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The Tentacle


August 19, 2002

What's For Dinner, Ma? Pride and Ideology, My Son!

John W. Ashbury

There is an old saw - well, maybe not so old - that Republicans eat their young whenever an election rolls around.

That certainly seems to be happening in Frederick County this year. Governor Parris N. Glendening did his part with his redistricting plan when he put four Republican incumbents in the same House of Delegates district (4-A). Then the Court of Appeals failed to make any changes in that area.

Fortunately, Delegate David Brinkley reduced the number by challenging State Senator Tim Ferguson for his seat. It's not unheard of for incumbents of the same party to challenge each other, but the governor and the court decided that they would add a helping hand to reduce the number of Republicans in the General Assembly.

If you ask anyone in the know in Annapolis, or even those who have close connections in the state capital, you will be told that neither of our senators - Mr. Ferguson nor Sen. Alex K. Mooney - are very effective members of the Senate where Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly six to one.

But Republican Senator Eddie Thomas was a very effective senator from Frederick County for many, many years, and probably would still be had he not succumbed to cancer 20 years ago.

Say what you will about Jack Derr, but he joined a potent group of Democrats when he replaced Mr. Thomas in 1983. Charles Smelser, his colleague from Frederick County in the Senate, and "Doc" McClellan in the House of Delegates, were in control and were powerful members of our General Assembly. And Mr. Derr did nothing to detract from the efforts of either to be "leaders" who had the respect and admiration of their colleagues.

"Doc" and Charlie led by example. They had to deal with upstart freshmen from Frederick County. But they prevailed and got the job done for us - the citizens.

However, we live today in different times. Republicans now enjoy a more than 15,000 lead in voter registration in the county. Democrats used to have a similar advantage, but the party here has swung to the left, leaving the conservative Democrats little choice but to support Republicans all too frequently. Look at the list of Democrats seeking office in the county this fall. You will be able to count the number of conservatives on the fingers of one hand - without using your thumb.

The race for the senate in District 4 has gotten ugly and nasty. Only Mr. Brinkley has, so far, stayed above the fray publicly. David Gray, angry that Mr. Brinkley sponsored a bill in the House this year that would have allowed a petition drive to take zoning issues to referendum, joined the race against Mr. Ferguson at the last minute, filing on July 8.

Mr. Gray has little chance of being elected. He has been anathema to his Republican supporters. He has acted more like a Democrat than the Democrats he has served with on the Board of County Commissioners. He has voted for every tax and fee increase that has come before the three boards on which he has served - including that infamous 24-cent property tax increase just two years ago.

He has been opposed to any type of growth, with little or no consideration of the consequences of his position. Few realize that all the fee increases, particularly the impact fee hikes, have led the current administration, which he heads, to issue more building permits than either those of Mark Hoke or Ron Sundergill. This is what one current commissioner calls a dramatic "unintended consequence."

There have been stories in each of the last eight years of the antics of Mr. Ferguson. He is such an ideologue on certain issues, like gun control and abortion, that compromise isn't part of his vocabulary, even though "compromise" is the law in politics.

And when he finally did compromise on the 2001 gun safety measure proposed by the governor, he angered the proponents of the U. S. Constitution's Second Amendment. It has gotten so bad at this point in time that leaders of the National Rifle Association are currently refusing to talk about Mr. Ferguson on any issue, must less the one closest to their hearts.

Mr. Ferguson has also targeted a fellow Republican who isn't even his opponent in the September 10 primary. He is so angered by the fact that Delegate Louise Snodgrass had the timidity to disagree with him on several issues that he is including her in his ads, which seem a pitiful attempt at political humor.

And then there are those who believe that Mr. Ferguson is including Mrs. Snodgrass in the ads in an effort to help Delegate Joe Bartlett, his friend and perhaps the only member of the delegation that Mr. Ferguson thinks he can control. Whatever the case, the ads don't seem to be helping Mr. Ferguson garner the support he will need to hold off the challenge of Mr. Brinkley.

Mr. Gray's candidacy can only be seen as an effort to divide the anti-incumbent vote that would have gone only to Mr. Brinkley. But then again, some voters are smart enough to realize that Mr. Gray has little chance of winning, particularly in light of his recent campaign finance report, which showed only a single contributor - his wife.

No matter who wins in any of the races for the state house, all of them have to realize that they must work together to get the best deal for Frederick County from a General Assembly that will still be dominated by Democrats. Sometimes we have to swallow our pride and political ideology to help OUR citizens.

Nothing less will do.



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