Possible Frederick mayoral candidates sizing up political field

Mayor Randy McClement and possible political challengers are beginning to jockey toward the starting gate.

A year from Sept. 10, Frederick voters will sort out their candidates for the Board of Aldermen and the city’s chief executive in the primary. Rumor has it that more possible candidates are out there than will go on the record now.

McClement said in an email only that he is considering running again. That’s more than he said the last time he was asked, when he said it was too early to even think about as he focuses on governing.

McClement’s administration has worked to close budget deficits of $8 million or more, not raise the tax rate — lower it, make the government more accessible through technology and public involvement, and set long-range financial policy to address future funding liabilities.

“The (m)ayor and the Board of Aldermen’s core priorities are fiscal responsibility, expansion of the local tax base and job creation opportunities, and public safety,” Josh Russin, McClement’s executive assistant, said in an email.

“This has and continues to be the priority of the 60th administration and these policies will establish the vision for a 61st administration.”

Five other potential candidates, including two former mayors and a county commissioner, said it is too early to make plans. Jan. 2 marks the date candidates may start to file for the city election.

It is too far off for former Mayor Jeff Holtzinger to decide, he said in a telephone interview.

“I’m thinking about it.”

The Republican said he is a nuts-and-bolts guy, and that he did not run for a second term in 2009 because he had accomplished the goals he set for his administration.

“I did not foresee this,” Holtzinger said about running again, but the engineer and lawyer said the city has mistreated some of his clients.

He blamed no particular person, just a way of doing business. He is also concerned that too much of the capital budget may be spent on Carroll Creek Linear Park — “a great project” — at the expense of other worthy capital projects.

In the Democratic camp, one possible challenger is Alderwoman Karen Young, mayor pro tem. She is leaning more toward running for mayor than she was a few months ago, she said, but has not decided for sure — although her husband tells anyone who asks that she is running.

State Sen. Ron Young is her biggest cheerleader, she said, but she is asking around to gauge general support for her bid, and others are egging her on.

“The number that are approaching me are outnumbering the ones I reach out to,” she said.

Young said McClement’s priorities do not amount to a long-term vision.

“We have the potential to become a major regional employment center where the majority of our residents have the opportunity to work in challenging jobs where they live,” Young said in an email elaborating on her vision.

Expanding the city tax and employment base would return revenue for capital projects; she would like to involve the public in redevelopment of several city areas, and to encourage energy-efficient housing throughout.

Whoever is mayor should lead the aldermen and city beyond completion of day-to-day duties with a strategic vision, said former Mayor Jennifer Dougherty.

“You can’t defer everything to a task force,” she said, adding that public involvement is good.

Dougherty has not decided whether she will run for mayor, although some people are encouraging her. It will depend on whether she believes she can accomplish something specific.

“I like to get stuff done,” she said in an interview at her restaurant, Magoo’s Pub & Eatery.

Dougherty tried for a second term in 2005, but lost in the primary to Ron Young, whom Holtzinger defeated. She tried again in 2009 and lost to Jason Judd in the primary.

Police Chief Kim C. Dine maintains that he has no idea why rumors are spreading that he plans to run for the city’s highest elected office. Dougherty appointed Dine chief 10 years ago, and she remains one of his biggest fans, but she said she is also not the one circulating the rumor.

Alderwoman Shelley Aloi might also pose a challenge from within the Republican Party.

“That decision is not made,” Aloi said in a telephone interview.

Many people have asked her to consider running for mayor, she said.

“I’m considering that,” Aloi said. “I love serving the people. … I will serve the people in one form or another.”

Candidates saddled with baggage, unknowns

County Commissioner Billy Shreve’s first term will expire in 2014. Come November, after voters have decided whether to change to a charter form of government, he will make his decision about running for mayor, he said in a telephone interview.

If the charter is adopted, Shreve, a member of the Frederick County Republican Central Committee, said he will probably run for the newly created county executive position. He has also been thinking of running for mayor.

“I just don’t see the city of Frederick going in the right direction,” he said. “I think I could … make it more business-friendly.”

Holtzinger said if he runs, he expects to address charges that the city lost money on an early retirement buyout that 67 city employees took during his administration. He still defends the idea of the buyout, but his original plan to shed a few higher-paid staff in exchange for lower-paid new hires is not how it worked out.

What resulted did not generate the $250,000 annual savings and relied on millions of dollars up front from retirement plans that are underfunded.

Dougherty, who ran for Congress against Rep. Roscoe Bartlett in 2008, said some Democrats will probably not support her as a pro-business restaurant owner, and some Republicans just don’t like Democrats. She does not suspect that an ideal mayoral candidate is waiting “in the shadows or in the sunlight.”

“There is no perfect candidate,” Dougherty said. “Who’s going to come out of the woodwork that I don’t know about?”

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