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Republican kickoff event serves second purpose as send-off

August 24, 2008|By CHRIS CARTER

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - The kickoff event Saturday for the newly formed Franklin County Reagan Coalition at Blacks Woods was treated more like a farewell to a prominent Republican.

Kind words and the realization of his imminent exit from office brought Pennsylvania state Sen. Terry Punt to tears in front of a pavilion full of Republican supporters.

Punt reminisced about his five terms as senator in the 33rd District, the 10 years previously served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and the people who helped him along the way.

"There were 321 bills sponsored or co-sponsored, brought $17.2 billion back into the district, over 610,000 constituent contacts in my office," Punt said. "Those numbers are all wonderful, but I could not have accomplished them without the staff I had with me."

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Punt cited health and family reasons for his decision not to run for re-election. Those in attendance gave him a standing ovation as he stepped away from the podium.

Sitting at the front of the pavilion was the next Senate hopeful, former magisterial justice Rich Alloway, whom Punt hired out of college two decades ago.

Alloway won the Republican nomination in April, and said he plans to jump-start his campaign in September.

"When I first talked to (Punt) about running, he said to me, 'Are you sure you want to do this?'" Alloway said. "Then it went to, 'How will you do this?'

"Finally, it got to, 'If you're going to do this ...' and we talked about that."

Punt received most of the recognition, but almost two dozen more were recognized as key contributors to the party, including former County Commissioner G. Warren Elliott, who chaired Punt's first Senate campaign and introduced him Saturday.

Reagan Coalition Chairman Dick McCracken delivered welcoming remarks and noted that the Corn Roast also was a function to help "(dispel) some of the myths and confusion of our mission."

"It was just a group of prominent Republican supporters that thought they could do a lot more to raise funds and elect local, state and national officials," McCracken said. "It's to augment what the Republican Party can do in Franklin County."

There has been speculation that the Reagan Coalition, which was formed in May, could obstruct the objectives of the Franklin County Republican Committee. McCracken once again dismissed the notion, as did Punt and Alloway.

"The only people that feel that way don't have the party agenda first. They have their own agenda first," Punt said. "They're afraid this might interfere with that agenda. Those people will go to the wayside."

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