Fleagle to consider run on Democratic ticket

May 24, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - State Rep. Patrick E. Fleagle says he's unsure whether he'll actively run a campaign leading up to November's election, but he pointed to a weekend discussion with family and friends as when he will make his decision.

Fleagle lost his bid to retain Pennsylvania's 90th District House seat for a 10th term in the May 16 primary election when challenger Todd Rock of Mont Alto, Pa., received 122 more votes from Republicans.

However, a week later, the Franklin County (Pa.) Board of Elections announced that Fleagle had 338 write-in votes compared to Rock's 335 from the 713 cast by the district's Democrats in the primary. Since the Democrats did not have a candidate in the primary, the write-ins should determine whose name appears as the Democratic opponent to Rock this fall.

The write-in vote tallies remain approximate because they are based on 20 variations of the two GOP members' names.


"The candidates have until 5 o'clock next Tuesday, May 30, to file a petition with the county board of elections to cumulate the various spellings," Chief Deputy Clerk Jean Byers said. That also serves as the deadline to petition for a recount of any votes from the primary, she said.

Now, in his first serious challenge since taking office in 1988, Fleagle's political life is the tale of three, possibly four, Tuesdays.

On the first Tuesday - May 16 - voting was held in a primary election that Fleagle admits he believed "was a lock." But he found himself significantly outpolled in two precincts, one each in Guilford and Hamilton townships. He spent the next week fishing, enjoying time with his grandson and reconciling the feelings that it's "only an election" and that he let down supporters.

With May 23 as the second Tuesday, Fleagle learned that if the three-vote write-in margin stands, he could again face Rock in the final determination of whom will represent the 90th District in the state House of Representatives for the next two years.

May 30 represents the third Tuesday, when Fleagle must decide whether he'll proceed in an attempt to appear on ballots as a candidate for the party in which his father was a longtime member. Fleagle said he will not switch parties.

The final Tuesday in the saga would be Nov. 7, when it could again be Rock vs. Fleagle as the 90th House District, mostly comprised of southern Franklin County, chooses someone to represent it in Harrisburg, Pa.

During a recent conversation, Fleagle alternated between the talk of someone who is preparing for a life outside the political spectrum (wanting to do missions work and run calls as a paramedic) to someone who remains on the campaign trail (saying that leading up to the primary, he was "pummeled by negative campaigning and vicious comments.")

The decision whether to pursue the Democratic spot hinges on upcoming talks with his family and campaign committee, with its core members who have been close friends for years, Fleagle said.

"My family's going to be home this weekend," he said. "I'm sure whatever decision we make I'll be at peace with."

Commenting that the campaign made him prioritize things, Fleagle said he kept the defeat in perspective when people said they were sorry for the outcome.

"I lost an election. I didn't die," he said. "My life's pretty full."

Part of talking to the campaign committee is finding out if the members "want to go through this again for six more months," Fleagle said.

Rock expressed confidence Tuesday that his volunteers would be ready for another go-round.

"We're planning for whatever may come up," he said. "If we had to run another campaign, we would."

Rock said he "thought we ran a good campaign and stuck to the issues," compared to Fleagle's remarks that the campaign taught him "that civility in politics is gone."

Fleagle claims that Rock supporters were vehement that Fleagle took money directly from the pockets of constituents when he voted in favor of a pay raise in 2005. That pay raise, which later was repealed, was the heart of Rock's campaign as he pushed for government reform.

Alleged misconduct at the polls "shouldn't have come from anyone on my campaign because they were directed to stick to the issues," Rock said.

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