Embattled Frederick mayor concedes in race for second term

Dougherty loses to former executive Young in Democratic primary

September 14, 2005|By Jennifer Skalka | Jennifer Skalka,SUN STAFF

FREDERICK -- The embattled mayor of this historic but fast-growing city lost her bid for a second term last night as she was defeated in a Democratic primary pitting the city's first female chief executive against a former mayor hoping to win his job back.

Mayor Jennifer P. Dougherty told supporters around 9 p.m. she had lost the heated, barb-filled contest. The unofficial tally had former Mayor Ronald N. Young winning by a margin of 2,112 to 1,626 over Dougherty.

"Obviously, I'm disappointed, but I still have my eye on the future of Frederick," Dougherty, 44, said in an interview. "I'm very proud that I served with honesty and integrity. Sometimes communities aren't ready for that."

Dougherty added that she hadn't called the 64-year-old winner and was unsure whether she would.

The winner of the Republican mayoral primary remained uncertain last night.

Republican William "Jeff" Holtzinger, a 41-year-old former city engineer, had the largest number of votes recorded among three GOP contenders, but his lead was by only 25 votes, with more than 100 absentee ballots to be counted, officials said.

Holtzinger and Stanley Mazaleski, 71, of Emmitsburg were political newcomers in seeking the nomination on a ballot that also included Alderman Joseph W. Baldi, 58.

Young called his primary victory a sign for change.

"I'm very pleased. I had a lot of old friends come back out to support me and some new friends," he said. Responding to Dougherty's comments, he said: "It's one parting cheap shot. ... She has twisted and turned things all during the campaign."

The pair campaigned vigorously until polls closed at 8 p.m. Animosity between the two turned a routine municipal election into a hard-fought contest that captivated many residents in a city struggling to keep its historic character amid rapid growth.

The race was expected to be close, as evidenced by the aggressive campaigning going on yesterday afternoon on the corner of 2nd and Bentz streets.

Dougherty stood on one side of the street, greeting passers-by and accepting words of support with a smile and a wave.

On the other corner, Young made the rounds.

They didn't interact.

"Politicians don't have to like each other to run for the same office," Dougherty told reporters.

In some ways, the mayoral contest came to symbolize the deep changes in Frederick, a once-sleepy town in Western Maryland that has become a more prosperous, bustling bedroom community.

The historic city of 58,000 is growing and facing the pains -- and many issues -- that come with it. Talk of schools, water and road expansion dominated the campaign.

The choice that faced Frederick voters yesterday was a classic one: Does a fresh face, in this case a female businesswoman who had never held elected office before her one term as mayor, bring a new perspective to the city's top job?

Or could a veteran, someone who was elected as Frederick's youngest mayor in 1973 and in his 16 years in office helped create the historic district that revitalized the city, fare better?

Many residents entering the William R. Talley Recreation Center to vote late yesterday said they were tired of the bickering that marked the race.

Voters said they hoped the winners of the primaries -- and the ultimate victor in November -- would get down to business.

"It's been personal," said Dawn Stein, 49, an accountant and mother of two. "It's been kind of embarrassing, I guess, to see Frederick's dirty laundry out in the newspaper."

The campaign became possible only after a federal court judge threw out the city's three-year residency requirement for mayoral candidates -- making it possible for Republicans Holtzinger and Mazaleski, who live outside Frederick, and Young to run.

Young, who was Frederick's mayor for four terms, had briefly lived outside the city limits when he was out of office. He moved back into town in May 2004.

This year, three Republican aldermen, who had bickered bitterly with Dougherty for virtually her entire term, changed the residency rule, reducing it to one year. Dougherty vetoed their maneuver, but Young launched a court battle to get on the ballot, and a federal judge ruled last spring that the three-year residency requirement was unconstitutional.

Sun staff writer Matthew Dolan contributed to this story.

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