It appears Somerset County will have two congressional primary races on April 24.
According to the unofficial candidate list from the Pennsylvania Department of State, Mark Critz, Johnstown, and Jason Altmire, McCandless, are the only two Democrats on the primary ballot for the redrawn 12th Congressional District, which combines their districts into one. On the Republican side, attorney Keith Rothfus, Edgeworth, is the only candidate on the ballot.
Mike Mikus, Critz’s campaign spokesman, said the campaign is in good shape for the primary. The campaign released a poll conducted by the Global Strategy Group of New York that showed the race essentially tied among voters who are familiar with both candidates.
Critz is the choice of 88 percent of prospective voters in Somerset and Cambria counties, but trails Altmire overall by 10 percentage points, according to the poll, which was paid for by the campaign.
“I think we are in good shape,” Mikus said. “As the poll shows, given the fact that Mark only has one-third of the district, to be this close this early we’re making a lot of progress and we are in a strong position.”
Mikus also pointed to labor endorsements Critz has received recently as a sign that they are on the right track. He expects the Democratic primary to have a low turnout and Critz’s union support to help under those circumstances. He said union members and retirees will make up a large part of the electorate in a low turnout primary.
“The more people that get to know Mark and his record of fighting to protect jobs, Social Security — voters move in his direction pretty rapidly,” he said.
Altmire said that neither he nor Critz asked to be running against each other, but he feels good about his chances in the race.
“I feel very good about our position moving into the primary and, most importantly, our position moving forward in the fall,” he said. “I am well aware of what it takes to win a difficult election.”
Altmire said his advantage in the race is the new district includes a lot of his old district. He said he is focusing on balancing his job as an elected official with running for office.
“Most of the new district I still have,” he said. “There are places I represent that are not going to be in my new district. I am making a special effort to show them we haven’t forgot about them either.”
If Altmire wins the Democratic nomination, he will face Rothfus in the general election for the second time. In 2010 Altmire defeated Rothfus 51 percent to 49 percent.
“The problem is he is going to have a political climate that is different than in 2010,” he said. “He ran unsuccessfully in a district that is very Republican leaning.”
In the 9th Congressional District Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, Hollidaysburg, is being challenged by Travis Schooley of Franklin County. No Democrats registered to appear on the primary ballot.
According to his official Facebook page, “Travis Schooley For Congress,” Schooley works in the private sector in public utilities and engineering related services. He owns and operates Top Knot’ch Alpacas & More, an alpaca breeding and products business, with his wife, Jill.
Shuster was elected to the seat in 2001.
State House and Senate candidates have until today to turn in their paperwork. They were given an extended deadline when the Supreme Court ruled the new district maps unconstitutional.
Tuesday is the deadline for individuals to file objections to nomination petitions. The deadline for general assembly races is Feb. 23.