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A picnic and politics

About 400 attended the gathering of county Democrats.

About 400 attended the gathering of county Democrats.

August 23, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

When they weren't commiserating with each other about the heat or bragging up the fried chicken, about 400 people who attended the annual Washington County Democratic Picnic talked a little politics.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's bid for governor was one of the favorite topics, even though the candidate wasn't there.

Townsend has attended the picnic in recent years, but wasn't able to fit it into her busy campaign schedule this year, said Rick Hemphill, chairman of the Washington County Democratic Central Committee.

The most recent statewide poll shows Townsend leading Republican Robert L. Ehrlich by a slim 47 percent to 43 percent. Both candidates are expected to win their party's nomination in the Sept. 10 primary election.

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Kathleen Hall, chairwoman of Townsend's Washington County campaign, said voters will like Townsend's record on education and public safety.

"She's a woman of integrity. She doesn't let anything deter her," Hall said.

John Willis, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for comptroller against party veteran William Donald Schaefer, made a brief appearance as the only statewide candidate at the picnic.

Some talked about how low-key the local political scene has been, even with the primary less than three weeks away.

"Locally, things are amazingly quiet. There's not a lot of the turbulence that you would usually see bubbling up by now," said D. Bruce Poole, former state delegate.

Some people were buzzing about Commissioner Paul Swartz, who said earlier this week he would resign over the issue of revealing former Economic Development Commission Director John Howard's retirement pay but changed his mind the next day.

"They teased me a lot tonight and said, 'Well are you or are you not (running),'" Swartz said.

Some used the picnic as an opportunity to grill candidates about specific issues.

Frederick Joseph Nastri, a hearing officer in the state prisons, said he lobbied Del. John Donoghue, D-Washington, and House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, about raises for the state's professional employees.

Democrat Ira Kauffman said the picnic, held at the Williamsport Red Men Club, was a good opportunity for him to gather support for his candidacy for county commissioner.

"You get around and meet people. If they don't agree with you, they tell you so," he said.

Several Republican commissioner candidates - including Doris Nipps, William Wivell, Stephen Palmer and Vikki Nelson - apparently felt the same way.

"We don't mind taking Republican money," Hemphill said.

The party expected to raise about $3,500 from the event.

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