Elections

It’s official: These are the candidates running to represent Centre County in 2019

The deadline has come and gone to file nomination petitions for the May primary election in Centre County, and many municipal government seats are up for grabs.

Tuesday is the last day to file a rejection for a filed petition and March 27 is the last day for candidates to withdraw a petition.

The Centre Daily Times is still compiling information on other local races, including borough council and school board candidates.

Below, find all the candidates running for major Centre County races in 2019, confirmed by county Director of Elections Joyce McKinley. The primary election is Tuesday, May 21.

April 22 is the last day to register to vote before the primary.

Centre County Commissioners

All three Centre County commissioner seats are up for election this November. This year, all three current commissioners are running for re-election. Two Democrats and six Republicans have declared their candidacy for Centre County commissioner.

After the May primary, each party will narrow it down to two candidates per party.

Democrats

Board of Commissioners Chairman Michael Pipe and Vice Chairman Mark Higgins, both Democrats, jointly announced their re-election campaign.

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.”

Republicans

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 has been vocal about opposing 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. Exarchos, who did not send a campaign announcement, 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 wrote in a press release. 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., a local business owner and screen actor, is running for county commissioner. A Penn State graduate, he serves on several boards, including the Technical Committee of the Centre Region Council of Governments, representing the Moshannon Valley Planning Region. He said he would like to carry over good money management practices from his tenure as supervisor. He said the success of future generations is integral to his campaign. “We need more and greater activities to keep our children away from drugs and other forms of abuse,” he said in a press release. If elected, he said, he will use some of his salary as commissioner to provide $10,000 in scholarships to 10 Centre County residents every year he is in office. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their five children in Rush Township.

Treasurer

Three candidates — one Democrat and two Republicans — are running for county treasurer this year. They are all running to claim the seat soon to be vacant after five-term county treasurer Richard Fornicola retires at the end of his term.

Colleen Kennedy is running on the Democratic ticket. In a press release, Kennedy said she would bring “an earnest dedication to service, integrity and professional ethics” to the office of the treasurer.

Kennedy currently works as an accountant and has been an auditor and treasurer of various organizations, according to the release. She also serves as music director of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Centre County. She lives with her husband, Robert, in State College.

W. Blaine Thomas and Joseph Soloski are both running as Republicans. Soloski is also running for county commissioner as a Republican. Thomas could not be reached for comment and did not send in a press release providing information on his campaign.

Coroner

Centre County Coroner Scott Sayers is seeking re-election for a sixth term. He is running, unopposed, on the Democratic ticket.

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. Sayers serves as regional vice president on the executive board of the Pennsylvania Coroner Association. He is also a member of the Milesburg Baptist Church and a life member of the Citizens Hook and Ladder Fire Company of Milesburg.

Prothonotary

One Democrat and one Republican are running for the seat of prothonotary, to fill the vacancy soon to be left by current Prothonotary Debra Immel, who has served in the position for 44 years.

Jeremy Breon, Centre County first deputy prothonotary, is running for prothonotary and clerk of courts as a Democrat.

Breon, who lives in Aaronsburg, has served in the Prothonotary’s Office since 2011. He also serves as a Democratic Committee person for Haines Township, is a member of the Penns Valley Grange No. 158 and is a board member and volunteer of the Penns Valley Area Historical Museum Association, according to his press release.

Patrick Miller, a graduating Penn State Law student, is running for prothonotary on the Republican ticket. A resident of State College, he is a political newcomer and previously ran for the Republican nominee in the special election to represent the 12th Congressional District.

Sheriff

Centre County Sheriff Bryan Sampsel announced he will seek re-election as the Republican nominee and will run unopposed. Sampsel was first elected sheriff in 2015. He worked as a deputy sheriff and sergeant in the Centre County Sheriff’s office for over 12 years.

“I would again like to thank all the voters of Centre County who gave me the opportunity and privilege to serve as your Sheriff. I’m asking for your support and trust to continue to serve as your Sheriff of Centre County,” Sampsel said in a press release.

A resident of Bellefonte, Sampsel lives with his wife, Ruth, and two children. They are members of the Faith United Methodist Church and the Pennsylvania Sheriff Association.

District Judge

Three district judge seats in Centre County are up for election this year. Each race is unopposed and each candidate is cross-filing in both the Republican and Democratic primaries.

State College Mayor Don Hahn, a local attorney, is running for the magisterial district judge seat left by retiring incumbent Judge Carmine Prestia of District 49-1-01 which serves half of State College Borough. If elected, Hahn would have to step down from his position as mayor, for which he was sworn in January 2018.

District Judge Kelley Gillette-Walker, who serves District 49-03-02 which oversees the Bald Eagle Valley and Bellefonte areas, is running for re-election. She was first elected district judge in 2013, and also ran unopposed at that time.

District Judge Steven Lachman, who serves District 49-03-05 which oversees half of State College’s voting districts, is running for re-election. He was first elected district judge in 2013, and defeated a Democratic challenger.

Controller

Two candidates are running for Centre County controller this year — one Democrat and one Republican.

Henry “Hank” Fifield, the current Centre County deputy controller, is running for controller on the Republican ticket. He could not be reached for comment and did not provide a press release on his campaign.

Jason Moser, one of two Centre County jury commissioners, is running for county controller. Moser has over 15 years of experience in the hospitality industry with a focus on budgetary responsibilities, according to his campaign. He is currently completing a graduate degree at Penn State in governmental accounting and is slated to finish the program this spring. 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

Two candidates — one Democrat and one Republican — are running for Centre County recorder of deeds.

Joseph Davidson, a Republican, 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. 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 challenging incumbent Davidson and running on the Democratic ticket. 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, a Republican, is seeking a second term as Centre County register of wills and clerk of Orphans’ Court. She is running unopposed.

Prior to her election in 2016, Millinder 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

Nine candidates are vying for four open seats on the State College Borough Council. Three incumbents are running to defend their seats and one, Catherine Dauler, will not run for re-election.

More information is forthcoming on each candidate. There are eight Democrats and one Republican running for seats on Borough Council this year.

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