A freshman legislator – either Democrat Brent Ottaway or Republican Dr. John Joyce – will be the next person to represent the city of Johnstown, which has had only four congressmen over the past seven decades, and Pennsylvania's entire 13th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Joyce, a dermatologist, topped an eight-candidate primary field on Tuesday to gain the GOP nomination in this year's general election. The Blair County resident received approximately 22 percent of the vote in a 10-county district that includes all of Bedford and Somerset, along with parts of Cambria and Westmoreland, according to unofficial results.
State Sen. John Eichelberger Jr. finished second with approximately 20 percent.
“I will work very hard for the people of the 13th Congressional District,” Joyce said. “This race was exciting, and nasty at times, but in the end our positive message prevailed. I will always put the people of central Pennsylvania first, not D.C. special interests. I am truly honored and humbled.”
The GOP race became wide open after two events occurred.
First, in January, longtime U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Everett, announced he did not plan to seek re-election in what was then the 9th District.
Then, soon thereafter, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled the commonwealth's congressional districts were unconstitutional due to excessive gerrymandering. The judges drew a new map that placed Johnstown – currently part of the 12th District represented by U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley – and much of the former 9th into the new 13th, leading to Joyce, Eichelberger, Ben Hornberger, state Rep. Steve Bloom, Doug Mastriano, Arthur Halvorson, Travis Schooley and Bernie Washabaugh forming the field.
Meanwhile, Ottaway, an associate professor of communication at St. Francis University, ran unopposed on the Democratic side.
“This has been fun,” Ottaway, a Hollidaysburg resident, said. “It's been more of everything. It's been more work than I expected, more time. It's been more rewarding than I thought it would be. It's been a great experience so far. Now, moving into the general election, I'm sure things will be hotly contested. But I've seen enough of the Republican challengers to be confident that it will be a civil affair.”
He now faces the challenge of running in a district that was rated Republican+22 by the Cook Political Report Partisan Voter Index, meaning that during the past two presidential cycles, the 13th's GOP vote total outperformed the nationwide party by an average of 22 percentage points.
“We need to get the message out over these next six months that there is a distinct choice available for the first time in many years,” Ottaway said. “The Republican candidates run the ideological gamut from extremely conservative to 'very' extremely conservative.
“We need moderate, reasonable voices in Congress – people willing to engage in vigorous, fact-based debate before ultimately working across the aisle to do what is best for the nation, not for one political party's agenda.”