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Iseminger hopes his lead holds

November 05, 1998|By BRENDAN KIRBY

Bert L. Iseminger Jr. has an 86-vote lead over Susan T. Tuckwell for the fifth and final Washington County Commissioners spot, but he knows from experience not to pop the champagne cork yet.

Iseminger had a 10-vote lead over John P. Donoghue in the 1990 race for state delegate for District 2C.

But Iseminger won only 97 of the 238 absentee ballots and ended up losing by 34 votes.

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Absentee ballots also played a role in Iseminger's 1990 Republican primary delegate race. He hung on despite losing the absentee count 18-13 to opponent M. George McGauhey.

Iseminger, who ran as an Independent for commissioner, said candidates cannot be comfortable if absentee ballots could change the outcome of an election.

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"Not unless you're ahead by a lot, and 86 isn't a lot," he said.

After finishing first in the Democratic primary and after hearing positive feedback on the campaign trail, Tuckwell said she felt she had a good chance to take one of the five commissioner seats in Tuesday's general election. She noted the similarity to Paul L. Swartz, who was the top vote-getter in the Democratic primary four years ago only to lose in the general election.

"I was prepared because the same thing did happen to Paul," Tuckwell said. "(But) I wouldn't change a thing, the way we ran the campaign."

A precinct-by-precinct analysis shows that the battle for the fifth spot was close throughout the county. But both candidates counted different areas as strengths.

Tuckwell beat Iseminger in 23 of the county's 43 precincts

Iseminger beat Tuckwell by a total of 489 votes in Legislative District 2A and District 3, an area that roughly covers the top half of the county running from Allegany County to Frederick County.

Tuckwell outpolled Iseminger by 360 votes in District 2B, which encompasses the southern portion of the county. She edged him by 43 votes in District 2C, which is roughly the city of Hagerstown.

Nearly 54 percent of the absentee ballots came from voters who live in districts 2A and 3, the areas in which Iseminger got more votes than Tuckwell.

But Iseminger said absentee votes do not necessarily follow the Election Day votes. He said he might not do as well in the absentees because his campaign peaked during the last week with an endorsement by The Herald-Mail and an opinion column that was published days before the election.

"All the good things happened right at the end," he said.

Both candidates targeted absentee voters during the campaign. Iseminger said he sent campaign literature to each voter who requested an absentee ballot from the Washington County Board of Election Supervisors.

Tuckwell said she obtained a list of voters who requested absentee ballots and mailed more than 1,200 letters.

"We kept up with that. We worked the absentees pretty hard," she said. "There's a lot to be said for everything counts."

If Iseminger hangs on, he will become what is believed to be the first Independent ever elected Washington County Commissioner.

To get on the general election ballot, Iseminger had to get 1,914 voters to sign a petition. Collecting those signatures was fulfilling, he said, because it gave him a chance to meet thousands of people.

"I was happy with the fact that people were willing to take a chance on an Independent," he said.

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