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Forum gives candidates a platform

August 18, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN - About 150 people wearing candidate shirts and driving cars bedecked with bumper stickers turned out Thursday to hear the views of people running for state and local offices.

Nine of 10 Washington County Board of Education candidates appeared on stage at Hagerstown Community College's Kepler Theater to discuss issues including growth, discipline in the schools and academic accountability.

The four candidates for state's attorney then delivered prepared statements to a quiet, attentive audience.

Charles P. Strong Jr. said while the state's attorney's office cannot always restore victims' sense of wholeness, he pledged to continue to do his best on behalf of victims.

"As a state's attorney, the question is who. Who is the No. 1 priority in our office? The No. 1 priority in my office is the victim," said Strong, an incumbent who was appointed to his position in 2004.

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Under his administration, Strong said the state's attorney's office made prison safety one of its highest priorities. The office also has worked to address truancy so that children are not led down negative paths, he said.

Private attorney Gordon Lynn, a Republican, said the court system is clogged with cases, and the state's attorney's office must establish better working relationships with other agencies to relieve the bottleneck.

"This system is clogged. That is why we have so many cases ... We can't keep up with all of them," said Lynn, who has served as a military prosecutor and a special assistant U.S. attorney.

As state's attorney, Gregory Bannon pledged to provide leadership in the courtroom, office and community. In cases where it was possible, he said he would seek the death penalty.

"If the defendant claims that there are mitigating factors, then the jury will decide if those mitigating factors outweigh the aggravating factors," said Bannon, a private attorney.

Bannon said the county also must pursue ways to deal with illegal immigration.

"We must address that problem before it literally explodes," he said.

According to Jerry Joyce, the only Democrat running for state's attorney, the county so far is losing its battle against crime. If elected, he pledged to devote 10 percent of his salary directly to the fight. He said he wants to build a Web site that identifies the county's "thugs."

"It's time to think outside the box because we're losing the battle for a safe community," he said.

In their remarks, candidates for the House of Delegates presented their ideas on charter home rule and school funding, and Sheriff's Department candidates said how they would deal with gangs and drugs.

The primary election is Sept. 12, and the general election is Nov. 7.

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