Challenger James May, left, reads incoming results as the night progresses Tuesday night.Jonathan J. Juka/for the times leader
Bobby Zampetti and the Rev. Chuck Gommer hold Karen Boback’s hands up in victory on Tuesday night.Aimee Dilger/the times leader
Incumbent state Rep. Karen Boback held off a strong challenge by opponent James May to garner the Republican nomination for the 117th legislative district, according to unofficial tallies in Tuesday’s primary.
With all precincts in Luzerne, Wyoming and Columbia counties reporting, Boback had 4,107 votes to May’s 3,075. She will face Democrat Russ Bigus, who ran unopposed in the primary, in the general election.
Boback and May were running neck and neck in the early counts. But Boback, buoyed by voters in Luzerne County, began to pull away as the night wore on. Boback won Luzerne County, 3,396 to 2,463, (57.89 percent for Boback, 41.99 percent for May) including absentee votes, according to unofficial results.
May, 37, of Northmoreland Township, Wyoming County, launched an aggressive campaign against Boback, questioning the freshman legislator’s dedication to conservative values. He hammered at her voting record, noting she had supported several bills introduced by Democrats, including a $1.2 billion health-care plan for low-income workers.
May also questioned Boback’s independence in voting on school issues, citing nearly $10,000 in campaign contributions Boback, a former teacher, had accepted from the Pennsylvania State Education Association.
May, a former Army chaplain, had vowed to be a fiscal watchdog who would closely scrutinize state spending.
“We really tried to stick with the issues and lay out the differences, but an incumbent has money and the political machine. Any time you go up against that it’s very difficult,” May said Tuesday night.
Boback, 56, of Harveys Lake, had staunchly defended her voting record, saying she was following the will of her constituents, which took precedence over following party lines.
“I vote my conscience. I truly believe voters saw that. It’s a wonderful win,” Boback said Tuesday night.
Boback had run on a platform of working to eliminate school property taxes, teacher strikes and to work on health care reform and developing alternative energy sources. She has also vowed to continue her support for citizens’ rights to carry firearms and to maintain her strong anti-abortion values.
“I feel I stood firmly on that platform, and that’s what people saw,” she said.
The 117th district includes portions of Columbia, Luzerne and Wyoming counties. In Luzerne, it includes the townships of Conyngham, Dallas, Dennison, Dorrance, Fairmount, Franklin, Hollenback, Hunlock, Huntington, Lake, Lehman, Nescopeck, Ross, Salem, Union and a portion of Wright. It also includes the boroughs of Dallas, Harveys Lake, Nescopeck, New Columbus, Nuangola, Penn Lake Park and Shickshinny.