Big turnout unlikely for primary

May 15, 2007|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - A large field of candidates for the Franklin County Board of Commissioners, contested GOP contests for sheriff and controller, and ballot questions for all six school districts could push up turnout for today's primary, but predictions are that it will not be much greater than the similar 2003 primary.

The turnout then was 23 percent, when the field of commissioner candidates was two Republicans and two Democrats vying for two nominations in each party. This time, seven Republicans and five Democrats are running.

"Based on the number of races, the number of candidates, it should be higher than four years ago," said Franklin County Deputy Chief Clerk Jean Byers. However, there has not been a flurry of phone calls, inquiries and requests for absentee ballots to indicate a big increase.

"Possibly 30 percent," she predicted.

"Twenty-five to 30 percent," said Chambersburg Borough Council President William McLaughlin, one of many unopposed incumbents. "I'd like to see a higher turnout because people don't realize how important county, municipal and school board races are. These are the people that have a direct impact on (voters') lives."


Polls open at 7 a.m. and all 83,338 registered voters may cast ballots until the 74 precincts close at 8 p.m. The county's 48,804 Republicans and 24,347 Democrats may vote in their primaries, while the 10,187 independents may vote only on the Act 1 referendums.

If approved, the referendums would shift part of the taxes for schools from real estate by increasing earned income taxes. In exchange for increased income taxes, homeowners and farm owners would get exclusions from property taxes ranging from $261 in the Fannett-Metal School District to $367 in the Chambersburg Area School District.

Fannett-Metal voters have a second "back-end" referendum related to Act 1, in which they will approve or disapprove a 3.8-mill increase in property taxes for the 2007-08 school year. The district had to put the increase before voters because it exceeded a limit imposed under Act 1.

There will be at least two new county commissioners, with Republican G. Warren Elliott and Democrat Cheryl Plummer stepping down after three terms. Republican Bob Thomas is the lone incumbent among the dozen candidates.

Former Chambersburg Councilman Carl Helman, former Waynesboro (Pa.) councilman Douglas Tengler, county employee Ben Statler, retired federal analyst Carl Barton, Southampton Township Supervisor Samuel F. Cressler and David S. Keller, a computer network specialist, round out the GOP field.

Former Chambersburg School Board president Bob Ziobrowski, Mercersburg (Pa.) Mayor James C. Zeger, former Waynesboro councilman Clint Barkdoll, businesswoman Cheryl Stearn and former county Democratic Committee chairman Don Richards are the Democratic candidates.

The four nominees with compete for the three commissioner seats in the November election.

Former sheriff's deputy Dane Anthony and Deputy William M. Kauffman are seeking the GOP nomination to succeed retiring Sheriff Robert Wollyung. Controller Carol Fix Diller faces a challenge for the Republican nomination from Larry E. Funk of Greencastle, Pa.

There are about 100 candidates on the various Republican ballots and about 60 on Democratic ballots. In the case of school board races, most candidates filed to run in both primaries as allowed by state law.

"No Candidate Filed" turns up nearly 90 times, often for offices such as assessor or auditor, but Mont Alto, Pa., has three borough council seats open and one candidate on the ballot, Democrat Beverly A. Spicer. Orrstown has three council seats open and two candidates, Republican Glenn Smith and Democrat Douglas Prowant.

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