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May 21, 2014

Election roundup: Rematch looms in 71st district House race

JOHNSTOWN — Political battles fought in 2008 and 2010 for the state House 71st district will be repeated in the fall, with incumbent Democrat Bryan Barbin facing Republican challenger Jim Rigby for a third time.

Barbin was unopposed in the bid for his party’s nomination, while Rigby handily outpaced political newcomer Mark Amsdell.

Unofficial results showed Rigby, of Ferndale, with more than 75 percent of the vote.

Amsdell, of Johnstown, captured a quarter of the vote.

“I was a little concerned I wouldn’t get there,” Rigby  said late Tuesday. “I pounded on doors and the yard signs were in people’s yards. They were endorsements, not litter.”

Barbin beat Rigby by fewer than 200 votes  in 2008 and again in 2010.

“I’ll now get together with our committee and develop a strategy. Hopefully the third time will be the charm,” Rigby said.

In Cambria County, Rigby received 2,180 votes, 75.6 percent, to Amsdell's 698 votes, 24.2 percent.

Barbin, unchallenged for the Democratic nomination, received 5,483 votes or 98.7 percent.

In the significantly reconstructed 72nd district, incumbent Democrat Frank Burns will face Republican challenger Philip Rice in the November general election.

Burns, of East Taylor Township, handily outpaced his Democratic challenger, Martin Westrick of northern Cambria County, by more than 2-to-1, capturing 4,438 votes or 67.7 percent of the vote.

Westrick received a total of 2,104 votes or 32.1 percent.  

Rice, of Ebensburg, easily trounced fellow Republican Randal J. Wilson of Glasgow.

Rice took a strong lead early on in the results and outpaced Wilson by an average of 4-to-1 much of the evening.

An elated Rice said he hit the campaign trail early and never let up.

“I went out and I saw a lot of people and I heard what they had to say,” Rice said from campaign headquarters at the Solomon Run Fire Hall in Richland Township.

He estimated that he pounded on more than 2,000 doors over the past two months.  

Two years ago, Wilson ran unsuccessfully against longtime state Rep. Gary Haluska, D-Patton, in what was then the 73rd district.

Rice captured 2,153 votes, or 78.5 percent, while Wilson pulled 557 votes, or 20.3 percent.

With reapportionment now in place, the 72nd now covers much of the previous 73rd and stretches from suburban Johnstown to Patton.

The new 73rd House district includes the most northern portion of Cambria County and 40 townships and boroughs in Clearfield County.

Republican incumbent Tommy Sankey of Clearfield will be unopposed in the fall election after the name of Democrat Matt Barczak of northern Cambria County was challenged and removed from the ballot, according to a Department of State website.

The decision by longtime state Sen. Richard Kasunic, D-Dunbar, to retire opened the door for a faceoff between two Democrats, including one already holding state public office.

Unofficial results for the 32nd senatorial district show Deberah Kula, of Fayette City, easily taking the Democratic nomination from challenger Harry Fike, of South Union, Fayette County.

Kula, a four-term incumbent in the state House 52nd district, received 9,688 votes, or 72.10 percent, while Fike received 3,748 votes or 27.9 percent, according to the state department website.

She will face Republican challenger Pat Stefano, of Bullskin Township, Fayette County, who was unopposed for his party’s nomination.

Kathy Mellott is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/kathymellotttd.

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