Democrats hold fall banquet
John Hugya, a long-time John Murtha aide, spoke on behalf of the late congressman Thursday at the Somerset County Democrat Fall Banquet. (Philip Petrunak)
The Somerset County Democrat Fall Banquet featured keynote speaker state Sen. Richard Kasunic and longtime U.S. Rep. John Murtha’s aide John Hugya. The evening was held to unite Democratic voters and encourage them to get out to polls on Nov. 8.
The two county commissioners running for re-election were the first to address the crowd. County Commissioner Pamela A. Tokar-Ickes said everything is on the line in the coming election.
“The Democratic team stands together tonight for Somerset County’s future,” she said. “It’s your decision whether to move forward or to step backward.”
Fellow Commissioner John P. Vatavuk agreed.
“This election is about more than infrastructure, debt and those issues, it’s about character,” he said. “We need to get the message out. Who do you want representing Somerset County?”
The two candidates also discussed the need to deliver clean water to portions of the county, road repairs and job creation.
“We have the record, experience and Somerset County’s best interest at heart,” Tokar-Ickes said. “This one is beyond politics.”
Democratic candidates across Somerset County were in attendance Thursday.
Sheriff John A. Mankey said he comes from an era when people were held accountable for their actions.
“Respect is earned and doesn’t necessarily come with the position,” he said. “I run a very efficient office and I work side by side with my deputies.”
District attorney challenger Lisa L. Lazzari-Strasiser said campaigning has been a whirlwind. She said her 20 years of experience as a public defender qualify her for the position.
“Just because a person is poor or of low social status or has made mistakes, that should not deter them from having representation,” she said. “I’ve learned on the job and I’ve been trained by facing four district attorneys through the years.”
Auditor John F. Steele encouraged voters to take a closer look at all the candidates.
“Look at (candidates) as if you were an employer,” he said. “Check references, talk to neighbors, look at their past job performances. Make sure that people are worthy of your trust. And believe you can count on me.”
Auditor candidate Travis P. Meyers was at work and could not attend the banquet. A spokeswoman said Meyers will work hard for the county if elected.
Clerk of courts candidate Marcia Ann Whipkey spoke of her background working as an officer manager for District Judge Arthur K. Cook in Somerset.
“I am prepared to be a public servant, serving the public,” she said. “I will always strive to honor your trust in me.”
Recorder of deeds candidate Susan Will said public office should be run like a business.