The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

May 19, 2013

Primary turnout likely will be low

Kathy Mellott

— The weatherman is promising warm temperatures and rain-free skies on Tuesday, the day of the primary election in Pennsylvania. But the good forecast may be overshadowed by a lack of voter interest in what is shaping up to be a mundane election.

Heath Long, chairman of the Cambria County Democratic Committee, said he’d like to see voter turnout Tuesday at 35 percent, but he thinks it may be closer to 23 percent.

Similar voter turnout predictions are coming out of Somerset County, where elections director Tina Pritz said she hopes 25 percent of the registered voters will show up at the polls.

One state race for a seat on the bench of the Superior Court involves candidates from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, creating little interest in the center part of the state.

The only Cambria County row office on the ballot is sheriff, and longtime Sheriff Bob Kolar has no opposition on the Democratic and Republic ballots.

The terms of two district judges in the county are up, but Michael Musulin of Johnstown and Mary Ann Zanghi of Vinco are both unopposed.

In Somerset, all of the incumbent row officers are running unopposed.

Seeking to discourage a sense of malaise at the polls, Long said voting for candidates for school board and municipal seats may well be one of the most important things a citizen can do.

“The local races probably have as much impact on your life than the presidential election, but people don’t see it that way,” he said.

Describing the election in Somerset County with the single word “quiet,” Pritz added that the impact of the local races can be huge.

“Now is when you’re picking your local officials and there are some races of local interest,” she said.

With no candidates on the ballot for some smaller municipalities in Cambria County, especially in the Chest Springs area – something not unusual, the southern end and voters in the north are expected at the polls.

“There’s a hot race for Northern Cambria school board,” Long said. “There is a lot of interest in that area as there has been in the last several elections.”

There are four seats up for grabs and 13 candidates in the district making up Northern Cambria Borough and  Barr and Susquehanna townships.

The race for Johnstown City Council is nearly as competitive with nine candidates vying for four seats.

While two names will appear on the ballot for Johnstown mayor, there is no race with the April death of candidate Anthony Gergely.

Gergely’s death came too late to have his name removed from the ballot and add the name of anyone else interested in the seat, said Shirley Crowl, Cambria County director of elections.

“I think it’s going to be a much higher turnout in Johnstown and Northern Cambria,” Long said.

While there is little on the ballots for Republicans in Cambria County, the GOP is not sitting idly by, said Joe Slifko, chairman of the Cambria County Republican Committee.

The party will have workers at the polls in the city urging GOP voters to write the name of Joe Taranto on the primary ballot in the hopes of getting his name on the fall ballot.

Taranto, a Johnstown chiropractor, was named last week by a panel of Cambria County judges to fill the unexpired seat on City Council created by the February death of Ann Wilson.

Also adding to the voter turnout likely will be weather, Crowl said.

“It’s supposed to be nice election day, and that should help bring people out,” she said.

While some rain showers are expected Monday, temperatures are expected to reach 74, higher than normal, with even warmer air pushing in Tuesday, said AccuWeather meteorologist Paul Walker.

Election day will be cloudy with limited sunshine, but temperatures are expected as high as 84 degrees, Walker said.

With the consolidation of 32 voting precincts across Cambria County earlier this year, Crowl urged voters to make sure they know where they are to vote Tuesday.

She is asking that anyone with questions about their precincts to contact her office at 472-1460.

Transportation to the polls will be provided for Cambria County senior citizens who make reservations as late as Monday.

The transportation will be provided from the following senior centers;

• Cresson Center, 886-4147

• Ebensburg Center, 472-5226

• Forest Hills Center, 495-4696

• Patton Center, 674-5820

• Portage Center, 736-4475

• Northern Cambria Center, 948-6711