Centre County preps for Tuesday’s primary election

It’s not a general election, but Tuesday’s primary is shaping up to be, well, general.

Joyce McKinley, director of the Centre County Office of Elections and Voter Registration, is approaching what can be one of her department’s two biggest days of the year, but speaking about it Friday, she agreed it was somewhat routine this time around.

“We’re just finalizing everything to be sure everything is in place,” she said.

Equipment will be delivered to precincts from Philipsburg to Boalsburg, Milesburg to Millheim on Saturday and Monday. Other than that, there is very little to do, she said. Nothing is changing. No polling places are being switched up. Everything is following the same old plan.

The ballot itself will hold few surprises. The one thing all but guaranteed to bring out the most voters will happen in the municipalities of State College Area School District, where the $85 million State High debt referendum has garnered the most interest for Tuesday.

State Rep. Mike Fleck, R-Three Springs, adds the novelty of being simultaneously a new face and an incumbent. Redistricting is bringing Fleck, who is serving his eighth year in the General Assembly, into pieces of southwestern Centre County — namely Taylor, Halfmoon and Worth townships; Port Matilda; and chunks of Ferguson and Patton townships.

Fleck said he has been spending a lot of time in Centre County to introduce himself to his new constituents, even though he doesn’t have an opponent on the ballot to campaign against.

“I’m glad to have them in the district,” Fleck said. He said he plans to open a Centre County office to replace the one he is closing in Tyrone.

“I’m excited that it’s an area that votes more for the person than the party.”

Fleck, a Shippensburg University grad who sits on the House education committee, does have one hurdle: conservative Richard Irvin, who is running a write-in campaign.

U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township, is also running unopposed in the primary, although there are two Democrats vying for the right to face him in the fall — Kerith Strano Taylor, a Brookville lawyer, and Thomas Tarantella, a decorated Army veteran from Renovo.

Other major races, however, are formalities. Three state representatives — Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte, Scott Conklin, D-Rush Township, and Mike Hanna, D-Lock Haven, are all unopposed. So is state Sen. Jake Corman, R-Benner Township.

Even the top races on the ballot are lacking competition on half of the ballots. Republicans have just one choice each for governor and lieutenant governor, incumbents Tom Corbett and Jim Cawley.

Democrats have more options for governor, with former state secretary of revenue Tom Wolf, state Treasurer Rob McCord, former secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection Kathleen McGinty and U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz all seeking to topple Corbett in the fall. The lieutenant governor’s slot has five contestants: Mike Stack, Mark Critz, Mark Smith, Brandon P. Neuman and Brad Koplinski.