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Shuster-backed candidate John Joyce claims GOP nomination

Written by Jim Hook/The Chambersburg Public Opinion | May 16, 2018 4:32 AM

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Dr. John Joyce speaks to a group Thursday, April 26, 2018 at a Green Grove Garden event. (Photo: Markell DeLoatch, Public Opinion)

(Undated) -- Dr. John Joyce, a Blair County dermatologist, topped a field of eight Republicans to win the party's nomination to represent Pennsylvania's 13th Congressional District.

Art Halvorson, in his third season of campaigning for the seat, faded to fifth.

"The swamp won," Halvorson said after the votes were counted.

Joyce had deep pockets and the support of dark money groups, as well as a last-minute endorsement from U. S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R- Hollidaysburg. Shuster currently represents the geographical area and is not seeking re-election.

"The people were so intrigued that there was an outsider someone who was carrying a different skillset, someone who wanted to work for them, it's been a great experience," Joyce said. 

State Sen. John Eichelberger Jr. of Blair County finished in second place. Eichelberger conceded at 10:45 p.m. with nearly 90 percent of the votes counted and Joyce with a lead of more than 1,000 votes.

Eichelberger told his supporters that he had a good base of support in the beginning, but several factors eroded his advantage. The large field split the party's conservative base, and one candidate had unlimited funding.

He said super PACs also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in the final days of the campaign, and their ads and mailers hurt him and Halvorson.

"I think I ran a good campaign," Eichelberger said. "We were able to keep our heads held high with a positive message."

Eichelberger said ads about his vote to change the state fuel tax hurt his campaign.

Rep. Steve Bloom closed in on the leaders in the final weeks of the campaign and finished in third place.

Bloom early on had organized a campaign to run for the party's nomination in another district, but the state Supreme Court's decision placed him in the 13th District instead. The new district matched his conservative values, so he decided to run.

"My conservative central Pennsylvania values are a good match for the very good folks of the district," he said. "It's been a great experience."

Doug Mastriano, retired Army colonel and author, was the top finisher among the three candidates from Franklin County. He finished in fourth place.

He supporters were upbeat as they snacked in a Fayetteville pizzeria even as the early numbers came in with Mastriano falling behind. Many had never campaigned for a candidate before.

"I was so impressed with his Christian character," said Teia Hughes of Orrstown. "When you talk to Doug you feel he really cares about you. Even my children."

Mastriano circulated among the tables to thank the volunteers who gave thousands of hours.

"It was really humbling to me because I'm really nobody," he said. "I had people from across the district say: We stand with you, we believe what you believe and want to work hard for you."

Voter turnout in Franklin County was 27 percent among Republicans and 17 percent among Democrats.

Here's the voting with 95 percent of precincts reporting:

  • John Joyce -  14,603 votes or 22 percent.
  • John H.  Eichelberger Jr. - 13,089 votes or 20 percent.
  • Steve Bloom - 12,186 votes or 18 percent.
  • Doug Mastriano - 10,404 or 16 percent.
  • Arthur L. Halvorson - 10,156 votes or 15 percent.
  • Travis Schooley - 3,009 votes or 5 percent.
  • Bernie Washabaugh I -  1,889 votes or 3 percent.
  • Ben Hornberger - 1,183 or 2 percent.

Brent M. Ottaway, a Hollidaysburg resident and associate professor of communications at St. Francis University, Loretto, was unopposed in the Democratic primary.

The GOP holds a solid majority in voter registration in the 13th District  and so Joyce is likely to win the general election.

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