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GOP commissioners hopefuls get their say at Lincoln dinner

March 13, 2007|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Franklin County Republicans got to see and hear from all seven of the GOP candidates for county commissioner Monday night at the annual Lincoln Day Dinner and, while a number of people voiced support for incumbent Bob Thomas, few were willing to say who they want to fill the other position on the November ballot.

"It's interesting how it's going to split out," said candidate Carl Barton. "After Bob, I'm not sure there is a clear number two."

Commissioners G. Warren Elliott, a Republican, and Democrat Cheryl Plummer announced in February they would not seek re-election, leaving Thomas as the lone incumbent in the race. Along with the Republican field for the May 15 primary, five Democrats are running.

"I don't have a second choice. My first choice is Bob Thomas," said Frederic Antoun of Greene Township.

"I haven't figured out where my second vote is going," said Chambersburg Borough Council President William McLaughlin, who wore a Thomas sticker.

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"I think it's time to get a Waynesboro (Pa.) representative up there," Waynesboro Tax Collector Delmos Oldham said of former Waynesboro Borough Council president Douglas Tengler.

"There is a long tradition of commissioners from the Chambersburg area ... It would be good to have one from the southern end of the county," Tengler said.

Tom Bigler of St. Thomas said he was undecided, but that name recognition could be a big factor. In a crowded field, he said that could benefit former Chambersburg Borough councilman Carl Helman.

"I'll stand against the mindset of raising taxes" to meet every challenge to government, Helman told the crowd of several hundred at the Family Traditions Lighthouse restaurant. "Government can always be more efficient."

"If elected, I would work for farmland preservation, property tax reform" better drug and alcohol prevention and senior citizen programs, said David S. Keller of Chambersburg. His previous foray into politics was in 2002 when he challenged U.S. Rep Bill Shuster in the Republican primary.

"Now that I'm retired, I can spend all day, every day wrestling with the challenges that face the county," Barton, a retired government analyst, told the Republicans.

Having managed two local sewer authorities, Ben Statler of Chambersburg said he would be a "full-time commissioner dedicated to maintaining our county infrastructure."

"Like any good Republican, I'm interested in the smallest, most efficient government possible," said Samuel F. Cressler, a Southampton Township supervisor.

"I think we do operate a pretty efficient machine," Thomas said in his remarks.

Several candidates mentioned government efficiency, something former commissioner Fred Rock said is important. He said it is important how the candidates plan to achieve that efficiency.

The theme of the dinner was honoring veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lt. Col. Scott Rutter was the keynote speaker. Rutter, retired from the U.S. Army, and a Silver Star recipient, served as a combat leader in Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Rutter is a contributor to the Fox News Channel.

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