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Dems salute Kennedy, rally for health care plan

August 27, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

WILLIAMSPORT -- Speakers at the Washington County Democratic Central Committee's picnic Thursday used the opportunity to criticize disruptive protesters at health care town halls, memorialize U.S. Sen. Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy and call for the need to carry on Kennedy's vision to improve the nation's health care system.

The annual picnic, held at the Williamsport Red Men lodge, attracted more than 200 people, including state, county and municipal officeholders, representatives of both Maryland senators, and leaders of several area unions.

Committee member Jason A. Malott started the event by praising Kennedy, who died Tuesday, for his strong ideals and important contributions, and calling for a moment of silence in his memory.

Del. John P. Donoghue, who served on Kennedy's staff, spoke about how the senator talked almost every day about the need for massive change to the nation's health care system.

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Donoghue called the protests that have surrounded the health care debate "ignorant" and "divisive" and said they were rooted in politics rather than the actual issues.

"In my 20 years in Annapolis, I've never had anybody say to me, 'I love my HMO,'" Donoghue said, drawing laughter from the crowd. "I've never had a physician say to me, 'I am so pleased with the reimbursement I received from my HMO.'"

Donoghue, the only Democratic member of the county's delegation to the Maryland General Assembly, also made reference to Del. Christopher B. Shank's consideration to challenge Sen. Donald F. Munson for his seat in the state senate in next year's Republican primary.

"Sen. Munson and I work as a team to get what's best for Washington County," Donoghue said, imploring those in attendance to ask their Republican friends to support Munson.

Malott told the crowd he agreed with the delegate on all of his points but one.

"I'm all for Don beating the other guy, but I'd really like to see a good Democrat beat Don," Malott said.

Getting strong Democratic candidates into every local race is one of the priorities of the Democratic Central Committee, committee chairwoman Patricia Heck said.

The committee is also focusing on combating some of the misinformation that has circulated about health care reform, such as talk of "death panels" and "rationing," Heck said.

Democrats at the picnic also said they were fired up about hearing Republicans complain about the national deficit when they were silent while the previous administration drove it up.

"Where were they when we committed to sending billions of dollars and the blood of American service members to Iraq?" former County Commissioner Linda Irvin-Craig said.

The Washington County Democratic Central Committee meets every month. Meetings are open to anyone who would like to attend, Heck said.

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