Ridge sets special election date

February 05, 2001

Ridge sets special election date

By STACEY DANZUSO / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge said Monday the special election to replace former U.S. Rep. Bud Shuster will be held May 15, the same day as the statewide primary election.

Shuster, a 14-term Republican, said in January he would resign Jan. 31. His announcement prompted a flurry of activity by Democrats and Republicans to select a candidate and speculation over when the special election would be held.

The earliest Ridge could have called the election would have been mid-April.

"It was expected to be May 15, and that's the way it should be," said Allen Twigg, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party. "We didn't want a special date because of the cost of it."

Franklin County Democratic Chairman William Butts agreed.

"Everybody was hoping he would do this. It would be a lot cheaper to do it this way when you're already setting up for election," he said.


Officials estimate the cost of a separate election would have been $1 million.

Voters in the special election will choose someone to fill the remainder of the Republican congressman's term, which expires in January 2003.

The heavily Republican district includes all of Bedford, Blair, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Mifflin and Snyder counties and parts of Centre, Clearfield and Perry counties.

Republicans will select their candidate at a meeting Feb. 17, Twigg said.

He said the time and location of the meeting have not been announced, but he has selected the 33 conferees the Franklin County Republican Party will send.

Franklin County will have the most conferees because it had the most number of votes cast for President George W. Bush in November.

The first candidate to earn 67 of the 133 votes will be the Republican nominee.

He said Franklin County will carry a lot of weight if the county's conferees vote as a block.

"Personally, I am backing (State Rep.) Pat Fleagle, but that doesn't say they have to vote for him. I just appointed the conferees; they have control over their vote," Twigg said.

Twigg, who is also a conferee, has invited all of the Republican candidates in the 9th District to meet with Franklin County's conferees Monday night.

The list includes about a dozen names besides Fleagle, including William Shuster, Bud Shuster's son, and Fulton County Treasurer Bonnie Mellott Keefer.

The Democratic committees in the 9th District selected Centre County Commissioner Scott Conklin as their nominee last month.

The Democratic Executive Committee will meet Saturday and will likely make Conklin the official candidate, Butts said.

Once that is confirmed, the next three months will be hectic, Butts said.

"I think the candidates are going to be busy. That's for sure," he said. "There won't be any idle time."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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