her use of tax credits reinvigorated business along Route 40 west of Frederick.
"I voted for Jennifer just because I liked what's been happening in the city the past few years," said Adam McWilliams, 28, a Peace Corps worker. "Downtown just feels more vibrant."
But both Republicans and Democrats said the past year or so marked a low point in civil discourse, with debate on the Board of Aldermen often polarized along party and gender lines.
Some Democratic voters blamed the mayor for the discord.
"I do believe there's a kind of abrasive edge to this administration," said Suzanne Beal, 58, a teacher at Frederick Community College. "I ended up voting for Ron. But I ended up flipping a coin at the end. I think they both have strengths, but they both have baggage."
Last night, Dougherty defended her leadership style but said "the carping about personality versus talking about the issues" played a role in her defeat.
"Maybe people don't like honesty and correctness out of their politicians," she said to reporters. "Maybe they like things to be sugar-coated. I like the truth."
Young said the mayor's demeanor drove talent from her administration, deepened conflicts with the board and disturbed the public. He also said she has spent too much and driven up taxes. "Civility isn't like a debatable issue," he said last night. "The people were tired of the contention and the fighting, and they wanted rid of that."
Young, who was credited with seeing the city through a devastating flood in the 1970s, argued that he left the city in good shape and that his extensive public experience could best guide its future. He said his administration shaped the flood-control and redevelopment plan that is blooming along Carroll Creek.
Young became the youngest mayor in Frederick's history when he was elected in 1973 at age 33. Young is the part-time town manager in Indian Head in Charles County. He has also served in positions of state government.
Dougherty, who owns two businesses in town, was a relative newcomer to politics when she took office. In a three-way Democratic mayoral primary in 2001, Dougherty overcame her closest rival by 26 votes.
This primary race began taking shape about a year ago when Young and Baldi hinted at their interest in running.
At first, Young -- who moved to a home just outside the city for several years before moving back recently -- appeared blocked from entering by the residency requirement in the city's charter. When Republican aldermen failed to alter the provision, Young filed suit. A federal judge struck down the charter provision.
Before the board had a chance to set a new, one-year residency requirement, two Republicans -- Holtzinger, who lived just beyond city limits, and Stanley C. Mazaleski, 71, who lives in Emmitsburg -- also filed to run for mayor.
Baldi, who had voted to amend the residency requirement, suddenly had primary competition.
Holtzinger, known as Jeff, argued that his experience as a former city engineer would allow him to ensure that the city's streets, roads and sewers kept pace with growth.
Holtzinger, who first alerted elected officials to the city's water problems, accused Dougherty of having "politicized" nuts-and-bolts issues in City Hall.