For Frederick Mayor Jennifer P. Dougherty, the black-book scandal seemed to just keep giving.
Four years ago, the black book -- a collection of documents recovered from a convicted madam's prostitution ring -- became the centerpiece of a campaign to cleanse City Hall that swept Dougherty to victory as the city's first female mayor. This year, she raised the topic again in the waning days of the primary campaign, implying a link between the black book and her opponent that was, at best, based on hearsay.
But this time, the black book, which seemed to have given, hath taken away.
That was the verdict yesterday among people in both parties after former four-term mayor Ronald N. Young trounced Dougherty with 56.5 percent of the vote to her 43.5 percent in Tuesday's Democratic primary. Several saw the big turnout and the results as signs that the small, genteel town was weary of gladiatorial politics.
More evidence of the city's eagerness for change was the apparent upset that William J. "Jeff" Holtzinger scored over three-term Alderman Joseph W. Baldi in the Republican mayoral primary.
Holtzinger's lead took everyone, including Holtzinger himself, by surprise. A former city engineer who had never run for office, Holtzinger started late, was not even living in the city at the time he filed to run, and raised only $2,135 compared with Baldi's $33,496, according to Aug. 15 campaign finance filings.
"Everyone thought [Baldi] was a shoo-in," the Rev. Samie L. Conyers, who won a position on the Republican slate for alderman, said yesterday.
With only a 25-vote margin, the Baldi-Holtzinger race is too close to call until all absentee ballots are counted. Those are to be opened and tallied today.
As of 4 p.m., 109 GOP absentee ballots and 178 Democratic absentee votes remained to be counted, Stuart Harvey, election director for the Frederick County Board of Elections, said yesterday.
Turnout at the polls was relatively heavy: 24.5 percent of the city's registered Democrats and Republicans, compared with about 17 percent four years ago. Among Democrats, the percentage was higher, nearly 28.6 percent, compared with 18.5 percent for the GOP.
Baldi blamed the lower Republican turnout for Holtzinger's apparent upset. With media attention focused on the slugfest between Dougherty and Young, many Republicans assumed that Baldi would cruise to victory and didn't bother to vote.
"They got better press," Baldi said.
Since the last election, the Republican-led Board of Aldermen and the mayor frequently divided along gender and party lines, and the disputes became increasingly personal. One Republican alderman called Dougherty a "dictator." Another accused her of spitefully choosing layoffs to balance the budget to retaliate for a Republican-sponsored tax cut she opposed. Each side blamed the other. But by the time the primary campaign began, the notion of restoring civility to City Hall was what was on many voters' minds.
"I was ready to toss the entire Board of Aldermen out, because they wouldn't play nicely," Bill Lindeman, a Democrat, said outside the polls at the William R. Talley Recreation Center on Tuesday. "What else do you have to do in local politics? If you can't get along with people, you're dysfunctional."
Then came the final chapter in the black book: Dougherty's decision to link Young to the scandal in a speech two weeks ago seemed to clinch a perception that she was capable of sucker-punching an opponent.
Young was not in the black book, and he denied involvement. However, he acknowledged that an alleged prostitute mentioned his name to police in an interview. She said the madam had told her she would name Young -- who had been out of office nearly 10 years -- and other prominent people if she were raided.
"I really think it backfired," said Bryan Patchan, executive officer of the Frederick Builders Association. "It's an issue that the city wants to put behind us. It's a lot of noise about not too much."
Patchan was at the annual Democratic Party picnic Aug. 31 when Dougherty brought up the black book.
"When the mayor made that transition in her little stump speech there, I could sense her body language change as she moved into dangerous territory," Patchan said yesterday. "I cringed. And that was exactly the kind of personal matter that I thought we, the voters, don't want. We don't want any more personal attacks."
"It was in-your-face antagonistic, when it really didn't need to be," agreed Del. Galen R. Clagett (D), who voted for Young.
Dougherty, in interviews yesterday and at her restaurant after the election, disagreed that the black book cost her votes.
"I don't regret anything I did in the campaign," she said. What some characterized as abrasiveness, she said, could be seen as fighting hard for what she believes.
"I've done what I said I was going to do, I worked on the projects I said I was going to work on, and I feel good about that," she said yesterday. "I speak the truth, and if the truth hurts, there you have it."
Yet, even in her account of the election-night concession call to Young, she acknowledged that she does not suffer defeat easily.
"I said: 'Congratulations on your win today. Can I have my signs back?' " she said, referring to what she described as the theft of dozens of campaign signs.
Staff writer Nelson Hernandez contributed to this report.