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The Tentacle


September 30, 2005

Not the Same "In the Street"

Roy Meachum

The first "In the Street" was only that: A blissful celebration of downtown' s transformation from a place of deep rutted curbs and overhead spider utility lines to the graceful city you know today.

On that October morning, 22 years ago, modern Frederick's chief architect, Ron Young, led a stroll down North Market Street from the Seventh Street fountain. I was among a ragtag, bobtail assortment that trailed along to the Square Corner. That was it.

The booths, the bands, the beer and the mobs came later.

The irony this year can be found in the presence of the same Ron Young, looking only slightly older, flashing his warm smile, chuckling and grabbing offered hands, as he did the festival's first seven years.

What makes this year's "In the Street" different is Mr. Young's presence as a City Hall wannabe: not incidentally the City Hall that he took over from the county when the courthouse moved to West Patrick Street.

Writing history by being the first, at least in modern times, to unseat an incumbent mayor in the primaries, the once fresh faced youth of local politics plunges into the last month before the November first general election as the odds-on favorite.

Some Republicans disagree. They cite nominee Jeff Holtzinger's upset primary victory over favorite Joe Baldi as argument that momentum lies with their party. Furthermore, to enhance Bob Ehrlich's reelection chances in next year 's gubernatorial contest, the state GOP has promised funding for the local race. Mr. Holtzinger will need it.

Because everyone (the French say: all the world), including me, believed the former city engineer and practicing attorney would be going quietly back to his law practice two weeks ago, no campaign machinery existed to make the push toward November.

Yard signs and tee-shirts, the staples of every modern political scene, simply didn't exist. Volunteers to distribute brochures and put up posters, they were nowhere in sight. While his treasury possessed something more than a single, scraggly butterfly, his dollars and coins barely rubbed on one another.

On that point, Mr. Baldi should do the right thing and pass along the funding he received, primarily to unseat the incumbent mayor. I simply cannot believe, knowing the man, Joe will take a selfish attitude and squirrel away the donations for some political contest down the line. The GOP future in Frederick is now! To borrow a phrase.

By contrast, Mr. Young enjoys a smooth-running machine that worked out the kinks on the way to the primary's 57 percent deluge. His believers came together with firm conviction the incumbent's first four years were quite enough; only 43 percent of the voters disagreed.

There is simply no way to ascertain how much of his 2218-1690 runaway triumph can be attributed to Democrats who love him or to those who detested her. Similarly, I have old friends with such bitter memories of the ex-mayor 's final term that they supported his opponent in the primary.

Precisely because the electorate stacks up as so fluid, nobody should bet the farm on either candidate. More so than any of the previous six Frederick elections I have professionally observed, this might very well prove a full-fledged doozy, to a large part because the electorate is so fluid.

Following their defeated candidate's example, the incumbent's loyalists figure to vote resoundingly against the man who defeated her. To a lesser degree, Republicans who adopted Mr. Baldi as their champion may choose to stay away, in disappointment, on All Saints Day and that would give a boost to the Democratic standard bearer.

Added to the relative chaos are the GOP stalwarts who participated in the agitated chorus urging the former mayor to run one more time. In some cases, they stacked their money behind their urging. The same group can be expected to put up more.

Since the group includes long-time acquaintances, let me try to describe their attitude. They have nothing against Mr. Holtzinger; indeed they tend to admire him for his talents, skills and hands-on experience. But they know Mr. Young will not hit them with surprises that might hurt their wallets.

While their numbers are not large, their influence is. Their ranks constitute a considerable chunk of the community's fraternity commonly known as "movers and shakers." Republican to a fault, most will almost certainly slip checks to the GOP nominee. The figures figure to be less, however, than their donations to the Democratic campaign purse.

Uncounted and patently un-countable are the city's 5,500 names of men and women who refused to designate a party of their choice. Turn out makes them so unpredictable. But even a minority showing up at the poll has made the difference.

Some 32.5 percent of the major party registrants stepped to the board's computers the last time (2001), only 18.6 percent of the so-called independents bothered. At that rate, their numbers will reach over 1,000 and that, my dears, is enough to make hay in City Hall.

While the Young camp has been working the electorate vineyard, Mr. Holtzinger's forces were still operating, the last time I looked, at a tentative pace, which militates in the Democrats' favor. For those of us who favor a good political donnybrook, the Republicans must get their act together and fast!

After all, this year's municipal elections will be done and over exactly one month from tomorrow when the event that started with a quiet stroll down North Market roars back to life "In the Street."



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