Primary candidates file in Chambersburg

March 07, 2001

Primary candidates file in Chambersburg

By STACEY DANZUSO / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Ten people are vying for five open Chambersburg Borough Council seats and three more have announced their candidacies for mayor.

Candidates had until Tuesday to file petitions with the Franklin County Commissioners in their capacity as election supervisors to run in the May primary.

There are no term limits on the four-year positions, with half of the 10-person council up for election every two years.

Mayor Robert P. Morris will seek his fifth term. The Democrat does not have any competition in the party primary May 15, but he will face one of the Republican challengers - Thomas L. Newcomer or Gary Hawbaker - in the election this fall.


Four of the five sitting council members are seeking re-election. Harold D. Kennedy, one of the two council members for the Second Ward, has decided not to seek re-election to the council at the end of his term this year, after 20 years of service.

Morris, 55, said most of the power in Chambersburg lies with the council, but with growing frequency, he has been called upon to break tie votes at meetings.

"Naturally, with a tie vote you have to go one way or the other. That generally makes one half angry and one half happy. That prompts a lot of controversy," he said.

He said the recent controversy could be the reason for increased interest in the primary.

As a Democrat in a heavily Republican area, Morris, a James Buchanan Middle School guidance counselor, said he always has a Republican challenger.

This year, Hawbaker and Newcomer are seeking the Republican nomination.

Newcomer, who is only half-way through his third term as Second Ward councilman, said he decided to run for mayor because he believes there is a need for new leadership and change in the borough government.

Newcomer, 56, has been active in the Rails-to-Trails project and downtown revitalization efforts.

He said he believes the borough has to become more creative with its revenue sources and find ways to cut costs instead of increasing taxes.

A phone number for Hawbaker was not available.

First Ward Councilman Allen Coffman, 54, a Republican, is the only current council member who will not face opposition in the primary or the general election.

Seeking his third term, Coffman, a purchasing agent for Knouse Foods, said he wants to continue maintaining the level of services Chambersburg has while avoiding tax increases for few more years.

In the Second Ward, Kennedy's decision to step down at the end of the year to devote more time to his job leaves the door wide open for first-time candidates.

Republicans Ruth Harbaugh and Allen S. Frantz are vying for their party's nomination for that seat.

Frantz, 40, a sales representative at Jennings Chevrolet-Oldsmobile-Cadillac in Chambersburg, said his goal is to "make the borough a better place to live."

Harbaugh, a retired South Mountain Recreation Department employee, said she thinks the borough and council needs some changes.

"I am retired, so I could put a good bit of time in. I do a lot of volunteer work for senior citizens and would be an advocate for seniors," said Harbaugh, 64.

Koonie Kiser, owner of Kiser Construction, is the only Democrat running in the primary for the Second Ward seat.

"I would like for our community to be the shining star where other boroughs and municipalities can look to us," said Kiser.

Councilman Carl W. Helman is running for his second full term representing the Third Ward.

A Republican, Helman was tapped in 1996 to serve out the remaining two years of his predecessor's term.

The director of Facilities Design for Country Meadows Retirement Community, Helman said his background has helped him make informed decisions as a councilman and as a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission.

He said he was instrumental in getting the antiquated housing codes replaced in 1997 and the adoption of a revised method to enforce the codes last year.

He does not face primary opposition, but will run against Democrat Theresa Johnson in November.

Johnson, 58, is a staff associate at Shippensburg University, and wants to focus on bringing businesses back to the Southgate Mall.

"My motto is 'Success begins with a dream.' The dream being diversity, responsibility, empowerment, access and mobilization," she said.

There is no Democratic candidate running for the Fourth Ward seat, but Councilman John A. Redding Jr., 70, and Jason Bitner are vying for the Republican nomination.

Redding, who is retired from the Depot Systems Command at Letterkenny, is seeking his third term.

"The borough has been very successful and I would like to continue the way we are," he said.

Bitner was not available for comment.

In the Fifth Ward, Council President Bernard L. Washabaugh, a Democrat, is running for his eighth term.

"I want to maintain present services we have and make them something to continue to be proud of," said Washabaugh, 60, who works as a supervisor in the state Auditor General's office.

In November, he will face Republican Kenneth Gill, who made a failed bid against state Rep. Jeff Coy to represent the 89th District last fall.

A finance officer at Penn State Mont Alto, Gill said he has the business background to make sensible choices for the borough's budget.

"The borough is really just a big business," said Gill, 57.

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