With the election of Richard Irvin as representative Tuesday night, the portion of Centre County that became a part of the state 81st House District after the decennial census and redistricting will have its third legislator since 2012.
Irvin, the Republican candidate and Huntingdon County treasurer, defeated incumbent Rep. Mike Fleck, also a Republican, on Tuesday night. Fleck earned about 200 more votes in Centre County but was overwhelmingly defeated in the rest of the district, made up of the entirety of Huntingdon County and parts of Mifflin County. Irvin won by 13 percentage points in Huntingdon.
“I guess I’m waiting for it to all sink in right now,” Irvin said Tuesday night. “For right now, I just want to thank all of my supporters.”
All of Worth and Taylor townships, Port Matilda and parts of Patton and Ferguson townships were part of Rep. Scott Conklin’s 77th House District until lines were redrawn after the census. Both candidates spent a good deal of time in Centre County on Tuesday.
Irvin visited Halfmoon Township and Port Matilda earlier in the morning and was at the Fowler Grace Building in Taylor Township by midmorning. A personal presence in Centre County was good for the campaign because, he said, he is not as well-known in Centre County as he is in Huntingdon, where he has served as treasurer for 18 years.
“I thought it was the best place to be,” Irvin said. “I wanted to make sure we’re as visible here as possible.”
Irvin greeted John Barlett, of Taylor Township, as he entered the polling station. The approach may have yielded a result for Irvin.
“I voted for you,” Barlett said as he left.
Irvin said he planned on visiting precincts in Worth and Ferguson townships before returning to Huntingdon County later in the afternoon.
After spending time in Huntingdon County, Fleck was in Centre County by noon and set up in Patton Township at Park Forest Village United Methodist Church. He also planned to visit the precinct at Park Forest Baptist Church before heading back to Huntingdon County in the evening.
Fleck said he chose to spend a large portion of time in the area because it was a new part of the district and he wanted to put a “face to a name.” Strategy also played a part, Fleck said. He can’t visit every precinct, so he chose the most populated and busy areas, he said.
“The largest precincts are around State College, so it’s beneficial to be here,” he said.
A representative from the Fleck campaign was not at the Taylor Township precinct when Irvin was there. Jim Hyslop, a Huntingdon County native and Irvin volunteer, was at the church the same time as Fleck. After Fleck greeted a voter, Hyslop would do the same.
Hyslop said he knew Fleck “for years” and felt no animosity being at the same polling place as the opposing candidate. Everyone has a reason for voting for a certain candidate, Hyslop said, and getting the message out on Election Day is part of the process.
“This is what it’s all about,” Hyslop said.
Both candidates said redistricting had caused some confusion with voters new to the 81st, especially during the spring primary. Some people even thought he was running against Conklin, Irvin said. The issue seems to have been clarified by Tuesday.
Barlett said he was OK with redistricting and was aware of it when it happened because he keeps up with politics but said he liked Conklin.
Roma Kordes, of Worth Township, was unaware of redistricting until she and her husband received mail about the new candidates before the primary. Kordes, a Republican, contacted other registered Republicans after learning of the change.
“We did the phone calls around to tell people the district had changed,” Kordes said.
Jeff Nucciarone, who lives in Park Forest, said he was unhappy about the shift. He also did not learn of the change until receiving campaign mailers. It makes it harder for people to know who represents them, he said.
Fleck has been representative in the 81st since 2006 and said he stood by his record with “absolutely no regrets.”
“I wish Mr. Irvin the best of luck and I’m ready for the next chapter of my life,” Fleck said.