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Shank trying to attract unaffiliated voters

August 16, 2010|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

Christopher B. Shank is urging unaffiliated voters to become Republicans and vote for him in a primary against Sen. Donald F. Munson, then switch back to unaffiliated.

Shank, a three-term state delegate, and Munson are competing for the District 2 seat Munson has held since 1991.

The primary winner will have a clear path to victory. There are no other candidates for the seat.

About a week ago, Shank's campaign paid to mail to unaffiliated voters a letter written and signed by Tom Janus, who wrote that he is unaffiliated and will become a Republican only to vote for Shank in the primary. He encouraged others to do the same.

Janus, who lives south of Hagerstown, is a vocal critic of some elected officials and governments and has run unsuccessfully for school board.

A change in Maryland law this year lets voters switch their affiliation this close to the primary, said Jared DeMarinis, the Maryland State Board of Elections' director of candidacy and campaign finance.

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Before, the latest people could sign up with a political party and vote in the primary was June -- 12 weeks before the primary and nine weeks before the registration deadline.

Now, voters can change their party designation right up to the voter registration deadline, which this year is Aug. 24. The primary is Sept. 14.

The deadline for changing party affiliation for the Nov. 2 general election is Oct. 12.

Munson said he hasn't tried to recruit unaffiliated voters to switch only for the primary and vote for him, but he has suggested it to those who have asked.

"If people want to make decisions on the next four years, they need to vote in the Republican primary," Munson said.

Patricia Heck, the chairwoman of the Washington County Democratic Central Committee, said she hadn't heard of local Democrats planning to switch only to vote in the Munson-Shank race.

Shank said he heard from many people who are conservative, including Tea Party members, but who aren't affiliated with a political party.

Shank said he and Janus thought up the plan last month at a Hagerstown TEA Party forum on immigration.

"I've always respected Tom (Janus)," Shank said. "He said a long time ago he wanted to help the campaign."

The letter didn't go to all District 2 unaffiliated voters, but Shank wouldn't say how many received it.

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