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Apathy marks city election campaign

May 13, 1997

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

Most Hagerstown voters probably won't head for the polls next Tuesday for balloting to choose the next mayor and five City Council members.

"People around here don't seem very politically minded," said Kathy Wiebel, 41, of East Irvin Avenue.

Wiebel said she plans to vote next Tuesday because she wants to do her part to make sure Democratic Mayor Steven T. Sager is re-elected to a fourth term.

But she isn't optimistic about voter turnout.

Robin Turner, 28, of West Irvin Avenue, said she isn't planning to vote because the candidates and issues don't interest her.

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Voter turnout for the May 20 general election is expected to be better than the low 10 percent turnout in March's primary election, but still not great, said Dorothy Kaetzel, election director for the Supervisors of Elections for Washington County.

"I don't think it will be over 25 percent," Kaetzel said.

Voter turnout for city general elections has declined steadily since 1985 when it was 39 percent, she said.

"It's just a trend in this country at this point - people aren't voting," Kaetzel said.

Of 17 city residents informally surveyed by The Herald-Mail on Monday, nine said they were planning to vote next Tuesday.

The mayoral race between Sager and Republican challenger Robert E. Bruchey II seems to be the driving factor for many of those who plan to go to the polls.

"I'm a Republican. I'm voting Republican. No bones about it. Get rid of that fella that's been in there 12 years," said Warren Demmitt, 69, of Mealey Parkway.

Demmitt's wife, Pat, said she wants most of the incumbents out.

"I think there's too many things going wrong," said Pat Demmitt, 68. She said she'd like to see downtown thrive again, but disagrees with the administration's methods of redeveloping downtown properties with taxpayer money.

Joe Rickard said he plans to vote because he expects the mayoral race to be close and he wants to make a difference.

"I'm going to vote for Bruchey. I think the mayor's more into the real estate business than he is into fixing the problems of the city," said Rickard, 69, of the West End.

Richard Toms said he plans to vote for Bruchey.

"I just don't think he's (Sager) doing a good job," said Toms, 68, of Potomac Avenue. "His past record hasn't proven anything to me."

For Levi Holman, however, "Steve Sager's the man." People shouldn't vote for change when things are running smoothly, said Holman, 55, of Pennsylvania Avenue.

While some have a passion for politics, others could care less.

"I don't vote," said Tammy Billman, 31, of Jonathan Street. Billman said she hadn't been aware there was an election next Tuesday.

"I don't know what they're running for because I don't pay attention," she said.

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