Holidays over; new election cycle already in focus

The decorations are put away, the cookies are eaten, the toasts to a new year have been shared and all the other hoopla tied to the holidays is done.

And while the end-of-the-year festivities have finished, a new season is about to debut – the 2019 elections.

“We are already starting our prep work for the next election cycle,” said Gerry McGuinness, voter registrar for Venango County, on Monday. “We reach out to townships, boroughs, cities, school districts to verify the information to make sure everything is current as to people in office. When we get it all back, we use it to build the ballot.”

The 2019 election cycle is an off-year ballot exercise with the focus solely on municipal and school board posts. Some judicial posts as well as statewide ballot questions could also be featured in the spring election.

While the bulk of elective offices up this year are small stipend, part-time township and borough posts, there are extremes, too. School board members serve free of charge while county row offices pay a livable wage plus benefits.

On May 21, the primary election will pit Republicans and Democrats against their own in the tri-county area as political party members endorse their nominees. The nominees will then face off in the general election in November.

Minor political parties will select their candidates in late summer.

Here are the top county offices up for election this year. The current officeholders are listed.

Venango County

Commissioners – Albert “Chip” Abramovic, Tim Brooks, Vince Witherup

Treasurer – Deborah Sharpe

Prothonotary – Paula Palmer

Auditors – Teri McFadden, Heather Mohnkern, Jamie Weaver

Serving at mid-term are Shawn White, district attorney; Eric Foy, sheriff; Susan Hannon, register and recorder; and Christina Rugh, coroner. Their posts will be on the 2021 ballot.

Clarion County

Commissioners – Ed Heasley, Wayne Brosius, Ted Tharan

District attorney – Mark Aaron

Register-Recorder – Greg Mortimer

Treasurer – Tom McConnell

Auditors – Pamela Zahoran, Sue Leonard, Jolene Frampton

Prothonotary – Jeff Himes

Two county row offices will not be on the 2019 ballot because the incumbents’ terms do not expire until 2021. They are coroner Randall Stom and sheriff Rex Munsee.

Forest County

Commissioners – Robert Snyder Jr., Basil Huffman, Norman Wimer

District attorney – Barbara Litten

Coroner – Norman Wimer

Treasurer – Stacey L. Barnes

Register/Recorder/Prothonotary – Dawn M. Millin

Auditors – Deborah Wagner, Louise Fedora, Carolyn Mealy

The sheriff, Bob Wolfgang, is not up for election. His term expires in 2021.

Municipal posts are up

Elective posts in cities, boroughs and townships will also be on the May primary ballots.

In Oil City, two city council slots and the mayor’s job are up for election this year. The incumbents are Mayor Bill Moon and councilmen Ron Gustafson and Dale Massie.

Franklin voters will consider candidates for three city council jobs this year. Incumbents whose terms expire are deputy mayor Donna Fletcher and councilmen James Marshall and Fred Mays.

In Clarion Borough, three council seats will be on the 2019 ballots. They are held now by council president Carol Lapinto, Brenda Sanders-Dede and Earl Zerfoss.

School slots open

Voters will choose candidates for school board seats in all area school districts.

Typically, at least one-third of the board membership is up for election every two years.

The first day for candidates to circulate nomination petitions is Feb. 19. The completed petitions are due back to county election offices by March 12.