Benninghoff easily defeats Democratic challenger in state House 171st race
By Chardonnai Johnson and Mengyun (Amy) Jiang
A thrilled Kerry A. Benninghoff, a Bellefonte Republican, claimed his ninth re-election victory to the House of Representatives of the 171st District Tuesday, crushing his Democratic opponent Christopher Lee by a four-to-one margin.
“We’re obviously excited about it,” said Benninghoff, “ but we are also humble and very honored that people came out voted for my re-election.”
Benninghoff, a Penn State alumni, said he considers re-elections reassurance from the community that he’s doing the right thing while in office.
He was first elected as representative in 1996. This win will add another two years to the Republican’s 15-year career.
The former two-term Centre County coroner serves as the chairman of the House Finance Committee and is a member of the Professional Licensure Committee.
He is also chairman of the Rural Health Caucus, a position that sparked his interest in health care policies and contributed to his advocacy of expanded healthcare access.
In addition to Benninghoff’s interest in health care, the state representatives main goals are in the areas of reforming government, lowering taxes, and controlling government spending.
He most recently was instrumental in legislation designed to keep jobs in the state, known as PEP! -- Promoting Employment Across Pennsylvania.
GOP supporters said they were happy with Benninghoff.
“I actually just met him for the first time this evening and he was just a really nice man,” said Melissa McHugh. “He was very personable. I’ve always voted straight Republican and for him every time.”
McHugh also said Benninghoff’s seniority and his personalty played big roles in his re-election win.
“Being the incumbent definitely helped him,” she said. “People are familiar with him and they know what he’s all about ”
While the mood at Champs, a State College restaurant where Republicans were gathering was celebratory, Democrats expressed their disappointment at Lee’s big loss.
U.B. Bakker, a State College resident, said he voted for Lee and was upset by the defeat.
“Lee is a great person for the position,” Bakker said. “I think people should’ve given Christopher Lee a chance to prove himself.”
Charles Dumas, professor of Penn State’s School of Theatre who lost his own race on Tuesday to incumbent U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, shared Bakker’s disappointment.
“I don’t like it,” said Dumas. “I think Lee would have made a much better representative. He’s been a part of this community for a long time and knows the people.”