2021 in review: municipal and county races have driven local politics; Somerset County District Attorney’s arrest leads the news | News

JOHNSTOWN, Pennsylvania – As state and federal politicians were embroiled in battles against the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 presidential election, and the seat of the United States Capitol on January 6, politics at the local was mostly routine last year.

Many municipal and school races took place.

In Johnstown, political newcomer Laura Huchel, a Democrat, won a seat on city council. Huchel, the first millennial elected to the council, stressed the need to give young adults reasons to stay in the city.

“To get people to move and stay here, we have to have hope for them, and we have to have jobs for them,” Huchel said in an interview ahead of the general election.

The incumbents, the Reverend Sylvia King, Marie Mock and Ricky Britt, all Democrats, were re-elected. Democratic Mayor Frank Janakovic won a third term.

Part of Janakovic and the council’s mission will be to finalize plans to spend more than $ 30 million in US bailout funds for pandemic relief and continue to prepare for the exit from the program. Pennsylvania Law 47 for Distressed Municipalities.

A major concern is how to stop the loss of population in the city, which fell from nearly 70,000 people in 1920 to 18,411 in the 2020 US census, including a 12.2% drop in the last decade.

“We currently have a chance to rename Johnstown however we want, whether it’s 20,000 people or 18,000 people or 15 (thousand) or 25 (thousand),” Janakovic said ahead of the election. “We’ll never have 60 (thousand) again – but that’s what we’re doing to be successful with what we have right now.”

Johnstown voters have approved a referendum allowing city council to end the requirement that the city manager live within city limits. Supporters of the change said the residency requirement was a barrier to finding and retaining managers. Nine people have occupied the position full-time or on an interim basis since 2014.

“If voters thought it was the need to do it, then of course we’ll do what they want us to do,” City Councilor Marie Mock said after the vote. “It is as it should be. Voters are in control. Let them control the situation.

“It’s just the way things turned out”

Don Robertson, a Republican, won the election to become Cambria County Sheriff, defeating Democrat Tom Owens, who was a part-time deputy in the sheriff’s office.

Robertson had been Sheriff Bob Kolar’s chief deputy, and he assumed the post on an interim basis following Kolar’s death in 2020.

“I never intended to be Cambria County Sheriff. It’s just the way things went with the death of Bob Kolar, “said Robertson,” and that was not my intention when I took on this position, but I had to step up my efforts when leadership was canceled. “

During the election, an audit was conducted in the sheriff’s office which found that four deputies worked for the municipalities while they worked for the county. Cambria County Comptroller Ed Cernic noted that “there is no violation that could be determined with respect to Acting Sheriff Robertson or Deputy (Tom) Owens.” The audit was forwarded to the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office. No charges have been laid.

Pennsylvania state soldiers executed a search warrant at the Cambria County Elections and Voter Registration Office in June. State police did not provide any public information about the investigation other than confirmation that the search took place.

Cambria County attorney William Barbin said “the election office was 100% cooperative and provided the documents they requested.”

Somerset DA billed

Somerset County District Attorney Jeffrey Thomas, a Republican, was arrested in September on charges of sexually assaulting a woman in Windber.

He was initially charged with rape, indecent assault, strangulation, common assault and criminal trespass. The rape charge was dropped, but at the same time two other felony charges were added.

“We just want to point out that he went to court with a maximum prison term of 35 years … and he left the court today with a maximum prison term of 50 years,” he said. Pennsylvania Senior Assistant Attorney General Patrick Schulte said following the October hearing in which rape counts. was abandoned.

Thomas, who has pleaded not guilty, is awaiting trial. He has been unable to serve as a district attorney since his lawyer’s license was suspended by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

“Far-right conservative”

Leslie Baum Rossi, a Republican, won a special election held to take the seat of the 59th district of the State House of Representatives, left vacant by the death in January of State Representative Mike Reese, also a Republican. The district includes parts of Somerset and Westmoreland counties.

“My values ​​are very right,” Rossi said. “I am for the Second Amendment. I am pro-life. I really don’t have anything liberal. I am absolutely right. I am a far-right conservative for the working class.

Another Republican lawmaker, State Representative Matt Dowling, was injured in a single vehicle accident in early October. Dowling, R-Uniontown, was on his way to a caucus event in Lancaster County when the crash happened. He was taken to Lancaster General Hospital and treated for “significant trauma”.

The 51st District of Dowling covers part of southern Somerset County.

Focus on agriculture

US Representative Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Center, served his first year as a senior member of the House Committee on Agriculture.

“It’s about bringing the vision, the goals to the committee,” said Thompson after being selected for the job. “For me, it’s about making sure the kinds of policies we apply translate into a strong rural economy. A lot of it starts with making sure that there are market opportunities for all of our farmers. I know our farmers and ranchers – whether it’s crops or livestock – in Cambria County, they need good, strong markets.

Thompson would likely become chairman of the committee if Republicans got a majority in the House in the 2022 election.

“Free and fair elections”

Thompson and U.S. Representative John Joyce R-Blair were both in attendance on Capitol Hill when supporters of then-President Donald Trump raided it, seeking to disrupt Democrat Joe Biden’s certification as the winner of the 2020 presidential election.

In the aftermath of the insurgency chaos, Joyce and Thompson opposed the certification of Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes that went to Biden.

“I have taken an oath to uphold the law and defend the Constitution,” Joyce told the United States House of Representatives. “I am committed to protecting free and fair elections. I cannot certify in good faith voters who were selected through an illegal process. I will oppose the certification of the Electoral College to protect the will of the voters of Pennsylvania, uphold the law, restore confidence in our electoral system, and ultimately save our Constitution.

Thompson and Joyce signed an amicus curiae brief in favor of Texas and other pro-Trump states that have asked the Supreme Court to overturn election results in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Georgia.

The Supreme Court dismissed the request for an emergency order.

In total, Trump and his allies have lost more than 60 court cases nationwide – on the basis of merit or status – in which they disputed part of the election results.

Biden won Pennsylvania by more than 80,000 votes, as certified by county and state election officials. There were three voter fraud convictions in Pennsylvania following the 2020 election, all against Republicans.


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