John Hugya made it official on Friday with a press conference announcing his candidacy for the Democratic nomination in the 12th Congressional District.
“I need your support, and I’ll need your vote in May,” Hugya told about 40 supporters gathered inside the Cambria County War Memorial lobby Friday morning.
A chilly rain moved the announcement event indoors, but Hugya led a group of backers outside to the John Murtha statue along Vine Street for a photo opportunity after the brief program.
Hugya, 79, was Murtha’s longtime chief of staff and worked for the late congressman throughout his record tenure in the House of Representatives. Murtha, a Democrat, represented the 12th district from 1974 until his death in February 2010, becoming the longest-serving representative in state history.
Like Murtha, Hugya is a former Marine and war veteran. He served in Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm/Desert Shield, rising from the rank of private to colonel during his time the Marine Corps and reserves.
Those joining Hugya for photos at the Murtha statue included Joyce Murtha, the late congressman’s widow; state Rep. Bryan Barbin and former congressman Mark Critz, who won a special election following Murtha’s death and then was elected to one full term before being defeated last year by U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley.
Critz has announced his candidacy for lieutenant governor.
In his remarks to supporters, Hugya listed several issues he believes Rothfus is not addressing adequately.
They include unemployment, protection of Medicare and Social Security, support for police and emergency responders and support for veterans.
“You are being shortchanged,” Hugya said.
Hugya cited his experience with Murtha, as well as his background that includes the military, steel industry and law enforcement.
Hugya faces at least one other announced candidate on the Democratic ballot. Erin McClelland of New Kensington, Westmoreland County, announced her candidacy in May. McClelland, 38, is the founder of a substance abuse rehabilitation center in Blawnox, another Pittsburgh suburb.
Rothfus is opposed by Larry Stiles on the Republican side.
Randy Griffith is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/photogriffer57.