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Sportsmen enter political arena

July 11, 2006|by ERIN JULIUS

WILLIAMSPORT - Washington County sportsmen made their way into politics Monday night during a candidates night at the Potomac Fish and Game Club in Williamsport.

"It's come to pass that sportsmen need to be more involved in politics," said Ray Givens, president of the Washington County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs Inc., which sponsored the candidates night. With increasing gun control and animal-rights activists involved in politics, sportsmen have to become more involved too, he said.

"It's to get to know the candidates," said Givens. "After the primaries, we'll choose who will best serve us as sportsmen and as citizens."

Each candidate filled out a questionnaire, which the federation will use to help decide its endorsements, Givens said.

"They said they had 6,000 members. That's 6,000 spouses, that's 6,000 children. They could be a sizable voting block," said Daniel Moeller, a candidate for county commissioner.

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Gun-control issues are especially important in Maryland because it is an "incubator state," said Jim Purtilo, editor of Tripwire, a gun-rights newsletter. "Wild ideas are tried here, they're put through with the lopsided legislature, and then put through to the rest of the country," he said.

The candidates night, which was free and open to the public, gave people a chance to talk to candidates as they mingled with the crowd.

"Gun rights are No. 1 with me," said Benjamin Saylor, who attended the candidates night in support of William "Bill" Blair, a candidate for sheriff.

Bob Nigh said he hopes the candidates do more for the citizens of Hagerstown.

"We need good jobs in this community. Good-paying jobs," he said.

All candidates running for a race involving Washington County voters were invited to the candidates night, Givens said.

Eighteen of the 24 candidates for county commissioner attended.

Scott Rolle, candidate for Maryland attorney general, was the only candidate who spoke to the assembled crowd as Givens introduced the candidates.

"It has been way too long since Maryland has had a pro-sportsman attorney general," Rolle said.

The WCFSC represents about 6,000 sportsmen in 28 clubs and 12 businesses in Washington County. Monday night marked the first time it hosted a political forum, Givens said.

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