Candidate Legal Issues, Municipal Elections, Vacancy News

Masontown, South Connellsville races spur public interest

Two small Fayette County boroughs drew a wide field of candidates for available mayoral and council positions in advance of the spring primary.

Voters will have a variety of state, county, municipal and school district candidates to weigh when they go to the polls, with South Connellsville and Masontown boroughs offering the most candidates in the local government races.

The deadline to file candidate petitions with the Fayette County Election Bureau was Tuesday.

Since December, South Connellsville council and its police chief have found themselves the focal point of three lawsuits with Chief Russell Miller also charged by the county with official oppression.

A preliminary hearing for Miller in the county matter is scheduled for March 20.

The lawsuits, both past and present, have also resulted in the borough insurance carrier notifying council it will no longer provide liability insurance when the current policy expires in May. Council is hoping to find another carrier to provide the coverage.

While the borough matters appear dire, three of the four current council members have opted to seek re­election, including Republicans Karen Holbrook, George Jay and Kimberly S. Laws. Council member Clyde Martz, a Democrat, did not file a petition for another term in office.

Those challenging the incumbents include Democrats Jerry Reagan, Mary M. Riley­Mert, Donnie Ringer and current borough Mayor Jim Swink.

Shelley Mattis, a Republican, will also be on the ballot.

The mayoral position, too, also drew multiple candidates, including former Democratic Mayor Pete Casini, who will be challenged for the party nomination by James B. Manges.

Casini, who was charged by police in 2015 with theft, is serving the final months in the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program for first time offenders. Those admitted to the program are not required to admit their guilt to the charge.

Jay Fox III will run unopposed on the Republican ballot.

Masontown, meanwhile, does not have the legal woes but does struggle with how to make infrastructural and other improvements with the limited finances of an aging community.

Five four­year term council positions are available, and one two-year term position is open.

Incumbent Democrats Bruce A. Cochrane, Charles A. Corcoran, Harry Lee, Frank McLaughlin and Kay Rendina will be challenged for the party nomination by Madeline Maddy Arnold, Samuel Chahl, Pat Lubits Gump and Rich Wiggins.

On the Democratic ballot for the two­year term will be Tony Brnusak and Louise Durinzi, along with Cochrane and McLaughlin.

There are no Republican candidates on the council ballots.

Democratic Mayor Toni Petrus will be challenged by Tom Loukota for the party nod.

No Republican candidates filed a petition for the mayoral post.

Other municipality races include: ­­

Brownsville Borough Mayor Lester Ward is not seeking re­election. Democrats James S. Lawver, Ross Swords and Bruce N. Wells are all vying for the party nomination. No Republican candidates filed. ­­

Bullskin Township incumbent Supervisor Scott Keefer will have no challengers for the Democratic Party nomination in the primary but will face the lone Republican candidate, Chris Ohler, in the general election. ­­

Connellsville Councilman Tom Karpiak and Shaun Basinger, both Democrats, along with Republican Robert Topper Jr. will vie for the two available council positions. Current Councilman James McIntire opted not to seek re­election.

City Mayor Greg Lincoln, a Democrat, faces no challengers on the ballot. ­­

Dunbar Township Supervisor Keith Fordyce will not be challenged for the Democratic nod in the spring. However, Republican challengers John R. Romanko and Mark E. Virgillo will square off for the GOP nomination with the winner to face Fordyce in the fall for the single open seat. ­­

Dunbar Borough Mayor Norman E. Gordon will be challenged by Andy Lowry for the Republican nomination in the primary. No Democrats filed in the race. ­­

North Union Township Supervisor Rob Kovach declined to seek re­election, paving the way for four Democrats and one Republican to seek the open seat.

Democrats Ed Jobes, Ron Landman, David R. Molchan and Larry Russman will seek the party nomination with winner going on to face lone Republican candidate David A. Hughes in the fall.

South Union Township Supervisor Rick Vernon, a Democrat, will face Republican challenger Patrick Lion in the fall general election. ­­

Washington Township Supervisor Chuck Yusko will face Democratic challenger William Bergman for the party nomination in the primary. No Republican candidates filed for the open position. ­­

Wharton Township Supervisor Jim Means, a Republican, will be challenged in the fall election by Democrat Darwin Sonny Herring.

Larry Blosser, Fayette County Election Bureau director, said challenges to the municipal petitions must be filed with the election bureau by March 14. The last day for candidates to withdraw their name from the ballot is March 22.

The primary election is May 16.

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