BERLIN — More than 200 people packed the Berlin Community Building on Thursday to rally Democrats for the upcoming primary and general elections to restore Pennsylvania's focus on jobs and prosperity.
Democratic candidates for office, mostly uncontested, spoke at the Somerset County Democratic Spring Banquet to remind party faithful that every election matters — and to drum up support for contested races both in the county and across the state.
John Wozniak said.
Among the speakers facing opposition on ballots, William Seger, of Windber, is running for district judge in his hometown. He hopes to replace retired District Judge Joseph Cannoni. Seger has practiced law in the region for 26 years and serves as solicitor for the Somerset County Tax Claim Bureau, Windber Municipal Authority, Windber Zoning Board and the Windber Planning Commission.
"I'm going to get this out of the way right off the bat," Seger said to laughter. "Please vote for me."
Seger spoke of his experience, including having more than 1,000 criminal and civil magistrate level hearings under his belt. But he also talked about a lack of excitement that he's seeing while going door-to-door meeting voters in the Windber area.
"I'm noticing this primary is not generating a lot of buzz," Seger said. "People don't know when the primary is. I know I'm preaching to the choir. I'm asking you to reach out to someone who may not got out and vote. This is the election that affects people's lives the most."
Joe Waters, a municipal court judge from Philadelphia, is facing opposition in his quest for state Superior Court. A Marine Corps veteran and Fulbright scholar who grew up in city housing projects, Waters vowed to be fair and compassionate if elected.
"I grew up in a housing project," Waters said. "I've dodged mortgage payments. I've dodged bill collectors. I know what it's like to struggle."
Waters hit on a recurring theme Thursday, that the Democratic Party is the party of the lower and middle class, the party to restore prosperity to all Pennsylvanians. Speakers pushed to help the middle class and to create jobs.
"I believe all of us can have world-class public educations for all of our children," said Max Myers, a Democratic candidate for governor in 2014.
Mark Smith, a candidate for lieutenant governor in 2014, and a current Bradford County commissioner, spoke about his humble roots, his road to success and why he is a proud Democrat.
"This is the reason," Smith said. "We lead by picking people up, not by leaving people behind."
Unopposed Somerset County row office incumbents took the opportunity to thank county residents, the county Democratic Party and their staffs for making it "a pleasure to go to work every day."
"I love my job," said Somerset County Prothonotary Angie Svonavec, who has served for 16 years. "Thank you all for trusting me as your prothonotary. But I can't do it alone. My staff is here, and I want to thank them."
Svonavec introduced each of her staff members, as did Somerset County Treasurer Donna Schmitt, who first ran for office in 1989. For the past four elections, she's been unopposed.
"I just want to thank everyone in this room," Schmitt said. She thanked her staff and family as well before hurrying the speeches along.
"The NFL draft is on and the Steelers are picking at 10 o'clock," Schmitt said to laughter.
Another oft-repeated theme Thursday was praise for Somerset County Democratic Committee Chairwoman Shelley Glessner. Glessner, who is a candidate herself, running for auditor in Lincoln Township, was praised for putting the event together and for having it at the Berlin Community Building.
"One thing you can say about Somerset County, you don't go away from here hungry," said Brad Koplinski, a Harrisburg councilman running for lieutenant governor in 2014.