Pennsylvania state Rep. Mike Fleck, a Republican and the state’s first out gay lawmaker, said Tuesday he will run as a Democrat to retain his seat this November after a write-in challenger to his seat in the Republican primary race apparently received more votes.
Fleck said he would run as a Democrat to keep his seat as Representative of the 81st District in the state in a Facebook post Tuesday, writing in part, “Rep. Mike Fleck (D) Three Springs. How’s that for an oxymoron.”
“While a lot can still happen legally, today is a new day and if we are ultimately successful in our bid to continue thru the fall, rest assured, I will give it my all,” he wrote in the post.
Fleck did not return requests for additional comment, but told The Patriot-News that while he will run against Irvin in the general election, he’s not switching parties.
Unofficial results from county election officials show that Fleck’s write-in challenger, Huntingdon County Treasurer Richard Irvin, received over 200 more votes in the Republican race for the seat. However, Fleck received 15 more votes than Irvin on the Democratic ticket — 902 to 887 — which could allow him to run as a Democrat against Irvin in the general election this fall.
“If those numbers hold then the candidates on the ballot would be the write-in from the Republican Party and the write-in from for the Democrats,” said Ron Ruman, press secretary at the Pennsylvania Department of State. “If that holds up, then [Fleck] would be the Democratic nominee.”
Fleck was first elected to his seat in 2006 and came out as gay in December 2012, which made his the state’s first out lawmaker and the state’s only out Republican lawmaker. Rep. Brian Sims, a Democrat, was elected as an out gay candidate and took office in early 2013. Sims advanced through the primary unopposed.
On Sunday, a conservative Republican lawmaker in the state, Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr., told the Altoona Mirror that if Fleck hadn’t come out as gay, “there wouldn’t be a problem.”
And in a May 21 Facebook post the day after the primary, Fleck told his friends and supporters that his political future was uncertain since he came out as gay because his opponents would use that fact against him. “I knew that when I came out this race would be nothing more, nothing less than whether my constituency could wrap their mind around the fact that I was a gay man,” he wrote.
A message was sent to Irvin’s campaign seeking additional comment.