Voters in no hurry to worry Elections: Frederick County residents care about perennial issues -- taxes, schools, the dairy industry - but for now are content to enjoy their summer.

July 13, 1998|By C. FRASER SMITH | C. FRASER SMITH,SUN STAFF

FREDERICK - Out here among the endangered species of rural Maryland - cows, Democrats and one-of-a-kind restaurants - the election of 1998 is still only an unsettling rumor.

Word of jockeying to replace the sainted Louis L. Goldstein reaches the famous clustered spires of this church-dominated landscape as a curious drama boding ill, perhaps, for this county.

Should Baltimore's William Donald Schaefer be elected to replace the longtime state comptroller, says Jan Cooper, a candidate for Frederick County Council, "people are afraid it means more money into the city and Western Maryland will be ignored."

No disagreement with that view is evident at The Village, a restaurant and coffee shop on Market Street where octogenarians deliver a collective guffaw at the mere mention of politics.

Elections come and go with pretty much the same discouraging results, they seem to say. Meeting here almost every morning for some four decades now, these men agree that Goldstein was an important man, skilled at politics and high finance, but in truth no saint.

He was the state's tax collector, after all.

"Jubal Early," says Fred Price, one of the veterans, "is the only guy more popular here than Louie." This is, of course, sarcasm. Early was the Confederate general who ransomed Frederick for $200,000 during the Civil War.

If a city has body language, it can be read in places like this one and at Dougherty's Irish pub and lunch spot a few doors down from the historic Barbara Fritchie House, she who risked her life to rescue the flag from Stonewall Jackson's men. An equally passionate patriot, Jennifer Dougherty, serves up a variety of lagers and stout opinions every day. The talk across her bar is as animated as The Village's is droll and ironic. The two restaurants are bookends, figuratively, for a county going steadily about its business and a summerlong odyssey of fire department carnivals, peach pie cuttings and parades.

Exciting election? Not yet. "We've got July, August, Septem

ber and October - sort of an eternity," says Harry deMoll, a frequent patron at Jennifer's Restaurant. "Look at what happened in the comptroller's race."

Don't annoy voters

In Frederick County this time of year, the prudent pol does not stop anyone to solicit votes, particularly not at a place like the Middletown Volunteer Fire Department carnival, in full flower last week. People are out for a bit of funnel cake, a hand-dipped cone of peach ice cream - maybe even a chance to win a pet rabbit. Council candidate Cooper hands out midnight-blue balloons with her name in white letters.

'I'm running for County Council," she tells a straw-hatted man passing by with his daughter.

'Good, I'll vote for anybody who's not in there," says George Michalak, a 45-year-old electronics salesman who, like many in Middletown, is a refugee from Montgomery County - and a man with his own idea of term limits for public officials.

Because time in office automatically leads to corruption, he says, the conclusion is obvious: "A short time is a good time." Michalak is a registered Republican who votes for the person - not an approach one can count on in Frederick, according to Dougherty, the restaurateur, who ran unsuccessfully several years ago for mayor and then for County Council.

In front of a supermarket, she recalls, she handed a brochure to a man who seemed happy to receive it. "Are you a Democrat or a Republican?" he asked. "Democrat," she said. He handed back the literature. "Sorry, I can't vote for you," he said.

Incumbent and challenger

Stories like this one would be distressing for Dougherty's friend, state Del. Sue Hecht, if Hecht weren't so positive about her prospects for re-election. A first-term member of the Maryland House of Delegates, she is the only Democrat in Frederick County's Annapolis contingent.

As one of three Democrats running in the Sept. 15 primary for three available seats, she is assured of being in the November general election. There she is likely to face the son of Maryland's 6th District congressman, Roscoe G. Bartlett, apparently on his way to establishing a family dynasty.

Joseph Bartlett, in his first political outing, is expected to do well based on the popularity of his very conservative father. "The kid's poll numbers are through the roof," says John Ashbury, a businessman and local newspaper columnist.

Ashbury says Hecht has her work cut out but probably could win again. When her name comes up at The Village, his view is verified.

How will she do?

"She'll be elected," says Charles Main, a former Frederick police chief referred to by his confreres as "the Monarch." If Charlie says it, it's true. And this is not a group noted for its Democratic leanings. As they talk, a member of Frederick's Democratic hierarchy walks by outside .

"Is Tom still on the party central committee?" someone inquires about him.

"I think it's full time for him now," comes the disapproving reply.

Legislative trade-off

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