Two incumbents ousted in county

Three new faces join Snook, Wivell

Three new faces join Snook, Wivell

November 06, 2002|by TARA REILLY

Two Democrat incumbent Washington County Commissioners were upset in their bids for re-election in Tuesday's general election, as county voters chose an all-Republican board for the first time since at least the early 1970s.

Commissioners Vice President Paul L. Swartz and Commissioner Bert L. Iseminger each failed to win re-election to a second four-year term.

Incumbent Republicans Gregory I. Snook and William J. Wivell and Republican newcomers James F. Kercheval, Doris J. Nipps and John C. Munson were the top five vote-getters, according to complete but unofficial results.


Ten candidates - five Republicans and five Democrats - vied for the seats on the five-member board. Current Commissioner John Schnebly, a Democrat, did not run for re-election.

In addition to Swartz and Iseminger, the losing Democrats were J. Herbert Hardin, Constance S. Cramer and Jim Brown.

"In looking at it, if the good Lord himself was a Democrat he would not have made it tonight," Swartz said. "I'm just sorry the voters didn't agree that I was a choice."

Swartz, 64, said he wishes the new board well and that he's proud of his four years as a commissioner.

"I have nothing to be ashamed of," Swartz said. "It will be hard for me to accept for a while, but you have to move on."

"I'm disappointed, but that's the way it goes," said Iseminger, 54. "The voters have spoken. I wish them well and I hope they enjoy it as much as I've enjoyed it over my last four years."

Both Iseminger and Swartz said they did not plan to run for commissioner again.

Snook was the top vote-getter with 21,580, followed by Wivell with 20,599, Kercheval with 19,060, Nipps with 17,512 and Munson with 16,201.

Swartz received 14,996 votes, followed by Iseminger with 14,579, Brown with 14,566, Hardin with 12,444 and Cramer with 9,294.

Wivell, Cramer and Hardin could not be reached for comment.

Snook, who has been a commissioner since 1990, said he was pleased with his re-election and attributed the strong Republican support to Robert L. Ehrlich's Republican campaign for governor.

"I thought it would be a 3-2 split," Snook said of the commissioner race. "I think the turnout was because of the governor's race. They kept pushing people to get out."

He said the county, which normally leans toward the Republican side during elections, has not elected an all-Republican board since at least the early 1970s. He said the boards have usually contained both Democrats and Republicans.

"The people have spoken and chosen their leader, and now it's time for those who have been chosen to serve," Brown said.

Brown said he thinks Democrats were disappointed that no one from that party was elected to the county commission.

"I'm sure that there's a disappointment that it's not a mixed group," Brown said. "It's very apparent to me that the Republican party was very well organized for this campaign."

Kercheval said he was happy to be elected and with the way he ran his campaign, which included a minimum number of signs, limited campaign spending and no television or radio commercials.

"You don't have to play the typical political game to do well in the county," Kercheval said.

He said his involvement in community service and campaigning on issues helped get him elected.

"I feel real good," Kercheval said.

Nipps found out she won while listening to the radio at the Washington County Republican Party's victory party at the Hagerstown VFW.

"I can't believe this," said Nipps, who had tears in her eyes.

She and other Republicans celebrated their strong showing in Washington County.

"We haven't seen this before. We haven't seen strong incumbents and strong challengers sweep the floor," said Philip Baker-Shenk, a member of the Republican Central Committee.

Swartz said he believed the gubernatorial race was a factor in the all-Republican win in the county commissioners race.

"Ehrlich supporters came out more than the Townsend supporters," Swartz said. "Democrats have a tendency to vote for the person, and they'll cross over more than the Republicans will."

"It's a shame when they don't look at a person's record," Swartz said.

Munson, who waited for the results at the Election Board, said he was shocked when he learned that he won.

"I can't believe it," Munson said. "Had I lost, I would not have been brokenhearted, but I would be disappointed."

He said he thought the voters decided to oust the two incumbents because they were tired of the county's $156 million total debt.

"That's the main reason," said Munson, who said the first thing he wants to do as a commissioner is sit down with the other commissioners and talk about ways to eliminate wasteful spending.

"I can't do it on my own," Munson said. "It takes all five."

The new board will take over on Dec. 3 after a swearing-in ceremony. The commissioners will make $30,000, up from $20,000 this year. The county commission president will make $33,000.

Swartz, who said losing the election hurt, was able to crack a joke late Tuesday about his final few weeks as a commissioner.

"I don't have to clean out my office yet, but I might booby trap it," Swartz said. "Whoever takes my office better look it over pretty carefully."

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