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Late filing rush packs field for city elections

January 26, 2001

Late filing rush packs field for city elections



By DAN KULIN / Staff Writer


A surge of last-day filings in the race for Hagerstown City Council has produced the most crowded field in recent memory.

Seven candidates filed for council Friday, which was the filing deadline, bringing the number of candidates vying for a seat on the five-member council to 17. There are three candidates for mayor.

Councilman J. Wallace McClure is the only incumbent city elected official who is not a candidate in the upcoming election.

McClure said he's setting his sights on a higher office and plans on running for Congress or the state legislature in two years.

"It would not be right to run and then in two years to leave," said McClure, adding that leaving in the middle of a term would "disrupt the continuity" of the council.

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"Ultimately I want to go to Annapolis for four years and then on to the federal level. ... I'm very pleased with my time in council. But it's time for me to be looking at a higher level," he said.

The Thursday and Friday rush of candidates, left only Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II with a free ride to the general election.

Bruchey, a Republican, said not having a challenger from his party is good because it makes it easier to solidify Republican support.

"But on the other hand it doesn't let you gauge public opinion," he said. Primaries can help a candidate measure their popularity before the general election, he said.

On March 13, there will be primary elections for the Democratic mayoral candidates, Democratic council candidates and Republican council candidates. The general election will be May 15.

Primaries are triggered when there is more than one candidate from a party running for mayor, and when there are more than five candidates from the same party running for City Council.

This election there are two Democrats running for mayor, current Councilman William M. Breichner and Eugene E. "Buddie" Morris.

Eight Republicans and nine Democrats are running for City Council.

Dorothy Kaetzel, election director at the Washington County Board of Elections, said there are more candidates for council in this city election than in any other since at least 1977, which was the farthest back she researched Friday afternoon.

"Usually we only have a Democratic primary or a Republican primary," she said.

"For the voters it's very good and it has to be good for the city as well. It's good when they have choices. It shows there's an interest out there in the city," Kaetzel said.

Mayor Bruchey said, "I'm glad there's so much enthusiasm to run for council. It shows enthusiasm and maybe that some changes need to be made."

Penny Nigh, a Democratic candidate for council, said the unusually large number of candidates is a sign "that the council is not doing what it should be doing."

But others disagreed.

Breichner, who after 12 years on the council is running for mayor, said it doesn't seem like there is a strong sentiment to replace the council.

"There are no red hot issues. We haven't had people stomping in the streets," he said.

"I think it's that some spots opened up on the City Council and people are looking at those vacancies and thinking they will give it a try," he said.

Having a large number of candidates is "healthy" and "great" for the city, Breichner said.

"It shows the people are interested in government and paying attention," he said.

"There's been apathy for a long time. I think it's great. I would like to think it's just a feeling they would like to be involved," said Carol N. Moller, a Republican council candidate.

Republican Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein, who filed for re-election Friday, said, "There's a lot of activity going on in the city. ... So many projects on the verge (of happening). It's an intriguing time to be involved."

Michael E. Nehring, also a Republican council candidate, said, "I think it's an exciting time to be a Hagerstonian. It's definitely a city on the move. ... I think that breeds excitement and desire to be a part of it. The future is exciting for Hagerstown."

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