With more than two decades of experience working directly and indirectly with county government, County Councilman Kai Hagen (D) said Wednesday he is running for county executive in the 2022 election. 

Hagen, 62, who also previously served on the Board of County Commissioners, the county's planning commission and in various other capacities, said he is excited for the future of Frederick County, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

He is the second Democratic member of the County Council to announce their candidacy this week for the county government's top post, after County Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater (D).

Hagen said it's fair to say he and Fitzwater are probably more progressive politically than current County Executive Jan Gardner (D). But he thinks that helps him as he kicks off his campaign.

"It's hard to rebrand me," Hagen said. "One of the things that I think works to my advantage is that people know me, and I've been very consistent over a long period of time in terms of my values and my commitment ... to those values and issues."

The primary for county executive will be held June 28, 2022, and the general election is scheduled for Nov. 8, 2022.

The longtime Thurmont area resident has constantly fought to make climate change a local priority, arguing that many policies that are friendly to the environment are good practices, even if climate change isn't as much of a threat.

That issue, along with affordable housing, overall planning and others are all interconnected, Hagen said. And like Fitzwater, he highlighted the importance of addressing the inequities shown by the United Way's Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) report, which shows despite the county's growth and diversified economy, many families are living paycheck to paycheck.

One issue where Hagen differs from Fitzwater is collective bargaining and binding arbitration for the county's firefighters union. More than 70 percent of county voters approved a ballot measure on the subject in 2018.

Hagen had tried to introduce amendments to corresponding legislation, requiring that a neutral arbitrator's decision must be funded as part of the county's budget process. But those amendments failed, and the firefighters' union later sued the county for not enacting legislation in line with the ballot question and county charter.

"The council, not with my support, passed implementing legislation that did not reflect either the spirit, intent, or in my opinion, the letter of the law," Hagen said. "And I think in the long run, that's what is going to happen in court."

Hagen has sided with Fitzwater in taking a critical stance on the 287(g) program run by Sheriff Chuck Jenkins (R). That program allows sheriff’s deputies to be trained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to check the immigration status of anyone booked into the county’s detention center and begin deportation proceedings if deemed necessary.

But he also agrees with Fitzwater that the sheriff is a separately elected official, who has the power to run his or her own department per state law. And despite the executive and County Council members having control over the sheriff's budget allocation, it wouldn't make much of a difference if some funding was withheld, Hagen said.

That's in part because an audit showed the program was, at most, costing the county $21,400 annually, he said.

"A sheriff who strongly supports 287(g) isn't going to back away from it because you start to play manipulative games with other parts of their budget," Hagen said.

Karin Tome, former mayor of Brunswick from 2012-16, called Hagen the "gold standard" of elected officials, commending him for his knowledge on various county issues.

"One of the things that I look for in an elected official is integrity and he has that in spades," Tome said. "He’s genuine, he’s honest, [and] very ethical, so that’s very important to me."

Patrice Gallagher, of downtown Frederick, has worked on both of Hagen's campaigns for county commissioner, along with his run for County Council. She anticipates she will somehow be involved with his run for executive. She also was one of the original board members of Envision Frederick County, a nonprofit Hagen helped create to boost civic engagement and discussion on local issues.

The two met in the early 2000s, in part because Gallagher was concerned about local school crowding issues. She called Hagen a "natural leader" with an extensive knowledge of local issues.

"In political terms, I feel like Kai is 'what you see is what you get,'" said Gallagher, who still serves on Envision Frederick's board. "He’s very authentic, he’s going to tell you what he believes and follow through on that."

Hagen has been politically active for decades, and his family has always been plugged in to the importance of being civically engaged. His dad's uncle was Harold Hagen, who represented a Minnesota district in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1940s and 1950s.

He said his childhood conversations around the dinner table about political issues likely helped shape his political career to this point. It might be early to declare for county executive, but a countywide race requires considerable work, he said.

"I've been saying to people, and approaching it as, this is the most important thing I will ever do, aside from family," Hagen said. "And then, if I win, being dedicated to a very demanding job for that term, starting now instead of in six months just seems smart."

Follow Steve Bohnel on Twitter: @Steve_Bohnel

Steve Bohnel is the county government reporter for the Frederick News-Post. He can be reached at sbohnel@newspost.com. He graduated from Temple University, with a journalism degree in May 2017, and is a die-hard Everton F.C. fan.

(42) comments






Time to cue up "Big Red Balloon" by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood as a campaign theme song at rallies?

It is a great song. You can find it on YouTube.


Listen closely when Nancy sings. Some instrument in the backround lets out intermittent blasts that sounds like farts. Even back in the 1970s, climate change and CO2 was part of folksong culture.

Things have a way of recycling. I say it would be a perfect 2022 campaign theme song.


Nah, 99 red balloons by Nena.

Business Owner

Montgomery County now looks like a better option. Pretty scary.


So does the rallies to be held by Kai's opponents. I am gonna have to eat heavily before attending a Kai rally as I fear only fingerfoods will be served. Hard to load up without plastic spoons, forks, plates, cups, lids, stirrers, straws and bags. Plus, without balloons, will these rallies be festive?


Hagen is just another liberal coward. He'll sit there and bad mouth Sheriff Jenkins and his participation in the 287 (g) program all day long, bad mouthing that includes multiple lies, but when the sheriff challenged him to a live debate on WFMD to discuss it, he chickened out. Which reminds me of Beijing Joe being too cowardly to have a live phone conversation with Putin after Putin extended the offer. Birds (cowards) of a feather, one could easily say. And neither of them see a problem with exhibiting such cowardice, either. Spinless wimps, the both of them.


