No fever so far for city primary

March 04, 1997


Staff Writer

With few campaign signs dotting Hagerstown lawns, many residents are unaware of the city's primary election next Tuesday.

"Basically, nobody knows there's an election," said Jackie Jones, 43, of West Washington Street. Jones said she only found out a few days ago because she saw some candidate signs. She didn't remember who they were for.

When told there will be an election next Tuesday, almost all of a dozen city residents interviewed on Monday said they didn't know what office was on the ballot or who the candidates were.

"I haven't seen anything. They normally go around and campaign," said John Moats, 55, at Bubba's Deli in the South End.


Moats could name two of the six candidates running for the mayoral post in the primary election - incumbent Mayor Steven T. Sager and Republican Leon C. Fearnow.

The other four candidates are Democratic challenger Don Allensworth and Republicans Robert E. Bruchey II, Dennis L. Duffey and Joseph H. Walker.

Bruchey said he's probably done the most campaigning.

He's handed out 3,000 fliers, posted about 25 signs and talked to several union and neighborhood watch groups.

One of those signs is at the corner of Park Lane and Woodland Way, a few houses down from Freddie's sub shop, where four customers said they were unaware of the upcoming election.

The sub shop is around the corner from Bruchey's home, where he has more campaign signs posted.

Customer Debbie Kinzer, 42, of the West End, said she hadn't seen anything about the election. Kinzer said she may not have heard about the election because she works a lot, and seldom reads the newspaper or watches television.

Others said they didn't care much about politics or weren't registered voters so they didn't follow political campaigns.

"I pay little attention to local politics," said Ken Stewart, 34, while waiting in line at the West End Barber Shop.

Rick Hemphill, Washington County Democratic Central Committee chairman, said he's not surprised many people are unaware of the election since there's been virtually no campaigning.

City Council candidates usually campaign more than mayoral candidates and there weren't enough candidates to hold a primary for the city's five council seats, Hemphill said.

Voter disinterest also may be a contributing factor.

"There's no pressing issue that's on people's minds" said Susan Saum-Wicklein, Washington County Republican Central Committee chairwoman.

"The average voter is burned out after the presidential election," Hemphill said.

Hemphill said he expects voter turnout to be low for next week's primary election as well as for the general election on May 20.

Voter turnout in 1993's primary election was 13 percent, while turnout in that year's general election was 30 percent, according to election officials.

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