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GOP draws majority of new Franklin Co. voters

April 03, 2000|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The number of new Republicans was almost five times the number of new Democrats during the registration period that ended March 6, according to the official count by the Franklin County Voter Registration Office.

There were 40,421 Republicans eligible to vote in the April 4 primary, 533 more than were eligible in the November 1999 general election. The number of Democrats was up 109 to 22,152, the report said. The figures include new registrants, people who switched parties and those who moved into the county.

The number of people registered as independents or with other political parties was up 133 to 7,291, according to the count.

The polls inFranklin County's 75 precincts will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday.

County Democratic Committee Chairman William Butts predicted a low turnout "since neither of the presidential candidates has any opposition with Sen. (John) McCain and Bill Bradley having pulled out." Republican candidate George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore both secured enough delegates in primaries earlier this month to wrap up their nominations.

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"I certainly hope Democrats turn out to demonstrate their support for Al Gore," Butts said. He said Republicans may turn out to support Bush to bolster a possible vice presidential bid by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge.

"He may have a point there," County Republican Committee Chairman Allen V. Twigg said. He said dissatisfaction with the Clinton administration could be a factor in the higher Republican registration since last November.

In 1996 when President Bill Clinton and GOP candidate Bob Dole had already secured the nominations, turnout in the Franklin County primary was 16 percent. In the November general election, however, turnout was 74 percent, according to county election figures.

If 1996 is a model, registration could increase substantially as the presidential election approaches. Between the primary and general election that year, more than 2,000 new Republicans and 1,000 new Democrats registered to vote, according to county figures.

But a lack of state and local races could depress turnout, both Butts and Twigg said.

None of the county's three state representatives, Pat Fleagle, R-90th, Allan Egolf, R-86th, and Jeff Coy, D-89th, have primary opposition. Republican Kenneth Gill is unopposed for the 89th District GOP nomination to run against Coy this fall.

State Sen. Terry Punt, R-Franklin, has no primary opponent and there is no Democratic candidate.

U.S. Rep. Bud Shuster, a Republican, has no GOP or Democratic opposition and U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum is unopposed in the GOP primary.

One draw for Democrats will be selecting an opponent for Santorum, whom Butts said is vulnerable in November. Former Pennsylvania Secretary of Labor and Industry Tom Foley, U.S. Rep. Ron Klink, State Sen. Allyson Schwartz and attorneys Phil Berg, Murray Levin and Bob Rovner are all vying for the nomination.

Butts said the state Democratic Committee did not endorse a candidate in the race.

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