Hagen concedes, Fitzwater headed for Democratic nomination for county executive

·4 min read

Jul. 20—Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater appears to have secured the Democratic nomination for Frederick County executive, as County Councilman Kai Hagen conceded defeat late Tuesday.

Fitzwater would face Maryland Sen. Michael Hough in the Nov. 8 general election for county executive. Hough ran unopposed for the Republican nomination.

In a phone interview with the News-Post on Wednesday, Fitzwater said that she and members of her campaign were excited to see Tuesday's vote totals.

She reiterated themes of her campaign, including her aim to increase affordable housing options, improve access to government resources for small-business owners and funding the Board of Education well above state requirements.

"It's essential that we get a leader in place that will build on the last eight years," Fitzwater said.

She said the results were a sign that voters were pleased with the current state of the county government.

Fitzwater, a two-term council member, received 7,054 votes, or 57% of the vote, based on unofficial results the Maryland State Board of Elections released early Wednesday.

Hagen had 3,629 votes, or 29%.

Daryl Boffman, a business consultant and former Frederick County Board of Education member, had 1,751 votes, or 14% of the total tally.

"I'm still going to be engaged in helping other candidates win in November," Hagen said in a phone interview Wednesday, pledging to support Fitzwater. "But obviously my schedule will be a little less intense."

"I know that Kai will be a partner in how we move forward," Fitzwater said.

Hagen, who is finishing his first term on the council, first made his concession on his campaign's Facebook page late Tuesday night, in which he wrote, "I am as disappointed as I am exhausted right now."

In a longer post that he published to his personal Facebook page Wednesday, he called on his supporters to rally behind Fitzwater in the general election.

The results were based on in-person voting on Primary Election Day, plus totals from the July 7 to 14 early-voting period.

Nearly 15,000 Democratic voters in Frederick County have received ballots by mail, but state law prohibits election officials from counting them before Thursday.

The Frederick County Board of Elections will tally some mail-in votes beginning at 10 a.m. Thursday, then the rest on July 29.

On July 27, the board will review and count provisional ballots, which voters use at the polls when there is a question about their eligibility or registration.

Results will be posted at the end of each day.

"It is highly unlikely I could make up the gap," Hagen wrote in a text to Fitzwater sent Tuesday night, according to his Facebook post. "The two day delay is awkward. We'll see how many there are and let that officially play out. In the meantime, congratulations on what appears likely to be an insurmountable lead."

Fitzwater has said that she would try to replicate County Executive Jan Gardner, D, if elected. Gardner is term-limited and cannot run again.

"Jan Gardner's biggest sin as county executive has been to set a high standard for future leaders," Fitzwater wrote in her response to a question for the News-Post's 2022 Primary Election Guide.

She said in an interview with the News-Post in May that Gardner was "exactly the best person" for the county to elect as its first executive.

Frederick County has had a charter form of government, with a county executive and a County Council serving as the legislative body, since 2014. Previously, the five-member Board of County Commissioners was the county's executive and legislative body.

Gardner ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination in both 2018 and 2014. She won 52% of the general election vote in 2018 and 54% in 2014.

Fitzwater raised more money for her campaign than either Hagen or Boffman, and she has $138,000 remaining — double what her two Democratic opponents combined had left at the start of the month.

Hough has $486,000 remaining, thanks in part to a previous balance of nearly $200,000 that he accumulated as a state lawmaker.

The next deadline for candidates to submit reports to the State Board of Elections outlining their campaign transactions will be Aug. 30.

Follow Jack Hogan on Twitter: @jckhogan