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29 file for commissioner

July 07, 1998|By GUY FLETCHER

Washington County's water and sewer crisis left the county with a $53 million debt, but it also may have resulted in the largest field of County Commissioner candidates - 29 - in two dozen years.

By Monday's 9 p.m. filing deadline, 14 Democrats, 14 Republicans and one Independent candidate had filed to run for the five commissioner seats.

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During the last election, in 1994, 14 candidates filed to run for commissioner, and there were 16 candidates in both 1990 and 1986. The last election in which more than 19 people filed as commissioner candidates was in 1974, when 38 people ran for the office.

Several candidates, political observers and others said the number of candidates, ranging from novices to the politically connected, was related to the number of people frustrated with the water and sewer situation and other matters in county government

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"They're dissatisfied with the current commissioners and the state of the county," said Martin A. Radinsky, a member of the county's Democratic Central Committee

"I think people think we need more visionary, creative types in there," said Susan T. Tuckwell, a Democratic candidate for commissioner.

One commissioner candidate who said he wants more out of elected officials was Timothy A. Bonds, a Hagerstown Republican.

Bonds said he is not surprised by the number of commissioner candidates because people are taking a renewed interest in government after being disappointed by current leaders.

"I think people are just fed up with everyday politics," he said.

Vincent Dellaposta, a member of the county Republican Central Committee, likened the large group of candidates to "vultures" capitalizing on the problems faced by the current board of commissioners.

"They smell blood," Dellaposta said.

Dellaposta agreed the water and sewer situation was probably the driving force behind the number of candidates. But he said the commissioners were being unfairly targeted because they are trying to repair mistakes made long ago.

County Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers, a Democrat, denied the water and sewer issue was the main reason for the large field of candidates and said the "obvious" reason is that two seats are not being contested by incumbents.

"I don't see any overriding issue that is there. I see open seats. That will always bring out the candidates," he said.

The group of commissioner candidates includes three incumbents, including Bowers, commissioners President Gregory I. Snook, and John S. Shank.

They'll have the advantage of name recognition, something that is even more crucial with such a large field of candidates, political observers said.

"It very well may be all three (incumbents) running will be back," Dellaposta said.

Several challengers, such as Tuckwell, former chairwoman of the county Gaming Commission, and Hagerstown City Councilman William M. Breichner, could also benefit from name recognition, observers said.

Terry L. Smith, treasurer of the county's Democratic Central Committee, said local Democrats are hopeful that enough voter dissatisfaction will lead to their party regaining control of the board of commissioners after this year's Nov. 3 general election.

"I think we have a good chance," he said.

The current board is made up of four Republicans and one Democrat.

More importantly, a large field brings in fresh perspectives and gets people interested in politics who might otherwise not run, Smith said.

"It's going to be an interesting race and we're looking forward to it," he said.

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