Phil Heasley, a Butler County business owner, appears to be Democratic nominee for the state House 8th District race after his sole opponent for the nomination bowed out.
Heasley, of Center Township, said Democratic leaders told him that he would be named the party’s candidate today.
Tom Posch, 72, a retired steamfitter from Center Township, withdrew his nomination, Heasley said Tuesday.
“I called him (Posch) and he said he wasn’t interested any more in getting the nomination,’’ Heasley said. Posch couldn’t be immediately reached on Tuesday for comment.
Under Democratic bylaws, the party would have to hold a nomination convention if multiple candidates sought the nomination. The session would feature party members from 8th District precincts along with other Democratic leaders who would have voted for the nominee.
Democrats had scheduled the convention to elect their nominee today at Springfield Township municipal building. That meeting has been canceled, Heasley said.
Attempts to contact Mercer County Democratic leaders Tuesday were unsuccessful.
The 8th District covers 31 of Mercer County’s 90 precincts and 15 precincts in Butler County. The seat has been vacant since Jan. 2, when former Representative Tedd Nesbit resigned to take a seat as judge on Mercer County Common Pleas Court.
A special election March 17 will fill the vacancy until the end of this year. Pennsylvania’s primary will be held April 28, six weeks after the special election.
Winners of Republican and Democratic nominations will compete in the Nov. 3 general election for a full two-year term starting with the 2021-22 state legislative session.
Republican leaders from the district selected Grove City attorney Timothy Bonner last week as the Republican nominee.
Heasley, 29, runs Butler Gymnastics Club, a family business in Center Township. Heasley said his priority if elected is to help develop jobs in the district and retain younger residents.
“Everyone who graduates school leaves our community because there are no jobs here,’’ he said. “We need to create a community where we don’t lose our youth.’’
Another priority is health care, particularly in rural areas like the 8th District.
“Health care is a big one for me,’’ Heasley said. “And the root of the problem starts with mental health care as well. And I want to make sure our rural communities have affordable access they need.’’
Heasley said he had been following Grove City Medical Center’s merger with Allegheny Health Network completed earlier this month.
“It sounds like a good idea and hopefully it is a good idea,’’ he said. “I want to make sure our rural communities have the affordable health access they need.’’
If elected, Heasley said he would pursue expanded broadband service in rural regions.
“An issue both counties have is they have a huge populations in rural areas that don’t have reliable broadband internet service now,’’ Heasley said. “I have a friend who has to pay $180 a month to get dial-up speed internet service from a satellite. That’s something that has to be fixed.’’
A lifelong Democrat, Heasley said he got involved in politics at an early age by knocking on doors in support of John Kerry’s 2004 presidential bid. Kerry won the Democratic nomination, but lost to President George W. Bush in the general election.
The following Mercer County municipalities are in the 8th District: Coolspring, Deer Creek, Fairview, Findley, French Creek, Jackson, Lake, Liberty, Mill Creek, New Vernon, Perry, Pine, Sandy Creek, Sandy Lake, Springfield, Wolf Creek and Worth townships, and Fredonia, Grove City, Jackson Center, Mercer, New Lebanon, Sandy Lake, Sheakleyville and Stoneboro boroughs.
Mercer County Voter Registration and Election Bureau has information for the special election on its website, https://www.mcc.co.mercer.pa.us/election/SpecialElection/Default.htm