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Fleagle is apparent winner of Democratic nomination

July 12, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - State Rep. Patrick E. Fleagle is the apparent winner of the Democratic nomination for the 90th District seat by a three-vote margin over Republican nominee Todd Rock following a decision Tuesday by the Franklin County Election Board.

The board awarded Fleagle all 339 of the Democratic write-in votes he petitioned to have consolidated, while allowing for the consolidation of all but one of the 337 votes Rock requested for consolidation.

"Our purpose is to come to a conclusion," Election Board member and County Commissioner G. Warren Elliott said before the decision. "Hopefully, we will arrive at that point today."

The board's decision, however, may not be the end of legal wrangling as to which candidate will be the Democratic nominee on the November ballot.

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"I think there are issues here that merit review by the Court of Common Pleas," said attorney Clinton Barkdoll, who represented Rock at the June 22 Election Board hearing that was continued until Tuesday. If Rock decides to appeal the board's decision, he has until Thursday afternoon to do so and then the court must hold a hearing within three days, Barkdoll said.

"I think the hybrid votes remain an issue and, to some extent, the name variations remain an issue," Barkdoll said.

"If it's not winnable, I'm not going to push this thing," Rock said Tuesday evening. Rock, who was not at the hearing, said he would consult with Barkdoll today before deciding whether to file an appeal.

"I'm running as Pat Fleagle and I'm running on my record," Fleagle, a nine-term Republican incumbent, said when asked if he was running as a Democrat. "It does appear we'll be on the Democratic ticket and we'll start on that campaign right away."

Fleagle, 55, of Waynesboro, Pa., said he expects to fair better in November when Republicans, Democrats and independents can vote and the turnout will likely be higher than in the May 16 primary.

Rock, 42, of Mont Alto, Pa., defeated Fleagle by 111 votes in the Republican primary, but both men also received Democratic write-in votes and petitioned the election board to cumulate the votes from various versions and misspellings of their names.

Fleagle sought consolidation of 13 variations, while Rock asked for consolidation of 10 variations. The one not allowed by the board, which is made up of County Commissioners Elliott, Bob Thomas and Cheryl Plummer, was for David Rock, a registered voter in the district and a relative of Todd Rock.

The board allowed all the variations of Fleagle's name, including "Pete Fleagle," "Pate Fegle," "Flegel" and "Flergle." The last had originally been interpreted as "Flengle," but was changed during the review of tally sheets.

"Voters are not to be disenfranchised because they cannot spell" or have poor handwriting, county solicitor Shawn Meyers told the board.

As for the hybrid votes, Barkdoll argued last month that seven Fleagle votes and three Rock votes that appeared on tally sheets to be cast for the U.S. House of Representatives be disqualified. Meyers said extensive review by Deputy Chief Clerk Jean Byers "revealed that no confusion exists as to the hybrid votes and the tally should remain the same."

Byers said her review did not change the candidates' totals, although there were some errors in the Fleagle tallies. The number of votes for Patrick E. Fleagle, she said, was changed from 184 to 188, while the number of votes for Patrick Fleagle decreased from 84 to 80.

Elliott said the board's goal was to "be fair, follow the law, use common sense and count as many votes as possible."

Still pending is a petition by Rock supporters Leland Lemley and parents Nelson and Lena Rock for a recount of Democratic write-in votes in eight of the district's 36 precincts. A recount was originally set for June 7 in the Court of Common Pleas, but was suspended at the petitioners' request until the cumulation issue was decided.

Todd Rock said he will have to decide whether to appeal the Election Board decision before deciding on whether to proceed with a recount.

On Monday, however, Fleagle filed a petition in court that could stop a recount. It argues that the Rocks and Lemley, all Republicans, lack legal standing to challenge the outcome of a Democratic primary.

Pennsylvania's "anti-party raiding legislation provides that only registered electors of a particular party may participate in that party's candidate selection process," according to the petition.

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