Longtime political veteran Punt faces election challenge

October 29, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Incumbent state Sen. Terry Punt believes that his efforts to bring in more than $1 billion in grants and low-interest loans to his district since he was first sent to Harrisburg, Pa., 26 years ago qualify him for a fifth four-year term representing the sprawling 33rd Senatorial District.

The Waynesboro Republican is facing a challenge Tuesday from Don Richards of Greencastle, Pa., chairman of the Franklin County Democratic Committee.

Richards, 53, ran unsuccessfully for a Franklin County Commission seat in 2003, a campaign that led to his challenge of Punt, he said.


He finished last in the race against the three incumbent county commissioners.

"I figured I would lose it, but I'm not afraid to take on challenges," he said.

Richards said his duties as his party's chairman in Franklin County keeps him busy, but he still finds time to campaign for the senate.

"We're gearing up for the election," he said. "We've got about 500 people getting trained and prepared as poll watchers, to hand out literature, make phone calls and drive voters to the polls.

"This is the biggest effort I've seen the Democratic Party do here in 32 years," he said.

The numbers favor Punt and the Republicans, at least among Franklin County's 82,055 registered voters. Republicans number 48,070; there are 24,226 Democrats. That leaves about 10,000 voters who are registered as Independents or are classified as "other," according to county elections officials.

Richards said he works in manufacturing engineering for a Frederick, Md., company. He and his wife, Sarah, have four children and four grandchildren, all of whom live close by, he said.

He believes many Republican voters in the district will cast ballots for Democrat John Kerry for president.

"We're selling a lot of 'Republicans for Kerry' buttons, he said.

He also said this year is the first time that he remembers that the Franklin County Democratic Committee opened two offices - one in Chambersburg, Pa., and one in Waynesboro.

"We opened a Waynesboro office because there were so many people there who wanted to volunteer," he said.

He said his platform is based on helping constituents get health care, including buying cheaper drugs from Canada. "Seven states have these programs. Pennsylvania is not one of them," he said.

"Fixing roads doesn't help people get health care," Richards said, taking a swipe at Punt's effort to secure road-building funds for the district.

Punt chairs the senate's community and economic development committee.

"The people know where I stand," Punt said. "My basic theme hasn't changed since I first ran for the House of Representatives 26 years ago. I promise only one thing - to do my very best and I have given my very best."

Money he has brought to the district has paid for highway projects, education and low-income housing, he said.

"I've seen 269 economic development projects totaling $647 million in capital investments that have created 19,000 jobs," he said.

"I will continue to build on what I've done for the district and Pennsylvania," he said. "I've been effective in bringing money to the district and getting legislation passed."

The 33rd Senatorial District covers all of Franklin and Adams counties and four municipalities in York County. At 1,371 square miles, it's the 11th-largest of the state's 50 senatorial districts, said Russell Faber, the state senate's chief clerk.

According to Faber, Punt has district offices in Waynesboro, Chambersburg and Gettysburg, Pa.

Punt, 55, said his staff consists of 10 full-time employees and one who works part time. Faber said the number of officers a senator has is determined by the number of square miles in a district.

The current salary for state senators and representatives is $66,203.55 a year, Faber said.

Perks include per-diem allowances for meals and lodging of $127 a day during legislative sessions plus transportation and postage allowances.

Polling hours in Franklin County Tuesday are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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