Nearly seven years after a short-lived pay increase, the embers of voter anger over legislative salaries and perks still can burn, as evidenced by Tuesday's Republican primary for the 79th Legislative District.
Even three decades of representing the Altoona area and a notable record of helping steer state money to various community causes, including the Railroaders Memorial Museum and various crime-fighting initiatives, couldn't save Republican state Rep. Rick Geist.
With the strong backing of a conservative group, Penn State Altoona professor John McGinnis successfully tapped into taxpayer discontent to defeat Geist in the Republican primary, according to unofficial results.
Unofficial tallies show McGinnis with 2,650 votes to Geist's 2,454. Geist earned a one-vote lead in city precincts, but lost to McGinnis in Allegheny Township's 3rd precinct and in six of seven Logan Township precincts.
That upset should send a shiver down the spines of other lawmakers, especially at a time in which many of their constituents continue to struggle amid a sluggish economy. The pay and perks of being elected to political office still can be a potent force that even can overcome all of the advantages of incumbency, which used to ensure a virtual lock on re-election.
While both sides lobbed rhetorical grenades in the race, McGinnis and his supporters hit a nerve with voters by strongly hammering Geist for his salary, per diem stipends for expenses and expected pension benefits.
Those were some of the main points pushed by Harrisburg-based Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania, which sent numerous mailers and paid for some advertisements bashing Geist and supporting McGinnis.
In some ways, the Tuesday's primary and its result was eerily similar to the one six years ago that saw longtime state Sen. Robert C. Jubelirer go down to defeat to then Republican challenger and now Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr.
That race also largely focused on a state pay raise for legislators, top executive branch officials and the judiciary that had been approved in 2005 as part of a budget package.
Those raises, except for those for the judiciary, were repealed five months later amid voter outrage that carried over into the 2006 elections.
And even though it seems like passions over those issues have cooled, Tuesday's election shows they still can be rekindled.
That's bad news for incumbents because their pay, benefits and pensions will be a sore subject in the years ahead as the state and its taxpayers come to grips with the tens of billions of dollars in shortfalls in Pennsylvania's two main pension funds, including the one that provides retirement benefits for legislators.
Six months ago, conventional wisdom held that Geist would be the GOP nominee for the 79th District and eventual winner of re-election.
His election defeat in the primary tells his fellow legislators that they shouldn't take their positions - or voters' willingness to forgive and forget - for granted.