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April 23, 2008

Rigby, Barbin prevail in 71st district

A Republican who did not campaign pulled out a surprise victory Tuesday in the state House 71st District primary.

And in a nail-biter of a race on the Democratic side, Johnstown lawyer Bryan Barbin apparently won his party’s nomination, beating Geistown resident Tom Chernisky by 103 votes.

The vote totals do not include absentee ballots, which were unavailable late Tuesday.

The GOP race provided an unlikely highlight in a race dominated by Democratic candidates seeking to replace retiring state Rep. Ed Wojnaroski, D-Johnstown.

Ferndale Councilman Jim Rigby, who said in March that he no longer was seeking the nomination but did not remove his name from the ballot, defeated Steve Ettien of Richland Township.

An elated Rigby said he would accept the nomination, adding that he is ready to campaign hard in the general election.

“We’re going 110 percent after this seat. There’s no doubt in my mind,” Rigby said.

Among the Democrats, Barbin and Chernisky ran neck-and-neck as results were tabulated. Barbin came out ahead with 25 percent of the vote compared with Chernisky’s 24 percent.

Barbin could not immediately be reached for comment.

William Stasko took third place. Trailing were Denny Conahan, Benny Britt and J.J. Livingston, in that order.

In a district with 20,815 registered Democrats and 11,799 Republicans, it was not surprising that six of the eight candidates in this year’s primary race were Democrats.

Of the six Democrats, Livingston and Britt ran relatively low-key campaigns. Barbin, Chernisky, Conahan and Stasko had a heavy advertising presence in the local media in recent weeks.

Livingston was the youngest candidate at age 24, and he had urged a change in the status quo. Britt had touted his governing experience as a past member of Johnstown City Council and Greater Johnstown Water Authority.

Chernisky, a financial-services representative who serves as a part-time Cambria County jury commissioner, was backed by the county’s president commissioner, P.J. Stevens.

The other three Democrats touted their professional experience: Barbin has extensive experience in the legal field, Stasko works as a certified public accountant and Conahan is a United Steelworkers union local president.

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