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The ABCs of politics

Forum gives potential candidates information before they get started

Forum gives potential candidates information before they get started

January 27, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Gerald Bittinger grew up in Chambersburg, hearing of men "perched" in elected office for many years.

He said as a child, his father warned him of governments that resisted change.

"My father used to say we were 50 years behind the times, if you know what I mean," he said.

Bittinger said his father's words echoed in his mind while he attended an informational meeting Monday to learn how to run for office in Franklin County, Pa.

Change. It has become a buzz word since President Barack Obama walked onto the national stage campaigning for the presidency in 2007, and Eugene Rideout of Chambersburg said the idea of change has made him interested in running again for public office.

Many people throw their hat into the political ring because they want to reshape government, taxes or policy, said Judy Chambers, extension educator with the Penn State Cooperative Extension in Adams County, Pa.

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Penn State Cooperative Extension hosted the informal meeting Monday to help those interested in public office get on and off the campaign trail.

The 31 people who came to the meeting probably each had a different reason for seeking public office, Chambers said, but most people want to see some change.

Unfortunately, not everyone fully understands the detailed process to become a candidate and Franklin County Deputy Chief Clerk Jean Byers said her office has had to throw many hats out of the ring because of a technicality.

There is a steep learning curve for those pursuing a political career, so the Cooperative Extension started the informational meetings to help people understand about local government in Pennsylvania and where they fit in the process, Chambers said.

"Whatever your reason for running for office, do some research on your municipality or school district," she said.

To help understand the strict state laws for filing for office, Jean Byers created a handout for each person. Byers offered many words of advice for those filing, but her biggest caveat was to file as early as possible.

"I recommend you do not wait until the last day to file," she said. "If there is a problem with your petition and you file a couple of days early, there is time to correct it."

Successfully petitioning and filing between Feb. 7 and March 10 will be only a few of the obstacles to office, and Chambersburg Mayor Pete Lagiovane said he recommends people campaign intelligently and have fun.

Lagiovane, Washington Township Supervisor Stephen Kulla and Tuscarora School Board member Cliff Smith shared their perspectives as elected officials with those at the meeting.

"Don't run to get prestige, don't run for title, run because you care about your community," Kulla said.

While Rideout and Bittinger said they are uncertain if they will run for office, both want to see change in their community.

"Fresh ideas have never hurt anyone," Bittinger said. To help understand the strict state laws for filing for office, Jean Byers created a handout for each person. Byers offered many words of advice for those filing, but her biggest caveat was to file as early as possible.

"I recommend you do not wait until the last day to file," she said. "If there is a problem with your petition and you file a couple of days early, there is time to correct it."

Successfully petitioning and filing between Feb. 7 and March 10 will be only a few of the obstacles to office, and Chambersburg Mayor Pete Lagiovane said he recommends people campaign intelligently and have fun.

Lagiovane, Washington Township Supervisor Stephen Kulla and Tuscarora School Board member Cliff Smith shared their perspectives as elected officials with those at the meeting.

"Don't run to get prestige, don't run for title, run because you care about your community," Kulla said.

While Rideout and Bittinger said they are uncertain if they will run for office, both want to see change in their community.

"Fresh ideas have never hurt anyone," Bittinger said.

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