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Republican state Rep. Metcalfe wards off challenger

Jason Cato
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Submitted
State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry
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Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Pennsylvania Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, right, greets campaign volunteer Fred Bratchie, of Middlesex, outside of the Clinton Township Municipal Building on Tuesday, April 26, 2016. Rep. Metcalfe is being challenged by Gordon Marburger for the Republican nomination in the 12th District.
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Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Gordon Marburger visits the Penn Township Volunteer Fire Department while campaigning in Butler County on Tuesday, April 26, 2016. Marburger is challenging PA Rep. Daryl Metcalfe for the republican nomination in the 12th District.

When state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe first ran for state office in 1998, he said, he was overmatched and underfunded.

“I was the underdog,” said Metcalfe, 53, a Cranberry Republican known for his ultra-conservative politics. “We didn’t have much money, but we had a lot of volunteers. We hit a lot of doors and won the primary.”

Metcalfe leaned heavily again on that formula of knocking on doors, grasping hands and asking for votes to, according to preliminary results, defeat Gordon Marburger, 59, a fourth-generation farmer from Evans City.

Metcalfe won Tuesday’s primary, with 60 percent of the vote with all 22 precincts reporting, unofficial results indicated.

“That is a pretty resounding victory,” said Ed Natali, chaiman of the Butler County Republican Committee.

Marburger came 566 votes — or 9 percentage points — short of unseating Metcalfe in a 2014 write-in campaign. On Tuesday, he said winning wouldn’t be easy even with his name on the ballot.

“That’s just how it is across the state,” said Marburger, a Mars Area school board member. “Very seldom do you beat an incumbent in a primary.”

The Metcalfe-Marburger race played large in Butler County, where more than 50 percent of registered voters are Republicans.

Campaign signs for the two candidates lined roadsides in the southwestwern part of the county. Volunteers for both camps worked the district’s polling places, which each candidate said he visited.

Marburger said he was trying to keep his expectations in check as voting wound down Tuesday.

Metcalfe said he felt confident all day that he would win decisively.

“My volunteers and I have been out there for four months,” he said. “I’ve knocked on thousands of doors this year.”

Metcalfe, the Republican majority chairman of the Pennsylvania House State Government Committee, is a staunch gun-rights advocate who has called for making English the official state language and reducing the size of the legislature.

He was one of the most vocal opponents of Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed cuts and tax increases to balance the state budget.

In a 10th term in office, Metcalfe promised to continue to oppose any calls by the governor that require increased or new taxes. He said he will continue to push for pension reform and the privatization of state liquor stores.

Metcalfe said it was difficult because unions threw manpower and money behind Marburger.

“There’s been a lot spent by the unions to try to stop me again,” Metcalfe said.

Marburger said he didn’t ask for support of labor unions but said he wasn’t inclined to shun their help.

In 2014, unions contributed about $30,000 to his campaign — compared to about $65,000 he said he raised through family and friends. This year, unions contributed about half that amount, he said.

“(Metcalfe) is totally anti-union. I’m not pro-union, and they knew that up front. I’m somewhere in the middle,” Marburger said. “This really was a family campaign. We don’t have a machine like (Metcalfe) does.”

Jason Cato is a Tribune-Review staff writer. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or [email protected].

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