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"Let the Games Begin"

Justin Kiska

(7/2017) Dateline: July 2017. The 2016 elections, which brought us a new president and Frederick County a new congressman, isn’t even a year behind us and already the next campaign has begun. The first votes won’t even be cast until next summer – in the primaries that are now far too early in the year – but the candidates are already making themselves known. At least in one of the races in Frederick County; possibly the most important. Which office already has candidates declaring their intentions to run, you might ask. County Executive, of course.

In 2014, voters elected Jan Gardner the first Frederick County Executive in history. In 2018, unless something completely unexpected happens, the county’s first chief executive will be up for re-election. I say "unless something completely unexpected happens" because all signs indicate County Executive Gardner will be running again. Now, in politics, a day is as long as a lifetime. So until she officially announces, anything can happen.

Assuming she is running though, there are already two candidates who have publicly thrown their hats into the ring to try and prevent the County Executive from being re-elected. The first is Regina Williams, the county’s former budget officer. The second, and much more well known, is 5th District Councilman Kirby Delauter. Odds are, these will not be the only Republicans in the race. In fact, a good friend of mine in Walkersville received a call not too long ago from someone conducting a survey about out-going State Delegate Kathy Afzali. The crux of the poll was finding out if respondents thought Delegate Afzali would make a good county executive. She could be number three on the Republican side. There are other names floating around, but it is safe to say that the race for county executive is going to be pretty competitive.

At the same time, all of the seats on the County Council will be on the ballot. The seven individuals on the Council, like Ms. Gardner, are the first to hold those offices. In essence, they have been the guinea pigs for our Charter government. They are the ones who began charting the uncharted territory, so-to-speak. With Councilman Delauter running for County Executive, we already know at least one of the seven elected in 2018 will be a new member to the Council. What about the other six? Council President Bud Otis, who was elected as a Republican but then became unaffiliated, has been coy about his intentions. But getting elected as an independent is pretty tricky, so he may have an uphill battle ahead of him.

Regardless, the Council races will be just as competitive as the battle for County Executive. Normally, incumbents have an easy time getting re-elected. But in these first years under the Charter government, not everyone has been too happy with the County Executive and County Council. Does that mean after only four years, voters are going to want to clean house? Will they just want to get rid of certain members to send a message that at the end of the day, the residents and voters of the county are still in charge and they don’t want their elected representatives participating in petty infighting?

All of those questions will be answered in due time. But for now, as candidate begin to lay the groundwork for their campaigns, I say, "Let the games begin!"

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