Campaigning

Kimberly Lango, left, receives campaign literature from Karen Lewis Young, who's running for delegate and is campaigning in the North Crossing neighborhood. Senator Ron Young (not pictured) is Karen Lewis Young's husband. This could be the first husband-wife team elected to the General Assembly. (Algerina Perna, Baltimore Sun / May 11, 2014)

Frederick voters may notice a theme to their primary ballots next month: Young for state senator. Young for county executive. Young for county school board. Young for state delegate.

Politics, after all, is the Young family business.

"I was driving the other day, and I literally saw all four of their campaign signs on the same corner," said Todd Anderson, a federal contractor who lives in the city of Frederick. "I guess we've got kind of a Kennedy clan here."

The family's dominance in city and county politics is measured in decades. Collectively, Youngs have served more than 50 years in elected office, but June's primary marks the first time four family members are running concurrently.

If all prevail in June's primary and November's general elections, it would mean a Young would be the first-ever Frederick County executive — and he would have a brother on the school board, as well as a father and step-mother in the statehouse.

Over the years, Youngs have run City Hall, led the City Council, overseen the county Board of Commissioners, weighed in on school policy, shaped state legislation, written newspaper columns and directed the county's Democratic Party.

They have publicly disagreed over policy — the patriarch is a Democrat and his most prominently known son is a Republican. They've seen political friendships turn into rivalries, and faced a backlash for their political success.

Del. Galen R. Clagett, who is retiring from the legislature, is openly campaigning against having a Young succeed him, saying, "I think there are too many." And for a time, a city resident produced bumper stickers that read "Don't let Frederick get any Younger."

Still, the Youngs — Ron, Karen, Blaine and Brad — continue to wage competitive campaigns.

"They're good at it. They're natural leaders," said longtime family friend Bert Anderson, who owns several downtown Frederick businesses. "And even more than natural leaders, they're smart politicians."

On a recent afternoon, Karen Lewis Young and her husband, family patriarch Sen. Ron Young, both Democrats, walked through the city's historic district discussing the benefits and drawbacks of having Frederick's most well-known political name. Her first name dominates her campaign signs in a font big enough to make her husband tease that she runs as simply "Karen."

"I'm trying get my own identity," she said.

"What, like Madonna?" he joked. "What are you trying to do, be a rock star?"

"There's more to me than just being a Young," she shot back.

They married in 2006, at a time Ron Young had taken a break from public office. She ran for alderman in 2009, and as a first-time candidate got more votes than any of the others elected to the City Council that year.

Two years later, Ron Young was elected to the state Senate, ousting a three-term incumbent Republican. The same year, one of his four sons, Blaine R. Young, secured a second term on the county Board of Commissioners as a Republican, winning more votes than any of the other candidates. And son Brad W. Young won his first term on the county school board by a landslide that year, collecting 40 percent more votes than his closest competitor.

A third son, Brian, has served on the county's Democratic Central Committee. Blaine Young calls his brother "the smart one" for getting out of politics.

Only the youngest son, Alex, has never run for public office. But Karen Lewis Young says, "Give him time."

The dynasty — though the family dislikes that word — began with Ron Young's stint as mayor of Frederick.

Over four terms, Ron Young became best known for launching programs to revitalize the city's downtown core in the 1970's. He laid the groundwork for the landmark linear park that runs along the banks of Carroll Creek, serving as an attraction and a way to mitigate devastating floods.