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Dermatologist leading in 13th District race

Rich Cholodofsky
| Tuesday, May 15, 2018, 10:36 p.m.
Republican candidates running in the May 15 primary for Pennsylvania’s 13th Congressional District are (top row, from left) John Eichelberger, Art Halvorson, John Joyce, Douglas Mastriano, (bottom row, from left) Travis Schooley, Stephen Bloom, Bernard Washabaugh and Benjamin Hornberger. Brett Ottaway (not pictured) is running for the Democrat nomination.
Republican candidates running in the May 15 primary for Pennsylvania’s 13th Congressional District are (top row, from left) John Eichelberger, Art Halvorson, John Joyce, Douglas Mastriano, (bottom row, from left) Travis Schooley, Stephen Bloom, Bernard Washabaugh and Benjamin Hornberger. Brett Ottaway (not pictured) is running for the Democrat nomination.

Blair County dermatologist Dr. John Joyce held a slim lead among eight candidates late Tuesday in the race to win the Republican nomination in the redrawn 13th Congressional District, which includes a small portion of eastern Westmoreland County.

According to unofficial results, with about 73 percent of the statewide vote counted, Joyce held an 840-vote lead. He received nearly 21.2 percent of the vote in the 10-county district, which stretches about 150 miles from Westmoreland through Adams counties.

State Sen. John Eichelberger from Blair County was second with 19.4 percent of the vote, and state Rep. Stephen Bloom was third with 18.7 percent.

The district includes eastern parts of the county, such as Derry, Ligonier and a portion of Unity. In all, it includes 43 of Westmoreland's 305 voting precincts and comprises about 6 percent of the district.

With 32 of 43 precincts reporting in Westmoreland County, Eichelberger held a 74-vote lead over Art Halvorson, a retired Coast Guard captain from Bedford County. Halvorson received about 15 percent throughout the entire district.

Democrat Brent Ottaway, an English professor at St. Francis University in Loretto, ran unopposed.

The district leans heavily Republican. GOP voters outnumber Democrats by about 106,000. In 2016, Donald Trump won the district by an overwhelming 42 percentage points.

None of the candidates were from Westmoreland County, and few candidates made appearances in the far western portion of the newly constituted district.

“I didn't know a lot of the candidates,” said Kevin Smith, who voted Tuesday in Ligonier Borough.

Smith said he supported Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone in the March special election to replace former Rep. Tim Murphy, who resigned last year in the old 18th Congressional District. On Tuesday, Saccone ran in the newly formed 14th Congressional District, which includes the western portion of Westmoreland County.

“Now, I wasn't sure who to vote for,” Smith said.

Turnout was light in many locations Tuesday. Ligonier typically sees heavy voter turnout. Through late afternoon, however, just 167 ballots had been cast from a pool of more than 1,000 eligible voters, according to judge of elections Angela McDonnell.

While turnout was light, so was the number of people passing out campaign literature at polling places throughout Westmoreland's portion of the 13th District.

Halvorson was the lone candidate with a representative in Ligonier. Travis Schooley, an alpaca farmer from Franklin County, had a worker passing out material at Baggaley Elementary School in Unity.

Pat Moore of Unity said she didn't know anything about the congressional candidates in the 13th District, so she made her choice based on who lived closest to Westmoreland County.

“I might as well have somebody represent me who is close by,” Moore said.

Mary Helen Vasinko and her 19-year-old son, Jarred — who voted for the first time Tuesday — said they were prepared to cast their ballots.

“We filled out a sample ballot the night before, so we kind of knew who we were voting for,” Vasinko said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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