About 60 people got a taste of the State College Area school board race last week when four of the nine candidates made remarks at a Centre County Republican Committee campaign forum.
Party Chairman G.T. Thompson limited the Thursday night forum to Republican candidates only, even though all nine candidates are seeking both the Republican and Democratic nominations in the May 15 primary. Three of the four incumbents are registered Democrats, and four of the five challengers are registered Republicans.
The Republican candidates who participated in the forum at the State College Municipal Building were incumbent Robert Hendrickson and challengers Rick Madore, Ann McGlaughlin and Chris Small.
They got there, Thompson later said in an interview, after Madore noticed the forum had been scheduled and asked Thompson if the school candidates could get in on it. Thompson said he agreed and said that "within 24 hours" he had asked district Superintendent Patricia Best to notify any Republican board members up for re-election.
Hendrickson said he got a forwarded e-mail from Best on the Friday or Monday before Thursday's forum. McGlaughlin said she didn't hear about the forum until Madore called her on Wednesday, the day before, whereupon she canceled earlier plans for the evening.
At the forum itself, the party clock-keeper interrupted Hendrickson two or three times during his opening statement for exceeding the one-minute time limit. The three challengers apparently kept their opening remarks to under a minute, for none was interrupted.
Hendrickson told the crowd he has tried to balance the delivery of quality education with fiscal responsibilities, alluding to the school board's controversial $97.6 million State High reconfiguration project.
The three challengers opposed the project.
Madore called for a one-year moratorium on plans because "this project is not supported by the public."
McGlaughlin said she wants to "overhaul the culture of our board." With one of her hands representing the school board and the other the public, she first raised the school board hand higher than the other and then said she'd "like to see us bring that together."
Small, disagreeing with Hendrickson's assertion that a "comprehensive curriculum" is the surest way to get children engaged in learning, said that smaller schools, not curriculum, are better for the development of kids.
An applause meter, had one been present, would have recorded more noise after each of the challengers spoke than after the incumbent. But much of the applause seemed less a response to specific speech content and more a pre-disposition in favor of the challengers.
Some in the audience clapped so hard for the challengers it seemed one hand might do damage to the other. Those hands had it easier after Hendrickson's remarks.
District judge rivals relax
The wide-open race for magisterial district judge in College, Ferguson, Halfmoon and Harris townships keeps getting better because the five rivals are starting to relax more in front of audiences.
Ferguson Township resident and law school graduate Craig Rose is a registered Democrat. The other four -- former Ferguson Township police lieutenant Drew Clemson, Patton Township attorney Leslie Dutchcot, former state representative Lynn Herman and Patton Township businessman Robert Stewart -- are Republicans, and each of them spoke on Thursday.
Thompson asked each what it would take to qualify for the grass-roots judicial post once known as justice of the peace. Stewart and Dutchcot said they were immediately qualified, Stewart because he's passed a state certification exam and Dutchcot because she's a practicing attorney.
Clemson and Herman said they were both enrolled in the four-week certification program in June.
"I'm very intelligent and I will pass that examination," Herman told the audience. "I've never failed a course in my life."
Democrats declare 'scam'
The Centre County Democratic Committee had a small communications lapse Friday. It put up a notice on its Web site and circulated an e-mail that said several people had been approached in their homes by men claiming to be soliciting money on behalf of the Democratic National Committee, and that the solicitation was bogus.
"This is a scam," the local Democrats said on their Web site. "The county committee has confirmed that there is no program on the national or state level soliciting funds door to door."
Not so fast. It turns out that there was some higher-level authorization at work, and it wasn't a scam after all. Just a communications problem.
The Election Notebook, coordinated by Centre Daily Times senior reporter Mike Joseph, appears Mondays. Joseph can be reached at mjoseph@centredaily. com and 235-3910. "The Thin Man" blog at www.centredaily.com also will report political observations.