Republican Corey Stottlemyer concedes that state Sen. Ron Young was once a visionary leader who, as mayor of Frederick, helped a sleepy city become a thriving hub of business and culture.
But that's all in the past, Stottlemyer says.
"He's always talking about things he did when he was mayor of Frederick," says Stottlemyer, 38, an economist in his first campaign for office. "I'm running against his four years as state senator. I see him not as the leader he once was, but as a follower. He's not pushing new ideas."
Young, 73, says that line of argument is hogwash. He points to bills he's introduced seeking to promote zero-energy homes, ban employers and coaches from demanding social media passwords, and to require the state to keep a database of animal abusers.
"I'm running against a young guy who is trying to say I'm old and out of touch, which is garbage," Young says. "It won't sell. I introduced more than 100 bills in the four years I've been there."
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller sent an aide to campaign with Young to see if he still had the vigor needed to win. Young, a former ultramarathon runner, says he jogged while door-knocking and wore the aide out. "I still have the energy to serve the community," he says.
Young is perhaps the best-known politician in Frederick County, the patriarch of what's become a political dynasty: Youngs have collectively served more than 50 years in elected office, and boast four candidates this election cycle, including son Blaine, the Republican candidate for Frederick County executive.
The General Assembly's 3rd District, where Young is a one-term state senator, isn't a Democratic stronghold, which gives Stottlemyer and the state's Republican Party hope. Young has one of four state Senate seats the state GOP thinks are ready for a Republican takeover. (The others are held by Democrats Jim Brochin in northern Baltimore County, Roy P. Dyson in Southern Maryland and Jim Mathias on the Eastern Shore.)
Young's district has 4,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans, but GOP voters are known to turn out in higher numbers there, which worries Young. And for 12 years it was represented by tea party conservative Alex Mooney, whom Young defeated in 2010.
Stottlemyer believes he can take out Young.
"I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't think I had a good chance of winning," he says.
Young, who was mayor of Frederick for 16 years and the state's "Smart Growth" chief under Gov. Parris N. Glendening, says Stottlemyer is making the same mistake as Mooney in arguing that Young has grown stale.
He recalls a debate in which Mooney made an issue of his age.
"I said, 'Do you have a problem with older people?' The whole audience broke out laughing," Young said. "He forgot who votes. It's the last time he brought that up."
Stottlemyer, who was a regional director for Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s campaign for governor in 2006, filed to run for office less than a week before the deadline. He is outgunned financially, with only $2,000 in his campaign account compared to $58,000 for Young. He acknowledges it's perhaps an uphill battle.
"It's a low-budget campaign," Stottlemyer says. "There's no one who has higher name identification in Frederick County than Ron Young. I mean, let's face facts."
But he's quickly picked up supporters — some of whom are angered at something that Young or a family member has done.
Steven Holman, 29, and Antonio Bowens, 24, say they're supporting Stottlemyer because they believe in his approach to public life, but also because Young's wife, Karen, supported building of a third Wal-Mart in Frederick.
"We need new people and new ideas," says Holman. "Corey shows an openness to look at all sides of an issue."
Joe Parsley is so incensed that Young voted for the state gas tax increase that he posted large sign outside his Shell station pledging to vote against him.
"We need people with conservative principles who care about small businesses and hold the line on tax increases and spending," Parsley says. "I think Corey is that person."
Parsley agrees with Stottlemyer that Young's best days are behind him. "Ron Young has been a great asset to the city in the past," he says. "Right now all he is doing is rubber-stamping what [Gov. Martin] O'Malley, Miller and the leadership in Annapolis are putting out. He's not looking out for local Frederick. He wouldn't have voted for this gas tax if he was."
Young defends his vote in favor of the tax increase, saying the funds are needed for transportation improvements.
"When I was mayor, I cut the tax rate seven times," he says. "In the General Assembly, if you vote against the budget, you don't get anything to bring back to your district. I want to bring things back to my community."
He says he still has unfinished business in the Senate.
"Unlike what they're trying to picture me, I've been very independent," Young says.
He also says he has voted for what he believes is right, even if some in his district may not have agreed with his position. "I stood up for things ... like same-sex marriage and the Dream Act," which allows some immigrants in the country illegally to pay in-state college tuition rates. "I would rather be right with history," he said.
He points to his support for Frederick's zero-energy homes — houses that generate as much solar electricity as they use — as an idea he wants to encourage throughout the state.
Jamie Shopland, the president of the Young Democrats of Frederick County, says it's ideas like those that make Young as relevant in Maryland politics as ever.
"Senator Young is the only candidate in the race who has a long record of standing for issues that young people care about including protecting social media privacy, funding our public education system, and finding incentives to protect our environment like zero-waste-energy housing," she says.
Ronald N. Young
Job: State senator
Family: Married; five grown children
Family: Married; two children