Irvin re-elected to 81st state House district

State Rep. Richard S. Irvin won re-election to represent the 81st state House district Tuesday, which encompasses all of Huntingdon and some of Centre and Mifflin counties.

He took a little more than 70 percent of the votes in Huntingdon County, or 11,184 votes, to win re-election to a third term. The vote totals are unofficial. He said he believes voters cast their ballots according to their opinion on President Donald Trump, based on the comments he heard about the president as he made his rounds on the campaign trail.

Irvin, who thanked his campaign supporters and poll workers Tuesday night who helped him during the campaign, said that explained why he did so well in Republican strongholds of Huntingdon and Mifflin counties while vote tallies got tighter in Centre County, where Democratic voters are more prevalent.

“Most people either love Trump or they hate Trump,” he said.

Irvin, 47, first was elected to the House seat in 2014 when he defeated incumbent Mike Fleck.

On Tuesday, Irvin defeated Democratic candidate, retired U.S. Navy and Army Maj. Richard “Rick” James Rogers Sr., who was challenging Irvin for the second time. He campaigned on a platform of job creation, especially well-paying jobs. Rogers, 73, of Mount Union, Huntingdon County, also focused on education aimed at skills to help students get those good jobs, such as those developed at vocational and technical schools.

Rogers ran both times because he believed he served in the military, including a tour in Vietnam, to give Americans representative government. When he returned home, he found few candidates running for local and state offices, so he decided to run himself.

Although his totals came up far short in Huntingdon and Mifflin counties, he beat Irvin in Centre County, with 50.70 percent of the vote or 4,111 votes compared to Irvin taking 40.06 percent vote total, or 3,654 votes.

“That should say to him that 36 to 40 percent of your constituents don’t agree with you and that you need to start paying attention to them,” Rogers said.

Irvin responded that he always tries to serve his constituents equally and believes he does represent most of his district.

“I do appreciate Mr. Rogers running on the issues this time and keeping everything clean,” Irvin said.

A third candidate, Libertarian candidate Joseph P. Soloski, also ran for the 81st District seat. He ran on a platform that emphasized the importance of preserving peoples’ individual liberties. He advocated for term limits for state legislators and proposed converting the state legislature into a part-time unit that works only half of the year. He has worked as a self-employed CPA for the past 30 years.

The first-time political candidate wasn’t too upset about his loss Tuesday night, saying he’ll probably take a run at the seat again in two years.

“I certainly have this seat in my gunsights,” he said. “Now that I’ve got a toehold, it’s certainly something that I would consider again.”

He praised his two opponents for running positive and clean campaigns and he wished Irvin good luck in his third term in Harrisburg. Soloski said he knew running as a Libertarian candidate wouldn’t be easy in a what is traditionally a conservative area.

“I knew it would be an uphill battle,” he said. “ I gave it everything I had.”

Soloski, 61, of Halfmoon Township, Centre County, also advocated for elimination of the state inheritance tax, proposed cuts to the state budget and wanted to halve the state corporate net income tax.

Irvin, who lives in Spruce Creek Township, Hunting-don County, had served as Huntingdon County treasurer before his election to the state House.

He ran on a platform of job growth, improving the state’s infrastructure and its education system.

He said even though voters re-elected Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf as governor, he hopes the state Legislature and the governor can come together and cooperate on key legislation and the state budget in the coming years.