Election notebook: TV ads help candidates traverse 17-county district
By Mike Joseph- email@example.com
The nine Republicans crisscrossing a congressional district rectangle 160 miles wide and 100 miles deep are dividing into distinct groups — those with enough money for TV commercials and those relying on gasoline to take their message around.
Those with the money to air TV commercials in the 5th District race for Congress so far include the businessmen Matt Shaner, 28, of Centre County; Derek Walker, 32, of Clearfield County; and Jeff Stroehmann, 42, of Lycoming County.
And those without: the other two Centre County candidates, Chris Exarchos, 63, of College Township, and Glenn Thompson, 48, of Howard Township; the two Clarion candidates, the Baptist pastor Keith Richardson, 46, and Mayor John Stroup, 50; and Elk County funeral director Lou Radkowski, 64, and Clinton County insurance agent John Krupa, 56.
It takes about $100,000 to put out a TV commercial with enough repetitions and distribution to have impact. But the 5th District reaches from just west of Williamsport to just east of Erie and one TV station won’t get to all of it.
“It makes it extremely hard because it’s all spread out — you can’t go on a single station like Johnstown and cover all your district,” Exarchos said.
The money in politics — Shaner apparently leads with more than $720,000 of his own spent so far — will have an even stronger impact because there are so many candidates. More candidates mean a smaller share of the vote pie for each. That means a bigger potential difference-maker for the name-recognition boost of TV.
U.S. Rep. John Peterson, R-Pleasantville, whose unexpected decision not to seek re-election this year triggered the free-for-all, is concerned about the big number of candidates, sources said. When Peterson ran for the Republican nomination to the open seat 12 years ago, he had only three rivals, all from Centre County, and they split the vote nicely for him to win with 38 percent of the districtwide vote.
The word these days among candidates and their aides is that Peterson may endorse one candidate or maybe more than one, in order to make public his preferences in a narrowed field. If it’s one candidate that Peterson backs, then it’s Clarion Mayor Stroup who may get his support.
But a Peterson endorsement might not be able to override the impact of TV commercials, and the candidates with TV money seem to see their chief rivals as others with TV money.
At a candidate’s forum last Wednesday in Franklin, Venango County, far out in the district’s western fringe, Shaner wasn’t present and Walker seized on his absence in making a remark to a reporter in the private meet-and-greet conversations before the forum. “We feel like his candidacy is kind of like Bob Casey’s,” Walker said. “He (Casey) won by staying in the background.”
Shaner, asked to respond, said he’s traveled more than 12,000 miles across the 17-county district since the campaign began. “To compare me to Bob Casey and say I have remained in the background is absolutely ridiculous,” Shaner said.
Mike Joseph can be reached at 235-3910.
Solomon's words appreciates political writer Mike Joseph and Centre Daily Times Editor Bob Heisse, for allowing us to republish their articles on the 5th Congressional District race.