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Super response for Swann's appearance in Chambersburg

February 21, 2006|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Candidates for statewide office have often been featured in past Lincoln Day Dinners, but this evening's event has the added celebrity of Lynn Swann, the presumptive Republican nominee for governor of Pennsylvania.

About 475 people have purchased tickets to attend the 6:30 p.m. dinner at Family Traditions Lighthouse Restaurant, said Franklin County Republican Committee Chairman Roger Beckner. Tickets to hear the former Pittsburgh Steeler and NFL Hall of Fame receiver were sold about two weeks ago, he said.

"We sold all we had room for," Beckner said.

Swann, 53, who became a sportscaster and businessman following his playing days, also has a local connection in that his wife, Charena, is from Chambersburg.

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Swann, who was endorsed by the Republican State Committee on Feb. 11, is expected to win the GOP nomination in the May 16 primary and face Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell in November.

Prior to the dinner, Swann will attend a 5 p.m. private reception at the restaurant with the members of the Ben Franklin Club, a group of prominent county Republicans, said Beckner.

This afternoon, Swann will meet with members of Opportunity '05, a committee formed several years ago to lobby on issues related to Letterkenny Army Depot, according to County Commissioner Bob Thomas.

"We want to make sure Letterkenny is clearly on his mind," Thomas said. The depot, which was spared cuts and actually gained more workload from last year's recommendations by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, is the county's largest employer with about 2,800 federal civilian workers and contractors.

"There is definitely a lot of interest this year," Thomas said of the Lincoln Day Dinner, and not just because Swann, the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl X, has the star power of a famous athlete.

"Lynn Swann is a viable candidate for many reasons," Thomas said. He has taken an informal gauge of the candidate's popularity as he has circulated a nominating petition on Swann's behalf.

Not one Republican he has encountered has declined to sign Swann's petition, a rarity for any candidate, Thomas said.

At the Feb. 11 meeting, the Republican Committee also endorsed James Matthews, 56, a Montgomery County Commissioner, for lieutenant governor. The ticket could help Republicans make inroads in two Democratic strongholds, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

Matthews has his own celebrity connection. He is the brother of Chris Matthews, the commentator for MSNBC's "Hardball" and former top aide to the late Democratic Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill.

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