Political change alters climate in Blair County

“Climate change” was a major topic during 2018, referring, of course, to the issue of global warming and the factors allegedly contributing to it.

Blair County is beginning this year with a different kind of climate change; some people might prefer to use the words “different landscape” to describe it.

It is the change in the county’s slate of political representation, the result of retirements and a move to a new elected position.

Don’t anticipate any disruptions in how this county’s interests are emphasized, promoted or guarded over the next two years, though, despite the fact that Blair has lost some degree of legislative seniority on both the state and federal fronts.

A low position on the seniority totem pole doesn’t necessarily have to be seriously detrimental. If a new lawmaker is energetic, aggressive and works hard to show that he or she is a strong, capable, knowledgeable representative, he or she can make a significant impact, even early-on.

All who were elected on Nov. 6 to represent Blair County for at least the next two years possess the strong attributes necessary for achievements above and beyond their freshman status.

Those attributes are why the voters expressed confidence in them at the ballot box two months ago.

Congressman Bill Shuster shocked many constituents with his decision not to seek re-election after having represented what was then the 9th District since 2001. That decision prompted a crowded Republican primary election field of candidates last May for the new 13th District seat, with John Joyce, an Altoona dermatologist, capturing the party’s nomination and then rolling to victory in the general election.

Meanwhile, the retirement of 79th state House District Rep. John McGinnis paved the way for what would be the unopposed general election candidacy of Republican Lou Schmitt to be his successor.

Incumbent Republican Judy Ward opted not to seek re-election to her 80th District state House seat but, instead, waged a successful campaign for state Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr.’s 30th District seat, when Eichelberger decided to seek the congressional seat that Joyce eventually won.

Elected to succeed Ward in the 80th was GOP newcomer Jim Gregory.

The result: “climate change” — a changed landscape and slate of representation — on the local political front. But the description “capable bunch” applies to these newly seated lawmakers; there shouldn’t be any hesitation to embrace that positive viewpoint.

Joyce might be facing the most difficult task of the four, considering the friction currently engulfing Washington, as well as the fact that the GOP lost control of the House in November’s midterm election.

However, it’s not going to be an easy ride for Ward, Schmitt and Gregory, despite the GOP still maintaining control of the state General Assembly. Like veterans and other freshmen, they’ll be wading into the often-testy budget-preparation process and the reality that Pennsylvania never seems to have enough money.

Nevertheless, the four new officeholders have the talent to be pillars of solid judgment, cooperation and opportunity within their new legislative and constituent responsibilities, even though they won’t be high up on their respective seniority ladders.

In Blair’s case, the loss of seniority doesn’t guarantee weak results. Instead, there could be great outcomes that no one yet envisions.

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