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Punt, Ross drop out of consideration for Shuster's seat

January 16, 2001

Punt, Ross drop out of consideration for Shuster's seat



By STACEY DANZUSO / Staff Writer, Chambersburg


CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Two potential nominees to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Bud Shuster said this week they will not run for the 9th Congressional District seat, shrinking Franklin County's pool of candidates.

State Sen. Terry Punt, R-Waynesboro, and L. Michael Ross, president of Franklin County Area Development Corp., both said Monday they will not seek the seat Shuster will vacate at the end of the month.

Punt was mentioned early on as a contender for the seat when Shuster announced his retirement Jan. 4, after 14 terms. Ross emerged as a candidate late last week.

Punt cited poor timing as the reason for his decision.

"Had this happened 10 or 15 years ago, the decision would have been simple. I would have begun campaigning nine days ago," he said. "It is something I have wanted to do for the past 25 years. However, the circumstances are very different today and this required very serious consideration and deliberation."

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Punt said he worried about the impact a congressional run and victory would have on his two teenage children. They would have to relocate to Washington or rarely see their father.

"Either alternative is not acceptable. Being a father and spending the little time we have left together as a family is by far, far more important than being a congressman," he said.

Punt expressed his contentment with serving as a state senator.

"I have been able to accomplish many things for my district and have brought home over $200 million during the last four years in highway projects, economic development initiatives and grants to municipalities and organizations," he said.

Punt said it did not make sense for the district for him to lose 22 years of seniority to start over as a freshman congressman. He did not rule out a run for another office in the future.

"Having secured the funding and approval for the Route 30, Route 15, Interstate 81 and Route 16 projects, I feel I have an obligation to see them completed before I consider some other office," he said. All of the projects should be completed within the next two years.

Ross said his reasons were two-fold.

He expressed concerns about how redistricting of the congressional districts in Pennsylvania due to reapportionment this year would affect Franklin County.

Also, he said he is satisfied with his current role in the county.

"I have had the privilege to be the president of the FCADC for the last 15 years and it's a position that I truly enjoy. Franklin County is at a unique position in its economic growth and I look forward to addressing the challenges and opportunities," he said in a statement.

The field of candidates for the seat still includes about a dozen names from the 11-county area in the 9th District.

"This definitely leaves Rep. Patrick Fleagle as the front-runner" from Franklin County, said Allen Twigg, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party.

Fleagle, R-Waynesboro, ran unopposed in November to secure his seventh term as the state representative for southern Franklin County. He has said he would like to be considered for the job.

Twigg said he was hopeful Fleagle could draw support similar to that Punt would have received.

"I would be very comfortable with Pat Fleagle. He has friends in the House in these different counties and should be able to give him support in some of the other counties," he said.

Twigg said he expected that a candidate from Franklin County could stand the best chance of becoming the Republican nominee.

The Republican parties in the 11 counties will send delegates determined by the number of residents who voted for President-elect George W. Bush in November to a convention, at a still to be determined date.

Franklin County had the largest number of votes for Bush and will get 33 of about 130 delegates, Twigg said.

He was awaiting word from the Pennsylvania Republican Party about when the convention will be and how delegates will be selected.

He said he would like to see all of Franklin County's delegates vote as a block for a local candidate.

"I'm hoping to go in as a unified vote," Twigg said.

The Republican nominee will face off against the Democratic candidate in a special election.

Gov. Tom Ridge has 10 days after Shuster retires to call a special election. He might postpone the election until the May 15 statewide primary election.

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