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The Tentacle


August 4, 2006

What campaign?

Roy Meachum

It happens every four years. Summer's dog days arrive but the political campaigns don't. Somewhere I know candidates are chewing nails - and chewing out each other. But not around here.

Admittedly, my block of North Market Street offers slim pickings for the glad-handers and door-knockers. Mine is the only private residence between here and The Square Corner. But the Democratic headquarters sits on the opposite curb. You'd think somebody from over there would at least slip a brochure through the mail slot over here.

Nope. Not yet.

Things were livelier last year when the Ron Young for Mayor headquarters was several doors away. Pushkin daily passed the plate glass windows (now housing Piper Dan's Keltic Shop). Co-campaign manager Dick Zimmerman frequently had a good word. His co-equal Gladden O'Neil showered me with lovely smiles. (Dick also put a Ron Young sticker on a front window but had the decency to scrape it off.)

Signs have blossomed around the community, as usual. Also usual was the story in yesterday's News-Post about incumbent Commissioner Mike Cady whose placards have been taken or disfigured. He's offering $500 for the conviction of the culprits. Good luck, Mike.

To the best of my knowledge, none of that ilk has ever been caught, and my knowledge goes back exactly 20 years. My first local election was in 1984, shortly before my gadfly's career was launched. The columns began that Thanksgiving Friday. Two years later I was up to my neck in watching the campaigns flying by and made my first wrong "prediction."

Actually I never get into that journalistic sucker's game; I say who looks best for a particular office and let it go at that. It is very true, of course, on occasion I lend my voice to the process by pointing out a candidate's flaws, but only when I think his or her election would do the community no good.

In the event, 1986 was a helluva year to break in an act for local politics. Based on his obvious intelligence, charm and pragmatism, I thought commissioners President Galen Clagett was a shoo-in to move onto the House of Delegates. So did delegation chair James E. McClellan, who once expressed fear about the potential havoc that might come with Mr. Clagett's presence in Annapolis.

"Doc" McClellan never had to face that. The semi-retired veterinarian torpedoed his rival's chances by resorting to silver-bullet ballots: voters chose a single candidate and stopped there, instead of designating their second choice. The man who had been arguably the most influential politician on the local scene wound up sitting home. Nice guy but political nonentity Royd Smith sat in the General Assembly, instead.

Along Frederick's byways, word spread that Mr. Clagett had compromised his effort by putting out too many signs and too early. For a while, as these things go, other politicians were reluctant to repeat that "mistake."

But signs do not a campaign make, particularly around Frederick. That's said as if this were still a tight society, easily offended by anyone who appears an outsider. Failure to knock on doors once aroused suspicion; about what I was never sure: Maybe snobbishness, maybe too much self-confidence, maybe simply disinterest. Who knows?

Candidates inevitably boast about how many porches they've stood on and how many hands they've clutched. Nobody mentions that old political cliché: Kissing babies. I suppose it's there. In any event, with the primaries coming up in less than six weeks, which gives campaigns virtually another seven days after Labor Day to make their case, I would have expected more activity. It's not here.

Anybody out and around this week asking for votes would have probably been rated as not-quite-bright. Pushkin and I have spent the torrid afternoons indoors, of course. On the other hand, the English pointer is neither running for office nor managing a campaign on my behalf.

By the way, a postcard from the elections office notified my voting place has been changed again. For the fourth time. It was so much more agreeable when we simply sidled over to the Armory. But the house sits on the wrong side of Market. We'll be wandering around Sept. 12, looking for where the action is.

Pushkin and I hope you will be too.



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