Democratic presidential battle, GOP contest for Pa. Senate seat expected to draw primary voters

April 21, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- The six weeks between the Mississippi and Pennsylvania primaries might have seemed like as many months, but the wait for both candidates and voters ends today and turnout is expected to be high, especially among Democrats.

"All the publicity has been about the Democratic presidential candidates. Obviously, the (Pennsylvania) Senate is the big race for the Republicans," said Franklin County Commissioner Bob Thomas, also on the Election Board. "There's still an awful lot of people who don't know who they're going to vote for for Senate."

While Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are battling it out for the Democratic vote, four candidates are seeking the Republican nomination for the state Senate's 33rd District seat being vacated by longtime incumbent Terry Punt.

"The vibe I get from people is they'll be glad when this primary is over because this saturation of commercials -- they're just tired of it," said Franklin County Commissioner Bob Ziobrowski, who serves as a member of the county Election Board.


On Monday, the Quinnipiac poll had Hillary Clinton leading Barack Obama 51 percent to 44 percent in Pennsylvania. Franklin County would seem like fertile ground for Clinton, at least in the primary, with an overwhelmingly white, predominantly working-class population.

At the same time, the Democratic Party in the county gained a lot of new members, either through new registrants, or those switching from the Republican Party or Independent status. Democrat Clinton Barkdoll said he expects significant turnout over the 2004 primary when President Bush and Democrat John Kerry had sewn up their respective nominations.

"I really think Democratic turnout could be slightly above 50 percent," said Barkdoll, who ran for the Board of County Commissioners last year. "The presidential race has created unprecedented interest among Democrats. We have a lot of newly registered voters and they are motivated voters."

Barkdoll predicted turnout to be about 40 percent overall when the GOP votes are added in. Thomas and Ziobrowski both said they expected it to be 35 percent to 40 percent. Turnout was 29 percent in 2004.

There has been no shortage of television advertisements and mailings by the Senate candidates, particularly Rich Alloway and Jim Taylor. One voter said he received seven solicitations in the mail one day last week.

Waynesboro, Pa., Republican Don Schilling said he has been encouraging people from both parties to get out and vote. Those who do not vote should not be dissatisfied by the outcome, he said.

Schilling said he is supporting Taylor, although he has changed his mind three times. John Shindledecker, another Waynesboro Republican, is also supporting Taylor based, he said, on the candidates' platform and mailings.

The race is between Alloway, Taylor, Cathy Cresswell and Bob Curley, who said at one candidates forum that he was switching to the Democratic Party but will still be on the GOP primary ballot. No Democrat filed to run in the primary, although Bruce Tushingham of New Oxford, Pa., is running a write-in campaign for that nomination.

Write-in efforts by Tushingham and the Republicans to gain the Democratic nomination could slow the ballot counting tonight to a crawl. Poll workers will have to tabulate and post those numbers at the 74 precincts before bringing the ballot boxes to the Administrative Annex in Chambersburg.

"They're not looking forward to tomorrow night because of the write-ins," Ziobrowski said of election workers at the polls. He said write-ins should not be used frivolously.

"Every time someone writes in Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny ... they're just making someone's 13-hour day longer ... maybe 16 or 17 hours," Ziobrowski said.

In many cases, these election workers are senior citizens, who will be at the polls before they open at 7 a.m. and will remain after the 8 p.m. close.

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