Remind me: how many lawsuits and appeals did Trumpkins lose!


Why don't you tell us, Plumbum? As his head troll I'm sure you know (not that you'll tell us accurately, though.)


By the way, Pb, remind us, how many millions of dollars did Santos get? [lol]


I don't know fido, how much did it, you tell us? Let's hear it.


Yeah CD, it makes a lot of sense to have a public exchange with Putin. Get real bro! Of course, he could always have it like Trump did with no record of what was discussed and no one allowed in the room - that's how your hero would do it.Glad to see you have a bromance with Vlad too...


What is this "bromance" kick that you're on, Hay, is that your new word-for-the -day? Trying to show us all how you've expanded your vocabulary, are you?


Oh, and Hay, why no thoughts on Hagen mouthing off about Sheriff Jenkins, and chickening out from a one on one with him? Gonna cover for the wimp and say he's just "too busy" to, are ya?


It is sad memories like this might never be made in Frederick County in the future...

"When I was little my balloon burst as we were walking home from a children’s party one afternoon. I saw a balloon about once a year so it was a huge loss. Mum bent down, picked the flaccid piece of rubber off the pavement, stretched it tight across her lips and twisted it as she sucked in her breath. Then she tied the old piece of string tightly around the little piece of rubber dangling from her lips and pulled a miniature balloon out of her mouth. She said the balloon had had a baby, it was a baby balloon. I stopped crying and trailed it after me all the way home. A baby balloon."

- Viv Albertine, To Throw Away Unopened

In 2021, if poor Mum invites 15 kids to her kid's party and lumps a buncha balloons together before handing them out on the backyard patio, she might get ratted out on by nosy neighbors with the cops showing up to prevent a possible crime from being committed.



Very sad indeed


Happy, Your posts pushed me to vote for Kai. I just wish I could vote for both Kai and Fitz. 🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈


three, I respect you for voting. Just do not release all of those red balloons in your post all at once. It is illegal in these parts.


Let's see now, if we all get vaccinated and continue to wear masks, we can gather in our backyards on the 4th of July, but no balloons? I guess we'll just have to gather around the table and put the record player on for the kids.


Can we bring more than one balloon to any of his 2021 or 2022 rallies without getting arrested?


Remind me; is Jan term limited?


Yup. The voters don't get to decide whether to keep her.


Good news, we'll at least be rid of Fitzwater or Hagen after the election!!


[thumbup] At least one and hopefully both! [beam]


Yes. Frederick County needs to dump these both and be lead by a more mainstream Democrat who wants to focus on serious issues facing residents today. Not 2050. Not by forming workgroups to undertake studies. And not by killing balloons and requiring law enforcement latex balloon complaint responses at little Suzy's next birthday party.

Befriend plastic forks and spoons countywide! Let's vote for a LEADER on serious LOCAL ISSUES.


For someone who is supposedly concerned about serious local issues, you sure are focused on a minor piece of legislation that apparently caused the balloon to be stuck in your craw... You fail to see impact of plastics on the LOCAL environment - hope you like drinking the micro particles and eating them in your food. Long term impacts unknown, but go ahead an be petty.


Hayduke, dead balloon carcasses in Frederick County are #452 of the Top 100 most pressing concerns facing our neighbors, friend, you and me here locally. I get more plastic contamination in my body from drinking out of a Deer Park 20 oz. water bottle than massive balloon release dead latex carcasses will ever give me, my friend.


Maybe you ought to educate yourself and realize that finding an alternate way to celebrate is painless and easy. Small steps my friend. Your fixation on this is bodering on OC behavior. Find something positve to do instead. Keep drinking that Deer Park, that way you can add to our throw-away culture. Maybe the phrase from the late 90's - Think globally, Act locally - will someday make sense to you. As far as the balloon issue, check out http://sustainability.umich.edu/news/balloon-release-impact . Wait, are you a balloon seller???


Hayduke, those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. We must keep the massive balloon release legislation alive in our minds. It is not OC behavior. It is simply reminding all of us periodically of the need to call the cops on Billy's mommy if she ties more than three balloons to her mailbox for his party in a loose manner.


[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup] Cowell!


Another anti-287g, pro illegal immigrant Democrat.


Looks like your lover isn’t giving you any attention lately


"...pro illegal immigrant ..."

To which of Hagen's comments or policies are you referring?


this from the article: "Hagen has sided with Fitzwater in taking a critical stance on the 287(g) program run by Sheriff Chuck Jenkins (R)"


Losco are you referring to the program that netted two illegal immigrants prevailing lawsuit payouts?


Remind us, Plumbum, how many millions of dollars did Santos get? [lol][lol][lol]


So nothing on point.


Funny, this 287 g fear mongering persists with those who touting a program that is frowned upon by most counties and local governments. Most folks I know, both R and D's beside their names, are not in favor of illegal immigration. They do, however, want comprehensive and reasonable immigration law - maybe it's time to hold Congress responsible for this issue.


Ky is way too liberal. Frederick co is turning blue, but Frederick county is not liberal. Ky woyld dew very well in takoma Park or Chevy Chase. Too liberal, he will ban all gas powered automobiles.the county is blue, but it’s not Chevy chase blue.....


As a fellow democrat, I support Kai Hagan. I must admit though that it made me sad that whenever I am in Frederick County I am prohibited from playing my favorite 5th Dimension song "Up, Up and Away."


He he. Love that wink & nod. He is balloons worst enemy.

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