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The Tentacle


July 18, 2007

Three-Time Loser: Part II

Roy Meachum

Accompanied by her palm-weaving claque singing hosannas, Jennifer Dougherty ascended to the ante-bellum (barely) former courthouse and proceeded to act as if she had been - like many third world leaders claim - elected for life. That was January, 2002.

At some point over the ensuring four years, she managed to offend every segment of Frederick's demographic whole. Nor did her father help.

Presumably without consultation with his daughter, Mr. Dougherty became infamous for phone calls that attempted to rake her critics over red-hot coals. This naturally generated resentment against the first female mayor in Frederick history, especially by those who thought she should talk for herself.

How much help came from the neo-feminist element of the city's voters, nobody knows for sure. In any event, what was referred to as Dougherty's hit squad showed up at city meetings and sought absolute control - with the mayor's smiling help, I am assured. Their leader was, ironically, the wife of the man who triumphed in the first political contest she essayed, Paul Gordon.

Incredibly political bloopers on her part, as the incumbent, evoked judicial decisions that led directly to qualifying Ron Young, who won out in the Democratic primary, and Republican Jeff Holtzinger, the current mayor.

Ms. Dougherty flatly goofed; had she stayed still and with her mouth shut, Mr. Holtzinger, who was born locally and lived in Frederick County all his life, would not have been eligible for the 2005 race. Thanks to her, he won a city election he could not enter now.

Despite frantic gymnastics to establish barriers against her facing the once-popular mayor, Ron Young's name was on the primary ballot. Citing the charter's residency requirements, Ms. Dougherty pushed hard to deny Mr. Young's candidacy. He appealed to federal court which said he was right: the charter's demand for long-time residence in the city was exclusionary and contrary to the Constitution.

Her shenanigans brought into the 2005 mayoral election process both Democratic primary winner Young and Republican Holtzinger who walked away with the golden ring and the impressive office in the old Court House. She literally beat herself.

Both her father and brother are practicing attorneys. You would think either or both would caution her on pursuing both those cases. They might have; and now, knowing well the daughter/sister's persona, she could have easily rejected them and their opinions both. She never let anyone tell her what to do.

Word filtering along Frederick's political rialto this past weekend said she had found a buyer for her self-named restaurant. Mick Strine and wife Janney Marshall have had very successful real estate careers. His son is, according to stories, a very fine chef. We might just have the opportunity to judge for ourselves.

We are told lease negotiations are hot and heavy between Mr. Strine and Carl Benna, who owns the former Manyunk Restaurant building. Since her family did not buy the building, the question arises how much Ms. Dougherty will have remaining to sock into her political ambition? I would not presume to forecast but can speculate not much, unless stories about the restaurant's debts are very much exaggerated. We'll see.

In any event, leading her claque against Mayor Holtzinger may be premature - and self-defeating. Having been rejected by a majority of Democrats in the last election, Ms. Dougherty grabbing her party's nomination in 2009 is no shoo-in; possibly more distant than 2005.

It was an ill-concealed "secret" that the dumped mayor and her claque worked hard to give City Hall over to Republican Holtzinger. Key Democratic leaders bitterly remember. Aldermen Marcia Hall and Donna Kuzemchak do not count; they worked their tongues off to get her re-elected the last time around.

It's easy to rationalize the Good Ol' Boys bullied GOB Young through the primary; easy but not really true. She beat herself another way by running a City Hall that threatened daily to explode. Her continuing battles with Republicans Bill Hall and Dave Lenhart had no end. Can anyone truly assert the men bore all the blame?

When Mr. Lenhart and Mr. Hall talked about compromise, she would have none of it: back to "my way or the highway." At any rate, the single term living with Mayor Dougherty drove both senior Frederick politicians into retirement. Mr. Lenhart moved to Georgia.

Mr. Hall literally dances away, I've seen him, and with palms out when friends broach the subject of running again, which is not unreasonable. In the 2001 elections he took the most votes, greater than Ms. Dougherty's count.

Caveats be damned! Shuffling off advice contributed to her status as a three-time loser: two mayoral races and one try for the Frederick County Board of Commissioners.

As pointed out earlier in this two-part series, Ms. Dougherty's single victory came to pass because of lollapalooza mistakes in his campaign and indecisiveness by then-mayor Jim Grimes. In essence, from my view, she got a free ride into City Hall, which she promptly began wrecking.

For those who may not know, let me confess: While I supported her first run for mayor in 1989, I did not want her to succeed in 2001, because I understood better the dark dimensions she - and her family - brought to Frederick's government and life. The dark dimensions that made her a three-time loser.



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