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Blair County state Rep. Jim Gregory loses to challenger in Republican primary

Scott Barger standing in the WPSU hallway.
Anne Danahy
Scott Barger is challenging incumbent Jim Gregory in the 2024 Republican primary in the Pennsylvania House of Representative's 80th district.

In an election upset, Republican state Rep. Jim Gregory, R-Blair County, who was running for his fourth term in office, lost to challenger Scott Barger in Tuesday’s primary.

According to unofficial results, Barger got 5,648 votes to Gregory’s 4,649.

There was no Democratic candidate on the ballot in the 80th state House district, essentially guaranteeing Barger a victory in November. The district covers most of Blair County — but not Altoona — and a small part of Huntingdon County.

Alice Corle, a resident of Bellwood in Blair County and a registered Republican, voted for Barger.

“Well, I just think maybe we need to change,” Corle said. “I've been voting for Jim Gregory and everything has stayed the same.”

Scott Barger and "Vote Out Gregory" political signs in the grass in the 80th district of Pennsylvania.
Sydney Roach

Gregory had faced criticism for his decision to support Democrat Mark Rozzi to temporarily assume the position of speaker of the House in January 2023 before the Democratic party took control of the House. Gregory and Rozzi had worked together on legislation to expand the time for victims of sexual abuse to take civil action. Rozzi was viewed as a compromise candidate. And, Republicans said Rozzi had told them he was going to become an independent.

Barger is a retired pastor and former radio talk show host. In an interview with WPSU before the election, Barger said Gregory’s support of Rozzi stopped Republican’s efforts on voter ID legislation.

“We had, you know, another six or eight weeks where Republicans had the majority, we could have got some work done. And the second, and maybe more important, objection I have is that that's not what the people in the 80th wanted to happen,” he said. “Our job as representatives is to represent the people from our district, and maybe in other parts of the state that would have been a sensible vote that voters who live in that area would want their representative to make, but in the 80th district that was objectionable.”

Robert O’Shell, who lives in Bellwood, said he’s known Barger all his life.

“He’s an honest straight-shooter, and he’s for the working man,” O’Shell said.

O’Shell pointed to Gregory’s vote for a Democrat for House speaker as one reason he wanted to see Barger win.

Sydney Roach helped report this story.

Anne Danahy has been a reporter at WPSU since fall 2017. Before crossing over to radio, she was a reporter at the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pennsylvania, and she worked in communications at Penn State. She is married with cats.