Editor’s note: The Carroll County Times is publishing a series of stories leading up to the July 19 primary election about candidates in the Board of Carroll County Commissioners race. There are five commissioners on the board, each of whom represents a home district. Commissioners are responsible for legislative and executive county functions; they set the county tax rate and determine its annual budget allocations.
In the race to fill five seats on the Board of Carroll County Commissioners, only one Democrat is running.
That Democrat, Zach Hands, 28, a legislative/government affairs consultant, is running for the seat that represents District 3, which includes the City of Westminster.
Hands will proceed through the July 19 primary and face one of two Republican opponents for the District 3 seat, Marsha Herbert, a current member of the county’s Board of Education, or Tom Gordon, whose occupation is antiques and collectibles. All three live in Westminster.
Dennis E. Frazier, a Republican, has served as the District 3 commissioner for two terms and is now a candidate for Maryland House District 5 in the 2022 election.
Gordon, 46, called out his Republican primary opponent Herbert, 70, in a letter to the editor of The Times, published Friday, for refusing to participate in a candidate forum hosted by the Community Media Center of Westminster.
Herber said she wouldn’t participate because Hands was not invited as well.
“I wanted to have a forum, but you have to include the Democrat,” Herbert said. “You have to have the Democrat in the forum. The forum did not include everyone. It’s not fair to the voters to not include everyone. I have done many forums and they always include everyone.”
In Gordon’s letter to the editor, he said Herbert “has decided to not allow the voting public the opportunity to hear both of us in a forum discussion.”
“Regardless of me personally being a candidate for commissioner in District 3 or a voter in this upcoming important election, I find this to be very concerning and unfortunate,” Gordon wrote.
Bob Blubaugh, managing editor of digital content with the Community Media Center in Carroll County said the decision to not include Hands was to make the forum less confusing for voters.
“Certainly in the fall Mr. Hands will be offered the chance to participate,” Blubaugh said.
Blubaugh explained his organization’s policy in an email.
“Our policy, which is posted on our website, is to conduct forums only in contested races,” he stated. “So that’s why, in addition to avoiding confusing the voters, Mr. Hands wasn’t invited to participate in a primary election forum.
“... We certainly want to conduct as many forums as we possibly can because we believe it is good for voters to be as well informed about the candidates as possible... We are just trying to provide a service for the community and it is every candidate’s right to decline an invitation.”
Hands stated in an email that he was unaware of Herbert’s decision not to participate.
“Ms. Herbert’s concern regarding my omission from the forum is news to me, and seems to be an unusual reason for her unwillingness to present herself to the voters,” Hands stated. “While I disagree with the CMC’s decision not to include me in the pre-primary forum in District 3, it certainly should not have impacted Ms. Herbert’s decision to participate.”
Hands said the letter from Gordon levels a fair charge.
“Voters have the right to hear from the people that hope to serve them,” he said. “I am hopeful to participate in a forum against my Republican challenger in the fall.”
Gordon was a candidate for county commissioner in District 3 in 2018. In his response to The Baltimore Sun 2022 Voter Guide, Gordon said he sees public safety as the most pressing issue in the county. He wants to ensure competitive pay, proper liability coverage, and retirement resources for law enforcement and first responders.
Gordon also said providing internet service to rural areas of the county is an important issue.
“... To best use taxpayer money, we need to have a very detailed understanding of what projects are currently funded and underway, including when service will go online,” Gordon stated. “We must identify where gaps genuinely exist, including provider passes...”
Carroll County Breaking News
Hands was a member of the Carroll County Democratic Central Committee from 2014-2018 and was a 2014 candidate for the Maryland House of Delegates in District 5.
Hands stated in the voter guide that he is “a moderate, both politically and in practice. ... We need voices of reason and moderation that are focused on getting things done for people in Carroll County.”
Hands said public safety is the most pressing issue in the county.
“Carroll County continues to face long-term challenges to meet the needs of residents and respond to emergencies efficiently and effectively,” he stated. “It will be something that the next board of commissioners will need to deal with in a significant way...”
Herbert stated in the voter guide that she wants to address connecting rural areas of the county to broadband internet access and address the lack of water service in certain parts of the county.
Using her experience as a school board member, Herbert said as a commissioner she would work with the county’s delegation to the Maryland General Assembly to ensure that the county gets an increase in school funding.
“The only way to improve education in Carroll County is to increase funding,” she stated.