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New commissioner could start work shortly after the primary

May 21, 2019 GMT

A new Somerset County commissioner could be sworn in as early as this week.

In February President Judge D. Gregory Geary announced that he will appoint the highest Democratic vote-getter in tomorrow’s primary to fill the remainder of John Vatavuk’s term. Vatavuk, a Democrat, died in January after a short battle with cancer.

Democrats Frank Pelesky, Pamela Tokar-Ickes and Dan Hillegas will appear on Tuesday’s ballot for commissioner.

“What I envisioned up to this point was to wake up on the morning after the primary and if the winner has won by a comfortable margin, then I was going to contact that person and arrange to have them appointed and sworn in by the end of the week,” he said.


Geary said that if the top two vote-getters are close, the appointment would be delayed until the votes are certified. He said it would also depend on the availability of the individual who received the most votes.

In the primary Republican and Democratic voters will each nominate two individuals. County Elections Director Tina Pritts said that while voters can vote for two the machines will accept an undervote, or a vote for one known as plunking.

On the Republican side voters will choose among candidates Colleen Dawson, Max Merrill, Gerald Walker, Thursa Trent Crouse, Donald Bumbarger and Curtis Morgese.

With the high-stakes Democratic race and large field of Republican candidates, Pritts is estimating a 30 percent voter turnout.

She said that absentee ballot requests are down, close to 500. In previous years the office received closer to 1,000.

Although the commissioners race is the only contested countywide race in the primary, many municipalities have races for township supervisor, borough council member, mayor and school board director.

“Everyone needs to get out and vote,” she said.

In Black Township, the polling place has been moved from the Rockwood Volunteer Fire Department to the Black Township Municipal Office and Election Hall at 228 Rockdale Road.