State Representative for PA 77th District: An Old Face Versus a Newcomer
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Penn State students and residents of the greater State College area will have the opportunity to vote for their state representative in addition to the President on Nov. 3.
The 77th district of Pennsylvania, consisting of the majority of the Penn State campus, State College Borough, Philipsburg, Rush and Huston Townships, and areas of Ferguson and Patton Townships, has two long-time residents to choose from. But that’s where their similarities end: Incumbent Democrat H. Scott Conklin is seeking his eighth straight term in his position, while republican Steve Yetsko is getting his feet wet as a first-time politician. He’s also the first to run against Conklin since the 2014 election.
Conklin says that his extensive experience in Centre County in both life and government is crucial during the pandemic recovery. He says he is always adapting to do what’s best for the community, most recently for introducing a bill in January that would make it illegal to produce kratom, an addictive plant-based drug linked to numerous deaths.
“People should always be willing to change their minds,” Conklin said. “You may believe something is one way, but if someone is able to come up and give you a convincing argument with science and facts, you should always be willing to listen and consider their side. And that’s what I’ve done my entire career.”
But Penn State Honors alumnus Yetsko doesn’t believe his opponent is all that he’s boasting. He calls Conklin the “invisible man,” that he isn’t there for many issues that are most important to the community as a whole.
“I understand what everyone is going through. I have a unique perspective,” Yetsko said. “Scott has been in Harrisburg a long time, and I think he’s lost touch with what is really going on in the community.”
Yetsko emphasizes the lack of internet reliability and accessibility outside of urbanized State College, saying that his home connection in nearby Julian can cut out at times for as long as two or three days, which has affected his son Max’s online classes at Bald Eagle Area High School. He thinks individual school districts, rather than Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, should decide if it’s safe or not to return to in-person classes to ensure that the rural areas don’t fall too far behind.
Conklin doesn’t completely disagree with him, however. He’s voted against decisions from Wolf, like when he wrote a letter in August that, in effect, allowed schools in the district to decide if parents should be allowed to attend football games.
While information on Conklin’s campaign is tough to find online, with only a seldom-updated Twitter, Yetsko has designed a new-fashioned website and a Facebook page to aid his efforts. He updates his page daily with flyers, photos and videos from event appearances like Penn State Student GOP meetings and rallies in support of President Trump. He hopes to appeal to voters as a local family man rather than someone with a “D” or an “R” next to their name.
“We need to get back to living the great life we live here at Penn State,” he said. “I think local government needs a new face, so it might as well be me.”
Conklin, the only current Democratic representative in the county, says voters need to look no further than what he has done during his 14 years in office.
“When you look at my record, it gives me the heads up in this race,” Conklin said.
Jack McCune is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.