The Running Game: The Mayoral Race in Frederick

Sep 3, 2013

Campaign literature and stickers for the mayoral and legislative races in the city of Frederick.
Credit Joel McCord / WYPR

Voters in Frederick will go to the polls next week to choose their parties’ candidates for mayor and alderman. And the mayoral race has gotten crowded.

Randy McClement, the incumbent Republican mayor has two opponents from within his own party, Jeff Holtzinger, the mayor he replaced, and Shelley Aloi, a first term alderwoman.

Meanwhile, Delegate Galen Clagett, a Democrat, is facing off against Karen Young, the wife of State Senator Ron Young, one of Clagett’s old friends and a political ally. Karen Young also is in her first term on the Board of Alderman.

Then there’s Carol Hirsch, a deaf Wal-Mart cashier who uses sign language interpreters at candidate forums.

Both of McClement’s primary opponents criticize the mayor for moving too slowly on different issues.

Aloi says he has created “a void in leadership” that others are “rushing to fill.”

Holtzinger says McClement has been “treading water” on important capital projects, roads and parks.

McClement counters that it’s all a matter of style; that he focuses on day to day municipal services rather than what he called “extracurricular activities.”

“You want to be able to get up every morning and turn your water on, you want your trash removed on a regular basis,” he says. “You want to be able to walk around our gorgeous town and feel safe.”

That’s the attitude that may keep him in office, says Cliff Cumber, the editorial page editor of the Frederick News Post. The city has had a string of mayors mired in controversy.

James Grimes allowed the shredding of the “black book” of a Frederick madam who claimed to have catered to the city’s political elite. Jennifer Daugherty feuded regularly with the Board of Aldermen, and Holtzinger’s effort to deal with the pension problem went awry.

McClement, by contrast, hasn’t done anything to anger anyone, Cumber says. So his opponents have been talking about dynamism and character and leadership.

“And the question is whether or not the voters really want that, or whether or not they just want to keep a sort of a fairly solid hand on the rudder and just keep steering the ship straight ahead.

The Democrats have two of the best known names in Frederick politics, Clagett and Young. Clagett served one term as a Frederick County Commissioner and is in his third term in the House of Delegates. Young’s husband, Ron, was the longest serving mayor of Frederick with four terms and she appears to have tapped into his campaign network.

She also has been a vocal critic of Mayor McClement during her time on the Board of Aldermen.

Clagett and McClement worked together to raise seed money for a multimillion dollar downtown hotel project and both are promising to see it completed. Clagett, who secured a state bond for the project, won’t criticize McClement directly, but says he’s “concerned about where the city’s going,’ and sees the race as “an opportunity for me to serve and do the things that I started as a delegate and follow through on.”

He says he bears no ill will toward his old ticket mate, Ron Young. Ron’s not running; his wife is.

Karen Young, however, bristles at the mention of Clagett, noting that he announced after she did. And she complained that he has been dismissive of her Columbia University MBA and business experience. In her opening statement at a recent candidates’ forum she said she was saddened “that after 36 years, after graduating from one of the most academically rigorous business training institutions in the United States, sometimes I have to build my case for my business experience because unfortunately women’s business experience has been dismissed or undermined.”

The primary is September 10. And waiting in the wings is former Mayor Daugherty, who feuded with the aldermen and with Karen Young over the management of a downtown performing arts center. She’s running as an independent.