Primary elections Tuesday feature school boards, local government offices; special legislative race on ballot

·4 min read

May 15—Municipal governments and school boards throughout the region will hold primary elections on Tuesday.

There will be a Pennsylvania House of Representatives special election and ballot questions, too.

Here are some of the more high-profile races that are occurring:

59th Legislative District

Either Robb Luther (Libertarian), Mariah Fisher (Democrat) or Leslie Baum Rossi (Republican) will become the new representative for the district that includes parts of Somerset and Westmoreland counties.

They are competing in a special election to fill the Pennsylvania House of Representatives seat that was left vacant with the death of Rep. Mike Reese, a Republican, earlier this year.

Cambria County sheriff

Tom Owens, a Stonycreek Township police officer and part-time deputy sheriff, and Adams Township police Chief Kirk Moss are running in the Democratic primary.

The winner will then face acting Sheriff Don Robertson, the only candidate in the Republican primary, during the general election.

Somerset County coroner

Republicans Chad Fyock, a Somerset-area funeral director, and current Chief Deputy Coroner Cullen Swank are competing against each other in a primary.

No Democrats entered the race.

Swank and Fyock are looking to fill the position that is being opened because Coroner Wallace Miller is not seeking reelection.

Johnstown council, mayor

For city council, five Democrats — Laura Huchel, Marie Mock, the Rev. Sylvia King, Ricky Britt and David Vitovich — are running in the primary. The top four vote-getters will advance to the general election.

All three Republican candidates — Joseph Taranto, Charlene Stanton and James Stanton Jr. — will get through to the fall.

Those seven individuals will then compete for four seats, currently held by Mock, King, Britt and Vitovich.

In the mayoral race, Frank Janakovic, a two-term incumbent Democrat, and Republican John DeBartola are running in uncontested primaries. They will meet in the general election later this year.

Greater Johnstown School District

Leland Wood, Edwin Mikesic and Tony Belskey are looking to retain seats. Lonnie Rietscha, Saki Taranto, Robin Kmetz, John DeBartola, Michael Allen and Missy Spaugy are also running.

All nine have cross-filed.

There are four positions being contested.

Forest Hills School District

Nine candidates are running for four seats.

Daniel Russell, Deborah Petrunak, Galen George and Keith Rager are seeking reelection, while Thomas Blanchetti, Matthew Koeck, Jesse Scott, John Saksa and Daryl Bodenschatz are vying for their seats.

All nine are running in both the Democratic and Republican primaries.

Voters in the region and across the state will decide four yes/no ballot questions on Tuesday.

There is one referendum.

In part, its plain text explanation states: "The purpose of the ballot question is to determine whether Pennsylvania voters authorize making municipal fire departments or companies with paid personnel and emergency medical services companies eligible to apply for loans from an already existing state loan program."

Three proposed constitutional amendments will also be considered:

—"Joint Resolution No. 2021-1 proposes to amend Article III, Section 9 of the Pennsylvania Constitution to provide a new exception to traditional legislative procedure by allowing the General Assembly to terminate or extend a disaster emergency declaration or a portion of such declaration without needing the Governor's approval."

—An amendment that "incorporates disaster emergency declaration and management powers directly into the Constitution by granting the Governor authority to declare a disaster emergency declaration by proclamation or executive order; requiring each declaration to indicate the nature, location and type of disaster; granting the General Assembly authority to pass laws providing for the manner in which each disaster shall be managed; limiting the duration of a Governor's declaration to 21 days, unless otherwise extended, in whole or in part, by a concurrent resolution of the General Assembly; preventing the Governor, upon the expiration of a declaration, from issuing a new declaration based upon the same or substantially similar facts, unless the General Assembly passes a concurrent resolution expressly approving a new declaration."

—"Joint Resolution No. 2021-1, if approved by the electorate, will add a new section to Article I of the Pennsylvania Constitution. This amendment creates a constitutional prohibition against restricting or denying an individual's equal rights under Pennsylvania law because of race or ethnicity."

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Sutor.