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Key races spice primaries

September 14, 1998|By GUY FLETCHER

When Washington County voters head to the polls in today's primary election, they will be making choices in several key races that will leave their marks on state and local government for many years.

Consider:

- The County Commissioners race, with the largest field since 1974, will feature 14 Republicans and 14 Democrats. The primary election will trim that field down to five in each party, plus one Independent candidate, who will vie for five seats in the Nov. 3 general election.

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- The first contested judicial race in the county in 20 years will have Democratic and Republican voters deciding among three Circuit Court candidates. Two or all three will make it to the general election, where two will be elected to the bench.

- For Republicans, the state Senate race in District 2 has Sen. Don Munson, R-Washington, facing his first primary election challenge since 1975 from Victoria "Vikki" Nelson. A GOP Senate race in District 3 has Sen. John Derr, R-Frederick/Washington, squaring off in a hotly contested race with challenger Alex Mooney.

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- Democratic voters in the City of Hagerstown will get to choose between two-term incumbent Del. John Donoghue, D-Washington, and former state legislator Paul Muldowney.

"I think there's every reason for people to get out and vote. There's no reason not to vote. There's a lot at stake," Donoghue said.

His opponent, sensing voter dissatisfaction amid the scandal surrounding President Clinton, said the public's frustration could keep people away from the polls.

"There's an awful lot of frustration out there because of Bubba. There's a huge amount of anger," Muldowney said.

Because there is no presidential election, most political observers predict a light turnout. Local election officials believe turnout will be about 36 percent of registered voters - consistent with the last off-year primary in 1994.

But County Commissioner Ron Bowers, a Democrat who is seeking his sixth term in office, said he can see interest in local races driving voter turnout up to 40 percent or higher.

"There should be a good turnout to get good candidates for the school board and good candidates for the County Commissioners," Bowers said.

Earlier this year the prevailing view among many political observers was that the County Commissioners race, with so many candidates and a hot-button issue in the county's water and sewer debt, would bring out the voters in droves.

But last week, several wondered if the impact will still be seen at the polls. In fact, some said that having so many candidates confuses voters and doesn't allow them to easily focus on particular candidates.

"There's so many of them that nobody can make an educated decision," said Martin Radinsky, a member of the county's Democratic Central Committee.

Radinsky said the Donoghue-Muldowney race likely will bring out voters in the Hagerstown district, but doesn't see overall county turnout higher than 35 percent.

Vincent Dellaposta, a member of the county Republican Central Committee, said there are several races that should bring voters out, noting the two state Senate races in particular. But he said voter apathy could still keep turnout low.

"People have a general attitude that it doesn't make a difference," Dellaposta said.




Internet users can keep up with local elections as the votes are tallied this evening through two World Wide Web sites.

The Herald-Mail site is www.herald-mail.com.

The State Board of Elections also is providing returns for all state and federal races in Maryland at www.elections.state.md.us

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