HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – John Eichelberger drove his Ford F-150 pickup truck to the ABC27 studios Thursday. He’ll be spending a lot of time behind the wheel in the next several months. Eichelberger, a state senator from Blair County, put his congressional campaign in gear and plans to drive the district that includes parts of Franklin County.
His license plate “re4mer” delivers part of his message and he proudly proclaims his record is one of a hard-core conservative.
“I want to take that fight and go to Washington and make that same difference in Washington,” Eichelberger said in announcing his bid for Congress. “We need a louder voice as part of the contingent that’s fighting for the right things.”
Eichelberger hopes to replace Republican Congressman Bill Shuster in the 9th Congressional District.
Republican U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent is also retiring in the 15th Congressional District, which includes parts of Dauphin and Lebanon counties.
U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta is challenging Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, so there’s an open seat in the Republican’s 11th district, which includes parts of Cumberland, Dauphin and Perry counties.
There are three open seats for Midstaters to vote on in the May 15 primary and lots of candidates hoping to get those votes.
“Now there’s a chance,” said GOP campaign consultant Chris Nicholas of Harrisburg, who represents a few of the candidates in various races. “Both parties say, ‘Oh finally, we’ve been waiting for that seat to come open. We can go get it,’ because let’s face it, most incumbents win.”
Why all the turnover? Eichelberger has a theory.
“People are frustrated with what’s not happening in Washington,” he said. “I think a lot of people (congressmen) that are middle of the road, they’re getting pressure from their constituents, and a lot of people are making the decision I’m gonna get out. I don’t want to fight these battles anymore.”
Though 2017 was a good year for women candidates, surprisingly there are no women running in those three congressional races; not yet, anyway.
“You can’t win unless you run, like the old lottery saying you can’t win if you don’t play,” Nicholas said.
But Eichelberger is not focused on who isn’t running. He is. He intends to drive the pickup all across the 9th district.
His truck is gassed up.
His slogan is dusted off.
“Proven reformer goes to Washington,” Eichelberger said when asked how he would summarize his candidacy.
It’s not the only slogan Midstaters will hear in coming months, and Eichelberger’s not the only candidate they’ll see crisscrossing the wide-open expanses of open primary territory. At some point, they’ll be seen on television, radio and glossy mailers.
“People are competitive, these folks on either side. They aren’t getting in the race not to win. They’re getting in the race to win,” Nicholas said. “The bottom line is this year’s congressional cycle was already crazy and now it’s crazier.”