The 2019 municipal election is quickly approaching, and many local seats are up for re-election. Here’s your guide to what seats are open and who has announced they’re running.
Centre County Board of Commissioners
Board of Commissioners Chairman Michael Pipe and Vice Chairman Mark Higgins, both Democrats, jointly announced their re-election campaign Monday in a press release and video.
The commissioners, who ran as a team four years ago, emphasized their accomplishments over the term, including the investment in and support of Bellefonte and Philipsburg business incubators, Centre County libraries, 9-1-1 infrastructure and training facilities for first responders and new voting machines.
Pipe, who was first elected county commissioner in 2011, is seeking his third consecutive term in office. Higgins is seeking a second term.
“Over the past three years, Mark and I have worked together as a team to find solutions to the challenges facing Centre County,” Pipe said in a press release. “With the help of residents, other elected officials and over 550 County employees, we have increased services without increasing property taxes.”
Six Republicans are throwing their hats in the ring for Centre County commissioner this year.
Republican Steven Dershem, who has served 16 years as county commissioner, is seeking a fifth term. Dershem, of Bellefonte, is a lifelong resident of Centre County.
“From supporting first responders to battling the heroin/opioid overdose crisis, I have been hands on keeping our county safer for our families. I have been a watchdog of our county budget with no county property tax increase for nine straight years. No other candidate can make that claim,” he wrote in a press release. “I look to the future with great optimism. I will continue to work in cooperation with state, federal and local governments, nonprofit organizations and individual citizens to provide the best quality services to our residents.”
Joseph Soloski, a self-proclaimed “liberty-minded Republican” originally from the Pittsburgh area has announced his candidacy. In 2018, Soloski, a certified public accountant who ran his own practice for 27 years, ran for state representative in the 81st Legislative District on the Libertarian ticket, and lost to Republican incumbent Rich Irvin. He wants to cut costs and taxes for the county, according to his press release, and he opposes the recent hotel tax increase. He lives in Halfmoon Township with his wife, Sally.
Chris Exarchos, a former Centre County commissioner, is also running for commissioner this year on the Republican ticket. He served two non-consecutive terms — the first from 2004-2008 — on the Board of Commissioners. He lives in Lemont.
Vicki Wedler, a licensed realtor with Kissinger, Bigatel and Brower, is running for commissioner as a Republican. She was the first woman elected to serve as Centre County commissioner and was also the first female president of the Susquehanna Economic Development Association-Council of Governments (SEDA-COG), according to her campaign announcement. After a career in industry and education, Wedler served as county commissioner for three consecutive terms from 1988-2000. She lives in Ferguson Township with her husband, Joe.
Tanner Day, a lifelong resident of Bellefonte, is running for commissioner as a Republican. At 21, he is the youngest person running and hopes to bring a “fresh” perspective to the seat. He aims “to keep taxes low, and spending in check” while limiting “unnecessary fees and regulations” that might hamper small business development. If elected, he said, he wants to bring the interests of people all over Centre County into a transparent and properly functioning board of commissioners.
Rush Township Supervisor Pat Romano, Jr. is running for county commissioner. He also serves on Technical Committee of the Centre Region Council of Governments, representing the Moshannon Valley Planning Region.
Special Election — 12th Congressional District
The unexpected resignation of Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, of Cogan Station, forced a special election scheduled to fill his seat. The special election will coincide with Pennsylvania’s primary election on May 21.
Democrat Marc Friedenberg is running for Marino’s open seat after an unsuccessful campaign in the 2018 midterm election. On Feb. 12, the 35-year-old was selected as the Democratic nominee to run in the special election.
In his candidacy announcement, Friedenberg said that the people of the 12th Congressional District deserve a representative who will show up, is accountable, honest and hard-working and who will fight for jobs, education, healthcare and the environment.
“I am committed to being that representative for you, and never quitting when the going gets tough,” he wrote. Friedenberg lives in Ferguson Township with his wife and two young daughters.
Republicans announced Fred Keller, a three-term state representative for the 85th Legislative District (Snyder and Union counties), as their pick to run against Friedenberg in the special election.
“I have a proven record of working hard to grow Pennsylvania’s economy and attract jobs, standing up for taxpayers, promoting agriculture and tirelessly supporting local families and businesses. I’ll work just as hard in Washington,” he said in a press release published in the Lock Haven Express.
