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Handicapping the Frederick County Executive and Council Races. Who may win and why?

Forget about placing bets on the candidate races in Frederick County’s first charter government election, this will be a close one for many … so get out and vote!

Handicapping the Frederick County Executive and Council RacesNow, I don’t know much about horseracing or bookmaking, but I like the word “handicapping.” In sports it is a method used to offset certain advantages one competitor may have over another in order to equalize chances of winning.

Clearly, I never would have made it as a bookmaker or as one who placed bets on the horses, dogs or at the gaming tables. But I do enjoy the heat of political campaigns at all levels of government.  To that end, I guess you could call me a junkie who loves observing the strategies and tactics that candidates incorporate in their quest to gain a majority of votes.

Local elections have been particularly fun for me over the last 36 years.  Not only am I able to read what they and the public has to say about them, it is easy to engage in one on one conversations with them.

By now most voters who plan to go to the poles know that on November 4th Frederick County will be bidding farewell to the commissioner form of government by electing candidates under a charter format.

Rather than have one race with 10 candidates seeking 5 posts in Winchester Hall, now there are 7 different races in the works with 16 Frederick Countians vying for now eight positions.

There are so many factors that impact one’s ability to gain victory.  Consider such things as name recognition (favorable and unfavorable), party affiliation, coverage by the media, ability to raise campaign funds and then how that money is spent.

In addition a regional or national mood of the electorate can also play a big part how the local lever is pulled.

All of the above can have a significant impact on the outcome of race; but if all of the above were swept away, each candidate is left two core things that are in essence the keys to victory in any political campaign.

What are they, you ask?

Simply put a message that resonates with the voters and the number of voters a candidate is willing to personally engage with in conversation.

For many this statement is no secret at all, but it is always fascinating to this observer how few candidates actually are willing to devote their efforts to these two very simple tasks.

It may come as a surprise to those of us who pay even slightly close attention to local political races, but the fact is that a vast majority of the 140,000 plus registered voters in Frederick County actually have very little knowledge or interest in the goings on within county government.  Of those who go to the polls, many are inspired by other ballot issues, such as a collective national or state moods toward other election battles.  Often this means that many just cast votes based upon their party afflitiation.

One local candidate, who has knocked on thousands of doors in this campaign told me that of the people that this person has spoken to, only about 30% are paying enough attention to have an opinion on the issues and those vying for an elected office!

Very sad, but likely very true.

With that stated, I believe that all seven of the races of County Council and the one for County Executive have been up in the air for many months … in other words every candidate has had a strong chance at victory at some point in their campaign.  Unfortunately for some that may have only been the first day that they filed to run for office.

So, putting aside the issues and the opining on the individual candidate’s positions, here’s my take on how things are shaping up for the sixteen hopefuls:

County Council At-Large – Countywide

Bud Otis (Republican), Billy Shreve (Republican), Linda Marie Norris (Democrat) and Susan Reeder Jessee (Democrat)

Out of this race, two winners will arise. Thought by many to be a testing ground for future county executive hopefuls, the victors here may very well have a leg up on competition down the road.  Thus far it appears that Bud Otis could very well be the top vote getter.

Right behind him is a hard working Linda Norris, who has started to take her gloves off lately.  Even odds with her is Billy Shreve, who has been taking some heat of late, but does not seem phased.

Susan Jesse is somewhat of a late comer to hard campaigning, but if anything she has earned good experience on the trail and from father and former county commissioner Bruce Reeder.

Best bet is that the real contest is between Norris and Shreve for the second slot in this race.

County Council District 1 – Adamstown/Middletown

Ellen Bartlett (Republican) versus Jerry Donald (Democrat)

The spouse of former longtime conservative Congressman Roscoe Bartlett may very well ride into office on the strength of the family name alone.  I give her a surprisingly wide margin over her opponent.

County Council District 2 – Urbana/Libertytown

Tony Chmelik (Republican) versus Annette Breiling (Democrat)

Chmelik has put forth a lot of effort and is campaigning hard as he has spoken to voters of all persuasions. Breiling is a very nice lady. Expect a Republican victory by a comfortable margin.

County Council District 3 – City of Frederick Westside

Denny Shafer (Republican) versus M.C Keegan-Ayer (Democrat)

There is a strong wind behind M.C.’s sails. Schafer needs a lot of effort (and even more luck) to pull off a victory in this race.

County Council District 4 – Eastern City of Frederick/Mt Pleasant

Bob Lawrence (Republican) versus Jessica Fitzwater (Democrat)

Both of these candidates are knocking on doors and spreading the word.  In the last 30 days it’s a question of stamina and the ability to resonate. Right now it appears Jessica has a slight edge.

County Council District 5 – Walkersville/Thurmont/Myersville

Kirby Delauter (Republican) versus Mark Long (Democrat)

It appears that Delauter has a slight edge in this race, but Mark is far from a long shot.  Who will press harder down the home stretch?

County Executive – Countywide

Blaine Young (Republican) versus Jan Gardner (Democrat)

With the early declaration of Jan Gardner for this office and no competition in the primary race, she was anointed early by some as having the power to walk on cake to a November victory. Young on the other had made his intentions known near the deadline and caught significant heat for a myriad of allegations.

Of course this is the battle that is dominating the media and general talk on the street.  With several public debates and multitude of written words for and against each candidate, it appears that Blaine is now neck and neck with Jan.

Victory in this challenge will come down to one and only one thing:  The number of people that have shaken the hand of the candidates.  Based upon this political junkie’s sixth sense, I give a very slight edge to Young.

So that’s my take, what do you think?

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The author: Rocky Mackintosh, President, MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. He has been an active member of the Frederick, Maryland community for over four decades. He has served as chairman of the board of Frederick Memorial Hospital and as a member of the Frederick County Charter Board from 2010 to 2012, to name a few.

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