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Franklin Co. voters hit lowest turnout

May 20, 1998|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Franklin County voters hit a new low on Tuesday as just 10 percent of the eligible voters turned out for the primary, according to complete but unofficial election results.

The turnout was considerably less than the previous lows of 13 percent in the 1990 and 1986 primaries, according to figures from the County Commissioners Office. Just 5,788 people cast ballots.

The county has 65,000 registered voters, but only Republicans and Democrats could vote in the primary.

Two factors adversely affected turnout: A lack of contested local races in either party and no serious statewide contests, particularly on the Republican side.

One surprise in the GOP primary was the performance of Monte Kemmler against U.S. Rep. Bud Shuster. He had 896 votes, or 23 percent, against the 13-term congressman.

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Shuster, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, garnered 76 percent of the vote, but Kemmler did nearly as well in the Republican primary as he did in the 1996 general election when he ran against Shuster as the Democratic nominee.

Still to be decided is whether Shuster will also win the Democratic nomination as a write-in candidate. Paul Politis, a Fulton County businessman, was also running a write-in campaign.

"If I don't win big in my own county, I'm dead," Politis said Tuesday night at the Franklin County Administration Annex. He said he spent the day at the Southampton-Mount Rock precinct, where the highest percentage of Franklin County Democrats are.

The 9th Congressional District covers 11 counties and write-in votes won't be tabulated until next week. Politis said he expected to do well in Fulton and Huntingdon counties.

Franklin County Democratic Committee Chairman William Butts was upset that three prominent Democrats, Chambersburg Council members Bernard Washabaugh and Larry Johnson, and Douglas Harbach, sent out letters asking party members to support Shuster for the Democratic nomination.

Harbach, who has run for county Clerk of Courts and Greene Township supervisor, also played a role in the challenge to Politis petitions that kept him from getting his name on the ballot.

"I'm afraid it doesn't look too good for him," Butts said of Politis getting the nomination.

State Rep. Jeffrey Coy was nominated for a ninth term in the Pennsylvania House, getting 97 percent of the votes cast in the county Democratic primary for the 89th District seat. About half of the district is in Cumberland County.

GOP candidate Robert Thomas, a Franklin County Commissioner, got 89 percent of the vote in his primary. That means 11 percent of the Republican voters in the portion of the district in Franklin County wrote in someone else's name.

In a district where Republicans hold an edge in registration, Coy has had to attract GOP voters to remain in office.

State Rep. Patrick Fleagle was nominated for a sixth term in the House from the 90th District and faces no Democratic opposition in the fall. The same is true for Republican Rep. Allan Egolf, who is running for a fourth term.

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