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Democratic picnic draws 600

August 28, 1998|By BRENDAN KIRBY

WILLIAMSPORT - A day after the Washington County Republican Club threw a bash for the party faithful, local Democrats took their turn Thursday.

Members of the Washington County Democratic Central Committee estimated 600 people showed up at the picnic at the Red Men's Club.

"We're three times more than the Republicans. And I was one of them," said Marty Radinksy, vice chairman of the central committee, who attended the GOP event.

The last few years have been difficult ones for local Democratic Party activists.

The once-dominant party has seen its registration numbers fall below the Republicans; the party's representation on the Washington County Commissioners was nearly wiped out four years ago; and scandals on the national level haven't helped.

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But Rick Hemphill, chairman of the central committee, said events like Thursday's picnic show the party has life.

"It gets us energized," he said.

In addition to rank-and-file party members chowing down on chicken and corn on the cob, the event gave Democratic candidates one of the election season's best opportunity to meet likely voters.

John Willis, Maryland's secretary of state, attended the picnic on behalf of Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

Willis came prepared, touting local achievements of Glendening such as money for South Hagerstown High School's renovation and improvements to the Halfway Boulevard/Interstate 81 interchange.

While many commentators have focused on Glendening's relatively low poll ratings and the fact that he narrowly defeated Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey four years ago, Willis turned the picture around.

In 1994, Republicans swept to power across the country, winning the governor's mansions in nearly every state and gaining a majority of seats in Congress for the first time in a generation,Willis said.

The real story is that Glendening withstood that onslaught, Willis said.

"It won't be as close as last time," he said.

Willis said the governor's problems are more of a media creation than reality. He pointed to Glendening's approval ratings, which have steadily risen in the last several months.

He said virtually every elected official and party leader has endorsed Glendening despite two high-profile defectors - Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry - who backed an opponent in the primary.

"It drew attention. But it didn't draw support," he said.

On the local front, Thursday's picnic raised several hundred dollars from an auction, party officials said. That money will be used to fund get-out-the vote drives and other activities designed to help the Democrats win in November.

The picnic appeals to hardcore Democrats. But Hemphill said the central committee plans events to try to draw less committed voters to the party.

The party is hosting a political rally in Clear Spring on Sept. 9 with free food and beverages to give voters a chance to meet candidates.

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