The 2022 race to become the second county executive in Frederick’s history is shaping up to be a fascinating contest in which voters will have real and substantive choices.

The primary election is still more than a year away, but the campaign already shows signs of becoming an opportunity for voters to express their opinion on where the county should be headed.

Jan Gardner was the first executive elected in 2014 after voters changed the charter to eliminate the commission form of government in favor of an executive and council form. She was overwhelmingly reelected in 2018 but is prohibited under the charter from seeking a third term.

Republican State Sen. Michael Hough announced this week that he will give up his seat in the legislature and run for executive. Three Democrats have already announced for the race, and we expect the field in both parties to grow even larger.

County Council members Jessica Fitzwater and Kai Hagen, who help to form the Democratic majority on the council, have declared and are expected to promise to advance the Gardner legacy, to one extent or another.

Fitzwater has praised the Livable Frederick planning document created by the Gardner administration as a valuable “recipe book” to deal not only with traditional planning issues such as growth but also areas such as affordable housing, public health disparities and expanding an already strong, diversified economy.

Fitzwater, who is a school teacher, has not shied away from controversial issues during her time in office. She has criticized the 287(g) program run by Sheriff Chuck Jenkins (R), to check the immigration status of anyone booked into the county’s detention center and begin deportation proceedings if necessary.

She also has taken on the county firefighters union. Binding arbitration for the firefighters was approved by voters in 2018, and Fitzwater helped write the enabling legislation. But the union complained that the law did not meet the objectives of the ballot question, and has taken the county to court.

Hagen has been more sympathetic to the union complaints, and has tried to amend the law, without success thus far. Fitzwater said she continues to stand by her legislation.

Hagen also has sought to make climate change a local priority, arguing that many policies that are friendly to the environment are good practices. Affordable housing, planning and other issues are all interconnected, Hagen said.

Daryl Boffman, a former school board member who is now the director of public affairs for Frederick County Public Schools, is the third announced Democrat. His campaign website stresses four major themes — post-pandemic education funding, small business growth and sustainability, financial stewardship, and a “one Frederick united” initiative.

As county executive, Boffman has pledged to expand minority-owned, women-owned and veteran-owned small business participation on county contracts and increase revenue through business and job development instead of tax increases.

Hough, the current Senate minority whip who represents parts of Frederick and Carroll counties, made it pretty clear in his announcement that he will try to attract voters who are unhappy with change in Frederick County.

He said he wants to address crowding and congestion in order to prevent Frederick from becoming “Montgomery County north.” The anti-Montgomery theme was common among some candidates in the past. Without explicitly saying so, the idea then was generally interpreted to mean keeping Frederick from being a more urban, more diverse community.

While that still may appeal to a portion of county voters, the reality is that Frederick has already become more like Montgomery, in large part because of growth and in-migration, often from Montgomery itself.

Ironically, a lot of that change has taken place because of decisions made by Hough’s fellow Republicans on the old county commission a decade ago that permitted aggressive development in the southern and eastern portions of the county.

So, will voters choose a candidate who offers the promise of continuing the Gardner legacy, a call to a more progressive direction, or an appeal to return to the past?

All in all, the election campaign should provide the county with an entertaining and illuminating exercise in democracy. The primary will be June 28, 2022, and the general election will follow in November.

(16) comments

Aslan19

Somebody put an opinion article praising Democrats and deriding the Republicans into the news section. Oh, wait for a second, this is the FNP. Every section is an opinion article section. Well, the FNP is still usable as fish wrapping material...

Piedmontgardener

Hough is the last person who should be near that office. I'm not wild about any of the declared candidates, I wish Steve McKay would reconsider and run, he's the perfect person for this job.

public-redux

I wonder if Hough is looking for a new job in anticipation of Mooney getting redistricted into political oblivion. WV is losing a House seat. The rumor is that WV pols are sacrificing the carpetbagger from MD. Which would leave Hough unemployed.

HappySeller2014

DEMS need better candidates. The anti-balloon legislator and "everything needs a workgroup" legislator are not going to carry Frederick County.

In fact, no one on the Frederick County Council should be running. It has gotten nothing done recently. And with the County budget now having expanded by almost 20% over the past four years, Frederick County is becoming financially toxic and inhospitable.

Signed 2022 budget an increase of about 8% over this year's 2021 budget in the middle of the COVID-19 Pandemic??? My tax bill has not been lowered in the 22 years I have lived in Frederick County.

Time to retire and move to Pennsylvania. Adams County, PA looking mighty fine.

phydeaux994

Good idea Happy, come back when you can’t stay so long.

Plumbum

Frederick county turning blue. Republican candidates don’t stand a chance

HappySeller2014

You just watch. With the DEMS fratricide and ineptitude, from ballon release legislation to constipated duck weathervane city logos to Zoom Christmas meetings and FACEBOOK diatribes and sexual harrassment hijincks to workgroup after workgroup after workgroup, any DEM at both the county and city levels around here is not looking good.

Smart REPUBS may just steal upcoming elections. Current DEMS just keep on reminding our state of Maryland we are all just a bunch of Fredneckians around these parts.

And I am a DEM. Just a really disappointed one.

yogib

for the first time the post spoke up regarding what the Repubs did to Frederick County. They created a developer's dream and now they complain about being like Montgomery County. We are going to grow but at least the Dems do it right.

Nicki

[thumbup] yogib

JerryR

So far the candidates lined up are useless. Can't we find someone better than these??? PLEASE???

phydeaux994

The field is wide open JerryR. If you want something done you do it yourself. I’m a Registered Republican, I’ll vote for you in the Primary if everybody else is worse. So far you’d be in the lead.

DickD

How about the General Election? Lol

phydeaux994

Not a chance DickD.

FrederickFan

It is all starting a bit too early. The city election is this year and the county next year. Why campaign for a year and a half?

Plumbum

It’s insane, I’ve already started campaigning and getting my name out for sheriff

gary4books

"All in all, the election campaign should provide the county with an entertaining and illuminating exercise in democracy. The primary will be June 28, 2022, and the general election will follow in November."

Much can happen in a year or so. Likely it will depend on the economy. But unexpected events can always happen.

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