Dear John, please stay where you are

Kai Hagen

February 5, 2004

Dear John,

I regret to inform you that I can not in good conscience vote for you in your bid to fill the vacancy on the Frederick County Circuit Court.

If circumstances were different, I'd seriously consider it. But, to be honest, I never got around to comparing you and your opponent, Judge Theresa M. Adams, on the March 2 primary ballot. Before getting that far, I got stuck on a related concern. Try as I might, and I did try, I just couldn't consider this election, and my vote, separate from the impact it could have on the Frederick County Board of County Commissioners, and on the county.

Less than a year and a half ago, I was one of 32,986 people who voted to re-elect you as one of our five county commissioners. Even though you spent little to campaign, we knew you from your first four years on the board, and more of us voted for you than any of the other commissioners.

I realize vacancies on the Circuit Court don't arise often, and it may be a while before a similar opportunity presents itself. But since I see a vote for you as Circuit Court judge as a vote to create a vacancy on the Board of County Commissioners, I just can't do it.

It might be different, for example, if you were able to select your replacement as commissioner. I'm not suggesting that's how things ought to work. But if they did, I'd feel confident you would pick a replacement who would work hard to represent the concerns shared by the thousands of us who elected you.

Unfortunately, however, for a number of reasons, I have little or no confidence that the Frederick County Republican Central Committee would make a genuine effort to identify and recommend to the governor someone to fill the role who shares your views and approach to county government. Quite the contrary.

I appreciate having a representative on the board who fights for open government, higher ethics standards, and tighter lobbying regulations. I don't want to lose a commissioner who I know is not beholden to any special interests, and works as diligently as you have for the interests of Frederick County residents and taxpayers.

This would not be a good time to lose a commissioner who relentlessly works to ensure that county residents and taxpayers do not subsidize new development in the form of higher taxes or lower quality county services.

Beyond those and other issues that matter to me, to us, I don't want to lose a commissioner who I know I can always trust, even when we disagree (and we do disagree about some things).

While there's no way to be certain who would be recommended by the Frederick County Republican Central Committee, it's reasonable to assume Charles Jenkins would be at or near the top of the list, since he was the top voter-getter among those in your party who were not elected. So, I guess, in the end, I'm approaching the election as a choice between having you or Charles Jenkins on the Board of County Commissioners for the next two and a half years.

Looking back on the 2002 campaign, it would probably be hard to find two viable candidates who were any more different than the two of you.

Mr. Jenkins is a salesman for Ausherman Homes, whose campaign was heavily funded by development interests, and whose proposed solution to county budget deficits was to encourage more rapid development. Another one of the elements of Mr. Jenkins campaign was his support of "concurrency" over the current, barely adequate, Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance.

I can't vote for that, John, even indirectly.

You've said you understand many of us who supported you in 2002 "may not take too kindly to the possibility that [you] may not serve the full term to which [you were] elected," and you "view the situation as providing the people with an opportunity to decide whether [you] should serve as a Circuit Court judge or continue as president of the Board of County Commissioners."

You've also said that whatever the outcome, you'll abide by the will of the voters.

I'm glad to hear that, Commissioner Thompson.

To get in touch, e-mail Kai Hagen at