It might seem early, but the rumor mills and conversations about local and state elections have already begun.
At the county level, County Executive Jan Gardner (D) is term-limited, with her second and final term ending in late 2022. Along with the county executive seat, all County Council seats — five districts and two at-large (countywide) seats — are up for grabs.
Not only is there a question of who will run—there’s also the question of what the County Council districts will look like, along with state and congressional boundaries. All of those will go through redistricting processes, based on population counts and other factors.
Here are brief summaries of where some key political figures stand in terms of next year’s races.
County Executive Jan Gardner (D)
Gardner, in her second term in county government’s highest post, said she “is leaving all [her] options open” when asked about her political future.
She’s had conversations with several candidates running for governor next year. Some may speculate Gardner’s experience in western Maryland would make her a nice running mate to Democrats who hold offices in the D.C.-Baltimore corridor. Campaign finance records showed she has about $25,700 in campaign funds as of last month.
But she made clear to say multiple times she’s focused on navigating the county through the coronavirus pandemic and that any decision regarding her future would involve thorough discussions with her family.
“It’s all too early to answer that question,” she said of her political future.
Sen. Ron Young (D-Frederick)
The former teacher and mayor of Frederick is in his third term representing the city of Frederick and outlining areas in the state senate in two different districts.
Young, while not committing to a final decision, said “it’s unlikely” he would run for state senate again. That could leave the door open for someone like Gardner or other Democrats living in or near the city. Campaign finance records show he has about $21,900 in the bank.
He said there are things in life he still wants to do: writing, painting, traveling. But he also wants to stay involved in the community, including education advocacy and fundraising.
Sen. Michael Hough (R-Frederick and Carroll)
Several politicos and close observers of local politics have pegged Hough, in his second term of representing much of rural Frederick County in the state senate, as a strong Republican candidate for county executive.
But Hough said he’s “completely focused on the legislative session” and on his new role as Senate Minority Whip. He also points to that leadership role as part of the reason he currently has nearly $200,000 in the bank, according to campaign finance records.
He said he’s still deciding on whether and where to continue his political future, but didn’t immediately rule out another senate term or county executive run.
Hough said people probably, for now, “need to keep their powder dry” regarding next year’s elections, given new district lines at the local, state and federal levels.
County Councilman Jerry Donald (D)
Donald, who lives in Braddock Heights, is just on the edge of District 1. So council redistricting could impact whether he stays in that district.
The second-term council member, who has won two fairly close elections, is pondering a third term on the council or a county executive run. Part of that depends on who is running and if he wants to give up his day job as a teacher at Middletown High School, he said.
“It’s a big decision. If I were to decide to do that, it would end what I do with being a teacher,” Donald said about running for executive. “There are a lot of factors to consider obviously, but it’s a big decision.”
Donald currently has roughly $11,200 in campaign funds, records show.
County Councilman Steve McKay (R)
Some wonder whether McKay if he’s running for county executive next year. His answer?
“It won’t happen. Categorically, no.”
McKay, who works as a government contractor and with national security agencies, has less than $60 in campaign funds. But the District 2 representative said he is interested in running for a second term in his seat.
He’s curious to see if any development applications come to future county councils and would hate to miss out at being at the table for those decisions.
“We haven’t had a lot of big development applications come our way ... and that’s not going to last,” McKay said. “So I do worry there’s probably and likely ... developments to remerge in the next council term, including maybe right here in Monrovia. And I would feel leery missing out on that.”
County Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer (D)
Like McKay, many have questioned Keegan-Ayer, in her second term on the council serving District 3, about whether she is running for county executive.
Keegan-Ayer has minimal campaign funds—less than $1,000, according to a notice she filed with the state. She didn’t rule out a run for executive, but noted her strengths on the county’s legislative body and said a third term on the council is also possible.
“My focus is where are my strengths and where can I be the best public servant for the folks in Frederick County,” Keegan-Ayer said. “Right now, that is on my position on the council.”
County Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater (D)
Fitzwater, in her second term on the County Council, has nearly $58,700 in campaign funds, according to state records.
With that healthy account, she understands the rumors about running for county executive, a state Senate seat or elsewhere. She “is definitely running” for some type of office next year, she said.
For now, Fitzwater, an elementary school music teacher, is focused on the return to hybrid learning. But she appreciates her supporters.
“I’m excited to hear the rumors, because people have faith in me as a public servant,” Fitzwater said.
County Council Vice President Michael Blue (R)
The second-in-command on the County Council finds himself in a similar position to Donald, living in the southern end of Walkersville.
Blue, in his first term representing District 5, could be drawn out of his district. If that happens, he could be exploring a run for an at-large council seat.
Like Keegan-Ayer, Blue has minimal campaign funds. He hinted that he would likely run for a second term in his seat if district lines don’t change, if he runs at all. Another factor? Whether his son, Matt, 35, is ready to take over Brownie’s Auto Repair in Walkersville.
“That’s a big consideration for me, is how well-prepared he is to take that on,” Blue said.
County Councilman Kai Hagen (D)
Hagen, in his first term as an at-large council member, has expressed his interest in running for county executive on Facebook. He has just over $65,300 in campaign funds, campaign records show.
While he wouldn’t officially declare he was running, Hagen said he is “leaning” toward county executive versus a second council term, adding: “That is my inclination.”
He touts his experience on numerous county government boards over the past 20-plus years, including a term on the county commissioners and county planning commission.
Hagen did dismiss rumors that he would run for state or federal office.
“I have always said to people since the beginning, and I have never wavered … that I have never entertained running for any state or federal office,” Hagen said. “My focus has been on Frederick County and Frederick County government and Frederick County citizens and those issues.”
County Councilman Phil Dacey (R)
With a term on both the Frederick city Board of Appeals and Board of Aldermen under his belt, the first-term at-large councilman said multiple options are on the table.
That includes a second term on the council, a county executive run or other possibilities, he said. Next year is an important election year for Republicans countywide, given changing demographics in the county and recent election history, Dacey added.
He wants to run for something, to have a seat at the table in Frederick County’s future. Right now, state records show he has about $16,600 in campaign funds.
“I definitely want to be part of the conversation here in Frederick County’s future,” Dacey said. “What direction is Frederick county going to go in? ... Is it going to urbanized, and look like Montgomery County north, or are we able to retain some of the character that Frederick County has when I was growing up? … I want to be at the table.”