Ridge expecting close election

February 26, 1998


Staff Writer, Chambersburg

McCONNELLSBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge was in full campaign mode Thursday night, shaking almost every hand and autographing about half the programs at the Fulton County Republicans' Lincoln Day Dinner.

With the state's economy in good shape, Ridge would appear to be an odds-on favorite for re-election, but he said, "I think this election will be a lot closer than people think."

"No Republican has ever won with more than 54 percent of the vote," Ridge said during a brief brake in his hand-shaking. He noted Democrats start with an advantage of more than 400,000 registered voters.


"I think there'll be three or four candidates in the race. Republican, Democrat, Libertarian and probably some other party," Ridge, 52, said prior to his speech.

"We've got campaign organizations in every county of the state. We're going to contest every vote in every county in every corner of this state," he told the audience of more than 300 people at the McConnellsburg Fire Hall.

As the Republicans sat down to dinner, Ridge was working the crowd hard, doing some retail politics.

"I don't want you to smile," Ridge told Kenny Bloom, 4, of McConnellsburg. The boy laughed, burying his face in the shoulder of his mother, Sandy.

"Every vote in small rural counties is worth as much as a vote in big urban counties," he said in his speech. Ridge may need overwhelming support in rural counties to win in November. Both Fulton and Franklin counties voted for Ridge by a 2-to-1 margin over Singel in 1994.

Ridge listed programs he has initiated and touted the state's strong economy.

"We've jumped over two dozen states in job creation ... I won't be happy till we're number one," he said.

Ridge began his administration with a special session on crime and got his biggest applause line when he talked about juvenile crime. "Young people today have to know they're responsible for their conduct."

Glenn Ford, vice chairman for the GOP committee in Fulton County, said visits by governors to the county have been rare.

"It's been a long time since one even stopped by," he said.

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