New (old) district maps make state races in Somerset County unlikely
State Reps. Carl Walker Metzgar, Frank Burns and John Wozniak
Based on the 2001 district maps, state Reps. Carl Walker Metzgar, R-Allegheny Township, and Frank Burns, D-East Taylor Township, will not have primary opposition on April 24. Barring a successful write-in campaign they will also be unopposed during the general election.
State Sen. John Wozniak, D-Johnstown, is also unopposed in the primary. Funeral director Tim Houser of Ebensburg is the only Republican who filed to appear on the ballot in that race. Under the 2001 maps Sen. Rich Kasunic still represents Somerset County, but he is not up for re-election this year.
The redrawn 2011 maps were thrown out by the state Supreme Court, which ruled them unconstitutional.
As candidates prepare to run under the 2001 maps, progress is being made on new maps. The Legislative Reapportionment Commission has a meeting set for Wednesday to vote on new maps. The five-person commission includes former judge Stephen J. McEwen Jr., Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai and House Minority Leader Frank Dermody.
Steve Miskin, Turzai's spokesman, said that while it is not 100 percent certain that the 2001 maps will be used in the April 24 primary, most candidates are preparing to run under those boundaries.
"People are waiting to see what the maps look like and how the vote is this coming Wednesday," he said.
Miskin said they are hoping these maps pass unanimously. The last maps passed the commission by a vote of 4-1.
"That triggers a 30-day public comment period and the commission can respond to those comments," he said.
After a final plan is adopted there is another 30-day period during which people can file appeals to the plan, Miskin said.
Miskin explained that under the law the new maps are to be used in the next election after they are approved. Hypothetically, he said, that could be the general election in November. There is a chance that voters could nominate someone during the primary who will not appear on the fall ballot in their precinct.
Miskin said at this time there are no plans to move the primary to allow the new maps to be used, but he said it is still a possibility.
"Nobody really wants to move the primary," he said. "It puts you in a whole bunch of problems."
The outcome may ultimately depend on whether the Supreme Court is happy with the adjusted maps.
"Will they decide quickly or go slowly, or totally change their minds again?" he said.
Under the 2011 maps that were thrown out Republican Sens. Don White, Indiana Borough, and Kim Ward, Hempfield Township, along with Rep. Mike Reese, Mount Pleasant Township, would have represented parts of Somerset County. None of the candidates have primary opponents; however, candidates have applied to appear on the Democratic ballot against Ward and Reese.