Close races highlight delayed Election Day

Jefferson County residents headed to the polls on Tuesday to cast votes in what has become a challenging election year — the primary already several weeks postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the county only having moved into the green phase of reopening on Friday, as well as nationwide civil unrest. In addition to weighing in on the Democratic and Republican nominees for president, Jefferson County residents participated in a number of local elections, including wide-open races for the state house and senate, with both incumbents having stepped down.

Those state house and senate races were among the most-watched locally, particularly on the Republican side. For state senator of the 25th district, Jefferson County voters overwhelmingly backed current state Rep. Cris Dush over John Herm Suplizio in a distant second and Jim Brown in third. As of Spirit press time, Dush appeared to have a commanding lead in the rest of the senatorial district as well (with 62 percent of the precincts having been reported).

Meanwhile, a neck-and-neck race for the Republican nomination for state representative of the 66th district ended with Jefferson County narrowly backing Brian Smith over Jack Matson, by a margin of only 101 votes with 25 write-ins. However, Indiana County's portion of the 66th district showed Smith with a more distant lead over Matson (with all precincts reporting results at press time).

There was only one Democrat on the ballot in the state senate race, Margie Brown. There were no Democrats for state representative.

In state races, Jefferson County chose incumbent Josh Shapiro, the sole name on the ballot, for attorney general. Incumbent Joe Torsella, also the only name on the ballot, was similarly supported for state treasurer. There were several names in the running for auditor general; Jefferson County Democrats chose H. Scott Conklin, who was followed closely by Michael Lamb. However, statewide results showed Lamb in the lead, with Nilofer Nina Ahmad in second.

Jefferson County Republicans also had only one name on the ballot for attorney general, Heather Heidelbaugh. Similarly, Stacy L. Garrity was the only Republican on the ballot for state treasurer. The race for auditor general also had one Republican candidate, Timothy DeFoor.

In the presidential contest, Jefferson County residents backed Joe Biden as the Democratic nominee and Donald Trump as the Republican. For U.S. Congress, Robert Williams was the sole Democratic candidate for representative of Pennsylvania's 5th district. Incumbent Glenn Thompson was also unopposed on the ballot and received Jefferson County voters' overwhelming support.

An hour after polling places closed, Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar reported that the primary election in Pennsylvania ran remarkably smoothly despite unprecedented challenges in the weeks and months before the voting. "Today, we marked two major milestones in Pennsylvania's electoral history," Secretary Boockvar said. "For the first time, Pennsylvania voters could vote by mail-in ballot without having to provide an excuse, and they did so in impressive numbers. And all 67 counties have now deployed new, more secure and accessible voting systems with voter-verifiable paper ballots. I am extremely thankful for and proud of Pennsylvania's dedicated election officials, poll workers and, of course, voters."

"I want to thank Pennsylvania's poll workers and county election officials, who faced some truly extraordinary challenges with this primary — from some of the most significant changes to the state election code in 80 years and new voting systems, to COVID-19 complications and civil unrest in many areas of the Commonwealth," Boockvar said. "Thanks to them — and the voters of Pennsylvania — we held a safe and peaceful election and demonstrated once again the enduring strength of our democracy."