Sandra K Reabuck
As campaigning and advertising intensifies ahead of Tuesday’s election, Cambria and Somerset county election directors are predicting that voter turnout could reach nearly 70 percent.
That could match or exceed turnout for the presidential election four years ago.
Others, however, are not as optimistic in their predictions.
G. Terry Madonna, a political pollster and director of Franklin & Marshall’s Center for Politics and Public Affairs, was a bit more hesitant.
Across Pennsylvania, the turnout may be only 58 percent to 60 percent of the state’s eligible voters, he predicted.
The major drawing card is the presidential race, with President Barack Obama, who carried the state four years ago, fighting for a second term against Republican Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts.
Voter turnout may be less than four years ago because enthusiasm does not seem as great as then, Madonna said.
Although Pennsylvania was once seen as a “safe” state for Obama, Republicans believe the race is tightening, and the Romney campaign is spending $8.8 million in new advertising in the Keystone State, Madonna said.
In addition to the presidental campaign, the heated battle in the 12th Congressional District is expected to draw voters to the polls in Cambria and Somerset counties. The district stretches in an irregular configuration westward to the Ohio line.
Incumbent Rep. Mark Critz, D-Johnstown, who first was elected in a special election in 2010, is running for a second full term. Republican challenger Keith Rothfus, an Allegheny County lawyer, is hoping to unseat him. Outside money for television advertising has been pouring into the district. It’s considered one of the tightest congressional races in the country.
Shirley Crowl, Cambria’s election supervisor, predicted 68 percent to 70 percent of the county’s 86,988 registered voters will go to the polls Tuesday.
Four years ago, the turnout was 68.2 percent, Crowl said. Democrats hold just less than a 2-to-1 voter majority in the county.
For the November election, Cambria sent out 3,178 absentee ballot applications, down from the 4,000 in 2008, she said.
In Somerset County, elections chief Tina Pritts estimated that 65 percent of that county’s 51,880 voters will cast ballots in Tuesday’s election, Somerset had a 67 percent turnout in 2008, she said.
Two other races at the state level have generated local voter interest, both through television ads and political mailings.
State Rep. Bryan Barbin, D-Johnstown, is running for a third term in the 71st district, made up of the city of Johnstown and surrounding suburbs. Republican contender Sherry Stalley of Richland Township, with the help of the state Republican Party, is working hard to oust him from office. Stalley was a television news reporter and anchor for 20 years.
In the 35th state Senate District, incumbent Sen. John Wozniak has been in Harrisburg for three decades, first as a state representative and then as senator. In his re-election bid, he is pointing to a record of helping constituents. Republican challenger Tim Houser of Ebensburg, a funeral director, contends that it’s time for change and has pointed out that Wozniak has voted in favor of legislative pay raises.
Two other seats in the area are also at stake.
In the 9th Congressional District, which includes part of Somerset County and northern Cambria County, incumbent Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Hollidaysburg, is running for re-election. He’s being challenged by Karen Ramsburg, a Franklin County nurse and an independent who won the Democratic nomination in a write-in campaign in the primary.
In the state’s 73rd Legislative District, incumbent Rep. Gary Haluska, D-Patton, faces opposition from Republican Randall Wilson of Glasgow, which is northwest of Bellwood. Wilson is director of information technology at WTAJ-TV.
Voters in Pennsylvania also will be selecting a U.S. Senator, state attorney general, state treasurer and state auditor general.
Democrat and Republican party workers have been busy for months working on getting out the vote in Tuesday’s election. They have used phone banks and door-to-door canvassing to make personal contact, party leaders said.
While Ann Wilson, Cambria’s GOP chairman, is hoping for a “good turnout,” she shied away from predicting a number. James T. Yoder, Somerset Democratic chairman, thinks 50 percent of voters there will go to the polls.
Heath Long, Cambria Democratic chairman, agrees with Madonna that voter turnout will not be quite as good as four years ago, and in Cambria, may reach only 45 percent on Tuesday. Shelley Glessner, Somerset Democratic chairman, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Wilson said campaign efforts appeared to be paying off.
“We’ve been working tirelessly for months, and we’ve seen increasing support for Romney. All our Republican candidates are in play and are well situated to win Nov. 6,” she said.
Long said that the most excitement locally is for the Critz campaign, with people across party lines ready to help him in his bid for re-election.
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