Keller said he will work to “secure our borders” and promote foreign policy that puts “America first.” Before his tenure in the General Assembly, Keller was a plant operations manager at Conestoga Wood Specialties. He is pro-life and a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, and lives with his wife in Kreamer, Snyder County.
Colleen Kennedy announced she is running for the seat vacated by five-term county treasurer Richard Fornicola. Kennedy, who lives in State College, currently works as an accountant and has been an auditor and treasurer of various organizations, according to a press release she sent out.
Centre County Coroner Scott Sayers is seeking re-election for a sixth term. Sayers, of Milesburg, has served as coroner since 1998 and has been a licensed funeral director since 1990, according to a press release from his office.
Jeremy Breon, Centre County first deputy prothonotary, is running for prothonotary and clerk of courts. Breon’s decision comes after the retirement of current Prothonotary Debra Immel, who has served in the position for 44 years. Breon, who lives in Aaronsburg, has served in the Prothonotary’s Office since 2011.
Hobson McKown announced his run for Centre County sheriff on Sunday. McKown, a resident of Ferguson Township for over a decade, said he is running for sheriff because it “is merely a natural extension of my civic activism. Governance is no spectator sport.” A computer programmer by trade, McKown said he has experience with law and local governance. The 33-year-old, who ran unsuccessfully for district judge in Ferguson Township two years ago, said he is running on the Republican ticket to directly challenge incumbent Sheriff Bryan Sampsel. As sheriff, he would like to abolish the practice of civil asset forfeiture, whereby law enforcement takes assets from a person suspected of being involved of a crime or illegal activity without charging that person with wrongdoing.
State College Mayor Don Hahn, a local attorney, is running for the magisterial district judge seat left by retiring incumbent Judge Carmine Prestia. If elected, Hahn would have to step down from his position as mayor, for which he was sworn in January 2018.
Jason Moser, one of two Centre County jury commissioners, is running for county controller. A current graduate student at Penn State studying governmental accounting, Moser said he is running to promote “greater accountability and efficiency in reporting” for Centre County residents. He lives in Bellefonte with his wife.
Recorder of Deeds
Joseph Davidson announced he will run for a sixth term as Centre County recorder of deeds. In office since 2000, he steered the department toward e-recording and helped implement the public access internet system WEBIA, according to a press release he sent out. A State College Area High School and Penn State graduate, he lives in Boalsburg with his wife and son.
Georgi Bennett, the co-owner of a small horse and beef cattle farm with her husband in Potter Township, is running for Centre County recorder of deeds. A graduate of Bald Eagle Area High School, Bennett has worked in budgeting and accounting, including a position in the Clinton County Recorder and Register Office. Bennett cited her “excellence in finance, organization (and) servicing the public” as reasons why she is an ideal candidate.
Register of Wills and Clerk of Orphans’ Court
Christine Millinder is seeking a second term as Centre County register of wills and clerk of Orphans’ Court. Prior to her election in 2016, she served 28 years in the office as a clerk, deputy and acting register of wills. As register of wills, Millinder has jurisdiction over and maintains records of wills and inventory of estates. She is also responsible for probating wills and granting letters of administration in cases where people die without leaving a will, according to her press release. Millinder lives in Pleasant Gap and is an active member of Faith United Methodist Church in Bellefonte and an associate member of the Bald Eagle Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #51.
State College Borough Council
Peter Marshall, who served as State College borough manager for 17 years until 2003, is running for Borough Council. A resident of State College, he also served as borough manager for 23 years for several other municipalities in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Delaware before coming to State College. “I love State College’s welcoming culture, the diverse and vibrant population, the family friendly neighborhoods and community organizations, and the way we value our neighborhoods and work to preserve them,” Marshall said in a press release. “I’m excited to have this chance of earning voters’ trust to serve.”
Marshall owns his own consulting business and has experience in strategic planning, recruitment and municipal governance.
Deanna Behring, who currently serves as the assistant dean of Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, is running for State College Borough Council. A long-time resident of State College, Behring said she wants the borough to “forge a path forward that is fiscally smart and creative ... inclusive of new ideas, but builds on and never forgets what makes State College special.” Behring said she wants to promote the economy, the environment and equity, while focusing her platform on creating new jobs, protecting and improving greenspace, walkways and bikeways and ensuring fairness and access to opportunities for all members of the community. She lives with her husband and has two adult daughters.