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Hagerstown mayoral race is too close to call

May 16, 2001

Hagerstown mayoral race is too close to call



By DAN KULIN

dank@herald-mail.com

William M. Breichner

Above: William M. Breichner

Below: Robert E. Bruchey IIRobert E. Bruchey

Hagerstown voters will have to wait until Thursday to find out whether Councilman William M. Breichner or incumbent Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II will lead the city for the next four years.

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Breichner, a Democrat, had a 44 vote lead over Bruchey, a Republican, in the race for mayor. But at least 111 absentee ballots remained to be counted.

According to complete but unofficial totals released by the Election Board Tuesday night, Breichner received 1,511 votes, or 50.2 percent of the vote. Bruchey received 1,467, or almost 48.8 percent of the votes.

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"I feel pretty good about staying up with an incumbent," Breichner said. "They put a lot of money in the campaign ... and I know they made a big push in the final days. I have to feel good about where I'm at."

"We ran a good campaign," Bruchey said "We did the best we could. Bill's well respected and has that name recognition of 45 years in city government."

The Washington County Election Board sent out 124 absentee ballots and had received 111 back as of Tuesday. Absentee ballots postmarked prior to Tuesday and received today will also be counted, said Election Board Director Dorothy Kaetzel.

Absentee ballots will be counted Thursday beginning at 9 a.m. in the second floor conference room at 33 W. Washington St. Hagerstown, Kaetzel said.

Eugene E. "Buddie" Morris, a Democrat who was defeated by Breichner in the March primary, ran as a write-in candidate in Tuesday's election. Morris' votes will be tallied by Thursday, Kaetzel said.

Voters cast 31 write-in votes Tuesday, according to Election Board figures.

Breichner's campaign centered around his extensive experience in City Hall, and ways to encourage redevelopment.

Breichner, 69, said that to encourage property renovations, the city should offer tax incentives such as freezing assessments on renovated properties for five to 10 years, depending on the extent of the renovations.

He said that as it is now, if someone makes improvements to their property, the value of the property goes up and their assessment goes up, which increases their tax bill.

Breichner also said the city's historic preservation efforts should be scaled back because sometimes the emphasis on preservation discourages or slows renovation.

Breichner began his career with the city in 1956, going to work as a draftsman in the city's Water Department. Nine years later he was promoted to superintendent of the department.

In 1983, Breichner became the first city administrator. He resigned at the request of the City Council in 1987.

Breichner was elected to the council in 1989, and has been re-elected twice. In all three of Breichner's runs for council he was among the top two vote-getters.

Bruchey, 42, ran a campaign similar to the one that brought him into office four years ago, going door-to-door with his crime-fighting and economic development platform.

Bruchey promised to again push for a "zero tolerance" crime policy that would focus on smaller crimes, such as littering and loitering, as a way to reduce the number of major crimes. The theory, Bruchey says, is that those committing serious crimes are also committing less serious crimes.

On economic development, Bruchey said he wants to hire a business recruiter for the city.

Bruchey said one of his accomplishments from his first term was getting Gov. Parris Glendening to pledge to put a state university center in downtown.

The new mayor will be sworn in May 28.

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