Meadville Tribune

March 2, 2014

‘Dance’ cards for upcoming primary election beginning to fill up

By Jane Smith
Meadville Tribune

— The “dance” cards are filling up for the upcoming primary election as candidates are circulating their petitions to get on the ballot for their respective party nominations.

It appears only a few candidates will have a “bye,” meaning they won’t have any competition in this round.

At this point, it appears incumbent state Rep. Republican Brad Roae and Democrat Juanita Shusta will not have competition for their party nominations for the Sixth District House of Representatives.

The 17th District State House seat is drawing interest from both parties as they choose nominees to succeed Republican Michele Brooks, who will seek the state Senate seat and not be on the ballot for state House. Four Republicans — two from Crawford County, one from Mercer County and one from Erie County — are among those who have announced. They include Ed Franz of Conneautville, Gary Temple of the Atlantic area, Parke Wentling of Hempfield Township, Mercer County, and Patrick Gehrlein of Girard Township, Erie County. Democrats will choose between Wayne Hanson of the Linesville area and Dennis Webber of Hempfield Township. Hanson’s candidacy was a surprise to many, but those who know him know he is a strong campaigner. He is a former district justice and member of the state Democratic Committee.

Three candidates are vying for the GOP nomination for state Senate to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Bob Robbins. They include Brooks, Republican state Rep. Greg Lucas of the Edinboro area and Jane MacPherson of Hermitage. It appears whoever is nominated will face Michael Muha of Hermitage, the only Democrat on the ballot at this point.

Of course those races have nothing on the gubernatorial candidacy in terms of numbers. Seven candidates are vying for the Democratic nomination. One dropped out recently but then another, former Auditor General Jack Wagner, jumped in. Polls this week favor Tom Wolf, but with a wide slate of candidates and millions of dollars to spend, it’s anybody’s guess who may win.

Others expected to file their nominating petitions are Allyson Schwartz, state Treasurer Rob McCord, Katie McGinty, John Hanger and Jo Ellen Litz. The winner is expected to face Gov. Tom Corbett in the fall.

Talking about the Democrats, Jim Burns, the state Democratic Committee director, will be the speaker at next week’s Crawford County Democratic Committee’s breakfast. Burns is expected to rally the troops to get out the vote in May — and then join together to support the winner in the fall.

State Secretary of Agriculture George Greig was the speaker at the recent annual Crawford County Conservation District dinner. The respect he was shown was obvious in those attending, which included all the county’s state representatives, Robbins and the three county commissioners.

At one point in his speech, Greig got emotional and a little teary eyed as he spoke about working together with township supervisors and others. After the dinner, Greig said he never gets emotional when speaking — except when he’s back “home” and talking before friends. He mentioned how he has worked together with many of the supervisors who were honored.

For the record, Greig is still a Conneaut Township supervisor and often attends the meetings via telephone. The supervisory position is not a paid position and since his secretarial position is an appointed one — not elected — he can serve in both positions at the same time.

He remains optimistic that he will still be secretary of agriculture after the election, confident that when people study the governor’s overall record, Corbett will win re-election.

Greig was unsuccessful when he ran for the state Legislature years ago but said it was OK that he lost. Had he won, “I would never have been secretary of agriculture.” It’s obvious he enjoys his job.

Mercer County Commissioner Brian Beader is taking a lot of criticism for his absence from the job. Beader said he stays on top of things via email and works at night — despite the fact the courthouse is closed. Beader is an electrician and working full-time at that job. His two fellow commissioners aren’t happy about him not being at the courthouse more often.

However, the state’s county code doesn’t require public officials in those positions to show up for work except for the day they are sworn in.

In Crawford County, for the most part, all of our part-time county elected officials have generally been at the courthouse every day.

At the same time, a few don’t show up every day and nobody has complained publicly about the fact they aren’t there.

There have been cases where commissioners — and other elected county officials — have had other jobs they went to on different days; but not every day. And, at least one had a part-time job during special seasons that he went to most afternoons for about three months. He didn’t make it a secret though, and nobody challenged him because of the county code.

Some people think it’s time for the county code to be amended to require those making full-time wages to put in at least 40 hours a week on the job — during the hours the public has access to them — not via email or cellphone.

The thought has been around for many years, but to my knowledge, it was never promoted at the state level.

Retired county Commissioner Roger Williams was at the conservation dinner and gave the invocation. Despite no longer being a public official, Williams is an associate director and said although he’s never been a farmer, he has always respected the work of those in the agricultural community.

James Babcock was introduced as the new county conservation district manager, succeeding Lynn Sandieson, who served more than 30 years. She was one of the hardest working officials and always was soft spoken but a great advocate for her program and her employees.

Greig’s wife, Christine, accompanied her husband to the luncheon and enjoys traveling with him. Like Cheryl Weiderspahn, wife of Crawford County Commissioner Chairman Francis Weiderspahn Jr., Cheryl does a lot of sewing and crafts. She showed me pictures of gifts she had made for Greig’s staff for the holidays. She noted the law says bosses can’t spend more than $20 each on gifts for employees. She made beautiful monogrammed ties for the male staffers.

Jane Smith is a retired Meadville Tribune reporter who specialized in covering government and politics.