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Democrats at picnic confident Kerry will win election

August 27, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

With the smell of chicken and beans in the air at Williamsport Red Men Lodge 84, it was the smell of victory that Democrats said they were focused on Thursday at the party's annual picnic.

Many in attendance said they were confident Sen. John Kerry will defeat President Bush in November's election.

About 300 people packed into the outdoor pavilion. The crowd cheered heartily during nearly every denouncement of the president and clamored for free items with slogans such as "anybody but Bush" and "flush Bush."

Rick Hemphill, chairman of the Democratic Central Committee of Washington County, said local Democrats this year seem to have a more diverse range of reasons than usual for supporting the party's candidate. He said most appear unified and energetic for this campaign and angry at the sitting administration.

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"I think this is a more visceral election than in past years," Hemphill said. "I think there's a lot of people who are really angry, on both sides."

Elena Smidt, of Sharpsburg, said some of Bush's actions relating to civil liberties have been upsetting, especially the Patriot Act.

"I grew up around fascism - I grew up fearful of speaking up," said Smidt, who originally is from Argentina. "I hear some of that same rhetoric I grew up with."

Bill Lyon, of Greencastle, Pa., said his biggest problem with President Bush is the number of jobs lost in his home state in recent years.

Larry Craig, of Hagerstown, said he was not pleased with the administration's war strategy or its treatment of veterans, including those who recently served in Iraq. Craig, who served in the Vietnam War, vehemently defended Kerry's service record.

"He was there - He was there," Craig said. "I have no problem with him coming back and protesting."

One thing missing from the picnic was a large contingent of young voters. J. Matthew Gilmore, a registered Democrat and an attorney based in Frederick, Md., said that might be the group of voters Kerry needs the most at the polls.

"This (picnic) doesn't really target younger voters," Gilmore said. Events such as the picnic "are important because it is for the core Democrats that will always be there and can be your base."

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