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Candidates miss voting opportunities

October 18, 1998|By BRENDAN KIRBY

Moments before filing to run for the school board in June, Mary L. Wilfong took care of a basic prerequisite: She registered to vote.

Before June 29, Wilfong had never voted and had never registered to vote, according to the Washington County Board of Election Supervisors.

"This is one question I hoped I'd never have to answer," Wilfong said after a reporter asked her about the issue.

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Wilfong, who was the top vote-getter in the Sept. 15 primary that narrowed the field from 15 candidates to 10, said she has not been registered to vote for a "personal reason."

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"It's a legitimate concern. But it's not from lack of interest and it's not from lack of involvement," she said.

Wilfong noted that she has was involved in the PTA when her children were in school and has been a member of the Business Education Committee of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

In addition, Wilfong said she has led fund-raisers for the homeless and has been president of REACH, a church-based group that runs the Washington County Cold Weather Shelter.

Other candidates, however, said voting is a basic function of democracy that should be taken seriously.

School board candidate J. Herbert Hardin, who has missed only one election in the last 15 years, called voting a "moral obligation."

"What would that say if I hadn't voted in any at all? That would mean I wouldn't have participated in a free election process," he said. "I wouldn't have any right to complain about anything."

School board candidate Paul W. Bailey, who has not missed an election in the last 15 years, said he has tried to serve as a role model for children.

"I think it's a fundamental right and a fundamental privilege that we're given. And it's very important that we use that right," he said. "I would hope every candidate would take it as seriously as I do."

Wilfong is not the only candidate who has been a no-show in past elections.

Since 1984, school board candidate W. Gordon Crabb has missed five primary elections; school board candidates Lenora L. Barnhart and David L. Resh Jr. and County Commissioners candidate Mary L. Kline have missed three.

School board candidate William Ross Cunningham has missed three Hagerstown primaries.

Two school board candidates, incumbents B. Marie Byers and Robert L. Kline, have voted in every election since 1984. Seven County Commissioners candidates - Ronald L. Bowers, Linda C. Irvin-Craig, John L. Schnebly, John S. Shank, Paul L. Swartz, Susan T. Tuckwell and William J. Wivell - also have perfect records.

Mary Kline said she was in Texas for her son's graduation from the police academy in 1988. She said she does not remember why she did not vote in the 1984 and 1996 primaries.

"I usually try to make them all. It must have been something that kept me away," she said.

Kline said voting in primaries is important because voters otherwise have no say in their choices on Election Day in November.

Crabb, who skipped five straight primaries from 1984 to 1992, said he does not recall why he didn't vote, although he said he often traveled on business during the 1980s.

"I think it's very, very important. It's really what we're all about," he said.




related story: List of candidates and whether they've voted

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