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Pa. Democrats aim for turnaround in '06

October 19, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The small number of candidates and elected officials among the 40 people attending Tuesday's Franklin County Democrats Fall Dinner illustrated a problem party activists want to turn around in 2006.

Two candidates, Magisterial District Judge David E. Hawbaker and Chambersburg School Board candidate Paul Ambrose, were registered Republicans who also won Democratic nominations in the May primary. St. Thomas Township Supervisor Frank Stearn, another Republican, was also present.

"My wife's a Democrat. She's a committeewoman," Stearn said.

"That is one of the prime focuses for next year, and I think we need not just look ahead to next year, but plan on down the line," Franklin County Democratic Committee Chairman Bruce Hockersmith said of the need to find more people willing to run for office.

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One issue is money, said Hockersmith, mayor of Shippensburg, Pa. People running for office need financial support from the party. Money does not always win elections, he said, "but it surely helps."

Roger Lund, vice chairman of the Gettysburg Area Democracy for America and a member of the Adams County Democratic Committee, said a preponderance of Republican voters in his county has not prevented Democrats from getting things accomplished.

"Our Democratic Committee has had an 80 percent increase" in a year, many of them members of Democracy for America, an offshoot of what had been Dean for America, supporters of Howard Dean's presidential candidacy.

By building coalitions with other groups, Lund said the committee has been able to bring in more people and more money.

"When you engage those people in the process, it turns out they have checkbooks and they can write checks, too," Lund said. The party in Adams County has not won any major elections as yet, but it is building a base of volunteers and contributors for future campaigns, he said.

Lund said Republicans spent 40 years as a minority party in the United States, building a majority that began at the school board and council level.

"Just as in Adams County, there has been a lot going on in Franklin County," said committee Second Vice Chairman Paul Politis. A Democratic club has formed in the Greencastle, Pa., area and another has formed for young Democrats.

Politis blasted the Bush administration and Republicans as being "awash in cronyism and corruption" and said Pennsylvania state representatives could be vulnerable next year because of the pay raise they voted themselves.

"There's a lot of activism going on, but we've got to get to the next step" and recruit candidates, he said.

First Vice Chairwoman Beth Shupp-George said this is an off-year election and "we're taking advantage of that to build our infrastructure" by recruiting more young Democrats and creating working groups to help organize fundraising, volunteer and educational efforts.

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