If every one of a possible 201 write-in votes with variations of Buncich's name is counted, he would tie Owen Hofecker for the Republican nomination. Get the information you need fast. Sign up for our Breaking News alerts today.
If that were to happen, lots would be drawn to determine who gets the nomination. Today is the deadline to petition to have all votes consolidated — which Buncich already has done.
"It sounds like a coin toss to me," said political scientist G. Terry Madonna, public affairs professor at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster. "That's going to be decided in the courts. And every county is different in what they are willing to accept."
If Buncich gets all vote variations counted and he wins what's essentially a lottery over Hofecker, his name alone will appear on ballots as the Republican and Democratic nominee to return to the township's board of supervisors. If this happens, barring an effective write-in campaign in the fall, Buncich will have won back his seat.
But it may be an uphill fight.
"If I lose in the fall, it will be because of a true measure of the will of the people," Hofecker said. "To lose a primary due to a political trick is not acceptable to me."
Hofecker said he will fight an accumulation of Buncich write-in votes with the county elections board.
"Absolutely," Hofecker said. "I'm challenging any accumulation. Too many with just a last name, no first name. And there are write-in votes that are clearly for members of his family."
One of the write-in votes went to "Nick" Buncich, Steven Buncich's late father.
"I would like them all to count," Buncich said. "The intent (to vote for him) was there. But you never really know. One of the votes was for my late father. There was a vote for 'Mike,' which is my middle name. It could be a case voters wanted to vote for me but just drew a blank on my first name."
But if it doesn't work out, Buncich said he appreciates the support he's received and he'll be prepared to face Hofecker in the fall.
Buncich won the Democratic nomination with 371 votes, or 59 percent of the vote, followed by Joseph A. Marisa Jr. with 169 votes, or 27 percent, and Samuel Mazzarese with 71 votes, or 11 percent.
Hofecker appeared to have won the Republican nomination with 201 votes in the primary, but write-in votes that night indicated Hofecker could lose the nomination if they all went for one candidate.
Hofecker is retired as a captain in the U.S. Army, having worked in counterespionage. After the Army, he worked for 15 years at the National Drug Intelligence Center in Johnstown. He campaigned touting his experience managing budgets totaling hundreds of millions of dollars, his being a leader his entire career and his desire to put that experience to work for his home township.
Buncich, current supervisors board chairman, said that six years ago when he ran, he didn't foresee the challenges of his first term. But he said the experience he has gained and the relationships he has developed make him an asset as a township supervisor.
The fact Buncich has come so close to securing both nominations, one through a write-in effort in an election with six people going after one seat, is quite a feat, Madonna said.
"That is pretty uncommon, coming from a guy who follows a lot of local elections," Madonna said. "This is very rare. But strange things happen in politics."
Other notable write-in results:
Scott Walker won the Democratic nomination for Somerset Borough mayor. Walker earned 132 write-in votes without having to consolidate any variations of his name.
Joe Krause won the Democratic nomination for Berlin Borough mayor via write-in votes.
Scott Penrod won the Republican nomination for Windber Borough mayor through write-in tallies. Penrod, who owns the Windber Hotel, will face Democratic nominee and current Windber Councilwoman Sonya Pekala in the fall mayor race.