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On Monday night the Wicomico County Republican Club held its monthly meeting with gubernatorial candidate Blaine Young as the guest. Young spoke for about a half-hour on a number of topics, mainly relating to events in Frederick and surrounding Frederick County, a place where rapid growth over the last several years has come from those he jokingly described as “refugees from Montgomery County.”
Blaine outlined his position as President of the Frederick County Board of Commissioners, although that position will soon be abolished as Frederick County will join a number of other Maryland counties which have adopted a County Executive form of government. In fact, just like Wicomico County, Frederick will have a similarly-comprised seven-member County Council as well beginning in 2014.
In speaking to those gathered, though, Young made it clear his biggest influence after completing a brief previous political career as an alderman in the city of Frederick was that of becoming a small business owner. “It woke me up and opened my eyes,” he said. Blaine is also a radio host, a daily enterprise he claimed the local papers and liberals hate. But his overall stable of business support between 120 and 140 people, stated Young.
But Blaine made the case that he took the appointment to the Commission in 2010 and subsequently decided to run for a full term because his predecessors “liked to spend money.” Instead, the slate he led into office is “a very property-rights oriented commission” which “started slashing away” at a $48 million deficit and turned it into a $29 million surplus. They did so by cooperating with the local Chamber of Commerce to adopt over 200 of their suggestions, eliminating taxes and rescinding “frivolous” fees. The number of county employees had also declined by 400 during his tenure, Young added.
All this was necessary, he continued, because competition from surrounding states was fierce – Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia either directly or closely border Frederick County. Once a company decides on Maryland, there still are all the other counties to contend with as a second hurdle to opportunity.
Being a fiscal conservative, though, wasn’t always a popular choice. “People always like the politicians that say yes,” said Blaine, referring to local schools who want $15 million more in their budget this year, “but when will we practice compassion for the taxpayer?” Young used the example of what he called a “beg-a-thon,” where the county’s nonprofits used to come in and beseech the commissioners for funding. Instead, he found ways to utilize them for county purposes – a key example was having the local YMCA run the Head Start program, saving county taxpayers $2.3 million.
In short, “I ran as a reformer – one term,” Young declared.
In considering a run for governor, Blaine wanted to take this message statewide: government can’t be about everything to everyone. He knows attaining the governor’s chair is “a monumental uphill battle” when he’s raised a half-million dollars and one leading Democrat has $5 million in the bank. Still, “I never go into anything to lose,” said Blaine.
But there were other goals he wanted to see attained as well. We need 50 Delegates and 16 to 18 Senators, Young opined, to get a seat at the table. Many of those seats could – and should – be picked up in areas of the state where Republicans are strong at the county level, such as the counties from Carroll westward. “Democrats shouldn’t be holding rural seats,” he boldly stated.
One final point Blaine made before opening up to questions regarded the Septic Bill. “We were sold a bill of goods” with Smart Growth, Young believed, and the Septic Bill was “atrocious…truly centralized planning from the state.” Blaine opined that centralized land use planning was a mechanism to force people in rural areas to move into urban zones.
The first question Blaine took was about his county’s experience with the Tier Maps. Indeed, his county submitted a map, but they were singled out as one of what Young called “poster children” for the state because Annapolis didn’t agree with the map. Allegany and Cecil counties were the other two Young pointed to, claiming there were threats made to withhold funds for school construction and agricultural preservation if those counties didn’t get with the program. Yet he found Richard Hall, the Secretary of Planning, was willing to negotiate with Frederick County based on zoning already present there, so much so that Frederick County will have a complete Tier IV exemption. (This is mainly based on a 5-lot maximum rural subdivision and other provisions the county has.)
He was also asked about his competition, to which Blaine checked off the usual suspects: Harford County Executive David Craig, Larry Hogan of Change Maryland – a group he called “a big asset”, Charles Lollar, and Dan Bongino, for whom he was “a big supporter.” But one other name he mentioned surprised me: Michael Steele. Apparently Steele may do some polling and see if a run is viable.
But the “last thing we need” is 2 or 3 strong candidates in the race, Young added. “We have a tendency to eat our own,” Blaine concluded.
So will Blaine Young carry through with a run? A few months ago it appeared the answer was yes, but even though he promised to run for one term as a commissioner promises were made to be broken and Young could be eyeing the opportunity to have more of an executive role in his own county.
But considering that at this point the field is still fairly wide open and Young has some fiscally conservative credentials to work with, the fact he came all the way to Wicomico County on a Monday night to tell the 30 or 40 of us there he was “considering” a run – at a time where state spending is a focus – seems to me to be an indication he will follow through for at least the next several months. After all, no one has to officially file until April of next year.
Tags: Blaine Young, Campaign 2014, Change Maryland, Charles Lollar, Dan Bongino, David Craig, Larry Hogan, Michael Steele
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