Pennsylvania primary voters have their say in Act 1 of election

May 20, 2007|By BILL KOHLER

My very wise father reminded me last week to never underestimate the voting public.

His words rang true again Tuesday.

The voters of Franklin County spoke loudly in the Pennsylvania municipal primary election, pushing newcomers on to the general election in many races and sending incumbents packing.

They also sent a clear message with their nearly overwhelming rejection of Act 1, the confusing effort by the Pennsylvania legislature and Gov. Ed Rendell to shift some of the burden of school taxes away from property owners.

Here's some Sunday morning quarterbacking from last Tuesday's primary:

·Voters like experience. County Commissioner Bob Thomas was the top vote-getter among seven contestants in the Republican primary and ran his campaign on experience and his record.


When the final votes were counted, Thomas had twice as many votes as runner-up David Keller. With Thomas' colleagues not running, I guess many Republicans figured they wanted at least one candidate with experience in the general election.

· Every vote counts. In small areas like townships and boroughs, a few votes can make a huge difference. In the Waynesboro School Board race for a seat to represent the borough, newcomer Jennifer Johns defeated incumbent Anna Bostwick-Foley by eight votes in the GOP primary.

Since Bostwick-Foley did not cross-file on the Democratic side, she had no chance and Johns wins both nominations.

·Voters want change. It's been a bad eight months for incumbents in Franklin County. Just ask Pat Fleagle and Steve Maitland. Sitting school board members were bounced in Chambersburg and Waynesboro, including the current school board president in the latter.

Two long-serving Washington Township supervisors were defeated by challengers who have no government experience.

It shows that enough people who voted were fed up with the current group.

· Act 1 was doomed to fail. OK, OK, it passed by the skin of its leather binder in Chambersburg, but the whole Act 1 idea was so confusing, it required college professors to explain it.

People will not vote for something they do not understand. The act failed miserably in all but a handful of the 501 school districts that asked voters to shift a little bit of taxes from Peter the homeowner to Paul the renter.

I'm fairly certain property tax relief in Pennsylvania - of which I'm a card-carrying member of that movement, by the way - will not amount to much until I'm on a fixed income 25 years down the road. It's such a massive task and I think the only real relief will come in the form of slots revenue (very little) and increasing the sales tax (even littler).

· I take back what I said about apathy in Franklin County politics.

Some outstanding candidates threw their hats into the ring this spring. Some won, some did not. Whatever their motives, the point is that more people are taking an interest in serving their community and taking part in the process. Participation translates into dialogue and discussion. This, my friends, is a good thing.

·I take back what I said about taking back what I said about apathy in Franklin County politics. Voters in these primaries always disappoint me with their great disappearing act.


Our votes for president and other state and federal races hold a small impact compared to what they mean on the local level. Plus, these are people you actually see on the street and can talk to about issues and concerns. They actually have a direct impact on the amount of money you put into your escrow account. They decide how many cops are walking the street and what kind of books your children will be reading in fourth grade.

The good thing is we get a second chance to take part in the process and vote. See you in November.

Bill Kohler is Tri-State editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 1-800-626-6397, ext. 2023, or by e-mail at

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