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Panelists discuss issues related to presidential race

October 26, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

It took Marty Kaetzel a minute or so to think about the question. He put his hands on his hips, paused. Started, and paused again.

No doubt, it was a tough question. A reporter asked Kaetzel, 19, of Boonsboro, what was the single biggest reason he was casting his vote for president in next week's election.

Kaetzel had spent nearly two hours Monday night seated among his peers at Hagerstown Community College's College Center, listening to a group of eight panelists discussing national issues involved in the presidential race.

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The issues included education, health care, The Patriot Act, taxes, balancing the budget, and at least a half dozen other topics. The audience of about 90 people was mostly students.

Kaetzel said after the forum that it hadn't changed his mind, and finally went back to his first thought. He said he's voting for Bush because he was raised in a Republican household and because of the war on terrorism.

"It was Bush (who) got us into it. I think he should be the one to get us out," Kaetzel said.

Kaetzel and three of his fellow students took a few minutes after the forum to discuss their political views, and how they'd come to those positions.

Gina Martin, 35, of Boonsboro, said that although she's passionate about one issue - health care - it's a collection of issues on which she's basing her vote.

Martin wouldn't say who she was going to vote for next week, but she has decided, and the forum didn't change her mind. Earlier in the night, Martin directed a question to one of the panelists about health care.

Martin had said she has a family member who needs public health services. Her relative has four children, but can't afford to pay for health care herself, Martin said, and the system isn't working.

"I just felt I had to respond," Martin said after the forum. Prescription costs "are the biggest issue ... the costs are skyrocketing. ... I think there's gotta be another way."

Cory Biden, 19, of Boonsboro, said he's ready to cast his vote next week. He said his brother is serving in Iraq, and that is guiding his vote.

"Oh yeah, I'll be voting. ... I'll be voting Republican," Biden said. "Bringing a new president into the mix of it, I don't think will help."

Emily Kirkham, 20, of Boonsboro, said she can't vote this year because of a technicality. She said she recently moved from the southeastern United States, and wasn't able to cast an absentee ballot.

"I would vote for Bush," Kirkham said, but she admits it's a tough call. "They both make good points," she said, but she also has some qualms.

"I think they're both ... skewing the facts just to make themselves look better," Kirkham said.

"I think it is too much. There's no clear anything on the issues."

Kirkham then acted out her frustrations, cupping her hands to her ears.

"And even sitting in there (in the forum), it's just like - Ahhh!" Kirkham said.

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