Special Election Set For Hess’s 78th District Seat
Since the untimely and tragic death of friend and longtime Rep. Dick Hess on September 6, preparations have finally gotten under way for the 2014 special election that will name his successor in the state House of Representatives’ 78th District that covers all of Fulton County.
Speaker of the House Samuel Smith has issued a writ of election setting the special election date as Tuesday, January 28.
While the time frame is certainly clear cut to local officials, another issue that appears to be now laid to rest is who will get to vote in this particular special election. According to Fulton County Director of Elections and chief clerk Dan Swain, the special election will see votes cast by registered voters falling under the current 78th District map that spans Fulton County as well as neighboring Bedford County and six precincts in Huntingdon County.
Ironically, the newly revised district map for the 78th District is slated to take effect in 2015, with candidates running for the new district starting in February 2014. The new boundaries for the 78th District will eliminate several Bedford County municipalities and all of Huntingdon County’s precincts while keeping all of Fulton County and gaining several municipalities in neighboring Franklin County.
Unlike a typical election, Swain noted the January 28 election will not require prospective candidates to undergo a petition circulation process. In fact, in lieu of a primary election, it will be the political parties that will be responsible for sorting out the field of candidates to nominate one individual to represent their party on the ballot.
Reports indicate a select number of conferees from Fulton, Bedford and Huntingdon counties will be picked to represent their particular counties and respective party affiliations within the 78th District. The number of conferees assigned to each county is reportedly based on voter turnout in the last presidential election in conjunction with statewide party rules.
The conferees for each party will participate in a nominating convention during which the delegates will whittle down the field of prospective candidates to only those to be listed on the election ballot. The conventions will likely be open to the public, unofficial reports state.
Individuals affiliated with other political bodies, however, will not be excluded from this special election process, Swain clarified.
Correspondence from the Department of State Bureau of Elections, Swain said, indicates “nomination certificate” paperwork is given to Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians. “Nomination certificates” from those parties are due to the department by December 9. Each party will submit a nomination certificate with the name of their chosen candidate.
Furthermore, other political body candidates may circulate “nomination papers” as well, following the same December 9 filing deadline.
Swain further said the state, and not the county, will cover the expense of conducting a special election.
Interested candidates for the 78th Legislative District have been slow to emerge in the weeks following the passing of Rep. Hess, who suffered complications from leg surgery. As of press time Tuesday, only one candidate has officially announced interest in seeking the nomination of the Republican Party.
Bedford County native and Republican state committeeperson Jesse Topper announced Friday he is seeking the Republican nomination to run in the January 28 special election.
“In light of all that is occurring in Washington, D.C., and Harrisburg, I believe we need a true fiscal and social conservative who will fight for our values – including lowering taxes, less government and who will protect our Constitutional rights and the sanctity of life,” said Topper in a press release dated September 27.
Currently serving in the capacity of executive minister at the Bedford United Methodist Church, Topper is also second vice president on the Bedford County Chamber of Commerce. He is a former Bedford High School football coach and former Bedford Borough councilman.
Asked why he is seeking his party’s nomination, Topper said, “Jobs. Good-paying, family sustaining jobs must be a top priority in this state and that will only happen if Harrisburg returns more decision-making power to local communities. Government does not create jobs, the private sector does. We must remove burdensome regulations and allow business to grow and thrive in Pennsylvania.”
Other candidates interested in running for the seat are being urged to contact the state parties.