Thomas, Bittle consider run for House

September 24, 1997


Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Franklin County Commissioner Robert Thomas said Tuesday he's "very seriously considering" running for state representative on the Republican ticket against incumbent State Rep. Jeff Coy, D-Franklin, in next year's election.

"Ever since the election last year, I have been approached by many people in the 89th district who are feeling a need for a change, both Democrats and Republicans," Thomas said.

Thomas, 43, a Franklin County native, said a lot of planning must be done before he formally announces his candidacy, but he has been making some inquiries at the local and state levels.


Franklin County Republican Committee Chairman Bart Stevens confirmed that Thomas has informed the committee of his intention through conversations with members.

"He has indicated that he is exploring the possibility of running," Stevens said.

Chambersburg native Tim Bittle, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully against Coy during the last two elections, said he's also "strongly considering" running again.

"I've received positive feedback from folks in my community with regard to my previous candidacy," Bittle said.

The executive director of the state House Labor Relations Committee, Bittle said he will not formally announce his intentions until after this year's general election.

In a telephone interview from Harrisburg, Pa., Coy said he thinks it's premature to be talking about an election that's 14 months away.

"I'm much more concerned about doing my job. I'm not concerned about politics right now," Coy said.

A lifelong resident of Franklin County, Coy was elected state representative in 1982. Prior to that, he worked as a legal assistant for the State Senate.

"I fully intend to run for re-election on my own record, which I think is good," Coy said.

Having already served half of his term as commissioner, Thomas said he's considering running for the state political office because a Republican from the 89th district could be more influential in statewide decisions. Republicans control both houses of the Legislature and the governor's office.

"I'm very seriously considering joining (Rep.) Pat Fleagle, (Rep.) Allan Egolf, and (Sen.) Terry Punt as part of the team in Harrisburg," Thomas said.

One of three members of the County Commissioners, Thomas said he believes the board is doing a good job and has accomplished a lot in two years, but he is increasingly frustrated with the processes, paperwork and various requirements they have to carry out as mandated by the state, which "tie the county's hands."

"I think to do the rest of what needs to be done, we need support from Harrisburg," he said.

If Thomas wins the general election in November 1998, he would have to resign as commissioner, leaving a one-year vacancy through the end of 1999. The county's president judge would appoint someone to fill the vacancy.

Before being elected commissioner, Thomas worked in radio broadcasting for 23 years. He was born in Chambersburg and graduated in 1972 from James Buchanan High School in Mercersburg, Pa.

He served as a Chambersburg borough councilman for two years.

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