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Voters can send message at polls

November 03, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

By casting their ballots in today's general election, Washington County voters have an opportunity to send a clear message to incumbents in several races.

* Voters may choose to let the current County Commissioners know Tuesday whether they're still upset about the $53 million water and sewer debt or if they're satisfied with steps taken to reduce the debt.

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Three incumbents are among the 11 candidates and one write-in candidate angling for the five commissioner seats.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook was the leading vote-getter in September's Republican primary, while Commissioner John S. Shank barely hung on in the Republican primary. Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers finished fifth in the Democratic primary.

"I don't think the gubernatorial (race) will bring the voters out as much as the county commissioner race," said Democratic Central Committee Treasurer Terry Smith.

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"Most people believe they have more of an impact on local (races) than they do across the state, especially since we don't have the population that larger counties do," Smith said.

"Over the last four years, people seem to be more concerned about what the commissioners have done and haven't done," he said.

Smith said he thinks the Democratic Party has a good shot at securing at least three of the five seats, reclaiming the majority the party lost in 1994.

* Ballots will be cast for five members of the Washington County Board of Education, which is expanding from five to seven members.

The top three vote-getters will serve four-year terms, and the fourth- and fifth-place finishers will serve two years.

The 10 candidates include three incumbents - B. Marie Byers, Doris J. Nipps and Robert Kline.

The seats held by board members Ed Hayes and Andrew Humphreys aren't up for grabs in this election. Both men will stay on the school board.

* The most hotly contested local state race is between incumbent D. Bruce Poole and challenger Chris Shank for the Maryland House of Delegates District 2B. The district covers the southern and eastern parts of Washington County, including Sharpsburg, Boonsboro and Keedysville.

Poole, a Democrat, narrowly hung onto his seat four years ago when he edged out GOP challenger Richard Wiles by fewer than 100 votes.

Both Poole and Shank attacked each other late in the campaign.

Poole has hammered Shank for accepting thousands of dollars in state scholarship money to learn how to become a "political animal."

Shank has criticized Poole for voting for the vehicle emissions program and accepting contributions from out-of-county political action committees.

Shank was legislative assistant for the Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly for four years. He resigned one week before announcing his candidacy in May.

* Eleventh-hour, write-in candidate Paul Muldowney will go up against John Donoghue, who defeated Muldowney in the Democratic primary for the District 2C seat. The district roughly includes the Hagerstown city limits.

With no Republican candidate, Muldowney is Donoghue's only challenger.

Write-in votes will be counted starting at 10 a.m. on Wednesday in the election board office at 33 W. Washington St.

* Other than the commissioners and school board races, the only other contested county race is for Judge of the Orphans' Court.

Six candidates are vying for three available seats.

Judges settle contested wills, approve the appointment of personal representatives, set commissions for attorneys in the probate of wills and oversee guardianships of minors who receive property from an estate.

* Candidates for Washington County sheriff, treasurer, state's attorney, clerk of the circuit court and register of wills are uncontested.

* U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, Republican, is running for his fourth term in office against Democratic challenger Timothy D. McCown, of Jefferson, Md.

* Six candidates, all from Frederick County, Md., are running for three House of Delegates seats available in District 3. The district encompasses the northern and northeast parts of Washington County and the western half of Frederick County, including the city of Frederick.

Despite a hotly contested, close gubernatorial race, political observers expect voter turnout to be average, around 63 percent.

Republican Central Committee member Vikki Nelson said voter turnout might be slightly higher because more people are aware of what's going on in the county.

"Four years ago, it was kind of, 'so what,'" Nelson said.

Nelson said she doesn't think the Republican Party will lose its majority on the County Commissioners board.

Of the 52,040 registered voters in 1994, 32,544 cast ballots, Election Director Dorothy Kaetzel said.

There are 65,027 county residents registered to vote. And 2,300 other registered voters are inactive or not living at the address listed with the election board, she said.

Kaetzel said 1,605 absentee ballots were issued, of which about 1,300 had been received as of Monday.

Absentees ballots will be accepted in person at the election board until 8 p.m. today.

They will be counted at 10 a.m. on Thursday in the master's hearing room on the second floor of the Washington County Courthouse annex.

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